My personal bike sherpa FAIL

A tale of lost touring cyclists and my horribly failed attempt helping them find their way.

The tale begins Sunday afternoon as I drive (ssh!) over Highway 17 from San Jose to Santa Cruz. With its narrow lanes, narrow or non-existant shoulders, and speeding traffic, this winding highway over the Santa Cruz Mountains is among the more dangerous state highways in California. I saw a pair of touring cyclists struggling uphill on the southbound side of the Valley Surprise at this location.

Valley Surprise northbound curve retaining wall

Since this Streetview photo was taken, Caltrans has installed a retaining wall, completely eliminating the shoulder next to the 11 foot lane.

While cycling on this portion of Route 17 is technically legal, the only people who do so are the folks who don’t know the alternate routes. When I got home, I checked the California Highway Patrol dispatch log and saw a CHP officer had directed these cyclists onto Glenwood Drive. I hopped on my bike and zipped to where Glenwood ends at the north end of Scotts Valley.

I found the cyclists resting at the Shell gas station there. Robert and Sofia flew to Edmonton, Alberta from Sweden, biked to Vancouver, and from there biked down the coast to San Francisco.

Robert & Sofia

Their bicycle tour book gives good directions along the Pacific coast into Santa Cruz, but Robert and Sofia decided to visit a friend at Stanford, so they detoured along the Bay to Palo Alto. They didn’t know how to get from the Bay to Santa Cruz, so they took the most obvious route: Highway 17. I admire their bravery, but Yikes! Admittedly, the tiny mountain roads used by the locals to traverse the Santa Cruz Mountains are difficult to find and easy to get lost on.

Even biking the short distance from Scotts Valley to Santa Cruz can be tricky if you don’t know the local roads, so I offered my services as a bike sherpa. I planned to ride anyway so I might as well help a fellow traveler along the way.

Robert & Sofia

They told me they planned to camp at New Brighton State Beach, so I escorted them into Santa Cruz and onto Soquel Drive. They needed to buy groceries, so I left them at the Rancho del Mar Safeway grocery store in Aptos at State Park Drive. I instructed them to bike down State Park Drive to find their beach and campground, bid them adieu and returned home.

I know, I know: The locals are already screaming at me “NO! YOU WENT TOO FAR! WRONG BEACH!”

Wrong Beach - New Brighton vs Seacliff State Beach

I was lying in bed late last night when I finally realized I sent them to Seacliff State Beach instead of New Brighton. Ugh.

Sorry for steering you wrong, Robert and Sofia. I hope you didn’t lose too much time finding your way back to New Brighton.


  1. Richard! You are the man!!

    Maybe you lead us too far, but if you hadn’t found us we would have gone up that nasty 20% grade hill. New Brighton was a great State Park, we found it easily.

    We’re in Pismo Beach now. Big Sur was awesome!

    When are you coming to Sweden?

    Thanks for a good read and a few laughs!

    Robert and Sofia

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