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A few tips regarding California State Route 1


Bill_Walker

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Bill_Walker

I'm sure nearly all the UN registrants are looking forward to riding California State Route 1 north from Cambria to Carmel-by-the-Sea.  If you're among those who have never ridden it before, this post is for you.  I've ridden it quite a few times in both directions, and drove it (in an RV, alas) just last Friday, May 14.

 

First, it's NOT Pacific Coast Highway (aka PCH).  This stretch is part of the section called Cabrillo Highway.  It's called PCH between Oxnard and Dana Point (LA-OC area), Cabrillo Highway between San Francisco and eight miles south of Buellton, and Shoreline Highway between Leggett and Marin City (north of SF).

 

It's an incredibly fun motorcycle road.  It's an incredibly scenic road.  And it's completely unforgiving of mistakes, with much of its length having cliff walls on the landward side and sheer or nearly sheer drops to the ocean on the seaward side, often without shoulders or guard rails, with tons of tight turns, half of which are blind.  This is a combination that warrants extreme focus and alertness.  If you're not feeling 100%, you should probably choose to ride a different road that day.

 

Added to that (and what prompted this post after driving it), the road, being built mostly on the side of a cliff, is subject to slip-outs in one spot or another every winter (see the "Detour" thread for one example).  These are not always repaired to be particularly smooth.  I came around one blind left-hander (heading south, so I was in the seaward lane, and there was no shoulder or guard rail) and found that just as I reached the apex, the pavement dropped away a couple of inches.  I immediately thought how unsettling that would be on a motorcycle at speed!  And that was not the only such turn.

And of course, in July, there will be tourist traffic.  Legal passing lanes are rare, and turnouts, while not scarce, are not well marked (and safe but illegal passing areas aren't all that common, either).  And tourists do weird stuff.  On one ride, we got stuck for a while behind a car that came to a full stop in the road at every blind left bend, to shoot pictures of the stunning view to the south!

 

You can hoon it up on this road.  I know I have!  But I learned to drive, and to drive fast, on roads like this, and have spent lots of time riding them as well.  I have a good sense of what the road's going to around the corner.  If your background is flat, straight, roads, then know that you're in for a challenge and ride accordingly.  You'll love it anyway!

 

Moral of the story: assess your skills honestly, ride your own ride, and stop when you want to admire the view.  It IS a fabulous ride, but treat it with the respect it deserves.

 

Some more general thoughts:

As long as you're not afraid of heights, the view is better (and there are more places to pull off and admire it) going south.

 

There are several places to get gas (Big Sur, Ragged Point, and others whose names I forget), but if you fill up in Cambria and Carmel, you won't need them.

 

There are several restaurants on the route.  I think I got coffee at Ragged Point once, and haven't stopped at any of the others, so I can't comment.  Nepenthe is pretty famous, and also very popular.

 

I got a couple of shots showing some of the less challenging parts of the road:

IMG_8622.thumb.jpeg.275ec95834883b9ca7e85e3197c07bf0.jpeg

 

Looking north at the famed Bixby bridge.

 

IMG_8628.thumb.jpeg.9266c7ee7bc20332485ca4eb4b049d01.jpeg

 

Looking south from the same spot.

 

 

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longjohn

The scariest winds I’ve encountered were on CA1 headed north (I think between Lucia and San Simeon).  I was about 15min into these freakish things when I came upon a right hand turn, and as I was about 2/3 of the way through it they blew me part way into the southbound lane. Pucker!  Oy. Luckily they didn’t last much longer and I haven’t encountered any like those on that road since. 
 

edit. Oh be prepared for cold weather on CA1, like if you’re coming down from nascimiento-ferguson (which may be open by then) ' as you lose altitude the temp can drop dramatically. 

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BrianT

Good write up/tips Bill.  To add on to it, be prepared to be stuck behind very slow cars and RV's without much time/room to ever pass anyone.  If you want to hoon it up and enjoy the curves, I highly recommend getting on the road early in the morning before all the tourists clog it up.  I've done this a few times and nearly had the road to myself.  If you get on the road late, just plan on enjoying the views because you'll be at a much slower pace due to the traffic.

 

If you are of the slow down and take pics variety, there's a ton of kodak moment / postcard worthy views to take pics.  Bring your camera and enjoy. 

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Paddler

Probably best to use only the turnouts.  A buddy and I were in the "slow down and enjoy the road because we may never pass this way again" mode, pulling over to let traffic go by.  We were pulling out wherever safe, ofttimes onto gravel.  We suffered two punctures on consecutive days, one on each of our rear tires.  One was heading south from Leggett to Ft Bragg, 20 miles out from Westport.  Very inconvenient.  I resolved to not leave clean pavement after that. 

 

Another road that deserves mention is the one through Petrolia, south out of Ferndale.  Very tight and technical, almost one of a kind in my experience.  

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Rinkydink

Driven it but never ridden it. I will one day. 
 

The problem is you think you have time...

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longjohn
7 hours ago, Paddler said:

Probably best to use only the turnouts.  A buddy and I were in the "slow down and enjoy the road because we may never pass this way again" mode, pulling over to let traffic go by.  We were pulling out wherever safe, ofttimes onto gravel.  We suffered two punctures on consecutive days, one on each of our rear tires.  One was heading south from Leggett to Ft Bragg, 20 miles out from Westport.  Very inconvenient.  I resolved to not leave clean pavement after that. 

 

Another road that deserves mention is the one through Petrolia, south out of Ferndale.  Very tight and technical, almost one of a kind in my experience.  

Lost coast?

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Bill_Walker
7 hours ago, Paddler said:

Probably best to use only the turnouts.  A buddy and I were in the "slow down and enjoy the road because we may never pass this way again" mode, pulling over to let traffic go by.  We were pulling out wherever safe, ofttimes onto gravel.  We suffered two punctures on consecutive days, one on each of our rear tires.  One was heading south from Leggett to Ft Bragg, 20 miles out from Westport.  Very inconvenient.  I resolved to not leave clean pavement after that. 

 

Another road that deserves mention is the one through Petrolia, south out of Ferndale.  Very tight and technical, almost one of a kind in my experience.  


Good tips, but nobody's likely to get to those places on a day ride loop from the UN site of Cambria.  Maybe on the way to or from, though.  Although it is true that many (most?) of the turnouts on the Cabrillo Highway portion of 1 are also gravel.

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Paddler
39 minutes ago, longjohn said:

Lost coast?

South out of Ferndale, along the coast for a while, through Petrolia, then Honeydew, then back to 101 through the Humboldt Redwood State Park.  You can access the Lost Coast off that road.

 

But yes, a long way from Cambria.  

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Dennis Andress

Who do not know yet who lives near Reno and has room for a truck and a Kendon trailer for a few days....

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