The wind is blowing, adore the wind.
Getting ready to ride the 2014 PCH Randonneurs 400K the first thing I did was check the weather forecast. 20% chance of rain before noon. Not too bad. I’d always prefer not to ride in the rain, but a few hours of it isn’t the worst thing that could happen – especially if it’s over with early in the ride.
Then I got to the good part: northwest wind 20 mph gusting 30. Hell yeah! Apart from a few miles heading northwest at the start of the ride, our route would take us mostly southeast. Tailwinds almost all the way? This could be good, really good…
Checked the PCH Randos website to see who is signed up. It reads like a who’s who of So. Cal ultracyclists. Willie Hunt with his “BananaMobile” velo will be there. We were able to visit with Willie at the start, but after that he was off like a rocket and we did not see him again until the finish. Greg and Lisa Jones, ride organisers, are riding a tandem as are Foster and Janeene Nagaoka.
Matthew O’Neill was riding his recumbent. Linda Bott, Mel Cutler, Michael Bratkowski, Terry Hutt, Pete Eade, Stacy and I were on standard bikes. All strong riders with years of experience. If Stacy and I were lucky we’ll be able to hang with them. If we’re really lucky everyone will be in the mood for a “social” ride instead of a race to the finish and we could relax and enjoy the tailwinds on what could turn out to be an “easy” 400K (250mile) ride. OK, maybe easy is an exaggeration. No 400K could ever be called easy.
As it turned out the weather gods had some new tricks in store for us.
The ride started at 0500 at the Simi Valley Train Station. Not only was it not raining, the dark sky was clear and stars and a crescent moon were shining brightly. After a few minutes spent getting route sheets and brevet cards we headed west out of Simi Valley on the kind of bike paths that are great if you know them, but are tricky to navigate if you are just going off the route sheet. Fortunately Greg & Lisa Jones were there to show us the way.
A few hour riding took us through Moorpark, Camarillo and Oxnard to hit the coast just south of Ventura. By now it was looking like we would not get any rain, but there was be plenty of wind. Fortunately most of the riders were still together as we turned Northwest to head directly into it.
The only thing better than following a tandem into a headwind is following two tandems into a headwind. Thanks Foster, Janeene, Greg & Lisa!
We met some Channel Island Bike Club members on the northbound route and at the turnaround point at Carpinteria.
Everyone was ready for the tailwind. Rolling south, the miles flew past. The strong winds had torn branches and palm fronds from the trees and they littered the streets and completely blocked the bike lanes in some places. We were making such good time we took an unscheduled stop at a Wendys to fuel up and relax for a bit.
We slowed briefly as we headed into the wind rounding point Mugu, but quickly accelerated again as the route turned south again through Malibu to an official stop at the south end of town.
Mile 110, only 140 miles to go.
From here the route took us on the bike paths past Venice, Manhattan and Redondo beaches. This is where the weather gods threw us a curveball.
The wind has cleared the path of the crowds of cyclists, pedestrians, rollerbladers, dog-walkers, etc. that usually pack the path in nice weather. But we quickly fond that the wind had completely covered the path with sand dunes in many places, and our progress slowed to a crawl as we pushed our bikes over the dunes or attempted to ride through them.
Eventually, after much cursing and laughing we make it to Palos Verdes. A short steep climb took us to our next control, then onward through San Pedro as the sun began to dip. We reached the shoreline bike path in Long Beach as the sun went down, but this path was mostly free of the “sand traps” that slowed us earlier.
Donning our reflective gear and turning on our lights we headed south with the last of the tailwind through Seal Beach, Sunset Beach, Huntington and Newport Beach.
We ate dinner at Chronic Tacos in Newport then headed out into the cold, still evening to ride the last 60 miles.
The roads were quiet and only a few rollers remained, but our pace slowed as we all started to tire. The line of riders stretched into smaller groups spread over a mile or so. We re-grouped at a stop in Dana Point. Matthew, Stacy and I decided to keep moving in an attempt to stay awake instead of lingering at the control.
Past San Onofre we rode the old 101 bike path. After the 5 freeway went in, disused portions of old highway 101 were converted to use as a bike path Eventually we got to Las Pulgas and rode the shoulder of the 5 freeway south to Oceanside. At night, cyclists are forbidden from riding through Camp Pendleton.
In Oceanside we rejoined Highway 101 (Coast Hwy). From here on 101 was no longer a bike path, but a road open to cars. We finally arrived in Solana Beach in the wee hours of the morning.
We were able to get a few hours sleep in the motel at the finish then had breakfast with our randonneuring friends before we split up for our carpools and train rides back home.