Santa Cruz to Monterey. 56 Miles. 2,346 Feet of Climbing Elevation.
By Zulu Delta
This past September, I completed a charity bike event with the California Coast Classic Bike Tour for the Arthritis Foundation. I rode my bicycle for 8 days from San Francisco, to Los Angeles California; 525 Miles, and climbed 26,278 Feet of Elevation. It was extremely challenging, rewarding, and amazing. I’ll be blogging multiple segments here about my journey.
I woke up, got out of bed (Cue Music; “dragged a comb across my head…..” Hey, Hey!! Stop That!!). “This” was a great sign. I wasn’t really expecting major health problems that morning, but after the previous “serious day” of riding unlike anything I had ever done before, I wasn’t sure how I would feel on the cusp of my second day of riding.
In comparison, on a different occasion years ago, I had ridden 108 miles in one day and 3700′ (the climbs were shorter and more of them) of elevation; except that day I got lost, crashed on the wet train tracks, got a flat tire, and was almost crushed when 3 massive deers came flying over an old stone wall and almost took my head off. I only had to finish riding that one day and no more. Nobody gets to have that much fun, twice in life.
The previous night I did spend more than the recommended time in the outdoor jacuzzi; a little trick I learned from skiing. I was certainly tired, but besides that, I was actually feeling a little giddy.
I had not only “survived” Day One, but as mentioned, with that ride under my belt, I was confident I could handle any of the future rides; this was a really good feeling. There was “something else.” The Day Two ride would “only” be 56 Miles, and 2,346 feet of climbing elevation. Not long ago, such a ride like that would have seemed like a “long ride,” but the times have changed and it’s a new day!
After another early breakfast, it was time to head out to “work.” Bike riding and breakfast for me is something I still haven’t “mastered.” I’m always trying to coordinate that need to have sufficient “fuel onboard” without eating too much and feeling bloated. I usually like chocolate milk to start, and then stop for “something” later. This day, I ate a little egg, some home fries, and plenty of fresh fruit. Luckily for me, besides an incredible breakfast every day, the CCC provides amazing rest stops with drinks and delicious things to eat. There’s never a problem of being “stranded” out somewhere, and there’s always treats to go.
Time for another crazy idea floating around in my head (Oh?….Only one Zulu?). High School homework. I recalled how so many times on a Friday at school when the bell would ring, and we’d do our best to run out of class before the teacher could stop us and say “Homework for the weekend…….. !” It was a similar thought after breakfast. I was “concerned” that someone would jump up and say, “Sorry, there’s been a mistake (or a traffic modification), and instead of only riding 56 miles, we’ve changed the route, and you now have to ride 100 miles total, and we tacked on an additional 3,000 feet of climbing elevation.”
I couldn’t “chance it;” I jumped on my bike and hauled-ass out of Base Camp as fast as I could; “Damn The Torpedos (and the digestion); full speed ahead!”
Santa Cruz looked like a beautiful place. I would love to go back and explore more, but I did realize the dilemma early in the morning; if I stopped every 2 minutes (which I did initially) to look around and take more pictures of the spectacular scenery, I’d never make it to Los Angeles or even Monterey for that point. In retrospect, I can’t tell you how many times in life people would ask me why I hadn’t taken more pictures of the magnificent places I had visited to match the stories I told them. The answer was; I was so immersed in the beauty and joy of what I saw and did, that I just didn’t get around to taking pictures, as much as I love them.
As I rolled down the street past the boardwalk amusement park, it all seemed so clean and quiet. It was early on a Sunday morning with nobody around. I stopped for a moment and stared up at the rollercoaster, soaking in the vibe of my near-dawn adventure, and the lack of any “usual” amusement park activity. I couldn’t help but make the correlation in my head to the early years of my life when I would find an old black and white picture hidden in a drawer. In those days, I would stare at the picture and find no “real” connection to the people or place. The picture looked old, the cars and the clothes looked old, and most importantly, the people looked not only old but “strange.” Many years later, if I was lucky to find an old picture in a drawer, my perspective was quite different. Yes, the old “analog” picture still looked old, but now, miraculously, I could see the beauty in a woman face, the fine wool pin-striped suit the man wore with pride, the twinkle in people’s eyes, and most of all, how young the people actually were; often more so than myself.
