Day Two – Layover in Monterey
The Monterey Hostel is welcoming and warm, clean and comfortable, and like most youth hostels full of interesting people. I lodged in the women’s bunk room and found it easy to catch a full night’s sleep; a wonderful contrast to my previous night on the Amtrak Coast Starlight. Rising early, I retrieved my bike from its secure locker and headed out for the day.
After a big breakfast I pedaled past Cannery Row to Lover’s Point. This spot is scenic even on its worst day, and today was not that day. Bright sun, blue water, big surf, and Humpback whales all made for premium ocean viewing. Through my binoculars I watched a pod of whales in the bay and was relieved to see them crossing the bay without the tailing whale-watching boats that one sees hounding the orcas in the Puget Sound.
Next stop, Monterey Bay Aquarium where I spent several hours touring the exhibits and learning more about marine life. After reaching my capacity for absorbing information and being indoors on such a glorious day I took leave of the aquarium and returned to Lover’s Point. To my great fortune, the whales were back. Not only were they still in the bay, but they were just off the point ( about 1/4 mile) feeding and they remained there for over an hour. I watched as they dove, rolled, periscoped, and generally did whale things. From the rocky shore, I enjoyed the show, soaked up the afternoon sun, and made the acquaintance of one of the locals – see that gull pictured below…
My plan for a layover paid off with a rewards of a relaxing, educational, and inspiring day. Now it was time to buckle down and prepare the coming days of cycling through Big Sur.
Day 3 – Off Like a Herd of Turtles
My plan for this trip was to take it easy and take in the sights. But, I still had to pedal down the road to get to those sites so I set off bright and early into the morning fog. Heading south through Pacific Grove, 17-Mile Drive, and Carmel, before most tourists were awake. I eventually returned to Highway 1.
Heading south from Carmel the road gets narrower and windier and traffic slower and lighter. Here the road cuts between the coast and the Santa Lucia Mountains. This is the Big Sur coast. It is one of my favorite cycle tour routes thanks to its challenging terrain, beautiful scenery, and plentiful camping options. One of my least favorite aspects of the trip though is the bridges. The older ones have no shoulder so are a little unnerving for someone with a fear of heights.
But, luck was with me this day as the most notorious of those bridges, Bixby Bridge, was easy crossing this trip thanks to some nearby road construction that was stopping traffic and consolidating the flow of vehicles. I just jumped on the tail of the row of cars crossing the bridge and had the whole lane to myself, actually enjoying the view this time across. My luck continued as the afternoon winds picked up. Less than 10 miles from my day’s end destination a flat plain is most welcome to hill-wearied legs. Also welcome was the sight of a flag flying in the wind – confirming that the wind was indeed behind me and aiding my progress.
In short order I arrived at Pfieiffer Big Sur State Park and set up my tent next to a cluster of giant redwoods. Another good night’s sleep – guaranteed!