The route on day 1

The below is what our itinerary states that we should embark on today:

San Francisco to Santa Cruz – 85 miles (gain/loss 3,900’)
From San Francisco (Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf), our biking odyssey begins with an out and back on the Golden Gate Bridge and then rides through the Presidio and down to Half Moon Bay on a hilly and sometimes urban route. Once past Half Moon Bay, Highway One levels outs and our route down the coast feels like it’s a million miles away from the city. Numerous state parks and beaches line the route, as well as an historic lighthouse. We end the day in the surfer town of Santa Cruz, with its famous pier and boardwalk, where the laid back California lifestyle was practically invented.
Accommodations: Hampton Inn, 1505 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz

The motley crew

We eventually got going at around 8.45 am because John, the mechanic/guide guy, got held up coming into San Francisco as one of the bridges had an accident on it.  We were all fuelled up and ready to go by about 8 am so there was a lot of hanging around, nervous energy and so on, but it gave us a chance to try our bikes out up and down the street which was OK.

It was a bit overcast but fairly warm when we set off.  Our route took us around the coast to the Golden Gate Bridge which was quite an amazing experience, completely awesome – as they say.  As you can imagine we were all quite excited and having a good time.

At the Golden Gate Bridge

After crossing the bridge we made our way further down the coast and hit an absolutely amazing vista. In front of us there was a massive long beach and cliffs and so on, it was a real wow!  We all stopped and realised that this was the sort of scenery that we were going to enjoy along the whole route.

There were four really big hills today, three of them were before lunch.  The first was a bit of a killer and none of the others, on thinking about it, were much better!

The first 35 miles which took us to Half Moon Bay in time for a nice sunny lunch at a Mexcian restaurant, seemed relatively uneventful (bike-wise – not scenery-wise), except that David went off up a hill and got detached from the rest of us missing a turn, but eventually joined up a fair while later!

After lunch however, it became quite eventful and the ride got very much harder. The roads became very undulating with one extremely long climb.  John has explained to us that the hills we are to encounter on future days will be longer but not as steep and not as bad – well, we will just have to wait and see about that!

After around 60 miles Alan who had unfortunately been finding the ride particularly difficult was struggling  with his breathing and very low energy levels and decided he had had enough for the day, which actually was a wise decision at that time, despite his disappointment and frustration.

Richard, Richard, Craig and I had stayed with Alan whilst the others had gone off ahead, so at this point we were riding in two groups. We were all finding it pretty tough at this stage and were all quite tired and still jet-lagged. Even though we were keeping our bodies fuelled it was very very hard.  The hills that were meant to flatten out and even the small ascents felt difficult but we had known it was going to be a hard day, so just got on with the job in hand.

Some of things that happened to our group along the way were;

  • That the weather got cloudy and cold
  • We got caught out in a big rain storm
  • Richard P punctured his front wheel
  • Craig fell off on the shoulder of the cycle lane – thankfully he was ok
  • I fell off because I caught my front tyre in some sand that had blown onto the hard shoulder – I was also ok.
  • Richard P then had a puncture in his rear tyre!

By the time all of these events had happened and  Richard had repaired his rear tyre puncture  it was around 6 pm and starting to get dark. John our tour guide said he wanted us to stop because we were still on a highway and there were no road lights.   However as three out of the four of us had lights on our bikes we told him ‘there was no way we were stopping and we had to do the whole thing’, he reluctantly agreed.  So, for the next hour and a half we cycled in convoy with the two Richards at the front, Craig in the middle (he had hired a bike that had no lights on) and me at the back. Good teamwork we thought!

John then drove ahead so that when we got into town he guided us through by just driving slowly in front of us to make sure we cycled to the hotel without too much difficultly.  I think without his guidance we would have had a problem finding our way to the hotel and the guys who had cycled on in front apparently did have a few problems finding their way.

Just as an aside John has also suggested that some of the guys should upgrade the gears/cogs on their bikes to help them with the hills.

Lewis considering cog sizes!

Our long cycle ride ended around 7.45pm, all absolutely shattered.  We were too exhausted and too late to go the restaurant that was booked for us so instead went out for a quick bite to the wonderful establishment of Denny’s next door (horrible greasy food but it filled our stomachs) before crashing out at 10.30pm!

Our 91 mile ride averaged around 12.5 hours miles per hours and we spent 7 hours 20 minutes in the saddle!

So to sum up a little, it was a day of massive swings and changes.

The euphoria at the start, even though it was a bit delayed, was really, really great.  The feeling going over The Golden Gate Bridge was amazing observing this spectacularly engineered iconic structure.  It was quite emotional in a way and I had a big grin on my face – in fact I think everyone did.  It would have been lovely to have finished the bike ride with this, but that wasn’t to be and we all  enjoyed the special  moment.  I think it was everything that everybody wanted it to be. The rest of the day can be summed as a hard grind – but we achieved it!

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