Day 3 – Monterey to Point Arena

Day 3 – Monterey to Point Arena


5 May 2019 in California, Some Infidelity

Today was the day it all came together. It was going to be a long day. We had about 250 miles to go, and many of those would be intricate and technical. So your basic “miles at freeway speed” calculation falls pretty much by the wayside.

We started the day with a continental breakfast at the hotel. Which isn’t to diss what we got served; it was entirely acceptable and reasonable. Bagel and cream cheese, yoghurt and a banana, and some pretty reasonable dark roast coffee. Certainly enough to kick-start the process of getting on with the day.

Shortly after 9:00am, we were packed and ready to roll. The ride through Monterey was relatively short, and soon we found ourselves back on US 101, heading north. Dunes gave way to plantations gave way to civilization. Which in turn gave way to one of the most impressive declining-radius turns I have ever had the privilege of witnessing—let alone riding on. At the start, exiting the freeway, recommended speed was 40 mph. That very quickly got down to 20 mph. I wonder exactly how many vehicles have managed to soar off into the underbrush, having failed to negotiate that particular bit of road.

Breton was almost one of those, mostly because someone in a car decided they would like to occupy his bit of lane. Fortunately, he caught up with me a little bit later, so that we could explore the outer reaches of Santa Cruz in search of a gas station and sustenance for our rides. That was still relatively early in the ride, and so—obligatory pee break notwithstanding—we decided to continue on before we actually did our first stop. A quick Google search suggested the Ebb Tide Cafe in Half Moon Bay.

That was about sixty miles further on. Which turned out to be some of the most spectacular riding we had experienced to date. The pace was fast, the curves were plentiful, and the traffic was reasonable. Even better, the other vehicles on the road had an impressive habit of pulling off at the appropriate time, or being perfectly positioned for us to take advantage of a passing lane. The result was one of the best hours of the ride thus far.

Coolest vehicles on the sea wall, by far. Mine got more stares.

Second breakfasts. An awesome quiche lorraine.

A family portrait. Breton and Dante.

The Ebb Tide Cafe was a surprise from a couple of perspectives. For starters, it was well off the beaten path on something very close to a back alley along the ocean. Despite this reality, it’s clearly a very popular place. We were lucky to find a table inside when we arrived, and even luckier to upgrade to a picnic table outside a little while later. Second breakfasts today consisted of Quiche Lorraine with a side of greens (because yes, real bikers eat quiche) with some truly spectacular coffee. Not to mention some killer views of the waterfront.

Half Moon Bay was our setup point for attacking San Francisco. Breton and I have both been through the city before, and it’s something to be endured more than enjoyed. Recognizing that US 101 gets diminished to a slow—yet extremely well travelled—city street, I had looked for a different option. According to the map, there was a way to essentially stay near the water and skirt much of the downtown. First Skyline Boulevard led you away from US 101, and then the Upper Great Highway led past the San Francisco Zoo.

I have no idea why more people don’t take this route through the city, because it is nothing short of spectacular. A very crowded entry in to San Francisco via the main highway turned into a nearly empty three lane thoroughfare as soon as we hit Skyline Blvd. It was a little bit more populated once you got close to the zoo, but that’s a relative assessment. Traffic was easy, we were pretty much able to travel the speed that we wanted, and there was a very small amount of actual city that needed to be navigated for the last stretch.

This led to the Golden Great Bridge, one of the truly iconic landmarks in America. I have to say with all honesty that riding over the bridge never gets old. It’s a spectacular span, the views are awesome and once again traffic was reasonable. In fact, we were able to pretty much travel at highway speeds all the way to San Rafael, where we finally started to head once more to the coast.

First, though, another rest stop was in order. I took advantage of this to get another coffee. Breton took advantage of the break to find allergy medication. And then he decided that filling up on fuel once more would be appropriate. Eventually, though, we were prepared to venture towards the coast and reconnect with Highway 1.

Our artery to do this was Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. It starts as a city street, before undulating over hills and through switchbacks as you get further west. Several cars, recognizing that we were behind them, were kind enough to pull over and let us by. A few other cars, whose drivers are deserving of a special place in the inner rings of Dante’s Inferno, were either more oblivious or less accommodating. The result being that it took almost the entire journey to Highway 1 before we got past the last of the traffic and had the road—mostly—to ourselves.

The nice thing is that once you leave the gravitational pull of major urban centers, drivers undergo a personality transplant. The consequence is that they are more attentive, more considerate and far more likely to pull over and let us pass. Our progress was far less hindered, and far more enjoyable.

About an hour out from our final destination in Point Arena, we stopped for—theoretically—one last time in Bodega Bay. Cafes were a little more challenging to come by, but we managed to find The Birds Cafe (with none too subtle HItchcock overtones in the title and logo). As cafes go, it had less coffee, but more deep frying. I had artichoke fritters and Breton had onion rings.

The Birds Cafe. You get the idea that Alfred Hitchcock would like it here.

We’ll call this “tea.” Artichoke fritters and onion rings.

By this point, we were once again close to the coast, hugging the cliffs and beaches and in the process denying all existence of a straight line. To date, the ride had been technical, but not overly demanding. We were now routinely finding hairpins curves with recommended speeds of 20 mph or less. And it was in this reality that I finally reconnected with riding in general and my bike in particular.

Breton claims I was as smooth before as I was after. But about 30 minutes outside of Bodega Bay, it all seemed to click in my head. I could once again read the vanishing point in the road. I knew where I needed to be in the rev range, and what gear I should be in for each curve. I was relaxed and enjoying the ride, rather than scrambling to execute everything perfectly. And I started to relax and have a huge amount of fun.

The result was a fast, smooth, epically enjoyable run for pretty much the rest of the ride. Cars disappeared, or else shifted over and let us pass. The exit of every corner was a set up to the entry point of the next one. Time flew by, the miles were consumed, and Point Arena got closer and closer.

The view from my room. The hardships I endure are overwhelming.

Funky hotel, with a number of spectacular sculptures in the courtyard.

That would be me, way up at the back. Where WiFi doesn’t reach.

We finally arrived, and after some not-particularly-graceful flailing around, we finally figured out how to climb up to the hotel we were staying at (which happens to be perched on the edge of a cliff). Judicious use of gravity allowed us to park the bikes without fear they would fall over on the slope of the parking lot (not an illegitimate concern). We checked in and got settled and sorted for our day, before once again heading back down the hill for dinner. This time by foot.

That part was easy. The wander up would be a completely different proposition. Despite our deep-fried “tea” of an hour early, Breton was starving. Or possibly thirsty. Maybe both. The good news was that the portions at the seafood restaurant on the wharf below us were huge. The more awkward news was that our eyes were bigger than our stomachs.

I thought I was being reasonable, starting with the calamari and then the crab-stuffed salmon with a salad. I was deluded. Breton ordered a large garlic cheese bread, large Caesar salad, and the seafood chowder in sourdough. Which made me look dainty by comparison. We did what we could. A family of four could have fined on the remains. It was a delightful meal, washed it all down with some fine libations. To then attempt the march back up the cliff face. Or stumble. Breton’s allergy drugs were kicking in.

Up there. WAY up there. That would be where we need to climb back to.

Where we are staying is a little bit off the beaten path. Cell phone service is sparse. While the hotel theoretically has WiFi, I’m in the last room on the property, and it doesn’t quite manage to get that far. So while I am pretty much keeping pace on updates, sharing them with the world is a larger challenge.

Suffice it to say that I am having fun. Even better, there are four days still to go.

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