Saturday, June 24 in Malibu, California:
Before the ride:
I left Fremont at 9:45 on Friday and headed down 101 towards Malibu. At 4:15, I pulled into Webster Elementary School in Malibu, the start/finish of the ride. The early check-in wasn’t supposed to start until 5, so I hung around and talked to a few folks for a while. One fellow, who lives in Humboldt, rode his bike from Humboldt to Davis, then caught the train from Davis to Santa Barbara, then cycled from there to Malibu, and was planning on returning the same way starting on Sunday – yikes! I got some good route information from one of the members of the LA Wheelmen, the ride organizers. I checked in as soon as checkin opened, then had to wait for a while for the woman handling the dorm reservations to arrive. They had a ton of route options – 100mi, 200 lowland, 200 highland, 300 lowland, 300 highland, 400 lowland, and 400 highland (all with 24hr cutoffs!). I later found out only 2 people attempted the 400 mile route, and 18 tried the triple (I don’t know how many actually finished).
It was really great that they had a block of dorms at Pepperdine University’s Malibu campus, just across the street from Webster Elementary, and they were really cheap! $20/night plus a $11 one-time linen fee. Waaaay cheaper than one could ever hope for a hotel in Malibu 🙂 I met 3 nice folks from Fresno, and after we’d dropped our gear in our dorm rooms, we all went to dinner and loaded up on carbs (mmmmm, pasta!). After dinner, I got my gear together and went to bed around 9:30 and slept horribly, as my roommate (who I never did meet) snored, there were lots of loud cars going by all night, and I was suffering from the usual pre-ride jitters, as this would be my hardest one-day ride ever.
I had set my alarm for 3:30, but my roommate had his set for 3:00, and despite my best efforts to sleep through it, I was fully awake by 3:10. I geared up, filled my water bottles, ate a Clif Bar (the breakfast of champions – NOT! :), and hit the road at about 4:30.
The route started out going north on the Pacific Coast Hwy, a really beautiful stretch of road that hugs the Pacific Ocean. As it was fully dark, however, I couldn’t really appreciate it 🙂 About 18 miles up the road, the sun started to rise over the Santa Monica mountains and I could switch off my headlight. Soon after, a large paceline passed me, and I hopped on their tail as we motored towards the first rest stop at Port Hueneme Community Center (35 miles). There were a bunch of very spirited folks in this paceline, hooting and hollering whenever the spirit moved them, which was fun. At the rest stop, I ate a bunch of yummy nutbread, filled up my water bottles, and proved that I am almost totally unfamiliar with Southern California by mis-pronouncing “Hueneme” (its correctly pronounced “wy-nee-mee” – yeah, that’s obvious!).
From Port Hueneme I headed east to the first big climbs of the day on Potrero Rd. Potrero Rd. winds its way along the Santa Monica Mountains. This was a really beautiful road! The first climb, while only 1/2 mile long, was pretty darned steep. Soon thereafter I got to the second climb, which the route sheet described as “VERY DIFFICULT for 1 mile” and boy was it not kidding! This turned out to be by far the hardest climb of the day. I saw a couple of folks walking up this hill. The difficulty of the climb was nicely offset by the beauty of the surroundings, with a valley far below, and rocky mountains across it covered in interesting foliage. After several more climbs, Potrero Rd. curved around Lake Sherwood in Westlake Village, then headed into Thousand Oaks. This was a really nice town, but looked quite expensive. We headed north into Simi Valley, then west to rest stop #2 at Glenwood Park in Moorpark. I had a bottle of Spiz, grabbed some Hammer Gel (absolutely awful stuff, IMHO) and a few Powerbars, topped off my water bottles, and headed back on my way.
The next leg of the route went north along Grimes Canyon, a pretty, desolate road with a nice climb in the middle, and a great descent at the end. The descent was full of sweeping turns, and there was very little traffic – whee! Grimes Canyon ended near the tiny town of Bardsdale in the middle of a ton of orange orchards. We turned west on South Mountain Rd., which, oddly enough, went along South Mountain (someone ran out of mountain names, I guess!). This too was really pretty, with South Mountain on one side, and the orchards on the other. Soon I arrived in Santa Paula, the halfway point of the ride. This was a boring, icky little town that I was glad I didn’t spend more than a mile or two in. After leaving Santa Paula, it was north onto Hwy 150/Ojai Rd. to lunch. I had been dreading Ojai Rd., as I’d heard horror stories about how difficult it is in the heat, but fortune was smiling on the ride, and it was pretty reasonable in the high 80s. At the bottom of the climb, I stopped at Steckel Park to refill my bottles, and met a nice fellow riding an old Schwinn Paramount who I’d been playing leapfrog with (he climbed faster than I did, but I was faster on the flats and downhills), and we rode together most of the way to Ojai. The climb itself was long (8 miles), but not particularly steep, and having company to chat with made the time go by quickly. Before I knew it we were at the top of the climb, and we enjoyed a 6 mile descent to Ojai.
