A Walk to San Diego. Day 12

January 30, 2012

Carlsbad to Solana Beach. 15 miles. Cumulative: 135 miles

Day 12 
Wake up early. Another should-be easy day. 15 miles. 5 hours. Great weather.

10am: I am starting to find my groove. I am starting to see things differently. The construction hazards don’t freak me out as much, and the detour signs only give me mild (as opposed to full-blown) heart attacks. I realize this because there is a no-pedestrian sign that I ignore and pass through. A week before, I would have walked the roundabout way when I saw it, but today, I decided I would just deal with the ramifications of it if I was stopped. I wasn’t.

12pm: Halfway through the walk. I need to use the bathroom. But this area is a bit residential and I can’t just sneak around somewhere. I find a commercial building that I could potentially  go into. It is a yoga studio and I immediately know this is going to be awkward. Gas stations and restaurants expect people to come in ask to use their facilities. Yoga studios do not.

As I know I’ll come to learn, this trip will always revolve around two themes: chance and choice. Today, right now, I have to take that chance and face the discomfort of asking a person I’ve never met if I can use her bathroom. And I go in, and I am obviously dirty, and the owner of the studio looks at me like I’m crazy when I ask her if she has a bathroom I could use. I can see the tension she is in. I can see her try to reason through it. She doesn’t want me to use the bathroom, but she doesn’t know how she can deny me, especially when I look helpless. She ends up saying I can use the bathroom, under one condition: I take off my shoes to head back. I comply, and go and try to pee as quietly as I can. When I can come back, I go full-circle with the awkwardness and make small talk about down-dogging, chair-posing, chattaranga-ing, say namaste, and leave.

1pm: I take my favorite shot of this trip. A surfer looking out into the Pacific. Just him and the ocean and infinity. “Kind of like me,” I think. And I have more to say about this one, but now’s not the time.

3pm: I stumble upon a man who’s cycling across America. He’s riding 4,000 miles around for wounded warriors. He says he sold all his possessions and now cycles around The States from city to city and transports himself in the bus he bought. His dog is his companion. He says he’s encouraging people to challenge themselves and commit one million acts of kindness in their lives. He asks me to be the walking spokesman of one million acts of kindness. I decline.

4pm. I had heard I was going to walk by a place called the Self-Realization and Meditation Center and I’m getting close to where it should be. When I get there, I see the gate is closed, but there is a sign that says out-of-town visitors may stop in. I walk to the front and see the security guard. He asks me where I’m from. I say Boston. He asks me if I’ve ever been to Fenway Park. I say I have. He opens the gate.

Steve tells me he is the biggest Boston Red Sox fan. He says it was his father’s dream to watch them win a World Series– a dream that was passed onto him. He tells me about where he was in 2004 when they won, and you can see tears well up in his eyes as he’s replaying that time in his life. He tells me he has a tattoo he wants to show me and he lifts up his left sleeve. It’s a baseball with the the Boston B stitched onto it, underneath is a ribbon that says 04. Steve and I talk for a bit and I go up to see the center’s sights. I had been told it was beautiful, scenic, peaceful, etc, but I did not fully understand the magnitude of its superlatives until I was there. Words won’t do it justice, but know if you are ever down California’s southern coast this place is worthy of your stop.

4:45pm: Approach couch surfing host’s house and let him know I am coming. He says he will be there in a half hour. Hang out at a nearby park to wait. See a young guy with a hiking pack, guitar, and dog. I think he must be doing the same thing I am, so I ask him. He says he came down from northern California to travel, but everyone here has been nothing but mean to him so he is going back. He says no one here is friendly, and law enforcement treats him like he is nothing. That this is an awful place to be. He seems miserable. Those days will come for me, too.

5:30: Host comes with his dog, Teva. His references on couch surfing had incredibly positive things to say, but reviews on the site always seem to be that way. And as I use the service, I understand why. What are you supposed to write about the person that just took you into their home as a complete stranger? Only the nicest things. But tonight, my host, as I realize within an hour, is the exact type of guy you want to be spend some time with down California’s coast. We go back to his place, and he tells me about the other cross-country runner he had visit him a year back, and he stirs up some gin and tonics. We chat about the couch surfing community and are on our way to dinner. Hot fish tacos. Cold beer.