Thursday, December 28, 2006

White Mountain Tour — 8, 9 July 2006

Pinetop, Arizona

Ever get one of those thoughts that you would like to do something different in terms of cycling events? Well, that’s what we thought about our out-of-state cycling excursions. Typically, we have always selected California or Utah as our out-of-state location for cycling. This year we decided to take on Arizona and find a nice ride that suited our needs. GABA (Greater Arizona Bicycling Association) puts on the White Mountain Tour every year in July, and from the description I found on the internet this looked like just the ride we were both looking for: A nice ride through mountains and small towns.

Bobbie and I in front of the Casino

For those unfamiliar, GABA is a group of bicycle clubs throughout the state of Arizona that have banded together to help each other put on cycling events and support each other in their various cycling activities. This is a great organization because each club pitches in to support cycling activities of other member clubs; a unique concept that has apparently been working quite well over the years.

The tour starts at the Hon Dah Resort and Casino located just south of the town of Pinetop and inside the Apache Indian reservation. Pinetop is nestled into the Sitgreaves national forest located in the Northeast corner of the state about 70 miles south of I-40.

Leaving I-40 for the drive down highway 77, one gets to see just what the high plains desert is really about. Actually, the Arizona high desert is quite beautiful as it transitions from a lifeless landscape to thick pine and spruce forest. Pinetop, as in its name, is quaintly situated within the tall pines and leaves you with the impression that the town is smaller than its actual size.

On Saturday morning, the folks from GABA were staged behind the Casino ready for rider check-in and late registration. We signed in, dropped off our overnight bags and got the bikes ready for the tour. What surprised me at this point was how cool the air felt at this altitude. Pinetop sits at about 6000 ft and the temperature ranges from the 60’s during night and early morning hours to the mid 80’s later in the day at this time of year, quite a difference from the hair-blower temperatures we were used to here in Las Vegas.

The high plains of Arizona

Since this was a tour instead of your basic Century ride, we opted for singles, and I decided to use my commuter bike equipped with a larger pack from Detours and mountain bike pedals. We figured we would need the extra storage space for some emergency rain gear and a few other essentials. This turned out to be a good choice because we eventually needed the extra space to stow the warmer clothes once the temperature reached the 80’s. The mountain bike shoes were also a good choice as we were always walking through gravel to get to the SAG stations along the way.

The first day of the tour takes you on a 67 mile ride from the Hon Dah Casino outside Pinetop to the small co-located towns of Springerville and Eager located northeast of Pinetop and very close to the Arizona New Mexico border. Leaving the casino parking lot around 0715, we retraced our steps towards Pinetop and were diverted off highway 260 to a parallel back road that eventually dropped us off onto highway 60. The right turn onto highway 60 would then lead us on an easterly route all the way to Eager. Shortly after leaving the casino we came upon a nice couple riding a tandem and stayed with them until we reached highway 60. The nice thing about these tours is all the great people you meet along the way. The pace is a little less intense and everyone seems to be a bit more laid back and friendly.

What is particularly interesting about the scenery during this entire stretch towards Eager is the transition of foliage from relatively barren land to very large Juniper trees to fairly large Pine trees all in the span of a few miles. Another noticeable difference at this altitude, aside from the lack of air, is how blue the sky appears. There seems to be very little air pollution in this part of Arizona and the altitude makes the sky appear a very deep blue. This combined with the white puffy clouds that form in the early morning make for quite a picturesque high-plains desert scene, almost post card like for sure.

First SAG Stop

Heading easterly the climbing begins with a few upward sloping rollers. Our small peloton stays together for a short while then separates into a few smaller groups with Bobbie and I staying with the front group of about 6 riders. Highway 60 is a two lane road with a relatively nice shoulder that has been ruined with ADOT’s installation of those bloody rumble strips. What we found particularly annoying about Arizona’s rumble strips was the decision to move them so far to the right of the white line. In just about all cases, ADOT placed the strips 6 to 8 inches into the shoulder leaving the cyclist with only about 12 inches of useable riding space on the outside of the road. In other cases the strips would weave unexpectedly further into the shoulder leaving only about 6 inches of useable riding space. Several times we were forced into the road to avoid riding ourselves off the right side and into a culvert. Oh well, I guess things are here to stay so we will have to adapt.

At around 35 miles or so there are more upward sloping rollers that lead to the first SAG station just outside the small town of Vernon. The Midway Station convenience store graciously hosted this stop with food and refreshments provided by the GABA support crew. At this point, the weather held out, but we could see some thunderstorms building to the southeast, threatening our near perfect ride so far. We shared some ride stories and pleasantries with some of the other riders for awhile and then topped off our water bottles for the final push into Eager. Just before leaving, we struck up a conversation with a real Arizona cowboy and his wife about the changing weather patterns he has observed in the past few years. Evidently, this part of Arizona in the past received quite a bit of snow fall in the winter months. According to the cowboy, most of that snowfall has withered off due primarily to the changing weather patterns in the area. All in all, he bid us farewell and wished us a safe and happy journey. I certainly wish all those cowboys who drive those big four-wheelers were as nice and pleasant. I found that the rudest drivers on these roads to be the good ‘ole boys who drive the big gas guzzling trucks.

On the way out of Vernon and onto “Halfway Hill” you are greeted by a very nice but short lived downhill run. After this the climbing begins in earnest. The climb isn’t really all that bad and most of the road pushes upward at 6% grade and in some spots ranges upward to 8%. About halfway up, I noticed some thunder and lightening moving its way from the south towards the summit of our climb. I figured we would probably out pace the storm but my assumption was a very poor miscalculation. Riding on ahead of Bobbie, I noticed Mr. Phoenix Athletic Club coming up along side of me on his “fixie” bike. This guy looked more like a weight lifter or wrestler than a cyclist. He was breathing very heavy and trying very hard to pass me as we matched cadence up the mountain. This guy’s calves looked like upside down bowling pins…they were that huge! Shortly before the summit, I let ‘ole bowling-pin legs have his victory while I settled into a nice casual pace for the rest of the climb. Reaching the summit at 7550 ft, this is where things started to get dark, and cold. The GABA folks were kind enough to put a water stop at the top and I noticed all the volunteers were donning rain gear one by one. About the time Bobbie rolled up, the rain started and the thunder boomed. We hung around long enough to get our vests back on and joined up with a large group from the Phoenix Metro Bike Club. Trying in vain to beat the downpour we all lined up single file and raced our way down the mountain. For about 8 miles we cruised very rapidly in a desperate attempt to ride through the storm. I find that the hardest thing to do while riding at high speed through the rain is to be able to see. Windshield wipers on my glasses would have been ideal for sure. There is just something special about breaking out of a cold driving rain storm into warm welcoming sunshine. The feeling takes me back to my childhood when on those really hot, muggy days I would jump through the sprinklers and run back out into the sun to get warm. I laughed and told Bobbie, “I feel refreshed” with a big grin on my face. She just looked back and said, “You’re crazy.”

Off to the southwest we spied another downpour moving our way. Once again, we made a vain attempt to out run the shower, so we finally gave up and just enjoyed the short but intense bath. We dried off under another welcome bit of sunlight and met up with the Phoenix riders who were stopped at an intersection to take off and stow their rain gear. For the last push of the day, we met up with another nice tandem pair and blasted the last six miles into Eagar.

Well Deserved Rest

Day one stats:
Distance: 63.63
Time: 3 hours, 32 minutes, 28 seconds
Average speed: 17.97
Climbing: 3,363 ft.

Best Western in Eager

Ready to Roll!

It appears that we arrived in Eager just in time because the skies opened up with a vengeance all night long and drenched the small Arizona town with thunderstorm after thunderstorm. I was almost afraid to look outside the next morning fearing we were in for a very miserable return to Hon Dah. Much to my relief, the skies the next morning appeared clear and blue with not a cloud in sight. The temperature was a refreshing 60 degrees and would remain that way well into morning hours. Satisfied with a good breakfast and all packed up, we left our humble accommodations at the Best Western and started on our return journey. The route slip was a little misleading as to the amount of climbing on this day as we were soon to find out. Basically, the route is pretty simple from here: Proceed up the street to highway 260, turn west and keep going until you hit Hon Dah! It takes about a nanosecond to be smack dab in the middle of the wide open spaces once you turn west on highway 260. Amazingly, on the north side of the road all you can see is rolling barren high desert while on the south side of the road there is juniper forest and pine trees gently rolling their way up to the mountains.

The road out of Eager

We seemed to have left at the optimum time because we came upon several other riders also starting their final push towards Hon Dah. Because the terrain is rather barren at this point you can see the road for miles ahead as it creeps slowly upward. Ten miles or so into the ride is where GABA conveniently forgets to mention the 8% to 10% climb you encounter. It is short but steep. Now, this little climb really isn’t all that bad except for the fact that you are about 8500 ft up at this point and the air is a little thin! Bobbie and I diligently motored up at 7 to 8 mph and were greeted by a nice headwind at the top. It appears that we have climbed up and onto a high-plains plateau that leads into the Apache Indian reservation. Apart from the entrance signs, you can always tell when you enter the reservation, there are no buildings and no sprawl of any kind, just unspoiled wide open scenery…the way it is supposed to be. The terrain and foliage change dramatically up here, gone are the juniper trees; replaced by tall pines lining the road on each side ahead. About 14 miles into the route, GABA positioned a SAG stop and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Gone was the fuel from breakfast and we both needed to rest the legs a bit after a big day yesterday. We struck up a great conversation with two ladies who flew all the way from Australia to do this ride. They were both riding Bike Fridays and it was fun to talk bike setup, gearing and tires. Apparently, they were familiar with the routing because they told us that we had one last butt kicker of climb ahead. With that, we bode farewell to our new found friends and pressed further into the forest. Yep, they were right. There is was, a 6% climb meandering its way up and into even more dense forest. About 45 minutes later the road leveled off and emptied out onto yet another plateau, and we could see several ski runs off into the distance to the southwest of our route. We had finally reached the summit of our journey for the day and it was nice to get back up to cruise speed. We formed a nice little peloton of about 4 riders and stuck with them to an unexpected SAG stop situated at the start of our final descent back to Hon Dah. This stop proved to be rather popular with the crowd as it appeared that everyone who started before us and a few who arrived after us stopped in for some much need refueling. It was also nice that the forest service put nice toilet facilities out here in the middle of no where!

