Yes, We’re Alive.

On Thursday, August 14 (Jim’s 58th birthday!), exactly two weeks ago, my dad and I crossed the border from San Ysidro, California into Tijuana, Mexico.

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Twenty-one days // 1,730 miles. We did it. One more item off the bucket list: Bike the Pacific Coast – CHECK!

Biking was the easy part. Blogging…not so much. Don’t get me wrong, biking wasn’t always easy. There was never a non-sore day (I couldn’t sleep on my stomach because my thighs throbbed from the pressure against the ground) but writing cohesive blog posts is not exactly effortless. Writing isn’t a natural talent for me. Add 10+ hours of biking, a voracious appetite, meeting new people, and it’s fairly easy to tell yourself as your head hits the pillow (or in our case, a rolled up down jacket), “I’ll wake up early tomorrow and write.”

One postponed blog post turned into three, then five, and all of sudden you’re sitting at work responding to passive aggressive emails when you receive a text from a friend, on a social media hiatus: “So, are you alive??”

Yes. We’re alive and well, but feeling guilty for breaking our promise to share our adventures with you all in a timely manner.

After a good lashing and a couple of solid cry sessions (just kidding!!), we are back on track. Turns out, the best way to blog is to tackle it like a bike tour (what a coincidence). Set a daily goal and you’ll meet your destination.

So, keep your eyes peeled for updates about the last leg of our Pacific Coast bike tour. Hey, it may even seem like we’re writing it in real time. Imagine that!

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Part II, Day 3: Monterey to Kirk Creek

After changing my flat tire, we got the hell out of Monterey’s Vets Memorial Park and made our way to 17-Mile Road through Pacific Beach / Pebble Beach / Carmel. It was off of Adventure Cycling’s route, but we wanted to take the scenic route. Not only was it scenic, but we saw some of the biggest homes EVER. I wish I took pictures of these homes but we were to busy gawking. And also there wasn’t much shoulder or areas to pull off. Here’s a picture of one home right above the water, made entirely with stone so that it’s almost camouflaged from the street. IMG_8517.JPG
We also had some time for a round of golf at Pebble Beach (just kidding). But I did poke into the pro shop to ask for directions and felt slightly uncomfortable in my short shorts and tank top. Everyone else was in their freshly-pressed golf best. IMG_8510.JPG
After passing through Carmel, we approached Rt. 1, and CalTrans made sure we knew there would be a winding road ahead of us. IMG_8515-0.JPG
We had an awesome tail wind right around Point Sur. So awesome that when we stopped to put on sunscreen, I laid my helmet on the ground and it started to tumble down the road, hah! Soon after, we started a long and hot climb to Big Sur. Our timing was unfortunately in sync with the height of summer traffic and it was mentally taxing. But the scenery always makes up for any shortcomings and when we reached the top, we were 960 ft above sea level and above the clouds. IMG_8521.JPGIMG_8524.JPGIMG_8537.JPG
When you’re on your bike, you are more likely to see the wildlife along the road than say if you were driving. One of the more interesting things we saw along our climb were turkey vultures devouring a dead seal on the beach. Yum. IMG_8520.JPG
Exhausted from the climb, we still had another 20 miles to go to Limekiln Campground, three miles south of Lucia. We so ecstatic to reach camp, especially when we saw from the road that it was on a beach! We biked down a steep hill and spoke to the camp host who told us that Limekiln is actually not a California run state park and they don’t have hiker/biker sites. Bummer. We trekked another two miles to Kirk Creek, a primitive campground without running water or showers but with an awesome view of the Pacific. The hiker/biker sites here are right on the cliff and we arrived just in time to see the sunset. Ahhhhh…..
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We were the only bikers in the site, but since the campground was full, the ranger let car campers stay in the hiker/biker area. We shared our site with two 17-year olds from San Diego who were driving along the CA Coast checking our colleges. I asked if they were considering any East Coast schools. They said no but asked me to describe the weather. I told them about the humidity in the summers and the snow in the winters but that it’s really nice having four actual seasons. I think I lost them at “humidity” haha. They’re staying in CA. IMG_8589.PNG
Total Miles: 75 miles (click here for map details)

Weather: 60s, fog in morning but burned off by 2pm. Hot (80s) on ride up to Big Sur mostly due to lack of shade and pavement heat.

Riding conditions: Crazy amounts of Rt. 1 traffic with minimal shoulders. Traffic doesn’t really start till noon (lazy people!) so definitely need to take advantage of morning hours.

Campground: Amazing view and can’t beat falling asleep to crashing waves. Too bad Kirk Creek didn’t have water or showers. Grade: B+

Part II, Day 2: San Gregorio to Monterey

The day started at one of the most beautiful camp grounds and ended at one of the most bizarre. Let’s start from the beginning…

It was a foggy and chilly morning at San Gregorio State Beach and after a hike to the top of the park, we decided to pack up and get breakfast on the road to save some time.

