Spring 2000 Ė "Smiles not Miles."

May 19th

On the ATA "vacation flight, row 33, middle seat between two very young college girls who like to talk. Sarah one row in front of me, also in the middle.

Here we go again! On the plane heading west. Going to call this trip Ė "Smiles Not Miles" Ė since we three have not done many miles this year. (314 for me, 0 for Sarah and less than 10 for Josh.) We determined to do a tour this year and not our usual sprint.

We are starting in Sausalito (just north of San Francisco) and riding south along the coast highway (Highway 1) as far as we make it by next Sunday, then we plan on renting a car and returning to San Francisco to fly home on the 29th. Thatís the plan at this point. Should be great. Get to ride all we want for 8 days and have two of my three children to commune with. Doesnít get much better than that does it!

Bikes have been shipped to "The Bike Oddessy" in Sausalito. Called them yesterday and they didnít know if they would have them assembled or not. I was upset since I had made arrangements with them more than 6 weeks ago. I hope they get them. If not we will put them together ourselves. If we have to assemble them we will loose a little time, but save some money. We would rather have the time. We want to cross the Golden Gate and ride to Half Moon Bay (about 35 miles) arriving early enough to watch the surfers (supposed to be 50í waves?).

We left home at 11am this morning after final packing and some last minute jobs for Mom (moving flowerpots, dirt and such). Pulled my back a little. Hopefully it will be okay after a restful day. Sitting in the middle seat for 3 hours 50 minutes may not be very good for it. If I can move freely tomorrow I will be happy. Strange that when Iím riding my bike my back never bothers me at all, but sitting or walking for a long time causes a little nerve pain. I guess it is the fact that you are bent over in such a way that the vertebra in your back open up let the muscles relax.

Arriving in San Francisco at 4:50pm PST. Then supposed to catch a shuttle into the city to the Sir Frances Drake Hotel. Really great - one of the best hotels in San Francisco we understand. A good friend we do quite a bit of business with, Greg Mohoiís brother-in-law Ron Vlasic is the general manager of the Drake. What a stroke of good luck! Greg arranged for the room on the 19th (tonight) and next Saturday and Sunday.

It will be really special for the kids(?) (Josh turns 28 today. Its is his birthday. And Sarah my youngest at 20. I have been blessed with great kids. Wow, where have the years gone? Iím 55 and the time has disappeared. Strange I have stayed the same age while they have grown up!!)

Only thing better on this trip would be if Mary and Fay could be along. I offered but Mary couldnít get the time off and doesnít ride, and Fay couldnít figure what to do by herself. She is a great wife. I always hate leaving her. (We just passed over Denver and snow on the mountains. This trip we will not have to ride over them.) We are getting closer as we grow older, and not having her with me is hard. But probably harder on her since she is alone. Brenda, her sister is coming tomorrow and they are going to see her parents in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I hope all goes well. Iíll call often.

Fay really encouraged this trip. It has been about 1Ĺ years in planning. Iím really happy Josh is coming. We donít see each other often enough. The riding is great Ė but the real memories are the fellowship and people we meet along the way. The "adventure" is in the trip. That is the difference from most vacations where you take the "trip" to get to the adventure. I hope all goes well.

Saturday morning, Sir France Drake Hotel (really really nice place)

Friday night was a blast! Sarah and I had a great time last night.

We checked in at the Sir Francis Drake hotel after a harrowing ride from the airport in the "super shuttle." The driver was absolutely crazy. The route he took was like one of the Starsky and Hutch movie chases. We arrived safely but shook. The room (actually suite) at the Drake that Greg and Ron provided was very nice. Two rooms with a King size bed and a roll out for Sarah.

As soon as we were settled in, off we went since Sarah had never ridden a cable car. So we jumped on, paid our $2 and rode down to Fishermanís Wharf. We saw the store where Fay got her sweatshirt last year. Still a prime tourist spot. Since I had left my sunglasses at home Ė darn - we bargained for a new pair (I love it when the store will bargain. I probably donít get that good of a deal but it was fun. Then supper (seafood of course) and to Ghirardelli Square for chocolate sundaes! (Our first ice cream of the trip) Now I remember why we came to San Francisco! They were really good. Later we caught the trolley back to the hotel and hit the sack. With the time change it was about midnight.

Then about 3am, Josh rolled in! I said "Hi" and we all went back to sleep. His ticket was cheap, but he paid for it in the travel arrival and departure times.

Saturday night Ė Day 1 Ė Half Moon Bay

Note: The day riding profiles will give you an indication of the relative difficulty of each days riding.

Up at about 8am. Breakfast at the hotel café and then packed our bike bags and stored everything we did not want to carry for the week at the Drakeís storage area. The doormen at the Drake are dressed as "beefeaters" in the old English traditional manner. He called a cab for us (The driver was nice but as wild as yesterdays.) and off we went to Sausalito to "The Bike Oddessy" bike shop. They had the bikes assembled and ready. That was a relief and a pleasant surprise. The bike guy was pretty sharp too. He noticed a couple of things we needed and fixed them as well as closely examining our bikes.

He also set up Joshís new "granny" gear. (A "granny gear" is a very small third chain sprocket, which lowers the gear ratio so that you peddle very fast but go very slow, but can climb hills with less effort.) The Granny will be Joshís birthday present along with a new pair of bike shorts. Happy Birthday Josh, one day late. But he sure will enjoy that low gear.

We next packed our gear and set up the bikes for touring. I am carrying four bags and the kids two each. But they are carrying the tent and tools (Josh) and the cooking stove and food (Sarah) so it evens out some. Talked a bystander into taking the required start-out photo and suddenly we were on our way.

Immediately after a beautiful two mile ride along the beach through the town we started climbing (real climb too.) from Sausalito to the Golden Gate Bridge. Josh used his granny gear right away!! It was a long 2 miles and not easy with the tourists and lots of other bikers watching us. One said, " She could hardly get herself and her bike up that hill let alone how we were doing it with the travelling gear also." We are carrying about 30 pounds of gear each. Everything we needed to live for the next few days or for a few months if need be.

