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7 days in March, San fran to LA, or LA to San Diego?

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7 days in March, San fran to LA, or LA to San Diego?

Old 03-03-12, 08:26 AM
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7 days in March, San fran to LA, or LA to San Diego?

I have 7 days in the next weeks, what is a better route at this time of year, SF to LA, or LA to SD, or SF all the way to SD? Thanks for any input on an impromptu trip! Cheers.
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Old 03-03-12, 08:31 AM
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SD to Tucson.
But if you have to do the coast, SF to LA, SD puts too much time pressure in case you need to wait a day for bad weather. Campgrounds may be closed in March, so if you are planning to camp, make sure you find out beforehand.
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Old 03-03-12, 09:24 AM
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SF to LA is about the right length and includes the great shoreline area south from Monterey through Big Sur. Just keep an eye on the weather. It's been unusually dry and warm this year, but there's still the chance for some storms.
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Old 03-03-12, 10:16 AM
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SF to LA again is the most reasonable option. LA to SD is way too short and pretty much urban riding all the way through. SF to SD is really pushing it for one week vacation.
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Old 03-03-12, 11:56 AM
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SF southbound along the coast.

Pick from San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles or San Diego depending on how far you get. Take the Amtrak Surfliner train the rest of the way to San Diego and fly home.
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Old 03-03-12, 01:22 PM
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I was just in that area a few weeks ago. There are a few points to consider.

1. If you're going from Los Angeles south to San Diego, you're going to have some rolling hills starting somewhere past Huntington Beach. The hills get bigger as you approach San Diego. Not everyone appreciates those hills. Also, there's a stretch of 20 to 30 miles or 30 to 50 kilometres where I-5 is the only route available. This is on the approach to Oceanside. Bikes are allowed, but it is a highway designed for motor vehicles. The shoulder is wide and it's not too bad, provided you can handle a lot of fast-moving traffic around you.

2. If you follow the side roads near US 101 from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo, you'll have relatively flat riding through a beautiful rural area. I thoroughly enjoyed the towns along the way. If you choose this area, get good maps of the area and try to stay off US 101. In many areas, bikes are not allowed on that highway and where they are, the cycling experience is not a lot of fun. The cars and trucks move fast and the shoulder has a lot of line patches which you'll feel.

3. Los Angeles is a big place and I found it the least enjoyable and most disappointing area along my trip. The more pleasant areas on my trip were outside of the city. It may be worth your time to use the Pacific Surfliner or the Los Angeles Metro transit service to get through the Los Angeles area.
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Old 03-03-12, 02:02 PM
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Thanks for the quick responses. I'm leaning SF to LA, or potentially with flight times, LA to SF. Which way do the winds generally go? Would LA up to SF be much diff?

Any recommendations on the best places to download/purchase the best map for this route online asap? Thanks.
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Old 03-03-12, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by stmhon
Thanks for the quick responses. I'm leaning SF to LA, or potentially with flight times, LA to SF. Which way do the winds generally go? Would LA up to SF be much diff?

Any recommendations on the best places to download/purchase the best map for this route online asap? Thanks.
You may wish to ask about the wind directions in the Northern California and Southern California regional forums. They'd know better than anyone else. For maps, you may want to pick them up when you arrive, or check at your local bookstore.

One other possibility to consider if you're from out of the region is to fly into San Francisco and do a loop route which would get you back into the city in a week. If you cross the Golden Gate Bridge and head up to the area around Santa Rosa, you'll see some amazing countryside as you're in one of California's wine regions. Likewise, you would have some great choices for riding south to Salinas or Watsonville and the area near there. And as cities go, San Francisco is a good place to start or finish a trip.

If you're going to do the San Francisco to Los Angeles route, feel free to send me a PM and I'll give you some of the details from my trip, including cheap places to stay (and places to avoid) if you need a motel.
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Old 03-03-12, 03:36 PM
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The weather here (SF) has been gorgeous. I just returned from a ride around San Francisco and the sun was out and it was in the mid-60s. Who knows what the weather will be like when you ride but if it stays like this you are in for a real treat!

