In May 2017 the Mud Creek Slide came crashing down on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in California, turning an 80 mile section of highway with no exits into a 10 mile and 50 mile dead-end. As bad as that sounds, the situation was much worse. Additional slides and a bridge failure isolated the tiny and beautiful village of Big Sur. Months later, after a flurry of construction and repair, all the damage on PCH except Mud Creek was repaired.
But in the midst of disaster was also opportunity. I realized that the closure would dramatically reduce vehicle traffic along the coast, making a potentially good situation for a cyclists riding the area. But there was the matter of circumventing literally a million tons of earth burying the road 40 feet deep. Add the construction equipment and workers busy rebuilding the road and it posed a formidable obstacle for a lone rider on a bicycle. I kept track of the situation on the media, blogs and Facebook groups. There were reports of cyclists crossing the slide at night, defying the closure and the law. While I wanted to ride the route, a midnight poach in the dark by myself was not for me. I found a local tour company called Central Coast Outdoors that shuttled cyclists around the closure. The price seemed steep: over $300 for the ride, but it could be split up to 3 ways if other riders joined you, and it was way cheaper than Uber for the same thing. I thought about it for a few days and decided the opportunity to ride the coast with low traffic was worth it, and I began preparations.
I booked a flight on JetBlue to San Jose and planned to ship my bike to a nearby FedEx Office using bikeflights.com. I busted out may favorite bike ride planning site, ridewithgps.com, and began planning my routes for each day. I reserved a room for one night at the Radisson in Santa Maria with plans and gear to camp every other night of a 9 day 8 night journey. I reserved a site at the only campground that needed it. All of my other camping would be at California State Park Hike or Bike sites which were all first come / first served / no reservation sites. And finally I reserved an Amtrak ride home that allowed people to bring their bikes on the train. BTW, I am not sponsored by anyone, but I do like to share resources I find useful for other riders or anyone else interested.
I bike toured PCH on a similar trip many years ago. While the trip was great, I realized afterward that I had spent too much time riding for my preferences, and not enough time relaxing, sightseeing and getting to know fellow travelers. So as I planned each day’s ride for this trip, I reduced the mileage I would ride each day compared to my first trip.
To be honest, I over prepared for the trip. I spent too many hours poring over routes and fine tuning them, reading updates on the web, and anticipating the details of the trip. By over preparing, I mean that I was a little burned out before I even started riding. I was beginning to doubt whether I would enjoy the ride at all. Plus there were the normal pre ride jitters and worries. Would I get a cold just before or during the ride? What if my frame cracked? Would I forget something critical? Was I in good enough condition for such a ride?
Of course I went ahead with the ride, starting on the Saturday the week before Memorial Day 2018 and riding through to the following Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Day 1 presented me with more than its fair share of problems. But I overcame them all, found myself well able to handle the rigors of daily riding, and went on to have a great trip.
Actually, “great trip” does not begin to capture what the trip became. I had days of riding in idyllic conditions, I met wonderful people who had great stories to tell, and I “rode myself into shape” as the expression goes and felt stronger and stronger as the days passed.
What started as a trip where I was worried that I might quit early turned into a ride where I was sad to see it end. In the days after the ride I felt like I was living in an afterglow, my mind drifting back to daydreams of the ride, planning the next tour already, and having a hard time focusing on my daily responsibilities.
As far as my blog goes, in the coming days and weeks I will post a blog for each day of the trip, documenting in more detail my route and experiences from each day. I hope they will be helpful to others who ride the route. But I also hope to be able to capture the experience for me forever, so that I can recall the feelings of the ride and daydream about the experience of a lifetime over and over again.