As I started riding on Highway One after Monterey the sun began to set. I knew I didn’t have much more than an hour before it would be dark so I began looking for a camping spot.
A few places presented themselves but they would only be suitable when it was a lot dimmer, so I carried on.
Then I started riding through a section where on one side the ground rose up into hills and on the other it dropped away to cliffs. There wasn’t really much flat land to be had. So as darkness was really arriving I settled on a spot right next to the road but slightly raised and obscured a bit by scrubby bushes. There was just enough room for my tent but only just.
The next day I woke early and began riding on one of the most beautiful stretches of road I’d seen.
This route, which runs roughly from Monterey to San Luis Obispo, is generally known as Big Sur and is a relatively remote part of the coast known for its incredible natural beauty.
It’s a very popular driving route and I saw lots of American sports cars: Mustangs, Camaros and Chargers were everywhere.
It’s also popular for cycling but on the bike it’s no easy scenic cruise. It’s a couple of hundred miles of brutal hills, I think there is about 3000m of vertical climb on the route, which is no picnic
Luckily the beauty would dull the pain in my thighs.
That day I’d meet a couple of interesting people including Joe; a former US Grand Prix motorcycle racer who offered to help me out if I got into any trouble.
I also saw hummingbirds for the first time in my life as they hovered above my head eating their lunch from a bush as I ate mine beneath it.
Mostly the day was an exquisitely beautiful slog that made me wish I wasn’t carrying food for three days. That is until the prices in the few village shops reminded me why I was. As you can see from the photos the weather was pretty much perfect too and I was feeling very fortunate, in between lung bursting climbs that is.
That evening I’d carry on riding until the light ran out, I was able to find somewhere to camp when I got my bike between a gap in a fence and I found some bushes to obscure me. The pitch was perfect with soft grass and flat ground.
As with the night before the sky was perfectly clear and I saw star after star after star, including a few shooting ones. I also saw some UFOs flying around, well they were unidentified to me as they certainly weren’t planes. I assume they were drones patrolling the coastline but who knows.
The next morning I woke as early as I could in case I shouldn’t be camping where I was. This meant I got to ride as the sun rose on another fantastic day.
That morning there were lighthouses:
But it wasn’t long until I reached San Simeon and I realised that I wasn’t too happy with my plan for the next few days. Basically I wasn’t really sure how I was going to get to my next destination: Death valley. I also didn’t have much electricity left to power my phone to find out.
It was lucky then that when I stopped outside a visitor’s centre to use the WiFi that the nice old lady running it invited me in and let me use their plug sockets.
This gave me a chance to study my map in conjunction with Googlemaps and to make some notes on my route. It also let me try and contact some Warmshowers.org hosts.
In the end decided I would actual cut east at Paso Robles rather than San Luis Obispo so I decided to give Mike a call, a host living there. I was a bit nervous about making the call I as I hate bothering people and it was a) last minute and b) the evening before thanksgiving. I wasn’t sure if thanksgiving eve was like Christmas eve which I would be very nervous about calling someone up to ask to stay with them on.
I needn’t have worried, Mike sounded very enthusiastic on the phone and told me to come on over. So I did. I’d gone into the centre feeling at a bit of a loose end but stepped out cheerful with a direction once more.
I was also now starting to cross the USA finally, after almost a month of heading south in north America.
As I left the coast I began a long climb taking me up so I had a panoramic view over rolling hills.
After the climb I passed through another of California’s wine regions and I had to resist the temptation to stop for some wine tasting or I’d never have gotten anywhere.
I eventually reached the town of town of Paso Robles and the house where Mike and his wife Karen lived.
Here I was made to feel totally welcome while being almost overwhelmed by their intrinsic generosity and kindness.
Before I knew what had hit me I was showered, my clothes were in the laundry, my luggage in a room for me and I was sitting on a deck with a beer and some snacks enjoying some great conversation.
I couldn’t quite believe how lucky I was. Next thing I know, we’re having steak for dinner, my favourite and something I hadn’t had in months, and I’m being invited to Thanksgiving with their family.
I didn’t know what to say to start with!
In the end I couldn’t do anything but agree to such a kind offer and I didn’t want to miss perhaps my only chance to experience thanksgiving in America.
The next day Mike made some pumpkin pie and once this was done we headed off in the car to Pacifica, where his sister lived. The ride was an education as both he and Karen seemed to know something about everything we passed and it brought the landscape alive. It made me wish I could get an audiotape for the rest of my ride through California with what they knew.
When we arrived at Mike’s sister Anne and her husband Ford’s place I was a little nervous as it was clearly a family gathering. I was just some guy who’d effectively turned up on Mike’s doorstep the day before! My nervousness quickly fell away as everyone was so welcoming that I felt quite touched.
The food was delicious as well, with a huge barbecued turkey as the centrepiece.
Perhaps the most unusual piece of food was sweet potatoes with marshmallows. It was all great though!
In the end I’m ashamed to say I had three helpings of main course and two of Mike’s sumptuous pumpkin pie. I could barely move for about an hour after we had eaten.
The next day Ford was kind enough to take me out into the Pacific sea kayaking. We were heading out to check his crabbing cages.
I had a great time, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been out on the ocean and it was a perfect day for it.
It was also fun pulling up the cages to see what we’d get. In the end we came away with six good size crabs. So we headed back in order to cook them on the dock.
They were delicious once they were done and as fresh as you can get!
After this Mike drove Karen and I back to Paso Robles via a beautiful scenic route along the coast.
Mike and Karen then kindly took me for dinner and we had some more interesting talks.
Before I left Mike also made sure I would know where I was going, even going so far as to give me some excellent maps with enough detail I could see the secondary roads I’d be taking.
Come the morning I was feeling very sad that I’d have to go, I’d had such a fun and interesting time with Mike and Karen, who had really looked after me, that it almost felt like I was leaving home again!