Distance- 104km

Big Sur to San Simeon (new town not old).


Beautiful scenery, hilly, very tired, can't keep my eyes open...


Going to sleep. Hope you like the photos.


I wonder if the English couple made it...

Big Sur

10/29/2010

1 Comment

 

Distance- 61km


Today we had a tough morning.


Everything started well, we left Monterey and managed to find our way back onto the One, the coast highway that has been a freeway for the last 100kms (making it a bit of an extra challenge to find the right roads and make the right turns). 


Despite this challenge, thanks to some great navigating from Shanna we had found our way back onto the highway when it had turned back into the cycle route, somewhere in-between Monterey and Carmel. Patting ourselves on the back we rode into Carmel to look for a gas canister for our stove. 


After riding around the entire town, checking seven different shops and having no luck, and in the process being told to f-off by a few tough guys driving massive 'cool' trucks we decided to cut our losses and get back on the road to Big Sur. After buying some supplies (apparently there isn't another super-market for 100 miles), we got back onto Highway One.


And then bang. The wind hit us like a sledge hammer. It became so strong that at times it was a struggle to stay on the road, which was I found pretty scary when there was a sheer cliff down to the ocean and no barrier to stop you from falling down there. Luckily though the sun was still out, so at least we weren't being rained on at the same time.


A couple of minutes of forcing our way through the wind and Shanna got another flat tire. By now we were wondering if we'd walked under a ladder or something. 


Over the next four hours we pushed at the pedals as hard as we could and managed to cover another 40km. It was tough going, but whilst we were going slow we somehow managed to pass a few other friendly cycle tourists who seemed to be having as much trouble in the wind as us.


When we arrived at Big Sur we bought delicious (but expensive) burritos and sat by the river and ate them. An hour later, after meeting a massive team of road cyclists riding from San Fran to LA, and some other friendly people we rode off into the Big Sur woods where we found a fantastic camp site right by a river.


After a tough day, in more ways than one, we took off our shoes and crossed the river (I managed to drop/throw one of mine in). We laid awake in our tent that we'd set up right next to two huge Red-wood trees, listening to the soothing sounds of water rushing over rock.


 
Distance- 68km


On our way out of Santa Cruz we stopped and bought some food. Sitting outside the store a man started talking to us. He asked us if we were from Lithuania, when we replied that we were from Australia he laughed and started telling us that he was from there (Lithuania), and anyway, we looked Lithuanian.


'I didn't realise that' laughed Shanna.


After a few minutes listening to him talk he began complaining about the Po'lice. Apparently they had hassled him that morning at McDonalds because he'd been complaining about the 'Illegal aliens' that had taken his job.


'Illegal aliens?'


'Hell yeah, fifteen million illegal aliens in this damn state.'
'Taken everyone's job's, taken my job, putting this country in recession, taken away all my jobs, killing the economy, illegal aliens I tell ya, illegal, everyone last one of em Mexicans in this country, illegal yah hear me, ILLEGAL,' he screamed, 'ILLEGAL!!!!!!' 


We started walking away. 


'Didn't he say he was from Lithuania?' I asked Shanna.
 
Distance- 86km


The weather was awesome today. 


We said our good-byes to Mary Lou and left 'the Toaster' just after lunch.


The wind was strong but it was mostly a cross or tail wind, and sometimes we'd go round a bend in the road and suddenly it would feel like we were flying. 


Aside from a couple of problems with my rear derailleur, that I think now I have finally fixed, the ride from Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz went like a dream. The road followed the beautiful coastline all the way down, and with a large shoulder there was plenty of room to ride on the road.


It only took us about three hours of riding, and in the afternoon we rolled into Santa Cruz, a really cool looking beach town.

 
During the early hours of the morning the storm finally broke, and when we emerged from 'The Toaster' we found blue skies and a chilly wind that was slowly being warmed by the suns morning rays.


We were both cheery and in high spirits, laughing and joking about everything, it was as though with the breaking of the storm we had felt a huge relief. Somehow I just knew that today was going to be a good day. 


But before we could go out exploring (in the car that Mary Lou, our amazing host had lent us), we had to try and resolve our current money problems. Despite it being almost brand new, our credit/debit card had recently given up the ghost on us, so we'd been left unable to withdraw money (it still works if you enter the numbers manually- we've tried every imaginable trick, even those not from the book!). So we headed off towards San Francisco after Shanna had spent about an hour on the phone with Mastercard International.


On the way there we decided to make a detour and see what Mavericks was doing. If you haven't heard of Mavericks before then, well lets just say that you should have heard of this place. There are only two premier big wave spots in the world, and this is one of them. Not only that, but Mavericks is the only place in the world where waves, rideable waves over 100 foot in height have been seen, making it the most likely place that the 100 feet barrier will finally be broken, and the $500,000 Billabong sponsored award claimed. 


