Monterey to Big Sur. 47.5 Miles. 2756 Feet of Climbing Elevation
By Zulu Delta
This past September, I completed a charity bike event with the California Coast Classic Bike Tour for the Arthritis Foundation. I rode my bicycle for 8 days from San Francisco, to Los Angeles California; 525 Miles, and climbed 26,278 Feet of Elevation. It was extremely challenging, rewarding, and amazing. I’ll be blogging multiple segments here about my journey.
DAY 3- Take 12!
California is a big place. “Oh, really Zulu????” Yes, it is. I mean really big. In fact, 11 other U.S. States could fit inside of California. “Your point Zulu (we’d be shocked if you actually had one!)? To be fair or not, many people around the world lump all of California together, especially when it comes to Pop Culture. People either forget or are “somehow” unaware that besides the beaches and celebrities in California, there are also snow-covered mountains, farms, volcanos, oil rigs, and a lot of people who work around these locations. It is also estimated that 184,540 military personnel (the most in the nation) serve and live in the state as well as all the people the Defense industries employ. No, East to West, North to South, “all of California is the same; California is all about the movie and music industry, surfers, and endless summers.” Not always true of course, but there it is; “California”.
It should come as no surprise, especially for those readers who have followed my other website zuludelta45.net for many years, that a wide range of music and pop culture (not including that trash circuit called The Kardashians) is constantly running around my mind.
Having ridden my bike for 8 days and sometimes up to 8 hours a day that week, without any music to listen to, or people to chat with at times, the overactive imagination in my head each day was in overdrive. Day 3 found me thinking a lot about California Pop Culture as I rode along.
As we saw from the sneak preview at the end of Day 2, Day 3 started out with a massive “Bobsled” run down from basecamp into town and over to the waterfront. I suspected it was here that the smile was welded on my face. The day ahead had “only” 47 miles to ride, 2,347’ to climb, magnificent bridges to cross, as well as ocean hills and cliffs to view; ending the day, sitting on Adirondack Chairs in The Big Sur River. Easy to see why Day 3 was my favorite ride among a week of favorite rides.
The early morning rollout found us on the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail; a bike and recreational path along the water. It was here that I would ride past other “everyday cyclists” who were “also” on their way to work, but not like the coolest job I had for the week. I did think about my “other” employment for a moment. On Day 2, the “normal” CCC route took a little detour around Moss Landing. The company I work for is building a large-scale battery storage facility tied to the electric grid there, on the site of the decommissioned power station. It’s a cool project, but the fear of being ambushed and impressed into service weighed on my mind. Thank God for the detour! Hahahahaha!
On a more positive note, the detour took us down Elkhorn Road, and along the Elkhorn Slough; a large “back-river” tidal bed. This turned out to be another exciting downhill sleigh ride. At one point, the sharp switchback road actually had a “banked” turn. It was here, that with too much speed I almost “failed to navigate” the turn and teetered on the outside edge of the road inches from disaster. My concentration and reflexes would have been far sharper if I wasn’t laughing and squealing from delight. A few more inches and it would have been “ass-over-teakettle” into the saltwater marsh. Now I know the real reason they call it Moss Landing!
“Do You Know The Way To San Jose”
One constant on the CCC, especially in the morning before most riders spread out, is the questions shouted out to us by people we pass. “What is your group? Where did you start? Where is the finish?” The truthful answers are quite incredible even to myself, and our responses seemed to amaze, and impress those we rode near. Oh great, just what I need; strangers stroking my ego!
Riding along the Trail, an elderly man shouted out; “where are you guys riding to?” I told him we were on our way to Los Angeles. Instantly, he came back and yelled out; “Wow! That’s great! Just be careful you don’t space out and wind up in Tierra del Fuego!”
I burst out laughing and almost crashed (I do that a lot!). Clever humor is awesome; “Geography Humor” is the most clever of all!” I instantly thought about the 1980s, Boston-based band, The Del Fuegos, who named themselves because the very southern tip of South America, Tierra del Fuego, was the “most low down.”
Of course, the biggest reason I cracked up, was because this man’s comment was the exact same type of smart-ass remark I would have made upon encountering a long-distance cycling group. It’s a beautiful thing to discover like-minded people when traveling.
“They Call Me Mr. Pitiful!”
