I had a great night sleep, but as ever after a transatlantic flight woke up really early. I was due to pick up the bike at 10am, so I had some time to kill. Got a coffee at Starbucks, then took a lovely walk up Pacific heights which has some of the most expensive real estate in the US, and you can see why. Jonny Ive lives here, and he is a man with sense of the aesthetic. One of the beautiful things is the way they have preserved the view – so in the distance you can see ocean, mountains and forest. This is Alcatraz from the lovely Lafayette Park.
It must be very strange to live in an Earthquake zone, and know that at some point all of this is going to be flattened. I’m not superstitious, but that street number is asking for trouble…
So then, back to the Hotel, picked up my kit and checked out. Then another Uber (I don’t really like Uber really, but so darn convenient) over to the Mission District to pick up the Bike from Dubbelju. Really helpful young guy called Alejandro sorted me out with a nice red 2016 1200 Liquid cooled GS. It always takes so much longer than you think to pack the bike and make everything fit, and I end up in a bad mood about those crappy Vario OEM panniers. How can they be so big, yet fit so little? Eventually I have it set up as I want it and Alejandro wheels the bike outside, and I ride off into the bright California morning. Here is me with a quite famous bridge in the background. If I appear quite wrapped up, I am – it is really cold!
So nice to see the Golden Gate Bridge, but I am not going that way – all being well I will cross it in the opposite direction in 10 days time.
I’m planning to try and hug the coast as closely as possible for now, so I head out west and stop at Point Lobos. These long white sand windswept beaches stretch out ahead of you. I’m going that way, all the way south.
Actually I’m not going that far that way right now, as it is 11am and I am famished having only eaten a Starbucks danish this morning. One of my gripes about America is the food. Sure, it can be very good, but day to day too much of it is crap, and travelling on a bike, when you have lots of things to think about, finding good food three times a day becomes a bit of a hassle, and I definitely get grumpy when I am hungry. However my first food stop was brilliant and set a precedent that I kept up almost every day. The Great American Breakfast. Most of the time I use the Foursquare app, and click the breakfast option and chose the best rated one. My first was The Boulevard Cafe in Daly City. You get the works for about $16 with bottomless coffee. Crispy bacon, sausage, eggs, toast, fried potatoes, tomatoes. Not cheap, but really good and sets you up for the day, and takes the pressure off finding a decent lunch.
So now feeling well fed and much happier the day stretches out before me like those white sand beaches and open roads.
Back to route 1, and though I have ridden this road before in 2015, this is utterly wonderful . Great road surface, surprisingly little traffic, sweeping curves, ocean views and forested headlands. This has to be one of the great roads on earth, and so worth returning to do a second time. Once again it goes too fast – I don’t stop for photos because I’m having too much fun. 70 miles goes in a flash, and the road swings west towards Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz is famous (in my mind) for two things. It is the birthplace of Surfing in the US – two Hawaian princes were studying here, and were seen surfing waves in the mouth of the San Lorenzo River. And it is the location of the 80’s classic film The Lost Boys – that iconic fairground and boardwalk. Here is a photo of both of those locations.
And in this south facing bay, out of the cold north wind, it was lovely and warm – a beautiful day. So I went for a swim in the mouth of the river where it meets the sea, going from warm fresh water to cold salt water, and slightly nervously swam with the seals that live there. There is nothing like a swim to get a feel for a place.
Now I am on a budget, and planning to camp more nights than I stay in hotels. So I roll up to the campground at New Brighton State beach, and there is a queue of cars, and when I get the check in desk it is full and they turn me away. Today is a Friday, so obviously it is busy, but my tent is tiny, and I can see plenty of spaces between the 30 ft RV’s. So Instead I went to booking.com and found a Super 8 motel with decent ratings. Motels are definitely a mixed bag, and some can be grim (more on that later). But if the proprietor is good and looks after them, they can be absolutely fine. This one is just that. That evening I went for a walk round Santa Cruz, ate at Five Guys downtown, and then blew a stack of quarters at the arcades in the fairground, playing retro classic video games (actually that isn’t true about the quarters – slightly disappointingly now they have a charge card system). But the video games were great.