Day 4 - Paso Robles to Santa Maria, 97.7 miles
The fourth day of AIDS LifeCycle was a long but beautiful journey beginning by traveling back toward the ocean from the inland farms, and we hugged the beautiful curves of the Pacific Coast for much of the day.
However, the first couple miles out of camp were on a road of horrible disrepair. The wheels were chugging and bouncing even when I moved further center to the smoother portion. We saw a few people at the side of the road fixing flats, which I expected considering the condition. I probably would not have been as frustrated by this if it weren't for the fact the lane going the opposite direction had just been repaved and was smooth as butter.
Then suddenly the torn road led into beautifully fresh pavement, and I thought we were in the clear. But alas, somewhere in the mess of the past mile, my girl friend Meghan's tire got punctured and was now going flat. Amazingly out of a team of 20 people on skinny tires over 545 miles, we only had 2 or 3 members get a flat. This also happened to be the one day I forgot to bring my portable pump, so we broke out one of the emergency CO2 canisters to get us to the next point we could fill with air. I had not really used CO2 before was surprised how instantly the canister became frozen after use.
Although getting the flat was unfortunate, it was nice to take a moment to pause and reflect on the beautiful surroundings we were in. Pause is only interesting for so long though, so it was nice once we got moving again. At the first rest stop Meghan went to the always helpful bike tech booth to get proper air and pressure in her tire. I was surprised to find the mechanics had set up a blow up doll at the table to greet those waiting in line. It was another one of those uniquely ALC moments. Since the big hills of the day, dubbed the "Evil Twins" were up next on the elevation graph we grabbed a couple snacks to munch on and topped off our water.
Since so many of our group training rides emphasized endurance on hill climbing, especially in Ojai, the largest climbs on AIDS LifeCycle did not seem so bad. On "Quad Buster" the day before many of us were thinking where is the rest once we reached the top, and the Evil Twins were not as bad as portrayed either. This is not to say they were a cake walk or downplay the accomplishment of riders completing these hills, but compared to things like climbing to the Hollywood sign, it was not so scary. Meghan, pictured in the left, was mostly smiles going up the hill in spite of knee injury complications.
One of the really exciting moments about Day 4 is that just before you hit the big downhill of the day, there is a vista where riders gather that is the half way point to Los Angeles. Everyone cheers and breaks out the cameras to pose at the place signifying the feat of making it half way there, and in the case of our team, half to home. Everyday at some point of the ride there was a man always seen in different full body costumes cheering on riders. He was at the half way to Los Angeles point spreading the highly appropriate message of safe sex by being dressed as a giant condom. Of course we had to get a photo of this.
After hanging out with the ever so friendly giant condom, we staked out a spot on the rocks and those of us on the team who arrived together struck a pose of triumph. What goes up must come down, and I love to climb because I love to descend. Coming off of the Evil Twins was the most epic downhill of AIDS LifeCycle, with a long stretch of steep down hill grade, beautiful scenery and smooth pavement across a curving landscape.
After coming off the high of sudden elevation drop, we came across a particularly beautiful stretch of coastal road. It was such a consistently beautiful day I couldn't help but stop along the way for shots.
To be continued in Part 2 of Day 4.