Whine courtesy of Jason Stupid Pudu Pierce (no actual Pudus were harmed in the riding of this brevet.)
So you can skip this part if you’ve already heard it – I grew up in Cambria, and did learn to ride a bike as a kid, but didn’t really take to it, since we lived on what (ironically perhaps) seemed like a ginormous hill. Happy Hill actually. There’s also a Lodge Hill, where the Lodge is, and Park Hill, over by Shamel Park. Not sure where the Happy comes from, but I’m digressing from my digression.
Anyway, I was just starting to get into riding before I moved away from San Luis County. So when people ask for route recommendations I got nothing for them. All my immediate family still lives on the Central Coast though, so I get down that way every few months, but I don’t take my bike, since they don’t ride, and the point of going is to visit with them, not be off on a bike ride by myself.
Although I’m not going to France, I’m still planning to do a series this year, preferably with routes I’ve never done before. Then other things on the calendar sorta narrowed it down to SLO for the 400k. My only other regular 400k had taken me 18 hours 36 minutes, I thought on this course I could perhaps finish faster (ooo! new PR!) without killing myself, be able to get some sleep and then have lunch and a get a bit of a visit with family before heading back north on Sunday.
Here’s where the ride recap starts: photo tour version
The route starts and finishes in San Luis Obispo, and is a pair of unbalanced loops. The first, 175 miles, covers north county wine regions then heads out to the coast, with an out and back to Ragged Point and then return to SLO on Highway 1. The second loop covers south county and dips briefly into Santa Barbara County. Almost all the climbing is in the first loop.
38 of us gather for the 0600 roll out. Seems like about half the people are from the Bay Area. RBA Vickie is excited that the turn out is 30% female.
Nice roll through town as a group, then spit out on to the shoulder of northbound 101 for the day’s first climb, Cuesta Grade. AKA “The Grade” – 1200 feet in about 3 miles. Bike path to the right. DO NOT TAKE THE BIKE PATH. It’s gravel. And? OK, not today. Everyone settles in to their own climbing pace.
Heading toward dawn on the way up the hill, but not enough light for my camera to get a clear picture of the summit sign. 1522. A brief descent and then exit off of 101, yay! Vickie had warned us that it would be cooler up here, which it is, but not the 39 degrees she’d encountered on the workers’ ride.
Sunrise over Santa Margarita! WOW! Hmn… red sky at morning… should I be worried? Well, it is really beautiful. Roll along the frontage road and through Atascadero (City Limits sign has spots for population and elevation but no numbers in either, that’s probably worth some sort of bonus.)
Combination of catching up with and being caught we end up with a group of about ten rolling toward Templeton. Nice quiet country roads, green hillsides and vineyards. Lovely morning. From Templeton back on frontage roads toward Paso. Cut through town, see some folks in San Jose Cycling Club kits.
Nice paceline along North River Road. This bit is new to me. We’re pretty much paralleling 101 heading North, but it feels like a different world. Quiet for the most part, although one car tries to pass us despite there being an oncoming car in the other lane.
Chit chat a bit and before I know it we’re to the first control at San Miguel. The store seems a bit overwhelmed by the influx of our group, but we all eventually make our purchases. I need to adjust layers, and most folks have rolled out. Jason and Patrick are still there, Jason asks, “are you ready to roll?” I say not quite. Oh, he’s not talking to me. He’s riding with Patrick, (im)moral support for Patrick’s first fixie 400k. Whatever.
We do head out together though, and I have fun watching them go up 10th street, the steepest hill of the ride, at 18%. But only half a block long. Up on the other side, Patrick and I are both taking pictures, Jason comments about dueling cameras. We’re back on the shoulder of 101 for a bit, now southbound, and then turn off in to the country.
This next part is all new to me, I’d not been on any of the roads, even in a car, although I’ve been by the ends (on 101 and 46) any number of times, and it’s not far from where I grew up. Funny how that is. So close, and yet no idea all those years. Makes me wonder what might be just around the corner from me now! Well, there’s always something. More to see, more to do.
It’s a scenic rolling ramble over to and along Chimney Rock Road. The hills are surprisingly green – since I’ve lived in Sonoma County I really notice how much drier it is on the Central Coast – and there are wildflowers out.
