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Day 8 – Wednesday 17 October – Ventura to Santa Monica

October 18, 2012

Itinerary -

October 17 – Ventura to Santa Monica – 55 miles (gain/loss 1,300’)
Southern California ambience dominates the route today. In the morning, we ride through urban areas and farmland before reaching the scenic northern Malibu coast. As we get close to the actual town of Malibu, the road gets busier and we see classic California beach homes built right over the ocean. The last few miles of riding are on a bike path winding across the golden sands of the Santa Monica Beach to Santa Monica pier.
Accommodations: The Georgian Hotel, 1415 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica

Route for Day 8 – Ventura to Santa Monica

Stop Press on Craig’s condition

 

Lewis arranged for Craig to visit a doctor today and we have just heard that he has been diagnosed with two cracked ribs.  This explains the pain he has been in, given that he has only been taking painkillers that we have brought with us and hasn’t had anything stronger.  Once again, quite an amazing feat for Craig to carry on in so much agony.  It shows that he has a huge amount of willpower and fortitude to get through things and just a huge amount of credit to him for carrying on regardless.

It was quite sad in a way that we had reached the final day. It’s fantastic to achieve the goals we set at the start of this trip but I have had such a great time, as have all the lads, I’d love it to go on for longer. The way I feel and the level of fitness that we have built up, it’s quite possible I could now do it all over again in the next 8 days!

We started our journey at 7.45am and needed to press on during the day as Stuart was flying home the same day on a 5.30 flight. So we made good time and didn’t stop for lunch, just eating the fruit, energy bars, pretzels, sweets, energy gels etc that John provided. Considering it was a 60 miler, we did well to do it without anything substantial, given what we normally eat! I think as it was the last day nothing much really mattered.

It was a warm start with nothing other than cycle shirts needed. Today had been designated “orange shirt” day in honour of the orange “Team Danish” (in-joke) shirts kindly provided by Keith over the last few months. There seems to have been some vague qualification criteria at some time, possibly completing a ride like London to Brighton or London to Southend, but whatever it was we had all earned our shirts!

Daren’s Bandana today was very well coordinated, much better than yesterday I thought.  It was black and white looking quite smart with his orange top. I however clashed with the red on my shorts an orange shirt!

The mottley crew on the last morning

Breakfast, at 6.30 am, was the worst one of the trip! I was again tired after the internet problems which drove me mad with the blog the night before and I didn’t get to sleep until midnight, frustrated I hadn’t got the days update done. I filled up with waffles plus loads of syrup, coffee, banana and a slice of toast. Not my favourite but thinking about it full of carbs so it would fuel me up for the day.

After Johns last briefing, we lined up of a team photo. As you can see John is in it too and these were taken by an elderly man who hardly seems to be able to walk or see! We were chuckling away at him, quite unkindly as he did a good job!

Most of the days ride was in built up areas or busy roads. The start was very flat and we went along the same route Alan had done the night before for some of his catch up miles. Strange he didn’t say anything for a while when we missed a right turn early on and went a bit wrong! Actually I haven’t been following the turn by turn instructions John provides us with, just following someone that has! However, I was just looking at the graphs and seeing what hills were ahead – it’s quite interesting!

We were all in a good mood and couldn’t believe it was the last day. Clear blue skies again and very hot, so lots of drinking all the time was needed.

We passed Channel Islands Harbour where Lewis has his boat moored. He pointed it out to us from the road bridge. I have to say there is some envy for a lifestyle that allows you to say ” ….let’s go out on the boat this weekend to relax”, which they do quite a bit, because they are able to because of the good weather! Congratulations Lewis for achieving such a lifestyle and making the most of your move to California 25 years ago or so.  It’s been great having you with us.

Lewis and his boat

Some of the area was again agricultural with fields in various stages of preparation, planting, growing etc. We went past what looked like a massive area growing grass (the type used for lawns!). Everything here is indeed done on a large scale.
Some of the roads were so long, straight and flat you couldn’t see the end of them. One stretch in particular went on for about 4 miles and was around a big navy base at Port Hueneme, not that we could see much of the proper base although we saw lots of different entrances and out-buildings. There was a missile and plane display which was quite “awesome” and to see named nuclear and other famous missiles that close was interesting to me, but at the same time a reminder of their ugly purpose.

Outside the naval base

The naval base

Whilst outside the navy encampment, all of a sudden there was an almighty crash and Craig had fallen off his bike (whilst practically stationary).  Given the condition he was in with his ribs it wasn’t a great thing to have happened and he looked like he was in an awful lot of pain.  We all stopped the traffic from passing by and he hobbled to the side clearly in a lot of discomfort.  He had grazed up his knee but after a while he pulled himself together and carried on.  Whilst he was over on the pavement a police car (the third encounter with the police this trip!) pulled up to check everything was alright.  I told them everything was ok and they drove off.  Quite amazing that the police saw what was going on, but given that we were outside a naval base they must have had cameras everywhere. We continued until our next stop with John, who sorted out Craig’s knee, which included pulling off a bit of skin which had come off, sterilising it and generally patching it up.

Craig’s knee

We were making good progress and again found ourselves in 2 groups.  David, Richard P, Craig and Me in one. All the others had gone ahead. It was a shame we weren’t altogether on the final ride and we hoped they would stop at a reasonable distance from the end so we could all be together. This did happen and we were a compact unit for the last 12 miles to the finish.

The route took us back to the coast and through Malibu. Some amazing properties on the beach side and in the hills overlooking. Big gated driveways with no chance to see what’s behind.

We had now got into the hilly section between 20 and 47 miles. They weren’t long or steep compared to others in the trip and I was going up the first, thinking this is worryingly and unexpectedly hard work when I looked down at my gears to see what was happening. I realised I was using my “big,” front cog. For those of you that don’t know, this cog is what we normally use for flatter or downhill sections. The small front one makes it a lot easier! As I was only a few hundred metres from the top I left it as it had now become a bit of a challenge and it certainly worked my legs. At the top, I decided to try and keep in the big front cog all the way to the end? Why? Good question? Well it was really to test myself again, see if I could figure out how much extra fitness and power I had, push myself a little with mind over matter as it would undoubtedly hurt a bit at times and just because it seems a fun thing to do!

Anyway that gearing resulted in more speed up the hills and the other 3 must have wondered what I was doing! I explained to David, my hill buddy, who wished me luck! Did I do it, well yes, of course – including the steeper bits at Zuma Beach! It wasn’t easy and there were several hills of different lengths.

I was very pleased and it underlined once again just what we can do if we push our comfort zones that bit further. What happens when we do this is that the comfort zone grows, old targets become the norm and so we need to keep pushing boundaries to achieve more. I have heard that said at various personal development courses and understood the concept. I think the hills episode today gave me a personal, physical rendition of how it happens and what it feels like. Will stop the philosophical bit and get on with the rest of the day now!!!

The coast here is just immense. Miles on miles after miles of fantastic beaches. It’s sensational (new word found at last rather than fantastic). Wonderful views, with the sea and the hills. I will miss it very much, this is my kind of place!

We met up for the last drink and food stop with 12 miles to go by Malibu pier and set off again altogether for the last stint. We were all still in good moods and looking forward to the finishing line by passing through the tunnel under Santa Monica pier. After a few miles we turned onto the bike track that went literally on one the beaches. 4 miles to go!

The pier got closer and closer and excitement grew. Past cyclists, joggers, walkers, beautiful bodies sunbathing, it was all a classic Californian beach scene, and we were cycling through it!

Then came the moment. A group of orange shirted fifty something men cycled under the pier cheering, can’t happen that often! We didn’t seem to get that many strange looks, so perhaps it does, this is America after all!

I felt elated, pleased, satisfied, exceptionally well and proud of myself and the group. What a journey from 18 months ago, what a trip, what next?

Finished – Santa Monica Pier

Then we walked our cycles to the end of the pier for more photos, went to the hotel, said goodbye to Stuart who left for his plane and walked back to the pier for lunch (thank you very much Lewis, very generous of you) with a nice cool beer to celebrate. Back to the hotel to shower and change.

