Monday, October 25, 2010

Pacific Coast Hwy 600k

For some reason near the end of September, I got a bug in my head to ride another 600k this season. And lo and behold, after a little researching, I discovered the PCH Randos out of California were putting on just such a ride. It would take place on October 9-10, and head southwards from Salinas to Moorpark via the Pacific Coast Highway.

This ride became particularly intriguing because it was an opportunity to bicycle on some fabulous roads that I had only ridden by motorcycle decades earlier. It would also be an opportunity to hang with some of my family, whom I hadn't seen in a few years.­­

It took some planning to make this happen. But thanks to some flexibility in my sister's and niece's schedules, the travel logistics came together rather nicely (particularly if one doesn't mind spending a lot of time on I-5).

I drove down to my sister Bunny's home in Vallejo, CA on Thursday, October 7th. My niece Melissa happened to be in Vallejo as well, and the two of us drove down to the Salinas the next day. We checked into the motel from where the 600k would commence, and found Jim Verheul already there. He had bicycled up from Orange County!, which means he would cycle

riders meeting
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
a PBP-length 1200k or so by the time the weekend was over.

Bunny drove down to meet Melissa and me in Salinas for dinner later that evening. The two of them then witnessed 34 of us cyclists taking off in the wee dark hours of the next (Saturday) morning.

dawn over the coast
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist

The whole of the Monterey-Salinas Hwy was dark, as was the town of Carmel. But by the time we had a few miles of the Cabrillo Hwy underneath us, a beautiful dawn over the Pacific Ocean emerged. The first contrôle was in Big Sur, where my stop coincided with that of an English gentleman named Terry, who had come up from Running Springs (in the San Berandino Mtns.) to ride this 600k. Thirty five miles later in the coastal hamlet of Gorda, PCH Rando volunteer Patricia Thompson "manned" contrôle #2. From there it was seventy-some-odd miles of beautiful California coast to San Luis Obispo. On the way, I made a brief stop in Ragged Point (near San Simeon and Hearst Castle) for some overpriced refreshments.

The San Luis Obispo contrôle was at the home of a gentleman named Lance (not Armstrong, although he was in a Mellow Johnny's yellow t-shirt). Excellent spread! Real food! Then onwards to the overnight in Lompoc (via Pismo Beach and Guadalupe). I rode much of the dark part of this stretch with recumbant rider Dana Lieberman and one other gentleman. Once in Lompoc, we elected to ride the next segment, a 50-mile nocturnal loop to Buelton and back, before konking out for a not-long-enough nap at the Motel 6.

Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
One interesting rider I got to know a bit was Mel Cutler of Century City, CA. (I worked for a couple years in Century City back in the 80's.) He bike commutes down to Hawthorne, and was astonished to hear that one of the things I was most looking forward to in California was having an In-N-Out Burger. Well, he passed me on the Sunday morning ascent out of Lompoc (having gotten more sleep than me), but not before we managed to get a little more chatting in.

taken while riding
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
Once over the Gaviota grade and onto Hwy 101 (El Camino Real), it was onwards to Santa Barbara. This was perhaps the most sentimental part of the ride, as the route passed through Goleta, Santa Barbara, and Montecito, which is where I spent two Summers at the Music Academy of the West, back in the '70's (and a few seasons commuting to the Santa Barbara Symphony a decade later). Ah the beaches! The art fairs! And the memories!

at long last
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
Lotsa little bike trails leaving Santa Barbara County. I stopped for coffee in Carpinteria, then proceeded on new-to-me Rincon Rd. Back on Hwy 101. About 12 miles of beachside freeway later, I arrived at the Bicentianl Bike Path, which took us into Ventura. Hmmm. Lotsa construction. Lotsa confusion about how to exit and continue on the path. I had to ask directions how to get to Harbor Blvd. But in the meantime, I found an In-N-Out Burger establishment, right there in Ventura! Great meal!

Upon leaving Ventura for Oxnard, though, I was mis-directed way beyond Gonzales Road (where I should have turned left towards Oxnard proper), and ended up with a 10-bonus-mile detour beyond Channel Islands Blvd.

finish in moorpark
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
Once back on Gonzales Rd, and having gotten a receipt at the penaltemult contrôle (a Texaco station on Ventura Rd in Oxnard), there were about 40 ascending kilometers left along Pleasant Valley and Santa Rosa Roads before the finish in Moorpark. I pushed it fairly hard for the last couple hours, arriving at Lisa and Greg Jones' home at 8:36 PM, with a finishing time of 39 hours and 36 minutes. With only 24 minutes to spare, I was about 10 minutes in front of lanterne rouge Vickie Backman.

I had phoned my sister Bunny from Ventura to tell her I'd be arriving by 7:30 PM, but had to call her again from Oxnard after my 10-mile mistake. She was at the finish to greet me, as was long distance Orange County finisher Jim Verheul, who was about to embark on an additional 80-mile ride home.

After some delicious pizza and refreshments at Greg's and Lisa's, Bunny drove me to my niece Melissa's home (in Sylmar), where a mini-family reunion of sorts commenced with my sisters Meredith and Bunny, nieces Tiffany and Melissa, and Tiffany's husband Alex. We even made plans to get together again, during the Christmas holidays, at my place in Oregon!

I think the most astonishing thing about the PCH 600k was to be reminded how undeveloped the rugged California coast is. Hwy 1 between Carmel and San Simeon has to be one of the most stunning roads in the country.

Many thanks to Greg and Lisa Jones and the rest of the PCH Randonneurs for organizing this.

Lotsa pictures of the PCH 600k are here on Flickr.

No comments: