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Upsidedown and Backwards

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Yikes! Almost forgot these pictures!

By | June 21, 2012

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We rode near Vandenberg Air Force Base on Wednesday.

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Did you know these things picked up bike speeds! I was so excited to get a picture of one while I was riding.

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On the bike path through Santa Barbara. Grey and white herons, sitting in a row…

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Bird on a telephone wire! When we were kids, my mom used to make us bingo games to play on car trips. This was always a square!

This is Just Practice

By | June 21, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012
Refugio Beach State Park to Santa Barbara
20 miles

The only way I knew for sure it was Thursday today is that I talked on the phone to my friend Charlie last night, just after he got home from bike polo, which I know he plays on Wednesdays. Ahhh, traveling.

We might have gone further today, but we had friends lined up to stay with. And after yesterday’s long day, that was extra fine.

Neither Sadie nor I slept in as late as we thought we would this morning. Since we were up, we got to see off Michael and Ian, two guys camped in the hike and bike. They were heading north up the coast, which is steeper and against the wind, as well as towing a trailer with their 45-pound dog. As they said, they were in their twenties and had time on their hands. Michael also had a broken spoke, so they were basically off to limp to the next bike shop, up the two mile, seven percent grade we had just come down.

Since we were leaving at a reasonable hour, Nick decided to accompany us on the way to Santa Barbara. He needed to be there by 2:00, and we weren’t moving that slowly. Though he did have to reduce his normal pace considerably to hang with us. After a bit, he decided to go ahead, find a place for us all to lunch together, and call us with the location. He didn’t make it past the first Jack in the Box. We picked him up there and continued on to the UCSB campus, which is actually in Goleta, where we found a fast Indian food place.

Since we had gone 12 miles on only a PB&J, and my body was still demanding to be fed from yesterday’s 75 mile trek, I was a bit light headed when we stopped and then proceeded to eat too much. But there was Boba tea! And rice pudding!

Nick left us after lunch.

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Bye, Nick!

He’s from London, and is very personable. He got to stay in the Pismo Beach campground we were turned away from because he arrived after dark and just set up his tent. He’s riding from Canada to Mexico raising money for cancer research. You can donate to his project at www.justgiving.com/pacific-highway, or follow him on Facebook. We like his photos! Also, San Diego friends, he would like to learn to surf.

We continued across Santa Barbara to Ed and Mary’s house. They are the parents of Sadie’s friend Al, who she knows from when she worked on Kwajelin Island. Ed has worked there in the past as well, and they have many friends in common. Mary was unfortunately in bed recovering from an illness, but Ed was a gracious and energetic host who gave us the run of the house. We spent some time talking about bike traveling when we first arrived. His son is gearing up for a trip, which he has been nervous about, but I think we made him feel better about it.

I found a yoga class to attend in the afternoon, and Ed offered to let me take the car, which was just the thing! I knew it was going to be a core focused class, but it was serious. I may not have made it if I’d biked there and back. After 75 miles yesterday, you know.

The class, with Ryan at Yasa Yoga, was really phenomenal! The workout was balanced and intense. We worked on some stabilizer muscles I didn’t know I had. I have some new moves to take back to Chicago. It’s easy to let your core go in long distance cycling. I tend to get a little more sway-backed than I already am. This put me back into alignment. Also, for such a kick-ass workout, Ryan was really careful to be non-judgemental, to offer many levels of modification, and to remind everyone that we are only practicing. In fact, he described practice as the balance between pursuing your goals and letting go, something I will be chewing on for a while. I love learning from new yoga teachers, and I wish I had more time to practice with Ryan!

The only problem with class that, even though at least two hours had gone by since I’d eaten that huge meal, I felt like I was going to throw up through most of the class. Good thing I’ve been practicing yogic breathing for a long time. Oh, and we did a small amount of quad and hamstring work, from which I had to refrain. My legs simply said no. Maybe another day.

Also, the studio was gorgeous. Airy, stucco, exposed beams, high, rounded ceilings. May have been an old Spanish-style church, actually. Am I advertising for them now? I really loved it! If you’re in Santa Barbara, you should go.