(When you are bike camping you donít take any more than you need, since you must be the engine to transport the goods the distance you go. But once you have this minimum it does not change if you go for a week or a year, so choose wisely. We are taking the same stuff as when we went across the United States a few years ago. That was good since we did not have to make any major equipment purchases for this trip.)

We arrived at the top of the climb; rode into the tourist parking lot and the bridge was covered in fog! It was blowing in and it was cold! We stopped and took some pictures of the fog covered bridge (!) then rode onto the bridge side walk/ride way. It was quite cold, windy, foggy and absolutely wonderful! We rode about 50 feet and stopped and quickly put on our warm clothes. What a rush. A once in a lifetime chance for sure. About a mile ride across I think. Once over we stopped and took our warm jackets off and started our ride through San Francisco. We were using the bike America maps and they were really good. We came through without a problem. No huge hills on our route to the ocean and arrived at the entrance to Golden Gate park. There was a huge windmill operating at the entrance, very cool. We decided to not stop and tour but keep on since we had left Sausalito late and didnít know what was ahead.

(Too dark to write now more in the morning)

Sunday morning 6am PST., Half Moon Bay

Canít sleep so I am now making the hot chocolate for the kids since my body says it is 8am our time. Beautiful morning. The sun is just coming over the hills to the east of our campground.

Back to yesterday. We all couldnít believe how smoothly we rode through San Francisco. The map people did a great job. After we got to ocean side we just rode along the coast highway south. Stopping to admire the surfers (Sarah) the cool cars (Doug) and the scantily clad surfer women (Doug & Josh).

1st cup hot chocolate done, thatís for me!

It is amazing how good a cup of hot chocolate can taste when your "on the road."

The beach is beautiful. I guess you will hear that for the entire journey since thatís what we are doing and why we are on this route. It was cool. The fog would come in and get cold. Then go out and it would be hot. Kind of like that all the trip down so far. A few quite challenging hills (sun just came into our little area) in Daly City we had a very steep climb about 1Ĺ miles in a residential area. Then when we hit the "Devilís Slide" area, no shoulder, very steep grade and lots of traffic. About 3 miles to the top and one of those nasty hills that keep turning so you donít know where the top is. It was tough. Sarah and Josh walked some. I just put it in granny (19 tooth) and rode 3Ĺ - 4 mph up smoothly. Canít believe what climbing with 30 less pounds of fat on me does. Iím still slow but it is much easier. Anyway after a real sweat, we made it to the top! What a view! Even with the fog it was beautiful. We could see the ocean a good 700-800 feet below us. This is the area that always washes out in the rainy season that they show on the news. It was tough. Then as we started a great decent (One very good thing about this trip: we started at sea level and will finish at sea level so it is absolutely fair!) we came upon an old WWII military fortification. A gun emplacement.

It was a real "pill box" like we had in the Alaska islands where I was stationed in the service. We all stopped and looked it over. While there, nature called. No cornfields here so had to hike into the bush! Something that we hadnít considered up to this point. We will be looking for rest rooms or good spots a little closer on this trip.

After the pill box we had a great swooshing down hill ride.

Both Josh and I thought we saw a naked girl on the beach but neither stopped to get the binoculars out! Sarah of course thought she had a suit on. We were quite high and the beach was a cove about 200 feet below. We laughed later when we both related the story since we were 1/2 mile apart when we saw her, and neither stopped to take a closer look or shared the experience until later in the day.

Mostly down hill for the last 6-8 miles into Half Moon Bay, nice town. We ate KFC for lunch.

Oceanside Park Ė we rode in cold, tired and hungry. They had biker-hiker spots but only cold showers. So we are going to smell tomorrow! (Too cold to take one even on a bet)

We put the tent up in a really nice sheltered area. The trees are soooo cool. All wind blown leaning over to the East Ė neat. After the tent was up we went into town ate a hearty meal and telephoned our "honeys". (Nice that Josh works for a cellular phone company with free long distance and a fancy phone that finds the signal easily.)

It will be a cold night with the ocean wind directly on us. I put on all the clothes I brought with me (lycria bike tights & flannel PJs with nylon covers on bottom, turtleneck and heavy sweatshirt on top) and snuggled into the mummy sleeping bag for the night. We are all very cozy in our portable home. May seem crazy but slept pretty good. Got up once to pee. The ocean waves pounded all night but no wind or rain. Clear moon.

Then my CST (Central Standard Time) body was awake and so I got going. Josh still sleeping. Mostly could hear a local foghorn and the seals calling during the night. Ready for a nice ride to somewhere south. I know we have at least one major climb five miles down the road. But maybe a really good downhill after the climb. This is the only way to travel.

Stats day 1: distance: 40.39 mi.; Maximum speed: 38.0 mph; Average speed 8.7 mph and riding time: 4:35

Sunday Ė Day 2 "Africa Hot"

Up at 5:30am. Am I dumb or what. But that is 7:30 body time. Made the hot chocolate and broke camp, on the road around 9 am. Into Half Moon Bay for a very good breakfast then we turned south along highway one. Riding was really good in the morning: rolling hills with a couple of good 2-3 mile climbs but the weather was beautiful. 37 miles without any services so we stocked up on food and water and headed out. All in good spirits and in awe of the ocean scenery. At every turn it was unbelievably beautiful. Iím sure we will be saying that the whole way.

We had one 500-foot climb outside Half Moon Bay. It was tough but manageable. The hills are pretty tough climbs, but so far we have had really good descents and that makes it nice. We saw the Pigeon Point lighthouse. It was quite impressive and very tall. Then just south we saw our first sea lions up close. The bulls are very big and impressive. They were sunning on the rocks like big piles of blubber. So far we have seen three small lizards, two snakes (one alive), a big rabbit, and the sea lions. We could hear seals last night but couldnít see them.