The pop subject weighing so heavy on my mind for the first few days riding was Otis Redding. I was only 4/5 years old when Otis was in his prime, but his story and music leaves a large imprint on my imagination. In 1967, Otis would record his most famous song (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay. Three days after he recorded the song, he would die in a plane crash at age 26. Otis initially wrote most of this song while living on a houseboat in Sausalito, California, describing his thoughts of the San Francisco Bay. It’s near impossible to dissect the city from the water and each of my visits to San Francisco, sooner or later brings me to Otis Redding…..and Lo Mein, but mostly Otis. As a side to the side note, Dock Of The Bay, was co-written by Steve Cropper; original member of the band, Booker T & The M.G’s, music producer and talent coordinator at the legendary STAX Records in Memphis, Tennessee during its “heyday,” one of the most prolific back-up guitarists, and if that wasn’t enough, one of the original members of the Blue Brothers Band.
As I rode down the coast, the “idea” of Otis only got stronger. As noted, Days 2 and 3 of the tour would find me in Monterey. I had never been there before, but the event and place I couldn’t shake from my head was the Monterey Pop Festival. Though I thought of it a million times, I kept forgetting to look up the actual location of the Festival, which turned out to be the Monterey County Fairgrounds, which also hosted the Monterey Jazz Festival and some incarnations of the Big Sur Folk Festival. We didn’t really cycle past it, but as pop culture goes, I was always interested to see it.
The Monterey Pop Festival was held in June of 1967. John Phillips of the Mamas & The Papas wrote the song “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair) for Scott McKenzie to sing as a promotion for the Festival. The Festival is considered the start of the Summer of Love. The various themes of the time were present; Peace, Love, and Counterculture, but many thought Music could change the world for the better, and it was the job, especially the young people of the time to do just that.
Otis Redding would take the stage as a “minor act” but would go on to what many have said was the most impressive act of the festival. Otis performing as a 26-year-old man in his prime having previously played mostly to Black Audiences was backed up by one of the first and most popular multi-racial groups, Booker T &The MG’s, including Steve Cropper.
Redding would perform such classics as Shake, Try A Little Tenderness, I’ve Been Loving You Too Long, and a song he describes on stage as a song “that a girl took away from me, a friend of mine, this girl she just took this song.” That song would turn out to be R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and “that girl,” would turn out to be Aretha Franklin. Musical earbuds were not allowed on the CCC, but the soundtrack to Monterey played loud and clear in my head.
Give Me Shelter
Two and a half years after The Monterey Pop Festival, The Grateful Dead and The Rolling Stones would play a free concert 57 miles east of San Francisco at the Altamont Speedway. They would “hire” the Hell’s Angels as security for $500 worth of beer; what could possibly go wrong? With a murder, 3 accidental deaths, beatings, stolen cars, and extensive property damage, the event would go down as “Rock and Roll’s all-time worst day,” and bring the “Summer of Love” vibe to a screeching halt. A long way from the peaceful and hopeful future of Monterey.
7.5 miles into the ride, and we came to 17 Mile Drive. This is the famous coastal route that eventually takes you along the waterfront through the Pebble Beach Golf Resort. Yes, the route into 17 Mile Drive was of incredible beauty, but so was every inch of that day’s ride starting out at the Veterans Memorial Park. A ride flooded with sunshine, ocean waves, and a waterfront that made you want to stop and start over again 20 times a day.
Pebble Beach is considered by many as the Holy Grail of golf courses; scared ground. My friend Mike is a huge golf nut….er, ah “Golfing Enthusiast,” so I made sure I stopped and took plenty of pictures and got the layout so when he quizzed me about what I saw close up, I could report accurately. It wasn’t painful to do. Yes, there were the “holes” that would require amazing skill, but being a hack golfer who once, by sheer miracle, chipped a golf ball out of the middle of a 5th story hotel room, through a sliding glass door, up and over a balcony, and into the pool of the hotel located in the Bahamas, I might not be the person who shook with envy this close to the spectacular greens themselves. The awe of the magnificent coastal ride was another thing.
The southern end of Pebble Beach would exit into the town of Carmel By The Sea. The only thing I knew about this place, is that at one time, Clint Eastwood was the Mayor.
