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Day 41: Limekiln State Park to San Simeon State Park


Day 41: Limekiln State Park to San Simeon State Park

Miles: 42

What I rode by: a California condor!, roadside scripture

In a way, today felt like our final day of the trip. That was because, by the end of it, we were back on roads we ride all the time. In a way, this feeling really started for me near the Oregon-California border. The vegetation began to change from Pacific Northwest coniferous rainforest to the chaparral and coastal scrub biomes with which I’m familiar (i.e., like the native plants in my front yard).

Anyway, today we rode through the southern half of Big Sur, which was just as spectacular as the first. It’s been one of my favorite sections of our trip. Our maps have elevation profiles of our route, and Big Sur stands out on it as a hilly place. Today, you could pretty much count down the number of climbs remaining for the entire trip because once south of Big Sur, the road turns flat (relatively speaking). I remember savoring our last climb and the descent even more.

That was where we met a curious woman. She was in a small pullout, next to a shopping cart full of stuff, and surrounded by more stuff. A sign hung on the shopping cart, “roadside scripture”. That’s what she was doing. If any of you are looking for some roadside scripture, you can find her with a smile, in the saddle of the southernmost climb of Big Sur.

Our friends and neighbors, Mack, Joan, and Clay, met us at the campground and brought us dinner and firewood! We shared it with the fellow touring cyclists who congratulated us on finishing our trip.

Breakfast in Big Sur.

We had been following these signs for weeks.

Day 40: We slept under a bridge


Day 40: We slept under a bridge (i.e., Andrew Molera State Park to Limekiln State Park in the middle of the Big Sur coast)

Miles: 31

What I rode by: Big Sur climbs, the same cars over and over again because they kept pulling out to take pictures

Even though the marine layer was positioned out over the water last night, our tent was quite wet in the morning. It’s been wet a lot on this trip. There was a bold squirrel running around the campsite in the morning, checking out everyone’s stuff.

This bold squirrel checked out all of our panniers at the campsite in the morning.

We were expecting Big Sur to feel rather treacherous given the hills and our proximity to the ocean but it didn’t turn out that way. Maybe it was because of all the steep, shoulder-less roads we’ve ridden recently. Maybe it was the weather. Things are always better when the sun is shining and generally seem worse when it isn’t. Today, the sun was out. The climbs were great. One thing was true about Big Sur: there really isn’t much of a shoulder. When climbing, it’s easy to stay in a six-inch wide shoulder. When descending, we would take the entire lane for three reasons: it’s hard to stay in a six-inch wide shoulder at 25+ mph, cars shouldn’t be going more than 25 miles an hour on all of those tight turns anyway, and it’s just a lot of fun.

We camped at Limekiln State Park. There are some old kilns in the hills (hence the name) that were used to purify limestone into lime that was shipped north to San Francisco for use in cement. In three short years, the lime was gone and so were most of the redwoods that provided fuel for the kilns. Now, it’s a state park (with one of the southernmost groves of redwoods in the state). The hiker-biker campsite is the closet one to the beach and is located directly under the Hwy 1 bridge that crosses over the park and partly on the concrete footing of a bridge pylon. There happened to be a crescent-shaped bench (a metal frame painted white with a vinyl seat cushion) on the other side of our bridge pylon that overlooked the water. It made for a most unusual campsite.

Big Sur coastline.

Beach at our campsite.

Our campsite came complete with a curved sitting bench up against the bridge pylon.

Watching the sunset from our sitting bench. Our tent is just in front of the bridge pylon.

Day 39: Moss Landing to Andrew Molera State Park (just north of Big Sur)


Day 39: Moss Landing to Andrew Molera State Park (just north of Big Sur)

Miles: 44

What I rode by: my ability to predict mileage, Hurricane Point

So, for the second day in a row I underestimated just how many miles we would be riding today. In general, today was eventful.

Kristen wants me to put on record what I ate for breakfast this morning: French toast (4 pieces) with bacon, A side of bacon, Four eggs, Corned beef and hash (this was delicious), Two pieces of toast

We had our first flat tire this morning! Kristen’s rear tire picked up two small shards of glass that somehow managed to make their way through our awesome tires. We changed it on the side of a farm road.

