2001 San Francisco to Santa Clarita Bicycle Tour

My first bicycle tour
San Francisco, CA to Santa Clarita, CA

June 24 to June 30, 2001

Trip Route: Mostly along State Highway 1 and US 101, details in each day.

Total Mileage: 506 Miles

Started at the north end vista point of the Golden Gate Bridge, then headed over the bridge.
What a way to start a trip!

golden_gate_me_tall

Sunday, June 24 – Day 1 – San Francisco to Santa Cruz
Total Mileage – 85.5 Miles
Avg. Speed – 11.8 MPH
Total Climb – 4670′ (Most climb in one day on the trip!)
Motel

After arriving at the vista point at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge, I tested out my packing arrangement on my bike, then had my friend Joel, who dropped me off there, take a photo of me with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background as the start photo of my trip. He had to help me take my bike down and up some stairs to get to the other side of the roadway. We then said goodbye and good luck, and I rode off. The start finally! I said “Los Angeles, Here I Come!” and headed off. The weather was perfect the first day out. Temperatures ranged from the mid 60’s to the low 70’s by the middle of the day. Winds were even better – N-NW starting at 10mph. They grew stronger as the day progressed, almost pushing me up the hills by the end of the day!

I didn’t see many riding once I got past the bridge. Another cyclist on Skyline Drive asked me where I started, and where I was heading. I told him that I was heading for Los Angeles. Didn’t get the surprised reaction I thought I would. He said good luck, and continued to pass me. Most of the people I saw seemed to be out for just a day trip. Not me, this was just the first day, of a seven day trip! Since this was my first trip like this, and with the extra weight on the bike, I came up with a way to make the trip go easier. If I could make it the first 10 miles, I could make it through the first day. If I could make it through the first day, I could make it the rest of the way home. Seemed simple enough, and the first ten miles went fairly well. The following 70 miles went a little rougher, in spots.

State Highway 1 at Devils Slide. Visibility was great on Day 1.
State Highway 1 at Devils Slide. Visibility was great on Day 1.

The climb up to Devils Slide from Pacifica was the first of many big hills on Day 1. There was a lot of traffic and narrow shoulders which didn’t help, but I made it anyway! Once I got to the saddle, the winds blew at me, cooling me off. And what a view!

Highway 1 north of Pescadero. The shoulder here is pretty typical of the whole Peninsula section.
Highway 1 north of Pescadero. The shoulder here is pretty typical of the whole Peninsula section.

The coast here is great! I was surprised to find ample shoulders most of the was down from San Francisco. There are some short, but really steep hills though. The worst of the steep ones was just south of the Highway 84 junction near San Gregorio Creek. Felt like an 8% at least!

Santa Cruz / San Mateo County Line. Only 30 or so miles to go! My bike is parked at the sign on the right.
Santa Cruz / San Mateo County Line. Only 30 or so miles to go! My bike is parked at the sign on the right.

After passing the county line, I could see many kites flying in the winds that pushed me up most of the hills to the south. Food wouldn’t be had for many more miles though. I learned something valuable the first day. If you plan on riding in areas without services, bring food along! I planned to, just forgot to pack it. That, and bring sunscreen. Riding into Santa Cruz was really something for me. Not only had I ridden into town for the first time, but I rode there from San Francisco. That alone was a big ride for me, but only one part of the journey.

Monday, June 25 – Day 2 – Santa Cruz to Salinas
Mileage – 44.5 Miles
Avg. Speed – 12.0 MPH
Motel

When I woke up, I was surprised to find I wasn’t sore. That was a good sign. This day, however, would start to show me if I could make it. I hadn’t ridden so far one day, to ride far again the next. It was fun though. I took Soquel Drive, old Highway 1, through Santa Cruz, Aptos, and Freedom. Once I got to Rob Roy Junction, I headed closer to the coast, but I had to change plans, the road I was going to take into Watsonville was flooded. The detour was still quite scenic, passing through fields and over rolling hills. I stopped in Watsonville to get some snacks, and sunblock. It was a fairly easy town to get through, just busy. South of town, I took a side road that ran along the east side of the Elkhorn Slough. This was the highlight of the day. I saw plenty of birds, even some seals. Getting through Castroville involved a short section of busy freeway, but that was surpassed by SR-183, the road to Salinas. It was two lanes, decent shoulder, but busy. Finally arriving in Salinas, the motel was a welcome sight.

