Itinerary – October 16 – Lompoc to Ventura – 85-90 miles (gain/loss 3,100’)
A long day, but most of the riding is relatively level along the coast. We start the day along an isolated stretch of Highway One meandering through rural areas before joining US 101 for significant stretches around Santa Barbara. US 101 is a busy freeway through this stretch, but this is the designated Pacific Coast bike route and there are large shoulders, along with stunning views over the ocean. Mid way through the ride we’ll pass through the opulence and sandy beaches of Santa Barbara. South of Santa Barbara we pass through a series of small coastal communities and some of the riding is back on US 101.
Accommodations: Best Western Plus Inn of Ventura, 708 E Thompson Boulevard, Ventura
I apologise to all the blog fans for this being late, but we had internet issues at the hotel last night. There were internet connections but nothing seemed to be sending in or out, which was very frustrating. But, eventually, here it is.
I can’t believe so much can happen in a day so grab a coffee and settle down for this mammoth day!
The below is an excerpt from our itinerary about our Route Support and Daily Logistics:
Each participant is furnished with a route map and directions, as well as an optional handlebar map case. Every morning the guide is available by the van with tire pump and tool kit to assist with any bike mechanical needs. Cyclists usually bring their own luggage to the van in the morning before breakfast. In the morning the guide also gives a route talk (usually after breakfast at the van) and then you are free to depart on your bike at your own pace. After loading luggage, the van provides route support, typically driving up through the group until it passes the first rider, then parking until the last rider passes and repeating the process through the day. Toward the end of the day, the van drives ahead to the next hotel to drop off luggage, usually a little before the first riders in the group arrive. After dropping off the luggage, the van returns to the route if there are riders still on the route and stay out until all cyclists have finished (or are very close to the hotel). All cyclists will have the cell phone number for the guide, but be aware that there are certain sections of the coast (particularly along the Big Sur stretch) where cell phone coverage is minimal to non-existent.
Because it was to be a very long day we were up at 5.50am for a 6.30am breakfast after only 6 hours sleep. Truthfully I didn’t feel on top form and it was a real struggle to get going.
To wake me up I tried coffee in the room, coffee for breakfast, energy drink and energy gel. All seemed to work eventually. Breakfast was cheese omelette, banana, orange and apple juice mixed (Neil style), 2 pancakes with syrup. Enough carbs and sugar to fuel me up for the long ride!
Today we travelled from Lompoc to Ventura, 93.25 miles, the longest day of the tour. The terrain was uphill for the first 20 miles going up at various degrees but more or less a constant, constant climb. After the 20 mile mark we had 2.5 miles of steep downhill and then it was relatively level for the rest of the day. There were a few hills later on but nothing too bad.
Our briefing was at 7am to start our journey as soon as possible thereafter. After the usual briefing, stretching, filling up of water bottles and so on, we all set off with rain jackets on, as even though the sun was up and the sky was clear blue, there was a bit of a chill in the air. We discarded our jackets pretty quickly as the air had warmed up rapidly.
We started off through the town of Lompoc, which was fairly big and spent a good few miles on a normal freeway. We were travelling on Highway 1 towards Santa Barbara and continued on that until it met US 101 going south. The road was quite busy but the hard shoulder, as usual, was fairly good. There were a few hairy moments where we had to take a lot of precaution because the hard shoulder disappeared and there was a narrow bridge with two lanes on. We had to make sure we timed our run over the bridge so that we didn’t get squashed between two lorries for example. The traffic was quite light so this was a relief.
During the long uphill climb I noticed I had a flat. I was a little bit upset because I was hoping to get through the whole holiday without one, but that wasn’t to be. When I stopped and looked, what had happened was that a great big blue piece of plastic with a drawing pin end sticking out of it, had punctured straight through the middle of my tyre and was squashing the tyre flat as if someone had pushed the drawing pin through. I was cycling with David at the time and he called John, although I started to do the repair myself. This involved removing the spike, replacing the inner tube and putting the tyre back on. John did turn up to help and I let him complete the job.
The repair didn’t last too long and it gave David and I an opportunity to have a quite fast pedal to catch up with the others, who we found out were waiting at a rest area off the highway a few miles further up.
It was another boiling hot day. It seemed to be even hotter than before. I had tried to fix my sunglasses in the morning with the toolkit that John had bought and managed to get the lense back in. Sadly as I put them on the lense just popped out again so there is no hope for repair at present, but hopefully once I get to a bigger town I can get them sorted out.