Then it’s back to clearing e-mails and normal life! Fortunately I have a few more days here to relax and see some old friends. The others go back Friday and I leave Saturday.

There is more to say, so this won’t be the last blog. But the cycling is over, although the journey continues! (I am feeling philosophical today!)

View from a Park Bench in Santa Monica in the evening – aiding my philosophical day!

The stats for the day were

Distance: 59.8 miles
Speed: 13mph average
Time in saddle: 4hrs 36minutes
Total ride: 7.45am – 1.40pm

A wopping £3,300 or roundabouts  has been raised for The Stroke Association and Redbridge Jewish Care – thank you all so much – it was all  worthwhile and I am so incredibly grateful to you all.

Day 7 – Tuesday 16 October – Lompoc to Ventura

October 18, 2012

Itinerary - October 16 – Lompoc to Ventura – 85-90 miles (gain/loss 3,100’)

A long day, but most of the riding is relatively level along the coast. We start the day along an isolated stretch of Highway One meandering through rural areas before joining US 101 for significant stretches around Santa Barbara. US 101 is a busy freeway through this stretch, but this is the designated Pacific Coast bike route and there are large shoulders, along with stunning views over the ocean. Mid way through the ride we’ll pass through the opulence and sandy beaches of Santa Barbara. South of Santa Barbara we pass through a series of small coastal communities and some of the riding is back on US 101.
Accommodations: Best Western Plus Inn of Ventura, 708 E Thompson Boulevard, Ventura

I apologise to all the blog fans for this being late, but we had internet issues at the hotel last night.  There were internet connections but nothing seemed to be sending in or out, which was very frustrating. But, eventually, here it is.

I can’t believe so much can happen in a day so grab a coffee and settle down for this mammoth day!

Route on Day 7 – Lompoc to Ventura

The below is an excerpt from our itinerary about our Route Support and Daily Logistics:

Each participant is furnished with a route map and directions, as well as an optional handlebar map case. Every morning the guide is available by the van with tire pump and tool kit to assist with any bike mechanical needs. Cyclists usually bring their own luggage to the van in the morning before breakfast. In the morning the guide also gives a route talk (usually after breakfast at the van) and then you are free to depart on your bike at your own pace. After loading luggage, the van provides route support, typically driving up through the group until it passes the first rider, then parking until the last rider passes and repeating the process through the day. Toward the end of the day, the van drives ahead to the next hotel to drop off luggage, usually a little before the first riders in the group arrive. After dropping off the luggage, the van returns to the route if there are riders still on the route and stay out until all cyclists have finished (or are very close to the hotel). All cyclists will have the cell phone number for the guide, but be aware that there are certain sections of the coast (particularly along the Big Sur stretch) where cell phone coverage is minimal to non-existent.

The intrepid 10 – still smiling

Because it was to be a very long day we were up at 5.50am for a 6.30am breakfast after only 6 hours sleep.  Truthfully I didn’t feel on top form and it was a real struggle to get going.

To wake me up I tried coffee in the room, coffee for breakfast, energy drink and energy gel.  All seemed to work eventually. Breakfast was cheese omelette, banana, orange and apple juice mixed (Neil style), 2 pancakes with syrup. Enough carbs and sugar to fuel me up for the long ride!

Today we travelled from Lompoc to Ventura, 93.25 miles, the longest day of the tour. The terrain was uphill for the first 20 miles going up at various degrees but more or less a constant, constant climb.  After the 20 mile mark we had 2.5 miles of steep downhill and then it was relatively level for the rest of the day.  There were a few hills later on but nothing too bad.

Chilly start but soon to warm up

Our briefing was at 7am to start our journey as soon as possible thereafter.  After the usual briefing, stretching, filling up of water bottles and so on, we all set off with rain jackets on, as even though the sun was up and the sky was clear blue, there was a bit of a chill in the air.  We discarded our jackets pretty quickly as the air had warmed up rapidly.

Briefing – wearing rain jackets

We started off through the town of Lompoc, which was fairly big and spent a good few miles on a normal freeway.  We were travelling on Highway 1 towards Santa Barbara and continued on that until it met US 101 going south.  The road was quite busy but the hard shoulder, as usual, was fairly good.  There were a few hairy moments where we had to take a lot of precaution because the hard shoulder disappeared and there was a narrow bridge with two lanes on. We had to make sure we timed our run over the bridge so that we didn’t get squashed between two lorries for example. The traffic was quite light so this was a relief.

At times we were faster than the traffic!

During the long uphill climb I noticed I had a flat.  I was a little bit upset because I was hoping to get through the whole holiday without one, but that wasn’t to be. When I stopped and looked, what had happened was that a great big blue piece of plastic with a drawing pin end sticking out of it, had punctured straight through the middle of my tyre and was squashing the tyre flat as if someone had pushed the drawing pin through.  I was cycling with David at the time and he called John, although I started to do the repair myself.  This involved removing the spike, replacing the inner tube and putting the tyre back on.  John did turn up to help and I let him complete the job.

The repair didn’t last too long and it gave David and I an opportunity to have a quite fast pedal to catch up with the others, who we found out were waiting at a rest area off the highway a few miles further up.

The offending object

My puncture!

It was another boiling hot day.  It seemed to be even hotter than before.  I had tried to fix my sunglasses in the morning with the toolkit that John had bought and managed to get the lense back in.  Sadly as I put them on the lense just popped out again so there is no hope for repair at present, but hopefully once I get to a bigger town I can get them sorted out.

The 2.5 mile run down from the top of our ascent was fantastic.  My speed was around 30 to 35 mph, which sounds very fast – and it is- but by now we had had plenty of practice of that and I felt quite in control. I definitely got my top speed of the day during this descent!  I think that’s it now for the big downhill runs and even though they were scary at times, they were just great fun.

We stopped for lunch at 1pm, around 45 miles and I had a tuna baguette, a white chocolate cookie and some pepsi.  The problem came when I got back on the bike and I felt quite queasy for a little while – which is probably quite understandable considering what I had eaten and drunk!  We had tried to have a quick half an hour lunch break this time. As it is quite difficult getting back on the bike after we have stopped for much more than a half hour. Everything seems to seize up and it takes a good hour or so to warm up and get back into the flow of things.  As we had a long day we tried to keep things really quick.

After the lunch stop we carried on through a fairly urban area and as we turned the corner there was a creaking, rustling, crashing sound.  A great big brown branch fell and just missed Richard P’s shoulder, probably just brushing him as it fell to the ground.  Richard had been cycling just in front of me and if it would been a few seconds later or he would have been slightly to the right, it would have hit him or me with some considerable force. We pulled over straight away, a little bit shaken, to see what had happened and simply a dead branch had fallen off from a very high palm tree.  There was nothing we could have done to have stopped or avoided it, it was just one of those freaky timing things.  A very close shave you could say and equally a very odd thing to have happened.  We just checked everything was ok and simply carried on!

That was a close shave!

It came from the top. You can see the branch in the road

Richards’ fallen tree branch (in the road)

We hadn’t seen much of Alan since mid-morning and as he missed 20 or so miles on the first day, there had been much discussion as to if or how or when or where he was going to make up the miles.  Alan had wanted to do this to ensure that he had cycled the same amount as everyone else along the way somehow.  He seemed to be in his stride and carried on on his own for most of the day.  The last time I saw him before we arrived at the hotel at the end of the day was as we were arriving for lunch – and he was leaving!

Alan had made really good headway and aimed to make up the extra miles on the end of the 92 mile ride, which was really some mission.  He managed to put on an extra 17 or 18 miles when he got a puncture.  By this time it had got dark and John had to rescue him to bring him back to the hotel.  Alan was a little disappointed because he hadn’t managed to make up all the mileage, but he had done brilliantly to do as much as he had.

At one stage Lewis had very kindly offered to take him back to the exact point in the ride that he had missed on our free day, this Thursday, so that he could do exactly the same route. This has turned out to be unnecessary as he has achieved the extra miles today.