Had a nice rest stop at a Creek and gas station. The rocks around this area have perfect holes in them from "boring clams". I walked down to the shore and picked up three pretty nice ones. One was a little large but I decided it was worth hauling along. Maybe Ĺ pound and 3 inches in diameter. (It was at Bean Hollow beach area) I donít know how much extra weight it represents but I liked it so will cart it on from here.

As the day progressed it got hotter and hotter. We stopped for fresh fruit. Fresh cherries and strawberries (for Sarah). They were from Oxnard, the premiere berry area and they were very fresh and as good as I have ever eaten! A great stop. I love to stop along the road and buy fruit. You just wash it off, start riding onward and eat as you go, tossing the remains (biodegradable of course) along the road for the ants to get! We all feasted.

As we kept going south it just got hotter and hotter. By the time we made San Cruz it was at least 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The road temperature was over 100. We just arenít set up clothes or conditionally for these temperatures this early in the season. We drank like fiends and tried to keep hydrated. You need a gallon per hour to maintain, and with no cornfields . . .

Arriving in San Cruz we had about seven Ė eight miles in town with traffic. We stopped and had pizza. It was good, and the shop was in the shade. Then fought our way through town.

Stopped at a couple of bike shops (there were a lot of them for the size of the town?) and finally located Sarah a battery for her bike speedometer computer, so that was good.

A few miles after this the sun got to us and we just over heated and blew up. We started to yell at each other then we all called a truce and rode without comment to the Brighton Beach State Park.

The last hill into the park was terrible. We all walked in absolute silence on this one. I have been climbing pretty well, but I was dehydrated, grumpy, and didnít feel I needed to make a point or "prove anything to anybody."

We were bushed!

Now it is after a wonderful hot shower. Did the shower feel good since we did not get one last night? Yes. Two minutes of shower time for 25 cents and we each had 2 quarters. So four minutes apiece and it was hot shower heaven. When you know that you only have four minutes you plan your shower very carefully. Set up the soap; take the top off the shampoo, and no wasted motions. Itís strange the things that change, and you appreciate when you taken them for granted. We all laughed (at least we have started to talk to each other again) about it since we all did exactly the same thing Ė engineers I guess. (Josh is electrical, Sarah is studying Industrial engineering, and Iím a metallurgical engineer.)

For supper Ė gourmet! Sarah made Ramen noodles, and pork and beans on our little stove. We were too tired to go anywhere. We split our single Snickers bar for dessert. It was well earned and a fine supper.

Itís now rapidly cooling down. We can see our breath! Weird, the fast changes in the weather. We are planning a short (40 mile) day tomorrow into Monterey. Hope the weather cools a little but stays good.

Stats distance: 58.8 mi., Time: 5:46 hrs; Average speed: 10.2 mph: My max 38 mph (pretty good loaded) and the official air temperature was 98 degrees.

Monday Ė Day 3 - (New Brighton Beach to Monterey)

"Strawberry fields forever"

First time I can remember on any trip with Sarah that she was awake before me in the morning! She thought I was dead! (Even checked to see if I was breathing) But since she was sound asleep at 8:30 last night and I made it all the way until 9:00, I guess it was okay. We were really beat after the heat we experienced yesterday.

Anyway once awaked by a "hot chocolate order", I got back to my usual morning routine.

Rode south from our campsite only a few minutes and we found a bakery serving breakfast. Josh spotted it and we didnít argue at all. 3 orders of french toast on homemade heavy bread. It was very very good and started us off in a pretty good mood. Amazing what a little sleep and a pretty morning will do for your mental health.

Bike riding trips can not be beat. No phone, no fax, no watch, no schedule, and everything you need to survive with you on your bike. You immediately fall into the natural rhythms of the day; sleeping when dark, awakening when light, conscious of small sounds, and appreciating the land you are silently moving through. At night your dead tired but it is a physical fatigue, which actually feels really good, like you have earned your keep for the day. Canít explain the attraction.

Next we travel south towards Monterey.

Pretty boring country after the last few days. Mostly central California vegetable forms- irrigated Ė and most everything you can imagine. Artichokes (grow on top of large plants), onions, lettuce, tomatoes, beets, radishes, and tons of strawberries. We are talking serious fields. 80-100 acres at least. All stoop labor and the vines were overflowing with the big red ones. Mile after mile, Sarah is drooling all the way. None for sale yet! I admire the workers who are able to pick all day, and hope the farmers donít take advantage of them and treat them right. They are always quick with a smile and a wave back when we ride by and wave.

We were riding peacefully along the highway kind of in the "riders zone" past a Duke energy power plant nearly to Sand City when a truck full of radishes lost its load right in front of us! Iím talking beautiful red radishes all over the road! There were a million of them and they were everywhere! I was sure glad we werenít beside it when they fell off. Would be a pretty funny obit: "Bikers killed by radishes." I felt sorry for the drivers and laborers who had picked them. Certainly a whole field full of produce. They scurried around picking up as many as possible and causing a terrific traffic jam.

We stopped and watched for a few minutes then went on. While stopped Sarah couldnít unclip her bike shoe and fell over while standing still. (We wear bike shoes with clip-in bindings like skis. They are supposed to release when turned, but apparently hers was dry from the heat or not enough oil and didn't click-out) She sustained a minor bruise on her knee. I got the first-aid kit and fixed her right up. She was more embarrassed than injured.

About a mile later there was the first produce shop we had seen. Took only a "New York minute" for us to stop and buy two quarts of fresh strawberries. We washed and again ate them along the road. The Hispanic woman minding the store was very curious about our ride and looked the bike stuff over with a longing eye Ė not an unusual attitude. A lot of people look at us with a little jealousy in their eye, but you know anyone can do it if they really wanted to. You donít need expensive equipment or to be in superhuman shape, just willing to accept the unknown adventure ahead. Anyway the fresh strawberries consoled Sarah and we are back in good spirits.

