Summary: I had been looking forward to cycling along the Pacific Coast throughout the United States for a long time. A classic bike touring destination, this stretch features some of the greatest sights and scenery, including Redwood trees and the cliffs and beaches along the Pacific Coast Highway, as well as several beautiful cities and their attractions (Seattle, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Diego…), many of which I had visited previously and was excited to see again. The weather continued to be fairly good, with lots of warm and sunny days ideal for cycling. That said, some of the days in Oregon saw persistent fog throughout most of the day, and one Oregon day was cold and rainy – the first day of my trip with really miserable cycling weather. One somewhat unexpected treat were the many ripe blackberries along the roads in Washington, which frequently provided me seemingly unlimited supplies of juicy and sweet fruit.
I always had cell phone coverage, wireless Internet access and all the familiar restaurants and coffee shops. Furthermore, I met many interesting and friendly people, in particular other cyclists, often at one of the many State Parks along the Coast. In many ways, of all the countries I cycled on this adventure, riding the US was one of the easiest and also one of the most scenic countries. In addition to a 2 week vacation with my wife Jill up in the Pacific Northwest I also held close contact with many friends and family back home via frequent skype, email and phone calls. As a result I didn’t feel as far away as perhaps up North or presumably in Central- and South-America. Towards the end of my 4 week ride through the US I visited the Brown family – friends I met at the Fairbanks campground earlier in the trip. From there I took a rental car, drove up to Owens Valley and climbed Mt. Whitney, the highest peak of the lower 48 States. In the meantime I had my bike serviced and it’s back wheel re-built in the San Diego REI store, after I had several spokes break on me. This turned out to be a smart move, as I had no more spoke issues for the entire rest of my trip. By late September and with some mixed feelings (around security) I crossed the border into Mexico just South of San Diego.
Video on Cycling North America (Canada and US Pacific Coast, Central America)
Back to Rides page.
Thursday, August 6
Lynden to Arlington
125km / 4701km; 6.3h / 254h; 650m / 47900m
Scenic, idyllic farmland the first 30km. Ripe blackberries are my 2nd breakfast! Email at coffeeshop in morning. Following Hwy 9 down South.
Several lakes along the way. Fresh baked bread-roll, apricot muffin and coffee at 11am. Stop for late lunch near Acme at Blue Mountain Grill. Also stop at Overlook Golf course at Big Lake, where Ray and Josh spontaneously donate $10 each to my cause! Phone call with Jill. Then scenic ride past a few lakes on to Arlington, where I’m staying for the night.
Friday, August 7
Arlington to Bellevue (Seattle)
70km / 4772km; 4h / 259h; 770m / 48650m
Got up early with my first Starbucks coffee in months at 6:30am.
Started riding at 7:15am in cool (13C), cloudy, light drizzle conditions. Warmed up on the 80m hill in the first km – there were more hills today than expected, especially towards the end in Bellevue.
Stop after 20km for 2nd, more substantial breakfast and email. Then continued the ride at 9 without any significant stops for the remaining distance. More and more traffic. One particularly bad area in Snohomish where there was construction (lane widening) and a 150m hill!
Using iPhone GPS for directions as I get closer to Bellevue. Nice stretch along the Samamish river trail. Finally busy city roads and steep hills towards the Bellevue area where my friend Karl lives with his family. Arrival there at 12:45p – this marks the end of the first long leg. I won’t be riding this bike now for 2 weeks.
August 8 – 23
2 week vacation with Jill in the Pacific Northwest, including Vancouver Island, Whistler, British Columbia Sunshine Coast, Victoria, the San Juan Islands, Olympic Peninsula, Hoh rainforest, Pacific Coast and Mt. Rainier National Park, and Seattle.
Monday, August 24
Bellevue to Potlatch State Park
84km / 4856km; 4.2h / 263; 750m / 49400m
First short ride to Gregg’s Bike Shop in downtown Bellevue for tire / tube replacement and cable tightening. Haircut and lunch in the meantime.
Then ride across Lake Washington bridge next to I90 towards downtown Seattle; mostly separate bike trail, except for a few stretches on busy roads. Downtown reminds me of the recent vacation there with Jill.
Arrival at Pier 52 and WA State Ferry to Bremerton. Beautiful views during 1hr crossing.
In Bremerton first 10-20km are not fun: Busy freeway, lots of traffic, hot and 150m climb make for unpleasant combination until Belfair.
There I get some cash, buy groceries and call Jill while sipping on a Starbucks latte.
The remaining section on Hwy 106 along the shores of the Hood Canal is very nice. Low sun between 6:30-8:00p is reflected in the water; beautiful homes lime the shores…
Arrive at Potlatch State Park just after sunset at 8:10p and set up tent. Hot shower and sandwich, followed by email and some Kindle reading. Turn in at 10pm.
