Day 19: Monterey to Aptos

We had a relaxing morning at Mark’s and took it easy. We had another Warm Showers stay setup not too far, and with the knowledge that we had been dealing with gale winds and a wind storm, which had now passed, everything seemed a little better. The winds even sunk a boat – not that that should make us feel good, but it did warrant our wind complaints, and no one was injured.

After breakfast and more conversation, we left around noon to make our way to REI. The way out of Monterey was beautiful, on pathways and right along the beach. Had we been more prepared we would have stayed another day and visited the Sea Otters convention (the cycling convention) that is apparently the largest in the US and possibly the world. We could have had bags of free protein and granola bars. Many people kept asking us if that was why we were in town, (including the woman in the grocery store – to which I replied “no we just missed them but we’ll go do the 17-mile drive” thinking she was talking about the Sea Lions).

We discussed our route with Mark extensively, and it always makes sense at the time, but somehow today we seemed to get lost on a few occasions. Getting to REI was a bit tricky because of the highway, but there was also blocks of abandoned military buildings which resulted in many roads being closed and not letting us across to the road we needed. Finally getting through, we made it to REI where Jesse purchased a different sleeping mat, and I purchased proper cycling gloves instead of the kayaking gloves I was using. The staff there was excited to hear about our trip and wished us well as we set off.

We found a shortcut through the base and returned to the bike path the way we came, trying to remember the advice we received. However, following Jesse’s map on his phone instead of the Adventure Cycling map, we ended up way off course in artichoke fields, however this added a stop at a fried artichoke hearts van where we, naturally, bought some fried artichokes and talked to a man from Lake Tahoe.
After a few more wrong turns we started making our way to what we had thought was only 55km away. Since the day was full of tailwinds and no hills we were still managing okay for time and pressed onward towards Alberta and Richard’s home in Aptos. We did accidentally riding on the ‘no cyclists’ section on the freeway for a mile or two however the shoulder did remain in this section and our tailwind pushed us forward enough that it wasn’t a completely terrifying experience.

Finally reaching our next Warm Showers location, we were greeted with a variety of home made pizzas to try and a salad, as well as lots of conversation, stories, and advise for the road ahead. Richard makes and sells his own cycling maps of the Pacific Coast which have far more information than the adventure cycling ones, so we received a couple that will help us as we continue northward. It was also fun meeting their many cats, including the sweetest but very shy foster cat they’ve had since she gave birth to kitchens in the winter.

Day 18: Big Sur to Monterey

After another cool night, we woke up at 6am and were the first ones up and moving. While we were packing, the man doing the US loop got up and packed up as well. He was faster than we were and left a bit before. Once we were ready we did a bit of a scenic route out, to see some of the other campsites before leaving.

It was nice to have a decent to start the day. We had a few rolling hills but the majority of the first 10km were down hill, which was a perfect start. We continued on past some amazing scenery, stopping to take photos along the way. Certainly there were still hills, but after the last two days they didn’t seem to bad. At the top of one of the largest hills we met up with a man who rode from LA to Monteray and was on his way back before riding all through South America. He just had a hiking backpack strapped to the back of his bike so that he could easily jump on buses when he needed.

Arriving in Carmel Highlands we finally felt like we were back to areas where we can buy normally priced foods and find what we need. We made a quick stop at a gas station and picked up some free local maps. Not far after we found a large Safeway grocery store and pulled in there. We bought a feast of a lunch, with Jesse getting two pieces of breaded chicken, a pogo, a potato salad, and I got a sandwich which was rather fancy given it was from the grocery store, and a pasta salad, and we both got onion rings to share. On impulse we added sushi to our meal just to round things out. This is perhaps the result of riding 50km and only eating two cookies! The woman behind us in line let us use her Safeway card to save a bit of money, which won her a coupon for a free sandwich which she kindly gave to us. While we were eating, another man just grabbed a chair and joined our table for a bit to chat and hear about our trip – clearly he saw our bikes outside and we were obviously the people who went along with those bikes. He’s gone across the US before and has done the Pacific Coast route a couple times. To add to the grocery store excitement, the couple on the recumbent touring bike came in, shouting “The Canadians!” and also mentioning the Pacific Coast touring book (THE book) and how the very first chapter warns people to NOT go south to north. We didn’t get this book.

