Slides, Sisters, and Seals


Frequently, the land upon which this bold stripe of highway was built loses its grip on the hillside. It happens often enough that some people wonder if the highway should be maintained or if it is time for nature to claim it back. Cycling amidst its grandeur makes me hope it will be maintained.

Just this year, on January 28, the Rats Creek mudslide washed out 150 feet of the highway we rode on. It can take years to repair the highway, but massive engineering efforts brought forth a reopening on April 30, two months ahead of schedule. Believe me, I was watching the news about this.

On May 20, 2017, the massive Mud Creek landslide buried a quarter of a mile of the highway under 65 feet of rocks and dirt. It took over a year and $40,000,000 to rebuild the road.

At Mile 27 for the day, we rode under an open tunnel. This section of the highway was so prone to falling rocks that it was named Rain Rocks. The repair involved building the Pitkins Curve Bridge and Rock Shed.

Pitkins Curve Bridge (photo by Kurt)


The known grand challenge on Saturday was a pair of climbs called the Two Sisters. However, we didn’t know there was also a climb right out of the inn where we stayed. It was long and difficult, 4 miles with 6 to 8% grades. If this climb deserved no mention, then the Two Sisters had to be terrible. They didn’t come until over 40 miles into the day, so we had many hours to fret about them. 

I miscalculated the length of the first one, so when I thought it was about to be done, I discovered I had another mile still. The Second Sister started after a steep descent deep inside a gully that collected wind, such that as soon as I made the very tight turn into it, I was sacked by a wall of wind. Grind slowly, but grind, I told myself. The second sister was supposed to be shorter than the first. Hopefully I had not miscalculated its length. Mary 2 and the whole team greeted me at a turnout just after the summit. We had all succeeded at the hardest day we knew about. Calmer geography ahead, we sure hope.


The promise that kept us moving forward was an elephant seal vista point. Mary assured us we could see the seals from our bikes. A very large area has been set up complete with boardwalk, but Kurt and Brenda went ahead and found an unofficial vista point where the massive seals swam and attempted shore landings. Those on shore soaked up the sun and occasionally flicked sand sprays with their tails.

For dinner, we ventured to Cambria, a town about 5 miles south, that we will cycle through on Sunday. The first two places we went had waits of an hour, so we found a simple “Mediterranean” one nearby. There were dozens of choices in this tiny town, fully decked out for Halloween with the most imaginative witches and goblins and an elephant seal riding a bike. I asked our server, Miriam, a high school junior, to tell us about the town, for we found it fascinating. She explained that she had just lived there about a year, that there were 16 students in her school, that everyone knows everyone else, and nearly everyone owns their own business. She also lamented, “The mornings are soooo cold.” Ohhh, so it’s not an anomaly that we wear three full layers of clothes in the morning and gradually strip down to short sleeves by afternoon. 

Ride statistics

Start: Big Sur

End: San Simeon

Distance: 68.9 miles

Cumulative distance: 1666.6 miles (less than 400 to go!)

Elevation gain: 5507 feet

Strava track

Relive video

© 2021 Lynnea C Salvo

2 thoughts on “Slides, Sisters, and Seals

  1. From Canada to San Simeon, you’ve been on my favorite coastal territory. Hooray! Good cheers for the next adventures, (area not familiar to me).
    Slides: Thanks for the pic. of the new Pitkins Curve Bridge and Rock Shed! Months before the Big Sur slide, I was on a very fine backpacking trip in Big Sur. Sooo glad we missed the slide. Interesting, too, your link showed that the original road there, completed 1937, was built using prison labor. Another “use” of a segregated-off population.. (To keep my focus about all the “segregation” methods, I’ll keep re-reading Mark Twain’s “War Prayer” ! – excellent & wish I’d known it decades ago.)
    -sounds like great travels, with your new derailleur in gear. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s