Carmel Valley Road via Uvas/McKean Reservoirs
This is a neat one-day street ride, with the Carmel Valley Road from south to north as the best part... This ride is at its prettiest in the spring, March - May, as the California poppies are flowering orange, and the pink & white dogwoods and fruit orchards are in blossom alongside the road. The new ranch grasslands extend uninterrupted to the south until they fetch up against Arroyo Seco mountains, just before the Hunter Liggett Military Reservation. It can get pretty hot later in the summer, but then you will enjoy the shady, woodsy sections all the more.
To avoid riding on 101/freeways as much as possible, take 85 to Almaden and south past Calero and Uvas Reservoirs, McKean/Uvas/Watsonville Roads to 152 east which then intersects with 101 South. You can get right back off 101 when you get to San Juan Bautista, which is also a good place to fill up before the next section.
After you regroup & gas up in San Juan Bautista, take San Juan Grade Road out of the south end of town over the shoulder of Fremont Peak to Old Stage Road (not the dirt section...I think it is closed forever). Follow Old Stage to Chualar and go right on Chualar/River Road across 101 to G17 River Road south. G17 River Road joins G 16 Arroyo Seco/Carmel Valley Road just west of Greenfield. Bear right on G 16/Arroyo Seco Rd. If you need to get back early or neglected to gas up in San Juan Bautista you can turn left on G 16 (Elm St.), and ride into Greenfield to get gas, or jump back onto 101 and head home. If you want to try some authentic Mexican food for lunch, just about any place on the main street of Greenfield will do. (Don't expect fast service on Sunday, though.)
The best part of the ride starts outside of Greenfield at Arroyo Seco/Carmel Valley Road. This is a lovely paved road, very twisty and tight, which climbs steeply up through woods and ranchland onto a ridge of the Coast Range, descends through a wooded canyon and comes out in Carmel Village. There is a possible side detour over Cachagua Road which splits off, goes up a ridge to a microwave relay station and rejoins Carmel Valley Road, but I have no idea what it is like - a chance for you to try a little adventure touring, perhaps... The last part of the ride is in the woods, so watch out for shady, damp spots, and of course also for bicyclists and cars.
A favorite place to stop for a late lunch/coffee in Carmel is at the Oak Deli and Cafe (831 659 3146) right in the center of town on the left, across from the BP gas station). You'll be ready for a break and this is also a good time to gas up for the ride home.
Routes back - the quickest way home is to continue west towards the ocean and turn right at Laureles Grade (G20) to 68 east to 101 north and home. Alternate routes such as G17 (Reservation Road) to Hwy 1 to 152 (Hecker Pass) to Watsonville Road to Uvas/McKean are possible also, but 101 is the easiest way back if it is late and you are tired.
Take care, ride safely, and do not go faster than your skill level, particularly on the tight sections of Carmel Valley Road. The turns are tight, and the scenery will tempt you to take your eyes off the road. Slow down and take some time to enjoy the views!
Freude am Fahren,