21 October 2018

The Perfect Paul Jason* Ride

Spectacular view of Mt Fuji from the west side of Jimba Kaido/Wada Pass
Satoyama bliss from the golf course hills of Uenohara

I love the lower stretch of the Wada climb via Daigo Rindo, beautiful stream, trees, traditional farm houses.
Today was just spectacular cycling weather. Cool enough to climb with ease, warm enough so I could descend without putting on a wind shell (though close at times). Clear blue sky, babbling brooks, like a dream sequence in a movie.

I did the Paul Jason* route -- out over Wada (but taking the Daigo Rindo - no traffic - route that climbs to the North and somewhat above Jinba Kaido, then the "golf course hills" of Uenohara, then Kobu Tunnel, and down the Akigawa. Since I rode out from Takanawa, I hopped the train back from Musashi Itsukaichi.

(gps track here)

I thought if I planned it right I might ride up the Tamagawa with the Tokyo Cranks, then catch a group that was leaving Takao at 8:15AM to do pretty much the same route. I was too late for the Cranks, and I think I passed the other group on the "golf course hills", as they took a longer (and flatter) route through Uenohara. I did meet two foreigners on road bikes as I approached Kobu Tunnel. They were named Paul and Jason. What luck!

Actually, they were named Alex (if I remember correctly) and Paul. They had been resting and photographing at a spot within a few hundred meters of the tunnel entrance, so I said my hellos and powered by as they started up. I did wait at the bottom of the descent from the tunnel and chatted a bit with Alex when he arrived. They were doing a "Half Fast" route, but said they were late to the start and on their own ... sounded familiar.
Crossing back over the Tamagawa just before hospital hill.

Crossing again at Prefectural Route 20 to take the Asagawa paths toward Hachioji.
The views of Mt. Fuji were so spectacular, I really thought that major companies should sponsor a photographic exhibit.

These would be some of the TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Company) sponsored viewpoints:
Sponsored by TEPCO -- they own the wires!
TEPCO - we obscure the whole horizon, not just Mt. Fuji!
And this one could be sponsored by the Keio Railway company:
Sponsored by Keio private railways -- that's our train in front of the mountaing!
And this and many other could be some of the Toyota ones:
Mt Fuji - Obscured by Toyota!
Anyway, not much more to say except that I felt good, did not push too hard, and loved every minute of the ride.  Yes, still too slow on the climbs, but better than during the brevet two weeks back, and the roads were so much better. The rest I'll tell with photos.

Baseball and fall cosmos flowers


At Wada Pass!

Hikers' guidepost.

After the golf courses, descending toward Yamanashi Rte 33.

On the Route 33 climb

Looking back down the Route 33 climb

This is actually the road angle ... but it is a side street off of Route 33.
*Positivo Espresso did this ride first as a group on a sweltering hot day back around 2006 or 2007, joined by a new Australian cyclist in town, Paul Jason. The climbs were brutal in the heat. He ended up horizontal in a shaded stairwell of an apartment building next to what is now the Lohas coffee roaster/cafe by Y's Road, at the time a 7-11. He did not come back to ride with us again, so we named the ride after him.

Some earlier reports of this route, from 2016, 2013, 2012, December 2010 and both summer 2009 and winter 2009.

Update. A few days after the ride, I moderated a presentation on Japan's energy policy by the editor / co-author of a new book on the topic. The cover photo was another "Mt. Fuji, Brought to you by TEPCO, We Own the Wires" photo. Laugh out loud, as they say!

08 October 2018

Okutama 200km brevet

At a stop for water refill near Tachikawa, tree heavy with fruit in the background.
On Sunday I joined the AJ Tamagawa 200km Okutama brevet, my last Audax ride of the year. 

The course was a loop entirely within Tokyo prefecture -- from Koenji down to Haneda, then up the Tamagawa to Fussa, then up the Akigawa to Musashi Itsukaichi, the very popular cyclists' route climbing to Tomin-no-Mori, Kazahari Pass (Elev. 1138 meters or around 3800ft), and down the back of the hill to Lake Okutama. Then back down the Tamagawa to Oume, and along Oume Kaido all the way bak to Koenji.

You can see the ride here on Strava.