For some reason, I had it in my head that Ojai would be a icky town like Santa Paula was, but nothing could have been further from the truth! It was a very lovely, green town, surrounded on all sides by rugged mountains. After a short, but pretty, ride on Grand Ave., I pulled into the lunch stop at Sarzotti Park. There weren’t a whole lot of people at lunch. I don’t know if this was because most had already gone through, or because most hadn’t yet arrived, but there were only about 25 folks around. Lunch was turkey sandwiches with pasta salad – yummy (of course after 117 miles, almost anything is yummy! :). I hung around for a bit and met a 75-year old man who was doing the ride for the umpteenth time – wow! I had another bottle of Spiz just to make sure I had enough nutrients in me, stretched for a while, then headed back out.
After a confusing series of turns, it was back to Hwy 150 (which was AKA Baldwin Rd. at this point, and headed west). The next 15 miles were mostly along rolling hills. I came up on a group of riders, and we pacelined for a good ways. The road went along Lake Casitas for a ways, which was very pretty. I (foolishly) took a really long pull at the front of the paceline for about 15 minutes or so, and then we hit the last two big hills. These 2 climbs really put the hurt on me. It wasn’t so much that they were particularly steep, but I was getting a bit fatigued by this point (taking a long pull on the paceline certainly didn’t help!). After struggling to the top of the last climb, I was rewarded with a nice 5 mile downhill to rest stop #3 at Rincon Point, just south of Carpenteria. They had cup-o-noodles, pretzles, and various other snacks here. I decided it was too warm for cup-o-noodles (it was in the mid-to-high 80s) munched, had my last bottle of Spiz, stretched for a while again, and continued on to the last 60 miles.
The route went south on Hwy 101 for 5 miles along the coast to Seacliff, along the old highway (now mostly lined with RVs), then onto a bike path. Much of the rest of the route was the same as the last 2 days of the AIDS Ride, but I wasn’t complaining, as its absolutely gorgeous! A tandem wearing Wildflower Century jerseys (OK, the captain & stoker were wearing the jerseys, not the tandem 🙂 passed me on the path, so I caught up to them (good draft plus twice the company!) and we wound up riding together for the remainder of the ride. Galen (captain) and Catherine (stoker) were from Sacramento, and this was Catherine’s first double century. They were doing the lowland route (a wise choice for one’s first double!), which was the same as the highland route in many places. We rode at a good clip (20mph or so) and in short order arrived back at the Port Hueneme Community Center, which served double duty as the first and last rest stops. They had really yummy homemade soup there, which I gladly devoured, as well as cheese and crackers, which were also great. I met a 12-year old girl who was doing her first solo double (she’d done the triple century option the previous year on a tandem with her father). I can’t imagine even being interested in doing this sort of thing at that age! After the usual stretching and briefly lying down in the grass (it was hard to get up from that!), we continued on the last leg of the ride.
We were making great time, and I was now assured of making my goal of finishing before dark, as it was just over 30 miles to the finish, and it was only about 5:45 when I left Port Hueneme. This final leg was the reverse of the first leg, but it wasn’t dark out, so I could appreciate the beauty of the coastline which we rode along for the last 25 miles. As we got into Malibu, I remembered that there are some not-all-that-small rolling hills left to conquer before finishing – oh no! I had a heck of a time keeping up with Catherine & Galen on the flats & downhills, and it was hard even keeping up on the uphills, which are not tandems’ forte. I was very glad that we’d hooked up, as the miles melt away much faster when one has good company. We joked about the hills (“we’re going south so it must be all downhill, right?”) and generally had a fast and fun return trip. I nearly lost them entirely on the last two hills, but caught up just as we were making the second to last turn, 0.6 miles from the finish 🙂
I pulled into Webster Elementary at 7:40 – well before dark! I was very pleased that I’d shaved off a couple of hours from my time on the Davis Double, and maintained a much better average. I checked in and got my patch and goodie bag, then ate. They had really yummy beans ‘n rice with cheese and crackers at the finish – not particularly gourmet, but boy did it taste good! There was a good live blues band playing, and I chatted with Catherine and Galen for a while, then Galen went to get a massage (why I didn’t think to get one is beyond me!). Galen was so kind as to give me a lift back to Pepperdine (it would have been a pretty nasty climb otherwise, and I really didn’t want to get back on my bike just yet!). We parted ways at the dorms and I dropped my stuff off in my room, had a beer (Mmmm!), and called my folks, and was asleep by 10:30.
I woke up on Sunday and started the long drive back up to Fremont. I stopped off in San Luis Obispo and had lunch in Morro Bay with my sister (who lives in SLO) and my folks (who were visiting her). It was an otherwise uneventful (but bloody long) drive back home.
What a wonderful ride this was! The scenery was the best of any ride I’ve done, with the possible exception of the Markleeville Death Ride, and the support was great. I can see why this is the oldest double century in the US (this was its 52nd year or something). It took a little getting used to having rest stops so far apart (most of the other organized rides I do have the stops 20’ish miles apart). I would recommend this ride to anyone considering a double in a heartbeat!
|Total Time:||15h 11m|
|On-bike Time:||12h 25m|
|Total Climbing:||~7300 ft|