Tuesday, August 25
Potlatch State Park to Westport
142km / 4999km; 6.8h / 270h; 750m / 50150m
Long day, past the unfinished Satsop nuclear power plant from the 1970’s. Lots of traffic on the Olympic Highway, where Jill and I had been traveling just a week ago. Compared to the distances covered by car I feel very slow and somewhat inadequate in this terrain. South_West of Aberdeen traffic becomes more sparse again as the road heads out to the Pacific Coast. After I setup my tent on the local campground I roll to the tip of the peninsula for a bit of sight-seeing and some fresh seafood dinner in Westport. Rolling back the few km to the tent in the dark is a bit of an adventure, but thankfully there is hardly any traffic at this late hour.
Wednesday, August 26
Westport to Astoria
140km / 5130km; 6.5h / 276h; 750m / 50900m;
Another beautiful stretch along the Pacific, with nice views of the Ocean for the first couple of km. Then the road winds around the bay at Raymond and South Bend, with sweeping views of the bay and its tidal march land. Later via the little town of Naselle down to the mighty Columbia River and finally across the 6.5km long Astoria Megler bridge over to Oregon and the town of Astoria.
Thursday, August 27
Astoria to Netarts
133km / 5272km; 7.2h / 283h; 1200m / 52100m
I get up early to find a place for breakfast, which proves easy as there are lots of little restaurants in Astoria. After a Hawaiian Omelette with gravy and hash browns I am ready for the day!
After another long bridge the road follows the Western Coast and is mostly flat. Unlike in Astoria here is still fog. I stop at Seaside and again in Cannon Beach; I take my time, hoping that the sun will burn off the fog.
When I reach the crest of a medium-sized hill at Oswald State Park I follow a little path, which according to the description in my guidebook leads to unsurpassed views. It can’t be the right path then, as this one leads in a halfcircle back to the road, all in the forest, so no view This cost me about 45min, which is both a good and bad thing today: The good part is that this delay brings me to a lookout point above Nehalem Bay just when the fog is finally clearing. Fantastic views make me stay for 15 min. A motorist mentions it has been foggy for the past 150 miles…
The bad part is that I’m running out of daylight by 8pm on the scenic Three Capes Drive. After a coffee break in Nehalem ar 5pm I’m getting into the zone and ride nonstop to Tillamook and then around Cape Meares, the first of the three capes. The clear sky and low sun are very idyllic; unfortunately I’m a bit late so my sunset is hurried and after the last long climb which caused me to sweat profusely it’s getting cold on the windy descent. I find a place for my tent at an RV park and dinner at the nearby Schooner restaurant. Afterwards I crawl into my sleeping bag to warm up and fall asleep around 10:30pm.
Friday, August 28
Netarts to Newport (State Park)
102km / 5374km; 5.7h / 289h; 700m / 52800m
I get up and search for a bakery or restaurant for breakfast. I find a grocery store and have some pastries & coffee. Back on the road by about 9am. Shortly thereafter the rain starts. I climb the first big hill (275m) and take a short hike at the top towards the Cape – nice view, but windy & rainy!
After cold descent to Sand Lake I stop at the only place in town to warm up a bit. Eat 2 Hot Dogs, 3 bear claws & coffee. Then continue my wet ride for the next 2-3 hours and stop in Pacific City (50km). I have some Greek salad there, which tastes good but doesn’t sit well in stomach during next long climb (250m).
Now the rain stops and at 70km the sun finally comes out I stop again for some email & phone communication, this time at a Cold Stone ice-cream shop. After phone call with Jill I have to do another 30km in 1.5h. Some rolling hills, nice scenery with the occasional glimpse of the Ocean and the evening sun.
I arrive at Beverly Beach SP at 8:10pm and I am surprised by how big and busy this place is! A bit damp and gloomy, but good hot showers. I meet Jenni from Portland who rides the Coast down to L.A. Crawl into tent at 10pm and fall asleep despite the loud teenager group nearby…
Saturday, August 29
Newport to Florence (State Park)
100km / 5475km; 5.2h / 294h;
Leaving SP around 8:30 heading for town (Newport) a few km down the road. Stopping there for big breakfast. Hoping for fog to clear.
Slowly continuing to Seal Rock; here I visit a chainsaw carving store and chat with the artist / owner about art, business and building a brand.
Continue on to Yachats, where I have some delicious Blueberry pancakes and chat with Jim, who recounts his 1979 bike trip – memories that last 3 decades…
Cape Perpetua is next and I stop at the visitor center; however there are still clouds so hiking up to the viewpoint wouldn’t make much sense. Discussion with a man asking “What did you learn on your trip so far?” quickly turns into a semi-religious atheist vs. creator dialog, which I need to end so as to not run out of daylight later.
