Contents 1 Wednesday, July 20, Montréal
2 Thursday, July 21, Palo Alto
3 Friday, July 22, Aptos
4 Saturday, July 23, Monterey
5 Saturday, July 24, Big Sur
6 Monday, July 25, San Simeon
7 Tuesday, July 26, Pismo Beach
8 Wednesday, July 27, Santa Barbara
9 Thursday, July 28 - Thursday, August 4, UCSB, Santa Barbara
10 Friday, August 5, Refugio State Park
11 Saturday, August 6, Buellton
12 Sunday, August 7., Oceano Campground, Pismo State Park
13 Monday, August 8, Morro Bay
14 Tuesday, August 9, Kirk Creek
15 Wednesday, August 10., Pfeiffer State Park, Big Sur
16 Thursday, August 11 and Friday, August 12, Monterey
17 Saturday, August 13, Monterey
18 Sunday, August 14, Brighton Beach State Park, Santa Cruz
19 Monday, August 15., Half Moon Bay
20 Tuesday, August 16, Millbrae / SFO
My flight left this morning at 7:00am but my day started at 2:00am. It doesn't seem to get any easier to pack my bicycle and all my camping gear in a small package. I have almost no clothes but still managed to need a large hockey bag. Where does it all come from ... maybe next time ...
I have a new toy for this trip - a Twinhead 486 SubNotebook computer, SAM. My trusty Atari lost 100k of its 128k of internal memory. In that state it would not run anything except a directory listing. Although SAM is supposed to be a frugal computer, the battery does disappear at an alarming rate. I know I going to have trouble keeping it charged - Redwoods may be tall and stately but they do not provide much power. I suppose I will have to look for feeding stations for both my body and SAM. I found a computer feeding station in Dorval while waiting to board but just got organized when the first call came. I am afraid SAM is still undernourished. I actually have three battery packs. The first is his ordinary rechargeable. The second is a battery case that holds 10 AA batteries - Twinhead says that it will not last very long - no time specified. The third one I built and it uses 8 D-cells - incredibly heavy. At the moment I am sitting in a surprisingly vacant American Airlines plane typing and conserving energy by turning off the backlight and reducing the editor's autosave feature to occur only every 50,000 keystrokes. It might last several hours in this state.
I am on my way, today, to explore some of California that I know from the 60s but have not really seen. There is a TEX conference in Santa Barbara and I am riding from San Francisco there via California 1 (Ca 1) along the coast and back along the Mission Trail1. I would have liked to have open-jawed the trip from San Francisco and Los Angeles. many years ago this was easy and no more expensive than flying to either of the cities. Now it requires a special order and exorbitant fares.
There should be no difficulty in finding my way down Ca 1, except for the fact that it changes abruptly often into freeway. However, the Mission Trail is something else. Theoretically, El Camino Real is that trail but the current version of this road misses most of the missions by many miles. The California Historical Society should know but they did not respond to our inquiries. The missions were built about one day's journey apart and I really wanted to follow the original trail on my bicycle. I am hoping, and expecting that the people at the missions will be at least be able to tell me where the next part of the trail goes and might even have a map - we shall see.
It was complete cloud cover until we reached the western side of the Rockies. Then the western sun started to show. I kept looking for the Sierras but could only see small mountain ranges, all too narrow to qualify. Then I saw Mono Lake, remarkably full of water, and we were obviously on the Eastern escarpment of the Sierras ... if this really were Mono Lake. It was! We flew right along the northern edge of Yosemite and had a magnificent view, almost straight down on Half Dome. My seat companion was equally excited. He was from Redwood City on his way back from a training course in Milwaukee after having been subjected to two 3am fire drills? in his first class Sheraton hotel. Yosemite was one of his favorite places too. There is still a light snow cap in parts of the high country and I was looking for a spray from Yosemite Falls. I didn't see anything, but maybe we were too far south.
The rest of the ride in was uneventful - California is its usual midsummer golden brown. We landed two planes together, on parallel runways. It was a little United Airlines commuter. I didn't know that there were parallel runways at SFO. I am sure the air controllers would be upset about someone landing on the taxi way.
My bike was deemed sufficiently small that it came out with the ordinary baggage on the carousel. The only real problem was to haul it off. It was undamaged, and it took me about an hour to put it back together and repack (actually pack it for the first time). I am still amazed at how much stuff I have. SAM was fed while I was working. The American Airlines baggage lady told me ``I have been watching you put your bike together - it is simply amazing - I am going to find you when I get my bike and ask for help!!''
I am aiming today for Big Basin Redwood State Park. I seem to remember that it was a long drive from Stanford and am a little worried. I also want to find the Performance bicycle shop in Redwood City to increase my supply of bicycle underpants and look for an acoustic coupler so I can use my modem on pay phones. I told everyone that I might be accessible via my CompuServe account - this high tech stuff is getting out of hand.
It actually turned out to be a very short ride - only about 30 miles. I was successful in my shopping quests, and discovered the Oasis, the current reincarnation of the O, a grungy, and delightful, student drinking pub of the 60s - and probably earlier. It is, unfortunately, a much cleaner and well lit place, and they did not carry my old favorite spicy sausage, LA Redhots. The bar lady did not have any idea what I was talking about. She had been there only eighteen years. Richard Schraeder, a former regular, suggested that I should have come more often to lobby for it, but the hot Italian sausage was an acceptable substitute. Richard was now living in the Oakland hills, moved there because he was able to get a house with magnificent view for only $500,000 while in the Palo Alto area it would have cost about $2,000,000. I wonder if I shall ever be able to enjoy such bargains.
It was about 3:30pm when I left - there was no hope of getting to Big Basin today. I haven't seen Dick Jones, a roommate of mine while I was at Stanford 25 years ago. I felt it was about time - I even had some appropriately insignificant news. Dick was the inspiration for me to ski at Tuckerman's Ravine this winter, and after seeing the geography, I really wanted to know if he had packed a case of beer up to the top of the bowl2. Dick was, of course, still at work when I found the house at about 4;30pm but April, and their 18 year old daughter, Chandra, were at home. I will stay with them and visit tonight. They don't use their garage for anything as silly as a car so I was able to spread my poorly packed junk all over.
We talked about many things ... including the problems of raising money for his small pharmaceutical company caused by Clinton's health care reform. His suggestion about solving my problem of finding the real mission trail was to go visit Santa Clara Mission. It is currently very much alive and a part of the University of Santa Clara. They should know, even better than the California Historical Society. There is more than enough margin in my trip to allow this.
Dick left for work at about 7:30am and I left at about 8:00, just after April got up - Chandra was still in bed - funny thing about teenagers. El Camino to Santa Clara is a rather typical large California commercial strip, not very inspiring, and giving the feeling that any particular section had been cloned from another that you had just passed through. I arrived at Mission Santa Clara just after 9:00. The mission was open but there was no one in sight. The two girls staffing the Information office were very friendly and ignorant of any knowledge of the Mission Trail. Apparently bizarre requests like this are not too frequent. After several phone calls we were no further ahead and they suggested that I go and look to see what existed in the bookstore. The lady there apologized for their paucity of information and did not feel that there was such a thing as a map of the trail. She believed in the El Camino / 101 hypothesis. However there was one book of interest. Apparently in 1856, Henry Miller took a tour of the California Missions and towns, from north to south and kept a journal3 of his adventure. I don't know yet whether he was able to follow the Mission Trail or whether he had to improvise.