What's not to like? Much of this route -- the rural part -- used to be an almost "routine" one day Positivo Espresso weekend sortée, but I have not done it in recent years. These days, if I start the climb up the Akigawa, I always turn left mid-way and go through Kobu Tunnel (Elev. 625m), descending down to Uenohara, with another shorter climb on the return (Otarumi Elev 392m), or maybe instead return by climbing the west side of Wada Pass (Elev. 600m), as these significantly shorten the return to town.

The day before the ride, I printed the cue sheet, downloaded the GPS track and took a closer look at the route. From Koenji to Haneda, we would travel most of the way on Kan-nana Dori. Kan-nana is a major "ring road" and, while cyclists are permitted, it is one of the routes I avoid. Still, with a 6AM start on Sunday in the middle of a 3-day weekend, traffic would be very light, so I thought it must be fine. I looked more. The route would continue via Kan-pachi Dori for at least 7 kilometers, to Shimo Maruko. I had never even considered riding on this part of Kan-pachi, another major ring road and one to avoid. Still, it would be early Sunday, and so must at least not be too dangerous.

The route continued up the Tamagawa, on road, not the cycling path. I prefer road to path on most stretches. But further on, the organizers had us take an almost 10km stretch on Shin-Okutama-Kaido, through Tachikawa and beyond. This is another road I try to avoid, at least the stretch through Tachikawa. Jerome likes it as a fast alternative. I am terrified of the traffic and lack of any shoulder. Still, we would be early on Sunday, and so traffic would be light. ... well, actually, by that point, it would no longer be early, but mid-morning. Traffic might not be so light.
My alarm rang at 445AM Sunday as planned. My bedroom felt hot and humid. Indeed, the passage of a typhoon in the Japan Sea north of Tokyo had brought warm, if sticky weather. The high temperature Sunday would be over 30 degress Celsius. Lack of enough sleep and humid weather had me on the defensive from the get go, but at least I had everything ready to go so just needed to grab a quick bite (and a cup of cold brew coffee), clean up, throw on my cycling wear, get on the bike and shove off, almost sweating from the start. I made it to Koenji by 545AM, well ahead of the 6AM start. 
Bike check 
No bicycle parking allowed!

Really, "no bicycle partking allowed"

In fact, I had been assigned to a 630AM "C wave" of riders, so I need not have rushed. I wished I had slept another 30 minutes ...
The C wave was called, and my bike inspected, so I headed out. No one was following, and I made it through the first traffic signal to cross under Kan-Nana and head South just as the light changed yellow. I made the next few signals likewise just as they changed, and for the next 20-25 minutes I saw no one behind, nor anyone ahead from the B wave that had left 10+ minutes earlier.  I enjoyed a side/tail wind and made good time. Of course, it was nearing 7AM, and there was starting to be traffic on Kan-nana, but manageable. And even on Kan-nana, there are traffic signals, and bicycles cannot take the crossing overpasses, but need to take the surface level exit/entrance ramps, and wait at the signal. 

Shrine gate at the entrance to Haneda Airport
Near our turn off from Kan-nana, I caught up with a large group of B wave riders in a line -- maybe 7 or 8 of them. I joined but found they were going too slowly. In Japan Audax riders are very polite about passing each other. But the result is that sometimes one, slower rider, is pulling for far too long. No rotation. And with infinite traffic signals, a large group is awful. The start-up time to accelerate is very long, and it is impossible to time one's speed to try and sprint through a signal, seeing the walk light change from solid green, to flashing green, to red, and the signal go to yellow. You inevitably get stuck. So I passed the group as soon as practical.

 It was after 730AM by the time I entered Kan-pachi. There was heavy traffic around Kamata (as always), but there were other brevet riders not so far ahead and behind, so at least the cars and trucks would be on the lookout for cyclists. We finally turned onto Tama-dzutsumi Dori and reached the river again at Marukobashi.
Crossing the Tamagawa at Mutsumibashi

Crossing the Tamagawa at Mutsumibashi
From here, the ride upriver was very familiar, and no surprises, just some wind gusting from the front and side to contend with. I made it to Mutsumibashi and the wind seemed to weaken a bit on Mutsumibashi Dori out to Itsukaichi. Our first timed control point was at a Seven Eleven across from Musashi Itsukaichi Station, 79 kms from the start, and over 92 kms from my home. The place was mobbed with cyclists (not from our event) and motorcyclists. Wow. Everyone seemed to have the same idea -- what a great day to head up the Akigawa by bike. But it was getting quite warm now.
Entering the Akigawa gorge area.
As I headed up the Akigawa, I noticed many cyclists coming DOWN the hill already back toward Itsukaichi. Some were alone, but many were in groups, larger and smaller, and many had rucksacks. Cars, motorcycles, and bikes all mixed. Finally, I noticed this sign on the left side of the road:

