Beautiful Big Sur Bike Tour

 

(and only a tiny bit of trash!)

 

I recently did a three day bike tour in Big Sur with my partner and a couple of dear friends.  At the writing of this post, about 30 miles of Highway 1, which winds along stunning mountain cliffs above the ocean, is very difficult to access due to a mudslide on the south end and a broken bridge on the north end.  This makes it an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bike with very few cars on the road.  So we did!  And I am so grateful to have done it.  Special shout out to my in-laws and my friends’ parents for watching our kids during this time and letting us experience this beautiful ride.

 

One of my goals, other than enjoying the amazing views, good food, and cold beers, was to tour without creating waste.  I was pretty close, but had a couple of “I’m starving!” moments and some of my planning was off, which led to some waste.

 

Here Are my zero waste successes

 

and failures from this awesome trip.  

 

Day 1

We started in Carmel, CA, and biked about 30 miles to Fernwood Resort in northern Big Sur (before the first road closure).  Here are our stops along the way:

 

DIY Bike Tour Stop #1:  

We started with lunch in Carmel at a taqueria.  They served us on real plates with real serving ware and my partner and I used our own reusable napkins.  Zero waste success!  The tacos were awesome, of course.  And we were full and ready to bike!

My smooth ride!

Stop 2:  We biked several miles down the coast, stopped briefly in Point Lobos State Reserve, and for a photo here and there.  Our main second stop was the Rocky Point Restaurant.  We had to get a cocktail it was – the only stop for the rest of our day along this beautiful coastline, and it has gorgeous views and famous bloody mary’s 🙂 .  We decided to get a round of bloody mary’s to help power us up the hills 🙂 and I forgot to say “no straw, please”!  Ack!  I don’t get drinks out too often, but you’d think I’d remember this by now!  So, here’s my reminder when I place my order (say it with me): No straw, please. No straw, please. No straw, please.  

The lovely grounds at Rocky Point Restaurant

Stop 3:  We biked several more miles (who’s counting??), up to the top of Hurricane Point and then back down again.  Although far from a hurricane, Hurricane Point is quite a little micro-climate of fog and strong winds.  We felt a little like we might get blown off the hillside.  We stopped for a quick photo and snacks from New Leaf bulk bins (cacao energy nibs, fancy nut mix, and sesame sticks).  Nothing to buy, nothing to throw away!

Liz at the top of Hurricane Point.

 

The dudes enjoying the view at Hurricane Point

 

Stop 4: After another several miles we were nearing our destination!  But we had to stop and check out one of our favorite state parks – Andrew Molera – before calling it a day.  We visited Andrew Molera Beach by walking and riding our bikes over a wooden bridge and about a mile along a dirt path.  We shared some the same snacks from bulk.  We also had a beer that we recycled AND we picked up some garbage on the beach.  Leaving things a little cleaner feels great.

Enjoying a rest at Andrew Molera State Beach

 

Stop 5:  At the end of the day we made it to Fernwood Resort and checked into our room.  We were all starving and a little desperate for showers, so we got a bag of chips to hold us over while we all showered and let our little ones/grandparents know we had made it safely the first day. Why do potato chips have to be so delicious???  In hindsight, it would have been smart to plan a special treat for the end of each day so we could have resisted the delicious potato chips calling our name at the resort mini-market.   After chips and showers, we ate dinner at the Fernwood Resort restaurant, which uses real plates, cutlery, and napkins.  Yes.  

 

Day 2 of our DIY, Low Waste, Big Sur Bike Tour

The second day we biked from Fernwood just a few miles to the northern road closure on Highway 1, which is the result of a broken bridge.  We carried our bikes and gear about a ½ mile and 150 steps UP to the other side of Hwy 1.  Phew.  Then we biked about 30 miles along the most gorgeous, jaw-dropping part of Hwy 1 to a cabin.  Here are the stops we made on day 2:

 

Stop 1:  I thought we’d be able to eat breakfast at the Fernwood, which was a silly thought because Fernwood doesn’t serve breakfast.  So we checked out Fernwood’s mini-market again.  They had breakfast muffins, which came in a paper wrapper and coffee, which only came in a disposable cup.  Doh!  Reusable coffee mugs are zero waste 101!  I can’t believe I failed on that one.  But I did.  If I’d done a little more research I could have figured this out.  We didn’t bring coffee mugs since we were trying to travel light.  But maybe I could have squeezed one on board just in case.  Heck, it’d keep beer cold too!  This also made me wish we had some sort of traveling composter…some way to transport and start the breakdown process when you travel.  That’s a project for another day.  Back to our journey…

