October 17 – Ventura to Santa Monica – 55 miles (gain/loss 1,300’)
Southern California ambience dominates the route today. In the morning, we ride through urban areas and farmland before reaching the scenic northern Malibu coast. As we get close to the actual town of Malibu, the road gets busier and we see classic California beach homes built right over the ocean. The last few miles of riding are on a bike path winding across the golden sands of the Santa Monica Beach to Santa Monica pier.
Accommodations: The Georgian Hotel, 1415 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica
Stop Press on Craig’s condition
Lewis arranged for Craig to visit a doctor today and we have just heard that he has been diagnosed with two cracked ribs. This explains the pain he has been in, given that he has only been taking painkillers that we have brought with us and hasn’t had anything stronger. Once again, quite an amazing feat for Craig to carry on in so much agony. It shows that he has a huge amount of willpower and fortitude to get through things and just a huge amount of credit to him for carrying on regardless.
It was quite sad in a way that we had reached the final day. It’s fantastic to achieve the goals we set at the start of this trip but I have had such a great time, as have all the lads, I’d love it to go on for longer. The way I feel and the level of fitness that we have built up, it’s quite possible I could now do it all over again in the next 8 days!
We started our journey at 7.45am and needed to press on during the day as Stuart was flying home the same day on a 5.30 flight. So we made good time and didn’t stop for lunch, just eating the fruit, energy bars, pretzels, sweets, energy gels etc that John provided. Considering it was a 60 miler, we did well to do it without anything substantial, given what we normally eat! I think as it was the last day nothing much really mattered.
It was a warm start with nothing other than cycle shirts needed. Today had been designated “orange shirt” day in honour of the orange “Team Danish” (in-joke) shirts kindly provided by Keith over the last few months. There seems to have been some vague qualification criteria at some time, possibly completing a ride like London to Brighton or London to Southend, but whatever it was we had all earned our shirts!
Daren’s Bandana today was very well coordinated, much better than yesterday I thought. It was black and white looking quite smart with his orange top. I however clashed with the red on my shorts an orange shirt!
Breakfast, at 6.30 am, was the worst one of the trip! I was again tired after the internet problems which drove me mad with the blog the night before and I didn’t get to sleep until midnight, frustrated I hadn’t got the days update done. I filled up with waffles plus loads of syrup, coffee, banana and a slice of toast. Not my favourite but thinking about it full of carbs so it would fuel me up for the day.
After Johns last briefing, we lined up of a team photo. As you can see John is in it too and these were taken by an elderly man who hardly seems to be able to walk or see! We were chuckling away at him, quite unkindly as he did a good job!
Most of the days ride was in built up areas or busy roads. The start was very flat and we went along the same route Alan had done the night before for some of his catch up miles. Strange he didn’t say anything for a while when we missed a right turn early on and went a bit wrong! Actually I haven’t been following the turn by turn instructions John provides us with, just following someone that has! However, I was just looking at the graphs and seeing what hills were ahead – it’s quite interesting!
We were all in a good mood and couldn’t believe it was the last day. Clear blue skies again and very hot, so lots of drinking all the time was needed.
We passed Channel Islands Harbour where Lewis has his boat moored. He pointed it out to us from the road bridge. I have to say there is some envy for a lifestyle that allows you to say ” ….let’s go out on the boat this weekend to relax”, which they do quite a bit, because they are able to because of the good weather! Congratulations Lewis for achieving such a lifestyle and making the most of your move to California 25 years ago or so. It’s been great having you with us.
Some of the area was again agricultural with fields in various stages of preparation, planting, growing etc. We went past what looked like a massive area growing grass (the type used for lawns!). Everything here is indeed done on a large scale.
Some of the roads were so long, straight and flat you couldn’t see the end of them. One stretch in particular went on for about 4 miles and was around a big navy base at Port Hueneme, not that we could see much of the proper base although we saw lots of different entrances and out-buildings. There was a missile and plane display which was quite “awesome” and to see named nuclear and other famous missiles that close was interesting to me, but at the same time a reminder of their ugly purpose.
