Cycle Tour: Santa Maria to Refugio, Southern California Wine Country?

I awoke to the luxury of a hotel room on Friday, day 7 of my 9 day tour. I was enjoying camping every other night but the hotel was a nice change of pace. My room had clean clothes hanging over every available spot and I had leftovers from the meal at the restaurant in the hotel the night before waiting in the tiny refrigerator. As much as I was enjoying the hotel, the ride ahead was beckoning and I was too excited to have a lazy morning. I had ridden the Pacific Coast Route before but this time I was taking a new route through the wine country in this area.

Lobby
It was not easy to leave the comfort of the hotel, but I was excited about the route that day.

Central Coast Outdoors (CCO), the company that shuttled me around the Highway 1 closure, recommended riding through wine country. My reaction was “Wine country? That is farther north, right?” Wrong. There is a huge wine country south of the central coastal region and it is growing fast. And it is beautiful country to ride through.

My route that day was the longest riding day of my tour. I planned to do 60+ miles of riding and 3000+ feet of elevation gain. Fortunately I was “riding myself into shape” as fellow tourers call it and I felt ready for it. I had also changed my destination at the recommendation of Mandy from CCO. There were 3 campgrounds to choose from on my way into Santa Barbara: Giaviota, Refugio and El Capitan. I was originally going to stay at Gaviota, but I changed my destination to Refugio State Beach for that day, adding some miles to my ride.

I got an early start as usual. The weather was sunny and cool all day, perfect for riding. Santa Maria is a small town and the hotel was on its outskirts, so I was quickly riding in a rural setting. The early route centered around Foxen Canyon Road. The roads I took much of the day did not have a bike lane, but traffic was almost non existent. The few cars that passed me were happy to give me a lot of room.

Welcome wagon
This was the welcome sign for wine country as it turned out.

Big ranches and bigger skies were the order of the day.

The terrain was perfect. Rolling hills afforded great views but there was no sustained climbing. Not until later, anyway.

The geography became apparent after a while. The road followed a valley and a riverbed which all of the vineyards were clustered around.

I loved the contrast of the perfect right angles of the hay bales with the endless curving rolling valley.

In the middle of rugged back country with no gas stations, traffic lights or even intersections I encountered a wine tasting location. It was basically a nice shed set up in the front of a home. Then another. Then a huge fancy one.

After a morning with nothing but a few farm houses, the “Wine Tasting Ahead” in the middle of nowhere was pretty out of place. But interesting.

Many ranches have added a wine tasting room to an otherwise fully operating ranch / vineyard.

I had to stop and have a look.

The wine tasting rooms had various styles. This one had an antique / country theme.

The coin operated horse ride and vintage clothes set the mood.

Zaca Mesa Winery was a large fancy place. I had to make one more vineyard visit.

They are hard to see here, but the cows hanging out in the shade of the trees gave the landscape an almost African look. I pretended the cows were wildebeests or something African.

The never ending row of vineyards ended as I rode into Los Olivos. It was one of many towns I rode through that I had never heard of before, but was a pleasant surprise. Not knowing if there would be another good stop, I got some important supplies for the day while I was there.

I try to avoid using the word “cute” to describe every small town I ride through, but there was no avoiding it with Los Olivos. It was a darling little village.

I was not sure if there would be another chance for some good affordable wine.

Somewhere in town the route turned into an actual official named bike lane which was a pleasant change. It wound its way along more charming back roads on its way to the mother lode way of all tourism in the area: the city of Solvang. It is known for its Danish themed architecture and loads of great options for eating, drinking and sightseeing. And, for us cyclists, the annual Solvang Century ride.

Classic Solvang featuring its landmark windmill.

Downtown has many great places to explore and visit. Or at least take pictures of as you ride by.

I left Solvang by taking Alisal Road. It is a gorgeous narrow road out of town and it cuts off much of the riding on US-101, which is basically a freeway open to bikes. But any ride south from Solvang involves a lot of climbing. It is not shown as a through road on all maps, but Alisal does connect as a bike route to Old Coast Highway and US-101 as I write this, even if your map shows the road closed to cars. I made the big left turn to get on US-101 and I was rewarded with a long steady descent to the coast. If you look at that stretch and notice a tunnel, be aware that the tunnel is only on one side of the freeway, the northbound side, and it is an uphill grade. There was no tunnel on the southbound side where I was. I pushed past Gaviota and on to Refugio. There is a very short bridge on that section with no shoulder for bikes so you have to get out in the lane. It had loads of “Share The Road” warning signs with big pictures of bicycles on them, but I got honked at anyway, which actually amused me more than anything.

The route returned to the Pacific coast. This is a pic back on my route at Gaviota, where I had opted not to stay. If only there were this many campground options on the whole route!

The train along here runs right on the ocean.

I could see Refugio State Beach, my destination, farther down the coast.

I arrived at Refugio with plenty of daylight left, which surprised me, given the long route that day.

The Hike or Bike sites at Refugio are right on the beach, behind the No Parking sign and parked camper(!).

The view from the camp site was wonderful.

I walked up and down the Refugio Beach, letting the sand massage my tired feet. 

There was as small surf break that attracted a handful of surfers.

A small creek ran into the ocean through the campground, but at this time of year it was not running enough to cross the beach.

The conditions in Refugio were windy, but I found out that was pretty normal. The campground has a small store with very limited hours, i.e. it was not open at all while I was there. The shower facilities were very nice and right next to the Hike or Bike campsite. The campground was full with family reunions and large groups camping together. I was able to score some ice and get a few family history lessons about camping in Refugio.

After settling in I was joined by Nick at the Hike or Bike area. We exchanged notes about camping equipment and I let him know I thought it would be very nice to live close to all the great campgrounds in the area. It was good to know that it was not lost on Nick, who clearly enjoyed it.

Nick was a local doing an overnighter to this lovely campsite.

As usual I was ready to go to sleep as soon as the sunset permitted it. I definitely did not wear out any of the batteries in my headlamp. Falling asleep to the sound of waves crashing on the beach after a long day of riding and great experiences seemed to be a formula for a good night’s sleep, indeed.

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
08:04:26 05:47:13 67.18 11.61 36.24 3,375.98
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

A Podcast Interview About My Coastal Tour

As I have been blogging about my California coastal bike tour after the fact, my blogs apparently caught the attention of Jim Fullerton of  Adventure Bike Touring.

It is worth checking it out.

A sample of the scenery on my coastal tour.

 

Among the wide variety of content on the website is a section of Podcasts. They are interviews Jim does under the heading of “Why I Bike”. Jim is a great interviewer with a wonderful relaxed style. He reached out to me and asked me if he could interview me about my tour for one of his podcasts. I was very flattered and accepted his offer. Jim’s interview with me is located here, and I have embedded it here as well. Jim also deserves credit for some good editing. I took the interview on a day when I was distracted at work and I thought I did a pretty terrible job of responding to his questions and staying on topic. But by the time Jim did a little cutting and pasting, the interview came out much better. Thanks to Jim for that!

 

 

 

Pearl Izumi X-Project Pro Shoes: High Performance Commute/Touring Shoes? And Shoe Fit Basics

Picture the plight of  poor Pearl Izumi when it comes to marketing their X-Project shoes. These are race level, high-tech, top performing shoes. Pearl has figured out that even on a race shoe the entire sole of the shoe does not have to be so stiff that they make you walk like a penguin. X Projects soles are stiff in the center where it counts but they flex around the edges. It may not sound like a big deal, but it works well in practice. They are flex free when pedaling, but when you walk in them you look like a proper upright primate.