** Santa Clara: Of the ancient Mission, only the Church and a building connected with it remain. The Jesuits have established a college for boys here, who are instructed in all branches of education.4
From Santa Clara I was to go towards the Saratoga Gap at the top of Skyline. I continued along Saratoga Road to the town of the same name and up to Skyline. Lunch came a little early because I couldn't resist the ``Happi House'' - an excellent Japanese fast food place. The teriyaki steak, with a garnish of tempura onion reminded me of Hawaii. During lunch I discovered that Henry Miller had great difficulty finding the roads and trails between the missions. More than once he missed a turn and ended up at some Ranchero. He traveled with his mule and had to camp overnight many times. I suspect, that I and my trusty mule will have to do the same.
The road was relatively flat til Saratoga, rising only a few hundred feet. Saratoga is not a major burg ... the only supermarket has convenience store prices and stock. Saratoga does have a nice collection of stuff shops on its main street. After Saratoga, the road climbed in earnest. Dick said it was tough, and indeed it was. It rose another 2300 feet and was noticeably steep in most places. I was passed twice by other bicyclists, one huffing and puffing, and the other just chugging up. I saw both of them again ... on their way down. They cheated - empty light bikes. I was thoroughly exhausted when I made it to the top at about 4:00pm - it was a long slow climb. From there it was mostly downhill to Santa Cruz. I had believed that Redwoods were rather rare in this part of the coast, confined to State Parks to be shown off to the curious. I was wrong - Ca 9 all the way down was lined on both sides with Redwoods of all ages. It was a delightful sight but a disappointing smell. Unfortunately, unlike Sugar Pines, Redwoods are almost odorless. I don't remember all the Redwoods on this road, but perhaps I never went along it before, or perhaps you miss much driving a car that is trying to fall off the side of a cliff.
On the way down my bike was making strange noises. The most benign turned out to be the back fender folded under the rear rack and dragging on the tire. Slightly less was a clicking sound from the front wheel - I had a broken spoke. Fortunately I had a spare and stopped in Boulder Creek and fixed it. My criteria for stopping was a service station with high pressure air. The air was, of course, one that you paid for. I put in my quarter and nothing happened. This worried me - maybe I would have to use my hand pump after all - but it turned out I did not understand the current norm for air and water - 50 cents. With my last quarter, it worked. I was on my way, after entertaining a kid, who had to get his friends, with this amazing load and that I was actually going all the way to Santa Barbara.
At 7:00pm, I arrived in Santa Cruz. I obviously was going no further. Santa Cruz has only a few reminders of the earthquake - the occasional hulk of a building and some braces holding up walls. What struck me most was how quiet it was. Most of the stores were closed, some non-existent, and the streets mostly empty - not a very exciting beach town. There were the usual 90s hippies, and an employee of a newly opened Subway sitting on a bench in front on his pot break. I sorely needed to find a supermarket to provision for supper and breakfast, and to find a campground. I never did find a supermarket, although I was assured there were several, and provisioned at a Longs Drugs instead. The AAA camping book said only gave one campground in its Santa Cruz listing. This was SeaCliff State Park, about 5 miles south of town. I arrived in complete darkness at about 9:00pm. There was no one to be found at the visitor center but a couple of kids told me there was indeed a campground, about a quarter mile down the beach, but it was full. It was indeed full - of RVs, and few tents in spaces beside them. I didn't see anything that looked like a custodian so I stopped near a washroom, in a large empty section by an RV and put up my tent. There were showers, but they took quarters, and I had used my last ones to feed the air machine while replacing the spoke. I started down the row of RVs looking for some change. I was successful, had my shower and went to bed - now able to stand my own smell. The surf soothed me to sleep.
** Today: 70 miles and 2900 feet of vertical (113km / 823m) ... Santa Cruz was further than I thought.
The morning coastal fog gave a very late first light. I wasn't really able to see until about 6:00am. I was in the middle of breaking camp when the Custodian came by and asked me whether I was with the Pace Arrow next door. I told him, ``no'' and he said that there was no tenting in the park, only RVs. He said I must leave immediately. Since that was, indeed, exactly what I was in the process of doing, he was quite happy. I am now on my way - very late, just slightly after 9:00am.
I had been a little worried about wending my way from Santa Cruz to Monterey because the map showed Ca 1 becoming freeway. Indeed it did, almost inside Santa Cruz but there was a way. As I was going to SeaCliff last night, I noticed that I was following the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route. It has continued all morning and has routed me through back roads that would have been inaccessible otherwise. Once we really got off and south of Ca 1, it was pure agriculture. I did recognize the strawberries, artichokes, and remnants of cauliflower, but most of the others were a complete mystery. The most mysterious was a field of what looked like white pitcher plants.
I stopped for lunch in Moss Landing - the advertisement for deep fried artichokes was too inviting, and 11:15am is almost lunch time anyway. They are excellent, but I have always, at least since living in California, have had a weakness for artichokes. They don't make a complete meal so I might have to have something else. The something else was a salsa squid sandwich with onion rings. It was tasty, and surprisingly tender - I am stuffed - off to Monterey, which is only 17 minutes away - but not by bicycle.
This is artichoke country! The town just next door to Moss Landing is Castroville, the artichoke center of the world. It, of course, had its Thistle Hut which featured ????? - guess.
Castroville was not especially memorable, but the next town on the Pacific Coast Bicycle Path, Marina is probably best forgotten. Ca 1 became freeway again just below Castroville and the bicycle path went along a very wide paved shoulder, with a sign at the next exit saying all of us slow types had to exit. Then it ran on a small road parallel to the highway until Marina. Marina did have a bicycle path through town, but was dumpy otherwise. Marina is on the northern edge of the recently closed Fort Ord and at the beginning of a freeway stretch of Ca 1 that ran all the way to Monterey. Here the path was specially built on the far edge of the freeway right of way by the Fort Ord fence. It was a rolling ride (the freeway was flat) through family groups of succulent flowering ice plants. At Monterey, after a short distance on Del Monte Blvd, it became the Monterey Recreational Trail and led all the way down to the harbor, the new Customs House Square, and Cannery Row. The sun was brilliant, and the whole bay shone blue - it was gorgeous. The tourist vehicle of choice here is a four wheel pedal buggy, that seems only barely controllable. This just seems to heighten the adventure, but the lady in the Cannery Row information center complained that they just careened down the path endangering everyone in sight.
I tried to remember what Monterey was like in the early sixties but it is mostly a blur. I remember the harbor and wharf as being pretty and Cannery Row being mostly devastated. It has been, and still is being, rebuilt. There is much construction in the Cannery Row district and it looks a little undone. It is nice now, and in contrast to Santa Cruz very much alive and lively - just delightful. The Aquarium is quite impressive. It is not, as I had believed, built under the bay, but does have huge tanks that try to duplicate ecological systems similar to the actual conditions in the bay. One highlight of the visit was a touch and feel pond where you could pick up star fish, stroke the back of crabs and sea cucumbers. I didn't know how inert or harmless starfish really were. Perhaps I could have been more adventurous when I was snorkeling in Hawaii.
Another highlight was the attempt to see if the egg fit.
Another delight was a little seashore, open to the outside where there were some local birds, most of which ad come to the Aquarium injured. It was wonderful to be only 6 feet away from a baby Kildeer, a Curlew, several Least Sandpipers, an Avocet, and a Stilt that I had seen earlier in my trip while going through Elkhorn Slough. The Aquarium is certainly worth a visit and gathered a lot of local volunteer support.