Definitely, go north to south if there are no storms predicted as the prevailing wind comes out of the northwest. When it rains, it turns around to be from the south, often.

You can get a route map from the ACA. The one you want is section 4 of the Pacific Coast route. Section 4 goes from SF to Santa Barbara. Section 5 goes from SB to San Diego, should you go further south. You can also see it on-line in many spots if you search for it. Here is one.

I have done this route many times (I live in SF and grew up in LA) and think a week is pushing it a bit. The first time I did it, it took me 9 days with one rest day (Journal here) and that was averaging 70 miles/day for the first 5 days. It was too much for me. The next times I did it, I tried to keep it to 50 miles/day. Here is a journal of that kind of trip.

If the weather holds, this would be a great trip at a fabulous time. If it starts raining, go somewhere else.
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Old 03-03-12, 04:13 PM
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Yes, as mentioned there's a huge difference going LA-SF vs. SF-LA due to the prevailing winds out of the northwest.

Originally Posted by Newspaperguy
Also, there's a stretch of 20 to 30 miles or 30 to 50 kilometres where I-5 is the only route available. This is on the approach to Oceanside. Bikes are allowed, but it is a highway designed for motor vehicles. The shoulder is wide and it's not too bad, provided you can handle a lot of fast-moving traffic around you.
Isn't going through the Camp Pendleton Marine Base still an option? AIRC, they require that you wear a helmet, have photo ID?, and that you stay strictly on the approved route through the base. But it's a nice alternative to the I-5 shoulder.
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Old 03-03-12, 06:10 PM
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I remember passing Camp Pendleton but I didn't know I was allowed on the base. Had I known, I would have used that option.
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Old 03-03-12, 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted by raybo
I have done this route many times (I live in SF and grew up in LA) and think a week is pushing it a bit. The first time I did it, it took me 9 days with one rest day (Journal here) and that was averaging 70 miles/day for the first 5 days. It was too much for me. The next times I did it, I tried to keep it to 50 miles/day. Here is a journal of that kind of trip.

If the weather holds, this would be a great trip at a fabulous time. If it starts raining, go somewhere else.
I had the pleasure of meeting Ray at the start of my PCH tour. He is very fit and very experienced. If he says 7 days is pushing it then that probably means near impossible for the average rider.

What is the rush? This route is one of the most beautiful routes in the U.S. , if not the world. If even if you are an Olympic athlete, you are still going to want to stop every mile or so (I am of course exaggerating but it is simply that beautiful). My suggestion is to start in SFO and end it around Morro Bay. At least I think there is a train there, you can use to complete your trip, if not SLO has one.

Also think about stopping at a hostel or two. There are some real beauties along the way. Amazing the room you will get for around $20 when it could easily be $200 if it were a hotel.
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Old 03-03-12, 10:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Newspaperguy
I remember passing Camp Pendleton but I didn't know I was allowed on the base. Had I known, I would have used that option.
Did you enter the freeway in San Clemente? That would be about 20 miles to Oceanside. There are bike trails, a frontage road, a campground and the base to avoid the freeway but I think it's a confusing mix if you're not from here.
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Old 03-03-12, 11:49 PM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker
I had the pleasure of meeting Ray at the start of my PCH tour. He is very fit and very experienced. If he says 7 days is pushing it then that probably means near impossible for the average rider.
Seven days from SF to LA is doable, if the weather cooperates; which it might not at this time of year. You do need to be in decent shape: there are several days in a row where the ideal stopping points are 60-70 miles apart and require 4000-5000 feet of climbing. Not a bad place to consider a credit card tour: you can travel lighter, move a bit faster, and hotel rates should be much more reasonable than they are during the summer tourist season.

