Need advice: California coast highway 1

1:35 p.m. on November 20, 2012 (EST)
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I am still in 29 Palms hanging out till December 1st time. Thinking about going to the west coast to around Ventura and bicycling up the coast highway (1) to San Francisco?

I have been to Point Reyes and the Redwood forest area back in 1983 while visiting friends in Santa Roa/Petaluma. 

Is Highway 1 a nice route? By nice I guess is it safe? 

I just envision sparkling waters, golden sunsets on the water sights, smelling the salty air, hearing Seagulls and the other natural ocean sounds, and so much more!

I also am looking for relatively warm weather, rain maybe but "No Snow"... I understand there will be ups and downs just like anywhere on the worlds roads. Probably many inlets and rivers and creeks to make the dips and ridges.

The Pacific Ocean is the main reason I came this way.I haven't EVER slept on a beach of an ocean or sea anyway. I spent 2 years in the US Navy on the Atlantic Ocean, saw the sun rise and seemingly sink/sizzle into the ocean between Spain and the USA coming back from there. 

I know I can and will research this online, but getting information from those who have been there/done that, is the best!

Thanks

Gary

2:26 p.m. on November 20, 2012 (EST)
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Hwy 1 is one of the most beautiful roads to ride anywhere in the world. It is very popular with cyclists, and there are a number of campgrounds (California State Park System. It is mostly 2-lane, so you do have to be aware of cars. 

As for camping on the beach, there are a lot of restricted areas (private property), and along 1, a lot of the beaches involve pretty steep climbs to get down to them (watch out for the tides! on some of the beaches, high tide comes all the way up to the base of the cliffs).

2:29 p.m. on November 20, 2012 (EST)
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Thanks Bill S. Will try to remember that about the tides or be swimming! Have you driven the highway? Hope theres at least a shoulder pavement to ride on. Most roads have 'em but some don't. The highways here in around 29 Palms have drifted sand along them.

8:46 p.m. on November 20, 2012 (EST)
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Gary, I have driven the entire Hwy 1 from the Oregon to the Mexican borders - not in a single drive, but in sections. There is always construction on some part. Right now, there is construction going on for the Devils Slide Tunnel, but you can still take the old section that goes around on the slide itself. I have bicycled between Ventura and the Mexican border (there's a section from San Clemente to Oceanside that you go on the freeway, but it is marked for bikes), and most of the section from Big Sur (actually San Simeon) up to north of Bodega Bay. When I was living in the LA area (during college days), we used to ride from the Santa Monica area to north of Malibu and back for training rides at least once a week. You do have a lot of city from Newport to Santa Monica, with lots of beach traffic - no beach camping allowed, though people do it all the time. Same from Half Moon Bay up to the Golden Gate Bridge (no toll for cyclists on the bridge, but depending on the time of day, you have to stay on the cyclists side of the bridge and not on the pedestrian side). It is better north of the bridge. Big Sur and north of the Golden Gate, you have some long sections through the redwoods. And of course, Pt Reyes is a must for a couple days of hiking around and exploring in the seashore (several good campsites in the park right on the beach).

Parts of Hwy 1 are very hilly, though I wouldn't expect that to be a problem for you. There are some parts I haven't been on for years, so there may have been changes. And from time to time during rainy season, sections wash out (at Devils Slide, it used to be every year).

10:50 p.m. on November 20, 2012 (EST)
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Glad you made it out here. I'm sure you will love the 1. If you had gotten here 2 months earlier I would have invited you to Oregon. But now the rains have started. Enjoy the ride and the view.

8:52 a.m. on November 21, 2012 (EST)
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Don't miss the elephant seal beach near San Simeon! These were taken in July 2011:


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9:00 a.m. on November 21, 2012 (EST)
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And then there's little Darlingtonia State Park just off the hwy in S. Oregon -- Darlingtonias are "Corbra Lilies" or a type of pitcher plant that trap and digest insects.


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9:51 a.m. on November 21, 2012 (EST)
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As this morning is reminding us, we are just at the start of the rainy season. Morning fog and drizzle is the standard weather at this time of year for the North Coast. Along with frequent all day rain storms. So far it is looking like a non-drought year. So be prepared for cycling long distances in the rain. OTOH we do get a lot of gorgeous days mixed in during the winters, particularly in the Fall.

