Biking Monterey Bay

September 7, 2023

Biking Monterey Bay

As usual, I ended up with no real plans as Labor Day was imminently approaching. I would have loved to have just gone out on a road trip, (I do enjoy wandering,) but the last thing I wanted to do was drive in Labor Day weekend traffic. So, I started thinking about a bike trip. You can cover fairly long distances on a bike, and when paired with transit, gives you a lot of options. This would be my first multi-day bike trip, so I decided to go somewhere a little more local. I ended up going from Santa Cruz to Monterey, then to Salinas. I haven’t written here for a while, and I had a few interesting takeaways from this trip, so I thought I’d write a trip report.

Santa Cruz, Capitola, Sunset State Beach

There didn’t appear to be a lot of easy options for getting from San Carlos to Santa Cruz, so I took the lazy way out, and took the train down to San Jose, and the Santa Cruz Express bus down to Santa Cruz. On the bus to Santa Cruz, we were definitely sitting in traffic, but that was ok because I wasn’t the one driving! Once I landed at the Santa Cruz metro station, I embarked, heading through the city, and winding my way around to Capitola.

Beach view at Capitola

Another great perk to biking your road trip, besides never getting stuck in traffic, is that many California state parks have bike-in campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis. That means I could roll into Sunset State Beach and snag a campsite. No reservation required! There, I witnessed why that place is called Sunset Beach.

Sunset at Sunset State Beach

Elkhorn Slough, Fort Ord Dunes State Park, Monterey

The road from Sunset State Beach to the Elkhorn Slough took me on some larger roads than I would have liked, but otherwise it was mostly farmland, which was enjoyable to pass thorugh. At the Elkhorn Slough, you can see lots of marine wildlife, including various birds and kayakers.

Kayakers in the distance on Elkhorn Slough

As small of a town as Castrovill is, Olivia’s Restaurant there did not disappoint.

Carne asada plate with fresh squeezed orange juice

Fort Ord Dunes State Park has a well-maintained bike path, and upon arriving in Monterey, you can see paragliders off the coast.

Paragliders floating off the coast

17 Mile Drive, Carmel, Salinas

17 Mile Drive was a bit foggy when I rode it, but it was still beautiful.

The Lone Cypress along 17 Mile Drive

Carmel was a nice side journey, even though it added more hills to the route. I ended up eating at The Little Swiss Cafe, which was delightful.

Sandwich and Soup at The Little Swiss Cafe

Once I was out the other end of 17 Mile Drive, the road to Salinas was very fast thanks to a strong tailwind coming in from the coast. The road to Salinas also included both some of the nicest biking conditions, going through Cal State Monterey Bay campus, and some of the scariest ones, speeding down Reservation Road. Once I got to Salinas, my plan of grabbing dinner before catching a train back to the bay area was almost thwarted as every restaurant but one was closed for Labor Day. There, my bike journey ended with a burger and root beer float from Dubbers, which still didn’t fully restore the calorie deficit I accumulated on that trip. I’ve been pounding snacks ever since.

Transit Thoughts

One takeaway from this trip is that I love train and bus transit, but I wish I could love it more. I’ve taken Amtrak twice, and both of those trips have had delays. Because of the delay this time, I missed my transfer in San Jose, and ended up having to wait an extra hour for the next train to arrive. The transit stations also tend to be wanting in maintenance and cleanliness. Still, there’s a joy to being able to glide along the ground with your bike in tow, watching the scenery go by. I really wish at some point it could become a better experience logistically, to the point where it could become preferred over driving or flying when those are also options.