Stage 4 of the 2019 Amgen Tour of California returns the pro peloton to arguably the most scenic stretch of road in the world. From its start at the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, the race embarks on a breathtaking 138-mile journey through California’s spectacular Big Sur coast to Morro Bay’s monolithic rock. This is a route that has also become synonymous with the Amgen Tour of California. The first three iterations of the race back in 2006-2008 included stages from Monterey/Seaside to San Luis Obispo. After a lengthy hiatus, the AmgenTOC again returned to this stretch of road in 2014 and then in 2016, the latter being a reverse of the me traditional north-south route. In May 2017, an immense landslide closed Coast Highway 25-miles north of Hearst Castle and only re-opened on July 18, 2018. Such a mammoth effort enabled the Amgen Tour of California to triumphantly return to this classic stretch of highway.
The peloton starts this epic voyage descending into Monterey from WeatherTech Raceway and onto Route 1. Before long, they pass Carmel By the Sea. At Monastery Beach, the craggy cliffs and windswept Monterey cypress of Point Lobos begin the scenic entry to Big Sur. Another ten miles pass before the peloton comes to the picture-perfect setting of Rocky Point. This is the first of an infinite number of immaculate vistas. Make sure to soak in the view from the comfort of the Rocky Point Restaurant, where an outside patio is the ideal place to capture the moment – the historic Rocky Creek Bridge is almost at your feet while the lush green hills of the Santa Lucia Mountains fall elegantly into the blue waters of the Pacific at Castle Rock. The Rocky Creek Bridge is tantalizing. It is the only man-made structure in view and yet somehow a natural fit. Just out of view, around the next bend, is the bridge’s more famous sibling, the Bixby Creek Bridge. Both structures were built in 1932 as single-span arch bridges with Art Deco motifs. Both have become international icons synonymous with Big Sur as they perfectly embody the grace and natural flow of this spectacular coastline.
Continuing south on Route 1, the Point Sur Lighthouse stands on a sentinel rock in the ocean. Soon, the Pacific is in the rearview mirror and we enter a dense forest where the small community of Big Sur comes alive and proves that there’s more to Big Sur than breathtaking views. Past the Fernwood Resort, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, and Nepenthe, the road opens again to the a wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean one thousand feet below. But at this point the real gem of Big Sur isn’t the million-dollar views, it’s the Henry Miller Memorial Library. Henry Miller, the controversially renowned author of Tropic of Cancer, resided in Big Sur for twenty years beginning in 1944, calling it “the face of the Earth as the creator intended it to look.” The Miller Library today tries to capture the rustic and freeing feelings that attracted the international author to these parts. It seeks to both celebrate the author as well as be a cultural center for the Big Sur community that include events like book signings, talks, and musical performances.
Big Sur continues another fifty-six miles or so until the Elephant Seal Rookery at Piedras Blancas. Another few miles is the turnoff to Hearst’s Castle before coming to the charming and eclectic beachside village of Cambria. Strong crosswinds blow off the Pacific waves in the resort area of Moonstone Beach. Just east, the natural forest of Monterey pines protects the more isolated town a cozy feel. What defines Cambria is its sleepy nature that invites visitors to get away. In this way, Cambria is like stepping out of reality and into another world – a transformative gateway to Big Sur literally hidden among the pines. Its many sides, from a walkable and secluded downtown at the intersection of Main and Bridge contrasts and complements the antique beach resort style of Moonstone Beach Boardwalk. Meanwhile, the Avantgarde expressions of Nitt Witt Ridge’s recycled house embodies the overall sentiment of this close-knit community and their tie to the land. In these ways, Cambria is a California beachside commune all its own.