Bike directions Santa Cruz to Sea Otter

This will be my fourth year in a row biking to and from the Sea Otter Classic at Laguna Seca, Monterey, California.

The Sea Otter Classic and festival begins Thursday, April 14 2011. Like I do every year I go, I’ll take a combination of public transportation and bicycle for the 50 mile distance to and from Laguna Seca.

Santa Cruz to Watsonville

The first leg of the trip is from Santa Cruz to Watsonville, which lies on the Santa Cruz side of the Monterey County line. The usual route for cyclists is a 20 mile ride on Soquel Drive to Freedom Boulevard to Main Street in Watsonville.

Santa Cruz Metro operates 91X Commuter Express from downtown Santa Cruz to Watsonville with five daily trips. Route 71 runs much more frequently and much slower.

Watsonville to Seaside?

Google Maps suggests a 35 mile route to Laguna Seca through Moss Landing, Castroville, Marina and Seaside, which is very scenic but otherwise absolutely nuts. After you spend a couple of hours on a coastal bike trail fighting the attendant coastal wind, you get to share a narrow lane on South Boundary Road while climbing a 15% grade. I’ll tell you from personal experience that many mountain bikers hurrying to their downhill races make for dangerously rude drivers.

A better route, in my opinion, is coming at Laguna Seca from the east through Salinas. Highway 68 is less busy than going through Marina and Seaside, and the back “A Road” into Laguna Seca has very little traffic as well.

Watsonville to Salinas

The general bicycling route from Watsonville is to cross the Pajaro River into Monterey County on Watsonville Main Street, which becomes Porter Drive in Pajaro.

Pajaro California Monterey County

You’ll curve right onto Salinas Road, which eventually runs into Highway 1. Follow Highway 1 south past Moss Landing into Castroville, where you’ll make a left off of the highway onto Merritt Street. Merritt becomes Castroville Road, which you’ll south all the way into Salinas.

Personally, I almost always take the bus for this 20 mile leg from Monterey to Salinas. Monterey Salinas Transit (MST) #29 leaves every hour on the half hour from Monterey for the one hour trip to Salinas. MST #28 leaves every hour on the hour for a 40 minute trip.

Salinas to Laguna Seca

Finally, from Salinas, bike south on Main Street, which becomes State Route 68 once you leave town. Highway 68 has wide shoulders for the entire distance to Laguna Seca. You will need to exit at a couple of locations. The first is at Spreckels Avenue — just take the exit ramp then follow the access road around and jump right back on the highway. The second time is at the immediate next exit, which is for Reservation Road. You’ll exit, turn right on Reservation then an immediate left on Portola Drive, which you’ll follow around as it goes through a residential area (appears to be old Army housing to me). After about 2.5 miles on Portola, turn left on Torero Drive and right to return to Highway 68.

Eventually you’ll see “B Road / Canada De La Segunda” which is the entry to Laguna Seca to your right. Hopefully there’s a Sea Otter sign here, because otherwise there’s nothing except a bus stop sign. Both “A” Road and “B” Road will get you to the Sea Otter location at the top of the hill, but one or the other might be blocked off for road events, depending on what’s going on. Climb that 16% grade for the final mile to your destination.

Final mile: 16% grade

Transit options don’t exist on the weekend. If you travel during the week, MST #21 runs two trips from Salinas to Laguna Seca: One at 8:15 AM, the next at 3:10 PM. The other option is the 6:41 AM Presidio Express from Salinas.

Don’t get too excited about MST Routes 36, 37, 38 and 39 — those are all “special event” routes and Sea Otter apparently doesn’t rate enough as a special event for MST to run those buses.

I’ll be heading out early Thursday morning. Let me know if you think you’d like to join me coming or going. I plan to leave Santa Cruz about 6:30 in the morning for arrival at Laguna Seca by 9 AM. For Friday, I’ve already reserved a ZipCar if you’d like to share a ride with me. I have trunk mount bike rack for that as well.

For 2011, Sea Otter organizers have other options for you if you want to “Ditch the Car.” Be sure to bring a bike lock. Valet bike parking will be available Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 AM to 4 PM.

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