Day 3: Monterey to Lucia

11 April 2011

We woke up at 5:00 the following morning (in order to make the 7:00 crossing time) and packed up our things extremely quickly. By 5:35 we were all in the car and ready to go (I've never seen five people do anything important in just 35 minutes before). We had a massively caloric breakfast at McDonald's, as we expected to do as much climbing today as in the previous two days put together.

Kalvin drove us to the northern side of the Rocky Creek closure. You can see, below, the construction crews at work at the washout site. The closure began at the north end of the Rocky Creek bridge (towards the left side of photo, not visible).

We arrived at the site at around 6:40, which left us plenty of time to assemble the bikes. It was a cold morning and Sue was not feeling quite well, so she decided she would sit out during the morning and drive with Kalvin the 140-mile detour. They would head back up the coast, down Hwy 101, and cross back to Hwy 1 via Jolon and Nacimiento-Fergusson. Yoyo, Ed, and I assembled our bikes and headed to the edge of the closure to wait. We knew there would be some hills on the ride inland that would slow us down, so we tentatively arranged to meet for lunch at the first reasonable stop, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

The road closure site felt like a refugee camp. Hundreds of people were waiting, many with wheelbarrows or carts to carry groceries or other possessions across. Cars had been left at both sides of the closure, parked on the shoulder of the highway, to ferry people from either end. As we waited, schoolbuses pulled up to drop off kids going to school. Parents waved goodbye to their children, "See you next week!" We did see one group of three expedition cyclists. They had arrived just five minutes too late to cross at yesterday's afternoon opening, so they had been forced to camp at Garrapata for the night.

A few minutes after 7:00, the police gave the signal, and we were permitted to cross, walking our bikes. A crowd of similar size started crossing from the other side at the same time, about half a mile away. As the two groups crossed in the middle, the Big Sur residents waved hello to their friends and neighbors.

The washout looked pretty bad at the time (though it would, amazingly, be open to cars within a week). The shoulder where we crossed the actual washout was not yet wide enough to fit a car between the construction equipment and the mountain face. The workers watched impatiently as we crossed. They were working around the clock and now they were waiting for us to pass so they could resume their work.

The southern end of the closure was right next to the majestic Bixby Bridge.

I waited a few minutes for the cars to pass, then continued down Highway 1. The sun was just now starting to peek over the mountains. It was 8:00 in the morning on a Monday just south of a road closure. I would guess there are few better times and places to be biking down the coast: I think in the next hour and a half I only counted five cars going my way.

There was a modest climb when the road headed inland towards Pfeiffer Big Sur state park, but we were making good time. It soon became clear that we would arrive at Pfeiffer Big Sur far before lunchtime, and before Sue and Kalvin would get there. So we decided we would buy sandwiches for lunch and meet Sue and Kalvin at (the confusingly similarly named) Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, a bit further south. Despite lousy cell phone coverage in the area I did manage to get Sue on the phone and we asked them to meet us there instead.

We stopped at the Big Sur Lodge but their lunch selection seemed to be pretty anemic, so we moved on. Here the trees cleared off to one side as the road climbed, and it was getting very warm now that we were inland. The Big Sur Deli a mile down the road looked like a much better lunch option. The three of us bought five sandwiches, stocked up on drinks, and packed everything into our saddlebags.

Soon the road returned to the ocean, and we were at the heart of the Big Sur coast. The place is just so vast. Every time I rounded the corner at a cliff I saw two more cliffs in the distance. With little commercial activity out here and very few cars, it felt like we had the whole coast to ourselves. It was exhilirating, following the twisting road up and down and soaking in the sights. I'm convinced this is the most (legal) fun you can have in California.

Some time later and 9 miles down the road we found Sue and Kalvin waiting for us at the entrance to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. There is a parking lot there and a path down to a vista point that overlooks two beaches (one with a waterfall that empties onto the beach!). We all walked down to the vista point and ate our lunches, admiring the view. You cannot actually go down to either beach, which is part of the reason they look so nice.

Kalvin joined us for the afternoon ride and Ed and Sue drove to the hotel. South of Julia Pfeiffer Burns the topography remains about the same, but the redwood trees become more sparse.

After 14 miles, we reached Lucia Lodge, our destination for the night. It is the only hotel for some distance in either direction. The guest rooms are perched over the cliff, and there is a short walk up to a vista point with a bench.

We ate a second lunch at the hotel restaurant. Lucia brags they are ranked in the Top 5 for fish and chips by Coastal Living magazine. The others had fish and chips (verdict: pretty good) and I had a BLT.

We then walked down to the field, and the others commenced playing what may be the most stunning game of Agricola ever, in the field just below the hotel lobby/restaurant. I took a nap for most of this time.

After a grueling game (nap, respectively), we decided it was time for dinner at the Lucia restaurant. (Life is so hard sometimes.) Dinner was mediocre, with the exception of the bread, which was positively delicious.

When we had finished dinner and were walking back to our rooms, we could see just how isolated Lucia was. Only two lights could be seen along the entire opposite coast.

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