Getting there

We returned to the coast and saw some beautiful wide beaches that seemed to go on for many many miles and we again had some lovely scenery with the mountains on our left and the sea on our right.

Daren and John enjoy the view

Craig was doing very well today, as it was such a long ride.  However, it is clear that he is in a great amount of discomfort.  It is possible he has cracked a rib and he has terrible trouble getting on and off the bike, but Craig being Craig smiles through it, gets his head down and pushes through the pain.  I did mention at one point that it wouldn’t be one of our adventures if he hadn’t done something to his chest given the problems he had on Kilimanjaro.  I am not sure he was very amused!

Craig looking cool

Today Daren was sporting a red bandana and matched it with an orange shirt.  I am not exactly a one to comment on colour and style, but to me, it didn’t quite hit the spot!

We went a little bit off route at one point (but not for too long) which took us through some car parks to a pretty view over a big bay.  We couldn’t continue down this route any further as the path actually ran out!

Where the path ended whilst we were off-route

Later we went through a neighbourhood called Hope Ranch which was full of enormous houses with massive frontages, clearly a very affluent area.  I think there were some golf courses nearby too.

The weather was extremely hot still and we were drinking loads of water and generally looking after ourselves.  Mostly I was feeling ok.  We were all getting a lot fitter as the trip was progressing and there were no more hills that day to get in our way.

If someone were to ask me to go our cycling in 80 degrees heat at home I think that it would not be their greatest idea! However, given the speed we cycle at, averaging 12 mph or so each day, you get a nice cooling breeze as a result. One has to be careful of dehydration and obviously the sweat gets dried up quite easily because of the wind effect.  It is quite pleasant in that heat but any much hotter and I think it could get oppressive.

We went past one road named Santa Claus Drive, which I thought was quite cute and could only be in America!

Stuart seemed to follow Alan’s lead of cycling alone today and a little while after lunch he broke away and we didn’t meet up with him again until we got to the hotel.  I think he just fancied getting his head down and get there because the mileage was so great.

Because of all the water we were taking we needed to have regular stops.  One stop was when we met up with John to refill our water bottles, eat some fruit and energy bars and generally get off the bike for a few minutes.  At this stop I need to find a suitable tree.  Unfortunately it was quite an open area and there wasn’t one available and followed Richard Pearlman’s lead to use an area by some scrubland and a chain mail fence.  Whilst I was in mid-flow, a voice came out of some loudspeakers behind me, “Do you think that is a suitable place to urinate?” I stopped immediately to look round.  There was a police car stationary about 10m away from me, by an on-slip to the freeway with a policeman in it calling to me over his loudspeakers.  I don’t think I have jumped out of my skin like that for a long time and it really was very funny.  I waved to the policeman and apologised which he seemed to be happy with and I moved away quite quickly!  Strangely enough, whilst I was at the fence, I saw a $5 bill lying on the ground so I went back to pick it up (it was still dry).  I think I shall keep that as a memento of that particular event!  John explained that urinating in a public place or being caught urinating in a public place can be a serious offence in the USA as it is effectively seen as exposing yourself in public and that carries quite a lot of penalties and issues, as one can understand.  I have been very careful since then to use discreet places out of any possible public view!!!

With about 30 miles left to go, we went back on the highway and the surface was bad.  There was a lot of debris on the side of the road from blown out tyres, bits of glass and so on which we had to steer around.  One had to really concentrate to miss dents in the surface which could puncture tyres and generally cause us problems.

Once of the biggest aches and pains that I seemed to be developing was in my arms, both my forearms and biceps.  I think this is because I had not done much upper body preparation as part of my training and arms seem to take a lot of the weight of your upper body and also a lot of shock-absorbing through the handlebars.  It is nothing that serious, just strange to think that my legs don’t feel that stiff and my arms feel worse.

It’s me

Bad Road Surface

At one stage on the highway Lewis ran over a couple of feet of a metal right-angle discarded at the side of the road.  This gave his bike a major puncture and more than that the tyre had a great big chunk cut out of it.  I stayed with him to repair it whilst the others continued, as it was starting to get fairly late in the day.  We wheeled the bikes up the highway several metres and into the driveway of a house.  Lewis had something called a goot, which is like a great big thick plaster that he put over the hole in the tyre.  This fortunately held as it would have been very difficult for John to find his way back down the highway to wherever we were.

Lewis’ tyre after the repair

It took a fair time to repair the puncture because it was a tricky, major job but we set off again as soon as we could.  Because there was a fairly large hole in the tyre, albeit repaired, Lewis wanted to take it slow, which we did and that was fine by me.  This was roughly at the 80 mile mark, with around 12 miles to go.  We then continued about 6 miles on the highway which was very busy with the evening traffic and the rest of the miles along a side road.  Along this road were a huge number of RV’s (Recreational Vehichle) parked. They had extendable windows coming out to make the room bigger and were absolutely huge.  On our right as we cycled were golden beaches as far as you could see, people surfing, people on the beaches and it was really very very nice.

The RV’s

Just as an interlude to the story of our day I thought I would again return to the subject of my undercarriage which, for your information was coping fairly well at this point in the trip. I had worked out which were my most comfortable shorts and had saved them for the last two days, especially as today was our longest mileage.  Fortunately, they proved to be very comfortable and did the trick, but for extra protection I added the additional padding from lunchtime onwards.  Once I had added this padding, I felt really very comfy!  My general observation is that those who had the cheaper shorts had the sorest bottom!!!

One of the benefits of stopping to help Lewis was that we were delayed so long that it was that the sun was starting to set over the beach and sea.  This was absolutely spectacular.  Beautiful colours of pink and gold and one of the nicest sights I have seen in a long, long time.  It was also nice because as the sun went down the temperature cooled off and made the cycling even more pleasant.

Another lovely sunset picture

Beautiful sunset

As we were cycling in to Ventura, John came around the corner to meet us as he had arranged to take Lewis to a bike shop (which closed at 7pm) to get his tyre changed and his bike sorted out because he also had two gears that weren’t working properly.  These gears were the two gears that would take him up hills the easiest, so they were pretty important.  When John met us, he had just heard that Alan had also had a puncture and need to go and help him, so Lewis took himself to the bike shop!

We got back to the hotel around 6.45pm after 11 hours.  It had been a long day, but really nice. Although we felt tired at the end of it, we still felt that we could have carried on if we had needed to.  Very different from the first day when we were all completely shattered, so obviously our fitness has come on during the week.

As a reward, after a quick shower, I went in the Jacuzzi with David, Richard R and Daren and we had a bit of a laugh about the day.  We went out for a nice meal a few blocks away and we returned about 10 pm when the internet problems started and I couldn’t send this blog!

Relaxing after 93 miles

Stats for the day

On the road 7.45 am
Distance: 93.25 miles
Speed 12.4mph average
Highest Speed: 37.3mph
Time in Saddle: 7 hrs 31 minutes
Calories used on top of normal: approx 5,800

Day 6 – Monday 15 October – San Luis Obispo to Lompoc

October 16, 2012

Itinerary: October 15 – SLO to Lompoc – 60 miles (gain/loss 3,600’)
Most of the cycling today is inland through pretty agricultural areas with small towns. One of the larger single climbs (Harris Grade) of the trip challenges us toward the end of the day, but we are rewarded with a long fun descent into Lompoc.
Accommodations: Holiday Inn Express, 1417 North “H” Street, Lompoc

Route for Day 6 – San Luis Obispo to Lompoc

STOP PRESS!

Good old Craig has decided to stop falling off his bike and has decided to take up falling over in the shower instead!

Stuart raced to the rescue to help Craig to his feet, aided by the modesty of a large bath towel!

He seems to have been winded but there is no permanent damage so far (that’s Craig, not Stuart!).

He enjoyed being dried off by Stuart – and there are no further comments to make on this point!

Unfortunately, Craig may have a few problems on his bike tomorrow but we shall have to see.