Kristen pumps up the new tube.

After the flat tire, we had about 12 miles on a rolling seaside bike path. Then it was the streets of Monterey. Once we climbed over Carmel, we were back on Hwy 1 though I was concerned with how many miles we had left to ride. There is not much in the way of towns and villages between Carmel Highlands and Cambria (25 miles north of where we live), and it was ever so relaxing to be in the middle of that again.

This was the first sign that had San Luis Obispo on it.

Late in the day, we would later learn, we rode by Hurricane Point. This, and the area around it, were buffeted by CRAZY gusting winds. We were getting blown all over the place. At one pullout, if I released my brakes, my bike would start to quickly roll forward. It was crazy. It was also fun to just scream into the wind. As we continued south, the winds eased up a bit and became mostly a powerful tailwind pushing us toward our campground. Hurricane Point (a local told us) happens to be a westerly point along the coast that has no other land mass blocking any wind that travels across the Pacific Ocean and comes down the coast from the north. Everything south of it is on the leeward side of the Point and is subject to less wind, in general. Hence, Hurricane Point is a windy place. This guy also told us he was driving near Hurricane Point one day and saw a woman, bike and all, get picked up by the wind and deposited on the opposite side of the road. Based on the winds when we rode through, I completely believe him.

We shared a campsite with two sisters from Switzerland and showed them pictures of our trip.

One of two famous and historic bridges we rode across.

Day 38: Ano Nuevo State Reserve to Moss Landing, CA


Day 38: Ano Nuevo State Reserve to Moss Landing, CA

Miles: 54

What I rode by: boy scouts, farm laborers working late

When we were at a campground in Oregon, we met a woman who lived on a sailboat in Moss Landing (just north of Monterey). When she heard what we were doing, she invited us to spend the night in her office at the yacht club. So, our destination today was Moss Landing. But first, we had to ride through the greater Santa Cruz area. That meant a combination of Hwy 1 overlooking a number of surf spots and too many city streets. I much prefer riding on remote stretches of highway to city streets.

Near the end of the day, we came across a boy scout troop that was riding from Half Moon Bay to Disneyland! There were a total of 13 scouts and 12 adults, and a support vehicle with a big trailer. The last handful of miles zig-zagged us through fertile farmland of the Salinas Valley.

Day 37: Montara to Ano Nuevo State Reserve


Day 37: Montara to Ano Nuevo State Reserve

Miles: 33

What I rode by: bananas, dudleya

I don’t think a day passes when we don’t see a banana peal on the side of the road. I’ve noticed this since the beginning of Oregon. We saw more banana peels today. It was a short and, relatively speaking, flat ride today. It almost felt like a rest day.

This is the hostel we stayed at.

Here we are at the lighthouse, ready to head off on a cloudy morning.

Dudleya growing on the sculpted shale.

Day 36: Samuel P. Taylor State Park to Montara, CA


Day 36: Samuel P. Taylor State Park to Montara, CA

Miles: 48

What I rode by: the Golden Gate Bridge

Today was our most urban day of riding since Day 1 when we rode through Vancouver. Today was the day we rode over the Golden Gate Bridge.

We planned to get an early start but that proved difficult for a number of reasons. The Aussies (by the way, their names are Hillary, Patrick, and Don) offered to cook us pancakes and I had to clean a big splattering of bird poop from our tent (it was everywhere). They were planning to camp tonight just before the bridge in the Marin Headlands and ride over it tomorrow but I suggested they ride over it with us and then go back to their campsite. They agreed and off we went.

The first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge gave me a burst of energy. All these miles and I’m finally about to ride over the Golden Gate. We took a bunch of pictures, dodged plenty of tourists, and then said goodbye to our friends at the other side.