At 6:00pm when the Aquarium closed, I started seriously, to see if I could find Zoeanne, a friend of ours from the sixties that now works in Monterey, but lives in Monterey and San Jose. She tends to spend the weekends in San Jose and that appeared to be where she was now. When I called earlier at work, she was not in, but according to the receptionist, was not out of town. After several calls, it was clear she was not in. My maps showed the nearest campground in Big Sur, clearly an impossible situation. Since I needed a map, I went back to the General Store on the old wharf. This was really a general souvenir store rather than a general store. Earlier I had had trouble finding the map section and the lady at the cash asked if that particular map would be sufficient. I said I didn't know, and that what I really needed was a campground. Her surprising reply was that there was only one in town. That was one more than I had believed. It was in Jefferson Memorial Park right at the top of Jefferson Ave. near the Presidio. She thought that it was dry camping (no showers), but I was delighted by the news.
After supper, I climbed up Jefferson, which was nothing compared to the road inside the park, and found the campground. It was, of course, full but had a Hiker/Biker area - and hot showers.
** Today: 42 miles and about 1300 feet (68km / 400m), 600 feet of those up the last hill.
I had hoped to feed SAM last night at Zoeanne's place - he really needed it - his battery has died. This morning (5:00am) I am pretending SAM is a razor and I am writing in the washroom. It is still very early but normal people are starting to get up so I will have to quit. Today I will go along the Seventeen Mile Drive, through Carmel, and to Big Sur. I don't have any idea how far it is.
My fellow hiker/bikers are a man from Denmark and a family of four, mom, dad, and a teenage boy and girl from Switzerland. They are on their way from Vancouver to Los Angeles - and have only been at it about three and a half weeks. They found this campground because they have been using Bicycling the Pacific Coast - I must get a copy. Their book claims that Kirk Creek Campground is only 60 miles away and well below Big Sur. Perhaps that is the place to aim for.
We left together to go up and behind the Presidio to the Seventeen Mile Drive. On our way up, the bolt holding the idler sprocket in the girl's bike came out - as happened with me in Washington. The thread was stripped. We tried to fix it but they opted to go back to Monterey to find a bike shop. I am now on Seventeen Mile Drive, which is free for bicycles watching some hardy souls in full wet suits trying to surf. This is really a 17 mile linear park - truly beautiful. Some random observations:
** I found the ``Bicycling the Pacific Coast'', with the help of a passing bicyclist from Monterey who directed me to Brentanos in the Carmel Plaza.
At the top of the plaza is Junipero Way (Avenue, Street - it seems to keep changing) that leads to the Carmel Mission. Miller writes
** San Carlos Borroméo (Carmel Mission): With the exception of a few adobe houses, the whole is heap of ruins. The old Church, which must have been a handsome one, is partly fallen in; however, the front with two strong belfries over it is in good condition. There are still remaining two cracked bells, which are said to contain a considerable quantity of silver composition, as most of the ancient Spanish bells have. The inside of the Church has some fresco painting and inscriptions from the Bible. Some saints, as large as life, cut in wood and painted, are still to be seen; they are riddled with bullets, having served as a target.5
The mission is bright and cheerful with its roses, begonias, and Bougainvilleas and appears to be continually restored - today it is the tiles on the roof. Music is coming from the chapel -there is a wedding - now it is the wedding march. I am presently sitting in the court yard writing and feeding SAM.
I asked about the Mission Trail when I entered. The lady said she gets the question quite often and the curator here does not think that there is a mission trail. This is consistent with Henry Miller's observations and tribulations in 1856. I think that there was a Trail of Missions but no Mission Trail. I shall still keep looking.
The real stores were in a huge shopping center at where Junipero hit Ca 1. There was a Safeway but no hardware store (an almost real center) - my local intelligence suggests that you have to go back to Monterey for that. From here it was a few miles downhill, past Carmel Beach to Point Lobos.
Pt. Lobos has the largest concentration of Monterey Cypresses in the world, churning water, sharp cliffs and bays, and lots of noisy seals. As I was locking up my bike, Nicole from St. Hubert, just south of Montreal rode in looking for a place to lock her bike. She is spending the summer at San Jose State doing some graduate work in advertising. and had driven her car down to the park entrance. Entry was easy on a bike - just ride in. For a car, the park was officially full so there was One car out, one car in! We took the trail towards the Allen Memorial Grove stopping frequently to be inspired by the trees, rocks, and noisy surf. Nicole's comment ``God, I love this place!'' - for good reason, and especially today - it was stunning. After about an hour, and some discussions while sitting on the rocks by the cliff on the state of the new Nuns Island bicycle path, we arrived back at the information kiosk. She followed another path to the south point and I started towards Big Sur.
I had about 24 miles to go and it was getting late, 4:30pm. This was to be the real beginning of the rugged California Ca 1 coast. It wasn't for ten more miles that they began to live up to its reputation. The first stretch had high, reasonably gentle hills ending in short sharp cliffs by the shore. It was golden brown and quite pastoral between the houses that hung at the edge of the cliffs. The bridge at Bixby Creek was the real beginning. It was about a quarter mile long (?) and 250 feet (according to my altimeter) above a huge flat, very white, sand beach bordered by sharp cliffs. Then the road climbed up the cliffs to 550 feet with a clear view in both directions and a turnout full of people memorializing themselves in their photos. I was reasonably exhausted and stopped for an ice water and maple sugar break - one of my travel luxuries.
The next 8 miles were on the coast and then the road turned inland through a Redwood forest all the way to the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park where I was going to camp. The Swiss family had made it earlier, after replacing the rear derailleur in Monterey. My other companion was a gray haired and bearded cyclist, Jess Fullam from Alta Loma in the San Bernadino Valley. He was on his way from Portland to Los Angeles and had done this trip 15 times and across the country twice. This was his summer recreation while not being a Grade 6 teacher. He had lots of useful, and obscure intelligence:
** Big Sur is the anglicization of the Spanish El Sur Grande the Big South.
This is a beautiful park nestled in a Redwood Grove. We each had our own table and several 200 foot high Redwoods. One ten foot dome tent was completely surrounded by a Redwood family circle. Each site had anti-Raccoon boxes for storing food. These had a little U-shaped clip to prevent opening. According to my airplane seatmate from Redwood City, some Raccoons are too clever even for this.
** Today: 51 miles and 2400 feet (83km / 730m) - but not totally easy riding.
First light is late in the deep woods and I was very late getting off. I am aiming for San Simeon State Beach Park, about 70 miles away and four 800 foot peaks on my map later. This is the really rugged part of Ca 1 and the stretch that built its reputation. It starts with a very long slow grade rising out of the Redwood forest to reach the coast and the cliffs.
From here it was 45 miles of bright sun, blue water, white churning foam, sharp cliffs, imagination inspiring rock islands, and inlets slicing the rock. I am unable to capture it with prose and hardly even with pictures. At one turnout I met a professional (wedding and portrait) photographer from Alexandria, Virginia also trying to capture an especially pretty inlet 700 feet below us. He said that ``Perhaps some things should better be left to be enjoyed and contemplated.'' He was still there when I left still trying to put contemplation on film.
When I passed the Kirk Creek State Park, I saw the Swiss family setting up camp. This was 2:30pm and 30+ miles from Big Sur. I wondered about the problems of making it all the way to San Simeon, but it was too early to stop. At Pacific Valley, about 3 miles later the hills remained just as high but sloped much more gently - much like the softer coast north of Big Sur. It may have been gentle but it was still exhausting. There were still two more 800 foot climbs before I reached the flatlands of San Luis Obispo county. Occasionally a rewarding view compensated for the effort.
