From Monarchs to Redwoods :: Monterey to Big Sur

After soaking up dunes and beach time in Marina, we cycled down the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail, and then the Bay Coastal Trail, which led us quickly past Sand City and into Monterey, CA.

Monterey Bay Coastal Trail
Trail into Monterrey, CA
Monterrey, CA

As luck would have it, I ran into Sam, a local cyclist, while Kai was in the grocery store picking up food for dinner.  Noticing our loaded bicycles and the map I was poring over, Sam asked if I needed any help with route planning or had any questions about the area.  By the end of our discussion, and before Kai had finished shopping, I had put away my maps and determined we would stay to explore the area.

Thanks to Sam, we knew exactly where to stay for the evening, cycling only a few blocks down to the Best Western Victorian Inn (where he worked and could get us a major discounted rate).  After being greeted by the front desk host, Michelle, who excitedly came outside to check out our gear and bicycles after hearing about our trip, we checked in to our room, which came complete with fireplace!!

Hotel in Monterrey, CA

I met the most lovely and friendly people in the hotel lobby at the free wine and cheese hour (yeah, you heard me right! Did I say thanks Sam?!).  Most of them were language teachers for the DLIFLC (Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center), which is located in Monterey.

Thank you Ashraf, Dareen, Leena (the little one), Asif, Matsy & Farhat for giving me such a huge supportive boost that day.

Making New Friends in Monterrey, CA

We spent some time exploring Monterey, dining at the spectacular Indian restaurant, Ambrosia, checking out Cannery Row, and walking to the Monarch butterfly sanctuary in Pacific Grove.

Pacific Grove, CA

Museum Garden in Pacific Grove, CA

Monarch Sanctuary : Pacific Grove, CA

Clusters of Monarch butterflies, hanging from a tree in Pacific Grove’s Monarch Sanctuary

Monarchs overwinter in Pacific Grove and “cluster in large masses to conserve heat. Their flight muscles do not function well unless the temperature is above 55 degrees. They rest quietly on the trees, resembling dead leaves, until sunlight warms them enough to fly. On warm days, the butterflies will leave the trees entirely, seeking out nectar sources with which to replenish their energy reserves, but always returning well before evening to once again cluster in the trees.”

Monarch Sanctuary : Pacific Grove, CA

Market near Cannery Row, Monterrey

Market near Cannery Row

What kind of flower?  Monterrey Bay, CA

Does anyone know what kind of flower this is? Found along sidewalks in Pacific Grove

Big Sur awaited us so we left our fireplace behind to cycle up, up, up(!) and out of Monterey into Carmel and beyond.  Although overcast, the coast was beautiful, as we passed Point Lobos State Reserve, the California Sea Otter Refuge, Garrapata State Park, and Point Sur, till we arrived at our campsite at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.  It had started spritzing rain before we got to the park and we were expecting rain the next day, so we set our tarp up over our tent (to allow for a dry place to eat and cook) and hunkered down in our warmest clothes.  We stayed two nights at the park, preferring to wait out the rain instead of cycling through it, our mantra being, “What’s the hurry?  We don’t have to be anywhere, for any reason, for anyone, so why not take our time and enjoy ourselves!”.

Along Hwy 1, Big Sur

Well, at least we won’t be bored!

Hwy 1 Pacific Coast, Big Sur
Hwy 1 Pacific Coast, Big Sur

The benefit of being on a bicycle – you can pull over and enjoy the view wherever you’d like.  There were few places for cars to pull off the road on Highway 1 and we saw many folks straining to see the view as they flew by.  We couldn’t imagine traveling through this area on anything other than our bicycles!

Hwy 1 Pacific Coast, Big Sur

Pelicans, Hwy 1 Pacific Coast, Big Sur


Hwy 1 Pacific Coast, Big Sur
Hwy 1 Pacific Coast, Big Sur

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, campsite

Our campsite in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, nestled amongst the redwoods

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Kai working on bicycles

Kai working on the bicycles on our rain day

Sometimes life throws something your way that makes you scrunch your nose up in disbelief and shout, “No Way!”.  Example:  Opening up the food storage locker at our campsite to find a “Survivors’ Guide to the Burlington Area” from COTS (the Committee on Temporary Shelter) – which happens to be one of the non-profit organizations I used to work for in Burlington, Vermont!  Maybe it’s the universe’s way to remind me to shout out to all the people in the world who find emergency shelter and homes for people who need them – not an easy task, and often a heartbreaking one.  For what it’s worth, thank you, thank you, thank you, to everyone in the world who works toward eliminating needless homelessness in this obscenely wealthy world.  It’s a good fight and you’re amazing!