1:55 p.m. on November 21, 2012 (EST)
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I think Garys plans are to stay in the southern Calf area. But ya, we have been hit hard the last 4 days. I would think staying south of SF he will excape the worst of it.

2:53 p.m. on November 21, 2012 (EST)
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Gary,

The coast road is interesting, but somewhat dangerous for bikes.  I just returned from the Oregon coast which is like living in a cloud  this time of year.  You will be much better off in California south of Half Moon Bay.  Just use your experience to avoid the car traffic.  Maybe you can travel during the week when it is quieter.

Use your stealth to find camping spots.  Good luck and be careful.

3:44 p.m. on November 21, 2012 (EST)
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Yes, I will be staying south between Ventura and S.F. and may not get to northern CA till next spring. When is spring on the CA coast anyway? I am about to get my bikes gears,chain and rear wheel replaced soon to be sure I can finish out this tour without many problems.

And a month ago in southern Arizona I found a like new motorcycle rain suit, pants and jacket. The pants have the straps like over-alls and the straps that go under the feet in my shoes to keep them on both up and down. The jacket has no hood but I have a TNF rain jacket as well that does. And my Patagonia ball cap is water proof as well as a Alaskan wide brimmed hat. I usually wear bread bags over my socks in my shoes for water repellancy.

7:01 p.m. on November 21, 2012 (EST)
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June 10th or later for 101 Oregon. Most of the Oregon coast is public land and you camp where you want to.

9:18 p.m. on November 21, 2012 (EST)
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When is spring on the CA coast anyway?

Gary,  I live on the CA coast in Mendocino County.  If you are thinking of cycling north from SF I would be flexible.  Some springs are sunny, clear and very windy (30 knot winds day in and day out) in which case I would head inland and ride north on 101.  Other springs, like the last three, have been rainy, foggy and cool.  In which case I would head inland and ride north on 101.  

I'm also a cyclist and I'm extremely unimpressed with HWY 1 north of SF.  While the scenery can be breathtaking the road is narrow with no shoulders and plenty of blind curves.  People speed like they are on I-5 with very little regard for people who are on bikes or walking.  If you happen to be in Fort Bragg and you decide you want to head east on HWY 20 to get inland, I would take the bus over to Willits.  Riding a bike from Fort Bragg to Willits is asking to get hit by a speeding car.

I wish the road was better and I could tell you about what a great ride it is but to be honest I would head inland somewhere in Sonoma county and hit 101 just north of Santa Rosa.

edit:  sometimes people give opinions that they really aren't qualified to give.  To put my cycling experience in perspective I have been commuting to work since 1998.  My longest commute was 12 miles one way, for the last three years it has been a whopping 2 miles round trip but my afternoon commute home usually includes at least 5 or 6 miles on HWY 1. In all of the places I have lived the Mendocino coast is by far the most scenic and by far the most dangerous for a cyclist.  I will only ride about 10 or 12 miles north of town and about 14 miles south of town before I turn around and head back because of the road and traffic.  I'm also an avid mountain biker, ride an Xtracycle cargo bike to run most of my errands, go shopping, do laundry, and have a garage full of bikes.  I'm looking forward to moving back to Michigan where I'll be able to head out on rides in the 50-70 mile range and have plenty of different roads to explore.

3:37 p.m. on November 22, 2012 (EST)
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Gary, it's been a while since I drove down the 1, from San Fran to LA (including cutting over to the 101), but I remember it being fairly narrow. The PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) has shoulders and I think, bike lanes on part of it, but you need to be pretty vigilant. Too many lookey-loos watching the ocean and not the road.

If you don't have one, I would get one of those bright lime yellow windbreakers (the color of a modern firetruck). I have one made by Pearl Izumi that I got off eBay cheap. It's not waterproof and I just wear it for visibility. I quit serious road riding years ago, so no advice on that, given your years of experience.

If you are out in 29 Palms, you know what the weather's been like around here already, so just expect more of it.