For another bizarre reason, I was thinking about Sonny Bono. At one time he was the Mayor of Palm Springs, California. Palm Springs and Carmel By The Sea are 427 miles apart, but when “you’re” from the “Northeast,” Celebrity Mayors and the towns they represent are often interchangeable because….well, it’s California. For the quick record (no pun intended), Sonny also co-wrote the classic pop song “Needles and Pins” performed by the Searchers and a few other bands.
You Can Call Me Al
Years ago, back at work, over many phone sessions, I became acquainted with a technical representative from a company based in California that made electronic equipment for water quality analysis. Her name was Betty. Having never been there, I was constantly teasing her about California and how she must know all the celebrity mayors, as well as be an amazing surfer, and of course, had her own recording contract; like “everyone else” in California. We had a lot of laughs even though she told me how her life in California outside of work consisted of just wanting to go home, eat her frozen dinner, and get to watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer before the power was cut to her house from the rolling electric blackouts caused mostly by the ultra-crooked Enron Corporation. A few years after our last phone conversation, a postcard showed up at work from Betty to me. On the front, was a picture of Sonny Bono’s House in Palm Springs. On the back, Betty wrote “……I went and paid my respects to Sonny…..I paid yours too!” Hahahahahah!!! The postcard still hangs above my desk at work.
In The Blink Of An Eye
Fire Near Bixby Bridge
A few months after I got home from California, I got this picture of a wildfire near the Bixby Bridge. As you can see from my picture at the top of this blog, the area looked a lot different than when I cycled across. The majority of the people I met were from California; it’s one thing to see the stories on the news, it’s another be face to face with people who were affected by the wildfires. Some had altered their training routes and locations due to smoke, while others had lost their home to the blazes. Comforting words were tough to come by. There’s a reason so many proverbs are well…..proverbial; “appreciate it while you can.”
Riding down the coast on Day Three was literary like riding inside a scenic postcard. Every corner I turned, and every hill crest I climbed, led me to a gorgeous pallet of nature as beautiful, if not more so than the previous view I had. I eventually rolled around the bend and came to the Bixby Bridge (finally….some man-made Architecture…..Hahahahah!). It turned out to be one of “those tourist places” that was even more spectacular in person than it was in pictures. I spent a little time off my bike taking pictures, and trying not to slide off the edge of a cliff getting better “shots.”
Riding across the bridge was a little narrow with car traffic, but when I got to the other side, the road was a little wider and I began to climb. The road ducked back from the rock edge a bit and was laid into a large grass outcropping. Large green hills to the left, ocean to the right, perfect blue sky ahead. Up the “hill” I went. It was here when one of the most frighting thoughts in 8 days popped into my head; “Oh My God…..climbing this hill is so much fun!” WHAT??!! Where did that come from? I hope I didn’t say that out loud! Oh No……what if the “Cement Heads” back home heard me say that? You know the ones; those guys I love to ride with who are constantly looking for hills to climb to get a great workout or to say “they crushed it!” Yep, the same group who resist me from stopping to read historical plaques, take pictures, or buy chocolate! Well……………there was no denying it. It was fun!
River Deep; Mountain High
Two miles before the “official” end of the day, I came to the check-in point; The Big Sur River. It’s here where I would find the majority of the cyclist; barefoot and sitting on chairs in the river. It was a beautiful spot under the trees. I had heard and read about this for a long time and was excited to finally experience it in person.
There were some aspects of my before-tour training that lacked precision, but this was not one of them. Early in the summer, back in Rhode Island, I had cycled past “The Secret Beach;” an oasis on the shores of Rocky Point of Narragansett Bay. That first day it was 101 degrees F. and I was in the middle of a training ride. I decided I was going for a swim. I took one look at the shoreline and I knew the clamshells and rocks would slice my feet up like butter, so, into the water I went, bike shoes and all. It didn’t matter about what could happen to my shoes; my feet were far more important. I would make this swim several times that summer, and when I came to the Big Sur River, it was only natural for me to instantly march into the rocky water with my shoes and socks on.
I didn’t have to wait until winter in New England as I was typing this to realize what an amazing cycling event I had that day as I sat in the river cooling off, chatting and laughing with my new friends. I knew it right then and there.
How could I not?
It would be best if we finish this one off with a little Otis Redding………………