All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways. This madness can be saving; it is part and parcel of the ability to adapt. –Yann Martel, Life of Pi
I ran out of toilet paper, so I went to Monterey — County. Some 342 miles north of where I now live.
The vacationers above finally drove me out. They seemed to sleep in shifts, and otherwise wander around above me through the night. Work was impossible.
So I packed up my car — wetsuits, towels, blankets, food, maps, guidebooks — and headed north to investigate the possibilities.
Ah, the adventures to be had at three in the morning!
Traffic in LA County was minimal, a pleasure to drive the freeways as they were designed — fast for long distances.
Dawn was breaking when I hit Ventura, so I got off the 101 and headed for the beach to watch. So quiet! Just me and the birds and fish.
After awhile some humans showed up, runners, a sanitation crew. Which reminded me that I had to pee. Found a clean-ish gas station, then had to wait for the only toilet. And wait.
When the door to the bathroom finally opened, a gorgeous blonde corrections officer emerged, hair immaculately coiffed, uniform spotless and pressed, shoes shined. A cloud of hairspray wafted out with her and engulfed me, permeating my red wool coat and hair. Slimed!
Back on the highway, I headed north again. Just past Santa Barbara, I take Highway 154. Mistake.
Winding through the mountains up into Chumash land, it is foggy and fine and lovely until my gas gauge dings. The suspense begins: will I be stranded on this godforsaken highway in who-knows-where? Should I turn back? Continue? I try to relax my grip on the wheel.
Up ahead is a state park, with a little gas station icon on the sign.
But no joy, ain’t open yet. “The Chumash station is only 8 miles up,” says the ranger. “You’ll be fine.”
“Thanks,” I say, and drive on into wine country. BMW’s, Porsches, Mercedes, etc. surround my weary Jetta at the pumps. Clean bathroom. I still stink of hairspray.
Back on the 101, ever northward.
Past Santa Maria, near Oceano, traffic is slowed by a CHP SUV, skating across the lanes, back and forth, keeping us behind. Grover Beach exit beckons. Why not?
I walk the wide sandy shore and wade in. The north wind is nippy so I don’t immerse. Instead I retrieve my lunch: turkey leg, carrots, rice ‘n’ beans. Delicious in the sea air.
Anxious about sleeping arrangements, I make a reservation at the San Luis Obispo hostel. There — a bed for the night. (This doesn’t turn out to be true, more about that later.)
I drive through Pismo and up to Shell Beach. Find a beautiful cove. Rest in the sun. Sleep, finally. Safe.
To be continued.