19

Santa Barbara – Old San Marcos & Painted Cave Climb – Brutally Steep!


Santa Barbara (Goleta, specifically) is where I grew up and where my parents still live, so I have spent a fair amount of time in the area. While San Marcos Pass Road (State Route 154) is now the preferred automobile route (due to a gentler grade and lack of tight curves), there still exists the old stagecoach route from the 1800s. This stagecoach route is steep, twisty and incredibly scenic (and, paved..quite nicely too!). There is quite a bit of history with the pass – you can read more about its history here and here. This route is known officially as North San Marcos Road and unofficially as Old San Marcos Pass Road. Old San Marcos, on its own, is a sweet, steep, tough and scenic climb absolutely worthy of climbing by any serious cyclist. But, at 3 miles long it is a bit short. You are in luck though. Old San Marcos leads right into Painted Cave Road, adding 2.4 miles of even steeper climbing to an already steep climbing route. 8.3% average grade for almost 5.5 miles. This is definitely one of the steepest sustained climbs around.

The climb up Old San Marcos starts about a half mile after turning inland from Cathedral Oaks Road as you cross the bridge – from here on up you get very few breaks. The starting bridge:

From 2010-05-09 – 1 – Old San Marcos Pass Cycling

As can be seen above, initially you are sheltered by a fair amount of vegetation. This quickly gives way to the standard, less sheltered vegetation of Santa Barbara:

From 2010-05-09 – 1 – Old San Marcos Pass Cycling

Gorgeous still, but don’t expect tons of shade.

From 2010-05-09 – 1 – Old San Marcos Pass Cycling

A few incredible houses perched along the road:

From 2010-05-09 – 1 – Old San Marcos Pass Cycling

Beautiful, green hillsides:

From 2010-05-09 – 1 – Old San Marcos Pass Cycling

Of course, for this sort of green (instead of golden/brown colors) make sure to do this climb in Spring..Summer gives way to the golden hillsides. A bit further along:

From 2010-05-09 – 1 – Old San Marcos Pass Cycling

What a parking spot:

From 2010-05-09 – 1 – Old San Marcos Pass Cycling

Not long after you will come to one of the steepest, toughest switchbacks you have ever ridden up:

From 2010-05-09 – 1 – Old San Marcos Pass Cycling

This will test you – not only is it incredibly steep but the lead-up section is also steep enough that your heart rate will already be high when you start this. This section is fun for masochists. For a high quality panorama of this switchback, click below for the panorama I assembled:

From HQ Panoramas

The above will give you a nice 1600 pixel wide view.

Shortly after this switchback you will encounter one more trying switchback. This one might be slightly easier than the previous one (we are talking relativity here – it is still really hard), but it still commands your attention. Once you complete it the views, as usual for this road, are spectacular:

From HQ Panoramas

Again, the above will give you a beautiful 1600 pixel wide view. This upper section gives you some great views of Goleta, Isla Vista and the Channel Islands:

From 2010-05-09 – 1 – Old San Marcos Pass Cycling

Read the Full Ride Report

6

Mt. Tamalpais (Bolinas Fairfax Rd Ascent)


Finally, a true Bay Area climb. Ok, actually, I have done some of the great, shorter climbs around Pescadero (Tunitas Creek for example), but this was the first of the big Bay Area climbs for me (the other two being Mt. Diablo and Mt. Hamilton..hoping to do those soon!).

Here is a slideshow of the ride for those who are too lazy to read the rest of the ride description (I don’t blame you..I often look for the cliff notes myself):

After doing some research, I settled on going with the Bolinas Fairfax Rd approach – general consensus seemed to be that it was the coolest way up with minimal traffic, changing scenery and a couple of tough sections. This route had me starting out in the rather nice town of Fairfax. From Center Boulevard I turned left on Bolinas Road and couldn’t wait to start climbing. About a half mile later my wish was answered with some nice climbing through a residential area in which I wouldn’t mind having a house..

From 2009-12-28 – Bay Area – Mt. Tamalpais Cycling

After a bit the houses start to thin out..

This section really starts to get scenic. After the initial climbing section, you get a pleasant descent:

From 2009-12-28 – Bay Area – Mt. Tamalpais Cycling

After the descent, a relatively flat section:

The cool thing about this ride is the ever-changing scenery. Not a mile later and I hit some redwoods..

Scenic, yes.

From 2009-12-28 – Bay Area – Mt. Tamalpais Cycling

A short while later and I stumble upon the incredibly scenic Alpine Lake:

From 2009-12-28 – Bay Area – Mt. Tamalpais Cycling

This really is a nice road to ride on..

From 2009-12-28 – Bay Area – Mt. Tamalpais Cycling

Read the Full Ride Report

11

Nacimiento-Fergusson Road Climb


Catching up on a backlog of fun rides!

