I was really looking forward to this adventure!  I rode this course back in 2011 and thoroughly enjoyed it.  In fact, reading over my blog post from that ride, it felt like I had almost the same ride this year, but without the knee pain.  After the first 80 miles of climbing, the course is incredibly recumbent-friendly with great winds and rolling terrain.

I drove up to SLO early on Friday to deliver a trike and have dinner with my wife’s aunt and uncle.  Stu and Janie are very active with the SLO Bicycle Club and were busy getting ready to help with the Wildflower Century the next day.  We enjoyed catching up and yakking, and I took off early to get to bed.

The ride started at 6am and 11 of us immediately started climbing the Cuesta Grade, a 1200 foot, 5ish mile climb out of SLO.  I was the second-to-last rider to the top…take it easy, we still have 240 miles to go…  The ride through Atascadero, Templeton, Paso Robles to San Miguel was just as good as always.  I enjoyed catching up a bit with Nicole and learning about her new training business, the scenery was fantastic…it was a great start to the morning.

I don’t get up to Paso Robles much, but when I do, I love to ride through the wineries in the hills to the west.  Chimney Rock Road is wonderful and the climbing just didn’t seem that difficult this time around.  It was warming up and pretty soon I was down to shorts and jersey.

Here, I start to rain praises on our wonderful ride coordinator, Vicky, but then get quickly distracted.  You can see what my true priorities are…

It warmed up a bit as I hit Highway 46, but with only about 8 miles to ride to the coast, it was bearable.  The descent off the top of the 46 was rather uneventful.  In fact, it seemed like the wind was trying to push me back up the mountain!  Soon enough, I arrived in an overcast Cambria.  There were now only three riders ahead of me and I took about 20 minutes to get some food and apply more sunscreen.

Nicole and Rob left about 10 minutes ahead of me, but I fully expected to catch them on the 22 mile stretch to Ragged Point.  The headwind can get pretty fierce, and it’s really important to keep your mind occupied on anything but the wind.  About five miles out of Ragged Point, I caught Nicole and Rob.  As I rode by, I called out “Just think about the killer tailwind on the way back!”  Rob responded, “I tend to be rather pessimistic when it comes to winds…”  “Oh, come on, Rob!  Then think about sex!”  At which point, Nicole interjected, “I tend to be rather pessimistic when it comes to sex…”  I almost fell off my bike laughing and smiled for the next few miles as we climbed into Ragged Point for a snack.

The ride back from Ragged Point to Cambria was fast.  What took two hours in one direction took a hair over an hour in the other.  Sweet!  Rather than stopping in Cambria, I continued on down Hwy 1 toward Cayucos and ultimately SLO.

(a side note, it was really nice doing this course in late April rather than early March as it was still light out when I arrived at the dinner control at mile 174)

I should have read my 2011 report before starting the ride, because I over-ate, again, at the dinner stop.  I bid a fond farewell to Vicky.  She rolled her eyes in disbelief when I told her I would be back in about six hours…  For an hour or so, while heading down to Guadelupe, I was definitely overstuffed and sleepy.  By the time I got to Santa Maria, though, I was back to my perky self.  At this point, there was only one rider, Steve, ahead of me.  I drank a hot chocolate and filled a water bottle with Coke and headed off into the streets at 10:45 on a Saturday night.  With all the partiers cruising Main Street, I couldn’t get out of town quick enough!

Bull Canyon was a fast climb and the route continued along for six miles until the wonderful five mile descent back down into Avila Beach.  Woo hoo!  At this point, I was hours ahead of my time from 2011 and feeling great.  As I started up the gentle climb towards Orcutt Road, I saw Steve (who else would be lit up like a Christmas tree on a bike on the side of the road after midnight?).  As I passed him, I decided to make it stick.

The plan…two miles to the steep section at the Orcutt Rd. turnoff.  I can easily hold him off until then.  Even if he catches me on the climb, there is no way he will keep up with me on the 12 mile descent back into SLO.

Steve catches me at the turn as we have to stop to read the info control sign posted there.  We start the short, steep climb.  He gets a little ahead of me, but I stay with him.  We start bombing down the other side and I easily roll away from him.  BUMP, clatter, clatter,clatter…just lost my tail light to a pot hole!  Steve passes me as I stop to grab my back up.

When randonneuring, it is really important that you keep your bags organized.  When it is cold and dark on a lonely road somewhere, that last thing you want to do is have to dig through your bags (with gloves on) looking for a tail light that seems to have disappeared in the mass of clothing and food.  Fortunately, I knew exactly which pouch contained the back up, and spent more time trying to attach it (with gloves on and no light) then actually finding it.

I worked my way down the descent and finally caught and passed Steve for the last time about five miles from the finish.  I cruised in with a finish time of 19:26, and much to my own disbelief, finished the last 75 mile loop in well under six hours.  Another great 400k on the books!