I’ll come back

Cycling  in Irvine is like riding through a ghost town. The constant rush of engines rising from (the) 405 subsists into a mock-silence, and as the sole cyclist on the roads, I get the creeping, post-apocalyptic feeling that I’m the last of my kind. The threat of rain or radiation must have held people indoors today, I think. Really, though, this is how it always is down here. Everything you need is so close but so far. So people drive there, and drive with their windows rolled up. I’m alone for a while  until I cross paths with an old man on a rusty beach cruiser. I fancy him Orange County manifestation of the Mountain Man, lost in another time. Leatherskinned and oilhaired, the vacancy behind his sunglasses suggests no acknowledgment. He rides ahead slowly and his blue flip-flops curl limply over the cruiser’s thick plastic pedals.

A sign planted in the sagebrush landscape across the freeway reads: “Open Space Preserve (The Irvine Company).” The Irvine Company never lets you forget it’s there, or that today is today. I ride up what I think looks like a good hill—only to discover a gated community (None Shall Pass) before the summit. A small notice posted next to the sprinkler head smugly reminds: “Don’t Drink Reclaimed Water.” Frustration, frustration.

Just days ago we were (not, by any means) lost somewhere in the primordial ferns and Jurassic Park forests of Humboldt County. The North, with its wet fields and red houses send me spinning to another North—I didn’t know I could be so moved by the sight of herds of cattle grazing an open field by a rainy ocean. The trees, of course, are bigger. It’s not so simple to judge what is more of a wonder: the regenerative urgency of the thousands of clovers swelling on the forest floor or the behemoth hush of the redwoods having outlived, already, thousands of regenerations of clovers.

The North Coast is so dramatic it has a beach made of colorful glass pebbles. Really they’re just shards of beer bottles smoothed by the ocean, mostly. Some of them must have been Tiffany lamps, priceless vases, and church windows. I’d like to think that the bit of blue glass I found may be from a stained glass window destroyed in a Viking raid or during the sacking of Constantinople. But probably, it’s a blue beer bottle.

Seven hours shooting through the parched middle on the tail of the cerulean aqueduct in its wind through through brown hills and olive farms, and I’m back to The City of Angels, Fountain Valley, Santa Ana, Irvine, Desert, Mall, Ocean, Sky.

Experiencing the nearly the entire length of California (–coming home–) in a span of three days is quite a trip.


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