A Cyclist’s Diary of Traversing the State

by Alastair Bland

For several months after college at UCSB I moved back home to
San Francisco and lived the idle life of day jobs, stale air, and
silly little rat races. But I fast grew bored with it all. I turned
to the violin for a while, and then dabbled in painting, and out of
desperation I modeled for art classes. But when I took up
adventuring I knew I had found my calling. Any given day in this
vocation might find me riding my bicycle across a terrible desert,
romancing a damsel, or outwitting enemies. In fact, there is
scarcely a dull moment in my occupation. There’s no money either,
but it beats a day job.

The bicycle is of paramount importance to the adventurer; it is
the most essential tool of my trade, allowing me to travel quickly
and economically. The arts of resourcefulness and thrift are also
key. On my latest expedition I took my old mountain bike the length
of the state of California, north to Redding, back down to the Napa
Valley, and as far south as Los Angeles, and in two months I spent
just $100. I lodged at cheap campgrounds and in farm fields, and I
took my nourishment as I found it, usually growing from trees along
the roadsides.

Most of my days consisted of sunshine, friendly strangers, and
peace, but danger could arrive without warning. Huge automobiles
driven by treacherous villains swerved at me as they roared past,
savage pit bulls chased me down lonely country roads, and at camp
each evening, there was no telling who might show up. One time, on
the Sacramento River, a drunken miscreant sauntered across the
grass to where I lay in my sleeping bag. He stopped directly over
me and threatened to cave in my skull and bury me in the riverbank.
I sat up and readied myself for a battle to the death, but right
then a park ranger drove past in his vehicle and my enemy
disappeared into the woods.

The roadside dining in much of California is excellent — and
very reasonable. Actually, it is free, and bicycle speed is just
right for rolling along and scanning the foliage for fruit. During
my travels I largely subsisted on almonds, avocados, figs, and
persimmons. A great many of these trees are abandoned and the food
is virtually limitless. There are deserts, though, such as the
southern San Joaquin Valley, where there is barely enough forage to
keep a cyclist alive. This land is like hell, in fact. The
temperature hits 100 degrees by noon each day, and across the
desolate plains thousands of oil wells slave away in eternal misery
while tornadoes of dust swagger about like phantoms.

Fortunately, visitors to the San Joaquin Valley are free to
leave any time — unlike visitors to Hell. After three days there, I
awoke one morning and rode west. The sun rose behind me and
breathed flames down my neck, but I pedaled hard and arrived that
night in Pismo Beach. I uncorked a bottle of wine, sat down on top
of a sand dune, and watched the sun sink into the Pacific

The southern California coast is paradise. The climate is warm
and mild, and the scenery of mountains, sea, and sky is
spectacular. On the beach there can be seen bodybuilders, surfers,
and beautiful ladies, all walking around with their stunning legs
and torsos exposed. I tried to romance several of the damsels, but
they gave me a wary eye. It had been a month, after all, since I’d
last groomed myself or applied any skin lotion, cologne, or hair

I navigated southward into the gritty concrete jungle of Los
Angeles. Perhaps I would blend in a little better here, I thought,
but while waiting at a red light a police officer motioned for me
to pull over. He emerged from his vehicle, looked down his nose at
me, and asked if my bicycle was stolen. I removed my helmet and
told him that I was a peaceful and law-abiding traveler from the
great city of San Francisco. He frowned bitterly, said I would get
a ticket if he saw me again and suggested I leave town at once.

Disheartened at being mistaken for a common vagrant, I started
north on Highway 101. I pedaled over the mountains and down into
the Salinas Valley. It seemed to me a terrible injustice that the
world could not appreciate my valorous and noble ways, and in my
somber state, I devoted particular attention to the sad shades of
autumn, the sinking of the October sun and the dwindling of the
summer fruits. Walnut season was on, though, and the persimmons
were beginning to soften. Winters are mild in California and the
notion struck me that I might stay on the road for years.

Alas, homesickness struck me down around mile 2,000. I was on my
way to Oregon when I felt the first symptom of this cruel
infection — an irrational longing for soft pillows. This quickly
developed into a tugging sensation in the region of my heart, and I
began to veer toward home. Like an asteroid in space seized by
gravity, I rolled unstoppably westward, from the Sacramento Valley,
over the hills of Napa, and south toward the Bay Area. I considered
abandoning everything and diving from the saddle, but I was moving
too fast, and almost before I realized it, I reached the Golden
Gate Bridge. In plain view to my left there stood the noble skyline
of the city where I was born — I knew then that the adventurer
inside me had been defeated.

I have been recovering my strength and vigor for several months
now in my mother and father’s home in San Francisco. I show up here
every few months, uncouth and scruffy, and my parents understand,
for even adventurers need vacations. Some mornings I take a short
bike ride around town before retiring to my bed of down pillows and
silk sheets, and by night I sip cognac by the fire and play chess
with old friends. It is a good life here, but I’m just a visitor,
really. The road is my true home, and soon I shall take my bicycle
and leave; for as I speak there are enemies out there to battle,
damsels to romance, and deserts to cross.


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