The road had been closed from 6 to 8AM for the Hinohara Stage, Tokyo Hill Climb. That explained the riders. They had done the Hinohara stage hill climb first thing in the morning, and were headed back down and home. No doubt they had brought an overnight change or warm gear in rucksacks that were delivered at the top. Of course, today no one needed warm gear even on a long descent. The gear stayed in the rucksack.

waterfall at 770m elevation, just past the former tollbooth site.
I really struggled on the climb, overheating if I pushed hard at all on the sections exposed to sun. By now it was almost midday. I had been hot since the beginning of the ride, my feet felt hot. I rested once at the turnoff to Kobu Tunnel. Many riders passed me. ... but as I got back on the bike and continued the climb, I passed many of them. They had just chosen their rest stops a bit further up! I had forgotten that there is actually some up and down, and more up and down, on the middle part of this climb. And the "up" can be steep. I rested again -- laying down -- at a turn off around 600 meters elevation. And rested again briefly at the former toll booth, before a push up to Tomin no Mori. Nothing good about my climbing speed nor these rests, but at least I had plenty of company. The lack of enough sleep, what seemed like a hundred start-stop traffic signals, the heat, and the swirling winds had taken their toll. Still, I knew that once up the hill, I could roll it home, pretty much assured of finishing if I were just careful. So I rested and then continued. 
Tomin No Mori

One reason to avoid the area around Kazahari used to be the motorcyclists who would practice racing through the curved stretches at the top. Then there was a year when motorcyclists were banned, and it was blissfully peaceful.  Well, the motorcyclists are back, and were out in huge numbers on Sunday. I guess after the 6-8AM road closure for a cycling event, they wanted to make sure everyone knew who really "owns" this stretch of road. A group of 6 motorcyclists kept doing a loop between two parking lots near the top -- I think they zoomed past me at least 5 times, some of them passing within inches, as I slogged from Tomin no Mori to their parking lot just shy of Kazahari Pass. I could smell exhaust, and hear their shrill engines, the entire stretch.
Then, I was past their turnaround point. It was like night and day. Peaceful, quiet and beautiful. Then all too soon, I was onto the descent to Lake Okutama, around the lake, and heading down the hill toward Oume. 

The stretch along the lake and the hill toward Oume on Route 411 includes many dark, noisy, damp tunnels. And there was very heavy traffic on Sunday afternoon. At least we were in our Audax gear - reflective vests, good front and rear lights. There were many motorcyclists as well, zipping around the cars and passing, zooming through the tunnels and other stretches. Before long, we came upon the scene of an accident, a car and two motorbikes pulled over, ambulances, police, the whole works. Some time must have passed as the injured were out of sight and the authorities out in force, and the driver of the car was being interviewed by the police. A few minutes later when a Ducati motorbike zoomed around some cars and cut in just in front of me ... I having foolishly left a safe distance between myself and the next car -- I screamed at him. I doubt he could hear. Another ten minutes, and I could hear more emergency vehicle sirens ... they seemed to be coming from across the river, on the bypass route. In Okutama-cho, near the train terminus, I passed a huge new fire station that has been built in recent years. At least the emergency vehicles do not have so far to travel now for these inevitable motorcycle accidents. Another 10 minutes on, I passed two motorcycles with sirens, ridden by blue-uniformed firemen/paramedics racing up the hill. These fire department motorcycles looked outfitted for medical care. I don't remember seeing them before. How many accidents in total?
I once knew that it is best to avoid Route 411 between Oume and Okutama mid-afternoon on a warm weekend day. This was buried somewhere in the depths of my local cycling knowledge. I needed, and got, a reminder.

Wow, Sunday's route included long stretches of Kan-Nana, Kan-pachi and Shin Okutama Kaido, as well as Route 411 (Oume Kaido) tunnels around Okutama and down to Oume ... so many roads that I usually want to avoid, all in a single event!