Tuesday, June 26 – Day 3 – Salinas to King City
Mileage – 62.0 Miles
Avg. Speed – 12.5 MPH
Motel

1930's bridge over the Salinas River on Gonzales River Road. Beautiful through-girder design. Great scenery too.
Bridge from 1930 over the Salinas River on Gonzales River Road.
Beautiful through-girder design. Great scenery too.
View of the bridge deck, with my bicycle parked alongside.
View of the bridge deck, with my bicycle parked alongside.

A fairly easy day, the winds were at my back most of the day. It was also a day that I was glad for good maps. At the south end of Gonzales, I found I couldn’t ride the shoulder of US 101. I had to backtrack to Gonzales River Road, then head over to the west side of the Salinas River. I followed that road, passing the Soledad Mission, to US 101. I then had to go north on 101 a mile or so to Soledad. At that point, I could finally get heading south, along the east side of the valley. If I had known the next day was going to be tougher, I would have made this day longer. I was going to camp at the edge of town, but decided to stay at a motel because I wanted to go swimming. It wasn’t a heated pool, but it felt good.

Wednesday, June 27 – Day 4 – King City to San Luis Obispo
Mileage – 94.5 Miles (Longest, and toughest day!)
Avg. Speed – 12.1 MPH
Camp

Day 4 had the worst weather of all the days. Instead of nice tailwinds pushing me down the road, I awoke to SOUTH winds gusting to 20mph! Not a good thing to have happen on the longest day! I ended up making each town a goal, hoping to make the next one. I stopped many times when the winds grew strong into my face. All day I was hoping for a break, and finally got one! I didn’t get to Paso Robles until around 5pm. It wasn’t until after Paso Robles, when the day was growing shorter, that the winds slowly turned to be crosswinds instead of headwinds. That was very helpful. I was too tired to fight more headwinds.

Old Highway 101 south of King City. This road doesn't have wide shoulders at all, but has little traffic.
Old Highway 101 south of King City. This road doesn’t have wide shoulders at all, but has little traffic.
Coast Ranges from south of San Lucas. This was one of the few fields without anything in it for miles!
Coast Ranges from south of San Lucas. This was one of the few fields without anything in it for miles!

Lunch wouldn’t be had until San Miguel, the first real services along the road. I had a nice plate of Fettuccini Alfredo and a coke. That held me over until San Luis Obispo, where I ended up at a fast food place to eat. Wasn’t bad though as I didn’t have the time to stay long. Darkness had already set in by then, and I still had five more miles to go until camp! I finally reached camp at the late hour of 10pm.

Only 252 more miles to Los Angeles! Of course, I was aiming for San Luis Obispo so, that didn't matter too much. 101 here has wide shoulders.
Only 252 more miles to Los Angeles! Of course, I was aiming for San Luis Obispo so, that didn’t matter too much. 101 here has wide shoulders.

Thursday, June 28 – Day 5 – San Luis Obispo to Gaviota
Mileage – 91.6 Miles
Avg. Speed – 12.5 MPH
Camp

View from my campsite at El Chorro Regional Park of fog rolling over the mountains. This was my first sign that the winds would be in my favor that day.
View from my campsite at El Chorro Regional Park of fog rolling over the mountains. This was my first sign that the winds would be in my favor that day.
Old US 101 paving uncovered during a resurfacing project on Higuera St. This made for a nice ride through the south end of San Luis Obispo.
Old US 101 paving uncovered during a resurfacing project on Higuera St. This made for a nice ride through the south end of San Luis Obispo.

I got an earlier start than most days on Day 5. I had to. I knew it would be a long journey, one with a few major hills and long stretches of flatlands. My day started off on State Highway 1, about five miles north of San Luis Obispo. I was going to eat in town, but decided to just continue on. I did get hungrier, deciding to eat in Grover Beach along US 101. The detour took me away from my planned course, and over a really steep hill. Wasn’t bad though. I needed the food. The next time I had anything decent to eat wouldn’t be until Buelton. I did grab some snacks in Los Alamos though. Worked for a little while.