Ahead was our first redwood grove. They were second growth but still pretty darn impressive. They were in small canyon groves and kind of protected from the wind.

Down the way we passed the trucking center where they move the produce from the field to the market. They were loading out semis like mad, full of strawberries for the markets of Chicago, less a few radishes for sure!!

Caught a very nice bike path into Monterey. Made the last part of the trip into town very pleasant. Not having to worry about the traffic.

(The Bike trail was named for George Takei, who was Sulu on Star Trek. Josh added this interesting info. )

So far traffic is the only negative on the trip. Lots of times we are on pretty busy roads. But the shoulders are great 4-6 feet wide and good pavement. I think that as we go down south the number of cars will get less.

Into Monterey. The campground "Vets Memorial Park" is on top of a mountain! Not a good place for a campground that you want to ride your bike to. It was a real climb. From the sea about 3 miles up at 10-15% grade, very steep. I want to tell you it was steep but I managed to ride all the way. Remember I have lower gears than the kids do. In my lowest gear, I am going about 3mph.

Nice camp free hot showers (donít laugh they are important after a long day riding.) and really nice campsites. Woods and lots of shade. Set up camp, showered and left all the bags to lighten the bikes for the climb back up. We debated about going back down the hill into town knowing we would have to climb back up again but we really wanted to spend some time in Monterey.

Great downhill but to many stop signs. Parked the bikes and did the town. Seals everywhere and they made some noise; we could hear them 3 miles away. They were everywhere. Just lying on the rocks close in. We ate on Fishermanís Wharf. Looked around bought a couple snack things and tee shirt for Fay and Pig for Sarah.

Rode back up the mountain. Ugh. Very nice evening with the kids. Clear evening air with stars out, and now getting cool. Good sleeping if the seals donít keep us awake. They are loud and we are two miles from the waterís edge. Carmel for breakfast tomorrow.

Good night.

Stats distance: 42.04 mi., Time: 4:26, Average speed: 9.5; max was 38.1 mph

Day 4 Monterey to Big Sur

"Iím so tired I canít fart!"

Note: we only rode to Pfeiffer -Big Sur state park on this day.

Well, we made Big Sur. It was both a great day and a horrible day. Horrible because for the 1st time this year (According to a local naturalist Ė he was perched on the edge of a cliff with a telescope watching a sea bird nest to see what the parents were feeding the young- and we taxpayers pay for this, or more importantly how could you not go crazy doing that job? - we talked to) the wind was blowing from the South. The prevailing wind is from the Northwest. But today as we were trying to ride south it was directly in our face at 40-60 knots! Just our luck Ė wrong way today!

The wind blew so hard on our climb over "hurricane point" (We certainly understand why this particular point has that name!!) that we were in danger of blowing off the road. We had to peddle to go downhill. So we limited the day to around 30 miles to save the two remaining big climbs till tomorrow when hopefully the wind will be more favorable. It was as tough a 35+ miles as I think I have ever ridden. The kids were really proud when they were able to make the climb Ė especially Josh. Sarah went up like a tour-de-France rider and waved to us from the top as we labored. We werenít smiling.

So much for the hard part.

The good was much better. We ate breakfast in Carmel by the Sea. (Clint Eastwood is mayor) at a yuppie place. (Great pancakes with classical music playing) Then rode by the "mission de Carmel" established in 1770. Sarah thought it was one of the oldest sites we have ever seen while biking. Very neat.

Next we stocked up with food since there wasnít much south of here. Pork and beans, beanie weenies, Raman noodles, skittles, and a couple of snickers. This seems to be our standard far for this trip.

Then we rode to Point Lobos State Park about 6 miles south of Carmel. It is the home of the only original growth of Monterey Cypress trees in the world. There are others groves but they all originated from the trees that are located here. This is one place that I have always wanted to visit. When we were scouting the route last year by car we did not have the time so I made it a "must see" for this year. We were not disappointed. It had to be one of the most interesting and beautiful places I have ever been. I had seen a series of photographs by Edward Weston taken in the 40ís or 50ís using a large format view camera and they were stunning. Since then I had always wanted to see the place where they were taken. I took some photos with my little Nikon, but would have really liked to spend some time just taking photos. Only problem, photographs can not convey the beauty and splendor of the location. Many of the trees are natural Bonsai trees with shapes formed by the prevailing winds and growing on rocks that would seem unable to support even minimal life let alone magnificent trees. The flowers were in bloom and there must have been a hundred different types. Also great wildlife watching. Saw seals, sea lions, and sea otters. We had a great tour, walking through the trails and wooded area. It was very impressive. The naturalist said the trees are about 300-400 years old, it was a nice break and exceeded my expectations. Met some very nice people at the stop, the Alters from Arroyo Grande California. They offered to feed and shower us if we get down towards their home. They are bikers also but no long riding trips yet. We sure meet nice people when we are biking; it is maybe the part I like best.

I am so tired I canít move Ė Iím too tired to fart!!!!!!

Stats: Time 4:04 hrs; Average Speed 8.9 mph; Maximum speed: 31.1 mph, Distance for the day: 36.21 miles (these were well earned miles: uphill and into the wind!)

Good morning, we all slept like babies and I am making the required fuel for the day - hot chocolate. Kids are still asleep so I have a nice morning quiet time to spend in prayer and catching up on this journal. It is a discipline to keep a journal, but in the winter or in a few years when I read it itís if I am right back on the road and I can visualized the entire trip, strange isnít it. Worth the discipline of journalizing.

Camping at Pfeiffer Ė Big Sur campground at Big Sur. We are in a beautiful grove of red woods that are very impressive. Not much to say about the ride in! Really the coastal scenery is absolutely beautiful. The shoulders are good, traffic light, and the hills manageable so far. Except for yesterdayís south wind which was a killer.

