This scenic day starts with awesome golf-course studded shorelines in Pacific Grove and Carmel. The miles cycling along 17-Mile Drive melt away and then a short climb to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and the conclusion this relatively short 45-miler. It's a warm, clear morning - perfect conditions for this spectacular day on the bike.
I think most people believe that things happen for a reason. It may be driven by religion, karma, the laws of nature, or it might just be dumb luck. As far as I'm concerned, Kelley coming into my life is all the proof I need that things happen for a reason.
From the day I envisioned cycling the Pacific Coast, only to have a heart attack two hours later, I have believed that everything that has happened leading up to and during this ride happened for a reason. Take for instance when I hurt my knee. That knocked me out one day before I had a scheduled two week break, and it was an injury that needed two weeks to heal.
And with that deep sentiment out of the way, it's time to whine about my latest owie. Today was easily the best day I've had in terms of both the knee I hurt in Washington and the achilles I hurt in Oregon. Today was the first day the achilles gave me almost no problem at all. Likewise, the knee is pretty much back to normal. Even my trapezoid soreness seems to have been fixed with a minor handlebar adjustment. So, wouldn't you know it, now my right hamstring has decided to get in on the action. Yesterday, I mentioned that I had some muscle issues and cramped up. This hamstring was a big part of it and it was sore all day today.
But I'm perfectly OK with it. I believe these injuries, aches, and pains, are all reminders that this ride really isn't about me. They are reminders that my daughter and others with arthritis deal with this kind of pain, or much worse, every day. The fact that Lindsey flared after I decided to do this ride was a huge reminder to me what the ride is about, and I think that happened for a reason too.
Yes, cycling from Canada to Mexico is a big deal for me and I'm going to be immensely proud of my accomplishment. I'm living a dream and it's very easy to get caught up in that. But It seems like I'm constantly being reminded to remember why I'm here. And as far as I'm concerned "it hurts so good."
After doing 85 miles the day before, I knew I needed a 48-mile day, and I really knew I needed it by the end of the day. Between the hamstring soreness and just a tired body overall, I was dragging most of the day. But I enjoyed the ride nonetheless. It was team jersey day and our 6-person Links for Life Team connected for a photo op at the start and then most of us took a coffee break together in Aptos, and then had lunch together on the wharf in Monterey.
The ride turned inland a bit, through artichoke and strawberry fields, before retuning to the ocean in Seaside. It was another clear, sunny, day and whether we were cycling past farmland, ocean, or Monterey Bay, it was all equally enjoyable.
Probably the worst part about Day 2 is that road conditions are pretty rough. Our entire team except for Dean, hooked up for a great lunch in Monterey before the steep climb to camp. Those climbs take on new meaning when your legs have been resting for an hour and then they're immediately called to action for a climb after food, beer, and no warm-up.
Jim Fuqua, who runs the Monterey chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, and his wife Renee, once again hosted us for happy hour here at Veteran's Memorial Park. Jim is the one who got me involved in the Arthritis Foundation and it's quite probable that this ride, or my 5 previous CCCs for that matter, wouldn't be happening if it weren't for him. Thanks, Jim!
I also had Lynn, one of the PTs, give my legs a good massage. She sure hit all the hot spots. I was hurting in places I didn't even know I was hurting. I got the 20-minute "teaser" and it must have worked because I already signed up for another one tomorrow.
The Honoree at dinner in Monterey was Alan. Alan is yet another kid I know from Camp. This was his first year at Camp Milagros, and after being very quiet the first day or two, he really opened up and had a great time. He says he's really excited to come back next year. About 90% of the kids who come to Camp Milagros, keep coming back until they age out. At that point they can go to Teen Retreat. Lindsey can now go to Teen Retreat. Lord Help Us.
Day 20 Recap: Santa Cruz, CA to Monterey, CA
Actual Miles: 48.2
Cumulative Miles: 1,297.4
Elevation Gain: 1,699'
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 53,565'
% Distance to Mexico: 68.9%
Circling Monterey Bay, I'll be cycling through Capitola, Aptos and the strawberry fields of Watsonville. At 48 miles, I'll have an opportunity to enjoy a relaxing lunch on Cannery Row in Monterey before climbing the hill to our campsite at Veteran's Memorial Park.
I think my muscles were a little surprised that after 1,150 miles they still had more work to do. In most respects it was a great day. Weather was perfect, my conditioning was great, my knee felt 99% recovered, and I was able, (for the most part), to stay in the Canada-to-Mexico "zone".
But after having had no muscle issues or cramping in 18 days, I had some of both today. Nothing serious, but my right calf was barking at me for most of the day, and then when I left Davenport at mile 75 or so, pretty much every muscle below my knees cramped up. But after getting my wheels spinning again, I was able to glide to the finish (and the cold showers) at Santa Cruz High School.