When we got back, Ed made us dinner! I am so grateful for people who take such good care of travelers like us. We also had a great conversation. One of Ed’s favorite topics, like mine, is, in short, how the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Let’s talk about specifics here, he said, so we listed a few. Nuclear proliferation, water, and the like. How he remains so positive, motivated and energetic in the face of this very pessimistic world view is a lesson to me. At the same time, I feel like I’ve been seeing hopeful signs lately, while he thinks most things are too little, too late.

We all agreed that we’re not perfect either. There are things we do, too, that we know we shouldn’t. (Like go to CVS by myself while on a bike trip. I came back with a bag full of obnoxiously unhealthy and over packaged snacks. They were on sale!) Then we happily ate frozen yogurt and drank tea for dessert. The end.

75 Miles. No Pastries.

By | June 21, 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Oceana to Refugio State Park
75 miles

We have left the gourmet, cozy part of the California coast and stayed last night in the economically depressed part, so there was no fancy bakery for breakfast.

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Our campground neighbors were both sad and creepy. Their daughter was staked out in the bathroom overseeing the charging of her cell phone, which meant she stared as me as I brushed my teeth and rinsed out my nose with my neti pot.

But we did have a pretty good burritos.

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Then we almost immediately took a bit of a shortcut that led us straight up a short but steep hill. We both walked it. I think it might have saved us three miles, though.

We did 25 miles before noon, but that was only a third of our planned day. This was the first day we carried extra water, and we needed it. It was sunny and somewhat warm, and we had the two biggest climbs of this section of the trip ahead of us. The first one, Harris Grade, was similar to climbs we’ve done so far. Maybe two miles, some parts steeper than others, but not too bad. It was a windy road with virtually no shoulder, but also almost no traffic. The downhill was terrific! I coasted for several miles.

Just before Harris Grade, Nick rode up– a cyclist that Sadie had met in Oregon, but hadn’t seen since! He was heading to Refugio State Park, like us, also on the recommendation of Carl. Though neither of us had seen Carl and Donna for a couple of days.

We also met a chatty rider named Bob, who was doing San Francisco to San Diego in seven days. Needless to say, he rode on ahead and out of sight soon after. Speaking of riding in a different way than us, I forgot to mention an 18-year old cyclist we met yesterday, who carried nothing on his bike but a walkie talkie. His dad was following him in a chase car, and he was going as fast as possible. He had hailed Sadie and I to see if we knew a faster way to LA. “Ladies! Ladies!” he yelled. We didn’t have any insight into LA, but since he already thought we were so old and matronly, I told him he looked like he needed more sunscreen.

Anyway, the second hill was a smaller grade, but over 12 miles. What made it worse was the bumpy road surface.

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I guess I should be happy it wasn’t loose gravel.

We were on Highway 1 with a lovely wide shoulder, but it was not smooth at all. When we stopped for a late lunch, I felt like I was still vibrating even when sitting still. A road surface like that can make downhills feel like uphills, which it did.

When we finally got to the top and started our descent, the road smoothed out a bit, and then became quite nice.

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This is exactly the spot where the heavens broke open and angels sang.

I was thankful for this, because we still had ten to fifteen miles left, and I didn’t feel like I could do it with the road working against me. Of course, I didn’t really have a choice either.

We stopped at the best rest area in the world, by which I mean it was there and gave us a good reason to rest. And we ate snacks. We have discovered the most delicious fruit snacks ever, a dried fruit bar. Though at this stop we ate real fruit. Then we rolled over much smaller hills, and finally saw the sign that our destination was only a mile away. Yay!!!

Our campsite is right on the ocean.

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We watched three dolphins play when we arrived. And the shower rooms are heated and Sadie cooked ramen noodles. I even did yoga.

A Wrench in the Machine

By | June 19, 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Cambria to Oceano
54.5 miles

We rode fast today! There wasn’t much climbing, and we had a helpful wind for much of the day. We took several long breaks, though, so it was a long day as usual.

We had a terrific breakfast at Linn’s in Cambria. Polenta cakes! They also have olallieberry tea, syrup, jam, cakes, and so on.

In another 10 miles or so, we tried to pass this bakery, but couldn’t.

