Ventura to Santa Monica. 54.8 Miles. 1630 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.
Here we are about to write and read the last major installment for the 2021 California Coast Classic Bike Tour, and there is so much to discuss, so let’s get “our house” in order and clean up a few things first.
- I am Sooooooooooo sorry it has taken me this long to finish up this series. I really am. I love writing, but I also love all the other hobbies I have, and we all have “real work and life commitments.”
- The crazy part is; that besides wanting to finish this series up, in a very short time, many riders will be off on the 2022 CCC. I hope they send us some pictures and a few postings at the least.
- Jerry Davis; long-time rider and fundraising champion said it best; “Come on Zulu, get writing; I feel like I’ve been ‘Net-Flixed’ and am hanging on the edge of the season-ending cliffhanger waiting for the next Cold Bike Fusion Posting!” Hahahaha. I love it! Don’t worry!! Yes, although Day 8 will be broken into two parts (North and South), Part 2 is almost finished being written, and will be out very soon.
Let’s have some live dramatic ending music I captured from the Santa Monica Pier when we finished the tour…
Santa Monica Pier
I would love to write the coolest opening paragraph to finish this blog series, but that may have already been done when S.E Hinton wrote the great teen novel “The Outsiders.” That book has the greatest first and the last paragraph of any book I have ever read, and they were the exact same words.
“WHEN I STEPPED OUT into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.”
Every morning I woke up on the CCC, I had PLENTY on my mind!
I awoke Saturday morning on the 8th day of the California Coast Classic Bike Tour, the last day of our ride, at the Ventura Marriott. This was a very cool and very nice place to stay. It was literally across the street from the “final Base Camp,” and the general area looked quite interesting; it was right on the beach, the bike path, and the hub of the town.
On an odd side note, I hadn’t noticed before, until I was recently looking at a map, and then wondered why the public town beach and public park which were being used as the CCC base campground, had two different names, even though they were in the exact same place. I hadn’t looked at this geographical anomaly in detail until I was typing this paragraph and then had to pause, contemplate, Google it, change my reading glasses, and retype my thoughts (and people wonder why it takes so long to turn out “this nonsense”). I know all of you are as fascinated as I am to find out what was going on so…..
Ventura, the name of the beach and the name of the town, is still officially known as San Buenaventura (the official name of the State Beach and State Park in the exact same location). San Buenaventura is Spanish for Saint Bonaventure; the Saint, not the college. As a side to a side note…Saint Bonaventure (the English writing of an Italian priest…STOP IT !!!!) is a small college in western New York State, that plays the University of Rhode Island often in basketball, and always seems to be buried in massive snow drifts from the Lake Erie “Lake Effect” which readers would kill me if I continued down another unrelated stream of consciousness (I’ll save some more for later) concerning weather peculiarities. So there!
Saturday Morning, I was still basking in the after-glow of Friday Night. As usual, dinner was awesome, and people were so excited to be near the end of the tour; the completion of an amazing accomplishment regardless of how many times they had ridden. That night I also got to spend time in the hotel lobby sitting around chatting with some people I had seen on the tour but never really had the chance to talk to. It was fun, and interesting and another reminder of how great it is to cross paths with people with similar interests and experiences as “you.”
Friday night in Ventura also reminded me of another time in my life. I had that inner euphoria similar to the Friday night I graduated from high school; exams were done, high school was done, and mandatory attendance was “inches away” from a nightmare awakened. All I had to do was show up to the Cathedral, not embarrass the school, or tick off the Bishop and I was free and clear. We were all warned that any “questionable behavior” would not be tolerated and this was the reason why all our “diploma holders” were blank inside……..ultimate control to the very end! It was so upsetting to realize a graduating class of 250 young men could not be trusted! What???? Oddly enough, one of my high school classmates wound up moving back to the state of his birthplace and wound up becoming an elected United States Senator. I met a few people on the CCC tour who were represented by this senator, and it turns out he wasn’t liked any better in government than he was in high school! Hhhhmmmmmm????