Entering the Reservation

The final segment of the tour from here is mostly downhill with a few short rollers thrown in just to keep you honest. Again, the route ducks into the forest and stays that way all the way back to Hon Dah. After all that climbing, the bomber downhill runs were a nice respite. Even at this altitude, we hit 30+ mph with little or no effort all the way back. Hon Dah Casino seems out of place as it just pops out of the forest all of a sudden. We rolled into the back parking lot without a hitch, parked the bikes and picked up our luggage at the appointed drop-off point. Shortly after our return, the original tandem couple who we tagged up with at the beginning of the ride rolled up along side our car. We talked for quite awhile about other rides GABA puts on and it was nice to make some new riding friends. All in all, this was a great ride and fun event. One we will do again next year for sure.

At the Summit

You can see more pictures here

Day two stats:
Distance: 39.59
2 hours, 39 minutes, 09 seconds
Average speed: 14.93
Climbing: 2,497 ft

Kent and Bobbie Costin

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Nipton Loop Ride, 25 Feb 06

The Train Station Stop...

What a great ride! The day was perfect, the route was great, and the company doesn't get any better for sure. Several Nubblets, and wanna be Nubblets, met up in the Brooklyn Bagel parking lot at 7am sharp and departed on what would turn out to be a enlightening journey through scenic Southern Nevada and Southern California. Scott Dakus led us out two-by-two through Green Valley, up Horizon Ridge to Henderson and on over railroad pass to the long lonely road to Searchlight. A few folks ventured out earlier and braved the cold while meeting the group near Searchlight or on the road to Nipton. As always, Stan "Cowboy" Masters immediately went to the front and set the initial pace for the group. Albeit, things were rather mellow in the beginning, but the pace and heartbeats gradually picked up all the way back to Henderson. It was nice to see Barry and Karen Lasko come out for the ride. Although Barry didn't stay with us long, Karen showed us her Ironman stamina by staying with us the whole way and even whoppin our butts up some really long climbs.

Win the Lottery in Nipton!

For those unfamiliar with the road to Searchlight and Nipton, Hwy 93 descends for a long way into a rather far-off dry lake bed northwest of Boulder City. The amazing thing about this descent is the change in temperature. The temperature started out at 57 °F at railroad pass and dropped to 44 °F by the time we got to the edge of the dry lake bed. About the time we hit the middle of the dry lake bed, the evil flat menace struck one of us. Scott sent the main group on ahead while he and a few others assisted in the repair. So, we proceeded on at a pretty good clip while at the same time picking up a light tailwind. Once again, Cowboy jumped on the front and jacked up the pace to keep us honest. The road from the dry lake bed all the way into Searchlight is a deceiving and constant climb until about 2 miles outside of the city. I guess if you don't like desert landscape, you would probably call these junk miles because there really isn't much to look at with the exception of a few Joshua trees, the occasional road kill, or someone else's backside. For me however, the experience is a little surreal. The experience is like one of those old Twilight Show episodes. The road seems to go on forever and ever to an endless horizon, and all you can hear is droning sound of your panting along with the wind whistling through your helmet.

Da Train, Da Train!

This might be a good place to address hydration and nutrition for these long rides. If you haven’t read Scott's article on the subject. You can find his article on the GVC main website under the NUBS link. Personally, I think hydration kinda speaks for itself and most people are pretty smart about drinking when they need to. Nutrition on the other hand is a little different for most people. If you haven't been on a ride with Cowboy at the helm, eating while on the bike is pretty tough. First off, there are very few if any stops. Secondly, the pace is rather high and it is tough enough to breath, much less eat. So, here is what I've learned when riding in a faster group on a long ride. Eat and drink when the opportunity presents itself, even if you don't want to. That is, when you come off the front of the paceline and go to the back. Drink, eat and stretch, in that order. Take advantage of the draft and do all the things you could not otherwise do while in the middle of the pack, or up front. The other thing I look for is a break in the pace. Not everyone can go fast all the way, all of the time. These gaps are strategic moments to suck down some water and nutrition. Here are some fun facts from my experience and from the folks at Hammer Nutrition. I tend to burn about 35 to 38 calories per mile, or about 560 to 580 calories per hour, depending on the Cowboy DEFCON level. Generally speaking, your body can only metabolize about 240-250 calories per hour. So, based on that you can see you are at a disadvantage from the get go. I guess the point is you have to learn to eat, or drink on the bike and figure out what works best for you. Now back to the ride.

There is actually some history here

Once we crested over the last climb before entering Searchlight that magic nutrition moment hit me and I wolfed down a whole banana. I kinda got on the backside of the nutrition power curve at this point and man did that thing taste good! Munching away much like a dog with a new found treat, I couldn't help but notice what greets you when pedaling through Northern Searchlight suburbia. Trailers! Tons of them! I'll tell ya, if tornados ever come to Nevada, they will naturally be drawn to Searchlight for sure. Anyway, the road to Nipton actually intersects Hwy 93 just prior to the Searchlight main drag so we missed the bustling downtown metropolis altogether. The road to Nipton is surprisingly just like the road to Searchlight! What a shock! All you see is a straight line cutting through the endless population of Joshua trees and a very long climb at what appears to be the horizon. Surprisingly, the pace was rather nice for about the first ten miles or so. We exchanged minor pulls, mostly two by two until the start of the climb. I looked back a few times to see if Scott and the gang had made any ground on us, but the glance back looked just like the picture up ahead. More road with nothing on it.

The Hotel and Convient Store

About halfway through our last climb before the downhill into Nipton, Dave and Cowboy decided to play a game of cat and mouse. The rest of us were content with our pace and the realization that we still had about 85 more miles to ride. Just a few moments later, I felt this rush of air and saw this blur of color blow past me just prior to reaching the summit. It was Scott showing us how the big boys climb mountains. He had been hammering the pace by himself all the way from Searchlight, about 20 miles, to catch up to us for the final descent into Nipton. The downhill into Nipton was a great reward for all our hard work so far. The road is fairly nice and you can see what seems like all of the desert of Southern California on your way down. The little oasis of Nipton sits about three quarters of the way down to the bottom of the valley. Entering Nipton is kinda like going back to the old West in a way. The buildings sure do look like they are from that era. They come complete with hitchin' posts to tie up your tired and thirsty steed. In our case however, the tired thirty steeds happened to be us humans! And to my surprise, what else does Nipton have? Trailers, lots of them! And most are mounted with Satellite dishes. Our stop there was a great respite and the convenience store seemed to have everything for being out in the middle of literally no where. You can even by a lotto ticket for a chance to win the 256 million!

After waiting for quite awhile for the rest of the group, four of us split off to tackle the final leg of our journey. Scott gave us some directions and advice for crossing the very large dry lake bed, but we decided to take the long climb up to I-15 instead. The rest of the road was about as one might expect for California in the middle of the desert. Dog crap! Full of potholes, cracks and rocks! I thanked Arnold many times along this section. Making our way around the man-made obstacle course we started up the long climb to I-15. Now, I must say this is a nasty little, or rather big, climb. I figured the best way tackle this bad boy was to get in a groove and just spin as best I could. The entrance to I-15 isn't as bad as you might think. The shoulder is fairly wide and the road isn't all that bad on the downhill. Don't be fooled, however. About the time you hit the Yates Well Road off ramp is where things get really bad. The road is buckled every 25 feet or so, and buckled bad. I felt like I was riding a bucking bull for at least ten miles. I was more worried about getting tossed off my bike than getting run over by some idiot on his way to Vegas. I-15 transitions from a pretty rough road to real pleasant smooth pavement at about the state line, big surprise there! Anyway, the four of us, me, Stan, Mike, and Dave traded pulls like a well trained pro time-trial team all the way to Jean. I-15 isn't bad from Stateline to Jean, but if someone pulls over, you have to jump the rumble strips and get around them in the right hand lane of the highway, not good at all. This happened to us twice. The ride back from Jean felt like a short hop compared to what we had done previously and a nice end to a long day in the saddle. Big thanks to NUBS and Scott for putting this on!

v/r Kent

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Furnace Creek 508 Race—October 2004

Death Valley, California

Disclaimer: The words and viewpoints in this story are the author’s only and don’t reflect any other teammate’s view or thoughts. I wrote the story before I decided against writing it. I’m part of Team Javelina and I approve this message.

Some people really get into this race!

Why would any sane person ever ride his or her bike nonstop for 508 miles through the California desert and Death Valley you ask? Well, the answer to that question eluded me as well while I was pondering the attempt at such a feat. The genesis of this whole crazy idea started with a discussion amongst friends on a GVC bike ride about a year ago. Seeing how Karl and Mike were stalwart long distance kinda guys, I brought the idea up to them and bounced the thought of putting a 4 man team together. I figured, what the hell, it would be just over 100 miles between the four of us and we do that all the time, right? I was actually surprised by the immediate response, “let’s go for it.” Taken a back a bit, it thought to myself, “yeah, let’s go for it!” And, as they say, the rest is basically history.

