Day 5: San Simeon to Grover Beach
A good sleep and a somewhat more restrained breakfast than usual later, we were ready to get back out on the road. Neither of us had a high energy level after yesterday’s antics, but because we’d done the extra 30km we had relieved some of our milage pressure. (kilometerage?) In any case, we got the bikes pointed southward and took it fairly easy. The weather was decent; there was still some fog and low clouds, but it wasn’t as dreary as it had been coming south from Carmel, and the clouds burned off soon enough. South from San Simeon, Highway 1 gets straighter and flatter, so we were able to make decent time without killing ourselves. The ride is pleasant but not as scenic as the ride into San Simeon.
Still clocking about half the pace we were pushing yesterday, we rolled into Cayucos, a small rural town on Estero Bay. In the window of the general store there we saw the grand prize winner for “Best Local Color Sighting,” a flyer for Cow Plop Bingo (pictured at right). “Better odds than Vegas!”
I think the energy bars we picked up there were afterproducts of the last Cow Plop Bingo contest; besides having at least 6 months’ worth of dust on the wrapper, they turned out to be completely inedible.
10 klicks south of Cayucos we entered Morro Bay, which for my money is the southmost really pretty place on the California coast; some of the areas around Malibu would be in the running if someone hadn’t gone and built Malibu on top of them. Morro Bay is far enough north that it’s untainted by the pustule of Los Angeles. I have no idea what that big-ass rock (Morro Rock) is doing in the middle of the mud flats, but if it was in LA they’d have chopped it up and used the slurry to pave a new freeway by now. In Morro Bay it just sits there in mute testament to the mysterious forces of chaotic systems.
We stopped a while by the mud flats (which are by the golf course–already seeing that LA influence), then headed south. The bike route departs from Highway 1 in Morro Bay; it heads onto back roads, while Highway 1 hooks up with 101 in San Luis Obispo. As is normal with such arrangements, the side roads are individually more pleasant than the highway would be, but the route in general is less ideal, because it’s much harder to navigate and there’s much more cross-traffic and stop-and-go cycling. Both Highway 1 and the cycling route turn inland and thus become less scenic, but pick up even more of a tailwind, as they head almost due east. We reached San Luis Obispo about 70km into an easy day.
San Luis Obispo is the biggest city we’d seen since Monterey, but it’s still a little sleepy for a city boy. Because it’s inland it has even more of a rural feel than towns like Cayucos, and since there’s a reason we’re not on a tour of Nebraska, we got through SLO as expeditiously as possible and pushed on towards Pismo Beach.
I had never been to Pismo Beach, but when we reached it, about 15km out of San Luis Obispo, I was struck by how low-brow it seemed. The endless trailer parks reminded me of some of the most depressing tourist communities on the East Coast (speaking as someone whose family owned a trailer). We went a couple klicks beyond Pismo Beach to Grover Beach, which was not a whole lot better. We found a motel, the Knight Inn, which won grand prize for Worst Dive, at $10/night more than the nice place we stayed at in San Simeon. Still, it had a shower (leaky and moldy) and two beds (musty and lumpy), which really was all we needed. We went across the street to a combination restaurant/bar/pool hall/video game room, had some good ol’ American food, played some video games (our first interaction with technology more recent than the telephone since we left Oakland), and returned to the Knight Inn with a mind towards getting the hell out of there as soon as we reasonably could.