Whilst outside the navy encampment, all of a sudden there was an almighty crash and Craig had fallen off his bike (whilst practically stationary). Given the condition he was in with his ribs it wasn’t a great thing to have happened and he looked like he was in an awful lot of pain. We all stopped the traffic from passing by and he hobbled to the side clearly in a lot of discomfort. He had grazed up his knee but after a while he pulled himself together and carried on. Whilst he was over on the pavement a police car (the third encounter with the police this trip!) pulled up to check everything was alright. I told them everything was ok and they drove off. Quite amazing that the police saw what was going on, but given that we were outside a naval base they must have had cameras everywhere. We continued until our next stop with John, who sorted out Craig’s knee, which included pulling off a bit of skin which had come off, sterilising it and generally patching it up.
We were making good progress and again found ourselves in 2 groups. David, Richard P, Craig and Me in one. All the others had gone ahead. It was a shame we weren’t altogether on the final ride and we hoped they would stop at a reasonable distance from the end so we could all be together. This did happen and we were a compact unit for the last 12 miles to the finish.
The route took us back to the coast and through Malibu. Some amazing properties on the beach side and in the hills overlooking. Big gated driveways with no chance to see what’s behind.
We had now got into the hilly section between 20 and 47 miles. They weren’t long or steep compared to others in the trip and I was going up the first, thinking this is worryingly and unexpectedly hard work when I looked down at my gears to see what was happening. I realised I was using my “big,” front cog. For those of you that don’t know, this cog is what we normally use for flatter or downhill sections. The small front one makes it a lot easier! As I was only a few hundred metres from the top I left it as it had now become a bit of a challenge and it certainly worked my legs. At the top, I decided to try and keep in the big front cog all the way to the end? Why? Good question? Well it was really to test myself again, see if I could figure out how much extra fitness and power I had, push myself a little with mind over matter as it would undoubtedly hurt a bit at times and just because it seems a fun thing to do!
Anyway that gearing resulted in more speed up the hills and the other 3 must have wondered what I was doing! I explained to David, my hill buddy, who wished me luck! Did I do it, well yes, of course – including the steeper bits at Zuma Beach! It wasn’t easy and there were several hills of different lengths.
I was very pleased and it underlined once again just what we can do if we push our comfort zones that bit further. What happens when we do this is that the comfort zone grows, old targets become the norm and so we need to keep pushing boundaries to achieve more. I have heard that said at various personal development courses and understood the concept. I think the hills episode today gave me a personal, physical rendition of how it happens and what it feels like. Will stop the philosophical bit and get on with the rest of the day now!!!
The coast here is just immense. Miles on miles after miles of fantastic beaches. It’s sensational (new word found at last rather than fantastic). Wonderful views, with the sea and the hills. I will miss it very much, this is my kind of place!
We met up for the last drink and food stop with 12 miles to go by Malibu pier and set off again altogether for the last stint. We were all still in good moods and looking forward to the finishing line by passing through the tunnel under Santa Monica pier. After a few miles we turned onto the bike track that went literally on one the beaches. 4 miles to go!
The pier got closer and closer and excitement grew. Past cyclists, joggers, walkers, beautiful bodies sunbathing, it was all a classic Californian beach scene, and we were cycling through it!
Then came the moment. A group of orange shirted fifty something men cycled under the pier cheering, can’t happen that often! We didn’t seem to get that many strange looks, so perhaps it does, this is America after all!
I felt elated, pleased, satisfied, exceptionally well and proud of myself and the group. What a journey from 18 months ago, what a trip, what next?
Then we walked our cycles to the end of the pier for more photos, went to the hotel, said goodbye to Stuart who left for his plane and walked back to the pier for lunch (thank you very much Lewis, very generous of you) with a nice cool beer to celebrate. Back to the hotel to shower and change.
Then it’s back to clearing e-mails and normal life! Fortunately I have a few more days here to relax and see some old friends. The others go back Friday and I leave Saturday.
There is more to say, so this won’t be the last blog. But the cycling is over, although the journey continues! (I am feeling philosophical today!)
The stats for the day were
Distance: 59.8 miles
Speed: 13mph average
Time in saddle: 4hrs 36minutes
Total ride: 7.45am – 1.40pm
A wopping £3,300 or roundabouts has been raised for The Stroke Association and Redbridge Jewish Care – thank you all so much – it was all worthwhile and I am so incredibly grateful to you all.