Santa Ynez River Bridge on old 101 south of Buelton. This is just north of where you have to get onto 101 over Nojoqui Summit.
Santa Ynez River Bridge on old 101 south of Buelton. This is just north of where you have to get onto 101 over Nojoqui Summit.

After lunch/dinner at Buelton, I headed south over the bridge shown above. This takes you to US 101. I was thinking about taking another road, called Alisal Road, but decided against it as it would have added a couple of miles to the trip. By the time I reached this point, I was ready to climb Nojoqui Summit and finally reach the coast again at Gaviota. It was a bit of an adventure timing my crossing of some of the narrow bridges in the canyon with trucks coming by. I made it all right though. No problems were encountered.

Old Coast Highway, a nice alternative to 101 over Nojoqui Summit. US 101 is on the right side climbing the grade.
Old Coast Highway, a nice alternative to 101 over Nojoqui Summit. US 101 is on the right side climbing the grade.

I decided to take the old road over the summit instead of the present highway. It has less traffic and more trees. The grade is a bit steeper but isn’t that bad. I think it is about a 7% grade.

Another view of the beautiful Nojoqui Summit on US 101. The coast is just on the other side of those hills!
Another view of the beautiful Nojoqui Summit on US 101. The coast is just on the other side of those hills!
Railroad trestle at Gaviota State Beach.
Railroad trestle at Gaviota State Beach.
It was quite windy, holding onto my Coast Starlight hat.
It was quite windy, holding onto my Coast Starlight hat.

When I arrived at Gaviota State Beach, I saw a sign saying the campground was full! I was worried, but found out that the hiker/biker sites were empty. They only cost a dollar too! How very unexpected. I hadn’t spent much time at Gaviota before, but I found out one important thing. The winds get real strong there! Lots of blowing sand, which became a problem for a while in my tent. I moved my tent twice before finding a spot without sand. Other than that, I slept very well.

Friday, June 29 – Day 6 – Gaviota to Ventura
Mileage – 72.5 Miles
Stay at friends

The day started off cooler but warmed up nicely. At first, fog was coming in, but that burned off by the time I hit the Arroyo Hondo bridge. After spending a short amount of time there at the bridge, I heard someone yelling to me. I looked up, and a group of cyclists were passing by on US 101. At this point, I left to try and catch up with them. I finally did at Refugio State Beach. They had started their day at Lompoc, and were headed to Ventura, the end of their trek. Turns out they had started from nearly the same place I did, but a little earlier. They took the coast route the whole way, I went inland, and it still took us the same amount of time. I rode with them all the way into Goleta, and even had lunch with them. Santa Barbara was one of the few cities I was happy to leave. Lots of tourists (ok, so was I!), but lots of erratic driving. South of town, it was initially confusing following the bike route. It switched sides of the freeway a couple of times before Carpinteria, not always well signed. I made it though. Past Carpinteria, I followed both current and old US 101. Just before Ventura, near Solimar, I caught up to another cyclist that was touring. He was from New Zealand, and had also started in San Francisco. We talked and rode to Ventura, then split ways.

Saturday, June 30 – Day 7 – Ventura to Santa Clarita
Mileage – 55.0 Miles
Home

The last day of the trip started out late, I didn’t get out the door until 10:15am. Wasn’t in a hurry to end the trip. I took my time leaving Ventura, followed Telephone Road to Saticoy Avenue, thence to Foothill Road. Foothill Road is a nice alternate to Telegraph Road (Old 126), but has more hills. Nothing big, just more rolling. It takes you into Santa Paula, where after that, you have to take State 126. East of there, you have nothing but a wide shoulder and fast traffic. It seemed to get hotter the closer I got home. By the time I got to the west side of Santa Clarita, it was around 90F, the hottest for the whole trip. When I got home, the end of the journey seemed very anticlimactic. The last few miles weren’t any different than any other ride I had gone on before. It took a while for me to get over the fact it was over. The next day felt strange to me. For the first time in a week, I had no where to go. It was almost sad. But, there will be other trips, to other places.

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