Day 30: Ragged Point – San Luis Obispo; 60 miles

To me, today was a bit of a sad day. It’s our last day riding when I think both of us still have a lot of ride left in us. We finally got back into the swing of things and boom, trip is over because of time constraints. But with Big Sur behind us, we figure anything else isn’t going to live up to the hype or beauty of what we’ve already seen. That’s the word on the street, anyways. But not wanting to miss out on seeing SoCal, we’ll be taking the train down to San Diego this weekend!

We woke up without an alarm this morning and went to breakfast at the Inn. It was delicious, but big. So we waited until 10am to digest before getting back on the bikes. Latest start yet!

We left at the same time as the French boys with their contraption. We played cat and mouse with them for a few miles where we would pass them, they would pass us. The game got monotonous and came to a halt when they got a flat.

With a gentle tailwind, we rode past a beach of sunbathing sea lions and elephants. We just had to stop because it was overwhelming how many there were on the beach. Sheena exclaimed, “oh my God Emilie I think some of them are dead!” Likely scaring all the children in the surrounding area, we stuck around for a while to ensure that all of the creatures were alive and accounted for. We all can rest easy.

We rode on through some not so scenic scenery. We are definitely out of Big Sur territory. In fact, when off the coast, it feels and looks like we’ve been dropped right back into Wyoming. That is, until, we rode past a herd of Zebra by Hearst Castle. There were a ton of them just grazing along with the cows. If you squint real hard you can see them in the picture I took. They’re great camouflagers, likely hiding from those vicious California lions I’m sure are stalking about.

Because we were feeling good and knew San Luis Obispo (otherwise known as SLO) was our final stop, we decided to push on towards our goal despite the late time of day. But not before stopping for cookies! We were told the best cookies on the west coast were found in the cute coastal town of Cayucos. We made a stop at Brown Butter Cookie Company and had plenty of free samples before purchasing some delightful crumbly cookies that did not last long.

We got into SLO around 6pm and waited around to see if any of our warm shower requests would be answered. They were not – well besides a woman who lives in the community library….. – so we decided to celebrate the end of our riding journey with a hotel!

Tomorrow we have to run around town and ship back our bags and (very sadly) our bikes. Another tour done!

Day 28: June 6th; Monterey -Big Sur CA; 40 miles

Leaving Big Sur for last sure wasn’t a mistake. The short ride today proved that. We had a good ride out of Monterey fueled by an hour long coffee break 0.3 miles into the ride. We earned it!

With the sky darkening, we got spit on a little, but nothing substantial. We soon found ourselves along the coast with the most supportive drivers. Everyone was honking and waving at us, cheering us on! That helped brighten even more the gorgeous views we were riding by. But with good views comes…. wind! However, after paying our penance to the wind gods yesterday, we again were on the favorable side of the winds. They were violent at times but I won’t complain anymore lest they turn against us tomorrow. The wind gods must have very fragile egos.

Because we knew we had such a short day today, we took our time with breaks and pulled over a plentiful amount to take pictures. We stopped by the picturesque bridges I’ve seen a million times in photos so we spent a great deal of time there.

The sun came out and the clouds disappeared and totally changed the look of the environment. Bathed in sunshine, the blues of the sky, greens of the grass, and every color in between of the wildflowers shined brightly and danced in the wind.

We spent a long time in just about every general store along the way for WiFi to try and figure out exactly where the campground we planned on staying in was actually located. It’s like the Bermuda Triangle out here… nothing on a map is actually where it says it is, and if the ocean wasn’t always on our right, we’d be totally disoriented.

But alas we found ourselves at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. It has a wonderful hiker/biker campground that we’re sharing with 6 other cyclists, none of whom we’ve met before.

One place that has been suggested we visit a number of times is Pfeiffer Beach, where apparently the sand is purple. Being partial to the color purple myself, I was really excited to see a beach full of purple sand. Having had a light day, we didn’t mind biking an extra 5 miles in total to see this famed Beach. Little did we know it meant going downhill a tiny one lane poorly paved road for 2 miles. And that which goes down must come up (or something like that) so we were not thrilled with that prospect and quickly questioned our excursion, but it was too late to turn around! Besides, we totally unloaded our bikes at the campground so we didn’t have any weight to haul back up! Although, riding an unloaded bike after 1000 miles of riding with it being weighted took some getting used to. We felt like baby giraffes learning how to walk for the first time – awkward and wobbly.

Normally a $10 admission fee to enter, we were thrilled when the ranger said bikes are free. “But you’ll have to pay on your way outta here going up that hill” was the next thing she said, laughing almost manically at her joke.

