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Day 212-215, 8-11 Feb 2009: From a mission to a pick-up, elephants & cyclists

February 15, 2009 by , 3,096 views 
Filed under California, North America, Trip reports, USA

8 February 2009: Pacific Grove (Monterey) – Gorda. 45 + 60km…

After saying goodbye to Diego, we headed back down the ‘17 Mile Drive’ and ended up in Carmel by the Sea, a nice small town, with much better looking houses than the ‘Drive’. We spent some time exploring the old Mission, one of many that were placed here along the .

Carmel Mission Carmel Mission (2)

We had some lunch in the windy Point Lobos reserve. We had been told that this was one of most beautiful points along the coast, but for us it was ‘average’. I guess we have been spoilt rotten the past months 😉

Further South it was more interesting as we entered the Big Sur area. Unfortunately with the rougher coastline, came also more hills.. At least the coves and canyons were bridged here (as opposed to Northern , where you just go all the way down and then back up again, my knee says thanks..).

California Coast California Coast (2)

Just after crossing a large bridge the road steepened up and did not stop for as far as we could see, so we started to push at least 100m up. Just when I reached the top of the hill, I approached a parked car, where a young man had been enjoying the views from the top.

Ivana on bridge‘Hi there. I am Eric. Do you need a ride?’

Hmm. We just pushed up this hill, so there should be a nice downhill ahead. Still, Ivana was on her way up, it would be dark in 20 minutes and Big Sur village was still 9km away, so we would probably be cycling in the dark. Also my knee had enough of the climbing.

As the road had barely any shoulder, but plenty of steep drop-offs, we accepted Eric’s proposal and put ourselves and our bikes in the back of his truck.

We told him to stop in Big Sur, but while we were expecting a larger village where we could ask for a place to camp, we passed some motels and before we realized it, we had passed Big Sur. Eric said he would continue South and asked if we wanted to join further. I checked the altitude profiles of the next section and saw 4 hills of 300m (1000ft) each with more in between. Ouch.

I was afraid that my knee would not survive. So far we had taken only one ride and that had been for going back on a stretch we had already cycled. We had skipped the major ferries, but now it felt unavoidable. I could be stubborn and cycle but maybe that would mean the end of the trip, just 50km ahead…

We stayed on the truck…

We ended up in a small village –just a roadhouse- called Gorda (‘fat’ in Spanish!) Eric was taking a room in the motel and after asking around we found a place to camp opposite the road on a nice grassy patch in a small forest. Eric, who is a musician on his way from the East coast to LA,  came over for dinner and played and sang some songs for us while we were making pasta in the dark. It was great & ‘gezellig’, but suddenly the rain washed our party away and we went back into our tent while the skies opened up all valves.

9 February 2009: South of Gorda – San Luis Obispo, 100km

Still we managed to stay dry and the next morning we joined Eric for another small ride over the last hill and then said goodbye. Fortunately the rain decided to stop, while we were organising our bikes.

California Coast South of Big Sur Kowalski at California Coast South of Big Sur

We stopped at a roadhouse for our peanut butter sandwiches and talked with Victor Antonio, who was walking around the US to promote peace through marijuana.

Elephant Seal weanerIvana going South againNot only the sun came out, but it brought its good friend the wind as well which pushed nicely in our back on our way South.

We passed more and more beaches filled with hundreds of elephant seals, some relaxing on the grass and sand, far from the ocean.

We also passed Hearst Castle, made famous in the movie ‘Citizen Kane’.

Though some of the rocks where interestingly white, we actually saw some fresh snow in the hills as well, a rarity in this area.

Elephant SealElephant Seals (2)

Thanks to the wind, we were making good speed and we decided to go all the way to San Luis Obispo. We arrived just before sunset after 100km of cycling and were welcomed by WarmShowers Hosts and fellow Matt & Rita, who cooked up a great vegetarian Chilli.

10/11 February 2009: SL Obispo – Buellton via Santa Maria, 67km + 69km

Matt & Ivana on a tandemAfter Ivana has tested the recumbent tandem bike, we headed off. Matt & Rita joined us all the way to took us through some nice back roads to Pismo Beach, where we had lunch together before they headed back.

We continued through nice country roads before we entered the large busy city of Santa Maria. It took us a long time to pas the dozens of traffic lights, while dodging thousands of huge trucks…

It was dark before we made it to Bill Korn’s house, another welcoming host that was a rider himself. he cooked up an Argentinean asado and Ivana felt right at home.

The next morning Bill joined us and showed us some more back roads. It is so nice to stay with local cyclists as they always know the best routes to take and this was no exception. Following some steep hills we ended up the ‘Foxen Canyon Road’.

Ivana on the Foxen Canyon roadBill and Ivana

California fields (2) California fields (3)

Halfway up Bill said goodbye and turned back using another nice route, while continued our ascent. It was actually longer and higher than the route in our guidebook, but we still felt guilty about our ride with Eric the other day, so it was no problem doing the 30 extra km.

Besides, the slope was much more gentle, we hardly noticed that we went up to 400m altitude until the last steep climb. Then after a nice downhill and another steep climb, it was all the way down to the quaint town of Solvang, passing friendly Los Olivos on our way.

Solvang was the base of a Danish community and their Danish and Dutch ancestry is clearly visible in the buildings and local shops. We even found good cheese, dropjes & pepermunt!

Ivana in Solvang World Peace in Solvang

Solvang, Denmark, ehh California Solvang, Denmark, ehh California (2)

The latter we took as a gift to our hosts for the night: Joe and Carol had invited their best friends and cycling partners and together with their housemate we had a really nice dinner. Carol, who is a painter, had cooked for al 7 people and we had a great time.

It is such a pleasure to meet all the nice US citizens on this trip. Most people are very different in background, but they are all very friendly and hospitable.

The next morning we had a great incentive to leave early and arrive in Santa Barbara. Our hotel was waiting. ‘Hotel? How about that budget?’ I hear you say… the next report will clear all mysteries :)

Kowalski! Status report!

The knee works quite well. On the bike it feels good, off the bike it is painful. Guess I just have to keep on cycling!

Our bikes are indestructible as ever. Still we are stuck at a few flat tires for Ivana (I think 3) and only one for me, after a total of 7656km so far!

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