Big Sur Ride

There’s nothing like signing up to do a fantastic 2 day, 170 mile, 11,000 feet ride a second time, all the while hoping that the weather is just as incredible as the previous year. Well, I was not disappointed one bit, in fact the weather on the first day was a bit warmer at the early morning start then last year. This year, Scott, Roger and Jeff also came along, and equally enjoyed the ride, the scenery and made for great riding partners both days!

Day 1 – Saturday – Carmel Valley to Ft. Hunter Liggett
Route profile
Day 1 we depart from Carmel Valley Village and head to Highway 1, a brisk downhill but a gorgeous scene. From there the route follows Cabrillo Highway 1 south past Point Lobos State Reserve and just around the corner from the Cal Trans pull out, we came across a spot where some California Condors were hanging out on the rocks on the cliff or on the scaffolding in place on a ($12 million?) remodeling project on a home. Someone had a high powered scope set on a tripod and he offered us a chance to peek through and see them close up.

The first rest stop at Rocky Point Restaurant at mile 23, which has it’s own spectacular views. The next landmark is the Rocky Creek bridge, which is often confused for the Bixby Bridge which we crossed about a half mile later, followed by a long climb to Hurricane Point, the highest point on Highway 1 between Carmel and Big Sur with fantastic coastline views both directions. At mile 30 we passed the Point Sur Light Station and then Andrew Molera State Park, where we left the shoreline heading into Big Sur and Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park, followed by a 2 mile climb to the entrances to both Post Ranch Inn and the Ventana Inn & Spa.

Our second rest stop was at mile 49 at the Vista Point. Well, actually we were just past the Point at a dirt pull out. PG&E was doing some sort of construction at the Vista Point and we watched a helicopter bring in construction material. Unfortunately, they had run out of lunch meat at the rest stop, so the choices for a sandwich were cheese with lettuce and tomato, or peanut butter and jelly which worked for me. On the way to the third rest stop, we pass Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and then past the very small resort town of Lucia and at mile 65 we arrive at the Kirk Creek Campground, the third rest stop of the day to regroup and refuel before Nastymiento, as a friend has heard it referred to by other cyclists.

Nacamiento-Fergusson Road, the 7.5 mile, 2,500 foot climb is tough, they represent it as a 6% average grade; it’s the average that’s misleading, the lower section is much tougher than the second half. And mind you, you start this climb having already gone 65 miles and nearly 5,000 feet. Just past mile 72 you reach the summit and a welcome reprieve from the afternoon heat and the long climb.

From there it’s 20 miles to camp at Ft. Hunter Liggett, most of it downhill. The battery on the Edge GPS bike computer decided to die also at this point, leaving my export file and map about a mile and a half shy of the actual camp spot and the end of Day 1 riding.

In camp, we set-up our tents on the ball field, and I took a shower then headed over to the Hacienda Ranch House for dinner. Jeff, Scott and Roger showered and then went for a dip in the pool and followed shortly. After dinner, they held a raffle and 3 out of 4 of us won! I won a t-shirt, Roger a Sea Otter ball cap, and Jeff won a Garmin Edge 205 bike GPS computer!

Day 2 – Sunday – Ft. Hunter Liggett to Carmel Valley
Route profile
Awoken by reveilli at sunrise, you pack up your gear, take down your tent, leave your gear at the truck and then ride your bike back to the Hacienda Ranch House for breakfast. Before joining the route, we rode over to check out the Mission San Antonio de Padua, the third mission founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1771. It wasn’t far from the start point, and we were back at the Hacienda Ranch House and on our way not long after 7:30am. The first six miles include several good warm up climbs, and you travel out of the sun into shaded valleys and the temperatures were chilly, as I remembered.

Once we got on Jolon Road, we are on our way to the top of Quadbuster. It was interesting that Roger’s reaction was the same as mine last year, surprised that we were there so easily. The climb is rather gentle, and I guess Day 3 of AIDS/LifeCycle where we climb the 1.3 mile hill known as Quadbuster, affects our perception of the downhill afterwards.

New this year, headwinds! So I guess last year was a freak weather year, as there were no winds coming into or leaving King City (honest!) I don’t know if Jeff, Roger & Scott believed me, Jeremy will have to back me up about last year. But we were fortunate to come upon a rider who wanted to pull a paceline and he did for most of the 10 miles thru King City on Spreckles and Metz Roads, saving us a lot of energy.

The first rest stop at Oak Park on the outskirts of Greenfield was at mile 33, a long stretch to go without a stop (at least when you are used to one every 15 miles on ALC!) From Greenfield we head on County Road G16 to the Arroyo Seco River (aka ALC skinny-dipping) bridge, ending the point where we had been retracing ALCs Day 2 route. At this point, we turned left, heading into Arroyo Seco canyon and the Santa Lucia mountain range.

At mile 47 is the second stop of the day and lunch before heading up Carmel Valley Road. Our paceline friend and his riding partners left this stop at the same time, and he and I chatted for awhile. He was not happy with his riding partners, the gal was from Colorado and had assured him she was trained and ready, and the guy had taken off at the start the day before and burned himself out too early. He wasn’t a happy camper.

The climb up Carmel Valley Road is about 11 miles but nothing like yesterdays Nacamiento Road climb, for sure. You arrive at Cahoon Summit, the last rest stop of the day (and memorable from the Sea Otter Road Ride this year, when they were out of water when we got there.) There is a great view looking back down thru the canyon towards the Salinas Valley.

And from here, it is (mostly) 20 miles of downhill returning to the starting point at Community Park in Carmel Valley Village, where the post-ride Fiesta was in full swing. Scott, Jeff and Roger were all in agreement, it was a great ride! And one that Different Spokes should do as a club event next year!