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Day 204-211, 31Jan-7feb 09. Sea life around the Monterey Bay

Is this the end?

The sign on the left brought some reality into vision.

Could we continue with the current state of my knees or was this really the end?

There was only one way to find out.

31st Jan 2008: SF – Half Moon Bay, about 50km

I kept the Rohloff in low gear all the time and promised Ivana that I would get off the bike and push when it was getting steep. Ivana also had taken more weight than before, so my load would be lighter.

There were only two real hills but they were steep. First we slowly climbed 200 meters (650ft) from the sunny shores into the windy and cold rolling fog on the top of Daly City. Pushing the bike actually hurt my knee more, so I tried to cycle with just one leg doing all the work and that worked out quite well.

The next hill was steep but also so narrow that pushing would be too dangerous. We had arrived at the infamous ‘Devil’s Slide’, notorious for cyclists for the shoulder-less road with its blind corners leading from a dark forest to a scorching hot pass, 150m (500ft) higher.

The good thing was of course the downhill. As there was still not much shoulder, there was no choice but to full speed in the middle of the road…

We reached the state park campsite just before dark and could see the sunset from Half Moon Bay. The regular campsite was full at $25 per spot, but fortunately, almost every Californian State Park has a small ‘Hiker-Biker’ area, which has no hook-ups, but generally costs only $3-5 per person. This was completely empty and for $6 we had more space and were more secluded than all the RV’s. It was nice to be in our tent and in the open air again after a month of CouchSurfing in the city.

1-2 Feb 2008: Half Moon Bay – Santa Cruz via Ano Nuevo

The knee was not too bad, so we decided to do two more days of about 40-50km each. The first was a nice sunny day and we cycled relaxed. I had seen the recommendation to visit the Ano Nuevo State reserve in our guidebook (“Bicycling The Pacific Coast: A Complete Route Guide, Canada To Mexico“.

We had been using this book from Vancouver and though we varied a our route many times, the times we were on the ‘official route’, it was worth every cent. We used up one page at a time (in our see-through map cover of the Ortlieb handlebar-bag), so the book got lighter every day 🙂 Next time we need a Kindle version to save paper:

There was no official place to stay, so we went to ask the farmers; for the first time in our trip, we were sent away from not 1 but 2 farms, each with loads of space. The caretakers were not the owners and everybody seems to be terrified of getting sued for anything…

It is a shame, as all we needed was a few square meters of grass; we could even have shared some great stories with them… Anyway, we ended up camping secretly on some grass near the farms behind some old buildings and made sure we were ready to go in the early morning.

Ano Nuevo ParkOnly a mile down the road was the Ano Nuevo park, home of the biggest colony of Elephant Seals. As it was breeding season, we could not go to the seals without a guide, and as all tours were reserved, we had some time for a relaxed breakfast in the sun, next to some deer.

The friendly people in the Visitor Centre not only found us a spot in a group, but they also waived the fee for us, after hearing about our trip and low daily budget! We ended up watching the Seals and their young with a very nice group of elderly people from San Jose (see their ‘leader’ Don here). They were on their weekly hiking trip (!) and enjoyed the seals and the entertaining stories of the docent/guide.

After the tour we had lunch with them (thanks for the salmon sandwich!) and when saying goodbye several members of the group surprised us by giving us some cash donations! We were not quite sure what to say, but it was appreciated, as we had to replace our mattresses and their generosity covered that exactly.

Fanny and DidierWe also met two other biketravellers, originally from Switzerland, living in Vancouver. Fanny & Didier were on their way from Vancouver to Phoenix, from where they would return home. They nearly had an accident on the Devil’s Slide when Fanny hit a stick with her pannier. We gave them some Ortlieb repair kit and continued our way, while they went to see the seals, but they caught up with us a few hours later.

We had not had much internet the past days, so we only found out in Santa Cruz that we had offers from several ‘WarmShowers’. Ivana went out to find the cyclists again, so they could ‘use’ one of the address that had reacted later.