Thankfully I had a good night sleep and wasn’t woken by the trains going by close to the hotel, like some of the others.  I slept through until 5.15 am when I was awoken by a great big truck outside off-loading supplies! We had slept with the windows open because of the heat and this didn’t help with the noise outside.

We had a great breakfast at the hotel in SLO, which set us all up for the day.  The weather today is wispy white clouds, but on the whole blue skies and very very hot!  We are all drinking loads and loads. The cool breeze we had during the morning heated up – and so are we!

Sorry, I know you’ve seen a picture of this bike before – but I thought it was funny!

We stopped for a puncture repair just before lunchtime (I knew I shouldn’t have mentioned punctures yesterday!) at a place called Guadalupe.  This is around 30 miles and just over half-way. It is strange to think we only have two and a half days left for our adventure……and we still haven’t figured out the dreaded question………………’What’s Next?’.

Arroyo Grande – The road to lunch at Guadalupe. Hard slog with cross winds

Lunch at a dodgy mexican restaurant. A Daren Quote – ‘Every meal comes with a free side order of immodium!’

At this point I am feeling good, legs aren’t too achy, back isn’t bad at all, undercarriage …..acceptable!  I am wearing my supposedly best cycle shorts today, which I have been disappointed with up until now, but they seem to be improving.  Perhaps they are like my Kilimanjaro walking boots that need to worn in first!?

The scenery today is, as always, changeable.  As I blog I am currently looking at a ploughed brown field with mountains beyond on one side and trees and a small village on the other.  We have been through vineyards, farmland and strawberry fields (as in the Beatles song). I stopped at a petrol station to buy a punnet of strawberries that we all shared after we had gone up another big hill.  The strawberries were some of the tastiest we have ever eaten.

Heavy work – we kept bumping in to these two. They were cycling from Canada to Cancun!!!

Anyone for Broccoli?

The ride today is all pretty do-able, apart from the first 5 miles of the last 10 because there are quite a few big hills, the biggest being 3 miles long and given that I am going uphill at about 7 or 8 mph, that would be around 20 minutes of hard slog non-stop.

Apparently, it is called a Harris Grade Hill, however it doesn’t sound good because someone has given it a name!!!

Part of the 3.2 mile climb

The lads today:

  • Daren is sporting a beautiful black and white bandana to match his outfit today – very dapper!
  • Craig’s rib is giving him a lot of trouble but he is working through the pain and taking any tablets anyone can offer him!
  • Richard P is doing well by trying to take his mind off his knee and various other aches and pains.
  • Everyone else seems ok.
  • I am still feeling the benefits of my massage a few nights ago, which seems to have really helped and I think John is trying to arrange some more for the guys tonight.

Unfortunately, one of the lenses has popped out of my sunglasses and I am a bit disappointed about this. John has managed to find me a glasses repair kit with a tiny screwdriver so I shall hopefully be able to repair them when we stop.  I have pulled my helmet right down over my face and it seems to be ok keeping the sun out of my eyes for the time-being.

As you read the next part of the day, there will be some repetition because today’s blog has been done in two halves – apologies for this, but enjoy nevertheless.

The descent into Guadalupe was long and hard. It looked to be a nice downhill run but was deceptively long and requiring effort. It was through big fields and was obviously a highly agricultural area. (As I type this, Alan has been in bed for 2 minutes and is now sound asleep!) There was a strong headwind and at times a side wind too.
We pulled up in town where John directed us to, and met up with him only to be told that the planned restaurant was shut for refurbishment.  He then recommended a Mexican restaurant down the road. A vote was held to see if pizza opposite or the Mexican was preferred and I was out-voted 9 to 1 so sadly there was no pizza for me. We went to the end of the road but missed the restaurant and had to come back to find it. Guadalupe was rather run-down and like we see on the films of a minor town with a major road, spread out shops and seemingly completely empty of people.

On the way to lunch – we turned right

It really is very hot!

When looking at the restaurant even tough Stuart said it was OK, so that was reassuring.  Daren joked that each meal came with a side serving of Immodium!! Nice one, but we hoped not!!  It actually was quite good food and as it’s now 10 hours since we ate it, the Immodium seems to have been avoided!!

After lunch we focussed on the main challenge for the day which was a 3 mile “Harris Grade” climb, whatever that means! We had already travelled between 48.1 and 51.4 miles that day and now we were to challenge ourselves on the longest single climb. Although, we were told it was not as steep as others.

Before this we cycled through some more agricultural areas. All of today was inland so fields and barren landscape were the order of the day. It was starting to get hotter and the cool breeze hardly noticeable. If you were wondering, yes, we all drank loads all day long. The roads are mainly quiet but we are supposed to ride single file so the traffic is disrupted as little as possible. Well you can’t chat much single file so we only do that when we have to because of cars, lorries, fast roads etc. Now, police cars are obviously very quiet because Lewis and Richard P didn’t hear one coming and were riding next to each other when a policeman called over the car loudspeakers ” Please ride single file when a vehicle approaches” I was some way ahead and I jumped, they must have nearly dropped their cogs! The police car continued past and, worryingly stopped, but it was not for us, it was just reversing into a shielded place waiting for more worthy victims!

Lewis and Richard P before the police moment

I was riding with Craig quite a bit today, a slower pace suited my mood. Craig was in obvious pain all day from his rib, after slipping in the shower last night. He won’t give in though and the parallels with Kili are obvious (The Kilimanjaro blog has to be read to find out why). It seems there is no need to rush, we have done the hardest days, the hardest climbs and I have met those challenges so there is no need to push all the time.

We started the 3.2 mile climb slowly and it stayed that way. Craig was struggling and I felt a bit guilty taking it easy. Going slowly was no problem at all for me and it didn’t hurt at all. Strangely I thought it would be difficult as, as I have previously mentioned, I find cycling uphill slowly to be harder than going quickly. There is more resistance due to less momentum and it just takes a lot longer! I missed going up the climb with my hill buddy David, but at that moment I wanted to keep an eye on Craig and help him if he needed it. As it turns out he didn’t need any help as he just ground it out, metronomic in slow ascension.

At one stage I was trying to work out what a new click on my bike was from which seemed to happen every 2 revolutions on my right foot when I put maximum pressure at the bottom of the revolution. I lost concentration and nearly rode into the back of Craig. At this point I had to take evasive action and once more fell to the side. We were only doing 4 mph so it wasn’t bad at all and no harm was done to me or the bike. It made me forget about the clicking !!

Eventually we got to the top, although we stopped a bit too soon thinking we were there but still had 0.2 miles to go! After drinking some water we did the last bit and caught up with the others just over the summit, to cheers and mutual back slapping. Then it was 7 miles downhill to a nice Holiday Inn Express with pool!

At the top of the climb with Lompoc in the valley below

Because today had some long downhill stretches I could play my new game of “How far can I get without pedalling” as, as you know, I love “free” miles with no effort. I managed 2.5 miles which was a long way but a bit disappointing as John said it was downhill all the way to town. Never mind, I may have a chance to beat it tomorrow. The game is catching on and Richard R is joining in too, he is always up for a bit of competition!

It was so hot today, up to 30 degrees, the hotel pool and jacuzzi were so needed. After a quick shower, recovery bar and rehydration drink, Alan & I went down for some R&R by the pool. Alan started to read but the sun had gone from most of the pool so he went back up. Daren and David appeared. Their faces were the look of sheer delight when they saw the hot jacuzzi and the ‘ooos!’ were so funny. We relaxed in the hot tub and pool for over an hour. It was much needed and much enjoyed.

Daren, David and Me – Happy or What!!!!?

Richard R went for a sports massage, which he really enjoyed! He was amazed the masseur could tell so much about his cycling style and stretching regime from all his aches and pains. Well done Richard for going through all that discomfort and agony.