As we neared Big Sur it flattened some and we rode a little way inland along the Big Sur River. Cows grazing and real cowboys on horses. The land here is too hilly to raise anything else except maybe sheep. We saw a couple of really beautiful lighthouses at Big Sur Point (Sur means "South"). The one out at the end of the rocky peninsula was especially cool. I canít imagine the difficulty of constructing it on a shear rock wall. Ate late lunch-early along the route and supper in the town of Big Sur. This place is a long way from anywhere. Very nice though, except the crows would come to the table as soon as the people were done and eat any leftovers. The one we watched liked the cream in the small coffee creamer pitcher the best! He would bury his head and come up with a beak full of cream. Guess they know where the calories are! Tried to get a picture but no luck.

After the lunch we continued into the campground. It is the plushest that we have seen on this trip. Very nice. Two other bikers. One we have been riding with and one new one who is just starting from here. The one we have been riding with is from upstate California and is on his first trip. He is set up pretty good but riding a mountain/cross type bike. They will kill you on these long trips; a true touring bike with drop handlebars and thinner road tires is so much easier to handle.

This park is at the southern limit of the red wood range (The range is only 30 miles wide and 500 miles long going north up in to Oregon) The park says they are the worldís tallest living organism, with the tallest at 367í. The largest tree here is the "colonial tree" with a circumference of 27í. And the oldest are 800-1200 years old. Kind of puts things in perspective. We looked them over pretty good, quite beautiful.

It was nice last night as we had enough energy to walk around and look the place over. Found a beautiful swimming hole in the Big Sur River. Could see the fish but no one wanted to go in. We all imagine the water is still snow run off and would be like ice but we have seen inner tubes in some campsites so some brave souls must swim! Reminded us of past times when the kids were smaller and they loved to tube. Good conversation remembering these times and fishing with Josh for trout in New York.

Josh was great last night; he volunteered to do the laundry. So we all gave him our stuff, all dirty by this time. He washed, dried and returned them Ė not folded of course. We "roll" everything to keep the packs tight and reduce wrinkles Ė like we really care!

Sarah and I walked down and "phoned home." Kevin wasnít home. Fay sounded pretty down. Itís hard when we are gone. She will be home for four days alone after getting back from Hancock. It certainly is no fun for her. We need to do things different or not do these trips any more maybe. . .

Well the hot chocolate is done, so time to get the day moving. Lord keep us safe and be with Fay today!

Day 5 Big Sur Ė Pacific Valley.

Rain, well not quite rain, but a dense fog (both soak you anyway you look at it). It is like riding in a cloud all day. Our views were limited by short-range vision. Lots of hills. A real killer as soon as we left the camp. I/we hate it when we have to climb before we even get a chance to warm up. Takes about 10 miles of riding to warm up and if you are climbing before that it is double hard. Anyway we had a lot of climbs and some road construction areas. They do have a real job maintaining this road. Since it was foggy there was very little traffic and that made for nice quiet riding. We all liked that. The traffic has dropped steadily as we have moved south; many times we have the road pretty much to ourselves.

Rode through the rain most of the day. Lunch at "Lucia" a one-store town on top of a huge climb. It was a pretty good lunch but very expensive ($54) for sandwiches and soup. But they had a fire in the fireplace and the food was very good. Location, location, location. They also had a small store but it was not stocked with much, and what was there was very expensive so we didnít get anything.

Continued about 10-15 miles further to Pacific Valley campground. Very nice but $15 and no showers, not even cold ones. So we will all stink together. Especially since we are again having Beanie Weenies and Dinty More stew tonight.

We thought we were going to have to ride 5 miles to find a phone to call home, but found out we could go to a small picnic area 100 yards and call. Great news since the cellular doesnít get a signal this far out in the boonies. Nice to talk to our loved ones. Fay sounded better tonight, God answers prayer.

Set up camp and then walked down to "Jade Cove." We found a couple of nice small pieces of jade. It was a cool spot, cliffs and big breakers. It is interesting to see how the vegetation survives in the harsh climate near the ocean. The coast is really beautiful. Saw some rabbits, little ones. Hoping for a nice sunset but maybe too cloudy.

Supper, Beanie weenies, Dinty Moore stew, Raman noodles, hot chocolate and skittles for desert! Real good riding food.

I built a fire (I think it is the first time we have actually built a fire while we were on a riding trip!) It was fun since we all had to scrounge for the wood. I had a bunch strapped on the back rack of my bike, looked for sure like the Beverly hillbillies.

We all shared the evening duties, some cooked, some washed, etc. We really do pretty darn good as a team. A wonderful evening together.

Since we are not riding so far each day, we have time to do some fun things.

Now it is time for our required campground tour. The majority of van campers are rentals, and older people. It is fun to look the place over and see the different solutions to the same basic problem Ė camping. Some are high status and some just make it and no more. We are simple but efficient.

Sat around and played in our campfire. Pitched a chunk of magnesium (mg) into the fire and it was cool (very bright) when it burned. Fun for engineers.

Stats: Time 4:14 hr., Average: 8.6 mph, Distance: 36.66 mi., Maximum speed: 33.2

Day 6 Pacific Valley to San Simeon?????

"Hill City"

Whew! Two big climbs today and the last two. They were tough. One right after the other. Great down hills, but on the first one it was bitter sweet since we knew there was one more hill to go.

We had a pretty good discussion on the merits of knowing the route ahead of time. That way you know what hills are coming and can plan, or if it would be better not to so you didnít dread the next one when you should be enjoying the downhill from the first one. No decision.

We all slept well last night and started early south since we wanted to tour the Hearst Castle.

Beautiful morning and blue skies and ocean views. A little fog, but higher than we were. We rode about 5 miles into Goudia to a breakfast spot. It was a neat place. A center for whale watching and jade working. This is a hot area for jade. The best in US and lot of jade artists in the area. Talked about whales but we are kind of late in the migration season, mostly March/April. We are looking hard anyway, especially on the climbs when we are going slow and are usually quite high over the ocean. No luck.