Anyway, waves don't normally break very big, or at all, there this time of year, so I had no expectations when I climbed the cliff and the barbed wire fence at the top, disappearing from Shanna's view before scaling the ridge through the scrub for a few hundred meters just to catch a glimpse of the spot.


On my way down there, just before I was about to stand in the mother of all prickly bushes and bust open my toe, I looked up to see a giant wave screaming across the coast and, to my amazement I could just make out a tiny figure flying across it. 


Even though I wasn't even paddling into the water myself my heart started beating a lot faster, and when I saw another huge wave come roaring through the lineup, boards flying through the air and tiny ant men desperately scratching at the water, I couldn't believe my luck!


Still can't actually. 


More than an hour later I pulled myself back from the spectacular show and began walking back along the cliffs. I scrambled and slid back down the steep escarpment, much to the amusement (cheers and laughter) of a small crowd that had gathered down below (and the dismay of Shanna). 


'Where on earth have you been Samuel! I thought you'd fallen off the cliff!'


Keep in mind when you check out the photos that all of the surfers are paddling into the waves (they're not using jet-skis!). Also, the photos themselves were all taken from the top of a 150 foot cliff, so the perspective when you are level with the waves (or in the water) is completely different, or in other words, it's a hell of a lot bigger than it looks.


 
 
Distance: 34km

Our ATM card still wouldn't work, the Bank of America wouldn't give me cash over the counter, and GE Money in Australia hung up on me five times... I don't care if it's 2am in Melbourne, I want to speak to someone!

I was in a foul mood.

I had enjoyed the comforts of the motel and didn't want to leave. We were close to San Francisco international airport... maybe we could just ride there?

We had to use our NAB credit card to withdraw some money, which we hate doing because it costs us a fortune in fees. But at least we could buy some lunch.

The friendly man running the motel told us the scattered showers would clear by midday. We didn't worry about checking the forecast ourselves. If we had, we probably would have stayed put!

It was uphill to get out of Daly City... Despite following all the clearly marked 'Bike Route' signs we had cars yelling at us to get off the road. The headwind gradually built up and I thought I felt some drops of rain.

But back on the coast we couldn't help smiling to each other as we watched groups of surfers, walkers and cyclists enjoying the beautiful coastline. We lingered perhaps a little too long, because as we left the town of Pacifica and climbed a steep, narrow hill, the rain felt a bit heavier.

We'd ridden steep, narrow sections of highway 1 before, but this time the shoulder was virtually non-existent, and there were LOTS more cars. And the cars didn't like us slowing them even for a few seconds. 

We've never been beeped and yelled at so many times. And we hadn't felt so much at risk since the roads of Indonesia.

Through all this, the rain fell harder.

At the top of the hill we debated turning around and finding the first train/bus/plane out of this place. But, being tough, (or trying to be!) we kept going.

Bad move.

We turned a bend and started down the mountain - down the side along the water. Gusts of wind immediately hit us and we struggled to keep on road. The barrier protecting us from the cliffs was low, and the gale felt awfully close to carrying us over the edge. Plus the pouring rain felt like small daggers, slicing our faces, and the grit flying off our tyres was blinding.

We stopped every time there was space to do so. We leant our bikes against the low barriers and huddled between them, trying to protect ourselves from the rain. 

It was hard to get going again in the wind. We've ridden in the wind innumerable times, but this time it was impossible. We were stuck on a narrow road shoulder on one of the steepest, busiest roads we've ridden.

The wind dropped for a few moments and we were off again. Being blinded by the grit and rain and troubled by the cars flying past, just inches away. Were they allowing room for our bags?

We took a break behind a truck that had pulled over. The guy offered to take us down in the back but it was full of dirt... not a good option for wet bikes and cyclists... 

He told us the name of this mountain road was Devil's Slide... 
'Last year the wind was so strong a 65 year old woman was blown across to the other side of the road'
Me: 'That must have left her shaken!'
His matter-of-fact response: 'She died in the head on collision'.

Soon after he left we pulled over under some trees. We must have sat there for hours. Soaking wet. Waiting. Hoping the wind and rain would die down enough for us to get to the next town.

We had all our rain gear on, but we were soaked through by now. After huddling under the trees for a couple of hours we succumbed to the shivering and decided to get out of there, even though the sky hadn't cleared. At least the wind had relaxed enough to let us out.

It had been one of our worst riding experiences. Neither of us would voice it, but we were both thinking of going home. If one of us had dared to suggest it, I'm not sure if the other would have had the strength to say no...

Just as the road flattened at the bottom a lady in a van motioned for us to pull over.
'Got somewhere to stay tonight?'
'No.'
'Yes you do'.

And with that both our bikes, all our dripping bags and two soggy cyclists were somehow crammed into the van.