Pearl’s X Projects are a premium shoe to be sure

 

The cleat pocket is deep enough that your cleats don’t clank on the floor, at least while the tread is full depth. Toe cleats, not installed here, are included.

Pearl have chosen to position X Projects as a high performance shoes that are comfortable when you have to push the bike. But what racer chooses a product based on how much it helps them walk?

I tried these on and my first response was “these would be great for commuting and touring!” I wore these on my recent bike tour and they were so comfortable that I opted not to pack street shoes or sandals. Make no mistake, real casual shoes would have been more comfortable, but they were not worth the weight and space when a shoe like this was an option. I was repeatedly amazed at how versatile these were.

I was skeptical about the “BOA” adjuster dials even though they have been used on bike shoes for a long time now. They are usually reserved for high-end shoes and I have never tried them. They reel in and loosen a nylon string to adjust the shoe in lieu of laces, buckles, straps, etc. My feet swell as a ride, which is normal, so I need to adjust the fit of my shoes on long rides.  Playing around with the  BOAs at the store made them seem a bit gimmicky: change for change’s sake.

But on the trail the genius of the BOAs became clear. Compared to my existing buckle/velcro combo shoes, these could be adjusted much more easily while riding, and in smaller, more precise increments. My adjustment technique on my old shoes was sometimes to completely loosen them until I could stop and fine tune them later because it was just not possible to get a good adjustment while riding.

 

The Pro model has 2 BOA dials.

 

The black color has lots of subtle style accents but the overall effect is stealthy. Pearl also makes a bright orange option if stealth is not your thing.

Having 2 BOA adjusters is not overkill as I originally thought. The upper BOA adjusts the back of the shoe around to the heel cup. The lower one works as a toe box adjustment. And I like adjusting them independently as I ride. They don’t look like they would work that way being so close together and sharing the nylon string, but they do. Pearl opted not to make both BOAs tighten “righty tighty” style. The left BOAs are reverse threaded. So you have to think to rotate them outward to tighten them, and inward to loosen them. Or whatever works for you.

The shoes come with adjustable insoles. They are removable and have pockets where you can slide in shims of different thicknesses. There is one pocket under the arch and one under the ball of your foot (Pearl calls it the varus). They are “set and forget”, but if you wanted to make huge adjustments on long rides you could carry a shim or two with you. They are very small and make a big difference.

X Projects come with a lot of accessories. I have the shims partially installed in the liner so you can see how they work.

 

Proper Fit Is A Big Deal

I also thought the shims were gimmicks at first. These shoes were replacing my older pair of X Projects and I never used the shims on them. But the reason for that is that my old X Projects were too small for me. I made do by stretching them (see my separate blog on that), replacing the insoles with something thinner, and keeping them at the loosest setting most of the time. I had no idea how good the shoes actually were because they did not fit right. My new PROs are a whole size bigger (44 vs 43) than my previous X Projects and now all the adjustments make sense. The moral of the story is make sure your shoes fit right or you may not getting the full benefit from them even if they seem to fit OK. The adjustable insoles are such a great feature I think they could used on other kinds of athletic shoes. They would even be good for professionals who stand all day and change shoes to fight fatigue. It is a common trick. You could rearrange shims, have more options and not have to carry another pair of shoes or even insoles.

I feel like a good review should have some constructive criticism. If I had to nit pick, I would say these shoes are a little heavy for a race shoe. Pearl quotes 373g for them, but mine weighed in at 438g each. Maybe they absorbed a lot of dirt. They are heavier than my old X-Project 2.0 shoes that weigh 384g one size smaller. That weight may make them more durable, but it is too soon to say. To keep it in perspective, they are not a heavy shoe: they are on the heavy side for the way they are marketed.  And they are pretty darned pricey at $350 list, but so are all shoes in this category. I hope the flexy sole and adjustable insole trickle down to more affordable models. Pearl offers an  Elite model at $75 less that swaps out the lower BOA for a velcro strap that is farther forward on the shoe.

Alas, I have never seen Pearl market X-Projects as anything but high performance shoes. Pearl wants to keep their top of the line shoes positioned as fast, serious gear. Which they are. But between you and me, their unique features make them just as good or better for everyday riding.

Cycle Tour Morro Strand to Santa Maria: From The Beach To The Farm

Day 5 of my 8 day tour would be a long ride through a wide variety of California terrain, but it started with me fixing my kitchen.  Quick backstory: I thought my fuel canister and was empty after very little use, so I pitched it and bought a new one. I was pretty excited about cooking bacon for breakfast and I set up the stove with a new full canister. But to my dismay I still got no flame. There was not much that could go wrong with my simple little titanium camping stove. After turning it on and off a few times I blew air through the small tube that goes from the canister to the stove. That fixed it. The canister that I threw away probably still had a lot of fuel left. More on my stove when I review it in a separate blog, but I was able to forgive it and I still give it a thumbs up.

The bacon cooked up fine once I got my stove working again.

As I was breaking camp I met Colette who was car camping next to me. And by car camping, I mean sleeping in her Honda Civic. She was a wonderful woman who had a heavy French accent even after living in the USA for 45 years. She adventured a lot and often alone.

She shared a great story with me: she had a daughter who never called (nope, I have never heard that one before). One of the few times she did call was while Colette was out adventuring. Colette came home to find police all around her property, investigating the missing persons report that her daughter had filed on Colette when she could not reach her mother. Her daughter had panicked and presumed the worst. It only showed how little she knew about how her mother lived. I was not sure if the story was a comedy or tragedy, but Colette told it well.

And before I could ask her, Colette said she thought it was silly that women were so afraid of travel and adventuring alone. She had done it all her life and had only one incident where she thought someone was following her, but she wasn’t sure and nothing came of it.

Colette was a seasoned adventurer and a great storyteller.

I finished packing and took some time to explore the beach were I was camping. It was a mix of sandy bluffs, rugged ground cover and shifting wetlands. It was very photogenic under the morning clouds. I returned to my bike, brushed off the sand and started my ride on the dedicated bike trails around Morro Bay.

The beach that I was camping on was a complex, beautiful dune ecosystem

 

A view back where I had ridden the day before.

 

My home for a day: RVs and the neighborhood that overlooked the campground and beach. 

 

A tree covered trail through Morro Bay.

 

There was a fairly extensive network of trails in the area.

I followed the official Pacific Coast Route. From Morro Bay it turned inland and became a divided highway. Even the most scenic route can’t avoid some amount of highway riding. The steady uphill grade went on for miles and ended in the beautiful town of San Luis Obispo. I stopped for a coffee in a cute business district.

I chose to get a coffee at from those other guys.

 

San Luis Obispo is referred to as SLO, and has a charm all its own.

After SLO I rode back to the coast, sort of by surprise, I had not looked at my route that much and was not expecting any ocean views. The greater Pismo Beach area is a classic eclectic group of beach towns and the ride through them was fun and easy. The downtown pier area was under construction while I was there. I wound my way through it and across Pismo Creek, which formed a wetlands in the middle of town.

The coast along Pismo Beach had a little of everything, including suburbia with a view.

 

The coast wraps around to form San Luis Obispo Bay.

 

Pismo Creek meanders through town, creating a coastal wetlands that the area has grown up around.

