I’m writing this on the morning after. Last night, I just wanted to flop into bed early. It was a roller coaster of a travel day.
My energy had felt kind of strange at the beginning of the day. I had a hard time getting out of bed, then a hard time getting on the road. I’m not sure why, but I felt like I was dragging.
My Ventura Warmshowers host had assured me that the 29-mile ride to Moorpark would be “easy peasy,” and indeed, Google Maps showed that it would be “mostly flat.”
I set out in the cloudy sky, hoping the sunshine from the previous day would soon return.
I did see some beautiful light on the mountains as I left Ventura. I rolled passed lemon groves and beautiful eucalyptus trees lining the road alongside them.
At one point, I was shocked and delighted to notice that the strange green blobs I saw on a few roadside trees were avocados! I jumped off my bike to investigate, and sure enough: on one rural stretch of road, there were a couple dozen avocado trees growing on the right side. None of the fruit looked ripe, but that good-sized one in the photo did make its way into my backpack, and I’m excited to discover whether it might ripen to perfection in the next few days.
I continued biking along without much incident, until I suddenly found myself at a freeway interchange, where the only options seemed to be to take an entrance ramp to the left or the right, eastbound or westbound. Hmmm.
I consulted the Google gods again, and realized I had missed my turnoff a couple hundred yards back. Daily Drive. OK.
I retraced my steps and turned onto Daily. It looked like a frontage road against the freeway. Pavement seemed a little the worse for wear. Oh well; Google Maps would take me where I needed to go.
The pavement soon ended. The road got rutted and bumpy, and there was a big puddle I needed to navigate around. The soil was sandy and a bit damp, so it was hard to bike through. At one point the bike started tipping over. Luckily it was slow enough that I could jump off before falling.
But that was right around the place where I saw a sign saying something like “end road.”
This wasn’t a dead-end road, right?
I mean… if I had to turn around, I’d just find myself back at that freeway interchange, right?
I girded myself for the possibility of riding the shoulder on the freeway for a mile or two.
But I decided to press on. I knew that Google maps sometimes sends you on trails that are barely passable, because they may be safer or more direct than other routing options.
I pushed on. Damp, sandy grit coated all four of my wheels. The trailer’s rain cover got coated in kicked-back dirt. Twigs got lodged in a trailer wheel.
Then I saw a creepy house ahead.
This is not what I had thought I was signing up for.
I finally glimpsed my destination road—hallelujah!—but then I saw a car pull over to the side near where I was heading. Was it someone watching me? Was it illegal to be where I was? Were they going to confront me?
The car left. I pushed forward.
I made it to pavement!
Breathing a sigh of relief, I continued toward the small town of Camarillo. My HappyCow app showed almost no vegan-friendly restaurants there, but I figured I’d find a Chipotle or someplace for lunch.
When I reached the strip-mall area, a light mist was beginning to fall.
Seriously? This wasn’t in the forecast. Where was yesterday’s beautiful sunshine?
Oh well. It would probably be a brief shower. I ducked into a Chinese restaurant to wait it out.
After a nice meal of stir-fried vegetables, I emerged into… the sunshine?
The rain was coming down steadily. The sky showed no end in sight.
OK, I’d soldier on. Hopefully it would clear up in 20-30 minutes. I had a couple hours left in the ride.
Y’all? That rain. Never. Stopped.
I realized how spoiled I had been on this trip so far, to have avoided, until now, stretches of riding more than eight miles in the rain. (I definitely still remember that 8-mile stretch from Bayside to Arcata, though. My shoes got irreparably soaked, and I threw them out and bought a new pair, labeled “waterproof,” the very next day.)
But I now had 17 more miles to go.
And I was finding here that truck drivers didn’t appreciate my sharing the road with them; I got honked at twice. This, thankfully, has also been a rare occurrence for me thus far, but that made it all the more unpleasant yesterday. (Um, guys? You’re in a nice warm cab. How about sharing the road—for a few measly seconds—with someone who is fully immersed in the elements, and who has exactly the same legal right to be on the road that you do? Hmmm? How about it?)
My glasses became impossible to see through; I wore them on the bridge of my nose, and did the best I could with street signs. I muttered, and swore, and made up angry songs to sing about the rain and the behavior of motorists. I checked the map, then checked it again, to see how much progress I was making, but the battery was quickly fading, and my wet fingers on the wet phone often interfered with the functionality of the touchscreen.
I did find one more bit of fruit magic, though!
In the past few days, I had found myself curious about date palms, since I saw them all over Santa Barbara. I wondered if any of the fruit was edible. I had always been curious about dates and how they are harvested and processed.
So on that rainy day in Goleta few days ago when I took refuge on the cozy couch, I did some research.
It turns out that the California coast is not consistently hot enough to produce the kinds of dates we commonly eat. Those are grown more inland, in the desert.
Apparently between the unripe green phase of dates and the fully ripe brown phase, there is an intermediate yellow phase. And for some varieties of date trees—some of which grow in this area—the yellow dates are edible. You can pick them up off the ground. From what I read, they are often seedless, and crunchy like an apple. They don’t taste quite like dates, but they are tasty.
Through my rainy lenses and the dreary skies, I caught a glimpse of some date palms on my left. One of them had golden fruit in the branches as well as littered all over the ground.
I carefully parked my rig next to the traffic whizzing by in the rain, and scampered across the street.
I surveyed the fallen fruit, looking for the brightest yellow ones. I picked one up, and squeezed some of my water on it to wash off the rainy debris. It was tiny for a date—about the size of a large marble—but I still took just a tiny taste from the edge of it.
I took another bite.
It wasn’t crunchy. It wasn’t seedless, by a long shot—most of the small fruit seemed to be the pit.
But the small fleshy outer section did have a somewhat pleasant flavor. It was kind of like a cross between a date, a banana, and a pumpkin!
I took a few more nibbles, then tried a couple more fruit. Then I realized I was still chewing the skin of the first one; it was tough. I spat it out.
I also tried one of the brown ones, since the YouTube videos I had watched indicated that if you harvest dates when yellow and then leave them in the sun, they can also ripen to brown.
The brown one didn’t taste particularly date-like, though, so I left it.
Curiosity and fruit-scavenging instinct sated for the moment, I returned to my soggy steed, and plodded onward.
I made it to within about forty minutes of my destination when I encountered the following scene:
No way. There was no way. This couldn’t be happening. Not now.
I had seen the map. There was no quick work-around.
Could there please, please be a hidden gate of some sort? Please.
It’s amazing what a difference a tiny perspective shift makes.
I continued, sodden and still sullen but without further incident, until I reached the house of my friends, at the end of a long residential street here in Moorpark. My feet were sloshing and squishy inside those brand-new “waterproof” shoes. (I’m thinking of seeking a refund, or at least an exchange voucher for shoes that don’t claim to be waterproof. These clearly are not, and yet they do very effectively trap in all my sweat on dry days, leaving my feet wet then as well. Ugh.)
I showered and dried off, had some dinner kindly prepared by my friends, and began to thaw out.
This morning, I’ve been re-starting the dryer every five minutes to try to get those shoes dried out. The dryer has been shutting itself off every five minutes, for the past hour. I blame those cursed shoes.
On the plus side: I made it. It’s sunny today. I’m heading to LA tomorrow. I’m warm and dry now, with a couple of cute dogs to keep me company while my friends are out at work.
This trip is not always going to be glamorous. Still, it’s pretty magical.
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