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Strangely, though, we tried a sample of their famous cookies, and didn’t like them at all. Which was good, because they were obnoxiously expensive.

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I’m getting better at taking pictures while I’m riding. Here we are approaching Morro Rock in Morro Bay.

We stopped overlooking Morro Bay and ate lunch and made phone calls.

We had dinner in San Luis Obispo. At the Bliss Cafe, Sadie had to show them how to use their juicer. I got a haircut, Sadie got new cycling gloves, and we ran into Brandon again! He asked if we had called the hostel to find out where he was. He may not have been kidding. Then we still had 13 more miles to go to Pismo Beach State Park.

On the North Beach Campground’s website, it says they have hiker/biker sites, which you don’t need reservations for. And if eight cyclists show up, you just share the space. But apparently they do not have them anymore. And it took two crotchety campground hosts and two rangers, who I’m certain are very competent in their rangerly duties, but looked like bumbling cartoon characters trying to figure out the new reservation system, about an hour to determine the campground was full and we could not stay there. Even though we rode 50 miles, they sent us away!

That is the first time in all of my bike traveling that I have been turned away from a campground! I have been given space at places that only take RV’s, and then only if you’re over 55 years old! Because who turns away people that just rode their bikes from 50 miles away? Perhaps Sadie can describe this situation better. I’m too busy being flabbergasted.

So I think a big part of the problem is the privatization of the reservation system. No one on site has any power to make decisions about it. In fact, those on site barely can tell how it works or interpret the information it gives them. It’s a computer system that isn’t particularly well implemented in the first place, and certainly can’t deal with anything out of the ordinary happening.

I think everyone involved wanted to let us stay. The rangers even looked in a blank book and said maybe they could let us stay at the Brown’s site, which was like code for secret administrative reserve. But then neither of them knew which sites those were supposed to be at this campground. And this was a huge campground, with lots of extra space. But for some mentioned but not described reasons, they could only put us in a marked spot, rather than finding us a small bit of open space. Which campgrounds have done for me, on more than one occasion.

The upside of this story, is that after an hour of no one knowing what to do, they realized that the county campground less than a mile down the road would have space. And it was cheaper and had free showers. We got there and got set up just as it got dark.

Riding the Circuit

By | June 19, 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012
Plaskett Creek Campground to Cambria
39.8 miles

We had a quick first breakfast as we left our campsite, getting on the road at 8:58. That’s before 9:00! We stopped for second breakfast in Gorda, where you could pay over six dollars a gallon for gas. While we were eating, a couple from France touring on a tandem, half upright and half recumbent, pulled in. They had stayed at Big Sur the same night as us. Later, Donna and Carl, a couple on singles who had also stayed with us at Big Sur, showed up. It seems they are on about the same pace as us.

Donna and Carl are carrying the most amazing amount of stuff. They both have front and rear panniers, as well a lot of stuff strapped to their racks. I can’t even imagine what they’ve got in there, because I feel like we have a lot of stuff. Today it occurred to me, maybe they just aren’t as good at packing their bags densely.

After Gorda, we started climbing.

Once again, not too steep, but long. Then we coasted down about half the distance we climbed up, then started climbing again. There was so little traffic today, and what cars there were came in spurts from a one lane closure about 15 miles to the north. So much of the time it was just quiet. Foggy, cold and quiet. We could hear the water and sometimes the seals barking from the coast.

After another 10 miles or so, we stopped at Ragged Point and had coffee and pastries. We finally had a bit of sun. It didn’t seem like the fog cleared so much as we just got below it.

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See the fog still up there?

A man named Brandon asked us to help him make a small video, as he has been trying to convince his friends to ride the coast with him, and there we were, doing it. We smiled and said how much fun we were having. Sadie finally had cell service, so she left a message for the hostel in Cambria. We were counting on them having space, because there isn’t any nearby camping. Donna and Carl pulled in as we were getting ready to leave.

The next 15 miles flew by. We passed an elephant seal refuge.

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They seem to nap most of the time, but they can move really fast if they want to. It’s cool to watch. They fling sand everywhere.

