Inspiration - Steinbeck Country - CycleBlaze

April 23, 2022


Jim’s Uncle Bruce was a friend of John Steinbeck and a well-known local artist.
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Approximately a year ago, Jim (my better half, most of the time,) and I traveled for the first time since the pandemic, choosing to do a quick trip to Pacific Grove, CA to do day rides on our bikes. Jim's brother has a small vacation cottage there, which is convenient and affordable, and at that time few people were traveling and so the towns of Pacific Grove and Monterey were very empty of tourists, which was really nice for social distancing.

Our plan was to ride daily for 3 consecutive days and so on one of those days we drove to Carmel and rode up the Carmel Valley, to the top of the hill separating it from the Central Valley of California. The ride began with a mishap - 15 miles in, as we rode through Carmel Valley Village, Jim didn't see and hit a poorly marked curb and fell. He ended up with pretty nasty road rash on one hip and an elbow. Fortunately we had some hand wipes and band-aids to clean him up and he wanted to ride on, so we did.

The further up the valley we rode, the more narrow the road got but the traffic, which was pretty bad close to Carmel, dwindled to just an occasional ranch truck as the land transformed from coastal woodland to Oak savannah. At the end of the valley the road turned upwards for about 2 miles to traverse the coastal hills. We stopped at the top of the hill and wondered about the ride on in to the next town, Greenfield, in the Salinas Valley.

We turned around at that point but the seed of an idea for another ride was planted. Since that time, Jim mapped out a 4-day loop route leaving from Pacific Grove, riding first to Salinas, then up the Salinas Valley to Greenfield, then over the hill to the Carmel Valley,  down the Carmel Valley to Carmel, and then back to Pacific Grove on 17-mile drive. 

Along the way we will pass several buildings or locations associated with John Steinbeck, who grew up in Salinas and lived in the area for much of his life. Many, if not most, of the books and stories that he authored take place in and around the Salinas Valley and the Monterey peninsula. 

Steinbeck and Jim’s uncle, Bruce Ariss (, were friends. When Jim and his brothers were young, Bruce would tell them stories about excursions he took with Steinbeck and Doc Ricketts. These stories were usually told at what Bruce called the "Triumph Over Architecture", the house he built from mostly recycled materials during the great depression. The Triumph Over Architecture had no formal plans and evolved as the need arose and materials became available. The premier place for the young nephews to sleep was in the “captain’s cabin”, the wheelhouse from an old fishing boat mounted on what would have been the third floor. Unfortunately, the "Triumph Over Architecture" burned to the ground in 1990. Bruce, an artist, sometimes exchanged artwork for food and materials. Reproductions of many of his murals are now featured on posters and postcards at the Monterey Aquarium. 

That being said, our route is, roughly:

We will be self-supported  but staying in motels and eating out. This is our first self-supported tour since 2019 and will be a kind of “warm-up tour” for June, when we will head to Oregon for a few weeks to ride about looking at covered bridges. 

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Kathleen JonesI’m really interested in this ride. I know PG to Salinas to Greenfield pretty well, but never went over the mountains. River Road to Greenfield is great. Will you be stopping at the Soledad mission?

Have fun!
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1 year ago
Genny FoxTo Kathleen JonesHi Kathleen,
Thanks for reading. All the riding from Salinas to the top of the hill beyond Greenfield is new to us and we are looking forward to it. Good to know that River Rd is a good ride. The mission hasn’t been on our radar but we’ll consider whether we might stop or not.
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1 year ago