Some hills and a short tunnel ahead near Heceta Head lighthouse. At times nice views from the road. Once a colony of sea lions can be heard and then seen 100m below on the rocky beach.
Sweeping views over sand dunes and beach just North of Florence, so I stop to dry out my tent and sleeping bag while making phone calls to Jill and Philip.
Nice downhill and tailwind sections here. In Florence short stop for groceries and then last 10km with tailwind via Glenada to Jessie Honeyman SP. Setup tent in hiker/biker area and dinner with many other bikers and Jenni.
Sunday, August 30
Florence (SP) to Bandon (SP)
117km / 5592km; 6.2h / 301h;
After breakfast walk to the nearby dunes. Sun is coming out and burning off the fog. Start riding at 10am. Significant hill (through construction zone with no shoulder) on the way to Gardiner & Reedsport. There I buy a Subway sandwich, half for lunch and dinner each.
Short detour to Umpqua lighthouse, but again with fairly steep hills.
Meet Jenni and chat / decide to ride together for the afternoon.
Arrive in North Bend after crossing tall bridge with narrow sidewalk and strong gusty winds. Then some grocery shopping and coffee with banana bread. Continuing the ride via scenic ridge route and lots of hills. Unfortunately the ridge and the rest of the day is covered in cloud / fog, so no more sun and much cooler…
Eventually arrive at Bullards SP near Bandon by 7pm. Phone call with Jill, hot shower, setup tent, open fire and some simple bread and veggies for dinner. Sleep by 10:45pm.
Monday, August 31
Bandon (SP) to Gold Beach
100km / 5693km; 5.2h / 306h; 1030m
Cool and wet tent in the morning. Short ride from Bullards SP to town (Bandon) for breakfast. Doing email while having a ham & cheese omelette. No hurry as I’m hoping for conditions to improve like last couple of days. Indeed, the N wind sets in and so the next long section to Port Orford (50km) is much accelerated. At 40km the sun comes out and now with sun and tailwind the riding is just very enjoyable. Soon I reach Port Orford and stop for a small lunch while letting the sun dry out my tent and sleeping bag. Also some blackberries there for desert when packing up again
Unfortunately my good luck with the weather ends here as the wind shifts to SW and after just a few miles the clouds roll back in. So now it’s riding into a cold headwind under low clouds! Despite hard work I feel like I’m just crawling; the average speed plummets. It takes me 2h40m for just 45km.
I realize at 5pm in Gold Beach that my last section on to Brookings at the CA border (another 50km) is too far for today with hardly any CG in between. Hence I decide to stay here for the night. I eat a chef salad at a local Pizzeria and call Jill and Philip. I also replace my front tube due to the old one slowly leaking air (probably a defect valve). Then I buy some groceries and roll around town to find a CG. I settle on Indian River RV which also has a nice lobby and free wireless Internet. After some Blog post and bread & cheese I retire to my tent at 10:30pm. Falling asleep to the sounds of the nearby Indian River…
Tuesday, September 1
Gold Beach to Elk Prairee SP
150km / 5843km; 8h / 314h; 1880m
Big breakfast at cafe next to lodge. Also email and further trip planning into Central America.
I start riding at 9:15am. First section to Smith River over one big (220m) and another small hill (100m). There (50km) I have rice & seafood at a Mexican place. From here continue to the CA border and on via small side roads to Crescent City. I stop for an afternoon mocca at Starbucks (95km, 4pm). Jill checks in via email from 35,000ft on her flight to Arizona.
Next is the big 370m Crescent hill. Now the sun has burned off the clouds and it gets nice and warm – after all we’re in CA now! It’s a long climb, but through great old-growth forest with some giant redwood trees. Ted catches up with me and later also Nick and Morgan. They are on a 10 day trip going South through OR and CA. Some photos and short considerations where to spend the night. On this climb I also have a very dangerous encounter with a passing pickup truck who comes flying up the road just as I ride slowly uphill through a blind right turn with the hill to my right and nowhere else to go. At the last moment the driver sees me and passes within inches of me at very high speeds – if that vehicle had hit me my adventure would have been over.
I continue with the long 6km downhill and a very scenic section on the beach. There is the Paul Bunyan statue and the Trees of Mystery tourist attraction. The bike route now follows a scenic side road through the Prairee Creek Redwoods SP. Another 300m climb late in the day with tree-tops still in the sun. On the long descent through the redwood forest it’s getting dark. I arrive at the Elk Prairie CG at the bottom of the hill at 8:15pm with barely enough daylight to set up my tent. Nice hot shower warms me up again after sweaty bike cloth made me feel very cold in the evening. Some fruit and nuts for simple dinner and into sleeping bag at 10pm.
