Los Olivos to Ventura. 88.2 Miles. 3280 Feet of Climbing Elevation
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.
So, …………...here we are on day 7.
As far as “riding apprehension,” goes, I wasn’t really thinking about it at all. That was a good thing because although today’s ride would have The Gang climbing a respectable, “only” 3300′ of elevation, mileage-wise, it was the longest day we rode that week at 88 miles. I just had to climb aboard my bike and go to work.
That’s not to say that I was completely oblivious to the mileage, the climbing, or the fact that I had been riding hard for 6 days straight. I’ve learned that you could never really “turn your back” on what a monumental (fun and adventurous) task is at hand here because that task will waste “no time” slapping you with a reality check. I got a few of those slaps on Day 7.
“Ooohhhh; your anger is delicious!”
Mike Myers Saturday Night Live!
Any day out on the bike can present some challenging road and traffic conditions. Obviously, this can even happen if you’re only riding within a few miles of your house (“hey Gus, why don’t you take Cindy down Allens Avenue again? It’s been 5 years, so I’m sure she’s forgotten and forgiven you!”).
I recently saw a YouTube video, by some guy who listed the 4 worst parts of Bike Touring. One of the four things was traffic and road conditions. I have to admit, as I watched a few of his road clips, I was a little freaked out by some of his bike footage. Having said that, upon review, I will also have to admit I was a little freaked out at some of my own footage from Day 7. You just have to be sharp and ride your best. “A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are for.”
I had heard rumors (again….he he!) of a huge 5-mile downhill that we would encounter that morning. I was thinking; “COOL…..5 miles….downhill! Who wouldn’t love that? Well, it turned out a little more challenging than I thought. It was a little misty, and we rode between the edge of the road and the “rumble strip” which was about 12″ over from the edge of the road where cars were doing 65 MPH; notice the sign that says “End 45 MPH”…..yeah right! Throw in a few construction poles, and some road section closures, and I suddenly realized why more than a few people chose the courtesy support van for this part of the ride. That didn’t stop me from continuing my barely heard commentary about “dodgy” conditions and the need to support public bike infrastructure as I rode along. Michelle S……….I never got back to you about Day 7 footage probably because the camera “vibrated to death.”
“One for the money……..Two for the road!”
The second slap I got that day happened to me briefly after the day’s first rest stop at El Capitan State Beach at about 34 miles. I left the stop and had a brief hill to climb. It was about a 7% grade. Nothing terrible, but enough to remind me that the tour was not over yet and there were still hills to climb. I was thinking to myself; “what the hell is this?” It gave me a little bit of a fit. How “dare” this small hill would insult me with its grandeur after I have proved myself worthy of the California Coast this week!!! I think it was a brief combination of everything I have told you about riding this tour; a hill, a “cold climb” after a rest stop, a mental lapse, and a little fatigue. “Shut up Zulu!” I thought…….It would be best not to provoke the “Bike Gods,” so, with a few choice words under my breath, I once again put my head down and got busy climbing. It’s good I didn’t exhaust all my “ill thoughts,” as I would need a few more snide remarks on day 8 coming through Malibu.
There’s Something About Mary!
A pannier /ˈpæniər/ is a basket, bag, box, or similar container, carried in pairs either slung over the back of a beast of burden, or attached to the sides of a bicycle or motorcycle. The term derives from a Middle English borrowing of the Old French panier, meaning ‘bread basket’.
2. HISTORICAL ……..part of a skirt looped up around the hips.
I had always wondered about the origin of the word pannier, so I just looked it up. I suspected that it had some relation to French, but was not expecting it to “derive and arrive” (hahahahah) from middle English. I was also not expecting to now have the Rolling Stones song “Beast of Burden” stuck in my head, or finding myself resisting the urge to make some wisecrack about Women’s large hips; especially seeing so many women on the tour flew by me in an awesome burst of power and endurance!
All of this does bring me to the story of Mary N. and the story of mileage.
One night I was sitting at dinner with a few riders. Mary came over and joined us. The conversation eventually turned to training preparation and mileage, and one of the guys asked Mary; a veteran rider, about her first tour and how she prepared for it. As Mary began to speak, I cringed; “oh NO Mary, please don’t tell this story” I thought to myself. She had told me that story, and I remember being confused and embarrassed for her. “What?????” Well, it turned out that I was the one who was embarrassed and while we’re at it……….an IDIOT!!
