April 5, 2016
By meriwether, Apr 9 2016 01:00AM
Some of you who are old enough may remember rock/country singer Johnny Rivers from the 60’s and 70s. On his 1968 album Realization (remember those - albums?) one of his songs was Going Back To Big Sur. The song and its lyrics captured the mystique, introspection, and back to nature tenor of the late 60’s and 70’s
“Going back to Big Sur
Wish I could leave today
I want to walk beneath those Redwood trees
Just South of Monterey
A little cabin, quiet and alone
No television, no telephone
Water trickling down this little stream
Makes you wonder, it it all just a dream"
I have made my trip back to Big Sur - that slice of California coastline situated between San Simeon and Monterey. It is truly one of the most dramatic and spectacular stretches of coastline anywhere in the world. Here the rugged and towering coastal headlands fall away precipitously to the Pacific Ocean in a breathtaking union of land and sea. Craggy cliffs and outcroppings and stand alone monoliths once attached to the headland are washed by crashing waves, and sea spray shoots skyward with each new set of rollers that meets a frothy end upon those rocks.
And I did "walk beneath those Redwood trees" while I was camping at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. In fact, Big Sur is pretty much the southern limit of California’s Redwood forests. The Redwood trees at this southern terminus of their range are a bit smaller than the giants up in northern California, but still so very impressive to walk amongst. The coastal fog which engulfs the coastline from Big Sur northward is sustenance for the Redwoods and aids them as they reach skyward to towering heights of 250 to 350 feet - the tallest trees on our planet.
This was actually my 4th time through Big Sur and 2nd by bicycle. My first was in 1969 when I flew out with my future brother-in-law Wayne to visit my sister Pat in Mountain View, CA. We all took a drive down the coast through Monterey, the amazing 17 Mile Drive through Pebble Beach, and then further south along the Big Sur coast. Only 19 at the time and not having traveled much at that point in my life, I just couldn’t believe that any place so amazingly beautiful existed. Author Henry Miller who lived and wrote in Big Sur called it, “The face of the earth as the Creator intended it to look.” Those of you who have never had the opportunity to drive this coastline, DO put it on your list!
Having said all this, the past week has been some of the most difficult riding of my entire journey. Although the scenery is just beyond words, the rugged nature of the coastline drops you down to sea level and then back up to three or four hundred feet above . . . and then back down again . . . requiring an unending series of climbs with steep grades followed by a plummet downward which is over all to quickly . . . and then the awaiting, inevitable, and much longer struggle back to the heights. There are very few level pieces of terra firma along the Big Sur coast!
But worse than the up and down challenges of the terrain are the incessant winds which blow with great gusto always, it seems, from the North. And it’s a cold, coastal wind that slices through sweat soaked cycling garb to chill to the bone, especially on those downhills. My first time by bicycle through Big Sur was 35 years ago in 1981with an American Youth Hostels group. We were a group of 10, all in our 20’s and 30’s, and cycling southward with the breezes. But this time 35 years on, the hills and the unforgiving winds make progress agonizingly slow for this northbound cyclist. My 50 to 60 miles days at best have become 30 to 35 mile days, and my energy is just sapped by day’s end.
My accommodations these last three nights have been Pigeon Point and Point Montara Lighthouses that were converted into Youth Hostels in the early 1980’s, salvaged from neglect and restored so that travelers and wayfarers may sojourn here for a night or two and take in these magnificent views. In fact, my aforementioned 1981American Youth Hostels cycling group stayed in these very same hostels just after they had opened to travelers young and old. Point Montara Lighthouse was our stopping point our first night out of San Francisco . . .
Speaking of which, currently I am only about 25 miles south of that City By The Bay where many people have left their hearts . . .
Proceeding on to San Francisco
Acknowledgement and many thanks to some new and repeat donors who have supported my ride with their recent donations to Habitat For Humanity and Save The Children: Ron Greller, Dick and Marilyn Halker, Bob Rex, and Dale and Vicky Wiltse. And thanks to all who have brought the donation total for both groups close to $16,000!
Amazing photos, amazing sights Al.
What's a trip through Big Sur without snapping a shot of a surfer girl!