Wednesday, September 2
117km / 5967km; 5.8h / 320h; 900m
Elk Prairie SP to Fortuna
Get up at 8am. Quick ride up to 1500yr old “Big Tree” for walk amongst redwood giants and photos. Back at camp I pack the now dry tent as sun came out burning off light fog.
Short ride at 9:30 still in street cloths to Orick (10km) for breakfast. Continue at 11am; short stop at Redwood NP Visitor Center. Route leads past two scenic lagoons with moderate hills between them. Hwy 101 widens from 2-lane windy forest road to 4-lane freeway.
Next stop is Trinidad (40km) with beautiful Memorial Lighthouse overlooking Trinidad Bay. View reminds me of Greek Islands in the Mediterranean. Blackberry cobbler & coffee as afternoon snack. Back on the freeway for next 40km to Eureka (80km). Route leads around long bay and along Eucalyptus tree alley. Heavy traffic into Eureka. There I find directions to local bike shop using Google Maps and GPS on the iPhone. I replenish my spare tube and replace the cleets of my bike sandals. I buy some groceries for tomorrow morning and continue riding ok freeway.
At Fortuna I stop and roll into town looking for dinner and a CG. I eat at KFC to satisfy my craving for chicken meat. Luckily there is a CG less than 1 mile away; I hurry over there at 8pm as it’s getting dark earlier now. When I pull up there are Emily and ??? who also stayed at Elk Prairee SP. Luckily the office is still open (closes at 8pm) so we get a hiker/biker site and split the cost 3 ways. Some bread and snacks. Phone call with Jill. Then 1/2h into hot tub, which warms me up and is very soothing. Typing these notes (twice actually as iPhone inexplicably reboots without saving my draft – extremely annoying!) and going to sleep at 11:20pm.
Thursday, September 3
Fortuna to Leggett (SP)
122km / 6090km; 6.5h / 327h; 1390m
Get up around 7:30 for cereal and milk breakfast. The sun is out and helping to dry up various clothing items. Leaving the CG around 9:30, getting right back on the 101 freeway. It’s 20km to the Redwoods – and an unpleasant hot ride with road construction and re-surfacing.
Start of the “Avenue of the Giants”. There are fantastic redwood groves here with many tall trees right next to the road. The entire distance is 53km, so this will take several hours. First stop for coffee at the “Immortal Tree”, so named due to having withstood a lot of adversity over it’s 1000yr lifespan.
Then catching up to an elderly rider; turns out Jim is riding with his son Andrew on roadbikes (no weight) while his wife Malihe drives the car! So they stop every now and then and enjoy a perfect support system. (They do the Pacific Coast over several years, a few weeks at a time.) next stop in Myers Flat for sandwich and coke.
The road is nice and shady, but also quite a lot of hills. Once through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park and back out on 101 it gets very hot.
Stop at Garberville (85km) for drink, yoghurts and bananas. I sit in the shade to cool off. After 1/2h Jim rides by and I decide to join him again. It’s another 35km to the SP; however there are lots of hills and so this takes quite a while. Jim and Andrew ride along and Malihe offers support at several stops along the way. Very scenic evening light and crossing tall bridge near “Confusion Hill”.
Reach the SP just before Leggett at 7pm. Set up tent; then I have a burger from the Peg Grill just across the street, followed by a hot shower and some story telling with four other riders here on the CG.
Sleep at 9:30 to intensely loud cicada insects.
Friday, September 4
Leggett SP to Manchester SP
139km / 6229km; 8.h / 335h; 1630m
Early start to get the long climb over with before it gets too hot. Quick breakfast at 7am in Leggett – it’s a bit chilly in the morning. But that’s perfect, since there are more than 600m vertical in two humps, so that’s about 2.5 hrs of hard work which warms me up nicely.
On the descent I meet another rider, who fashioned some sturdy panniers out of white plastic buckets, very creative. When we reach the Ocean there is a bit of fog left, just about to burn off. The shoreline highway is very scenic; going South, there is just the forested hills to the left and the Ocean to the right. We stop at the next village in Westport for some breakfast.
After that the other rider loses me, since he is riding faster uphill with less weight on his bike. But I’m not in a hurry and so I enjoy the scenic ride.
My next stop is Fort Bragg, where I run into the rider again at a recommended local pub & micro-brewery. I also stop at a supermarket a bit later to get some coffee, pastry and some groceries for my evening meal. Later I ride through Mendocino, taking in the typical laid-back atmosphere of the Pacific Coast Highway. In the late afternoon I proceed to Elk, where there is a nice restaurant associated with the Greenwood Pier Inn overlooking the cliffs and Ocean below. I can’t resist and stop here for a nice sunset dinner (double portion of Italian pasta and pizza). I also chat with a 100 yr old lady on the next table, who expresses an interest in my journey – interesting to see the different people who are fascinated by my trip. I inquire about local rooms or backyard camping options, but don’t find any within my budget. So I decide to continue late with less traffic and nearly full moon on to a State park in Manchester, another 18km down the road. Once there past 10pm I have no trouble setting up my tent in the moonlight and find a quiet and restful night’s sleep.
