These are words describing California Highway 1 on the Central Coast.
Right now, it's an open secret that bicycle riders visiting California's Central Coast have the opportunity to ride this coastal road with very little car traffic, and it may be awhile before something like this comes around again.
The winter's rain storms wreaked a lot of havoc on California's states routes--you know--those small roads that connect large cities and small burghs. The section of Highway 1 between Gorda, in unincorporated Monterey County and Ragged Point to the south, is closed to car traffic because of damage from the winter's rain and accompanying mudslides.
More recently, on Saturday, May 20, another slide just south of Gorda completely buried Highway 1 under rock and dirt. Currently, Caltrans has no timetable for when that slide will be cleared and the highway repaired and opened to car traffic.
But out of the chaos that the storms brought there is a silver lining: the roads that are closed to cars are open to smaller vehicles -- bikes!
The state doesn't have a firm timetable for when the road will be open to cars again. However, we will keep this post updated as Caltrans gives out more information.
What Central Coast?
Technically about 350 miles (approximately from Santa Cruz to Ventura Counties), the region has amazing opportunities for exploring California's wild coast: Walking with the family on the uncrowded Moonstone Beach boardwalk in Hearst San Simeon State Park, mountain biking in Morro Bay State Park, and, what should be on every road rider’s bucket list, a two-wheeled roll along Highway 1.
Magical Highway 1
This highway's asphalt ribbons along the coast for most of its length. Once a major throughfare, it is the longest state route in California, although we're only interested in a small portion of it for this blog post: the stretch to the south of Ragged Point.
This act of the sometimes unforgiving attitude of Mother Nature is not without its silver lining for bicyclists: This stretch of the highway now has little or no car traffic.
Marvelous Central Coast
This part of the Central Coast has long been a favorite backdrop for movies, television commercials, and photographs. It is also a training ground for long-distance bike tourists, racers-in-training and marathoners.
And, why not? The sound of the waves crashing against the rock-strewn shore, the unparalleled views of rolling hills tumbling down into the sea, the peaceful road stretching for miles, makes traveling by bike along Highway 1 an experience of a lifetime.
Coastal Riding Tips
Although there are few cars on this part of Highway 1, that doesn’t mean there are no cars. So, cycle tourists, stick to the law while riding this beautiful area. Here are a few tips to remind you:
- Ride to the right of the traffic lane whenever possible
- Yield to faster moving traffic (both bike and auto)
- Wear bright colors -- it does get foggy along the coast and in the muted light, bright clothing stands out better than dark colors.
- Although it’s not the law for adults, wear a helmet. (This last is a recommendation.)
Getting to 1
Although the highway is closed to car traffic for a portion of its route, that doesn’t mean it's inaccessible by car. One access point is in Cambria, one of the small towns strung on Highway 1 like pearls on a necklace. Cambria is easily accessed via Highway 46 from Highway 101.
This little town is about 25 miles south from the end of the closed section of Highway 1 at Ragged Point. It sits about six miles south of San Simeon, home of Hearst Castle.
The town embraces its nickname,"The Gateway to the Big Sur Coast," with its welcome of visitors from near or far away, with two wheels or four.
From the town, you can travel Highway 1 north or south and experience marvelous world-class views and spectacular backdrops. For more information on what you can experience in Cambria, Cycle Central Coast has suggestions and information.
If you're day tripping the Central Coast, there is free parking in town at Shamel Park and Leffingwell Landing in Cambria.
The town also is worth spending time in. Here are some suggestions for restaurants and lodging in Cambria, put together by our friends at Cycle Central Coast. Visit Cambria has an app with all things Cambria so that you don't have to carry this blog post with you!
What to do?
Tour Hearst Castle
This castle, overlooking the Pacific Ocean from atop the Santa Lucia Mountains, was commissioned by media mogul William Randolph Hearst and is now a part of the state park system. Craftsmen labored for nearly 28 years to create this grand estate. Daily tours are offered.
Hike in Fiscalini Ranch
Fiscalini Ranch Preserve offers hikes with dramatic ocean views, quiet forested paths and wonderful displays of nature's diversity. Choose any of the eight trail entrances to explore the 437 acres of protected land.
Watch Nature in Action
The Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery, seven miles north of San Simeon, is home to about 17,000 elephant seals. The area is open for viewing year-round with no admission fees or reservations required.
On the Town
From antiques to boutiques and art galleries galore, each shop in Cambria is unique and just waiting to be discovered. Take a walk down Main Street and shop to your heart's delight.
