Day 31, Monterey to Pfeifer Big Sur State Park, 32 miles
I wake to the first light of dawn, resting back in my sleeping bag. I am anticipating the day ahead, riding into the stunning coastline of Big Sur. I hear the bugle call of Reveille down at the Naval Academy, along with cadets shouting in unison during their morning drills.
I pack up my camp, now methodically. A month into the tour, striking camp and setting up have become a routine, every step rehearsed, every item has its place. Into the panniers, onto the bicycle, I’m out climbing the road before any of the other cyclists have risen.
My ascent over Monterey Peninsula is steady, also methodical. No longer struggling on the hills, simply pedaling, climbing, pedaling. I reach the crest, then descend a brief stretch of Highway 1 until I peel off into a side road, down into the town of Carmel. I spend a long while in the coffeeshop, called back into work, restaurant needing my input again. I think of my return home, to my community, to my work, almost ready now to reengage. Almost. But first, Big Sur!
I’m back on my bicycle, back on Highway 1, beginning the climb through Carmel Highlands. Pedaling is now easy, climbing not a burden. I have arrived, at last in my tour, to the place called “Finding my legs”. Freed from the discomfort and pain of being out of condition, I now just ride. Now I can really take in the environment, the scenery, the vistas, the joys of cycling.
The highway gradually breaks into an open coastline, views of headlands ahead, deep blue and turquoise waters below, and ocean farther than the eyes can see. I reach the iconic Bixby Creek bridge and easily summit Hurricane Point. I stop there to enjoy the lunch I brought from Carmel sitting on a huge boulder. I watch other cyclists crawling up the long ascent, greet them as they crest the hill.
I descent the hill at a rapid speed, crossing the Little Sur River, then climbing the last headland before camp. I catch my breath, drinking in the beauty of this coastline, mountain plunging to ocean, dressing in crimson tipped ice plants, vast crystal blue waters, brilliant sunshine above. This is what I came here for. If only this moment could last forever.
Camp calls me, and I know I’ll reach this one well before dusk, a nice change from most of my prior rides. I follow the highway back inland into the Big Sur River valley. The last 10 miles fly effortlessly to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, the southernmost grove of redwoods along the California coast. I set up camp in the hiker biker site beneath the towering trees, greeting many other cyclists there.
I cycle back out to Big Sur Lodge for wifi and a last contact with Jennifer before the weekend out of cell range. I stay by the fireplace a long while, feeling drowsy. I head back to the campground as the chill of the night has fallen. I greet Tanguy once more at camp, we sit around the table with another cyclist from San Francisco long into the night.