Day 6, 7 & 8 – Monterey to Big Sur, Plaskett Creek, San Simeon Village
Although the ride to Big Sur was not a great distance it was very hilly and one that I remembered from last year. But the scenery really does make this part of the coast spectacular. And witnessed by the many tourists that I saw today who seemed to stop at every pull-off to gawk and take photos. I met a young Chinese couple at one of these stops who seemed very thrilled that I engaged them in conversation. The husband insisted that his wife take a photo of me and him with his arm around me – very touching! He rides bike in mainland China and envied my route down this west coast.
I stopped too, many times to take it all in and take some photos.
Soon I arrived at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and found my way to the hiker/biker camp area. On my way out of Monterey when I rejoined Highway 1, I passed another touring cyclist that was merging onto the highway. It was Tyler who I met while camping in Half Moon Bay and thought to myself that he would probably end up where I was heading – sure enough he showed up about an hour or so after me, so a familiar face. He’s a young fellow and started riding in Seattle – first bike tour ever! His main goal when he left was to reach San Diego and lose 50 pounds in weight – he tells me that he has lost half of that already!
The camp is quiet here compared to last year with just a few cyclists. One couple are from South Korea originally and now live in Vancouver. She is only riding to San Diego but he is continuing on to Brazil – a lofty ambition.
It rained fairly heavily last night, which was a bit of a surprise, so a wet tent to put away in the morning and the area was soggy, so I opted for a cooked breakfast at the lodge, very nice. I’d forgotten about the steep long hill immediately after leaving the campground at Big Sur, but was soon reminded just how long it was, after every curve I expected the top, but it took many more of those false summits before I could tear down the well deserved downhill portion. Today was one of the hilliest so far as the highway rolls up and down at edge of ocean for many miles. But the scenery! Yesterday’s was fabulous whereas today’s was phenomenal! These last two days of views are one of my main reasons for me riding this part of the coast again – certainly not my fondness of hills though! I had to be very careful in one section though as a rain shower made the road surface quite slick, so I got robbed of a fast descent from that hill and got stopped later by a traffic light controlled one lane section. I think that’s the end of the rain for now.
The only stop on route was the very small community of Lucia, where there is a small store and restaurant that sell very expensive sandwiches – but beggars can’t be choosers, right!
I met my fellow traveller Tyler there and we chatted through our rest stop. He wanted to travel farther today, so is not at the campground where I am, Plaskett Creek. I camped here last year with some fellow cyclists, this year, no other cyclists have shown up, but the place is crowded with surfers, I guess that surf’s up in this area?
This is a Forestry campground and due to the water shortage in California, the have closed all the restrooms here and are using chemical toilets, so no sinks etc. Last night in the State Park, they still had showers and flush toilets running, but had closed all the outside washing facilities. They also cut down the time for the shower timers, had to be quick there!
Looks like all the surfers are in for partying tonight with all the stuff they are unloading, but won’t bother me too much once I take my hearing aids out and stuff some ear plugs in – silence is golden sometimes!
I watched a nice sunset over the ocean on my evening walk…
Packed up the gear this morning, nice and dry not like yesterday, and rode the three miles to a breakfast restaurant at Gorda. Not much else at Gorda, restaurant, small store and some cabins. Breakfast was good and I knew that I would need it for the hills ahead. Once again, great scenery but some major hills. The hills lasted for about half the ride today and then it was downhill to Ragged Point – second brekky there – from there are a couple of small hills and a finally a return to relatively flat riding along the ocean.
San Simeon is Hearst Castle area and the small village of San Simeon proper is just a restaurant/bar and a few very nice Spanish style homes. Where I am staying is “Motel Row” a few miles past the old town. For some strange reason this area is called San Simeon Village – go figure!
On the way to my digs today, I stopped to watch the Pelicans feeding – must be good fishing right now, and then made a stop at the Elephant Seal rookery at Piedros Blancas. It was fascinating to watch the males sparring and others just sprawled on the beach resting. What is really special is that these mammals were nearly hunted to extinction not that many years ago, but brought back to present numbers through conservation efforts and a ban on the hunting.
The weather has sure improved as well as the road conditions. After a few days of cool temperatures, today was sunny and hot all day, albeit windy. Lucky for me, it was a nice tailwind!
More photos at THIS LINK
More in a few days,
AdamK & (Phew, talk about white knuckles last couple of days!) Basil.
