Big Sur Ride – 9/23 & 24

Talk about a fantistic two day ride! Jeremy and I joined ALCers Downtown Julie Brown, husband Mike, Michael, Chris, MaryBeth, Charlie, Kelsey and Michael for the 2006 Big Sur Ride, a 170-mile ride that includes 11,100 feet of climbing. The ride begins and finishes in Carmel Valley Village. The route runs along the rugged Big Sur coastline, through the beautiful Salinas Valley, and into the dramatic rolling hills of Carmel Valley. The ride is a benefit for Trips for Kids.

Jeremy & I headed out a bit before the others on the as they were still getting registered, dropping off their camping gear and getting their bikes ready. The sky was clear and it was 45 degrees, it was about 11 miles to Highway 1 and I failed to bring long-fingered gloves, oops.

At 14 miles we passed the Point Lobos State Reserve, followed by Soberanes Point, a whale watching vista. The first rest stop at 22 miles was at the Rocky Point Restaurant where they had a clothing drop (one of two for the day, a very nice feature.)

Leaving the rest stop, we cross the Rocky Creek Bridge, which is often confused for Bixby Bridge and then pass the Big Sur Light Station and into Big Sur, riding by Andrew Molera State Park, the Big Sur Station and the entrances to both Ventana Inn & Spa and Post Ranch Inn. I stopped quickly at Nepenthe for a few photos.

At 48 miles was the second rest stop at the Vista Point just before Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. This served as one of two lunch stops for the day. At about 50 miles, we pass the Esalen Institute. After passing thru the small resort town of Lucia, we came across probably the only bad stretch of road on the entire ride, a ¼ mile stretch of gravel, where Highway 1 was being repaired.

The third rest stop at Kirk Creek Campground at 65 miles and we had already passed 4,400 feet of climbing. We were about midway between Big Sur and Cambria. This is the start of the 7.5 mile 2,500 foot climb up Nacamiento-Fergusson Road to Nacamiento Summit. As Jeremy & I prepared to leave the rest stop, they were announcing that the rest stop would be closing in 20 minutes and if riders were not gone, they would be sagged the rest of the way. Julie arrived just as we were leaving and we passed the message on to her.

The climb up Nacamiento starts with a cattle grate crossing in the first 50 feet, a motorcyclist passed us, and someone hollered something about an engine was cheating. I stopped several times on the way up, under the guise of taking photos, but also a chance to catch my breath. At the 4 mile point, there was a water stop, and I asked the guy if the next 3.5 miles was a steep as the first 4 miles, he assured me it was still a climb, but not as bad. I told him that he could lie to me anyway. Mike B and Chris blew past the water stop here, one of the few times I saw them during the day, they had made various stops along the way in Camel and Big Sur at bakeries. About a mile from the top, I heard a familiar voice behind me, Julie hollering “misery loves company!” and we rode together the last mile or so to the summit.

Jeremy had headed down the backside of Nacamiento towards Fort Hunter Liggett, and we waited as the others made it to the top. After a while Michael S. had not made it, and Mike & Chris, in a sugar stupor headed down to check on him, they found him about a mile down, he had been taking photos along the way up, as I had. Julie & I headed down ourselves and at mile 82 we entered Fort Hunter Liggett, but it was still as of rollers till we got to the campsite.

The Ride offers 3 options for accommodations, camping on the ball field, on a space available basis for rooms at the Hacienda Club, or for $40 they will transport you and your gear 30 miles to King City and back, and you arrange your own accommodations. I was considering the princess plan, however Julie pointed out that it was only one night and I had done 5 nights on ALC. So I set up my accommodations on the field and then headed to the showers in the locker rooms of the De Anza Sport Center.

Showered and refreshed, we all took the bus to the Hacienda Club for dinner, and we opted to walk back as it was a nice evening. On the way back, we watched as several helicopters took off in the distance, against the night sky. And several hours later we hear them return, as it sounded like their approach to landing went right over us on the softball field.

Day two broke clear and crisp, we dressed, broke down our camp, and hauled our gear over for pick-up. Breakfast was at the Hacienda Club, and we rode over. We headed out about 7:30 on a five mile warm-up on Sulpher Springs Road, and then over cement barricades and a gate. We headed east on Jolon Road and after a couple miles, we began the descent down Quadbuster (yes, that Quadbuster from Day 3 of AIDS/LifeCycle.)

After a nice 10 mile descent to King City, we avoided the horrible cobblestone section from the ALC route and instead get on a “new” bike path into King City. I’m not sure how “new” it was, but it was an improvement. It brought us out near the Best Western in King City, and then we continued retracing Day 2 of ALC’s route, out Metz Road, passing the Calpine Power Plant and then left on Elm Street towards Greenfield and rest stop 1 at Oak Park.

Leaving the rest stop, it was 7 miles to the Arroyo Seco River Bridge (also known as the green bridge at the “swim or climb” turn on ALC; for those who want to skinny dip they could swim, for those who didn’t you had to climb on the other side of the bridge.) At this point, we depart the ALC route in reverse, heading west on Arroyo Seco Road entering the Santa Lucia mountains.

At mile 47 was the second rest stop and lunch, before heading onto Carmel Valley Road. After nine miles of climbing, the last 3 miles raises us 800 feet to Cahoon Summit and great views back down the valley on both sides. After popsicles and more at rest stop 3, we head down to Carmel Valley.

Chris had a blow out several miles down, and it wasn’t too much longer after we continued that the same tube blew again. Turns out that they missed a gash in the side and/or perhaps the second blow out made it a huge gash. Several SAG vehicles offered help, but none had any tires left. He was nearly done booting the tire with a dollar bill, when a SAG vehicle stopped and offered a tire, which he took just in case. The gash was so large that you could see George Washington!

So off we went to complete the last fourteen miles without further incident. The day ended with a post-ride Fiesta with great food in the park next to the Community Youth Center. It might have been the fabulous weather, and no doubt the great company, but next to AIDS/LifeCycle, this has been my favorite ride, one that you should consider next year.

My photos are here and Michael C’s photos are here.

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