Next is a route recommendation for Pacific Coast Route riders.  As you leave Pismo Beach and ride through Arroyo Grande, stay on the marked route.  There is a sign that points you down Halcyon Road as an alternate route.  It cuts a corner off the route and saves you some distance so it is very tempting. Halcyon looks great at first but it ends with no shoulder, very steep, and very busy. I have taken that cut off twice now due to that sign, and I think it is a bad idea.

Resist the temptation to cut a corner on Halcyon Road.

But I survived Halcyon Road and the rest of the day was farm country roads. I shared the road with huge farm trucks, slow tractors and clumps of dirt  while negotiating small shoulders and rough pavement. The scenery was classic rural farmland with open fields, storage silos, heavy farming equipment and the like. It was an abrupt change from previous days’ riding along the coast.

Much of the day looked like this.

My ride that day ended in Santa Maria.  It is the big city in a farming area, so it reminded me of where I grew up. I stopped for supplies and made my way to the hotel I where would be stay that night, the only night I would spend at a hotel during my 8 day tour. I could not believe how happy I was to see it, I was ready for a little extra comfort that night.

When I called ahead to make reservations, the concierge assured me that it was okay to bring my bike right into the hotel and into my room. They said they got a lot of cyclists there that were riding the coastal route. I could see why: the nearest campground is pretty far away in Lompoc and did not fit my schedule. The Radisson is only a few bucks more than the bargain motels, so I splurged. I was happy I did.

The Radisson Santa Maria was a sight for sore eyes. And sore butt, legs, back, etc. I may have cried a little when I pulled in.

 

Not the usual place to park my bike, but the hotel was good with it.

I ate dinner at the nicer restaurant at the hotel with white tablecloths and everything. Such decadence! I would be back to camping and cooking soon enough. Pampering myself for a night was a wonderful change of pace and recharged me for the rest of the ride. I concluded that when I do a multi-week tour someday I will stay at hotels one or two nights a week.

I think there was chicken somewhere under all that deep-fried goodness. When in farm country, eat comfort food, I say. I had enough leftovers for breakfast, and the room had a fridge and microwave.

 

The hotel serves the airport. It is next to the tarmac and I had a view of it from my table at dinner. There was zero activity while I was there, however.

I cleaned myself and my clothes thoroughly, using the sink and tub to clean my clothes. I hung everything all over the room to dry, feeling confident they would actually get really dry that night after so many nights outside in foggy damp conditions. I must have been in “roughing it” mode, I never even thought of using the laundry at the hotel. I put all of my electronics on real wall chargers too, another luxury. And as I did on most nights, I fell asleep quickly, early and well, ready to continue my ride into Southern California wine country the next day.

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
06:35:28 04:50:20 57.81 11.95 36.91 1,837.27
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

Relive ‘Morro Strand to Santa Maria’

A DIY Bicycle Tubeless Tire Bead Seater Tank

It is time for another not-very-pretty blog about bike equipment. I made a tank that I think can seat just about any bead lock bike tire. This is an over-the-top tool but I had to go to extremes. Getting my floppy (and awesome) Big Fat Larry tires to seat had proven to be very difficult. I tried everything I could find on the web but anything that worked was very difficult. The inflation tank method I came up with seats them easily.

This is the beast in all of its, um, glory.

This is for bead lock tires and rims. Bead lock means that the bead of the tire (the part that touches the rim when installed) locks into the rim. Once locked in, the tire will stay seated even if it is deflated.

WARNING: This is a bead seater ONLY. Do NOT use this to fully inflate bike tires. The airflow is too high to control for safe tire inflation.

It is pretty simple: an air tank with a trigger release tire pressure gauge with all the Schrader valves removed. To seat a tire you remove the core from the valve on the rim and deliver a high pressure, high volume blast of air with no valves in the way.

It has two gauges but only needs one.

 

No need for fancy valves or fittings, the pipe clamps work fine.

 

It would look nicer with shorter pipe clamps I suppose.

Here is how to make one and use it safely. Get a portable air tank. Mine is 10 gallons, but a 5 gallon model would be fine and easier to handle. The tanks have a pressure gauge, a valve, and a hose with a Schrader valve. I take it to a local tire store and they fill it for me. I always offer to pay but they never accept anything for it. They never object to a tip though. The tank is rated for 125 psi and I have them put in max pressure recommended for the tires that I am using.  The fact that you could put in higher pressures than your tires are rated for is the danger of using this tank. You MUST take precautions to use it safely. Never overinflate your tires.

This is what they look like all shiny and new.

Then get a trigger tire inflator gauge. They come in many varieties,  but you are not buying it for the gauge. All you really want is the trigger operated valve to release air in a sudden burst: faster than the built in valve on the tank. You can get triggers separately but it is usually cheaper to get them as part of a gauge.

These are available online easily

Cut the Schrader valves off the ends of the hoses. Install the trigger gauge at the end of the tank hose with a hose clamp. Put a hose clamp lightly tightened around the end of the trigger gauge hose, just enough to keep it from falling off.

Standard issue stuff, available at hardware stores everywhere.

To mount the most difficult tires, seal your rim and seat one bead of the tire, then use this to seat the other bead. Here it is step by step including  all the safety precautions you must follow and all the tips I know. I need to use all these tips for my huge fat bike tires, but you may be able to skip a few steps.

  1. Mount the tire on a sealed rim with a tube so that both beads are seated.
    • The beads may make one or more cracking or popping sounds as they seat, sometimes very loud.
    • Some tire/rim combos seat silently. Inspect the bead. The bead will seat a consistent distance away from the rim all the way around.
    • This bead is not seated. The rib on the tire near the rim on the left goes under the rim on the right.

       

      This is seated properly. The rib is a consistent distance from the rim all the way around.

  2. For a new tire that may have creases or tend to fold up, leave it mounted overnight or take it for a few rides. That will help it hold its shape.
  3. Let the air out of the tube, unmount one bead and leave the other bead seated. It should stay seated through rest of the process.
  4. Remove the tube from the unseated side.
  5. Install the tubeless valve.
  6. Remove the valve core from the valve.
  7. Brush the loose bead with very soapy water, thick and soapy enough to make the bead slippery and sudsy.
  8. Lay the wheel on its side with the loose bead facing down, inside the  rim with the weight of the tire pushing the bead toward the rim. Laying the wheel over a bucket is a good way to do this.
  9. Put the hose from the bead seater over the valve and tighten the hose clamp around the valve.
  10. Open the valve on the tank.
  11. Press the trigger on the gauge to release air, but only for about a second, then release the trigger. The bead should seat.
  12. If that does not seat the bead, press the trigger slightly longer.
  13. It is possible for the bead to seat on some of the rim but not all the way.  Even if you get a partial bead seating, that is OK, remove the hose from the valve. That will let the air out of the tire. The bead should stay partly seated. You should be able to finish seating with a floor pump. This is safer than completely seating the bead with the tank.

    Note the valve core cleverly laid on the chuck as a reminder that you should still have the core removed at this point the process.

  14. If you cannot seat the bead with a floor pump, seat it again using the tank, but seat the bead more completely and then finish with the floor pump. The goal is to use the tank as little as possible for safety reasons. You may need to completely seat the bead with the tank, but that is pretty rare.
  15. Once the bead is fully seated, remove the floor pump or tank. This will let all the air out of the tire again. Add your favorite tubeless tire sealant through the coreless valve.
  16. Reinstall the valve core.
  17. Reinflate the tire with a floor pump.
  18. Bounce the tire around and use your favorite method to seal the sidewalls. Take it for a ride. You are done!