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Well, thank goodness we did because shortly after we turned out of the park, the park ranger came by to open the gate! We were totally oblivious to the entrance sign that said the park opens at 8am and had no idea we were leaving in the nick of time. I think the only thing they could have done was give us a ticket but in any case, we successfully avoided detection woot woot!

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From there we headed south on Route 1 and did a quick walk about Pigeon Point lighthouse, where they actually have a hostel! We met a bike touring couple a few of days later that stayed there and told us there was a hot tub below the cliff, overlooking the ocean. Sounds like hostels have really changed! The Pigeon Point Lighthouse operated the first ordered Fresnal lens made for lighthouses, which weighs 8,000 lb lens and was manufactured in Paris in 1872. Today, the lens is no longer in use and the lighthouse is structurally unsound for operation.

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After lunch in Davenport, we started to come across California’s vast farmlands. We would see much more in the coming days, but we were a bit surprised to see such farmland next to the ocean. Aren’t oceanfront sites prime real estate–for homes?!?

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We quickly biked through Santa Cruz, a funky vintage-like surfing town and couldn’t help take a picture with “The Surfer” sculpture, dedicated to “all surfers: past, present and future.” Such a surfer thing to say, right?

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After some annoying city-riding (Santa Cruz/Soquel/Aptos) we entered acres and acres and more acres of strawberry fields. The air was incredibly sweet smelling and we watched migrant workers in the field doing some back-bending berry picking. Dole, Del Monte, Giant, Dricoll’s, etc–they all have fields up here. We settled on a strawberry and cherry tomato snack from an organic farmer down the road. Soooo good.

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After a four-mile jaunt on the interstate (yes, our maps directed us on a six-lane highway), we picked up a lovely, well-paved and maintained bike path into Monterey. I started to feel a little wobbliness in the back and realized I had a slow flat. We had 10 miles left till we reached camp, so I decided it was better/easier to pump every half hour rather than change the tire. It totally wasn’t a problem until the monster two-mile climb into Monterey’s Memorial Veteran’s Park, where we were camping for the night. Not the ideal way to end the night (flat tire; steep hill) but once we got there and saw all the tents in the hiker/bike site, we were excited to chat with everyone. Until we realized homeless people accounted for 75% of the tents. So weird. First, one guy/couple was blasting an African drumming recording (which I initially thought was live seance) for a couple of hours. Then there was a woman cooking a large pot of food for four other people–and this definitely wasn’t cooking equipment you would carry on a hike or bike tour. After a shower, we were too tired to chat and went to bed. Or tried to at least. The naval academy/school next door started playing taps. People kept on coming in and out of the camp site, shouting their friends name to hang out in another friend’s tent or shaking people’s tents. And this little village of homeless people kept on shuffling till 3ish. I’ve never experienced anything like this at a campground before! I’m just thankful none of our stuff was stolen the next day. Major case of heebie jeevies. Anywho, we did meet some British girls, Lulu and Charlotte, who were biking from Anchorage to Mexico. It was nice to talk and exchange stories with some fellow tourists!

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Total miles: 90 miles (click here for map route details)

Weather: started in the 60s and foggy, but the fog burned off by 1ish. Very pleasant.

Riding conditions: Good except for city riding (narrow shoulder and aggressive drivers) and interstate stretch.

Campground: First time experiencing what a homeless village feels like. But $6/person and free hot showers is a plus. Grade: C-

Technical Difficulties

Apologies to our faithful followers! Due to non-existent cellular service and a malfunctioning solar panel charger, we haven’t been able to post an update in a couple of days. But don’t worry–they are coming! In the meantime, enjoy this picture of elephant seals, taken at Piedras Blancas point!

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Part II, Day 1: San Francisco to San Gregorio

Although I promised a post last night, I didn’t because we couldn’t risk any of y’all calling the park rangers on us for camping illegally! Truth is, after a late start out of SF, we were behind schedule and didn’t reach our planned destination near Año Nuevo state reserve. So, we ducked into the San Gregorio State Park (no running water, no camping) for the night and it worked out beautifully! The picture below is from the next morning. Can you spot our camping gear and/or bikes?
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So, as I mentioned, we had a late start out of SF. It took some time to get our bikes assembled and equipment in place. Also, it’s quite a transition from riding a “regular” bike to a loaded, touring bike that’s 40-50lbs heavier. I felt a bit unsteady handling the bike at first, but was comfortable by the end of the day. Whew! And before we were truly on our way, I was able to visit and have lunch with my best friend, Monica. Yay!!
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I didn’t have a chance to take a picture of where we sat, but SF has these “parklets” that are built off of sidewalks in front of various establishments and they’re for public use. Very nice city feature and something NYC could use too!