The first day of the California Coast Classic started with a 5-mile ride to the start line. Although I wasn't able to convince Kelley to get up at 6:15 and give me a ride, Lindsey happily joined me to help bring my bags down to the gear truck. It was a really rough start for one rider who had his bike stolen from the (supposedly secure) bike storage room at the host hotel. They did get him a replacement bike and fortunately, he's rolling.
At the Friday night reception and again at the morning CCC Kick-off breakfast, Honoree Malia Potter spoke. She did a great job. Malia is a friend of Lindsey's as a result of meeting at Camp Milagros, northern California's camp for kids with arthritis. Likewise, Lindsey is friends with Mia Brees, who spoke after dinner. These kids wouldn't even know each other if it weren't for Camp Milagros and now they're great friends. I am so proud to be a part of that camp and a part of the Northern California Arthritis Foundation.
I often think of Day 1 as the most difficult day of the CCC. It's long and has quite a bit of climbing, most of which comes in the first 20 miles. I really didn't think today was all that difficult, but after breakfast at the Presidio, we started climbing with no warm-up. Since the heart attack, I try to avoid anything strenuous for the first five miles. Not much I could do about it today except let just about every rider, walker, and slug on the road pass me. I really hate that but I think I'd hate being dead more.
The scenery on today's ride was more of what I've shared already - spectacular. I treated the day like the previous 18 and stopped whenever and wherever I wanted to enjoy the scenery or shoot a photo. As a result, I saw things today that I probably wouldn't have seen on previous CCC's - things like a gathering (flock?) of baby seagulls on the beach, a house built into the rocks overlooking the ocean, and two grey whales outside Pigeon Point Lighthouse. But fortunately, I did not see Steve Divney in the shower.
This is a big CCC group this year - approximately 215 riders, a lot more than I reported in my blog earlier and probably 100 more than last year. For, the most part I like it bigger, but it does have a different feel than riding solo, or even from the PCC, and it also means long lines for food.
This was our first year at Santa Cruz High, and while it's a great campsite, they have no hot water in the showers here. Hot water got cut from the budget. No soap in the showers or mirrors in the bathrooms either. Don't you just love the California school system?
I've seen, talked to, and ridden at least a little bit with all 5 of my Links for Life teammates except for Dean Willmore. I think he's here but I haven't bumped into him. Day 2 is team jersey day, so those of us who have them will be sporting our nifty Colliers Links for Life jerseys when we next hit the road, and we'll see if Dean is even here
Day 19 Recap: Francisco, CA to Santa Cruz, CA
Actual Miles: 86.2
Cumulative Miles: 1,249.2
Elevation Gain: 4,243'
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 51.866'
% Distance to Mexico: 66.4%
Today begins the California Coast Classic, 8 days of cycling I've done 5 times before. I'll be camping each of the next 7 nights, with a support crew carrying our gear from site to site. About 225 riders have collectively raised more than $1 million for the Arthritis Foundation, including our 6-person Links for Life team, which is the #2 fundraising team overall. San Francisco is a wonderful city, but I'm already yearning for sleepy Pacifica, Half Moon Bay and Davenport, the coastal communities that take me 78 miles to Surf City, USA, Santa Cruz.
I’m just getting ready to leave for San Francisco where I’ll be attending the California Coast Classic welcome reception and then picking up where I left off Saturday morning, cycling 11 more days to the Mexico border. The first 8 days, I’ll be cycling in my 6th California Coast Classic and then I’ll be wrapping up with three more days to the border. There will be about 150 of us cycling in the CCC and we hope to raise $1 million for arthritis research and programs.
Our Links for Life team has seven members this year. Steve Gibson rode with me in the People’s Coast Classic in Oregon. For the CCC, Steve Divney, Scott Daugherty, Terry Healy, Derek Daniels, and Dean Willmore will be joining me. For Terry, Derek, and Dean, it will be their first CCC. Team Links for Life is the #2 fundraising team and the #1 team has 30 members, so not too shabby, huh?
I thought this would be a good time to give a quick Lindsey update. As most of you know, Lindsey has been going through a pretty tough patch, though nothing like she experienced from age 3-6. Nonetheless, it has been a painful flare and the arthritis affected many joints. We’re happy to say that Lindsey is doing better and better now. She is off prednisone, which is great. She is still taking methotrexate and it pretty much knocks her out the day after she takes it each week. Methotrexate is a chemo drug that is given in smaller doses for rheumatoid arthritis. Most of Lindsey’s large joint pain has subsided, but her fingers are still giving her problems, and that’s tough when you’re in school and need to write.
