Cycling the stunning vistas of Big Sur

Sept 21-25, California Highway 1, Carmel to Morro Bay

The pinnacle of my West Coast tour is the southerly traverse of Big Sur. Over a hundred miles of panoramic ocean views, many from hundreds of feet above as Highway 1 crawls along cliffs and headlands. Long stretches of the road are literally etched into the cliff face, through feats of highway engineering, rockwork, earthmoving, bridge and viaduct construction. I’m grateful for the privilege of cycling this wonderland, year after year.

I roll through Carmel Highlands and suddenly I’m awestruck as I catch the first glimpse of the Hurricane Point hill in the distance. Though the ride involves a moderate amount of elevation, somehow the climbing seems effortless. Maybe because I’m stopping often to stare and gawk, even to make coffee between the Rocky Creek bridge and viaduct. I’m up and over Hurricane Point, then on past Point Sur and into the Big Sur River Valley. Camping at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is a treat and a respite, with a large Hiker/Biker campsite surrounded by towering sequoia, the southermost redwoods in California.

I meet many other cyclists here, sharing tales of the road. As most share their beginners glee, I’m humbled and somewhat shy to admit how many times I’ve done this ride. Then I relax as they ask questions about what lies ahead – where to camp, what to do when we get closer to LA. This year Plaskett Creek has no potable water, something I’ve counted on in years past. I wish I knew where the Rigdon Drinking Fountain was, can’t find it on Google Maps. Is it before or after Plaskett? I know there’s water at Gorda, but don’t want to ride further after the days climb. I boil some water for drinking.

The next morning I head out early, refilling water at Gorda, the site of the most expensive gasoline in the nation. I buy a coffee for $6.95 then immediately wish I hadn’t. But hey, what that saying… when in Rome? Oh well, on to climb the hills at Salmon Creek, then the long descent past Ragged Point and on to the plains before San Simeon. I arrive to find the campground packed with weekend families, kids running everywhere generators, happily cooking over barbecues. The scene dies down at dusk, and I’m grateful this large crowd respects quiet hours. The highway above the camp is empty at night, and I’m lulled by the sound of the surf in the distance.

In the morning I ride on to Morro Bay and another of my favorite campgrounds. Here the Hiker/Biker site is nestled under a grove of eucalyptus trees. At dusk several owls call from the high aromatic trees. A fog horn serenades in the distance. And in the morning the sharp cry of a coyote acts as a wakeup call. Time to ride on to San Luis Obispo, the beginning of Southern California.


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