Ragged Point - Winterlude 2020 - CycleBlaze

December 1, 2020

Ragged Point

Birthday ride!  The big LXXIV!

But don’t get excited - this isn’t that birthday ride, when I attempt to ride my age in miles again.  That ride is going to wait until longer days are here again and we’re in flatter terrain than we find around here.  Maybe we’ll return to Chico in the spring, and we can look forward to 74 miles of walnut groves.  That would be perfect, really - with less interesting terrain I won’t be tempted to stop as often.

Still, the ride on the actual day is pretty special, not least because of the perks that come with it.  I get to select the ride.  I get to pick the music for the video.  I get to stop for pictures to my heart’s content, and I even get to have company.   Rocky’s on her best behavior today, and doesn’t even fly off in the distance leaving me to cycle along alone.  Pretty special, alright.

It won’t last long though.  Tomorrow she’ll wake up singing, some silly tune about not having to be nice to the old guy any more.  Nice.

The ride I’ve chosen is north along the coast, starting from Cambria, about 20 miles north of here and continuing to Ragged Point at the south end of Big Sur.  Epic cycling country that many readers will be familiar with from their own cycling experience or reading others’ journals.  

It’s dimly familiar to us too: I first biked solo down the west coast to San Francisco in 1980; then again with Mike Kent, a stepson in a former spouse, biking him to his fathers home in LA; and with the currently constituted Team Anderson in the fall of 2008 on a ride from San Jose to Santa Barbara.  Aging memories being what they are, they’re pretty dim for both of us, so we don’t have a clear picture of what’s in store when we start out.

Like every day for as far as the forecast can see, it looks like a perfect day for a ride here - just what the birthday event planner ordered.  Clear, mild winds, an expected high near 70.  As we drive north to Cambria we keep an eye on the roadside to see how it looks for a different ride we’ll take before we leave here.  It looks fine - abundant shoulder, scenic, surprisingly light traffic.  We’ll definitely be back to ride this gap in a few days.

About a mile from Moonstone Beach where we plan to leave the car, we suddenly encounter fog.  It’s chilly and unwelcoming as we haul the bikes out of the car and set off north, wondering how long we’ll be biking through this stuff. 

At Moonstone Beach. Chilly, grey, unwelcoming. Not the ride we were anticipating.
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The fog is very localized though.  It’s already starting to burn off by the time we pedal out of the parking lot, and within a mile we’re cycling beneath blue skies again.  Conditions for the entire ride are beautiful.

We bike north in a modest headwind as we cover the low-profile miles of open rangeland south of San Simeon.  The country feels immediately familiar to me.  I couldn’t conjure up a mental image of it before, but once I’m in it again it all comes back.  

About five miles into the ride we’re interrupted by a phone call I think we need to take: it’s mom and dad, calling with a birthday greeting.  As is the it tradition, they break out in a very nice happy birthday duet as soon I answer.  It’s impressive that at their ages they can still carry a tune and sing so clearly!  We chat and catch up on each others’ lives until we start getting too chilly standing around in the breeze and then start cycling north again.

A half a mile from the car, we’re in the clear again. We’ll be enjoying scenes like this for the next ten miles.
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A view east to the interior.
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This photo makes it look like we’re cycling some lumpy terrain, but it’s all easy riding. The low rollers are actually nice because they break up the headwind for a bit.
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The view west while I take my birthday call. Not bad, chatting with the folks while we watch the pelicans soar past. Rachael tells me that that there was a deer nearby also that I hadn’t noticed.
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Not long afterwards, we come to what must be the premier sight along this stretch of the coast: the Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery.  For about a seven mile stretch of coast here, elephant seals arrive in large numbers several times a year to lie around on the beach, fight to establish dominance, give birth, and molt.  They call this the haul-out, a period of several months when these huge animals leave the ocean and their food source, fasting until they return to sea again.

Sea elephants were hunted to near extinction in the 19th century, but have made a strong comeback in recent decades.  They started hauling out at Piedras Blancas in about 1990, and now roughly 25,000 of them come ashore here - about a tenth of the worldwide population.