Like all great enthusiasms that most middle-aged men come upon, the idea kinda faded away to the back burner of life. Then, one day, I got an email from the folks at AdventureCorps stating that the rules had changed and now all relay teams were to ride specific legs to designated changeover points. This brought the idea out of the cobwebs and to forefront once again. I email Karl and Mike and said, “Hey homees are we gonna do this thing or not?” Each responded with, “This homee is in!” So, now you know the history behind, “Team HomEEs.” Some great labels come from some of the simplest of things like: Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Smashing Pumpkins, well ... you get the idea. With 3 of the 4 Team HomEEs in place, the training began in earnest! Well, kinda …

Mike and Geoffery preparing the support vehicles

The question now became, “who is crazy enough to be our 4th HomEE?” We kicked around a couple of names and then it came to me, Let’s ask Geoffrey! You see Geoffrey was young, a decent rider, and had been riding rather strongly the last couple of months. So, Mike set out on task to recruit Geoffrey to be part of our team. By the way, Geoffrey will be forever known as “HW Janes:” The HW stands for headwind ... more on that later.

Having no experience with the 508, I decided to go their website and read as much as I could about this famed bike race. I remember getting to the “tall tales” section and seeing a note that said, “if you read one story about the 508, read this one.” So, I clicked on the link and started reading. The story was about a female solo participant, Dolphin. It was an incredible story of her first solo attempt at the race. When I got to the part where she said she was lying in her support vehicle, dry heaving, delirious, and crying I thought to myself: ya know ... this is for me! ... and it is gonna be fun!

The car all ready to go

I must say that the website helped a great deal and the stories weren’t all that scary. As you can imagine, just figuring out the logistics of this whole effort is a bigger task than getting through the race. Fired up and ready for action, Team HomEEs set up the first team meeting and started the task of figuring out race strategy and just how the heck we were gonna get 4 riders, all their gear, and other odds and ends from one side of the Mojave desert to the other. Speaking of logistics, I think we did a pretty good job planning the whole thing. Executing the logistical plan, at least in my mind, was another matter however. For example, I think we brought enough toilet paper to keep the whole race plus support staff taken care of. The only problem was that all of the toilet paper spent its entire time in the support van. We forgot to put some in the chase vehicle. That’s a bad move after coffee and especially when the train wants to leave the station, if ya know what I mean? We also brought some other useful stuff along: a wind trainer (never used), a bike work stand (never came out of its case), ten thousand extra batteries (we only needed 2 thousand!), and somebody’s entire closet of clothes! Oh, I forgot about the air mattress, complete with electric pump! This wasn’t your average air mattress. No, it was a double-sized air mattress! This albatross took up so much space in the support van, there wasn’t anyplace to put the entire wardrobe of clothes or the coolers, not to mention the fact that there wasn’t enough room for it to begin with, even deflated. Try going around a corner and catching a cooler full of food in your lap after riding 100 miles! Needless to say, we brought waaaaaay too much stuff. I have found that if the thought goes through your head that you probably don’t need it, you probably don’t! One last thing about the logistical plan: If you have one, and have thought it through, it’s probably not a good idea to drastically change the plan half way through the race. We looked like a bunch of crazed morons, moving coolers, bikes, bags and a very tired rider from one vehicle to another at each time station. But hey, live and learn as they say!

Geoffery waiting for vehicle inspection

Well finally it was here: The day of reckoning! I felt like that kid on The Christmas Story who is eagerly anticipating getting his first BB gun. My teammates were pumped as well, and we all couldn’t wait to get to Santa Clarita and do this thing. Loaded and ready for bear, we pressed out towards California with the plan to drive part of Karl’s route backwards. Karl was our leadoff guy and we wanted to at least give him a chance to see what was in store for him. Cruising past the giant windmills near Mojave we drove up a very long incline that would be Karl’s downhill run to California City towards the handoff with me for the second leg. But as they say, what goes up, must come down and vice versa. Heading south towards Santa Clarita we wound our way through some pretty tough mountains and the thought kept sitting on the back of my mind that this was going to be a pretty tough stage. Little did we know that Mother Nature was following our every move, snickering at us as we marveled and commented on how nice the weather was over here in California.

This might be a good place to mention our team totem. Although we coined ourselves Team HomEEs, this name was not in line with the race rules. The chief totemizer is Chris Kostman, Chief of Adventure Corps and the 508 race director. The idea is to give everyone a name instead of using race numbers and I think it is a pretty good idea too. The totem gives everyone a sense of ownership and identity. We put Mike in charge of picking possible names for submission and approval and we wanted something southwesternish; with a sense of uniqueness. Mike came up with a few animal names and Javelina became the final choice. Blessed by Kostman, we became the fast 4 little wild boars! Everybody thinks that a Javelina is a pig. To the contrary, the two are not even related. The Javelina is somewhat indigenous to the Southwestern United States and is in fact a species of wild boar all to itself. Known for its speed and toughness, we thought this was the perfect totem for the boys from Green Valley Cyclists! And so, Team Javelina was born!

Our Totem sign

After enjoying traffic jams that only California can offer up, we rolled into the hotel parking lot about 4pm to a sea of vehicles all decked out with totem signs, lights and bicycles. The atmosphere was rife with anticipation as the race officials inspected both vehicles and bicycles. Race officials were extremely strict about safety and all vehicles and bicycles had to comply with the rules, no exceptions. One other cool thing about this race is the friendliness of all the participants and crews. People were exchanging 508 war stories, greeting each other, and welcoming new riders all over the parking lot. It almost seemed like a giant family reunion instead of the eve of a major competitive event.

One thing that Kostman and the folks at AventureCorps do very well is recognize folks for their accomplishments. At the race meeting on Friday night, we watched a great video of 508’s gone by, and were treated to the induction of the 2004 508 hall-of-fame members. Each person was brought on stage after a brief slide show of their past accomplishments and given a special award that galvenized their name in the annals of the 508 hall-of-fame history books. Finally, it was our turn. Each rider was brought on stage and introduced individually in front of family, friends, and support crew. It was actually really cool and made you feel special just to be part of such an event. After the meeting it was off to the hotel for some serious sleep, or maybe not.

As things turned out I spent most of the night rolling from one side of the bed to the other trying to get the snot in my head to a comfortable place. That, as it turned out was futile. I managed to pick up a cold, of which I haven’t had in the last two years, just before leaving for the race. I told myself that I didn’t care what happened because I was gonna do this thing even if I had to crawl. At around 5am I got up and decided to find the reveille ring tone on my phone and have a little fun with Mike and Rick. But alas, all I could muster was some lame cat song, or stupid Fur Elise ring tone. So, I did the next best thing and went knocking at their door! Needless to say, the two of them weren’t too pleased with my early wake up call. Most, if not all the single riders were up and at the ready this early in the morning preparing for the single rider launch scheduled for the 7am gun. Mike, Rick and myself decided to miss the single rider start and instead went foraging for food stuffs. All loaded up and a Starbucks coffee later, we headed back to the hotel to launch Karl on the start of the Team Javelina adventure.

For those not too familiar with California, the weather inland can be a bit unpredictable early in the morning. The temperature usually hovers around the low 60’s and depending on the conditions, fog can be a factor. As it turned out, the fog machine had been working overtime during the night blanketing the whole area with thick air and moisture. Karl, along with all the other team start of riders, took the starting line about 5 minutes prior to official start time of 9am. Let me tell ya, Team Javelina looked good standing there in that semicustom team jersey ... we were ready to go! Well, at least Karl was ready. Out of the parking lot and on to the main drag, the team riders disappeared into the fog and downtown Santa Clarita. Well, I thought, there is nothing to do now but wait.

Karl, ready to roll!

Geoffrey and I grabbed what would be our last real meal for a couple of days and headed out in the support van to California City. Because the road is so narrow and dangerous on the first leg, the rules stipulated the support van must go ahead and on an alternate route than the rider. The rest of the race (475 long miles) can be followed using a leap frog technique. Our first contact came from a cell phone call from Mike. He informed us that the wind was howling like mad from the northwest. My first thought was great! Wind, just what we needed. Not! I could here Mother Nature snickering off in the distance. As things turned out, Geoffrey and I got to California City about 2 hours early. I did the standard, get everything ready way ahead of time ... nervous bathroom break thing 4 or 5 times ... gee where are those guys act for the next couple of hours.

Finally, we get a cell phone call that Karl was about 5 minutes out. That’s about the last time we could use the cell, we were entering the Death Valley jaws of darkness! Pumped and ready to rock, I took my place at the starting line in front of the time station officials and eagerly awaited Karl’s arrival. I guess I was lucky, the winds swapped around from northwest to southwest leaving me with a quartering tailwind instead of a quartering headwind. Karl passed me the baton and boom I was off. My first thought was to hold back because I, after all, had 70 miles to ride. The whole sensation was a little eerie. I was out in the middle of literally nowhere hauling ass on my bike. I soon lost my sense of caution (and my mind) and decided to just put the hammer down. I figured I could at least use this wind to my advantage and try and put time into our competitors. So, I put it in the big ring and started spinning.

Kent, smokin' to Randsbert

There was one point during the first 11 miles I spun-out at 43 mph. Man, I thought, this must be what it is like being Lance! Cruising like a big dog and making it look easy. As I turned due east towards Randsburg, I passed several riders and a few support vehicles. It was nice to have folks that you don’t know cheering you on as you pass by ... way cool indeed. Most of this leg was roller after roller. It is amazing how those types of roads can take the zing out of your legs over time. Geoffrey and Rick did an excellent job of stopping along the way to make sure I had everything I needed. Little known to them, I made a deal with myself that I would not stop along the way, for anything. I knew time was important and I wanted to lose as little as possible. I made the turn-off towards Randsburg and this is where the famous Randsburg grade starts. Not a real tough climb, but rather an endless climb to nowheresville. Towards the end, the road takes a nasty kick to south so I had increasing grade and wind to deal with, oh how fun!

Coming out of Randsburg, the course takes a few twists and turns and then heads north again towards Trona, the armpit of the world! A few more very long rollers culminate in the final downhill thrust into Trona. One of the race officials was standing on the side of the road and shouted out to me that there was a steep downhill approaching. I smiled, said thanks and pressed on. He was not kidding! By this time, Geoffrey and Rick caught back up to me and followed me down this wild ride. All in all, it was pretty cool. I got in the drops, tucked my head down and watched the computer tick of the speed. I quickly accelerated to 30+, then 40+, and then 50! The last I looked, I was doing 51 mph! That’s about the time the road starting getting worse. Not optimum for sure. As the bike banged around from the bumps and cracks in the road, I managed to slow back down to the mid 40’s. It is amazing how 40 mph can seem slow after doing 50+ on a downhill.