There are other ways to deal with hard-to-seat beads. Air compressors can deliver high pressure but in small volume. Some come with tanks like this so they can deliver high volumes, but that gets pretty pricey. There are floor pumps made to push lots of volume but nothing like a tank will deliver. There are even floor pumps like the Lezyne Overdrive that pump up a small tank and release that pressure all at once, like a mini version of this. But this is a much bigger tank. If those other solutions work for you, great, but if you are like me and needed something bigger, this tank was an affordable way to go.

Cycle Tour Kirk Creek To Morro Strand, Shuttle Around Coast Highway Closure

I awoke Wednesday morning on day 5 of my 8 day bike tour of coastal central California, greeted by the sound of the waves crashing on the cliffs below my tent at Kirk Creek campground. The morning weather was very damp fog, classic Big Sur, so my gear was pretty wet but manageable.

I was on a schedule that day. I would ride up to the closure on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) at Gorda, closed due to the Mud Creek slide, and meet a shuttle that would take me around the closure and drop me off on the other side. It would take me about an hour to ride to Gorda. The shuttle ride would take 3 hours, then I had 45 miles of riding to finish the day. It would be fast with a big descent followed by flat roads and a good tailwind. I needed to stop in the biggest town of the day, Cambria, for supplies. My schedule would be tight but I refused to stress about it and just take it as it happened. I packed up and said good-bye to the few fellow campers that were awake that early and I was on my way.

The road from Kirk Creek to Gorda had very few cars on it, and the skies were clearing up a little.

 

As I neared Gorda the clouds broke up and let some glorious sunshine through.

My shuttle passed me a couple of miles before Gorda. The driver, Mandy recognized me from my description and pulled over. We introduced ourselves and I had her drive ahead as I rode the rest of the way. I was not going to miss the chance to ride PCH as an abandoned road.

Mandy of Central Coast Outdoors was my shuttle pilot.

Mandy was a friendly and knowledgeable host. I tried to help as much as I could but she insisted on lifting my bike onto the roof of her car, and she remarked on how light my bike was for a touring bike. She had shuttled many touring bikes as a tour guide, but she said mine was among the lightest. She probably says that to all the bikers. We agreed that we liked the lighter style better.

Yes these are dollars per gallon prices for gas, and premium is $7.399 per gallon.

Whenever I stop in Gorda I take a picture of gas prices at the pump for fun. I usually post it to Facebook and freak people out. It may be the highest price gas in the country, but I have no problem with this. Getting gas there would be expensive. And you don’t need to fill up. A few gallons will get you to more affordable gas. And simple supply and demand is a great thing. The gas station there could lower prices and people might buy more, but they may just not want to hassle with getting more gas. It is up to the vendor how they want to manage supply, and prices are a natural, bureaucracy free and easy way to control it.

No one else signed up for the shuttle so it was just Mandy and me for the ride. I learned that Mandy was in the process of stepping down from a leadership role of an environmental organization. I never got around to asking her which organization, I was too interested in hearing her talk about the various birds, deer and fish in the area and the efforts of the organization to restore and protect wildlife.

We got delayed by the traffic at the “Lightning in a Bottle” music festival. Had I known that The Glitch Mob and Emancipator were there I might have considered checking it out. Mandy eventually cut around the traffic that had backed up onto the main road. But with the delay, the longish ride ahead of me, and the need to get supplies, I made the decision to have her drop me off in the lovely coastal town of Cambria rather than drive back up the coast to the other side of the slide. It cut out about 20 miles of riding, and my body was telling me that it needed an easy ride that day. The next day would be my longest day with the most climbing and didn’t want to push it. I missed part of PCH with low traffic, but I did not regret the decision to take it easy that day.

I opted to get dropped off in Cambria and continue my journey from there.

While in Cambria I needed to find another fuel canister for my stove and I wanted to stock up for dinner.  I got recommendations from Mandy about where to get what I needed.

Cambria is a pretty little village and the most civilization I had encountered in a couple of days.

The food was easy. I got the biggest deli sandwich ever at Sandy’s Deli and stashed it away for later. The fuel was another matter. I needed an isobutane canister, which have many advantages, but ease of finding replacements is not one of them. You pretty much have to go to a dedicated camping store. Though you might find one at a hardware store that has a few camping supplies, like the Cambria True Value store.  It was a large canister but I could hardly be choosy in my situation.

I came upon the tiny village of Harmony just a few miles down the road. I took Mandy’s advice and stopped there. I have passed it many times, laughing at the posted population of 18 and never thinking about stopping. It is worth it for the stunning glass shop alone. On a weekend you could also check out the dairy and ice cream truck, a pottery shop and a “visitors center” with free coffee.

This is almost all of Harmony, CA. There is a winery too.

 

The glass blowing shop featured everything from small trinkets to museum quality artwork.

 

The stork in a nest was the centerpiece of the main room. It and its nest were all glass, of course.

 

The shop was overflowing with beautiful glasswork.

 

The workshop was in the back.

 

Even the entry was full of whimsical bits of hand blown glass work.

 

Sadly the ice cream truck was closed. I was really in the mood for some right about then too.

 

I continued south. The scenery was rolling grassy hills and ocean views. Morro Rock was visible most of the time, and I featured it in many of my pictures.

You might be able to barely make out Morro Rock on the left.

 

The grasslands intermingled with coastal wetlands in many places.

 

I decided to err on the side of too many pics of Morro Rock.

 

The coast goes through a  transition in this area. It still has the rocky features like Big Sur to the north, but scaled down.

 

Like Harmony, I had driven by Cayucos many times and not stopped. Staying with my plan, I pedaled slowly through the lovely little town. It had a pier, a beach and a quaint downtown area. I stopped at the local liquor store. It can be hard to find the right size bottle of Jack Daniels when you are riding, but Paul’s Liquor Store, while simply named, had what I needed.

Ocean Avenue in Cayucos is hard to describe without saying “cute” more than once because it is so cute.

 

The beach is offers a great wrap around view of the bay. It had a natural look with driftwood, kelp and lots of footprints.

 

I moved on from Cayucos but had one last look back.

 

The homes along the beach created a gorgeous scene.

 

I arrived at my destination for the day with Morro Rock still serving sentry duty in the bay.

 

Morro Strand was an interesting campground. It did not have Hike or Bike sites, so I reserved a tent site for full price. The spot I selected was as close to the ocean as I could get, with just a low bluff between me and the bay.  It gave me some awesome scenery but it was not without issues. My campsite was 100% sand.  So it was hard to pitch my tent and keep my gear clean. And many people thought this was a nice view, including the neighborhood that was only a few hundred yards away, perched above the campground.  They looked over the campground as part of their ocean view. And many of the homes were all windows on the side facing the us.  I just pretended they weren’t there. The campground had no showers, but they did have an enclosed bathroom with flush toilets and sinks. Omitting showers seemed odd. The campground seemed to be designed for RVs with tent sites being an afterthought.

A campsite on the beach.

 

After setting up camp I rode around the area for yet more supplies and sightseeing. The summer days were long, and I found myself going down with the sun. I feel asleep early and slept well once again, ready for the next day of my tour.

An enormous deli sandwich and some locally procured wine were a great way to end the day.

