The Pinnacles and Salinas Valley Thanksgiving Ride
By Neil Mishalov
On the day after Thanksgiving, Laura Levy, Paul Williams and I drove down to Hollister to do a three day ride and burn off some of those excess calories from the Thanksgiving foodfest. It rained almost all the way to Hollister, but it was clear and cool when we started the ride. After cycling about 38 miles south on Highway 25, through some intermittent showers, we arrived at Pinnacles National Monument. The Park Ranger told us that they had less than a 1/8" of rain the previous night. The sky was clear and we camped just outside of the park feeling pretty smug about our good fortune in escaping the rain. However, it was cold! The "store" in the campground is open from 4-5 pm on weekdays, and we spent almost that entire hour in the store with our feet propped very close to the only electric space heater! We reluctantly left the store cycled to the camping area, put up our tents, and cooked "dinner". I had instant curry lentils with a can of tuna thrown in for good measure. Paul had some pasta, and Laura had some cereal.
I was sleeping when, at about 10 pm, I heard the first drops of rain splatter on the top of the tent. It rained quite hard at times, and the local animal population was letting their feelings be known; at about 2:30 am, a group of coyotes started to howl, their howling was shortly followed by the cackling of some wild turkeys. Then, later on, we heard the loud sound of a tree falling. Things were happening out there! The rain continued until 5 am the next morning, and some moisture entered the tent but, hey, it was still drier inside than it was out! Dawn on the second day was cold and clear, and the storm appeared to have moved east.
The original plan was to cycle south on Highway 25, then east to New Idria and back north to Hollister. We changed the route when we saw snow on the high peaks, and discovered that about 8 miles of road above 4,000 ft. was dirt (mud?). So, we put into effect "Plan B". We continued south on Highway 25 and at about 15 miles south of Pinnacles National Monument, we headed west towards the Salinas Valley. After climbing up to the summit of the Bitterwater-King City Road, we had a very sweet and fast 10 mile descent to King City. Many of the fields in the Salinas Valley were being harvested, and we saw fields of red chili peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cactus and assorted greens. A glorious sight to see. After some vittles in King City we mounted up and cycled north, up the Salinas Valley.
We followed secondary roads on the west side of Highway 101, and the headwinds were strong, so it took a lot of energy to crank up the valley. We passed west of Greenfield and Soledad and about 4 miles from Gonzales, we spotted an immaculate 1960 Austin Healy 3000 parked on the side of the road with the hood up. Paul and Laura, the mechanics on the ride, stopped and attempted to help the young man and his girl. It seems that he borrowed the car from Pop, and did not even have a pair of pliers in the car! Luckily, Paul had some tools, and he was able to get the cranky electric fuel pump operating again. We then cycled into Gonzales at dusk. Since all of our "stuff" was still wet from the previous night, we decided to "motel-it" at The Lamplite, the only motel in town. The motel is small, clean, and after we took showers and cleaned up, it was out to the only Chinese restaurant in town. The food was delicious. The motel is located across the street from the train tracks, and we were able to hear and feel a few trains as they rumbled through town overnight.
On the third day we were up at 6 am, and out at 7 am for breakfast. Laura had potato pancakes, the biggest I have ever seen. She tried very hard to finish her plate, but, alas, there were just too many potatoes! It was cold clear, and at 8 am we cycled north, up the Salinas Valley, on Old Stage Road which is on the east side of Highway 101. There was no traffic and no headwinds, and we made rapid progress. Then we climbed up the scenic and desolate Old San Juan Grade and down to the outskirts of San Juan Bautista. After that it was an easy 7 miles back to Hollister.
Only one curious problem on the ride. On the second day Paul got a flat on Los Coches Road. I remained with Paul while Laura scouted out the territory ahead. It appeared to be a simple flat ... but it wasn't. Paul installed a new tube, but it would not take any air in the tire. So, I gave him my pump, and still no inflation. He removed the tube, and it took air when it was not in the tire. I gave him one of my tubes, but now his pump failed! So, I gave him my pump, and after inflating the tire to half the needed pressure, my pump broke in half! Now we were three riders with only one pump. Luckily, misfortune did not strike again!
Day One: 38 miles, Climb: 1820 ft.
Day Two: 71 miles, Climb: 2,110 ft.
Day Three: 40 miles, Climb: 1,230 ft.
Copyright © 1996 by Neil Mishalov. All rights reserved.
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