“Of course I’m crazy, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.”
“Please pull over… Please pull over,” blared from behind me, jarring me out of my day dream and causing me to look at what was causing the commotion behind me. Only then did I notice the cop who was slowly creeping up behind me, trying to pull me over.
Welcome to Central California, where biking is not an acceptable form of transportation.
The cop told me that it is illegal to be biking on the freeway, but not before he looked at me with distain and asked me why I would ever want to bike somewhere instead of drive. I politely pulled out a biking guide book and showed him that, in fact, it only became illegal in three miles, and I was exiting in 2.9. He let me go, but not without looking at me again like I was crazy, and not in a good way.
Highway one, which before San Francisco was a small winding road in the middle of nowhere, turned into a busy freeway for a few days of riding, so there were alternative bike routes through farm lands. Unfortunately these are not always well signed (like they were in Washington and Oregon) so a cycling map, guide book, or GPS that knows bike routes is highly advisable. In Monterey I was able to stay with an old friend from elementary school and check out the gigantic tuna she works with as well as the aquarium. After Monterey, the route turned back into a smaller highway and passed through the magnificent Big Sur. Having spent the last month along the coast I was not expecting this chunk of coast to be any better than the rest, even if it was so famous. It really was beautiful though, and I can see why the route was packed with tourists from around the world. The highway was etched into the cliffs, and around just about every corner was a breathtaking view.
The most interesting part of this section was not the views though, but the people. I passed two homeless guys, one pushing his bike, the other riding extremely slowly (with a sign that said anything helps), at one point in a city but didn’t think much of it. Later that evening they showed up at the hiker/biker site, and I was somewhat shocked to find out that they too were touring. They were 42, and 55, and in poor health. They both smoked, one was overweight (and told us he had already lost fifty pounds since starting), and the other has a fractured spine and blown out knee. The most interesting part about them though were their bikes. One of them was a hoarder, but a homeless hoarder, which meant that everything he found on the street would end up on his bike. He had ten tires on his handlebars, 48 packets of top ramen, and an extra blanket someone had just handed him piled precariously on two hundred pounds of other stuff. They had taken three months to travel from Washington to Big Sur, and were averaging 15-20 miles a day.
I also met my first female solo biker, who, only a few years older than me, is very well traveled, eats street food, and would have been a great travel partner had she been headed south instead of north. I also stayed with an interesting guy in Shell Beach who has biked his whole life, both to get around and on tour. Now fifty, he can proudly say he has never owned a car.
My very favorite part about Central California were the elephant seals. These extremely blubbery creatures (who can weigh 3,000kg) lay around all day on the beach in the sun. Besides throwing sand on themselves, the only thing they seem to do is occasionally inch like a slug across the sand a few feet, before lying right back down. They smell horrendous and live an extremely boring life, but for some reason, they are absolutely hilarious to watch.