A quick internet search has revealed that on the Californian central coast someone was killed by a coyote pack, and another by a cougar...
Luckily Sam did the search after we camped...
During the night I also recalled a story I'd seen on TV in the lead up to Halloween, about a group of three friends driving late at night who stopped to pick up a hitchhiker. The guy got in and didn't say anything. As they pulled away the driver started chatting... he looked in the rearview mirror - but the guy had disappeared...
This hitchhiker ghost has apparently appeared on that highway many times. Somehow in the night I convinced myself we were on that highway, and if I opened my eyes to look outside the tent, he would be floating there...
Despite the howling coyotes and fears of ghostly visitations we managed eight hours sleep.
And despite four very tired legs, we set off in high spirits for what was to be our last day of riding before a well earned rest.
The air was warm and I was enjoying the sunshine. The road was fairly flat and we moved quickly, despite some occasionally blustery cross winds.
With about 20 miles to go we started riding uphill on highway 154. We were going past the beautiful Lake Cachuma, and now the sun was beating down.
The road kept on going up... we have no map so didn't know how far it would keep going. The road was fairly narrow, but there was a shoulder for most of the way so there was no pressure from cars.
It kept going for a long time, and topped at 680 metres, setting us up for the exhilarating ride down to beautiful, coastal Santa Barbara.
Some interesting info on the San Marcos Pass from the source of all knowledge, wikipedia:
A military expedition crossed the pass in a rainstorm on the night of December 24, 1846... 300 men sent to capture Santa Barbara, California, during the Mexican-American War.
In spite of losing 150 horses and mules, as well as cannon, which slid down the muddy slopes of the rough path, the men regrouped and captured the town without bloodshed, thereby securing the territory for the United States.
Today was a confusing day. Because the highway turned into a freeway at San Luis Obispo we had to take a different route that involved several changing roads and turn-offs.
After scribbling my own little makeshift map for the day on a scrap piece of receipt paper we set off. Little did we know that the most important section, the re-emergence of Highway 1 would be blocked off. When we got there we saw the big blockades and signs, but realising that we had no other map to go off, and that it would be unlikely any work was happening on a Sunday, we rode around the barriers and set off.
Initially the riding was great. For the first time since we entered America we had the road all to ourselves. Then it started heading up hill. After riding up, and then down, we cycled up and around a steep bend in a hill to find two huge machines completely blocking the road. Wondering what to do, we decided that as there didn't appear to be any work or danger, and as we'd just ridden up a big hill anyway, to carry the bikes over the machines.
Once we were past that obstacle, suddenly and bizarrely, the road seemed perfect and we were able to continue down highway 1 without any more problems. Actually, neither of us was able to figure out why the road was blocked in the first place...
Twenty kilometers later and we cycled into a town that looked like what I imagined a small Mexican town to be like. No-one seemed to speak any English, and the grocery store had lots of interesting things in it. Ironically we ended up eating a delicious hamburger and some Chinese, served by Mexicans of course.
Back on the road and the wind changes from a blustering crosswind to a tail wind and suddenly, we're flying. It's amazing how fast you can go with the wind in your back!
That night we pushed our bikes under a barbed fence and decided to camp in what looked like a National forest. We watched a beautiful sunset while cooking our carton of eggs. Then we fell asleep whilst looking up at millions of stars shining brightly out of the blackness.
We were woken intermittently by squirrels and raccoons scratching around the tent- when I'd shine my headlight on them they'd disappear, momentarily. But around midnight Coyotes began howling.
When I awoke Shanna was laying there silently, scared that the howls were coming closer...
By the time we left San Simeon at noon the wind had picked up again. But the beauty of the coast helped us to forget our aching legs and before we knew it we were in San Luis Obispo, but not before an Asian motorist tried to run us off the road, twice.
After I paid for my burrito I waited for twenty minutes before asking if my burrito was still coming.
'We already gave it to you!'
'No you didn't, that's why I'm still waiting.'
'Yes we did, we already make it. We gave it to you!
Shanny demanded my burrito. 'You never gave him the damn burrito' she said, and they hurriedly made me one.
What would I do without you Shanny?
I don't know how people do this cycle touring thing alone, they sure are tough!
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...
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.
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.
'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.
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.
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.
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?'
'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...
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia