33.9 mi / 9.4 mph / 1375 ft. climbing
Home: Veterans Memorial Park hiker/biker campsite
Last night, I was the last one up brushing my teeth by the picnic table, and suddenly they appeared: five or six raccoons, just on the other side of the table, heading for the food box. The stopped their approach when they saw me, their eyes beaming back the reflected light of my headlamp, and then were smart enough to seriously scatter when I threw a big rock at them. It was at that point that I decided to add our bungee cords on top of the construction barricade that we had decided to use as a wedge to hold the doors closed from their reaching, grabbing, trash-panda hands.
And it worked. Despite them muddying our left-out dish cloths with those hands, our food was unscathed in the morning. Jarvis, The E’s, and us, all stuck to our patterns, taking time with hot breakfasts, and then basically all rolled out of camp at the same time, only diverging from our impromptu community as we hit the road.
The end of yesterday and much of today had us riding through something we’ve seen almost none of so far: agricultural land. And in my life, I don’t think I’ve ever been by this type of farmland, growing artichokes, Brussels sprouts, and strawberries (which smelled great). And I definitely haven’t been through farmland where the plants are green and growing in late November!
The riding was pretty tough, with the flat plain opening us up to some strong head- and cross-winds, and the road surface on the farm roads bad enough to nearly require a mountain bike. But at least it was empty enough and clear enough that it was a rare spot where Rett was comfortable with me riding in front for a bit to break the wind.
My General Delivery pickup at the Moss Landing post office went quickly and smoothly, and Rett picked up an order from Walmart in Marina. Then we started to look for a spot to sit and eat lunch. Over a month ago, I remember days when we would spend a long time riding, searching everywhere for just a small patch of warm sunlight coming through the trees to make the lunch stop more bearable. In a reversal that I could only treat as ridiculous, today, less than a month from the winter solstice, we spent a long time riding, searching everywhere for just a small patch of shade to make the lunch stop more bearable. The mid-70s temperatures and dune landscape our trail was taking us through (and our cold-adjusted bodies) just made it feel hot. At least that near-solstice sun-angle meant that we didn’t need a very tall tree to shade us, even at midday. It has been so relieving for the last week to not have the wet weather-stress that had been such a drain on us and nearly had us considering a serious route-change, which, in retrospect, would have been a huge mistake!
Veterans Memorial is a Monterey city park that has a hiker/biker campground, again in the middle of an urban area (though at the top of a pretty brutal 400-ft. hill). Unlike New Brighton, they have a specific published policy allowing 3-night stays of both hikers and bikers. Our plan was to stay for those 3 nights to get us to Thanksgiving, before we left civilization again for Big Sur (see, our slow progress from Santa Cruz hadn’t been entirely to wait for my package delivery).
When we arrived, there were a couple of “hikers”, and one biker, all from a somewhat different class of nomads than the group we had in camp last night. Sid was fairly talkative (if a bit rant-y), Sean was silently sewing up a sleeping bag that he’d repacked with new down, and we barely saw the biker. Unlike last night, no one besides us used the picnic table for any cooking, and no one seemed to have any food stored in the shared boxes.
Beyond that, it’s not exactly obvious to me why I feel that a line separates guys like this from the group in last night’s camp. Is it just my bias and unnecessary assumptions? I mean, we’re just as “homeless” as they are, their gear isn’t junk, and, while they’re older than us, we’re a lot older than other travelers we see. Anyway, the upshot was that we paid for one night of camping, but agreed that we’d feel out in the morning if it felt good to stay longer.
A campground incident made us feel worse, but then better. A couple carrying take-out coffees oddly wandered through the shared hiker/biker area, confirmed that that’s what it was, and shortly after, returned with their car and began setting up a tent. The biker, in his only social interaction that I witnessed, came over and informed them that they weren’t allowed there, since they arrived via motor vehicle. They said something like “we’re going to come back with our bikes” and essentially told him to mind his own business.
Their blatant disregard for the rules infuriated Rett, who was determined to do something further, but my concern was that if they knew we ratted them out (not something that would require Sherlock Holmes to discover), we could face some form of retaliation. Luckily, before Rett was able to even do anything, a park ranger came by and told them they had to pack up and leave. They took their time, and hurled a bunch of invective at the ranger, but eventually packed up and left. So in the end, while the rule-violation was concerning, the enforcement of the rules, both by our fellow hiker/bikers, and the campground, was encouraging.
Our entertainment for the night was the 7pm horn blasting of “Retreat” and “To the Colors”, and 10pm “Taps”, from the active Army base at the Presidio next door, as well as all-night braying of the sea lions way down in Monterey Bay. Despite (or maybe because of) those sounds, we slept well through the night (though I did lock our bikes to the wooden fence overnight, something I almost never do).