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Big Sur

If you ever decide to drive between Los Angeles and the bay area around San Francisco, you would be wise to choose the coastal highway 1. Going north after San Luis Obispo the narrow road turns to the Pacific, hugging the coast as it climbs up the steep cliffs above the wide blue ocean. Home of the beautiful Hearst Castle, it winds and curves endlessly allowing for incredible sights every turn of the way. The road is a 2 lane, 35mph highway with few options for services.

This is my second time doing the stretch of pavement known as Big Sur but experiencing it by motorbike is the way it should be done, especially if traveling South. There are very few houses every few miles and even fewer roads that lead inland, forcing you selfishly to take only its beauty in, without other options, without distractions.

My goal was to find a hidden spot somewhere above the ocean, to fall asleep and wake up to the sounds of the vast blue horizon. So I spent the whole day searching for the perfect spot knowing my options were very limited. And so the daylight slowly started to fade and I eventually felt it necessary to take a dirt road inland a few miles which I hoped would provide something adequate. And as my search continued, frustration started to set in, and after a few miles of following the road up the hill in vain I turned the bike around and started to head back. The Pegasus with all my gear is a poor off-roading machine and I have very little experience which meant my frustration simply amplified as the sun slowly set under the ocean.

To make matters worse, instead of utilizing the gearing of the bike to slow the engine down as I descended the dirt road, I kept constant pressure on the brakes which in a matter of minutes overheated them resulting in an sponge soft front brake and a completely failed rear.

What the hell does one do now, rolling uncontrollably down a dirt road slowly picking up momentum, stomping like a maniac on the brake pedals that simply choose not to respond?!

Now panic set in as I frantically scanned the road for any chance to pull over. Finally riding up the inner side of the hill I manage to gently "crash" the bike to a stop, both brakes completely useless at that point. After a few moments to calm my nerves I realize that waiting for the brakes to cool off on their own was not an option due to the time constraint so I was forced to waste half of my water supply to cool them that way. This is not recommended cause it can warp the disks.

I did finally find a descent spot albeit I had to do some freakish maneuvers with the bike up a small but steep hill. Luckily I managed to keep it up through the hard part, only to lay it down at the top, and in a pile of animal dung nonetheless!

By now I was in a pretty sour mood; dirty, tired, frustrated to have to set the tent in darkness and on an empty stomach and disappointed at my failed search for the perfect Big Sur camping spot. And besides the stench of my earlier misfortune I had to deal with odd noises deep in the back-country all night long.

I woke up tired to a thick fog covering everything below. I moved on without breakfast due to lack of water but soon enough I found a stream and as I prepared some food a nice couple stopped, we chatted a bit and they filtered some water for me, and by the time all this passed, so had the fog revealing the beautiful Californian coast under another sunny day.

The day was fresh and this was enough to put a smile on my face despite the previous rough night. I continued north slowly stopping often to take pictures. Unexpectedly, a little bit past Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park I found a pullout that was blocked by big boulders preventing cars from using it. For me it was no problem to ride through them and once I passed the barrier I found my self on an edge of a 100+ foot cliff in a little inlet with the huge ocean to the front. There it was, the perfect camping spot I had been looking for all along. The cliff was so abrupt you could literally hang your feet out and observe the waves crashing below. Up top it was flat with plenty of shade and a cove that would have been an excellent natural roof. The huge condors soared above and the sea lions could be heard below. I loved this spot so much I debated spending another day just to experience waking up on that cliff but I chose to enjoy lunch there instead and continue north to San Fran.

There you go. Invaluable tip on the perfect camping spot in Big Sur. Just leave your car at home.

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