We did miss the Sea Lions, which would have been nice, but we were able to ride the coastal part of the 17-mile Drive. Initially it wasn’t too impressive and we regretted our decision – the roads were very hilly, very narrow, and had a lot of traffic. We arrived at the lone cypress lookout, which was full of tourists taking photos of the tree, of themselves with the tree in the background, and overall seemed a bit silly. Yes it was a scenic spot, but certainly not enough to warrant all hype that seemed to be going on. Continuing on, the route became nicer and we were able to see more of the very nice homes along the way. Since there was a major cycling event in town there were tons of roadies on the road, some saying hi, some being too cool for us, and one we over heard saying “That’s awesome… someday” as he watched us pass.

Eventually we did reach the area where we could ride by the coast and at the Bird Rock we were able to see from afar all the sea lions and seals spending the afternoon sunbathing. We talked to one local couple and explained what we were doing, and they told a roadie who later caught up with us to ask for more details.

We had a Warm Showers stay setup not too far away, so we were able to take our time once we knew we were getting closer. We received an email from Mark letting us know how to recognize his house, even where to find the key so we could let ourselves in before he was due home around 6. We found the place without a problem, though still having to climb up and down hills, we found the key and settled down for a warmer night than the previous two enjoying lots of stories and conversation and a warm meal.

Day 17: Plaskett Creek to Big Sur

After a very cold night, we attempted to get going early – though we didn’t beat Ryan who was able to leave at 6:30
and had the goal of making it all the way to Monterey before the winds. We managed to leave around 8, and rode for the first while without wind or traffic in the early morning sun. We saw the other two campgrounds, both looking very interesting in their own ways – Kirk Creek being ocean front and Limekin being down in a big canyon and hill.

Stopping in Lucia, another town which has a name only because of one shop, we bought sandwiches and ate them with a beautiful view. Sure the sandwiches were not a bargain, but you can’t get that view just anywhere.

The rest of the day felt like we were consistently going uphill, and according to our elevation map it was appropriate that we felt that way. Though yesterday we had the two peaks at 1000ft, today we had many more ups and downs before the 1000ft peak of the day. Though we were able to enjoy descending, we were always aware that we would just be going right back up. The winds were the same as the day before, and we had the same tight corners with the wind waiting as we came upon them.

As we were riding, an Italian guy going south came flying across the highway at us to chat for a bit. He was just out for a week long trip and enjoying the coast.

Just before reaching Big Sur and the peak, we stopped at a very nice art gallery and found the cafe up top. Again we faced tourist/fancy art gallery prices, but some sort of food was a necessity and a few dollars aren’t worth fussing over so we each thoroughly enjoyed a Hagen Daz ice cream bar.

We continued uphill for a little while longer. At every turn I was hoping that was the end of the ascent and we would start finally descending. Finally this happened, and we were able to fly down the hill until we reached the Big Sur shops. Again overpriced, we just bought a couple snack items then continued our great descent to the campground.

We stayed at the Pfiffer Big Sur state campground, a beautiful and huge campground. At the hiker/biker site there was already two bike tourers setup, a couple on a tandem arriving at the same time we were, and a hiker had already been there from the day before. The hiker had been travelling and hiking for two years, while the older man was out on a couple month tour of the US, and the couple on the tandem as well as the other woman were just out for 3-4 day trip.
The hiker had a large stack of wood so he started a fire and we all sat around talking and sharing stories into the evening.

Day 16: Cambria to Plaskett Creek

We left early skipping the hotel breakfast in an effort to beat the wind. Jesse had leftovers for breakfast, while I waited and had a surprisingly decent breakfast burrito from the gas station. We rode again to Hearst Castle, this time reaching it and viewing it from the road. We had gotten close yesterday, and maybe had we gotten close enough to see it we would have continued, but we added it to the growing list of things to see and do next time we’re in California. Just passed Hearst Castle was the elephant seals viewing area. We stopped there for a while to watch the seals – our timing was perfect to be able to see them all lounging on the beach.

