From the armpit of California to the coast

August 19, 2019

Jeff, Sharon, and I showed up for the motel breakfast with a big appetite. I ate six pancakes and an assortment of other breakfast foods. A quick grocery stop in the morning and we were out on the road again.

We cycled past a lot of small homes, orchards, and farms. I stuck with Sharon and Jeff for the most part, and we were making animal sounds at the passing ranch creatures and each other. And maybe there were some fart jokes in there too. We couldn’t stop laughing! I got chased by a fat bulldog and had to pedal fast to get away. Later on, two chihuahuas, half the size of a house cat, came after me and I laughed at how seriously they took themselves. One more chihuahua half heartedly came after Sharon. My knees were inflamed and I swallowed ibuprofen, hoping they would hold up until Mexico.

We stopped in Gustine for lunch, and I had the pleasure of introducing Mexican food to Sharon and Jeff. Bellies full of tasty food, we took a turn south on to the 33. That’s when the bullshit started. The shoulder thinned into nothing and semis kept coming. Most of them gave us room, but then incoming traffic became heavy and we stopped getting room. I was getting shoved into the gravel on the side of the road. It was deep and soft, and my tires were hopeless. I came pretty close to falling off the bike many times. One semi was exceptionally rude and I lost my temper. Some yelling at traffic and middle fingers followed. We turned west on the 152 and a strong headwind smacked us. There was a bit of a shoulder, but it was full of trash, and the semis were throwing side winds at us. We were all unhappy with the situation and pulled over at San Luis State Park for a food break and a nap. We looked up the wind report and it looked like it was only going to be worse. No one was excited, but we decided we needed to suck it up and keep moving. We turned back on the 152 the the shoulder turned into 0 to 5 inches of rideable surface with either a guardrail, a curb, or a deep ravine to the right. We were riding uphill very slowly, rough headwinds slowing our progress. Trash, Roma tomatoes, and garlic littered the road. Headwinds and crosswinds caught us at different times and I came close to eating it a few times. A crosswind caught Jeff and knocked him to the ground. We had to walk the bikes for a bit because we were in danger of unexpectedly getting blown off by strong gusts while still clipped into our pedals. Finally, we reached the top of the pass and found a place to pitch a tent for the night.

Off the road, we were able to enjoy the golden foothills and wildflowers around us. Jeff gave us high fives and we were all happy to be done for the day.

August 20, 2019

The shoulder was a bit better this morning and the riding seemed less intimidating. Even so, traffic was still moving fast and I had to stay on my guard for crosswinds. We had done all the climbing yesterday, so today was mostly downhill on the 152.

Jeff, Sharon and I stopped at Casa de Frutas and snacked on pastries, coffee, and local fruit. We were trying to figure out mileage and camping plans for tonight and having trouble. I texted a few Warmshowers folk and had no luck. A host, Robert, ended up asking about our route and offered to pick us up from Hollister to Monterey to skip some bad riding. Jeff and Sharon were on board with the idea, so we biked into Hollister. I got a flat on my front tire as we were turning into our meeting spot.

Robert pulled up and we managed to fit three bikes and four humans into his Subaru. We dropped off the tire at a bike shop, I was happy to get it fixed up for good. One more stop at Trader Joe’s and I cooked the four of us a late lunch at Robert’s house. He had another cyclist that was going to stay the night already, a guy named Karl, but was willing to hang out with us anyway. Rob and I walked over to the cyclery to pick up my tire, passing through the farmers market on the way. We nibbled on local raspberries.

Robert, Sharon, Jeff, and me

We cycled up to Veteran’s Park, our campground for the night, with Karl. Rob joined shortly after. We drank wine and Rob played us songs on his guitar. It was lovely having a little group of friends to spend the evening with! Sharon and Jeff turned in for the night, and two drunk women rolled into camp. They were hilariously bickering and it was entertaining listening to their conversation. Robert egged then on and I had to kick him under the table a few times. Karl and Rob cycled back home and the loud women went to bed.

August 21, 2019

Late start today. All the bike tourists cooked breakfast together and we were talking gear for a while. I started biking up some steep hills and had to walk the bike for a bit because my knees were hurting. I navigated to the 1, and left the city behind. The rugged coast to my right made me laugh out loud. I was so happy to be out of the California valley! The water was beautiful, even though the shoulder wasn’t great.

Road construction halted traffic to a stop and I wove through stopped cars. A man yelled at me to be careful. I rolled my eyes at the silly comment, thinking back to the awful Roma tomato splattered riding the day before on the 152. This was totally tame. Once traffic started moving, a guy in a convertible cut me off and I caught up to him on a downhill and told him off (while moving). California drivers make me sassy.

I battled lots of small hills, knees aching. Then there was one really big hill that threw me into the pain cave. I made it up, very slowly, and stopped at Big Sur Bakery for a big burger and coffee. Jeff and Sharon showed up right as I was licking my fingers clean, then Robert pulled up on his motorcycle. We ate ice cream sandwiches together. Robert took off and told us he was leaving a special surprise at camp.

I cycled on and he caught up for one last goodbye hug on the way home. The hills kept rolling, the drivers kept being impatient, and my knees kept hurting. My body felt like it was falling apart. Regardless, the scenery was amazing and I was having fun. Jeff and Sharon caught up, and we stopped at a general store in Lucia for food. I bonked hard and laid on the ground for a few minutes.

Camp was still a handful of miles away, so I gathered together whatever motivation I could and attempted to cycle. I got a flat mid way through and then a fat bee stung me. At this point I wasn’t upset at all because I didn’t have the energy to really care. We arrived at camp, and I found the surprise: three beers and a love letter to me from Rob. I was delighted at the trail magic.

August 22, 2019

Sharon had a raccoon incident last night. Apparently, a coon grabbed her empty food duffel from the tent vestibule in the night and they had a wrestling match. Sharon won and fell asleep. The coon friend came back and snatched the bag, only to find out it was empty, and ditched it by my tent. We found dirty raccoon paw prints all over our bikes as well, and the little guys unzipped my handlebar bag and threw all my stuff into the bushes. We were a bit disgusted by the thoughts of dirty coons on our handlebars and water bottles. We sanitized what we could and called it good.

After the raccoon disaster cleanup, we hiked down to the ocean to look at a sea arch. The rocks were beautiful! Back at the campground, we found a nest of baby birds and watched momma swoop in to feed them.

I rode with Sharon and Jeff to a cafe thirteen miles out, and we ate a slice of pie. From there, I took off and didn’t see them for a while until the seal beach. I had a great time looking at the flabby animals wiggling around on the beach and spraying sand at each other. An RV couple from last night’s camp ended up also being there and invited us in for tea. I ate a bowl of kit kats with my tea while we chatted.

I looked at the time and it was getting late. I struggled out the last thirty miles and got a flat before Morro Bay. I forced food into my face to push back the incoming bonk. The 1 turned into a freeway for several miles and I wasn’t happy with the fast traffic. I missed the comparative solitude of the Sierra cascades route in that moment. In Morro Bay, I found a pizza joint and ate a whole calzone. I rolled into Morro Bay campground right at dark, and Sharon and Jeff rolled in a few minutes after me.

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