It took me two days to ride from San Miguel to the town of San Luis Obispo, and I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure each day. Heading south from San Miguel early on Monday morning, I had another song-inspiring morning pedaling slowly along N. River Road, which parallels the Salinas River to the east. Fields of hay are a common site, cut at this time of the year and drying in the sun. Whenever I come across one of these enormous oak trees I’m amazed, and can’t resist taking yet another photo of these majestic denizens of Monterey and San Luis Obispo Counties.
The next town I come to is Paso Robles, which has a nice bike and pedestrian trail called the River Walk running along the Salinas River (the latter being 170 miles long!) Continuing south I ride through the picturesque town of Templeton on their Main Street which has some lovely old homes like this one:
and some surprises, like this huge granary, a seeming relic of the past but still in operation.
In Templeton I was confronted, as I sometimes am, with finding a way to avoid riding my bike on 101. Thanks to Butch Briery’s guide to walking the Camino Real, and Google Maps, I was able to find a way which required fording Paso Robles Creek. It was a warm day, and pushing my bike through the ankle deep water was refreshing. Getting it up the sandy bank on the other side was a challenge, but a fun one. It took me back to my childhood days when I rode horses with my good friends Caralee Clark, Diane Dittman and others in the hills above Los Gatos, and on the Monterey Peninsula with Lisa Selle, Gayle Yohman, and Marta Fries, to name a few.
Indeed my bicycle, which I have yet to name, is not unlike a horse in some ways. I have reflected at times that while the cars and trucks that pass me are run by engines with hundreds of horse power, I am running on 1/10 of one horse power–my own, aided by the technology of the bicycle of course, which is a huge help. Those who walk the Camino are the true pilgrims. Perhaps I shall return to walking at some point.
I spent that night in my first motel, the Motel 6 in Atascadero. It was clean and adequate, but isolating. There’s something about motel rooms that makes the Bible found there especially pertinent. The only picture I took in Atascadero is of their city hall building, an impressive structure!
The next day, Tuesday, May 23, I went through still more beautiful countryside that also took me back to Los Gatos. It was warm, with golden meadows studded with dark, green oaks.
The hamlet of Santa Margarita is lovely, with more shaded homes (so intelligent to save the trees!)
and a short Main Street where I stopped for lunch in a deli-cafe. Here I picked up a copy of edible San Luis Obispo and was encouraged to learn about various camps and classes for children to teach them about growing food and caring for the environment.
Butch’s guide is written for pilgrims walking from south to north and it is surprisingly difficult to follow in the opposite direction. But with Google Maps and his guide I am finding my way. Cuesta Grade, an infamous pass connecting northern San Luis Obispo County with the the town of the same name is now dominated by Highway 101, but there is an old Stagecoach Road that remains on the southern side of the mountain. I did have to ride on the freeway for a while, but the shoulder was wide and roomy, fortunately.
It was a climb to the top, but finding Old Stagecoach Road on the other side with its vistas
and magnificent trees was an ample reward.
Riding down Cuesta Grade (on Old Stagecoach Road) was a real treat! There was no one else on it, and I felt so privileged to be off the main highway with its hundreds of cars and huge trucks barreling along at high speeds. At one point I heard the train that runs along the hillside to the west (though you can see the train track from the highway it’s not easy to hear the trains as they pass.) Finding this Camino Real marker as I approached San Luis Obispo Town was another auspicious moment.
I have spent the last two nights at the Hostel Obispo, a Hosteling International affiliate, where I have met people from all over the world, of all ages. The organization’s mission is to foster tolerance of other cultures by providing an intimate and affordable lodging experience for travelers. In my estimation it is a brilliant idea and it works. This hostel in San Luis Obispo is particularly homey and friendly. What a contrast it has been to my motel 6 experience!
I am enormously impressed with this town. More about that and its Mission, soon!