We pulled over in San Simeon for lunch. There was a small deli, but it was closed, so we just sat at their tables. Another rider we hadn’t met yet arrived. He was traveling with a backpack on his back and a dry sack on his rack. He had done 137 miles yesterday and was aiming for 110 today. So what had taken us six days, he rode in one, minus a small bit. He started south of San Francisco, in Palo Alto. He flies out of San Diego on the 25th.

We left San Simeon before he did, but he passed us not long after. We won’t see him again.

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There he goes!

We also got passed by three men, two with bike trailers and one with no gear. Do they switch off? They didn’t slow down long enough to say where they were heading, but we saw them ahead of us again at our evening stop in Cambria. Perhaps we’ll get a chance to talk to them tomorrow.

Out on the road, Sadie got a callback from the hostel.

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When she explained that we were two women coming in by bicycle, the person on the phone said, “You’re the one I just took a video of!” Turns out, our new friend Brandon runs the hostel. When we arrived, I gave him our blog addresses, in case his friends still aren’t convinced.

As we rode into Cambria, Sadie spotted the French couple at the laundromat. Touring cyclists are pretty predictable. We did laundry there later ourselves. There seem to be more of us on the road than on other trips I’ve taken, but it’s still a pretty small world.

Breakfast in the Clouds

By | June 18, 2012

Sunday, June 17, 2012
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to Plaskett Creek Campground
34 miles

Uh, yeah. We realized pretty quickly that we were at the bottom of that hill on the elevation profile, not half way up it. We started climbing right out of the campground. It wasn’t the steepest, but we didn’t get a chance to warm up our legs at all. Then it would look like we’d reached the top, but we hadn’t. I stopped to rest for the third time. It really looked like the top, but I noticed the telephone lines continuing to go up to the right. I prepared myself for the worst, but put my arm warmers back on, just in case. It was getting foggier and chillier. I’d warm up quickly climbing, but get cold fast going down. We rode a few more feet and could see around the curve that the road turned downhill, and the uphill was a driveway! Hooray! We coasted downhill and found the restaurant we’d been looking for in, maybe, a quarter of a mile.

Nepenthe’s is supposed to have the best views around, except in the morning when it’s shrouded in fog.

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See the fog behind us?

I happily ate brioche French toast and sipped chai, feeling it was the least I could do after a three mile uphill climb.

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Today is the road I remember. In 1996 or 97, I dropped Nathan off at UNR and drove over the mountains and down the coast. It was the last hurrah of my little Bronco II. I remember the narrow, windy roads with the shoulders crumbling into the sea, and an endless stream of RVs. Gas prices, perhaps, are keeping the RVs at bay on this trip, but there are more today than yesterday. I found it surprising, by the way, that gas prices on the remote California coast are about the same as in Chicago. The drivers are also generally more aggressive today. I guess the kids are crabby and everyone is on their way home from their weekend trip. Also, it’s been foggy all day, so the views at the Vista Points are limited.

There are more pickups and SUV’s today, which I like to think is because we’ve crossed the ideological line that separates liberal Northern California from more conservative southern California. I’m already seeing fewer “Water is a precious resource” signs.

It’s also a Chicago day, wind wise. If you’re not familiar with the Windy City, that means the wind is coming from several directions at once. Mostly, it’s not a tailwind, but every once in a while I’ll get an extra push uphill while at the same time a polar breeze is blowing in my face.

Today and yesterday were both very hilly, but yesterday seemed more downhill than up, and today, vice versa. Some of the downhills today even had a slight uphill grade! It never really warmed up today, either, so there was a lot of temperature management.

Arm warmers down, arm warmers up. At one point, I tried one down and one up. Wind vest zipped, then unzipped, then zipped again. On and on and on. So it wasn’t as stellar as yesterday, but it certainly wasn’t bad. I still got to spend the whole day biking!

There were many stops to rest. Sadie found a great stretching rock at one.

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We had my new favorite biking sandwich at another: dry salami and laughing cow cheese. Mmmm, salt. And another time I stopped, frantically taking pictures of what might have been four or five rare California Condors. Though probably it was just a bunch of vultures.

