I didn’t make it far today, but it was just too perfect a day for cycling to stay put. Who am I to resist it, eh? Still I didn’t make it as far as I would have liked, “settling” for a campsite here in the redwoods of Big Sur. Poor me, life is rough. And the day did feature, finally, blueberry pancakes.
I didn’t sleep great thanks to a sore throat and nearby snorers. And I woke to crazy guy already muttering to himself, which he kept up for the hour or so I was there. Another epic stream of consciousness, really poetic in it’s way, the same old themes of the military, licensed bartenders, radicals, and Magnum PI. Bettina, who’s Swiss, tried yesterday to explain to him that she couldn’t understand him, just got more levels of crazy. I do feel pretty bad for this guy, he’s got serious mental health problems and is just walking around on the streets, somehow managing to fend for himself. If he were bleeding all over the place, someone would be likely to get him help, but because it’s a mental problem he’s largely just ignored.
The vague plan this morning was to poke around Monterey in the morning and then ride like crazy to Kirk Creek campground. It sounds like the greatest campsite ever, many coast cyclists rate it their favorite. But it’s very rustic, not even potable water. I stopped again at Trader Joe’s to get something for dinner I wouldn’t need to cook, picked up a large wrap sandwich and some dried fruit. Then I found the aquarium. The nice cyclist who’d shown me around yesterday recommended a breakfast place near there for pancakes, though he couldn’t recall exactly where or what it was called. The iphone helped, I found a little spot that had my long-sought breakfast dream. “Inside or outside?” they asked. “Actually, I know this sounds a little odd, can I get a seat near an electrical socket?” They were most gracious & I powered up the iPhone and got to text chat with Julianne. I ordered up the plate of blueberry pancakes. “It comes as a stack of three, each is the size of a dinner plate. That’s the price for the full stack but you could get two or just one” the waitress said. “I’ll have the full stack. And a side of bacon.” It was sooo good. And so much food, she wasn’t kidding about how giant their pancakes are. I couldn’t quite finish but I got close, the waitress was mighty impressed.
After breakfast it was aquarium time. I’d heard amazing things about the Monterey aquarium, and at $30 a ticket I was hoping for epic. It was pretty nice certainly, and fancier than Seattle’s with more video displays & interactive play exhibits for kids. But that’s not what I’m there to see. I did get to see some new-to-me cool stuff, like skeleton shrimp and armored crabs and baby jellyfish! And old favorites like giant octopus and so many anemones. And cuttlefish! Took me a second to find them, there’re such masters of disguise, perfectly camouflaged against the white rocky ground. Plus there’s a neat exhibit there about the old canneries, that’s Cannery Row right there.
I could tell my plans for getting to Kirk Creek were unlikely about as soon as I got going out of Monterey and opted, of course, for the longer coastal scenic route instead of Highway 1. There’s an apparently famous stretch of road there called the 17-Mile Drive. I hadn’t heard of it but then again I’m not one of California’s super rich.
On the way there there was a lighthouse, Point Pinos, so of course I stopped by, the building was open but not the tower. Still it was fun to poke around and I think the docent liked getting to talk to someone who knew something about lighthouses and the lenses. They had on display the old clockwork contraption used to regulate their old signal of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. Theirs is a third-order Fresnel lens, though the building was designed for a larger second-order. The place is notable for being the oldest continuously operated lighthouse on the west coast, since Feb 1 1853. It also had a female head lighthouse keeper for a number of years.
I also tried visiting a nearby butterfly grove, where monarchs hang out during their migration, but a groundskeeper told me it was still too early.
The 17-Mile Drive was certainly pretty, all along the bay. My route book calls it “possibly the most famous stretch of road on the California coast”–guess they’re not counting Laguna Seca! Lots of rocks just off the coast, perfect for the waves to break against and also great havens for birds and seals. It was slow going all through there, kept stopping to take pictures or just watch the waves.
17-Mile Drive boasts a grove of the oldest and largest Monterey pine trees in existence. It also contains Pebble Beach, whose motto and trademark is the Lone Cypress growing on a small island in the bay, and a sign there tells photographers that all images of their special tree are copyrighted by them and you can’t use them for commercial purposes. I’ll attach one, but remember you can’t go sell copies of if. The Pebble Beach lawyers will be onto you.
Pebble Beach turns out not to be a beach at all but a golf course. Pebble Golf Course isn’t quite as catchy I guess. I was amused to see deer running around on the course.
17-Mile Drive was really pretty, but the huge private golf courses and no trespassing signs seem at odds with the scenic beauty. For me it came off feeling like the scenery was so pretty only because the by-laws of it’s gated community demanded that it look just so. Pretty different from the totally untamed wild rugged beauty of the Oregon coast.
The drive leads into Carmel-by-the-Sea. I ensured I’d never make Kirk Creek when I stooped at the beach there, took off my sandals and wandered up & down through the surf, waves dampening the bottom of my shorts. The day was so absolutely perfect, cloudless and warm and just a bit of breeze. The sand was warm and the water cool and there were so many people there just enjoying it all.
Next I found my way to the Carmel Mission (or, in predictably ostentatious Spanish fashion, Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo). I decided, at the last minute, to stop for a look. This meant switching from a fast downhill to a steep climb while turning a tight 180. When I went to downshift from the big ring to the small one, the chain fell off. Suddenly I wasn’t moving at all, and was tipping over, and couldn’t get my foot out of it’s cage in time to stop the fall. Gravity is a harsh mistress. Neither I nor Sweet Liza Jane took much damage, my knee’s a little scraped up and her handlebars may be even a little more lopsided now.
But the Mission was kind of neat, pretty architecture and plants.
The next stop was Point Lobos State Reserve. I’d read it was a not-to-be-missed area & I’m glad I stopped. I chatted with a very nice docent about my trip and little hikes I could take in the park. I hiked past a grove of cypress overlooking the ocean, then up to an overlook where another docent waited with a small telescope. “Shame about the view” be joked as I got up there, looking out over the ocean and the waves crashing against islands and a colony of seals sunning themselves on the rock. “Yeah, and this weather!” I quipped. Through his lens I could see out to a further rock where a colony of sea lions were resting, at least 50 of them, barking away at the full sun. I hiked around on the rocks a bit further, investigating the tide pools.
I could have stayed much longer at Point Lobos but the day was getting on, I couldn’t linger. It’d be a stretch just to make Big Sur by sundown.
I probably could have done it but became convinced I’d missed the exit and went back to a little general store I’d seen about a mile & a half back to ask directions (this trip has made me a lot more comfortable doing that!). “It’s about a mile & a half that way” she said, pointing back where I’d come from. I’d been so close!
Back I went. Pfeiffer Big Sur was busy, I had to wait in line to check in. Night was definitely falling by the time I got to camp. I don’t see anyone familiar but a lot of people showed up after me, after it was already dark.
I’d planned to cook up some spaghetti but the fuel bottle seems to have leaked and the noodles smell of gas. Into the trash with them, bummer. I see what the problem was–after refilling the tank I’d forgotten to close the valve, it was completely open instead of shut. Kind of surprised more didn’t spill. Still, I chucked anything that smelled of gas–the malt-o-meal and eggs also had to go. Dinner of my Trader Joe’s goodies then, and some Anchor Steam I got at the place I asked directions.
No real idea what the plan is for tomorrow. Just south!