Day 23: San Francisco

Planning for a sunrise bike ride, we awoke early to get going. However the comfort of a hotel didn’t push us out the door until near 9am, so then we decided to wander around rather than bike.

We walked down the the water and around the pier area. I kept wandering farther while Jesse found a place for a haircut and found a hardware store to replace his flagpole/bikestand. My additional walk included the surprise of the Gallery of Fine Arts – a beautiful location as well as more wandering the area.

After meeting back up with Jesse, we were changed to a much larger room since our door didn’t lock properly. This worked as a great upgrade since it was very cramped with the two bikes in the first room, plus in this new room we had two bathrooms, a random but still fun bonus.

Our second walk of the day took us to Japantown, where we stopped for a great Thai lunch, and then we continued on to find the Painted Ladies houses. As we were walking we noticed the neighborhood getting a bit seedier. Jesse was ready to turn around, but I was more stubborn in wanting to see these houses. As we stood at a corner discussing routes, a nice woman came up to us and basically said “go that way” pointing us away from the Painted Ladies. That convinced me that I wouldn’t continue on on my own, so we then continued onto Chinatown, which was also a very interesting area.

On the return to the hotel, we walked up the crooked and well known Lombard street. Every car driving down it seemed to be filled with tourists, as there was someone in each car hanging out the window with a camera to record their drive down the street. While standing at the top of the hill, I watched as a couple quickly got engaged (Jesse had his back to them) and everyone around clapped, all happening quickly before the next car slowly started its way down the road.

Another dinner in a diner completed our day in San Francisco.

Other San Francisco homes

Day 22: Half Moon Bay to San Francisco

Starting early, we left the campground and made our way along the path. Not getting too far before a quick stop, a fisherman came over and started talking to us, giving us many tips for the days ahead. A while later we continued on, making our way to the city.

Not too long later Mark and Ryan passed by as we were considering one of the recommended sandwich shops. It was too early for lunch, so we kept going, eventually catching up with Mark and Ryan at one of their stops. Up ahead was Devil’s Slide, one of the least pleasant parts of this ride. However, we were quite lucky because a tunnel had just been completed on March 25 which reroutes the highway through the mountain, which not only means a more direct route, but one with a very comfortable shoulder, so we didn’t have to worry about narrow shoulders on a small road with lots of traffic racing past.

In Pacifica, we spent a couple hours at Starbucks. We still didn’t know where we would stay in San Francisco. We had thought we’d have someone to stay with, and actually thought we had a couple options, however as we realized neither option would work, we started sending off emails to people on Warm Showers. However, we didn’t get a response that way either so while at Starbucks we started looking at hotels. It wasn’t easy finding a place with a balance of cost, location, as well as value but we started narrowing down the options. Right as we were about to book, we received an email from Dan on Warm Showers saying we could stay with him. Happy with this news and the savings it meant, we packed up our things and made our way into the city after a quick stop at Safeway to stock up on lunch food.

Along the way we ate part of our lunch, and then took on the huge hill at Daly City. It wasn’t larger than other ones we’d done, but it was very steep. Another tourer was up ahead, and when he started walking, we did too.

From the peak we were able to ride smoothly into the city, and make our way to Golden Gate Park – right near Dan’s place. We decided to eat the rest of our food in the park while trying to connect with Dan. We still weren’t sure when he was around, if we were to go right to his place, or what exactly to do. As we arrived, we spent nearly an hour talking to a man we thought after must be a comedian of some sort. Mostly it was entertaining conversations about a multitude of topics. Eventually as we brought out our food Jesse tried to call Dan, only to discover there was a problem with the number he was using. This likely explains why we didn’t hear back from Dan after an earlier text. Finally figuring out the problem, Jesse called the proper number but there was no answer. After waiting 45 minutes, we decided to start the hotel search again. It was nearing 7pm and getting chilly out, and without knowing for sure about Dan, we booked a hotel farther into the city.