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We rolled in to Plaskett Creek Campground around five o’clock. This is quite possibly the first campground I’ve been in where the hiker/biker sites are the very first thing you come to. So often they’re all the way to the back, or up an extra hill where you have to walk your bike up a sandy hill trail. These were in a wide, grassy meadow with an ocean view (you had to imagine it through the fog) out the front door. The grass was great for doing a bit of yoga when we arrived, especially for rolling.

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All of the campgrounds down the coast have been full of people tenting, which is rather refreshing. I have been in so many campgrounds on the bike where everyone else is in an RV, watching satellite TV. It makes it great to hear bunches of kids screaming as they jump around their tent. The family next to us appears to have eight kids running around their site. They even built their own swing to hang from a tree.

Sadie and I cooked mac and cheese on the camp stove, tossing in the left over salami, as well as a can of chicken. Protein style! I am still marveling how well the camp stove works when you turn it on correctly.

Then we were both in our tents to journal and fall asleep before dark. We don’t have much to do, because this is our second full day without internet or cell phone access. Also, we’re going to attempt an early (before 9:00!) start tomorrow. (The last two days we’ve left camp at 9:30.) We’ve got big climbs at the beginning and at the end of the day, and we want to do ten miles more than we have been doing lately. We’ve been keeping our mileage a little lower than we’d like because of the hilly terrain, but we need to step it up a bit to actually make it to San Diego in time. We do have a wedding to be at on the 30th. Of course, there’s always the train if we need it!

Sweet!

By | June 18, 2012

Saturday, June 16, 2012
Carmel to Big Sur
29 miles

The road out of Carmel went right past the Mission, so we stopped briefly to take pictures. People were gathering for a wedding there, so it wasn’t a very good time to tour it, anyway.

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What a sweet day of riding! We kept looking at the elevation profile nervously,

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and we probably have a big climb out of here first thing in the morning, but today was gorgeous. There were certainly hills, some of them long, but nothing really steep. The views were fabulous and the weather was spectacular. We had a bit of a tailwind. It was warm, but not too warm. We had a swooping two-mile descent. The roads were smooth and the shoulders, generous. Some areas didn’t have much shoulder, but the steady stream of convertibles and Priuses was generally polite if we took the lane.

We saw Porsches and Corvettes and a Lotus. Mustangs were the most common. Maybe that’s what you get when you rent a convertible? Of course there were motorcycles out in force. But we had the best convertibles, the kind where you don’t feel bad about eating eclairs when you get to the top of the hill, as Sadie pointed out.

Sadie, who started riding in Portland, turned over her 1000th mile right at the top of the biggest hill of the day! We stopped and snacked and took pictures, and several people parked at the overlook were amazed at how brave we were for riding all the way up there! I was only a tiny bit jealous of having an odometer work long enough to celebrate such landmarks.

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Looking ahead!

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Looking how far we’ve come!

We had a late lunch at the Big Sur River Inn, PB&J and Ginger Peach Smoothies. They have a terrific grassy area on the shores of the river, and some deck chairs in the river, where you can sit and soak your feet. Then, three miles later, we were at our campground at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

Our terrific campsite is surrounded by redwoods.

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We took a walk through the campground and by the river for nearly an hour,

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and when we got back, I did yoga for a bit. I had to convince myself, but I did my hollow body rocks and all, basically rolling in the dirt. It was fun, and then I had my shower after. You can get so much done when you get off the road by four o’clock!

The steepest hill today was coming back up a restaurant driveway to the road. We only stopped there to fill up our water bottles. It seemed like the sensible thing to do as we were expecting lots of tough climbing and the weather was warm.

I was expecting a grueling day, and it turned out to be one of my best riding days ever. What will tomorrow bring?

It’s Always Uphill in Carmel

By | June 16, 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012
Monterey to Carmel
12 miles

We decided to take today off ahead of the dramatic climbing we expect to encounter on the road to Big Sur. Some days off days mean no riding at all, but we did want to at least jump ahead to Carmel, on the other side of the Monterey Peninsula. The couple we met yesterday had assured us if we took the ocean route around the edge, it would be pretty flat, but longer, about eight miles. If we went up and over, it would be a bit more direct, but there would be a very steep section of hill, about a half mile, that they usually walked fully loaded bikes up. A flat cruise along the ocean seemed like a perfect way to spend a day off.

