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Monterey is a picturesque seaside town in mid-California. The peninsula juts out into the Pacific ocean just north of the infamous Big Sur, a dramatic stretch of wild, ragged coastline that runs around 80 miles from San Simeon in the south to Carmel in the South. In a recent 2015 BBC documentary,  marine biologists stood in awe as blue whales were spotted just off the coast of the peninsula and, as we found out, the sea here is rich in wildlife both big and small!

We’d arrived in Monterey as part of a recce for the California Cycle trip. Having spent the last couple of days driving north from Los Angeles, we were looking forward to getting out on the bikes and actually seeing what California cycling was really about.

Our goal for the day was to find a route that linked the southern point of Carmel with our motel in Monterey. As easy as that sounds, we were trying to avoid a long slog up a busy highway – not the sort of thing that you’d enjoy straight after breakfast! Our route began on Munras Avenue and then took us north onto a (not-so) secret cycle lane running parallel to the aforementioned dreaded highway. We climbed, crossed over the main highway then down onto the infamous 17 mile drive. Our hearts sank as we approached the barrier, manned either side by a yogi-bear-dressed warden, the sign read “$10 per vehicle”. A friendly voice allayed our fears – “Bikes are free guys”. Phew…we weren’t going to have to re-plot the route (again!).

The 17-mile drive is a wonderful stretch of tarmac that initially dropped us down through eucalyptus trees into the town of Carmel. There’s a lesson to be learnt here…simply charge more cars to drive on more roads, but keep them free for cyclists. So simple.

The suburbs of Carmel are a lovely assortment of unique houses, some of which overlooked the sea, as we passed through on a lazy Saturday morning, residents milled around with takeout coffee and newspapers under their arms. The odd power-walking couple zoomed by and dogs were getting a luxurious walk along the beautiful bay. When I think about retiring, I’ll think about here.

We headed out west and back to the 17 mile drive and were soon in what can only be described as prime real estate – there were mansions everywhere! Castle-like monoliths stood proudly in their perfectly manicured grounds, the gates of which were more ostentatious and outrageous than the last. Then came the golf courses, as if each mansion had its’ own nine-holer! This is surely some of the most prestigious and sought after real estate anywhere in world?!
The 17 mile drive continues north past glorious surf-beaches and yet more luxurious dwellings. The stench of the sea was overwhelming at times, not with pollution but with the reassuring smell of life, decay and abundance of marine wildlife – much to the delight of the local fisherman!

We were soon round to Lover’s Point where the excellent Monterey Bay Recreational Route keeps this section completely traffic free. Scores of people were enjoying the route, stopping to watch seals and pelicans, peering off into the ocean, or just getting their Saturday morning exercise hit. Stopping at Archie’s American Diner, we tucked into poached eggs and salmon on muffins with coffee, watching the world go by. Our final stop was at Adventures By The Sea, an impressive local adventure company offering anything from surfing to sea kayaking to cycle hire. This was the third depot we’d visited (they’re obviously doing very well!), we were just in to check a minibus booking we’d made online.

What a fabulous ride in a stunning part of the world. Amongst climbing a great hill out of Monterey, descending the awesome 17 mile drive and tucking into a delicious diner-style breakfast, I’ve also planned my retirement (well one aspect of it!).

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