Saturday, October 31, 2009

Monterey to Big Sur by Bike

On Hwy 1, Big Sur.

I've spent a week in Monterey, CA on business for the Desert San. One day extra for my ride from Monterey, through Carmel, and on down to Big Sur.

Monterey Bay.

The conference I attended for work was okay--a bit boring. All I could think about was renting a bike and hitting the road. Trouble was that it got very cold and windy early in the week. Finally the winds calmed and everything looked good for my trip.

The Monterey Aquarium in what used to be the heart of Cannery Row.

I walked down into Cannery Row, Gentle Readers of This Blog, to check out the bike shop and make plans for which day to pick up a road bike. I'd also had a copy of John Steinbeck's Cannery Row, and had been reading it for a few days before my trip.

Ed Ricketts' lab and apartment on Cannery Row.

On my way down to the Aquarium, I walked right into Ed Ricketts' lab. Ed Ricketts and John Steinbeck were very close friends, and Steinbeck based his character "Doc" on Ricketts. I'm glad this old shack is still standing--there's a lot of commercial development all around the place. What used to be factories, or canneries--think of slaughter houses for fish instead of cattle--is now way over-priced hotels and cheap shit tourist crap. Anyway, from old photographs, this lab hasn't changed much in appearance.

The old purse-seine sardine boats are almost gone--here's a few under-going restoration.

The sardines were fished out by about 1946--with almost 90% of the sardines gone--the canneries shut down. Cannery Row was a slum and abandoned for 30 or 40 years.

This old boat is probably 80 years old or older.

There's a bike and walking path now all along the wharf and coast for many miles, and it goes right through Cannery Row. I'm pretty sure it was the old rail-road line. Its great to walk and bike on the path. Many of the locals commute by bike to work and home.

The boilers of the last cannery, preserved and now the heart of the Monterey Aquarium.

I had an afternoon free, so I went to the Aquarium. My Grandpa Crosslin, my mom's father, was a boiler man, so I'm always interested in the old boilers like this one. My Grandpa Crosslin ran the boilers for one of the big high schools back in Tulsa. The four large ones of the old cannery cooked sardines.

The boilers are about three stories tall and installed 100 years ago.

Past Cannery Row and heading South to Pacific Grove.

I picked up the bike from the bike shop late evening--I'd have it 24 hours--so I did a little recon before I rode back to my hotel.

On the bike and running path along Pacific Grove.

The wind had died down for my planned morning ride, mes amis, however--it was still very cold on the coast.

Bike lane and running/walking path on the shore.

The rental cost me $55.00

My room was on the 4th Floor of the old Monterey Hotel. There was no elevator, so it was quite a workout to come and go to my room, mes amis.

I brought the bike back to my hotel, but before that, I had asked Diego, the wrench at the shop to loosen up the pedals. I put on my clip pedals, and I had brought wrenches to adjust the seat post and the handle bars--so I was good to go.

Early morning on the bike path leaving Monterey and the warmth of my cozy hotel.

Gentle Readers, I will tell you that it was quite windy all week and very cold. The wind was gone, but the morning when I headed out was freezing. As the sun came up, it got a little warmer but not by much.

On 17 Mile Drive. My adventure begins.

The ocean spray felt damp and cold as I rode through the morning mist. I brought cold weather gear so I was prepared. The air was clean and fresh, mes amis--it made me feel strong and determined to ride through this cold breezy part of the morning.

I've made it--the wind has left me alone for a change--the sun is warming the morning air.

Pinos Point Lighthouse.

The lighthouse began operation February 1st, 1855. According to the information on the entry, this is the oldest working lighthouse on the West Coast.

17 Mile Drive by bike.

Still a bit cold.

Tail winds are sending me on my way.

Adam riding with me up into Carmel.

On 17 Mile Drive I met up with a local rider named Adam. He was out putting in a few training miles, and graciously lead me up into Carmel and through some of the more scenic areas. He would get me to where it would be safest to catch Hwy 1 for my trip down to Big Sur.

Carmel Beach--way beautiful.

Adam and Bill.

