Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Winter Riding in Monterey

M. and I have established a little bit of tradition of going down to the Monterey peninsula in December to spend a weekend chilling out. These tourist hot spots--Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur--in the summer turn into quiet and low-key destinations in the winter time. For one thing, cost to get a hotel room goes way down--we got a room in Carmel proper for less than $70 a night at a clean and cute place--and so does car traffic. And if weather cooperates--which it did this past weekend--then you actually get possibly even nicer weather than the summer time, and this area is prone to heavy fog and overcast sky.

We went down on Saturday and visited a friend in Carmel. We sat on a bench on the water and chatted, walked along Scenic Dr in Carmel, and went down to Rocky Point Restaurant in Big Sur for afternoon snack and enjoy breath-taking views of the coast and the famous Bixby Bridge. We came back to the hotel just after dark. Feeling much relaxed, we actually fell asleep before 9PM.

We got up next morning when it was still dark and got ready to go out for a short ride. This is M.'s second real ride on her way to full recovery from her knee injury. She didn't want tons of mileage, but wanted some more climbing than when we did a ride in Mendocino during Thanksgiving weekend. We got out of the hotel and climbed up to HWY 1. We got on to HWY 1 for a short while and turned off to get on Aquajito Road. The road is lined with trees and goes up for about two miles before descending down to north Monterey near the Naval Post-Graduate Academy. M. did well on the climb up, and enjoyed being able to ride hills again. We got on the Monterey-Seaside trail and went south. We saw a few other cyclists going the other direction.

The next 10-12 miles are pretty flat, as we rolled through the usually-busy areas of fisherman's wharf, Cannery Row, Lovers' Point, various beautiful state beaches, and of course the famous 17-mile drive. Car traffic was pretty minimal and we took in as much as the gorgeous ocean view as we could, and stopped occasionally to look at seals lying on nearby rocks.

We exited 17-mile drive and rode toward the Carmel Mission along Scenic Dr in Carmel. If you haven't ridden/walked on Scenic Dr before, next time when you visit the area it's a must. It's a stretch of ocean front road that connects the beach at the bottom of Ocean Ave and Carmel River State Beach. We turned north again after reaching the Carmel Mission. The way back to the hotel is a steady climb on Lasuen/Junipero Road. This is actually the most hilly part of the ride. The quiet but quaint neighborhoods provide a contrast to the expansive and busier water front scenes, but is quite enjoyable to ride and watch on a sunday morning. We rode past our hotel to climb the hill on Aquajito one more time before heading back to clean up and checked out.

In the afternoon we met up with our friend again and took a walk in Point Lobos, which is a former whaling cove and now a state reserve. And we sat on the beach for a little while longer to soak up more relaxation before heading back to the Bay Area. The riding was easy-going but extremely pleasant, and it was overall a very wonderful weekend.

The rest of the pictures are shown in the slideshow

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