 

Stop 2: So, we had to get a real breakfast.  A quarter of a store-bought muffin was never going to get us over those mountains.  We headed to the closest spot, the Lodge at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.  I have to share, and I do hate to complain much about service since I was a waitress once and I know it’s a tough job, but this was literally the worst service I’ve ever had.  EVER.  In my LIFE.  The four of us never received silverware or a napkin.  We shared one fork, one knife, and one napkin between the four of us.  Seriously.  I am not joking.  We got creative and used toast as a utensil, but it was pretty pathetic.  And I can’t blame the crowd since there were probably 4 other tables seated at the time.  I would not recommend the lodge for dining to anyone.  But, on the plus side, we had one napkin and it was fabric, and fewer utensils to wash – so I guess it was a super eco way to eat :).

 

Stop 3: After our leisurely breakfast we carried our bikes up about 150 steps and some very steep hillside to the other side of the downed bridge.  It. was. hard.  Luckily, we helped each other out and made it happen.  

The path around the downed bridge on Highway 1 in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Some how this doesn’t quite capture the steep-ness of it.
We made it to the top of the path!

 

At the top of the hill was a pub with fresh made sandwiches and cold beer on tap.  Of course we had to stop for both.  The one bummer about this stop was that the pub used plastic cups instead of glass.  What the heck?  Who wants to drink cold, fancy, $6-a-pint beer on tap out of a plastic cup?  Well, we did, apparently.  We left the cups there to get “recycled”.  I’m not sure what the fate of those cups was, truthfully.  This and coffee-gate, above, are making a strong case for bringing a travel mug on all future bike tours.  I think they come in pint sizes too.  Drat!  Next time…

 

Stop 4: We made it about 1 mile to our next stop.  Note that we stopped 4 times in the first 5 miles or so.  We weren’t making any speed records, here, people.  But don’t worry, we made it to our ultimate destination before dark (that was my main concern) and were having a lot of fun.  Back to stop 4.  There was a cute, random, road side taco stand 1 mile down the road from the pub.  We HAD to stop and check it out and get some tacos.  These came on paper plates.  Ugh.  This gets me thinking about folding, lightweight, travel plates.  Another project for another day…  

 

Stop 5: There was basically nowhere left to spend any money after the taco stand.  Just miles of open, beautiful road.  We stopped at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and ate the sandwiches we bought at the pub while we overlooked the most magical beach and waterfall.  It was stunning.  The sandwiches were awesome.  We had another beer, of course.  

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. This doesn’t capture the beauty at all.

Stop 6:  There was a look-out spot further down Hwy 1 where we stopped briefly to enjoy the view, but at this point we were also hoping that the cabin was close and the ladies in the group were getting a little antsy to press on, so we did.

 

This is how I felt when we made it to the cabin.

Stop 7: The cabin!  It was super beautiful, with a small creek and beach, amazing views, and a full kitchen.  

The views were stunning!\

We came prepared to make our own dinner – pasta (from bulk) and pasta sauce in a jar (which we recycled) and nutritional yeast (from bulk) and texturized vegetable protein (also from bulk).  The pasta was delicious.  We slept hard that night.  

Zero waste dinner success!

 

Day 3 of our DIY Bike Tour

On our last day of biking, we went from the cabin back north toward Carmel through Pfeiffer Big Sur State park again, where friends left our car (funny/not funny story about that in a bit).  We woke up in the cabin and made breakfast.  I’d brought fixings for fancy oatmeal: oats, raisins, chia seeds, chopped walnuts, coconut cream and apples (all of it from bulk except the can of coconut cream).  I also brought coffee and the cabin had compost!  Zero waste breakfast success.  We had some leftover coconut cream, which we put in our coffee; and leftover oats, which we carried with us.  We still had a good number of snacks for our last day: cacoa energy nibs (our FAVS), sesame sticks (second favs), fancy nuts (third favs), and plaintain chips (least favs.  Sorry plaintain chips).  So we set off on our journey.  Our goal for the morning was to make it to Post Ranch Inn by 1pm for a fancy lunch reservation, an anniversary treat to all four of us who were married within about 10 days of each other, 11 years ago.  It is a spendy kind of lunch, so it’s got to be a special celebration.  And it meant we didn’t need to pack a lunch – just continue working on our tasty snacks.   So, here are the stops on day 3.

