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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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