Pfeiffer Beach was gorgeous. Though not as purple as I had painted in my imagination, the hue and essence of the color was definitely very much present in the grains of sand. We got to know those grains of sand very well as they assaulted and sandblasted us. Painful doesn’t even begin to describe it. It felt like we were slowly being eaten alive as gusts rolled through! We soon understood why someone said, “good luck” to us as he walked by, seeing that we were wearing shorts. We just figured it was because we exuded a biker trash vibe and he was referencing the ride back up the hill.

After standing the abuse for only so long and snapping pictures (evidence of wind in exhibit A: the selfie), we had to get out of there. We stopped by the ranger station to see how much of a donation we would have to make to get a ride up the hill in their truck (answer: none; it’s illegal) as a last ditch effort, but we could only put off the climb for so long. And climbing that hill was the second time this trip I had a bad experience with a Volkswagen Vanagon (and considering there are a million out here, that’s pretty surprisingly low statistic). He passed us during the narrowest section of the road and was barely an inch away from us. It was so close I had to stop going up a steep part of the hill to prevent falling into a ditch. We eventually found him in the campground’s parking lot (not easy to hide around here) and gently/calmly let him know it is the law to provide 3 feet of room when passing a cyclist and that if he waited 10 seconds (let’s be honest- Vanagon that old aren’t going much faster than us up hills like that) there was a turn out we would’ve stopped and let him pass. He apologized and promised he would be more mindful. Hopefully we taught him better etiquette for the future!

Tomorrow is going to be one of the more interesting days of the trip… really excited to see what happens, and so should you!

Day 27: June 5th; Santa Cruz – Monterey CA; 42 miles

“We made our way to Monterey!”

A Sheena M. Sanchez original poem, 2018.

And it’s true! We made a short trek to our final destination but it was not without its memorable moments. We set out for what felt like the first day again – seriously, three days off really feels like forever. We had a short ride to a local coffee shop where we finally decided an end game plan and booked flights home. One week countdown until I get to see Addie again!!

It actually felt great to be back on the bike. Because we knew we only had a few miles to ride, we took our time. We have to stay in Monterey tonight due to services being too spread out. So it was either 40 to Monterey or 80 to Big Sur. Since we knew we had time to play with before our flight, we chose the shorter route. Either way it doesn’t matter because of a road closure just past Gorda down a few miles. I’ll elaborate on that debacle in an upcoming post I’m sure.

Along the ride we ran into Tina and Carl, a couple riding down the coast the right way – with a sag wagon. They stopped us and let us take our pick of their extensive and delightful snacks and sandwiches. We were in heaven. They said that since they’re not carrying any of their gear, other touring cyclists assume they’re just road cyclists and they don’t stop to talk, which bums them out cause they love sharing their snacks and food. We happened to catch them at the right moment! Not only does the trailer have food, but also an extra bike for each of them, which they actually had to use when Tina’s shifter broke. Talk about riding in luxury!

Shortly after leaving them, we came across fields and fields of strawberries. We smelled them before we saw them. They looked so delicious and it was so tempting to steal one, but we controlled ourselves. We saw plenty of pickers picking them and for once I didn’t envy someone who wasn’t on their bike. That is truly backbreaking work I could never handle.

In Moss Landing we passed by a produce store advertising fruits and vegetables for super ridiculously cheap – especially for California. We stopped to do some shopping and eat lunch. We spent a great deal of time there because we had so few miles left.

But that’s when we realized that all that smack talk about the wind last week turned those very winds against us, literally. We faced 15 mph headwinds the entire rest of the way into Monterey, a good 20 miles. Luckily we were on a bike path so we didn’t have to worry about the crosswinds pushing us into oncoming traffic, so that’s a plus! Eventually we made our way into town and the beauty distracted us from the winds.

Strangely enough, while taking a wrong turn, we came across a McDonalds that had literally just burned down not long before we got there. The firefighters put it out and it looked like everyone got out right, thank God. Random moment of the day!

When we got into town we literally stumbled upon a farmers market. It was full of people but we made our way through with the bikes in tow. We spent so much time talking with people about our trip and perusing around eating all the free samples (including the very strawberries we saw getting picked), it was delightful. Between that and all the free samples we ate at Costco (it was a strategic stop for snacks, and even a lady we met there offered us to stay with her!) we were all set for dinner we were so full.

Tonight we’re staying at Robert’s, someone we found on Warm Showers. He and his housemates have an awesome house here in Monterey and were kind enough to let us crash here for the night. Looks like another short day tomorrow, I’ll explain why in tomorrow’s post most likely! Fingers crossed we get back some tailwinds!!

