Day 41: Into Big Sur

Day 41 (2016-10-06): ~30 miles into Big Sur along Highway 1. Staying at Big Sur Campground & Cabins.

Well, nothing was gone this morning when I woke up, so that’s good. I guess my anti-theft measures were successful! I just locked my bike up, laid in down in my second vestibule, and partially zipped it into the tent. Try and steal that!

I psyched myself up for Big Sur the last few days and all the concern about fires and camping added to it. This morning I spoke more with the Brits (Joe and Sophie) about sharing a site at one of the private campgrounds. Since I’ll be in the lead I will make a decision and leave a note out for them if I find a good spot to share and split cost.

Riding up Skyline Drive and Forest Skyline Drive was a bit of a rough start to the morning with straight climbing and a couple of steep spots. But I guess this and the difficult climb into camp yesterday substituted a long climb on busy Highway 1, so I’ll take it. Turning onto CA-68 I was a bit worried there would be heavy commute traffic with no shoulder but it only took me a few minutes to reach Highway 1 and its decent shoulder. Before long I hit a 2 mile descent that wicked away any last dregs lf sleep and landed me at Safeway, the last real grocery store for days.

I wish I could get a better night of sleep but I often wake up with discomfort in my hips, especially when camping on hard, rocky ground like last night. I think the problem is that I am a side sleeper and this self-inflating pad is only about 1″ thick. When I sleep on my side it’s not wide enough to support my spine and relieve pressure on my hips. It’s annoying to be spending a significant chunk of change on gear while on the road, but I think I will look into a blow-up pad because they are lighter, pack smaller, and have a height up to a few inches depending on the model. Circumstances changed and I am learning as I go so I don’t feel so bad buying new gear. Good thing I saved!

But really, this was no big deal. It was 30 miles to the town of Big Sur where we knew all the state park campgrounds were closed. The climbs turned out to be pretty mild, way more so than the big peaks on the Adventure Cycling maps made it look. Again, these maps prove to be very unclear. I cruised with a tailwind most of the way too and kept 13mph all day despite the hills.

I keep expecting to come around a bend and find a massive hill but it’s really not so bad out here. Sure, I am climbing a bunch but it is mostly a low-grade, steady climb and there’s a tailwind so it’s hardly intimidating. Shit, sometimes I’m able to climb at 15+mph! Once again, the Adventure Cycling maps have proven to be pretty unclear. I know the elevation profile is not exact but it sure makes it seem like one massive hill into Big Sur. I just left Andrew Molera State Park after chatting with a ranger and getting some info and I’ve yet to have a serious climb.

Big Sur Campground and Cabins is the first private campground I came to and I checked out their prices – due to the fire and state park closures they were offering a $10 hiker-biker deal. It included free coffee, tea, and hot showers. Sold. I paid $50 to reserve a site and left a note on the road to alert my British and German friends.

First I used rocks to hold down a piece of paper.

Then I realized they would probably pass this, so I used my helmet to hold another note.

In hindsight, this was not exactly the best plan. I should have told her there would probably be 5 of us but only paid for myself. The Germans never showed up and at some point my helmet was stolen. Geez, seriously? Who the hell steals helmets? It’s not like it’s valuable. Used helmets never sell and, if they do, it’s a couple of bucks at most. Damnit. PRO TIP: Carry a piece of (Children’s sidewalk chalk. Groups do this all the time for organized rides but even solo riders should carry some. It could also be used for emergency messages!
We hung out at camp for a little while and cleaned up before dinner. Now we’re riding towards the Big Sur Taphouse and it’s a lot further than expected…PRO TIP: The Taphouse is about 3.5 miles from Big Sur Campground & Cabins, and it’s a pretty good climb. However, it was worth it. They have themed Thursdays and with Halloween coming up it was zombie night. We order discounted beers and Zombie ‘Chos, blue corn tortilla chips loaded with creamy cheese, chili, salsa, and pure goodness. This is perfect! We eat and drank out on the back patio overlooking the mountains and learn a bit more about the fire that’s still smouldering behind the hills.

Perfect end to the day.

On the way back to camp I bomb down the hill with Joe, taking the lane and flipping back and forth between lead and drafter. Neither of us have our bike computers but I know we definitely topped 40mph. It feels so damn good. When was the last time I did this!? I always look back to 4K to the days of racing Dylan and Brad or cruising in Dalton’s massive slipstream. Good times.

Back at camp we are eating dinner together and chatting about all kinds of things like politics, family, and life. I really like Joe and Sophie and I look forward to sharing the best few campground with them. I hope that by the time we split I can really call them friends. I’ll give them my card with contact info and website tomorrow to make sure we don’t part without exchanging info.

Thinking about it, this really is one of the best parts of touring, specifically the pacific coast. So many folks ride this route you can meet hundreds of new faces from all across the globe. Some people you meet briefly, others you see often. And some you really bond with. The Canadians, Brits, Tisho, Cat…they are all my friends. And Tisho was talking to me about this too – how he has international friends he may only talk to once a year but who know that they can count on each other. And some of them he considers his closest friends, despite the infrequent communication. That’s what these adventures are all about – finding people on common ground.

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