 

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
01:00:30 00:55:17 9.06 9.83 31.54 744.75
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

Relive ‘Kirk Creek to Gorda’

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
02:41:11 01:41:41 20.37 12.02 34.90 787.40
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

Relive ‘Cambria to Morrow Strand’

Cycle Tour Big Sur to Kirk Creek, a Concert on the Coast

My bicycle tour of the coast of California continued into its 4th day on a Tuesday. That put me right in the heart of a work week, beyond the feeling of a mere three-day weekend, and firmly into a vacation adventure frame of mind. My ride that day would take me from Pfeiffer Big Sur campground to Kirk Creek campground, which is a bit of a spoiler since I started the day not sure where I would end it.

I made breakfast in the vestibule of my tent, once again using its protection as a great way to get an early start without stepping out into the cold. The neighboring redwoods seemed to think their needles were a good accompaniment to any recipe and I had to go to extra lengths to keep from having them as an ingredient in my omelette.

Powdered Ova Easy eggs, pre cooked chicken sausage, coffee and redwood needles. What more could you want for breakfast?

After breakfast I went to the lodge and enjoyed a fancier cup of coffee, using the meager internet/cell service and charging my electronics. Michael and Yvonne, the staff at the lodge, were wonderful. We talked about Big Sur history, cycling stories, plans for the area, coffee-making tips, etc. Michael knew a lot about the history of the area and how it had changed over time. He took me on a tour of some of the pictures in the lobby, using them to explain how the bridge and road had changed over the years, how there used to be rooms in the lodge and other great local trivia.

Michael gave me an impromptu tour of the historic photos in the lodge .

 

Yvonne was very friendly and enjoyed talking about my travels and life at the lodge.

Back at the campsite, my bike touring neighbor Shane had changed his plan. Originally he was going to go for a hike that day. But instead he decided to do a local ride. He was traveling with a bike trailer and wanted to leave it behind for a day. His route would take him in the same direction as I was going, then riding up the challenging Nacimiento-Fergusson Road which was near at the campground I ended up staying at that night. It was sort of implicit that we would not ride together, clearly his pace was going to be faster than mine. For non cyclists this might seem a bit strange, but cyclists speeds can vary by a wide margin and you don’t presume to ask another rider to crawl along at your pace.

Shane, my neighbor at the campground, was good to go that morning too, but would end up back at the campground at the end of the day.

 

We took pictures of each other before we started riding.

I departed first so I knew we would see each other out on the road. The ride out of the valley was a long steady steep grade.  I was looking for the new bridge that was completed just a few months earlier after the collapse of an existing span. Its failure contributed to a situation where all roads into Big Sur became impassable and the town became isolated, creating an emergency. There are many bridges on the road, all with dates marked on them. There would only be one from the year before so I easily identified the new one. Construction was complete and the area was clear of equipment and returned to normal, all amazingly quickly.

This must be the new bridge that was built when the old one collapsed last year.

It was not long until Shane rode up effortlessly from behind. He was nice about it and slowed his pace to match mine for a while and we talked. Unfortunately, due to the long climb, I could not do a lot of talking. I think Shane could have delivered a State Of The Nation speech. Eventually we said good-bye  and hoped that our paths would cross again later that day, which they did ever so briefly as we passed each other going in opposite directions.

Traffic continued to taper as I went south, more as I passed each tourist destination. By the time I passed Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park traffic was getting downright sparse. The ride that day was pure, uninterrupted, classic foggy Big Sur coastal cliffs.

Many sections of the road were next to sheer drop offs to the ocean below.

 

The only place  for a cyclist to ride on a few sections was in the lane with cars. Fortunately traffic was low and visibility was good.

 

The rugged, steep cliffs afforded dramatic views mile after mile.

 

Big Sur revealing itself through the fog.

 

I could not help but park my bike here for a pic.

 

The road is visible on the upper left, and offered little margin for error in many places.

 

The occasional pocket beach.

I was not decided on where to stay that night: Plaskett Creek or Kirk Creek campground. Plaskett Creek had running water and showers that Kirk Creek lacked. But Kirk Creek is the only campground on the ocean side of Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in the Big Sur area, offering a more intimate relationship with the coastline as you camp. And you could buy water by the gallon there, enough to drink, cook, clean and bathe.

I stopped at the little restaurant in Lucia and I was pleased to see they had expanded their small market. They way I reduced my load was to buy just enough food late in the day for that night and the next morning. Being unaware of this well situated market, I stocked up at the Big Sur Deli near the beginning of the ride and carried my supplies with me all day. The market in the remote area is good news for cyclists and hikers. They had food, ice and other vital necessities. Like a good wine selection.

I ended up deciding to camp where I always do: Kirk Creek. In the words of real estate agents everywhere: location, location, location.

Camping on the cliffs over the Pacific Ocean was an experience I did not want to pass up.

While I set up camp I met Tom and Michael. Tom was not a cyclist, but he was using the hike or bike area legally to get a first-come-first-served campsite the next day.  He was a sustainability engineer. I was very curious about what that meant, and he answered my questions. I learned a lot about his perspective and good stewardship of the environment even for big engineering projects.

Tom was meeting a group of other sustainability engineers who camped together at Kirk Creek every year. One of their college professors had started the annual event years ago. He had since passed away but the tradition carried on in his memory. The professor used to easily catch fish from the ocean on the shore below the campground during the trip to feed everyone, something that is not realistic anymore. The location and the changes in it in just a couple of decades served as inspiration to Tom’s and his fellow engineers.

Michael was a gifted musician traveling by bike with his guitar. He had arrived by descending the steep and twisty Nacimiento-Fergusson road and would continue to the north. He and Tom played guitar duets, we sang, I provided wine and whiskey and we watched for whales breaching in the ocean. You know, your every day chance meeting of strangers.

Michael and Tom, in concert at Kirk Creek.

 

The performance was worth more than one picture.

I got free internet from a guy who was traveling in his huge solar electric Mercedes Sprinter with  a Hughes Gen 5 Internet dish set up on a tripod outside. He had pitched a sign that said “Internet Cafe”. I asked him how much and he said it was a free, and he gave me his WiFi password. The van was a beauty and we talked about how it worked. He told me that had done an electric conversion on an old Chevy van and when Mercedes saw it they hired him to help them develop a solar electric Sprinter. The big beast was part of his compensation.

I went to prepare dinner that night but the flame on my camp stove fizzed out. I worked around it by changing my menu. I presumed, mistakenly, that the butane canister for my stove was empty, even though I had only used it a few times. More details on that in the next blog. I asked a few other campers if they had an extra butane canister. No one did, but every one I asked offered to lend me their stoves, which was wonderful. I planned to stop in Cambria the next day and buy a new fuel canister. In the mean time I threw out the canister I had, which I later realized was a mistake.

I climbed into my tent early as usual, falling asleep to the sound of the ocean crashing against the cliffs below. I slept well in the fog of the coast, surrounded by fellow adventurers.

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
07:41:32 04:48:53 46.73 9.71 31.54 2,211.29
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

Relive ‘Santa Cruz to Monterey’

What’s A Bike Shirt? Zoic District, Troy Lee Grind, Club Ride Vibe, Others

Bike Shirt (bīk SHərt) noun: A shirt suitable for cycling, styled like a casual shirt with a collar, made with technical fabrics and features helpful to cyclists.

Why bother with a nerdy definition? It distinguishes bike shirts from bike jerseys, tech tees and wing suits. Many companies that make them call them jerseys but I think they need their own name. It also distinguishes them from fashion wear that is usually all cotton and not cut for cycling. I started wearing bike shirts for commuting and touring, but now I find that I like them for almost all of my riding. I am doing a survey of shirts I bought with my money (that is why you see all men’s shirts here. Of course there are women’s shirts, too). No one asked me to review them. Because, well frankly, no one cares what I think. But that has never stopped me before, so here goes.