The last 20 miles were indeed quite flat and moderately fast. I arrived at San Simeon at about 6:30 and at the park at about 7:00pm. The Hearst Castle is the main attraction in this area. It has become considerably commercialized since we visited it in the 60s. At that time we drove right up to the castle, parked by the pool and had a complete tour of everything. Now there is a visitor center just north of Ca 1, and specialized tours of the Upstairs, Down Stairs, Grounds, ..., all on separate tickets. I think we saw it at a good time.
Unfortunately, I am the only one in the Hiker/Biker site. Jess apparently did go his 90 miles to Morro Bay and there is no one new. The campground is pleasant but undistinguished. It is full of families visiting the castle and the beach, that you access by going under Ca 1. It does have showers, but no plugs in the bathrooms - SAM will have to run on my auxiliary battery power for a while, hopefully a long while.
** Today: 69 miles and 4300 feet (111km / 1310m) of grandeur.
I got up just before dawn today - dawn is a late 6:00am - and was visited by two raccoons that had just pillaged my neighbor's table. I have entered a different climate zone - last night the dew was dropping even before it was really dark; there was condensation everywhere in the tent and the rainfly was covered with drops. I tried to leave early but was thwarted by having to rewrite yesterday's journal because of a loss of data as the power was failing and I tried to write too long. I also missed flat back tire until I tried to wheel away with my bike fully loaded. This, hopefully, will not be a problem as today is only 60 miles through relatively flat country. I also have to do laundry, get another battery holder - 8 D cells is not enough for SAM, and I want to visit the Mission San Luis Obispo. At the moment I am in Cambria waiting for my laundry. The signs indicate that it will be 48 minutes. I am also feeding SAM. I didn't get finished until noon so I am indeed off to slow start - but I only have about 60 miles to go today so it should be easy.
The entire day was up and down through valleys with high gentle golden brown hills on either side. I stopped at about 1:30pm for lunch in La Casa Grande in Cayucos. The pork fajitas salad filled the whole plate and was crisp and tasty. I wanted a reasonable amount of wine but settle for an unreasonable amount (1/2 liter) of Copperidge white zinfandel instead. The food was excellent but the service rather forgetful. I was there til 2:30pm and started slowly out of town.
** I was just passed, slowly and side-by-side, with time for some conversation, by a couple from Pismo Beach, - my destination for the day. They had started today from Big Sur on their way home. They were doing in one day what I did in two - but they were anxious to get home. They had started this coast ride in Vancouver.
The scenic highlight of the day was Morro Bay with its famous Morro Rock - I had never heard of it before but maybe I should have. Morro Rock is a huge granite dumpling dropped just off shore, with nothing but water on all sides. About 10 miles before arriving, I saw this intimidating line of mountains stretching out to the west into the sea. In the middle there was this big blob of rock, disconnected from all the rest. I wondered what this could be. I tried to photograph it, but it was impossible to capture the impression of immensity and oddness on film at this distance. Morro Bay State Park looked like an inviting place to stay, on the edge of the bay, staring at the rock, and bathed with fragrant eucalyptus trees.
** The perfume of a grove of eucalyptus trees makes riding through them something to savor - and it has been delightfully often since leaving the Redwoods on the way to Santa Cruz. and the groves around Big Sur.
I followed Ca 1 until Morro Bay where the route changed to back roads running parallel (sort of) to the highway. Ca 1 was also beginning its game again of alternating between highway and freeway. One long alternate was along Los Osos Valley road which had sharp squares of brilliant yellow and orange marigolds? dropped randomly on a brown carpet. There were also border fields of purple to complete the picture.
The route missed San Luis Obispo, passing south of the main part of the city (town?). I didn't find a Radio Shack for SAM's batteries and also managed to miss the Mission. It was a 3 mile northern side trip and I was only reading about the direct route to Pismo Beach. I shall see it on my way back, or even possibly tomorrow, if I decide that I have the time to back track.
One of the problems of following the detailed route from the ``Bicycling the Pacific Coast'' with turns at 30.2 miles onto Higueroa St. and then at 34.3 miles onto Ontario Rd.. is that forced detours or any wrong intermediate turn can be disorienting without any access to the global picture. The bridge on Ontario Rd. between San Luis Bay and Alviso Beach Roads was out with no access for either bicycles or pedestrians. There was even a detailed map of how to go into the hills east of the freeway to get around it. The key was to pick up Palisades to go over the coastal ridge to Pismo Beach. I missed Palisades, the entry of Ontario onto Alviso Beach, and finally convinced myself that I was lost. The first lady didn't know of Palisades and pointed me off in clearly the wrong direction. The man in the next car said I should go back and turn at the freeway. I went back and found Palisades right on the freeway entrance and about 40 feet from the bridge I had just come under ... I was looking the wrong direction.
Pismo Beach is a linear small town squeezed between the now combined Ca 101/1 freeway and the ocean. It obviously has been stretching north with very typical new California subdivisions being added to the town. There is even the occasional development on the hills on the wrong side of the freeway. I wonder what is the economic driving force in the area.
There are two State Park Campgrounds in the area - the second, Oceano, is the recommended one. I am not alone here today, but am not inspired by my company either. One kid(?), Kevin, is a Junior College student in Sacramento on his way to Huntington Beach to pick up his kids, a second is ``from the area, but short of cash'', and the other two were students at Berkeley.
** Today: 59 miles and 1300 feet (95km / 400m) - a few sharp pitches.
Today I am aiming for Santa Barbara, the El Capitan campground about 11 miles north of UCSB, where I am supposed to be for the next week or so. This would put me there three days early. The day started with a heavy coastal fog, the first on this trip. It was very pleasant riding in its coolness. The kids from Berkeley were bed roll types with no tent. The dew here is so heavy that everything outside gets soaked. They claimed that, although the sleeping bags were soggy when they went to bed, they soon dried out - not my idea of a pleasant night. They were awake last but first on the road. I did not see them again. Kevin was last getting out but passed me on the first real hill. Although we were aiming for the same campground, I never saw him again. The entire trip was inland through agribusiness land in the fertile valleys between the brown hills.
The trauma of the day was a sign at Ca 1 at intersection the road down from La Purisima mission outside of Lompoc, that Ca 1 was closed to bicycles in 9 miles. It was inconceivable to me that the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route would be closed to bicycles. The alternative to this route was a side trip to Solvang and a 2200' climb. I decided to risk the road closure - if worse came to worse, I would hitchhike like I did in Florida. The warning was a bit of a fake - a bridge was under repair and was reduced to about two lanes, but the section under repair was passable by bicycle. When I arrived at about 4:30pm the last two construction workers were leaving.
Today I decided to drink a lot of water. Some of my afternoon weariness in the sun was, I think, due to minor heat prostration, because of not enough water. This meant that I had to stop much more often and ask for water, but that could be viewed as an excuse to meet people. Occasionally, you get very good and cold water, as I did today at Jack's Hamburgers in Orcutt. I made it all the way to El Capitan (81 miles and 3400 feet) and felt tired, but not destroyed.
