San Luis Obispo to Santa Clarita Double Century – May 29, 2011

My first double century ride would go from San Luis Obispo to Santa Clarita. It would be the longest ride I had ever set out to do, breaking my distance record by at least 46 miles. The plan was simple. I would follow the same route as I took in May last year from San Luis Obispo to Ventura, but adding the segment to Santa Clarita.  For those wanting more details of my route, I went the following way:
From San Luis Obispo:
Hwy 227, Price Canyon, Hwy 1, Hwy 135, Hwy 101, “Coast Route” signed bike route from Goleta to Carpinteria, Hwy 101, Hwy 1, Telegraph Rd, Hwy 126, Santa Clara River Trail, Sierra Highway
So, on May 29, I set out from San Luis Obispo at 5:30am, and began the longest ride of my life. The weather was cool at first, and a bit cloudy. Once past Guadalupe, the wet and muddy roadway shoulders I had been dealing with north of town had finally dried up. The winds I had been hoping for also finally materialized south of town. Not only were they consistent in speed, but they were nearly directly behind me – a perfect tailwind. It helped pass the miles and keep me going. I was getting hungry! So, in Los Alamos, I stopped for breakfast at the Twin Oaks Restaurant. I stopped there on my last ride through here, and had a decent and quick breakfast. As I was in full cycling gear (skinsuit, leg and arm warmers, shoe covers), I always seem to get questions about the ride like “Where are you riding from?” – “San Luis Obispo”, “Where are you riding to?” – “Santa Clarita”… yes, a long ways down the road. Still, 150 miles to go! My pace was pretty fast so far, keeping a 20 mph average for the first 50 miles.
After getting back out on the road, I got onto US 101, the first real busy roadway of the trip. Ahh… US 101 in the Central Coast area. It is my favorite section. A very pastoral scene, rolling hills, oaks, cows, and yes… lots of vehicles on the expressway. After topping the summit, I glided down to Buellton. One more hill down, just one major climb ahead. Being a holiday weekend, heavier traffic wasn’t surprising. One thing I did see that caught my eye though was the high number of antique cars heading southbound. I never did see where they were going, but I lost count after at least 20 passed me.
I stopped in Buellton to refill my drinks, and headed on south. Onwards and upwards to the last major climb of the ride, though with many more miles still to go. The last hill, Nojoqui Canyon and Summit, isn’t that much a climb. The summit itself is lower than the one north of Buellton, but not by much. The last part of the climb is steep, but still not bad. After topping this last summit, it would be downhill to Gaviota. Downhill and downwind… not always a good thing. Winds slowly increased in speed as I got closer to the bottom of the grade. This became a problem when I got up to about 35 mph and was getting battered by sudden crosswinds. I slowed down real fast and kept it slower until I got through the area. Crashing at high speed isn’t pleasant at any location or time and I didn’t want to start now. The next 25 or so miles would be very beautiful and fun. It would be my last rural section until after Ventura. I was able to keep a pretty decent pace, tailwinds and my own energy helping greatly.
At Goleta, I finally reached the halfway point. 100 miles! I hit that mark at 11:20am, with a 20.3 mph average, with a 4:51 rolling time. Not bad… my best century ride yet. It didn’t really hit me until after I was eating my lunch in Goleta that I had gone 100 miles and wasn’t really thinking so much about it. Most rides END around that distance, and here I was only in the middle. So, after having a short lunch, it was again onward. I took an easy course through the Goleta, Santa Barbara, and Carpinteria area. I highly recommend following the signed “Coast Route” through town. Most major streets are avoided making the route quite pleasant.
My next big stop was in Ventura, where I met up with a friend of mine. He brought me snacks and drinks to refuel and refill with. It was good talking with him and his partner. He was going on a big ride the next day, and invited me to go. I declined, figuring I’d be a bit tired after today. I wanted to talk for a while longer, but he prodded me to continue. It was true. I still had 50 more miles to go. So, we parted ways and I worked my way out of town. After Ventura, I was greeted with many miles of orange and avocado groves. They smelled wonderful and gave me a bit of a lift when I began to encounter some headwinds. The distance between the towns in the Santa Clara River Valley isn’t big, which made it feel like I was going faster than I was.
 By the time I reached Fillmore, I needed a break. I stopped at a gas station at Hwy 23. I picked a good one, they had Mexican Coke there… just what I was looking for. So, I stepped out, sat in a chair out front, and had my Coke. While I was relaxing, another cyclist showed up, and went into the store. After he came back out with his drink, he walked over my way, and we started talking. “Where are you riding today?”, “Is that a cyclocross bike?” The fun part was when I said where I had been riding today. When I told him I started in San Luis Obispo, his first response was “Where is that?” “Well, it is about 100 miles past Santa Barbara”, I replied. His response was amusing. “So… wait… it is 100 miles PAST Santa Barbara and you rode here, WOW! That is a long ride”. It is the best response I’ve received on a ride yet.
The last miles of the ride were the worst. I encountered steadily stronger headwinds, and was getting much more tired. I wondered at times if I was going to be able to make it. The winds had gone from a nice northwest direction to more a northeast direction. This would not be good, especially the last 10 miles. After fighting these winds for about 15 miles I reached Castaic Junction. One look to the north gave me hope. I saw clouds in the Tejon Pass area. Clouds in the pass mean northwest winds, a tailwind again at last! Crossing the Santa Clarita Valley, the last 10 or so miles of my ride, felt quite different to me. My first long distance ride was doing the same thing, crossing Santa Clarita. As I made my way across town I began to have doubts of the mileage. It was looking like I’d come up short. I hadn’t gone this far to not get 200 miles on the odometer. So, I made a couple of small loops in Canyon Country, and still had to go past my destination just to get the mileage. Still, 200 miles was achieved. I accomplished my goal, and did something that only a couple of years ago I thought was impossible. I also found my upper limit for a one-day ride. That limit looks to be 225 to 250 miles, depending on many variables.
And for my next big ride? So many possibilities, so many places to go. I look forward to the next great adventure. Who knows where it will take me?
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