The Zoic District is a good example of a bike shirt. It looks like a casual button down, but au contraire! It is very much a piece of riding gear.

Bike shirts make it easier to get off your bike, socially speaking. You can go to a party, sit down at a restaurant, get groceries or walk into the office and not get the same old questions and funny looks from non-cyclists. Even if you want to change clothes eventually, you can take your time and stay in your riding clothes for a while longer. Ironically their slight dressiness can give a more relaxed look while you are riding. It is like making a statement that you always ride your bike, even when you need to look a little nicer, no big deal

Bike shirts: they are not just for hipsters anymore. You can mix and match with technical and not so technical clothes and gear.

Bike shirts are defined by fit and fabrics in addition to the collar. They should give you room to move around, esp across the shoulders when your arms are forward in a riding position. They should be shorter than a tuck in shirt. And while I prefer 100% synthetic fabrics for their ability to handle sweat, some cotton blends are acceptable. Synthetics seem to be getting more cotton like and comfortable every year. And most of the fabrics used have a UPF sun protection rating, which is the equivalent of SPF but for clothes instead of sunblock.

There are many other features you might find on a bike shirt. The shirts I like all have snaps that are styled like buttons. It is easier to snap and unsnap and as you ride for air flow adjustments.  And if you crash or hit something, snaps come undone instead of tearing off.  Extra pockets, usually with zippers and often hidden to maintain the casual look, are handy. A mesh yoke across the shoulders can allow the shirt to move around by sliding across the mesh instead of your skin. Pleats can provide freedom of movement. Reflective material, media cable ports, mesh panels and vents are all options you might find on a bike shirt as well.

Hiking shirts often fit the bill, and sometimes a fashion brand will surprise and make a shirt that works. I will review a bunch here. I have worn all of these shirts on multiple rides.

And while it is obvious, let me say it here in black and white: you must wear casual style shorts or pants as an outer layer with a cycling shirt. A cycling shirt and Lycra only shorts combo is just, no. I wear shorts OVER technical riding shorts, that is OK, But no “Lycra lower” look, please.

The Zoic District  is shown above. The lightweight 50/50 nylon polyester fabric performs well and looks great. It has a mesh yoke with a vent flap in back for great air flow, making this a good warm weather option. The vent is positioned higher than hiking shirts to stay above your hydration pack. It is tacked into 4 sections so that if one gets pulled shut the others can stay open, and you don’t get all the flapping  that comes with one big untacked vent. It features two hidden zip pockets on each side at the bottom. And all the “buttons” are snaps. All in all a nice alternative to regular cycling tops.

The mesh yoke serves multiple purposes.

 

These pockets are functional, I usually carry my wallet in one. And they are pretty near invisible. The plaid pattern turned at an angle down the middle of the back adds some style that is kind of a reveal when you take off your hydration pack.

 

The vent is high and separated into 4 sections by tacks for a great cycling specific feature.

I bought the  Club Ride Vibe partly because it was available in a sportier color, but it is still muted enough to wear casually. This shirt is styled to send signals that it is a techy top. Its 97% polyester 3% spandex blend gives it a natural jersey feel. The mesh panels in the underarms aren’t see through, but the contrasting color tells you that this is no ordinary casual shirt. Also noteworthy are two zipped pockets including a low side pocket with a media port and a zipper pull that does not try to hide itself.

The Vibe has a lot of cycling specific features like a slightly longer tail than the front.

 

Buttons are all actually snaps, and both pockets are zipped.

 

The back is pretty straightforward, though the logo is reflective.

   
The low pocket is given away by the zipper pull. A media port in side the pocket lets you route a cable out of the pocket while it is zipped.

The Troy Lee Designs Grind shirt has a different mission than most shirts here, and like all things TLD it goes about it in it own funky way. All of the other shirts here have woven patterns. The plaids you see are created by the color of the threads in the garment. Not so with the Grind. It is a printed pattern on a very technical fabric of 91% polyester and 9% elastane for lots of stretch. My wife did a double take and spotted the print vs woven pattern right away, but I think it is cool and not everyone will have her eagle eye. It is a warmer shirt, so no vents and it has a heavier fabric, but it works in a wide range of temps due to its extra techy fabric. It uses snaps everywhere but hides most of them under a flap, showing off collar and gauntlet faux buttons for a super classy touch. Arm length was spot on for me for riding, and it is longer in back to keep you from getting a case of biker’s crack. It is tech riding gear disguised as a flannel shirt.

MOST people won’t realize this is actually not a cotton flannel shirt (I was staring at my wife just then). The 45 degree tilt of pocket pattern common with sportswear lately.

 

More angled plaid across the shoulder. A couple of small pleats allow you to move around on the bike.

 

There is a single small zipped pocket down here. just the right size for a phone. The cuff treatment puts this shirt over the top.

The Bass Trail Flex is part of Bass’ technical “Propel” series of clothing, something a little unexpected from a mostly shoe company. The blend is 60% cotton, 37% polyester and 3% Lycra. The cotton would usually rule it out completely, but it can handle short commutes fine, and amazingly 3% Lycra makes a big difference. This is a heavier fabric which gives it a sturdy feel and the cut gives you just enough room to be comfortable. Otherwise it is pretty basic, no extra pockets, mesh, vents or snaps.

Just the basics and a sturdy feeling fabric with some useful stretch

 

 

Next up is the Columbia Westerly Winds short sleeve shirt. Columbia turns over styles very quickly, you may not find this exact shirt. It is 100% polyester, thus the “omni wick” moniker. The breast pockets have dual velcro closures so they would hold on to something while you were riding. Another basic but effective shirt that does work on the bike.

It is a lighter fabric good for warmer weather.

Styling and details are basic.

Should you decide to use the breast pockets, they should keep things secure.

The Eddie Bauer Rainier Long Sleeve is similar to the Columbia in that it may differ a little from what you find when you shop. I wanted a long sleeve to contrast the Troy Lee Grind, and this surely does that with some surprising twists. It is full synthetic at 73% polyester and 27% nylon, featuring a mesh yoke and a big pleat between the shoulders. The breast pocket is flapless, closed with a hidden bit of Velcro on the inside. The tab sleeves are a useful feature, sort of like having arm warmers that you can get rid of without having to figure out where to put them.

Eddie Bauer makes mostly fashion clothes with an outdoorsy image, but they also make some pretty technical clothes  like this shirt. It works well, but tends to be a little wrinkly and the cut is slightly long  in front.

 

The mesh is not vented, which makes this a warmer shirt, but it still helps with movement and off the skin comfort.

 

The tab sleeves are handy. Many days I commute in the morning with the sleeves down and in the afternoon with the sleeves up.

The Orvis Short Sleeve Tech Shirt is 73% nylon 27% polyester. It features a mesh yoke and a couple of pleats across the back. I took this on my recent week-long tour, and the nice thing about this shirt is how well it resists wrinkling. I got it on a blow out price so it also wins the best value award.

The lower hem  dips down more than the other shirts here, but was rarely noticeable.

 

A couple of pleats are nice attention to detail.

 

The small mesh yoke does help.

Overall these are all worthy shirts for riding. Get a technical fabric cut with room to move and a length that won’t ride up. Add a few nice to have features and you may find that getting off your bike has never been be easier.