Days 9, 10 & 11 – San Simeon Village to Santa Barbara
The riding from San Simeon to my next stop of Pismo Beach was mostly on roads with rolling hills other than the long climb out of Cambria 8 kms after leaving the motel at San Simeon – another hill that I had forgotten about! Overall, the views were very limited as I rode with light fog as a constant companion until about noon when the sun started to burn off the mist.
At least the highway had a nice wide shoulder all the way to Morro Bay where I was able to leave Highway 1 and take some back roads through the countryside of the Los Osos Valley. Pretty well all farm and pasture lands. My map sent me over a long climb while on this route via Turri Road, it was supposed to be a shortcut but with the grind up the long hill and back down again I didn’t see it as much of a shortcut as much as pain for not much gain!
After being in the countryside for a while, I was glad to get back to the coast at Pismo Beach as it is much more interesting riding with ocean views rather than grasslands etc.
Pismo Beach, Grover Beach and Oceano are all part of one big long beach that is known as the Oceano Dunes. All the guys with their fancy 4 x 4’s and Dune Buggies frequent this area and of course as it was the weekend the place was packed and noisy. But this was my planned stop as it was much further to the next lodging or camping opportunity. I passed the North Beach campground due to reports that there was supposed to be a better campground with showers at Oceano about 5 km south. I got there and the campground has been closed for construction all year! All the motels were either full or super expensive, so I pedalled on back 5 kms to the North Beach – no hiker/biker sites there anymore and all the regular sites were full! But there was a promise of a site at the County Park back at Oceano 5 km south again. I’d passed this park, but it looked more like a storage yard. Sure enough, they had sites, but the place leaves a lot to be desired – it is next to the noisy highway at one side and the railroad tracks on the other – not to mention full of shady looking characters and rednecks! I was stuck next to one such bunch, but luckily about an hour after I arrived a couple of young guys on bikes showed up to share my meagre area – which was next to the neighbouring fire pit by the way! Anyway, I was glad of the company and felt a bit safer. The two guys, Darius and Ben, live in Los Angeles and are riding north to San Francisco, so had lots of questions for me about the route that I had covered. I’m glad that I could help them out.
If you ever have the chance, do NOT stay at Coastal Dunes County Park – that’s all I can say!
By the way, I bumped into Tyler again as he has slowed down again after his long day in the saddle to San Simeon.
So after the campground from hell, I set off for Lompoc going inland again as the Vandenburg Base blocks the coastal route for Highway 1. Rain showers, sometimes heavy continued for most of the very boring ride through agricultural areas that seemed to go on forever, very boring and wet ride with rotting cabbage and cauliflower smell as an accompaniment. I stopped in Guadalupe for a snack and to put on more rain gear, then pedalled on. The only challenge today was the Harris Grade Road which goes up to about 960 feet in a very short time – lots of hairpins to negotiate on both up and down sections. There was a tow truck about halfway down the decent, he had the job of hauling a car off the hillside that had launched itself over the edge and landed on a steep incline on the hillside. The woman driver had already been evacuated by the paramedics and fire fighters then taken to hospital. The tow truck driver told me that the car never rolled but landed flat on its belly, well, as flat as it could on that incline – that probably saved the driver’s life?
Pretty well a downhill run all the way into Lompoc from the Harris Grade Road where I met up with Tyler again at the Starbucks in downtown Lompoc. He stayed at the crappy campground too on the previous night in a different area than me – his spot was even worse, he told me, as he had people partying most of the night right next to him!
Lompoc’s a big strip mall of a city and has all the usual array of stores and fast-food joints found in so many larger towns and cities nowadays. There is a Federal Prison nearby as well as the huge Vandenburg base, which I would image fuel a lot of the economy here what with visitors etc. Good for me though as there are lots of motels at a reasonable price to stay at, even on a weekend!
Leaving Lompoc it was one long grind to over 900 some feet. But unlike yesterday which was a much steeper grade, today’s climb was over many miles, so just punishment for a longer time 😉
After about 30 km, Highway 1 ended, and all traffic joins the freeway of Highway 101. Soon after that the ocean is in view again and the riding, albeit on a freeway, quite relaxing on a very wide shoulder. I stopped to eat my sandwich close to where I camped last year at El Capitan State Park and then continued on to Goleta, which a suburb of Santa Barbara – actually the area of Santa Barbara airport.
All in all, an uneventful ride today other than having a couple of touring cyclists pass me and yell something with their Aussie accents. Without my hearing aids that I cannot ride in due to wind noise, I couldn’t make out the exact phrase, but recognised the accent – hope it was something nice that they said?
More in a few days – I plan a rest day tomorrow when I will be in Ventura.
More photos at THIS LINK.
AdamK and (back to the beaches) Basil.