Day Seventy-Six

Atascadero, CA to Morro Bay, CA to San Luis Obispo, CA

I had a hard time getting started this morning. Being on the road for so long, one develops a number of rituals. Packing clothing and computer equipment in dry bags, zipping up the panniers, pulling up the cycling shorts, zipping up the jersey, applying sunscreen, going over the day's route, filling the water bottles, checking the tires, pulling on the gloves, donning sunglasses and adjusting the rear-view mirror, clicking the buckle on the helmet strap... And as I did every one of those things today, I knew I was doing for the last time on this trip.

I got on the road at 9:30. I wasn't in much of a hurry since I only had about 35 miles to ride all day. I started out 17 miles from the beach. SR 41 was freshly paved west of Atascadero, but the job wasn't quite finished yet. I had to ride through a one-lane construction zone for two miles. Since Atascadero's elevation was over 800 feet, I figured that it would be an easy downhill ride to the coast. However, I was mistaken. Most of the construction zone was a substantial climb. I tried to keep up with the line of cars going my way, but I couldn't manage it when the road headed skyward. My consolation was that this would likely be the last big hill I'd have to climb.

A little way past the construction, I came to the Last Stage West Half Way Station. The restaurant was closed, but I took a few pictures. A construction company pick-up truck pulled up alongside me. The driver asked me if I'd been on the road before, then described the big downhill ahead and its narrow lanes. I noted that the construction would help me because it bunched up the traffic, just like it had back in New Mexico.

Sure enough, it was a good, long downhill, but it wasn't nearly as perilous as the man had made it sound. By this time I'd experienced a lot of downhills. I added one more forest to my total for the trip as I briefly passed through  Los Padres National Forest. The steepness eased after two miles, but it was still mostly downhill. I could see Morro Rock rising like a miniature Rock of Gibraltar in the distance from time to time, depending on the hills and curves. As it grew closer and closer, I knew that the end of my journey was near. When I reached the city limits of Morro Bay, I was only 50 feet above sea level. SR 41 ran into SR 1. I passed under the SR 1 bridge and in another block, I came to the beach. After 3,000 miles, I had reached the Pacific Ocean.

There was one more thing to do, however, and it wouldn't be easy. The road didn't go to the water, only to the beach. There were 750 feet of sand between me and the ocean. Over the past 2-1/2 months I had forgotten just how difficult it was to push a bicycle through sand. Although the weather was far less hostile than it had been at Tybee Island, the distance was greater. But after 3,000 miles, I would not be denied. My initial burst of energy waned as I bogged down in the sand. It was so hard to push that sometimes it was easier to lift it up and heave it forward. After several minutes of struggling, I got to the wet sand where the previous wave had just ended. As I pulled out my camera to record the moment, I got a surprise. The next wave was  higher than the last. A lot higher! Like ankle-high. My feet were completely immersed. This was more than I bargained for! I was glad I didn't have too many miles left to ride since my feet were soaked. After a couple of drenching waves, I'd had enough and headed back across the sand. For some reason, it seemed easier on the way back, even though I would have expected the opposite.

It was strange how my perspective changed today. For the past few weeks, I haven't wanted this trip to end. It didn't take much of an excuse to give myself another rest day along the way because that gave me another day to experience the journey. However, from when  I left the motel this morning to the moment I dipped my wheels in the ocean, I just wanted to be finished.

I had considered getting a motel room with an ocean view for the night, then riding to San Luis Obispo tomorrow. Then it occurred to me that I wasn't the kind of person who could drop $100 on a room without thinking all night about how expensive it was. Besides, it would be easier to do one 35-mile day rather than two 16-milers. At least it would spare me the unpacking and packing routine.