They put on an amazing show that you could just keep watching all day as they flip sand on their backs to cool off, nudge and bump into each other, inch clumsily along the sand like two-ton slugs, grunt and groan.

We keep spotting them well past the reserve, splayed out on the beaches.  In one channel a group of them thrashes around in the muddy inlet, ramming each other’s necks and fighting for dominance.  A fantastic show.  For a change, I remembered to take a video before it was too late.

Sausages.
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Do you mind!
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Warring giants.
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A huge beached male, I think. The females don’t have the beaked peoboscis that the bulls do.
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The whiskers and eyebrows are highly sensitized, and an aid in their hunt for food. They can feel the movement of fish swimming nearby through the slightest disruptions in the water.
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So that’s awesome, a perfect birthday present.  The rest of the ride north is awesome too, as we continue through open ranch land past San Simeon and garish Hearst Castle high up on a ridge to the east.  A few miles later we come to the only climb of note in today’s ride, up to the inn at Ragged Point.  

Time for lunch, and for a good long look north up the southern coastline of Big Sur.

Near San Simeon, but where’s Rocky? I said she rode with me today, but here she’s biking ahead a ways hoping to find a wee bit of roadside shelter.
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The lighthouse at Piedras Blancas. I’d like to bike out there, but it’s covid-closed at the moment.
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A closer look at Piedras Blancas lighthouse, since we can’t bike out that way today.
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I’m not sure, but I think a Swainson’s hawk. Definitely not a red tail.
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Bill ShaneyfeltCould be. After half an hour of digging, I still can't say... Raptors are so variable! The black beak gives me trouble. Possibly a young bird?

Then again, I'm more of an amateur herper than birder.
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5 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltYou’re right. I didn’t pick up on the bill color, but it really is dark. I can’t find any photos of the likely suspects with a bill like that, but maybe it is a red tail after all. Or maybe an immature ferruginous? I don’t remember seeing such a dark hawk before. Darth Vader.
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5 months ago
Bill ShaneyfeltTo Scott AndersonWe need a good birder! There are some really good ones out there who would know at a glance. Desert lizards & snakes are my thing, but I don't see many here. (other than on journal pictures) I miss the desert.
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5 months ago
Worth a second look, since I seldom see Swainson’s hawks. This one looks just like a photo in All About Birds.
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Just north of the lighthouse. Note the sea elephants blanketing the cove.
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Entering Ragged Point, and the start/end of Big Sur.
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Birthday shot. The perspective is a bit odd here, like I’m perched on a kindergarten chair.
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Jen GrumbyLXXIV?!

No way!

That guy doesn't look a day over XLIX.

What a great photo!
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5 months ago
I remember this fabulous view north from the last time we biked through here. It was nearly the same time of year, and I have another photo somewhere that looks just like this. I think I used it on my calendar for the next year.
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With the wind at our backs now, the ride home goes fast as we glide effortlessly along.  Or it would go fast, if we don’t let ourselves get sucked in again by the elephant seal rookery.  It’s mesmerizing watching them.  Taken as a whole, there’s constant slow motion activity: a fin flips, and a cloud of sand flies up; an animal adjusts to a more comfortable position, disrupting its neighbors; a few grunts; a fight breaks out; a giant suddenly breaks free and waddles toward the shore but then just stops and splays itself out, inert.  You could watch all day.

Our we could, if we didn’t want to get back in time for dinner.  Right at 4 we’re down at the waterfront again, sitting at an outdoor table overlooking the sea, watching the pelicans soar past and a pair of sea otters cavort just offshore.  Happy birthday to me!