The 2.5 mile run down from the top of our ascent was fantastic. My speed was around 30 to 35 mph, which sounds very fast – and it is- but by now we had had plenty of practice of that and I felt quite in control. I definitely got my top speed of the day during this descent! I think that’s it now for the big downhill runs and even though they were scary at times, they were just great fun.
We stopped for lunch at 1pm, around 45 miles and I had a tuna baguette, a white chocolate cookie and some pepsi. The problem came when I got back on the bike and I felt quite queasy for a little while – which is probably quite understandable considering what I had eaten and drunk! We had tried to have a quick half an hour lunch break this time. As it is quite difficult getting back on the bike after we have stopped for much more than a half hour. Everything seems to seize up and it takes a good hour or so to warm up and get back into the flow of things. As we had a long day we tried to keep things really quick.
After the lunch stop we carried on through a fairly urban area and as we turned the corner there was a creaking, rustling, crashing sound. A great big brown branch fell and just missed Richard P’s shoulder, probably just brushing him as it fell to the ground. Richard had been cycling just in front of me and if it would been a few seconds later or he would have been slightly to the right, it would have hit him or me with some considerable force. We pulled over straight away, a little bit shaken, to see what had happened and simply a dead branch had fallen off from a very high palm tree. There was nothing we could have done to have stopped or avoided it, it was just one of those freaky timing things. A very close shave you could say and equally a very odd thing to have happened. We just checked everything was ok and simply carried on!
We hadn’t seen much of Alan since mid-morning and as he missed 20 or so miles on the first day, there had been much discussion as to if or how or when or where he was going to make up the miles. Alan had wanted to do this to ensure that he had cycled the same amount as everyone else along the way somehow. He seemed to be in his stride and carried on on his own for most of the day. The last time I saw him before we arrived at the hotel at the end of the day was as we were arriving for lunch – and he was leaving!
Alan had made really good headway and aimed to make up the extra miles on the end of the 92 mile ride, which was really some mission. He managed to put on an extra 17 or 18 miles when he got a puncture. By this time it had got dark and John had to rescue him to bring him back to the hotel. Alan was a little disappointed because he hadn’t managed to make up all the mileage, but he had done brilliantly to do as much as he had.
At one stage Lewis had very kindly offered to take him back to the exact point in the ride that he had missed on our free day, this Thursday, so that he could do exactly the same route. This has turned out to be unnecessary as he has achieved the extra miles today.
We returned to the coast and saw some beautiful wide beaches that seemed to go on for many many miles and we again had some lovely scenery with the mountains on our left and the sea on our right.
Craig was doing very well today, as it was such a long ride. However, it is clear that he is in a great amount of discomfort. It is possible he has cracked a rib and he has terrible trouble getting on and off the bike, but Craig being Craig smiles through it, gets his head down and pushes through the pain. I did mention at one point that it wouldn’t be one of our adventures if he hadn’t done something to his chest given the problems he had on Kilimanjaro. I am not sure he was very amused!
Today Daren was sporting a red bandana and matched it with an orange shirt. I am not exactly a one to comment on colour and style, but to me, it didn’t quite hit the spot!
We went a little bit off route at one point (but not for too long) which took us through some car parks to a pretty view over a big bay. We couldn’t continue down this route any further as the path actually ran out!
Later we went through a neighbourhood called Hope Ranch which was full of enormous houses with massive frontages, clearly a very affluent area. I think there were some golf courses nearby too.
The weather was extremely hot still and we were drinking loads of water and generally looking after ourselves. Mostly I was feeling ok. We were all getting a lot fitter as the trip was progressing and there were no more hills that day to get in our way.
If someone were to ask me to go our cycling in 80 degrees heat at home I think that it would not be their greatest idea! However, given the speed we cycle at, averaging 12 mph or so each day, you get a nice cooling breeze as a result. One has to be careful of dehydration and obviously the sweat gets dried up quite easily because of the wind effect. It is quite pleasant in that heat but any much hotter and I think it could get oppressive.
We went past one road named Santa Claus Drive, which I thought was quite cute and could only be in America!
Stuart seemed to follow Alan’s lead of cycling alone today and a little while after lunch he broke away and we didn’t meet up with him again until we got to the hotel. I think he just fancied getting his head down and get there because the mileage was so great.
