The article "Chasing Curves on the Pacific Coast Highway" by Robert Griego was published on the "RoadRUNNER Travel & Touring" magazine website on 7/30/2018.
A few days ago, in fact at 9:45 am on July 18, 2018, State Route 1 at Mud Creek re-opened after a 14-month closure due to a massive landslide followed by an emergency repair project. The scenic coastal road was blocked for nearly a quarter mile between Big Sur and the famous Bixby Bridge south of Monterey, California.
I wanted to be first in line to travel this coastal road but I decided to wait, knowing that there would be thousands of tourist wanting to do the same thing.
Tonight, I am camping at my favorite National Park Service area, Pinnacles National Park. I absolutely love Highway 198 past Coalinga, then north on Highway 25 that winds through valleys and opens up with vast grasslands where content cows and horses graze. In the morning, I’ll ride past Hollister, San Juan Bautista State Historic Park, and then onto Monterey and Carmel. It will be exciting to again travel south on Highway 1 towards Big Sur, San Simeon, Cambria, and Morro Bay. Summer is in full force in the central San Joaquin Valley where we are on track to break the record of consecutive days over 100 degrees, so I’m looking forward to the cool ocean breeze.
I pack, then re-pack, my motorcycle until things are perfect. I travel light, life is simpler that way — sleeping bag, Therm-a-Rest, ground cover, hammock, headlamp, solar light, Pocket Rocket stove, portable shovel, first aid kit, one cooking pan, Dinty Moore stew, sardines, several Gatorades, and my trusty transistor radio. I once listened to Vin Scully announce an entire Dodgers baseball game at my camp without another person around for miles.
As I leave Hollister, it is a warm 90 degrees but the temperature drops quickly to 60 degrees under a heavy marine layer at Castroville along Highway 1. As I approach Monterey the sun comes out, temperature rise as tourist leisurely walk along Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row. I have always enjoyed this area, thinking about all the great stories by John Steinbeck – Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row, and scores of others.
I plan to camp tonight at San Simeon State Park as I pass Big Sur and the massive Redwood trees on my motorcycle. The air is cold but I love the curves and vistas as the sound from my machine echoes off the steep canyon walls. There is still construction ongoing along the cliffs near Mud Creek. There is a new, awesome rock tunnel that I pass on my way to the famous Bixby Bridge. I stop with the other tourist and marvel at the massive bridge which is perhaps the most photographed bridge in the world. The Elephant Seals, near San Simeon, are in the thousands and love to be photographed as well as the rolling hills towards Hearst Castle!
The evening skies are dramatic and the sunsets are gorgeous from Cambria to Morro Rock. Once you take this motorcycle route, it will likely be one of your best rides – guaranteed.
The Pacific Coast Highway is one of my favorites trips and the year-long wait to ride between Big Sur and the Bixby Bridge was worthwhile.
I think you will agree after riding this portion of Highway One.
Text and photography: Robert Griego