Riding California, Border-to-Border:  Part 2 of 3

John Pilkington’s 1,250-mile border-to-border ride of California continues when he joins the California Coast Classic (CCC) Bicycle Tour, which extends from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Read Part 2 of John’s journey! If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.

Day 8:  CCC Begins

Saturday, September 9th was the start of the CCC and of course the first day was the toughest, or so I thought, with 5,000 feet of climbing over 86 miles. We headed out of San Francisco at 8:30 a.m. and rode along the bay just a few blocks from where my wife Nita and I were married over 35 years ago, and through the Presidio where we had our reception, then on down the coast to Pacifica where Anita grew up. As we crested the climb out of beautiful Pacifica to the top of Devil’s Slide, we found possibly the same whales Bill and I had met days before. The pod seemed larger and much more active this time. At this point, we had finished the harder climbs of the day and then just cruised on south to our first campsite in Santa Cruz.

Day 9:  Sunday Reflections

Sunday would be a relatively short day with one nasty climb as we entered the campsite for our second night. Today was a 60 mile ride with 2,800 feet of climbing; the last grade hit 22% and many of the riders were walking up the last climb…but not THIS rider! We had a caterer who followed us throughout the whole CCC ride and prepared breakfast and dinner every day. The food was awesome and I ate like a pig and still lost five pounds during the whole trip.

About four miles into Sunday’s ride, I came across Pilkington Street in Santa Cruz and took the obligatory pic. I also found a Catholic Church, Our Lady of the Sea, in the hopes of going to Mass for the first time in over a week. As the Good Lord would have it, I arrived as the 8:00 a.m. Mass was ending and the next Mass was not until 10:00 a.m. So I hung out for a few minutes and then introduced myself to Fr. Efrain. He introduced me to one of the Eucharistic Ministers who took me to the Sacristy and gave me Communion. I said my regular prayer, already knowing that today would be better than the day before, and I was on my way.

Day 10:  Climbing Day

On Monday, we headed to the Monterey Peninsula and 17-Mile Drive and it was gorgeous as ever – The Lone Cypress, Pebble Beach and the whole thing that makes this place special. The date was 9/11 and because Big Sur was shut down, we headed inland to King City, wearing as much red, white and blue as we could find. This part of the ride was new to the CCC and turned out to be the most difficult day of the tour with 4,800 feet of climbing over 82 miles. The grades were much tougher than the previous Saturday and many riders found themselves taking the SAG to the top of the tough climbs. I, of course, would have none of that. As we got further inland, the temps started to climb, making the day extremely tough. It was here where I decided that if anyone wanted to pass me on a climb they were going to have to work for it, so I had fun pulling away from riders on every climb. It got to the point where riders refused to pass me on the descents because they knew I would get them on the next climb and they did not want to play leap frog with me.

Day 11:  More Climbing

We headed to Paso Robles and again the heat and climbing on this 63 mile day of 4,100 feet was as difficult as the day before; the SAG vehicles were full again ferrying riders over the steeper climbs… but not this rider! I continued my climbing training as I accelerated ahead of the “sitters.” I look forward to the re-opening of Big Sur next year though. Those last two days were not fun and I picked a bad spot for my tent in Paso, not realizing the proximity of the railroad tracks and highway. I did not sleep well Tuesday night.

Day 12:  Daydreaming

We headed back to the coast via Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach, arriving at our camp in Oceano. I welcomed the cooler temps but continued my assault on every climb. By now I was beginning to daydream on the rides and if I wasn’t moving I was thinking about sleeping. I had my rosary and would recite a rosary every time I found myself daydreaming. I developed a technique for keeping track of each Hail Mary and each decade using the fingers on both hands and placement on my handlebars. It works well and keeps me focused.

Day 13:  Almost to the Finish

We left Oceano on Thursday, September 14th and headed to Buellton, 70 miles and 3,000 feet of climbing; I was getting a bit tired and daydreaming more and more. As we got close, I came to familiar territory. My daughter Caitlyn went to UCSB and Nita and I frequented this area many times. I wish I could have stopped at some of our favorite wineries but that was not happening. The campsite we were at was a major RV resort, so I took the opportunity to request one of the Airstream trailers and got it, thanks to Jane for doing the same in 2015 and giving me the idea! I was glad not to set up a tent this night. We were getting close to the finish and I was again feeling a bit sad it was almost over.

Visit this blog next Thursday for the finale, “Riding California, Border to Border: Part 3 of 3”

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