Reflections on My Cycling Adventures So Far, Part V

Bike Travel Weekend, June 4-6, 2021. I decided to make another attempt at San Luis Obispo to Paso Robles and back. I revisited the original route and modified mine so that I followed the exit off Old Creek Road onto Santa Rita Creek Road, avoiding the big climbs and switchbacks on Old Creek Road.

March 2021 I found a 2010 Surly Long-Haul Trucker for sale about an hour away from me. I hurriedly contacted the owner and made arrangements to see the bike. I had done hours of research on touring bikes, and the brand Surly kept popping up. I wanted to buy a new LHT, but due to the pandemic lockdown and depleted supply chains, I couldn’t find one in my size, in stock. So I pivoted to looking for a used Trucker, and luckily spotted the one I eventually bought on Craigs List.

This LHT came outfitted with racks and packs – rear and front racks, along with front and rear panniers and a handlebar bag. I took the LHT to Shift Bicycle, where Jason Morin added a new stem and handlebars, new handlebar tape, new cables, new chain, new flat pedals (came with clips – not my style) and new Maxxis Refuse tires. This LHT came with its original Brooks B17 saddle, color black, that had obviously been broken in thoroughly. Ready to ride!

I loaded my LHT onto my bike rack and drove to San Luis Obispo. This time I had decided to add camping to the event. I found a campsite near the SLO Regional Airport. Not truly bikepacking, because I drove to the campsite, unloaded my gear and set up my tent. Then in the morning I loaded everything back into my car and drove to long term parking near the airport. I loaded up my bike with front and rear panniers and set off for Paso Robles.

The revised route put me on Turri Road off of Los Osos Valley Road for a much quieter, more scenic ride towards Morro Bay. I stopped to shoot some video of the scenery when I heard someone call out behind me: “All good?” Another rider had seen me stop and following cycling protocol, asked to make sure I was okay. We introduced ourselves to each other. His name was Paul. He was riding a steel bike like my LHT, and he had bright yellow Ortlieb panners on his rear racks. Paul new this route very well, riding it frequently, so we decided to ride together to Morro Bay, where he would turnaround and head back home to Los Osos.

Turns out Paul is a Warmshowers host and made a point that I should book with him if I ever ride his way in the future. I promised him I would. It is simply wonderful to run into someone who loves bike travel as much as you.

Turri Road connected with South Bay Boulevard into Morro Bay and then connected with Highway 1. After a short distance on Highway 1 I exited as I had before onto Old Creek Road. This time, though, I took Santa Rita Creek Road just past the Whale Rock Reservoir.

Santa Rita Creek Road is a gem! It follows Santa Rita Creek, is tree-shaded and virtually car-free, but it is also mostly unpaved. I had planned for this so no surprises this time. My Maxxis Refuse tires, while not totally appropriate for unpaved roads, handled this section well and had no issues with the hard-packed dirt, road ruts and loose gravel. A deer ran across the road in front of me. Truly felt like an off-road adventure. Summitting Santa Rita Creek Road was also much easier than Old Creek Road, to my obvious relief.

The downhill side of Santa Rita Creek Road was more challenging than the uphill because I had to regulate my speed and brake often to avoid potholes and large rocks. I made my way back onto the paved section, where Santa Rita Creek Road merged with Cayucos Templeton Road and eventually became Bethel Road, which connected with Highway 46 into Paso Robles. As I came down from the higher elevation, I ran into heat in the high 80’s with virtually no humidity. So I was struggling a bit as I headed to my friends’ house for cold beer, good food and good times.

Saturday, I retraced my steps and once again climbed up Santa Rita Creek Road to the Summit and pedaling to the top this day was easier than the day before. There were more cyclists out and about as well. I struck up casual conversations with some of the riders, who seeing my panniers asked me where I’d been.

Once back on Old Creek Road I headed down into Cayucos and stopped at Brown Butter Cookie Company for a bag of originals. I retraced my route back to SLO following Highway 1 for a few miles, then South Bay Road, Turri Road and Los Osos Valley Road back to the airport. I loaded up my bike and drove to my hotel, spent the night and then drove back to LA on Sunday.

This is a ride I would do again. I think there are additional variations to the route that would allow me to really do some bikepacking and discover new areas. For example, I could head east from Paso on Union Road, then South on Geneseo and take in some wineries. Continuing southwesterly, Geneseo connects to Creston Road, on into Creston CA which has numerous wineries to sample. From Creston I could hop on the 41 Highway and back to Morro Bay. I’m sure there are additional possibilities and I look forward to exploring them.

Lighthouse Century 2022

The Lighthouse Century is a one-day bike ride organized by the San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club. I participated this year and completed the 65-mile “metric” century on September 24, 2022. Here are my takes:

While I prefer bike touring, I do these weekend rides because I’m still working fulltime. This limits my ability to take off a week or two for long-distance cycling.

I chose to participate in this ride because I hadn’t ridden that far north on Coast Highway 1. California’s rugged coastline from Cambria to San Simeon and beyond can be breathtaking. Unfortunately, the day was foggy, a little wet and cool, reducing the scenery effect.

