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-

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!

Day 11: Bodega Bay – SAN FRANCISCO!

It was a bittersweet morning. This was our last day of our trip and although we were ecstatic to make it to San Francisco, we were sad the trip was ending. Especially since Dad and I finally felt like our bodies were in ‘touring’ shape, haha! It’s true that you can continually push your body to extremes and it will adapt…eventually.

We got on the road around 8am , continuing on our trusted Route 1. About an hour into our ride, we ran into brothers Alastair and Andrew, who we had first met six days ago in Newport, OR. We’ve crossed paths since we met them — staying at the same campgrounds some nights, seeing each other on the road — and we were happy to catch up to them again. They went ahead and we made plans to meet in Pt. Reyes Station for lunch.

It was a hilly en route to Pt. Reyes, but we were rewarded with farmland views and some of the best downhill biking I’ve ever experienced. I know I said two days ago we had an awesome downhill after the Leggett Hill but today the road conditions were perfect. Hardly any cars, gentle turns (at least not 90-180 degree turns), smooth pavement — it was so much fun! The scent of the eucalyptus trees that lined the roads may have heightened our senses, but it was pure euphoria. I think I may have been laughing aloud all the way down haha!!

Feeding time!

Feeding time!

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At the bottom, we went through the town of Tomales, which is known for their oyster bays. We passed by many oyster distributors I’ve heard of from my SF friends — Hog Island, Tomales Bay Oyster Company. It was a bit early in the day (10am) for oysters (for me at least!), but a beautiful place to enjoy fresh, local oysters.

We made it to Pt. Reyes Station and met up with Alastair and Andrew. We all had lunch at Bovine Bakery, a spot that was recommended from a fellow camper two nights ago and was very popular with SF cyclists on day trips. It’s about 80 miles roundtrip from SF.  IMG_4374IMG_4376

Looking at our maps, the route had us diverge off of Rt. 1 and go inland through towns like Lagunitas, Fairfax, Corte Madera, but Alastair and Andrew said the trip on Rt. 1 would be terrifically scenic, but hilly. We like the sound of ‘scenic’ and took our chances with ‘hilly’ and continued to truck along Rt. 1. It was a terribly hilly ride, especially since we didn’t expect too many hills today, but the views were once again breathtaking. Here’s a view of Bolinas Bay/Stinson Beach (and the first time we saw people actually swimming in the ocean!):IMG_4381IMG_4382

After some more steep climbs near Mr. Tamalpsis State Park, we descended into the Marin City and about 10 miles later, had our first view of the city of San Francsico!!! When we finally got to the bridge, we couldn’t help but take some pictures!IMG_4384IMG_4385IMG_4390

The Golden Gate Bridge is really a stunning piece of work and we were able to enjoy the views since there wasn’t even a trace of fog.

We made it!!!

We made it!!!

However, it was astonishingly windy on the bridge. I should submit this picture of Dad to Michelin for consideration of the next Michelin Man!IMG_4397

There was lots of activity in the SF Bay. Sailboats, windsurfers, kitesurfers, large  container ships…we even saw dolphins! After dodging the tourists, we made it to the end of the Golden Gate, only to be completely confused on where to go. The only bicycle signage we saw was where not to go. Thankfully, other cyclists helped us fund our way into the city and we biked straight to Free Wheel on Hayes Street. They were able to pack up and ship our bikes to CT for a flat rate of $200. They were very helpful and had a great shop. Thank you Monica and Andy for the recommendation!IMG_4398IMG_4408

We met up with Monica at her apartment and enjoyed a real shower, real towels, a wonderful home cooked meal, laundry and clean clothes. It was an awesome way to end our 11 day adventure. Looking back, it’s hard to believe it went by so fast. That being said, Dad and I are already planning our next trip: SF to San Diego!!

Official mileage log

Official mileage log

Miles: 73.9

Total Trip Miles: 1033 miles

Weather: Sunny!

