Thursday, 19 March 2015

Big Sur - Scenery, Serendipity and Sweating

Location: Big Sur, CA 93920, USA
So we finally, and rather sadly, left Santa Cruz on Wednesday 11th March.  Scottish Tony had been given whack load of ribs from some guys he was friends with who worked at a restaurant that was closing down so we spent the last night at Wyatt’s in the kitchen eating ribs, drinking beer and laughing until our cheeks hurt.  It was a great send off.
On Wednesday we had an easy day’s ride down to Monterey and stopped for lunch at Moss Landing where we sat at the end of a little marina and got free entertainment watching a lonesome Sea Otter grooming itself.  We arrived in Monterey, found Colton’s place and after getting cleaned up we went out to a local diner for some dinner with Colton and his girlfriend Alex.  Colton had worked at the diner previously and so knew the staff who were super friendly.  We ate lots of nice food and enjoyed the free refills on our iced teas.  When it came to pay Colton insisted on buying us the meal, which was way above and beyond, but much appreciated.

On Thursday morning Colton rode out with us to show us out along Lover’s Point in Monterey and how to best get to the highway, plus he filled us in on loads of tips about the next few days of riding as he’d done a mini tour not long ago all down Big Sur and further.  Once we hit the coast South of Monterey the scenery started to get pretty wow!  Then we came across Bixby Bridge.  I’m pretty fond of bridges and this is one is really quite stunning.  It was built in 1932 and is a vast curving bridge that spans across a coastal canyon.  On the far side of it you can see the road snaking up hugging the edge of the wooded cliff side.  It’s really beautiful.  And then you think, crikey we have to pedal up that!  But pedal we did and we made it to the top and then whizzing down the other side.  We were really lucky on the descents that day in that we didn’t share them with cars so we could choose our line on the corners and really enjoy bombing down.

We arrived into Pfeiffer Big Sur campsite in the afternoon and had a little explore.  We spied another loaded touring cyclist and got chatting.  Turns out he was British too and we’d spotted him in Monterey while riding with Colton.  Andrew was from Hartlepool and was enjoying his last month of freedom before starting a proper job in London.  He’s really into Kerouac and the beat poets and wanted to come visit Big Sur, whilst cycling from San Fran to San Diego.  It was really nice to meet someone doing something similar and we chatted about bikes and hills and such like.
We set off the next morning knowing we had a big climb straight away, which was a tough start to the day, but we made it to the top and once again enjoyed the downhill immensely.  It was a day of long, slow, hot climbs and big, fast, sweeping descents.  The cars were courteous, we got cheers and whoops from passing motorists, people offered words of encouragement and bottles of water on our many stops at scenic viewpoints, we even got a high five from a passing pedestrian.  And by lunchtime we’d already made it to Nacimiento Road where we were planning to camp.  We decided to press on the next 30 odd miles to the next campsite at San Simeon as we’d done so much better than we had anticipated. 

I’m so glad we did carry on as later that afternoon, on yet another long slog up a hill, Tom was ahead of me (as always on the hills, I’m a slow coach) and I was approaching a layby and there was a couple stood by their car staring quite intently at me.  Well we’d had a lot of stares and cheers and waves as I mentioned so it wasn’t that odd, but they were looking very intensely and so I gave them a wave and a ‘hi’ and tried to figure out why they were looking at me.  As I drew closer we clocked that we recognised each other and I shouted for Tom to turn around and come back.  We went to uni with Saffi and had vaguely known she was in the area, but with all the bike trouble and being so behind hadn’t had the wherewithal to arrange anything.  But she had also known that we were cycling down this way so as her and Luke drove from LA to SF they kept an eye out and hence the intent staring at passing cyclists to see if they could spot us.  The odds of it working out as it did I imagine must be miniscule, but there we were, hugging in the sunshine on a clifftop in California.  The world is a wonderful mysterious place.

That day was a really special one.  The scenery was breathtakingly, epically, beautiful.  The photos don’t do it justice.  The intensely green, wooded hills to our left falling down to the vivid blues of the ocean lapping against the cliffs or the golden sand of inaccessible beaches was just continually jaw-dropping.  And the shifting smells of sea, eucalyptus, pine and flowers was gorgeous.  So that, combined with the continued kindness of strangers, the serendipity of bumping into Saffy and Luke, and the elation that we could conquer these big, big hills and mange to cover over 60 miles in our third day in the saddle was so satisfying and I had a silly grin on my face for most the day.
We came out of Big Sur and though we were happy to have finished with the big climbs of the day I was sad to leave the scenery behind.  Tom and I thought it then looked quite Alpine, like Austria in the summer.  There was even a big castle sat atop a hill (Hearst Castle).  We passed a Zebra, I kid you not, which we think is part of a herd which is to do with the castle.  And then we stopped to check out some Elephant Seals.  Wow!  Those guys, and I do mean the guys, are humongous! 

We finally found the campsite we were looking for and after a very long queue to enter found our spot, got pitched up as quick as possible, ate a big pile of rice and lentils and were asleep in no time.  What a day!


  1. Really enjoying your blog, especially all those great photographs...Mr P

  2. Replies
    1. Sorry for the slow reply, but yeh Big Sur was amazing!!