Wednesday, October 13, 2010

PCH Randonneurs Big Sur 600K - a Big Sur Adventure

Aside from Race Across America, this 600K brevet was my most-looked-forward-to event of the year. Last year, a large group of us did not finish this ride for a variety of reasons, and we were all returning for payback!

JV and I drove a UHaul up to Salinas on Friday. We were delivering a Catrike Pocket to the Palo Alto VA, and also transported bikes to the start for some of the riders. We arrived in Salinas, had Thai food for dinner, double checked our bikes and said hello to old and new friends. JV planned to ride the brevet with John Schlitter of Bacchetta in about 24 hours. I was shooting for anything under 40 hours, and had made arrangements to sleep in Lompoc.

I split the ride up into to sections: Day One would take me 215 miles down to Lompoc through Big Sur, San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, and Guadalupe. I would then continue on to finish the 40-mile loop to Buellton and back before getting some sleep. Day Two would continue the expedition down the coast for 125 miles through Santa Barbara, Carpenteria, Ventura, Oxnard and into Moorpark.

Saturday morning, 4:30am, we are all on the road heading out the Monterrey. I stopped to chat with Allan Duhm, a Team Bacchetta rider who came out from Florida to ride with us, while he fixed a flat tire, and we rode together for the next 100 miles. It was a real pleasure to share the Big Sur coast with someone who had never seen it before... It's about 35 miles from Carmel to Big Sur, with one good climb after you cross one of several historic bridges. At the top, we stopped to admire the scenery and Allan was blown away by the beauty of the morning sky, the cliffs and the ocean below. "Just wait," I said, "It gets better...much better...!"

We pulled into the Big Sur control at about 8:45am, where we were greeted by one of our fabulous volunteers, Patricia! We snacked, drank, removed layers of clothing and applied sunscreen as we prepared for the next 50 miles of climbing and more climbing (FWIW, the first 100 miles of this brevet had about 8000 feet of climbing).

I told Allan that Big Sur is a ride of contrasts. As you approach Big Sur, the cliffs down to the ocean to your right are not too steep, the hills to your left gently rise above you. The foliage is shrubbery. As you enter Big Sur, you are suddenly surrounded by Redwoods...a giant, beautiful forest to behold! Over the top, you emerge onto classic Big Sur scenery...evergreen trees surrounding you as you glide up and down windy climbs exposed to sheer drops of up to 800 feet on your right. It's truly breathtaking, and while it is incredibly difficult, it is a fantastic road that every cyclist should experience! As you leave Big Sur's south end, you drop to gently rolling hills where the miles seem to disappear under your wheels! We enjoyed all of it, stopped a few times to eat and take pictures, and even played tag up and down the climbs!

As we left Ragged Point for the rolling terrain leading to San Luis Obispo, it became clear that I could not keep up with Allan and his aerodynamic wheels! I rode alone and counted the miles to Cambria where I could get a much-needed snack - an ice cream sandwich and Coke were perfect!

The climb up to San Luis Obispo from Morro Bay, with 135 miles under my belt already, was quite difficult. Again, I found myself counting the miles to our next control at Vickie's house. Upon arrival I was greeted by many other riders, some coming, some going, and lots of good food! Lance and Vickie set up a wonderful rest stop, and it was much appreciated! I left about 30 minutes later as it was starting to get dark, nourished and ready to ride the 58 miles to Lompoc!

I ran into a couple other riders outside of Pismo Beach, and we rode together to Guadalupe in the dark. It's always easier to ride when you have company. As we left Guadalupe, Dion got ahead of me, and I got ahead of Bill...we were three sets of tail lights spread out over a mile or so. The road was quiet and dark, and as we transitioned to the climbs towards Vandenburg AFB, a support vehicle stopped us to make sure we were okay and hand out food/water. Much appreciated!

The climbs to Vandenburg were brutal. It's not that they were incredibly long or steep, it was just that it was 10pm, I had been riding for 17.5 hours, and it seemed like the temperature kept changing! This was slowly becoming less fun... I stumbled into Lompoc at about 11:45pm, got my room key and headed for the rest stop room where I was greeted by Kathy, warm soup and some friendly faces.

Dion, Shaun and I finally made the plunge and headed out into the darkness to complete the 40 mile loop to Buellton. A few miles up the road, we came up on Bill, and the four of us headed up Santa Rosa Rd. towards and information control out in the middle of nowhere! To be honest, this was not fun. I was running on fumes, we seemed to be climbing a lot more than the map indicated, and I was pretty beat. At the info control, I laid down in the road for a few minutes and just watched the stars. We re-mounted and pushed ahead to Buellton, 6 miles up the road.

We couldn't get Andersen's split pea soup at 2:45am, so we settled for a fresh pot of coffee at the Circle K. After hanging out and waking up a bit, we started the easier road down the 246 back to Lompoc. The coffee had kicked in, and before long I was charging ahead full tilt through the rollers, trying to avoid the rumble strip at 40mph! We arrived safely back in Lompoc at 4:15am, and Shaun and I agreed to meet back at 7:15am to hit the road. A quick shower and a couple hours of fitful sleep capped our first day of riding.

A map and elevation profile of our first day can be found at

1 comment:

Jim Swarzman said...

Hey Dana. Nice write-up. Looking forward to Part 2. Too bad you were tired and it was night when you got to Santa Rosa Rd. As I mentioned beforehand, with the repaving it's really one of the great cycling roads now.