Saturday, March 23 in Solvang, California:
Before the ride:
I left Fremont at 11 on Friday morning after putting in a half day of work. Since I had plenty of time, I decided to drive down Highway 1 instead of 101. I hadn’t been on Highway 1 south of Monterey as an adult, and was hoping to get some good pictures of the coastline. Alas, the weather was not cooperating (it was drizzly/rainy), but I got a few decent pics.
It took a bit longer to get to Solvang than I’d anticipated, but I arrived at my hotel, the Inns of California, at 5:15, checked in and unloaded all of my bike stuff, and headed over to the Royal Coopenhagen hotel to check in for the ride. They were well-organized at the check-in, and I got some Planet Ultra decals for my bike. After wandering around town for a little while trying to find somewhere that had carb-loaded food (it seems that most Danish food isn’t!), I had a tasty meal at the Greenhouse Cafe, went back to my hotel, and got everything together. Its never a good idea to use untested equipment on a long ride like this, so I’d thoroughly checked out my new NiteRider lighting system before I left home, however, when I connected it at my hotel, all it would do is blink 6 times – ack! Thankfully I brought my backup light, a cheap-o 2AA-cell commuter light. Since I apparently would be using my backup light as my primary light, I went to the corner store and got 2 sets of spare batteries for it and then went to bed. I actually got almost 7 hours of sleep – the most I’ve ever gotten before a big ride! 🙂
I woke up at 5:15, geared up, chugged down a bottle of Spiz, and headed over to the ride start at 5:45. The ride had a mass start at 6:00 (my first mass-start ride!). There were a couple hundred cyclists hanging out in the parking lot waiting for 6:00 to come, and once it did, after a brief safety & courtesy lecture, we all headed out.
It was misting/lightly raining as we rode out of town, but it wasn’t particularly cold, which was nice. Before long, folks had spread out a bit, and the next 7 miles went by quickly as it was impossible not to draft with so many folks on the road 🙂 A zig and a zag later, the route hit Foxen Canyon Rd, which the Solvang Century two weeks earlier went on in the opposite direction. There was a short little climb, then a looooong descent going past many vineyards. By this point it was intermittently raining rather heavily, but since the road was mostly downhill, and pretty straight for the most part, I was making pretty decent time anyways. There was a SAG vehicle & a police car at the bottom of one turn. I found out later that an unfortunate rider had hit a rock which blew out his tire, causing him to go off the road and break his collarbone – ouch! 🙁
I was soaked through by now, and was wishing that I’d put on my shoe covers and my heavy, non-breathable (but waterproof) jacket, but it was just a few miles to the first rest stop, so I rode on. The Sisquoc rest stop (mile 38) was in a pretty, green valley, and was well-stocked with PB&Js, muffins, and other good eats. I mixed up a bottle of Spiz, had 1/2 a PB&J and a muffin, put on my shoe covers and waterproof jacket, and squeezed a bunch of water out of my long gloves, then hit the road again.
It was still raining off and on, sometimes heavily, as I left Sisquoc and headed towards Santa Maria. I met a nice woman from Orange County and we rode together until … I flatted – argh! She was nice enough to stop while I changed my tire, but with cold fingers and wet tires, it took me a little while to change tubes, and she went on her way, understandably not wanting to stay still for long! After a bit more mussing about, I was back on my way. The route skirted Santa Maria and then headed out on Thompson Rd for a good long ways. A little bit before I hit the tiny town of Nipomo, I noticed that my tire felt a bit low again – oh no! Before long, I had to pull off and top it off. I resolved to take the time to properly fix my tire at the next rest stop where they’d hopefully have a floor pump.
In Nipomo, a fellow rider got on my wheel and stayed there for the next 10+ miles. I don’t mind folks drafting me (heaven knows I draft whenever the opportunity presents itself!), but this guy didn’t ask if I minded, didn’t tell me he was there, didn’t talk to me at all, nor did he thank me when he stopped to shed layers. Harrumph. After a bit more meandering, the route headed into San Luis Obispo (one of my favorite towns in California) on Orcutt Rd, a very pretty rural road that wound its way along some rolling hills. My tire was again getting low on air, and after stopping twice to pump it up, I got fed up and pulled over to fix it for good this time. After poking around with a penknife, I found a piece of glass that was the likely culprit. I removed it and put in my second (and last) spare inner tube and got back on the road.
There was supposedly a rest stop on Orcutt Rd. at a “small park on the left”, but I soon came to an intersection that was shown as being a few miles past rest stop #2 on the cue sheet! Planet Ultra did a great job of setting expectations for the ride (no food at the ride end, no markings on the road, etc), but it would have been awfully useful to have had a cone, sign, or something pointing out where the rest stop was! Several other riders near me also missed the rest stop, but fortunately I’m moderately familiar with San Luis Obispo as my sister lives there, and I knew we’d be going by a 7-11 before too long.
