Since this is a big ride and every hotel within 30 miles of Solvang was booked solid, I stayed at an overpriced 'inn' in Santa Barbara - of course, just about everything is overpriced in Santa Barbara, including the gas, the parking and the air.
I drove up to Solvang Friday night to get checked in and check out the bike expo:
|This is only the back half of the line. It curves around and goes into the hotel.|
The expo was really cool with some great prices on stuff I don't need. I bought a nice low-profile helmet for $30, and a graphic jersey for $25. I wanted more stuff, but I have to keep the budget in mind.
A few other friends were at the ride as well, doing the metric century, so after we got our packets, we headed to dinner at a local restaurant which was having an all you can eat pasta special.
|Mmmm.. Pasta. The place was packed with cyclists carbing up.|
I headed back to the hotel, and managed to get about 5 hours of sleep, which is about normal for me.
The next morning, as I pulled into Solvang at 6 am, the temperature readout on my dashboard read 32 degrees. As in freezing 32 degrees. With heavy fog. This presented a dilemma on my part. Bundle up to stay warm on the first part of the ride, and then have to figure out where to stow all the additional clothing as this ride doesn't allow one to drop clothing at SAG stops, or wear a manageable amount of clothing and freeze for the first part of the ride?
Since the weather forecast called for a high of about 78, I opted to freeze early and have less weight later.
|Fog, lifting, although it was still so cold I couldn't feel my hands.|
Although it was ultimately the correct choice, I regretted it for the first 20 miles. I couldn't feel face, feet or hands, but the hands were the worst. They were so cold I was having trouble pulling the brake levers.
After SAG 1 at 20 miles, it warmed up to 'brisk'. It was still chilly, but at least I could feel my extremities.
|The madness of SAG 1. It was packed.|
This was, by far, the biggest ride I've done. There were several thousand participants, and while I'm certainly not stating that everyone who rides a road bike is a douchebag, it did seem like everyone who rides a road bike and happens to be a douchebag decided to do Solvang.
Although the ride organizers had asked riders to please share the road by staying to the right, there were packs of riders blocking traffic, team riders blowing past and cutting off slower riders, passing on the right, etc..
Lucky for me, there were also some very, very nice folks riding with us slowpokes.
Once the clouds burned off, we entered the beautiful rolling hills. My friend was trying to maintain 16 mph average, which is too fast for me, but I stubbornly tried to keep up with her.
|Riding on the shoulder of the 101 freeway|
About mile 50 I pulled into SAG 2 and realized I'd gone out too fast and burned my legs. I broke the bad news to said friend that I wasn't going to be able to keep up with her, so she shouldn't feel bad about leaving me.
|The riders thinning out after SAG 2. This was about mile 55.|
The roads through most of the ride were really, really rough. California's not known for our smooth highways, but some of these roads were just insane. I didn't take very many photos because between the roads and the wind gusts I was afraid to take my hands off the handlebars.
The rough ride made the patches of smooth pavement seem just like heaven, though.
At mile 70, we started a gentle climb (well, it would have been gentle had it not been at mile 70) past some wineries. I was getting tired from the climbing and the wind, so I slowed down and chatted with a very nice lady until about mile 80, when I decided to speed up a bit as I didn't want to be out on course too late.
|Blue skies and a decent road.|
Right after mile 81, I heard the ominous metallic clank of something going very, very wrong with my bike.
Turns out, it was a broken spoke.
Which is good because eventually it's a simple and inexpensive fix, but bad because with another 20 miles of steep climbing, it meant my ride was pretty much over.
There was no emergency number on the route sheet, so I asked one of the passing cyclists to please inform the folks at SAG 4 that there was a rider on the course with a mechanical problem. Since I had no way to detach the spoke from the wheel (the one thing I don't bring...), I had no choice but to wait. But I'm impatient, so I walked. Up a hill. In bike cleats. Fun.
Also, since I have the plastic Look style cleats, they were pretty much wrecked from what turned out to be about a two mile slog.
Eventually, my savior appeared - a volunteer in a minivan who very, very kindly drove me back into Solvang.
Since there were no timing chips, it's not like it counted, and I did get to go over the very, very steep hill in a car.
Then, I stowed my bike and consoled myself with french fries and sausage at one of the local Danish-themed restaurants.
I caught up with my friends, all of whom finished their rides, and we poked around the expo a bit more until the insane traffic jam died down.
Solvang, while a quaint and lovely town, really can't handle the traffic of 4,000 cyclists all driving away at once.
When I got back to the hotel, I went for a swim in the pool and a soak in the hot tub, which I know isn't really good for my muscles, but boy did it feel good.
The next day, I got up, went for a Recovery Swim in the pool, had a Recovery Hot Tub, followed by a Recovery Omelet and a Recovery Bloody Mary at a local cafe.
I then packed up the car (tip: always bring a sealable bag for stinky clothes), and headed home, stopping at the outlet mall in Camarillo for some Recovery Shopping.
This will be the last out-of-town event until Vineman in July, so I can start doing some shorter rides, thankfully!