A Bicycle Resource
If you find you need to do a little emergency maintenance, the Cambria Bike Kitchen, 1602 Main St., has tools to get your bike back into riding order. Because it’s all-volunteer organization, the Bike Kitchen has limited hours. Need help? Call them at (805) 909-9050.
The Eats & Drinks Scene
In the Visit Cambria app, you'll find the Wine & Beer Tour within the "Tours" section. There are two estate wineries in Cambria, but multiple tasting rooms for you to enjoy. There’s also a brewery in town.
Situated along San Simeon Creek in Cambria is a small farmstead artisan goat dairy called Stepladder Creamery. Interact with the goats and do some cheese tasting on your visit. Be sure to make reservations well in advance, and plan to go with a group to cut down on the expense (tours have a flat fee of $100, but you can split that between as many people as you’d like).
Soto's True Earth Market
2244 Main St.
This historic market has everything from deli meats and cheeses to natural trail mixes and local produce. Create your own picnic lunch as you browse the shelves—and maybe pick up a bottle of local wine or beer while you’re there.
4286 Bridge St.
The Café is the perfect stop for inexpensive lunch fare, with sandwiches, salads and soups that everyone will love. Tucked away in a charming corner off the main thoroughfare, this eatery is an ideal lunchtime escape. You can grab-and-go or sit down and relax.
7432 Exotic Garden Dr.
Centrally Grown has both a sophisticated restaurant and a less expensive market, depending on what you’re in the mood for. No matter what, you'll get delicious food thoughtfully created from fresh ingredients. You can even bring your own picnic lunch to enjoy on their grounds, where they often host live music performances and events.
1980 Main St.
For a high-end, delicious lunch Indigo Moon has modern American cuisine with the freshest locally-sourced ingredients. Don’t miss their specialty wine and cheese shop, where you can explore local wines and perfect pairings.
4095 Burton Dr.
Located in a historic adobe house, Robin’s features rustic touches and handcrafted meals that have become a signature of Cambria. Inspired by international fare and fresh local produce, meats and cheeses, Robin’s also features the largest selection of vegetarian cuisine on the coast.
Linn's Fruit Bin
2277 Main St.
When it comes to dessert, you won’t want to miss Linn’s olallieberry pie! It’s a Cambria specialty and is incredibly popular. You can get pies, as well as all kinds of olallieberry delicacies, at the variety of Linn’s stores in town.
Spend the night
Blue Dolphin Inn
6470 Moonstone Beach Dr.
Recently remodeled, this shorefront hotel is the perfect blend of comfort and luxury, located just steps from Moonstone Beach. Enjoy the privacy and amenities of this
unique seaside retreat, and enjoy a complimentary breakfast on the beach.
2476 Main St.
This award-winning Cambria bed-and-breakfast is a historic gem on Main Street. You will be blown away by their newly-remodeled executive chef’s kitchen, equipped to offer cooking classes—featuring olallieberries in abundance, of course. Enjoy your breakfast in the impeccably maintained gardens, with views of the creek beyond the trees.
J. Patrick House
2990 Burton Dr.
Tucked away in the lush Monterey pine forests of the Cambria hills is the J. Patrick House, a beautiful bed-and-breakfast. An authentic log home, this award-winning haven offers Irish country charm with impressive amenities—including a wine and hors d'oeuvres hour that guests rave about.
El Colibri Hotel & Spa
5620 Moonstone Beach Dr.
This Tuscan-inspired hotel and spa is nestled between the beach and the village center, boasting luxurious rooms with incomparable amenities. The wine bar, outdoor Jacuzzi, day spa and proximity to Moonstone Beach all ensure a stay at El Colibri will be wonderfully memorable.
7200 Moonstone Beach Dr.
This newly-remodeled, ranch-inspired hotel lies on nine acres right next to Moonstone State Beach, just steps from the ocean and moments from town. The accommodations here are distinctly stunning, and you'll love the lawn games and upscale, rustic décor.
Take advantage of this low-traffic section of the Central Coast while the road is still closed. Spring is a wonderful time of year to visit the Central Coast with its mild temps, sun-washed days, and now, low car traffic on Highway 1.
It will be just you, your bike, the sun and the ever-present sound of the surf crashing against the rocks to accompany you as you turn your cranks mile after mile along this iconic coastal road.
While Cycle Central Coast doesn't financially support this blog, the organization has purchased advertising in Cycle California! Magazine.