El Captian State Beach. Last night of the walkabout

El Capitan State Beach
El Capitan State BeachThe last night of the walk ‘about of ’96/’97.

Caleb John Clark


I sit facing west. A wooden picnic table, fifty feet from wave bottomed cliffs, holds this configuration: Wine, cheese, olives, lox, homemade bread, paper towels, a carrot, and my laptop (which is getting lox smell all over the keys). A flitting tea candle struggling unprotected against a light breeze fights against the laptop glow for dominance. I don’t know what time it is, but it’s clear and dark…must be about eight.

Off the coast sit three dragons. Huge oil drilling rigs balancing lights on skinny sea legs. They breath yellow fire but never take a breath. Just a constant burning off of excess fuel into the sea air, like giant industrial floating candles in the ocean.

At one in the afternoon I left the Terrazzo Works warehouse in San Francisco loaded down with everything I own. I left behind a dresser I over built with a skill saw and a beam end from my days as a carpenter. The beam end was ten inches, by sixteen inches, by two feet of solid wood. All this I bestowed to the warehouse. This is a one truck move, no questions asked.

Steve and I loaded the truck artfully. Heavy books and paper closest to the cab, light stuff rear, mattresses on top, chairs on very top front, bike last on the very back, computer and other vitals up front in passenger seat.

Driving the 101 south, (which should always be taken over the five at all costs! It’s only about an hour more and winds through farm land filled with crops, cows milling with horses, rolling green hills that seem made for Knights, and even two Texas bulls with huge horns.) I Beverly Hill Billied my way along in the slow lane learning to trust my side mirrors and watch the tree tops for wind gusts along the way, the old truck was a little top heavy.

Just north of Santa Barbara I saw a sign for El Capitan State Beach and took it without planning. Turned out to be a good thing. The exit is only for the park and there’s nothing for seven miles north or south, great for my stuff being safe. The camp ground is ridiculous, something very California indeed. Directly on the beach with bathrooms, phones, and little camping spots among the trees. So I scooped out a spot and headed south to a supermarket near UCSB, the king of beach side universities.

The booze isle of the supermarket, in fact the entire market, was overrun with college students. Looking for wine I had the pleasure of overhearing a gaggle of freshman guys and girls debating the finer points of various alcohol’s drinkability, verses price, verses proof. Ahhh, those were the daze! I almost chimed in with a suggestion for seven up poppers with vodka, but instead I let the lead party guy continue his diatribe on some premixed swill. He seemed to have it all planned out, although I knew they were going to run out of ice, which is after all the cheapest way to make booze go down easy. I let it go and quietly bought a cheap French table wine to prove my age.

Once stocked up I returned to my site and here I sit. Tomorrow I white knuckle by way through L.A. to Encinitas, Graduate school and a new room with my bud of 22 years John, and his loving family. My stay in the Bay was sublime and the hospitality unparalleled. Berkeley was peaceful and grounding, and I got to see friends, family and the squirrels I used to know in the back yard. The warehouse was vivacious and communal with a wonderful jam session, walking trips into the city, and art in the pores. The NoEnd meeting on Tuesday was stellar.

I must confess that my greatest pleasure since leaving the city has been the new flashlight I bought. It’s a yellow, ribbed industrial grade jobby with a magnetic bar on the outside. I can stick it anywhere inside the cab of my truck and then grab it instantly with a satisfying “cachunk” sound when the magnets rip off the steel. I love old analog hardware.

So here I sit, time to curl up in my truck and go to bed listening to waves lapping. It’s been a great eight month trip, one more leg to go…

Caleb out.

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