Some impressive examples of California agribusiness:
Just outside Lompoc, on the down side of the Harris Grade, is the La Purisima Mission State Historical Site. It is a restoration started in the 30s as a Job Corps project and has continued to the present. It claims to be the best restored of all the missions, and has refurnished most of the rooms with actual artifacts. El Camino Real runs right in front of the mission and apparently climbs up out of the valley to lead to San Luis Obispo. The present location of the mission was chosen in 1812, after an earthquake had destroyed the first one now in Lompoc, so El Camino would have to have been moved. Perhaps El Camino Real was a changeable foot/cart path that was transiently known by word of mouth. Certainly Miller had his problems in 1856. This was approximately 20 years after the missions were secularized so decay might have been common. Miller writes
** La Purísima: Hoping that this might be the Mission of ``La Purisima Conception,'' I was however deceived, for when I arrived, I found it to be the called the Rancho Santa Rosa, owned by an old widow. All the hills are covered with trails caused by cattle and may be mistaken for the right road. Having traveled about 4 leagues over a level country, bordered on the right and left by mountain chains, I arrived at the Mission ``La Purisima Conception,'' ... All the mission buildings, with the exception of one, are in ruins. In this resides the proprietor, named Dr. Juan Malo, a Chilean, with his wife and family. 6
I left La Purisima to begin the long, 14 mile climb along Ca 1 to about 1000' and was rewarded with a 35 mph ride down for about 3 miles, right onto 101, only slowing down at a Rest Stop to get more water. Ca 1 officially disappears here for a while being merged with 101, which leads all the way to Santa Barbara. It runs right by the ocean, only separated by the train track and the occasional State Park. The last 2 miles was on a very pleasant bike path between Refugio and El Capitan State Parks. Although, Hiker/Biker spots are only supposed to given for two days, the lady at the gate gave me three.
Both the Hiker/Biker and group camping areas are about 1 mile north of the gate, right at the end of the park. Dinner consisted of an absolutely delicious barbecued beef rib and chicken leg, courtesy of the Musica student tour group that were staying in the site between us and the washroom. My Hiker/Biker companions are four teachers from Dortmund, biking from Seattle to Los Angeles during their 6 week vacation.
** Today: 81 miles and 3400 feet (130km / 975m).
Today I went into UCSB, about 15 miles towards Santa Barbara, to discover when I was supposed to check into the dorm (tomorrow) and then another 11 miles, all the way on a bicycle path, into Santa Barbara. I arrived early afternoon, found a Radio Shack to augment my battery pack for SAM, had a good, but not outstanding, vegetarian lunch at a tiny Indian Restaurant on State Street, and then found the Mission Santa Barbara. Henry Miller said
** Santa Barbara: Judging from the remaining buildings and ruins, this mission must have been a very flourishing one. A church with two belfries and the adjoining house, in which the officiating priests live, are in a good state of preservation and built of well cemented rock. A bathing house, large basin and aqueduct rest on arches of the same material.7
I asked the lady in the visitor center about El Camino and the Mission Trail and was referred to the Archives, for more information. The secretary listened to my explanation and said that the archivist Father Virgilio Bassa was not in at the moment, but perhaps he would call me later if I left my number. I explained that I did not have a number, and could I leave him a message. As I was standing there, Father Bassa came in from the archives, really a very nice library, and listened to my request. I told him about what I was wanting to do and my quest to follow the real El Camino. Father Bassa asked ``Are you a tourist? You certainly look like one!''. I explained that I was, but that I was really trying to do some research on the Mission Trail in order to follow it on my bicycle. He said that he would help and steered me to the card catalogue. There was almost nothing on El Camino Real, and no category for Mission Trail. Father Bassa and I talked for some time about El Camino and Mission Trails. He felt that there was nothing scientific in the archives, that there were very few records kept. There were probably at least two routes from Santa Barbara to Santa Ynez - one over the San Marcos Pass and the other over the much more obscure Refugio Pass. 101 misses them both. Miller describes his ascent to the pass (San Marcos or Refugio) from Santa Ynez as follows:
** Next morning I saddled up and commenced the ascent, still continuing up the cañada for some time, through which a clear and cold mountain stream was descending. ... Steeper and steeper became the ascent, so as to be often compelled to ride up in a zigzag. ... The descent was almost as bad as the ascent, going over fragments of rocks and slippery ravines. There was also a small stream descending which I repeatedly had to cross, by which occasion I discovered a sulphur spring, of milkish appearance and very nauseous taste and smell. I arrived at last at the foot of the mountains at a rancho called Refugio.8
He continues that he rode for a few hours more, and that the Mission Santa Barbara was about one half mile from the road and two miles from town. This road was evidently, not El Camino Real. It seems that even in 1856, the trails between the missions were difficult to follow and, perhaps, had been superseded by other roads that did not pass directly in front of the missions.
I left the mission in early afternoon and continued down State St., Santa Barbara's very long main drag. Lower State St. appears to be is an exceedingly pleasant collection of diverse shops and images.
Later in the week when I returned on a free afternoon, I discovered that six blocks had been sealed off for a Farmer's Market. This was a very crowded mix of flower and speciality produce stalls. One had only asparagus - I haven't seen this since Aix en Provence; another sold Wheatgrass Juice, in 1 and 2 ounce sizes - I have no idea what it was or why the sizes were so intimidatingly small; the rest of their stall was filled with 18 inch square flats of mission oriented sprouts, specifically for various forms of salads and ....
Pacific Travelers Supply knew about the bicycle maps that Jess had told me about. They turned out to be route maps rather than general, pick your own way maps. I was not really surprised. The detail required for what I needed to trace my way between missions is overwhelming. Even their campground map was useless for me. The campgrounds were shown but the detail was so poor that I would not have been able to find them. In addition, it did not show Monterey's Veterans Memorial Campground. I will make do with ordinary maps.
Santa Barbara has a Presidio, which is currently being restored and archaeologically dug by dedicated amateurs, sitting in the broiling sun with their spoons. This Presidio did not look very much different than some of the missions. It had a large square walled courtyard with a small church in the middle of the back wall facing the main gate. The remaining part of the walled structure was the rest of the living space. The Presidio had disappeared into the town when Miller arrived. He says, perhaps an apt description for today, that
** Santa Barbara brings to my memory the old Spanish built towns of Mexico, of which it is an exact counterpart, all the houses with a very few exceptions being built of adobe and some of which are really fine two-story buildings, the residences of a number of rich natives, who own the surrounding lands with large numbers of cattle and horses on them. There are a considerable number of drygoods, grocery, and other stores, all of which are owned by Americans, Italians, Frenchmen, and Spaniards.9
State St. runs into the ocean at Stern's Wharf now housing a museum, restaurant, and several stuff shops, built in 1987 on what was then, California's oldest working pier. From here I continued along the coast on the official Scenic Drive and then up over the hills that make up the Hope Ranch residences. By the time I returned to El Capitan, I had ridden about 50 miles and climbed 2000 feet - I hadn't even gone anywhere.
** The Deli Planet is where The best news is the food.
I spent a pleasant week at UCSB, overeating - but mostly salads - and attending to my Technical Council duties. The campus is exceedingly active for the mid summer doldrums. There were several conferences, a high school cheerleader camp, and even freshman orientation. Bicycle paths crisscross the campus. UCSB is really in its own town of Isla Vista, which seems to be partly owned by the University, and wholly aimed at serving the student population. UCSB has a reputation as party school - perhaps it is true. I talked to two of the ``hashers'' - a term that apparently has fallen out of common use - at our banquet last night. One was going into his sixth year as an undergraduate and the other was in her senior year in microbiology and expected to graduate with just a couple of extra quarters. In all fairness though, she had changed her major from art to microbiology after her first year.