Then it was out at 7pm for a nice Italian meal. Carbs and protein tonight to prepare for a 90 miler tomorrow. The service wasn’t up to much but they did apologise. Also they explained that it was a family run restaurant with few in the kitchen and they were very busy! Keith cancelled his main meal as it hadn’t come up by the time the rest of ours were finished, but he did help out attempting to eat some of the others’ huge pizzas. They also explained it was wholesome “organtic” food. That’s probably American for “organic’ but we didn’t ask! They also picked up that we were not from America, and when asked to guess, after saying Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, we didn’t pursue that one either!

Conversation at dinner included explaining to John just how amateur we are and that we signed up for the trip before doing any training etc. The latter fact amazed him, but he won’t comment on the former! We also touched on the ‘What next?’ question and explained the Kili trip, which is something he has always wanted to do. John has got thinking for us what we could do and we also discussed who liked which element of the challenge. Just for the record lads, I don’t consider myself anywhere near “hard core”, I am just enjoying the physical and mental challenges of pushing outside my comfort zone and also getting fitter.

Then it was back to the hotel to do this blog, which I promised to type, not dictate to give Lorraine a bit of a break. This has taken me an hour so far so I can only imagine how long it must take Lorraine to type up the voice notes I e-mail, add the pictures and get the whole thing together. Thank you so much once again.

Goodnight all, it’s now 11pm and I need to get some sleep before our early start. A 6.30 breakfast and 7am meeting with John for probably a 7.30 cycle start. It’s going to be a long hot day so an early start is vital. Let’s hope we can make it to the next hotel before dark this time!!

Today’s stats are:

Time: Start 8.15am.  End 3.15pm
Distance: 57.1 miles
Speed: 12.2 Average
Max Speed: 37.8 max speed (and yes Lorraine, Mum & Dad, I was being very careful and sensible!)
Time in the Saddle: 4hrs 45mins

Day 5 – Sunday 14 October – Cambria to Obispo

October 15, 2012

Itinerary:  October 14 – Cambria to San Luis Obispo (SLO) – 45 miles (gain/loss 2000’)
In the morning our route sticks close to the coast and winds through the picturesque towns of Cayucos and Morro Bay before skirting Morro Bay National Estuary. There is a great option out and back to Montana de Oro State Park for more miles, hills and stunning coastal views. SLO has a great walkable downtown, excellent restaurants and an historic mission.
Accommodations: Petit Soleil, 1473 Monterey Street, San Luis Obispo

Route on Day 5 – Cambria to San Luis Obispo

The whole ‘rig’. Bike boxes and cases in the back

Well here I am in sitting in Saint Luis Obispo (SLO) at a very lovely French farmhouse style bed and breakfast type hotel. It was very tastefully decorated and the rooms, reception, courtyard were all well themed.  It is all a bit out of place but attractive nevertheless and a lot of attention to detail.

My new bike in the courtyard

I have had to have my bike repaired at the bike shop opposite because I was getting some clicking noise from my highest gear when I was going up the steep hills.  I wasn’t very happy about this and unfortunately John couldn’t fix it, so the guys at the shop had a look and they straightened up one of the pieces that hold the gear mechanism in place.  This has made a difference but is not perfect and I shall have to live with that for the rest of the trip.

The temperature is absolutely boiling here – it must be around 28 degrees or so.  The weather forecast for tomorrow says that it will get even hotter and apparently hotter still in LA.  This is one of the factors I hadn’t really reckoned on and I think it will make the cycle ride an awful lot harder.  Even though there is a fair amount of breeze around, it seems to be a head-wind most of the time, which again makes it all the more difficult – but we shall keep hydrated and crack-on!

I didn’t get to sleep on Saturday night/Sunday morning until 1.30 am, as I was working on this blog and also managed to speak to Lorraine and Jason at home. Unfortunately, still waking up at 5.30am meant that I only got 4 hours sleep. On top of the very hard day yesterday, didn’t make too much of a fresh start for me, but a coffee and a bit of breakfast helped. I definitely wasn’t feeling on top form.

At the beginning of everyday we have a briefing, where John hands out the turn-by-turn map, together with the graph and gradient of hills at each stage of the day.  So, today was another day of contrasts.  It could have been about 38 miles or 16 extra, depending on whether we wanted to a different route into SLO.  I decided that the way I was feeling, there was no point in doing the extra bits and we had seen plenty of pretty scenery.  Also I didn’t feel this would add anything to the challenge so I opted for the shorter trip.

John and the Van

The day started with a big climb after maybe only a mile and it took us up to 450 feet (compared to the 950 feet in the previous climb).  It wasn’t too bad and whilst it was a bit of a rude awakening for the legs, it was all fine.

Clear blue skies were waiting for us again today, which meant quite a chilly start so we all put on an extra layer, but after around 20 minutes we removed them, once we had caught up with John and the van.

The scenery changed once again and seemed to become quite desert like or western ranch style with wide open brown fields and hills in the distance.  Long, straight rolling roads aswell – so this was quite nice for cycling.  We spotted a buzzard circling overhead, which really didn’t inspire us with much confidence.

Days 5 and 6 were the ones I had dreaded the most, as I thought we would be tired and the novelty would have worn off.  To an extent this is true, but I think more that I was tired rather than anything else.

 After yesterday’s epic climbs, it seems almost as if the hard part of the ride is down and it is all a bit of a grind to get to LA now.  It probably won’t be like that in reality, but that’s how it felt to start with.

 As we cycled back to the coast, the sun was catching on the sea as it was rising (once again there were more spectacular views). We then came across some beaches with massive crashing waves and surfers out in the early morning sun.

Early morning surfing – was a windy day!

 During the morning we had pulled off the busy main road and stopped on a bend with two or three bikes away from the side of the road where we normally cycle.  A pick-up truck pulled up behind us, and although the other side of the road was empty, he would not cross the double yellow line in the middle of the road.  He made us move all our bikes out of the way.  America is a very strange land – it is very liberal in one way but they certainly stick to all the rules that are laid down – or so it seems.

Where the pick up truck driver made us move aside!

 So, we continued our ride.  It was getting warmer and warmer and I felt like I was just grinding out the miles and wanted to get the day over with as soon as possible.  I wasn’t feeling bad, but just wanted to have some rest.

First climb done

Richard P and Daren on the road

Taking a breather – John’s van just ahead

At about 11 am, around 20 miles we arrived at the Bayside Café, on the coast by an inlet, after we had cycled through a very pretty part of a golf course.  The

café was near where John’s business is, where he also does kayaking.  The ceiling of the café was very different and you will see from the photo that there is a little kid with his legs dangling out of his swimming ring and various other decorations that were quite unusual.

Brunch Stop at The Bayside Cafe

I was really grateful for the food and the coffee and coke, which re-fuelled me for the rest of the day.  After the intake of fuel I felt much happier, brighter and more energised and certainly a lot more awake.  Our journey continued despite the weather getting hotter and hotter and there being a few steep climbs, we arrived eventually at SLO and the lovely little hotel I described earlier.

Ceiling in Bayside Cafe

Arriving in San Luis Obispo

 It is Lewis’ birthday today, so we all wish him a very happy birthday and hope that it is a memorable one for him.

 David was the only one in our group who cycled the extra mileage and he said, ‘it was really worthwhile’.  He saw more spectacular views and wild horses along the way.

 General info and daily routine:

  1. Breakfast.
  2. Bike doctoring session if needed (with John).  Usually one or two tweaks are needed on some of the bikes. He has managed to fix most things so far to date, although the more technical things where the bike needs more spare parts etc., he usually points us in the direction of a bike shop when we arrive in town.  Nothing seems to be too much problem for him and he always has a smile on his face.
  3. Receive the days briefing sheet.  He advises us on what is likely to happen and what we are going to come across and watch out for.
  4. We set off at a suitable pace and John drives off and stops around 6 or 7 miles ahead, but he always seems to be circling around and ready for us if anyone has a puncture.  Fortunately, and I may be speaking too soon, we have only had maybe half a dozen punctures the whole time.  This is quite incredible because speaking to people who have cycled out here, I was under the impression that the roads were going to be quite bad and actually they have been very good. Long that may continue to be the way.
  5. On the van John has plenty of water and energy powder to put in it to keep us hydrated as well as all the supplies that Stuarts’ cousin has given us (thank you to him) of energy drinks and energy gels.  He also has a supply of bananas, apples and good quality energy bars with lots of grains and carbs in them and lots of other goodies too.  I am sure if there was anything else we requested he would go out and buy it for us.
  6. John also carries other items such as suntan cream which was important today because as it got hotter and hotter throughout the day today we needed to put more on.
  7. Whenever we come to a junction that might be difficult or John wants to make sure we are going the right way, John always stops ahead of us and points us in the right direction and as I said previously he always seems to be close-by should we need anything else from our cases and bags that we might have forgotten to bring with on the bike.  It really is very well organised and he is a great guy to have supporting us throughout our ride.  I am not really sure if he knew what he was getting himself into when he agreed to take us on but hopefully he knows we are all about having a good time and some fun out here as well as getting the cycling done.  I think he can see that and he joins in with our inane banter when he can.

