At 87 miles, today is the longest of my 29 days on the bike, and it comes late, when the miles are taking their toll. When I finally see the Pacific again, it will be during a long stretch on busy sections of US-101, including a nerve-racking descent of Gaviota Pass. The reward is a glorious finish through the towns of Santa Barbara & Carpentaria before rolling into Ventura. Hard to believe I'll finally be in southern California.
If there were three days I would have circled where I'd be mostly likely to hit the wall, it would have been Days 24-26: today and the next two days. The ride today is/was a real grind. It starts with 40 miles of gradual climbing on crappy roads, culminating in two steeper climbs when your legs are pretty much done. Day 25 is just going to be long (87 miles), and Day 26 I have to ride 70 miles with a lot of wind and rollers to deal with on the heels of these other two, very hard rides. And now I'm starting to get saddle sore.
About the time we went to bed last night, the skies cleared and it got very cold and that led to the coldest morning of my ride so far, 43° according to my cyclometer. Of course, my cyclometer also said today's high was 121°, so who knows.
I rode alone for most of the day today, and a few miles outside Pismo Beach, I hit fog and it stayed foggy for 15 miles or so. The first 40 miles of this leg is pretty boring, so I didn't miss much. We do encounter a lot of 18-wheelers, and given the long false flat, I almost looked forward to them barreling past because the wind pushing off them (Doppler effect?) was giving me a temporary 2 mph boost that I was able to hold for a few hundred yards.
The two tough climbs come at mile 49 and mile 53. I was tired but handled them fine, but I was still happy to get to Los Olivos, where I enjoyed a sandwich, Diet Coke, and a Fat Tire beer before setting course for the last 10 miles to Buellton.
After I left Los Olivos, I continued solo, off-route, taking Ballard Canyon Road to Buellton. That 10 miles is by far the best 10 miles of the day and since the distance is the same, I can't understand why the CCC doesn't go that way, unless: a) they think the steep 1/2-mile at the beginning is too steep; b) they don't want us to miss the miniature horses; or c) the Arthritis Foundation keeps it a secret so I can ride it alone. I'm going with c.
At camp, tonight's CCC honoree was Caitlin Ryan. Caitlin is about the same age as Lindsey; her arthritis also started at about age 3, she also has Systemic Arthritis (as I recall from last year), and she also is flaring again after her arthritis had been quiet the last two years. It's eerily similar, but there is a also a major difference. Lindsey started responding to medication much quicker than Caitlin did. It took Caitlin dozens of medications over years of time, including way too much Prednisone, two hip replacements, untold pain and suffering, and a lost childhood before her disease even came close to responding. They both also share a tremendous spirit and ability to cope. Looking at Caitlin is like looking at the Lindsey that could have been.
Caitlin's mom gave a great talk. Caitlin's dad, Dave is on Dwight and Maria Powery's CCC team, "Team Also Touch". Sounds like a strange name right? I encourage you to visit alsotouch.com to the learn the story of the Powery's daughter, Christiana, who died at age 10 from complications from her arthritis-related autoimmune disease. Have a Kleenex handy. The team name comes from Christiana's last selfless words in her diary.
Day 24 Recap: Pismo Beach, CA to Buellton, CA
Actual Miles: 67.4
Cumulative Miles: 1,546.0
Elevation Gain: 2,520'
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 64,585'
% Distance to Mexico: 82.2%
All inland today & not the most scenic. Trucks, dust & potholes through Santa Maria & Guadalupe. Much better follows through Michael Jackson wine country. Los Olivos is a must-stop fur a late lunch, and the Danish village of Solvang is a short side trip for some before our final destination in Buellton, famous for it's Anderson's Split Pea Soup.
After I stayed up until 1:45 AM working on my blog the previous night, I figured I'd be toast on the ride from Cambria to Pismo Beach, but then I had this déjà vu when I woke up that the same thing happened last year during the CCC, and that I still rode OK the next day. And that's exactly what happened this year too. The lack of sleep didn't seem to bother me much. The Cambria Ale House pub visit did no harm either. All the body parts I've whined about felt 100% except the hamstring, and even that's getting better.
Although I'm feeling less "injured", the miles are adding up and I'm toasting. I noticed it today when I was cycling into the wind, which we did a lot. But because I'm not all that sore, and I'm not winded at all, and I'm enjoying the experience and not pushing myself too hard, I'm not even realizing that I'm in the toaster, let alone how long I've been toasting. But there is a moment of truth, and that moment of truth's name is Lynn. Lynn is the lead trainer/masseuse here and today I had my third 20-minute "teaser" massage in the last four days. Lynn is fantastic. I'd tell you that Lynn has shown me that I have sore muscles that I didn't even know were sore, but that would be an understatement. What Lynn makes clear when she tugs, twists, bends, or kneads my legs, is that every muscle I use when cycling is toast, whether I realize it or not.