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, found COTS card in food storage container!!

When the sun began to peek its way through the redwoods in our campsite, we dried off our gear as best we could and packed it up, ready for another day of beautiful views along the Pacific Coast trail.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, redwoods

The redwoods reaching for the sky

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, redwoods

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Our Route (link with details at Bike Route Toaster)


Next Stop :: Big Sur Continued, to San Simeon State Park

13 comments to From Monarchs to Redwoods :: Monterey to Big Sur

  • Mark

    Greetings… Let me first say that I’m a former Burlingtonian, now a Boulderite (Boulder,CO).

    The reason for my comment is of a gearhead nature. The picture of your tent with the canopy over it caught my eye. Is the canopy part of the tent or is it a third party product? It’s just what I’ve been looking for.

    Thanks and safe travels…

    • Thanks for the question! The tent and tarp are both by Hilleberg; a Staika and an XP10, respectively. The tarp has been great for rainy weather since it provides us a place to cook, eat and work on gear out of the weather but NOT in the tent or vestibules. Travelling two ( put us on to it. They found their’s particularly helpful for midday sun protection in hot desert regions while stopped for lunch or water breaks/siesta. You can read our initial report of the tent here and more about the rest of our camping gear here.

      Thanks again! 🙂

  • Arly

    And maybe it’s a reminder to us to say thanks for writing! Loving reading your entries, viewing your pics, and traveling vicariously through you guys. Life’s little coincidences are sometimes too strange to overlook – so here’s a shout out from a former COTS colleague! Promise it won’t take a beat up pamphlet that’s traveled clear cross the country to elicit the next response from me. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, and thanks for adventuring!


  • Margo

    The flower you asked about is a Bottle Brush Plant or Red Bottle Brush or, more technically, a Callistemon. At least that’s what it looks like to me. 🙂

    Found your site when researching tiny houses, and fell in love with your adventure. I’ve been car-free for 2+ years now, relying primarily on mass transit. Hope to be on two wheels with a trailer soon!

    If your travels bring you through Austin, Texas, let me know! If I’m available (not on my own adventure by then) will be happy to hook you up with showers and cheap/free lodging.

    Thanks SO much for sharing.


    • Hi Margo,

      Thanks for the info on the plant – several others have also confirmed it’s a Bottle Brush.

      Congrats on being car-free. When you’re ready for your trailer, take a look at BicycleR Evolution trailers. Kai & I had both the smaller and larger size (we ended up using the larger size more frequently for grocery runs, etc). They are fantastic!

      Would love to visit Austin on our return to the States. I have some relatives throughout Texas – big-hearted people there! Likewise, let us know if you’re in Burlington, Vermont if you head through there when we’re back home.

      Thanks for introducing yourself and for following our blog!

  • Allen Thoma

    The plant you saw looks like something we had in our backyard in Southern California when I was a kid. We called it a bottle-brush plant.
    Here is the Wikipedia

  • Hey,

    Been reading and enjoying the blog for a little while now. Taking notes and such too. Thanks for sharing. I believe the flower in the photo is called a bottle brush. My sister has them in her yard in Arizona and that’s what she calls them.

    Thanks again,

    • Hi Pat,

      Thanks so much for the naming of the plant – several folks have confirmed it was, indeed, a bottle brush. Beautiful plant!

      Took a quick gander at your site and hope to catch up on your posts when we have more time to sit and be with wi-fi! Looks like you have your own adventure on the horizon – congratulations & good for you!! You’re on the right track to do it now and to make it happen — the planning and “quitting” your current life to do it is the hardest part, for sure!

      Please keep in touch & keep cycling!

  • What a great blog post! We’re glad you had such a great time here in our neck of the woods. I bike around here a lot but have yet to cycle all the way down through Big Sur. I admire your fortitude!

  • […] From Monarchs to Redwoods: Monterey to Big Sur Two enthusiastic individuals quit their day jobs to embark on a bicycling adventure around the world. Kai and Sheila hit Monterey County’s scenic pavement last week and documented their fabulous experiences from Marina to Big Sur with stunning photos and commentary. The duo then continued their journey through Big Sur to Ragged Point; that post can be read here. […]

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