Thursday, May 29, 2014

MDR 2014 day 3: San Simeon to San Luis Obispo


Day 3 of the MDR is the "recovery day". It's also the day of Gregg Ferry's descending contest. Janine the night before had declared the traditional 9:00 roll-out was to be replaced with a 9:30 roll-out to provide more time for rooms to be made ready at the destination hotel, which was this year to be the Rose Garden Inn in SLO. I was a bit disappointed, as I like SLO and preferred to spend the extra half hour there, but so it was. We rolled at 9:30 sharp.

To breakfast

I was with Peter, and had mentioned to him that tomorrow was quite hard enough, and had no interest in following Michael Rowe, who was doing an extra climb, up Highway 46. Highway 46 is a busy road with wide shoulder, so climbing it has only the attraction of training, and I was getting plenty of that already. So we rolled as a group to Cambria, the traditional breakfast place. As we got to the turn-off, David Hover continued straight with some others to ride further, to Pismo Beach perhaps, for an alternate breakfast spot.

I'd already eaten quite enough with the left-over Mexican food, so had only tea at breakfast, a tasty vanilla herbal blend. I was still off caffeine, having given it up at my injury last June, and was having no problem waking up in the morning. Good to keep caffeine tolerance low, then when you really need it, like at the end of a hard race, just a few sips of Coca-Cola will provide a huge boost. This was training, not a race, so except for a minior transgression at the tour start in Campbell where I had a sip of Peet's coffee, I was caffeine-free for this one.

My table, including Peter, Garrett, and Sherrie, was last to be served. Riders from other tables started rolling out when they were done eating. So Peter, Garrett, and I found ourselves rolling out together for the 20-something miles to the only rest stop for the day.

Leg 1: to the rest stop

Rolling in San Simeon: about the only time you'll find the tandem so far front on a flat road

The tailwind pushed us along over the rollers of Highway 1, much wider here than it is in Big Sur. There's more and more beach-side development the further south you go, more of a SoCal feel. Eventually we reached the rest stop, a highway rest stop with a traditional peeing tree.

I hungrier than most of the others, having eaten breakfast much earlier, and took advantage of the bananas, almond butter, and Gatorade at the stop. And, of course, the peeing tree.

Wes's group rolled out, then Gregg Ferry's. Peter and I lagged a bit behind but quickly caught Gregg. Wes was planning a scenic bike path route, while Gregg would stay on the highway longer. We'd meet at the descending contest location.

Leg 2: to SLO

There's a nice climb leading to the sight of the descending contest. I made a hard effort here, taking advantage of the tail-wind. Then I waited for the others.

The descending contest is an amazing and wonderful thing. You get a single pedal-stroke, one leg from 12 o'clock to 6 o'clock, and from there no more pedaling allowed. There's a gradual slope where you build up a bit of speed (not much), then a flat section where I always think I'm going to come to a halt but never do, then another downhill acceleration until a longer flat run to a stop sign. Riders finish amazingly close, typically reaching a bridge before the stop sign, but only Sherrie Smith in the history of the contest has reached the sign itself, some fluke of the wind since she's no bigger than I am.

I was really curious how this would go. Would my fatter tires @ relatively low pressure result in reduced vibrational losses, while my handlebar bag act like a fairing, propelling me well past the bridge and towards the stop sign in glorious victory? Well, it didn't go that way. Of those who didn't give up early, I was last, essentially at the bridge. Dead last. The winner, for the second year in a row, was Alan Armstrong. I was crushed... visibly crushed. I contemplated quitting the tour right there, maybe giving up cycling completely.

My view from where I rolled to a stop in the descending contest. Last place!

But I had to get over it. I couldn't let my failure, as substantial as it was, drag me down. So when Gregg called the contest done, I clipped in again and set off with the group.

Several riders had flats on the ride in. Wes was among the riders who stopped to help, but I non-valiantly stuck with the pack. As I rode through one of the many intersections, I noted the street sign: Perfumo Canyon Road. It instantly clicked: last year I'd heard about the group that did this road, and I swore I'd do it my next opportunity. It was said to be quite scenic as well as a challenging climb.

Too late to turn immediately, I overshot the intersection, did a U-turn, and returned to Perfumo Canyon. The road started innocuously enough: just another overbuild suburban boulevard. But it quickly narrowed, developing a much more rural character, and I was hooked.

But the steady climbing didn't start immediately. It was more rolling: up a bit, flat a bit, maybe a short descent. But then it started to climb more steadily. I was gaining altitude, but still trees blocked any view of the valley.

Suddenly I heard an overtaking vehicle: obviously a motorbike. Sure enough, a small motorcycle came by on my left, into the next corner. As soon as it disappeared from view I heard the unmistakable plasticky sound of motorbike making violent contact with the pavement. I was to the corner quickly, and the motorcyclist, apparently unhurt, was trying to bring his bike upright.

"What happened? Are you okay?" I asked.

"Just being stupid," he responded. I didn't disagree. I did take advantage of the chance to ask him where the top was. He said the road continued to the beach, but there was a viewpoint which marked the top of the climb.

It wasn't long before the trees cleared and I indeed had a wonderful view of below, as promised. But the climbing continued. The wind was gusting and it was cool, as fog accumulated at the top of the hill.

More climbing... eventually I saw the unmistable David Hover descending on his Moots. I hadn't seen him since he zoomed past Cambria to his special breakfast site. He said the top was just ahead... and something about a false flat.

I continued until it was clear I had passed the top. I was fully in the light fog here. A ranch house was nearby. I could see the road descending ahead.

The top of Perfumo Canyon Road

I stopped to check my iPhone Google Maps app, checking the route for the Rose Garden Inn. It recommended I continue on the road to Sea Canyon Road which led to Avila Beach and from there up Highway 1 to my destination: 12 miles. This didn't make much sense to me, since I'd climbed around 5 miles and from the base it was only 2 miles to the hotel. So I decided to return the way I'd come.

Obligatory bike shot while I check Google Maps

As I descended, I saw multiple cyclists from our group climbing the other way. Wes was the first, but also Jeff was there, with others. Somehow Jeff had recruited a group to make the same decision I had.

The cows just crossed the road. Don't ask why.

Although I had to stop for cows crossing the road along the way, I finally made it back to Los Osos Valley Road, then from there it was a very short distance to the hotel, which I found with only a little problem.


I was fairly tired, this had hardly been much of a recovery day. But after doing my usual stuff (protein drink, a snack, shower, wash cycling clothes) I headed for the hot tub. Peter was there and he was angry, in a friendly way, for me doing Perfumo Canyon when previously I'd said I didn't want to do any extra today. I explained I'd forgotten about Perfumo Canyon, which was true. He said we had to do the full loop next year, stopping in Avilla Beach for lunch.

After most of the others had piled into vans to drive into downtown, I kicked myself out the door and in my street shoes rode the 4+ miles on my bike. Along the way I stopped at Wally's bike shop for a portable Rav-X bike lock, then went to my favorite chocolate shop to get dark chocolate for Cara, then to the Bliss Cafe for a delicious Rama smoothie. But by then it was getting chilly, and I had only my light jacket over my T-shirt, so I headed back to the Rose Gardin, stopping at Trader Joe's for some food for the evening and the following morning.

Chocolate for Cara

Creek Walk, outside Bliss Cafe

On the positive side, this was the first day I didn't have serious Garmin/Strava issues.

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