Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pacific Coast Bicentennial Bike Route

My bike wants to get on a train.

So I had a long weekend, the weather was hot, and it may have just been in my head, but I could swear I smelled smoke from the fire in Idyllwild. Not wanting to stay in town for any of that noise, I headed to Union Station to catch a train into Ventura with my bike for a ride up the coast.

She's got a ticket to ride...

...and a destination.

Back in 1975, a bicycle route was established that basically follows Highway 1 down the California coast with some detours for reasons of safety, legality, or scenery. I say "down" because south is the preferred direction of travel. Even without the tailwind, the views are better from the "cliffside of the trail." Though CalTrans stopped publishing maps for the route in 1982, the Adventure Cycling Association distributes a variant of the route, and perhaps others do too. Thus, summertime brings lots of bike tourists to the route I was following. Many of the "pannier crowd" are international tourists spending as many hours sightseeing and dining as riding. Domestic bikepackers seem to be a thriftier crowd. Many of them are on thousand mile (or more) journeys, doing the entire route, or doing their own route on a door-to-door loop. But no matter who you are, the $5 hiker/biker campsites at world class destinations like Morro Bay State Park are attractive. The warm shower alone is worth the price of admission.

You can't see Morro Rock because the fog won't lift for a while. Wait for a photo op? Ain't nobody got time for that!
One of the nice things about staying at a campground is that you get to talk to some of your peers. Talk naturally turns to routes, destinations, and gear. I was given directions to the grocery store and a recommendation of the best place for fish and chips. As I was starting to get cold, I opted for hot food. The best place was closed, so I went to the one next door. When I ordered fish and chips, they asked me if I wanted chips or fries!

You know that palm tree island with the long bridge, don't you?

But I'm making it sound like I went to Morro Bay. Nothing could be further from the truth. I went for a RIDE. I didn't know if I would make it that far. And going further was an option, too, if I wanted to get on a train in San Luis Obispo on the way back. One of the nice things about riding the coast is that the cell phone always seems to have reception. I was able to give updates of my progress (and my evolving plans) every place I stopped. Some other riders don't bring phones, relying instead on the internet at public libraries for email communication. I couldn't do that. I gots to have my Words With Friends while I'm waiting for that cheeseburger...

Nothing's showing.

And the Pacific Coast route doesn't just hug the coast, either. There is quite a lot of variety. Ranch land, farm land smelling of ripe strawberries, small towns, mossy trees, lone oaks dotting the grassy hillsides. My favorite views were the ones that simply couldn't be captured in a photograph.

Share the road.

I had never been to UCSB before, but I got the opportunity, as the route crosses the campus. Talk about a bike-friendly school! There were many, many bicycle parking lots scattered about. Some of them were huge! And bike paths criss-cross the campus. I don't think my picture does it justice, but here you go.

I've got to go back and see this school in the daylight...

Everybody loves a sunset.

On my last day, I called ahead to the SAG vehicle. Not to cut my ride short (I've done that before), but to extend it. "Hey, Babe. I don't want to get on the train in Ventura. If I ride down to Malibu, can you come pick me up?"

I am in the habit of waving to other cyclists going the opposite direction. On the 605 bike path, lots of people wave back. If you have ever ridden Ballona Creek, you know how some cyclists are too serious to be friendly. I was expecting the "west-side cold shoulder" in Malibu, but even the guys with aero-bars gave me a nod. That was a nice surprise.

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