There are many stories I tell about my solo bike ride down the California coast from San Francisco to San Diego back in 2013. I typically start my story the same way. I bought the bike on a Monday, left that Saturday, and with little money or knowledge about bicycles. My first night on the road, my good friend Mark Wilker and his then girlfriend, now fiancé, drove down to Pigeon Point to give me what would be my last home cooked meal until the trip ended. He gave me a quick tutorial on how to fix a flat tire, and what to keep in mind if I tried to repair it along a stretch of highway where drivers found it funny to whiz by cyclists really closely.
I also tell the story about my first night sleeping outside and getting face-to-face with raccoons at the state park in Santa Cruz. You see, Mark also advised me not to bring a tent as it was the summer and it would be warm enough to sleep outside. Also, with the large hills of Big Sur and long stretches of road on the Pacific Coast Highway, I would be grateful for not having the extra weight.
I tell the story about the spiritual experience I had biking Big Sur. About how I went from being drunk with ego about conquering it, and how it transformed into submission to the mountain. I was so deeply moved with reverence that I was overwhelmed with tears as I ate a medium rare quarter-pound burger at a small restaurant in San Simeon. I stopped eating pork and red meat that day. I don’t think the trip had anything to do with it, just the sequence of events.
What I haven’t done is share the story of how the trip ended, the man that took me in, and how the presence of God was as profound in him as it was in the mountains of Big Sur.
Julius Lucas Jr is the son of Julius Lucas Senior, who has served faithfully as the Deacon of Olivet Missionary Baptist Church in Bayview Hunters Point. I was out of money and didn’t know anyone when my trip ended so my grandmother gave me Junior’s name. Like many of the joke telling Black folk I know, Junior and his dad found my trip more comical than inspiring. Like me, Junior grew up singing in my grandmother’s choirs. Like me, he hated it but developed a sense of duty and obedience to his elders as many of us do that are connected to members of the Black church.
Junior knew many of the members of my family, but we’d never met. He moved to San Diego to attend the State University, and at the time he was working for UPS. He fell in love with a woman that had two children from a previous relationship and they were living in the Chula Vista suburb.
He had never seen me a day in his life, but he knew my family. That was enough to pick me up sight unseen and load my musty gear into the back of his SUV and invite me to his home. He fed me and took me out for drinks and conversation in the Gaslamp district. He took me to the County Fair, gave me some spending money, and told me to find a nice young lady to tell my bike trip story to.
Junior was smooth, warm, generous, and solid. I love that man. I believe my actual purpose in taking the bike trip was to be given an example of a man that didn’t need an adventurous trip to be exceptional.
At the end of my stay at Junior’s home, he dropped me off at the Greyhound station and gave me some more pocket money for a bus ride back to San Francisco, which was an adventure in itself.That was the last time I saw Junior alive. A year later he had a daughter and the year after that he developed meningitis and passed away.
I didn’t attend the funeral. I couldn’t. It took me five years to call Senior and tell him how much of an impact Junior had on me during that trip. About how I still think about him and how it took me more life experiences to really understand how difficult it is to be a man that actually shows up for his people and community.
Thank you, Junior. I love you.
May God bless the dearly departed. Amen.
Book Recommendation: Awareness