My notes app ate the part where I talked about spending the morning thrift store shopping. You probably didn’t want to hear about that, anyway. But I did get this awesome sweater. And I still need a haircut.

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With the day wearing on, we rolled down to the coast. Lover’s Point was at the end of our street, which has a great jumble of rocks to climb on.

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Or do yoga on.

Squirrels love it too, and they are very used to being fed by people. When we arrived, there was a family of visitors excitedly feeding a few of them. Then the family abruptly backed off as the squirrels got too aggressive and their small daughter became scared. I kept a close eye on our bikes as we climbed up to take photos on the rocks. I remain extra suspicious of squirrels after one of them chewed the zipper off my handlebar bag on my last trip. But we left the bikes in the grassy area, and that appeared to be the line which the squirrels do not cross.

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Here they are, plotting behind squirrel lines.

We stopped a little farther down the coast to take pictures of the waves crashing on the rocks. This really is a spectacular stretch of coastline on a generally beautiful coast.

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At some point, we looked at our map and decided to go straight rather than turning right. It looked like it would just cut off one chunk of being right on the water, but would be more direct. We have plans to be on the coast for most of the rest of the trip, so we figured we wouldn’t miss it. Of course that meant we started climbing. The hills weren’t huge, and they weren’t that horrible, but we ended up going both around and over the Monterey Peninsula. I should have known. Every time I try to avoid climbing or take some kind of shortcut, it doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s worse. This has something to do with desire always bringing suffering, I suppose.

So we’ve left the agricultural coast. Today we rode through miles of golf courses. Does that account for the fact that everything in Carmel is uphill? Or that people there are not helpful? Difficult to say, but today was the only day so far our standing around looking confused gambit did nothing.

One man asked us where we were going. I told him we were looking for someplace to eat lunch. He said, “No! Where are you going?” We explained, to San Diego, Sadie started in Portland and I joined her in the Bay Area, and he walked on. OK, he’s probably not from around here either. Carmel is mostly a tourist town, restaurants and art galleries, a fancy chocolate shop, apparently a fancy water shop, and a Mission.

Then a woman walked past, snidely asking, “Does the IPad know where you are?” Sorry, lady. Go back to LA. So we looked online ourselves and found a great French bakery and cafe.

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Voila! Dessert!

We found a hotel, since camping is not something one does in Carmel. We did laundry and bought provisions, as the Big Sur stretch is not as populated. We thought about walking down to the beach to do yoga, but then we would have had to walk way back uphill, so we just watched TV instead. It is our day off!

Before bed, I decided I had better change out my front tire, so I could stop carrying the new one around. It took me a fifth of the time it took to change the rear one! Woohoo! I feel like a super mechanic! Almost. I do have a small blister on my thumb now.

Thirty miles to Big Sur tomorrow, so I better get some sleep. Will the climbing be as gnarly as we think it will? Not sure. But we don’t have anything else to do tomorrow. Might as well bike.

Strawberry Fields Forever

By | June 14, 2012

Thursday, June 14, 2012
Sunset State Beach to Monterey
36 mile

As we broke camp this morning, we knew if we went back the way we came in to the campground, we would have to go up and down two or three hills. If we could leave from the south end of the park, it looked like down hill all the way. We stopped to look out over the beach, and wondered what would happen if we couldn’t get out of the south end. We tried to search online again, but had trouble getting reception.

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But google maps and our Adventure Cycling maps both showed a road leaving the south end. Unfortunately, I had already thrown out the park map we’d been given on the way in. Google map bike directions are generally quite accurate.

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There used to be at least a path here. There was still some pavement under all that growth somewhere. If we could get our fully loaded bikes around or over that gate. We turned around and went back uphill. We had left camp at 10:00, our earliest departure together yet! But we didn’t get on the road til nearly eleven.

Later, we got a chance to do a tiny bit of off roading anyway!