Saturday, September 5
Manchester SB to Bodega Dunes SP
113km / 6342km; 6.2h / 341h; 1590m
Long hills to climb, but very scenic ride along the Pacific Coast. Met some German riders at the end of the day and stayed at same campground.
Sunday, September 6
Bodega Dunes SP to Samuel Taylor SP
72km / 6414km; 4.5h / 345h; 500m
Doing laundry and some bike repair at Bodega Bay after breakfast with German riders at the Wharf restaurant. Late start. Following the descriptions of my cycling book, which provides some nice backcountry roads and bike-paths. Afternoon at a little town with some local festivities and barbecue. Late arrival at Samuel P. Taylor State Park; setting up tent under some huge Redwood trees. The quiet atmosphere and the strong smell or fresh trees make for a good night’s rest.
Monday, September 7 (Labor Day)
Samuel Taylor SP to San Francisco
73km / 6487km; 4.5h / 350h; 850m
The day starts off with cool temps in the shade of the Redwoods. I enjoy the sun of the open fields after a few km. I stop for breakfast at a little roadside cafe; unfortunately I witness the death of a cat which becomes roadkill. My waitress is so distraught that she needs a break – but my blueberry pancakes are still good. Phone call with Jill. I also see the German couples pass… so much for my headstart in the morning!
The road reached the city area and there is a set of bike paths (however not always easy to find). At 40km I reach Sausalito, often by following other bikers or asking pedestrians. I navigate city traffic of an arts festival and then stop for an icecream at the Sausalito bay. Memories of 22 years ago when I was here just out of college…
Then a few steep hills and I reach the beginning of the Golden Gate Bridge. I ride up to the scenic overlook some 250m above the water. On a day like today this is definitely worth it! The view from the top is stunning – just like I imagined it to be. (Yesterday it was all covered in fog so we are lucky today.) Filming descent with my Flip Mino on helmet-mount. Short encounter with both German couples again. Then crossing of bridge with lots of bike traffic and taking more photos. Weaving along the bay towards Fort Mason where I ask for available space in the Youth Hostel; I remember staying at this place some 20 yrs ago! And tonight there is exactly 1 bunk bed available. After check-in I ride along Embarcadero to REI store to inquire about fixing the bike. We set up an appointment for the next day as they close at 6pm. I then find another bike shop that closes at 9pm and leave the bike there for repair. More phone calls and email. I walk to a nearby Italian restaurant for dinner. Then Internet work from a hotel lobby and finally back to bike shop. Unfortunately they didn’t fix the wheel as they were not comfortable taking off the rotor of the disc brake. So I’ll try REI tomorrow. I ride back to the hostel and meet another biker who guides me the rest of the way – turns out Dan is working at the REI store!
More Internet work at the hostel and sleep around midnight.
Tuesday, September 8
Rest Day in San Francisco
Getting bike fixed at REI store.
Wednesday, September 9 (9/9/09)
San Francisco to Santa Cruz
142km / 6641km; 7.5h / 358h; 1550m
Relatively late start at 10am after breakfast and grocery shopping. Route first leads back to Golden Gate Bridge, then NW corner of SF along Pacific Coast. Today is a good example of varying micro-climates: Sunny at hostel, cloudy along first 30km, then sunny again. I know the first sections from previous stays in SF, but not further S towards Daly City. I get pulled over by a cop due to my not stopping at Stop signs; the police officer finally let’s me go, but implores me to “make a better effort” at stopping. Yes Sir!
After quick coffee & pastries from nearby SafeWay store continue straight S parallel to shore past Fort Fundton. A big 200m hill in Daly City, followed by steep downhill on Sharp Park Road. Next is Rockharbor and a few other popular surf spots with good facilities.
After another big hill and then the Devils Slide I reach Montara and later Half Moon Bay (60km) around 3pm.
Here a wire got stuck in my trailer tire and causes a flat. I get some food and have a snack first, then quickly fix the flat while sitting in the sunny parking lot. It’s almost 4pm. How much further should I go? There is a long stretch (50km) with no food / restaurants ahead; next camping is almost 90km out! I decide to try going for Santa Cruz, still 80km to go. I get into the zone and make good progress, despite a third really big hill after Half Moon Bay. Beautiful cliffs and dry grass above them. Eucalyptus trees are more dominating now, almost no mor Redwoods. Very picturesque is the Pidgeon Point Lighthouse, which also has a hostel. After 2h 45min of nonstop riding I reach Davenport with it’s big Lumber factory. Call to Lou to arrange meeting tonight in SC.
