Today was the reason I'll ride again. It was an amazing day of riding and relaxing. The Evil Twins loomed ahead of us, a pair of peaks on Highway 46. We would climb 1,000 feet in the first 15 miles of the ride. It was already very warm in the morning, but we were told it would get cooler once we passed the hills and approached the coast. I left camp at 7:20am with my friend Larry. As soon as we left camp we started climbing. I really enjoy hills, which is very surprising to me. I never have a problem, never feel pushed to the limit.
The first Evil Twin was over before I knew it. Actually, it is more like a series of short downhills and steep uphills than two peaks. Pit 1 was straddled along the side of the hill, with bike maintenance crew in the first section and a short climb to food, water and medical. After a brief stopped we climbed on to the big peak, 600 feet in half a mile. As I rode, two guys were coming up behind me singing their own variation of a campfire song: This is the hill that never ends. It just goes on and on my friends. Some riders started climbing, not knowing what it was. They're still riding just because, this is the hill that never ends. It just goes on and on my friends.....
Again, I was surprised at how soon the top came. At first the summit seemed nothing special. Ugly, in fact, with construction tearing up one side of the hill. Then I saw the riders on the hill above us. Larry and I scrambled up the steep hillside to the top. I almost slipped down the slope, and imagined how embarrassed I'd be getting injured not on the ride, but hiking up to see the view. As soon as we reached the top, I noticed the path everyone else was using. Whoops! But the view was worth the hike, and all the riding. The blue ocean seemed so far away, but we'd be at its shores before lunch. One rider had brought a kite, and it flew high above us on the hillside as we took in the view.
Soon after the summit, we passed the halfway point of the ride. There was a sign, but the line to take a photo was 40 riders long, and by then I had developed an aversion to lines. The downhill was fast and long, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I felt great. My knee wasn't giving me any trouble at the halfway point. I was able to minimize my shoulder pain by leaning over before I shifted gears. It was hotter than I expected, though, and the heat began to get to me as we left the downhill behind. It stayed hot, even near the ocean.
We passed near Cambria, home of Hearst Castle, then met up with the rest of the girls at Pit 2 . Stephanie and Jackie had gone to school at Cal Poly and knew some great places to eat, so we decided to bypass the lunch pit and eat in San Luis Obispo. Things looked familiar and I realized these were the same roads I had ridden on an overnight training ride in March. The road markings from that ride were still on the ground, including the word "Cookies" and an arrow that had marked the spot of cookie stop in the tiny town of Harmony. This day there were no cookies, only heat. I was beginning to get very tired and weary, as well as hungry. Still, the ocean views from Cayucos and Morro Bay were inspiring, making it all worth it.
When we regrouped at the lunch spot, my friends said the place they wanted to eat at was still 10 miles away. I couldn't wait that long, and with much regret stayed to grab a boring lunch while they rode on to real food. The lunch pit was at the shadeless Camp SLO Hudleson Field, and I anticipated a miserable meal. Then a fellow rider told me about the wonders of the air-conditioned SAG bus. The crew decided to turn them on and let us eat our lunch on board in cool comfort. Besides the welcomed break from the heat, the luxury of a comfy padded seat made the experience heavenly. It was hard to go back out into the hot day, but on I rode. As I passed the spot where my friends had stopped to eat, I was glad I hadn't gone with them. It would have been a long, hard ride in the heat without a break and some food.
Clif Bar was the sponsor of Pit 3 each day, and today they encouraged us to "Go Glam" with glitter nail polish. After three days of dirt and bike grease, it was nice to cover up those grimy finger nails with a little flashy color. I noticed that my knee brace was starting to chafe a bit, but I didn't think much of it. Just past Pit 3 was what I had been waiting for all day - the Avila Hot Springs. The lawn outside was covered with bikes, and inside scores of riders crowded into the swimming pool for a much-deserved cool down. Soon after I arrived, the "ladies" made their entrance. These drag queens had followed us along the whole ride, dressing in outrageous outfits and making us laugh as we struggled up hills. The place went crazy. The look of the lifeguards faces were priceless. These poor high school boys had already had to endure a swimming pool full of frolicking (though very well-behaved) gay men, and now they were faced with four men in swimsuits. It was a priceless moment.
I grabbed a slice of pizza and sat poolside. Relaxing in the sun never felt so good. The struggle of the day's ride melted away. I was sitting at a pool in the middle of California, and I rode here on my bike. It was an amazing feeling. I can't believe riders passed without stopping. They didn't know what they were missing.
We reluctantly left the pool and headed into Pismo Beach. It was just five miles to camp, but our muscles had relaxed and we rode slowly. Coming into Pismo, we were treated once again to a magnificent view of the ocean. Stephanie and Jackie knew where to get the world's best clam chowder, and we had a hour and a half until the route closed, so we made our way to the Splash Cafe. We had a few beers (beer tasted great) and hung out for a while. Suddenly we noticed it was 6:45pm - only 15 minutes to get back to camp. We flew the last three miles, and sailed into camp to the cheers of crew and riders. I felt so guilty. Those cheers were meant for riders who had struggled all day. Then the group began returning to camp - we had been the last riders of the day! One rider commented that we had been riding too fast and smiling too much - had we stopped at the Hot Springs or at a bar in Pismo?
We camped out at the Oceano Airport, with our tents on the grassy areas next to the runways. (You can see the runway lights next to the tents in this picture.) Thankfully, the airport was closed for the night, though one small plane did circle overhead and appear to be confused. That night was the talent show, which meant my massage was rescheduled for the next day. I ran into Elayna at dinner, and we had a great spot to see the show. The talent was unbelievable! A rider named Kate opened the show, playing guitar and singing her version of "Pink Cadillac" while her dad, a crew member, accompanied on harmonica. She rocked, and really kicked off the show. People played guitar, sang, danced. A group read original poetry - "Ode to a Port-o-Pot" and "A Serious Limerick on the Dangers of Alternative Butt Balms" One rider did a flag dance, and amazing display of movement and fluidity with a pair of colored scarves. It was mesmerizing. The night ended with everyone up and grooving to "Dancing Queen." I was on the route for 12 hours, and I wasn't even tired as I went to bed at 10:15pm that night.
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Day 4 Menu
Breakfast: Biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs w/green peppers, sausage,
oatmeal, bagel, pears.
Lunch: Turkey ham or humus, pasta salad.
Dinner: Chicken or boca burger, Dijon parsley potatoes, broccoli spears, garlic breadsticks, tossed green salad, chocolate eclairs.