Now if you haven’t been to Trona, you don’t know what you’re missing, or maybe you do. Anyway, they mine something in that town, but I’m not sure what it is. The town is a real dump and there really isn’t much to look at: settling ponds, run-down houses, and of course the neighborhood bar! Great place to go on vacation ... not! The good thing is that there is one road into town and one road out of town. So, finding the handoff spot was not an issue. By this time, I was pretty spent and I was looking forward to the handoff with Mike. I saw Geoffrey waving at me and eyed Mike ready for the handoff. I passed Mike the baton and off he went as I made my way to some refreshing drink by our support van.

Mike gets the hand off from Kent

Rick and Karl took off as chase while Geoffrey and I got things together in the support van. Trona is about the only place to get gas and supplies for the next twelve hours so we got some ice and water and headed out of town. The biggest concern after a tough leg is recovery. I ate a couple of sandwiches, downed some perpetuam and tried to rehydrate. Another problem associated with this type of racing is the fact that you are in a car for hours after the ride and the legs turn to rocks! I did a bit of self massage and tried to stretch as Geoffrey drove us over to Furnace Creek.

Karl's support squad

Mike’s route took us up a gentle incline to the summit of a very steep drop-off into the Panamint Valley. At the summit, I decided to change out of my cycling clothes and take a much needed bit of bodily relief. The wind up there was incredible! I’m standing on the edge of a cliff with the wind at my back taking the longest wiz of my life! I felt like one of those Cherubs that adorn those Italian fountains. It is amazing what strong wind at your back can do! Just as the sun started to set, Geoffrey and I made it to the Hwy 190 turnoff that leads you to the endless climb up Townes Pass. We passed Dolphin on our way and I couldn’t help thinking about her solo story. I gave her a bit of a silent cheer and hoped she fared well the rest of the way.

Getting ready for the first exchange and leaving Santa Clarita

At about this time we met up with most of the single riders and their crews. The site looking up Townes pass was as eerie as it was magical. The slow moving snake of lights seemed to creep up the mountain with a slow rhythmic momentum. The whole scene reminded me of those old movies where the Egyptians were moving materials up a pyramid on a night time construction shift.

The race rules specifically stated that the support van could not stop on Townes pass and had to move ahead of the supported rider so Geoffrey and I decided to make our way to Furnace Creek, time station number 4. By the time we crested the summit, it was as dark as you could imagine. We started what seemed like an endless and bottomless descent into Death Valley. I wasn’t sure what was worse, going up Townes Pass or going down the other side. The descent is not as straight and easy as I remember from some of the past 508 write ups ... and we were in a car! To the contrary, the road zigs and zags and drops off unexpectedly several times along the way. I looked at Geoffrey and said, “ya know, if Mike wipes out coming down this mountain, I’m sure as heck not going back to Trona and start over!” You see, the rules state that if a team member cannot finish a stage, one of the other team members can continue, but they must start over at the beginning of the stage. Geoffrey just gave me that nod of agreement and kept his eyes on the road.

After a quick stop for gas in Stovepipe Wells, we finally made it into Furnace Creek. I could feel Geoffrey’s anticipation. He had been driving all day watching us race and soon it would be his turn. The first thing I noticed when getting out of the van in Furnace Creek was the wind. It had been picking up all day and seemed to be howling a bit harder as we pulled in. We made it in time to grab a quick bite to eat at the Furnace Creek Restaurant and when we came out, we saw just how hard the wind was really blowing, our van was covered in dust! I thought to myself, “this is gonna suck!” Making our short drive back to the time station, we did what we had done all day, wait.

We figured that based on Mike’s planned pace, he would arrive sometime around 10:30pm or so. So, we waited some more. I managed to pass the time by talking with time station folks and checking out the competition on the leader board. Sasquatch showed up at about 9:30pm so I figured we were about an hour behind the leaders. They did an incredible turnaround at Furnace Creek and wasted no time getting back onto the road. As 10:30 approached, we started coming up on the CB because the cell phones were all but useless. Finally, at about 10:45 or so I hear a faint call over the CB (“Javelina, come back Javelina, HomEE is about 5 minutes out”). Geoffrey popped up and got ready. This is where things got a little dorked-up in my mind. Since it was dark, the chase vehicle has to stay behind the rider the entire time. The change of plans kinda screwed things up because we weren’t ready with the chase vehicle in a timely manner. We probably wasted about 15 minutes getting everything ready to go: Changing bikes, swapping coolers, tossing bags, oh, and don’t forget the toilet paper and ten thousand batteries! Oh well, better luck next time.

Mike, looking mighty toasty!

I swapped off with Karl as chase and Rick and I went behind Geoffrey as support crew. As we left Furnace Creek, Mother Nature started belly laughing at us and turned up the wind machine big time ... I mean big time! I’ve been in wind storms before, but nothing like this. Anyway, Geoffrey plugged away and after about an hour I realized the he was burning some serious calories battling these headwinds. I talked it over with Rick and we decided to stop in Badwater and get some calories into Geoffrey. We didn’t quite make it all the way so we pulled Geoffrey over to the side of the road and he asked how far we had gone: 17 stinkin’ miles in 2 hours! We still had 58 miles to go and 4,000 feet of climbing left to do! If you haven’t read Geoffrey’s write up, go read it, it is truly amazing and I won’t repeat everything here. Our biggest concern was making sure Geoffrey did not bonk on this leg so we pulled him over every hour and made him rest and refuel. By the time we got to the base of Jubilee pass, Geoffrey was pretty well spent. After long hours in the saddle and relentless howling wind, Geoffrey did a heroic job of getting to the summit of Salisbury Pass just prior to day break. By this time I had been up for 24 hours with one hour of sleep and 350+ miles of bike racing!

Geoffery takes a break from the wind

During one of the stops, Rick asked me if we had any toilet paper in the truck. I did not know, but I said I would let him know if I found any. Well, we had no toilet paper as it turned out, but we had the ten thousand batteries and a wind trainer with us and no coffee! Great, let’s have spin class right here in the desert at 4am! Finally, I found some paper towels amongst all the other mounds of crap and asked Rick if that was OK. He looked at me like a kid at Christmas who just got the best toy! His eyes got as big as saucers! All I could see was this shadowy figure hopping out into the desert beyond the headlights. As he returned I could hear his muffled voice nashing on about something. I asked him if everything was OK, and he said the wind was so strong it blew him over while he was trying to go to the bathroom. Can you imagine what the Coyotes were thinking? I got quite a chuckle out of that one for the next several miles.

Downhill at last and no wind! I don’t know who was happier Geoffrey or me, I’m sure Geoffrey. Rick woke up from a couple of hours of broken sleep and joined me as we followed Geoffrey to the end of his torturous stage. Approaching the bottom, Team Agouti slid by us and over took third place. I was so surprised to see them because I knew the conditions were the same for everyone and I was sure we would at least keep our time advantage on them. Rick and I scooted ahead to give Mike and Karl a heads up that Geoffrey was on his way.

Evidently, we had another change of plan and I was now in the chase vehicle again, this time chasing and supporting Karl. Well, I thought, I’ve gone without sleep this long, what’s another day? I was a little pissed because I was the next rider out on the road and I was wondering when I was supposed to get a little sleep. Not to mention the fact that all my stuff was in the other vehicle. See what I mean about a plan? Plan it, rehearse it, then execute it. Oops, that’s the military coming out in me. Anyway, I got my second wind and helped Karl keep fueled and supported for the next 50 miles into Baker. I soon realized that my whining was nothing compared to the solo crowd, who barely got any sleep whatsoever and were on the road riding all night!

Karl, on his way to Baker, CA

Making our way to Baker, Mike and I stopped and chatted with the Team Agouti chase crew. Evidently, their rider was having some gastrointestinal trouble and was falling behind the pace. I thought, great we can finally put some time into these guys. And putting time into them is exactly what Karl managed to do. He built up about 30 minutes during his 50 mile run. I got stoked and figured we had 3rd place sewed up tight. As Karl and I exchanged the baton in Baker, I saw a look of relief on his face that signified his satisfaction with finally fulfilling his portion of our saga.

Kent takes the baton from Karl in Baker

I started off pretty strong and was surprised at how well I felt after a night of no sleep and a lingering cold. Up and over I-15 I went in the oblivion of the Mojave desert. This road goes to the moon, I swear. My last portion of the race started off with this endless climb to the horizon. The climb is not steep, but let me tell you it does go on forever. I couldn’t remember if it was 21 miles or 23 miles long. Anyway, I broke it down into thirds mentally. I figured if I could conquer the thing a little piece at a time the rest wouldn’t be so bad. I passed one of the members of Team Pupfish and we exchanged pleasantries for a few moments as we shared our memories of the horrible night behind us. She was riding a bit slow so I said farewell and went on my merry way. There was no reason at this point to look ahead, all you could see was road! And, it kept going up and up. So, I just put my head down and kept pedaling. At about 10 miles into the ride, the boys passed me and asked me if I needed anything. Yea, I thought … an ice cold beer and a bed! At about the 14 mile point and an hour into the ride I came up the “Lonely Lemur” as I like to call him. As I pulled up next to him, being ever careful not to draft (LOL) he said to me, “man I’m glad you’re here, now I have some one to bitch at!” And bitch he did. He said, “ya know my crew is being nice to me and encouraging me and I told them I’m not getting back on the damn bike, you can forget it, I’m just not going to do it!” etc, etc. I just was polite and acknowledged his rant. He broke into another rant saying, “ya know my wife just looked at me and said, get back on that bike. I don’t care how you feel, just get back on that bike and ride! All you said to me on that last ride, as I laid there dead on the ground was, get your sorry ass back on that bike and ride, so you get your sorry ass back on that bike and ride!” Well, I wasn’t quite sure if the old Lemur had all his marbles in one bag or not, so I saluted him and went on my way. I never saw him again. Mike came back to me and said he and Karl were going ahead to the next stop to get ready and that I had a nice 11 mile descent ahead of me. Well, let me tell you about this descent. This road was by far the worst California has to offer. I went from the middle to the right side, back to the middle and even into the on coming lane of traffic just to find a decent flat spot to ride upon. I’m totally surprised that the bike held together. That, by far, was the most horrific road and descent I’ve ever had on a bicycle. I gladly handed off the Javelina baton one last time to Mike in beautiful downtown Kelso, and then staggered over to the support van for some much need calories.