Cycle Tour Monterey to Big Sur, a Day of Photos

Day three of my tour would be a relatively short ride from Monterey to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. I liked that it would be a short ride so it would give me time to take lots of pictures of this very scenic area.

I got a late start due to all of my fraternizing with fellow riders at Veteran’s Park in Monterey. The ride into the park the night before was a nasty climb to the top of a hill. But the ride out of the park and back to Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) still managed to offer more climbing. I had skipped the scenic 17 Mile Drive the day before, but I did ride the last few miles of it that morning. It was not a classic coastal section, but it was as scenic as I remember it.

The two banana breakfast I had  at the campground was not going to sustain me for long. I stopped early in the day at the last plaza to offer any services until I would arrive in Big Sur later in the day.  I stop there on every trip I take in that direction no matter my mode of travel, be it by car, motorcycle or bicycle. The road around it was under construction and it made ingress and egress by bike a little interesting. I found a cute place for breakfast where the host seated me near an outlet so I could charge all of my accessories while I ate. The solar panel I brought was not helping much in the heavy cloud cover along the coast.

Café Stravaganza served up a wonderful and welcome hot breakfast, which was a nice upgrade from two bananas, to say the least.

The useless solar panels made me realize that I had had a change in my attitude about weather. My mood used to depend on it. If I did not get sunny, calm, temperate weather, I was disappointed. But on this trip I ran into a lot of cloudy damp weather, albeit no rain. And it did not put a damper on my spirits (pun intended). It was a very liberating change.

The local Post Office was close by and I stopped to ship back extra items that I did not need, including my CPAP machine and an extra water bottle mount. You can read about the dramas associated with each of those items in earlier blogs. After a quick stop at a market I continued south. Leaving that plaza is always a bit dramatic for me. I consider it an outpost, a last bastion of civilization, the beginning of the rugged section of Big Sur, even though you are still in Carmel for a short while and there are  good places to get supplies along the coast.

This beach was the last one I would see.  After this point I steadily climbed high above the ocean and the coastline became very rocky.

 

Peering through the trees, I could see that this cove is circled by beautiful homes set among the rocky cliffs.

PCH south of Carmel had less room on the road for bikes than I remember from my last trip. There are signs labeling the road as a bike route. And California has a relatively new law requiring motorists to give cyclists a minimum of 3 feet as they pass. But I think most people are unaware of the law. And it only helps so much on PCH. The law does not allow drivers to cross the double yellow line to give cyclists that space, but instead instructs drivers to slow down. On much of the coast there is no room to give cyclists that much space in the lane, there is nearly always a double yellow line, and almost no one slows down. So it was pretty much business as usual dicing it up with cars.

Traffic was light, but I had hoped that the closure on PCH farther to the south would reduce traffic more than it did. The number of cars did taper off as I went, and I was thankful for it. By traveling before Memorial Day, the number of large recreational vehicles (RVs) was also very low. RVs on that road can be pretty exciting as a cyclist.

The vistas grew as I continued along the Big Sur coast.

 

Fishing boats like the one on the left made their way along the rugged coastal shore.

 

Inlets like this were from streams and canyons that formed in the coastal hills and spilled out into the ocean.

 

A look at the coast ahead.

 

The iconic Bixby Creek Bridge. If there is one landmark that represents the Big Sur coast, this would be it. There are others tied for second place, all very close.

 

My bike needed a rest after all of the rolling hills of PCH.

I have traveled this coast many times by car, motorcycle and bicycle. It has been captured countless times in photographs and every conceivable artistic media. As I traveled along the road I got the surreal feeling of moving through a living painting or sculpture, becoming part of a piece of art myself. I imagined the hills rendered in brush strokes, the road portrayed in stippling, or the ocean as a large glass sculpture. I pictured myself from the third person, portrayed in the same media as my surroundings, the structure of bridges becoming rough welded brass, captured in perfectly lit black and white photography, or made abstract  in water-color. I have never seen cyclists traveling this road rendered artistically: they are always portrayed with simple photographs. But there must be an art catalog of Big Sur cyclists somewhere.

The cows of Big Sur never cease to fascinate me. Of all the places for a cattle ranch, this has to be one of the most unlikely.

 

The hill that stands apart from the coast is Point Sur, home of a state park this is only open by guided tour, featuring a lighthouse and part of what used to be a naval station, though there is a small naval facility still there.

 

This is what I call the gateway to Big Sur from the north. PCH veers inland behind the first row of coastal mountains into the valley where Big Sur is nestled.

 

The Big Sur River follows along PCH for a long way. If you are driving or heading north you might miss it. Its clear waters are filtered by the rocks and soil and the trees crowding its banks make a cool breezy canopy on even the hottest of days.

 

Big Sur River Inn and the shops around it are the first services available after leaving Carmel. They have a general store where I stocked up on wine and other necessities.

 

The sign welcoming me to the campground where I would spend the night.

 

BIg Sur River winds its way through the campground, having recovered from years of drought followed by a year of flooding.

 

Not every picture taken in the Big Sur area a work of beauty! I made short work of the carnitas wrap from the inn. I usually take pictures of my meals before I start eating them. But this time my appetite got the best of me, so you get to enjoy this lovely image of half eaten wrap. It tells a story nonetheless.

The only other person in the Hike or Bike area was Shane. I had expected to meet fewer cyclists as I got closer to the PCH closure. Shane was going south and turning back. That was an option for him because he lived not far to the north so it was an out and back ride. When I think about living in an area that I find so special I have mixed feelings about it. Would easy access to great experiences turn the exotic into the mundane? Or would my life be elevated by often having this kind of experience? I expect the former, but given the chance I would take the risk that it would be the latter.

I could have spotted Shane as a serious, strong rider even without the yellow shorts. But those clinched it.

Shane was quiet but we talked more as we got settled in. He was a very fit rider traveling with a two-wheel utility trailer and wanted to get bags for his bike instead. He had a lot of equipment questions and I was happy to talk tech about our bikes and gear. My old titanium Airborne Carpe Diem bike and bikepacking style bags garner a lot of attention. I think they also give me some cred so people listen to my advice and usually ask more as I tell them more.

Shane was staying at the park for a couple of days which seemed like a good idea. Of all the places I might spend extra time on the ride, Big Sur would be on the top of my list, but tied with a few others. I was already beginning to plan a return trip to the coast now that I felt confident in my gear and ability to accommodate my sleep apnea.

Big Sur was thankfully a dry environment. The dampness of Monterey had much of my gear soaking wet. My tent dried out fast, I set up a clothes line and took care of other housekeeping.  My sleep kit and I were getting along well. I fell asleep early and slept hard and long, which I ended up doing pretty much every night of my ride. And that was good, because the next day’s ride to Kirk Creek Campground started with a relentless climb out of the valley. But more on that in the next blog.

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
06:18:07 03:18:24 33.82 10.23 38.25 2,483.60
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

Santa Cruz to Monterey

Cycle Tour Santa Cruz to Monterey, A Coastal Smorgasbord

Day two of my trip began with my resolve that I would not put my head down and hammer out a fast ride, but instead take my time and stop to explore things that I saw along the way. My first chance to exercise that was only a few miles in as I passed Seacliff State Beach. It featured a pier with a sunken ship and the end. It is a concrete ship that its owners sunk at the end of the pier intentionally.

Stopping to have a look at the strange sunken ship and ride the bike trail at Seacliff State Beach.