It was this gifted enlightenment that graced me as I sat still atop my “exploration chariot” that early sea-side morning. Yes, in the dead silence of the unattended park, I could see the flashing lights of activity. I could hear the boom of the roller coaster and the melody of the music. I could smell the popcorn. I envisioned the screams of joy and excitement bellowing out into the Pacific nighttime sky. I wouldn’t get to see this Santa Cruz dream that day or night, but 10 days later in Santa Monica, out on the pier, I would find everything I thought I saw, and so, I smiled anyway.
Lynn The Enforcer!!
I had once read, that if you were doing a long bike ride, you should “mentally break” the ride up into 3rds. The CCC followed a very close plan to this; by design or coincidence. Basically, my idea was to mentally ride rest stop to rest stop. Breaking up the entire day and route made it easier on the mind to manage the ride in smaller segments.
Sliding into the day’s first rest stop did nothing to dampen my giddiness. It only seemed to increase it. The Sun was shining, the sky was clear, and somehow I was having trouble believing I just blasted 20.5 miles in what seemed like 5 minutes. “5 minutes Zulu? Really?” Hey, why not; reality is over-rated anyway! As serendipity would have it, I met Lynn. Lynn was another volunteer who staffed the rest areas for the week. Like the others, she was kind, generous, helpful, and in no way going to put up with my nonsense! I liked her right away! In usual Zulu fashion, it didn’t take long for my snack conversation to degrade from “Lynn, may I please have an apple slice?” to “Hey, you know what would be really cool? Infuse some Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches with Sweedish Fish, and then dip them in melted cookies! Of course, the more I babbled, the harder I laughed. When Lynn threatened to throw me out of the rest area, I had all I could do to not fall down! “What!!!! Kicked out of the rest area???!!! How cool is that? The first person in history! A cycling delinquent!” “That’s it….your out!” she said. “On your bike; get going now!” I really wish my departure was more dramatic; like being booted out of class and heading to the principal’s office, but I was laughing so hard that I forgot to sing out some modified bike version of the Battle Hymn of The Republic to reflect the start of my journey into the upcoming coastal farmland. “Oh my legs have seen the glory of the coming of the Kale, I had no idea that the green vegetables were truly loved, and are so real….”
Days later, Lynn would cross a crowned garden and graciously invite me to eat dinner with her, and her husband, Dean who was also riding the tour this year. It was such a great way to meet new people, and learn about the lives of others. “Rest stops later,” she would also introduce me to another special person, who will make an appearance a few crazy blogs from now.
Lynn and Dean
Years ago, I would like to comment when describing a fun quirk of traveling and exploring new places; “So often you go someplace that is new and things are the same in concept but slightly different on a smaller observational scale that makes it unique; the light switches, electric outlets, and bath fixtures in the hotel are different. The cut and thickness of the sandwich bread is a little odd. The shop doors don’t open the same way, and so on.” This is what makes travel exciting and lets you know that you’re “somewhere else.” In many ways, the world has become more “homogenous,” especially traveling in your own country, and with the proliferation of chain restaurants and hotels, some of that quirky newness is gone.
Exiting out of the first rest area, I didn’t have to wait long for a new sense of wonder to overtake me and show something unseen to me on a large scale; I began to roll into an agriculture Meca; “The World’s Salad Bowl.”
I have seen farming in person before, but suddenly much of it all seemed so new. Instead of Corn, Cranberries, and Cows in the Northeast, I was riding up close to and in the fields of Kale, Lettuce, and Artichokes…………whatever that stuff is. Oddly, scenic-wise, it was nice to get a break from the magnificent rocky and ocean views of the Pacific; I didn’t want to become immune to its beauty and grandeur.
