Bikes, Dinosaurs, And Tecate Along The PCH

Achievement: #41. Ride Bikes in SLO County

I am about to tell you a tale of a horrifying and terrible day. Thankfully, the pictures taken on this day are quite gorgeous, and they will hopefully offset everything else about this event, which sucked.

We like to ride bikes in general, and we like riding on the Eliza Furnace Trail here in Pittsburgh, and we like riding bikes around the nice FLAT parts of Hilton Head when we go there to visit our family. And I’ve ridden bikes on the boardwalks of both Ocean City, Maryland and Wildwood, New Jersey, and both experiences were simply lovely.

Riding bikes in SLO County is NOT like that. Trust me.

In fact, the only good thing about riding bikes in SLO County is that it gives you an excuse to use the classic Craig Wolfley phrase, “My hammies are crampin'” repeatedly. (This is a quote he said during a particularly hot Steelers/Titans game in Nashville, when apparently, all of the team was having issues with hamstring muscle cramps. And we love saying it. Like all the time. Like even when we’re talking about arm injuries and concussions.)

Let me start at the beginning. In Avila Beach, you can rent bikes by the hour (or half- or full-day), and there is plenty of lovely FLAT land for you to check out. You can bike to Port San Luis, or you can do the Bob Jones trail, which is beautiful and set in the woods and away from traffic and hills.

Or, you can be like my husband, and decide that riding around scenic bike trails is not good enough for you, and instead, you need to bike eight miles and back (most of which somehow managed to be uphill both directions) to Pismo Beach.

To be fair, he had a good reason for wanting to do this: his latest children’s book is set in Pismo Beach, and the main character is a ten-year old boy who rides his bike all along the coast, and he wanted to do research and see if this is even plausible. So, I went along with it, thinking that we were eating enough on this vacation that I could use a nice, long bike ride to burn off the calories.

We made our first attempt on Wednesday in the rain, when we learned that a ‘slight misting’ while you are standing still balances out to a ‘torrential downpour’ while you are biking through it. We made it to the end of the Bob Jones trail, and our jeans were so soaked that we could barely pedal, so we turned around and went back to the hotel to clean up and head out for wine tasting, which can be done well even in inclement weather.

The next morning, after stopping at Nekkid Day Spa for massages to work out the quad-pain of the day before, we again rented a pair of bikes and set off in the sunny weather toward Pismo.

First of all, let me just do a little public service announcement here to remind everyone that just because it’s chilly and foggy in spots, you can still get sunburn. So, put on sunscreen and don’t wear your big Hollywood sunglasses. And wear a spaghetti strap tank top, even if you freeze. Trust me. It will be worth it when you don’t have farmer’s tan the next day.

Second of all, don’t expect that a multi-speed bike you rented from the beach shop will have its gears in shape when you’re trying to climb hills. Just don’t. If you want to do hills, find a way to bring your own bike on vacation, and make sure it can shift as needed, whenever needed.

And finally, don’t assume that just because you were a beast on two wheels as a thirteen-year-old you are any good whatsoever at twenty-eight. This little note is specifically for me, or anyone like me, who forgets that the phrase ‘just like riding a bike’ relates to your ability to balance on a bike, and not at all to the amount of leg-strength you have. My hammies were crampin’!!

Since our marriage amazingly survived this sloppy endeavor, I can now post the pictures that make it seem like we had a wonderful time riding bikes 🙂

Bike Ride in SLO County
This is how happy we were at the end of the Bob Jones Trail, when we were feeling invincible! (In other words, this is before we found any hills.)

Bike Ride in SLO County
This is the road sign for the Pacific Coast Bike Trail. I shudder at the thought that you could theoretically bike the entire Pacific Coast somehow. Maybe if you had Sidney Crosby thighs, you could. I bet his hammies are never crampin’.

Bike Ride in SLO County
First milestone of the trip: up the huge hill by the 101 (I walked my bike part of the way because of previously mentioned problems with getting my bike to shift gears), when we entered Shell Beach, the first bit of Pismo. I was still feeling like a million (tired) bucks here!

Bike Ride in SLO County
We took a slight detour along our trip to stop at the Dinosaur Caves. This is one of those West Coast things I’d always heard about, but never seen. Well, guess what? The Dinosaur Caves have neither. The cave fell in on itself back on the ’70s, and the dude making the dinosaur never finished it, so they removed its headless self and instead put up a sign about how great the Dinosaur Caves used to be. (I’m not making that part up – there is a sign with some pictures that says basically, ‘even though the Dinosaur Caves no longer have dinosaurs or caves, the memories of both live on in the hearts of Pismo Beach residents!’)

Bike Ride in SLO County
But it was still beautiful, and I was still feeling pretty damn proud of myself for getting this far, so all was not yet lost.

Bike Ride in SLO County
We were a little sweaty and sloppy, but the cold winds hadn’t hit us yet, and we kept thinking that since we were going up so many hills, the trip back would be way easier, probably downhill the whole way! This is what optimism looks like shortly before it is shattered.

Bike Ride in SLO County
Shortly after this picture, right after I had tried to use my phone to Google ‘where is the dinosaur at the Dinosaur Caves,’ my phone leapt out of my pocket and fell onto the ground… cracking the screen. And somehow, it took a picture as it was falling, so I have a great shot on my phone of the last seconds it was fully intact.

Bike Ride in SLO County
One of the last stops we made for pictures was this hotel right along the cliffs of the ocean. Pretty spectacular views, which was the only thing keeping us going at that point.

After we FINALLY reached Pismo Beach itself, we decided we deserved a reward for our hard work…

Bike Ride in SLO County
…which came in the form of flautas. Delicious, sent-straight-from-Heaven flautas, with refried beans and rice and guacamole and freshly-baked chips with spicy salsa!

Bike Ride in SLO County
Since I was feeling reckless after our ride, I tried out the Hellboy beer. (Don’t let that picture fool you, I am such a not-beer person, so I had about two sips of that and let Michael finish it, but I am proud of myself for trying the beer my favorite comic book hero drinks. If Abe Sapien had shown up, I would have broken into song!)

Bike Ride in SLO County
Where did we enjoy all this lovely Mexican food? Why, at Viva Mexico, of course! Seriously – if you are in Pismo Beach, go here. This was some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever had.

Bike Ride in SLO County
And I knew they were authentic, because they had things spelled wrong on their Happy Hour sign.

From here, we began our trek back, and there are no pictures. Mostly, I was swearing a lot, grumbling, and cursing the fact that my bike didn’t work. We switched bikes halfway through the trip back to Avila so that my husband could have his share of non-working bike. The wind picked up seriously while we were riding, and we were simultaneously overheating and freezing. If a cab had passed us along the drive, I would have strapped my bike to the roof and gotten a ride home.

Bike Ride in SLO County
But after about half an hour, we were finally back on the lovely Bob Jones Trail. It was still a good distance back to Avila from there, but at least the end was in sight!

Bike Ride in SLO County
And even better, there were wineries in sight. Because if I learned one thing on this bike ride, it’s that even the most horrible afternoons of exercise can be soothed with a good bottle of cab. Or zin. Or at the end of this particular bike ride, even some Boone’s Farm would have sufficed.

New resolution for 2011: ride bikes on flat areas from now on. Otherwise, those poor hammies.

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