We rode through Golden Gate Park and along bike paths to reach our hotel, the Pacific Heights Inn. The hotel was in a good location for exploring so it would provide a different type of accessibility to San Francisco, though we would miss the local experience.

We checked into our hotel and then found a highly recommended burger restaurant nearby (Jesse really likes his burgers).

Day 21: Bonny Doon Hill to Half Moon Bay

Prior to leaving this morning, we talked to Scott about a few questions we had about our bikes and were able to learn quite a few things. Then with my handlebar bag filled with freshly picked kumquats, we started up the steep driveway back to the road.
We were off the highway by quite a ways and up on the forested mountain. There were a few minor climbs before we reached the point where we started our big descent. We coasted down and down through the forest on winding roads, and by the time we reached the highway, we had ridden 15km.

We road a bit to Whale City Bakery in Davenport where we had been recommended to go and ordered some breakfast. The food was great and high quality, but it wasn’t cheap. While there, we saw Ryan arrive, one of the Rhode Island tourers, who was waiting for his friend Mark who had taken a more scenic pathway right next to the water.

While checking online, I found an article in the New York Times about what to do on this specific area of the highway that we were riding today, and it said that at the General Store in the town of San Gregario on Saturday and Sunday afternoons there was a live blue grass or country band playing and all the locals gather. We decided to make this a destination, as did Mark and Ryan. We rode off on our own into the wind that had now increased.

Just off the highway was a farm where we stopped in, Jesse hoping for pie. There weren’t a lot of pie selections, but we did get a piece of spiced bread and talked a lot with the people working there. They also let us try raw milk from their cow.

Easily enough, we found the General Store in San Gregario – just 1 mile off the highway – and indeed it was full of people and had a bluegrass band playing. There is nothing other than this store in the town, but even without a band playing it is worth the detour. It was a perfect stop, and we were able to enjoy a beer at the bar and talk more with Mark and Ryan.

We were all planning on camping at Half Moon Bay, so again we parted ways knowing we’d see each other shortly after arriving at camp. There was one major hill to climb right after leaving the town, then mostly it was a fairly flat ride.

The campground is right on the beach, and not too far is a Taqueria, which came recommended by Richard and Alberta. People were lined to the door to place their order, so it did seem like again we had found a good place to find dinner for the night.

Day 20: Aptos to Bonny Doon Hill

Prior to leaving, Richard made a huge cheesy potato casserole and fresh muffins to start us off for the day. We packed up a couple more items to ship ahead with UPS and then set off.

We had received a response from a couple just out of Santa Cruz, Pam and Scott, saying they were willing to host us, so we decided on a shorter day so we could take them up on their offer, enjoy an easier day and see a bit more of Santa Cruz.

Along the way we stopped into two bike shops to see if they had the Brooks saddle wrench so I could tighten my saddle, but no luck yet. The ride around Santa Cruz wasn’t too straight forward, but we were able to see some of the shops down by the water, and see the ocean filled with surfers – or hopeful surfers as they seemed to be floating waiting for a wave, but there didn’t seem to be too many.

Richard and Alberta recommended The Buttery for lunch, so we stopped there to eat prior to meeting our next hosts. While there, a couple, John and Lena, started asking me questions about what we’re doing and our story. They are from Jenner, a town about 80 miles north of San Francisco. After offering to help if we’re in any trouble, John said that I seemed nice and it would be okay if we stayed at their place.
We called Pam to tell her where we were, since we were going to meet her at a park nearby, but she came to get us and drove us up the mountain to their house. Since their house is right at the top of an incredibly huge climb, they’ll often offer to pick up cyclists they host.

Scott and his brother were at the house and working on their Kenetic Sculpture for an upcoming race. They must create a human powered vehicle that is to move on land, sand, and water and go both up and down hill without needing to be pushed or pulled. They’ve taken part in the race for quite a few years now and we’re working on modifications to their design.

With our early arrival we were able to have a relaxing evening, enjoy dinner together and enjoy a great sleep in a warm bed.

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.