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Pacific Coast Sections 4 & 5

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The wife and I are going to start in San Francisco and bike both sections 4 & 5 of the Pacific Coast tour starting on 18 July 11.  We are still putting the final touches on stops and logistics.  We plan to stay in hotels/hostels the entire way down.

Suggestions and experiences are greatly appreciated.  I'll update this periodically with our plans.

We are going to take our cross bikes instead of our tandem in order to be able to take the train back up to Nor Cal. 


How could I go about getting the elevation gain and loss on this route?  I'm hoping it will help me plan how much mileage I should plan on each day. 


--- Quote ---How could I go about getting the elevation gain and loss on this route?
--- End quote ---
The ACA maps have the profile info on the back to add up the numbers.  Although it's hilly, none of the climbs are very long; and the tailwind going south in the summer will make it easier.  Below Los Angeles, the hilliest parts I can think of is probably Laguna.  I tend to go a little too hard on those short climbs, but in a few places you feel obligated to go hard because there's no room for cars to pass you in the right lane.  It's still a pleasant ride, but always be careful of people opening car doors and getting surfboards out, or coming out to go into the shops or parks, and the constant parking and unparking.  Between L.A. and the border, the biggest single climb is Torrey Pines in northern San Diego, and it's only about 385 feet of climbing in a mile and a half, about a 5% grade IIRC, so it's not like going into the mountains and climbing 5,000 feet with no break.  An awful lot of the trip is either uphill or downhill though.  Not much is flat.

We have, BTW, taken our tandem in the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner California cars' baggage car quite a few times, with no box, no charge, just leaned against the shelves with the drum brake set and the stoker's bars bungee-corded to the supporting pole, and it worked fine.  The people who answer the 800-USA-RAIL number will tell you you can't do it, but the ones who actually run the trains are more flexible and they don't want to turn away business.  The first time I did it, we were with a group, and the Amtrak people helped us figure it out to avoid splitting up the group; then subsequent times when they showed doubt, I just said "We've done it before and it worked out fine" and they responded with basically something to the effect of "Ok, you know what to do then..." and just let us do it.  The California cars might not go as far north as you want to go, so you'll have to check.  I think they only go up to San Luis Obispo.

Great info!  We are still working out the details about lodging and such (not sure if we want to haul camping gear).  I think we are just going to re-gear our cross bikes so we can carry the bags and go from there. 

I rode down the coast two years ago and stayed in hotels along the way.  The only place I had to camp was in Big Sur.  I was there over Labor day weekend and didn't want to pay an exorbitant price for a room.  Camping was only $5 or $10 dollars and the warm shower was about $0.75.  Depending on how far you want to ride each day you shouldn't have trouble finding a place to stay.   When I left Big Sur I stopped at Deetjen's Big Sur Inn for breakfast and had a great meal.  I liked to stop at small mom & pop places to eat breakfast.  I got a good feel for the locals that frequented these places.  One restaurant in particular was a small place in Guadalupe.  Just a little store front in a farming community.

I rarely made a reservation.  I would leave at about 7am and stop riding about 2 or 3.  I'd then see what hotels were in the area.  Never had a problem finding a room.  I didn't bring any cooking gear and never went hungry either.

I enjoyed my time in Monterey and Pismo Beach.  If I do it again I'll plan to spend an extra time in those towns. 

The only train that goes up to the Bay area is the Coast Starlight.  It runs once a day.  You should be able to catch it in Santa Barbara for the trip up the coast.  The bike box is $15 and $5 handling for each.  I've done it many times with no problems.  (I do zip tie my handlebars to the top tube.) 


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