Watsonville to Monterey: challenges and beauty

12/8/21

[No internet last night, on the 8th, so I’m posting this a day late.]

What a day! It ran the gamut from sublime, to yuck!, and then back to sublime.

I said goodbye to my wonderful Watsonville hosts after we shared some nice breakfast bagels with Miyoko’s vegan cream cheese. They even sent me on my way with a generous container of their delicious rice salad from last night’s dinner. (I think it may be my breakfast tomorrow!)

The day was overcast, and a bit chilly for my liking, as I pedaled away from their house, but I was pleased that it wasn’t raining or windy, nor even as chilly as Portland at that time. Plenty of blessings to count.

The roads outside of town led me through a wilderness area that, while not visually dramatic, still somehow felt unique compared to anything I’ve ever seen: Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. The trees, the rolling hills, the slough itself: they all lent a unique feeling to the place. Cypress trees became commonplace as I rolled along. And when I stopped to photograph a large expanse of wetland, what should I see but the Amtrak Coast Starlight train chugging by on the other side of the water! I hadn’t expected to see it—didn’t realize I was paralleling its route—but it was a good foreshadowing of some beautiful scenery that I would encounter later in the day.

At some point, the roads gave way to a dedicated bike path, which made for a nicer ride. And before long, I saw the sign for Pezzini Farms, and their “Choke Coach” (an artichoke-themed food cart) that my host had just told me about this morning. I made a point to stop and get a grilled fresh artichoke. Yum! That heart at the center… wow.

I continued along, and soon reached the Fort Ord Dunes State Park. That was where the really beautiful scenery started. As I alluded above, this scenery was the kind I have marveled at many times from the sightseer lounge windows of the Coast Starlight train, which runs right next to the ocean. It was so cool to see those dunes and their colorful cover from the other side, as well as up close and personal.

Unfortunately, not long afterward, the mist turned to rain. I had hoped to avoid the rain today, but I had no such luck. It soaked most of my clothes (luckily, all synthetic for this very reason, and designed not to get too cold while wet). The raindrops made it harder to see through my glasses. My theoretically waterproof new shoes began to feel uncomfortably damp. I had to grab a few things—my iPod, a few business cards—from the outside pocket of my hydration pack, and tuck them into my raincoat’s pockets. The worst part, though, was that I was close enough to the bay and the dunes that the wet sand began to get all over my bike. I don’t know exactly how harmful that is for the bike, but I winced as I watched the wet sand stick to various components, and cause a dreadful squealing upon braking.

Oof.

It was hard to enjoy the (otherwise spectacular) scenery with my glasses rainy and my mind preoccupied with my physical comfort and concern about my bike. It was also hard to use the touch screen on my phone for photography and navigation, with the screen and my fingers both wet.

Not the ride I had hoped for today.

But, inside of an hour, the rain stopped. I used my water bottle to rinse off the front brakes, at least, which helped me to feel a bit better about the bike.

I stopped for more photos of beautiful scenery, as I neared Monterey and remained on car-free paths.

In the late afternoon, after about 30 miles since I had embarked, I stopped for an early dinner at a much-ballyhooed all vegan Mexican restaurant, El Cantaro. Their menu was huge, so it was difficult to decide what to order, but I settled on vegetable enchiladas with pinto beans and green salsa, and then a vegan flan for dessert.

The food was indeed incredible. I did my best to savor every bite, but the whole time, I was wishing I could stay an entire week in Monterey, and eat there every day! If you ever find yourself in that area, definitely do not miss that place.

Sadly, I have but one night to spend in this town. Darkness was falling fast as I rejoined the bike path, passing by Cannery Row and street-sign pictures of John Steinbeck, on my way to my Warmshowers host for the evening in Pacific Grove.

When I arrived, I stepped into a delightful evening with my host, conversing about both of our travels and sipping Italian liqueurs in front of a cozy fireplace. This 1930s cottage is thoroughly charming, and he told me that you can watch the sun rise over the bay in the morning. Let’s hope I can wake up early enough to enjoy that.

Tomorrow I head down along Hwy 1, past Big Sur. I can’t wait! But for now, I’m also savoring all the magic from today.

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2 thoughts on “Watsonville to Monterey: challenges and beauty”

  1. Hi! I greatly admire your quest! I wish I could do something like that.. i am lone biker out here in Lompoc exploring the mountains of Vandenberg Space Force base. I recently climbed tranquillon peak which is about 2060 ft elevation. But long I haven’t. Although my bike is only a mountain bike. Eventually, maybe i will invest in a road bike.
    Anyways I just want to say great job! Keep the fight on aging! Be safe!

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