Let’s go back for a minute. Mary was the first (but not the only) kind person to reach out to me when I signed up for the tour. It turns out she was originally a New England Girl living in Massachusetts, who had also gone to college in Boston where she rode her bike around the city. Mary was now living in California. As a side, to a side, to a side note, there is an expression in Rhode Island; be careful about what you say to people about others because in Rhode Island, “Everybody knows Everybody!” Well…………it’s not true………..BUT……….it kind of is!!!! It turns out that Mary’s sister lives a few streets away from me and I rode past her house many times. So far so good.
So Mary. We began with a few emails and chats on Facebook. I had a million questions I was looking for answers to about the tour. We agreed to talk on the phone. As we spoke, I did my best not to sound like my curiosity was a flat-out inquisition, but Mary was the first personal source of information I had the fortune to encounter and I had to make the most of it. I had a lot to balance in my head; all the questions I asked, all the questions I wanted to ask, all the responses Mary gave me, and the task of processing all the information that I had never dealt with before, not to mention still carrying on the phone conversation. It wasn’t simple, and as you may suspect by now, much of “it” got a little crossed over and confused.
One of the burning questions I was looking for answers to was about how to train for the tour. Mary told me the paramount action of how she and her husband bought panniers, loaded them on their bikes, and rode around Berklee College in Boston, and it was then she knew she was ready for the CCC. Hhhmmmmmm???? I’ll be honest; in the middle of trying to coordinate all my questions and answers, there was a part of my brain that didn’t think this story made much sense. A degree of physical fitness and reality seemed to be missing. In the corner of my quantum, micro-processing, brain, I even compared placing panniers on your bike and riding a few blocks around the city of Boston, to having a “brush bar” installed on your luxury SUV in America. Panniers on your bike do not automatically increase your fitness, endurance, and ability to ride the California Coast any more than placing a Brush Bar on your “car” qualifies you to ride across the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania, in Africa.
Mary was so kind and patient with my questions, I didn’t have the time or “mental bandwidth” to pursue the matter any further, and because we “just met,” I would never want to insult or even tease her, so I moved on to other subjects. We continued to chat, and I looked forward to meeting Mary in person.
Meanwhile, back at the table that night, Mary was only a few minutes into her response about how she knew she would be able to ride the California Coast Classic Bike Tour when I burst out laughing. It was not my usual laughing burst out, as this one was not only filled with humor but sustained and filled with embarrassment; not for Mary, for myself.
“What’s so funny?” they urged as I continued to laugh. I told them I was an idiot! “What’s so funny about that,” they asked. I told them how I had originally “heard” the story from Mary and how I got it all wrong in my head. Mary had NOT ridden around Berklee College IN Boston to train (1-2 miles), She had ridden from Berkley, California TO Boston 3000+ miles!!! Whoops……..I’m an idiot! Mary, your cycling resume is SO impressive!!
IN WHICH WE MEET PARKER.
Around 57 miles into the day, I rolled into the second Rest Stop at Shoreline Park in Santa Barbara. This stop was just as great as all the other stops, but EVEN GREATER……….as if such a “thing” really exists.
It was a beautiful sunny day along the coast, the ride was moving along quickly, and I felt great. The first big surprise was meeting up with Geri and Pete H. As mentioned, Geri is the woman who sought me out and gave me some Ghiradelli chocolate. This alone was enough to make my day, but when you add on all the other magnificent things about riding a bike on a big adventure, it was the proverbial icing on the cake!
As I was getting ready to start riding again, my old Rest Stop-Enforcer Buddy, Lynn came over to me and said there is someone special she would like me to meet.
I turned around, and there was Parker. All 5 years old of him. I keep forgetting to ask Lynn how she knew Parker, but I suspect it was the time she spent at the park rest stop. We began to chat. He was so excited to see all the cyclists and hear the stories of their big adventures. He was charming, outgoing, polite, and inquisitive in all the best ways a young child could be.
I answered his questions and told him about my bike. I said to him that maybe someday when he got older, he could join the group and ride his bike all the way from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Sounding suspiciously like our rest stop friend Lisa from a few blogs ago all jacked up on Mountain Dew, he burst out with the following statement: “I like to ride my bike. If you would like to ride bikes together, we can! I live across the street at my grandmother’s house. You could come by and ring the doorbell and we could go ride bikes. I can’t ride very far, but we could go ride bikes together!
