Bike Trip

Thursday November 18, 2021 — San Francisco, California

A photo of a mountainside full of trees, with a railing in the foreground.

I went on a bike trip last weekend with a couple friends, from Santa Cruz down to Monterey. It was really lovely — I love long-distance biking, and it was excellent as always.

I got a flat about 10 miles into the trip, but luckily my friend had a spare tube that fit my bike, so we stopped and fixed it on the side of the road. (pro tip: if you have one of the topeak bike pumps that do both presta and schrader valves, switching them requires flipping around two separate plastic bits on the inside of the pump — a fact which is highly non-obvious when you’re sitting on the side of the road with the wheel off your bike unsure if you’re going to be able to get it back on). Once we got that fixed, we decided to pick up a couple more spare tubes, and stopped by the REI in Santa Cruz, which by a very fun happenstance was having its grand opening that day — we took full advantage of the free coffee and donuts, got our tubes, and were on our way.

We stopped for some snacks at Manresa Beach, and after that were solidly in rural California farmland — it’s satisfying to see where food comes from, but also deeply depressing. I spent a lot of the ride thinking about the little bits of Cadillac Desert that I’ve read, about how the California groundwater is a resource that’s being extracted and depleted at astonishing rates, and farm-owners, who often complain that their local politicians aren’t advocating for their water rights enough, are actually getting some pretty incredible deals on water that’s being depleted faster than it’s being replenished. It’s sad to see water just being sprayed through the air onto fields, much of it being lost to evaporation, as California slips further and further into drought. One of my friends mentioned that a side effect of veganism becoming more popular is a global nut shortage, which results in nuts being grown in a lot of places that don’t make that much sense to grow nuts in during normal conditions — California included.

A photo of Wesley Aptekar-Cassels standing on a dirt road fixing a flat tire on a bike.

As we were biking along the farm roads, I got a second flat, and stopped to investigate more — two flats in 25 miles is probably a sign that something’s wrong with the wheel or tire, so we poured some water on the tube to try to find the hole. We didn’t really figure much out, though, and eventually decided to continue with just the one spare tube and some hope.

As we were biking along, I saw possibly the most intense moon illusion I’ve ever seen — the moon looked nearly twice as big as it ordinarily does. Wikipedia claims that the moon’s actual visual diameter doesn’t change depending on the angle in the sky, but after seeing this, I’m going to have to verify that myself. (This will also give me a excuse to play with stellarium, which should be fun!)

After some beautiful views and way more hills than I was counting on in Elkhorn estuary, we got to the coastal trail. It was satisfying to have biked from redwood forest to succulents and sand dunes in a day, and it was great to be fully separated from cars for most of the way between Castroville and Monterey. Biking along the California coast at sunset is just a wholly wonderful experience — I highly recommend it.

We got to Seaside (just outside Monterey proper), extraordinarily tired, just before sunset, checked into our hotel, ate an incredible amount of food, and then fell asleep just after 8pm.

We woke up at 6am the next morning, checked out of our hotel, ate a incredible amount of food at a diner, and then set off back north. We decided to switch up our route a little, and go back up through Moss Landing, which was a cute little fishing town. It meant a little more highway biking, but was worth it for the variety.

The second day, surprisingly, felt much easier, and we made it to Santa Cruz just before 2pm, which gave us plenty of time for lunch and hanging out.

I’m really glad to have done this trip, and I’m already thinking about my next ones. I think this winter will be for biking around Taiwan, and I’ll aim for a trip across the United States in spring or summer 2022.

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