Mike at the last check point

At this point, everything was pretty much of a blur. I don’t remember the van ride from Kelso to Amboy. I think I fell asleep and woke up at the next time station just outside of Amboy and the start of Geoffrey’s final leg. The last thing I remember was waking up and hearing Karl and Rick pull up with the chase vehicle. Here it was I thought, the final leg: Geoffrey’s final leg and we are gonna make it!

Mike get's layed and handsoff to Geoffery for the final leg

Mike and I loaded up the support van and headed off towards the finish line. The plan here was for us to get to the hotel, shower, change clothes and head back to relieve Karl and Rick as chase so they could do the same thing. Pulling into Twenty Nine Stumps (Palms), all I could think about was the wind. It had started blowing again and it was picking up speed. I could hear Mother Nature whispering in my ear, “Not so fast Javelina, I’m not done with you yet!” We rendezvoused with the team just after Geoffrey’s descent from Sheep Head pass and this is where things got interesting.

Geoffery takes it to the finish!

The road into Twenty Nine Palms is very long and boring. It was getting dark and the wind was relentless ... and it was Geoffrey’s stage. This was insult to injury for sure. We followed Geoffrey for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, he stopped and I could tell he was pretty well spent. He kept asking us how far it was to the finish and I kept lying to him to make him feel better. I forced a banana and some Hammergel down him and told him to keep drinking while he was riding. I could tell he was slowly but surely entering the bonk zone. Finally, Geoffrey just stopped. Uh oh, I thought. This is bad. We made him take a break and sit in the truck for awhile and just at that time Team Agouti cruises right passed us. I saw the rider do a turnaround look to make sure it was us and off they went into the darkness. I felt that sinking feeling but felt even worse for Geoffrey. He had done a heroic job of riding and now Agouti had just passed us. I had a high school track coach tell me once that being great was 10% perspiration and 90% inspiration. Well, I guess he was right, especially in Geoffrey’s case at this very moment. Geoffrey just got back on the bike and rode! As we made the final turn into town, we could see the flashing lights of various support vehicles in front of us. I could tell Geoffrey saw the same thing because his pace had quickened. I yelled out of the car for him to take several hits of Hammergel which he did without complaint. At this point, Geoffrey was a horse smelling the barn. He put the hammer down and caught team Griz which I’m sure he thought was Agouti. I looked at Mike and we both had the same thought at the same moment: “Geoffrey just might catch Agouti!” Fortunately for us Agouti had some unique flashing lights atop their chase vehicle so we could differentiate them from the rest. I spotted them about 100 yards in front of us and couldn’t wait to tell Geoffrey. Mike pulled me up beside Geoffrey and while hanging all the way out of the chase vehicle I said, “Geoffrey, do you see those lights up ahead?” he nodded, and I said, “That’s Agouti, you go get’em!” Much to my surprise and Mike’s, Geoffrey just took off! It was just like watching Lance on one of those mountain stages. Holy crap! We are in for one heck of a finish! Mike and I got all caught up with the chase-vehicle mess at the finish so we couldn’t tell if Geoffrey beat Agouti or not. Finally, we rolled into the hotel parking lot, jumped out of the chase vehicle and saw Geoffrey lying in a heap on the ground. I ran over and said, “Did you get’em, did you get’em!” Geoffrey mustered up a muffled response and said something about getting cut off by a pickup truck. I just stood there in amazement! Let me tell ya, that was one heck of an effort! Turns out we got beat by 3 seconds after 36 hours 1 minute and 55 seconds of riding for 508 miles.

The Kit

Well, we all got what we came for, a finish in the Furnace Creek 508 and the coveted race jersey and finisher’s medal. What a true team effort and a truly epic event! Let’s do it again next year! Well, maybe ...

The Prize!!

Grand Tour Double Century—June 2004

Malibu, California

I'm not sure but I think I'm starting to like this riding in California thing. Not that I don't like Las Vegas or anything, but the cycling atmosphere in the People's Republic of California is just somewhat more elevated, and somehow inspires me to ride just a little bit farther and faster. For those who don't know, the Grand Tour is put on by the LA Wheelmen bicycle club and has quite a history. You can read more at their website Every year 500 to 600 folks challenge themselves on the 125 mile Century Challenge course, or the 200, 300, and yes Virginia, the 400 mile RAAM qualifier. The route takes you North on the PCH, up and/or around the Santa Monica mountains, through Ojai, onto Carpenteria, and back along the PCH South to Malibu. More on the route highlights a little later.

The trip started out with the ever familiar combat driving experience on I-15 to LA. Our goal was to get to Santa Monica by lunch, make it to Supergo to fill up a Santa size bag full of bike goodies and get then get to our hotel before dinner. I must say, that if you have not driven I-10 through downtown LA, give it a try. If you are not a road rage kinda guy/gal, this is a great training ground. Even Ghandi or Mother Teresa would develop snarling fangs on this highway full of knuckle heads.

The six mile drive from Santa Monica to Malibu had the familiar feel to it. Windows rolled down, 70 degrees with blue sky, and the sound of waves crashing on the beach. Kinda like those Hollywood movies. We stayed at a great place, The Casa Malibu. It is a historic little hide away right in the middle of town. A bit pricey, but still very nice and located very close to the starting point.

The plan was to start the ride at the brisk early-morning hour of 0430. There is no mass start for the rides, just start windows. As Bobbie drove me up to the start point at 0415, some of the diehards had already rolled. I figured them to be the 300 or 400 mile crowd. As always along the California coast, the sea fog settled in to provide a little moisture into the equation. Now, when you mix an early start with fog, you get dark...I mean dark! And when you mix moisture with dark, you get foggy lenses which means more moisture and dark! More on that later. Anyway, I met Karl and Mike in the parking lot at the appointed start time and helped them get ready. It is amazing how hard it is to get ready when there are no street lights next to your car and there is a mixture of moisture and dark, which by the way, equals fumbling around for the simplest of things.

Steeds mounted and lights on we pressed on to conquer the Grand Tour. Right from the start there is a nasty little climb up towards Pepperdine University. The climb is just enough to jump start the heart into action and wake up the old lactic engine. Having that out of the way, you are greeted by some pretty spectacular rollers, that is if you can see them. There is just nothing like being on a bike at 40 miles an hour in the dark. It seems like your brain can't keep up with what is in front of you and the whole experience is rather surreal. Nonetheless, the experience is exhilarating and in a sick way kinda fun. Actually, my front mounted 3 LED light worked out just fine and I found that it provided plenty of illumination. About an hour into the ride the sunlight sort of peeked its way into our presence. The funny thing about the California coast covered in sea fog is the unexpected sunrise. The light comes on very slowly. Kind of like a real slow rheostat being turned up by grandma.

Some where along the way the three of us tagged up with a real nice group from Ventura: two guys, Mark and Randy; and one gal, Christine. They road at or about our speed and seemed amiable to forming an organized paceline. This turned out great. We rotated anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes off the front making the miles peel away. As a side note, our route was the Lowland Double route which has very little climbing. It is a great first Double for all those pondering the challenge for the future. The first rest stop comes about 38 miles into the ride and is located in Port Hueneme (sp) at a community center just south of Oxnard. Let me say that the rest stops were completely stocked with great food and Hammer products (not available last year). The volunteers did a great job and were very friendly throughout the entire ride. Keep in mind here that the club had to man 4 different events in one day! That's a lot of rest stops.

Out of Port Hueneme, the route turns inland and goes in and around the agricultural areas of central California. This is really road bike heaven. No cars (or very little), decent roads, and great scenery. As we meandered our way through the fields we ended up in Camarillo. This is a beautiful community just Southeast of Ventura. From here, we made our way to the next rest stop in a beautiful little park on the outskirts of Ventura. This is where Christine gave me a little Ventura history lesson. Evidently, the early settlers were not able to make their way from East to West across what is now known as Hwy 126. Ventura was completely supplied by ship. There was no inland travel. The Ventura valley at the time was ravaged by wind, drought and dust storms so everything had to be shipped in. As the settlement grew, the valley was converted into the fertile orchards that are there today. There you have it! Riding a Double century can be like going back to school. Oh, If you stop at this park make sure you don't put your bike next to the water fountain by the bathroom. Every time somebody flushes the toilet, the water fountain spits up a stream of water like old faithful! A truly bizarre experience to say the least.

The Lowland route is a bit rural and takes you through quite few stop lights, but it is enjoyable nonetheless. As we departed the rest stop in Ventura we made our way through the neighborhoods and old downtown Ventura. There are a lot of great examples of early American architecture here making the ride quite interesting. From Ventura, the Lowland route heads Northeast towards Ojai, a quaint little community nestled in the foothills of the Ojai valley. The route does a great job of getting off Hwy 33 and taking a back road that enters the town of Ojai from the North. I think I counted 2 cars in the 45 minutes we were en route. The road is literally covered in trees providing shade the whole way. The feeling was like riding through a natural covered bridge. Stopping for lunch in Ojai, we were once again greeted by super volunteers. Believe it or not, they actually made sandwiches to order, or cooked a bean burrito for you! Caution got the better of me so I had my usual turkey sandwich with no cheese! I learned that lesson from past doubles. Gurgle, gurgle, burp, fart, fart! I couldn't imagine a bean burrito working its way through me for the next 6 hours.