The TUG Board meeting ended at about 4:30pm and after some interruptions, I arrived at Refugio State Park by about 7:30pm. The Hiker/Biker site is right on the ocean with the beach stretching out on both sides. We are sharing it with some mice that are scurrying and exploring from one burrow to another, Arnie, a vacationing Park Ranger from Elko, Nevada decided to hang his food and I kept the front door of the tent closed. Arnie is on his way to Mexico from Vancouver. One of Arnie's vivid memories on this trip was a stunningly beautiful clear cut in Oregon - the landscape was carpeted with purple flowers as far as the eye could see - nature reclaims in unexpected ways. Our last companion arrived slightly after dark, asking if this was the hikers campsite. He is a Japanese Kayaker on his way down the coast.
Our Kayaker is currently from LA but originally from Kyushu in Japan. He has just graduated from high school and was thinking that kayaking to San Francisco, where he will go to university would be an exciting way to enter school. However, the currents and winds dissuaded him. He is going, instead from San Simeon to LA, and likes to make about 30 miles a day. He is also constrained by campgrounds. I think he wanted to stay last night at the closed Goleta State Park, and the extra nine miles blew his schedule.
For me the day turned out appropriately eventful. I started out fine, guessing that a paved path would lead to Refugio Road - it did. The road climbed steeply (ugh) up through wooded and golden brown hills, through lemon and avocado groves, and past mildly threatening bulls. It passed over a stream, with water amazingly enough, several times and passed the Refugio Ranch, just as Miller described it. There was even the required Circle B Guest Ranch, busily instructing its guests how to gracefully fall off horses. I stopped just above it to soak my wash cloth. My bike also started to misbehave. The chain suddenly started jamming, usually where the hill was steepest and the force exerted greatest. I thought it was catching on the rear derailleur, and kept loosening it to reduce any problems of it catching. Then I saw that it was actually wrapping around the front one instead, and that if I quickly back pedaled, I could free it. This reduced the strain somewhat, but at about 1100 feet of vertical I was suffering from terminal exhaustion. I stopped and had some lunch. It was noon and I had gone 4.5 miles. The signs indicated the top was at about 7 miles. After lunch, I still did not have the energy burst required to start the bike up hill, so I pushed it to a slightly less steep place. I got started, but then noticed a strange clicking coming from the rear wheel. This has been a symptom of a broken spoke, but after checking, they all seemed OK. Then the wheel started to rub. I thought it had been pulled out of position by the jamming of the chain - it was still clicking. I stopped three times, to fix it, and on the third took everything off the bike, turned it upside down to adjust the back wheel. The frame appeared to have been airline-misaligned so I tried bending it slightly to correct the problem. Even the slightest adjustments seemed to have radical effects. Finally it was satisfactory, and I started up hill. In a couple of minutes, the wheel started to really wobble - the rear axle had had broken and separated. This meant that any forward pressure caused the wheel to rub so badly the bike stopped. Fortunately, my last repair was about 100 yards from the summit so it was downhill from here, and I didn't need to pedal. At the summit, the road became rocky dirt.
** Reagan has a house on the way up to Refugio Pass. Is it just a curious coincidence that there are several turkey vultures soaring above?
I went down clutching the brakes, barely being able to come to a halt because of a loss of braking power in the rear wheel. The road on this side clung to the sides of a heavily wooded slope, over a 100 feet straight down. It would have been much tougher to come up this way. I learned later that this is actually gentle compared to the trail that actually leads from the Mission.
The road finally became paved but, then was no longer completely down. At any hill, I had to stop and push my bike up - it was impossible to pedal with effect. The sprocket rotated but the wheel did not. I was alternately walking and riding and trying to flag down trucks - I ignored cars. There were very few trucks or cars and the first two ignored my pleas. The third, a Mexican farm worker on his way home did stop. I unloaded my bike and put everything in the back of his tiny pickup. It was now just after 5:00pm. He said that he knew of a place that repaired bikes and maybe they could help. From his description I thought he meant a friend somewhere. I emphasized that I needed a new rear axle. He took me into Solvang to Dr. J's Bicychiatry who was in the process of closing for the evening (5:30pm) and was in the process of finishing another repair. However, he saw my plight, and told me to bring my bike in. After 15 minutes, the new axle was in place, the wheel on, and he closed for the night. I repacked for the fifth time today, and was on my way to explore Solvang and to find my campground.
Solvang has grown from one street to a complete town of many blocks since the 60s. It is a charming collection of classy stuff shops. It is also a real town as witnessed by Dr. J's. The neighbors, Santa Ynez, Buellton and Los Olivios do not appear to have the breadth of services of Solvang - although my campground is in Buellton. The Mission Santa Ynez is in Solvang, not Santa Ynez, and not on Refugio Road.
** Today: 20 miles and 2000 very difficult feet (33km / 610m).
Today I shall deviate from the Mission trail and go along the Wine Trail instead. Foxen Canyon Road goes near about 20 Santa Barbara County wineries, seven of whom are large enough to have tasting, on its way to Santa Maria. It looks as though the campground at Oceano in Pismo Beach might be feasible - if I don't run into any 101 access problems.
Foxen Canyon starts at Los Olivios which means I go back to Solvang past the Mission Santa Ynez. Miller writes
** Santa Ynez: The Church, which has a belfry with two bells in it, is in good condition together with the adjoining house; the rest is a great heap of ruins. The walls of some of the buildings are of enormous thickness. There is a school established here, called a college, with a priest, an Old Spaniard, presiding. I had some conversation with him and the old schoolmaster, an old Irishman, who was dressed in old clothes and horribly dirty. 10
The Mission now has been largely restored and it was too early for a tour but Mass was just letting out. The current priest was very friendly and was running a joyous house for all his parishioners, even strangers who walk in at the end of the service. He asked me where I was from, coming, and going, and I recounted my trials of yesterday. His comment was, ``By bicycle over Refugio, you can hardly drive a car over it!'' I also noted some surprise that Refugio Road did not come to the mission. He said that the trail swung closer to the mountains turning in to come in front. He expected that I would indeed have as much difficulty finding it as Miller did in 1856. At this point I will settle for a rough approximation. Just finding roads that go close will be enough.
The road up the Wine Trail was mostly flat, except for one stiff climb at the beginning where I was passed by three other bicyclists on a Saturday morning training run. Grapes in this area seem to be in small, isolated fields surrounded by brown grass land, that is so dry at the moment that hay is hauled to the cows for feed. Trees were relatively rare on my side of the valley and looked like dark grey splotches on the other side. I stopped at Fess Parker, Zaca Mesa, and Foxen Wineries, all of which were by the accessible by the side of the road. Sisquoi had lots of signs telling you how far their entrance was but I gave up after going about half mile and seeing nothing, not even off in the distance.
At about 11:00am the wind started, and increased all afternoon. It was not too bad, but not pleasant either. The folks at Foxen said that these valleys ran east/west rather than the normal north/south so the wind beginning at 11:00am is not a valid data point. I ended up stopping for lunch under some eucalyptus trees, the only shade that I had seen for many miles, at about 1:30pm. There was supposed to be another winery on my map, Gainey, but I missed it. Lunch was trail mix and water - wine in this sun is hazardous to my health.
At about 3:00pm I hit Santa Maria, and was surprised that it is now larger than San Luis Obispo (69,000 vs 47,000). Santa Maria started quite abruptly - a concrete fence separating the houses from open flat fields. It was new and looked quite prosperous, a welcome change from some of the other depressed towns that I have seen. At Longs Drugs I added to 3 litre (Franzia Mountain Burgundy) to my collapsible water bottle collection of 10 and 5 litres. To leave Santa Maria, I had to cross the Santa Maria River. My map showed that Orchard Drive crossed - but that was a lie. 101 crossed the river here and bicycles, but not motor-driven cycles, were allowed for the bridge only - I was across. From here it was mostly flat or down, to the Oceano campground at Pismo Beach State Park. Dinner was for a very filling home-cooked taco and tostada carneros at tiny Chakos on the edge of town.