Hahahahahahahahah! So cute!!
I said to him; “would you like to sit on my bike?” Yes, he said excitedly. Without prompting or asking, Pete H. who was standing there stabilized the front wheel with his legs (Yeah, I noticed; thanks Pete!) as I hoisted him up. Parker may have only been a young boy, but with his questions, comments, and the smile on his face sitting on the bike, you could tell he was a kindred cycling spirit.
I hope one day Parker grows up and rides in a great adventure like so many of us did that week.
ONE LAST BLAST THROUGH SANTA BARBARA! Again…maybe I wasn’t actually going this fast, but that’s really how it feels!
What was the toughest part of riding through Santa Barbara for me? The same as so many other places I rode that week; not stopping every minute to take pictures and investigate cool-looking places in more depth, and cool places were all around me! This seemed especially true today as I had to remain “mentally vigilant” being in the middle of the longest mileage day of the week.
Luckily, again……this didn’t always happen. Riding hard and fast, I was “on the job.” I was making good way, when suddenly, I came upon a small neighborhood market. Although there was the temptation to go into the market, and under the guise of an “emergency chocolate fix,” chat, and meet with the locals, the “thing” really tugging at my brakes was the sign out front. Santa Cruz Market. Yes, we were no longer in Santa Cruz so that curiosity would give me something to contemplate (because I didn’t have enough already), but the additional sign; “S&H Green Stamps.” For anyone who doesn’t know, Green Stamps were “early-day” loyalty reward points. Green Stamps were given to you proportionally to how much you spent at the grocery store. The idea was you could collect the stamps and “cash them in” for “other things.” The crux of the scheme was to give the stamps to your children and promise they could review the catalog and then after they had wasted millions of hours licking and pasting stamps in the rewards books, they could buy a new bike, or model plane, or….or……….maybe a real plane.
That’s all my family ever got out of it (unless my family secretly cut me out of a “piece of the action). For the record, the only person I ever knew who got anything from S&H, was Martha Reynolds; a fellow blogger and Award Winning “Chick Lit” (Modern Romance) Queen. She was also one of my original followers, as well as a consistent and positive supporter of my writing (Thanks M!) https://marthareynoldswrites.com/
I’ll also include a link to a quick amusing blog from my “other website” about the Green Stamps.
Needless to say……..after agonizing for what seemed like an hour instead of the 3 seconds it took to blow by the store, I turned around, headed back, and took a picture for my brothers and sister who also slaved over the stamp books. I spent the rest of the day laughing about it. To turn back around and get the picture??? One of the best decisions of the week.
We left Rest Stop Number number three at 71 miles and headed out onto the Ventura Highway. This was another beautiful section of open-air and nature. Physically, the next 14 miles did seem a little odd as far as geography goes. In a way, I sometimes felt like I was “pinched” between the ocean on the right and the high rolling hills on the left. There didn’t seem to be much “manmade” junk in this section at all making up a “nature and highway sandwich.”
A small part of my mind began to contemplate the end of the day’s ride, and soon enough, the end of the tour itself.
Lucky for me, my mind had two other major issues to occupy my time until the end of the day;
1. Because my entire left side seemed to be blockaded by mountains, where would the “hole in the wall” come to us, allowing us to cut “inland” to end the day in Ventura?
2. I strained to remember more lyrics to the song Ventura Highway by America. I remembered enough to remember that I sang them over and over a ton of times, and how much I missed my headphones. As a little trivia note; 12 years before Prince released the song Purple Rain in 1984, the band America mentions “purple rain,” in the song lyrics to Ventura Highway in 1972.
Wishin’ on a falling star
Watchin’ for the early train
Sorry boy, but I’ve been hit by
Aw, come on Joe, you can always
Change your name
Thanks a lot son, just the same
Midnight at the Oasis
At about 85 miles, we cut back inland from the natural alley made of hills and ocean that we had been riding on. Suddenly, we were surrounded by the booming town of Ventura.
There was a different “vibe” that night. It would be the last night we spent at Base Camp. After the next day’s ride, we would all split up and move on. So many of us made fast friends, and now it was disappointing to think about them all going separate ways, but first, we would have to rise and shine one more time on Day 8 and power into Los Angeles.
I was ready!
Let’s finish out Day 7 with some music! April Smith covering Melanie. Yes, she’s singing about roller skating, but she’s also singing about riding her bike ………..and well, that’s even cooler!