San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club
Parkfield is “where you want to be when it happens.” The town, sitting on the San Andreas Fault, bills itself as the epicenter of the next big earthquake. This ride is a seventy-five mile loop that begins and ends in Paso Robles. The last fifty miles take you through one of the least-populated sections of the central coast area.
Paso Robles to Cholame—Twenty-five miles of
flat riding. Take Highway 46 east out of town. At mile 16, turn right
onto McMillan Canyon Road. This takes you into Shandon for a four-mile
respite from high-speed highway traffic. Cholame lies seven miles
beyond downtown Shandon.
The good: Wide shoulder most of the way. There is a ground-in rumble strip along the left side of the shoulder. This is designed to warn drivers when they leave the driving lane. At first, I thought it was a hazard to biking. After an hour or so of cars passing at highway speed, I began to feel that the rumble strip provided some protection from drivers coming over to “get me.” Scenery is terrific, miles of open vineyards on both sides of the highway. Shandon has a delightful park with water, tables and rest rooms. I stopped here to refresh myself with one of Mrs. Davis’ delicious Bicycle Brownies. There is a store in Shandon. One mile after returning to Highway 46, there is a roadside rest area. Four miles beyond that, Cholame provides the Jack Ranch Café. A cup of coffee costs fifty cents. Outside is a memorial to James Dean. Dean was killed less than a mile away in 1955 in an automobile accident.
The bad: At Estrella Road, ten miles out of town, the bridge across the Estrella River has no shoulder clearance for bicycle riders. At the Shandon turnoff, McMillan Canyon Road has a “bike lane” that is no wider than a painted stripe.
Cholame to Parkfield—Seventeen miles, sixteen
of it delectable. Ride one mile east of Jack Ranch Café on
Highway 46 to Cholame Valley Road. Turn left across the highway.
The county road is flat and deserted and delightful. Wind your way
northward through open cattle country. Say hello to occasional cows
on the road. Enter Monterey County. Five miles from Parkfield,
the road narrows and climbs a bit (Parkfield is 400 feet higher than Cholame).
Turn right at the intersection with Vineyard Canyon Road. Parkfield
has a hotel, a café and a gift shop. They were all closed
the day I visited. There is a beautiful park and water fountain next
to the hotel. This is a great place for a picnic when everything
else is closed.
The good: I passed four cars in an hour. Friendly dogs came out to say hello.
The bad: One of the dogs was not barking; he was salivating. There is no shoulder on the road. The road is not in great shape—watch out for bumps and potholes.
Parkfield to San Miguel—Twenty-three miles,
most of it downhill. Leave Parkfield the way you came in. Fill
up your water bottles on the way out of town. At Vineyard Canyon
turn right and head north. Five miles out of town you will pass the
Imusdale Cemetery. Climb a thousand feet in the next mile and a half.
Descend for the next forty minutes back into San Luis Obispo County.
This is the most deserted section of the ride. Traffic is light.
There are no houses until you draw near the valley. Veer left at
Indian Valley Road. Continue south to the bridge across the Salinas
River. Turn right if you want to visit San Miguel. Turn left
if you want to return to Paso Robles. This is River Road. It
will take you back to Highway 46.
The good: Fifteen miles of glorious downhill riding through a scenic canyon. There are cows and creeks and windmills pumping water.
The bad: This is a long time to be bumping over potholes and patches. Though traffic is light, passing cars and trucks travel at high speed.
San Miguel to Paso Robles—Ten miles of flat
riding alongside the Salinas River. I passed Tom Harris driving a
team of horses south of Wellsona Road. Tom trains horses for the
movies. He was breaking in a new equine star.
The good: Not much traffic along River Road. Enough curves and rollers to keep it interesting.
The bad: Surprise! River Road does not intersect with Highway 46. It crosses underneath it. To reconnect with Highway 46, turn left at River Oaks Drive. Head uphill to Experimental Station Road. Turn right to Buena Vista Drive. Turn right. Intersect Highway 46 at the Martin and Weyrich Winery tasting room. Turn right and descend into Paso Robles.
Robert Davis is a member of the San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club.
You can email Robert Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org