Day 61 (2016-10-26): 30 miles from Camp Takowitz to Big Bear Lake, CA.
Butterflies in my stomach. Why so nervous? I’ve done this before. It is partly because I am leaving the safety and ease of the Pacific Coast to venture across the desert where services will be few and isolation will be strong. But I am prepared for all that, I am a strong rider, and I am able to carry a lot of water. So why do I feel this way? It’s not about what I am doing but what I am leaving: the comfort of a home, the companionship of friends, and the enjoyment of cooking and relaxing however I chose. In a way it reminds me of stage freight. Stage freight is fear of the audience, fear of failure. My audience is myself, and I fear to fail because I am trying to prove to myself that I can do this. That I can live the nomadic life, that I can be happy alone and without many of the modern comforts we learn to take for granted. And even though I know I can do it I am nervous to fall short of my hopes for myself. To come to terms with who I am and who I want to be. I am my own worst critic.
Once I start riding everything falls into place, as I knew it would. Climbing up to Onyx Summit is a slow, beautiful climb through varied forest terrain. It’s dry up here but there are trees. TREES! I am far too happy to see so many trees. I know I can never live somewhere where forest is not readily available. The week and some off my bike is kicking in and I creep up the mountain at about 5mph for 13 miles. The pass is not very noteworthy but fortunately the descent is fabulous.
First I take in the juxtaposition between the southern, ocean-side of the mountain where tree cover is pretty thick despite years of drought. On the northern and inland face trees are spaced further apart, the ground is rockier, and I see the desert in the distance. The real treat I barley notice…as I ride towards Big Bear I catch a glimpse of a magnificent view over my shoulder. I pull to the side and turn around to see the back side of the mountains towering above the road, trees covering all but the largest outcrops, sky contrasting the browns and greens with an incredibly bright blue. Holy shit. I could sit here and look at this for hours. Except it’s a highway and traffic is picking up.
As Scott told me, Big Bear is not exactly the mountain town I want to visit. It’s very developed, with major stores like K-Mart, Von’s (super grocery), Subway, etc. There are more ski and board shops than anything else, although liquor stores are not far behind. Big fuck-off trucks rule the road and I meet the first asshole drivers I’ve dealt with in weeks. But I hold out, and decide to check out the ITH Big Bear Adventure Travel Lodge rather than go directly to a dispersed campsite. I heard they have $15 camping with access to the lodge – I would not mind a fireplace and comfy chairs!
As it turns out, it is better than I imagined. The campsite is nothing much but the $15 also includes dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow. There is wifi, comfy chairs, a huge great room with fireplace where communal dinner will happen, and pretty everything you could want or need. I can shower with their towels, play pool or ping-pong, and even watch movies or play the piano. The weekly calendar is filed with fun things like “Game Night” or “Hike with Yogi.” Did I mention they have a 11-month old Burmese Mountain Dog named Yogi? He doesn’t have Murphy’s (my friend’s dog in Seattle) dumb face but he is a sweetheart with a babyface. I love this place!
I walk down to the lake to consider jumping in but it turns out to be less than appealing – the water level is out about 100-150 feet from where it would be if there has not been a drought for the last decade. This means no steep shore – an a long, shallow, pool of algae and duck poop where the water begins. No thanks. Instead I read for a while before strolling through town to get a 22 and some desert. I take full advantage of the comfy chairs, first talking on the phone and then catching up on my journal and blog.
Dinner tonight is red beans and rice with a side salad. I sit down with a handful of folks to eat and discover that there are at least 4 volunteers working here through the website workaway.com. It’s one of those sites where you are connected with places like this (hostels, farms, non-profits, etc) that will house and often feed you while you volunteer for them. Placements vary and are located all over the globe. I ask a lot of questions – maybe this will be my next move! I also am seriously considering opening a place like this one day (if nothing else, as a retirement project) so it would be sweet to get some hands-on experience.
Despite all the butterflies this morning, I feel good. Today was a success, as I knew it would be, and I am staying in a sweet place. I made a few calls to friends and chatted with the people volunteering and staying here – both helped bolster me and remind me that, although I am traveling solo, I am not really alone. Here’s to another good week of travel to Flagstaff!