This year was the 5th edition of our annual adventure along California's beautiful coast! Each year we have done a slightly different rendition; from 3 days to 7 days, from Eureka to San Luis Obispo, and one time we decided to go all out and start in Portland, Oregon. You can see every detail to completely recreate any of these adventures on my website including precise routes, food stops, and lodging for each trip to date. This year our overall plan was to ride from Trinidad to San Luis Obispo over six days. This was a lofty goal given both the distances of each day and the unpredictable past, present, and future weather forecast for California. The buckets of rain that have been falling on Californians everywhere have done a number on the roads, and we knew going into this adventure that this could create a few obstacles. But we were determined to try, so on the 13th of February we rented a minivan and headed for Trinidad!
For me our coast adventure each year is like Christmas. I count down the days until it is time, daydream about day's ride, and I can barely sleep the night before because the excitement gets the best of me. Olivia always asks me what I love so much about this trip, and I have such a hard time answering because it isn't just one thing, it is all of it! I love the epic-ness of cycling. I love how hard it is, and am admittedly a bit addicted to the feeling of total exhaustion after a long, hard, amazing day on the bike. The coast trip takes this attitude and multiplies it exponentially! It is day after day of riding until you want to fall over, with beautiful views, and a cozy campsite with family to look forward to at the end. My Dad and Cort (my step Mom) come all the way from Utah with their RV and drive ahead of us each day to set up camp. To me, this is pretty darn unique, and I love getting to spend this week with them, seeing incredible places, eating delicious food, and making smores by the fire at night.
Over the past four coastal adventures, we’ve learned that a successful coast trip shall consist of a few key ingredients; good planning, good support, a lot of coffee, and large amounts of food! Olivia is the route planning extraordinaire, I’m the campsite picking guru, and collectively and admittedly often somewhat last minute we pull together this extravaganza. Many lists are made; bike equipment to bring (after booting tires the first year we learned to always ride with not only spare tubes, but also tires). The food we need to pack (after scavenging through corner stores in the middle of nowhere eating everything in site due to some EPIC hunger flatting we learned to plan ahead in the packable ride food department). Clothes needed both cycling and casual (I admittedly wear the same Lulu tights and Equator hoodie nearly every day so keeping the casual clothes on the light side is an easy one, but planning for various weather conditions can be tricky in the lycra department!) And last but not least, coffee equipment! You guessed it; I hauled my Baratza grinder, Hario kettle, weighing scale, and about 5 pounds of Equator coffee (El Salvador and Guatemalan single origins to be exact) all the way north and then all the way back south! 6:15 AM each morning I would pop out of bed and brew up a pour over to start our day with a bang!
The first three days were pretty spectacular. The Lost Coast will always be one of my all time favorite rides. It is a stretch of the coast that is so rugged and so isolated that it feels like a secret only you know. The roads on the route out to that stretch of coast are epic, steep ups and steep downs, potholes that could swallow a car, and no time to recover, but the views are worth all of that ten fold. No matter how many times I ride that final right-hand turn on the descent towards the lost coast, it never gets old. The view is so breathtaking you have to stop, take it in, and smile at how lucky you are to be in such a magical place.
On our second day, we hit a few obstacles, but it only added to the adventure. We began in Myers Flat and rode the windy Avenue of the Giants towards the turn off for Leggett which is the beginning of Highway 1. Once we got to the corner we saw the road closed signs and quite a few warnings about the road condition, but of course, we flew right passed them, how bad could it be right? That is until we were forced to stop by dozens of road workers and more tractors and dump trucks than I’ve ever seen in one place. Thankfully Olivia has some serious charm, and she sweet talked her way through the rubble. The first landslide was child’s play, just a bit of mud on the road, which left me wondering why they were so adamant that we would be unable to cross it. Then a few miles up the road we reached the real barrier which came in the form of the biggest landslide I had ever seen! Carefully we hiked up and over it, cyclocross style, stopped briefly to dig the massive amounts of mud from our cleats and headed on towards the coast on a car-free road! Again I felt like we had found ways that no one knew existed, feeling as though we were the only souls for miles. We hit the coast and flew past Westport towards our all time favorite stop, Mendocino.
The Mendocino to Jenner day was the highlight of our trip. It was one of the shorter days milage wise, so we got to relax a bit in the morning and have breakfast with my Dad and Cort. We set off in beautiful sunshine and had gorgeous coastal views all day. Anna Grace met us about 20 miles from Jenner, and we got to cruise along one of my favorite stretches of road with one of our favorite people. We made it to Jenner just in time to have a quick coffee and snack at Cafe Aquatica (a cozy little spot right on the water) and then pedaled the few miles we had left to our campsite on Wrights Beach. We got to the campsite just before sunset, so we went out for an evening ice bath in the crashing waves! We capped the night off with a proper campsite BBQ, smores and all! To me, it was a perfect day.
However with bliss and perfection, we were bound to hit some bumps, and we woke up the next morning to some of the worst weather I’ve ever experienced in the Bay Area. Pouring rain and howling winds, not ideal for an 110-mile ride from Jenner to Half Moon Bay. We put on brave faces and headed out into the craziness, fenders, lights, rain gear and all. We told stories to distract each other from the fact that it was pretty miserable out, and we even managed to smile and laugh at the situation. However 3.5 hours in we realized we hadn’t quite made it half way, we were soaked to the core and were quickly approaching the point of no return. We made the collective decision to abort the mission and ride to Fairfax (where Olivia and I live) take warm showers, eat a healthy lunch, and drive the rest of the way to Half Moon Bay. It was a tough decision, as a group of bike racers, epic experience enthusiasts, and just plain competitive souls we didn’t want to give up on the adventure. But in all honesty, it was getting a bit dangerous, and I think it was the smartest decision we could have made. 4 hours in pouring rain and 20+ mph wind was epic enough that day.
The next morning also proved to be a bit harrowing as we woke up to another rainy day and even stronger wind, dangerously sharp. We deliberated and finally came to the decision that we would ride as far as Santa Cruz because that direction was all straight tailwind. Once you get to Santa Cruz, you turn inland until you hit Monterey and the crosswinds at 30+ mph could get a bit dodgy. We headed out and zoomed to Santa Cruz in one of the fasted, most fun tail winds I’ve ever experienced! We flew, and the day was semi-salvaged.
Unfortunately, I can’t say so much for the last day of our trip. Our original plan was to ride from Carmel to San Luis Obispo which is one of my all time favorite stretches of road. However the crazy California winter has done some pretty severe damage to that stretch of the coast, and with landslides and crumbling bridges, Highway 1 through Big Sur is closed indefinitely. Not wanting to give up all together we decided that we would still stay in Carmel and do a fun ride around the area. We were staying between Carmel by the Sea and Carmel Valley, so we cruised up and around both areas, went back and forth on the 17-mile drive and enjoyed the little spots of sunshine we got between rain showers.
Every year we call our trip a "coast adventure," but this year we were indeed given the experience part. With ups and downs, rain and the sun, dirt, and mud, and a quite a bit of wind just to keep us on our toes, it was nothing short of adventurous.
Tayler Wiles | Professional Cyclist