Pacific Coast Tour: Day 19
Day 19: King City, CA to San Luis Obispo, CA
Approximate daily mileage ~ 95 miles
Approximate total mileage ~ 1,500 miles
Approximate daily elevation gain ~ 4,400 feet
Approximate total elevation gain ~ 64,300 feet
Day 19 started early waking up around 5 am. Wide awake with no sign of more sleep to come I began gathering my things and utilizing the electric hand dryer in the bathroom to dry everything that wasn't able to air dry completely overnight. It was a peaceful morning and the temperatures had cooled nicely after climbing into the 100's the day before. This day was expected to be equally as warm which was another reason to get an early start for the day.
Just as the sun was rising I was ready to commence the day's journey. Luck would have it that there was a Denny's in King City. It's been mentioned in previous posts, but if you're looking for a calorie dense meal to keep you cycling all day, a massive carbohydrate heavy breakfast is a great way to go. The calories are greatly necessary. For example, a day like this one riding 95 miles I would expend over 6000 Calories!
With a stomach crammed full of pancakes and coffee the day of riding began. The temperatures were already slowly climbing, but nowhere near their peak which ended up somewhere between 105-110 degrees F. Before leaving Denny's I was sure to replenish my water bottle and Camelbak reservoir. The roads quickly turned very rough within a mile or two of the route. The expansion gaps every 10-15 yards in the pavement on the farming access road I was riding had all turned into speed bumps. On a road bike this really takes a toll on the hands and saddle not to mention greatly reducing the speed of riding. This trend continued for the first 25 miles of the day. By this time both of my hands had developed blisters in the crease of the palms.
Much of the scenery thus far consisted of rural fields for farming. At this point I came upon a huge field of Chevron oil rigs. I never would have expected to come across this site in the middle of California. As the rigs slowly churned up and down my legs did the same. At this point I had an option to continue on the same extremely rough road or try my luck on Highway 101. "How much more rough could it be?", I thought. Apparently, it was in fact possible to be even more rough. This stretch of shoulder along Highway 101 showed me exactly that! The pounding continued for between 5-10 more miles. Turning around wasn't an option, however, at one point I did consider hopping the fence and hiking while carrying my bike what seemed like couldn't be more than 1/2 mile to a farm access road. Just when I was nearing my breaking point the shoulder of the road miraculously took a turn for the better. Funny how that works sometimes.
I was grateful for the improved road conditions, and from this point it was a very long stretch along Highway 101 before the next towns of San Miguel and Paso Robles. During this stretch I stopped at a rest stop to fill up on more water. There didn't seem to be a drinking fountain anywhere in sight. There was a water faucet for pets and just as I was about to use that to refill one of the workers saw me and offered to water from their break room. He was a really friendly young man who said he always offers water to cyclists whenever he sees them along the freeway. On top of that it was ice cold water out of a Culligan container in the briskly air conditioned building! What a life saver.
The hot and grueling ride continued until reaching the Paso Robles. It was early afternoon by this time and I was in need of some more calories. So I made my way to a gas station to refuel. Coincidentally, it was the same company as the oil rigs I passed earlier in the day, Chevron, and I wasn't refueling with gasoline. It was such a hot day that the only thing sounding good at the time was ice cream. So I had Snickers and Twix ice cream bars in addition to 2 Powerades. That was lunch.
From that point there were detour signs stating bicycles were not allowed on Highway 101. I followed the signs which led through the towns of Templeton, Atascadero, and Santa Margarita. The route led back to Highway 101 after Santa Margarita. One more climb was in store for the day. Following the uphill climb was an epic descent that locals call "the grade". This was a joyous finale for a long, hot, and trying day. It also isn't for the faint of heart. It is a busy stretch of Highway 101 with cars zipping by as you maneuver the conditions along the shoulder. It really forces vigilance to avoid catastrophe.
Rolling into San Luis Obispo makes it all worthwhile. Right away I saw a bike shop called Cambria Bike and stopped to check it out. It looked like a great shop, and they even lubed my chain for free! From there I found my way to the hostel which I had previously reserved for the night. It was 4 pm with the hostel opening at 4:30. I sat on the porch in the shade of the sunny day just thankful to be there resting. It was a combination of a sense of accomplishment and also relief.
Arriving early in San Luis Obispo (SLO) was a treat as well. The town has so much to offer from great restaurants to Bubblegum Alley to Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. There is much to see and do in this wonderful small city.