After an amazing time off the bikes in the Bay Area we reluctantly left Jon and Sal’s house and continued the journey southwards towards Los Angeles. The luxuries of things like fridges, kettles, decent showers and electricity would once again be left behind, although it’s only a short hop to LA compared to what we’ve cycled since January. We’d been recommended a route by Joth to Pescadero, although work meant he couldn’t cycle with us, but luckily Emma had been able to jiggle her shifts around to allow her to accompany us for the day. To rejoin the Pacific Coast we first needed to cross the Santa Cruz mountains, which meant a 500+ m climb to ease us back into cycle touring. In New Zealand this would have been a major worry, but we’re now so use to lugging our heavy touring bikes up hills it wasn’t too bad. The cool of the redwood trees, beautiful landscape and empty road certainly helped. We’re jealous that Emma and Joth have this on their doorstep; cycling from our flat in East London to Woolwich isn’t the same.
After swooping back down to sea level we arrived in Pescadero, devoured artichoke sourdough bread from the bakery and said goodbye to Emma who had to cycle back over the Santa Cruz hills. The next time we’ll see her will be in Loughton at the start of London Edinburgh London. Our first night back on the bikes was with a WarmShowers host who’d given us access to his yurt. It was set at the top of a hill in amongst woods, with no plumbing but there was an outdoor, heated shower and an electric generator. It was a very relaxing way to get back into the groove and we got to watch Sideways using their DVD player.
The next day we rode to just beyond Santa Cruz. We left Pescadero on a beautiful road but once we joined Highway 1 it was a bit none descript. All I can really remember is stopping in Davenport for lunch, fog and once we arrived in Santa Cruz we followed Cliff Drive around the coast and past the funfair. It felt a bit like Blackpool. The hike/bike campsite at New Brighton State Beach had the most rules we’ve yet to encounter. Check in isn’t allowed before 4pm, check out is 9am, we both had to show ID, and staying more than one night is not allowed– ie don’t plan to have a rest day! Just before dark a ranger appeared to check all the cyclists had paid and we were all told off for one thing or another. We hadn’t displayed our receipt, a Swiss family had registered on one form, not four individual forms and the Kiwis (Grum and Juliet) who’d originally be granted permission to stay an extra night due to bike issues were evicted to a normal, more expensive, none hike/bike site, which meant re-pitching their tent in the dark.
We made sure to leave New Brighton State Beach before 9am in order to not get into further trouble. The urban sprawl extending beyond Santa Cruz seemed to go on for a long time before we popped out into flat strawberry fields. It could have been East Anglia, although the huge numbers of Mexican fruit pickers clearly proved that wasn’t the case. The strawberry fields then gave way to artichoke fields, power stations, dolphins and the highlight of the day; lunch in The Haute Enchilada in Moss Landing. After lunch we followed cycle routes and small roads through more artichoke fields to Monterey Veterans Memorial Park, another interesting campsite where someone from the hike/bike area got carted off by the police at about 11pm.
The next day should have been to Pfeiffer State Park around Big Sur that was closed because of the Soberanes fire and the next hike/bike campsite was nearly 100km from Monterey, so we had an early start. We’d been recommended the bear claw pastry from the Carmel bakery, so that was our first stop for the day before picking up Highway 1. The rest of the day was meant to be beautiful scenery, but the unrelenting fog did a great job of hiding all the views. We’re getting bored of having to imagine what great scenery we’re missing. This section of the highway was also extremely busy, possibly made worse by the fact it was a Saturday, but at least it was no longer school holidays. The volume of traffic was bad, but the attitude of the drivers made things even worse. We experienced a huge number of horrific overtaking manoeuvres, especially by people driving rented RVs who thought they were the same width as a Ford Fiesta. In fact we both thought the driving standards on this section of road were the worst we’ve encountered in North America. Happily we arrived at Limekiln State Park alive, although the campsite didn’t look great as it was underneath a road bridge. Perhaps fortunately the State Park didn’t actually have hike/bike sites and was also full, so the grumpy woman on reception told us to ride another 4km along the road to Kirk Creek campground. This was much better as there were beautiful views along the coast, but the downside was a lack of water and showers, but the cheerful camp host had drinking water to give cyclists. Win.
The next day we carried on along the Big Sur highway but in the morning at least the road was quieter, making things less scary. The fog still hid the views. After Ragged Point the road width increased, the sun came out, we stopped to look at the stinky elephant seals and things seemed better. We spent the night at the Hearst San Simeon State Park, another campsite without showers; at least the fog meant we weren’t too stinky. This time we were woken up by racoons making some awful weird noises at about midnight – they were probably upset our food was safely stored in a racoon proof locker!
Monday we rode into San Luis Obispo not knowing if this would be our last day of cycling on our tour. Apart from the day leaving Redwood City we hadn’t enjoyed the rest of the Californian coast (too much fog, too many bad drivers) and from SLO there’s the option of taking a train some or all of the way to Los Angeles or picking up a hire car. The ride into San Luis Obispo was actually pretty decent as we rode through pretty towns such as Cambria and Cayucos, avoided Highway 1 where possible and experienced the rare phenomena of Californian sunshine. Arriving into San Luis Obispo earlier than needed we killed some time by visiting the SLO Brew pub and debated what to do. That debate continues, so we’ll find out tomorrow how we continue our journey southwards.