This is one of those roads that requires some serious planning to actually get to for most people. Located right near Fort Hunter Liggett and halfway between Cambria and Monterey, this is 300 miles from Long Beach. Even from San Francisco it is almost 200 miles away. If you happen to live in San Luis Obispo (80 miles away) or Monterey (60 miles), you could actually swing this for a day trip. The rest of us? Find an excuse to drive through the area. In my case, the Woodside Century in northern California served as that excuse. On a side note, I would highly recommend that century – beautiful, beautiful countryside with some great climbs thrown in (7k or so of climbing).

Anyway, heading up with my mom on the Friday before the century from Santa Barbara, we headed up 101 and then turned off on CA-1. I hadn’t actually seen this stretch of 1 except once as a small kid, so the drive itself was great. Slightly more scenic than 101. We arrived at the intersection with Nacimiento-Fergusson just as the fog was starting to lift from that stretch.

(Note that you can click on any picture for a higher resolution version)

From 2009-09-25 – Nacimiento Fergusson Cycling and Drive Up CA-1

Everything is a little more complicated when you’ve also packed for a whole trip..

From 2009-09-25 – Nacimiento Fergusson Cycling and Drive Up CA-1

1 still looking a little foggy:

From 2009-09-25 – Nacimiento Fergusson Cycling and Drive Up CA-1

I should note here that some (most) photos shown for the ascent were actually taken on the descent. So, don’t be surprised if the timestamps on some photos seem really spread out. I’m not actually that slow.

The very first stretch is a pleasant ride with a shallow grade:

From 2009-09-25 – Nacimiento Fergusson Cycling and Drive Up CA-1

This changes dramatically at the first switchback..

From 2009-09-25 – Nacimiento Fergusson Cycling and Drive Up CA-1

The stretch on the right is, while not flat, quite easy. As you can imagine, that means the stretch on the left is..steep.

As you climb up this narrow, scenic road:

From 2009-09-25 – Nacimiento Fergusson Cycling and Drive Up CA-1
From 2009-09-25 – Nacimiento Fergusson Cycling and Drive Up CA-1

You very quickly hit some incredible views:

From 2009-09-25 – Nacimiento Fergusson Cycling and Drive Up CA-1
From 2009-09-25 – Nacimiento Fergusson Cycling and Drive Up CA-1

Read the Full Ride Report

3

Costa Rica – Playa Flamingo Cycling – Cycling Around Playa Brasilito


The second and final part of my Costa Rican cycling adventure! This little ride was just mom and me in the morning of our last day in Playa Flamingo. For this ride, we decided to take it easy and explore the coast south of Playa Flamingo. As we head out, the area is obviously scenic and expensive:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

Pretty quickly though we get onto dirt roads:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

Small stretch of paved road before hitting Brasilito:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

Brasilito is scenic:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling
From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling
From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

A bit farther and we hit Playa Conchal:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

While Playa Brasilito had hard packed sand, Playa Conchal’s sand is made up of coarsely ground sea shells. This makes for a very scenic beach:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling
From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

but a poor surface to cycle on! So, we continued on the dirt road right next to the beach for this stretch. We also stumbled upon an incredible lizard:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

Talk about perfect camouflage. The dirt/sand road:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

And back to Playa Brasilito:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

At this point, it was agreed that mom would head back to the unit and I would attempt a dirt road heading uphill. This turned out to be rather interesting:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

There were sections that were so steep, so overgrown and so rough that I had to put my foot down every couple of feet. However, after a couple hundred feet, I was greeted by some rather nice views:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling
From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling
From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

Of course, even here, the road was overgrown:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

Yet another crazy section:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling
From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

And again:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

I actually gave up on this climb. I’ll blame it on the fact that I had shorts on and was scared of deadly snakes popping out of the vegetation. I enjoyed the part that I did though. Even with the heat. And humidity. And steep grades. And rutted surface. And invasive vegetation. It was still fun.

And once I got back down I even got to see some spider monkeys. Looking up, I saw a couple of monkeys:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling
From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling
From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling
From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

Then I saw some more:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling
From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

Videos:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling
From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

All told, there were at least a dozen monkeys. Pretty cool! After enjoying that spectacle I headed back to Playa Brasilito and headed along the dirt road up the coast:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

This quickly led to some awesome beach views:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling
From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling
From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

And, my one viewing of a leatherback turtle:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

Sadly, deceased. With turkey vultures guarding the meat.

And, finally, the road back:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

And back to the expensive area:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling
From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

Reward for finishing the ride:

From 2009-09-06 – Costa Rica – 1 – Playa Flamingo Cycling

Costa Rica begs to be ridden. If you find yourself in one of the coastal towns, go and rent a mountain bike. You won’t regret it.

And here is the route map:

Enjoy!

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