The ride from Hollister to Gillroy on the 101 was uneventful. Straight, flat, crowded two-lane highways. We staggered, so the lead could see both followers, and rode defensively. No asshole cager was going to separate us.
Then onto the 101. It was much less windy up here, but the light bikes were still suffering a bit. We rode a tight formation all the way into San Jose, splitting up only to squeak by large trucks and geriatric RVs. Seriously, I've lived in apartments smaller than those things. Who needs a vehicle bigger than a city bus to go camping in? Screw that, give me two wheels any day. Although I will say that they weren't being blown around nearly as badly as we were, and were probably warmer too.
San Jose was, predictably, a zoo. Massive traffic howling along at 70 miles per hour, and us in the slow lane holding everybody up and trying to keep them from running the poor Nighthawk off the road. Elizabeth is a clever monkey, and outfitted her bike and bags with a bunch of retroflective tape, so she was highly visible. Wayli less so, but, with a black jacket and white hat still pretty recognizable. I'm a stupid monkey, and ride in a flat black jacket. Not smart. I'll definitely be adding some reflectors to the bags, I can tell you! At least I had my front-facing running lights, and the bright-as-fuck Cateye bulb in the headlamp courtesy of a previous owner.
We fought our way through San Jose, then up the 880 toward Hayward. If you can at all avoid this stretch, do so. The 880 is a major trucking route, so the surface is absolutely miserable, plus they're doing a bunch of construction on it right now, AND it's busy as hell. I used to live in Hayward, so I hauled ass past the other two and shepherded us off the freeway there for a breather. Hollister to Hayward on a 250 in rush hour take a solid 90 minutes.
We pulled into the first gas station and yanked our lids off. Two taught faces stared back at me, and if they felt anything like me, they were bone tired. We left Big Sur at 10:00, over 12 hours ago. We stamped warmth back into our feet and used the bathroom at the gas station. My better half was in Ghana, and Elizabeth doesn't have a worried partner so we had nobody to call, but Wayli felt compelled to drop a quick line to his sweetie to let her know that we were late, but not splattered across the highway.
Good thing, too- she's allergic to mango, and ate some without realizing it. It wasn't much, so not an ER trip, but we just acquired a side goal: find benadryl in Hayward after 10:00 at night. The gas station had nothing, so we hopped across the street to a CVS. Good thing I used to live here!
Here's the CVS lot late on a Sunday night. Nobody here but half-crazed bike hooligans.
Wayli ran in for drugs, and Elizabeth went with him to get warm. Nothing at the CVS, or the Safeway next door. I waited with the bikes and took pictures.
Some dude asked me for cigarettes. Then they came back, empty handed. What else was open around here?
Walgreens. OK, back on the bikes, ride a block over to Walgreens. Wayli ran in, Elizabeth climbed into a shopping cart and was so enamored with the backrest she promptly fell asleep.
We let her sleep as long as possible. Wayli finally found his benadryl and stowed it on his bike.
We geared up, woke Elizabeth, and pointed the bikes 20 miles north to Oakland, and home.
The 580 is in much better condition than the 880, so it was smooth sailing for the last 20 minutes. Some traffic, but not much to tell, really. We came into Oakland, and then Wayli waved and pulled off on his exit. Two miles later, Elizabeth and I parted ways, she three exits down and I one exit up 24.
10 minutes later, I was home. A few texts bounced around to confirm that everyone was safe and sound, nobody fell asleep or got run over.
300 miles, 13 hours, bikes leaking oil, bikes not starting, bikes running out of fuel, bikes being blown across the freeway, bald eagles, tumbleweeds, bored gas station attendants, heat, cold, wind, dust, the tastiest damn food I ever ate in a Nob Hill parking lot, and we we made it.
I had my adventure, my chance to see the Great Floating Skunk-Weasels of Big Sur, my chance to write a story I'll be embellishing for decades to come, and nobody died. I got to share it with fantastic friends, some new, some old, whom I became incredibly close to over the course of those 48 crazy hours. It was a hell of a trip, and I'd love to do it all over again.
But that's not how it goes. We don't get to relive those dreams. We get new ones, but the ones that have already happened are locked away in memory, immutable, as they were. So make the best of them. Charge out there with just as much planning as you need, grab a bike and a tent and some friends and make it happen. I promise, it'll be a story to remember.