Pacific Coast Tour: Day 17
Day 17: Pigeon Point Lighthouse, San Mateo County, CA to Pacific Grove, CA
Approximate daily mileage ~ 85 miles
Approximate total mileage ~ 1,325 miles
Approximate daily elevation gain ~ 2,500 feet
Approximate total elevation gain ~ 55,700 feet
After an excellent night of sleep at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel, I was more than ready to tackle another day on PCH. On the road by 9 am, the day started out relatively flat with a nice little tailwind. The rough roads quickly improved to smooth tarmac. Soon thereafter a couple incredible views came into sight along a most perfect descent. Then there was a steep climb followed by several smaller climbs and descents. This continued with great morning conditions and beautiful blue sky for about 28 miles until reaching the first stop of the day in Santa Cruz. I quickly found my way toward the Santa Cruz beach and popular boardwalk. Here, there were a plethora of options for breakfast. I ended up at an incredibly tasty cafe called, The Picnic Basket. Their motto is "good food made with love". It really shows and is highly recommended.
After refueling with that delicious breakfast, it was time to forge onward. Cruising along the boardwalk area was a joy and at the far end is an amusement park complete with a roller coaster! I continued through town and found what I thought to be the quickest route to my next destination. With something not much more than 50 miles to go for the day, I thought I was all set for a casual cruise the rest of the way for an early arrival at the next stop for the night.
One thing that I neglected to realize was that a good portion of the route I selected was on a stretch of Highway 101 where bicycles are not allowed to ride. This really didn't occur to me to be a problem upon selecting the route as I had already ridden hundreds of miles along Highway 101 without any issues. So I took the on-ramp onto the freeway and started cruising along, making great time, and feeling fantastic. Somewhere around 6-8 miles into this I heard a police horn not far behind me. Thinking it had to be intended for someone else I pedaled onward. Soon enough, I heard the same horn followed by, "Hey you! Yeah, you on the bicycle! Stop!". I quickly did a shoulder check and sure enough the California State Patrol was pulling me over. Still thinking I was innocent as I was riding well out of the way of traffic, I waited for the two patrolmen to approach. Once they were beside me, lights still flashing, they kindly informed me, "Bicycles aren't allowed on the freeway". What a surprise! Haha. What really was a surprise was that they wanted me to turn around and ride against traffic on the shoulder backtracking 1-2 miles to the nearest on-ramp which I could again ride against traffic in order to exit the freeway. I said thank you and did exactly that. For the rest of the day I'd be taking side and frontage roads.
Those side and frontage roads seemed more dangerous to me without any bike lane or shoulder most of the time. Either way they made for some great variety in scenery. Eventually, I found that much of the time was spent passing through farmland of strawberries, artichokes, and lettuce. I even met a fellow cyclist, John, who was recently retired and had ridden his recumbent all the way from his home in Seattle.
Eventually, I returned toward the coast along some smooth bike trails and entered the great small city of Monterey, CA! This made for a perfect end for the day as I rode along the popular bike trail passing the historic pier, Cannery Row, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The scenic ride continued toward Lovers Point. From there I was only blocks away from where I'd be spending the night at one of my friends parent's house in Pacific Grove.
This was another highlight of the day. I had never met my friend's parents prior to this, and they were so incredibly welcoming. It always amazes me the amount of kindness and generosity people possess.