Graduating high school with a tolerable academic record was one of my life’s very own greatest personal achievements; “High Praise” for the slacker that I was. The CCC was also one of my life’s greatest achievements which by the literal forces of nature refused to allow me to slack any of my physical or mental efforts to participate in this great event as detailed in this blog series.
In no way is the thrill of the CCC compatible with high school but I think you get the idea (please say you do, or I’ll be forced to babble on for several more paragraphs, and I can’t guarantee it will make sense even then).
Saturday Morning came with one last amazing breakfast, and the thought that I only had to do what I now knew I could do since the end of the day, that first Saturday back in Santa Cruz a week ago; manually power up the legs, the bike, my overactive imagination, set my mind to Los Angeles and “punch it,” and that’s exactly what I did.
Quite soon out of Base, I found myself in line with a larger group. As mentioned before, for most of the tour, I was riding by myself. It’s not that I didn’t have anyone to ride with; I often find riding by myself “less stressful” than riding all the time in a group. I don’t feel pressured to keep up with anyone, and I don’t feel guilty when I have to stop, crawl into a field of Kale, Lettuce, Artichokes or Captain Crunch, or God’s knows what other crops I don’t recognize, and goof off taking pictures while attempting to accidentally start up the irrigation system.
It wasn’t uncommon for any of us to begin any day riding in a group, and as we set out from the starting point in Ventura Beach, ride we did. Today seemed different in the group. There seemed to be an absence of any lackadaisical cadence so early on. This group was quiet and determined; not surprising, as all of us wanted to assure we finished “in time” to attend the “completion party” down in L.A, so with their heads down, they were “hammering it!”
I had no problem riding at an accelerated pace; by this time in the tour, my bike body and mind conditioning were the sharpest they had ever been in my life. I felt great and was excited to still be riding.
WHAT??????!!! Hey, “somebody” had to put it in the blog!!
It wasn’t my fault……………
Definition of fissure
1: a narrow opening or crack of considerable length and depth usually occurring from some breaking or parting fissure in the earth’s crust
2: a separation or disagreement in thought or viewpoint.
There I was, riding the straight and narrow, pedaling hard, moving quickly; “on the job.” That’s when I first saw the cracks, or fissures if you will; the slippage of concentration and my task at hand. “Truth be told,” the cracks probably appeared at the end of Day 7 when I rolled into San Buenaventura and were overlooked. There was just so much cool stuff to see and investigate. I suspect they went unnoticed due to the excitement of finishing Day 7.
I told myself I needed to get to Los Angeles “forthwith” (immediately; without delay). I got that word from the comedy movie Lady Killers with Tom Hanks….Hahahahaha! It just cracks me up! I began to fight the overwhelming urges to just ease up and look around more, take more pictures, and talk to more strangers; the same urges I fought since Day One.
Into the town of Oxnard, I rode. Wow, check out the pleasure boats in the marina; keep riding. Wow, check out the cool beach; keep riding, Wow, check out the cool town……..”don’t make me say it again!”
9 miles in, and riding down West Channel Island Boulevard, my brain began to twitch. With no advanced warning, I was suddenly on the outskirts of NCBC Port Hueneme; that’s right, the Naval Construction Battalion Center. This is the West Coast “headquarters” of the Navy SeaBees (CB’s). I didn’t know the name of the facility at the time, but when I passed the statue of the “SeaBee;” similar to the famous statue in Rhode Island, I knew where I was. This is now the oldest and most distinguished SeaBee base on the Globe. The concept for a base as a Construction Battalion originated just before World War II in Davisville, Rhode Island at Quonset Point. That was the birthplace of the famous Quonset Hut; a rolled-over metal, make-shift structure still seen in remote places all over the world.
The Navy SeaBees have constructed airstrips, hospitals, and bases around the globe. They also happened to build and maintain the most beautiful softball field I have ever played on; at Naval Air Station Sigonella, on the island of Sicily in the southern part of the country of Italy. I was just so honored to once again bask in their presence.
