Phew that was a tough one. Maybe I should have trained, made the route easier, or stayed home but who cares – I did it. Last year when I rode this route with my regulars Gabe, Bryan and Cousin Russ, we added youthful Ian K-B and an extra 20 miles and a couple hundred feet of steep climbing so that we could do a dirt road down by San Juan Bautista and avoid a scary at-grade crossing of HWY 101. It is a harder ride now, but a much sweeter one.

I set up the ride this time round to be a little easier to get to the start and to get out of town, but leaving town through the south mission got a big thumbs down, even from the rider that lives there. Team mates for this ride included the usual Gabe and Bryan, plus Theresa for laughs, experience and excellent photos, and my girlfriend Juliayn because we need at least one new person and since she is a better climber than I she should do fine – oh yeah, because she is my girlfriend too. This will be Juliayn’s longest ride and also the longest bit of riding in the dark for her.

The ride south to Woodside is routine uneventful coverage of miles and we enliven the familiar roads with sprints for the town limit signs – I win one, San Bruno. Maybe I got Daly City, can’t remember. After our stop at Robert’s Market for our first controle we head to Old La Honda for our first 1000 foot pitch of climbing. On the way we ring our bells for the hundred strong group of racing cyclists racing for the bathroom at Robert’s or something and on the climb, greet three recumbent riders that included one in a velo-mobile that Theresa knows.

After that bit of climbing we continue to climb another 1000 plus feet to Castle Rock over the next ten miles on Skyline, aka HWY35. Usually by the time we get to Castle Rock and the little bit of descending to the rabbit hole of HWY35 where the road narrows and empties of cars we hate Skyline because of the speeding traffic and racing motorcyclists, but the friend of randonneurs, the forecast of rain, has kept all the speed demons home or on the slopes. Whatever it was, it was nice. We arrive at Summit Market for lunch a bit down on time, but it will be fine. Lunch was fine too.

After Lunch we drop down Eureka Canyon to Corralitos and pass through the north edge of whatever valley Watsonville is in and also skirt Aromas using Anzar Road which is partly dirt. San Juan Bautista includes a team photo at the mission and shakes and fries at the café – I had to go get a receipt at the grocery and endure slow service and surly locals getting lottery tickets while my team mates lingered. I need to make SJB an open controle next time.

Once again we leave a bit behind on time to the steep climbs and dirt of Old Stage Coach Road – this is an historic road that leads us to beautiful vistas and the edge of the ugly side of Salinas the quiet and safe way. We have enjoyed minimal traffic the whole day and we make up for it in the two miles we skirted Salinas, which was our turn-around point for the ride.

The wind turned on us too and slowed our progress to Santa Cruz greatly, but Bryan selflessly pulled all of us the whole way to Denny’s on Ocean Street where the rain and lightning we had been watching caught us for about 5 minutes. We arrive damp and relieved at Denny’s and are soon joined by Willy Nevin and his team. Willy designed the original route that we have slightly modified for our ride – Willy has ridden nearly every distance event possible and every road possible between Fort Bragg and Santa Barbara. He is a good Captain and a good guy.

We leave in a downpour but the rain lets up as soon as we reach the city limits and then a strong tail wind pushes us the whole way to Pacifica. On the way to Pacifica the roads are empty except for all of the snails from France that come out to greet randonneurs on rainy fleche nights. The sounds of the night included crashing waves, hooting owls and popping snails – oops sorry buddy. We get to ride through the new tunnel just south of Pacifica. It is bright and clean and reduced the climbing slightly.

The Denny’s in Pacifica has a bright and cheery waiter/manager who has been there every year we have and greets us with “what time you need your receipt?” He knows the randonneur drill and pampers us for an hour. I putz around while my team mates sleep and Theresa fixes a flat she nursed to town (she was riding the grand bois lierres fyi, and I rode my old pair of pari-motos with a couple thousand miles on em. I am a believer that you get flats because of where you ride on the road, and not what you ride on). Willy shows up again and so does a team from Los Angeles who started in Paso Robles.

We leave again in a short down pour and again climb a stiff steep climb out of Pacifica to Daly City. Gabe breaks away a half mile early to take the SF city limits sign – good job Gabe. We arrive exactly on time, 24 hours after leaving SF at Crepes on Cole to the greetings of Bruce Berg and Chris Eisenbarth, sit down and watch the other teams roll in. I last two hours before I start nodding off and head home to sleep four hours or so.

Good ride, Good weather, Good route, Good team. Thanks Roland and all the volunteers and participants let’s do it again next time round.