For the last month Alvin and I have been talking with other touring cyclists, travelers, locals, and each other about Big Sur. If you haven’t kept up with California weather news, earlier this year massive landslides took out a bridge and various stretches of road. One, that some people are calling the mother of all landslides, cut off about 12 miles of road on Route 1 between Gorda and Ragged Point. Caltrans estimates the road will be completed by the end of summer 2018. The quickest detour around the Slide takes you inland through the mountains on a one and a half lane road without a shoulder. The adventure cycling route takes you on a 150 mile detour, completely skipping Big Sur and that whole beautiful stretch of coast. Everyone that we talked with about this had different opinions and strategies for getting through. Many people were taking the bus from Salinas to San Luis Obispo. A few brave souls planned to go through the mountains. Most of us didn’t know what we were doing yet, but knew we wanted to see Big Sur. As we got closer we heard news of cyclists passing the slide at night when the guard was off duty. The road to Pfeiffer Big Sur did not disappoint, it was sunny but cool, and we enjoyed a nice camp with many other cyclists that evening. In the morning, we said goodbye to our friends Matil and Genevieve who were heading back, north to take the bus. We decided, you gotta go to know. Leaving the State Park, the terrain kicked it up a notch and we started climbing. We got an early start knowing we would have a long, hilly day. Despite the cloudy weather, the scenery was jaw dropping and we stopped frequently to gawk at the beauty. After a long break in Lucia we biked another 10 miles or so to Gorda. At this point, we passed all detour options and you can guess what our plan was. We had dinner at the cafe with a view of the ocean and the guard and waited for sundown. Around 6:30 we went outside where six other cyclists had now gathered. So obvious. It was dark and we could no longer see the guard. People were shuffling getting ready to leave and Alvin and I joked that the guard was probably inside eating. I look in, sure enough, he’s in there! Paranoid, I sneak out and wait for the others who ride up with their lights on. There goes being stealthy. Riding the last 15 miles or so after dark was a thrilling experience. The darkness masked the view ahead, and for me that made the hills easier! The slide area is massive and humbling, nothing to take lightly. I was sure there would be someone on the other end waiting to give us tickets and lectures. I kept thinking about immigrants sneaking over the border, the fear and paranoia they must have, this is nothing compared to that, but it sure felt powerful to me. Over 51 miles and 5,000ft of elevation gain that day before we found a place to camp south of Ragged Point. Although we did see a walker and two cyclists coming from the other direction, there were no officers at the end waiting to handcuff us. We took a big risk and it turned out in our favor this time, but I’d have to think hard about whether I would do it again. We said goodbye to our rebel friends and left camp the next morning before the rain started, pedaling a short distance to the State Park. Back into traffic the next day, we decided to take a layover in San Luis Obispo. The route then left the ocean and we pedaled through more massive agriculture fields and hills. At Refugio Beach State Park we met another cyclist and a group of 70yr old “Wednesday Warriors” who gather at the beach to surf Wednesday mornings. Unfortunately, there was no surf, but Alvin was hopeful to find some waves farther south. After a long stop at M.Special brewing we road the impressive bike path through UCSB campus to a warmshowers host. Michael has hosted hundreds of cyclists and has big dreams of taking his own tour in the near future. Thanks again Michael!! A quick and beautiful ride took us to Ventura where we had plans to stay at a coffee shop warmshowers. We were invited to set up camp on the outside deck of the Sandbox after open mic night. Fantastic performers! That night we didn’t get much sleep due to all of the traffic roaring by. In the morning, after some coffee and a quick stop at the beach we went to our new friend Joe’s house who we met the night before. Joe is 73 years young and full of life, stories, and music. He was kind enough to offer his place for us to stay while he camped outside (he wouldn’t have it any other way). We joined him for mass at the historic Catholic Mission and spent the next few days exploring Ventura and learning from Joe. Alvin finally got to go out surfing! We enjoyed many stops to our favorite brewery in town and were delighted to receive a hat! We also enjoyed stopping by Patagonia several times throughout our stay in Ventura, reconnecting with friends we made last year. Patagonia was extremely generous and donated a bunch of provisions for our upcoming ride through Baja. Thanks Patagonia!! Ventura’s magical generosity continued when we stopped by the Wharf to pick up dog food and Doug donated a bag and some free samples! The night before we left we decided to have an early Thanksgiving feast with the help of the 99cent store. Yum! It was hard to leave Ventura and Joe, but after nearly a week we knew we had to get back on the road. No long goodbyes, we know it’s just “see you later” like we’ve had to say to so many other special people that come into our lives. After one last stop at Patagonia and surfers point we pedaled a short distance to Sycamore Canyon SP.
The last few days have been relatively easy terrain on a combination of bike paths and city streets with bike lanes. Riding through the city with traffic whizzing by, my senses are on high alert. I become hyperfocused on holding my line and not getting hit by a car or a door swinging open. Time goes by quickly and before long the sun is setting. We found ourselves in the city without camping in Venice Beach and again in Long Beach. Both nights we found great deals on hotel rates and were hooked up with some great perks, especially at Su Casa in Venice!
We pushed onward to San Clemente where we stayed with a friend and VOBS instructor. Although she didn’t know us very well, Pam was nice enough to take us into her home for a few days while we waited for our mail to show up. The power of the Outward Bound community at its finest! Her boyfriend Paul had been out fishing and when he got home we helped package large chunks of the most delicious bluefin tuna for future enjoyment. We were also fortunate enough to eat this delicious sushi. Wow, spectacular! After receiving mail, 60 packages of buffalo meat from TankaBar, and sunscreen from Avasol our bags were stuffed to the brim. Just a few more days in the States before heading south of the border, we’ve been trying to prepare ourselves for limited communication and support. We said our farewells to Pam and Paul and headed south, a few short days to San Diego to meet Simon on his boat. Simon is another former VOBS instructor and now works as the outdoor coordinator for UCSD. He gave us a quick tour and instructions for the boat and cat before heading out for Thanksgiving festivities. Wow! Another amazing experience I never thought I would have on this trip, boat life is pretty sweet!
The preparation to-do list seems to be never ending and although we’ve already taken many days off this month, it seems like it’s not enough to get everything done. The timing of days off has also been tricky and we haven’t been able to get Fitzroy in for a grooming he desperately needs or my bike a tuneup it desperately needs. I think back to the days of the many outdoor trips I’ve planned and it feels the same. The anticipation and lead up to the trip is always the most stressful. I’m guilty of stressing myself out over minute details that most people wouldn’t worry about, but taking care of Fitz and my bike seem to be essential, right!?