Lindsey is very excited about having been accepted into Ballet San Jose, and she is working very hard in her classes there. Lindsey will be performing in Ballet San Jose’s performance of the Nutcracker. There are three different casts and Lindsey will perform 3-4 of their 11 shows. Performances will be at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts with Symphony Silicon Valley, and Ballet San Jose Music Director George Daugherty.
Lindsey was also selected to perform at an Evening to Benefit Ballet San Jose and welcome new Artistic Director José Manuel Carreno, featuring dinner and a showcase performance by
members of Ballet San Jose. The performance will include guest artists from American Ballet Theatre, English National Ballet, New York City Ballet, and Boston Ballet. These are some of the top artists at these prestigious dance companies. The performance will be on Saturday, November 16.
Quite proud of our little dancer!
I'm posting this a little late because I got put to work first thing when I got home and now I'm really tired! So, I did safely cross the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco on Day 18 of my 29-day ride from Canada to Mexico, and when I arrived, I was surprised by about 20 of my friends and family. They all braved a morning downpour to come and see me roll into Crissy Field under the afternoon sun. It was a wonderful treat I can't thank all of you enough! Now I get a few days to rest up for the final 700 miles, from San Francisco to the border.
I was hoping I might escape the rain in spite of a gloomy forecast. When I woke up, it wasn't raining, but by the time I came out of the bathroom it was pouring in Tomales. The forecast showed rain off-and-on in both Tomales and San Francisco until about noon. I seriously thought about just waiting it out and starting my ride later in the morning, and I probably would have done that if the rain didn't stop as suddenly as it started. I made my way outside the Continental Inn and dropped my key in the keybox. About that time, the skies opened up again. I stood there under an awning next to a hotel guest who had come out for a smoke, and I said, "well, that doesn't look good". After less than a minute, the rained slowed to a sprinkle and I told the Marlboro Man, "I'm going for it". He just took a long, slow drag on his smoke.
For awhile I thought I had Neptune himself on my side. It sprinkled a bit, but more often than not I seemed to be staying relatively dry while cycling over pavement that had obviously been drenched a matter of minutes before. I even started getting cocky and instead of just making a beeline for the finish line, I started taking pictures and blogging. The ride around Tomales Bay was nice and even though I was stopping to take pictures, I was making good time.
At mile 22, started a 3-mile ride on the Cross Marin Bike Path. Bright yellow autumn leaves were falling on the wet black asphalt of the bike path and the colors were extremely vibrant against the overcast sky. At that point, I thought it was a perfect day to be cycling the Cross Marin trail. The colors would not have been the same under sunny skies.
I stopped several times to take photos on the path. Finally I set up my video camera to capture me riding over a bridge. I realized after shooting one video that I had my windbreaker on, so I took it off so that I could take the video in my BikeTheCoast13 jersey. As I made my way back to start my second approach to the bridge, Neptune ran out of patience and he pointed his trident skyward and made it pour. Now I'm suddenly in a downpour and I don't even have my windbreaker on to give me a little bit of protection.
I could spin a good tale about floating down the road but I was actually pretty lucky. It poured on me for about two miles, and two miles out of 54 was pretty damn lucky given how much rain others experienced. But two miles is plenty to soak you, your clothes, and your bags when you have no cover. With water weighing down my clothes and bags, it felt like I was cycling through molasses those two miles. I stopped a couple of times under trees but I don't think it was doing much good. I finally made it Lagunitas and pulled under a covered deck. Water was pooling inside my handlebar bag so I put my GoPro, PDA, and other electronics in plastic bags and put them in my panniers. After 10-15 more minutes of downpour, the rain stopped and I could even see a couple of patches of blue sky. That was my signal to hit the road again.
With patches of blue overhead and a decent afternoon forecast, I slowed down a bit to enjoy the day. The first city of any size I had seen in two weeks was Fairfax, so I stopped at the Fat Angel Bakery to dry off and have a cup of coffee. There were a couple of other traveling cyclists there. One was from another country and I did not get a chance to talk to him. But I did talk briefly to another guy who had cycled down to the Bay Area from Seattle.
This particular day had a lot of turns and my route guide had gotten soaked. I finally put it in a Ziploc bag, but after that I had to pull over and fish it out of my jersey pocket every time I needed to check directions. Of course, I didn't realize at the time that if I was late for my planned 2:00 arrival in San Francisco, that I'd be keeping 20 people waiting. To the contrary, I was in no rush and perfectly content to enjoy my ride through Fairfax, San Anselmo, Larkspur and Corte Madera.
