With 11 days left to go before move-in at Stanford, I had only just made it to California. There was still so much to see! I headed down to the Bay to see some friends in Oakland (and for a much needed shower!) and then out to the coast. Route 1 was still closed south of Big Sur, so I stopped for two nights in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to explore the surrounding trails and beaches.
Another great stop was in Santa Cruz, home of the well-known Santa Cruz bike company. They let you take out a top of the line demo bike for $20, which is a steal for a whole day of riding. I rented a Tallboy 29er and was blown away with how it felt compared to my Specialized hardtail I had been riding all summer. Dual suspension, hydraulic disk breaks, 1x gearing, tubeless tires and a riser seat post made the climbs a breeze and rocky descents feel like smooth pavement. I was sold. Now to scare up another $3k for a new bike…
I stayed with some friends in Newport Beach and spent the weekend surfing and soaking up the SoCal sun. Afterwards, it was back into the wilderness for a short two-day bikepacking trip in Big Bear, CA. The environment here was much closer to a desert, and I learned that tires seem to magically attract cactus needles. I was limping along on patched tubes by the time I got back to the car.
In the morning, I was cooking breakfast by a river and minding my own business. Off in the distance I heard some rustling in the bushes and tensed up. Silence for a minute, and then I spotted a bear investigating the smells from my camp! Luckily he scared off when I started clapping and shouting. Having asserted my dominance over this section of the river, I thought I was safe to continue my breakfast. But no! A second, different bear also decided it was time to say hi! This one got much closer before I heard it, and have me quite a scare when it popped its head over the riverbank. I promptly packed up and left the bears to their spot after the second encounter.