When I set out on this adventure, I had no idea how long California would take. I left on April 23rd, but only reached the end of this state after 6 weeks. I have ridden over 1300 miles. I have had a day or two where I’ve climbed over 3500 feet in a single day. I have climbed 15 long miles of hills, to be able to speed down for 5 miles at a 7% grade. I have glided along the border of North America. I have seen animals I never thought I’d see in real life, or in California: camels, alpaca, zebras, emus, and elephant seals. I have slept on the beach in a driftwood shelter, in bourgeois towns along the coast, on a bed on a mountaintop, on land with sheep as my neighbors, in an urban park, in homes of friends of friends, in homes of friends, in hiker-biker campsites. In Joshua Tree National Park, the edges of Yosemite, in Big Sur. In old-growth redwood forests.
I have eaten at least my weight in food.
California: I never could have expected the diversity of its geography. When we departed from the coast, we descended into desert. When we returned to the coast, we rode along cliff faces that extended as far as the eye could see. When we rode into Northern California, we found the blinding, chilling fog.
There have been innumerable kind strangers who went out of their way and proved how big their hearts are. Some have driven their cars slowly to direct us; some have ridden their bikes the long way to show us the scenic route. Some have given us their maps and marked different spots to avoid and spots they recommended. Some have given us water in the desert heat.
In 1300 miles, I can point to only one objectively bad experience and one subjectively bad day. Someone threw a taco at Anne from their car window in the desert. And the only bad day was Guadalupe.
Through a friend, I got a chance to meet and talk with Laura Luna, who shared some of her life experiences and thoughts with me. Traveling allows me to interact with people in ways that I might not regularly. Talking with Laura Luna allowed me to pick the mind of someone who has been organizing, surviving, and thriving, and provided inspiration for hundreds of miles. (I also got to pick the brain of another friend, Yiming, whose interview has yet to be posted!)
When I started, I wrote down what I expected from California. Did this state meet my expectations?
1. I built a fire once. With help from Anne and Laura. It didn’t last very long. I hope for more fires in my future!
2. I dipped my toes in the Pacific, but never swam. I saw countless sunsets over the ocean, though.
3. We climbed in Joshua Tree National Park. Not officially, and not using ropes. But we scrambled around on rocks for hours, and reached some epic heights.
4. We summit’d Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree National Park. It was about 1.5 miles of a stair workout, with an incredible view from above.
5. I did eat avocado with every meal one day in San Diego. Aside from that, I just ate a lot of tacos. Not a lot of bourgeois eating, unfortunately.
6. We slept alongside an orange grove in Orange County. We weren’t technically in the orange grove, but I think we were close enough to meet the goal.
I found a lot that I didn’t expect…including golf courses in the desert, agriculture bordering the ocean, small towns with majority Latino workforces, strawberry fields and strawberry stands, cheap fruit stands selling 3 grapefruits for $1 and 10 avocados for $1, coastlines, hot tubs, solar panels, composts, and fog.
We saw very few black people during our entire time in California. In Southern California, I saw very few South Asians, but lots of East Asians and Southeast Asians. I don’t think there was a single day we did not see someone who was Latino in California.
If part of my journey is to scope out places I’d like to live, at least for a little while, then there are a few takers from California. Santa Barbara for its small town charm. Los Angeles for being a confluence of many peoples and cultures. Santa Cruz for the weird. Oakland for the radical organizing among people of color, and the enormous potential to learn from those working there. Arcata, for creating spaces where beer pong, painting nails, juggling, and guitar playing coexist.
It’s been real, Cali.