Cake shop that Richard R could not resist. He was happy with a nice chocolate chip cookie whilst cycling!

 Aches and Pains Section:

  • Richard P seems to be coping really well with his bad knee and he got through another day, which is excellent.
  • Alan doesn’t seem to have any problems anymore thankfully – or should I say no more than the rest of us!
  • All our legs are feeling quite tired now, especially the quadriceps and there is quite a lot of moaning and groaning when we ascend the hills – however, we all just get our heads down and get on with it.
  • As for having now cycled 5 consecutive days – let me again mention the undercarriage parts. Let’s just say, they are starting to get somewhat sore!  I had 3 things prepared that would help with this.  The first was an extra padded insert, which some of the other guys also have.  This seems to really help and takes some of the pressure off when we sit on the saddle.  The second was some anti-chafing cream, which I have only used once because I don’t think it seems to work!  Thirdly, sudocream is being used because I thought that the problems we have all day in the saddle might be similar to those of a baby’s bottom!!!  I think this actually seems to be working well overnight to help heal any soreness and chafing.  This is probably too much information but there you are – it is relevant!
  • One thing I have forgotten to mention are Daren’s Bandanas.  Daren has a need for extra protection on his head due to the lack of hair!  He is certainly putting on a very nice display of well coordinated bandana headwear to his different coloured cycling shorts.  Well done Daren!

 In terms of wildlife, we saw a couple of dead snakes by the roadside today but, fortunately for my daughter (who hates them) I didn’t get a chance to take a photo.

I would also like to thank Nina (Cecil’s cousin in San Francisco, who I met up with on my arrival in SF) for her encouragement and advice on stretching before and after we cycle.  I had been doing some stretching but clearly not enough.  To tell the truth, it is hard to fit them in when there is so much going on, although I do know it is important and I am doing as much as I can. But thank you Nina, it has certainly encouraged me to do more.

During the evening at SLO Lewis showed us past an alleyway and apparently it is customary for the students of SLO (SLO is a university town) to stick their bubble gum or chewing gum on the wall of the alleyway.  The alleyway is around 100m long, the wall higher than people can reach and it was completely covered with gum!  It wreaked of a tutti frutti gummy smell and I can’t imagine what it would be like today in the heat of this sun.  It must be quite revolting but certainly was something different.

 Today’s stats.

Distance: 38.5 miles

Speed: 12.7mph

Time in Saddle: 3 hours

Below are some general stats on each day that John has given to us via a website that tracks our trip;

Ventura to Santa Monica
59.68 miles | one-way trip
Altitude range: 233 feet (-20 feet to 213 feet)
Total climb: 2,500 feet Total descent: 2,477 feet
Lompoc to Ventura
92.15 miles | one-way trip
Altitude range: 1,079 feet (0 feet to 1,079 feet)
Total climb: 4,590 feet Total descent: 4,626 feet
SLO to Lompoc
57.06 miles | one-way trip
Altitude range: 955 feet (20 feet to 974 feet)
Total climb: 2,815 feet Total descent: 2,959 feet
Cambria to San Luis Obispo
38.34 miles | one-way trip
Altitude range: 295 feet (16 feet to 312 feet)
Total climb: 1,804 feet Total descent: 1,637 feet
Big Sur to Cambria
71.46 miles | one-way trip
Altitude range: 981 feet (20 feet to 1,001 feet)
Total climb: 7,169 feet Total descent: 7,375 feet
Monterey to Big Sur
45.07 miles | one-way trip
Altitude range: 584 feet (-10 feet to 574 feet)
Total climb: 3,455 feet Total descent: 2,936 feet
Santa Cruz to Monterey
45.39 miles | one-way trip
Altitude range: 344 feet (-23 feet to 322 feet)
Total climb: 1,978 feet Total descent: 2,018 feet
SF to Santa Cruz
90.50 miles | one-way trip
Altitude range: 633 feet (0 feet to 633 feet)
Total climb: 6,345 feet Total descent: 6,404 feet

Day 4 – Big Sur to Cambria – Saturday October 13

October 14, 2012

Itinerary:

October 13 – Big Sur to Cambria – 70 miles (gain/loss 5,100’)
The hills of the Big Sur coast get even bigger for the first 50 miles of today’s ride. You are either climbing or descending virtually the entire way, with Highway One often carved right out of cliffs that rise over 1000’ above the ocean. This is some of the most dramatic riding of the trip. South of Ragged Point the hills level out as we ride through idyllic ranchland past an elephant seal colony and Hearst Castle before getting a well earned night’s rest in the picturesque coastal village of Cambria.
Accommodations: Bluebird Inn, 1880 Main Street Cambria

Route on Day 4 – Big Sur to Cambria

As we needed to make an early start and breakfast was not served in Big Sur lodges before 8am, John made breakfast for us.  We had been teasing him a bit about smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels the day before and he took the bait and managed to produce them for us. What a nice guy!

Breakfast – Day 4

Day 4 – Breakfast

Day 4 – Breakfast

The 4 sharing a room situation was on the whole ok although Lewis was banished to a room on his own for insulation against snoring but the noise still came through the walls!  At some points we had stereo effects with both Richard and Lewis!  And what with Alan rustling for headphones in the early hours meant I got 6 hours sleep! I woke at 5.30am again.
Richard P has been really struggling with a knee problem over the last few days and in the end went to see an emergency doctor on Friday in Big Sur.  His knee had been really bad and painful. After many hours waiting and a mountain of forms, he had an x-ray and was diagnosed with a sprained knee. He was given pain killers and told to rest it and ice his knee. He woke to a happy surprise this morning that it felt so much better. After much debate and consideration by Richard, he decided, at the last moment to try the ride. A very brave decision as it was the most difficult day and with 3 major climbs, the first of which was immediate.

Early Morning Spectacle

We started this climb with much trepidation. It was 2 miles long and took me 17.5 minutes.

I cycled with David.  It was especially hard as we only had a few hundred metres to warm up!  This was what we had trained for and I had looked forward to the challenge. We had to just grind it out and that is what we did. With legs burning and lungs bursting I still felt like there was more in the tank, which was just as well because the first 45 miles were all up and down with no flat at all. Everyone achieved that hill really well. Alan, using his new gears to good effect, was feeling much better (aided by red Bull!) and Richard happier now his knee felt OK.

After all the big climbs at Ragged Point

The sun was out and no clouds, it was going to be a great day.The next 40 miles were some of the most spectacular coastline I have ever seen.

Awesome Views

We could see for perhaps 10 miles in each direction. Cliffs down to the coast, mountains behind, rolling roads and hills to climb with speedy descents. Hence the crazy maximum speed today. Each turn it just got better. I kept saying ‘that’s the last photo’, but just had to take more, not that they could capture it all.

It was just spectacular. I was smiling and enjoying the day so much. The pain of the hills was so worth it. Cycling along seems to attach us to the coast unlike driving it in a car. We also take far longer and see so much more.

Some of the day was spent cycling alone, which was superb. No one else in sight with no cars as the roads were so quiet, amazing scenery and just me and my bike. Just bliss. I really felt so lucky to be doing this.