The view south from Ragged Point.
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Dropping from Ragged Point.
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A last look back toward Ragged Point. I hope we see it again. Earlier in the year we were considering biking south along the coast again, before we decided to go to Croatia instead. If we decide to do it again, it should be soon. The legs aren’t getting any younger.
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The view ahead: a long, empty road. The miles go fast, as we enjoy a substantial tailwind.
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Back at the rookery again, we stop in for a second look. We must be here for nearly a half hour until we finally pull ourselves away.
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Ron SuchanekThose seals bring back fond memories. . When I went to Alaska with my buddy Steve in 1992, we saw a bunch of seals.
One day we decided to try something. While the gaggle of seals were resting on the sun, Steve crept quietly and slowly towards the one particularly cute baby seal. He (Steve, not the seal) held out a Kellogs Pop Tart towards the majestic amphibian (hey, this is my story!). The adorable baby seal sniffed nervously at the delicious blueberry paste-filled treat. The look in his big brown eyes was touching. The seal's brown eyes, not Steve's. I don't know what color Steve's eyes are. And what does it matter? Anyway, seeing the seals trusting eyes melted both of our hearts. And as the baby seal, I called him "Krofts", as Krofts started to reach out to take the Pop Tart, I clubbed him in the back of the head and threw him into the bag. Seal hides (pelts? Furs?) were worth $8.50 back then, so not a bad return for the cost of a Pop Tart and 15 minutes of time. And, afterwards we split the Pop Tart.

Note: this story contains details and facts that cannot be confirmed, nor believed by anyone ever. Please direct your complaints to Rudolph Guliani, attorney.
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5 months ago
At Piedras Blancas.
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Thanks for keeping my belly cool!
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The road home. An awesome ride - stunning scenery without end, warm, a tailwind, with the road nearly all to ourselves. A hopeful start to the new year.
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Video sound track: Grandfather’s Waltz, by Stan Getz

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Ride stats today: 45 miles, 1,900’; for the tour: 366 miles, 9,200’

Today's ride: 45 miles (72 km)
Total: 408 miles (657 km)

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Comment on this entry Comment 17
Bill ShaneyfeltHappy Birthday! Got above freezing and sunny today in Dayton, OH. Time to go ride! I could go for some of that western warmth.
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5 months ago
Patrick O'HaraHappy Birthday, Scott. You don't look a day over 54. Keep cycling. It's the fountain of youth. All the best.
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5 months ago
Tricia GrahamHappy Birthday Scott. Let’s hope next birthday the two of you will be biking somewhere in a world with Covid under control
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5 months ago
Bob DistelbergHappy Birthday Scott! You're an inspiration!
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5 months ago
Bruce LellmanHey, what Bob said is exactly what I was going to say. So, I'll say it too. Happy Birthday, Scott!! You truly are an inspiration.
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5 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Patrick O'HaraIt definitely helps with the youthful look that I don’t take any closeups.
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5 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Tricia GrahamThat would be great, and yourselves as well. One lost year is bad enough.
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5 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltI do feel guilty hogging all the blue sky and sun here. I’d definitely pass it around if I could.
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5 months ago
Tricia GrahamTo Tricia GrahamAt our age we can’t afford to miss a year of cycling!!
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5 months ago
Suzanne GibsonHappy Birthday, Scott! What a sensational ride you chose for your birthday! And good music for the video with the perfect title of course.
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5 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonOh, you picked up on the title! I love this piece, which as you probably know is from one of the great Getz/Gilberto albums.
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5 months ago
Kathleen ClassenHappy Birthday Scott. Here is to many more birthdays and many more bike tours.
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5 months ago
Jen GrumbyNot a bad way to spend a birthday!

Fabulous terrain, perfect partner, sea elephants .. a day that defies the trends of 2020.

Here's to a great year ahead and looking forward to reading your post about LXXV!
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5 months ago
Jacquie GaudetA belated Happy Birthday!

I don't think it's age affecting your memory so much as it being so full of cycling trips.
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5 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jacquie GaudetThank you, Jacquie. I’m sure you’re right - it’s only because we’ve been so lucky in getting to have these experiences that I start forgetting some. And actually, my memory has been selectively terrible since I was a young man. It’s not all that different now.
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5 months ago
Rich FrasierHi -

So I have a question for Rachel about what she's using to shoot the videos. What kind of camera and where is it mounted? The videos look great!

And Happy Birthday to Scott, too!
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3 months ago
Rachael AndersonI use a GoPro hero black and I mount it on the my handlebars. It’s a great camera! It has very good image stabilization, a removable battery so I can carry a spare and it allows for voice commands.
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3 months ago