As we were leaving, Stan and the Bike Shop boys from Henderson, NV showed up. The original plan was to tag up with them in the beginning, but wires got cross, the sun got in our eyes and our shoes were too tight, so we pressed without them. We exchanged greetings and seeing how we were ready to leave, we pressed on with our friends from Ventura leaving the Bike shop boys to their sandwiches and bean burritos. The route from here takes you back to the North of Ojai along the North side of the Ojai valley and finally back to highway 33 into Ventura. You pick up a bike path that parallels Hwy 101 for a short distance that then dumps you onto Old Hwy 1. Here you are greeted with miles and miles of motor homes, smells of barbecue, and friendly folks waving as you pass by. I must say, the beach homes along this stretch are quite impressive, not mention all the expensive cars parked outside. As we cruised along, I notice that the ride felt particularly easy at this point. I soon found out why. I looked up at one of the hundreds of American flags waving from motor homes and noticed we had a tailwind. Uh oh, I thought. This is not looking good for the home-bound leg. Normally, the trade winds blow Northwest to Southeast in the afternoon. But, as it turnout, the wind gods decided to change the rules and blow the winds in the opposite direction.

The turnaround point is Hwy 150 and the Hwy 101 intersection. This is the spot where the Highland Double folks meet up with the Lowland folks. This was also the point were you can get a real nice hot cup of noodles, a perfect three quarter ride pick me up. Mike highly recommends it to everyone. Our plan here was to tag up with the Tandem tugboat and ride the wave for the last 50 miles. That was not to be however. It seems my rear tire just had enough and went flat as we ramped up to high gear. A quick swap of the tube with help from my trustee ride buds, we got on our way again in minimum time. Rounding the corner towards the open sea, mister wind greeted us right in the face and stayed with us all the way to Port Hueneme. All in all, we kept a pretty good paceline going and managed to keep 15 to 16 mph the entire way. The route returning to Malibu is the same except this time you can see the rollers! After 170 miles of riding these were pretty tough hills, even for the seasoned rider. This is where you learn to keep something in reserve no matter how easy the ride seems in the beginning. As Mike, Karl and I swapped leads up the hills we finally caught a glimpse of Pepperdine University in the distance, a truly welcome site. The finish was great. Several folks were cheering us in and we were greeted by a superb barbecue spread. Oh, Finally a seat with legs NOT moving!

Ride Stats:

Total Time: 13 hours 40 mins
Riding Time: 11 hours 10 mins
Distance: 201.4 miles
Average Total Speed: 15.5 mph
Average Riding Speed: 18.3 mph

Best thing about the ride: Riding with two other friends for a California Triple Crown
Worst thing about the ride: Fog, moisture and dark!

Cactus Hugger Century—April 2004

St. George, Utah

Just a few words on the Cactus Hugger Century. Bobbie and I opted for the 46 mile ride because she had not been on a bike in awhile. As we made our way to St. George in a driving rain storm, I often wondered how the weather would be the following day at the start. As it turned out, not a whole lot different. I had seen this picture about 3 years previous at the ‘Chums Classic’ race when they took 6 people to hospital for hyperthermia.

As I loaded the bikes on the car at 0530, I notice a slight sprinkle. By 0700 this dissipated and a sucker hole appeared over the start, Xtevia Gardens. I thought to myself that I had seen this before and opted for the Gortex rain jackets (a smart move). Anyway, the folks organized a super ride and everything went like clock work, right down to parking the car. I was suitably impressed. We grabbed our bag of goodies and prepared for the ride.

I must say that I was a bit disappointed at the lack of a ‘mass start.’ Unlike most events, this adds to some of the excitement. We pressed ahead alone on the road only to find a few riders on the road with us. The weather held and the ride to Gunlock was rather uneventful. If you can call beautiful scenery and no cars uneventful. Anyway, we arrived at Gunlock to find two very friendly volunteers huddled under a blanket. At this point, it started to rain. Not sprinkle! I figured, “here we go.” We caught a tandem wheel for a short time, but lost them on the ‘wall.’ If you haven’t ridden this route, it is beautiful: no cars, nothing but rider’s paradise. The wall sucks but anyone can climb it with a little effort.

Arriving at Veyo, we opted to continue on with the 46 mile option. Here is where Mr. Wind greeted us. Let’s see, driving rain, cross wind, and temps that bordered on sleet! Great riding conditions, eh. NOT! At 12 to 14 MPH we made our way to the Snow Canyon Bike path. I must say that this was probably the worst riding conditions I’ve every found myself in. Bobbie flatted at Snow Canyon so we made a quick fix (frozen hands and wet gloves) and continued on.

Up and down and all around we finally ended up in St. George. This is where God smiled upon us and gave us sunshine. That warmth one feels after such suffering is indescribable. Soaked from head to toe, we basked in the Sunshine as we made our way very slowly through Ivins and back the Kayenta.

Best thing about the ride: Riding with your spouse. 2nd best: Enthusiastic volunteers standing in the rain encouraging riders! Awesome!

Worst thing: Changing a flat with frozen wet hands. (sucks)
Most memorable: The beauty of Utah. (Never undeterred by the weather, a true marvel!)

Would I do it again? Yes, even in the rain/sleet! Any ride is better than no ride.
Checkout the start and home: Kayentah Utah

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Eastern Sierra Double Century—May 2004

Bishop, California

There is only one word to describe this ride, EPIC! This is by far the most beautiful scenery in this country! Planet Ultra, once again, did an outstanding job of hosting the event. Unparalleled support by staff and volunteers.

The ride started at 5:15am sharp. A short hop in and around Bishop and then to the Mountains! If you think you are a good climber, I double dog dare you to tackle this one. About 5 hours at 8 miles an hour and a butt load of altitude later, I finally made it to the summit at Mammoth. Did you know that there aren't very many oxygen molecules at 8500 feet? I forgot that part. And, did you know that the wind does blow in your face at that altitude? I forgot that part too! Well, anyway, the 3 ladies hosting checkpoint 3 made it all worth while. Cheery faces and cracking jokes the whole time. Over Deadman's Pass (gee why do they call it that I wondered) we started our trek towards Mono Lake. Now this was the coolest part. Seeing and taking in God's beauty.

If you have not been to the Eastern Sierra's you are missing a true wonder. I'm cruising along searching for oxygen while at the same time marveling at the vistas before me. And to think, I haven't covered a hundred miles yet! Let me say that June Lake was a real treat and if you are a fisherman, you would be in serious paradise. Anyway, the tailwind God blessed us with for a short while coming out of the June Lake loop and we made our way to Mono Lake park. Exiting June Lake we were greeted by Mr. Headwind for the next 15 miles until lunch. As fate would have it, the Planet Ultra staff put the lunch stop at the bottom of a long descent, by which, we would have to climb back up to continue the ride. Great, I thought, Subway sandwiches always taste better the second time around. Undaunted, my new found riding partner from Redding, CA (Jeff) and I pressed on to conquer the last pass of the day. It is amazing how little climbs can just kick your ass after a long day in the saddle with nothing but climbing. Up and down, and all around we went. The next rest stop was supposed to be at 130 miles, the summit. Well, my cosmo supercharged computer measured it at 136. How cruel I thought! Anyway, the two teenage gals checking everybody in were great! Full of teenage enthusiasm and encouragement, even for an old geezer like me! They hooped and cheered us all the way in. Great fun! I stopped to look over my shoulder and all I could see was snow covered peaks to the West. Awesome was the word coming to mind!

Watered up and ready to go, Jeff and I pressed on and this is where things got fun! 50 miles an hour downhill for what seemed like forever. That was the bomb for sure and I felt like those Tdf boys descending the Alps. The last 70 miles or so I ended up by myself. That's not all bad because it is amazing what goes through your mind peddling along as the sun descends to the West. As I cruised along Hwy 6 southbound back to Bishop, I got a great rush of accomplishment, I just kicked the 200 mile ride square in the butt! The best part by far were all the prior finishers standing in the parking lot cheering everyone on as they came in. Hands down, the best bike ride I have ever done!

I'd do it again in a heartbeat...Well, maybe a years worth at least.

Solvang Double Century—March 2004

Solvang, California

Once again we were greeted with superb weather, great riding conditions and excellent hosting at the Solvang Double Century. It amazes me how this part of the country is so perfect for cycling. We started our adventure at the wee hour of 0540 in the morning with a staggered mass start. In groups of 64, the hearty soles were released from the starting gate unaware of the most excellent conditions that would come our way. The only downside to the whole day was the brisk temperature during the first part of our ride. That, too, was abated quickly as the sun rose unopposed in the eastern sky. I must say that the sunrise over the eastern mountains near Santa Barbara was breathtaking. The initial route took us through the Solvang area of rolling hills, horse ranches and farms. I vowed to maintain my planned pace and conserve energy for the long miles ahead.

At about the 15 mile point we encountered a rather long but not impossible climb that gave me the opportunity to tag up with a very cheerful couple on a tandem. Marty, the stoker, and I struck up a great conversation about various topics including Double Century conquests, etc. As we continued to chat, she informed that her Captain had done 41 Doubles and she was working on her 47th. Geez, I thought to my self, I'm a real rookie, informing her that I was proudly working on my first one! To make things even more humbling, we passed two older gentlemen on a tandem and Marty promptly informed me that the Captain of this tandem team was the "King." I asked rather inquisitively, "The King, huh?...King of what?" Marty said, "the captain of that tandem has 87 Doubles to his credit." I thought to myself that I have truly met the Yoda of endurance cycling! As it turned out, I would see them again. More on that later. I lost Marty and her captain someplace on the downhill run towards Foxen canyon. I've always maintained that when you lose a Tandem wheel, you won't get it back. Anyway, by this time the temperature managed to climb out of the 30's and quickly into the pleasant upper 40's. For those not familiar with Foxen canyon road, let me describe it in a few words here. The road is about 20 or so miles from Solvang and winds it's way for miles through some of the most beautiful countryside in California. The road meanders through vineyards, horse farms, and pastures. It is about the closest thing a perfect cycling location you will find anywhere.

