(Day 6–9) Getting to Occidental

alex hays
7 min readAug 19, 2017


So i’m super duper glad I sat down at that buffet and ate a bunch in the morning because I ended up on a hiking / biking trail that didn’t. stop. being. uphill.

I saw a small road on a map I had and decided to go down it as it went pretty far east and went into some towns, but after a bit it stopped being a road.

The first 2 hours were beyond blissful and amazing and then hovering around the 3 hour mark (I was making such slow progress) I started to take stock of the fact I’d went down a random road and didn’t really know how much longer the climb would be. I’d ran out of bread i’d grabbed from that buffet. My bike kept losing traction on the gravel / leaf covered floor (even with all the weight on the back of it) so I’d have to get off and push it up steeper parts of it.

I stopped to figure out how much food I had left and make sure I wasn’t going to run out of water and considered turning back (which wasn’t going to happen because fuck that) and stood there admiring the view for a while, worn out as hell. After taking in the view for a while and thinking ‘shit’, I get back on my bike and go around a corner and the end of the trail is right there, less than 100 feet from where I was posted up. The road goes downhill, steep as all hell, and i spend a good number of minutes descending at stupid speeds and get spit out on this street ‘Bohemian Avenue’ in this small town called Occidental.

I grab some food from a grocery store and sit outside for a while and see they have Wifi. I get on and see worried texts from my mum since I haven’t had reception in a couple days, and respond to make her know i’m not dead. I start calling campsites within biking distance to find out they’re all full (not surprised) and figured i’d need to throw up a tent on the side of the road that night.

I sort of hang out for a while and drink coffee because i’m already pretty spent from that hiking trail climb, letting the sun cool off a bit before I head out. I try and form a loose plan so I ask the guy in the grocery store if this spot of green on a map in Sebastopol (which was about an hour away) would be ok to camp at and he’s like ‘naw lol thats like a super populated park where people go with dogs all the time’, so I’m like aw hell and and decide to bike to Santa Rosa instead for whatever reason.

I’m on my bike about to set off and realize I need to hop back on wifi so I can load the map, so set my bike against a wall and go stand outside the grocery store. Someone chilling on the steps of a closed down store in between where I set my bike and the wifi spot asked what I was up to and I was like ‘oh I don’t know, going to bike to santa rosa’ and he was like dang why, and we got talking. He said I could crash at his place but it was up the hill (I wasn’t down to push my bike back up it, it was steep as hell) and said his friend also had a spot I could crash at if it was open. I said I was mainly looking for a spot to throw up my tent and he drew me a map to get to a good spot just up the road.

Since I had a good location to crash at I was full on in relax mode and ended up hanging out with him for a couple of hours, one of his friends showed up and she was also equally laid back. They seemed to know everyone in town as a bunch of people kept coming up to chat for a bit. We talked about a bunch of spiritual stuff and it put me in a really good headspace. It sort of made me realize i’ve properly drifted away from being super spiritual and meditative, it’d probably been like 10 years since I did vipassina and I hadn’t been meditating daily in a while. I guess this trip sort of was forcing me back into that vibe. They told me that weird Bohemian Grove (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohemian_Grove) place was super close by there and a lot of other interesting stuff about the history of that town.

After hanging and talking for a couple hours (which was super great) he gifted me a bracelet he made and I went to grab food at a bar close by. The place had stopped selling food so I was like aw hell and got a beer, and started talking to this older guy in overalls next to me. I’d mentioned to the waitress I’d biked super far today in a ‘for real no food?’ sort of way, and turned out the guy used to lead a bunch of bike touring groups around the US.

He told me all about the laws of camping in California which made me feel way more ok about throwing up my tent wherever (he said it’s totally legal as long as there’s no ‘private land’ sign posted). I ended up talking to him for a long while and he asked if I needed a place to crash and I could totally crash back at his, but I was like naw man i’m totally good I have a spot. A bit later some people came in to grab a drink before the bar closed and they also offered me a place to crash. It was pretty crazy how nice everyone in this town was to me, super great vibes. The bar closing up so I said bye to this guy i’d been talking to for a while and I went to the restroom, I came back out and he’d ran to his truck to grab a big bag of chips he had in there which I snacked on for the rest of the trip (kettle chips hell yeah).

I put all my bags back on my bike and went across the road to get back on that grocery store wifi (was probably around 11ish at this point) and smoked a cig (bad i know, I’d had a couple to drinks at this point).

I was hanging out there and someone pulled up lost as hell and asked if I knew how the hell to get to Sebastopol. They didn’t have reception and I tried to remember the grocery store Wifi password to give her but I couldn’t remember it. She eventually took a pic of the map on my phone screen so she could figure out how to get back, and thanked me a bunch and was super happy I was there (said something like “you were here for a reason” or something quasi religion/spiritual which aligned with my day pretty well). Not sure how long she’d been driving around lost but she seemed super happy she had some idea of where she was finally, and picture of map direction back to where she was trying to get to.

I pulled the map the guy drew me out of my bag, followed it, and set up camp. I cooked some food on my camping stove as I hadn’t eaten since the morning and was starving, drank a beer i’d had in my bag for a couple days, and passed out super hard.