Coastal Trip Day 3: Seaside to Big Sur

In Seaside we got a special treat! My sister Lori had gotten us all little gifts, which she had given to Sue to deliver to Cortney and me. So we had some new things to try out: fun cycling socks and chamois cream.

Our fancy new socks!

Our fancy new socks!

I was very excited about the socks, a little dubious about the chamois cream. But it’s called DZ Nuts, and we had lots of fun asking each other if we’d tried any of deez nuts, so that by itself was a fantastic gift.

We took a look at the route recommended by the Adventure Cycling Association (we never got good at looking at the map very far in advance) and realized that we would have to make some modifications.

Well energized for Day 3! Let's go exploring!

Well energized for Day 3! Let’s go exploring!

The recommended route was the quick way, heading directly south. But we wanted to play in Monterey! We’d come all this way and we wanted to enjoy ourselves. So we decided to follow the coastline for a while, which would send us on a detour west, but would be well worth it.

The quick route would be to stay on Hwy 1 from Seaside, but it's much more fun to loop around into Montery and follow 17 Mile Drive.

The quick route would be to stay on Hwy 1 from Seaside, but it’s much more fun to loop around into Montery and follow 17 Mile Drive.

The ride into downtown Monterey was incredibly enjoyable. Cruising along the bike route, I got to enjoy a trip down memory lane. I used to come down here all the time to kayak these waters. I would waddle across this bike route with my kayak in a mad scurry to get the boat safely from the parking lot to the beach without any collisions with cyclists. Now I was the cyclist, looking out for encumbered kayakers doing the kayak shuffle. Kayaks may be graceful in the water, but on land there’s just no real dignified way to get them from point A to point B.

We stopped to enjoy the views of boats and harbor seals and even a couple sea otters. When I’m in a kayak, I refer to harbor seals as speed bumps. They’re hard to see as they float on the water and snooze! I never actually hit one, but there were a couple close calls. We had so much fun traveling along the coastline and admiring Santa Cruz across the bay, congratulating ourselves on cycling all that way, that we decided to continue our detour on 17 Mile Drive.

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Unfortunately, this was about the time when I realized that my efforts to remain hydrated were a little overzealous. 17 Mile Drive, I suspect, was not designed with the cyclist in mind. I asked a lady who looked filled with information in a very informative-looking office if there was a bathroom nearby, hoping that she would point out the one that clearly must be in existence nearby since this was an office building filled with office people, but she instead told me to carry on to Stop Ten. “It’s not far!” she cheerfully told me. I believed her for a while, until we had been biking for a half hour and were still only at Stop Four. I suspect she mostly drives 17 Mile Drive.

To make matters worse, perhaps because I was feeling a little desperate, perhaps because I’m just lousy at directions in general, I somehow led us off of 17 Mile Drive, and up we went into the hills and residential areas. Which was just lovely and a fine detour, and normally I would say that’s what traveling by bicycle is all about. But I wanted a bathroom. We managed to find our way back to 17 Mile Drive fairly quickly, but when we did, we were at Stop Eleven. We could either backtrack to Stop Ten or keep going forward and trust that something would come up. At this point I decided that I didn’t have to go anymore, so we proceeded onward. Of course I still had to go.

My bike rests along 17 Mile Drive, many many miles after being informed that a bathroom was

My bike rests along 17 Mile Drive, many many miles after being informed that a bathroom was “not far.”

I often tell people that I loved every second of our entire coastal trip. And it’s true, I did. I loved riding my bicycle on 17 Mile Drive. But if there’s one part that I could do without, it was the part when I really needed a bathroom and there just wasn’t one. The worst was when we came upon a motel and I thought for sure I could find some hospitality there, but when I tried to open the door, everything was shut tight. Now, I’ve done my share of traveling. I know how to cope without toilets and running water, but I’ve never done so in such a fancy neighborhood as where we were now. I feared being kicked out of Monterey and forbidden to ever return. And so we kept cycling and kept looking. I’m not going to continue this part of the story, for obvious reasons. The point was just to state that 17 Mile Drive needs more bathroom stops.

Anyway, as most people know, 17 Mile Drive is amazingly gorgeous. You get to see ridiculously beautiful things like striking rocky coastlines and tide pools and kelp forests and also ridiculously strange things like enormous golf courses. You may have heard of one, I think it’s kind of famous, called Pebble Beach Golf Links. People pay like $500 to play a round of golf there. On this particular day there were also lots of people driving their itty bitty convertibles around in large caravans. Fun comes in different forms to different people, I guess.