Adam is a young velodrome rider, moved back to Carmel, his hometown, from working and going to school for awhile in Flagstaff of all places. Out on the road, we run into another local rider and his pal, Bill. I get some good information about what lay ahead, how long it will take, where to stop (there won't be many places to stop for water--it will be remote for a long while) and I get land-marks explained so I can find my way back through Carmel if I am running late and need to make it back before dark.

If Dog Mtn had an ocean, mes amis, it would be just like Carmel.

Very good of these fellows to escort me to where it would be safe to catch Hwy 1.

Old Historic filling station on Hwy 1, about three miles outside of Carmel.

Adam cuts off to get home, and Bill and I ride up to Hwy 1. Before he heads back, Bill says to be careful because in the late afternoon traffic will get busy. He shows me where he lives in case I need to stop by on my return if I'm running late.

I take Bill's advice and make a quick stop for a snack and fill my water bottles. I won't get a chance to stop from about 25 miles. Its also a bit later than I would have liked--I had planned to leave Monterey at 6:30 a.m. but it was still very cold and the sun didn't come up until 7 o'clock. I waited for it to get a bit warmer and a bit lighter--and had a quick continental breakfast at my hotel. I stashed an apple and a few biscuits in my pockets for later.

Now I'm rolling in open country.

Hwy 1 is narrow and the shoulder is often quite small--or there's really no shoulder at all.

It has been windy early in the week so there are many downed branches in the road. I have to dodge them, as well as keep an eye out for cars speeding by.

This stretch of Hwy is Big Sur.

Very scenic and beautiful. I can't help but stop almost every mile or so--breath-taking views!

Very pretty here--worth the trip just because of this stretch of road!

You can see the Hwy hugging the coast.

There's a lot of steady climbing--cars are coming past fast and close. Again, the shoulder is quite narrow.

The road is beautiful--but not for the faint of heart. I'd say its a bit on the dangerous side.

Gust of wind can be such that I'd ride off into the sea--

These old WPA bridges built in the 1930's are pieces of art--kind of a weird feeling going over them on a bike--like you're trying to keep from disturbing a sleeping dragon. This is the Wildcat Bridge, and it certainly has its own spirit...

C'est moi

Big Sur

I stopped at the famous Bixby Bridge, built in 1933 by WPA workers. This would be my turn around point as it was getting late, and I knew I'd have a pretty strong headwind going back. Bill and Adam told me that I'd come to a lighthouse, which I was told was just around the corner--then in another 8 or so miles I'd find a restaurant. Because of the lateness of hour, and the wind, I thought I'd just take a break and get ready to head back to Monterey.

The Bixby Bridge

While relaxing, another cyclists speeds by, and then over the bridge.

Rock on!

There he goes!

Not long after, the rider is coming back, and he pulls in and we chat. Risi, from LA, says that he's got to be back himself--so we're off, Gentle Reades... I have to tell you that going back was a bit harrowing--there was little or no shoulder--and the locals were not very patient with us having to ride in the road.

There was one point were a work van come inches from running Risi down--the mirror on the van came about six inches from his head! I wonder how close the guy came to hitting me as well... Risi rode strong and fearless--having lived and biked in New York City, and LA; life and limb divided by mere inches was no big deal.

I wish I could have taken a few more pictures to send him--this was an epic ride for both of us--but we needed to get back. Despite the traffic, I would say we made pretty good time. Risi gave me some Gatorade, which hit the spot--and he was on his way back to LA and I to Carmel. Thanks Risi!

I make it back to Carmel safe and sound. I can get water at the mission.

The woman working at the admission/gift shop was from Tulsa, my hometown. She let me in for free. I thanked the Heavens for safe passage back to Carmel, and asked that I make it back to my hotel before dark--and in time for happy hour at the Pub.

The mission was warm inside--that I needed because the headwind, while not so bad, had made me cold for the ride back on Hwy 1.

The old smoke stacks of Cannery Row.

The Bay Aquarium put replicas of smoke stacks on the boilers. I had gotten into Carmel a bit late, so I sped along 17 Mile Drive to make some time.

Before I knew it, I was back on Cannery Row.

A good day in the saddle I'd say.

