A day on a bicycle, exploring, at slow, antagonizing low speeds and exhilarating high speeds, is a day well spent. My recent interest in double centuries has awarded me the possibility of spending Saturdays exploring some of the most beautiful parts of the world, by bicycle of course. This past Saturday I rode 200 miles on the Tour of Two Forests Double Century organized by Planet Ultra.
At 430am, after a couple hours of so-called sleep, my friend Matt Pro and I are mummy-like as we organize our stuff in his Hollywood apartment and prepare for our drive to Santa Clarita for the 615am start. Our excitement is only slightly concealed by our sleepiness. But, what may have been concealed was our better judgment. We decided to not fix the slow-leak in his tube and not to bring warmer clothes.
Honestly, the morning was unremarkable. Some cold weather, a little mist, good conversation pertaining to California history, and the usual rural landmarks kept our brains functioning through mid-morning. Then Matt’s tube started to act up. Slow leaks are tricky because part of you says, ‘Don’t waste time fixing it, just keep pumping it up every hour!’ When your tube is low on pressure it takes significantly more energy to keep the same pace. Not fun! It ends up that a patched rip in his tire was putting tiny holes in his tube. In the end he had changed or patched the tube 4 times before scoring a new tire.
The two forests we traveled through were the Los Padres and The Angeles National Parks. Stunning. I have traveled a decent amount in my life, but I have to say that California has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. In one day you can travel along beaches, through mountains and across deserts, and numerous types of each! With National Parks comes mountains, and with mountains comes climbs. Mid-day, temperature in the 90’s and we are struggling up some big ones. Not steep, but long. ‘Hey, look way up there! Is that the pass? Didn’t that car pass us 20 minutes ago?’
Part of the ride went through sections of forest that were nearly destroyed by the fires in 2003. Here we are, cruising along as the sun is going down, about 140 miles behind us, through the remains of a fire. Trees still standing though they more resemble silhouettes. Shrubs still holding strong, despite being blackened to a crisp, blowing in the wind. Only the occasional dog that chases us breaks the unnatural silence.
The last fifty miles were ridden under the stars, guided by our headlights. The organizers were gracious enough to give us a fifteen-mile downhill. My front brakes were not working (I will not get into the details!), as we descended at twenty-five miles per hour through repetitive twists and turns. Each series of turns seemed to mimic the previous one until finally the mountain opened up and we descended into the town of Santa Clarita.
Nearly seventeen hours had passed when we returned to the start point across from Magic Mountain. In these seventeen hours I experience not only vast temperature changes and sceneries, but also an array of emotions. Pedaling becomes so routine that it is meditative. My mind jumps from joy to sadness in a matter of miles. Old memories suddenly leap to the front of my mind. I consider old and new ideas. Suddenly I realize I have ridden ten miles and cannot remember a single thing I thought about. Was my mind blank for nearly forty-five minutes?
Tonight (Friday) Matt and I are traveling up to Davis to do the Knoxville Double on Saturday. If I finish, despite this lingering cold that has cost me three days of work, I will be eligible for the California Triple Crown. (caltriplecrown.com). Hopefully my cold and cough dissipate in the next twelve hours. This route has less climbing than others at 11,000 feet (compared to 15,000 and 13,000) and claims wonderful scenery. It will be a fantastic way to spend my twenty-sixth birthday.