By Dawn Derlighter
OK, let's just get this out of the way up front. Yes, it rained. OK, it poured. But not all the time. Just on and off all day long. I wasn't dry until I got out of the shower back at the hotel. I'm just glad I had great rain gear. Without it the weather would have been extremely miserable instead of plain miserable. The ride, of course, was great.
The hours after midnight before the ride all I could hear was the rain pouring down. But by the ride start it was barely drizzling. Not that cyclist's version of drizzle, REAL drizzle. We actually had a great start and the first 20 miles or so held promise of a good day. After that the rain basically alternated between pouring and drizzle all day long. So. Enough said about the rain. It rained. We got wet. But the temperature was good. I was well dressed and never felt uncomfortable.
Like the 200k last month, this ride heads up the coast from SLO. I had never been on Old Creek. But I knew that it was the reason nobody I've done the Lighthouse with ever wanted to try the highland route. Sure, like all good climbs, it starts out mellow enough. Every now and again would be a short steep section. Nasty. But the views are beautiful and it is definitely a climb worth the work. I'm sure the rain made the going harder and all the extra rain related gear didn't help in the weight department. I know I was looking for those nonexistent lower gears.
When we got to Rt 46 the route turned inland to go through Paso Robles and on to a turnaround in San Miguel. The 10 miles into Paso were descending rollers. That gave us a good look at the ascending rollers we would hit on the return! Going through Paso was fun. All other times I've ridden through the area I've never actually gone through the town. It has a very nice park in the center and the downtown area is very inviting.
This whole ride seemed to be in 10 mile chunks. Every time I'd look at the route I was 10 miles from something. From Paso Robles it was about 10 miles to the turnaround in San Miguel. The road in took us past pretty farms and vineyards. There isn't much of the actual town of San Miguel. But they do have an old mission that hosted the control. Now one may ask that in a town so small how ANYONE could miss a turn... well, I did. Within a quarter mile I realized the error and was back on track. On my way back to Paso I got chased by two dogs. Remember the property out here is big. Their territory was big! At mile 85 (or so) I was in no mood for a sprint but these guys wouldn't stop and the big one kept snapping! No amount of yelling or scolding would deter them. Somewhere deep in my toes I found the breath to issue an unworldly screeching sound... and the big one turned off. But this other little ankle biter just kept after me! Luckily a car had come up behind and with a toot of! Her horn the second dog broke off the chase. But that little sprint cost me dearly. I was truly wasted for quite some miles to come.
Eventually back through Paso and onto the now climbing rollers. This is one of those roads, that climbs, and that cyclists speak of in hushed (or is that cussed?) tones? It is one of the climbs that makes the Central Coast Double one of the hardest on the schedule. We hit the bottom at mile 105. To say I was terrified is overdoing it... but I was concerned. I didn't know what to expect. By the route slip I thought I had 12 miles of straight up climbing and I was really beginning to worry about making the cut off time to the top. The first good thing was that after a little short steep bump the road just kinda meandered around and up and down through some very pretty areas. The second good thing was that I found out the top was only 4 miles from the turn. It's that last 1/4 mile or so that is the real killer. This wall of a climb beats the Firestone wall of Solvang. No contest. It's a straight up 18% +/- that all of ! Us mere mortals riding around my pace walked up. I had the honor of watching our brevet host show me how to ride the wall. What can I say? Local knowledge, lots of practice, low gears and let's not forget he's a great climber too! Very impressive. Maybe next time, yeah, sure. :)
There was lunch for us at the top. You know that after 100 miles EVERYTHING tastes great and they had a wonderful spread for us. Unfortunately, the wind was so strong and it was so cold that everyone tried to fit along the sheltered side of the van. I guess in the long run that was a good thing because without the nasty weather it would have been a hard control to leave! The trip down the other side of Santa Rosa Creek Road is like an E-ticket at Disneyland. And the road is in terrible shape. It is torn up, potholed, and twisty... but so very very beautiful. We ended up going through Cambria and once again joining Rt 1 at the coast. Cambria is a place I think deserves more exploring.
I was never so happy to see the ocean in all my life! It had been a hard fought day to this point and it wasn't over yet. Instead of heading south towards home, we still needed to go north 14 miles to the last turnaround just past the Piedras Blancas lighthouse. It was about 1/2 hour before sunset and I was treated to a wonderful display. I also knew the control was at a coffee shop and I busied my mind thinking of the hot cocoa and chocolate chip cookie waiting with my name on them! I took the longest break at this control. I had the time and I need the rest. And the hot cocoa was great.
From this control it is a straight shot back to the finish 50 miles away. As it is always better to ride with a buddy in the dark I was able to hook up with a fellow San Fernando Valley club member. Together we made our best time, not THE best time, but we moved right along. Yes, it was drizzling on and off (again) but at least we did have a real tailwind for a change. Rt. 1 is a great cycling road day or night. The shoulder is wide and the road for the most part is empty. The closer we got to Morro Bay and SLO the busier the traffic became, but the road was still good. So just for the sake of shaking things up, 12 miles from the finish in Morro Bay I took a spill and fell. My thoughts as I went down was that, damn it, the bike better take me those last 12 miles! At the time I had thought I got caught in some sand or a soft shoulder. What it turned out to be was a small median at an on-ramp. I was fine. The bike was fine. I was now very motivated to just be done! We got in right at the stroke of midnight. It was a very long day. I was more sore from the fall than from the ride...and I was sore from the ride! And very glad to be finished.
I learned quite a bit from this ride. One thing is that with the controls farther apart than usual ride rest stops you have to make time to eat more often. Also the logistics of the rain gear threw a whole new angle on what to carry and how to carry it. It's very interesting to go to a double and see all the racer type guys with their bikes and gear as stripped down as possible. Then go to a brevet where everyone is way more laid back and the big conversation is about how best to mount a good sized bag and how to rig up fenders.
I'm glad I decided to take up randonneuring and not racing.