She was on her way to San Francisco to take her disabled son to a rodeo show, but they detoured back home (about 20 mins each way) to settle us in. She even arranged for her tennant on the property to bring us some food since she was going out.

Now, we've showered, put on dry clothes, eaten a delicious meal, and Sam has fallen asleep in the bed while reading. Simple things we never expected earlier today, when we thought we'd have to camp on Devil's Slide, because we couldn't get out.

And it's thanks to the kindness of a woman who pulled over in a storm, even though she was taking her son on a special outing.

Maybe we'll keep heading south afterall...

 
Distance: 25km

We didn't get far from San Francisco before some problems with Sam's gears (he couldn't use half of them!) and a desire not to ride in the rain on Sam's birthday led us into Daly City.


We got a great deal from the terrific hosts of El Camino Inn and enjoyed cheap meals up the road at Wendys. 


It was far from a glamorous celebration but, for us, it was heaven (even if Sam did spend half the time fixing his bike and then our ATM card stopped working so we couldn't buy donuts...)

 
San Fran is nothing new to most people, but when I cycled into the city for my first ever visit I was blown away. The fog rolling in over the Golden Gate bridge and then billowing over the high city hills above the water beneath was bordering on majestic. 


The sheer number of homeless people in this city is startling, and Brooke told us the fascinating and bizarre story of why there are so many of them here. 


We spent a few days staying with Brooke and Dave while we explored the city, bought a new camera (an amazing Sony Nex5, review will come shortly), picked up Shanna's new wheelset, cassette and chain, and a front wheel for my bike, and then we spent a day servicing our bikes. That night we went to the movies with our new friends and saw 'The Social Network.'


The morning we left Brooke and Dave's I walked down to Golden Gate Park and found some homeless people who I gave Shanna's 'ex' wheelset to. I wrote down for them the details (Spinergy Xyclone Race and Deore XT cassette so that if they didn't want to recycle them they could sell them on ebay or something- they still work great so I hope they can get some use from them.


Thanks again guys, most of what we were able to do over the last couple of days was only possible because of you!
 
Distance: 95km


The smudge of light I could make out was welcome - I'd survived the night.

We set off early. It was warmer than it had been for days but an eery mist lingered over the water of Point Reyes National Park. 

It was like riding through a dream. The road was fairly flat, the tiny towns empty (though their welcome signs indicated populations of 30-50 people) and the air was still. We were the only ones around to enjoy this peaceful scene.

When we stopped for a mid-morning snack, we didn't have far to go to San Francisco, maybe 60km. We calculated we'd be there at lunch time. 

But we underestimated the mountains we had yet to cross.

After Stinson Beach the road wound up a series of coastal cliffs. It must be one of the most amazing roads in the world, with scenic views of beaches, rocks and waves below.

There were some steep sections that required my concentration to keep the bike from grinding to a halt, but we made it to the top and enjoyed a thrilling ride down the other side. There were few barriers and the winding road was narrow... it was the most dangerous road we'd ridden in America.

As we coasted around a headland an amazing panorama opened up - we could see the road curling down around the mountains and then back up again...  It took some of the enjoyment away to know I had to climb back up again.

After the second set of mountains we hoped that was it, no more climbing. But we were headed inland to join highway 101 and the road went up again. It was a difficult few hours of riding and our legs were tired.

After our third hair-raising downhill spiral we were relieved to find a 7-eleven. It was the first chain of its kind for days and we knew we were close to the city. We'd made it! Only about an hour of riding to go.

Highway 1 joined the 101 and led to the Golden Gate bridge. But without any warning we were suddenly on a busy freeway, climbing mountains again! We tried to go as fast as we could in the narrow shoulder but exhausted legs and nerves made it difficult. 

We had to get off this road.

A highway patrol officer tried to get us to use a gravel mountain bike path through a huge national park, but we opted to keep going to the next exit and ride through Sausalito. 

After brief stop at a laundromat to wash our putrid clothes, we were back on our way to the Golden Gate bridge. We found it fairly easily, followed some bike signs and just like that we were riding over one of the world's greatest bridges (safely in the dedicated bike lane). 

The fog, sunlight, city and beaches made for a magical view as we rode through the wind. The whole day had been worth it.

A brief stop at a sports store we passed (and my stinky shirt was replaced) and we headed to Brooke and Dave's place - more terrific friends of Mari and Jenny.

We had to go up Divisadero St to get to their place - one of the longest, steepest hills I've ever seen! Somehow Sam rode up the whole thing. At one point he felt like gravity was going to pull him backwards off the bike, and he was close to vomiting more than once, but he rode it. With all the bags. Me, I rode partway then walked. And boy was it hard!


Brooke and Dave are super cool and took us to a great Mexican place around the corner for dinner. It was good to be back in civilisation! 



Extra info: If you want to know more about the cycling specs of this route this site has info and charts.