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We passed Alec, the lightly packed cyclist we had met yesterday, as he was leaving his guerilla campsite. He easily caught up with us, then stopped again to pick a few strawberries. He rode up with some for us as well. Yum! We rode through miles of strawberry fields. No wonder strawberries are so expensive. They’re grown on oceanfront property. Both Alec and Sadie commented on how intense the smell was. My sense of smell is terrible. I only caught a small whiff of them every once in a while.

My roommate Phil greatly amused our friend Charlie by saying that I have the olfactory senses of a fish. Really, I thought it was pretty funny, too. However, he’s since retracted, having realized that sharks are fish, and they have a great sense of smell.

Sadie mentioned we’d also passed a celery field, which she could tell by smell, so of course I missed it. We also saw artichokes as far as the eye could see. They don’t have a very strong smell, but they are awfully interesting looking!

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As we passed an artichoke field, Sadie was a ways ahead of me. I figured I could stop and take a few pictures, and I’d catch up with her later anyway. But then I looked up, and she had just stopped and was pulling out her camera. Earlier, the same thing happened. She was a bit ahead as we came upon this interesting place.

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Of course I wanted to stop and take pictures! Sadie’s such a great biking companion. We have a similar way of doing things.

We were on the same page stopping for lunch as well. We knew there was going to be at least one place to eat in Moss Landing, a very small town. We were both very hungry as we arrived at the first place we found there, and we were both happy to stop. Had we waited about three more minutes, we could have had a few more choices, it turned out. Oh, well.

We had seafood at Sea Harvest, calimari and clam chowder, and watched people kayak among the sea lions. There was a dock piled with barking sea lions, and every once in a while groups would jump off together and swim around in a pod.

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The riding was hard today, because the wind was not with us. It’s such slow going, but when you’re on a bike trip, you don’t have anything else to do. Sadly, that’s the kind of riding I’m most used to. But it also convinced us to stay at the hostel tonight instead of camping. Especially since we were kind of chilly all day long. Even when we were in the sun, the wind was cold comIng off the ocean.

We were on a really busy stretch of Highway one for a short while, but it had a nice wide shoulder. I’d forgotten how loud some vehicles can be. So many trucks and vans and buses wouldn’t be scary at all when they pass by, except for the noise they make. Loud motorcycle engines can be the worst.

We also road on farm roads for much of the day, which tend to be quiet and empty, but bumpier. We ended the day with several miles on a paved path. This one was nice and smooth, and not too crowded.

Once we arrived in Monterey, we stood around for a few minutes looking confused, and a lovely couple, cyclists, stopped and directed us to their favorite taqueria. They also gave us some information about Big Sur, where we’re headed in a few days. Apparently we have some fabulous chocolate cake to look forward to! I wouldn’t mind more tailwinds, too.

Welcome to Santa Cru-uz!

By | June 14, 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Ano Nuevo to Sunset State Beach
46 miles

Another slow start today, but less slow than the last two days! I had a hard time waking up because I didn’t sleep very well. At 3:15am, I had bolted awake, sure that a raccoon was skulking outside my tent, trying to figure out the best way to chew it’s way in and get my new loaf of bread. I banged my shoes against the side of the tent to scare it away, and shone my headlamp all around. Then I worried it would still chew its way in and bite me, so I was nervous and couldn’t sleep. I read on the Internet til I finally got tired again. Then I dreamed that eight rats and a small, very soft dog kept getting into my tent and I had to keep picking them up and tossing them outside. It was not a restful dream.

There was a misty rain when I finally awoke in the light, which didn’t make me want to be out of bed, either. So I ran to the comfort station and then went back to bed, curled up in my sleeping bag to stay warm. Sadie got up a little while later. We wanted to do laundry, since we were at a campground with facilities, but had to wait til the store opened at 10 to get detergent. Sadie went to wait in our living room, a foyer with comfy chairs in the lodgier part of the area. I went back to sleep.

Around 9:00, Sadie had met someone else who was waiting for the store to open to get detergent, and they found someone who was willing to open it early for them, which was cool, except it meant I had to get up. We put in the laundry, and I decided to cook the quinoa we didn’t eat last night for breakfast. Since I had decided to carry the camp stove with, I was determined to get some use out of it.

