Summary – day 16 – San Francisco to Seaside (Monterey) (Saturday 10 September)

Summary – day 16 – San Francisco to Seaside (Monterey) (Saturday 10 September)
Posted by Mike

Estimate: 125.84 miles, actual: 121.84 miles
Avg. speed: 12.8 mph
Cumulative distance: 1,243.45 miles

We woke early, as usual, but I’m managing to sleep a little longer these days – it was 5.30 am when I woke this morning. We could hear the fog horns sound in the distance along the San Francisco shoreline. Martin said that he really likes the sound, because they remind him that it’s still summer. Heidi told us that the horns in different places made slightly different sounds, so it was possible for local people to know where the fog was at any particular time.

We ate a big breakfast, then set off at about 8.15 am, after having our photographs taken. Heidi took them out in the street outside their house as we were leaving. (Martin was keen to have pictures of our bikes; we think that having a record of those was probably more important to him than having pictures of us!)

Heidi and Martin have been quite amazing hosts and we had a wonderful two days in San Francisco.

Headed to the coast through Golden Gate Park, with plenty of others out running or cycling – either in small groups or by themselves. It looked like a lovely place to have a regular run/ride. It’s a huge park – about 5 km (3 miles) long running east to west and about half a mile wide north to south. Heidi and Martin live close by, only a couple of blocks away.

When we arrived at the sea, we turned left into a ferocious headwind. My heart sank – 120 miles or so on undulating terrain and into a strong headwind would not be enjoyable. There was also quite a bit of sand in the cycle lane, making going a bit tough. Unfortunately, what had the potential to be a lovely rest of the day cycling was wrecked by the wind.

We went through Pacifica and were confronted with yet another problem that was set to dog us all day; the main coast road – Highway 1 – is a wide fast dual carriageway road for some of its length and in these sections bicycles aren’t allowed, so we were forever having to leave the main road and negotiate side roads, (signage was mostly ok – but we did lose our way a couple of times and it adds a bit of distance).

When Highway 1 is not designated a motorway, it returns to single-lane traffic and is often pretty much the only route available. Of course, it’s often the same volume of traffic that has been bombing along a fast multi-lane highway that is funnelled into a slower, single-lane section. In some cases there isn’t even a hard shoulder for bicycles to ride in, so it can be very challenging to ride with big, fast vehicles coming past – often passing a bit too close for comfort.

An early example of the single lane Highway 1 horror was a section called the Devil’s Slide, a twisting, ascent over Pedros Point, which we had been warned would be tricky. A tunnel and bridge are being constructed to take Highway 1 through this area, but they’re not due to be completed until next year. So we had to make our way up the climb, then manage the descent on a broken up road with lots of gravel and stones strewn across it – while also being buffeted by strong gusts.

Fortunately, the wind dropped a little as we rode along an off-road cycle track into Half Moon Bay – about 30 miles in, where we had our first break in a nice little café. We were optimistic that the rest of the day’s ride might be better, but as we left Half Moon Bay to rejoin the main coast road the headwind picked up again. It was terrible – it was all we could do to manage speeds of 8 mph at times. We saw some other riders – on our side of the road, complaining about the headwind; while on the opposite side of the road, seemingly flying!

We arrived at our planned lunch stop at Santa Cruz after 78 miles, two hours behind schedule, feeling pretty exhausted and with sore legs. It’s as well we’d had a couple of days off so at least we were feeling fairly fresh for the day when we set off.

After having something to eat at Safeway’s in Santa Cruz, the last 50 miles were calmer, although we weren’t permitted to ride on Highway 1 towards Seaside and Monterey.

We passed Salinas – where John Steinbeck was born and the town that he located some of his most famous novels, such as East of Eden and Grapes of Wrath. If it hadn’t been so late, I’d have liked to have gone to look at the Steinbeck house.

There was a nice cycle track along the road from Marina into Seaside – so the end of the ride was pleasant. We arrived rather tired and quite late just after 8.00. Nick was just heading out to do some mountain biking under the full moon. That sounded wonderful, but we didn’t have the energy to join him!

Matthew picked up some vegetarian tacos, we ate and chatted with Katie. She teaches Spanish and English and has been on some wonderful cycling trips. We were in bed by 10 – it’s going to be another long day tomorrow, let’s hope it’s not too windy.

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