Day Eighty Seven: The Last Hurrah
Distance: 69 mi. (Includes detour for obligatory burrito in West San Francisco)
Song of the Day: Moon Hooch — Number 9
7AM: Rise and stretch in shaded backyard’s well-manicured garden, another strange habitus transformed to a sanctuary of passing comfort. Dawdle in kitchen, coffee pipes through the automatic drip, wisps of steam testify to surprisingly cool morning. John wears a silk kimono, shuffles newspapers spread on a sun-streaked glass table. Lizzie makes a few pieces of toast, I deposit a plastic bag’s worth of granola into a bowl of Lactaid, we fill our waters and snap a few pictures before trotting off.
Route to the Vallejo ferry runs South-west out of Davis, following university bike paths into stunningly flat and quiet farm lands. Walnuts, sweet corn, green plums and biofuels grow on boxed patches of land, an occasional circle of cows or horses eyeing us as we cajole from the road.
Liz and I don’t talk much, and I sense that she’s taking on her own variation of the complex emotional state I find myself in. Today feels like any other day, could it really be our last? What will it be like to be done? I remind myself to stay with the moment at hand. Don’t think so fast. Don’t bike so fast, either, or it will be over even sooner.
Wind via right-angled turn through Vacaville and Fairfiled; traffic picks up and soon we’re thrown into unblinking blankness of California suburbs. Pleasant hints of eucalyptus on the breeze; that end-of-the-land sadness Kerouac knew so well.
Horizon rimmed by highways 5 and 580, we merge onto a bike path and exit Fairfield suburbs for hilly, open terrain, even spot a sign on the side of McGary Street advertising an “open space;” later research evinces a 200-mile network of trails over reserved land. Now, if only Alan Wells will lend me a mountain bike…
11AM: Complete a three-mile stretch of hills against thick headwinds, up and over the Solano bike corridor and into Vallejo’s strip malls, pushing hurriedly through amid a smatter of cars buzzing like angry bees. Cruise through Vallejo residential area, slam on the brakes for two girls running a lemonade stand! Pour, pour, gulp, gulp, $2 goes into their coffee tin. Leave two bubbling, awestruck faces behind who swear to us they’ll ride across the country some day.
Stop into a bakery for breakfast sandwiches at 1:38 and leave by 1:51, just enough time to bike the final 1.6 miles and make the 2PM Vallejo ferry. Lizzie’s always up for a good panicked ride in the wrong world of my fantasies. Make it with two minutes to spare, ticket men are wizardly fast at dolling out as well as stubbing the ticket. The pleasure of such a simple expression of human mastery of a small task.
I listen to a man landmark the voyage for his three small children, soak in the knowledge as eagerly as they do. Spot the rust-worn General Mills manufactory on the bank of Rodeo. I do not hear my unknowing guide’s explanation of the elegant lighthouse built into the rock of a small island, “…owned by one of the brothers…” — its too noisy on the boat and I’m not invited to sit on the man’s lap as his kids do.
I stop paying attention as the city pounds into view.
Faintly at first. Then it boldly announces itself.
There you have it.
There’s more to say, of course. But a singular thought occurs to me: the principal moment in any true adventure may just be the impulse to quit. That disreputed impulse, jilted so many times before, now rises to its ripest perfection, and proudly and expressly rebuffs the unnameable, intangible and ridiculous thing that spurred you on for so many wondrously pointless miles. The point emerges: to quit, and be done with it!
When the thing undertaken in earnest is finally complete, its doers become undone, that is to say, wildly incomplete.