Days 24, 25, 26; June 2-4; San Francisco > Campbell > Santa Cruz, CA; basically 0 miles riding

When we say we need some time off, apparently we mean it. After taking 3 days off in a row, we are both very anxious to get back on the bikes and get in some miles. I think we both feel a little guilty by taking some time off when there are miles to get in, but let me tell you – it was worth it. It truly feels like weeks since we rode the bikes.

On Saturday we indulged in a wine tasting in Sonoma and Napa Valley. With some of the best wine in the world coming from this area, we figured we may as well get a little dressed up, feel some semblance of being ladies, and learn why this wine is so sought after. Not knowing much about wine myself, I just enjoyed taking a bus and seeing the changing scenery during the drive. The beautiful day tasting wine (they all taste the same to me) was all an added bonus!

After the tour we got dropped off at Fisherman’s Wharf – a central gathering location for all the tourists who flock to San Francisco. So basically it was my worst nightmare. But we made our way through and had a good seafood dinner. Plus I got to reminisce about the last time I was in San Francisco- a mere 20 years ago when I insisted that we just HAD to visit Alcatraz despite all the tickets being sold out. In my bratty youth, I had a temper tantrum until my mother bargained with a shady scalper and got us tickets. Worth all the drama! Still one of my strongest memories – “if you’re not happy, I’m not happy! So be happy!!”

We made our way back to Mindy’s and decided to call it a night. All of the wine made us sleepy. But we did get a ride with Mindy’s daughter Alexis up to the tallest point in San Francisco- Twin Peaks. We were lucky enough to have a clear night and could see the entire city. Being dark, we weren’t able to get a good picture, but believe it when I tell you it was quite breathtaking. We were pretty lucky in San Fran – a city known to be shrouded in fog. We had clear warm days the entire time we were there, much different than my memory as an 8 year old.

On Sunday we departed Mindy’s after breakfast. We really and truly cannot put into works how grateful we are to be blessed with her generosity. She gave us anything we needed and asked for nothing in return. I don’t know what we did to be given an opportunity to meet her, but I’m pretty darn thankful! My cousin Megan picked us up, again our skills in Tetris and shoving our bikes and bags in cars came in handy. We spent the day and night at her and her husband Michael’s apartment in Campbell just relaxing. I’m sure the town of Campbell is great and has a lot of fun spots to check out, but we were perfectly content just hanging out with them and plain relaxing. Pretty sure we ate just about everything put in front of us, but Meg and Mike are such great hosts they kept the food coming! It was absolutely fantastic catching up with them and seeing their adorable little puppy Kona. We could not ask for a better way to spend our Sunday.

In the morning, Megan dropped us off in Santa Cruz. We made our way to Whitney’s house to unload the bikes. Whitney was one of our leaders on the trans am. Unfortunately she had to leave us after 2 weeks and she has been missed ever since. We met some of her awesome housemates before going out to do some surfing! Another one of Sheena’s bucket list items, we had an awesome time catching some rad waves and hanging ten in typical California fashion. Being pretty much our first time, we did kinda okay with it! Though we caught more laughs than waves, I think.

We have decided that since we only have about a week left to finish this journey before Sheena has to return to work and I have to really get my butt in gear for the JMT, there is no possible way for us to get all the way to San Diego without killing ourselves. Everyone told us that Big Sur is a must do and anything south of there is t worth checking out. We’re hoping they’re right because we are going to ride through Big Sur, then hop on a train in San Luis Obispo to head down to San Diego to spend a little time and eventually fly out of. It’s a little disappointing we’re not finishing the entire ride, but honestly this trip has been so vastly different from the Transam in such a positive way – being free from a group has opened us up to so many different possibilities and experiences we could’ve never had otherwise. Being more lenient with time and scheduling has made this trip feel less like a chore and more like a vacation. But with that being said, we have to go to bed in preparation for getting back on the bikes!!

Day 24: June 1st; Bodega Bay – San Francisco; 75 miles

Another totally unexpected, random, but truly spectacular day today! We made it to San Francisco, although not all by pedaling. Having gone since Astoria without a rest break (that’s over 2 weeks), we are truly burnt out. With the miles, hills, traffic, wind, and just general mental fatigue from being on the bike, we needed an off day more than anything in the world. Resorting to hitch hiking yesterday only solidified that which we already knew. We wanted to take a few days off in San Francisco but than meant not getting there until Saturday afternoon. We were not in any sort of shape to pedal those miles, so Sheena put out a craigslist ad for a ride to just before San Francisco. Now yes, we know all about craigslist and how there is questionable safety using that site (especially for rides to unfamiliar places. Craigslist killer, anyone?) but Sheena has used it before and never got murdered. Desperate times calls for desperate measures!

