39.6 mi / 9.3 mph / 2678 ft. climbing
Home: San Simeon Lodge motel
The onion smell kept me awake more than any raccoons did, but morning reconnaissance revealed they had unzipped one of Rett’s pannier pockets (but not taken anything), and left their muddy prints on her bags and towels we had left out. So although they might have won a battle or two, we won the war, since our food remained untouched. And the evidence of their incursions meant that enduring onion smell was at least worth it, and not just overprotective paranoia!
After days of clear skies, we woke to our first foggy morning in a while. But at least in the microclimate of the campground, the fog line was higher in elevation, and our stuff stayed dry.
Our early start, and perhaps more southern location, meant that we had the emptiest roads of Big Sur so far. The first vehicle was saw after some miles scared us by suddenly dropping its snowplow onto the road as it went by in the other direction. Snowplow? No, turns out it was a rock plow. I always wondered how they clear rocks that tumble from the eroding hillsides off the roads, and now I know!
Some ten miles in, we reached our first store in two days, the Gorda General Store. And boy, do they know that they’re the only real store for 25 miles in one direction and 60 in the other. Our collection of totally unfancy groceries somehow added up to $40.55, and luckily we didn’t need to pay the $7.59 for gas! (at the four pumps, 5 gallons was the highest volume I saw from a previous purchase).
The day remained foggy and cloudy, and it was nice to see Big Sur in different light. Yes, it’s better in the clear skies we had the previous two days, but it’s pretty stunning in its cloaked version as well. Most importantly, the water was still very colorful. The blueness of the water is one of the things people said sets Big Sur apart from other parts of the coast, but we had thought, is that just because of the blue sunny skies? Like, if Oregon had such skies, wouldn’t the water look the same? Answer: no, it’s something in the water itself.
Every time I figured the wild coast would be winding down as we got further south, it just got more wild. But eventually, halfway through the day, after a couple of big climbs, we finally dropped down to the coastal plain and the stark end of Big Sur.
But the attractions weren’t done. When crossing a bridge filled with literally 20 “No Stopping” signs (placed every 50 feet in each direction), Rett stopped, after hearing a crazy grunting, gurgling, roaring noise. Directly below in the stream was a cavorting elephant seal! And then a whole bunch more on the beach, and even some young males practicing their battles. Despite the enormous size of these animals (they’re way bigger than the harbor seals, or even sea lions we’ve become used to seeing), they mostly seemed like giant goofballs in this early part of mating season.
The “No Stopping” signs are presumably there to prevent huge traffic backups, but as cyclists, on a cloudy weekday afternoon with no one else around, we felt ok to grab some photos and listen to their voices. A couple miles further down the road, we passed official viewing areas filled with people walking the boardwalks, and while there were elephant seals to be found there (including some huge ones), they were much more boring, so we didn’t even bother to stop after our amazing initial experience.
Our plan had been to spend two days in the San Simeon area, probably first a motel, then backtracking a bit to see Hearst Castle on our day off, then camping at the State Park. But shortly before we arrived, cell phone signal returned after days of absence, and we discovered that the Castle was closed (and had been since the start of COVID, but now due to road-construction issues) Argh!
But since we’d already seated the idea of a motel in our mind, and we saw cheap prices at the cheap-motel strip south of the Castle (likely a “benefit” of the castle being closed, though I’m sure it’s a huge damage to the hospitality business here), we couldn’t pass up the San Simeon Lodge, its attached restaurant, and, as we discovered later, laundry!
Home: San Simeon Lodge motel
Again, since we’d already put the idea of a 2-night stay in San Simeon in our heads, but didn’t have any sightseeing planned, and moving two miles down the road to camp in a not-great hiker/biker site didn’t sound exciting, and moving on to Morro Bay didn’t seem necessary, and doing two-night stays where we don’t move are really helpful to us, and the attached mini-mart was super-well stocked for all our needs in this store-free region, and Rett was able to sweet-talk the manager into giving us an even better deal ($55) than the night before….we spent the day laying in bed and not taking any photos. Ahhhhh.