From Higashi Oume, we cut inland less than 1km on Nariki Kaido then took a road along the edge of the hills. This was a nice route, at least in the Sunday late afternoon. It was noticeably cooler, with the sun far down. I missed the next control point -- a Family Mart across the road -- as I focused on traffic congestion and turning cars at the relevant corner. A few hundred meters further, I approached a brevet rider at a red light. I said "we should be at the control point soon." His response "we just passed it". I thanked him and turned back.

After the control, we took Iwakura Kaido, which goes just along the western edge of the Oume tea fields (茶畑). The sky was beautiful and blue as dusk neared, the fields stretching out to my left. 

The last 30 kms back to the finish was unmemorable. Many, many, endless traffic signals, and long lines of cars. We took Oume Kaido most of the way. The last ~10kms it was a wide road with several lanes each direction, and a real tailwind. But before that, there were long stretches of standing single-file traffic, and bicycles needed to pass in a narrow space wedged against the curb. It was impossible to make good time. At least I felt strong again, fully recovered from the earlier struggle on the climb.

What can I say about Oume Kaido? Well, it is better road into town toward Shinjuku than Koshu Kaido. But not much better. I think there is a very good reason we take the Tamagawa in and out of town to the West and NW.

At the finish there was a party going on. The always professional Yoshida-san logged me in. Naito-san and a team of volunteers were serving us ramen wearing "Ramen Naito" or ラーメンないと t-shirts.  I wondered, is this "Naito" a play on his name and "Knight"? They were like knights to us.

I sat at a table of Audax regulars - Ryuu-san from Saitama Audax, Yoshiaki Philippe, Sugibuchi-san and others. They all did the 5AM start, or just came by for the ramen and company.  The ones who had ridden looked as if they had been at the finish already for hours by the time I arrived. Takemura-san, the head of AJ Tamagawa (now Vice Chair of Audax Japan), sat down and joined me. He said he welcomed me participating and sounded eager to get my help. He struggled in English, but I got the general idea. I think realizes that with a role in the AJ leadership, he will be called upon to coordinate with the global Audax organizations, and he will need help when they hold events that are open to riders from overseas. He said AJ Tamagawa wants to host a 1400km event in 2021, with international participation. I told him that, subject to time, I am delighted to help out.

The ramen was delicious. What type of ramen, I asked Takemura-san? Hakata? Sapporo? Some other region? He said it is "Jiro-inspired".  Jiro-inspired?! Jiro is the famous Tokyo ramen whose HQ shop is just next to Keio Mita campus. A Keio institution, where the line forms before the shop opens in the morning. But if this is Jiro-inspired, where are the bean sprouts? Where is the garlic? The massive portions? Well, he explained it is all in the style of noodle and the broth.  In any event, it tasted delicious:  Perfect noodles, delicious pork (cha-shu), and the salty broth really hit the spot for a dehydrated rider.

I chatted for quite awhile, then got back on the bike and rolled home, bathed and slept. 

06 September 2018

3CR 2018 Ride Report

Near the spot SE of Santa Maria California where Matthew O'Neill was killed by a vehicle on the 2014 3CR
Last week I joined and DNFed the California Central Coast Randonée or "3CR". Actually, I think the word "Mountain" should be added before "Randonée" since the ride does go through and over a number of mountains. Not high mountains, but many mountains.

The weather was better than for any long randonée I have ever joined. Each day I was in California, the morning was cool from a "marine layer" of clouds that eventually burned off for a sunny and warm, even hot but not humid, afternoon. But it was not an easy event, and I did not finish.

To begin with, I am just not in top cycling shape this year. Sure, I did the qualifiers of 200, 300, 400 and 600kms, but have not done regular weekend rides, far more sporadic than a few years ago. And the 400km and 600km qualifiers I chose were not such difficult events. Not easy, but not difficult. I barely finished the 600km within the time limit.

Also, the 3CR has a lot of climbing. I knew that with my extra weight this year (I am now over 100kgs!), it would be a challenge to climb quickly enough to keep up and get enough sleep at the overnight controls. The 1000km version of this event has around 9600 meters of elevation gain. Basically the climbing of an SR600 (over a longer distance), with no extra time allowed.

Third, I did not plan assiduously. I studied the route sheet and GPS carefully really only the morning of the start, while getting a bite to eat at Denny's with David Nakai, one of the California randonneurs. Micky Inagaki would have been very disappointed -- a rider who flies in from Japan and DNFs in part because of lack of careful planning!