8:27 p.m. on November 22, 2012 (EST)
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Gary,

I second Tom D's idea.  You can pick up a high vis safety vest pretty cheap if you can't find a jacket like he was talking about.  I've seen them for about $10 at stores that sell clothing and safety gear for road construction crews, etc.  Mirrors are a great idea too, mine are a little bit spendy but you can get decent mirrors at any Wal Mart or sporting goods store if you don't want to get a set at a bike shop.  Even our local Rite Aid (a drug store) sells them in their sporting goods section. 

If you head to the east coast and then north and you happen to be riding through the Muskegon, MI area check and see if I have moved out there yet.  There is a ferry between Muskegon and Wisconsin (Milwaukee????) that would make it easy to bypass Chicago.  Good luck!

1:24 p.m. on November 23, 2012 (EST)
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I cycled across from Wyoming to New York in 1983 and took a ferry from Wisconsin to Michigan.

As far as the pacific Coast is concerned I am having second thoughts. Maybe I should wait till sometime when I can see it with a friend driving or take Amtrak?

Maybe I will head back east and do the southern USA instead.  I am 123 miles from Parker AZ. I mainly want to get out of the desert for another while. I have been in it since Globe AZ and even tho it has its beauty I am tired of the long dry days between towns and rest stops. I wish now I had gone east from Show Low instead of west, but I got my interest of what southern California was like out of the way. 

I have traveled many roads with little or no shoulders. Here around 29 Palms the shoulders are covered with soft sand right to the edge of the traffic and mid afternoons are very busy with vehicles. I rode to the town of Joshua Tree to get fuel for my stove and see the cost of a new rear wheel at the bike shop there. I am going to have to put out about $160 for a new rear wheel, which is a big bite from my travel budget but I cannot go any further with out it, as the one I am on now has started splitting along the brake pad area.

Anyway thanks for all of your info on the coastal highway...

3:12 p.m. on November 23, 2012 (EST)
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Gary,

With all your experience doing long bike tours, I believe you would really enjoy Hwy 1. As I said earlier, I have biked much of the part you said you were considering. Again, given your experience and where you have ridden, much of what has been posted on the risks and danger is overstated. The most dangerous roads I have found over the years were in the MidWest (I have had people literally try to run me off the road in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio), New England, and Deep South (on training rides on back roads, both when solo and when in groups, we had many hunting dogs come after us and hang on for a couple miles at a time - good for sprint training, though). A team-mate and I got shot at with shotguns a couple times in Mississippi when out training. California Hwy 1 is far safer.

The density of bicyclists is higher along the coast than most of the US, and there are plenty of bike tourists along the Coast Highway. Yeah, we are getting into the rainy season. But from your descriptions, you have encountered far worse on your bike trips, like your 7000 mile journey. You would have cool ocean breezes most of the way, and when you get a little way north of San Simeon, you will get into the redwood forests. There are youth hostels along the way, too. We have two not far from where I live - the Sanborn Hostel just above Saratoga on Hwy 9 (from Santa Cruz, head up 9 over Saratoga Gap, drop down most of the way to Saratoga, and you turn into the State Park), and Hidden Villa in Los Altos Hills. Both of these are on the Bay side of the mountains. There are a couple of hostels at light houses on the coast side, one not far from Ano Nuevo where BigRed's elephant seal pictures were taken. 

3:25 p.m. on November 23, 2012 (EST)
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I think I am going to go east and come back another time to go south from Washington state. Going to Parker area then down along the Colorado to Blythe and over to Quartzsite and up to Flagstaff.

Thanks anyway!

3:49 p.m. on November 23, 2012 (EST)
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I am just bummed cause I have been in 29 Palms for a week and a half and still have another week to go. I am waiting on a new Katadyn Hiker to replace my broke one. I am waiting on info about a new bike rim/wheel and info about MedCal. I have to wait till the 28th before I find out about MedCal as the person to talk to is out of the office till then.