 

The visitor center never opened while I was there, but it looked interesting and had a nice bike rack.

 

The trail followed the beach and had lots of picnic tables protected by awnings. I could not resist the chance to spend some time at one.

As I left the park I was joined by riders from an organized ride. I asked people what the name of the event was, but I could not understand what they were saying. It was the seven something ride maybe? I stayed with the ride for a long time. I was riding slower than everyone else and that gave me the chance to meet many of them.  A few recognized my bikepacking bags and touring set up and gave me a thumbs us or asked where I was going. Our paths finally diverged and I still had a lot of riding left.

I loved the contrast of the rural farmland with the exotic coast line with dunes and surf in the distance. My version of farmland comes from my days growing up in the Midwest with flatlands and crops as far as the eye could see in all directions. Seeing farmland on the coast with an ocean breeze blowing and set among a hilly landscape was a mix of worlds that did not seem to fit together, yet there they were. Seeing those worlds juxtaposed never stopped amazing me.

I originally had plans to make it to Cannery Row for lunch, but my stomach had very different ideas and I needed to eat way before that.  And the endless farmland offered little in the way of places to eat.

It is hard to make out in a picture, but the coastal dunes contrasted sharply with the farmland.

I gave in and stopped at the first fruit stand / gas station I saw. They had a small supply of a lot of things, as markets in the middle of nowhere often do, including enough for lunch. I refused to stand in the parking lot of a gas station and eat lunch, however. The nice woman at the counter told me there was a place with some picnic tables a few miles down the road.

I don’t know which place she was talking about because a few miles down the road was the lovely city of Moss Landing, and it offered many scenic spots to enjoy lunch. Highway 1 returned to the coast in this area with an ecosystem called a slough. Like some sort of coastal swamp, it is a delightful meeting of sand dunes, ocean surf, inland waterways, unique foliage, and marine mammals. It has its very own distinct exotic beauty among the many places I saw on my ride. I found a place near a marina to pull over and eat lunch.

The ocean meanders inland at Moss Landing, protected by coastal dunes, making a very scenic locale for marinas.

 

It was not the gourmet lunch I had planned, but I made changes to allow me to appreciate the places I came upon unexpectedly.

From Moss Landing the bike route turned  inland again and the coastal winds picked up. Sometimes a little in my favor, sometimes a bit of a headwind, they were nearly always from the side. And when the route turned directly into them my pace slowed down quite a bit, but thankfully that did not happen much. The route into Monterey turned into a dedicated bike path starting way outside of town, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, which was impressive and wonderful to ride.

The bike route appeared unexpectedly in the middle of farm country and appeared to go nowhere and not be used by anyone.

A closer look at the wind-swept areas of sand revealed that the trail had many users, even recently.

The route into Monterey continued on a bike path and offered delightful views of the shifting coastal dunes and delicate ecosystem. That is Monterey Bay in the distance.

 

The bike trail crests the dunes north of Monterey, affording big views of the coast and the bay.

The colors of the plants, the sand, the ocean and the sky are a characteristic of this area. And the coastal winds were literally in my face as I took it all in.

The path turned from a remote coastal route into heavily traveled urban trail pretty suddenly. And what a great route it was. It took me past all the main sights you might want to see in Monterey along the coast including Cannery Row, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and, of course Light and Motion bicycle lighting company. I received no promotional fees for this blog. But I would not object to it if I did.

I have been to this aquarium many times. It alone is worth the visit to Monterey.

I decided not to cook and I had a hankering for a big deli sandwich. After searching for delis I decided on International Deli in Monterey. When I got there I discovered it was an Iraqi deli, not the sandwich kind of deli I had in mind, but it had good reviews and looked wonderful so I rolled with it. I ordered the chicken shawarma because it looked great. I could not help but laugh to myself about feeling like Ironman.  I hate it when people make movie references I don’t know, so search for Avengers shawarma if you need to.  Once again I had crammed too much in the day so I decided to trim the 17 mile drive from my schedule.  I packed my shawarma away and made the big climb to Veteran’s Park so I could enjoy it at my campsite.  If you do the ride, make sure you fit the 17 mile drive into your schedule. I have seen it before so I was OK.

When I got  to the campground I saw lots of biker tents but no bikers. Some tents did have bikes next to them. It looked creepily abandoned. “Are they all homeless?” I mused to myself, but I knew better. I set up camp and enjoyed the chicken shawarma. I had asked for some extra veggies and they had obliged. Even though it had gotten tossed around a lot on the way to the campground, it was still wonderful.

I had about as much energy as the Avengers did when they ate their shawarma.

I settled in and it got dark early in the heavy overcast weather. The only lights I traveled with were a headlamp and the light on my phone. The headlamp had an unexpected effect. If you look into the woods as you are walking in the dark, the eyes of any critters looking at you shine back at you eerily. But, being critters, they don’t realize this and think they are being super stealthy and you can’t see them.  While walking to the showers after dark I had a creature of unknown species following me with its gaze for a while. It made me uncomfortable and I even tried to shoo it away. After amusing myself with a series of strange noises, it turns out the good old raspberry noise finally vexed whatever was stalking me and it scampered away.

I fell asleep hard before 9 pm. I heard some bikers arrive later and once again my eye mask and earplugs were very helpful. I was hoping to meet them in the morning.

I awoke well rested and realized I was sleeping well with my CPAP substitute breathing aids. This was a great development. I was concerned that I would not be able to sleep well with them and I might even have to cut my ride short. But that morning I committed to completing the ride as planned.

It was damp and cold: so damp it looked like it may have rained in the night, but if it did the noise of the rain on the tent was not enough to wake me. It always amazes how warm a tent will keep you given that it is only a couple of thin sheets of nylon. And my tent was a lightweight model with very thin nylon and it still kept me very cozy. I stayed in the protection of my vestibule to make myself a cup of coffee while the morning fog cleared up.

There is nothing like enjoying a hot coffee  sheltered by your vestibule. Bananas make a great culinary pairing too, BTW

All of us cyclists eventually came out of our tents to say hello. Alex was riding around the PCH closure via a route that included King City. I couldn’t talk him into splitting the shuttle around the mud slide with me. I later encountered him on Facebook. He continued to ride long after my one week trip had ended and he was posting real-time updates.

Michael was an eBike enthusiast and semi vagabond in my own words. He was touring on a utility bike that was his own custom eBike creation. I had experimented with making eBikes a long time ago. I was surprised how literate I still was. Mike and I talked a long time about the state of eBikes. When I told him that I was sleeping consistently without my CPAP machine, he gave me idea to ship the CPAP back home. I would have probably figured it out myself, but he probably saved me a couple of days of hauling it around.

Thaddeus, a total vagabond by his own admission, also joined us but declined to have his pic taken. I was not sure if Thaddeus was a nickname or not, but his off the grid lifestyle was fascinating. Tim the park ranger checked in trying to figure out who did not pay their $6 camp fee.

Alex was opting to take the inland route around the PCH closure.

 

Michael was touring on an eBike, something I have thought about doing, and I have built a similar cargo eBike, so we had a lot to talk about.

I had to tear myself away from the great conversation if I hoped to have a relaxed ride to Big Sur. I talked as I packed and wished everyone well as the conversations continued. Damp fog had given way to low clouds and it looked like a great day for a ride.

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
07:41:32 04:48:53 46.73 9.71 31.54 2,211.29
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

Santa Cruz to Monterey

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