Where’s Jason? Isn’t he supposed to be babysitting you, Patrick? He isn’t doing a very good job. The group rubberbands around on the climbs, I’m a bit more in my own head than usual with the nostalgia or whatever you want to call it and haven’t explicitly agreed to ride with anyone so just go my own pace. End up a bit ahead on one section and am just having the thought of what am I doing here I can’t remember what the next turn is/maybe I should get my route sheet out and oh Adelaida Road oops yeah we were supposed to turn there. Fortunately not too far past, but it’s back uphill and I’m in the totally wrong gear. Oof.
There’s a volunteer out with water and snackies at the turn on to Vineyard Road. There’s some exposed climbing between here and the next control in Cambria, and Vickie had really emphasized being hydrated and leaving here with full bottles.
I don’t feel like I’m dinking around, but everyone else rolls out before me. Well, I’ll catch them, or I won’t. It’s all good.
Vineyard, as you might imagine, has wine country charm, fortunately minus any tipsy tourists.
And… back on the shoulder of a highway. This time 46, with a couple of climbs between here and Cambria. See quite a few folks on bikes headed the other direction, and a glimpse of some hi-viz ahead of me, but I have to take a nature break and then am not feeling particularly driven to try to catch them. I settle in, up one bump, bit of descent, up the second and then enjoy the sweeping vistas to the ocean for a few moments before getting down to the business of descending to Highway 1. For a moment I’m bummed to not see the Jason and Patrick fixie show pedaling down this, but I quickly get over it as I enjoy the opulence of my free hub enabled descent.
Right turn onto the shoulder of 1, heading north. Briefly consider taking the first exit, cruising East Village and stopping at Linn’s. It is, after all, Pi Day, but I figure it will be crowded, and, since I’m still solo at this point, I’ve decided I’ll go ride up The Hill.
So I continue on the highway until West Village. Oh, the new library, which I’m sure isn’t even close to new anymore, but will always be that to me since it’s in a different place than where I remember it as a kid. Skatepark! Didn’t have that when I lived here. Pinedorado grounds are same as ever.
The Hill is actually just a small jog off the course, and not long, but yeah there are some steepish bits. Totally rideable though, even with 90+ miles on the legs. I don’t have a widget, but I map it on RidewithGPS (for what that’s worth) later – 0.2 miles, grade mostly in the 5-7% range, with spikes into the low 8s.
I’m pretty sure my Dad is at WCN’s baseball game, but I’m there so I go up the stairs and knock. Turns out there’d been a reschedule, so he’s there. *Oh yeah, so I just happened to be riding by… We chat a bit then I get back on the road.
Stop for an (overpriced) ice cream cone, then at the Shell station for fluids. Note to self: they have It’s-It. See a few other randos at the Shell, but no one is ready to roll when I am, and I’m in the solo riding trip down memory lane headspace so it’s probably just as well. There isn’t an appreciable headwind, so I don’t feel motivated by that to wait for company for the leg north to Ragged Point either. (Although someone later pointed out that they wouldn’t have minded 20 miles of headwind to get 60 miles of tailwind back south to SLO.)
San Simeon Acres. What?! No more mini-golf? I can’t tell if the restaurant where I worked one summer is still there or not. Start looking for zebras. San Simeon. The Cove – the place to go to go to the beach. It’s protected from the wind, so on a sunny day you can actually lay out in a swimsuit, if that’s your thing. There’s also a nice pier to walk on. There’s the Castle on the hill. No zeebas.
Jeez, I can’t remember when the last time was that I’ve been on this stretch of 1 north of San Simeon. Arroyo Laguna, we’d go boogie boarding there. It gives me the shivers now to think about all that time we spent in the water without wetsuits. Ah and here’s the hullabaloo about the elephant seals – park here, not there. That’s all new (different from when I was a kid, that would be) and the dunes are fenced off, and much smaller than I remember.
Still haven’t seen any randos going the other way. Start to wonder if maybe they passed while I was in Cambria, although my brain is not quite up to doing the rando-math as to whether that’s even possible. A fellow in an Adobo Velo kit passes me headed north. Ah, there’s Brian, Roy and another rider headed south. The sweeping turn down to San Carpoforo, and climb up to Ragged Point. See a couple more folks headed south.
Wow! Ragged Point has become quite the complex. Patrick tells me the ice cream place is closed. Well, I already had ice cream, so there. I’d started thinking about french fries though, so I head to the snack bar. There’s no one at the window to take my order, and when someone does appear he seems very put out, and is yelling to find the person who ordered a steak sandwich and something else so he can close that ticket. Not that I’m in a huge hurry, but it doesn’t seem very promising, so I just go into the mini-mart and get Fritos and a Coke.
