22 April 2012

Cyling from Orange County to San Diego

When I was fifteen or so I rode my bike every weekend from Mom's house, over the 205 bridge, down Airport Way, over I-5's green bridge, and down Hwy 14 home. One day I even had the gumption to ride from Mom's house to downtown Portland.

Powered by nothing more than oatmeal and a Melissa Etheridge mix tape, I pedaled my Trek 720 in sun, wind and rain (sometimes all at the same time). Then I turned 16, got the '95 Mirage and it was all over. See ya, bike!

Not my exact bike, but close enough.
The Trek 720 actually made it here to Orange County. About 18 months ago I started riding it again - just to San Clemente and back (about 20 miles) every weekend. I was proud of little black bike. It had fenders, a gel seat and a loud (but friendly) bell. It also weighed about 25 pounds.

I think Tom must have been really desperate for a riding buddy because he got me this hellaciously awesome carbon fiber ride (only 15 lbs). It even has small-person-sized handle bars which had to be special ordered. I added a bell because, well, more on that later. I was forbidden to add fenders or a kickstand. I guess I can live without both of those since doing a road ride in the OC on a rainy day, well, that could be a ride you never come back from. All it takes is one distracted bimbo going 50mph to swerve into the bike lane and The End.

So anyway, now that I have this bitchin' bike, I've been able to ride a lot farther. Today I did my first ride to San Diego solo.  I've ridden there before, but this was my first time alone. Usually I draft Tom, but today I could just let my mind wander... for five hours. Thus this blog post.

Mental Progression / Digression When Cycling Long Distances

Usually when the ride starts out, I feel kinda meh for the first 5-10 miles. I think about the hours of riding ahead and think, normal people drive to San Diego. Then I imagine how delicious a grilled cheese sandwich and a beer will taste at the end of the ride. Hell, I can have two grilled cheese sandwiches and two beers!*

* The only downside to the two beers is that I after taking the train back I have to bike another three miles back to the house.

At any rate, about 10 miles (30-40 minutes) into the ride, I am in the groove. At 15-20 miles I take a stretch break and eat the first of many snacks. Deep down I think I've taken up long-distance cycling because I get to eat constantly. Every hour I get half a granola bar, or some peanut butter pretzel bites, or my favorite: snack waffles. Oh how I love them.

The waffles I try save for a special occasion. Often, at the beginning of the ride, I pledge to eat my waffle at 50 miles as a reward. Sometimes I need extra encouragement though and I say to myself, you've been good - you can eat half the waffle at 30 miles and have the rest at 50. Then I eat the other half of the waffle at 31 miles.

My good friend Molly pointed out: I could just sit on the couch and eat waffles. While this is true, I must resolve to only eat them on the bike at least 30 miles from home.

So back to the ride. Next I go through San Onofre which some of you may know as a popular surf spot. For others it's the nuclear power plant off I-5 that looks like boobs.

From there I go through Camp Pendleton Marine Base towards Oceanside. This 20 mile section is possibly the best part of the ride. There's either a dedicated bike path,  a long string of parking lots and camping spaces, or a street with very little traffic. This is usually when you get to say hello to other cyclists out there on the road. Usually it's just a head nod or good morning, but some people chat for a minute or two.

I felt kind of super today when I told folks I was riding to San Diego, no one else was going that far. I did, however, get passed a lot. I didn't mind though because I had a long haul ahead. When those riders were home washing their spandex, I was still on the road.

Oceanside is what I consider the halfway point. It's actually a little more than halfway, but the hard part is ahead: the dreaded Torrey Pines hill. We'll get to that in a moment.

First there are a series of quaint beach towns between Oceanside and San Diego. Scenic PCH (aka Hwy 101) is the route through them with oceanviews and a shitload of cars and pedestrians. There's a dedicate bike path which is nice, but to the right is all the parking. So you have to constantly be aware of traffic on your left and yahoos on the right who suddenly open their car doors or back out without looking. There are also random surfers (very respectful) and families (totally oblivious - making me wonder if it's possible to wear out a bike bell).