Then one of my two gear shifter cables snaps. I can no longer shift gears! Manually I try to set the right gear for flat ground; downhill -> coasting, uphill -> momentum or getting off and pushing! Local rider Kelly stops and helps, then continues with me to SC where she shows me the way to downtown.
Meet with Liu who drove down here from Palo Alto. We had met at the Toad River Lodge in the Yukon and since then stayed in touch via Twitter. Nice evening with philosophic discussions over Pizza and icecream.
Then I find an inexpensive hotel room via Kayak.com, phone, GPS and Google Maps less than 2km nearby. Get to hotel room by 11:30pm.
Thursday, September 10
Santa Cruz to Monterey
82km / 6725km; 4.5h / 363h;
I enjoy the luxury of my own room and wireless Internet for some email over breakfast. At 10am I am at the nearby bike shop to drop off my recumbent for the cable repair. It takes until 1pm, it also includes brake pad replacement on the rear brake. By the time I’m loaded up back at the hotel and ready to go it’s 2pm.
Leaving the city of Santa Cruz is surprisingly difficult when you can’t just jump on the freeway. There are lots of side streets, over passes, and traffic lights. It’s slow going and the hills cause a lot of effort. Eventually I reach the surrounding farm lands where artichoke and strawberry fields line the street.
Unfortunately the fog is rolling in again which makes the next 2h somewhat gloomy. Only at Seaside just before Monterey does the fog clear and there is a half hour of sunshine left. I head for Fishermen’s Wharf and the Aquarium. Of course it’s far too late for a visit… and I’m hungry. I look up a nearby Indian restaurant (using the ‘Urbanspoon’ app and GPS on my iPhone) and head there for dinner. Phone call with Jill over dinner. Then 2km uphill to Vet Memorial Park, a dark and quiet place in the middle of the city of Monterey. Pushing the fully loaded bike up that hill after dinner is an eery experience. I keep thinking that with a car, one would hardly notice such a hill, whereas with the bike it commands the full attention and a lot of effort. It makes you feel you have earned the place on top of the hill…
Reading Dalai Lama while iPhone is charging. Met Sheldon (daddydaddydaddy.com) who video-interviews me about my project in the restroom! Then daily log and sleep by 11:30pm.
Friday, September 11
Monterey to Kirk Creek
98km / 6823km; 5.5h / 369; 1500m
Leaving early at 7:45am by climbing the 200m hill on Skyline Drive. Descent to Carmel and stop at mall with Safeway. Minor bike adjustments and morning coffee; phone call from my parents. Then 50km ride to Big Sur. Very scenic stretch of the Coast, big cliffs and bridges across river chasms. Lots of hills, but great views as rewards. I ride a bit past one restaurant which ends up being pretty much all of Big Sur – somehow I thought Big Sur was like a little town… I stop at the next place (60km) for coffee and muffin. Solving physics problem for Sarvenaz on napkin and sending her a photo of the solution continue ride to Lucia (90km), last place prior to Kirk Creek Camp site. Here I chat with Andreas and Patrick, two Swiss guys on rented Harleys on their way to Denver, CO. I decide to have dinner here since there are no more facilities later today. Beautiful setting overlooking Ocean 100m below, late afternoon sun, nice atmosphere, good food – pretty much the ideal dinner location and experience.
Lastly short climb and then descent plus a few km level road to CG. Set up my tent in fading daylight and chat with other riders at hiker/biker site.
Falling aseep at 9:30pm to intense pounding of surf just below.
Saturday, September 12
Kirk Creek to Morro Bay
109km / 6940km; 5.5h / 374h; 1200m
It’s foggy in the morning when I leave the CG at 9am. First stretch is to Gorda (14km). There I have blueberry pancakes for breakfast. There are all these Audi vehicles on the road; there must be some Audi-sponsored event going on. It turns out it’s a bike ride for 1000 people for BestBuddies.org
So there are lots of riders on the road going over the double-hill before hitting flat terrain for the remaining distance to Hearst Castle / San Simeon (55km). I ride with some other riders into the official finish and they greet me with applause and give me a medal. I also can enjoy their buffet food and drinks / Gatorade.
After lots of eating, drinking and some phone calls I get to present my project via the loudspeakers to several hundred riders and volunteers in the finish area – very nice commercial 😉
Finally I continue at 3:30pm towards Morro Bay. The next part is super nice, with flat, smooth surface, good shoulder and tailwind so the miles fly by. Dry farmland with cattle and some zebras grazing. I see Nick and Morgan again, who I had met in Oregon already. Soon I reach Morro Bay (105km). Short ride through town to SP under some tall Eucalyptus trees. I set up my tent, take a warm shower, and then ride back to town for groceries and Italian dinner. Ride back to tent in drizzle. Sleep at 11pm.
