Thursday, April 5, 2012

A perfect little tour

I realized with some shock that Jodi and I, for all our adventuring, haven't been on a tour in a couple of years.  We both agreed it was about time, especially since, if all goes well, we plan to be on the recumbent trikes for about four months later this year.  It was high time we hit the road.  We knocked around several ideas, but we kept returning to the central coast for our tour, a return to the scene of a touring crime we committed eight years ago when we first got Django.  It was our first tour with him and made us realize that long distance riding with a 50+ lb bone head was possible.  We both had fond memories of the route and so resolved to go back.  The line is a large loop starting and ending in Paso Robles, California, a surging wine area with the landscape and beautiful back country roads to go with it: The Route.

We packed with great care, aided by the watchful gaze of The Hound.

After driving through an intense early spring storm, we spent the night at a La Quinta Inn.  The next morning, we were ready to roll, chilly and damp under clearing skies.

The first day's ride (33 miles; 2335 ft. climbing) took us out Creston and La Panza roads to Hwy 58:

Hmmmm.....There must be vineyards here somewhere...

I guess this bloke was keeping watch:

The day's riding ended on a stout climb, hard work in the afternoon sun, but we arrived at the best of all possible camps at the edge of a forested canyon, a world to ourselves: grey pines, pinyons, chaparral, hawks and falcons in flight, the ever present songs of meadowlarks and mocking birds.

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Day two (40 miles; 1832 ft. climbing):  The twelve miles we cranked on Hwy 58 were strenuous, but eventually we turned north on Bitterwater Rd., a virtually deserted, wild, seriously wide-open stretch of riding that starts out somewhat bleak but improves quickly.

Our second camp beside the cow-infested creek.   We were visited early in the night by a couple of locals in trucks, but they just pulled up to see what we were about then left, not even bothering to ask us what we were about.  Clearly the bikes, tent, and such answered their questions satisfactorily.  We were on the edge of "No Trespassing" signs.  We left no trace and moved on in the morning.  Almost all touring cyclists NOT towing Fido will be able to do the metric century to Parkfield and avoid this middle camp.  We arrived tired and ready to stop.  Further down canyon one might find more hidden spots, but we didn't know that at the time.  From this spot, riders are rewarded with a 5+ mile downhill run to Hwy 46--sweet beyond compare, a gentle, sweeping run through oaks, willows and the green grasses of spring.

Day 3 (25 miles; 630 ft. climbing):  This was the easy day but hugely rewarding.  After the morning run down the canyon, we jogged east on 46 past Cholame to Cholame Rd. and the route to Parkfield, earthquake capital of the world, home to the creeping "central creeping zone" and more seismographs than you can shake a Richter scale at. 

Nothing quite beats doggy joy in the grass--a major phreak show:

The Parkfield Inn and grounds:

Ah, the tough life of the touring cyclist:

Dog wood or wooden dog?  You decide:

This installation shows how far the San Andreas Fault has moved since 1931:

Do cowgirls in blue get the blues riding pink cows?

A locally grown and harvested, grass-fed New York steak and local Cab to fight off the calorie bonk:

Our camp behind the Inn:

Day four (32.7 miles; 1532 ft. climbing):  The numbers would suggest a fairly moderate, even easy day.  The numbers would be lying.  Those numbers don't include other numbers, specifically the grade we climbed early in the day, about 700 ft. in two miles that included long stretches of 10--12%.  Pictures don't do it justice, and the grey skies, while keeping the work cool, did little to inspire photography.   We were saved by the super-low gearing of our trikes made possible by the fantastic Schlumpf Mountain Drive, which give Jodi a sub-10 gear inch and me about a 10 gear inch bottom gear (I have a 26" drive wheel).  Even with these technological crutches, we were ready for crutches by the time we topped out.  Ouch!  But so worth it.  Each worthy tour must have its test.  The payoff is the 15 mile descent down the west slope, mile after miles of twisting, gravity-fed glory.

Back at the hotel (one short 16% slice of brutality to get there), reload and drive on home.  Successful tour in the bag:

I cannot recommend this tour highly enough.  If you only have a weekend and want to ride some rich, remote, and very quiet roads, this is the tour.  The road surfaces are sometimes lacking for sure but nothing that would keep an enthusiast away.  We had many times that we could ride side-by-side taking up the middle of the road without worry.  This is some of the best riding I've done anywhere.  So get out there.   Life is stinkin' short.  


  1. "Perfect" seems to be the appropriate word.

  2. Scott,

    So glad I found your blog! Like I commented before, I just ordered your book on Amazon, and looking forward to diving in!

    Funny thing about this entry of this tour: My family has had a 40 acre vineyard here in Paso Robles for 30 years, and I JUST moved back to Paso Robles this last week. I couldn't agree more...if you are here outside the summer months (temps on the east side of the 101 freeway can get over 115 degrees July-Sept), then you have great roads and amazing scenery. And, oh yeah, the wine isn't all that bad either!

    If you're ever out touring this way again, let me know, I'll take you guys out wine tasting!


  3. Hey, Dug: Thanks so much for the invite. I'm sure at some point we'll be out there again. Say, are you the fellow with the bamboo recumbent who's doing the big ride?

    Re. Paso Robles area: That region is amazing, and, if I recall correctly, it has some of the greatest temperature ranges in a day in the county during the warmer months.

    Again, best of luck on your tour. It will be a whole lot over everything for sure.