We started today with a great breakfast my mom prepared, and I felt so much at home that I again forgot to take photos. Suffice to say, mom treated the four of us who spent the night there like guests at a five-star B&B. Terry, Derek, and Scott were all gracious guests, as were our other dinner guests from the night before, Jack, Jason, Steve, and Beth. Although we woke to fog this morning, the sun was out when we left the house in Cambria. It didn't last long though, and we got our first dose of CCC fog a mile outside Cambria, and it remained foggy through our coffee stop in Cayucos and into Morro Bay.
After Morro Bay, Scott and I split off and rode in warm sunshine through my Alma Mater, Cal Poly, before cruising into San Luis Obispo, where we hooked back up with Terry and his niece, Katie, and had lunch with my sister Diana and brother-in-law Paul.
Bellies full, we battled the wind all the way to Avila, where the fog rolled in again. It was a little disappointing for all of us not to have sun when we got to Pismo Beach. The fog was low, the views were spoiled, it was downright cold, and Scott didn't get to go body surfing.
If you made it this far, it's probably not to see more photos of me. Surely it has to be your infatuation with the unicycle. Just like the 20-minute teaser massage, you want more! OK, here it is: yes, there is a unicyclist here doing the 525-mile California Coast Classic and his name is Mark. He's been here for two other CCCs I've done and in one of those years we actually had two unicyclists. How these guys ride 525 miles down the coast on a unicycle is beyond me. They have a single, fixed gear and no coasting capability - your legs have to constantly move with the pedals. Mark, you are a freak. I might be toast, but you are Wonder Bread.
Day 23 Recap: Cambria, CA to Pismo Beach, CA
Actual Miles: 59.8
Cumulative Miles: 1,478.6
Elevation Gain: 1,699'
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 62,065'
% Distance to Mexico: 78.6%
Familiar territory through Cayucos, Morro Bay & lunch in SLO-town, my college Alma Mater, San Luis Obispo. The winds will then likely pick up through the coastal towns of Avila & Shell Beach. After 57 miles, it will time for a margarita at Old Juan's, or maybe a dune buggy ride at Pismo.
Today is the day of the California Coast Classic that everyone looks forward to and perhaps fears as well. The ride from Big Sur to Cambria is why is the CCC is billed as "The Ride of a Lifetime." But the 4,500' of climbing can be daunting for those not used to it, like our visitors from Texas and Maryland. The CCC delivered another perfect day, which for a lucky few, culminated in dinner at mom's house in Cambria.
I hit the road pretty early but unlike last year when I was way out in front until the "Pink Bike Lady" caught me in the last half-mile to Ragged Point, I had a lot of company today. Of course, I also made quite a few photo-op stops even though I was anxious to see mom.
After all the climbing concludes at Rocky Point, it's a blistering pace to the finish 20 miles further down the road, thanks to the tailwind that escorts you this time of day to Cambria. While I handled the climb OK, the pace afterwards helped restore confidence in my cycling ability. Well, at least it did until Steve Divney flew by me at about 32 mph. He did the same thing to me the day before. If Dickney wasn't such an apropos nickname, I'd have to start calling him Pink Lady II.
So, the big cycling talk in these parts is about the heavy rock, chip seal Caltrans used to pave this 20-mile stretch of road. Local cyclists and cycling clubs are up in arms. Others have weighed in and said it's not so bad. I've done some riding on it but this was the first time I've ridden the full stretch.
Here's my "two-strikes-you're-out" verdict with 1,300 miles of Pacific Coast qualifications under my belt: We flew down this stretch of road. Heck, Dickney was going so fast he might have been 2" ABOVE the road. So, for a single, wind-to-your-back, 20-mile stretch of the CCC, it was.....NO BIG DEAL,
As I already mentioned, we had the good fortune of cycling one-way, with the wind at our backs. What about those folks cycling 12 mph against the wind, getting slowed 2-3 mph by the rough road? And what about the fact the bike lane is worse than the road because all the loose stone is in the bike lane and there's nothing rolling over the bike lane heavy enough to smooth it out even a little bit....OK, that's a BIG DEAL, so STRIKE ONE.
Now imagine that you're a avid cyclist living on the Central Coast (and cycling is big here). This isn't the Bay Area, where you have 100 different routes you can ride. In this area, with few exceptions, you go south on Highway 1 or north on Highway 1, and then turn around and go back the way you came from. With all due respect to those who only have to ride it once, it's not about you. This stretch of road sucks for the cyclists who live here. Final verdict? STRIKE TWO/BIG DEAL!! But there is finally some hope: Caltrans just agreed to spend $1.5M to fix it.
