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Seaside and Back

Pedaling along Ocean View Boulevard in Pacific Grove, I am spellbound by the ice plant – a purple flag unfurled across the rocks. I am about to enter the bike trail that winds from here to Marina. I catch a glimpse of myself in a window and notice that my spandex pants fit me better.

Since my doctor got right in my face and warned me to slash my carbs and fat - or die of a stroke or heart attack - I have lost weight. The inner tube once encircling my hips has deflated to a mountain bike tire, and I’m hoping it will eventually downsize to a small hula hoop.

At any rate, a nice nine mile cycling is just what the doctor ordered. So I fly by Berwick Park, a grassy knoll studded with graceful cypress trees and the perfect setting for weddings, Frisbee tosses or lounging. A kaleidoscope of catamarans and sailboats, with their brilliant spinnakers billowing in the wind, makes the perfect backdrop.

Lickety-split, I pump through Cannery Row, narrowly escaping tourists who are walking and gawking at the myriad gift shops, eateries, wax museum, candy shops and other venues that keep them wide-eyed while they slurp luscious ice cream cones.
A whiff of salty sea air and the barking seals announce that I have arrived at Wharf No. 1, and memories plunder me: posing in an instant photo booth with a boyfriend, clam chowder and French bread, “Annie” in the Wharf Theatre.

I always take a circular whirl around the huge splashing fountain at Portola Plaza and then head down to Pier No. 2, where I can still see the imprint of the red flying horse that adorned the working cannery there. Today there are no fishermen in yellow rubber suits, unloading a waterfall of flipping, gleaming sardines. However, I eye the tugboats, little trawlers, sleek sailboats and even a lavish yacht or two.

Back on the trail again, I pass beneath a lush grove of eucalyptus trees – dad, always playing with words, called “You-klie-peetus” trees. I momentarily remove my hands from the handlebars, look skyward at the silvery tips of these aged trees, and breathe in their musky scent. As always, I seem to connect with my father, now gone nearly 14 years.

A little further along, I spy the lake at the Naval Postgraduate School and sigh. I used to love to cycle or walk inside the fence where I shot roll after roll of photographs of Nazi helmeted wood ducks, black swans, and any number of lake fowl. But since 9/11, the hurricane fence has been replaced by an intimidating garrison of concrete and wrought iron.

What I’d give for one more look at my elephant tree. In the fall, this Copper Birch was resplendent with gold doubloons. And its wrinkled trunk looked exactly like an elephant’s foot. I adored it so much I would take friends to see it.

Everything changes. But some things for good. The trail has been greatly improved, and a long S-shaped section winds to the top of the dunes for a spectacular view across the ocean looking back to the Peninsula. I pass the big wooden cross, erected by Spaniards, I think, and see sunbathers lolling on blankets and languidly walking the waterline.

I stop my ride at Sand City, high on a bluff overlooking, Marina where hang gliders and Para sailors dangle in the now still air.
This is the pinnacle of my ride, although heartier cyclists continue on to Marina. But I am well satisfied that I have enjoyed a stunning day in my beloved Monterey, and head back for home, telling my metabolism, “Burn, baby, burn” . . .




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