After Red Dress Day it’s easy to think “we’re almost to LA!” This part will be easy!” and then BAM you wake up at 4:15 and realize that there’s almost 90 miles until the next camp. Lompoc to Ventura is one of the most beautiful days along the route, taking us through Goviata pass, Goleta, Santa Barbara, and down the coast line towards Ventura. Beautiful but not easy.

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

When I woke up and bundled up to begin the morning routine, porta-potties, breakfast, change, tear down tent, gear truck, and bike parking, the air was so cold I could see my break in the light of my headlamp. The grass was wet, my flipflops got wet, my little toesies got wet, and top to bottom I was fucking cold. Shaking while I wolf down my breakfast, I would occasionally look over at some bear wearing shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt comfortable as can be; suffice it to say with my build I don’t “winter well.”

By the time I had wrapped up with the morning business, I scuttled over to the gear trucks, discarded my jacket and proceeded along to bike parking. Today was the day when apparently everybody else finally figured out that being early to bike parking means an easier roll out and less traffic to deal with. As such, there were huge lines before bike parking even opened, queues once we were in bike parking, and then lots of standing around in some gopher-holed Lompoc field.

A roadie told me to tighten my helmet before I left. It was tight enough, but there’s no sense arguing with roadies who are trying to keep everybody safe. I pulled aside, made a show of tightening it, and then clipped in and sped off.

Leaving Lompoc was tedious residential street cycling with lots of traffic from other cyclists. My training in criteriums has made it such that I have gotten pretty good at quick bursts of power, which came in very handy as a tool to get away from the packs of cyclists that would bunch up at stop signs and red lights. Nothing against them, there’s just a much higher likelihood of something going wrong when you put enough moving people close enough together.

As we left the city, the hills started to roll towards Rest Stop One. I caught a fast wheel and we took turns puling. He would shout “left!” as we would come upon slower cyclists. His tone sounded harsh, which is probably how I sound too, so I made a point to say “good morning!” in a cheery voice as we passed. “Left!” “Good morning!” “LEFT!” “Good morning!” “LEFT!” “Good morning riders!

The system was working well until I was pulling up a hill and could feel the front wheel sinking every time I would pump my arms. Flatted! My harshly toned compatriot moved along as I pulled to the side to change my tube. I cleared the tire and pulled the tube out of it’s little box, started to unscrew the valve and the damn think came apart! Fortunately a Training Ride Leader (TRL) stopped to give me a hand, and an extra tube. While I was putting his tube into my tire, he kept his thumb out to try to get a pump from a sweep vehicle; I had already burned through one of my two CO2 cartridges.

I didn’t pay enough attention and pinched his tube, tearing it. Fuck. Once Sweep arrived with a pump, we gave my original tube a try and it was able to be pumped, so I asked the TRL to change the tire since we didn’t have another tube between the two of us. He managed it successfully into the tire, and the tire onto the rim, and I was back in business! I thanked him and we both joined the column of cyclists off to Rest Stop One.

Riding without a spare tube makes me anxious.

At Rest Stop One the bike techs were swarmed so I didn’t buy another tube, and instead did my routine, lined up to leave, and figured I would take my chances. Departures from the stop were staged because we were going to climb up the Goviata pass which is a strong climb following by a swift descent. Sister Tutti was in line with me and clamored to be on the right “where the slow people are going to be!” I stayed left and pushed hard up the pass.

Passing on the climbs during ALC is probably 50% competitiveness and 50% safety. I want to be away from people during the descent because speed increases the risks of somebody doing something unexpected, or stupid. My top speed on the descent was about 47mph, which is fast but no longer scary for me. Fountaingrove Parkway in Santa Rosa, which is my backyard lunchtime training route has me hitting between 45-50 on the downhill segments with regularity. The only difference is that I never have to compete with other cyclists for space.

Suffice it to say, everybody made it down in one piece, and I continued to push hard along the coastline towards Santa Barbara. The rest stops on day six typically have limited bike parking, so the more people I pass, the less bullshit I have to contend with in the rest stops.

50% competitiveness, 50% safety.

Rest Stop Two was extremely foggy. Some day I’ll see the coastline north of Santa Barbara, but to date I have not been so lucky. In Rest Stop Two I stopped by the bike tech and ask for two tubes. He hands them to me, and when I go to give him cash he says “uh, can you do Venmo?” “No.” “Well, we can’t accept cash…uh, can you just pay for them at lunch?” Honor system works well for me, so I thanked the tech and left.

After my departure I continued my “on your left!” routine. I spotted a cyclist who was off to the right and asked “do you have everything you need?” “Do you know how to change a tire?”

I pull over, the karma of cycling dictates that:

  • If somebody pulls you, you either trade pulls, or pull somebody later.
  • If somebody changes your tire, you better change somebody else’s tire later.

I was due. Fortunately he did have everything he needed, and was running the same Continental race 28s that I run, except his were brand new. Mine have had some miles put on them and they’re still a pain in the ass to get off the rim, when they’re brand new they are incredibly annoying. My pretty red nails took a little bit of damage getting that bastard off the rim. We chatted as I changed his tube, he asked some questions and was obviously paying good attention to how it worked, so I did my best TRL impression and trying to make it a Learning Opportunity ™.

