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Pounded on the rural roads of California: AIDS/LifeCycle Day Two 06 Jun 2022
alc alc2022 cycling

The second day of ALC is the big day, by the cue sheet it’s 109 miles, but yours truly ended up clocking 112 miles. The road is rough but fortunately the tailwinds are generous almost the entire way from Santa Cruz to King City. I woke to my alarm at 4:15am and started today’s journey.


I also posted a thread to Twitter for today with more pictures.


Being with the first group leaving camp was absolutely delightful, I highly recommend it if you want to avoid traffic with all the stop signs scattered throughout Santa Cruz. As the sun rose it shined through the fog adding an eerie feel to the morning. Coming to the south side of Santa Cruz there’s this little kick up, it’s probably no more than a hundred feet but it happens in a quarter mile or so. The first year I struggled with everybody else around me up the hill, my legs are different this time around, and I jaunted up to the top and kept plugging away on the route towards Rest Stop One. Fogged in and barely set up, I quickly followed the routine of:

  1. Bathroom
  2. Cleanse
  3. Snacks
  4. Refill bottles
  5. Ride out

Back on the road we started to leave the foggy urban and suburban parts of Santa Cruz and headed out into the country where the road quality turns to utter shit. In 2019 I ended up breaking my bike, and I believe it was due to a stress fracture caused on day two. Today I focused on keeping my butt from getting too beat up as I rolled across the landscape.

Day Two is also notable for the unofficial “artichoke stop” which I planned on attending since I was so early, lo and behold there wasn’t a line! I sat and enjoyed my fried artichoke breakfast with a fellow from the Air Force who had been trying to catch me.

It feels really good to be chased, rather than just surviving. After the artichokes I found myself with a group stuck at an intersection. The air force guy was chatting with somebody behind me and said “I’ve been trying to catch this guy, but he’s going crazy fast.” That also felt pretty damn good. All the hard work I did training, over 2,500 miles has really paid off!

Rest Stop Two was more of the same, but for the first time I took my sleeves off and applied sunscreen. Sunshine!

Rest Stop Two to Lunch was quite short, so I spent some a little bit of extra time eating and relaxing before departing once again. Leaving the little town of Gonzales the winds really picked up, which from any other direction would be miserable, but these were tailwinds and they were strong. I powered over the atrocious roads at speeds of over 30mph.

Alone.

In 2019 this stretch of road I made a friend with a woman who was a spin instructor in San Francisco. Our paces were about the same and we hammered down the road to King City together which was one of my highlights from the year, and one of the more memorable experiences I have had on a bike. While we continued to ride together the remainder of that ALC, I lost touch with her after the event.

I ran into her by chance at Orientation this year. She recognized me before I recognized her, and we started chatting. She hated her job and left, before finding a job working on ALC full time as a staffer. Before wishing each other well as we returned to our respective Staffer and Cyclist duties, she shared that day two in 2019 was one of the best days of cycling she’s ever had.

That’s the power of a great tailwind.

I skipped water stops between Rest Stop Two and Three, no need, I was cruising. Leaving Rest Stop Three, the cruising continued as the road meandered through the valley. I continued alone with nobody in front or behind me. The downside of being alone is that there’s nobody to follow, but at least there’s also nobody to lead astray.

Rest Stop Four was mostly set up when I got there, some rural community park through which the wind gusts. Anything not weighted down will soon fly away. I follow the routine again and on my departure I confidently line up to turn left, wish the Roadies a good day and continue on through the small town. Crossing the highway I wonder why Traffic didn’t put up yellow arrows. There have been a couple spots along today’s route where I feel like an arrow would be helpful, so I figure “straight” is a safe default. On the east side of town, the road travels off into the countryside and I cannot see any cyclist in sight.

This cannot be right. Fortunately I also grab a route sheet every morning! I study it for a bit but decide that I cannot make heads or tails of where I went wrong. In lieu of better information, I head back to Rest Stop Four, a couple miles back through town. At the intersection where I turned left, I asked a different Roadie where the exit is, turns out it was a right I needed to make. I was surprised the Roadie I saw previously didn’t shout out to me, but I suppose being one of the faster in the group, if you move with confidence they’re going to just assume you know what you’re doing. They could not be more wrong!

Once back on the route, I found some more tailwinds and hammered hard to make up for lost time, passing other cyclists at an extremely high rate of speed. During this section my top speed was 42mph, which I still cannot believe.

Arriving into camp, only a few racks had even been set up yet. I was 34th, despite my silly detour.

112 miles, some amazing tailwinds, and a dose of humility. Day Two of riding completed.