March 14-19 ~ Salinas to Mountain View

What a week! I’ve completed three more days of riding, and now am sitting in the living room of one of my best friends apartments. I have done so much in the last 5 days, and learned a lot too. Here’s a recap:

 

Salinas to Santa Cruz – 36 miles

This was a good mileage day; far but not enough to exhaust me. I left early from my mom’s house and stopped at the cemetery at the top of the first hill to visit my Grandpa before I left. I love him and miss him, and always keep him with me. Then it was onwards through Prunedale and down San Miguel Canyon Road. I had originally thought I would be on Highway 1 basically the entire trip, but this whole day I didn’t get on it once. There were signs everywhere reminding drivers to share the road, and letting bikers know they were on the Pacific Coast Bike Route. I passed rural homes in the trees for a while until I got out to some Strawberry fields. Miles of strawberries! It was a wonderful sight. After a long stretch of hills with nowhere nice to stop for lunch, I just pulled over at a turnout and laid down on the ground for a break. A car actually stopped to check if I was ok (which was super nice and unusual as drivers don’t typically stop to check on cyclists). After regaining a little energy, I got back in the saddle and a few miles later found a great lunch spot. I was really glad I did most of my salad work the night before so I could just scoop out some avocado and dig in.

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After lunch I finally made it out to an ocean view! While I had enjoyed the trees and fields, I was finally on the coast. Riding through to Aptos, I realized I was going to get to Santa Cruz way too early. My host had said she wouldn’t be home until 6 and it was only like 2. I saw a Starbucks sign and figured I could hang out there for a little bit to use the WiFi, but there was nowhere to put my bike, so I kept on and about another block up I saw a bike shop! They were very friendly, and gave me a free orange and lemon. One of the guys working there told me he had toured to Alaska and everyone told him he was going the wrong way too, but that was where he wanted to go. It made me feel more confident in my decision to go North.

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After enjoying my orange in the sun, I took off for the final 6 miles of the day. Nice and slow, stopping to enjoy the view, walk along the beach, and explain my setup to a couple people that asked. Santa Cruz is a beautiful place, and I found myself wishing I could spend a whole day exploring. There were probably hundreds of surfers out on the water, and it was a beautiful day. Eventually I made my way through the streets, passed the Boardwalk where I’d been so many times with family, to the home of my first Warmshowers host!

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Mars’ home was small, but comfortable, and she and her friends and family were very welcoming and friendly. She invited to have dinner with them (soup and quiche, yum!), gave me a towel for my shower, laid out some blankets for me to use, and we talked for a long time. Great experience 🙂 Probably went to bed a little too late. 

Stats:
-36 miles
-5ish hours riding, 9ish hours travel (lots of breaks)
-7.5 mph average speed
-1 tourer passed, 10 to 15 roadies passed
-1 bug nearly swallowed
-284 flowers smelled
 

Santa Cruz to La Honda – 48 miles

I knew from the start this was going to be a long day. Since I had left my laptop in Salinas (very heavy) and the elevation change would be much less, I figured it would be easier than the Lompoc to SLO ride. I meant to leave around 8am, but I had woken up a couple times the night before because their dog had decided to sleep on the couch with me and kept moving around waking me up, so I was a little tired. Around 8:45 I had all my stuff ready, had written out my directions for the day, said goodbye to Mars, and set off, suddenly not tired anymore. Finally I was on highway 1 with the ocean to my left and hills to my right.

After about 11 miles, I saw signs for jam tastings with a discount for cyclists. I decided it was time for a break and enjoyed some hot strawberry apple cider and a strawberry truffle after putting some cash in their honor till and chatted with a tourer headed south who had also stopped in. Their jams (I tasted all of them of course) are delicious and if you ever pass Swanton Berry Farm along the coast, stop in.

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Back on the bike, I decided I would try to get all the way to Pigeon Point (18 miles) to have lunch there. Glad I did because it was a great spot. Lots of picnic tables, ocean view, cool lighthouse. They even have a hostel (with hot tub!), which if I’d known about I would probably have planned to stay there, but since I had made plans in Mountain View, I couldn’t spare a day.

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Onward to the last 19 miles of the day! I knew this would be rough because I would start to get tired, and for some reason I thought there was a big climb at the end. After about 10 miles of rolling hills with awesome beaches full of surfers, I took a right and headed inland towards La Honda. By this time I was pretty exhausted and was stopping every ten minutes or so. It took probably 2 hours for me to go the last 6 miles through farms, hills, and finally beautiful trees! And of course my host lived up a steep climb (walked it) so by the time I got to their driveway it was all I could do not to lie down next to my bike and rest.

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Kathryn and her family were wonderful, they invited me in, asked my dietary preferences, refused my offer to help with dinner, gave me my own room to stay in, let me relax and shower, shared stories with me, showed me the garden, and even let me soak my tired muscles in their hot tub. Turns out Kathryn was a West Coast swing dancer (she’s got trophies!) she’s also travelled extensively, and stayed with Couchsurfers herself. After all the excitement, I turned in looking forward to sleeping in the next day. 

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Stats:
-48 miles
-6.5ish hours riding, 9 hours travel (not enough breaks)
-7.4 mph average speed
-2 tourers passed, 15 to 20 roadies passed
-162 rolie polies almost squished
-173 times wanted to stop for pictures but kept going

 

La Honda to Mountain View – 25 miles

Took my time packing up this morning (I’m getting more efficient). My body was tired, but I prepared my lunch as usual, wrote out my directions, expressed my gratitude and said goodbye around 10am. Surprisingly, after a few pedals I felt better. Butt was a little sore, but I was glad to be back on the bike. The trees were beautiful and I felt fresh. In 2 hours, I climbed to about 1400ft (same amount of time I climbed 400ft at the end of the previous day). It was hard, but I felt good!

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After a Baklava treat from the shop, it was all downhill into Portola Valley. The views were excellent and it was warm enough in the day that the wind was nice, it was all I could do not to stop at every turn to take a picture.

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You might be thinking that downhill is the easy part, but it’s actually more technical and definitely scarier than going uphill (at least in my opinion). For downhill with a trailer, you have to account for where all your weight is, the turning radius of the bike and trailer, your balance at high speeds, stopping distance given this information, and the fact that your hands will get tired of squeezing the brakes as hard as they can. It’s a challenge.

In Portola Valley, I found a big open area with a school where children were playing, and picnic tables where families were eating. I found me a spot and had a nice break before heading into Los Altos Hills and then Mountain View. Since my friend Meri wouldn’t be home until 4pm, I rode slowly through the beautiful neighborhoods, and enjoyed the bike paths.

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Meri and her boyfriend Alek have a nice studio apartment that she kindly let me squeeze all of my stuff in to stay for a few nights. We walked over to downtown Mountain View and had drinks and appetizers with a bunch of friends I hadn’t seen in a while. It was really great getting to catch up!

 Stats:
-25 miles
-3.5ish hours riding, 6 hours travel
-6.9 mph average speed
-45 to 50 roadies/kids/leisure riders passed
-18 roadkill sightings (includes mostly squirrels, but also a snake, a cat, and a couple birds)
 

Rest – 2 days

The next day, Meri and I went up to San Francisco and rode on a Catamaran. It was amazing. Besides us, there were only two other guests plus the captain and mate. We got to help hoist the jib sail, sailed around Alcatraz and under the Golden Gate bridge, and the captain even let us steer for part of it. Definitely an amazing experience. We asked the crew how they had gotten started, and the captain said he was studying Biology and took a sailing class as an extracurricular and loved it. The mate said she had never sailed before she took this job, but she’d worked on boats for years and a friend recommended her. So cool.

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After our day of sailing, I made dinner for Meri, Alek, and me, got some laundry done, and then spent some time interneting/preparing to move on. Around 9:30 we went to Wednesday Night Hop, a great Lindy venue in Mountain View. Great people, nice big floor, good music, and it’s like the only scene ever that’s lead heavy! Sooo many good dances, so nice to be out on the dance floor again.

Today was another sleep in day. Finally got up and finished planning out the next day’s ride, tuned/cleaned the bike, and went out and explored the beauty of Mountain View on my bike a bit. I realized that I wasn’t allowing myself much time for exploring, and I definitely want to add that in somehow. Met up with another friend tonight for dinner and we talked about my plans, the tours he’s done, how there are so many different ways to tour, and lots of stuff in between.

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Packed all my stuff up nicely and finally weighed it all! Some stats below:

Bike ~ 30lbs
Trailer  ~ 15lbs
B.O.B. Bag ~ 30lbs
Panniers ~ 20lbs each

 

Tomorrow I set out again. I’ll be headed to Oakland where I’ll be staying with my cousin, and then I head North to Chico. Don’t have places to stay lined up yet (not for lack of trying) so it looks like I may finally be using my tent! I’ll try to blog more frequently, but I don’t want it to get in the way of my enjoying the trip, so it’ll probably be about once a week or so. I will update my route tonight too, so check that page for an update.

 

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