I met Kristin, a rider from Berkeley, and we rode with another fellow until we came to the 7-11. We stopped there for a few, while Kristin went in and got some food & water. I didn’t have any cash on me, not expecting to need any (though I had a credit card as always), so Kristin paid for a liter of water – thanks! 🙂 There were several other riders at this little strip-mall, some of whom were making use of the nearby laundromat to dry off their clothes – not a bad idea! They were not too pleased with the weather, and decided to shortcut the route, skip the Morro Bay loop, and head directly through SLO to the 3rd rest stop. Kristin and I had no such desires, as we wanted to do the whole ride, it wasn’t raining at the moment, and it’d be a shame to miss out on riding through beautiful Morro Bay. I mixed up another bottle of Spiz and ate a Clif Bar, then we headed out.
The route went right past my sister’s apartment, but I didn’t see her car, or I’d have stopped by. Then we headed northwest on Hwy 1 out to Morro Bay. This is a lovely stretch of highway with wide shoulders and lovely rolling hills dotted with the occasional volcanic plug (Morro Rock is the west-most of these). It was sprinking off and on again here, but not irritatingly so.
At almost exactly the 100mi point, we exited Hwy 1 and entered Morro Bay. The route went along the waterfront, affording great views of Morro Rock, the Harbor, and the cute stores in this seaside village. We stopped for a few near the aquarium and ate a gel, then continued through Morro Bay State Park out to Los Osos Valley Rd. Los Osos was a great road to cruise on, and I went ahead at my own pace, since there weren’t any turns before the next rest stop, so I didn’t have to worry about losing Kristin. Before too long, I arrived at rest stop #3 at Laguna Lake Golf Club (116mi). I chowed on a Subway sandwich, mixed up some more Spiz, ate an energy bar, and hung for a little while as there was only 74 miles to go 🙂 After we’d sated ourselves, Kristin & I hit the road again.
The course headed south’ish, passing Avila Hot Springs, and continuing on the same route that the AIDS Ride went on. We went through Pismo Beach and Shell Beach on PCH (AKA Hwy 1), a really lovely route along the very-southern-Californian coastline. After leaving the little coastal towns, Hwy 1 went through some farmlands and climbed up a lovely little hill overlooking the ocean. It was starting to get twilight’ish by now, but we weren’t too far from the next rest stop, where Kristin had her night gear. Before too long, we arrived in Guadalupe at the rest stop (145mi) and hung out for a little bit, me mixing up yet another bottle of Spiz (and my last), and Kristin getting her nighttime gear. She was extremely well-prepared, with glove warmers, extra layers, and the whole nine yards! It was getting cold’ish, so I put on both my lightweight breathable windbreaker and my heavy non-breathable one along with my not-quite-dry-yet long gloves.
From Guadalupe, we continued on Hwy 1 south for a while under the setting sun until it was completely dark, and we rode on in the magical silence of the night. The traffic was very light on Hwy 1, and it was very peaceful riding along under the slight moonlight. 16 miles later we turned off on Hwy 135 to Los Alamos, and the route was even more rural for the next 11mi until we rolled into the last rest stop (172mi) at an abandoned old gas station.
The staff at the rest stop took a picture of us, we ate yummy cup-o-noodles, energy bars, etc., relaxed for a while, then headed out.
The staff at Los Alamos said that there was a big climb awaiting us that would take an hour or so to finish. It was only supposed to be about 800′ of climbing over 3.5 miles, so I was wondering why they thought it would take so long. The climb up Centennial St. was gorgeous (I assume, since it was dark ;-), and not that difficult at all. There were markings on the road evidencing the passage of many cyclists. My favorite was the writing on the road that said, “You’re almost there!” 15 minutes and some steep’ish switchbacks later, the writing continued, “We lied!” 🙂 Before too terribly long, we reached the top of the climb and tentatively headed downwards.
At this point my headlight started flickering and then went out. This was well before it should have gone out, but it was using the lame-o no-name batteries that came with it, and I’d brought 2 spare sets, so I replaced the batteries and went on my merry way. 5 minutes later my light flickered and died again – eek! And I replaced the batteries again, and it died again. Hmmmmm. I can only assume that my batteries and/or light didn’t appreciate getting soaked earlier in the day. Fortuntaely Kristin’s light was holding up just fine, so I followed her the rest of the way down Centennial to Hwy 246. There was a van signalling the final turn on the course, and we continued for the last 9 miles to Solvang and the finish!
We arrived at the finish at 10:22 and checked in. Turned out there were only 4 people behind us on the course! The organizers snapped a pic of us, we ate a bowl of split-pea soup they generously provided (the ride claimed to not have any food at the finish line), and I went back to my hotel and took a nice 10 hour nap 🙂
I wandered around Solvang for a while on Sunday morning, taking pictures and generally enjoying the quaintness of this strange little town. After a yummy lunch at A Taste of Denmark, I headed homeward.
|Total Time:||16h 22m|
|On-bike Time:||13h 49m|
|Average Speed (including stops):||11.6mph|
|Total Climbing:||~7,000 ft|
|Difficulty:||3 (relative to other double centuries – as far as rides in general go, any double is pretty darned hard!)|
|Support:||4 – overall very good… except for my missing checkpoint #2!|
|Route:||5 – gorgeous!|