11 Dec Ride Report: Central California (Video)
Well before REI announced their #OptOutside initiative, I had already planned a 3 day, 2 night bike tour to burn off that Thanksgiving dinner and avoid the Black Friday madness. So the idea to escape into Central California had been on my mind ever since I started my MeetUp group and was recommended by The Path Less Pedaled in my previous post of favorite destinations. This would be our most ambitious trip where it spanned more nights than the previous ones.
Central California by Amtrak
The trip started off similarly to many of our other trips; with a long train ride. This one was going to be the longest train ride I’ve ever been on (with the exception of the train ride home from Klamath Falls, Oregon). It was a 5 hour train ride from Union Station in Los Angeles to the San Luis Obispo station.
The train was fairly empty as I suspected that the majority of the train rides probably took place either before or on Thanksgiving day. Both Sang Hyun and I had our own seats to ourselves as we watched the beautiful landscape while dozing in and out of consciousness.
Meeting in SLO
We finally made it into San Luis Obispo after being delayed for 30 minutes. We were immediately greeted by another rider by the name of Sung who drove down from San Jose. He rides the exact same bike as I do, but in a larger frame size. It’s the same 2013 Salsa Vaya 3, which he bought used. Sung led the way into San Luis Obispo to a well-known gastropub named Firestone Grill. We enjoyed some good brisket and fries before we started our 16 mile bike ride towards Morro Bay State Park.
The ride was pretty much uphill all the way. It was especially so on Turri Road. Both Sang Hyun and I realized that this was the same road we were on when we both traveled down the coast in the 2010 and 2011 California Coast Classic rides. However, this time we were approaching it from the opposite direction. It wasn’t as tough as I remembered it had been as I climbed up the gradual to the top.
We eventually made it out onto the main highway to cross over to where Morro Bay State Park hiker / biker sites are just $5 per person. The site also had shower facilities. The campgrounds at the hiker / biker sites were really big. The rest of the campgrounds was fully occupied by people who were taking extended stays for the 4-day weekend.
Chilly & Windy
Sang Hyun and I still needed to buy provisions for the 2 nights, so we had Sung watch our stuff as we biked another 2 miles into Morro Bay to pick up groceries at their local Albertsons. We got back about an hour later in the dark and cooked our pasta dinner. The dinner was a tomato based pasta sauce with ground beef on penne. We ended up tossing about 1/4 of it as we were both full.
The rest of our night was spent in our tent, trying to stay warm in our layers of our clothes as the temperature dipped down to the mid 30s. The wind started to blow in the middle of the night as it kept infants at nearby tents awake and crying. Needless to say, it was not a great night to sleep.
Long Way Around
The plan for the next day was to reach our next campground at Cerro Alto, which was really only 10 miles away, but we opted to take a 40 mile loop around to get in some good riding.
Everyone packed up and ate breakfast before we hit the roads through Morro Bay onto the bike path which parallels Highway 1. We eventually found our way on Highway 1 and rode North before we turned right on Old Creek Road. This road took us up on great climbs through hilly sections of Central California. We were faced with really tough climbs until we reached Green Valley Road which navigated us toward Paso Robles.
We made past highway 101 before we rode through towns like Templeton and Atascadero. Sung had to leave us to travel back to San Luis Obispo that night to drive back home. Sang Hyun and I struggled up Highway 41 or Morro Road. It was a tough climb, but we finally hit the summit to cruise downhill into the Cerro Alto site.
Peace & Quiet
The site at Cerro Alto was very quiet. The site was a first-come, first-served location, so we found a really quiet and large site to set up camp; the cost was $18 per night. The camp host quickly tracked us down to pick up the fee.
We set up camp and prepared dinner as temperatures began to dip again. It was even colder that night, but we stuck through it and made it out of camp the next day. The site was relatively quiet compared to the night before. We had a hearty breakfast of pancakes and oatmeal before we started the most glorious descent down Highway 41. It was a good 5 miles of downhills. We both donned our puffy jackets as we soared downhill and enjoyed the wind as it was finally blowing in our favor – behind us.
Back to Town
We eventually made our way past Morro Bay and stayed on Highway 1 which took a more direct route into San Luis Obispo. The traffic was plenty as we slowly rode past parks, gun shops, men colony, and many strange looks from people. Unfortunately, none of them stopped. We trudged through and made it back into town with a few hours to spare. We ate at another restaurant at San Luis Obispo before heading back to Los Angeles by the Amtrak.
I am glad I got to travel through this region as it had been on my list of local travels for a few years now. The scenery is beautiful, but the traffic is high in some areas. Both campsites were very good with appropriate services. Morro Bay State Park having better amenities than Cerro Alto, which only has bathroom facilities. If you enjoy challenging hill climbs, this is the place for you. The road on Old Creek Road and Morro Road will feed your need for climbing.
If I were to do it again, I would probably drive up instead of taking the 10 hour train ride. It would make more sense to carpool up and the cost for fuel would still be way less than the money we paid for round-trip train ride. If you want a quick 3 day trip, this is the place to go.