I had a good night sleep and I wake up excited to get back on the bike which is a good sign after that many miles the day before. I pack up the tent, and I’m planning to start by doing another thing off my tick list – the famous 17-Mile Drive to Carmel. However I spotted on some forum that Motorcycles are not allowed. And I couldn’t quite believe it butit turns out that is true. Resident complaining about loud motorbikes (Harleys Davidsons I suspect) and got them banned. Honestly. Land of the free this ain’t. I’m told that some folks just ride slowly through the checkpoint – smile and wave – and the private security dude assume that you are a resident. But I couldn’t be bothered with that, and headed on to Carmel on the Interstate. Carmel is truly beautiful. But is should be given how much it costs to live here. White sands, wooden houses scattered among the steep pine clad slopes.
Back at the intersection I stop for breakfast at a Starbucks. I ended up doing quite a lot of Starbucks on this trip. Not particularly authentic or classy, but easy and comfortable and predictable, with wifi and toilets. Which turns out to be the the things you want for a rest break. As I’m searching what is nearby I spot the Carmel Mission. It turns out that the first westerners here in the 18th Century were Spanish Franciscan monks. And back then it was almost literally the end of the world. It is hard to conceive that this place, one of the most opulent and desirable places to live in the world was just over 200 years ago the absolute back of beyond. You were as far from civilisation as you could be.
The Mission is beautiful and I found it very moving, particularly the very simple cell of the founder Saint Junípero Serra who died there in 1784. I bought a Franciscan cross from the gift shop to remind me of the place. I’m still wearing it.
But now for one of the big objectives of my trip. After Carmel comes Big Sur. For the next 100 miles or so where the Santa Lucia Mountains come down to the sea, along the steep heavily forested mountains sides, over ravine after ravine a thin ribbon of tarmac is cut out of the mountain. It is surely one of the great roads in the world.
I had a couple of places on my tick list to stop off at – notable the Henry Millar Memorial Library. In fact I didn’t stop off in enough places – I was having too much fun. I saw McWay falls (utterly beautiful) , but failed to stop to get pictures. In fact my only complaint was despite everything it was over too quickly. And one word of warning there are not an abundance of gas stations – so if you see one, don’t think there will be another around the corner. I failed to eat enough food, and I can feel myself getting properly hungry. I’m not sure I did justice to the place, and felt a bit sad that it was over.
There is a good comedy stop off a little further down the road. The Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery was recommended to me by the Park ranger back at Monterey, and he was right – its an astonishing sight. Thousands of Elephant seals just hanging out on the beach, throwing sand at each other, making a noise and a stink. I’ll never need to see another elephant seal again, but I’m glad I stopped off. His other tip was Mono bay – where I stop off for a late lunch. Its a good call, there is a huge monolithic piece of rock out to sea, (thus Mono bay) it is very dramatic. I also fell off the bike for the first time (don’t tell Dubbelju) riding slowly through soft sand in the car park, and the front wheel just goes away from me. No harm done. I’m famished by now, and have to make do with Candy Bars and Soda (as they call chocolate and pop over here.) I also have a box of Clif Bars that I got from REI back in San Fransisco, which are good for keeping you going. They don’t fill you up – they just put some energy in your tank.
I sit on the grass next to the harbour munching and planning. Looking at the map, I realise that I need to start heading North soon – I only have a few days left and if I am going to see LA at all it I going to have to do some miles tonight. L.A. is 200 mile south. The coast road doesn’t look quite so good from here, so I decide to head for the freeway – Route 101. There is a local GS rider heading in the same direction, and we pair up for a few miles, grinning and pulling away hard at the lights.
The rest of the day is a bit of a blur. After the joys of Big Sur the freeway is just dull. There is some good scenery through the Gaviota mountains, but I’m just ploughing on. The freeway merges with Route 1 at Santa Barbara, and I stop off there briefly. Lovely place, worth far more time than I could give it. Then on as it got dark, leaving the freeway behind and heading into Malibu. I have very little idea where I am heading or where I am going to camp for the night.
Checking my phone while sitting at intersections I spot that there is a campsite on at Sycamore Canyon on the beach, so I’m back on route 1 and trying to spot the campsite in the dark. Its pitch black when I find it, and the campsite is have hardly anyone there (turns out that might be because it is really expensive!) The only inhabitants are a redneck family having a massive campfire and making a lot of noise. I’m too tired to care. Pitch tent in the dark. Go to sleep.