After two splendid years in Hawaii, it was off to Afghanistan (previously addressed in this bikeography), where I was extremely bike deprived, but witnessed a culture where bikes were ubiquitous. Here's a link to an excellent story about a brave group of young female Afghan bikeists who are using bikes as a means of empowerment:
After Afghanistan, though, it was back to my beloved San Diego, my commute around the bay, and the endless possibilities for long weekend and holiday rides. Can't tell you how joyful it was for me to get back on the Coronado Ferry and be warmly greeted by the same gaggle of loyal commuters I had sat with four years earlier. It was great to see my old friends, and to have my freedom of movement back. I moved about Afghanistan quite a bit, but always in full body armor, and in armored or up-armored vehicles -- never, ever, on a bike. Being able to just hop on a bike in shorts, shirt, and helmet was more liberating than ever!
My dreams whilst fantasizing about biking from my hooch in Afghanistan almost always focused upon whizzing along the Pacific Coast (as I do now every night and Saturday morning). Once I returned, though, and had done the coast from Oceanside back to San Diego several, wonderful, times, I felt compelled to expand those horizons. What about the rest of the coast? What would it be like to ride through the Avenue of Giants or the remote parts of the Northern California coastline? I had biked other parts of the state (in and around San Francisco, Monterey, and Santa Barbara), but, as with the C&O and GAP trails, I had always wanted to cover the whole span of California's coast.
My quest started in earnest last summer (2012) when the Navy sent me to Monterey for a 10 day course at the Naval Postgraduate School. I brought the family along so they could enjoy some time in one of our favorite places, but before the course ended, they left me with just my bike to get home to San Diego. I didn't have time to bike the whole way back, but knew I could knock out the most spectacular stretch of California coastline (and, perhaps, best ride anywhere) in a weekend. So, at 0500 the morning after the course ended, I hopped on the Bad Boy (its last major road trek) and headed due south through Big Sur -- 140 miles of remote, twisting, climbing, rolling, and precipitously falling coastline.
Luckily, I had done some hill training in the weeks leading up to this ride, as the first 100 miles were as up and down as anything I have ever biked. The ascents looked as though they reached up to the clouds from the narrow Redwood filled Canyons, but oh those descents on the other side! Leaving early was the key to my enjoyment, as I got lots of miles in before encountering many cars at all. For most stretches, it felt like I had Route 1 all to myself.
As fate would have it, at precisely the 70 mile mid-way point, was a Yurt campground, perched high on the cliffs hanging over the Pacific. I called ahead to see if they might have a yurt for me. The woman who answered the phone was apologetic when she said the only thing left was their treehouse. If I was at all cool, I may have feigned disappointment, but I could not hold back the instant exclamation of "Awesome!"
How cool is that?!
This place (Treebones Resort) also had an awesome sushi bar and provided a free bottle of wine to anyone crazy enough to arrive in the middle of nowhere on a bike! Score!
Here is the sunset as viewed through the window of my treehouse, as it swayed in the wind and I listened to the vocalizations of elephant seals over the waves crashing way, way, below:
I was back out on the road, though, at sunrise the next morning, to tackle the last few big climbs before descending back to beach-level and cranking all the way to San Luis Obsipo. Luckily, I made great time with a tail-wind on the flats, and managed to catch the last Amtrak Surfliner south by a whopping five minutes.
It was a tired, but satisfied Bikeist who gazed out the train window as we headed through LA, already planning the rest of my reconquest of California -- including the City of Angels itself!
Next up: Back to the Future: The End of the Neverending Bikeography!