Pacific Coast Tour: Day 18
Day 18: Pacific Grove, CA to King City, CA
Approximate daily mileage ~ 80 miles
Approximate total mileage ~ 1,405 miles
Approximate daily elevation gain ~ 4,200 feet
Approximate total elevation gain ~ 59,900 feet
Every day among this journey was unique, and Day 18 was no different with many highlights. I am still extremely thankful for Teresa and David allowing me to stay at their place as I had one glorious night of motionless sleep. David was also very helpful in planning the day's route.
When I initially planned to embark on this trip I had highlighted the stretch of California coast along Big Sur. Unfortunately, due to mudslides occurring earlier in the year a bridge was out, and there were also 2-3 road closures even further south due to mudslides damaging the roads. I had been investigating and talking with as many people as possible about possible ways to navigate these obstacles and still be able to ride the intended route. After much discussion, I had heard from numerous people that cycling and hiking was strictly banned in this area during the repairs, and if caught, one would be given a very large fine. The incident of being pulled over by the State Troopers the previous day may have swayed my decision. Nonetheless, I thought it would be best to avoid any trouble and circumnavigate this portion via an inland route. David was a cyclist and a motorcyclist and had ridden all the nearby roads having lived there his entire life. He suggested taking Carmel Valley Road (Highway G16). It seemed like a good route to avoid heavy traffic on or along Highway 101.
After thanking Teresa and David as many times as possible I ventured to begin. The first incredible highlight of this day was circling the majority of the iconic 17 Mile Drive in Pebble Beach. The beginning happened to be less than a mile away from their place. The early morning had a significant amount of fog which made for a special feel and view long one of the most scenic stretches of roads along numerous famous golf courses, the Pacific, and massive houses tucked back in dense trees. In order to drive a car through the route it is more than $10, however, on a bicycle it's free! I took my time circling the beautiful grounds in the calm early morning passing by a few golfers and a couple other cyclists.
After traversing most of 17 Mile Drive the route turned toward Carmel-by-the-Sea. This town had a charming feel. As I checked stopped to check my route I was greeted by a man from Minnesota who was in town with his two sons to play a once in a lifetime round of golf at Pebble Beach. He asked where I was traveling. I told him, and he was shocked as he said, "that's incredible!" Up until that point I really hadn't thought that at all. I was more impressed he was playing a round of golf at THE Pebble Beach!
Continuing along, I stopped again just after crossing Highway 1. It was extremely tempting to take it and attempt my initially planned stretch past Big Sur with some sort of attempt to hike around the bridge and road closures. Good judgment won, and I stopped at Safeway to stock up on food for the day. Coincidentally, I was greeted there by a couple and the husband had previously done RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa). They said they had taken my planned route previously. They mentioned how scenic it was and also how challenging the climbs were.
From that point the ride seemed quite smooth with only a gradual uphill trend until reaching the town of Carmel Valley. There, I stopped at one of the couple gas stations for just a couple more snacks and hydration as it would be another approximately 45 miles of significant climbing before any other towns or gas stations in order to do so. By this time the temperatures were really climbing as well. Drifting further inland from the coast through the valley the climate was drastically different and the high temperature this day would reach 104 degrees F. Following the town of Carmel Valley the road turned a good deal more rough and narrow. The rough road combined with climb and heat made for much slower going.
The narrow road was generally no problem due to very little traffic. However, after most of the climbing on one of the descents I did come upon a large semi taking up the entire road while curving around a steep corner. Luckily, vigilance paid off for both of us as we dodged each other. Although, it was one of the more trying days of cycling, the valley with it's vineyards made for some really great scenery most of the way. Finally, near what I imagined had to be near the end of this stretch I came upon a couple people on the side of the road and stopped. They happened to be helping out a group of riders who were doing a century ride over that road the same day. That explained why there were a handful of cyclists traveling the opposite way of me - some of them looking quite exhausted! The couple reassured that it was not much further until reaching the next town, Greenfield.
They were right. It was not more than 10 miles until reaching the small town of Greenfield. Here, it felt like a small farming town with a number of restaurants and stores very similar to what might be found in my home state of Iowa. They even had a McDonald's and after hours in the extreme heat, ice cream sounded divine. The only downside was that it was a few miles in the opposite direction I needed to go and into the now stiff breeze. Nevertheless, it was worth it!
Just over 12 miles to go from McDonald's in Greenfield to San Lorenzo Park Campground in King City, CA. Now, the wind was at my back, and I was home free along a short stretch along Highway 101. The campground at San Lorenzo Park was less than half full. This made it easy to find a great spot with a good picnic table for setting up camp for the night. It felt great to shower, eat whatever food I had remaining, and gaze upon the stars as the temperatures declined after the setting of the sun.