Breakfast was really good. Blueberry pancakes for Sarah with OJ, Banana nut pancakes for Josh with OJ, and eggs, ham, toast with water for Dad. The food was very good, lots of it but quite expensive - $47 w/o tip! I guess when you have the only restaurant in 40 miles you can charge for the service. Gas was $2.99/gal. So maybe our fuel costs are about the same, at $3/gal. 18 gallons would equal breakfast not an unreasonable comparison.

Immediately after stocking up (fig newtons, skittles, and banana/carrot cake) we started climbing for the next 17 miles. We mostly climbed Ė no traffic and little wind. We are all in better shape now after five days riding so the climbs seem more fun.

But it was all the climb any of us wanted. Sarah has gotten into good shape quick, Josh has been struggling some but thatís the price of being a "desk jockey." He is doing a lot better than I expected and is out climbing me. (We havenít walked a hill along the coast except coming out of the campsite in Monterey. And that was because it was so early in the morning.) Thatís not to say we donít stop often to view the scenery and catch our breath. Anyway we made it. And those two hills were our last ones along the coast ride.

It is unbelievable how you come down from the last one and the lay of the land immediately flattens out without any climbs to speak of. It is one of the most dramatic changes in terrain that I have ever seen. We were not complaining!

Going slowly up the climbs we had the chance to really look the plants and area over. When you are going 3-4 mph you see a lot! I can safely say God made the weedís flowers more beautiful than anything man could make. (Didnít someone say the difference between a weed and a flower is a weed grows without help and a flower doesnít grow with help.) We made one "skittle" break near a sharp bend on the last climb and when we looked around we could see yucca plants in blossom on the hill sides, maybe 50-70 plants. Only place we have seen them to date. They raise a single flower stem about 6í high and a number of pure white blossoms on the stem. Very beautiful and a sure sign we are moving south. No big trees around here either.

Up and over a really great descent off the last hill. About three miles of very nice road, no cars to speak of. (Canít believe the lack of cars Ė in many cases we have the road to ourselves.) We were like three streaks (2 yellow- Josh and Dad, and a white one Ė Sarah) flying down the mountain. Only touched my brakes on one sharp corner and just flew like a tour-de-France guy. Down certainly 35 Ė 40mph. Thatís pretty fast fully loaded. It was great. Climb for 2-3 hours then descend in 10-12 minutes! But are those minutes great!!

Once down and onto the flat ground we caught a tailwind of 15-20 mph and suddenly we were speeding along at 15-18 mph. The first time in double digits in about 2 days, other than descents. It was flat to gently rolling and sunshine cool (60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.) We were laughing and celebrating our victory over the Big Sur Mountains. Even the bike tour books classify this area from Carmel to San Simeon as "difficult" with 9 major climbs. As we are speeding along we start seeing elephant seals swimming on the beaches in small coves. At one place we stop so we can view them close up. And I mean close up. We were about 20 feet from a whole bunch of huge ones that were huddled together. The bulls are huge, and the cows much smaller. This was the same viewing area as Fay and I stopped at last year when we drove this route. We really enjoyed watching and getting up close. They are big. Amazing that they had been hunted too less than 100. These were found along the Baja peninsula. Once Mexico ceased hunting, then the US followed suit and they have made a wonderful recovery. They were hunted for fat to make oil for lights, then kerosene was developed and demand was reduced. Probably saved the lions.

Anyway once hunting stopped they made a great come back. The first pup was born on these beaches in 1992, and now there are thousands. They are really cool. At Point Lobos we felt the pelts of a sea otter and a sea lion. The sea lion was quite coarse and probably not good for a coat!

Back on the road wind still behind us. Blew us into the San Simeon area.

We rode uphill a little ways to the Hearst Castle Park. Josh and Sarah took the tour. We ate first. We got in at 12:15. Then we all had ice cream (HaagenDaz) when they returned.

We are going to camp tonight at San Simeon camp ground about 5 miles south of the Castle Park.

Iím writing today while I await their return from the tour. Thinking of the nice time I had last year here with Fay, that was a special trip. But this year travelling with the kids is nice. Really fun seeing them develop tighter friendships, as they have grown older. They are really quite cute?????? When riding together. They are always ahead of me on the climbs. Anyway I liked having Fay along last year. This is harder on her since she is alone. Iím lucky Ė no "blessed" to have her, and have her encourage me to take these trips, (She is driving south from Houghton/Hancock to home today with Brenda.)

More later from the campground. I am looking forward to hot showers tonight. We all need it after two days sweating in the mountains. We stink!

Later -

We are at the campground now. Really nice in California since the campgrounds have "biker/Hiker" sites, and they can not turn you away if you are biking or hiking. This is a very nice set up and eliminates a lot of stress of where are we going to stay and will there be a spot for us when we get there. Cold and windy 40-50 knot wind right off the ocean. We are camped right on the shore sheltered only a little by a road embankment. We are bracing for a cold night. We sure did not expect this cold weather. It is about 50 degrees and with the wind blowing even colder. But we have had hot showers so we are all feeling pretty good. Sarah even shaved her legs! Amazing how what is important changes as you ride.

Supper Ė oatmeal for Sarah and I and Josh had Raman noodles, shared a box of fig newtons and snickers for dessert! We are hoping for a very good sunset tonight it is clear and blue sky so should be good.

Stats: Time 3:22 hrs., Average 11.1 mph!, Maximum 36.1 (whooosh around the corners!) and Distance 37.48 miles ( well earned)

All in good spirits after we talked with our significant others.

Good day Ė tomorrow into Moroco Bay, short ride, nice town. If we donít freeze tonight!

