Pacific Coast Bike Tour — Day 2 — Monterey to Big Sur, California

Monterey to Big Sur, CA
September 9, 2018
Distance:  23.5 miles
Elevation:  1,780 feet
Moving Time:  2 hours 25 minutes
Conditions:  Start — Foggy, 57 degrees (F). End — sunny, 74 degrees
Today’s Takeaway: It was a day of beauty and nice people.

Today’s ride is complete, and I meet my wife at the River Inn, a small motel nestled under a forest of thick trees along a shallow creek in the tiny town of Big Sur. She asks, “how did it go today?” Without hesitation, and almost before the final word leaves her lips, I reply, “it was one of the best days of my life!”

And I am not exaggerating.


The rocky cliffs and pounding surf of Big Sur

I have been enthusiastically waiting for this segment — this glorious day — of my bike tour down the Pacific Coast since I began planning several months ago. I have read all I could about the beauty of the Big Sur area — the arched bridges, the cliffs, the rocky shorelines far below, the challenging ascents and the sweeping downhills. And none of it disappoints. In fact, it is better than expected. It is what makes this ride the most beloved cycling route in the United States.


The iconic Bixby Bridge crosses the Pacific Coast Highway halfway between Monterey and Big Sur


It was a day of challenging climbs, long winding descents and wind — so much wind.

It is also a day of extremes. Cool morning becoming a warm afternoon. Fog turning to sunshine. Steep climbs giving way to long descents. Headwinds changing to tailwinds. Low-growing shrubs changing to huge redwood trees. All making this day unforgettable.

But the traffic.

So many cars and trucks on this busy weekend day, and so little room on the two-lane highway’s edge for me to ride. I manage, though, mostly because I am prepared for this segment and its level of difficulty.

Nice people along today’s route, from many places throughout the world.

A couple from Germany biking to the southern part of California. Three young ladies exploring the California coastline during their visit to the States from England. Ryan, from Oakland, who is camping along his ride to Los Angeles where he will visit his sister. Then there’s Carl, who is loaded with so much camping gear and once-thought-to-be essentials, who tells me he made a promise to himself that he will cut his heavy load in half during his next tour.

But it’s Tim from Ireland who makes the most profound statement of the day. Alongside the busy highway, with cars zooming by over the prescribed speed limit, he tells me, “you can’t give any mercy to these cars. They have to look out for you instead of you giving way to them.” I nod in agreement, but think to myself that my bike and I will likely take the brunt  of the punishment if there’s a contest of wills.

I’m sure several challenging miles are on the horizon in the days to come.  And my daily mileage will increase, which will make the rides more difficult. But, so far, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. Or, with anyone else. Thanks to my wife, Diane, for making this week possible.

Tomorrow: San Simeon, home of the Hearst Castle.


A cool “hippie bus” that may have seen many parties back in its prime.


5 thoughts on “Pacific Coast Bike Tour — Day 2 — Monterey to Big Sur, California

  1. inmylazyboy says:

    We went just beyond the Bixby bridge, I believe, when we did this route by car from SF. Glorious scenery. I got a kick out of Monterey. Prepared for the trip by reading Steinbeck’s Cannery Row.

    Like Ragbrai, the beauty of bike trips are the people you meet in brief encounters along the adventure. Like the Irishman’s advice. Wind + hills = a killer ride. Drink an extra cold one for me.


  2. Al Hunter says:

    When I was on those long descents I moved into the lane as there is not much room on the shoulder especially if an obstacle happens to be on the road. There’s not much choice, either swerve into the road or swerve into the ocean. Motorists were very courteous and let me move into the lane until the descent was over.
    Lots of climbs with very rewarding descents on this section of the PCH..


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