In terms of logistics, I would suggest bypassing San Francisco. Fly to San Jose, take CalTrain up the peninsula to a better starting point (ex: Palo Alto) and ride from there. Plan to take Amtrak back to San Jose. Depending on your pace and weather, you can hop on a train in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, or Los Angeles. South of Santa Barbara, the riding starts to get a bit boring, IMHO.
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Old 03-03-12, 11:54 PM
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Originally Posted by GP
Did you enter the freeway in San Clemente? That would be about 20 miles to Oceanside. There are bike trails, a frontage road, a campground and the base to avoid the freeway but I think it's a confusing mix if you're not from here.
I remember the frontage road, campground and trails from San Clemente, but then I ended up on the freeway to Oceanside. After Oceanside, I was on side roads into San Diego. I also remember passing a military base, but I didn't know anyone non-military was allowed. There was a road on the base which seemed to go parallel to the highway. I'd have to go to my notebook to double check all the details about it.
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Old 03-04-12, 12:08 AM
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Wow, great and rapid info. My actual flight arrival/departure dates will give me 10 days. I'm saying 7 days for biking in case of hiccups, finding bike boxes in LA, weather, quick tour of sf etc. I'd like to not hop any trains or do any loops, except in case of emergency out of time situations, for sake of simplicity.

Can't order the ACA maps online, no time. Is there a shop in SF I can easily pic one up at?

Can someone drop me a PM about great hostels/campsites to stay at? (Can PM yet myself, new member.)

Thanks everyone!
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Old 03-04-12, 12:18 AM
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I road north from LA in 1974 (against the wind) it took me a week to get to the Monterey area. The most I had done before was a 70 mile round trip with a long stop a the beach. I went 100 miles the first day and pulled the legaments above both knees. I was carrign about 30+ pounds of extra gear also. Don't over due, it can be vary painful. Its a beautiful ride ether way. I would guess that some of it is a lot more bike friendly today. A lot of it was 6" of black top past the fog line when I did. Have good trip.
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Old 03-04-12, 12:43 AM
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Originally Posted by stmhon

Can't order the ACA maps online, no time. Is there a shop in SF I can easily pic one up at?

Can someone drop me a PM about great hostels/campsites to stay at? (Can PM yet myself, new member.)
Don't know of any place that sells the ACA maps, but if you have a GPS you can download some of the data directly from their site at:
https://adventurecycling.org/routes/g...9k&f=pcgpsdata
The GPS routes indicate all the turn locations and they have waypoints for things like campgrounds, hostels, bike shops, etc. It's not really a replacement for the paper maps, but it can be quite useful. You might start a new thread specifically asking for anyone who might have the ACA maps and would be willing to sell/lend them. Another option is the book: Bicycling the Pacific Coast by Spring and Kirkendall which includes maps, elevation profiles and other info on places to see and where to stay. It's available in many local bookstores.

Most of the state parks along the coast route have special 'Hike&Bike' areas for non-motorized travelers. These don't require or allow reservations and are pretty reasonable (about $5/person/night). I like the ones at Capitola (New Brighton State Beach), Monterey (Veterans Park), Big Sur State Park, Morro Bay State Park, and Refugio State Park. (Keep some quarters with you - most of the campgrounds have showers that provide a few minutes of hot water per quarter). Haven't stayed at the hostels, but the one at Pigeon Pt. Lighthouse looks interesting (esp. if you get a late start leaving SF).
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Old 03-04-12, 09:11 AM
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Originally Posted by sstorkel
Seven days from SF to LA is doable, if the weather cooperates; which it might not at this time of year. You do need to be in decent shape: there are several days in a row where the ideal stopping points are 60-70 miles apart and require 4000-5000 feet of climbing. Not a bad place to consider a credit card tour: you can travel lighter, move a bit faster, and hotel rates should be much more reasonable than they are during the summer tourist season.

In terms of logistics, I would suggest bypassing San Francisco. Fly to San Jose, take CalTrain up the peninsula to a better starting point (ex: Palo Alto) and ride from there. Plan to take Amtrak back to San Jose. Depending on your pace and weather, you can hop on a train in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, or Los Angeles. South of Santa Barbara, the riding starts to get a bit boring, IMHO.
Skipping to San Jose would bypass Montarra, one of the better parts of the tour, outside of Big Sur. It would get you by Devils Slide too but people seem to really exaggerate the danger of that area anyway.

