Big Sur reprise

Oct 1-6, California Highway 1, San Luis Obispo to Santa Cruz

Why cycle south over an amazing stretch of highway just once, when I can also cycle north over it a second time? I’ve completed the reverse traverse of Big Sur a few tours before, remembering the ecstatic views more than the gruel of countless hills and strong headwinds. Wasn’t there that one time the winds weren’t that bad? Turns out this is not one of those times.

The Amtrak from LA to SLO is over five hours. I nap off and on to compensate for the short night’s sleep at my Warm Showers host. I hop off the train and head over to Kreuzberg for coffee before riding North on Highway 1 to Morro Bay. I stop at Sunshine Cafe and enjoy a delicious vegan salad creation, just like the good old days! Affordable too. Another night at Morro Bay State Park serenaded in my tent set under eucalyptus by foghorn, owls and coyotes.

In the morning I set out towards Cambria and San Simeon. Winds are mild at first, then begin to pick up as the afternoon progresses. I ponder stopping at San Simeon Creek State Park, with Hiker/Biker site and the last hot shower before Pfeiffer. I review the route, just 20 more miles to Ragged Point, then the two large hills at Salmon Creek before arriving at Plaskett. It won’t be that bad, will it?

The long stretch before the first climb goes quickly, winds seem to be dying back down. But I’m tired, not in the condition I was that last time I rode all the hills between San Simeon and Pfeiffer. I arrive at Ragged Point at sunset, still 15 miles and the largest climbing ahead before camp. I wait until the sun is below the horizon, not wanting to crawl around hairpin turns with the sun’s glare blinding the traffic behind me. This means I’m riding in full darkness for the last two hours of the day, my headlamp blazing a train ahead. By grace it’s not too cold. There’s an otherworldly quality to night riding, traffic almost nonexistent, only the sound of barking seals and surf far below in the blackness. And the moon and stars overhead, appearing as twilight fades! At last, camp appears. I quickly set up and fall into my sleeping bag.

I’m up the next morning before dawn. Though there are just 35 miles to Pfeiffer, I’m thinking I’ll get them out of the way then relax at Big Sur State Park. Not the case though for this ride. I’m struggling to climb the hills, and as I near noon the temperatures are well into the high 70s. I’m short on water, failing to refill at the Rigdon spring. Not thinking too well, extra fatigue from dehydration. Luckily I roll into the Henry Miller Library and find water ample. I rest on the porch couch, set below the towering redwood grove. I imagine what Big Sur must have been back when the Beats and hippies were first exploring the boundaries of consciousness and culture. Maybe it’s time to read Karouac, who would have been 100 years old this year if he hadn’t died of alcohol induced liver failure.

One more stretch of the long hill, then I’m up over the ridge, descending Highway 1 to the Big Sur valley and campground. This time I meet a dozen other cyclists at Pfeiffer Big Sur, another experience of the joy of cycling the Pacific Coast. We share stories of the road, a traveling community of adventurers and seekers. Some of us decide to stay an extra day, enjoying the quiet and serenity of this camp. The next night another whole group of cyclists. I chat with everyone, warning them about the limits of water at Plaskett Creek and recommending the Rigdon Drinking Fountain. Since it’s not listed anywhere online, I decide to leave a note from the “PCH Ambassador” for future cyclists with GPS coordinates to Rigdon. (I’ve since written Google and they’ve added it to their maps! Click here: ) ((*** NOTE: Recent post on Facebook says Rigdon Drinking Fountain is dry, only running water there is a nearby creek buried in brush – poison oak likely – but that there IS potable water at Plaskett Creek campground!))

Next morning I’m climbing into winds and fog towards Hurricane Point. As I ascend, it’s amazing to rise above the fog layer, like I’m flying above the clouds. Yet the descent plunges back into the cold mist and headwinds again. It’s a slog on to Carmel Highlands and then the long climb up the Monterey Peninsula to Veterans Memorial campground. I set up my tend, catch a hot shower then settle in with my laptop. I’m starting a writing workshop sponsored by YG2D, theme is “Grief and Healing”. I write about the many losses in the past, and those looming ahead. I reflect upon the sadness of seeing two red foxes on the side of the road in Big Sur. They must have been a mated pair, struck down at the same time, so beautiful, almost seeming to be sleeping. I ponder the tenderness and vulnerability of life, always present in these tours.

One more day of riding into the fog as I head around Monterey Bay to the campground in Capitola. I opt to climb over Salinas Road into Watsonville, rather than take the lowland route of Jensen and San Andreas roads. I escape the fog for a bit, but this route adds altitude and miles. Climbing, climbing I ascend Freedom Boulevard, then at the crest descend back into the fog at the Roy Rogers junction. I follow the Santa Cruz bicycle route that parallels Highway 1 toward Aptos and Capitola. At last, there it is, New Brighten Beach! I set up again after dark, the hot shower a balm to sooth chilled limbs and sore muscles. The campground is set high on a bluff, the waves of Monterey Bay lapping gently against the shore below. I match my breathing to the rhythm in the waves, drifting off into a deep sleep. What dreams may come.

Please let us know what you think...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.