I called my wife, cleaned all the sand I could off of my bike and posed for a few pictures using my camera's timer. When I got back on my Americano, I had a hard time getting my left foot to attach to the pedal. I had lodged some sand into the cleat. Stopping to clean my shoe would have been the best plan, but at this point I decided to just endure it.  The right one worked fine, and the left one was okay once I managed to clip in. I just had to remember to disengage my right foot at stoplights instead of the left as I usually do. I headed back to SR 1 but chose to turn onto a bike path just before the ramp instead. It was the only bike path I could remember riding on the entire trip. I have mixed feelings about bike paths. I think bike paths imply to some motorists that bikes are toys that don't belong on the roads, and I get irritated when someone says, " How did you ride here? There isn't a bike path." On the other hand, many of the bike paths I have ridden were quite scenic and enjoyable, aside from dodging the other traffic on the path (for that reason, roads are ironically  safer for cyclists than bike paths (more accurately " multi-use paths" ) are).  This particular path didn't last long enough to make much of an impression. After a few blocks, I was on a bike lane on Main Street. At Beach Street I went west for a block just to see a nice view of Morro Rock. Then I went back east toward San Luis Obispo. I hadn't eaten all day, so I headed for the nearest gas station mini-mart. Since it was my last day of riding, I figured it was my last chance to eat like a touring cyclist. I bought an ice cream sandwich, and it was delicious. I veered onto Quintana Road, then at South Bay Blvd., I switched over to SR 1. It was an easy ride to San Luis Obispo on a wide almost-freeway.

I got to San Luis Obispo around 1:30. I saw a sign pointing straight ahead to the Amtrak station and decided I might as well pick up my ticket now it would be one less thing to do tomorrow. The ticket agent said I had to box up my bike. " But can't I just roll it on the Pacific Surfliner?" I asked.

" Yes, but then you'll have to box it in L.A." she replied. Considering that my train left at 6:35 AM, but I had a six-hour layover in L.A., it made sense to box it in L.A. I needed something to do with all of my free time there, and I wasn't keen on getting to the station extra early to pack it in San Luis Obispo.

I finally got to use another coupon from one of the discount  motel booklets  that I'd been carrying around with me. I stayed at the downtown Travelodge for $44 a night, a good deal compared to the $53 corporate rate that I found online. The motel room had a small bed but a lot of space. It was a bit luxurious by my standards, and it was also the most I'd paid for a room since Prescott, AZ. Although I hadn't ridden much, I still felt like taking a short nap. Then I showered and went out to find something to eat. The motel clerk had recommended a nearby Italian restaurant called Benvenuti. I had a feeling that I would be underdressed there, and judging from the menu posted outside ($15 pasta entrees, much more for anything with meat), I was probably right. I kept walking.

I ended up at another Italian restaurant, Vieni Vai Trattoria (no, they didn't play guitarist Steve Vai on the sound system). My meal was nearly spoiled by a bunch of noisy college students at the table next to mine. They were loud and obnoxious the entire time. " This wine list is pathetic. Let's go to the wine shop down the street and get something decent," one said. Two of them took off and returned a short time later, disappointed that the wine shop was closed for the night. When someone suggested they split a carafe of something, one said with disgust, " Well, whatever we get will be awful." Then one guy ordered a " cal-zone-ee." Nice try with the Italian, pal, but " calzone" doesn't rhyme with " pepperoni." And they were slobs, too--they left all sorts of litter on the floor. It didn't help that the kitchen was especially slow with my meal, so I had to endure them even longer (they came in after I did but left before I was finished).

The menu described my appetizer as " breaded sticks of mozzarella," but what I got was a breaded slab of mozzarella. It was good, but it was definitely fork & knife food, not finger food. The minestrone soup wasn't anything special, but it served the purpose of getting me to eat a few vegetables. When I finally got my entree, chicken parmigiana, it was really excellent. The chicken breast was a bit small but very flavorful.

For my celebratory dessert, I went to Fosters Freeze, a Dairy Queen-like California chain. I ordered an Oreo Twister, the equivalent of a DQ Blizzard. There was high drama as a little girl slipped, banged her head on a bench and tossed her ice cream cone as she fell. Of course, being a resilient little girl, she was not concerned about herself, but she was pretty upset about her ice cream cone! She was happy again when Mommy bought her another one. I waited until I got back to my room to eat my Twister. It was excellent, with tastier  ice cream than a Blizzard.

Totals for the day: 34.48 miles in 2:41:33 for a 12.7 mph average.

Click here to see today's photos.

Copyright 2002-2013 David Johnsen. All rights reserved.