The lo-down on all the other guys is that they are all amazingly well, considering what a hammering we are giving our bodies! Yes, there are aches and pains, moaning and leg pulling, but so far, so good.

  • Craig – If only he would get that head camera sorted out and working!
  • Stuart – steady as always
  • Alan – New gears, red bull, chest getting better, a happy chap at the moment
  • Richard P- Knee problem seems under control, doing really well, superbly organised the whole trip
  • Richard R – Cant wait for tomorrow and the day 5 races!
  • Keith – Mr DJ. Music from his phone in its special holder, plays over the loudspeaker (when it doesn’t fall off!) all singing along at times.
  • Daren – Mr bandanna. One of the fittest ones here. Keeps RR under control!
  • David – The fittest one here and my hill climbing buddy.
  • Lewis – Coping well with all of us! A mine of facts and knowledge (Google)
  • Me – Doing great. Surprised how well my body is holding up and very happy after a superb full massage this evening!!

    Richard P and Daren

    Stuart, Craig, Daren and Richard R

    What other facts can I tell you:

  • Burning between 2800 and 5800 calories a day ( according to Lewis’s watch computer)
  • Our guide, John is superb and nothing is too much trouble for him
  • We could all do with more sleep but we seem to be managing
  • Still don’t know what’s next after this challenge
  • A big thank to all my sponsors whose support really does give me encouragement – so far I have raised £2,528 for charity
  • This is so much better than I had imagined
  • Kili was harder overall but this has shorter more intense levels of physical demand
  • This blog takes a huge effort. It’s mainly down to my wife Lorraine typing up my voice notes and putting it all together at home (I’m cheating!). Thank you so much
  • We are about half way through
  • Have not seen any of the towns we have stayed at because we have neither the time nor the energy to do so!

    Keith

    Richard R

    Now back to today:

    The cycling just got better and better and better. The scenery was more amazing each corner we turned.

We stopped for lunch at around 37 miles to refuel before the “double whammy” – the last big climbs of the day. The first climb was 2 miles long. Then 2 miles fast downhill before another 1.2 mile climb up again!  Not quite as steep as the morning but a few short parts were steeper. After 40 miles this was a big ask and again I found myself cycling with David. I led the first and he the second. We just got into the lowest gear and kept the same rhythm till we reached the top. I find it is easier to go through the pain than it is to go slower. Slower takes longer and I find needs more effort to keep momentum. We did a similar speed to the morning, probably a bit faster at 8 – 10 mph. At the end of the second part I was really shattered – but proud to say we didn’t stop on any of the climbs. In fact I don’t think any of us did, even Richard P did them all, much to all of our delight. Alan hardly stopped all day and his new mega cog worked wonders on the hills.

We cycled that – wow!

Some of the steep bits!

The descent was about 4 miles long and just wonderful. I love free miles with no pedalling but have to concentrate as speeds can get very fast and need to take great care. The roads surfaces are remarkably good so far. This was by far the hardest 7 miles of our trip!
After the descent the last 20 miles were almost flat. Amazing scenes of long winding roads with little traffic, seeing far into the distance, like being in an American road movie!
Clear blue sky with no sea mist and little wind. It was perfect weather for cycling. Had sun cream on too.
At one stage I was playing a little game seeing how far I could get on the undulating road without pedalling. The downhill speed getting me over the ups. I was doing quite well when I came to a halt near the brow of a small hill . All of a sudden Craig shouted “Neil, what are you doing??!!” as he very nearly crashed into me. I hadn’t realised he was following. Not sure if he fell off, but his chain came off as a result! We did have a good laugh about it.
3 punctures today Stuart, Richard P and Richard R and a shredded tyre from a sharp stone for Richard R at the same time. All fixed by the ever vigilant John.
At 59 miles we stopped at an Elephant seal colony. There were masses of them sunbathing on the beach. Quite a spectacle.

Baby Elephant Seals near Hearst Castle

Got back around 5.30pm in time to shower before going for a massage.

Afternoon Easy Cycling

Arriving at Cambria

Dinner was at 8pm in one of the best restaurants in town. Great food.
Saw a car park full of Porsche 911 here for a weekend gathering.
Also, in Cambria there is a special Scarecrow Festival and most shops and houses have one outside. Not like the straw man in ‘The Wizard of Oz’, but all themed. It was wonderful because the hotel we were staying in had a family of cyclists as their scarecrow theme – quite apt.  What a coincidence.

Outside the hotel in Cambria – The Scarecrow Festival

To summarise:  This was a very hard day. The hardest I have ever done on a bike, but what places we have seen! Just stunning.

I could go on about the fantastic ride today but its 11.30pm  and I am getting tired!

This is a wonderful amazing experience. I am a very lucky man to be doing this. The experience is beyond my wildest expectations.

Tomorrow is said to be the easiest day. I wonder if we will be back early enough for a swim and sunbathe?

The stats for the day:

Time:  Start 7.45 finish 5.30 – a very long day

Time in the saddle:  5hrs 35minutes
Distance: 71 miles

Speed: Average 13.1 Maximum 36.5

Friday 12 October – Day 3 – Monterey to Big Sur

October 14, 2012

Itinerary for October 12 – Monterey to Big Sur – 45 miles (gain/loss 3,200’)

Today’s ride begins with a side trip out to scenic 17 Mile Drive to experience the storied golf courses of Pebble Beach. We’ll continue through Carmel, enjoying its white sandy beach and beautiful mission. South of Carmel, we enter the fabled Big Sur coastline and ride some big hills with the Pacific Ocean crashing well below us (watch for sea otters!) before finishing our day among the redwoods in Big Sur.
Accommodations: Big Sur Lodge, 47225 Highway One, Big Sur

Route for Day 3 – Monterey to Big Sur

Well all I can say at the end of Day 3 is ‘What an amazing day, wow,wow,wow – fab,fab,fab!

Here is the story of the day:

When I woke up at 5.30am after a reasonable nights sleep I felt fairly refreshed and ready to start my day.

We began our ride at 8 am by cycling through Monterey along a cycle track. This was a good way to start the day as it was a relatively slow ride. There was quite a bit of traffic at times but the views of the cliffs going down to the edge of the beach and the houses were beautiful.

We made our way to a very famous 17 mile drive through the Pebble Beach complex of golf courses.  The houses were spectacular and the views amazing.

After 10 miles (at 9.15am) we arrived at Pebble Beach Golf Clubhouse overlooking one of the first tees.  We sat outside, as it had warmed up a bit to eat a great breakfast.  The restaurant was really lovely with excellent food and the scenery was stunning.

Lovely Smoked Salmon, Egg and Fruit Breakfast – mmmm!

We left Pebble Beach at 10.45 am, after a very relaxing breakfast, with the knowledge that we only had 35 miles left to go.

We continued around the coast, taking our time to see breathtaking scenery.  We had beaches on our right and cliffs on our left, both merging in some places.  The waves were crashing – it was spectacular.  The houses on our left, just 10m away from the beach were beautiful.

After around 20 miles we got to highway 1, which is where the harder cycling started.  The weather was good and we had just our cycling shirts and shorts on as there was no need for any other layers. There was a lot of heavy traffic flashing past us so we stayed on the hard shoulder or cycle lane on the right in single file.  We managed to do this quite well and it wasn’t too much of a problem.  Even though we were on the highway, the scenery continued to be spectacular.

We didn’t stop for lunch as we had had the big, late breakfast and we topped up with fruit and energy bars.

Alan found that his new rear gearing really helped.

I was thinking a few times during the day that it felt like I was on an actual cycling holiday (a proper holiday) looking at all the  scenery and taking it all in and apart from the really big hill, the cycling wasn’t too strenuous at all.  It was just so enjoyable. It was nice to have a bit of a relaxing day.  It feels like we are all acclimatising quite well.

I am feeling ok and the legs are coping.  It is hard up the hills, but that was always going to be the way.  My biggest concern at the moment is my back, which is giving me a few twinges after around 45 miles, but they seem to go off after a while and I shall keep my eye on that in case it worsens.   I shall do a bit of extra stretching and maybe try and adjust my riding style so I am not so bent over and keep a bit more curvature in my back, which may help.

