Coast'n - A Story Of Travel By Kris Fox
"It was time for a change."
Story by Kris Fox Photos by Matt Cordova
It was time for a change. I could feel myself uncontrollably slipping into that post-summer rut. That familiar time of year for myself when countless riding hours have been logged, countless film battles fought, heel bruises are going on month nine, and issues as trivial as an Instagram post feel equivalent to taking out the trash or starting a load of laundry. After the U.S. Open high dulled, my motivation found itself on the couch reading books and listening to music. I got a phone call from Matt Cordova one day and I explained my situation. He laughed and replied, “Dude, I feel ya.”
Now I’m not pouring salt over the situation. I love my life and everything that goes with it. However, to appreciate things fully one must remain grounded or the ruts of everyday life can repetitively trench themselves too deep making it impossible to see the good in anything. One must reset from time to time. Take a step back and acknowledge the value of perspective in life. I’ve found that the best way to accomplish that is through travel.
We spontaneously decided on leaving Huntington Beach the Tuesday following Labor Day. We had Matt’s sprinter van packed with camping gear, camera gear, bikes, limited cloths, limited food, a little dashboard Hawaiian bobble dancer named “Lola”, and no real plan or schedule. All we knew is that we simply wanted to travel up the coast of California. Matt had personally transformed his sprinter van into one weapon of an automobile. It’s insulation concealed by panels of fresh pine, the floor draped with padded turf, our gear organized into hand crafted luggage bins, and the thing gets 20 miles to the gallon of a 20 gallon tank. With that luxury the idea of “let’s just head in that direction, and if all else fails, we can crash in the van” was a constant mind easer. However I underestimated how culture shock can be dramatically enhanced when you commit to a road trip knowing you won’t have a designated structure to lay your head at night. It seems to add another level of mystery to the already unfamiliar. I’ve been fortunate to travel the world and see some pretty raw things, but by the time we got into Santa Barbara and watched the sun tuck itself under the horizon, I began to feel like I was already hundreds of miles from home.
After combing the cracks of State St. we found a quaint residential neighborhood and parked the van. The sign read: NO PARKING: 8:00 A.M. – 12:00 P.M. I set my alarm for 7:30 A.M and unrolled my sleeping bag across the turf floor while Matt strung a hammock that joined itself from the nose of the van to the ass. And just like that, we had one of the sketchiest bunk beds of all time. We woke up the next morning under a dense blanket of grey cloud cover and tip toed the van towards downtown. The heads of the palm trees were nothing but silhouettes being swallowed by a charcoal sky. Then came the all-important task of finding a suitable location to handle the morning business. Coffee shop bathrooms are too risky for the fact that everyone has eyes on anyone going in and out of those things. No one wants to be the dude passing through town and blowing all the locals out. Public bathrooms in parks became the prized gem. One of my favorite elements in terms of travel is how simple everyday tasks can become chores.
After coffee we clawed up highway 154 into Solvang to ride one of my favorite bowls. We caught a session with a handful of cordial skaters who seemed pumped to see some fresh faces. One was from Austin and rattled off some big name Austin BMXers that he used to get a kick out of watching back home. Everyone he named were some of my favorites to watch as well. Five hours later they wished us safe travels and we were back watching the fluttering white line of Highway 101 feed into the nose of the van as Lola danced for us in her little Hawaiian skirt. We sliced and rolled through the surrounding golden hills sprinkled with lonely trees, met back up with the coast in Pismo, and motored on to San Luis Obispo with spontaneous plans of taking Highway 1 to camp somewhere in Big Sur.
By the time we began powering up Highway 1 the sun was hanging low over the horizon. An entire second sea of fog glued itself to the coast. Mist-like figures danced across the waters and slowly ascended up the cliff sides. The muffled air swirled around our headlights. They struggled to illuminate the road that writhed up the ragged coastline endlessly before us. I felt like I was on the set of a “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie waiting for a cluster of primeval pirate ships to emerge in the far west. We couldn’t help to turn into every viewpoint we could find, so before we knew it we were in the pitch black with the issue of finding out where we were going to lay our heads for the night. Our amble of a drive was worth it though. Sometimes certain moments in life need to be appreciated with the outcome being only an afterthought.
"Sometimes certain moments in life need to be appreciated with the outcome being only an afterthought."
- Kris Fox
We continued on zigzagging along the cliffside under perfectly visible stars. The only faint problem came in the form of every campsite we stumbled upon was full. One after another after another all full, full, full. Matt kept the throttle gunned toward Monterey with no worries because we both knew something would give sooner or later. And once we hit the north end of Big Sur, it did. We found a hidden gem tucked quietly off a right hand turn equipped with a local restaurant, bar, and vacant sites. Before I knew it I was horizontal in my tent listening to the breeze howl through the tops of the trees.