 

Stop 1:  We were a little nervous about making it to our reservation on time, so we hustled quite a ways before making a mandatory snack stop, somewhere near Esalen Institute (an amazing place, everyone should go!).  We ate some of the leftover oats on the side of road and then pushed on through.  Another zero waste pit-stop success!  

 

Stop 2:  We were making some pretty good time, eager and a little desperate to make our lunch reservation.  We stopped again after another hour or so of biking.  No businesses in site, so we just enjoyed our snacks on the side of the road again, enjoying the amazing views.  We probably shared a beer too.  🙂

Stop 3:  That super cute taco stand called to us again!  Despite the fact that it is only a mile from our destination/lunch reservation, we had to stop and check it out.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on whose side you were on), it was still closed since it wasn’t quite noon.  We took a couple photos and pushed on up the hill toward Post Ranch.  We realized we were still pretty early, so we went to a spot a little further up with a great view of the coast and sat on the side of road again (so many amazing views on this trip, it was absurd).  

After a bit, we decided we had time to also go to Nepenthe, which was just above us, and have a drink before our fancy lunch.  It seemed like a great idea at the time :).  It was though, really.  We had a lovely cocktail on their beautiful outdoor patio.  They used paper napkins and no straws in our drinks.  No waste!  Then it was time to go.

 

Stop 4: Only about 15 minutes late, we rolled in to the Post Ranch Inn – Sierra Mar restaurant – for our lunch reservation.  This place is awesome.  The ranch land itself is just gorgeous and makes you want to spend a week (and your retirement savings) there at the ranch.  Then you get to the restaurant, which is ridiculous – beautiful views of the ocean and coast, and the building itself is build into the cliff, which makes you feel like you are standing above the ocean.  Just incredible.  You feel like you are up in the clouds when you eat there.  The water below is just stunning – black rocks edged in white sea foam jutting out of the turquoise Pacific, with patches of cinnamon-colored kelp swaying just under the surface.  Seriously, deliciousness for your eyes.  So wonderful.  Actually, that is the water all along the Big Sur coast.  If you’ve never been, you need to go.  Anyway, this little restaurant has been cut off from its regular suppliers due to the road damage, but they are doing a great job of maintaining awesome offerings and a wonderful atmosphere.  We had wonderful meals and fancy cocktails and just an all around lovely, leisurely, well-earned lunch 🙂 .  And, this place is way too classy for any sort of disposables.  Another zero waste success!!!  Way to go team!!!

Anniversary smooch.

Stop 5: Okay, here is where the end of trip got a little discombobulated (remember I talked about the car being in the parking lot?).  So, for some BIZARRE reason, I got it stuck in my head that the car would be at the Andrew Molera State Park parking lot, which is about 5 miles north of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.  So, we biked through the park, and another 5 miles to the wrong place.  Ugh, Liz, read your dang emails!!  Luckily, there was a shuttle back to the park AND the dudes had the energy to bike back down and didn’t even want to take the shuttle.  So, that’s what they did.  And they finally found the car.  And we finally got it in it.  Phew.  Sorry, guys.

 

Stop 6:  I’m not sure if this counts as a stop or not but we slept our last night together at our friend’s cousin’s house.  She is a professional chef and let’s just say it was an AMAZING dinner.  It was like eating at home, if you were married to a professional chef.   And way to classy for disposables.  Is that classist?  Well, you know what I mean.  Another zero waste meal, with wonderful company.

 

So that’s it.  Such a wonderful experience.  I am so glad we took advantage of this rare time in Big Sur history to have the road to ourselves.  It was just jaw-dropping view after jaw-dropping view.  So much beauty.  And the time with friends and hubby was so rejuvenating.  To all you parents of young ones out there:  if you can make it happen to slip away for a night or two, go for it!  And to my last goal – I did a pretty good job of minimal waste on the trip.  Other than a couple of oversights, I kept my carbon footprint to a minimum.  Did I mention we drove 4 people and 4 bikes in a Toyota Prius?  It’s do-able.  

There you have it .
my zero waste successes and lessons learned.