After we exited the city limits of San Francisco, we entered Daly City, which has some of the weirdest/ugliest residential architecture around. I wish I took a photo of the rows of houses, but you can kind of see them below, in the background.
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Shortly after, we had a grueling four-mile climb on Rt. 1. with narrow roads, non-existent shoulders and lots of traffic. We then went through a tunnel, which is always a stressful experience (well for me, at least) mostly due to the noise.
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When we exited the tunnel, we noticed some people walking out of a path on our right, the ocean side, and asked them if there was a trail. And of course there was! A beautiful one that hugs the cliffs and was built specially for hikers and bikers. “You’ve got to be freakin’ kidding me, right?” What was really annoying is that there weren’t any signs about this bike path. Grrrr. But, you can’t be upset for long when your view is this all day!
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On our way to Half Moon Bay, we had a very special treat–a whale sighting!! It was about 500ft from shore and some locals who were also watching said they have never seen a whale come so close to shore at this location. 20140806-223316-81196231.jpg
As it started to get later, we began looking for potential campgrounds, knowing we would have to rough it. The terrain was tough–mostly cliffs, as shown below to the left:
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But luckily, we found the perfect place. We were hidden from the road, it was flat (important for me as I’m sleeping in a tent, not a hammock like Jim), and beautiful. We were situated on a cliff, over looking the Pacific and fell asleep to the crashing waves. Although a hot shower would have been nice, this was definitely worth the sacrifice. And for bonus, we had dinner on the beach!
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All-in-all, a great first day on the road. Dad and I feel a bit rusty on the bikes–getting used to handling them, figuring out the best way to pack our stuff–but we always have a smile in our face!
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And now here is the route we traveled today. I’m still learning how to use this app, so you can see in some places there’s a straight line when it’s obvious there couldn’t be. A very cool feature though!
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You can see some additional map details by clicking here.

Miles: 45 miles (approximately. My bike computer isn’t working for some reason so we relied on the Ride with GPS app for total miles)

Weather: overcast in the mid-to-high 60s. Jacket needed for downhills but way too hot for uphills.

Road conditions: Moderate on roads; great on bike paths.

Campground: B+. Location was hard to beat, but no running water and sneaking around as to avoid detection knocked off some points.

Gooooood morning, San Francisco!

We made it!! After a glitch in our flight schedule out west, we arrived in downtown San Francisco around midnight (3am east coast time). We were exhausted and anxiously awaiting a shower and bed at the Powell Hotel, which was pleasantly better than we expected. I had booked the hotel in haste last week and didn’t bother reading the reviews on tripadvisor/yelp/etc. With some down time at JFK, I finally did some research and to my horror read some terrible reviews. Damn it. Thankfully, the hotel was fine, they had our bike boxes and the showers were hot.

Well-rested, we unpacked this morning and started putting together the bikes.
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If you’re curious, this is what I’ll be carrying during this tour:
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And this is what my dad’s bringing (we have different packing styles as you can see):

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Check out this post from last summer with an itemized list of what we brought. And with everything screwed on and packed away, we’re off!
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We are planning a light day today (approx. 60 miles) so hopefully I’ll get a post up tonight. We are also trying something new this time around–GPS tracking! I’m using the Ride with GPS app to track our every peddle stroke and then publishing the map here! I’ve never used the app before hopefully there aren’t any issues. If anyone out there has experience with GPS tracking and publishing on wordpress.com, please feel free to recommend any in the comments!

See ya on the road!

FAQ: How many miles did you ride per day?

Soo Mi and I needed to arrive in San Francisco on August 1, 2013.

Our daily mileage was double that of most touring cyclists. We carried the lightest ‘kit.’

Soo Mi and I woke at 6:00am +/- and were on the road by 8:00am. We found that a large breakfast with constant eating on the road helped high mileage days.

We generally stopped riding between 8:00 and 9:00pm.

Day Start
(Google Map Hyperlink)
‘Rolling’
Time*
(hh:mm)
Average
Speed*
(mph)
Daily
Distance
(miles)
Total
Distance
(miles)
1 The Moore Hotel, Seattle WA 9:54 10.8 107 107
2 Harrison RV and Tent Park, Centralia, WA 7:31 10.7 81 188
3 Chevron Gas/RV Park, Cathlamet, WA 8:56 10.1 92 280
4 Biak By the Sea RV Park, Garibaldi, OR 8:10 11.0 90 370
5 South Beach State Park, Newport, OR 8:48 11.8 104 474
6 Bastendorff Beach Park, Charleston, OR 6:58 11.5 81 555
7 Curry County Fairgrounds, Gold Beach, OR 8:40 10.8 94 649
8 Elk Prairie Campground, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Orick, CA 9:52 10.8 107 756
9 Burlington Campground, Humbolt Redwoods State Park, Myers Flat, CA 9:31 10.3 100 856
10 Russian Gulch State Park, Mendocino, CA 9:22 10.5 100 956
11 Bodega Dunes Campground, Sonoma Coast State Park, Bodega Bay, CA 7:24 9.9 73 1029
SUMMARY MAP
Average*** 9:30 10.8 95.6 na
  Maximum     9:52 11.8 107 na
  Total      95:06:00 na 1029 na
Notes:
* Day 1, Rolling Time estimated
** Day 1, Ave. Speed estimated
*** Day 11, not included in Ave.