About 4:30 I pulled into the bike shop to let Diego know I was back. He had told me if I was running late to give him a call and he'd wait for me before closing the shop. I just needed to go back to my hotel, switch out the pedals, put on some pants and a jacket--get to the shop and then get to the English Pub for that pint during Happy Hour.

I walked back through Cannery Row to the Pub after delivering the road bike to Diego--who was glad I had a safe ride. We both agreeed that the map the shop hands out to tourists isn't that great.

I got a bit confused on the way back on Pebble Beach, and while trying to read the map, I almost hit group of deer standing indifferent in the road. He told me the locals had a safer and faster training route they take--where I rode with Adam and Bill earlier in the morning no doubt--and next time I'm in town ask about that course.

At the Pub, I sat at the bar with the local blue-collar types having their grog. The young barkeep was asked about his new road bike--it turned out that some of the guys at the bar were local cyclists--when he placed that cool pint of Guiness in front of me, I told that I'd just come back from riding Hwy 1 to Big Sur. He looked a bit surprised. "This beer should taste pretty good then," he said. "I know that a lot of people do that ride--it's pretty dangerous though--but good you made it back in one piece--Cheers!"

We chatted and later I told him it was a ride I don't think I'd ever do again--and he agreed. "Chances of getting killed are high--but the scenery! The scenery is to die for!" That is true indeed. "Have this next one on the house, Mate." and another thick, dark, cool pint appeared there on the bar.

Cheers! Bruce


bikingbrady said...

Thanks for the pics! I was out there in Monterey/Big Sur in about 1997 for a conference. It was beautiful. Great job on the pics!

Sir Bikesalot said...

Dang that scenery reminds me a lot of my cycling days on Okinawa. There is something to riding along the ocean that you just can't get anywhere else. Here's to good rides, strong legs, and epic scenery my friend....

Ryan said...

Nice job, Bruce. Sounds like quite an exhilarating ride.

Big Oak said...

Wow, great story and photos. If you like Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday is the second part.

I've got to get out to California! Magnificent!

Dan Trued said...

Ocean pics are always great, and that rental bike looked good. Big wave action.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff. I was wondering if rte 1 was safe but it appears it's just like the rest of USA , with drivers going fast and close. Second thoughts about moving to coast.

Bruce's Bike Blog said...

Dear Anonymous, Thanks for stoping by my blog! I have to say that now that I remember this ride, it was probably one of the more dangerous roads I've ridden. I wish it were better. What made it so scary was the return, and commuters in their cars, driving way too fast - and their sense of entitlement. I don't know, but there may be better shoulder and a bit safer roads further up Big Sur - I didn't have a car but if you do, you might start up there higher? Again, like I mention in my blog, I don't think I'd do this ride again - if I did I would try to beat the traffic. My ride was during the week so the weekends might be better - more riders and maybe less stress from people trying to get to work. It was remote so motorists had to drive quite far between work and home. But hey, good luck to you! Cheers! Bruce

I'm Deebers said...

How many miles was it round trip to Bixby bridge? My wife and I went to Monterey on our honeymoon and were planning a return trip next spring. I was thinking of doing exactly what you did (rent a couple of bikes and put in 100 to 120 km total riding). Wondering how safe it would be but realizing that I (like you and Risi) deal with unsafe roads on my bike nearly every time I ride. The opportunity to ride Big Sur might be worth the risk.

Bruce's Bike Blog said...

Dear Deebers,

I can't say I remember the mileage on that trip, but at least 40 to 50 miles round trip. I made many stops to take photos, so I probably could have gotten to this restaurant the guys I met told me about. I think I was lucky because the day and time I rode, traffic was light - I have to tell you that Risi, although a good bloke - he would ride in the middle of the road, would not move over at all for cars, and generally pissed off an already hostile group of car drivers. I was glad we rode together, but thought he was going to get us killed! You and Mrs. Deebers will have no problem... Make time to stop by the mission - it was the best! Try to get a good map - the map they gave me was confusing, and got me lost and on some very busy and dangerous roads on my return. I stopped by a fire station to get some directions back (that were safe) The locals probably know the best way - I don't know to find those guys however - Cheers! Bruce