 

I am ready for the next ride!!

 

Thanks for reading!

Liz

Can you Go for zero waste with a busy family life?  Yes!

You’ve come to the right place!  Read further for my top 10 hacks!

Going for zero waste means trying to avoid pre-packaged food and instead cooking from scratch more often. This means not buying disposable, processed foods that are easy to grab and go for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, which can pose a challenge if you work 9 to 5, like me, and need to feed your kids and get them ready for bed in a couple of hours time. So, how can we get it all done in our crazy hectic lives? Here are some tips that have helped me in transitioning our home to zero waste.

 

My Top 10 Zero Waste Kitchen Hacks (for busy families!)

 

  1. Pressure Cooker!  Get a pressure cooker! You can cook beans from dry to delicious in 1 hour or less! You don’t even have to remember to soak them overnight! It’s a bonus if you do – they’ll cook even faster :). So, if you are like me and are home around 5:30 and wanting to eat by 6:30, this is do-able! I got one for Christmas (thanks, honey!). Oh, and did you know that if you soak your rice, it cooks faster too? My mind was a little blown when I learned that trick :).

    I LOVE my pressure cooker! We use it once at week for sure.
  2. Bulk Bin Snacks! Keep your cupboards full of bulk bin snacks like granola, cereal, and plaintain chips that you can buy in bulk. Snacks can still be fast and easy without packaging. Our favorites right now are pretzels, sesame sticks, and cacao nibs. Delicious! 
    We are digging pretzels, plaintain chips, and cacao nibs these days!

     

  3. Snack Baggies!  Buy or make reusable, washable snack baggies for lunches and snacks. Fill one with something before you head out into the world if you think you or the kids might get hungry. If you’ve got something on hand, you avoid having to buy whatever you can find, which may not be healthy or package free.

    I make sell these snack baggies. They are so cute, if I may say so myself 🙂 !
  4. Fruit! Keep your fruit baskets full! This is the ultimate zero waste snack. Right now we’ve got apples from grandma and grandpa’s trees. I know, we are spoiled!

    Fresh local apples. Mmmmm!
  5. Menu plan! Menu plan before you grocery shop. I don’t always have an exact menu in mind, but I think of what we’ll have for protein (tofu, beans, TVP, nuts, dairy or eggs) and veggies for most of our dinners, what the kids will pack for lunches, and what are our popular breakfast items. The carbs seem to take less planning – there’s usually rice, quinoa, or pasta in our cupboards. And I always make sure to stock the snack cupboard! I generally go once a week, but sometimes less if life gets too crazy. In those days we just coast on fumes until I can make it to my local shop with lots of bulk bins.
  6. Leftovers! Cook enough so you’ll have leftovers. Leftovers are the best, right? We put in our lunches and have another dinner ready to go too sometimes.
  7. Your arsenal! Carry extra cutlery, napkins, and jars when you are out and about with the kiddos. Great for getting frozen yogurt, or food from the hot bar at your favorite natural food store. I keep meaning to leave some in the car too.
  8. Soak those nuts! Always keep nuts soaking in the fridge for last minute nut milk! We’ve been doing almond milk lately, but any nut will do!
  9. Popcorn!  Have some popcorn kernels on hand for feeding kids who show up for impromptu play dates at the house. We love nutritional yeast on our popcorn. Sometimes I make them eat it outside, though ;), to cut down on the clean up process – nuty yeast flakes end up all over the place.  Popcorn tends to be a popular bulk item, so hopefully you can find it near you!
  10. Water Bottles!  Help your kids remember to always take their water bottles out with them when they are on the go! We are still working on this in our home, but usually at least one of us has a bottle to share in a pinch. We still have plenty of kiddo germs, though, so I try to avoid sharing when possible.
I love my new S’well! It’s insulated and I spill less when I sip :).

And two bonus tips!

 

11. This is cheating but, know where you can grab a quick dinner that won’t result in waste. One of our defaults is a local taqueria. Occasionally there is a piece of paper on the plate (e.g., chips in a paper-lined basket), and we’ll bring that home and compost it.

12. Last one: Don’t be too hard on yourself! Life happens. Waste happens. We are all just doing our best to make things a little better around here 🙂 .

Those are my tips! Do you have some? I’d love to hear! Share in the comments below!

Thanks for reading,
Liz

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