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Day 5 – King City to Watsonville

Below is a post from a blog called “Write a Bike” that I formerly wrote on. It chronicled my trip from LA to Portland via a bicycle, and it also housed odd stories just like this one. Enjoy!

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Our night in Watsonville may have been the most interesting experience of my entire life.

Warmshowers.org is a neat idea to connect mostly touring-cyclists (like myself) with others who have great road stories to swap, as well as to provide those who are touring with a warm shower and usually a dry place to sleep.  As I mentioned earlier, Britney was our host, and arriving at her house was…well…different.

When Britney called us to let us know she was ready for us to come we pedaled to the outskirts in the southeast and then up what seemed to be a two-mile driveway on her property. Suddenly I realized that something was off.

I saw three very small, and fairly new-looking shacks built up into the hill, and as I panned across the property I noticed two guys about my age staring at me. I waived and they raised a low hand and offered lazy half-smiles. I rode up and introduced myself to them. They had long hair pulled back into ponytails and patchy beards. Their jeans were dirty and their heavy sweaters looked like they hadn’t been washed in months. Their names were Josh and Jake, and before long a girl drove up with a two-year-old buckled in the backseat of her car. She got out and introduced herself as Britney’s sister, Kali. After five or so minutes of unsuccessful conversation I went to find a place for our bikes. Josh and Jake had pointed off beyond a big tree and said I could put them “under the camper.” I rolled over and found five other mangled bikes lying under a camper shell on stilts (I found out later that Jake actually lives in the camper shell).

Then I made my way past an enormous garden and up a wooden stairway toward the main house. The door creaked open and the smell of vegetables was in the air. The front room was full of books. At first blush I saw heaps of titles on gardening, traveling, and murder mystery novels.

The walls were covered with old Native American-like blankets and the roof had old potato sacks finely stapled to it. The child from the car was now playing in a tiny red tent and Denny was siting in the next room on a large burgundy sofa covered in Mexican-poncho material. There were two vintage lamps lighting the entire room and a turn-of-the-century wood-burning furnace that was heating the house. Kali and Jake were busy chopping potatoes and broccoli in the kitchen amongst heaps of recycled yogurt and margarine containers (they had numerous crates of old containers like these all over the kitchen).

As I sat down I noticed an old man tucked into the corner of the first room whom I had failed to notice when I first walked in. He had a long white beard that matched his long white hair, which he covered with a beanie. His eyes were glued to his Facebook profile. Kali introduced us. His name was James, and I later learned more than I ever thought I could know about camping in Oregon from him. That was all he spoke about to Denny and I, then he was off to one of the other shacks in the yard.

Kali said we could take a shower if we wanted. It was outside along the east side of the house. She said it is fun because you get to “bathe amongst the trees.”

I didn’t shower that night.

Dinner was almost completely made up of foods grown in the yard, which was exciting. A part of me did wonder, though, if I was secretly eating some kind of herbal narcotic. I imagined myself floating amongst books about eggplant and carrots with old-man James cackling at me from the corner of the front room.

Making conversation with the residents never got any easier. Denny and I mostly listened to them banter back and forth about the best places to find hot-springs, and which volcanoes in the United States were more likely to burst. They were not interested in our stories much, which was fine. I didn’t need to be asked, but it was weird that strangers could sit in their room and basically go unnoticed.

That night I slept on a piece of ply-wood stacked upon bricks with blankets as bedding beneath me. In the dark of the night I kept hearing people going in and out of the front door. I didn’t sleep peacefully, probably because I couldn’t stop thinking about how I was sleeping in a genuine hippy-house. It was exciting, intriguing, and uncomfortable all at the same time.

The next morning Denny and I packed up, looked around for signs of any other woken life, and in finding none, rode off.

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