By the Wind Grieved

One of the reasons most tourists cycle north to south along the Pacific Coast is the prevailing northerly winds at your back. We experienced some headwind yesterday along the peninsula south of San Francisco, but today it blew again in this least advantageous of directions, slowing us to a crawl along the stretch of California 1 that rolls, with occasional steeper climbs, along the cliffs and down into beaches and coves, only to climb back up again to the bluff tops. Even when the road was level or less than steeply downhill, we had to pedal to make any headway, and pedaling our hearts out carried us no more than eight or nine miles per long hour.

Looks peaceful, but imagine a steady 15mph gusting to 20.

We got used to it, settling into our lowest gears, enjoying the views of sheer-walled drop-offs, craggy sea stacks, driftwood-strewn tidal pools, and wind-driven surf crashing on the rocky shore. Once in a while one of us whined, or shifted wearily in the saddle. As a distraction, we continued cataloguing roadside debris, the shredded and atomized fabric of Western civilization. New entries on our ongoing list included a kid’s car seat (no kid), some hose clamps, rubber surgical gloves, an empty packet of cyclists’ chamois cream, a pair of black eyeglass frames (no lenses), and leeks — one leek every 50 yards for almost a mile. We decided that some parent had gone shopping, put the grocery bags in the backseat with the kids, and told them there would be leeks for dinner.

Here comes the fog.

The Saturday traffic was steady, the state park beaches busy despite the cold (for us) breeze and California coastal fog that soon took over. We powered on past isolated homes, some of them seemingly luxurious if precariously perched where they must someday fall into the sea. But we passed no services, and began to wonder when we could refill our water bottles, which (under-caffeinated) we hadn’t topped off before leaving our Half Moon Bay B&B, which we left perhaps too precipitously to avoid the other guests gathered around the breakfast table, eating quiche and drinking coffee and trying to one-up one another with travel tales.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse. There’s a hostel there, 27 miles N of Santa Cruz.

The headwind blew sand into our eyes and mouths, and we needed water, but there was nothing–nothing–on our route until about 15 miles north of Santa Cruz, with one exception.

Drawn by the smell of smoked meat blown our way by the headwind, long before we saw the cheery green sign, we rolled into the Highway 1 Brewery just after noon; it’s a somewhat improbable brewery, with nothing else around but a service station, and not much to look at. But it’s a friendly spot, with good grub, and after some warming comfort food and two cokes (no beer, of course), we felt well fueled for the last leg.

Next stop, thanks to our Santa Cruz friend Tom’s spot-on recommendation, was Swanton Berry Farm, for dessert: blackberry pie and boysenberry cheesecake. A quirky spot, very cozy, with an honor system for payment, and 10% off for bicyclists (“must wear helmets”).

The major climbing of the day had happened earlier, and the wind had shifted slightly to the west, or maybe our route bent to the southeast, so we cruised more easily into Santa Cruz after pie, arriving at the Fairfield Inn and Suites, on the northern edge of town, at 3:30.

Hot on our heels were Winona and Sergio, down from Reno for Father’s Day weekend with a resupply of snacks, clean clothing, mail, and a new credit card (David’s had been hacked and used to buy hot dogs and auto parts in Illinois). Their bike racks meant we could more easily take our Treks to one of the many local shops for checkups and adjustments. (NB: there are more bicycle shops in Santa Cruz than Starbuck’s.)

Happy Father’s Day!

Tom joined us and we repaired down the street to Humble Sea Brewing Co. for a drink, then to West End Taps for a festive dinner.

First of the day at Humble Sea.

Nightcaps were at the very interesting Pour House, where a wristband grants you automated access (for which you pay by the ounce) to tastes of 50 different beers and a dozen wines.

Video: Sergio pours a taste.

Next day, our rest day, Tom had organized a Father’s Day brunch at Gabriella’s, where we were joined by surprise guests: his son Ian and stepson Zeph, over from Alameda. After a long, leisurely, delicious meal, Winona and Sergio ferried us back to the bike shop to collect Ashley’s ride, which had needed some adjustments. Then a tearful goodbye in the hotel lobby. We’re on our own again.

Zeph, David, Ian, Tom, Winona, Sergio

We spent the afternoon figuring out accommodations for the next two days, around Big Sur, a phase of our ride which is complicated by the 2017 mudslides that washed out part of the road, closing it north of Hearst Castle until later this summer. Luckily, Tom is coming to our rescue–on which more in a couple of days. After settling that, we Lyfted back into town, hit another brewpub, did some shopping for a few necessities, and had a hearty dinner in preparation for tomorrow.

Winona and Tom at Humble Sea

This has been a wonderful rest day, and surprisingly emotional. We miss Winona and Sergio, and 20 hours wasn’t enough. And we miss Tom, even though we’ll see him again in a couple of days. But we’ve got our eyes on Big Sur and beyond: Southern California, here we come.

Saturday stats: 47.2 miles; 2587′ climbed; 4:28 riding time.

1 thought on “By the Wind Grieved”

  1. Up every morning having coffee and reading your blog. I feel like I’m with you…at least in spirit. Thanks for taking me along your great journey south on the most beautiful west coast. Keep on truckin’.


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