I unzipped my tent Thursday morning to see a smoldering fire popping beneath a pot of boiling water. The French press was ready on deck. My hair smelled of pure campfire and in the back of my mind I knew the 405 was gridlocked back home with that familiar weekday morning tension. I leaned back and had a nice stretch feeling content about everything. After some fresh open fire coffee, a small exploration of the Big Sur River, and eating one of the best chorizo and egg burritos of my life, we were back on the road aimlessly pointed in the direction of Monterey.
During the morning’s amble up the coast I got a call from fellow Demolition family members Josh Clemens and Sean Sieling. Both informed me that they would be in the San Francisco area late Friday night with pins to local skateparks and plans for nighttime festivities for the weekend. And just like that, Matt and I finally had a set plan. It was life’s way of reminding me there is far more to BMX than simply ripping a bike. The real substance resides within the people and experiences it brings.
We plateaued around a slight right hand bend and began descending toward the iconic Bixby Bridge. To the left were cliffs dropping hundreds of feet to the vast open ocean swirling with midnight blues and turquoises. It appeared to shoot out to the west eternally. To the right were enormous looming mountains with their heads stuck in a blanket of thick fog. And there we were, microscopically carving our way through the land as tiny bike riders in a tiny van while Lola danced around on the dashboard. Wherever human beings got the idea that we’re superior to all elements blows my mind. If one simply takes a look around it becomes blatant that we’re not at all. No photo will ever do Big Sur justice and no word will ever give it enough dignity. If you happen to be one of the few reading this, drop what you’re doing and go now.
After a quick pit stop at the Bixby Bridge to explore trails that were labeled as “off limits”, Matt was gunning the throttle at Monterey. We clawed our way back into day-to-day civilization and stopped at a coffee house to charge some gadgets and dump some content. We met a woman who was well into her seventies and smelled of incense. She was amiable and told us of some local facts on the area, which in turn got us pumped on sleeping outside for another night. After her wishes of safe travels dispersed we said screw it and decided to stay in the area. A handful of miles north from Monterey we exited the highway in the direction of the coast. We sliced our way through miles and miles of farmland until we hit the location we would be camping in for the night. It was sandwiched between the outskirts of eternal farmlands and giant sand dune beaches. We set up camp, cooked over and open flame, battled raccoons, watched the plump moon race across the sky, talked about the weirdest shit imaginable, and retreated to our tents while the ocean thundered away somewhere over the dunes.
In the morning the thick layer of fog that we had been seeing from time to time the last couple of days now seemed to be lying directly on top of us. The air was thick and muffled leaving everything around us soaking wet. We decided to get our day going by trekking over the giant sand dune and checking out the ocean. The entire beach was deserted aside from myself, Matt, and a herd of sleeping seagulls that didn’t even almost budge at the sight of us. I watched the dense fog physically waft around the breaking waves and the tranquil moment seemed to hit me in just the right way. I could feel my motivation to ride burning inside my chest and Matt felt the same. It was back. We hiked back over the dunes, packed up camp, and headed in the direction of Highway 17. We made our way back through the farmlands that were now steaming with morning dew. I could see people going about their lives as they worked the fields. A man in tattered jeans and a dirty flannel gave me a tip of the hat, and I remember it feeling honorable. His acknowledgement was far off from the guy pumping the accelerator of his Lamborghini down Main St. back home. Coming from a culture where 90% of those around me present only their best selves to the public, even if their circumstance in the moment happens to be grim, it was refreshing to see someone who didn’t give a damn about any of the flash or glamor. He was himself and that’s all there was to it.
"It was life’s way of reminding me there is far more to BMX than simply ripping a bike. The real substance resides within the people and experiences it brings."
We made our way to the amazing Scotts Valley skatepark but lasted no longer than 15 minutes. No bikes allowed. However, the cop was friendly and seemed slightly bummed that he had to kick us out in the first place. Some easygoing local mountain bikers got kicked out with us and approached us in the parking lot with a pin to the Menlo skatepark we could hit on our way into San Francisco. When you least expect it, good people can be found everywhere. We made our goodbyes and found ourselves back on the road while Lola went back to dancin’.
