March 2010


Somewhere around mile 100.

It didn’t take long for the “A” group to seperate itself from the main group and after about 10 miles into the ride I found myself falling out of the “B” group as well.  My riding partner Joe was committed to staying with me even as more riders passed us by in one’s and two’s.  I am usually a mid pack rider but today it seemed that I would be closer to the “lantern rouge” end of this ride.  In randonneuring however perseverance is the key, and if nothing else I can do that!

This route has above average climbing (in my experience) with much of that coming in the first half.  It’s good to get some of that out of the way early but it does take a toll.  2 secret controls suprised us (I guess that’s the point) along with some pretty steep climbing but the scenery was spectacular and the miles rolled by.  After a mini-mart control in Goleta we found ourselves heading up the coast on the PCH.  The color of the ocean today was amazing, a deep blue green that you get on clear days like this.  The winds were variable, sometimes against us and sometimes with us but always shifting.  That made drafting difficult but we made good progress regardless.

We came back through Goleta on a new route to me, a bike path that starts near the airport and puts you out close to Hope Ranch.  It was fun but navigation was a little uncertain with all of the available turns.  There were few road signs so it wasn’t always easy to know where you were but we made our way.  This ride had more informational controls than I have ever seen, the rest were receipt controls at local businesses.

Once we had passed through the urban areas the climbing started once again on our climb of Casitas Pass.  This climb is not that long and is never steep but there are many false summits.  You are never quite sure when you have actually reached the top.  The many false summits keep you guessing but once you start on the final downhill it is a relief.  As you get closer to Ojai the route follows a wide shouldered highway into the outskirts of the town.  This is where we encoutered out next navigational challange.

There were 5 of us together at the time and we were looking for a bike path indicated on the cue sheet as we got into town.  We searched and searched, crossing traffic and backtracking, looking for the secret passage.  I finally found the correct route, unmarked and obscure across the highway.  We entered the path and proceeded on.  I guess it is like many routes, if you have ridden it before then no problem, but if the route was new to you (as it was to us) then it was pretty hard to find.  The route guide was written for those who had ridden the route before.  If we had been here a half an hour later the correct route would have been invisible to us in the dark as there were no street lights to mark the correct route!

Ojai was a welcome stop and Foster’s smiling face greeted us as we rode in at dusk. We had access to our drop bags here and were able to re-supply food and gear from our bags. It was a good location and we took some time to get all we needed to eat etc. I was starting to have some stomach issues again and I wasn’t happy about. You do your best and press on however and that is what we did. It was full dark by the time we departed.

From this point on, the difficulty of the course eased for a while but my discomfort did not. It was pretty flat to the next control but the winds were still shifty making it hard to follow in a draft. My pace started to fall off a little as a result of inadequate food intake and progress was slower than I would  have hoped. Progress was made none-the-less and after a while we arrived at the next control in Oxnard. We got the required receipt but departed right away to look for better food choices. We stopped at a Wendys but I found very little that was palatible and we soon moved on towards Mailbu. Shifting winds, darkness and very little conversation were the theme now. It was a pretty night however and we enjoyed that.

We arrived at the Malibu control and were surprised to find quite a few other riders still there. Either I was getting faster or they were getting slower. Actually neither was true, several of the riders were having mechanical or other difficulties. Bummer for Kerin, Renee, Jim and Nicole, it was good to see you all again this late in the ride, sorry you were having problems. Several others I did not know by name but were there as well.

All I could stomach here was some chocolate milk. I thought of other stuff to try but if I puked it would be worse so I played it safe and ate what would stay down. We headed back up the coast and hoped for more favorable winds. On the way back we did see a few other riders still outbound so we were not the “Lantern Rouge”….yet!  The ride back was quiet with almost no traffic and the wind was not too bad, for a while. As soon as we rounded Pt. Mugu however that changed. We were headed back north and the wind was now in our face.  As we switched back and forth to follow the route so did the wind, always a headwind.

After the Las Posas Rd turn you move away from any city lights and into the farm fields. There was a glow up ahead however and it stood out in the darkness. We assumed that it must be some riders who had stopped with a flat tire or something. As we got closer we found a nice surprise, Greg and company had soup and snacks at a mini rest stop! We were about 20 miles from Malibu with about 20 miles to the finish so it seemed like a good idea. I tried to eat some soup; the broth went okay but I couldn’ eat the noodles. My stomach just wouldn’t co-operate.

We rolled out into the darkness again ready to finish this ride up. Once we turned onto Santa Rosa road the winds really picked up, right in our face. It is a steady but low angle climb back to Moorpark and we were actually started to catch some riders who were ahead of us. Their blinky lights kept getting closer and then it happened, I started to bonk. I had pretty much ridden the last 100 miles on 2 chocolate milks and some soup and that clearly wasn’t enough to sustain me. My pace slowed to a crawl as the wind and the last few hills tortured me. In the last mile or two we turned downwind to the finish at Greg and Lisa’s house. That helped a lot but it was still hard. I walked in and sat down on the couch and started shivering uncontrollably. I was done!