We are going to have to agree to disagree. SFO to LAX is about 520 miles, that is an average of 74 miles a day. While older I am in fairly decent shape and I would not want to have to put up with that pace for 7 straight days. Not saying it can't be done because I know it is done in far less but I think a big part of touring is slowing down, seeing the sights and enjoying the ride.

And yes you do need to be in fairly decent shape to ride this route. While it is by no means one of the hardest tours in the world it certainly is not someone that is in decent physical condition.
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Old 03-04-12, 09:14 AM
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Originally Posted by prathmann
Don't know of any place that sells the ACA maps, but if you have a GPS you can download some of the data directly from their site at:
https://adventurecycling.org/routes/g...9k&f=pcgpsdata
The GPS routes indicate all the turn locations and they have waypoints for things like campgrounds, hostels, bike shops, etc. It's not really a replacement for the paper maps, but it can be quite useful. You might start a new thread specifically asking for anyone who might have the ACA maps and would be willing to sell/lend them. Another option is the book: Bicycling the Pacific Coast by Spring and Kirkendall which includes maps, elevation profiles and other info on places to see and where to stay. It's available in many local bookstores.

Most of the state parks along the coast route have special 'Hike&Bike' areas for non-motorized travelers. These don't require or allow reservations and are pretty reasonable (about $5/person/night). I like the ones at Capitola (New Brighton State Beach), Monterey (Veterans Park), Big Sur State Park, Morro Bay State Park, and Refugio State Park. (Keep some quarters with you - most of the campgrounds have showers that provide a few minutes of hot water per quarter). Haven't stayed at the hostels, but the one at Pigeon Pt. Lighthouse looks interesting (esp. if you get a late start leaving SF).
The Hostel at Monterra is fantastic. Also the hostel down by the bridge in SFO is great and a good launching point for a tour.

Remember there are Warmshowers hosts along the way. None in Big Sur last I checked but a few north and south of Big Sur.
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Old 03-04-12, 09:41 AM
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If you call ACA they can probably overnight the maps, or you can order Bicycling the Pacific Coast (Kirkendall & Spring) from Amazon or REI. Or just keep the ocean on your right.
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Old 03-04-12, 10:30 AM
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I'd send you my copy of Bicycling the Pacific Coast but a forum member never returned it to me as promised.
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Old 03-04-12, 10:38 AM
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While I agree it would be good to have a map for the first time you do a route, the trip from SF to LA is easy enough that it could be done with AAA maps or just a state map.

For the most part, you stay on Hwy 1. But, there are some areas where Hwy 1 is a freeway and bikes aren't allowed. Getting from SF to Pacifica is one of these places, though by riding down to the ocean and riding along it, you will make your way to Pacifica.

The next place where Hwy 1 turns into a freeway is south of Santa Cruz. But, either ask locals or just get as close to the ocean as you can and keep going south. Some of this time you are on Hwy 1 frontage roads. Once through the towns south of Santa Cruz and past Watsonville, you need to weave your way through farm fields until to get to Elkhorn Slough. You can stay on 1 if you want or zigzag through pesticide-infested farm fields. ACA goes through the fields. When I do this ride, I get friends to drive me past this area, as once was enough for me.

You need to find a way through Monterey, as 1 is a freeway there, too. Once in Carmel, there is only one way through Big Sur, San Simeon, Cambria, Cayucos, and to Morro Bay. Hwy 1 is a freeway through Morro Bay and you need to find a way through Morro Bay and to San Luis Obispo. There are a couple way to get from SLO to Pismo Beach but, again, Hwy 1 is a freeway so you can't use it. The way I prefer is the frontage road that goes along Hwy 1 but you need to find the one road that gets you there going south out of SLO.

Getting through Pismo Beach, Oceano, up the hill and into Guadalupe and then through the fields to Lompoc is straight forward, though the ACA (and I) recommend Harris Grade Road into Lompoc instead of the taking Hwy 1, but you will see lots of paint on the road at that turn-off directing you.