But none of these disadvantages would have stopped me if I had just pushed forward. In the end, I just did not have the "must complete at all costs!" attitude needed to finish one of these long rides. Even in the best of conditions, trying to ride 1000kms in less than 75 hours a rider will typically hit some difficulty, somewhere, and need the right attitude to overcome it. In my case, when I hit serious difficulty, I was almost relieved that I had an excuse to stop. I knew that I could use an extra day to recover for the next part of my planned activities during this visit to the US. I needed it and, the way the schedule had worked, would not have had it had I ridden to the finish. I used the extra day to good effect, I hope. No rando-regret!

We started in the dark at 6AM from the Elks Club lodge in Santa Cruz, heading out of town through Capitola, then inland via Watsonville and eventually through the agricultural town of Aromas (which had streets closed for a pedestrian only event -- we needed to ride slowly as the streets were crowded with stalls and strolling locals).

We climbed over a lower set of hills, some of them steep in the cool of the morning, with very light traffic and some beautiful groves of trees. Nice country.
Low traffic volume, cool marine layer of clouds!
After one descent, we came out on another flat agricultural area. I had fallen behind a group on the climb, and caught and zoomed ahead on the descent (a benefit, one of the few, of being a heavier rider). I was enjoying a nice pace as the descent flattened out, and noticed a group had formed behind me.  I felt strong. ... then a rider on a Rivendell pulled up next to me. "Could you slow down, please! There is a gap as Jeff fell behind on the descent - he weighs so little!"  I almost blew up at the rider. I was just riding my ride, and these folks had zoomed past me on the climb.  I almost said "sure, and of course you will wait for me at the top of every climb, right? or better yet climb at my speed and pull me on the way up?" Instead, I said something about my being heavy and slow and this being my best chance to make good time, and pushed on.
At the first control -- a signpost with a code just off the roadway and out of the photo. No/Low traffic.
I soon got my first flat tire of the trip. It was a good chance to take a breather and eat an energy bar.
On the gradual climb from Tres Pinos to Pinnacles, looking back. Still very low traffic.

Eventually we came out on a long flat stretch of agricultural land (the sweet smell of strawberries as we passed strawberry fields ... forever), tacking into a light wind to east and south. After a stop at a mini-store/gasoline stand, I think in Tres Pinos, we entered a long stretch with a gradual climb up to Pinnacles national park where the organizers had set up a control that included water, snacks, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a bench / picnic table for sittin. Even though this was at or near the high point of this section of the ride, we had continuous up and down over the following 10+ kms, then a nice descent into King City.
Bad stretch of road SE of King City ... but note the solar PV to the right hand side.
After King City, we continued on one of the roughest and hottest patches of road to the East and into the next climb. After a first climb and descent, I finally made it into an area of shade where I could rest. Then it was relatively easy going -- a slight tailwind -- to the next PC, set up by the roadside. I fell into a cloth folding chair -- the kind one can buy at a home center in the US that has a cup holder on the right armrest. I was taking it easy, falling back in the pack, but Bill Bryant arrived in his SAG pickup and reported there were 7 riders behind me (out of the 45-50 total).  One of them, Alaor Porcher from Brazil, arrived. Also, as I was about to leave, Henrik Shroeder from Florida. The other five, including a recumbent, were much further back.
Finally, shade!
As I slowed on the climb up Indian Valley Road (tired, and with some stomach issues and "hot feet", stopping pretty regularly), first Alaor and then finally Henrik passed me. There were a couple crazy steep sections near the top, and I could see Henrik dismount and walk up one. I did the same, and we were trading places on the descent. The sunset was very nice, Venus was bright in the sky, eventually joined by a full panoply of stars, then the rise of a full moon. It was a nice ride into Paso Robles, and I pretty much ended riding with Henrik as a pair or at least close by. For whatever reason, I was always faster or slower, not quite the right match, for others on 3CR.
From the top of Indian Valley Road
We had decided to get real food at Paso Robles but it was already getting late (near 11PM?), and so nothing was open in the middle of town except for a bar having a VERY LOUD karaoke contest. I could not stand the jarring noise. I suggested we head for a Denny's (the closest equivalent to the Japanese "Gusto" restaurants). I found it on Google Maps ... but I led us South instead of North toward the wrong end of town, wasting a few precious minutes and some energy. We finally made it to Denny's, which was maybe 1.5-2.0 kms off course. The food was awful and service was slow. I wanted pasta, and the ONLY pasta item on their menu was spaghetti with meatballs. The spaghetti tasted like overcooked processed crap and the meatballs tasted gamey. I ate only 1 of 3 meatballs and maybe 1/2 of the pasta. Henrik ate even less of his order.