In the second rest area, I came upon The Choke Coach. Initially (and maybe never), I wasn’t sure of the purpose of the truck in front of me. At first, I surmised that this “Coach” would drive around teaching people to choke other people, (overactive imagination fueled by the lack of cycling music), I took a deep breath and went to investigate further. OK, it turns out I was wrong (who would have suspected), but I know there are “many” East Coast Cynics nodding their heads in concurment right now!! (He, he, he). Growing up, I was indoctrinated with the 3 basic food groups; Meat, Potatoes, and Chocolate (thanks Dad!). When I did branch out my culinary tastes to the public sector and eat off a “food truck” in the area, there was Sausage, Peppers, and Onions on a Roll, French Fries, Pizza, and some frozen Dels Lemonade (Hhhmmmmmmm!). Traveling through Europe, I had Crepes, and delicious Shawarma (barbequed lamb). Never ONCE did it occur to me, to order a Steamed Artichoke Burger! My bad cholesterol is crying right now!
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Mark Twain
This is why we travel. Artichokes may not be my “cup of tea,” but they do bring much happiness to others, and that’s all that matters. After the ride that day, I was talking to Michelle S; The Biking Alpha Dog, I mentioned about the Choke Coach; her eyes lit up. “I love artichokes,” she said. Maybe if I ate more artichokes and less junk food, I could ride as fast as she does!
Sometimes, you just need a closeup!!
Beautiful ocean scenery is not the only thing that makes me want to stop, take pictures and investigate; pretty much everything does. When not writing critically acclaimed nonsense-filled blogs, I work as an Instrument and Electrical Technician in a power plant. Instrumentation is the measurement and control of things like temperature, level, flow, pressure, pH, conductivity, voltage, specific gravity, and so forth.
It wasn’t long before my curiosity overtook me and I had to know more and get a closer look at the irrigation control station for one of the fields. To be honest, I was a little underwhelmed; fairly simple, No electronics, electric, or remote control. It was still pretty cool all painted white. To get a closer look, I wandered into the field, and told myself what I tell all visitors to the power plant; “put your hands in your pockets and DON”T touch anything!” Surrounded by nothing, I just couldn’t lay my bike in the dirt, so I rested it up against the valve station while I took some pictures. When I prepared my exit, I lifted my bike, but my handlebars snagged a valve and open it. Aaaaggggggghhhhh!!! “Run Away, Run Away!!!” Fortunately, nothing came out and nothing happened; an appropriate time for a little speed and distance anyway.
For some time after, I panicked I would flood the valley, wreck the entire crop, and usher in the next massive drought. When the Sherrif arrived, I was hoping they would just think I was some East Coast moron and not some “Aggie Terrorist!!!!!”
20 minutes later, I had put the “hammer down” and was moving along quite fast. The present flat landscape offered a good opportunity to make up some time from rest areas and pictures. Suddenly, from the low drone of the large open fields, I heard some screaming; “Hey….hey….hey!!!!” For a moment, I considered there may have been a tsunami wave of agricultural water “maliciously released,” ready to engulf me, and someone was trying to warn me, but when I finally did slow down and turn around, It was just Kyle B. catching up to tell me, I had turned left 20 feet too soon at the last corner and was off course. Thank you again, Kyle! He had been chasing me for a while. I was amazed at his very kind gesture and effort. I met a lot of nice people like Kyle that week. Later, I was not surprised to find out that Kyle was one of the top fundraisers for the Arthritis Foundation, and he wasn’t alone.
I would soon ride out of our own personal “How Green Was My Valley,” landscape and cycle along a bike path never far from the beachfront. I had arrived in Monterey. A piece of cake; 54 miles in a flash. “Finito-Finished!”
2 Miles to go, and I “shut it down.” I threw my mind and body onto cruise control mode.
“Tune in” for day 3, and find out what had happened to our delusional, although intrepid rider and writer, Zulu Delta.