Thanks to Greg and Lisa Jones along with all of the volunteers from PCH Randos for putting on this event. I appreciate the effort it takes to get a ride like this done!

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Riding into sunset at Picacho AZ

The Start:  After our morning riders meeting, along with warnings to stay on course and follow the rules we were set free to pursue our fates.  As usual, on the outskirts of town the “A” group soon detached itself from the rest of us and rode off into the pre-dawn.  The remaining riders did pretty well, managing to stay together until after sunrise.

Tom Mix:  In a couple of hours we made it to the first control at Tom Mix Monument; a little roadside rest stop along the route.  We found here, as always, Susan’s smiling face along with snacks and water.  Past this point the larger groups dissipated and riders were mostly in two’s and three’s, that in part aided by the 2 to 3 percent climb and some light headwinds.  With clothing adjustments, refueling and natural breaks we took a little longer than we would have liked at this stop, but we could make it up, right?

Noonish:  Okay, we made it over the top of the Pinal Pioneer Parkway and down to Oracle Road.  Winds were still light and this section went by quickly.  We stopped briefly at the next control and headed out again.  Joe and I were both ready for some food and we finally found a Subway shop at Tangerine Rd.  This turned out to be pretty popular with the riders and we saw many of them while we were there.  We stayed here a little longer than we should have.  Not to worry, we shouldn’t have any more delays, right?

Gates Pass:  Climbing Gates Pass went pretty well, it was mostly into a headwind but not too bad.  The climb is not steady and has shorts breaks in the grade but when it angles up it is probably has short pitches of 12% or more.  I cranked steadily up with no problems but just after I topped out and started the descent I heard a sharp ping from the rear and the bike started to wobble.  I pulled off at the first turnout and checked the bike.  Damn, a broken spoke, rear wheel drive side, this would be hard to fix out here.  Joe gave me a spoke wrench and I did what I could with it.  With a quick adjustment along with releasing the brakes I was able to get underway again.

The next control was just a few miles away and we pulled in just about 2:00 pm.  Susan had a few tools and I was able to make a temporary repair but it was sketchy and not likely to hold for the rest of the day.  I would have to trust to luck and go easy on it from here.  We ate some more and re-supplied before heading out again.  This was probably a half an hour stop with the repairs but we should be good from here right?

Marana:  Wow, how did we get to Marana so quickly, it was over 20 miles from the last control and we got here in under an hour.  The gods of tailwinds were smiling on us for now!  I guess after that stretch we deserve a break so we pull in and grab a snack.  It looks like the wheel repair is holding up so far.

Tailwinds:  The frontage road to Picacho Peak can be a long stretch but this year it was good.  Tailwinds allowed us to cruise at 20 mph+ and chit chat on the way.  This road always brings back memories of previous rides which had difficult conditions.  It’s hard to believe myself when I tell Joe about the vicious headwinds, sleet, flooded crossings and eventual hypothermia that were encountered here previously.

We blow right past the Dairy Queen as the sun sinks lower on the horizon.  We catch the last rays as we enter the little town of Picacho.  Soon after at Milligan and 87 we stop to put on our reflective gear and lights.  Another rider joined us and we decided to group up for the remainder of the ride in the dark.  I pretty much knew the way in from here so I put my route sheet away.  After all, what could go wrong, right?

Final leg:  Almost as soon as we got back underway my wheel repair gave up.  I had to release the rear brake all the way so the wheel would roll properly.  It was flat from here on in and the winds were still favorable.  We had a little trouble with the informational control, actually we couldn’t find it, so we got our cards signed instead.  That should be good enough, right?

Joe pulled all the way home and we were back in Casa Grande at about 7:30 pm.  We pulled into the last control at Walmart and handed our cards to Susan.  I explained our problem with the last control to her and she looked confused.  “What were you doing at La Palma” she said. “You were way off route!”  Crap, something went wrong!  Apparently, we took a wrong turn quite a ways back and I just followed a familiar route in from there, believing it was the correct way.

Bonus Miles:  Susan informed us that to get finishing credit for the ride we would have to go back out to where we went off route and follow the correct route in.  Crap again!  You know how you feel at the end of a ride, when you think you are done, you just want to be done.  Well, we returned to our hotel, ate some food, adjusted our gear and talked ourselves into finishing.  We went back out to where the infraction occured (near Eloy) and finished the ride again.  As we rode we could see the flashing lightning of the approaching storm, but it looked like we would beat the weather to Casa Grande. We did finally arrive again at 10:13 pm with about 25 bonus miles to our credit!  This was a good reminder to me not to get too complacent about the routefinding.  Pay attention or something could go wrong, right!