From Lompoc, you can follow Hwy 1 over the hill, down the other side and onto the freeway into Goleta, north of Santa Barbara. It is side streets from there.

You will need directions to get through Santa Barbara and onto Carpenteria. South of Carpenteria, you are on the freeway (I get driven past this part, as once was enough for this part, too). Then, you do some side roads and bike paths to Ventura. It would be good to have directions through Ventura and Oxnard. Once out on Hwy 1 at Oxnard, you are again on the coast and it is a straight shot into LA.

The map I linked to above will show you all the places where I've recommended specific directions above.

Knowing distances, places to eat and sleep, and where the hills are (and end) is all useful information to have. Both the book mentioned and the ACA maps have this information. If you can't get either, paper maps or computer print-outs of Google maps will work fine. You will likely meet some people on the route who have the maps/book.

Have a great ride.

Last edited by raybo; 03-04-12 at 10:44 AM.
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Old 03-04-12, 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by erf
I road north from LA in 1974 (against the wind) it took me a week to get to the Monterey area. The most I had done before was a 70 mile round trip with a long stop a the beach. I went 100 miles the first day and pulled the legaments above both knees. I was carrign about 30+ pounds of extra gear also. Don't over due, it can be vary painful. Its a beautiful ride ether way. I would guess that some of it is a lot more bike friendly today. A lot of it was 6" of black top past the fog line when I did. Have good trip.
same here in '73. Rode from LA north, got a ride just south of Big Sur then took up the trip in S.F. Riding against the wind up the coast I arrived in Mendocino totally exhausted after three days pedaling up wind. Had to rest and recover a day because my lungs felt like wet sponge.

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Old 03-04-12, 11:31 AM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker
Skipping to San Jose would bypass Montarra, one of the better parts of the tour, outside of Big Sur. It would get you by Devils Slide too but people seem to really exaggerate the danger of that area anyway.
Montarra is nice, but you'll get the similarly spectacular scenery around every corner in Big Sur. There's also quite a bit of car traffic from SF down through Santa Cruz. I'd be happy to bypass this section...

We are going to have to agree to disagree. SFO to LAX is about 520 miles, that is an average of 74 miles a day. While older I am in fairly decent shape and I would not want to have to put up with that pace for 7 straight days.
Here's the GPS log from the last time I rode down (September 2009):

Day 1: Mountain View to Santa Cruz, 76.58mi, 3856ft of elevation gain, 4hrs 40min pedaling
Day 2: Santa Cruz to Pfeiffer Big Sur, 73.83mi, ~3300ft of elevation gain, 5hrs 30min pedaling
Day 3: Pfeiffer Big Sur to San Simeon, 68.21mi, 4714ft of elevation gain, 5hrs 10min pedaling
Day 4: San Simeon to Pismo Beach, 56.49mi, 1596ft of elevation gain, 3hrs 32min pedaling
Day 5: Pismo Beach to Goleta, 90.58mi, 3429ft of elevation gain, 5hrs 53min pedaling
Day 6: Goleta to Oxnard, 53.10mi, 785ft of elevation gain, 3hrs 25min pedaling
Day 7: Oxnard to Los Angeles, 64.46mi, 1269ft of elevation gain, 4hrs 8min pedaling

The altimeter glitched on Day #2, so the elevation gain for that day is an estimate from one of those GPS mapping websites. I spent an extra day in San Simeon visiting Hearst Castle. I'll also point out that total travel time is often much longer than the amount of time I spent on the bike pedaling. In Big Sur, I was literally stopping every 5-10 minutes to take pictures; travel time for Day #3 is probably closer to 9 hours thanks to all the stopping

For those following along, the totals are: 485.23 miles ridden and 18,949 feet of elevation gain. This was a credit card tour, BTW. The bike and everything I had on it (luggage, clothes, spares, snacks, water, etc) weighed 51lbs. You can see that I had several short days (50-60mi, 3-4hrs riding) once I made it through Big Sur. If I do another credit card tour down the coast, I'll arrange the stopping points better and try to do the ride in six days.
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