May is National Bike Month – all 31 days!!

Bicycling is not something I talk or write about that much. Though there’s an irony in this because it was not too many years back that several people assembled to discuss the prospect of launching a magazine, the content of which was to be all about the great outdoors. Meeting were myself (to serve as editor and article writer), a publisher, who would double as advertising manager, a photographer and one or two others filling in varying roles like production manager and maybe graphic designer. One of the topics to be covered, of course, was bicycling. In fact, I had one article already ready to go – not cycling related, but nevertheless.

Just one more brief point: As to why the magazine never took off, it was on account of our collectively not being able to give this the full attention it would have required. Each of us had had other jobs that just demanded too much of our time. Regardless, it brings back memories.

Dexter Lawn, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
Dexter Lawn, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

Melding memories and biking together, meanwhile, in the ’70s while I was attending college at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo (SLO), for a lot of people, townsfolk and students alike, biking was pretty popular. As a matter of fact, throughout the campus it was all one could do to not notice both the many bike racks and bikes being ridden. During the time I attended, as it turns out the bicycle provided my primary means of transportation as I did not then own a car. So, it was that or walk.

There were those times that I felt adventurous and energetic, on weekends, when I could be found peddle-pushing my way to Morro Bay and back again along California Highway 1 – a round-trip distance of 24 hilly miles or so. Or, if I was more ambitious, I would take the “back way”: Los Osos Valley Road to Los Osos or venture past into the Montana de Oro area before heading into Morro Bay proper from there.

There wasn’t a time I can remember on any of these bicycle outings where the air wasn’t pristine which, the rides, as good as they were already, were made even better. The countless times during downhill descents with streams of tears just pouring from my eyes countervailed by all the huffing and puffing in tackling the uphill climbs, oh, do I remember these well. Do I ever!

That the San Luis Obispo area is an absolute bicycler’s paradise certainly didn’t hurt. If anything, such heightened a person’s motivation to want to bike more. In fact, the trek along Highway 1 north to the highway 46/1 junction just past the town of Harmony, couldn’t be beat, being treated to captivating Pacific Ocean views between there and Morro Strand. If I decided I wanted to continue on, where Highways 46 and 1 join, by turning right, ahead of me would be a long, arduous summit climb, followed by a roller-coaster-like up and down, my rolling across hill and dale until El Paso de Robles or Paso Robles, for short, was reached – a good 30 miles north of SLO by way of Highway 101.

From there, the southbound journey more or less followed Highway 101 – known more familiarly as the Ventura Freeway and El Camino Real or the Kings Highway – on frontage roads which took me past places with names like Templeton, Atascadero and Santa Margarita, before being directed onto the 101 freeway in the presence of speeding car and truck traffic no less, my having to carefully navigate the long, steep and sweeping descent of Cuesta Grade (you can imagine), and ending right back where I started – SLO.

One ride that outdid the aforementioned was the century (100-mile ride) I rode that both started and finished in Santa Maria, located to SLO’s south by about 30 miles. The group I was with wheeled past fields and fields of colorful flowers (the most I have ever seen in one place) near the town of Lompoc. Not being able to remember the routing, today for me that ride is but a blur.

Not to digress too much, but what I remember prior to the ride was, for the 15 of us that went, we breakfasted at a restaurant in town. The waitress waiting our table took all of our orders one at a time. For us all, each order was the same: “coffee.” I was thinking as I am sure were the others that the waitress waiting our table was somewhat bewildered, perhaps even dumbfounded by the orders placed. Had she known beforehand that we were all about to pedal 100 miles and did not want to ride with our stomachs full, she probably would have understood. Interesting, the information our brains retain.

That notwithstanding, I find it quite rewarding how occasions like National Bike Month, can be all it takes to trigger these fond recollections of my bicycling past. The one regret is that I did not preserve these times on film. Despite this, I get all nostalgic just by their very mention.

National Bike Month: May – the one month of the year to celebrate the bicycle and riding!

MUTCD_W11-1.svg[2]Upper image above: Gregg Erickson

– Alan Kandel