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C2C Day 16: “So beautiful… Should have sent a poet” July 17, 2009

Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
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What an amazing and incredible ride!  I have never before seen such beautiful vistas as I have today riding down California State Route 1 from Monterey to Morro Bay.  (Actually the “wow factor” runs from Carmel to Ragged Point)  Absolutely awe inspiring. 

I’ve been running behind on the blog updates, so rather than hold up the whole queue waiting for the stream of events from Arco, Idaho to here, I thought I would get at least this one up on time.  I don’t know, but I think near realtime is better.  I’ll publish the rest with a post date so they appear in sequence later.

I got a late start this morning, with a final family breakfast in Napa before heading out at about 11:30.  I had to drop the loaner helmet off at the Harley shop in Vallejo on the way out, and find some batteries for the GPS.  The weather was sunny and cool (chilly on the bike – but perfect in a jacket) The route objectives today were to get past the San Francisco / San Jose areas without a major traffic snafu and make my way toward the coast to ride SR-1 for at least a little while before heading inland and heading east for home. 

Out of Vallejo I picked up I-80 to I-780 to I-680 to circumvent the concrete ribbon of US-101 between San Fran and San Jose.  The ride from wine country toward San Jose got very hot and busy with traffic.  I didn’t want to lose more time stopping, so I sweated it out picking up US-101 to SR-156 and finally to SR-1 near Monterey.  Once I was on SR-156, it got cool again, and quickly cold.  Low lying clouds from of shore were pouring in just over my head.  I don’t think I have ever seen such low clouds moving so fast.

I had heard that Monterey is a really fantastic town and that 17-mile road is an excellent experience, so I circled through downtown Monterey, but nothing grabbed me as an easy-to-get-to, really-short-stop so I wandered around until I found SR-1 again, and immediately saw the sign for 17-mile road.  Pulling off SR-1 for 17-mile road, I came to a toll plaza.  I came in behind a small truck and watchesd as the guard lazily gave an under hand wave and the truck passed right on in.  Following right behind, the guard gestured in the same way (which by the way looked NOTHING like “stop”)so I kept riding on in… that is when the yelling started.  After a not too sociable argument about what a “stop” hand signal is supposed to look like, I found that 17-mile road is not open to motorcycles, so, I did a U-turn and got back on SR-1 into Carmel for gas, Gatorade, and to put on the chaps.  There at the station I saw the first of many strange fog fronts coming in from the ocean.  I wondered just how slow SR-1 would be and headed out.

Visibility on the road was not too bad despite the fog, but seeing the shore was nearly impossible for many stretches.  Every so often though, the fog would be thin enough to see the most extraordinarily craggy coast line:  beautiful scenes of slopes, cliffs, rock, water, beach, and vegetation.  I had seen pictures, and always admired the pacific coast, but this was breathtaking.  With no one but the bike and the wind to hear, I spontaneously uttered interjections of marvel in response to the beauty.  Like the pictures I had seen (but worse), my pictures do not do it justice (nor does the fog)

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The road was very twisty and hilly, posing a challenge to looking around and being both a little fatiguing and adrenalin-inducing all at the same time.  As I approached Big Sur, the road departed from the coast and ran through beautiful sylvan areas peppered with resorts, lodges, and campgrounds all showing no vacancy.  Leaving Big Sur, the road made its way back to the coastal route, and the fog opened up a little offering more beautiful vistas.  I tried to time my pull-offs with great views and less fog, but met with limited success. 

At Lucia with the fog layer coming into the road ahead.

At Lucia with the fog layer coming into the road ahead.

At Lucia, I caught a beautiful overlook which captured the low lying clouds impinging upon the road ahead.  It was so discrete, as a self-contained entity as it moved from sea to land.  I chatted with a couple on a Honda Goldwing pulling a little trailer and talked about the ride, and got some preview descriptions of my road ahead.  Moving on, the road wound through more incredible views.

I stopped just to top off the tank (at $5 per gallon) and get a cup of coffee in Gorda.  I suppose I could have waited, but it had been 40 miles since the last gas station, and I have had too many close calls to not be a be conservative when it comes to keeping a full tank. 

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Did I mention the fog?

The views continued coming to a somewhat abrupt end shortly after Ragged Point.  The resort there was showing vacancy, and I was half tempted to stop and stay the night, but pressed on. 

I had thought to get off SR-1 at SR-46 after Cambria, to head toward Bakersfield en route to Vegas.  Cambria was another tempting stop, compelling me to actually loop back and ride its main street before again electing to press on.  It was getting a bit late, and I knew that I was not going to make Bakersfield tonight, and that the stops between here and there would likely have less character than these coastal towns so I pressed on to Morro Bay.

Pulling into town I found it to be a quaint little tourist trap with a nice waterfront.  I drove circles about the town before choosing a motel within waking distance of both Main Street and the Waterfront.  After the standard queries about wifi and AAA discounts, I checked in at $109 at the Bay View Lodge.

I walked down to the waterfront, and was a little disappointed.  Most of the bars and restaurants lacked any real character, and did not compel me to stay.  The Oyster Rock Bar had a little promise… but I really didn’t fit in with its clientele.  I walked out onto decks over the water to check out the bay.  There were a lot of seals making a great deal of noise barking for food at the fishing boats.  I also saw three enormous jelly fish drift by in the dark water.   The rock formation out in the bay was very cool.  It is one of the “9 Sisters”  a group of extinct volcano peaks between here and San Lius Obispo ( I think I overheard that it is the 8th Sister).

The Gibralter of the Pacific - Morro Rock

The Gibralter of the Pacific - Morro Rock

After asking some locals were the more “local” bars were, I was directed back up to Main Street where I came upon the Morro Bay Brewing Company.  Stopping in I saw a small group of regulars at the bar, and I knew this would be the right place.  I enjoyed their version of an IPA and had an order of nachos and chatted a charming couple sitting next to me.  She was a young woman from Hungary who came to America as a nanny meeting her husband here (who I think was a vet).  They were quite intrigued by the romantic nature of my ride – striking out to see the country for a month on a lone Harley.  I chatted with them for a while, and another fellow who offered a lot of advice for travel locations in southern Utah and northern Arizona, until the fog turned to mist.  I finished my beer and walked back to the motel to cover the bike.  (It finally was looking pretty nice after the Vallejo shop washed all the South Dakota bugs off of it as part of the service.)

Covering up the bike, I struck up a conversation with a couple from Norway who flew into Reno and were en route to Los Angeles to visit friends.  His business is the fabrication of wind turbine blades.  Given the significant growth in the wind farms I noticed crossing the mid-west, I guessed that business must be doing well for him.  Not so much; the economy has hit the wind power industry too.  However, he is optimistic for a rebound in his sector. 

I bid the couple a good night, and headed to my room.  I hadn’t spend much time planning my route back home, so worked a few notional permutations that should get me home in the next 9 days or so.  Funny… I thought I’d at least have more time on the back end of the trip, but accounting for the extra distance and trying to get home with enough time to recuperate before walking back into work, leaves me with another push for miles and time.  And this time I have desert heat to look forward to.