I enjoyed my ride through Sausalito, but then there is a pretty good climb back up to the Golden Gate Bridge. With folks thinking I was minutes away, I spent at least a half hour on the bridge. I was enjoying the scene up there, taking photos and blogging, reflecting on how fortunate I was to get back on schedule, and just enjoying the view.
Once I got to the Presidio, I first had to figure out how to get to where the California Coast Classic starts next Saturday, since that needed to be my official finish point today. Once I got that out of the way, it still took me another ten minutes to find Kelley, the girls, and my fan club. I did feel bad that I kept them waiting but at least most of them arrived after the rain stopped, so they had a nice time together against a picturesque backdrop.
Day 18 Recap: Tomales, CA to San Francisco, CA
Actual Miles: 57.6
Cumulative Miles: 1,163.0
Elevation Gain: 2,221'
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 47,623'
% Distance to Mexico: 61.8%
After 17 days of quiet villages & unspoiled scenery, it's back to bumper-to-bumper traffic again after first riding along Tomales Bay, leaving Hwy 1 at Pt. Reyes Station. Fairfax, Larkspur, Corte Madera, Sausalito, then the Golden Gate Bridge and into "The City". The 53-mile day marks my 14th day riding in the last 15 days. I'll spend the next week with my wonderful, supportive family before returning for 11 more days to complete my Mexico-or-Bust quest.
....and then it started to pour, and it poured for the 30 minutes it took me to find cover in Lagunitas.
Today I pulled over to take pictures and another bike gypsy stopped and joined me. He asked if I heard about the guy who got sideswiped by a truck and broke his arm. I hadn't heard but I'm not surprised. The last three days of Highway 1 have have been incredibly scenic, but half the time there is no shoulder whatsoever. There are fewer trucks on CA-1 than 101, but between the fuel and logging trucks, the campers, and the pot smokers (you can smell them passing by), there are some perilous moments for sure. This stretch of road is easily more treacherous than Big Sur, and it makes Highway 9's shoulder look like bike path. Fortunately, most drivers are very aware and considerate of the cyclists.
So hey, I broke the 1,000-mile mark today (actually I went over 1,000 miles on Day 16 but I didn't figure that out until after the entire ride). How about that! Two weeks ago, I was dubious that I'd even make it three more days. Instead, I've continued to feel stronger and stronger over these last 14 days of riding. Today, I actually felt like a real cyclist again for the first 20 miles, until three other (retired) bikers staying at my motel passed me like I was standing still. The first 40 miles still flew by. The roads were smooth, the wind was at my back, and it was nothing but gentle rollers along the Pacific Coast bluffs.
The weather started out clear, then clouded quickly, then mostly cleared again. But about the time I crossed the Russian River at mile 40, a second, cooler cloud front came in and the wind started swirling. Those gentle rollers gave way to steep up & downs along the coastal cliffs, and the final 24 miles were tougher, but I still felt great all day. A minor handlebar adjustment in Fort Bragg seems to have eliminated most of my neck/trapezoid discomfort, and that alone makes for a more enjoyable ride.
I stopped in Bodega Bay, where Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds was filmed and ate at "The Birds". I still remember that as the first scary movie I saw and how it frightened the crap out of me.
The fog rolled into Bodega Bay while I was eating, but that's also where I followed Highway 1 inland, and no sooner had I put on my windbreaker than I was able to take it back off as temperatures warmed again as I moved inland.
After a country roll and then one last grinder climb, I coasted the last mile into Tomales. I like this little, one-corner town. There is a bakery (already been there), a grocery store (been there), a deli/cafe (been there), an Inn (staying there), a bank building (closed), and a restaraunt/bar (just had dinner there). And that's about it.
There are, however, no tomales in Tomales. But there ARE Hot Tomales at the grocery store, two cute girls and their mom baking cookies at the bakery, someone who will card a 56 year-old man who orders a beer at the deli (yes, I got carded!), a company called "Not A Tomales Bank" in the bank building, and a pets-ok policy at the Inn, but no bikes permitted in the rooms.
Day 17 Recap: Fort Bragg, CA to Tomales, CA
Actual Miles: 64.3
Cumulative Miles: 1,105.4
Elevation Gain: 3,839'
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 45,402'
% Distance to Mexico: 58.7%
I ride through Jenner and over the Russian River, then turn inland at Bodega Bay through Valley Ford and into the historic village of Tomales. The 64-mile day is my last before I'll start seeing more people in ten minutes than I've seen in ten days. Also looks like rain is on the way, but I'm hopeful that I'll be able to stay ahead of it. It's clear now as I depart from Gualala.
On August 14, 2013, I'm flying to Vancouver, British Columbia and beginning a 29-day, 1,880-mile bike ride from Canada to Mexico.