Across Continents

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Hostel nights in San Luis Obispo

Her hair was unkempt and she’d one leg. Amputated below the knee. Or so it appeared. Possible the lower limb was just strapped up. I couldn’t be sure. An old trick to illicit pity. The hostel was full, explained the manager. There was a motel nearby he suggested. Eighty bucks for a room. She muttered a little and then quietly left.

I’d reached San Luis Obispo late afternoon, the end of a relatively short day’s ride from Cambria. By the time I’d eventually found the hostel, satisfied I’d seen as much of the college town as I’d ever need to. Ostensibly a quiet suburban street, but around the corner there’d been three Police cruisers parked up. Domestic.

I’d started to see a few more drifters around. Getting closer to LA. The guidebook advising you should soon avoid camping in State Parks until the far side of the city. Real risk you might wake up with nothing. Assuming you wake up. I’d arranged to stay in hostels or be hosted by fellow cyclists.

Four bed dorm for the night. Initially a bit suspicious of one of my companions, striking up a conversation. Mostly out of genuine curiosity as to who he was. But, as I’d sometimes do at campgrounds, a chance to build rapport, to show I too am a person, not a mark. Gently weaving into the conversation a few subtle hints that I’m also not a soft touch for miscreants.

John arrived a little later. Executive chef setting up in town. Loud, personable Cuban New Yorker. We chatted about Castro’s enduring presence for a while before I retired to the common room to do some writing. Then a brief foray to the local supermarket. Pricey I thought. A few provisions for the days ahead.

It was dark by the time I’d returned to the hostel. Brief check of my trusty steed, secured as best I could to the bike rack outside. Inside, John was by now holding court at the long wooden communal table. Four wives. Left Cuba at three. I opted for the sofa, scribblings for the blog.

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