And we got a response! After talking on the phone for a while and passing our preliminary vetting process, we agreed on a price and time for Nick to pick us up this morning. Problem solved!

Because the pick up time wasn’t until 10:30am and the rendezvous destination was only a mile and a half a way, we took our time waking up and breaking down camp this morning. At the campground we stayed at, there were 7 other cyclists. Us taking our time, we left before all of them. I don’t know how they get out so late, we’re normally riding by 6:45 am! We had a big breakfast and too much coffee at the meeting place and waited for Nick.

He arrived right on time and we once again shoved all of our stuff into his truck. At this point in the game, we’re pretty much pros at getting our bikes and bags in/out of trucks. We enjoyed an hour long ride into Corte Madera talking with Nick. He had some interesting thoughts on life and some even more interesting stories. In his youth he hitchhiked all around the country and even spent a year living alone in a cabin in Alaska. Now he works with homeless trying to give back to the world in any way he can. When he dropped us off, he said that he didn’t want the agreed upon price but only gas money – he was inspired by our ride and wanted to make it as easy for us as possible. We were thrilled by his generous offer, but still paid the majority of the original price. And then we were off!

It was a hot day today with lots of bright sun. We only had 10 miles to ride to the Golden Gate Bridge – a major goal for us to ride our bikes over, which is why we got dropped off there. We rode the majority of the ride on a beautifully paved and scenic bike path. Soon we found ourselves in Sausalito where out from the buildings of the small town the San Francisco Bay opened up to us. It was completely beautiful and unexpected. It really was inspiring to see and honestly gave me chills.

After a short ride over some hills, we arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge amongst a sea of tourists taking pictures. So we followed suit! With our bikes in tow. We have to commemorate our achievement (with the exception of a few rides).

Then the real adventure started. We had to part the sea of selfie sticks and oblivious tourists to get ourselves across the bridge. There was plenty of dodging and yelling so as to not get into an accident and we eventually made it across without any issues besides an elevated heart rate and blood pressure.

We got our bearings straight after the bridge to let things settle. We still weren’t sure where we were going to stay (warm shower requests went unanswered) so we decided to find a taco place to sit and figure things out. Upon trying to get to the taco shop, we found ourselves lost. Apparently it was obvious we were lost because another cyclist provided us with directions. After hearing about our journey, he asked where we were staying. We responded honestly – we had no idea! “Here, let me give someone a call. I’ll find you somewhere”. In an instant he was on the phone with his mom Mindy and without a second thought, she said we could stay with her the whole weekend! Jesse then was on his way to cross the bridge on his bike. Such a random encounter, but at least we had a place to stay!

We still went to the taco shop to plan our time here in San Fran – particularly figure out a wine tour for tomorrow. After calling around we found ourselves a good deal, booked it, and was on our way to Mindy’s.

What a trek to her house. San Francisco is an incredibly beautiful city, but with beauty comes pain. And that pain comes in the form of hills of mind boggling grade nearly impossible to climb on bikes. Needless to say, we arrived later than we thought to Mindy’s, but she didn’t mind at all! She welcomed us with open arms with a place to store our bikes, shower, bed, and appetizers. She offered to make us dinner, which we declined because we were full from Mexican food and appetizers she presented. I am still in disbelief that we somehow were fortunate enough to stumble upon Jesse and by default landed in his mother’s house. We have no words to describe how grateful we are to have met such giving and selfless people on this journey. I don’t know why people had warned us about California, it’s been nothing but an absolute pleasure!!

We are off to bed, we have an early bus to catch tomorrow to explore wine country!

Day 23: May 31st; Gualala – Bodega Bay CA; 50 days

Today was such a whirlwind – in more ways than one! We both stayed in our tents a little longer than usual. We’re both pretty road weary and ready for a day off. We rode the 11 miles into Stewart’s Point pretty quickly with a gentle (emphasis on gentle) tailwind that we both thoroughly enjoyed. Since we finally had cell service, we spent a good deal of time in a coffee shop planning out our time in San Francisco since we’ll be there before we know it!

After we left the coffee shop, the winds with deathly intentions started again… so much for yesterday being the last day of gale force winds! While they mostly were tailwinds, they were still forceful and violent. As we made our way into Fort Ross, we decided to stop for a break from the winds at a convenience store that was marked on the map. We went through the town with no sign of the store, so we decided to keep going a little further to see if it was up the road a bit more. The only thing we found was more road construction with flaggers holding up traffic. We walked our bikes up to the beginning of the line and debated what our next move was. Not sure if it was the sun or the wind getting to me, but something moved me to stick my thumb out in search for a ride. Sure enough, after 10 seconds, a pickup truck stopped. “I’ll drop you off at Jenner if you’re sure you want to go” was all we needed to hear.

