This is a route that I have been looking forward to riding for many years. The weather forecast was good, the route looked great and I was ready to go!  I thought that this could be a ride to remember, little did I know what it would be remembered for!

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Originally this route was designed to go up the coast to Carmel but a landslide had closed the Coast Hwy could not be repaired in time and forced the re-route. I was okay with that, the route still looked good to me and with a pretty good weather forecast I was all in. We met in the quaint little beach town of Cayucos for our start. A total of 6 riders were present, only 2 of which I did not know. We departed at 4 am and immediately began the climb up Old Creek Road. Stats show this grade reaches up to 15% for very short sections but the steepest mile is only 10% average. It made a good warmup for the day and was followed by a nice but cool descent into Paso Robles.

Our first control was in the old mission town of San Miguel where it seemed that breakfast was being served. David had biscuits and gravy while I had a chorizo breakfast burrito. I suspect that Matt (our support guy) had something good to eat after we had all left but there were no witnesses to tell on him.

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Leaving San Miguel we began the long climb up Indian Valley Road. This was where we also began to experience the wind, coming straight out of the north and straight in our faces at 15 to 25 mph. At this point we did not know just how much of an impact it would have on our ride.

From San Miguel there would be no services for the next 50 miles or so but there was a water stash at the summit of the climb. With the cooler weather we did not need it so much but on a hot day this would have been critical.

Even though there were only six riders on this ride we were quite often together. In this lonely countryside it was nice to others to ride with.

Our next control was at a road junction in the middle of nowhere. Matt was there with supplies for us, otherwise there would have been nothing.

Although it had been a wet winter in California this area had already dried out and the hills were covered with golden brown grasses. A few wildflowers still lingered in some favored places but most varieties were gone by now.

We left the middle of nowhere control and headed into an even quieter part of the state. Hwy 25 may be a state highway but this part of it is as sparsely populated as you can find anywhere. This sign was no lie and we stocked up for the stretch. This would definitely require more than two water bottles so I was glad to have my camelback!

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 The headwinds continued and progress was slower then I would have liked. Rolling hills, Oak trees and grasslands extended to the horizon. It is a unique lanscape and beautiful in its own way. At the next control the route would turn south and I was looking forward to getting some relief from the wind. After all this work I deserved a reward right? And I would get one, little did I know what it would be….

The next control was in San Juan Batista at a little shopping center and Matt was there with words of encouragement as always. I stayed for awhile hoping that another rider would show up and we could ride together. I had been alone for the last70 miles or so and thought some company would be nice. But, no-one showed and I headed out again.

Leaving the control there was a small climb to overcome, some 1500 feet over Old San Juan Grade. I knew that once I was over that and I turned downwind it would be easy going. Some high clouds had moved in and it was a pleasant temperature for the climb but about halfway up the climb I had a view to the north where it looked a lot darker. It looked like a rain shower! Not a problem for me, I’m headed south and with a good tailwind I’m sure that I’ll stay ahead of whatever little sprinkle there was. Wait, now there are some raindrops, just a few at first and then increasing. Then, roads are now wet and I stop at the summit to put on my raingear for the descent. The weather report said there was a zero percent chance of rain so I thought that whatever this was it probably wouldn’t last long.

That thought was washed away over the next 60 miles as the rain increased. The rural farm roads that were covered with dirt from the fields now became muddy and potholed, not much better than a cyclocross track at times! I had no fenders on this bike and soon I was covered in mud. Darkness fell shortly after the rain began and it was harder to avoid the potholes. Even a good headlight doesn’t illuminate wet pavement very well.

I made a couple of stops at convenience stores in the little towns along the way. Wet, muddy and glowing like a Christmas Tree, I got the usual dumbfounded looks from the store customers as I walked the aisles. I even think I heard an “ay caramba” at one point! Finally, at about 11:00 pm I pulled into the sleep stop in King City. One other rider had already arrived before me. Here I would get a little rest but more importlantly some dry clothes and a warm shower!

Rain and the dark of night aren’t conducive to taking photographs so I apologize for my failure in this area. After my rest I departed with another rider, Shai and we set off to the south with a mild tailwind at about 2:00 am. There would be no open services for the next 70 miles so once again we had to carry extra supplies. First up was a longish climb up Jolon Road but after that the roads were pretty agreeable. While at a brief stop at the information control in Lockwood we reconnected with riders Jaime and Mel and continued as a group of four. This was the coldest part of the ride and temps dropped to perhaps the low 40’s. My shoes were still damp from the earlier rain so cold feet were my biggest issue. Our party rolled into the hamlet of Bradley just at dawn and then met the sunrise on the climb up Hare Canyon. At the top of the climb Shai and Mel were waiting for me and Jaime who was behind me. I was amazed that at this point in the ride we were all pretty close together.

It was a pretty easy push back into Paso Robles and Shai and I arrived there together. I pulled off to get my chain lubed and Shai carried on to find some breakfast. I would see the other riders again but would ride alone the rest of the day. We were now on the final leg with one last climb over Hwy 46 to the coast and then north to our turnaround at Ragged Point. It was mid morning now and the wind was again picking up out of the north, only this time with a new ferocity! I stopped in Cambria for a snack and found our star support guy Matt waiting for me. He urged me to carry on and advised me that the wind would be vicious from here to Ragged Point. I can say without exaggeration that the wind was 30 mph+ steady with gusts well over 40 mph. It took a solid 3 hours to cover the 24 miles to Ragged Point! It was one of the hardest and most discouraging legs I have ever done but I arrived at Ragged Point well satisfied that I had accomplished it!

You can’t capture the wind in a photo but sometimes you can show it’s intensity by the conditions it creates. White-caps, sea spray and a frothing ocean were all on full display, and it was spectacular! From Ragged Point I was headed south with the same winds, but instead of being my foe they were now my ally and I covered the next 40 miles to the finish in just under 2 hours. At times I was sitting up, spinning at 32 mph up a gentle grade and still the wind exceeded my speed by 5 or 10 mph! All I can say is that it was EPIC, and I never use that word lightly! One could make the case that the downwind leg was my reward but I was looking for something more!

I pulled into Cayucos at about 5:30 pm. We finished at Duckies, a chowder house/pub where RBA’s Greg and Lisa met the incoming and weary riders. Fish and Chips along with a tall cool draft beer would be the well earned reward for my efforts. BUT, what I will remember this ride for is the wind! It seems to be the theme of many of my rides this year but this one wears the crown. I truly feel that I have been tested once again and passed that test simply by surviving (completing) the event. Those who have also been tested will understand!

I would like to congratulate fellow riders Shai, Mel, Jaime, David and Dion for their great finish and for their companionship during the ride, along with Matt Oneill who supported and looked after us all so well.

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