In the immortal words of “Clive,” as we’ll call him, a British bike tourist we met at a scenic overlook on the Big Sur coast this afternoon, “this day really got its sh*t together.” Clive, who began his ride in Astoria and is LA-bound, describes himself as “not risk-averse,” and so he intends to hit the Esalen hot pools at 1am and sneak his bike over the Gorda-to-Ragged Point road closure.
Our own day started with the free motel breakfast in Santa Cruz and retrieving our bikes from the storage closet to repack them and roll back out on the road for this 25th day of our tour by a few minutes past 9am. It has turned sunny, or as sunny as the Central Coast usually gets, and the wind had quartered (or however the old salt sailors say it) so it was more of a sidewind than a headwind.
Ironically, it was on Freedom Blvd that Ashley had to stop and schedule an appointment with the dean. “This is my life now,” she lamented.
A quick stop in Aptos, nine miles later, so Ashley could mail her grandmother a birthday present and send home some stuff we forgot to give Winona & Sergio yesterday. Trying to lighten our loads! Next door to the PO was a discount sports equipment shop and we bought four new water bottles because, upon inspection this morning, our proved to be cultivating, to varying degrees, some kind of science project.
New water bottle!
Ethel, our trusty robot navigator, steered us competently along Santa Cruz County bike lanes, paths, side and back streets to deposit us back on California 1 briefly before again detouring us on narrow and badly maintained farm roads through the strawberry fields of America, vast acreage plowed and planted with stoop crops — besides berries (“Strawberry Fields Forever”), there were artichokes, brussel sprouts, and lettuces — and picked by largely or entirely Hispanic fieldworkers. We could hear their norteño music blaring as we pedaled by, comparing our workday to theirs.
By a few miles north of Monterey, we gained a bicycle path which eventually mounted the dunes and gave us views of the bay, and of some paragliders riding the ocean breeze, before skirting the municipal beach park on a lovely path lined with eucalyptus trees.
As we climbed back through town to rejoin Hwy 1, we passed several old adobes, relics of Monterey’s early 19th-century role as capital of the Mexican province of Alta California, prior to the American invasion which seized the territory and made it part of the US (let’s never forget that).
Hwy 1 between Monterey and Carmel proved a challenging ride, with narrow shoulders and a lot of traffic, though by now, 1300 miles into our trip, we’re equipped to handle it. Still, it’s never nice to be cut off by a Jaguar coupe, almost hit by a pickup impulsively changing lanes, and brushed a little too closely by a tractor-trailer.
Fortunately after the southern turnoff to Pt. Lobos and 17-Mile Drive, the Cabrillo Highway, as 1 is known around here, regained its rural character and the southbound traffic, at least, lessened considerably.
Carmel Highlands was our last service stop, our map warned us, for 21 miles (and 60% of the day’s climbing) until Big Sur. So we stopped at the one grocery store and bought water, Gatorade, and a turkey sandwich just in case. “We’ll probably end up throwing that away,” warned Ashley, and in fact we probably will. But better safe and well fed than stuck with a flat and hungry.
Very soon, climbing a series of short steep hills, we came into view of the Big Sur coastline. It was another 15 miles of splendor, climbing on a gentle grade with an occasional and sometimes windy descent, but all spectacular coastline leading up to and coming into the actual village of Big Sur. Southbound traffic, thanks to the road closure, was light to nonexistent.
We stopped half a dozen times to take photos, and it was 6:45 when we got to our campground–we’d snagged the last site. We pitched our tent and walked five minutes to dinner at the Big Sur River Inn. Hoping for a decent sleep before a short but steep day tomorrow.
Today’s stats: 78.1 miles, 4433′ climbing, 6:45 riding time, plus the time it took to cross traffic lanes and take a lot of photos.