Seeing a new Naval Station that I had not ever set foot on had my imagination going wild. I had so many questions and urges to stop and investigate……..sorry, not today; “keep moving Zulu!”
A little more riding at 12 miles into the day, and now it was the bike that began to twitch. As we rode down Market Street, I was so close to the piers of Port Hueneme, that I could see the silhouettes of a few Navy ships and a couple of Military Sealift Command (MSC) ships being loaded. If they had been simple fishing vessels or ferry boats, I would have still been interested in what they were up to. I could still see and hear my old Navy communications command codes in my head; INT-QRD, “Interrogative-Where are you from/ Where are you bound?” There was just so much going on, and so fun to be down by the port bustling with activity, that I wanted to see and know more. Besides resisting the urge to stop 10 times, I also fought the urge to turn around and go back several times. With only 12 miles into the important day, I knew I had to get moving.
I may have rolled past Port Hueneme, but to occupy my “in saddle time / mileage-passing absurdity/ day-dreaming quota,” without the aid of music, I contemplated how I would have gotten on to the Naval Station if I had turned back. This kept my mind and bike occupied for another 10 miles until I got to the Point Magu Missile Park when the wheels came off the bike………figuratively speaking, and I lost all concentration on my diligent ride at hand.
Back to the port. My first idea to gain access to the port would have been to approach the gate with my friendly outlook and tell security that I was not only an accomplished cyclist but an award-winning blogger. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in this scheme as being “some type of cyclist,” was the only remote speck of truth.
The second idea was to inform the gate personnel that I was a Navy Veteran and would love to visit the station. This was actually true, but under the current cloud of security and suspicion in the world these days, I was quite underwhelmed at the chance of success. It was far more likely that I would be detained and brought to base security for questioning, which was great: not only did that get me on the station but it could give me plenty of “material” for new blogs. The biggest problem with this plan is I really was pressed for time, and you know……headed for Los Angeles.
The idea of being hauled into security did not frighten me at all, as it would not have been the first time I was taken into station security. Early in my “illustrious naval career,” my shipmate and I were taken to base security for the heinous crime of attempting to hitchhike on the base while on our way to the movie theater one evening. The whole night worked out like a song verse from Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant; “and the Command Duty Officer wasn’t going to look at the 27, 8×10 glossy photographs with the circles and arrows and the paragraph on the back of each one…….” Apparently, the episode didn’t impact my single 4-year enlistment career path, because a year later, I was temporarily assigned off my ship to the Shore Patrol unit at Station Security, where by the way I refused to detain anyone for hitchhiking on base.
The third idea to gain access to the base involved using Morse Code and a ship-fitted flashing light. I would “hail” any ship with a flashing light, and soon be on my way for a tour of their ship, or invited onboard for lunch, or given a meeting time for a cocktail at another designated location.
Let’s cut to the chase; I didn’t have a ship or a flashing light. To make imaginary matters worse, ships no longer communicate using a flashing light with Morse Code, and because my old rate (skill classification) was eliminated, there really isn’t anyone around who can even read Morse Code from a flashing light.
The fact is, I have used flashing lights to make friends with not only U.S Navy personnel, but sailors from Canada, The United Kingdom, France, Australia, and New Zealand. Once, years ago, while pulling into port in the small country of Djibouti, where the Red Sea meets the Gulf of Aden, I hailed a ship in the French Naval Flotilla and got an invitation to come over for lunch. I was the only sailor allowed off my ship that day as we remained in port just long enough to “stress out” some pirates and refuel.
Using Morse Code and flashing light is not the easiest way to communicate, so it should come as no shock that as I attempted to convey my intentions to the other ship, not only with Morse Code but with my extremely broken French language skills, I was brutally reminded of how I wasted 3 years of conjugating useless French verbs in my high school classes (sorry A.D). Through it all, “they” never once prepared me to engage the French Fleet in a “diplomatic lunch-mooching mission” on the East Coast of Africa, or teach me some new French swear words that I could impress my fellow maritime travelers with. What a failed education!