We stopped for snacks at the Lone Cypress and helped it maintain its status as one of the most photographed trees in North America. I wonder what the others are. And what about the rest of the world? How does it compare to trees in South America or in Africa? And why is it called the Lone Cypress when there are so many friends nearby? What is the minimum radius of tree-free space required in order to be considered a lone tree? Do you think park rangers have to remove any cypress tree saplings that take root too nearby the Lone Cypress in order to keep up their tourist attraction? I have many questions. We sat there for a while pondering these mysteries, I successfully broke my first apple in half using only my hands (a huge accomplishment), we watched a few busloads of tourists come and go, and then it was time to make some serious progress south.

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We rode over to Highway 1 and got going on the real meat of this trip. Every time someone asked me how we were getting down to Santa Barbara, I would tell them by going south. If they wanted me to get more specific, I would tell them by going south on Highway 1. So until now I felt kind of like a fraud. Now I was actually fulfilling what I said I would do. The trip to Santa Barbara had officially begun!

Oh, that’s right, the trip to Carpinteria. We’re not stopping til we hit Carpinteria.

Cycling on Highway 1 was better than I imagined. I thought it would be kind of scary, but it wasn’t! We felt very relaxed the whole time and enjoyed the views.

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We also made a new friend on Highway 1! Ben, 67 years old, was resting in a little turnout beside what appeared to be a bike trailer. I decided to say hello and wondered where his bike was. Turns out, he’s walking his way across the US, pushing his stuff in this little trailer. He started off by walking across the Golden Gate Bridge. He was now on his way to San Diego, and from there he will point east and make his way back home to Georgia. We got to talking and he told me that he had hiked the Appalachian Trail in order to lose weight. He used to be very overweight, and he still has a bit more to go. Why stop walking? Now he’s walking across the country to raise awareness for kids with cancer. You can follow him along at his own blog! Last I saw he wasn’t updating very regularly, but he uses Spot, so at least you can see where he is on the map.

day 3 ben

I hope I’m still up for walks across the country when I’m 67, like Ben here!

One thing we learned about Cortney is that she really does not like the last couple miles of a ride. When she knows the ride is coming to the end, she has a hard time mustering up the drive to keep going. She asked to not be told when we were getting close to our stop for the night. The landscape changed from hills and cliffs to deep woods, so we knew that we were getting close to our campsite in Los Padres National Forest. Sue and I sneaked a look at our phones and figured we were about a mile or two away, but we had to keep that a secret from Cortney. We told her we still had ten miles to go. I don’t think she believed us, but she played along. We were low on water, and of course at this point we really didn’t need any. In order to keep up the facade, though, we had to act as though we were still ten miles out. We came upon a little store, and Erik joined us as we sat outside and enjoyed some iced tea and juice and refilled our bottles. “Ten more miles!” we cheered, promised Erik we would see him in the not too distant future, and got back on the bikes. About five minutes later I looked over to see Cortney spot the sign for the Fernwood Resort where we were staying. She looked so confused, Sue and I couldn’t help but laugh. I’m not sure if Cortney wanted to thank us or hit us.

Nevertheless, we were at our campsite now, where we were staying in a tent cabin. We went down a very steep hill and found our tent cabin right next to a stream. Depending on how you feel about such things, you’d describe it as either the most basic cabin ever or the most luxurious tent ever. I go with luxurious tent. We chatted with our new neighbors, who were very sweet and offered to be our hosts in the future when we would pass through their hometown in a couple days. Another great thing about traveling by bicycle: people are curious about you and want to be your friends! It’s refreshing. We also got to hang out by an albino redwood, which confused us – how could a tree without chlorophyll survive? Turns out it’s a parasite, collecting nutrients through its roots from the roots of a normal redwood. That’s right, we’re getting a workout for both body and brain.

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That night we had about the biggest dinner we could manage. Our bodies demanded a feast of carbohydrates. We had a basket of tots, a pizza, and pasta. Erik, being the driver, was the only one allowed a couple margaritas. We were soon ready to get back in bed and started debating at what time we should wake up. Dreaded Day 4 was coming up, which we had labeled, based on distance and climbing, as our most difficult day. It started with a monster climb, which was then followed by another monster climb. Then there were several more climbs, all monsterish, for about 60 miles. I wanted to set the alarm for 6 am, but Cortney and Sue thought that sounded too early. Erik pointed out that 6 am was eleven hours away.

We agreed that we could manage a 6am wake up time.

TL;DR version: We’re heading south on Highway 1 and remain in one piece.


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