OK, it's 1:00am and tomorrow's ride is now going to be brutal. But I have to close this recap with a huge thank you to my mom, who cooked for 9 tonight. In addition to mom and me, our Links for Life team minus Dean (not feeling well) came over, as well as Beth Miller, who heads up the northern California CCC efforts, Jack Klippel, the retiring CEO of the Arthritis Foundation, and Jack's son Jason, who came all the way from Maryland for the ride. We had an awesome dinner and then most of us had a nightcap at the Cambria Ale House. Unfortunately, we had such a good time, I only got one pic, and that was in the kitchen. ...And with that, lights out for me tonight!
Day 22 Recap: Big Sur, CA to Cambria, CA
Actual Miles: 73.7
Cumulative Miles: 1,418.8
Elevation Gain: 4,721'
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 60,366'
% Distance to Mexico: 75.4%
At 4,521', this is the biggest climbing day of my 29-day, Canada to Mexico journey. It is also some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Rolling up & down the rugged coastline until Ragged Point, there will be countless opportunities to shake your head in amazement. The last 20 miles of this 68-mile day flatten out until I get to mom's house in Cambria, where my Links for Life team members and I will spend the night.
Sunday's 48-miler was a grind. Monday's 47-miler was a breeze. Any 40-something miler makes you think there's no way you could do 80. The last 10 miles of a ride seem easier than the 10 miles before it. If you forget to check your distance traveled, the miles melt away. Count the miles and you might as well be walking.
Speaking of counting, I'm a math wiz when it comes to fractions and percentages. Say I'm on an 80-mile ride and I've gone 5 miles. In my head I'm thinking that's 1/16. Since 1/10 is 10% and 1/20 is 5%, I'm about 7% done with that 80 miles. I can (and do) bang those equations out in my head all day long and it doesn't matter whether I'm anxious to finish the day's ride or not.
Oh, but when it comes to weights and balances I'm a flunkie. Put me on a bike that's moving and I'm probably going to stay on. Walk my bike onto a ferry? I fall on top of it. Stop and take a photo? I just might topple over.
There's a lot of time for mind games when you're cycling 1,800 miles. A lot of people have asked me what I think about when I'm riding and I'm happy to say that for the most part I'm just in the moment, enjoying what's around me. I am totally disconnected from all media and only check email once, at night. That helps me enjoy every moment on a ride like the one today from Monterey to Big Sur. Just wow!
I thought that the San Francisco to Santa Monica part of my Canada to Mexico ride might be a grind because I've done it five times before. I still think the next five days (6 actually) are going to be a grind because every day is longer than 60 miles and I've already ridden more than 1,300. But it's not going to be a grind because I've done it five times before. This year's California Coast Classic is maybe even more spectacular than I remember, and the weather ranks either #1 or #2 out of the six I've done.
I rode out of camp today with teammate Derek and then we hooked up with John from Dallas and the three of us stuck together through 17-Mile Drive and Carmel. The surf was huge today, owing to the storms in the Pacific Northwest (I sure got out of there just in time). There was just a light haze through the Spanish Bay area of 17-Mile Drive, and it cast a very cool, filtered light through the trees. I ended up capturing one of my favorite photos that I have taken so far. I had stopped to shoot some pics into the trees and then I captured a couple of postcard silhouette shots of Dallas John as he ride past.
Beyond Carmel, the road changes to a series of rollers that provide a number of great vista points of the Big Sur coast, including the famous Bixby Bridge. I stopped at all of them. Pretty much everyone stops at the River Inn when they come into Big Sur, and a day like today was made for soaking your feet in the cold river with a cold one in your hand.
After a good soak, Steve, Scott, Derek, Terry, and I had lunch. The menu looked better when I could chow on a juicy burger and onion rings. But my prawns and salad were pretty darn good too. Later, at dinner, I happened to sit next to Adrienne Rubin, the top fundraiser. I introduced myself as her unworthy runner-up and we had a good talk about how I wanted my photo with her before I was going to have to kill her.
Today I invited just-retired Arthritis Foundation CEO, Jack Klippel and his son Jason to have dinner at our place in Cambria on Tuesday night with the Team and mom. Sorry mom, that now makes 10 of us. You've gonna need more meatballs.
Day 21 Recap: Monterey, CA to Big Sur, CA
Actual Miles: 47.7
Cumulative Miles: 1,345.1
Elevation Gain: 2,080'
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 55,645'
% Distance to Mexico: 71.5%
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.