The gang rolls out shortly after I arrive, with Jason checking if everyone is ready to go. Oh yeah, except Megan, she just got here. Yep.
Likewise some folks roll in while I’m eating, but I’m ready to go before they are. I’m feeling good and it’s a beautiful day. The Coast unfurls southbound, and I see other randos onesie-twosie headed north. WOOT! Jenny, Peg and Kitty!!! Others I don’t know names, but we wave and smile. There’s Denise and Ann (Ann’s first 400k) who seem to be the tail end of it, but looking strong and cheerful.
San Simeon I briefly debate rolling by Sebastian’s, but the day is getting along and I’m trying to keep this from getting too long (Is that funny?) so I just stay on the highway.
Southbound car pulls over. Hmn…. OH! Do they see zeebas? Nope, just making a U-turn. Oh wait… as I get to the spot where they were I look over and YES!!! ZEEBAS! A whole bunch of them. Kewl.
Tick along past Cambria, and there’s the turn to 46 and just about Harmony the Terry train catches me so I jump on. Chat a bit with Kerin, whose name I’ve seen but never met before, so that was fun. They decide to stop in Cayucos, but I don’t need anything so keep rolling.
Morro Bay and yay off the Highway onto South Bay Boulevard, wind past the tidal wetlands. All very pretty in the late afternoon sun. Run down Los Osos Valley Road along the back side of the Nine Sisters and here’s the Motel 6 again.
Folks in various stages of coming or going. I figure Patrick and Jason are out on the second loop already, but ask. No, they haven’t come in yet. Well, Vickie isn’t totally sure about Patrick, but Jason? Jason Pierce? No, he hasn’t come in yet. I’d know if he came in. Heh.
I eat a bit, then go up to my room and wash my face – ohmygodthatfeelssogood! – and put on fresh clothes. In the mean time Patrick and Jason have come in, and we go out on the second loop together. Activate Narwhal Power.
Frontage road headed toward Pismo, twilight then a beautiful sunset off to our right over Avila Beach. A bit of a navigational fumble through Pismo, why are we going under to the other side of the freeway? but we figure it out. Stop and put on reflective gear.
Grover City (yeah, I know. Beach. Whatever.) I go for the sneak attack but Patrick pips me at the line. You’re going to have to get up earlier than that… Heh, yeah, and get some fast twitch muscles.
Ag land now, not sure if it’s the dark, but the smell seems magnified. Brussels sprouts? I was going to say broccoli. Some sort of cruciferous vegetable.
Climb to the Mesa has gotten so big in the telling about it, turns out we’re already to the top. That was it? Roller along the Mesa, Patrick and Jason telling stories from 3CR. Jason is having one of Those Days, and periodically fades off the back. Descents he comes by in mad spin mode, and can still complain, so we don’t worry about him too much.
Pass a refinery, all lit up, pipes and vessels, a strange and eerie beauty in the distance. More fields of who knows what. Some sort of refrigeration/packing plant.
Double check but no, Guadalupe is not a control. See a few other riders around and about. Volunteer on the side of the road just before Santa Maria, which seems odd since there’s plenty of places there for control but OK, we’ll stop. The guys say then can go either way, but, although it’s not that cold, I’ve started thinking about warm/caffeinated beverage, so I vote for stopping. Oh Thank Heaven.
Back out into the dark countryside after Santa Maria, roll along roll along. I’m starting to get to the “are we there yet?” phase.
Info control. For some reason I thought it was before the turn, but no, it’s after. Wow, the stars are pretty fricken’ amazing!
Eventually start to see the lights of San Luis Obispo, YAY! Turn behind the airport and another road I’ve never been on and then we pop out on Higuera OH! I’ve seen this end but never knew where it went. Funny.
Jig jog and last categorized climb overpass over the freeway and yep, they left the light on for us! Vickie and the volunteers have hot soup and mac and cheese and lasagna. And the pie! They’ve already been warned twice to quiet down. We keep having to shhhhsh Jason.
18 hours something six … at first I think it was the exact same time as my other regular 400k, but it was actually 10 minutes slower. Super fun day though, just the right mix of solo and riding with company, beautiful weather and scenery, and now I can check “riding The Hill” off the list.
Ride date: March 14, 2015