Riding Conditions: Overall, good! The road from Bolinas Bay to Marin City was narrow and had more traffic than we were used to. And finding our way off the Golden Gate bridge into the city was confusing. And those hills in SF are no joke!

Campground: Monica and Jeremy’s beautiful apartment in NoPa. Grade: A+

Day 10: Mendocino, CA – Bodega Bay, CA (Sonoma Coast State Park)

It was another cold morning (surprise, surprise) with the temperature hovering around 50 degrees when we left camp. However, the sun was shining and we warmed up quickly. ‘Warmed up’ is a relative terms these days. For us, it meant that we could take off our down and rain jackets and ride comfortably in a t-shirt. Today is July 31st. In NYC, it was probably 80 degrees (with 95% humidity) by 8am this morning. My down jacket would be no where in sight, let alone on my body. I can unabashedly say Dad and I were taken aback by the Pacific Northwest’s chilly weather.

Today’s route was entirely on Route 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway. We hugged the coastline and passed through acres of farmland and small towns. If I were a cow, this is where I would dream of retiring. Temperate weather, constant wind to shoo away fleas, acres of land for grazing right next to the Pacific Ocean — yes, please! I wish I had a picture of a cow actually grazing on this little slice of cow paradise, but this view will have to suffice.IMG_4302

The awesome tailwinds of Oregon seemed to catch up to us today and we had some solid stretches where we were crusin’ with minimal effort. At one spot, Dad and I took a picture, mostly for the ocean view, but as you can see, the tree in the background really takes the spotlight.IMG_4313

After 50 or so miles of riding, we decided to take a coffee break in the town of Anchor Bay (pop. 340). It just so happens that a medicinal marijuana dispensary was located next door. Dad and I couldn’t help ourselves and rang the doorbell to enter. We were greeted by Tim, who we chatted with for the next half hour. Mostly about marijuana laws, how to procure a medical marijuana prescription in California and what’s next for the industry. It was an eye-opening conversation. I have to say, it’s been a bit of a culture shock coming from the East Coast and seeing how common pot smoking is here. We feel like uptight New Englanders (or as my dad says “constipated Yankees”) but we can’t help it. The broad tolerance and visibility of marijuana is very different to us. In any case, we couldn’t leave without taking a souvenir picture.

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You can’t see it here, but there’s a “420” neon sign in the window.

Tim mentioned that we would start climbing the notorious windy roads of the Pacific Coast Highway about 15 miles from Anchor Bay. He was right in regards to both the distance and the road conditions. This is the type of road you see in car commercials for the Porches, Audis, BMWs, etc. The views are stunning. Absolutely stunning. Too bad I wasn’t able to capture many of them on my camera since I didn’t want to fall over the 300+ ft cliff on my right. Or because I was braking as hard as I could and still going 20mph. Oh, and that there weren’t guardrails for half of this twisty, narrow stretch. It was a challenging technical ride as you had to control your bike going up a steep hill with non-existent shoulders and on the downhill, the sharp switchbacks required constant braking. I mean, I got a serious forearm workout today. But, the views always make up for it.

Climbing...

Climbing…

...and some more climbing. Can you find Soo Mi?

…and some more climbing. Can you find Soo Mi?

After the major climbs, we were about 15 miles from camp, so we picked up dinner in Jenner (deli sandwiches, chocolate milk and some random snacks) and went on our way. As we approached the town of Gleason Beach, we admired the houses that were perched right on the coastline and had unobstructed views of the Pacific. It wasn’t until we were about a football field away did we notice that the “empty lots” from afar were actually spaces from houses that had eroded into the ocean! Some of the houses still standing were tagged as unsafe to enter and occupy. Yikes. IMG_4350IMG_4351

We made it to camp with an hour of daylight to spare (woohoo!), when it started to sink in that this was our last night on the road. Evidently, this campground is the last night for a lot of other touring cyclists too. The bear box was filled with extra food (mostly noodle or canned-type food), maps, books, vitamins and was covered with doodles from those passing through. I kind of regret not writing something now….IMG_4359

Miles: 99.6

Weather: Chilly morning that warmed up to mid-70s.  Not a cloud in the sky.