It’s been over a year since I attached this backpacking stove to the fuel bottle and turned it on, so I thought I should review the instructions, which are packed with it. The first step is to prime it by releasing a little fuel, closing the valve, burning it off, and then starting the burner. Hmmmm. I did not do this step on my last trip at all. No wonder it was always such a dangerous conflagration. This little contraption burned like a normal stove flame after it was primed, rather than flames continuing to lick over the top of the pot the whole time I was cooking. That’s good to know.

Figuring out the priming and just getting everything attached took nearly 45 minutes, because the clothes were ready to go in the dryer soon after the cooking actually started. After eating, we broke camp and packed up, then we ate PB&J’s for good measure. With all this, we still rode away just a bit after 11:00. Not bad, considering. We rode downhill back to the road, since campgrounds are nearly always at the top of an obnoxious hill, and I realized I’d left with two empty water bottles. It wasn’t that warm out, and I wasn’t going back up that hill, so we continued on.

After a little while we found a fruit stand and bought some delicious apricots. Yesterday, we passed the first fruit stand we saw, thinking we’d stop at the next one, which of course never came. So today we weren’t taking any chances.

A bit after that, we stopped on Davenport so I could get some water. There were a few businesses, but we chose the bakery. We ate muffins at a sunny table outside. I might regret later that I passed up the chance to try olallieberry and honey ice cream, but it just isn’t that warm here. A woman asked us where we were going, and told us we should stick to the coast in Santa Cruz. She also recommended a vegetarian restaurant.

As we entered the Santa Cruz city limits, the bike route signs pointed one way, but the directions we’d been given pointed another way. We stopped to look at the map, both paper and online. Within a minute, a cyclist pulled over and directed us to the costal route, which he highly recommended. Standing on the corner looking confused is becoming a really effective strategy for us to get information. This same plan worked really well for me in China, but I hadn’t used it to much avail in the states til now.

The Santa Cruz ocean front was beautiful, though the windy, cliff top bike path was neither the quickest nor shortest route through town.

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After the amusement park boardwalk,

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we ditched the coast and beelined for Dharma’s restaurant. It was fabulous! And very hippie Santa Cruz.

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And it made me wonder, why don’t I eat tahini and Bragg’s on everything? And why don’t I drink beet carrot lime ginger juice more often? Yum!

We’re eating our way down the coast, and it’s so good! Not like in the South, where everything is fried. The grocery stores we’ve been to don’t have not organic food in them. We haven’t stopped at a convenient store yet. Sadie says there’s time for that later, when there isn’t anything else. I don’t need to start eating Cheetos and Snickers until I have to. And why would I, when there is so much local deliciousness? And also, it’s not that hot, so I’m not craving salt.

We met a few touring cyclists today, briefly. Two men on a tandem passed us, going uphill, of course. They didn’t pause to chat, but they nearly fell over when they passed me, so I surmised they haven’t been riding together long. Only the captain was climbing out of the saddle, as well. From experience, I know it can take a while to get coordinated enough to have both riders standing at the same time.

Another rider, carrying barely any gear, slowed down to talk long enough to tell how he had ridden from Maryland to Seattle, the down the coast. I don’t know how people travel with so little! All of his gear would probably not fill one of my panniers. I was pleased when he mentioned that Sadie and I were not carrying nearly as much stuff as most of the tourers he’d seen. But he said he’d met one man who was riding north from San Francisco to Seattle, which is basically right into the wind, to ride the Cascades. This cyclist had less stuff than him, and was riding a fixed gear! Whoa.

On this trip, people tend to ask, “Where are you going?” or “Where did you come from?” They are curious, but they are often cyclists, and they get what we’re up to. On the way into town,one rider yelled, “Welcome to Santa Cruz!” as he passed by. True, there really is only one way to get down the coast. But still, it is so different from my previous trips, where most people looked, wide-eyed, and asked, “What are you doing?”

So what has the riding been like today? Rolling hills, mostly, the kind you can get most of the way up in the big chain ring, and even further if you stand up for a bit, if you’re lucky. Of course, our campground was up not one, but two, steep hills.

Here’s Sadie coming up another hill. Flat Chicago, I miss you!

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