Shortly after heading on our way through San Francisco, I heard someone say, “nice legs”. I looked over my shoulder in time to see the woman who said it, and said, “thanks.” This brings up something Kristen first noticed in Washington: the type of people who talk to us (i.e., the people who initiate a conversation with us). This group consists of motorcycle riders (usually Harley-Davidson), men, old women, foreign women, and lesbians. Women who are with men never talk to us, even if the man they are with is talking to us. The only exception to this was the woman who gave us cucumbers and carrots from her garden a few nights ago. Curious.

Riding through San Francisco was uneventful and rather desolate. Our map took us on some quiet and flat streets. Once out of SF, we had thick fog and wind all the way to the Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel.

Don cooked us pancakes for breakfast.

Our first glimpse of the Golden Gate bridge.

Looking up.

On the bridge!

Into the fog over San Francisco.

The Aussies (L to R: Hillary, Don, and Patrick, and me).

Day 35: Bodega Bay to Samuel P. Taylor State Park (north of SF)


Day 35: Bodega Bay to Samuel P. Taylor State Park (north of SF)

Miles: 43

What I rode by: blowing bay leaves

When I was in grad school at Purdue, I remember walking in front of the Electrical Engineering building one breezy autumn day. The leaves were blowing at my feet such that, as I walked, they just tumbled next to me at the same pace. A similar thing happened today. It was near the end of our day on a bike path. As I rode over the California Bay Laurel leaves that had fallen on the path, my bike created its own tailwind that picked up the leaves and carried them with me for a short while.

Compared to yesterday, today’s ride was flat. There were a handful of fellow touring cyclists at the campground; the last three to roll in were the Aussies! We hadn’t seen them since the Leggett Hill day.

The San Andreas fault runs the length of Tamales Bay

There were pigs all over this watering hole.

I picked up a bundle of firewood at the campground.

If our tent had a skylight, this would have been the view.

Day 34: Sea Ranch to Bodega Bay, CA


Day 34: Sea Ranch to Bodega Bay, CA

Miles: 41

What I rode by: cliffs

Early on in the day, the traffic was such that I felt safer riding into a bush on the side of the road.

As we travel down the coast, the total feet of climbing per day has generally increased. In Washington, we climbed about 2,000 feet per day. As we got to the southern end of Oregon, that approached 3,000 feet per day. (If any of you are into math, these numbers aren’t normalized to the number of miles we rode per day.) Today’s ride was 3,200 feet of climbing along some precipitous cliffs, the steepest and highest so far. We camped at the Bodega Bay State Park, where the hiker-biker campsite was visited by raccoons and skunks during the night.

Day 33: Rest day in Sea Ranch


Day 33: Rest day in Sea Ranch

We had another rest day today at Steve and Katie’s house in Sea Ranch. It was great to see them, spend time with their cats, and run about with Steve. Their house overlooks the little Sea Ranch airstrip. We witnessed a plane take off right over a car, which was parked at the end of the runway. That’s against the rules.

Here’s our day in pictures.

Sea Ranch is known for its distinctive architecture. We stayed in the guest house on the right. Note bike flags on porch.

We used their outdoor shower. Kristen had been looking forward to this our whole trip.

The parent swoops in to feed five hungry mouths. These baby swallows will be flying to South America at the end of the summer.

We went to the Sea Ranch garden to pick vegetables for dinner (and ate blackberries while we were there).

Steve and Katie have two cats (Meg and Sarah). I played a lot with Meg. Kristen and I even tossed her up and down on our blanket. She likes us.

Day 32: Manchester State Beach Park to Sea Ranch, CA


Day 32: Manchester State Beach Park to Sea Ranch, CA

Miles: 29

What I rode by: an extra seven miles

Today started out being a nice short ride to Kristen’s cousin’s house in Sea Ranch. What we didn’t realize was Sea Ranch is a little sliver of land along the coast that spans ten miles. Steve and Katie’s house was seven miles further than we expected.

They went to a brunch earlier in the day where they told theirs friends about what we were doing and wondered, “who are these people who ride their bikes great distances?” because they see all kinds of touring cyclists. I told her these people are her relatives!  Also earlier in the day, two of their friends saw us on the road and reported to them we looked strong.

There are miles of these old fences

House decorations

This was taken early in the day.