Guest Blogger - Chris Sanders
Carmel is located at the south end of the Monterey Bay, past Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach. It was inhabited by the Esselen and Ohlone tribes for centuries before Spanish explorers "discovered" the bay in the 1500's. After the Spanish, missionaries and ranchers "discovered" the area in the 1800's bringing enlightenment and a good steak. Then artists, writers, and musicians discovered Carmel after the 1906 earthquake. But it wasn't really discovered until the arrival of realtors, art galleries, wine bars, and Houstonians, named for the annual migration of Texans who love the cool, fogged-in summers and European cafes on every corner. At first glance, Carmel would appear to be the cultural opposite of Santa Cruz at the north end of the massive Monterey Bay, but it's only different by degrees and the police log. Property values are equally high. Santa Cruz is connected to Silicon Valley, Carmel is the last stop before the frontier called Big Sur.
It's better that this blogpost is published after Team BBB peddled through Big Sur. Of course, Devon, Jeff, and Tom didn't underestimate the peril of riding from Canada to Mexico along the narrow highways of the Pacific coast, but the stretch from Carmel to Cambria is world-class insane. 101 miles of rocky outcroppings and hairpin curves I don't even like to drive in a car.
This week, parades of holiday refugees snaked down scenic HWY 1, funneling over narrow bridges and jockeying for passing lanes, attempting to salvage their vacations during a government shutdown that closed popular national parks. Minivans full of restless, carsick escapees from suburbia gambled on landing one of the few Big Sur campsites. And if that didn't work- a damp motel room. But 200 turns and two hours later they discovered there were no campsites nor motel rooms. Only a netted rock face to the left and the Pacific Ocean to the right, crashing 1000 feet below. For drivers on the outer curve, adding a bike or two to the mix complicated the equation.
I know. I've driven it many times. I barely noticed the cyclists trudging up to Bixby Bridge or resting on the windblown shoulder at Hurricane Point. I was too busy clinging to the centerline.
The day before B3 left Carmel, I saw my friend Scott hobbling up the sidewalk, elbow canes strapped to each wrist. Not old man canes, but those canes for people with spinal injuries. Scott used to ride his bike everyday from his house boat in Monterey to his job down the street. And he's ridden Big Sur's Old Coast Highway for decades. But last February, Scott was pedaling through Carmel Valley when he was rear-ended by a driver blinded by the sun. He's still recovering. I told him of the B3 adventure and solicited some advice. "Wait until the bridge is empty before you cross." he cautioned, "Drivers down there get spooked on the narrow bridges and underestimate their width. They'll pinch you."
Thanks Scott, I'll try to work that into the conversation.
UPDATE: I got word from Becca that the boys made it safely to Morro Bay beyond Big Sur. Exhale. That adventure was nothing short of amazing.
Rolling back a couple days, I got a call from bike captain Tom Burt, an old friend from the golden days of snowboarding. When we worked together at Avalanche snowboards, I'd dream up some innovation and Tom would prove it worked. Little secret, I could have mounted swim fins to an ironing board and Tom would have proved it worked.
Tom called to let me know the riders would be arriving in Carmel for evening glass. My wife Bev and I were looking forward to their visit. The Carmel Art & Film Festival would be happening the same weekend. This would neatly dovetail into my grand plan to introduce Bev to actor Kate Bosworth. She was in town introducing her new film appropriately titled Big Sur. This seems random, but Kate starred in the surf melodrama Blue Crush back in 2002. It turned out to be an important cultural meme that inspired many women to surf after seeing the film. Bev, founder of Las Olas surf safaris for women, felt the seismic shift of the movie that year. I thought it made sense to connect the women. I only needed to warm Bev and Kate to the idea.
I shared my plan with the boys over dinner of NY steaks and barbecued sweet potatoes. I guess my sedentary lifestyle requires a lower caloric intake than three guys who just peddled 60 miles. I thought we could split a couple steaks. The correct formula turned out to be pretty simple: estimate what you would normally eat… then double it.
Naturally, I was curious about the degree of Devon's sight condition. Could he see at all? Shadows? Forms? Light? The truth is, I still don't know. He has mastered the ability to look right at you in conversation and move gracefully through the room like he's been there before. I soon found myself forgetting he had any limitations. That led to absent-minded faux pas when talking about visual things like art on the wall or surf conditions. I awkwardly tested his sense of humor when he settled into the guest room by saying he had a direct view to the surf break, which in fact, was a brick wall. But he was unaffected and it felt like the joke was on me.
And he's completely at home on the beach. He must be drawing from years of experience because Tom said he surfs circles around him. In fact, I doubt any surfer in the lineup would have even noticed Devon couldn't see the set… or could he?
Carmel proper is about one square mile that ends at an idyllic cove bordered in white sand. Within that square is 60 restaurants and bars. It was no problem for us to find places to eat, drink, and meet up. With the film festival going on, the corner tavern was thick with indy filmmakers pitching the next Little Miss Sunshine. Despite the influx of Hollywood types, people were genuinely curious about the BBB adventure. I almost thought Devon would land a movie deal.
I hadn't given up on my carefully orchestrated 'chance meeting' with Kate. By Saturday night, the restaurant staff was on the look out and reports of "she just left" or "back in an hour" were filtering in.
Sunday was sunny and warm with waist high swell. We carbo-loaded at Little Swiss Cafe where surfer/owner Steve shared his single snowboard story- basically he followed his expert friends to the top of an expert run and expertly had his ass handed to him. What he lacks in snowboard skill, he definitely makes up for in the kitchen. His food is outstanding.
The boys surfed while Bev and I saw Kate premier her new film Big Sur, a dark story of Jack Kerouac's escape to a hidden cabin 20 miles south. I tried for a chance to sidle up to her during the meet-and-greet, but I was seriously starting to look like a stalker. The movie was good, Kate and her new director husband were gracious hosts, but I needed to bring it down a notch or get escorted out. Unfortunately, I hesitated and again she was gone.
That evening we settled into the back room at La Bicyclette cafe on the corner. Using the aforementioned formula, we doubled the pizza order while a stream of attractive servers made sure our glasses were never empty. That bike/surf/eat/sleep program doesn't jibe with bar crawls, so we ambled back to the house and chatted around the fire.
The following morning, bikes loaded and team caffeinated, we hugged goodbye and wished them well. They had a few hundred miles ahead before joining Becca and Madrona in San Luis Obispo next weekend. As they say on the set, we're burning daylight, so we waved them out of sight as they headed south down towards the highway. On our walk back home, Bev and I stopped at the same cafe for coffee. The pretty barista asked how their trip was going. "Amazing," I replied, "They just started down the road towards Big Sur."
"One of them was really cute," she smiled.
"Oh really?" Then I smiled back and asked, "You didn't see Kate Bosworth, did you?"