riding the coastline towards the outskirts

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It was dark in my room. They put me in the guest house for the night. Slipping on my sandals, I walked across the entryway to the main house to make coffee and oatmeal. Shoes were piled up by the door, so I complied with the house rules, and felt the cold tiles under my feet. No one else was up except the birds in the kitchen, hidden under a floral bed sheet.

In the backyard was an olympic sized pool nestled between palm trees; double doors accustomed to being left open. The sounds from the covered parakeets and the wild birds in the trees blurred, surrounding me. Everything was dulled by the clouded sunrise, giving the palm trees a melancholy expression. I had only seen palm trees tall and proud in bright light - paradise trees. Seeing them clouded ended that fantasy, as if I was seeing them as trees for the first time, and not the symbol of constant happiness that I had remembered.

By 7:45am, I was back on the highway. I found an Airbnb in Santa Barbara for $40 a night, meaning I had an 80 mile day ahead of me. I hadn't seen another cyclist yet, but it was early in the season for the average highway one traveler. I imagined the summertime would be a bit more social, as you pull into your campsite, greeted by the cyclists that had passed you earlier, sharing stories and plans for the rest of the trip.

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The gray of the day and the flat grade of the ride put me into a trance, as the wind and traffic dulled my senses.

I passed strawberry fields, as I made my way to a coffee stop. The intense simplicity of being alone was overwhelming to my customarily overstimulated brain. I fought back the urge to escape my present surroundings. Time is slow, though we do everything to keep it from feeling that way. It felt unnatural to be undistracted.

The space just to the right of the road became my domain. It was where I conducted most of my refueling, unloading, and navigating. Bike leaned against the cement barrier, I watched the semi-trucks roll by as I ate fruit leathers, reapplying chamois butter without hesitation. It was a playful, care-free world, where I could turn on my camera and talk to my handlebar friend, with his single blinking red light, reassuring me he was still listening.

I arrived in Goleta by 6pm. Exhausted, I had hoped to amble about Santa Barbara wearing my socks and sandals, perhaps finding a decent beer, and meet a few college kids who would take me out to a bonfire beach party. Instead, I was a cab ride from any downtown scene and could only reach a gas station by foot.

Walking up to the Airbnb, the door swung open as a shorter man insisted I come in, his wife suspiciously peering around the corner at my bike. In one day, I had retreated so inward that I had difficulty speaking when I arrived at my destination. Luckily, he spoke fast, broken english, so my brief utterances weren't abnormal. My host kindly showed me my room, handing me a key to keep it locked, and instructed me on how to turn on the shower, requesting I keep it to a 5 minute limit.

Next to the bathroom was an open door leading out to the back patio. I then guessed the wife had been told I would come though the back, which is why she had given me such a look. After my shower, I walked to the gas station for my protein bar and wine dinner. The moments off the bike were the most difficult as I navigated stores, silent except for the brief exchanges with the clerks. I was a ying-yang, both elated and depressed at the thought of the remaining week of riding.

Returning back to my room, I called Cody to chat, sputtering fragmented thoughts, a ball of chaotic energy. The back door of the house was still open when I arrived back, and loud conversations were being exchanged in languages I didn't understand just outside my door. I chose the single bed, opposite the bunk beds, wondering if his kids had grown, or if they were required to sleep in the living room when guests were over.

I quickly brushed my teeth, passing the open back door to the sink. Lying in the dark, I listened to people come and go all night, unable to recognize any voices. Sleepless, I found a site called Couch Surfers. I created my profile, sent a few messages, and hoped for a plan to arrive in my inbox for tomorrow.