Lighthouse Century 65-mile route (Ride With GPS)

The route began on Saturday morning in Morro Bay at the Morro Bay High School. I drove up from LA on Friday and camped at the Morro Dunes RV Park. After checking in at the high school, I grabbed a burger at the Wee Shack in Morro Bay, less than a mile from my campsite. I recommend Wee Shack enthusiastically.

The all-volunteer organizers did a fantastic job supporting the riders. There was traffic control in several spots along Highway 1, which was important because this road carries a lot of traffic on a Saturday.

Along with the lack of sunshine, my ride was also affected negatively by the heavy traffic on Highway 1 in both directions. The noise from passing cars and trucks alone provided a huge distraction from really enjoying the ride.

The route was fairly flat with only a few ups-and-downs, so despite the fact I generally manage about 10 miles per hour, I felt comfortable on the ride.

The organizers provided welcome rest stops along the 65-mile route, first at Shamel Park and then at Cypress Tree – the turnaround point. The rest stops offered plenty of snack choices; fruit, sandwiches, and blessedly – coffee! I refilled my main water bottle at each stop and never needed my backup for the duration of the ride – it was that cool.

Heading south from Cypress Tree the route left Highway 1 and eased right onto Moonstone Beach Drive. This was a pleasant departure from the busy coast highway. Moonstone Beach Drive featured lots of quaint B&B’s, restaurants and hotels, as well as a wooden plank walking path along the sand. Moonstone Beach Drive to riders back to Shamel Park for the final rest stop on the 65-mile route.

The sun decided to come out at Cambria and stayed out all the way to Cayucos, where I stopped a picked up a six-pack of Brown Butter original cookies. Cayucos is only a few miles from Morro Bay where I finished the ride back at Morro Bay High School.

Would I do this ride again? Probably not. Nothing wrong with the route but the heavy traffic annoyed me, and the weather wasn’t great. SLOBC and its volunteers did an outstanding job. The difference between a ride like this and bike touring is the relationships you build with other riders during the overnights. As long as I’m working fulltime, I’ll continue to search out weekend rides. Up next: the Bike MS: Bay to Bay ride October 15-16. This is a fundraiser to help find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis.

I used my new GoPro Hero 11 Black during the Lighthouse Century. You can watch my video here: In the meantime, keep pedaling!

Cypress Tree turnaround point – smile dude!

My Cycling (almost mis-) Adventure

For the second time in as many days I feel a little panic creeping into my throat. I’m stuck climbing a seemingly endless set of steep grades near the San Marcos Pass. The road is an old two-lane asphalt that’s snaking higher and higher. It’s getting near 4 pm and sunset will occur around 5:30. Only one or two cars have come my way. As much as I prefer cycling solo, I now am feeling very alone. Would be a terrible place to have any kind of breakdown. I’m questioning my route-planning skills. Am I lost? No, but I can’t go back, I can only go forward.

December 5, 2020 I completed the second leg of my San Luis Obispo to Goleta CA two-day bike tour. I cruised through Buellton and Solvang, and then got on the San Marcos Pass Highway 154 towards Santa Barbara. Up to this point I’d benefitted from old two-lane backroads and very little traffic. Now I found myself on a high speed roadway.

The route I planned using RideWithGPS took me off the 154 at Stagecoach road, which was a tree-lined two-lane asphalt. I saw very few cars, which I welcomed. But later, as I struggled to reach the summit of Old San Marcos Pass, I wondered about the wisdom of choosing this route, with the possibility of no one coming by that could help me.

As the road crept higher and higher, with what seemed like no end in sight, I finally wore down and had to hop off my bike and start pushing it up the grade. For the next few hours, this was my routine: walk the bike a couple hundred yards, then ride it.

I had chosen this route because it avoided traveling the 154 for the duration, and that it might offer more scenery. And it did. This route had beautiful scenery, not spectacular, but breath-taking in its own way. I even discovered a memorial to the Cold Spring Canyon Arch Bridge, honoring the men and women that built the structure that opened in 1964. The bridge is currently the highest in California and one of the highest in the U.S.

Another reason I chose this route is that it would take me past the famous Cold Spring Tavern, where I had my first date with my future wife.

I figured I was carrying 40 pounds of equipment on my hybrid, which already weighed in at at least 30 pounds. With my 195 pounds, I was pushing an enormous load up a very long and winding grade.

But my mindset was: this is adventure cycling. You never know what you’re going to encounter, and those encounters may push you beyond your limits. This ride certainly did. Yet I did make the summit after cruising by the Cold Spring Tavern, 2,250 feet in elevation. I was tired and a bit shaken from the ordeal, but I had made it to the top and there was nothing but downhill awaiting me.

I had to hop on the the 154 briefly before getting off on North San Marcos Road. There I was treated to a stunning sunset view of Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean. I asked a stranger to take a picture of me against this backdrop, and he instantly obliged.

As the sun began to sink lower over the ocean, I snaked down San Marcos Road and made it into Goleta and my hotel as darkness set in. Never give up. Just keep pedaling.