Sunday, September 13
Morro Bay SP to Lompoc
128km / 7081km; 6.5h / 382h; 900m
Relatively early start at 8:45 after full breakfast at campground. Getting on Los Osos Valley Road and riding away from the Ocean towards inland farms and pastures. In San Luis Obispo (25km) I have some coffee to post a Blog and recharge my iPhone. Continue at 11:00am. Unfortunately I take a left turn where I should have taken a right due to a double-direction arrow for bikers (with the right arrow bent and not visible!). This costs me about 8km and nearly 1/2h of extra riding. Frustrating, but stuff like this happens…
Pismo Beach (45km) is very nice with groomed gardens and playgrounds. Then the road goes inland and passes farms and open grassland. In Guadalupe (75km) there is a strong Mexican population and they have a street festival celebrating Mexico’s independence. Next stop is Orcutt (95km), where I detour from the Hwy into town to buy some cool drink and refill my water bottles.
Now there is Harris Grade Road which goes over nearly 1000ft (300m) pass; quite scenic, reminds me of some passes in the Alps.
After the downhill I reach Lompoc (125km) and decide to stay here for a good campground and steak dinner – after all I crossed the 7000km mark today!
Monday, September 14
Lompoc to Ventura
144km / 7225km; 7h / 389h; 800m
I leave early as this is going to be a pretty long day. So do Anna & Heidi who I had seen at the Kirk Creek CG and Morro Bay CG the last 2 nights. (They take the inland Route via the Santa Ynes Valley to Santa Barbara.)
First order of the day is to cross a 300m hill South of Lompoc to get back over to the Coast near Gaviota. 7% grade down provides speeds up to 72km/h. Then a long stretch of riding on the 101 Freeway. (Noisy but fast, good shoulder and safe, except for one narrow bridge.) Beautiful coastal scenery, with palm-lined campgrounds, oil platforms off-shore and dolphins visible near shore hunting fish together with pelicans.
I hear more spokes break on my rear wheel so I decide to stop in Goleta just prior to Santa Barbara at a bike shop. Noah from “Bicycle Bob’s” replaces no less than 6 spokes in my rear wheel while I fix the worn out plastic rings in the central frame joint. This takes up my lunch break time without lunch, though, which means I’ll be very hungry tonight…
In the afternoon I ride through Santa Barbara. Stop at Stearns Wharf for quick snack and photos. Beautiful city and beaches. I decide to go further to Ventura. Sun is getting low and painting nice light on coastline. Last couple of miles meeting Rosa who is on a training ride and guides me into town and points out a nice Italian restaurant. Phone call with Jill. Then double-dinner (pasta+pizza). Finally rolling to McGrath SB late in the evening (10:30pm) for camping.
Tuesday, September 15
Ventura to Malibu (Leo Carillo SB)
53km / 7278km; 2.75h / 391h; 49m
After letting the morning sun dry out my tent fly I start the day by going back a mile or so to the Venture Harbor & Marina by 8:30am. I give serious thought to taking a day off and exploring the Channel Island NP by boat tour. Spending time at the Visitor Center with great views of the marina from their observation tower.
Then rolling to a nice breakfast place on the marina with wireless Internet. After extensive double-breakfast (omelette+pancakes) and emailing I start riding South at 11:30am. It’s almost noon by the time I pass the campground again. However, today will be an easy day due to positioning for the crossing of the Los Angeles urban area the following day.
In Oxnard / Port Hueneme I stop at a grocery store for some food. I notice another touring bike outside and park my bike next to it. After shopping I meet it’s owner, Martine from Holland. As she also rides South we decide to ride together for the day.
Route passes a naval airbase – reststop at a missile park with propped up fighter planes – and along the Freeway PCH where there is only one road due to the steep mountain shores. Beautiful afternoon sun along the Coast, past Sycamore Canyon CG on to Leo Carillo State Beach. There is one more RV park in Malibu some 10 miles further, but given that it’s a private CG they have no hiker/biker rates, instead a ten-times more expensive rate of $47/night! So both Martine and I decide to stay at Leo Carillo SB after a short half-day of riding. There is time for a swim in the Pacific with some bodysurfing in the 8ft waves, followed by a hot shower and self-cooked pasta dinner. Early to bed under Eucalyptus trees and a starry night.