Day 7 San Simeon to Pismo Beach

"Ride into the hills"

"New Yorkers deserve Mrs. Clinton," the old codger stated flatly. Then he went on with very conservative anti-government views for a quite a while. We were sitting at the ocean side café in Pismo Beach having a really good supper. The owners were old-65-75 and had run the small café for 17 years on the same corner. And a great corner it was too - but first about our last riding day,

We did almost freeze at the San Simeon camp last night. The wind was really blowing off the ocean. It was flat cold. We all cuddled in our tent marveling that it could be so warm during the day and so damn cold at night. We all had just about every item of clothing we could get on Ė on! Then we "mummied" our bags. (When you pull the top flap tight so only your face-nose is exposed.) Should mention that Sarah has a winter sleeping bag, and Josh and I have summer bags, so if she is cold that means we are freezing!

For the first time in a long time I got up in the morning went to the bathroom then crawled back into the bag and slept some more! The kids were shocked since once Iím up I never crawl back in. But it felt good, especially as the sun came up and started to warm the tent! (You wake up when you get really cold, then as the tent warms up it is so nice to just cuddle back into the bag and close your eyes for a few minutes . . . zzzzzzzzzzz ) We talked and told stupid jokes and generally shivered together for most of the evening. Lots of bikers in camp, maybe 10-12 and a fairly large group supported by a van. They were all most all going to a town (Paso Robles) not far from here where they hold a very big bicycle rally over Memorial Day. Thousands from all over the world come, I guess. Called "Global Bike Rally." At the same time an antique car rally is going on so the town is "happening."

We had our morning drinks and rolled into Cambia for breakfast. It was a really cute town. Lots of art galleries and specialty shops. A good place to spend some time in the future with Mom. Competition in the area so the breakfast was very good and the prices are coming down.

On the road again. Nice roads with only minor climbs and a nice steady pace. We are riding like real experienced bikers now after 6 days conditioning on the ocean route. Our bodies are attuned to the hours of exercise each day, and we love it.

Soon we could see Morro Rock in the distance. This is a huge (576í tall) granite rock about ľ mile off shore. It has been called the "Gibraltar of the Pacific" and is the remains of a volcano cone. Apparently there are nine such extinct volcanoes in the area called the "9 sisters" but "Morro rock" is the famous one. The sign said it was first sighted by Juan Cabrillo in 1542. Must have been something to have seen this land in the 1500s. He must have been the first Spaniard to come up the coast since Highway 1 which we have been riding all the way is named "Cabrillo Highway." Those were some brave souls. I am going to find some books on them and find out more about them and what drove them onward.

We were considering stopping in Morro Bay but it was early and the campground wasnít particularly interesting, so we snacked on Fig Newtons and pressed inland towards San Luis Obispo.

The road turned rural in a moment as we rode eastward away from the ocean and each mile we rode the temperature went up 3-4 degrees. (Sarah was down to her riding halter for the first time and Josh in sleeveless shirt.) A pretty good climb into the foot hills. It was a very nice change in scenery. California is so varied and the microclimates are unbelievable. The weather can change drastically in one mile, or just over a single hill or around a turn. As we top the long hill we see a really spectacular descent into a small valley ahead. Suddenly we are all laughing and having a good time again. I stopped and took a picture, mainly just to savor the coming decent. I wasnít disappointed it was one of the best descents we have had on the trip. No cars, smooth road, nice pavement and we were flying. I hit 40 mph for the first time this trip. Thatís clipping along when full loaded. Once to the bottom, we turned directly east, and caught a really good tail wind. It is our understanding that this route is used by all of the local rides as a good training route. It sure was a nice 10 miles or so.

From the decent we turned left on to a brand new black top road and the Lord provided a tail wind to push us eastward on relatively flat terrain. We were "Pace Lining" in a moment at 18-22 mph Ė great. Canít get much better for a biker than new blacktop road and a strong tail wind Ė maybe strawberries to eat while riding!

The established route we were following turned north east, but we decided the tail wind was just too good and stayed on the same road for a number of miles further.

Nice to be able to go the way the wind blows without worrying about the group. One of the real advantages of solo touring. A little confusion once we reached San Louis Obispo. But we figured it out and headed on county roads towards Pismo Beach.

Passed hot springs heated area and Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant. Area of steep valleys and canyons.

Then into Shell City for lunch. Josh spotted a barbecue place and we were not disappointed - it was good. We couldnít figure if we have been just picking great eating places, or we are we so hungry anything tastes good! Borrowed a phone book and looked for car rental places and bike shops. Only car rental was Enterprise, and a couple of bike shops.

Rode into Grover Beach to the Enterprise location and they wouldnít rent us a car to drop in San Francisco. So struck out on that one. Then up the street to the bike shop. She not only did not have any boxes, but also was not interested in boxing them either or providing much help. She did however direct us up the street a little to the Switchbax Cycle Shop. Now this was a real bike shop. The owner, Ted Aclan reminded us of Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid. Very nice, we all liked him immediately. He was a retired electrical engineer, and had worked at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant as an instrumentation engineer. He and Josh struck up an engineer dialog while Sarah and I looked over the bike shop. He was very helpful and said he would pack the bikes and take them to the UPS pick-up for us. He also helped us set up a cab for the next day. Like I told you he was great.

He had some of the new Bike E recumbent bikes in stock so we all looked them over very closely and tried riding them in the stationary rollers. They are a cross between a normal upright bike and a recumbent. Very comfortable to ride and I would think pretty fast since the cross section frontal area is considerably less than a conventional bike. A local Cal-Poly student designed them as a senior engineering project. They are now manufactured in Oregon. Very simple elegant design.

So with this arranged we are all set for tomorrow and I relaxed quite a bit. We can get the cab to the airport and there are a number of rental agencies there so transportation should not be a problem. We return to the beach road and ride south a few miles to the Pismo Beach State Park.