The roads were hilly and the wind starting picking up around 10:30. As we were riding we came across a tourer and another guy on a fixed speed bike. They gave us some tips, told us of the spectacular scenery ahead.

We stopped at Ragged Point for lunch, one last stop before we hit the two climbs to 1000 feet. There we ran into four other tourers – two American girls, a French guy, and a Irish/now Canadian guy; all independent but who ran into each other on the road and had ridden along together for a little while. We talked to them for a bit – each one having a different story and different plan for their trip. The guy we ran into earlier had told us we would probably see them along the way.

After our tourist priced lunch, we started the 1000ft climb to the peak, then enjoyed a decent knowing all the while we would be climbing back up to the next peak at 1000 feet. It was challenging but not just for the incline. The shoulders were narrow or non existent, and the turns were very tight and around every corner we were faced with huge gusts of wind coming our way to make rushing around the blind corner an even greater challenge. We would wait at the side when needed if we saw traffic coming during one of these turns, and usually we could see a far distance behind us to know what was coming.

The town of Gorda did have food, a washroom and cabins for rent – more than our map stated. We briefly stopped there, chatted with a guy from LA who told us about riding the Lost Coast option along our way north – a challenging but beautiful route we decided to leave for another visit.

We continued on our way along more hills, finally arriving at our campground. Again we knew there was a campground up ahead that was nicer with the hiker/biker sites on the water (Kirk Creek), but with the sunset looming that site wasn’t going to be an option for us. We stayed at Plaskett Campground which was nice for its proximity to Jade Beach, but not the nicer of the three campgrounds in that area.
For the first time we weren’t alone at the hiker/biker site. There were two guys who were hitchhiking and collecting jade from the nearby beach to make jewelry, as well as Ryan – one of the guys from Rhode Island. We spent a lot of time talking to Ryan, as we could sympathize with each other and share our woes of headwinds. His friend Mark had gone ahead by bus to Monterey because of knee pains, which he had diagnosed as tendinitis and told ibuprofen and rest were the cure. They decided they would continue to San Francisco then take the train to Vancouver and then ride south. It will be interesting if we pass them again as they are going southbound.

Day 15: Cambria

We started the day with a hotel breakfast – finally a continental breakfast where we didn’t have to use paper plates and plastic cutlery. Complete with eggs, bagels, fruit salad and yogurt, it was a good start to the day.

We then went to a cafe for a bit to get online since it wasn’t working at the hotel. Afterwards we got on our unloaded bikes to ride to Hearst Castle. Riding unloaded was far more challenging then we expected – it was really hard to balance and the bikes felt quite wobbly. Eventually we were able to get used to it, but our late departure had us riding into really intense winds. We were able to see the Hearst Zebras which still hang out on on the land, leftover from the previous private zoo that used to be located there. A bit farther along, we decided to turn back; pushing into the extensive winds wasn’t worth it. It would have been great if we had left early enough to beat the wind there and then had these tail winds to bring us back! We were still able to enjoy the tailwinds on our return, hardly having to pedal as we rode along.

I was able to replace my bike gloves, and we stopped again at Linn’s cafe for pot pies and mashed potatoes. We planned on pizza for dinner but failed to realize until it was too late that everything in town closes at 9pm, so we made use of some of the food we already had and the microwave and had a ‘homemade’ dinner instead.

Day 14: Morro Bay to Cambria

We left Morro Bay quite early to do 95km so we could get to Big Sur camp the following day. After riding 30km we stopped in Cambria to eat breakfast. While there, Jesse looked online and found a great place at a good rate. Still feeling bad for the previous crappy hotel last night and the Holiday/Holland confusion (really I was just fine and happy having a warm bed) so he booked two nights at the nice Burton Inn in Cambria. This was also to have a day off for my birthday and to visit Hearst Castle on the off day.

After finishing our pie and coffee’s at Linn’s Cafe, we called the hotel and were allowed an early check-in at noon. The hotel was a great place to relax with a huge room, separate living room area with a couch, and a marble bathtub, and with our early arrival it felt like two rest days.

Later in the evening we went out for dinner. Another burger for Jesse, I had mac & cheese, and we shared an appetizer of deep fried artichoke hearts.