September 27 - From Big Sur to San Simeon

DESCRIPTION: Mileage: 69 miles. Terrain: Moderate hills with numerous climbs of 500 - 800 feet, followed by 20 miles of gentle rollers. Highlights: We followed the spectacular coastline to the almost-flat coastal grasslands approaching famous Hearst Castle. We ended the day on beautiful Moonstone Beach.

OVERNIGHT: Fireside Inn, Cambria (805.927.8661)


The group had to attack a long, steep climb "right out of the box," but the combination of leg warmers and low gears allowed everyone to make the summit, just past the famous Nepenthe Inn. The remainder of the day consisted of the typical coastal rollers, diminishing in height after lunch to relatively flat grasslands into San Simeon. Along the way, there was an option to visit the Hearst Castle, with or without a vehicle shuttle; about half the group opted for a two-hour tour of the gorgeous Castle and grounds with its incredible antiquities.

Above: This was the order of the day early on: sheer cliffs, many showing scars from landslides in years past...lots of challenging climbs and exhilarating descents.

Above: Morning glories decorated many of the cliffs...

Above: ...offering tempting food for hungry hummingbirds.

Above: Bob and Barbara rested, refueled, and rehydrated after one long ascent.

Above: We stopped for lunch at the Sand Dollar Picnic Area...

Above: ...where the ranger enlisted Pete and Jim's help in maintaining one of her kids' bikes.

Above: South of Piedras Blancas Lighthouse, there were numerous beaches with sunbathing elephant seals, begging ground squirrels, and opportunistic crows, all seemingly unperturbed by the humans moving among them; some of the riders managed to approach within a few yards of the huge seals.

Above: Just a few miles shy of our destination, we took a two-hour tour of the Hearst Castle, catching this view from the shuttle bus slowly winding up the hillside.

Above: Believe it or not, this is only the "guest cottage!"

Above: The often-photographed Neptune Pool was a favorite gathering-place for the rich and famous. Oddly enough, most couldn't swim, except for the likes of Johnny Weissmuller.

Above: The Castle was patterned after an Italian cathedral, and was designed by Julia Morgan, who had achieved fame by designing most of the buildings that survived the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Hearst never referred to this as a castle: he already owned a real castle in Wales.

Above: A water lily pond outside the castle was a favorite recreational spot for Hearst's pet dachshund. Since the dog's short legs prevented him from hauling himself out, the groundskeepers built a ramp.

Above: After the tour, Brian remounted his bike and hammered down the road to the inn. Other castle tourists--some of whose bikes are in the background--were John, Leonard, Mike, both Bobs, Harold, Barbara, and Jim.

RIDE STATISTICS: We rode 69 miles and gained 4800 feet total elevation, with a favorable high overcast in the morning, and bright sunshine and tailwinds in the afternoon.