We stayed with Deb & Tom, a very friendly couple with a nice house and enthusiastic young dog! We had joked before that after 2 nights of camping, we were ready for a soft bed again and our wish was granted 😉

3-4 Feb 2008: Santa Cruz – Monterey, via Sunset Beach, 35 + 60km

The next morning we first went to visit the gallery of one of my nature and landscape favourite photographers who lives near Santa Cruz: Frans Lanting, scroll the books below for some of his classics:

Unfortunately Frans was not there himself, but it was great to see the full-size prints of his classic shots, that are for sale in his gallery..

Ivana and cactustree in Monterey BayWe continued our way through the maze of Santa Cruz, guided by the book until we suddenly left the city for a more rural surrounding. Fields and fields of strawberries were being planted by dozens of Mexican labourers. We had had more small hills than expected; my knee was hurting and we decided to call it a day at the Hiker-Biker site of Sunset Beach eating around a campfire of pinecones…

Seal parkingThe next morning we started out ok, meandering through the fields, seeing more strawberry fields and a huge parking garage for seals. But just when the strawberries gave way to the artichokes a super strong wind blew in our face and we had to fight our way into it.

Artichokes in Monterey bay (2)There are some nice bike lanes closer to Monterey, though our positive feelings were overshadowed by a posted warning sign that mentioned that a jogger was attacked and that we should not cycle or run alone on this trail…

Artichokes grow hereMonterey is quite a nice town, with beaches, a pier and a touristy centre. We had time to cycle and look around the famous Canary Wharf before heading back to the pier for nearly unlimited samples of clam chowder 🙂

We checked the famous aquarium, but the $30 per person entrance fee was outside our budget, so we went to look for the free sea wildlife instead.

We spotted an otter far away, but later we saw him again, close to the shore, eating away his seafood dinner, while the seals were sleeping on the rocks and the birds were waiting for leftovers. It is great that the shores of Monterey bay are a protected reserve, else these scenes would only be visible inside the aquarium…

Seaotter with seafood Seagull in Monterey

Monterey birdsSleeping Seal

We stayed two nights with Nathan, a young outdoor sports lover. We were his first CouchSurfing guests, but I think he enjoyed it!

He was very nice, helped us with some errands (we bought new mattresses from our donation money) and let us stay during the day, so we could catch up with some work.

Ivana lost herself in a new miniseries we had not seen before: Weeds, which was quite an interesting way to look at some aspects of US culture.. It was fun to see as well, we had not been watching any TV for several months.

In the evening we went to a bar in town and met up with our next hosts: biketraveller Diego and his friends. We moved to their house in Pacific Grove the next day through a terrible rain shower and arrived soaked.

We stayed a few days with them, and went for a 40km circular ride to the monarch butterfly gardens, the coast and along the famous ‘17 Mile Drive’. The latter was a bit overrated in our view as it is just a collection of too big houses, (of which half were for sale) and the rest of the area are endless golf courses filled with old, unhappy looking guys with funny pants, and some deer… Still some of the views were nice and it was relexed to cycle without luggage:

Goose on the beach, Monterey View from 17 Mile drive

View from 17 Mile drive (2) Deer on the 17 Mile Drive

An afternoon in the aquarium

When he heard that we did not visit is because of the high entrance fee, Diego contacted a friend of his that works at the Aquarium. He arranged that we could come in for a brief visit close to closing time, for free!

Monterey Aquarium fishies Montery Seahorse

Though we do not enjoy captive animals, the aquarium was quite impressive. The otters (both river- as sea otters) were our favourites again, but we were completely mesmerized by the hypnotic display of bright orange jellyfish in blue water:

Jellyfish Jellyfish (3)

Jellyfish (5) Jellyfish (6)

Kowalski! Status Report!

Seaotter in aquarium

My knee was not getting better, but also not much worse. It was very painful after resting and sitting, but not too bad during actual cycling…

It was time to say goodbye to Diego, Rose and Ximena and continue our way South to the famous names like Big Sur, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica and of course: Los Angeles!

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