Day 1
Riding from San Francisco to Los Angeles
Along the Pacific Coast Bike Route
It is 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday in late August. I'm in the parking lot on the Marin County side of the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge, as usual, is shrouded in morning fog.

There are quite a few bicyclists on the bridge this morning. Most are locals. I'm here to ride the Pacific Coast Bike Route across the Golden Gate and along the California coast to my home in Los Angeles. The route, which mostly follows Highway 1, will be around 500 miles. I'm hoping to ride it in six days, arriving home on a Thursday afternoon.

Come along.

The first five miles of the ride were some of the hardest. In order to get to the bike route side of the Golden Gate, I carried my loaded touring bike down a steep flight of stairs leading to a pathway under the bridge. Then I carried the bike up the stairs on the other side.

The bridge wasn't windy on this morning. In 1987 I rode over the bridge on an American Youth Hostels ride and almost got blown into the bay.

On the other side of the bridge, the route follows a variety of reasonably bicycle-friendly streets in San Francisco. Signage could be better, though. Eventually I found my way to the bike path that runs alongside the Great Highway on the western side of the peninsula.

Pacific Coast Bike Route Trivia: What city is sandwiched between San Francisco and South San Francisco? 

(answer at the bottom of the page) 

Somewhere around Daly City or Pacifica, I made my first wrong turn of the trip. I wound up on a very pleasant bike path that headed due south through a woodsy part of San Mateo County. I knew I was off course, but I also knew that I was going generally in the right direction. 

Besides, the San Francisco peninsula looks so narrow on a map. How far off course could I get?

The first segment of the bike path went past a reservoir, San Andreas Lake. At the end of the path, I was near a freeway (the 280, as it turned out) and found myself looking down at San Francisco International Airport.

Hmm. I'm going south, but I'm also east of where I whould be.

Oh, and there was one other thing about this place. It's right on the San Andreas Fault.

Eventually, I asked a cyclist wearing a Markleeville Death Ride jersey just where the heck I was and how I should get back on course. (These are the sort of questions that a cyclist can only ask another cyclist.)

He recommended following the path to the end and then taking Highway 92 west about 7 miles to Half Moon Bay. 

Highway 92 was interesting. It was hilly, but that was to be expected. It was also the road that a lot of people on the peninsula take to the beach. On a Saturday in the summer it gets a lot of traffic. And in some places it has no shoulder.

After a couple of miles of climbing, I enjoyed a long, cool downhill. I was glad to see Half Moon Bay. Time for lunch.

Now on Highway 1, the scenery turned  surprisingly agricultural. These hay bales are on farm land along the coast.
About 20 miles south of Half Moon Bay, near Pescadero, is the Pigeon Point Lighthouse. These days, it is operated as a youth hostel by Hostelling International.
The coastline becomes increasingly spectacular as the route snakes into Santa Cruz County.

I make good time on this segment, thanks in part to a tailwind.

On a steep downhill near Davenport I hit 48.8 MPH, according to my bike computer.


Of course, if you get sick of the coast you can always look the other way and gaze at the hills as you ride  by.
Here's a little more agriculture along the ocean, just north of Santa Cruz. I'm intrigued by this intersection of agriculture and the California beach culture. What do they call the guy who works this land? Farmer Dude?
I hit town about 5 p.m. Santa Cruz was my stop for the evening. But before getting to my destination, I passed a few city beaches.
The route went past the city's Surf Museum. Free Admisson.
My digs for the evening was the Carmelita Cottages, which are run as a youth hostel. The cottages and ground are charming, and the price is right.

If it hadn't been for a loud party thrown by the college students across the street that lasted until 3 or 4 a.m., it would have been idyllic.

After getting checked in and cleaned up at the hostel, I went out to dinner and a long walk around town. Here's what the Santa Cruz Boardwalk looks like from the the city pier at night.

Pacific Coast Bike Route Trivia Answer: Daly City

SUMMARY: 89.2 miles. Glad I got lost in San Mateo County. The bike paths were very scenic. Loved the tailwind into Santa Cruz. Tomorrow will be a short milage day.

[DAY 2: On to Monterey]