4:37 p.m. on November 23, 2012 (EST)
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Gary, I'm with Bill on this. As you know I'm on the Oregon coast and see thousands of bikers every year. In the 4+ years I've been here I have never seen any problems. But if you want to wait I understand. But next year start your travels down 101 around August 15th in Washington. That is the time the bikes are starting to really flow on the coast. Sept. is the best month to be in Oregon. And you will be well into S, Calf before the rains hit.

10:09 a.m. on November 24, 2012 (EST)
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"Again, given your experience and where you have ridden, much of what has been posted on the risks and danger is overstated."

Since ppine and I were the only ones who stated that HWY 1 could be dangerous I guess this is directed at one of us.  Huh!  Imagine that, seven years of riding on HWY 1 around here, I thought I knew the place!

12:24 p.m. on November 24, 2012 (EST)
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I would go with dm's advice...some places on 1 are downright dangerous for bikers. maybe drive it with a friend.

1:02 p.m. on November 24, 2012 (EST)
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Maybe I will get back there next August and try it when there are more other cyclists,makes it nice when I meet others.

Have heard its ncer to ride south than north also from a couple I met that rode down and some others. Would like to see the coastal areas from the Olympic park down.

1:36 p.m. on November 24, 2012 (EST)
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dm,

You missed the important caveat, even though you quoted it:

Again, given your experience and where you have ridden, much of what has been posted on the risks and danger is overstated.

Risk and danger are (1) very dependent on experience, skill, and training, (2) dependent on perception (fear and trepidation increases risk and danger, even to the point of creating it where none exists), and (3) risk and danger are relative.

For the majority of people, including many cyclists, I agree that there is a degree of risk and danger on Hwy 1. For someone with Gary's experience and skill level, the risk is minimal. Having ridden much of the route Gary proposes, and comparing it to riding in the City (SF), which I have also ridden a number of times, I would place the level of risk in SF as much higher than Hwy 1. There are roads within 10 miles of me (including some which I commuted daily by bike for a couple decades) that have higher risk than Hwy 1 between San Simeon and Bodega Bay.

This is the same as saying that climbing the NW face of Half Dome is extreme risk for most people, including a number of rock climbers, but low risk for rock climbers who have more than a certain experience level (remember that people have died on the cable route up Half Dome, though it is as safe as climbing stairs). Or saying that driving a F1 car on a given race track with no other vehicles on it is inviting certain injury for the vast majority of drivers, but is low risk for Louis Hamilton or Michael Schumaker.

Some people can head into the backcountry solo in mid winter with no problems, and some go into the same area in mid summer are in mortal danger before they even leave the trailhead.

We have had these same discussions about real vs perceived risk, dealing with risk, and the advisability of accepting a certain level of risk a number of times on Trailspace before. There is no one answer for everyone. But there is risk everywhere all the time in life. I live in Earthquake Country. The folks living on beautiful beaches on the Atlantic Seaboard live in hurricane country. People living in much of the South and Midwest are in Tornado Alley. Documented statistics show that more climbers die in car crashes on the drive home from a climbing trip than on the rock (the actuarial tables show that the average American has close to a 50% chance of being involved in a serious car accident at some point in their lifetime). Many of us born more than 30 or 40 years ago were told we needed to get "healthy tans", and now are keeping our dermatologists in fancy cars.

3:35 p.m. on November 24, 2012 (EST)
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Experience and skill doesn't negate the fact that the road is narrow, winding, has plenty of blind curves and that many of the drivers are paying more attention to the view than what is on the road in front of them.

Gary asked for advice and at one point made a statement about not getting to northern CA till next spring.  I'm not sure if he means north of SF and I confined my comments to HWY 1 north of SF.  Pointing out the risks and drawbacks of HWY 1 isn't the same as overstating them.  

I put in a lot of miles on a bike, on and off road, and talk to a lot of people who are touring the coast.  I hear the same thing from a lot of them, that they had no idea how winding and twisty the road was (even though they were warned) and how they were surprised at how much climbing they had to do.  People heading north against the prevailing wind usually have something to say about that too.  