Our session at the Menlo park lasted the majority of the day. I think Matt and I both underestimated the amount of work that went into learning the park, finding a worthy line to film myself, figuring out what to do in the worthy line, filming the worthy line, stopping, trading the camera to bro film Matt’s worthy line, picking my bike back up, shooting a photo, stopping, shooting a photo of Matt, picking my bike back up, finding another line, and so on. Our session lasted around five hours all while dodging the youth aimlessly rolling around in the flat bottoms and having a great time with the local BMX and skate scene before it was time to head into the city.
We arrived in downtown San Francisco just before nightfall. We had also arrived back under that thick blanket of fog. The outside temperature plummeted substantially convincing me that San Francisco has its own unique atmosphere from the actual state of California. The Friday night downtown scene appeared to be too chaotic to find a quiet spot to park the van for the night. And with both of our lives in materialistic form packed in the van with us, it also appeared to be too sketchy. We tried a hotel somewhere in the city that had rooms for under $100, but after seeing a few creatures walk into the lobby with grey empty faces and sunken black eyes we decided that the place wasn’t really for us. We exited the parking lot just as a fight was breaking out. So with not really knowing what to do we parked near a bar for some food and I drank a beer. At around 1:00 A.M. I got a random text from a friend who had recently moved to San Francisco from Orange County a few weeks prior. I had reached out to her earlier in the day and she came through last minute with a quiet parking space on her street a couple miles from downtown. She even hooked us up with some blankets for the van. Once again, when you least expect it good people can be found everywhere and everything always has a peculiar way of sorting itself out.
We woke up on our last morning under more dense San Francisco fog. I welcomed it. It was a refreshing change from the constant pelting of the Southern California sun. We folded the blankets of kind gesture, placed them on the porch, then tiptoed back into downtown to meet up with Josh, Sean, and Sean’s brother Taylor for coffee. Sean kindly supplied Matt and I with a pin to the Redwood skatepark and directions to his girlfriend Amanda’s pad that we would all meet back up at after both of our parties had completed their filming missions.
The Redwood skatepark was unreal with one of the best local BMX scenes I’ve been a part of in quite some time. It was a breath of fresh air to casually flow around a new park in such a welcoming environment. We all jammed together for pretty much the entire day before saying our “see ya laters”. After another coffee house session of recharging physically and dumping all the content, Lola was dancing her way back toward the thick blanket of fog looming over the horizon. Before I knew the temperature plummeted from 80 degrees to 56 degrees in what felt like a matter of feet. And just like that, we were downtown as the sun was dipping again.
We met back up with Sean and Josh from Demolition, Sean’s brother Taylor, and all around good dude Dom at Amanda’s. She was nice enough to let Matt and myself finally shower - which I had kind of forgotten about until the opportunity arose - as well as grace us with some living room floor space for the night. There was also a timid Husky and German Shepard mix trotting around with happy deep-blue eyes named Luna. A short four and a half days prior Matt and I departed Huntington Beach solo with no plans. Now we found ourselves part of a great likeminded crew of people and a dog in San Francisco. Life has a pretty rad way of working itself out.
Our crew rounded up and caught the train that dumped us in the Haight-Ashbury. I’ve been deeply fascinated with the Haight-Ashbury since I’ve been about eighteen years old when I first learned of the “Summer of Love” back in 1967, so I was more than happy to spend a night in the area. The stars and moon where somewhere above the dense layer of fog still looming overhead while the city catapulted light into the fog’s under belly. It left the night sky with a milky finish. I could hear the ghosts of 1967 reverberating from the surrounding trees and Victorian style homes that endured the 1906 earthquake as we entered into our desired watering hole for the night. We all found a table, and as Matt kept a watchful eye, the only thing left to do was have a couple cold ones and experience the world hands-on with a great group of people brought together by a common interest. We spent the remaining hours laughing, talking, hashing out ideas, and making stories that will last us beyond the latter years of our lives.
We spilled back into the milky night in the direction of the train but not before making a pit stop to check out Janis Joplin’s old apartment. And as I peered up at the slender Victorian style building that once housed a genius of an artist, a thought popped into my head: “I didn’t expect any of this at all.” It then got my mind filtering a few lines I had recently read in Joe Rich’s zine “Peelers”. They read: “The following days will unfold as needed. Zero expectation right now.”
Expectations go hand in hand with the superficial, and the superficial is poison. Once one thinks they are expected something, or something is expecting them, the true essence of living is lost. In the end, it’s always the unexpected that holds the value. The relinquishment of total control. To simply let life, experiences, and those around fall into place as they were meant to fall into place all along.
We woke up the next morning and Matt began gunning the throttle back to Huntington Beach. - KF
Kris Fox and Matt Cordova California Coast'n
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