Riding Conditions: Good except for those monster RVs and logging/shipping trucks that drive along Rt. 1 and put everyone around them in danger (other cars, cyclists, cars pulled over at scenic overlooks, etc.). And, return of the tailwind!

Campground: Bodega Dunes Campground at the Sonoma Coast State Park; $5/person, free hot showers (tip from a ranger we met at a gas station 10 miles away from camp), hiker/biker area was very sandy (hard to set up tent); Grade: B

Day 9: Weott, CA – Mendocino, CA (Russian Gulch State Park)

An educated guess: Redwood trees, due to their size, emit more oxygen than a typical tree, like an evergreen. Kinda makes sense, right? I came to this highly scientific conclusion based on how good Dad and I felt this morning. Maybe it was the extra oxygen, or maybe we were finally getting into “bike touring” shape, but we felt grrrrreat!IMG_4278

From sleeping among the giants, we continued to ride on the Avenue of the Giants. Traffic was light and the road conditions were solid, so Dad and I spent most of the morning riding side by side. We rode along the south fork of the Eel River, which we found hard pressed to even call a river. It was probably a foot deep, at best. But we knew it had to be ripping other times during the year because it had a naturally wide base. It wasn’t until we reached a flood meter painted on a bridge that we confirmed our theory.

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What happened in 1964?!?

What happened in 1964?!?

At this point, we rejoined Rt. 101 and started to pass by some of the cheesier tourist traps, such as “Confusion Hill”, “Legend of Bigfoot” and the “Famous One-Log House”. Although extremely corny, they are good photo-ops, don’t cha think?. (Note: there is no picture of Confusion Hill because it was a mile off the road, and what could be so confusing about it anyways?)

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We finally reached Rt. 1, the main road we’ll be on for the rest of our trip, and were greeted by Leggett Hill. We knew it was coming because some cyclists at camp two nights ago spoke with fear about this four-mile, seven percent grade ‘monster’ and our maps warned of an “arduous” 28 miles between Leggett and Westport. Honestly though, it wasn’t that bad. Especially since there was a 14-mile downhill after the summit. Not only was it 14 miles of no peddling but it was a fun – twisty-turny, lean left and right, smile on your face – downhill. Since we were going just as fast as most cars, about 25-30mph, we could ride in the middle of lane without trouble. And to make the hill even sweeter, we were reunited with the Pacific.

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As you can tell by the pictures, it did drop about 20 degrees by the time we reached the coast. There was fog and lots of farmland on this part of the coast line. It was hard to tell if this was California or Scotland!

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We had about 20 more miles to go to camp, and thought that after the ‘arduous’ leg, it would be a easy ride into Fort Bragg. Hah! I actually thought this part was harder as it was steeper, shorter climbs that just kept coming. The trend on the coast road seems to be that if you stay along the water, you will climb up and down with the cliffs for awhile, then descend sharply away from the water, make a big, sharp curve at the bottom, and then climb sharply back up to the coastal cliffs. This type of riding is very different from the long, constant climbs my dad and I are used to and as we’ve learned, it seems to use different muscle groups as well.

Not taking into account these short climbs, we had to sprint the last ten miles to camp to avoid biking (once again) in the dark. However, I couldn’t resist taking this picture of what was shaping up to be a truly spectacular west coast sunset. IMG_4296

Miles: 99.9 (really)

Weather: Not a cloud in the sky. Warm (reached 80 degrees – !!) in the afternoon; dropped to 55-60 degrees once we reached the shore around 5pm

Riding Conditions: Great throughout the Avenue of the Giants; Rt. 1 barely had a shoulder making it a little treacherous when biking up Leggett Hill (with RVs and trucks passing by)

Campground: Russian Gulch State Park; $5/person ($1.25 for 10min hot shower); 1/4 mile steep downhill from camp entrance to hiker/biker site = fun wake-up call (uphill first thing tomorrow morning, ugh); Grade: B+

Camp the next morning

Camp the next morning