I've had the opportunity to go through it more carefully. You mention the ride to Santa Cruz can be done in 3 leisurely days, but you recommend 2. I have been planning the 3 leisurely days option, so I wondered if there's a reason you recommend doing it in 2. From a things to see/do, would it be better to do this section in 2 days, and then spend a day looking around Santa Cruz?
Whenever I've ridden from SF to Santa Cruz, I gotten driven past Devil's Slide (I haven't ridden there since the tunnel opened) and done the ride in a long day. Adding the part from San Francisco makes it too long for a single day, which is where the 2 day recommendation comes from. In addition, unless you want to stop and hike or do some birding, there isn't much to do, other than ride a bike on that section of coast.
Some people prefer to do shorter days at the start of a tour or just less daily mileage in general, which is where the three day recommendation comes from.
Santa Cruz is a classic California beach town. If you surf, sail, fish, or jus want to lay on the beach, it would be a place to spend a day. Otherwise, San Francisco or Monterey offer more things to do and see and would be better places to spend a day. But, if you like Mexican food, don't miss El Palomar in downtown Santa Cruz for the best I've ever had!
From Santa Cruz to Monterey, I'm considering going on the Eastern side of Elkhorn Slough (http://connect.garmin.com/course/5598892).Â
I've not done it on a bicycle, though I have driven it. The slough is surrounded by farmland or empty fields. There are no roads into the slough and at low tide, there might not be much water, either. If you do take this route, be sure to know how you will link up with Del Monte Rd. Hwy 156 in Castroville is a busy road that might not be bicycle friendly. If you want to visit the slough, make arrangements to do a kayaking trip in. My guess is that you would access it via Hwy 1, which goes along the edge of the slough on the west side.
Quick question - I keep reading about hike/bike campsites. Just wondering what exactly they are....
For the most part, they are a single large campsite that has been converted into a multi-tent site that is shared among all the hikers and bikers in that campground that day. In my experience, there is a wooden table and a flat tenting area for each place where someone might camp in the hiker/biker site. They are great for bike tourists who are camping.
I'm also thinking of cutting out the Santa Barbara to LA section and catching a train, to save a bit of time and potentially traffic stress. Am I missing much by doing this?