San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club
Maybe I soft-pedaled the ride too much when I advertised it in the San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club's newsletter:
"Saturday June 15 Point Lobos Delight-Get up early on your day off. Leave San Luis Obispo at 5:00 a.m. Drive two hours and park at Lucia. Ride 75 miles before lunch-Highway 1 from Lucia to Carmel, then return to Big Sur to eat barbecue 'til you burst at the Fernwood Resort. Climb that big hill out of town with a full stomach and ride the rollers back to Lucia. Approximately 100 miles, self contained and self supported. No wimps, no whiners. If you want to stop for coffee, bring a thermos."
Sometimes if you make a ride sound too easy, nobody wants to participate. That was evidently the case when I pulled into the parking lot at Lucia and found that I was the only one there.
By the time I had the bike put together, it was a few minutes after 7 and still no one had joined me. No matter, sometimes the best rides are solo.
The sun was at my back as I started and I liked that because drivers approaching from the rear would see me spotlighted in front of them. Highway 1 is the Pacific Coast Bike Route but the shoulders are narrow to non-existent and cars and bicyclists learn to be cozy neighbors as they negotiate the scenic curves and hills.
The sun was topping the lower ridges of the Santa Lucia mountains and it was cool in the shade and warm in the sun. Bunnies popped out of the brush from time to time and raced in front of me for a few feet, then darted back into the friendly concealment of the roadside bushes.
Offshore rocks, smudged by resting cormorants, sparkled in the sunlight to my left. Monkey flowers and morning glories punctuated by stands of Queen Anne's lace and clumps of purple lupine grew on shady slopes to the right.
An hour north of Lucia I passed Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and McWay waterfall pouring onto the sand above the surfline.
A turkey vulture perched on top of a utility pole with one wing outspread in the sunshine and watched me pedal by. I passed Deetjen's Big Sur Inne and, a few minutes later, Nepenthe, where you can get a nice lunch for under $50.
The landscape changed dramatically north of Big Sur, opening into rolling meadows and groves of oaks as the Santa Lucia range receded and diminished. Just past Andrew Molera State Park and the southern terminus of the old Coast Road, a stiff headwind hit me in the face and reduced my speed to less than 10 mph. I pedaled slowly past the Point Sur lighthouse and wondered if the rest of the morning was going to be like this.
It never got better but it did get worse. Every time I rounded a curve or rode past a cut slope, erratic cross winds blew me back and forth across the shoulder. I concentrated on keeping the bike out of the car lane. A couple of times I thought about abandoning the ride and turning back. That would have been the smart thing to do.
When I saw Bixby Bridge, I knew I had to ride across it-then Rocky Creek and Garrapata-this was too pretty to give up.
Some Yuppie houses sprouted on the left, looking auspiciously like the outskirts of an upscale community. Sure enough, a few minutes later I crossed Malpaso Creek and passed Highlands Inn, then Point Lobos State Reserve and two miles later pulled into a gas station in Carmel.
After a cold burrito and a drink of water, I was ready to go back. I wet my finger, held it into the wind and smugly asked, "Going my way?"
It was great having the wind at my back, but those pesky cross winds didn't go away. In some places I felt as if I were wrestling a steer. When I flew past the lighthouse, I looked at my speedometer. It read 36 mph and the air around me felt dead calm.
Soon I was back in the redwoods, crossing Juan Higuera Creek and pulling into Fernwood Resort. I don't ordinarily wait until 1:30 to eat lunch, but Fernwood is the real deal-$10 for BBQ chicken, ribs, sausage, beef and pork, plus beans, salad and cole slaw. Besides that, a sign out front says "Bikers Welcome."
After 45 minutes of gorging myself, I climbed back on the bike and sweated up the hill to Nepenthe, then hit the rollers back to Lucia.
The hills were mild and didn't seem to amount to much, but at the end of the ride my computer said that I climbed over 10,000 feet for the day. I felt bad for my friends in the bike club who didn't show up. They didn't know what they missed. Or maybe they did.
You can email Robert Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org