San Francisco to Monterey
What can only be described as a victory lap, or a home run sums up this segment for me. I've spent the better part of seven years in and around Santa Cruz, and the whole time I've been riding and exploring every mile of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Before I get to ahead of myself, San Francisco. The hustle and bustle, and Sierra like elevation change in this small 49 square mile city packs in a lot in a small space. I always give myself a couple hours to ride out of the city, rather that is just how long it takes to really get out. The non-unsubstantial climbs out of the city yield two summit vistas to look back and take in the cityscape as you ride south and zoom out of the bay. The signs are subtle, but safe passage is provided for the observant, map savvy cyclist as you parallel Highway 1 south to Pacifica. Arguably the single most harrowing part of this stretch comes as you ascend out of Pacifica up the fabled "Devil's Slide" where a spacious six inch bike lane keeps you narrowly between side view mirrors and eucalyptus leaves. However, before I get carried away on the rag of this part--a much appreciated and spectacular pedestrian project was completed last year. Now you only have to brave half a mile of sketchy road before you turn off on smooth tarmac, with a big yellow gate blocking the rest of the world. Now cyclists can fully enjoy the 9% grade descent on wide car-free pavement with only big cliffs and the Pacific to create the backdrop.
Past Devils Slide, I descended into Moss Beach and into Half Moon Bay. Most days you can put up your sails and big ring (used colloquially here since I only have one chainring) through this whole section. Of course the wind took a turn for the worse and tried, fairly convincingly, to make me pedal north again. I pushed south, knowing what to look forward to and got into my super aero touring tuck, transforming me from a mainsail to a jib. The bustle starts to drift into the background, and the landscape transitions into agricultural fields and open space. The metallic song of Blackbirds replace car horns, and the Red-tailed Hawks soaring the skies replace the feral pigeons of the city. Welcome to the slow coast. U-pick berries, farm stands, and elephant seals dot your route now. The rural undeveloped coast morphed slightly as the fogged in surf town of Santa Cruz crawled out of the mist. Good to be home. It's a strange feeling to pass through home during a trip. If anything it feels like pressing refresh, and letting everything load and render for the rest of the trip.
Kate and I rejoined in Santa Cruz for the first time since the Oregon border, and any qualms or discomforts I had been carrying with me melted away. From here we had a little over a week to finish, all of the sudden the border of Mexico didn't seem so far away. The feeling was aided by a sense of knowing what lie ahead, this section of coast is very familiar to me.
South of Santa Cruz, the route takes you through sleepy beach communities and through the expansive strawberry fields that I can only assume inspired the Beatles. The berry basket of the U.S. leaves the sweet scent of berries in your nostrils for miles along this stretch, that is of course until you make it a little further south to where the artichoke and brussel sprouts grow. Hopefully you can imagine what that might have smelled like, if not, you're probably better off. A brief stop at the Deep Fried Artichoke and Taco Truck fueled my tank to get around the bend of the bay and into the second section of coastal sand dunes on the Pacific Coast Route. The much awaited bike path that stretches some 20 miles, provided a scenic ribbon to pedal on as I approached "the poem, the stink, the dream" of what Steinbeck described Cannery Row. Now it sits like a museum, filled with tourists and memorial paintings lining the bike path.
Onward...to the wild and scenic coast of Big Sur!
- Pacific Coast Milestones -
- FROM: Bonny Doon, CA
- DOB: 1999-11-30
- OCCUPATION: Adventurers
Genesis Moment and Inspiration for your Trip?
We have biked the entire Pacific Coast already, and it may seem odd that we are doing it again. Along the last journey we met a screen printer and fellow bike tourist named Justin who had ridden the Pacific Coast route over five times. When we first heard this we thought he was crazy – there is so much out there to explore! But he went on to explain, and ultimately convince us – that not only is the ride experience different every time due to weather, new companions, older selves, etc; but traveling known roads you can come back to the places that really impacted you, and try the alternate routes you had to pass over last time. The ride just gets better and better because your relationship to the trail is what frees you to explore more deeply. When you know that there is a taqueria and clean water only ten miles away you are more likely to actually stop and jump in the roadside lake that otherwise remains unexplored….
Have you Traveled by bike in the past?
Matt and I live in a Tiny Home deep in the mountains above the town where we work and our daily commute requires a year round touring set up. At every moment we have to have everything we need for the day – heavy bags full of produce, a down jacket, bike shoes and sandals, water for the day and a lunch, the list goes on. We have a daily relationship with loaded bike travel!
Matt has been bike touring since he was 17, and set off on a very aggressive pedal across the country on ACA’s Sierra Cascade Route and Northern Tier Route attempting 5,000 miles in two months. After making it all the way to the ACA headquarters in Missoula, Montana and earning his ice cream he was hit by an SUV just east of Missoula and heli-evacuated to the nearest hospital. That accident, which snapped his leg in half and exploded his bicycle is what “saved his life,” as he says. Through the long recovery process he learned to slow down and his relationship to bicycle touring, which had formerly been focused on mileage and destination, is now more focused on the slow and simple pleasures of the road.
Kate has been biking to different ice cream parlors all over California her whole life but didn’t start her first multi-day bike travel until she met Matt. They have been on two bike tours together, one big, one small. On the first one, she had a small heart failure in the mountains of Big Sur and had to bike eight miles of steep uphill to get to cell service. She learned that she has a mild heart condition, and biking is good for it. That “adventure” has been a similar inspiration in her relationship to biking and using her body as a means of excursion – a long journey in patience and thankfulness for the incredible feats that a body can perform!
What is your goal for the route?
Sunshine, lakes, ice cream, back country, rain forest, hot springs, tacos, aged cheeses, and so much laughter.
What do you hope to get out of this journey?
A more intimate understanding of and connection to the Pacific Coast. An opportunity to reconnect to the folks we have met along the way – a real rarity of this type of travel! A relationship to the brands that we use and care about – knowing the people who are making what we are using. We want to live each day 100% fully.
What’s in my bag? List four things that you could not live without (take a photo of each on a neutral background)
Little journals Kate made, Book of poems by Mary Oliver,Our friend’s homemade Organic sunscreen, Rechargeable boom box for pumping James Brown on the climbs
- Pacific Coast Milestones -