Under overcast skies I set out southward from Morro Bay.
The map I followed is designed to keep cyclists out of harm’s way by routing them to smaller, less busy highways wherever possible. I liked that idea, and I liked the seascape of Morro Rock and Estero Bay that it brought me.
What I didn’t like was realizing a mile or so later that I’d taken a wrong turn and was headed nowhere. Slowly. Uphill.
With help from locals, I recovered and pedaled back to Highway 1, reaching the precious but unstable bluffs of Shell Beach, then Pismo Beach by lunch.
Maybe you can ride the entire route without enduring many hills, but I doubt it. Besides the wrong hill I’d climbed that morning, I rode up a beastly one next to some fields south of Oceano. From the top, the view behind me extended to San Luis Obispo Bay and included the mustard blooming everywhere on the coast this spring.
After a half-hour of eucalyptus groves and golf courses came a long descent into the Santa Maria Valley. Dozens of square miles of farmland stretched north and south from my route to rolling hills at either end. I felt as though I was in the airplane scene from “North by Northwest.”
I was glad to finally reach the Santa Maria Inn late in the afternoon. But my right Achilles tendon made its displeasure known.
“Do you like pain?” it asked me. “You’re going to get it every time you ride more than 40 miles a day with all that weight on your bike.”
Fair enough – I had been pedaling for nearly six hours. But some days you kind of have to. Try telling your Achilles tendon that.