Sunday, August 16, 2015

~ California's Wild Highway One ~

Bixby Bridge ~

By all accounts, leaving on a bike ride at 10:45am is late.  It will be 369 miles to San Simeon along Highway 1 which is not unreasonable until you add the hundreds of curves that await me along the scenic California coast.

This is a solo ride and it is 87 degrees leaving Three Rivers so I'm wearing a t-shirt and the warm air feels good.  That cozy feeling soon changes over Pacheco Pass as the wind picks up and the marine layer begins to considerably cool down my ride.  The wind on this pass is treacherous and will blow from any and all directions and full concentration is a priority.  

This is a route I've taken many times in the past when traveling from Barstow to San Jose State in the seventies.  The oak woodland is surrounded by green rolling hills.  I need gas sooner than I thought; the wind sees to that.  My heavy leather jacket and gloves help keep some of the warmth but I can feel my knees shake. 

Gilbert Griego

Day One:  Monterey and Carmel are such beautiful places but I stop only long enough for gas.  It is cloudy and cold as I passed Big Sur.  By the time I reach the historical Bixby Bridge, it has warmed up a few degrees.  There are several foreign tourists that politely ask if they can take a photograph next to my bike which has a birds-eye view of the bridge.  They can't believe their ears when I tell them they can sit on my bike for their picture.  There are now a few more tourists waiting in line for their picture so this becomes a good rest for me.  I send Gilbert a picture to see if he remembers this spot from one of our earlier rides; I know he will.

Robert and Gilbert Griego
Traveling the narrow winding road on the edge of Highway 1 is a spectator.  I catch a glimpse of a seagull soaring past me as I prepare for the next curve.  The highway has major construction ongoing to make it safer from the numerous rock slides.  There is a new rock bridge that I pass under.

It is cold and I think I have another 60 miles yet to go.  I want to arrive at San Simeon before dark to set up my camp.  It will not happen as the road construction is slow and my late start even slower.  My bike runs perfectly and each corner is smooth.  There aren't many bikers as I approach San Simeon.  It is almost past seven and my goal is to camp at San Simeon State Park which I think is still a few more miles ahead.  On most trips, I would continue on and set up camp in the dark.  But since I've never camped here before, and since my last 80 miles have been very cold, I opt for the Motel 6 that I see up ahead.  It is about 50 degrees outside, and the ocean mist makes it feel ice cold, or so goes my rationalization for this developed campsite that welcomes me: Motel 6.

Day Two:  Yesterday I rode quickly past Ano Nuevo State Reserve which always has Elephant Seals on the beach.  After breakfast, I ride back ten miles to see what I missed last evening.  The sun is out and it feels good, though the air is still cold.  In years past, I have seen hundreds of seals on the beach but today is different.  There are several thousand seals on the beach and they are packed like sardines as far as the eye can see.  They are tossing sand on their backs with their flippers and jocking for the best bit of sand, though it looks all the same to me.  In the water, there are more seals.

Robert Griego

The tight curves are over as I continue down Highway 1.  I stop for a snack along Pismo Beach -- corn chips and chicken spread.  The ride continues along some of California's most scenic agricultural land.  There is a small town called Guadalupe that takes you back the days of John Steinbeck where there are workers in the fields picking lettuce.

Scenic Highway 1 leisurely leads me past Vandenberg Air Force Base, Lompoc, Gaviota and then Refugio and El Captain State Beaches.  There are horses and cows in the fields and they seem very content with the green grass.  The traffic picks up as I near Santa Barbara and my fun ride is over as I navigate with traffic bent on going much faster.  Just after Carpenteria, I catch a break and the traffic slows down as I move towards Lake Casitas and Ojai.  My destination is Reyes Camp high in the Los Padres National Forest.  The area is completely new to me and I am impressed with the steep mountains, trees, and rock formations.  I find Reyes Camp and select a primitive campsite next to a stream.  My fire is soon going and dinner awaits -- beef stew and the rest of my corn chips.  The ground seems a bit harder tonight but the full moon adds some comfort in the night.  This Los Padres National Forest is impressive and I plan to return and do some more camping and hiking in the days ahead.

Day Three:  I leave early after my traditional cowboy breakfast -- spam, coffee but no tortillas.  The real ride is almost over as I wander up the canyon towards Frazier Park.  Interstate 5 near the Grapevine points me home towards Three Rivers.  

Not a long ride but exceptional scenery and one of my favorite rides along California's Highway 1.

The odometer records 773 miles . . . . .

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