Sunday, May 26, 2013

“Zebra!” Ride report: Cayucos 200km May 18 & Golden Hills 200km May 19

A few months ago when looking at rides we’d like to do this year, Joth expressed a desire to do a ride with the  Pacific Coast Highway Randonneurs, which is officially shown as the Los Angeles branch of RUSA, but had a series of rides starting from Cayucos almost 200 miles to the South of us. Our original plan had been to ride the Cayucos Coastal 600, but with the route profile indicating that it would be a ‘full value’, and given the distance we had to travel to and from the ride, it wasn’t really going to be feasible. The organiser had a full weekend of rides however, with 200 & 300km rides on the Saturday, and another 200km ride on the Sunday in addition to the 600. We decided to have an easy weekend of it, and just ride the two 200s.
So on Saturday, after a quick breakfast of bagel and cup of tea at our motel, we sauntered down the road on the 5 minute ride to the start point. We were met by Matt, the very relaxed organiser, and the one other rider on this event. With so few people, we were soon on the road with very little fuss. We were still feeling a little snoozy, and soon saw Alan disappear into the distance on the first hill soon after joining Highway 1. The first control was just under 50km into the ride, and going through San Luis Obispo before looping back north again. We were slightly surprised to see that Alan was still at the coffee shop when we arrived, and wasn’t as far ahead of us as we’d imagined. As there was a strong northerly wind, we decided to stop and eat a second breakfast before heading north into the wind. All too soon, we were back on the road and slogging into the wind. While Highway 1 and the other roads used were quite big, traffic was generally good, and the roads are clearly well travelled by cyclists.
As the route passed back in front of our motel, we opted to have a quick break there rather than the recommended coffee shop. As it was now mid-morning and was warming up, it was a good time to adjust clothing layers. After a quick change, it was time to do battle with the headwind. In many ways, wind is worse than climbing. It’s inconsistent and unpredictable in its effect, makes it difficult to talk, and it’s dispiriting to travel so little distance whilst putting in so much effort. After an indomitable amount of time, we passed the signs for Hearst Castle. I was just wondering aloud about what was behind the ridge to our right and Joth replied: zebra! When I commented that yes, there might be zebras there, he pointed out the herd of zebras stood in the field. Not what I was expecting! After another lifetime of pushing into the wind, we saw the signs to an Elephant Seal viewing point. The beach was thronged with female and juvenile seals all moulting. It was a good chance for a break, as Joth had not seen the seals before. A quick snack, and we were off again for the final 10 miles into Ragged Point. On the final climb up to the control, we developed a flat front tyre. The road was twisty and narrow with no shoulder, but fortunately there was a little bit of shoulder about 100 metres away where we could safely stop. We were just checking the tyre when Alan pulled in to check that we were OK. We had passed him as we rejoined Highway 1 after going through Cayucos, and he had suffered a puncture shortly afterwards. After checking we had everything we needed (and having a moan about the wind), he set off up to the control. We followed a few minutes later, and arrived to find a cafe serving hot food, as well as a small garage. A couple of excellent fried egg sandwiches and portion of chips later, and we were ready to head South. The tailwind was all the more enjoyable for having been earned, and the journey back to Cayucos was much quicker than the journey out. We arrived at the finish to see Alan, who had finished a couple of minutes earlier.
An early night beckoned after the nice steak and chips at the restaurant opposite the motel. The Sunday ride also started at 6:30am, and we would need to check out before we left. Fortunately the motel were happy to let us keep the car there until we got back from the ride.


At 6:13 we rolled out of the motel car park towards the start: it’s nice when you don’t need to travel far! We discovered two other riders waiting to join us on the day’s ride, Amy and Greg. Amy had completed the 300km on Saturday, so had ridden quite a few of the roads we would be taking. The day started with a significant climb up to a little over 400m in elevation. Amy soon disappeared up the road, but Greg had decided to ride with us and kept us entertained with randonneuring and tandem tales. The day soon started to warm up, and as we were heading inland, it was going to be a lot warmer than Saturday. We soon reached the top and started the rolling descent into Paso Robles. While I knew that there was quite a lot of wine grown in the area, I hadn’t realized quite how much. It’s the second biggest wine growing regions in California after Napa. It seems warmer and drier than Napa though. The first control was at a supermarket in San Miguel, where we discovered that Greg was actually the local RBA, so could sign our brevet cards. Amy arrive a couple minutes after us (we had passed her on the descent), and so we all sat together and ate. I really wasn’t too hungry, so just had a blueberry muffin while everyone else tucked into breakfast burritos. Amy decided to soft pedal the first section of the next stage to let her burrito digest, while we headed off up the road with Greg and the wind at our tail. We quickly started riding some of the quietest, narrow roads we have experienced whilst randonneuring in the US. It seemed no time at all before we arrived at the market in Shandon for lunch and to stock up on liquids. The day was hot, and we knew the next stage would have hills and probably a headwind. Again, Amy was quicker at controlling than us, and had already headed up the road before we had finished eating. The first half of the stage seemed to be the source of the ride name - “Golden Hills” - as we rode through rolling hills where the sun had already dried the vegetation to a golden colour. There were some grazing animals, but very little food for them, and most of the waterholes had already dried up. It’s going to be a difficult summer. At Templeton, we took Matt’s warning about the impending climb to heart and detoured off-route to find additional water. It was then time to start the climb back over to the coast. It was easy to see how the road out of Templeton got it’s name - Vineyard Drive, where we passed many more vineyards. Once we hit highway 40, it was time to to start the proper climb. Thankfully, the road had some rolling sections which broke up the climb. There was also enough wind to ensure that we didn’t overheat too badly. Greg grumbled about the climb most of the way up, but in a humourous tone and listening to him reminded us of so many rides and riders back home. It didn’t feel too long before we were over the top, and starting the descent to the coast. We spotted a randonneur by the side of the road who seemed to be fixing a flat. He gave us the thumbs up to indicate that he didn't need any help, and we sped by with Greg still hard on our tail. The run in to highway 1 was windy, but didn’t seem to be quite as bad as Saturday. In order to make the distance up to 200km, a detour to Cambria (4 miles North) was needed. After a pleasant coffee stop, it was time to use the tailwind to push us back to Cayucos. Powering along with the wind behind us and the waves never far away was a great way to finish the weekends cycling.