Friday, 6 May 2011

Day 17: Morro Bay to San Francisco

I was hugely disappointed when I discovered, late last night, the the Pacific Coast Highway was closed south of Big Sur. The California DoT website confirmed the fact this morning, and that was backed up further by a Scots couple from Hamilton that I met at breakfast. They had driven down from San Francisco yesterday, and had to find an alternative route. It seems that a stretch of the roadway had collapsed into the ocean south of Big Sur. This happened some months ago, so I really should have know about it, my research was obviously lacking on this. Here's what happened

This is a blow, as the desire to ride along that 120 mile stretch of road was the main reason I added the PCH to the end of my Route 66 journey. I retreated to my room for some hasty re-planning. In the end I decided that I could ride some of it south of where the road is closed, bypass the closure using the 101 to Monterey, and then ride down to Big Sur from there. It would add a lot of miles and time on to the journey though, and involve a lot of back tracking. In the end though I had to make the best of it, as it's unlikely that I'll get another opportunity to do this any time soon. It also meant that I had to postpone my visit to Hearst Castle: that I can do next time I'm here with the family.

So I set off northwards from Morro Bay, and after a quick fuel stop, was heading up the coast, through Cambria, and San Simeon. I went as far as the seal colony, where there are hundreds of Elephant Seals basking in the sun on the beach. These creatures can weigh up to 5000 pounds, and migrate from Alaska each year to their breeding colony here.
Those are not rocks on the beach, but hundreds of Elephant Seals
Here's looking at ya!
This was about as far as I could go from the south, so I turned around and headed back south to pick up Highway 46, east. It seemed strange to be travelling in this direction as I'd spent the last 16 day heading west! This road takes you over the Black Mountains (they were very green today), rising from sea level to almost 2000ft very quickly. On the other side of the mountains I entered wine country. The hillsides were covered with vineyards, and wineries offering tours and tasting sessions. It must be harvest time because there were lots of workers in the vineyards, and lorries carrying the grapes.

The 46 eventually took me to the 101, which I took northbound to Monterey. The gas station half way along the 101 where I filled up had a Dennys next door, so for the sake of speed and convenience I had lunch there. I could not believe my eyes when I saw that they were promoting a new dessert, the  Maple Bacon Sundae. That's bacon on ice cream - whatever next?  I gave it a miss.

The 120 miles on the 101 was a drag, but once at Monterey I headed south along the PCH to Big Sur. The views are breathtaking, as good as I remembered them from many years ago, and the road twists and turns, clinging (and apparently letting go occasionally) to the side of the cliffs over the ocean. Needless to say, there are many photo ops which I made the most of. Here are a few that I took today:

The road sign that every biker likes to see!
Once past Big Sur it was again time to turn around and come back - not too arduous, given the road and the views. Back at Monterey I took the direct route to my hotel just south of San Francisco, as it was getting late.

So today was not quite as I had planned or hoped, but, given the circumstances I think I made the best of it. Tomorrow is my last day on the bike. I will spend it exploring the coast a bit further north, and of course, ride over the Golden Gate Bridge, before I go to EagleRiders to reluctantly give her back.

More photos and the route I took today are here:

Today's Mileage:373
Total Trip Mileage: 3598

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