Within 10 seconds all of our panniers were off our bikes and loaded into the bed of the truck with the bikes following suit. Now this is our second time hitching a ride, not something I’ve ever really considered doing mainly because of the questionable safety of hopping into the car of a complete stranger. But both times we’ve done it I’m convinced it was some sort of divine intervention. Nothing could’ve prepared us for the hill we would’ve had to have climbed otherwise. It was well trafficked, steep, windy, no shoulder, and steep drop offs with most sections having no guardrail. With the wind as violent as it was today (30 mph gusts) I would’ve had a full blown panic attack and would have not made it down the hill. One unfortunate gust of wind, one mistimed squeeze of the brake, or one car coming a little too close could’ve resulted in a fall down hundreds of feet into the Pacific. I was terrified just riding in the car I could not imagine navigating that road on bicycle.

The man who took us, Scott, works for (or owns) a lumbar business and rides from Santa Rosa to Mendocino quite frequently. He said that he sees hitchhiking cyclists along that stretch all the time, but we were the first he picked up because we “looked like nice people”. I think that’s code for we looked ravaged by wind, sun, and fatigue. He has 3 grandkids he dotes upon and is in the process of buying real estate in Thailand to retire on. Considering he saved us from a harrowing journey, he’s a super awesome guy!

Although terrifying, the hill we got a ride over was breathtaking. Sheena and I were both disappointed we didn’t get to experience it from behind handlebars, but we both believe we made the right call.

After a brief stop in Jenner, we rode on. The wind again whipped us all over the road, including into oncoming traffic. It was complete ridiculousness. We met a gentleman from France coming from Mexico going north to Vancouver. Quite the hardened old man, he didn’t look a bit phased by the enormous headwinds he was facing. Bet he doesn’t hitch any rides!

After snapping a few scenic pictures, we made it to camp in Bodega Dunes Campground relatively early and just relaxed and ate. We are looking so forward to spending some time off the bikes and out of the wind in San Francisco soon!

Day 22: May 30th; Mendocino- Gualala; 53 miles

Today we slept in a little after being assaulted by wind and raccoons all night. We shared coffee and conversation with Jesse for a decent while, he has some pretty interesting stories. We departed Mendocino, but not before stopping by the most expensive gas station in America! Jesse says he’s witnessed a lot of people fill up, not realizing the absurd cost until paying – there’s no refunding or returning gasoline!

We stopped for coffee number two (I seriously have some work ahead of me if I want to ween myself off of it before John Muir!) in Elk. We had a few conversations with some locals all of whom said we had an extremely steep but short hill coming our way. They were not exaggerating… it’s the first time I had to use the granniest gear the entire ride. What a great leg workout! When we made it to the top, a man offered to take a picture of us to mark our accomplishment!

The entire ride was mostly along the coast, with gorgeous views of the ocean displaying the entire spectrum of blues. Together with a cloudless sky, it was hard to tell when the ocean ended and the sky began! It was a lovely distraction from the rolling hills. We even passed a ton of farms full of cows. I wonder if those cows realize they have one of the most beautiful views in the world?

Despite having rolling hills all day, it wasn’t too bad. We had a very decent tail wind (22 MPH!!) that pushed us along the entire ride. In fact, at some points it was just downright violent. After having an extended lunch in Point Arena, we set off to Gualala (pronounced much like “Ooh-la-la) and got blown quite a few times into the opposite lane of traffic. No matter how hard we tried to combat it, the crosswinds coming from the west were too aggressive. Luckily there wasn’t any traffic coming our way. But let me tell you, when you’re going 40 mph down a hill and a crosswind tries to take you out, you see your life flash right before your eyes. We saw a few unfortunate souls going northbound combatting the fierce winds. I could not feel more sorry for them. Apparently the magnitude of this wind is out of the ordinary according to the locals and is likely to subdue tomorrow. Although it pushed us today, it did a great amount of tiring us out as well, so I am definitely looking forward to being whipped around the road a little less in the upcoming days.

With the wind’s help, we made it the 16 miles to Gualala pretty quickly. We are once again back in the redwoods in Gualala River Redwood Park. It’s a gorgeous campground tucked away in the woods, but the trip to the bathroom is a hike. I got lost for a good 20 minutes coming back from it, but along the way discovered a cute little swimming hole. Luckily it’s super quiet here and the wind is nonexistent, so just as long as the raccoons stay at bay, we should be in good shape for a good night’s sleep!