Just John caught my eye when I was driving south on Cabrillo Highway and I thought, “What an interesting person he must be, out here riding his bike, a tri-bike, loaded with gear for camping and extended touring, I’d like to talk to him.”
But I whizzed right on by his narrow hold of California State Route 1’s ungenerous shoulder as I was in a hurry to get things done. Upon my return drive north, there he was, leaning against the guardrail, having a smoke, right next to a convenient pull-out for a coastal property that’s been for sale a long time. “Now’s my chance to talk to him! Now or never! He’ll be gone to Big Sur if I let him go!” And then I argued with myself, “Yeah, but I’m so busy and must get some things done and eat lunch.” To which I replied, “Who am I though? A busy person who needs to eat, or an obsessed person with all-things Coast Road?”
I flipped a U-eee and pulled into the drive next to where Just John relaxed.
Just John rides a 24-gear tricycle that he bought from a shop in Livermore. I forgot to ask what he rode before then, as he didn’t start this ride from Livermore. Just John began north, well, actually east.
Just John grew up on the East Coast and began riding distances when he was in his late teens and he needed to get 116 miles to see his girlfriend at the time. Between seeing her and returning home, Just John fell in love with the road.
On this trip, Just John rode along the northern American backroads and streets to Washington state, then headed south through Oregon and into California. When riding out of Oregon, he had up the umbrella which provides shade on sunny days and cover during the rain. The umbrella caught the wind like a sail and he coasted along for some miles driven by wind energy.
He stayed at Livermore the night previous, then cycled out to Highway 1. At Devil’s Slide, a roller-coaster two-lane dip-and-turn with no room for bicycle shoulders, Just John slowed traffic by having to pull into the southbound lane. He was hoping to overnight at Monterey and then spend the next couple days negotiating through Big Sur.
“Hey, at least you’re doing this ride during the weekday,” I told him. “That means much less traffic through Big Sur!”
“Yeah, I thought about that,” Just John replies.
“Do you get yelled at when riding out here?” I asked. My cyclist friends tell me they get yelled at by passing motorists all the time.
“Oh yeah. They yell ‘Get out of the way!’ and obscenities that I won’t speak of in front of you.”
After John passes through El Sur Grande, he’ll continue on 1 to San Diego, then eastward, to visit The Lightning Field of New Mexico. Then on through Fort Worth to get to Key West, and then he’ll head north towards home. He has plans to return west, “I haven’t seen Mt. Rushmore yet.”
On the bike, Just John has a water bottle and a Camelback to keep hydrated. About every 15 miles he stops to have a smoke. Just John rolls his own out of a can of tobacco. He used to have a dog that rode up-top behind him, a Jack Russel Terrier, but he decided it better for the dog to have a home than to be out on the open road with him. So Just John sat in front of a store one day asking people to please give the Jack Russel a home. Eventually, someone came along and said yes. “It wasn’t fair to an animal to live life like this,” says Just John. “I mean, it’s one thing for me to choose to ride around and sleep outside, but it wasn’t fair to him. So I had to find him a home.”
Just John tells me that it gets cold, “real cold,” riding along the highways. He came down with bronchial pneumonia and found a mobile clinic in a small town in Northern California. “They told me I had a 103° temperature and that I shouldn’t be out in the weather. It was raining.” Just John laughs a bit at this. “I told them, ‘Where am I to go? I’m already committed to being out here! I’d like to be home in a warm bed when I’m sick like this, but where am I to go?'”
Just John pays three bucks at California State Park’s Hike & Bike campsites. “Regular campsites cost at least $25 bucks, so it’s nice they also offer the Hike & Bike spots.” Just John attempts 50 miles a day, but can do 100 if he pushes it. “This type of riding uses completely different muscles than a 2-wheeler, so I had to relearn how to ride a bike when I got it.” Being seated and somewhat reclined, the trike uses more inner thigh and lower belly muscles than gluts, laterals and the gastrocnemius.
“Life is a highway,” sings Just John, “and i want to ride it all night long.” If you see Just John out on the road, give him a wave and some space on the road. He also provides handyman services to make a little money along the way, so if you have a job or two, give him a hire. If you’re a fellow cyclist, feel free to slow up and keep pace with him for a chat. He’ll tell you, “I’m not riding fast, I’m just riding.” At the very least, don’t yell, “Get out of the way!”