Bus and Ride – Angeles to Big Sur (April 24th)

I awoke late. Sleeping was awkward and fitful with this gear. The tent was not nearly long enough that I could sleep in it like a normal person without touching both my head and feet to the ends of the tent, (thus becoming covered in condensation,) so I ended up sleeping diagonally. Was this tent made for children or something?? The cheap, bulky bag from my youth meant that I was chilly all night, and the lack of footprint and poor waterproofing meant that the sleeping bag was soaked on the bottom, but thankfully dry inside. This was around the time that I decided to upgrade my gear when I got back to Portland.

I took my time warming up, making some hot spiced cider and eating some dried fruit while I packed up my gear.

It really hit the spot.

By the time the fog burned off, it was already noon. It became a nice day, sunny and not too hot. I had read online that nearby trails lead to an abandoned gold mine and waterfalls, both things I enjoy. I didn’t have time to explore the area this time around due to my late start and time constraints, but if I ever need to camp near LA again, I’ll surely be back! I sure do seem to rush around a lot for somebody without a real schedule…

I made a friend near my bike:

I spent entirely too much time picking up this poor creature and attempting to get a good photo.

I took the Ventura Highway to the 101. There was an awesome bypass (CA-154 I think?) which cut off a bit of distance from the 101, and had some fantastic scenery and views. If I’ve got the road right, this is San Marcos Pass:

The ocean was beautiful. It had been a few months since I’d been along highway 1. I pulled over somewhere near San Luis Obispo to enjoy the sunset over the ocean and avoid riding with the sun in my eyes, and I’m glad I did. Gorgeous.

Darkness fell and I was creeping my way along Big Sur, pulling over to let the few other drivers pass me. I don’t like riding at night to begin with, and the headlight on this bike was really underpowered. The high beam did nothing to actually illuminate the road directly in front of me, so I was stuck with the low beam puttering along around 30mph.

This was around the time that I first noticed the bike hiccuping – the bike would occasionally sputter for a split-second, missing a beat, and then resume normal activity. Made riding it somewhat less fun.

I was looking for a dirt road I had read about, and was surprised by a deer leaping down into the road from a bluff right in front of me. I swerved and shrieked at the top of my lungs out my open helmet at the deer, which gave me a startled, confused look and darted off to the side and behind me. Shaken by my near-collision, I pulled over, shut off the bike, and took some deep calming breaths to try to relax. I usually make a point not to ride at night for this exact reason. I was grateful that things didn’t go much, much worse.

After I calmed down, I realized I’d missed my turn, so I doubled back and found the road that I was looking for. It was far steeper than I had been led to believe, and with absolutely no off-road experience on the bike, at night, while I was exhausted and road-weary, I found the road terrifying. Rocks, gravel, ruts. In my “wisdom” I decided to press on regardless, some of my best ideas have seemed like the worst at the time!

The nearly-bald rear tire was pretty squirrelly on gravel, but I made it up the hill. Both of the “camping spots” – really just pull-outs along the road – were already taken by people sleeping in their cars. After I reached the top and was facing a sharp descent into unknown pitch black territory, I decided to cut my losses and go back the way I came. I discovered that due to the gearing, unlike my Rebel, I couldn’t use the engine to brake at less than 15mph as it would cough and lug and threaten to stall, so I ended up riding the brakes all the way down. Going downhill was definitely worse than coming up! All that I could think of was “Well shit, I sure hope the brake fluid doesn’t overheat…”

I made it down the hill, didn’t die, and didn’t drop the bike! Success! But now after all that excitement, I was even more exhausted than when I started…

I remembered a comment on the page where I read about the road with the pullouts, suggesting a paved road a few miles north (Nacimiento) might be a less-frequented alternative. I decided to check it out, and found a paved pullout with somebody already car camping nearby. I decided that, even though it was sub-optimal, I really needed to sleep before I met another deer, and if I got woken up by cops in the middle of the night, so be it. I set up my tent in clear view of highway 1, and settled down to another night in the crappy tent.

It was windy as hell that night, and the tent material flapping in the breeze kept me dozing in and out, as did the slight paranoia of discovery. Cars passed all night, seemingly feet away from my tent, and I found out the following day that this road actually goes to a nearby military base. Regardless, I did manage to get some sleep, and the evening was happily uninterrupted by unwanted visitors.

Larger Map
Total distance: 272 miles.

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