I finally found somewhere to sleep the other night, once I'd got clear of Big Sur. Before even finding my room, I found the bar and relaxed out of driving mode in the only way I know how.
There were a few local drunks knocking about, the funniest of whom, a rancher, was parked resolutely at the end of the bar. In a lengthy phone call to an employee, he revealed he'd "had a few drinks" then fired him for being an "asshole" before apparently arranging to go on a fishing trip with him to Oregon. Finding himself down a cowboy, he offered the job to Anna, the bartender. When she gave him some backchat a few minutes later, he replied "You know what? You're fucking fired."
A group of far jollier drunks were attempting to play pool. When Anna took time out for a game, and it became apparent that she was an extremely good player, I swung off my stool and threw some quarters on the table. She had that confidence and assuredness around the table that only comes from being a snooker player. However, the best man doesn't always win, and I kicked her ass.
All this ended up with me sat around a huge fire in her back yard with her mom and a collection of other interesting people. We drank, told jokes (well I did) and had a lot of fun. No one really wants to start talking religion at three in the morning, but when Gillian claims to be a Lutheran Quaker, who believes in the story of creation and declares "My God is a jealous God", but when pressed reveals that she has never read the Bible, I can't help but share a few of my own views with her. I don't think they made any real impact.
The highlight of the evening were the stories that Peggy (Anna's mom) read us: tales from her childhood that she has recorded for her children. Along with three teenage friends, she would ride over to a nearby ranch to flirt with the Mexican boys. The poorest of the girls, unable to afford a horse, was saddled up on a lactating cow whose brimming udder was swinging back and forth in the dust, and the last of the group was riding a horse that no-one else wanted on account of its persistent and acute flatulence. The stories were so lucid, lively and funny, and her reading of them so wonderful, I was almost in tears.
I grabbed my camping gear out of the trunk and finally curled up in the sleeping bag on the floor. Anna's cousin Gary was on the couch, a dog had the other couch. I managed to sleep quite well for an hour or so, until a cat woke me up by licking my face, whereupon the cacophonous combination of snoring from two dogs and a drunk barmaid kept me awake until the chickens started up outside. I dozed off again just in time for Gary to have woken up and started using power tools in the back yard. A jealous God? Bloody well vindictive more like.
In the morning we discovered that a neighbour's dog had eaten a bag of peanuts we had left out, and was now shitting them out whole all around the yard. I took this as my cue to leave. Not exactly refreshed by the whole experience, but certainly amused, I threw my bedding in the back of the car, rubbed my weary eyes and, unhesitatingly, took to the road once more.