Day 1: SF to Santa Cruz

We were planning to get started before 10:00 AM, but general apathy and the few requisite last-minute problems delayed us until after 11:00. I live in Oakland, and since the ride through the East Bay is dull, we decided to take BART over to Daly City and get over to the coast from the beginning. That added another hour to our prequel and we didn’t actually get headed south until after noon. Weather was not on our side; there was a slight mist/drizzle as we set out, though it was below the equilibrium point. Temperature was about 65.

We had about 120 km to go to Santa Cruz. Because of our late start, we had to keep the pedals turning; we had only about 7 hours of daylight to work with. That, combined with the weather, kept us from taking many pictures.

We started out on surface streets in Daly City, and then hooked up with the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route around Westmoor, where we had our first mechanical glitch of the trip; my frame pump had been inadequately secured, and fell off as we were making the turn onto Westmoor. It got slightly bent but was still serviceable–I replaced it, more securely this time, and we got back on the road. The route climbs about 200 meters and then descends dramatically towards the ocean in Pacifica. There was some sort of street fair going on which forced us to walk for a while, until we could get out to the beach boulevard near the pier. After that the route soon hooks up with Highway 1, and we started making some time. There’s a significant, narrow climb coming out of Pacifica; fortunately at this time of the year there’s not an outrageous amount of traffic, and we managed the ascent without incident. At the top there’s a turnout and a nice view over the cliffs and sea, but due to the weather we just had some bars and got back on the bikes.

The rain-slicked descent through Devil’s Slide was a bit harrowing; neither of us was very accustomed to the kind of weight we were carrying, and there was a lot of construction going on or recently completed which made the road surface tricky. We wobbled down the center of the lane until the road got wider near Montara.

The stretch from Montara to Half Moon Bay is a big-ring lover’s dream. This was the first area where we stared to notice differences in riding style. John and I are both fairly experienced at pack riding and touring, and we communicated well when we were wheel-sucking. But my style is to take it easy on climbs, blast down hills and crank it up on the flats, while John’s style is to tuck in on the descents, maintain on the flats, and attack the climbs. That’s all partly due to the fact that I was geared for descents and flats (see our equipment list), and partly because I outweigh John by probably 30 pounds, but it was also our personal proclivities. In any case, Highway 1 flattens out and straightens past Montara State Beach, and the usual tailwind was pushing us along. The rain dampened our ardor to an extent, but we still made good time into Half Moon Bay.

I really enjoy Half Moon Bay; the area is pretty and sort of quiet; sitting above the ocean looking out at the curved beach is quite a restful experience. However, while we were picking up water and bars in the shops at the Highway 1/92 intersection, the rain started to pick up. We hid out under a tree for a while and then resigned ourselves to continuing on. As noted above, we didn’t really have time to sit around if we were going to get in before dark.

The rain had passed the equilibrium point, so when we started riding again we were actually starting to get wet, and our tires were spitting up water from the road. We hadn’t expected rain on the trip, so neither of us was outfitted with fenders. This kept us from being able to draft each other–the one in back would get a face full of muddy water when he tried. It didn’t affect our pace too much, though, and as we got further south, near Pescadero, the rain started to let up.

Lighthouse at Pigeon Point

One of things that amazed me about the central California coast, the first time I saw it after moving out here from New Jersey, was how there were farms all the way to the edge of the cliffs above the ocean. In Jersey, except for a few isolated preserves like Island Beach State Park, there is nothing growing within miles of the ocean–everything is boardwalks and beach houses. Even Florida seems to have much the same flavor; the coastline is either commercialized or preserved. The idea of growing Brussels sprouts on prime real estate mystified me. The picture at the right was taken near Gazos Creek Beach, looking back over what were once broccoli fields towards the lighthouse at Pigeon Point. This was the first, though not the last time I wished I had a digital camera on this trip–I was trying to get the lighthouse while its light was pointing towards us, which happened once every 10 seconds or so, but after two failed attempts I decided it wasn’t worth the film.

You can sort of see in that picture that the sky directly above us is clear, but there’s clouds and rain off the shore to our right and behind us. The camera didn’t capture how nasty those clouds looked, and they were moving our way. This provided motivational energy as we got back on the bikes and headed south. The storm was moving slowly, as storms go, but relative to two lone, loaded cyclists, it seemed to be moving pretty damn fast. We cranked along the rolling path of Highway 1, up and down the canyons of the coast, and rolled into Davenport at around 6 PM.

Our first night campsite

Davenport is the first civilization on the coast south of Half Moon Bay (some 60 km), so we pulled over there and picked up muffins and cookies in the bakery. After gorging ourselves, we headed out for the final leg of the day’s journey, the rolling road through sandy soil into Santa Cruz. We’d decided before the trip–mostly my decision–that we were going to motel rather than camp out. I’ll be damned if I get in from an all-day ride to eat off a camp stove, share a shower with Grizzly Adams and sleep on the ground. So we pulled into the first motel in town (where I’ve stayed before on trips to Monterey) and got a room. John confided that he’d been disappointed that I didn’t want to camp, but that, sitting in a comfortable motel room, that he thought I was right.

We went out to a local Chinese restaurant which was not very good but which at least brought us large quantities of food. We then had to go rectify our first packing mishap–I’d neglected to bring any extra socks. We found a supermarket that had socks and bought a pack. While we were there, we noticed a new kind of energy bar, made by Odwalla, in a display case. While we were examining the nutrition information (more carbos than a PowerBar!), one of the store clerks came up and offered to let us sample one. She opened it and cut off pieces for each of us while John asked if she really was authorized to do this. She assured us that she could allow anyone to sample anything.

The bars wound up being rather dry, which led John to ask if we could sample some milk.

We then went back to the hotel, watched film of Andy Pettite throwing pitches a good eight inches outside and getting them called strikes (screw tradition, give me computer-registered balls and strikes), and crashed for a good long sleep.

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