Now we had one more climb over the coastal mountains, on Route 46, then a descent and section along Route 1 to the overnight control at Morro Bay. My stomach problems were worse, and so as the climb got steeper I told Henrik to go ahead and pulled off. I had dry heaves, five or six times. At least this proved that I must have digested whatever I had eaten, and I felt much better afterward. It was dense fog and cold near the top, adding time to hunt for the special sign whose code I would write down to prove my passage. I had not brought any really warm clothes, just a very light and thin "water resistant" wind/rain shell, and my lighest pair of arm warmers. Nothing for the legs, shoes, head or hands. I feared I would get very cold on the descent ... but within a kilometer or two I was below the fog, and it was warm enough. Perfect weather, actually. Near the bottom of the hill I passed a rider seated, resting off the road, facing away. I guess it was Alaor. In any event, I made good time to the checkpoint, around 3AM, and Henrik and Alaor arrived a few minutes after me. 370kms, including the Paso Robles detour.

After a very short but deep sleep, day 2 started at around 620AM, just before the control's "closing" time. Many riders who had arrived earlier and gotten a bit more sleep were leaving the control after 5AM. I made it to the first control in Pismo Beach an hour ahead of the closing time. I hoped to make up even more time on the next stretch to Santa Maria, except it looked as if we had LESS time to go MORE distance. And there were climbs on the first half of the segment, followed by heavy agricultural traffic on the second part. This area was not pleasant to look at. Rather it was industrial, heavy agriculture. And there was a lot of crap on the road shoulders. Finally, I figured out that there reason we had LESS time for MORE distance was that on all the info from the organizers (brevet card, list of controls, list of services), the segment was shown as 49.9 kms, whereas on the cue sheet Santa Maria was shown as 43 kms from the prior control. 49.9 kms was just a turn off a road in the middle of nowhere.

Going into Santa Maria, I was still riding with (or trading places with) Alaor and Henrik, and we caught the randonneur who had requested that I slowdown the prior day and his riding partner Jeff -- both on Rivendells. We were in a line going through the city of Santa Maria on crappy road shoulders as I hit a rock that I had not seen because of the two Rivendells ahead. My rear tire immediately flatted and I pulled off. They went ahead without asking.

It was slow going east and south of Santa Maria. There was a wind, and relatively heavy trafffic, and in many places not much of a shoulder.  The Rivendells passed me -- they had stopped for food in Santa Maria whereas I just got a snickers and some water for my receipt proving passage. Instead, I stopped at a general store/cafe in the hamlet of Garey, California. It was a delightful stop with good, fresh food, two women working there who might have been mother and daughter, and locals coming in one-by-one for their made-to-order lunch sandwiches.
Local cattle ranch "brands" in Garey California

Delightful sandwiches, local customers
Finally the road (Foxen Canyon Road) started to climb, a long climb up a valley between two rows of hills, very steep at the top, then descent into Solvang, with another almost 100m steep climb over a bump in the middle. As soon as we were off the valley floor, a vineyard with nice gate, signage, tasting room. There were more, and as Solvang approached they got more dense. It looked like a nice place to come back and stay in a nice resort and

As I started to look for the Solvang control ... I flatted again. This time it was a sharp burr, like a "goathead" but smaller than the ones I had seen in Eastern Washington before. Only one more spare tube in the daily kit.
On the way to Solvang, Foxen Canyon Road

Far Above Solvang
As seen in the movie "Sideways"!  The Blackjack vineyards.
After a nice rest at a burrito place (I ate half a HUGE burrito and took the rest for later snacks), I started the climb back over Foxen Canyon. Henrik and Alaor went ahead, I could not keep up, and i was alone. I needed a cat nap ... but the entire section I could not find anyplace to rest off of the roadway that looked comfortable. I eventually lay down on a driveway outside a closed gate of a vineyard, but the lack of any parks, benches, or other public infrastructure was notable. Private property only.