As I pressed on down Foxen canyon, the two older fellows on the tandem passed by me and somehow I managed jump on the back. As it turned, I was lucky enough to take advantage of their draft for 20 miles to first rest stop. Along the way, I managed to strike up a conversation with the "King of Doubles" and asked him how he managed to achieve such fame. His answer was short and to the point, "just spend twelve years doing it." If you do the math, that's seven and a quarter doubles a year!

The energy at the first rest stop was pretty high with folks quickly relieving themselves (in true road biker fashion), filling water bottles, and grabbing food. The key at these rest stops is to spend as little time as possible off the bike. As such, I fueled up with some of those great PP&J sandwiches, stoked the water bottles/camelback and pressed on. It appears that leaving quickly had its benefit. A rather large peloton with Tandems in the lead (of course) blasted by me like the Tour de France. As I stood to quicken my pace, one gentleman spouted out the obvious and told me if I wanted to join in, I would have get on the back. As it turned out, this group was composed of the Furnace Creek 508 vets from Bakersfield, or Kern County Wheelmen. For those unfamiliar, the Furnace Creek 508 is a 508 mile race that transits Death Valley; a real popular event for all the endurance fanatics. For the next 50 miles, they joked, whooped and hollered and really made the whole ride quite fun. My planned pace went out the window as we blasted through Santa Maria on our way to San Luis Obispo at well over 20 miles an hour.

This is about the time the temperature started to climb towards the 80s so off came the arm warmers, etc. The funny thing about cruising along in a fast group, is the fact that you don't realize how much you are sweating until you stop. Lesson learned here is: riding fast equals drink a lot! Out of San Luis for the first time we pressed towards Morro Bay along Hwy 101 to see the "Rock" before returning to San Luis Obispo for lunch. Not to my surprise, the "King" and his stoker blasted by me, and once again, I used up some juice to get on their wheel. By this time, we had a really nice tailwind literally shoving us down Los Osos road. We topped 30 mph easily for about 20 miles. What a ride!

As usual, Planet Ultra did a great job supporting the lunch stop. I grabbed a turkey sandwich and a can of v-8 juice and munched away. It always amazes me how your stomach doesn't even feel like you put anything into it when you do these types of events. Anyway, fueled up, I popped a couple of e-caps and pressed on my way to my next goal: the rest stop at Guadalupe. I slowed my pace going through Shell Beach and up the climb to the Guadalupe plateau. At 125 miles, I wanted to make sure I would finish this thing. At the top of the Guadalupe Plateau, you are presented with a really nice view back over your shoulder at Shell Beach: vast sand dunes and an awesome picturesque view of the Pacific Ocean. This is the spot that leads into the farmland of the central coast. Tons of acreage growing everything from garden flowers to red cabbage. This is also the spot where the wind is either your friend or your nemesis! Fortunately, the wind gods were in our favor and we enjoyed a nice tailwind and screamer downhill run all the way into Guadalupe.

I must say that Guadalupe is not your average California town. It is small and more reminiscent of central Indiana. Old looking movie houses and architecture from the 30s or 40s. Nonetheless, we were greeted by some awesome volunteers at this rest stop and the topic of conversation amongst riders was the quick pace. Almost to a rider, everyone was well ahead of planned pace and personal timelines. I, too, thought I'm gonna finish this thing before dark. So, what seemed like my 50th PP&J, I pounded down nourishment and pressed on my way. I soloed out of Guadalupe but was quickly caught by some other friendly riders who kindly let me join their wheel. We exchanged pulls for about 15 miles, but the pace seemed a bit fast for me so I dropped off the back to conserve energy. The route from this point is relatively flat until you reach Hwy 135. From here it is a long 3 or 4 mile grind up to the summit that finally leads into the last rest stop at Los Alamos.

About 7 miles out from Los Alamos I tagged up with an elderly gentlemen named Howard. As we rode together, we exchanged pleasantries and stories of rides gone by. He informed me that he was 73 and his doctor and family thought he shouldn't be doing doubles any longer. I asked him how many doubles he does in a year and to my surprise, he said he was trying to cut down from 5 to 3! There again, I felt like such a rookie compared to these seasoned veterans. The story also gave me the motivation I needed to finish this ride!

Los Alamos is a lot like Guadalupe, it is a little out of character, at least in my mind, of what a town in California should look like. The rest stop was nestled up against a house that looked like something out of Mayberry RFD gone bad. Nonetheless, the food and refreshments were a welcome site and I had made it to 170 miles! What got my attention here was the look on some of the riders’ faces. There was this far-off stare amongst a lot of them that looked like they were concentrating on something beyond their immediate vision. I think most of us call it BONK! There were even a few that huddled together while nursing down a well deserved hot bowl of cup-of-soup. I kept thinking to myself that if I stay here too long, I’m going to start looking and feeling like these guys. Apart from the 3 mile climb at 5 percent grade and horrendously bumpy Drum Canyon road, the last 21 miles into Solvang was rewarding and rather uneventful. My total ride time was: 10 hours, 35 minutes and 36 seconds. 12 hours and 14 minutes unofficial total time. As they say, most of a double century is mental and I certainly concur. See you on the road!

Lighthouse Century—September 2004

San Luis Obispo, California

The Green Valley Cyclists in their first off-station ride of the year roared into San Luis Obispo and gave central coast Californians a taste of Nevada style riding. JC, Linda, Perri, Kim, Sherri, Dick, Eddy, Dennis, Julia, Jim, Sandy, Mark, Bobbie and Kent all came away after the ride with a smile that denotes a sense of accomplishment.

The ride was also a resounding success for the SLOBC folks. Greater than 1300 riders took to the roads covering the metric century, the highland century, and the lowland century. Without a doubt this has to be one of the best supported and organized century rides in the country. Everything from food to route marking, to just plain good old hospitality was outstanding. If you do one ride in California next year, I highly recommend this one. The lowland century is a perfect first timer. The route is easy to follow, has just a wee bit of climbing and the rest stops are plentiful for the fledgling centurion. The highland route offers great vistas, climbs through the central coast and finishes up with the lowlanders at or around the 50 mile point. For those not up for the whole 100 miles, the metric is a perfect substitute. The metric route follows the lowlander routing but stops in the quaint town of Cambria that coincides with the awesome lunch stop. Several Green Valley Cyclists opted for this route this past Saturday.

We all agreed to meet in the parking lot of Cunega College for the start at 6:45. I could tell that Eddy and Kim where particularly excited seeing as how this was their first century attempt. The fun part of these rides is to witness all the preparation that goes on in the parking lot. Conversations abound, people packing supplies into jerseys, etc. The long lines at the honey huts (porta poties) are particularly interesting. You can always tell who downed that extra cup of coffee before driving over to the start point. One bit of advice when finishing up your business. Don't tuck your jersey into your shorts once you are done. You look kinda like a little kid trying to look like Spiderman, not mentioned giving away what business you were really doing in there.

The temperature at this time of year along the central coast can be a bit nippy. Eddy informed me that the old mercury was hovering around 53 degrees. This kept both of us wondering whether or not we came prepared enough in terms of clothing. I can say from experience, that a little less is usually better. Once you get going, the old body temperature starts to rise and all that extra clothing becomes somewhat of a nuisance.

After grabbing a couple of prestart pictures of the group, we headed out of the parking lot eagerly anticipating the journey ahead of us. Then it happened not more that 100 feet from the start. FLAT! I though to myself, you gotta be kidding me! Turned out that Mark punctured just after rolling out of the parking lot. I was one of the first to roll up and offer assistance. I said, "That's got to be a record!" Mark looked at me and started changing his tire when Dennis rolled up and said "Wow! That's a record" Not be out done, Dick rolled up to offer his help and said, "Man! that's a record!" The look on Mark's face was rather priceless. We all laughed and agreed that we overstated the obvious a few too many times. Kinda like going up to a real pregnant women and saying, "Gee are you pregnant or what?"

The lowland century route takes you back into San Luis for a short bit before venturing out into the countryside. The route up Hwy 1 into San Luis has a few surprises, especially when it is somewhat dark outside. A few riders were a bit unprepared for the hidden ruts in the road on the downhill into the city. One lady wiped out and eventually abandoned the ride. Sandy saw another guy sliding down the hill next to his bike in the middle of the road! Now I know it is not funny to take humor at someone else's misfortune, but the mental thought I had at that moment made me chuckle just a bit. The bottomline here is to let the rabbits all go there way. You will eventually see them again along the way.

As we made our way up Los Osos road and back to Hwy 1, Dennis, Dick, Eddy and myself decided to "pump up the volume" a bit. The pace was reasonable and welcome because we started to warm up given the extra effort. As we entered Hwy 1 North, the sun started to peak over the mountains and the clouds gave way to an awesome sunrise. There is just something really cool about riding along the beach at the break of daylight. The air is cool and the sounds and smell of the sea all seem rather relaxing. The quick pace brought us into Cayucos for out first rest stop of the day. The layout here was awesome! Everything, bagels, fruit, coffee, donuts, you name it. And...plenty of it!

The route from here darts inland for a few miles and meets up with he highland riders at the junction of Hwy 1 and Hwy 46. All riders basically follow the same route from here to Cambria. This kinda cool because the pacelines seem to get bigger as riders join up along the way. The only real climb on the lowland route starts just after the Hwy junction. The climb is not too long and the grade is reasonable, at least for some riders. After the long climb, you are rewarded with a bomber downhill thrust into Cambria. This is the turnaround point for the Metric folks and the lunch stop for all. The sweet thing about the Metric route is that you get first dibs on all the food! The lowland and highland crowd keeps pedaling for another 20 miles or so to the lighthouse turnaround.