After around 35 miles, we came to the really big challenge of the day, which we had been talking about ever since we started.  This was the first extra-big hill (even though John said it wasn’t as steep as previous hills, just longer!)  and was around a mile long, just a relentless climb.  The only way I can describe it is,  for anyone who has been to a spin class, that there is a resistance of 18 or 20 for one mile, taking around 5-7 minutes to get up the hill.  It was a really satisfying climb, a lot of burn in the legs, but eminently do-able and we all managed to get up to the top.

Top of Hurricane Point – The first big climb!

Once again, from the top, the views were gorgeous. Wide open vistas, sea crashing and the stunning hills as usual.  It was a clear, sunny day and everyone was pretty euphoric.  We stopped to take pictures and whilst we were doing this, there were a couple of ladies who wanted to have their photos taken with us, which was quite funny.  Wherever we stop, we have people asking us, ‘What are we doing?, Where are we going? and Where have we come from?’ and they are all very nice and encouraging .  We all seem to be loving the experience, which is great.

All of us at Hurricane Point – we had made it!

After the climb, the reward was that there was a lovely long, long drop down.  What was funny was that the road sign said 25mph maximum and my speed was 28/30mph without pedalling.  So, I was in fact – speeding!  I think this was a first for me on my bike so that was fun.  Once we got into the next valley we had another climb out of it and although it was a lot shorter in miles, it felt an awful lot steeper than the last one and that hurt quite a bit more for me, especially as my legs had relaxed during the downhill bit.

After the valley the cycling was much easier all the way to Big Sur .  As an aside, the name Big Sur came about when Monterey was the capital of California when the Spanish were in the USA years ago and Big Sur was originally called the Big Country to the South and over the years it has got shortened.

Carmel

End of Day 3

We arrived at our lovely Lodges – wooden chalets, in the middle of a picturesque redwood forest, where we all showered and stretched and felt a lot better for that ( I did try to book a massage for my legs and back, but sadly they were all booked up).

Deer at Big Sur Lodge

Richard R at Big Sur Lodge

Info on today:

  • I forgot at one point to take both cleats out from my pedals and managed to keel over onto my left-hand side. I felt a complete idiot falling over again, but fortunately didn’t hurt myself.
  • Near the end of the day I was pushing my trip computer to see what all the stats were for the day and it didn’t seem to be working so I kept pressing it. What had happened was that my light had swivelled round over the top of the counter and it wasn’t releasing, so each time I pressed it, it was clearing instead of moving round the screens. So, I unfortunately cleared everything for the day and all the cumulative data aswell.  This is not the end of the world, but, as an accountant, I do like to know what is going on with numbers!!!
  • A landmark number was that I passed 2000 miles on my bike, which is quite satisfying to know that I have achieved that.

How Many?!

The sleeping arrangements for the night are a little different than before as the chalets take up to 4 beds in each.  Before, the sharing arrangements were:

  • Richard P and Lewis
  • David and Keith
  • Richard R and Daren
  • Craig and Stuart
  • Neil and Alan

Tonight Alan and I are sharing with Richard P and Lewis, Craig and Stuart are still together – aaah! – and Richard R, Daren, Keith and David are altogether too.

We ate supper at the restaurant in The Lodge as we couldn’t be bothered to venture out to find anywhere else.

The weather has changed a bit with a bit of light rain, but nothing too bad.

We have been briefed a bit by John about Day 4 and we think this will be the hardest day at around 80 miles with two big climbs – so watch this space!

Thursday 11 October – Day 2 – Santa Cruz to Monterey

October 13, 2012

Itinerary:  October 11 – Santa Cruz to Monterey – 45 miles (gain/loss 2,300’)From Santa Cruz to the Monterey Peninsula the coastal route weaves through farmland (watch for artichokes!) and along scenic dune areas with long stretches on bike paths. With the shorter mileage today, you’ll have plenty of time in the afternoon to explore the historic Monterey Peninsula, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row, made famous by John Steinbeck.
Accommodations: Monterey Bay Lodge, 55 Camino Aguajito Monterey

Day 2 – Santa Cruz to Monterey

I woke at around 4.30 am, after 6 hours sleep, which wasn’t too bad, but also not too great either.  We met for a nice breakfast in the lobby of the hotel around 7 ish and then met John an hour later for the usual check  the bikes and briefing.  There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with my bike, just a bit of grit in it, which I had cleaned out beforehand anyway.

We set off about 8.45 am..  We had a good giggle as everyone got back on their bikes and  ‘ooohed and aaaahed’  at the discomfort of various parts of our bodies. It was pretty hilarious as you can imagine. We were all complaining saying that our legs were stiff and that it was going to take us a good half an hour to an hour to get our legs warmed up, which it kind of proved to be right.

Today we cycled through some pretty, varied farmland.  The vegetation in the fields were strawberries, artichokes, cabbages and cauliflowers.  The fields were absolutely massive and some looked like lakes reflecting in the sunshine as they were covered with some kind of cellophane to protect the vegetation.

There was no big shakes on the terrain today which was pretty flat – only a few ‘ups’.

The ride was pretty uneventful, apart from everyone’s aches and pains.  There was only one puncture, which was on Keith’s bike.  We had to call John to repair it because he had had a puncture yesterday and John said if it went again he would need a different inner tube.  When we called John, he wasn’t far away and came and spent a bit of time sorting the tyre out. This was about a third of the way through the ride and we stopped for mid-morning break.

We weren’t really going very fast at all today and we all stayed together for most of the ride.  There were no break-away or slow groups and everyone was just taking it easy.  In fact we were all looking forward to getting some rest when we got to Monterey.

We stopped about half-way, around 23 miles, in a place called Castroville where we saw a nice Bohemian style tea shop but John was waiting for us at another tea shop further down the road that sadly didn’t look as nice.

As we arrived a little later than planned, the coffee and cake turned into an early lunch. I am not sure if the lady in the restaurant was usually rude and short with her customers, but amusingly she was with us!

Castroville – Lunch at Moss Landing

The Bikes

The ride carried on after lunch fairly normally and we eventually got to Monterey at 2.30/2.45pm.  Everyone gave out a loud cheer when we arrived and Alan said “oh….so this is what it’s like to finish a day of a ride!!!”.  A very amusing moment for us.

We didn’t see much of the coast at all today and it seemed we were cutting inland across through the farmland.  The last 13 miles or so was on a special cycle track, which was nice to get off the hard shoulders of the roads. However, I must say the hard shoulders have been a lot better than I thought it was going to be and the surfaces have been ok. That’s probably put the bockers on it now – let’s hope not.

We all got our rooms at the hotel/motel, which is a two storey building – and can you believe where our rooms were? Yes, on the first floor.  So we all had to shlep our bikes up the stairs to put them in the room and then the same with the luggage.  It felt like I wasn’t going to damage myself cycling, I certainly might have pulled a muscle or done my back in shlepping the stuff up the stairs!!!

The aches and pains list:

Me – The usual aches in the legs and twinges in the back.

Around 6 of us were suffering with a mild headache today, even though we were drinking loads.  Possibly a combination of tiredness and our bodies kicking up a bit of a fuss.

Most unexpectedly, my right wrist is sore from leaning forward and putting pressure on it from the normal cycling position and also my arms are surprisingly stiff.

David Black seems to be flying and doing very well.

Alan was much better today and coped really well, especially as there weren’t any big hills.  Also now that Alan has had his back gear cassette changed on his bike this should make a difference for him.

Everyone elses aches and pains are to be expected and nothing too major yet – thankfully!

Oh…….and maybe I shouldn’t mention this, but our under-carriages are a little bit sore and I suppose this is par for the course! Hopefully this will harden off over the next few days!!!

Only 338 miles to go!

All-in-all, a very successful day for all.

The stats for today were:

Distance – 46 miles,

Speed average: 11.2 mph

Time: 4 hours

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