It's bright and early on Tuesday morning, and as I'm rolling over the Santa Lucia Mountains into the infamous "Templeton Gap" I descend into a dense, blinding fog that has inundated the Westside overnight. Flipping on the headlights, I do my best to stay alert while trying to ignore the fearful thought of a deer running across the road before me. Just yesterday I saw a large buck on the side of the road that was clearly victim to a foggy morning run-in, and I hope that today isn’t my day.
The fog is so thick now that it feels as though my truck is slowing, unable to push forward through the mass of greyness that swallows me like molasses. The windshield puddles thick with moisture as I descend further into the abyss, giving me feeling that the vehicle I'm driving is now more submarine than automobile. I flip on the wipers to get a better view of my oceanic surroundings, but visibility is poor and I struggle to see more than a few feet ahead. I point the bow of my vessel southward onto Vineyard Dr. and finally land in the vineyard where I disembark onto the brown earth. Though the fog lies thick over the rows of vines, I notice a glimmer of warmth pushing through to the east; a sign that this grey ocean will soon be receding. Knowing the consistent nature by which Mother Earth operates, I figure it will only be a few hours before the fog has lifted and the earth is bathed in sunshine. My notions are correct and by 10:00am the fog has burned away, leaving only a few wet leaves in its wake. To the west, the grey mass can still be seen, slowly creeping back towards the coast.
As the day progresses and the Westside warms under the blazing summer sun, I find myself yearning for a cloud overhead or a sudden summer squall, knowing all to well that neither will come. Damning the heat, I jump on my old motorcycle and tear off down the canyon westward, hoping to find a place that will offer me a breath of ocean wind or a swimming hole to plunge into. Winding through the dusty switchbacks of Santa Rita Road I blow by old ranches and farms, their grounds scattered with abandoned redwood barns and fields of safflower. A rusty tin sign on a barn wall lets me know "Mobiloil Gasoline sold here," yet I know that there is no fuel to be had, just artifacts from a time long ago.
A few miles in and the ranches give way to forest, dense with ancient Live Oaks, orange-wooded Toyons, and giant Sycamores. The road narrows with each turn, inching closer and closer to the creek until the bank and the road become one, urging me to slow down. Lanes don’t exist in any way, the entire road not quite wide enough to be even a single lane itself. Envisioning my bike and I meeting a watery demise in the creek below, I pray there isn’t a lone rancher barreling down the road ahead. As the road finally moves away from the creek I begin the climb upward, navigating my way through tight, gravelly hairpins that send my tires skidding every which way. Up, up, up goes my ascent through turn after turn, climbing to elevations where I can finally feel the temperature begin to drop and my spirits become brighter. I’m much nearer the ocean now, I can feel it.
Emerging from a tunnel of dense trees I arrive at the summit - the bastion I have been searching for. Behind me I see hills of Westside Templeton, in front of me I see the mass of fog that has been retreating west, now filling the valley that flows out towards the Pacific Ocean. If it weren’t for the fog I would see the giant blue mass of ocean, but its hidden under the same grey monster that had engulfed me earlier that morning. Above the fog blows a steady ocean breeze that slaps my face and leaves me smirking, taking with it any thought of the blazing heat behind me. I relish in the moment.
I take in 10 minutes of the cool wind, letting it dry the sweat from my neck and bring me back to a state of sanity. I take a long glimpse at the heavy fog, which has reached its final resting place on the coast. Here it will remain all day, much to the dismay of tourists who were expecting a classic “California Summer.” Clearly they haven’t spent many summers on the beaches of the Central Coast, where the fog lies thick from June to September. I hope back on my bike, shove my head into the fabric and fiberglass oven I call a helmet, and give the engine a good kick. The piston fires and the engines purrs steadily, not revealing for a second that its age surpasses my own by a good 5 years. I look back to the fog once more before giving the throttle a good twist, which sends me flying forward and downward, back to the heat of the day.