PCH Tour: Big Push from Oceano to Refugio

Fields of Guadalupe

Day 53 – Everything was nice and dry when we woke up in Oceano. As we were packing up, one of the rangers approached us and mentioned that where we were set up was no longer a hike and bike area. They did away with it 5 years ago. We came in at dark and the map said it was there, so we set up anyway. She mentioned that they had a lot of problems with transients, but in the end she let us go, and we got a free night of camping.

Things were looking up. Michael and I hit the road. It was going to be a tough day. It was the last big day of climbs, with two 950 ft hills and over 4000 ft of total elevation climb for the day. It was mostly farm country, but the hills added a nice contrast to the flat fields. Some areas were freshly plowed. The dirt was fine and dry. Every time a truck drove through a field, dust would whirl around and engulf the road.

About 15 miles in, we came to the town of Guadalupe. Most of the stores were closed or shut down for good. It took some searching, but we found a nice little Mexican cafe. I got a big breakfast burrito and a coffee. We fueled up our bodies and continued on in the hot midday sun. It was a long haul down Route 1. The road was busy with traffic and went on forever through the fields. Eventually, we turned off on some side roads and came to a mountain pass. We stopped to drink some water. I ate a peach and Michael had a banana.

We were ready to tackle the big climb ahead. The road wound up the mountain, and soon we were high above the fields. The hills can be tough, but the views are always rewarding. We pushed deeper into the mountain range. The shoulder was narrow and the road continued to wind around, but traffic was light. It was so hot out that I was soaked in sweat half way up. Every time we dipped into the shadows the air cooled and we got a refreshing breeze that kept us going.

At the top, there was a great vista point that overlooked the town of Lompoc. It was bigger than I imagined. Green fields and tall mountains sat behind the city. We zoomed down the mountain and made our way into town. There was a Vons where we grabbed some food for the night and a snack to eat before we made the final push. We found a table at Starbucks and I proceeded to devour my Ben & Jerry’s Double Fudge Brownie Ice Cream, two giant chicken tenders, and a grande cafe latte. It was amazing. My body was beat, but we had another 24 miles to go.

We headed out of town and got back on Route 1. It took us through more fields and up through mountain passes. It was a slow ascent over 20 miles. On and on we climbed. Semi trucks blasted by while we took occasional water / picture breaks. Finally we made it to the top of our last climb.

The descent was steep and fast. It felt great. The cool wind evaporated the sweat from my soaked shirt. Near the bottom Route 1 split into the North and South 101 routes. We stopped for some photos and then went left onto the 101 South. The road continued down. I picked up speed and blasted through the mountains. At the bottom we came out onto the ocean. The wind blew us everywhere. I saw the sign for Gaviota State Beach, but I did not see any campground signs. We kept going for a mile when we stopped to decide what to do.

We didn’t see the camp site and we had another hour before sunset, so we decided to push to Refugio State Beach. It was another 9 miles down the road. But we had a tail wind and the road was relatively flat. I pushed hard. I was going well over 20 mph most of the time. Wind came from the back and the sides, I even hit some head winds. When semis passed they sucked me across the road. I loved it. I was having fun, and I was in the zone.

I was starting to tire when I saw the park sign. I stopped and looked back for Michael. I didn’t see him. I hoped he didn’t get a flat like I did the night before. I took some photos and waited another 5 mins. Eventually, he came around the corner. I guess the cross winds shook him up a bit. We rolled into camp and set up in time to watch the sun set. It was a beautiful SoCal sunset. We showered up, ate and went to bed.

(Repost of my 2014 Pacific Coast Tour Instagrams)

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