4:02 p.m. on November 24, 2012 (EST)
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Road condition ("winding, narrow, idiot drivers") is objective risk. Experience and skill is what allows one to mitigate the risks. My personal attitude is that the drivers either (a) do not see me or (b) are intentionally trying to kill me. I ride (and drive) accordingly. I believe that Gary has the experience and skill to do the same. It is, of course, his choice based on his personal assessment of his experience and skills.

Again, Hwy 1 is not for all people, and in fact not for the majority of cyclists. The winding of the roads, the hilliness, the headwinds (I have experienced headwinds both directions on out and back century rides along Big Sur), rain at this time of year, heat in summer, the standard inattentive drivers are all part of the game that you have to deal with - sheer terror for the inexperienced and unskilled, no big deal for those with several thousand miles under their wheels.

Yeah, you have "lots of miles". So do I. But it isn't your experience or mine that counts when it comes to someone else riding the road. It is their experience and preparation. It is their choice and judgment, based on their own personal self-assessment.

4:47 p.m. on November 24, 2012 (EST)
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Bill,

No offense but you seem to have something to say about everything.  I'm going to bow out of this thread because I don't feel the need to one up everybody else and that is my impression of you.  If that isn't the case I apologize, but I'm not going to sit here anymore and let you nit pick everything I write.

7:00 a.m. on November 25, 2012 (EST)
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Good idea Gary. There will be cyclists all along the coast that time of year. And most seem to be going south. 101 is a must ride, or in my case drive.

I will agree with both dm and Bill. Some areas I think cycling is crazy, but there they are, having a great time. Beware of the hikers too. There are plenty of them walking down the coastline. See you next year.

1:55 p.m. on November 25, 2012 (EST)
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It would be neat to hike down the coast! Can one do it all the way down Oregon?   Guess water would be the only problem unless one had a solar sea water still? Are there streams and creeks along the way coming into the ocean?

I will have to research it more before I go next time.

9:43 p.m. on November 25, 2012 (EST)
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Gary,

If you mean literally hiking down the coast on the beach, there are a lot of sections where the cliffs come right down to the water. But a really great hike is the Lost Coast Trail in the far north of California, almost touching the Oregon border, about 25 miles and 3 or 4 days. I highly recommend it. There are some logistics to work out, including the shuttle from the finish end. There are a couple of good guidebooks available. You do want to pick your time of year and phase of the moon, though (at New and Full moons, the tides have to be timed just right to get around several headlands, unless you want to wade like we did - not advisable and maybe "foolhardy" is the word to describe it).

Lots of gorgeous stretches along the Oregon coast. I have camped along there at state parks on the way to and from climbing in the Cascades and BC and Alberta. I can't help with the hiking there though (don't you just hate it when people post useless drivel like that, just to see themselves on the Web {8=>D )

8:08 a.m. on November 26, 2012 (EST)
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You can't bring your bicycle, but if you want to have a Pacific Coastal experience, go the The Channel Islands National Park. No cars or highways, just miles and miles of coastal California the way it was 300 years ago. BTW, if you find a beach to sleep on, bring your ear plugs, this time of year the sound of the surf can be very loud.

9:09 a.m. on November 26, 2012 (EST)
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Yes you can hike down all of Oregon. Its the OCT (Oregon Coastal Trail). There are places that you have to walk 101. There are small clean streams all along the coast. And all the camping along the coast is free. Thats to say if you dont hit a park, or stay in a coastal town. The best time of year is Sept, less trafic. and the best weather.

The northern area is flat beach. Once you pass Tillimook you head over to the 3 capes this will give you an idea of whats coming up. Then flat beach again to Newport. This is where the cliffs meet the ocean. Down to Florence then a 40 mile dunes area to Coos Bay. There are many clean lakes within 1-3 miles off the coast in this area. This is the area I know best.

Coos Bay down to Bandon I'm not to sure about. But after Bandon you are on the coast again down to Calf. So much to see and only a month of walking you wouldn't see it all. But you would see more than most people that have lived here in their life time.

I love where I live! And in 4 years I have only realy explored a 20 mile stretch from Reedsport to Florance, and still have not seen it all. I'm kind of a walker and never take the shortest and fastest route. I zig zag around to much.

I've got a great book on the OCT I'll dig around for it and get back to you.

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