Wednesday, September 16
Malibu to Long Beach
117km / 7396km; 6h / 398h; 300m
Ride in the morning follows along Pacific Coast through Malibu, “25 miles of scenic beauty”, as one street sign advertises. And it is indeed very scenic here, with some morning fog being burnt off by the warm sun. Then one reaches the basin of the Los Angeles metropolitan area in Santa Monica. Martine and I are following the route advocated in my guidebook. The next section of some 30km or so still follows the coast line and at times the bike path runs directly along the sandy beaches. We have brunch on one of the cafes right on the bike path and beach. This is the quintessential, easy-going California beach scene here: Sun-tanned bodies on roller-blades or playing beach volleyball, surfer dudes rolling along the beach on their skateboards with their surfboards under their arms… Only one sad scene pierces this sunny image: A little girl fell on a beach cruiser bike and suffers from bruised skin and broken teeth bleeding from her mouth. Martine comforts the girl while I’m trying to locate her parents. After a while some lifeguards arrive and treat the girl’s injuries, so we wish the girl all the best and move on.
More beach towns line the path, including Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach. From here, however, we need to cross through the city to Long Beach. This part is not much fun, with lots of traffic and not much to look at. We stop at a Starbucks where some German lady tells me in no uncertain terms that she thinks I’m crazy to plan to ride down into Mexico. Martine now needs to head towards the ferry out to the Santa Catalina Island, while I try to get in touch with my former colleague and friend Dave Sigler in Newport Beach. We agree to meet the next morning and so I need to find some motel nearby. As it gets dark I check into one of the first cheap motels, situated right across from a little strip mall with restaurants. So after a shower and with the bike locked away safely in the motel room I walk across to the Italian restaurant for some big dinner and go to bed soon.
Thursday, September 17
Long Beach to Fallbrook
140km / 7536km; 6.8h / 405h; 900m
After an hour or so of riding past Huntington to Newport Beach I meet my friend Dave Sigler there in the late morning for brunch at a local restaurant. We chat about our families, work and various hobbies. He has been following my trip over the last few months and we’re glad to reconnect if only briefly. After about 2 hrs it’s time to move on. This will be quite a long day for me: I’d like to make it to the Brown residence in Fallbrook (near San Diego); we had met in Alaska and they had invited me to come visit them.
First I continue along the PCH to Laguna Beach and on to Dana Point. Here I pause at a scenic overlook, where I take a nice panorama shot. I follow along the beach and take advantage of the San Clemente Pedestrian Beach Trail. In San Clemente I check email and announce to the Browns that I would be hoping to arrive later that evening.
Then I continue past the nuclear power plant at San Onofre along the Freeway. The elongated San Onofre Beach Park is a welcome sight for cyclists. However, shortly thereafter, one reaches the restricted military area of Camp Pendleton. As there is only the freeway passing through this area cyclists are allowed to ride on the shoulder of the freeway. That’s a bit scary and noisy, but thanks to the wide shoulder it’s fairly safe. Soon I reach the town of Oceanside.
I pause to eat and drink. It’s already late afternoon. From here I need to ride away from the coast to get to Fallbrook. It’s not so much the distance (about 35km), but the unknown hills I will have to tackle which worry me. I stay in touch with the Browns, who give me directions via email and later check on my by phone. There are lots of hills and it starts getting dark just as I reach the town of Fallbrook. I stop to strap on my red blinking tail light and add a wind jacket. I am tired, but at the same time excited to be so close to this place, which will be my home away from home for a few days. I hit another pothole on a short downhill which makes me a bit mad as I can’t see enough anymore in the approaching dark. What to do? But then I turn around a corner and the Browns are standing outside at their garage and wave me in from the road. What a nice reception! And after a cooling dip in their pool and a cleansing shower they treat me to a wonderful dinner out on their patio, together with their son, his wife and all their dogs. It feels like a family reunion and I feel privileged to have met and the Browns and been invited here.
Rest day in Fallbrook, followed by round-trip rental car drive to Owens Valley and climb of Mt. Whitney, followed by another rest day in Fallbrook.
Wednesday, September 23
Fallbrook / Carlsbad to San Diego
50km / 7586km; 2.5h / 407h; 490m
Pick-up of bike at REI store in San Diego with my rental car. Then drive back to the Carlsbad / Palomar airport, where I can drop off the rental car. I unload the recumbent and trailer and set everything up. To the astonishment of the rental staff I continue my journey by bike. Via Encinitas, Cardiff, Solana Beach and Del Mar to the outskirts of San Diego near La Jolla. I ride up to the cliffs on the UCSD campus with the glider port and pause for a while, also to chat with Jill on the phone. Memories from past visits to this area, already more than 20 years ago! As I continue in the evening the US says Goodbye with one of the finest sunsets of the entire trip.
I ride along the beach in hopes of finding the place of Nick, the cycling surfer I had met in Northern California. He graciously offered for me to stay overnight at his little beach place. In turn, I invite him for dinner.
Thursday, September 24
San Diego to Rosarito (Mexico)
89km / 7675km; 5h / 412h; 500m