Each beach town has a downhill to the ocean followed by a medium-small uphill climb into the next town. The hills aren't bad once you know how many to expect and pace yourself, but the first time I wondered when is this going to end? After riding through Carlsbad, Cardiff, and Leucadia, I thought the last town (Solana Beach) was next, but then we saw the sign for Encinitas. Which prompted me to yell alound "F*ck You, Encinitas!"

Apparently the 45 mile mark is when I get punchy. This is when other riders pass me and I start to care. I don't try to catch them, but I think: that person is a coward, I bet he only started from Oceanside. I keep these things to myself, try to stay positive, focus on the smoothie I get to eat in Solana Beach.

After my smoothie break, I tackle the worst part of the ride: Torrey Pines. Did I say worst? I meant: most-challenging. This is where a 15lb bike is your best friend. This is also when I think:

I am mentally ill. 

This is what a car is for.

I mutter these things under my breath. Today I said aloud, "F*ck you Torrey Pines. I will prove my hatred for you by riding to the top of you!" I'm sure the ten-thousand-year-old quasi-mountain shuddered in fear.

The photo below is of Torrey Pines I borrowed from someone else's blog. Pretty, but also evil.

I stole this photo from Mike Nakata's blog.
I don't know who you are, but thanks.
I also borrowed this graphic from Mike.
Torrey Pines hill is about a mile and a half. It's not super-steep, but it's long. It takes me at least two songs to ride up. Inevitably my iPod shuffle comes up with a tune I put on there as a joke - such as Cher's techno-hit Believe. When I put Believe on my riding mix I thought: ha ha, this will be hilarious. It was not, in fact, hilarious. Sometimes I hate Megan from the past.

Okay, so, once I'm up and over Torrey Pines I've ridden about 58 miles. There's another 12 or so miles to go, smooth sailing right? WRONG. Though the hill is over, the worst roads are ahead just past La Jolla. There's nothing like having your bones rattled on a bumpy road after being in the saddle for over four hours. You know what though? These challenges are what makes that beer and grilled cheese taste so good.

There's a good stretch through Mission Bay that isn't bad. There are also a couple miles just before downtown where airplanes come in really low just before landing at San Diego's airport. That's pretty cool. Just after that you see the skyline and whoo-baby that's a great feeling.

Anyway, there you have it. I don't know how interesting this will be to folks reading it back home. Hopefully you had a laugh or at least understand what goes on in the mind of a long-distance cyclist. At least this one.

If you have any good workout songs, please email me or leave a comment below. The ride itself takes just over four and a half hours of pedaling, but the complete travel time (waiting at stop lights, stopping to stretch) takes five and a half. I could use some fresh tunes!

By the way, the distances I ride are comparatively mundane when you talk about real distance cycling. I feel like I could do a century (100 miles in one day) but there are everyday people who do 150 miles in a weekend. At the extreme end is the Race Across America. These guys (and gals) make it from San Diego to Atlantic City in 8-10 days. There's a move about them called Bicycle Dreams.


Unknown said...

I have many of those same thoughts when I'm on a long run...especially the, "you are mentally ill" comment.

Nuzul Romadona said...

Di kampus ITS, Surabaya, Indonesia...
Sekarang juga lagi digalakkan program GOWES...
Yaitu naik sepeda ke kampus...
Lumayan bisa mengurangi polusi.. ;)

Unknown said...

I love this. Ok, so I think you're crazy, but I am highly entertained by the distilled version of your eight-hour internal monologue.

Ben Dayhoe said...

Awesome read :)

A good friend of mine equates the Torrey Pines hill to a last boss in a Mega Man video game as it continuously grinds down your energy (and energy refills) until you are beaten or emerge victoriously, drenched in sweat.

On a side note, I'm planning a Santa Ana > Downtown San Diego ride in the coming weeks.

Wish me luck!

Anonymous said...

I recently took a train to San Luis Obisbo from Irvine then rode my bike home. 261 miles and I'm NOT a cyclist by any stretch of the imagination. It took me 48 hours and it was a zoo. I want to try and get from Newport Beach to Mexico boarder then home in one day. 200 miles. Yikes