Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Pleasantries

December 1st, 2011

Small motel on the outskirts of Lompoc. Clean and relatively inexpensive. Sunset was imminent and I was tired. There was supposedly a campground in town, but I didn’t like the look of the place. Moments earlier I’d passed a man on the cycle path. "Sexy bike" he’d shouted as I’d approached. Brief pause, then he added "Faggot". I doubted he’d meant firewood, and was quick to yell a suitable response.

I’d left the hostel back in San Luis Obispo feeling rather more pleased than when I’d risen. There’d been breakfast. Make your own pancakes, drizzled with maple syrup. Fresh coffee. Earlier than advertised. I’d retrieved my Comment Card from the outgoing mail and torn it up. Benefit of the doubt. But my reservations about the neighbourhood were unchanged.

A young woman had wandered up to the hostel as I’d been loading the bike up outside on the veranda. Puffing furiously on a cigarette. Was, she asked, there anyone who worked here around. Strange question I thought. Yes, I replied. Firmly. She stubbed out her smoke and disappeared inside. Two young men appeared. A little unkempt. One had a can of Guinness which he then opened.

The girl reappeared, a city map in hand, muttered something to the others and they drifted off. I left a short while later. Anxious not to leave my loaded steed unattended outside, even if secured to a post. A decent street map from the hostel and I’d little difficulty leaving town and picking up the route south once more.

Brief lunch stop on the edge of Pismo Beach and then inland to Guadalupe, forced away from the coast by Vandenburg Air Force Base. Small deli. Hot counter offering Mexican food. Signs in both English and Spanish. The odd Hola and Gracias overheard. On the magazine rack most publications also in Spanish. Women on the covers lightly clothed. Very warm further south, I surmised.

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Disappointing stop in San Luis Obispo

December 1st, 2011

I didn’t rate the hostel in San Luis Obispo. Filled out a Comment Card to this effect and dropped it in the mail. Often do this, usually in praise. But not this time. Restrictive Quiet Hours – until eight in the morning, the members kitchen closed until then. Seven I thought reasonable, the accepted norm. But not eight.

A small sign explained that the filter coffee machine could be turned on by earlier risers. But still contained the used grounds from the previous day. Another notice suggested a donation for the inclusive pancake and maple syrup breakfast. Three bucks. I’d be willing to consider covering costs, but not contributing to profit.

I’d risen just after five. Complete a few jobs whilst it was quiet. Eager then to leave and return to a final few days of camping before LA. Distinct feeling the hostel’s owner didn’t care much for the place. Neither did I.

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Hostel nights in San Luis Obispo

December 1st, 2011

Her hair was unkempt and she’d one leg. Amputated below the knee. Or so it appeared. Possible the lower limb was just strapped up. I couldn’t be sure. An old trick to illicit pity. The hostel was full, explained the manager. There was a motel nearby he suggested. Eighty bucks for a room. She muttered a little and then quietly left.

I’d reached San Luis Obispo late afternoon, the end of a relatively short day’s ride from Cambria. By the time I’d eventually found the hostel, satisfied I’d seen as much of the college town as I’d ever need to. Ostensibly a quiet suburban street, but around the corner there’d been three Police cruisers parked up. Domestic.

I’d started to see a few more drifters around. Getting closer to LA. The guidebook advising you should soon avoid camping in State Parks until the far side of the city. Real risk you might wake up with nothing. Assuming you wake up. I’d arranged to stay in hostels or be hosted by fellow cyclists.

Four bed dorm for the night. Initially a bit suspicious of one of my companions, striking up a conversation. Mostly out of genuine curiosity as to who he was. But, as I’d sometimes do at campgrounds, a chance to build rapport, to show I too am a person, not a mark. Gently weaving into the conversation a few subtle hints that I’m also not a soft touch for miscreants.

John arrived a little later. Executive chef setting up in town. Loud, personable Cuban New Yorker. We chatted about Castro’s enduring presence for a while before I retired to the common room to do some writing. Then a brief foray to the local supermarket. Pricey I thought. A few provisions for the days ahead.

It was dark by the time I’d returned to the hostel. Brief check of my trusty steed, secured as best I could to the bike rack outside. Inside, John was by now holding court at the long wooden communal table. Four wives. Left Cuba at three. I opted for the sofa, scribblings for the blog.

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