Pacific Coast Tour: Day 20
Day 20: San Luis Obispo, CA to Refugio State Beach, Santa Barbara County, CA
Approximate daily mileage ~ 93 miles
Approximate total mileage ~ 1,593 miles
Approximate daily elevation gain ~ 3,700 feet
Approximate total elevation gain ~ 68,000 feet
Day 20 started out in a great way. That start was with pancakes of course! The hostel had batter for pancakes made and fresh coffee brewed for a donation. I couldn't have asked for a better place to stay before spending the next few nights camping again.
The weather seemed to be absolutely perfect as well with clear blue skies, a gentle breeze, and slightly cooler temperatures than the last 2 days. The ride out of SLO was a smooth and scenic then the route returned toward the coast. The first town along the coast was Pismo Beach. After Pismo Beach the course turned inland again and passed through the small towns of Guadalupe, Santa Maria, and Orcutt. From that point the choices are to take Highway 1 through Vandeberg Air Force Base or take a climb on Harris Grade Road over a large hill directly into the town of Lompoc. I chose the climb which turned out to be a good choice. It was a steady and fairly steep climb with great views at the top and a fun descent.
By the time of reaching Lompoc it was nearly noon and time for lunch. I had been craving Mexican food, and there appeared to be a great place in town called Floriano's. It turned out to be the perfect stop for lunch with delicious food and generous portions. Just behind Floriano's was a Subway. So after eating lunch I stopped to pick up a footlong sandwich for the next meal of the day. This was important as there didn't appear to be any other places for food before the planned stop for the night.
The next stretch was a gradual incline for a number of miles trending back toward the coast. Once the gradual incline peaked there was a 7% grade descent for about 2.5 miles. On the way down there were some large bumps in the road. At a rest stop I stopped for water and to check out all the equipment on my bike. It all seemed fine at the time. Continuing onward, Highway 1 was again running parallel to the coast with only 10-12 miles left for the day. Around that time I noticed my rear tire had a flat. Luckily, it was in a location along Highway 101/1 where there was an extra wide shoulder to get away from traffic, and it even had nice views of the ocean.
I attempted to simply re-inflate the tire with a C02 cartridge hoping that the sealant I had in the tube would seal any small leak. It was worth a try, but the tire was holding no air at all. Thankfully, my brother had shipped an extra tire to my cousin's place in Oakland so I had a brand new tire and also a brand new tube. As it turned out, both were needed to fix this. The old tire had 2 gashes that rendered it useless. The only hard part left was actually getting the new tire on the wheel. Usually, this is no problem, however, a new Gatorskin tire combined with racing wheels is a real challenge to pry the tire onto the rim. So I made a few attempts without success and even broke a tire lever on the last try. It was at this point I began looking for other options. Eventually, another cyclist came along who I had actually passed much earlier in the day. He stopped and asked if I needed help! He was the only other cyclist I had seen all day and definitely the only person to stop and ask if I needed a hand. It turned out that he had the same first name as me, Steven. Sure enough, he provided the extra set of hands needed to pry the tire on the wheel to complete the job! I couldn't thank him enough. He thought nothing of it and continued on.
The tire held air and looked to be good to go. Unfortunately, when I re-mounted the wheel on the bike I must have accidentally forced the chain to get dislodge within one of the jockey wheels of the rear derailleur. This didn't allow the chain to move at all. It was difficult to tell exactly where it was jammed. So I called my good friend, Brian, who really knows a lot about bikes, and he guided me through disassembling and freeing the chain. Also, I am extremely grateful for his help. So finally, after about an hour and a half with completely grease coated hands I was back on the road. The rest of the ride was smooth with great views of the ocean with occasional Amtrak trains speeding past.
Soon enough, Refugio State Beach appeared! This state beach was one of the best encountered as it is situated directly on the beach side with unobstructed views of the water. The campground was completely full with the exception of the large hiker/biker section. There was no one else there! So I had my pick of all the sites and chose the one with the best view under the large canopy of a tree. Just after I arrived I was approached by two men who seemed really excited to see a cyclist. They said they had been camping there the past two nights, and I was the first cyclist they had seen. They were named Mark and Richard. Both of them were Angelinos, were avid cyclists, and had done a lot of cycle touring as well. They saw my grease-caked hands and realized I had some type of mechanical issue at some point. Then they invited me over to their camp later as Mark's wife was in the process of making a peach cobbler over the fire. They went back to their camp, and I continued my process of setting out gear to dry. Not long later, Richard came back and gave me a pork chop, bratwurst, and a beer! Unbelievable! I kindly accepted and could not thank him enough for his generosity. It was all delicious!
After showering and getting everything set up for the night I found my way over to their camp on the far side of the campground. I really just wanted to thank them for the food, but sure enough, they had leftover peach cobbler which they insisted I try. It was also very tasty. On the walk back to my camp the clear night gave way to the bright stars with the sound of the ocean waves crashing in the background. This turned out to be yet another day along the journey which proved how great people can be to one another and how something as small as stopping for a few seconds to lend a hand or offering up a bite of food can make a huge difference for someone else.