Cruising past Hearst Castle is always a pleasure and even displays a few surprises along the way. As we reached San Simeon, we were greeted by a heard of Zebras that are remnants of the Hearst's zoo. It was a very interesting site to see the great American cattle grazing next to Zebras. This was also the point where Mr. Wind and his brother Mr. Gust met us with their not so pleasurable ride offerings. Dennis, Eddy, and myself found a great paceline spearheaded by the crazy Kern County Wheelmen. These guys/gals are stronger than oxen. They took turns pulling the entire group all the way to the lightouse turnaround. Great folks and great fun!
After some minor refueling and relieving, the 3 of us pushed up so we could get to some of that great lunch. If you are a century rider, the lunch stop comes at about the 72 mile point so it is a good idea to take advantage of some of the food at the earlier stops. The scene at the park was amazing. Light breeze, blue sky, temperature in the mid 60s to low 70s and a literal sea of bikes everywhere! I think I saw every make and model of every bike ever manufactured laying of standing in that place. Everything from a 5 speed steel Peugeot to Calfee dotted the landscape.

I must say that if you like to eat on these rides, this is the one for you! Being sort of an endurance kind of guy, I've learned that food can do a few not so good things to you if you are not careful. So, I pick and choose my fuel pretty carefully now. I've had a few of those not-so-good HAZMAT gas-events in the past! The SLOBC folks really out did themselves with this spread. You could choose from three different lunch meats, 3 different types of salad, several types of drinks, and they even served desert. Me, I just had my standard small sandwich loaded with no gas producing extras or condiments. Eddy looked pretty pleased and satisfied with the spread and Dennis stayed with his long time tradition of having a piece of pie as his long awaited ride reward.

The only bad thing about putting the lunch stop at the bottom of a big long hill is that fact that you have climb the big belly back up the hill to get to the other side. I guess that the upside is that you get to go faster on the downhill now because that extra food acts like extra weight. The last 30 miles is basically a repeat of the first part of the ride. Only this time you get Mr. Wind at your back and the roads are full of cars and people. Just after Cayucos, we picked up a pretty fast tandem team for about 6 miles. After that lunch and 80 miles under our legs we decided to let them go and not punish them any longer with our massive single bike strength and stamina.

The nice thing about finishing this ride is that you get to do it downhill! The long downhill takes you straight into the finish line at the college. It was great to see the people standing along the side walk waiting for their friends and relatives to show up after a long day in the saddle. I managed to get a few minutes on Eddy and Dennis and it was a real pleasure to get their pictures as they came in. This was Eddy's first century and Dennis' first century after getting a couple of new bionic hips! Both finished the 102 miles in 5:39! That's almost an 18 mph average! Well done! See you next year in San Luis Obispo for Lighthouse 2005.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Grand Tour Challenge, June 2003

Malibu, California—June 2003

First of all, let me say this right up front. This was one of the best Century events I have ridden, and my hat is off to the LA Wheelemen Bicycle Club for putting on such a well organized and supported event. As most of you know, the ride started and ended in Malibu California, a quaint small and unassuming little town along the California coast...not really. The Grand Tour is comprised of 400 mile, 300 mile, 200 mile, and 123 mile ride options with the 123 mile "Century" known as the "Century Challenge." I'll explain that title as we go along in this ride report, but I think it will be rather obvious why they added the word "Challenge" to the title.

Five Vegas Velo Club members, Bobbie Costin, Kent Costin, Barry Vinik and Shannon Goldsmith (Randy Paar started at 6:15am) pressed out past Pepperdine University cheered on by the line of celebrities and stars lining the streets at 6:30am. The weather was typical California coastal weather at this time of morning: 60 °F with low-overcast skies and no wind. Perfect riding weather! The first four miles North on the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway or Highway 1) brought us to the foot of Latigo Canyon; one of many canyons that meander and crisscross through the Malibu local area and surrounding mountains. This little gem of a climb is part of why they call the ride the Century Challenge. The climb starts at roughly sea-level and ends 10.2 miles later at the summit. The challenge is the winding road and ever changing grades along the way. What is really cool about this climb is the view back over your shoulder. The ribbon of road can be seen as foreground to the blue and endless Pacific ocean. A really picturesque site I must say. Equally impressive are the number of REALLY big homes, or mansions, that dot the mountainside. I couldn't help but think: "How did these people build these massive estates up here." Anyway, back to the climb. We tagged up with the Riverside Bike Club crowd and had some great conversation when the grade availed itself to some aerobic climbing. Bobbie and I were on the tandem and we were both grateful for the "granny gear" on this ride. Amazingly, I only saw one other tandem team attempt this portion of the Grand Tour. As for the descents, they were numerous and very tight. Many were 180° switchbacks with blind corners all along the way down. Barry found that out the hard way when he came around a corner and found himself facing a stop sign thirty feet in front of him while barreling downhill at 30+ miles an hour. Fortunately for him, good brakes and skillful bike handling brought him to a safe stop.

At this point the ride empties out onto the Mulholland highway for some more climbing and descending through some really cool looking rock formations near Thousand Oaks. Entering Lake Sherwood Drive you mingle with the best of the affluent that California has to offer. Lake Sherwood is home to some of the most exclusive residences in the country, and by their size it is rather obvious. In fact, it is so exclusive that Arnold Schwarzenegger hasn't been able to acquire a membership to the community for several years. Guess that will change when he becomes governor, eh? Views of Rupert Murdoch’s estate and his surrounding circle of friends' residences seemed to dwarf our presence as we passed by on our humble two-wheeled vehicles. I kept thinking to myself that 'ole Rupert doesn't know what he's missing: a whole day on your bike enjoying all the things that are free! Passing by the lake and onto Potrero Road we were presented with some of the most beautiful horse country around. The road is newly paved and perfect for putting the hammer down, and that we did! After a short climb we arrived at the first and much needed rest stop. The LA wheelmen out did themselves by stocking this respite with plenty of food, water, and supplements. They also offered up a lot of encouragement and camaraderie as well. As I chatted with the one of the gentlemen manning the stop, I found out that this ride started in the 1950's by a woman who wanted to complete 200 miles in one day. It started as a bet between a couple of clubs in the local LA area as to who would finish and who would not. As it turned out she finished the ride along with a few other hearty soles and hence the Grand Tour was born. As we left the rest stop the same gentlemen warned me about Lynn Canyon Road and to be careful especially on a tandem. Well, I soon found out why. This little downhill is steeper than you can imagine and twists back an forth for what seemed like miles. In fact, something out of the corner of my eye caught my attention as I dared to take my eyes off the road in front of me. It was a car, abandoned and upside down, half-way down a ravine just off our right side. Evidently, someone ran off the road and never bothered to retrieve their car. I couldn't imagine how someone could have lived through that. Towards the end of our descent, we learned all about rim heating. The front tire flatted from apparent rim heat generated by my braking on the way down. Luckily we weren't going all that fast so a controlled stop wasn't a problem. This is the spot where I also learned about taking the proper equipment along. If you think you need two tubes, take three! The first spare blew a valve stem so we had to use the last remaining spare as our primary. Anyway, back on the bike we went enjoying the rest of the downhill grade towards Pleasant Valley road and on our way to lunch.

I must say that rides with this type of climbing will leave you quite hungry and ready for every rest stop. At 56 miles into the ride brought us to our lunch stop in the town of Moorpark, a town just outside of Thousand Oaks. Once again, we were pleasantly greeted by the LA wheelmen with a superb spread for lunch. Lesson learned at this stop is that if you are lactose intolerant don't eat the vegetarian sandwich with extra cheese and cucumbers. Somehow I managed to get the wrong sandwich, and believe me your stoker won't appreciate the digestive result soon after dining. What got my attention at this stop was the porta-johns. Only in California does an outside plastic sink, complete with running water, appear along with the facilities!

Leaving Moorpark we started another bout of climbing into the countryside. This is where we learned about reading the ride sheet. Some dude trying to find the Highland Double route came blazing by us asking which way to go. We informed him that we were on the Century option and we could not help him. It appeared that he managed to get lost several times and his mileage was useless when trying to match it up with the ride sheet. Undaunted, he dropped us on the climb and proceed on his way. As we kept close tabs on the mileage, we failed to read the all important instructions that followed, so we too along with several others, ended up on the Highland Double route. It was a nice little detour, but it was all uphill towards Grimes Canyon. We finally realized we had made a wrong turn because at the summit of Grimes Canyon, several other Century riders were gathered scratching their noggins trying to figure out what went wrong. So, we did what every lost person does: we backtracked! Eventually, we found our way back to Broadway Road and once again we were on course and only 3 miles out of our way. The nice thing about being lost with other people is that you generate a kind of kindred spirit with others along the way. About 12 of us formed a real nice pace line all the way into Port Hueneme for what would be our final refueling stop of the day.

Not to be out done by the other LA Wheelmen volunteers, these folks spared no effort to make us feel welcome and appreciated. In fact, one of the volunteer's daughter made homemade chicken soup for all those interested. I'm sure those folks on the Double, Triple, and Quad were happy to take part in that meal. Fortunately for the four of us, we found ourselves paired up the Riverside Bicycle Club folks who stayed with us most of the way back to Malibu. As we proceeded back to Highway 1 on our final 25 miles back to Malibu were greeted by a much appreciated tailwind from the Northwest. If you haven't had the opportunity to ride down the PCH from this point, I highly recommend it. The air is clear, the sky is blue, and the sight and sound of the waves crashing against the shoreline as you ride by is just plain awesome. At this point, Bobbie was just about on empty. She had been a real trooper all day but her butt and knees were just about shot so it was definitely time for the ride to end. After a few painful "rollers" along the PCH we made our final turn into Pepperdine University and onto the finish line. Pulling up, I expected to see Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman or Jennifer Aniston waiting there with the Maillot Jaune, but I was greeted instead by a guy with a pile of flank steak and bake beans on a paper plate. A great post ride meal if I do say so myself.