Bike Ride: Monterey to Castroville

20140125_131011FromPSDFirst of all, I’m not a hard-core, 150 miles-a-week, 8% grade, off a jump, broken-collarbone bike guy. I’ll huff my heavy Trek 4300 up a rise looking for still lower gears and more oxygen only because I know that what goes up must eventually come down, and that downhill leg is going to be a boatload of fun.

So when Susie and I were chatting in a hotel parking lot with a group of people who were ringing in the new year with a ride from downtown Monterey to Moss Landing (about 19 miles or so, one way) I made a mental note to look into that little trek someday. It runs along Monterey Bay more or less, without any big climbs over the mountains that are everywhere else in sight. I reasoned, rightly so, that this was a ride that someone like myself, who might average 50 miles a month, could handle with a little bit of time and smart use of gears.

20140125_130938You’ll see bits and pieces of this trail all around Monterey Bay; it’s a smoothly paved path that runs just above Cannery Row, alongside the sand dunes lining the beach, the sidewalks in Marina and some wide open spaces north of the Salinas River.

My curiosity finally intersected with a fitness craving and a little extra time and I set out to find out if there really was a reasonable way to ride from Monterey to Moss Landing.

I got on the Monterey Bay Coastal Bike Path at the municipal beach area on DelMonte Avenue and headed North. I made it to Castroville and back in about 4 hours or so, and covered about 30 miles round trip. The route is available on Google Maps… just ask for directions and click on the bike icon.

While you’re presented with a pretty good switchback up the back of the dunes 10 minutes after starting, the ride is mostly rolling hills with the occasional low gear climb, mercifully followed immediately by a downhill blast.

20140125_125756The views are wonderful, and I had plenty of opportunities for side trips through the dunes to the beach in either Monterey State Beach or Marina State Beach. A detour might also be the Salinas NWR. Not too great for photo ops right now, as the drought has left most of the landscape pretty dry and largely flowerless. Well, except for the pesky invasive ice plant, which does offer some much needed colors of red and yellow to the otherwise colorless vistas.

Once I navigated the sidewalks along Del Monte boulevard in Marina, the path opened up as it crosses the Salinas Valley, and started to flatten out all the way to Castroville. Riding along the valley floor, DSC_9167I crossed the Salinas river, passed acres and acres of fields, an old railroad line and, just in time, Pezzini’s Farm store.

20140125_140914At Pezzini’s I tanked up on Gatorade and snacks. Thank heavens I didn’t have a backpack or I would have burdened myself with a heavy load of jars of everything artichoke: dips, pesto, marinara sauce or even an artichoke steamer. I came back last week on my way home from the university and picked up a stick of Brussels Sprouts and some pesto.

After about 2 hours, I touched down in Castroville, and headed back. Somehow the climbs seemed a little bit taller on the way back, and at one point, having thrown the chain off, I had to succumb to common sense, put the feet on the ground and walk up a rise.

While I didn’t go all the way to Moss Landing, I did get in some good cardio miles, saw a little countryside and finally stopped at Pezzini’s Farm store. And that’s the great thing about the bike path; you can use as much or as little of it you want, almost all on a dedicated paved surface, with moderate climbs and plenty of fresh air from Monterey Bay.

Kid Factor: (+) Car-free biking, beaches, some exploring, hiking. (-) Hills: slow going up, fast going down, limited facilities.

Fitness Factor: (+) Car-free biking, hiking, moderate climbs, plenty of friendly company.

Photo Factor: (+) Dunes, landscapes, lots of ‘stitching’ opportunities. Some flowers. A little bit of a challenge subject-wise, but that’s the fun of it. (-) Drought has left things pretty barren. Salt air, sand can be tough on your camera gear.

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