In reference to my above and previous paragraph about high school graduation; I hope it is now abundantly clear why I had to get the hell out of there………….. Forthwith !!! Hahahahahah!!!
Way beyond the annoyance of repeating myself of not having the time to stop and investigate so many cool places on the CCC, I just couldn’t give up like that. Even now, looking back, I am still reading and researching places I rode by. Point Mugu Naval Air Station was another one of those places. I learned this “fun fact” about the station. There was “something” called “The Battle of Palmdale.” In August 1956, the U.S. Navy launched an unmanned but fully armed drone from Point Mugu. The Navy lost “control” of the drone and it went on a rogue course…………right toward Los Angeles. With apparently no backup plan and no Navy jets to dispatch, the Navy “called up” the Air Force at the Oxnard Air Force Base, 5 miles away, and requested assistance; can you just imagine that call? The Air Force scrambled 2 jets normally on standby to intercept Soviet long-range bombers. When all was said and done, the Air Force jets tracked down the drone and fired 208 rockets at it; all of them missed the drone. Eventually, the drone ran out of fuel, crashed, blew up a truck, and burned a thousand acres in brush fires that took 500 men, two days to bring under control. Whoops!!! The story becomes even more comical because thankfully, no humans were injured or killed. Did I say Whoops already?
About 19.5 miles in, I came to Point Mugu Missile Park. This was a great surprise and treat. This being my first year riding, I had seen many pictures from riders, not always knowing if I would see the places in the pictures or find out the riders had gone off the beaten path to explore, and I wouldn’t be lucky enough to see what they saw.
Spoilers; (yeah right). I rode in with the fast group and before I knew it, I saw the groups of two, and three riders roll out after a quick visit until I was standing there alone in the “missile park.” NOBODY BETTER BE SMIRKING RIGHT NOW!!!!! I knew right then and there that as much as I wanted to keep pedaling strong to L.A, I just had to change plans and slow down.
I blame Mary Norton.
It’s not really her fault, but what the hell; I blame her anyway. As I stood in the park conflicted about getting out back on the march to Los Angeles or spending more time in the park to investigate, I recalled my first conversation with Mary months ago; “It’s not a race, it’s a tour. Stop, look around, and enjoy” she said (excellent advice Mary). This is not to say anyone who spent less time in the park than me was not enjoying themselves, or “smelling the roses.” Some had already seen the park or they may find more things to their interest back out on the road. I decided to stay longer. Oddly (well, not for me) I did feel the proverbial weight lifted from my shoulders.
The park had some Navy jets and missiles displayed, and for me, I recognized some of them from my Navy days (again). There was the F-14 Tomcat that I saw fly by, or take off, or land when we were alongside the aircraft carrier for underway replenishment or refueling. As if my side notes couldn’t get any stranger, the second Navy ship I served on was an Ammunition Ship; think of it as a “sea-going mushroom cloud.” Sometimes before bombs or missiles were stowed properly below deck in their magazines, they sat on deck underway where on a good afternoon, we would slap a street hockey ball up against them for a “passing partner” as we played “deck hockey” down in the Indian Ocean.
I remember some of the crate stencils having the same names as the missiles in the park. Is it any wonder I lurked around longer than I should have taking pictures and reading ALL the plaques?
Port Mugu Missle Park Photo by Dennis Downes
Well, as “our friend” S.E Hinton “might” say, “I now had two things on my mind; leaving the missile park, and the ride to L.A.”
A third thought began to creep on my full attention; I just couldn’t believe how the cycling terrain up until this point on Day Eight had been so flat and fast, and I began to wonder if the veteran riders had “overblown” the descriptions of hills on the final day; especially through Malibu.
As it turned out, “Zulu Delta, you’re an idiot!”
“Welcome to Malibu!”