There are three other groups here tonight, a pair of Swiss, a Chinese couple from Las Vegas, who started in Daly City just south of San Francisco, and two real mountain bikers (bikes with front and rear shock absorbers) coming down from Seattle. The Las Vegas couple were moderately upset when I told them that Gaviota, their next stop was closed, and that they might have to go 9 miles further.
** Today: 69 miles and 1800 feet (111km / 550m).
Today I decided to abandon the Mission Trail. I had made great plans to go from Mission San Luis Obispo to Mission San Miguel, staying the night in Paso Robles. I knew where I would stay there, if the California Mid State Fair did not make it impossible, but beyond that, until I got back to Ca 1 after visiting San Antonio de Padua, I had no real idea what was possible. The route between San Lius Obispo and San Miguel seems to follow 101 with no real alternative. This includes the famous 1500', 7%, Cuesta Grade. I remember in the 60s, my little VW bug had great difficulty getting up the hill. I fear that this 1/100 hp motorised bicycle engine would be dispirited and suffer again from terminal exhaustion. I opted, instead to go back up the coast, stopping tonight at Morro Bay, after only 30 miles.
The Mission San Luis Obispo, is completely surrounded by the city. Miller notes that the town had encroached in 1856. ** San Luis Obispo: Early morning I arrived at the Mission, which is metamorphosed into a little town at present of about 150 houses, inhabited principally by natives and Mexicans. ... I took a ramble about the mission buildings, some of which are in ruins, though once remarkably strong, constructed of rock joined through a very hard cement.11
The church is an unusual L shape with one wing looking parallel to the alter. Both wings are very long and narrow. Only the church and the mission store were open to the public, although there were a large number of other church buildings in the complex. It was built right beside a small stream, that some thought was called Santa Rosa Creek. I had a Thai spicy beef salad at the Thai Classic restaurant, an unimposing restaurant on Higueroa, that had built a quite imposing balcony, over the stream, looking out on a small stand of eucalyptus trees. This was a delightful surprise right in the middle of town.
The ride down the Los Osos valley was probably a precursor of things to come - a very strong headwind, and bicycle riders going in he opposite direction apparently enjoying every minute of it. The fields of flowers were as beautiful this time as the last. This time I saw signs on the fences that said - ``Please don't pick or enter - these flowers are being grown for seed.'' At 3:00pm I arrived at Morro Bay, which is currently encased in coastal fog. I am glad I saw it in brilliant sunshine on the way down. I must work on the rear wheel. It still is rubbing a bit and I don't want to blow out the tire. ** Comment from one of the other bicyclists: ``Hey, you're lucky, you saw Morro Beach in the sun? I have been here several times and never seen the sun!
** Today: 34 miles and 930 feet (50km / 245m).
One problem with very short working days is that the nights are too long. It is still dark, and I have had breakfast - maybe this will actually be an early start.
Morro Bay was still in fog at 6:30 when I left and Morro Rock was invisible. The fog stayed with me until 10:30 or so - it was very pleasant, quiet, and not windy. The morning sun trying to break through the eastern valleys was quite brilliant. Some of the golden brown hills had huge gashes in them, as though they had been ripped apart. I didn't see any sign of a water course at either end.
I had breakfast at the ``all you can eat'' ChuckWagon on the southern end of the Scenic Area - Moonstone Beach Road in Cambria. It was like having breakfast at UCSB, but now I needed the fuel. It was so cold and foggy when I left that I had to put on my (only) long sleeve shirt under my jacket. ** Surfing is so cold in California that even the surfboards have wet suits!
The sun had come out by the time I got to San Simeon and the hoards were descending on the Hearst Castle. I declined for a second time to visit the castle but did ride through town - it is still as small and quaint as I remember. The next 20 miles were through the rolling flatlands, bright, sunny and increasingly windy. ** The Piedras Blancas light stands on a point protecting its huge white island rocks from being damaged by passing ships.
The climb starts in earnest at sea level at the huge bay of Arroyo De Los Chinos. It seems much steeper on the south side of the hills, an observation confirmed by another bicyclist when I stopped to refill my 5 litre water bag. After about 250 feet of climb, I was able to find a turnout where I could lean my bike - with a magnificent view of the Los Chinos bay and have my trail mix and water for lunch. It was almost straight down to the ocean. I was just finishing when, Pablo, from San Diego came riding up the hill, and stopped to offer to let me lead. It was clear watching him come up that I was very much slower so I declined. I did see him later when he stopped to refuel, but he passed me again. I think he probably ended up at Big Sur tonight.
I passed Plaskett Creek campground, which I remembered did not have hot showers, so I did not stop. It looked quite pleasant and seems to be the choice of those who often ride down this way. I arrived at Kirk Creek about 1/2 hour later to discover that I had not paid attention to what the book said about this place. No showers or electricity - a typical Forest Service campground. I should have stopped at Plaskett Creek - but if I had done so, I would not have met Tom, a deputy prosecutor from Washington state, or Bob, a programmer from TRW that has recently started his own software consulting company. Tom was taking a year off after having spent the last 10 years prosecuting murder and violent robbery cases. Bicycle touring was his way to try to erase burnout. Bob has just started, with five others, a small company Gemstone Software, that seems to be specialized in image processing for the aerospace industry. I suggested to him he should think small, which he said was definitely a current necessity.
I slept late today - it was after first light when I got up. I also stayed late. Tom has left, after fixing a dead tire that, of course, was discovered after he had loaded his bike. He had a flat but not a puncture. The tube had split at the seam - another new type of failure. Bob has also packed up and gone. It was clear when I woke up, but after about an hour, some clouds formed in a valley just down the coast. It is now 10:30am and it has largely dissipated but there is a new fog bank forming off shore.
Today is to be an easier day. I am only going to go about 30 miles to Big Sur through the most spectacular part of Ca 1. I am being a tourist. ** It was exhilarating, exhausting, and stunning - justice cannot be given by words, photographs, or from a car at 40 mph.
The last three miles is all downhill - a great way to finish the day. Pfeiffer State Park campground is in the most magnificent stand of coast Redwoods I have ever seen. The two on either side of my tent are only several hundred feet high, but they get bigger and taller as you go deeper in the campground towards the camp store. There is a laundromat attached to it so I will be there tomorrow morning doing laundry and charging SAM.
** Today: 33 miles and 2400 feet (52km / 732m).
I arrived early enough this morning to start my laundry without encountering a line and was finished by 9:00am - I did manage to melt a sock in the dryer though. Virginia is also in California, currently visiting Zoeanne, her 60s roommate, in Monterey, before a Sierra Club Artist's Week at Donner Summit. It looks as though I will be able to see her so I am going to leave this morning for Monterey.
It is not especially tough riding between here and Monterey but this morning it was almost impossible. The headwind was brutal and I savored each moment of calm when I found the shelter of a cliff. The gentler hills here do not protect as well as the cliffs south of Big Sur so the wind does not rise as quickly making any respite quite rare. It wasn't until I got to Carmel that the trees, and perhaps the whole Monterey Peninsula really stopped the wind. I gave myself what I thought would be 2 to 3 hours margin for the 30 mile ride and was 15 minutes late meeting Virginia.