Because of all the water we were taking we needed to have regular stops. One stop was when we met up with John to refill our water bottles, eat some fruit and energy bars and generally get off the bike for a few minutes. At this stop I need to find a suitable tree. Unfortunately it was quite an open area and there wasn’t one available and followed Richard Pearlman’s lead to use an area by some scrubland and a chain mail fence. Whilst I was in mid-flow, a voice came out of some loudspeakers behind me, “Do you think that is a suitable place to urinate?” I stopped immediately to look round. There was a police car stationary about 10m away from me, by an on-slip to the freeway with a policeman in it calling to me over his loudspeakers. I don’t think I have jumped out of my skin like that for a long time and it really was very funny. I waved to the policeman and apologised which he seemed to be happy with and I moved away quite quickly! Strangely enough, whilst I was at the fence, I saw a $5 bill lying on the ground so I went back to pick it up (it was still dry). I think I shall keep that as a memento of that particular event! John explained that urinating in a public place or being caught urinating in a public place can be a serious offence in the USA as it is effectively seen as exposing yourself in public and that carries quite a lot of penalties and issues, as one can understand. I have been very careful since then to use discreet places out of any possible public view!!!
With about 30 miles left to go, we went back on the highway and the surface was bad. There was a lot of debris on the side of the road from blown out tyres, bits of glass and so on which we had to steer around. One had to really concentrate to miss dents in the surface which could puncture tyres and generally cause us problems.
Once of the biggest aches and pains that I seemed to be developing was in my arms, both my forearms and biceps. I think this is because I had not done much upper body preparation as part of my training and arms seem to take a lot of the weight of your upper body and also a lot of shock-absorbing through the handlebars. It is nothing that serious, just strange to think that my legs don’t feel that stiff and my arms feel worse.
At one stage on the highway Lewis ran over a couple of feet of a metal right-angle discarded at the side of the road. This gave his bike a major puncture and more than that the tyre had a great big chunk cut out of it. I stayed with him to repair it whilst the others continued, as it was starting to get fairly late in the day. We wheeled the bikes up the highway several metres and into the driveway of a house. Lewis had something called a goot, which is like a great big thick plaster that he put over the hole in the tyre. This fortunately held as it would have been very difficult for John to find his way back down the highway to wherever we were.
It took a fair time to repair the puncture because it was a tricky, major job but we set off again as soon as we could. Because there was a fairly large hole in the tyre, albeit repaired, Lewis wanted to take it slow, which we did and that was fine by me. This was roughly at the 80 mile mark, with around 12 miles to go. We then continued about 6 miles on the highway which was very busy with the evening traffic and the rest of the miles along a side road. Along this road were a huge number of RV’s (Recreational Vehichle) parked. They had extendable windows coming out to make the room bigger and were absolutely huge. On our right as we cycled were golden beaches as far as you could see, people surfing, people on the beaches and it was really very very nice.
Just as an interlude to the story of our day I thought I would again return to the subject of my undercarriage which, for your information was coping fairly well at this point in the trip. I had worked out which were my most comfortable shorts and had saved them for the last two days, especially as today was our longest mileage. Fortunately, they proved to be very comfortable and did the trick, but for extra protection I added the additional padding from lunchtime onwards. Once I had added this padding, I felt really very comfy! My general observation is that those who had the cheaper shorts had the sorest bottom!!!
One of the benefits of stopping to help Lewis was that we were delayed so long that it was that the sun was starting to set over the beach and sea. This was absolutely spectacular. Beautiful colours of pink and gold and one of the nicest sights I have seen in a long, long time. It was also nice because as the sun went down the temperature cooled off and made the cycling even more pleasant.
As we were cycling in to Ventura, John came around the corner to meet us as he had arranged to take Lewis to a bike shop (which closed at 7pm) to get his tyre changed and his bike sorted out because he also had two gears that weren’t working properly. These gears were the two gears that would take him up hills the easiest, so they were pretty important. When John met us, he had just heard that Alan had also had a puncture and need to go and help him, so Lewis took himself to the bike shop!
We got back to the hotel around 6.45pm after 11 hours. It had been a long day, but really nice. Although we felt tired at the end of it, we still felt that we could have carried on if we had needed to. Very different from the first day when we were all completely shattered, so obviously our fitness has come on during the week.
As a reward, after a quick shower, I went in the Jacuzzi with David, Richard R and Daren and we had a bit of a laugh about the day. We went out for a nice meal a few blocks away and we returned about 10 pm when the internet problems started and I couldn’t send this blog!
Stats for the day
On the road 7.45 am
Distance: 93.25 miles
Speed 12.4mph average
Highest Speed: 37.3mph
Time in Saddle: 7 hrs 31 minutes
Calories used on top of normal: approx 5,800