On the way back to Santa Maria, I passed the spot where Matthew O'Neill was struck by a truck pulling a horse trailer in 2014. There were some forlorn flowers planted in the dusty soil just off the shoulder at one point -- I think that must have been it. It was a flat, straight stretch of road. The shoulder was not rideable, and the sun was in my eyes and those of the drivers, so I was a bit nervous and di not feel safe until I made it to a turn that pointed more to the north ... into the wind.

I finally made it into Santa Maria again ... and immediately flatted on the crap in the roadway. My last spare tube gone. These shoulders ... you might be okay if you ride 10 or 20 or even 30 kms. But ride 100 or 200 or 1000kms, and you will get flats, lots of flats. I will not do this kind of ride again without some serious puncture resistant tires, even if they are less comfortable.

After replacing the tube ... I was getting slower and slower at it ... I continued until I reached a levy along a dry river that went under Route 101. The instructions were for me to go under Route 101, then along a path that paralled the highway. I went under the highway and tried to find the path. My GPS route failed me and the cue sheet was not very specific ... and i wandered all the way across the dry river ... a path partly rideable hard packed dirt/gravel and partly sand.

In the end, I finally found some locals walking their dogs in the dark along the levy who pointed me the right way.

While I had been hunting around in the dark, Henrik and Alaor had eaten dinner. They caught me at a stoplight, and we rode through Arroyo Grande together in the dark. I stopped at a "deli" that had nothing but snacks at night, then continued to along Canyon Creek Road. I missed the checkpoint sign and had to double back 2kms (and a few big up and down dips). As I approached San Luis Obispo from the south, I was hailed by Henrik. Alaor was sleeping in front of another winery gate, and he was also ready to lie down. I joined them and said I would rest 10 minutes. We needed to press on. And if Alaor slept any longer, he would not be able to wake up easily. Just after I lay down, I heard a rumble. It grew louder and louder. Like nothing I had felt before. I almost needed to duck as a jet aircraft passed overhead. ... and landed on a runway for the SLO airport just across the highway! Wow. Forget any idea of sleep. I woke Alaor and we started to saddle up. ... I went ahead, knowing they would catch me eventually. ... and a little further on, I got another flat tire.

It seemed as if it took forever to get a patch to work properly ... I was down to only one more remaining patch. In fact, I went through several false starts. One van drove by one direction then, minutes later, came back the other way. The driver stopped across the street, rolled down his window and asked if I was okay. Yes. Awhile later, a police car drove by. The cop asked if I had enough light. "Yes, almost done".  Anyway, it was getting very late. If I kept going, and did not have any more flats, I would make the overnight control after one more big climb ... with only an hour or two to spare. But could I really ride the next day? And enjoy it?

I went as far as Morro Bay, then checked into a motel, the Harbor House. 290 kms for the day.

It was really so much nicer than the previous night's Motel 6, for only a few extra dollars. I slept until 8AM, arranged to go BACK to SLO and take a train in the afternoon to Salinas, where one of the volunteers could meet me for a short drive back to Santa Cruz.
From Kitty's Kitchen in Morro Bay

I had a lovely breakfast at Kitty's Kitchen in Morro Bay, got a book at the small independent bookshop across the street, and rode via the Morro Bay State Park toward SLO. In SLO, I bought some spare clothes, saw the nice historic center of town (that our ride the day before had bypassed), and hopped the train to Salinas where Sharon, one of the dedicated volunteers, met me and gave me a lift to the Elks Club.
The old mission at SLO

Bears playing sculpture in front of the old mission.

A smoothie bowl for lunch, outside, in SLO.
I got a decent night of sleep, and as I ate breakfast at the motel lobby the next morning, in came a tired randonneur -- he had DNFed -- as had quite a few others -- but made it back to Santa Cruz under his own power. He said the very steep short ramps at the top of the climbs had done him in. Yes, they took a lot out of me, both Indian Valley and Foxen Canyon Roads ... and many more if I had ridden the third day.

660kms in two days was really all I needed to feel that I had gotten in a good long ride. And I was glad to see some of the nicer side of Morro Bay and SLO. But I have got my work cut out for me to be ready for PBP next year!

Thanks to Lois, Bill and all the other volunteers -- especially Sharon who gave me a lift from the Salinas train station back over the hills to Santa Cruz!

Day one route.

Day two route.  (... I stopped at km 285 or so, plus my side trips).

Day three route.  (...  instead I just rode back to SLO (San Luis Obispo).