Once he was sorted, I sped off into the fog. Twice now a tire change has undone all the hard work I had done passing cyclists!

I made good time heading into lunch, but may have pushed myself too hard up the climbs since my right knee started nagging me once again. Not content with slowing down, I instead started to focus my stronger strokes on the left. The woman who gave me a massage on Day Three noted the stronger muscle development in the right leg, so I figured left-leg training was in order anyways.

Lunch was…calories. But unfortunately not much to gush about, I put the calories down, headed to Medical for sunscreen, and rolled out.

The Funky Monkey I met in bike parking that morning and a buddy of his left around the same time, and so we worked together a little bit trying to escape the menagerie of stop lights Santa Barbara presented. “Stopping!” Foot down, green light, “Rolling!”, clip in, damnit, get in the clip you bastard, sprint a bit, settle in, well shit another red light, “Slowing!”, “Stopping!”

Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

The route comes along the bike path right by the beach in Santa Barbara, which is where I can see the pier so often used in B-roll shots of “Psych”, one of my favorite shows. Instead of Shawn and Gus, we end up having to dodge joggers, other cyclists, surfers, and tourists pedaling these four-wheeled pedal-car contraptions. I was happy to find make it to Rest Stop Three because it meant at least a break from the avoidance drills.

A number of people skip Rest Stop Three, because there is an unofficial Ice Cream Stop hosted by Santa Barbara a few miles down the road. This is a mistake. Rest Stop Three is at a cute little beach side park and if it’s not foggy, which it was, it can offer some really beautiful views to sit and enjoy while you eat trail mix and poptarts sliced in half.

Of course I stopped at the Ice Cream Stop. I ate plenty and then thought to myself “now that I’ve got a couple scoops of ice cream, and a cup of berries in my stomach, how about a bike ride again!” There’s a little kicker right as you resume the route which I took nice and easy for fear of losing my ice cream and berries. But after a mile or so I was clear to resume riding like a lunatic.

Weaving along the coast line through bike paths, frontage roads, and underpasses, I finally made it to some of the scenic oceanside riding that I had been looking forward to.

The views are simply spectacular. The waves crashing into the beach, pelicans flying together across the water, and people wading into the water. What the pictures won’t show you is that the waves are crashing into the beach because there’s a very strong cross wind pushing them into the coastline, that same wind is also pushing against me.

My pace slows. My knee is hurting, my left leg is feeling tired, I’m thinking of Santa Rosa and just feeling a little deflated.

Then Eli powers past me.

Fuck yes!

I will never let a strong wheel pass me. Eli is a giant of a man. I don’t actually know him, he just has a license plate that says “Eli.” I stand at about 6’4” and he’s definitely a few inches taller than me.

I pop out of the saddle and sprint to catch up to him. It is not very often that I will catch a wind breaker like Eli, and I feel invigorated to fall into his draft. “Thanks for the ride!” I shout up to him. He turns his head to the left, revealing the gold piercings in his ear and his mustache “I just love the ocean.”

You know what Eli, you love it, I love it, let’s hammer.

I’m just thrilled as the dickens to have a draft to pull me along.

Eli drags my sorry ass all the way to Rest Stop Four where I go through my routine. He must know lots of the roadies here because I lose him at some point while he’s giving out giant-man hugs.

Spirits lifted, it’s something like 10ish miles to home, and I’m eager to get there.

A couple miles out of the rest stop I pass a couple cycles and hear “I love your pace!”

I’ve gotten some compliments this year, especially in my slutty red dress, but ones like this are my favorite. I turn back and there’s another cyclist doing to me what I did to Eli.

The karma of cycling dictates that:

  • If somebody changes your tire, you better change somebody else’s tire later.
  • If somebody pulls you, you either trade pulls, or pull somebody later.

It was my turn to pull, and I was happy to oblige. I turned on my phone’s screen so that I could maintain a steady pass for us both and we sped along at about 21mph. My new bike friend was as happy to see me as I had been to see Eli, so I was delighted to pull him home to camp. Dodging tourists along the board walk we finally rolled into the Ventura camp, 61st and 62nd.

Working together with a fellow cyclist makes me forget about my nagging knee. It makes me forget about my legs and butt sore from a long week of cycling. It makes me forget just about everything that isn’t what is happening right now in the moment. Working together with a fellow cyclist reminds me how much I really do enjoy riding bikes!

We chat a bit as we grab our gear. He does endurance racing, I talk about crit racing, we geek out on cycling a bit before I head off to the showers.

Tonight is the last night of camp. We’re 70 miles from the finish line, which really doesn’t feel so far. 84, 109, 76, 88, 43, 88. There are 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles and only 70 of them remain.

The guy I finished the ride with today asked what other races/rides I’m doing this year. I have some ideas on that, but honestly nothing can hold a candle to this one.

Tomorrow will be bittersweet.

We will have accomplished what we set out to do. We raised the money that needed to be raised, pedalled the miles that we marked out for us, and made the memories that only an event like ALC can provide. But it will be all over.

All over until AIDS/LifeCycle 2023.

I can’t wait.