** Today: 36 miles and 2200 feet (58km / 670m).
I will be here, probably until Saturday morning, driving Virginia around the Bay area so she can visit several private schools. I will try visit the Page Mill Winery to pick up a special bottle of their Lee Soderstrom Reserve - possibly two this time with Virginia here - and try to return the Modem Acoustic Coupler that does not want to work with my modem.
Virginia and I spent the morning at the Aquarium. It is new every time. Cannery Row is being transformed - maybe by the millennium it will not look undone. Currently it is empty lots, holes in the ground, just started buildings, and long murals depicting the Cannery Row that Steinbeck made famous.
The mechanics of fog in California are very varied. This morning the fog was everywhere and burned off the high(er) ground in about the first hour. It was still hugging the shore when we left for the aquarium at about 9:00am. It was completely clear in Monterey when I left for Santa Cruz at 2:30pm - but not a few miles up the coast in Fort Ord.
The ride up to Santa Cruz was more interesting than the way down. I followed the bicycle path/route all the way to Watsonville instead of going south into the fields. Much to my delight, I had an unexpected tailwind while crossing the open artichoke fields around Castroville. Watsonville seems to be in the process of changing from the sleepy agricultural town of the 60s into an affluent high tech city of the 90s. Easy communication seems to be allowing Silicon Valley to spread. From Watsonville I followed Larkin Valley Road through wooded hills and horsey suburban farms. The road started from Watsonville by going around a 400' (100m) hill that Ca 1 just climbed right over - perfect. Unfortunately, the valley did not sneak all the way to Santa Cruz and I did have a few real hills to make up for the easy going. Still, it was protected and windfree, a wonderful ride.
I arrived at Brighton Beach State Park, a very pretty wooded park right on the shore. It would have been my choice on the way down if my maps and books had shown that it existed. To make you really thankful that you have arrived at the Hiker/Biker (Picnic) site, there is a very unfriendly climb from the entrance station up to the campground. Ordinary camping bicycles are supposed to go down the trail and not the unsafe? road.
There were five groups here tonight, and there was an uncharacteristic lack of communication compared with all the other sites I have stayed. One reason may be that three of the five are illegals. Two groups have bikes, but they appeared to have been brought in the pickups that are parked nearby. A third group has a huge 10 gallon water tank on their picnic table - a strange thing to carry on a bike. The only legitimate bicyclist seems to be a bearded middle ager who is living on his bike. You are only allowed to stay here one night rather than the normal two in all the other Hiker/Biker sites. I guess abuse of the site is chronic. ** Today: 44 miles and 1350 feet (71km / 400m).
It is a beautiful, sunny, and quiet morning. The last party goers here left at about 4:00am, saying that the campers will probably be glad to see them go. They spun their wheels as they roared out. I am going up to Half Moon Bay, on a part of Ca 1 that I remember as being very hilly and rugged. We shall see if my experience with the rest has changed my perspective.
Santa Cruz seems to have suburbs and the Pacific Coast Bicycle Path routes you through them. East Cliff Drive has been specifically broken to prevent continuous passage by cars but bicycles go where cars fear to tread.
** Santa Cruz: The present upper town, consisting of the ancient Mission Church surrounded by ruins and some houses built in the Spanish style of adobe, covered with tiles, stands on a small flat much higher than the lower town.12
The whole coast north to Half Moon Bay was relatively flat with only a few sharp hills punctuating the rolls. Even the section between Pescadero and San Gregorio seemed much less intimidating than it did back in 1989 when I took a day ride from Stanford with Kees van der Laan. The only real climb of the day was north of San Gregorio.
I arrived in Half Moon Bay at about 5:30pm - this is the first time I have ever seen it without fog. It is now a long linear town along Ca 1 that has stretched out so far that it seems to include all of its farms. It also includes several new ``planned'' subdivision units, and a Historical Main Street. The only thing that looks familiar is the Zabala House which has been there from the late 1800s.
I am sharing the Hiker/Biker site with a couple from the home of L.L. Bean (Freeport, Maine) on their way to Los Angeles. They have seen the world's largest Sitka Spruce, a mere 10 feet in diameter, and are going to drive out to Kings Canyon to see some really big trees. Then they are going to Mississippi to go north. They expect to be on the road for about six months.
** Today: 63 miles and 2350 feet (101km / 305m).
It was clear most of the night, and then, just before dawn, in anticipation of sunrise, the fog moved in. I wonder how it knew? It is now 7:20, about an hour after dawn and the fog has burned off the shore but not, as far as I can see from here, the high country. This last day is just over the coast range, at its narrowest before it disappears into San Francisco. I will also try some more to return the silly wallet. I suspect that I am going to have to turn it in to the local police.
The Half Moon Bay Police were reluctant to take the wallet because I found it in Santa Cruz County and they are in San Mateo County. However, the nice lady officer, from Drummondville, Québec, that served me decided that they would save me the ride down to Redwood City to visit the California Highway Patrol (CHP) offices. They took it, and the $83.00 still inside, off my hands. It was about 10:30am when I was finally finished and started up the road over the mountain.
The Half Moon Bay road is the shortest and easiest way across the coast range, has a new road with wide shoulders, and extremely heavy traffic, even at 11:00am. It is only 7 miles and 850' from Half Moon Bay to the top at Skyline, but the last 650' takes only 2 miles. Going down on the San Francisco side is even steeper (7% for 2 miles). The road up is lined with nurseries - extremely civilized.
** Free good water draws crowds - there was a line of three cars filling lots of water bottles at a spring about halfway up - I had my 5 litre bag full so didn't need to interrupt.
The Vista Point at the top showed that this was not a good day for air pollution. There was a line of brown visible over the ridge line beyond Crystal Springs Reservoirs. This is the Santa Clara Valley that contains the Peninsula Bay Area cities. When I last saw Crystal Springs in 1989, both reservoirs appeared to be almost empty, down at least 30 to 40 feet. The recent rains and snow have filled them somewhat - they are only down about 10 feet - almost normal, I think, for this time of year.
After a few wrong turns, and a ride down through the hills of San Mateo on Crystal Springs Road, I arrived at the Clarion. I hadn't realized how many beautiful homes were tucked away back in these hills. I sure would not want to ride a bike up to them on a daily basis, or even occasionally. I might be forced back on a motorcycle if I lived up there. However, I doubt that there is any danger of that ever occurring.
Half Moon Bay only had outdoor cold showers so the first order of business was to make up for that. The finish of the trip has stopped the adrenaline so the second order was to lie down for a while. After a short recovery, I went out to find that the winds blow hard in the Santa Clara valley too. It was slow going north on El Camino.
** Today: 20 miles and 1000 feet (32km / 300m).
The Clarion has a large bus shuttle to the airport that goes every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day. They also do not blink when I bring my bike in and out of the lobby up to my room. I folded and packed my bike, starting at 2:00am, in my room and will take it too the airport in their shuttle. I am still not used to packing - it took me several hours. I was able to make coffee though - my stove still had about 20 minutes of fuel, although it did burn rather anaemically.
1The trip turns out to be about 900 miles and 36,000 feet of vertical climbs (1500km and 11,000m up).
2He didn't - just to the Ranger station at the bottom.
3Henry Miller, Account of a Tour of the California Missions and Towns, 1856, ISBN 0-88388-119-5, Bellerophon Books, Santa Barbara, 1993
4Henry Miller, Journals, page 3
5Henry Miller, Journals, page 19
6Henry Miller, Journals, page 33
7Henry Miller, Journals, page 37
8Henry Miller, Journals, page 36
9Henry Miller, Journals, page 37
10Henry Miller, Journals, page 35
11Henry Miller, Journals, page 29
12Henry Miller, Journals, page 15