Sunday, May 1, 2016

8: The kindness of strangers

We left our campground in King City and had breakfast at Denny's before starting up Hwy 25 toward Pinnacles National Park. This was our second meal in as many days at Denny's, for, as the camp host said when I asked him about places to eat in town, "we're not really known for our cuisine"!

This was another of those spectacular routes through California's rolling hills and oak terrains.  There was a good bit of climbing to get up on the plateau, and from time to time a nice descent to give our legs a rest.
We were not anticipating a terribly long day, even so, as we only had less than 40 miles to go to the park.

We'd stopped at a market to get something to eat along the way, because there is nothing, NO THING on this route until you hit the camp store in the national park. About the best we could do were some ersatz Oreo cookies and a couple of crackers made by Bimbo (the Mexican baked goods company) that actually turned out to be pretty good. It seems that the local palate for treats runs along the lines of sugar wafers and cookies of the vanilla wafer persuasion.  Not a Clif bar, Luna or even fig newton to be found in the local grocery. Oh well.  At least our water bottles were full.

We agreed to stop a third of the way in.  That would be 12 miles, and I was counting them down.  Anticipating a four-hour ride, we agreed to make our water last.  But those dry cookies were tough going down!

When we finally got to the 24 mile mark, I said, "it's time for our second stop."  Roger was reluctant, until I pointed out that it was now nearly 1:00, and we had not had any lunch, and we needed a break. After that, I just watched the grasses blow in the wind, and turned my legs.  This was turning into the longest 36 miles on the planet!
Grasses on the roadside

About those grasses:  when you are riding slowing along the road, you can really look at things.  I am fascinated by the grasses, weeds and wildflowers that we see.  The grasses particularly.  They wave and dance and pirouette as we ride by, sometimes even seeming to bow in our direction as we approach.  That's a bad thing - it means they are blowing towards us and it would really be better if they blew AWAY from us.  But still, they are so beautiful - silver and golden, green ones, red, purple - every type of seed head and leaf.  I'm mesmerized by them.

Traffic at the park
We finally turned into the National Park and had a sweet little mile or so descending gently to the visitor center, where there was a long line of cars waiting to get in!  Who knew?  The ranger came up to see us, and waved us in, but smirked when Roger asked about camping for cyclists.  "You mean you do not have a reservation?" Oh, no.

To add insult to injury, the back tire was flat as we arrived in the parking lot.  Roger set out to fix it, and I went off to find someone who would let us join their camping party.  Fortunately, Tom and Roxanne were right there in the second plot, and they graciously agreed to let us share their space.  They had already added another young couple, and so the six of us enjoyed visiting, sharing stories and enjoying the park.
Sebastian and Javi had pasta with brown butter sage sauce!
Sebastian and Javi offered treats and Champagne, and Tom had the coolest little skewers for roasting marshmallows I had ever seen. Plus, they had a smashing tricked-out van that is the modern-day equivalent of those old touring VW buses you sometimes still see.  Next time I go around the country, I want one of those!
My next tour, I want one of these!

So all's well that ends well.  In spite of the harsh winds, the lack of room at the inn, and the fact that we were too tired to really go out and see anything much in the park, we enjoyed our stay due to the generosity and hospitality of our fellow travelers.  We rode away feeling grateful indeed.

The day's record:  King City to Pinnacles National Park, 33 miles/447 to date

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