We know immediately that we have a fun spot to spend the remainder of the day. Every blue-collar four-wheel drive vehicle in central California was on the road to the campsite. Turns out that Pismo Beach is the only California beach where you can drive your vehicle actually on the beach sand area. Not only your vehicle but you can pull something (anything as it turned out). So many of the trucks were pulling campers Ė right out onto the beach. It was a sight. Big "dulies" loaded with four wheelers, trailers, dogs, kids, barbecues and enough extra wood to start a saw mill. Those good olí boys are going to have some fun on the beach! Oh did I forget - enough Budweiser to keep everyone in stock for three days and nights!

Neat, we found our camp ground and set up for the night. (The camp was "full" but not for bikers Ė yeah!) We have an established routine now. We make it to our site. Sarah heads for the shower while Josh and I set up the tent and dry line. When she is done, Josh goes and Sarah and I get the sleeping bags and stuff into the tent, then I shower and we are ready for supper. We have been keeping a close eye on her Ė donít want to have some unknown California "dude" hitting on her.

Only change is that tonight we decided to eat out.

We locate the "ocean side café" right on the main entrance to the beach, which brings us back to the beginning of todayís journal entry.

The owners of the café were old timers. 17 years they have run the place. A real "Mom and Pop" place. They had an opinion on most everything. Then one of the old guyís friends came and they got it really going. But the new guy knew about computer stuff. He immediately picked up on Joshís tee shirt logo, which was the Lunix penguin, and started asking about his job and computer stuff. It was quite entertaining and surprised Josh. Canít tell a book by the cover. The food was very good and we had homemade pie and ice cream. We had earned it. We had a fun time watching the big boyís toys drive by. It was a great eating experience.

After eating we rode back to camp and walked down to the beach to watch the sun set. It was really nice. A few mosquitoes were the only detriment to a really nice last riding day. The air was cool but not as cold as the previous night. We snuggled and slept like babies. Happy that we have had such a wonderful and blessed ride.

Stats: Time 5:19 hrs., Average 11.2mph., Maximum speed: 40.2mph, Distance 59.59

Day 8 Pismo Beach

"Back to the real world"

Awoke early. Hard to believe the time has vanished on this trip. This week and our ride is over. We are all a little sad to break camp and head out to the Switchbax bike shop. We pack up, load up the bikes and slide quietly into town, early because today is a transition day from biker bums to tourists.

We have a really great breakfast at the surf shop café. Hawaiian french toast, very good. The owner was really nice and interested in our ride. We then proceed to the bike shop. We are early so lounge around talking of the trip and enjoying each other. At 10 the shop opens and we unload and deliver the bikes. This is a great bike shop. You can just tell. Ted, the owner lets us try out a Bike E tandem.

This is a recumbent style bike with very quick steering. First Sarah and Josh, then Sarah and I ride around on it. It is a little touchy but very comfortable. I bet it would be great for touring. We looked it over really closely, well made and simple design. Taxi comes; we did farewell to Ted and the best bike shop of the ride and head to San Louis Obispo airport.

The cabby is originally from Chicago and talks every moment we are in the car. She doesnít take a breath between sentences all time we are in the cab. She is telling us that this is a festival weekend and most likely no cars will be available. I get a little concerned. But we decide we can catch the train to San Francisco if we have to. Anyway we get the car without problem and are on our way.

Interesting side note Ė not one bit of mechanical trouble or equipment failure for the entire trip. My magnesium fire starter didnít work out but made a nice flame----. Then right in front of the bike shop Josh has a flat tire! We donít even bother to fix it. Just shipped the bike as is!

Trip Stats



Ave. Speed

Riding Time

My Max. Speed

































- 3**

















We picked up the car and drove across central California desert (real desert) into Sequoia National Park. We wanted to continue our tree research! We really enjoyed the mountains and the big trees. Kids enjoyed and were impressed. Then drove back to San Francisco to the Sir Frances Drake hotel and slept in a real bed! Sunday kept the car and did the San Francisco tourist thing. Lombard Street, Coit Tower, Tea Garden, Painted Ladies, golden gate park (*Josh really enjoyed the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. It was fun to have him with us since he knows about Bonsai trees and such things. He pointed out many small things that would normally escape the notice while looking at the displays. Nice to have someone with knowledge.) Then parked the car and took Josh on the cable car down to Fishermanís Wharf. Had ice cream at Ghirardellis Chocolate factory. At the Cable Car turn-around we saw "escape man". This was great since Fay and I had told the kids about him last year when we were here. He is just a street performer who escapes from chains and straightjackets but is really good and super funny. We wanted to eat our last nice meal at the Sir Frances Drake hotel dining room, but didnít think that we would need reservations since it was a Sunday night Ė wrong Ė we were disappointed but Kari at the desk was super helpful and set us up at a place close by which was very nice. Ate Italian for supper. A really fun day to end this yearís "adventuring."

Final thoughts

  1. I am a lucky man. Wife who encourages these crazy trips, and kids who are willing to go along. Not much more an old guy can wish for.
  2. Missed home and Fay more this time than in the past. I think we are growing closer as we grow older.
  3. The people of California we met on our trip were without exception very nice and helpful in every way. The drivers were very courteous.
  4. The Sir Frances Drake hotel is one of the nicest places you could ever stay. The accommodations were unbelievable and the staff real professionals in every case. I can never thank Ron Vlasic the manager and Greg for letting us "itinerant bikers" experience such luxury.
  5. The weather along the central coast of California is as changeable as the wind, with microclimates everywhere. The range of temperatures was unbelievable.
  6. There are lots of areas within California that are a long way from anywhere. And I hope they always keep them that way.
  7. The population has an affinity for old VWs and VW busses, which is unbelievable.
  8. Iím glad I am 30lbs lighter Ė we all managed the hills better than expected.
  9. We really liked not riding so far each day, and having the time to really stop and enjoy the sights, and
  10. Fine cars, fine looking women and men, and some of the best wild life viewing anywhere. We all hope we can come this way again.