1996 > Big Sur Ride > Lisa and KenS's Report

Big Sur Ride
September 28-29, 1996


Keywords: relaxation, beautiful coastline, Joyce, arachniphobia, crash

Quotable quotes:

"Is this woman for real?!" (one Bikeaholic to another, in the gift shop at Nepenthe, in a state of disbelief at the phenomenon known as "Joyce").

"Lisa, you'd better check your tent for tarantulas!" (an unnerving remark made Bikeaholic Karl, upon approaching the campsite after the evening festivities).

"Where's my bike? I want to get back on my bike!" (Team Captain Lisa, after regaining consciousness, on the side of the road after a crash at mile 160).

"Lisa, do you know where you are? Do you know what ride this is?" (Morale Officer Ken, in response to the question, "How did I get here?", trying to re-acquaint Team Captain Lisa with reality in a commandeered van on the way from the crash site to the first aid station in Carmel Valley).

Team Bikeaholics, requiring a much-needed period of rest and relaxation after countless weeks of double centuries, long-distance rides and intense weekday training rides, set aside the weekend of Sept. 28-29 to do the relaxing two day option of the Big Sur Ride. This is a 170-mile benefit ride, first held in 1995, that runs along the rugged Big Sur coastline, up through the Ventana Wilderness to an overnight campground at Ft. Hunter-Liggett, and then on to the Salinas Valley and a return via Carmel Valley. Participants included Team Bikeaholics Captain Lisa Antonino, Morale Officer Ken Straub, Science and Technology Officer John Emmel, Team Financial Advisor Karl Kneip, and Sergeant-at-Arms Don Bennett.

Accordingly, the team assembled at 7:00 AM in front of the Community Youth Center in Carmel Valley for "before" pictures, then set out on the first leg of the journey with a cold, fast descent down Carmel Valley Road to the coast. The route then turned south on Hwy 1 and proceeded approximately 65 mi. down the coast to Nacimiento Rd. The morning air warmed up rapidly, and it wasn't long before Team members were required to stop to remove their jackets, arm warmers and tights. This contrasted with the previous year, where the coast was completely fogged-in and those present had complained about being "cold and miserable". The sun rays danced and sparkled on the beautiful ocean; the sky was blue and clear. It was a glorious day to be riding!

The first official rest stop was in the parking lot of the Rocky Point Restaurant at mi. 23, located above the bluffs overlooking the ocean. The usual bike food was available, served by enthusiastic students from the Monterey High School Interact Club. After a quick refueling, we continued on Hwy 1, ascending and descending the twisting road and passing one famous scenic overlook after another, including Rocky Creek Bridge, Hurricane Point, and Pt. Sur Lighthouse.

We stopped by the Bixby Creek Bridge, high above the Pacific, for an obligatory photo session. The water was a beautiful greenish-blue color in places, and the sky was stunningly clear.

Bikeaholics Meet Joyce, Orthodontist Extraordinaire.

After about mile 40, we turned off to make our first "official-unofficial" rest stop, at Nepenthe. For weeks, the Bikeaholics had been planning and dreaming about a mandatory espresso stop at this classic Big Sur hangout (a favorite of such luminaries as Henry Miller and Ansel Adams), where we had promised to rendezvous with Joyce, the orthodontist (see the Eastern Sierra Double ride review for background information about Joyce). The Bikeaholics arrived at the designated location in record time, and proceeded to lounge on the deck overlooking the Pacific with giant cups of double lattes and cappuccinos, liberally assisted with chocolate-dipped biscotti. We made ourselves comfortable, chatted about double centuries, and enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere. Soon thereafter, Jan the dentist arrived (also known to Bikeaholics from the Big Sur ride last year) with his periodontist friend, Jeff, and the discussion instantly turned to topics of general and specialized dentistry. Then the "clomp, clomp, clomp" of cycling shoes resonating on the wooden deck was heard as Joyce arrived, exclaiming, "Guess what, guys? I'm getting married!!!". She proceeded towards Bikeaholic John, and wrapped her arms around him in an effort to comfort him from the shock of such an unexpected announcement . It was not immediately obvious if John was crushed or relieved upon hearing this news (although John and Joyce had apparently joked and flirted with one another on the ride last year, the inside story was that John was prepared with cartons of dental floss with which to restrain Joyce lest she get out of control). Joyce ordered her latte, found herself a place at the table, and proceeded to tell us (as well as a large captive but admiring audience of German, French, Dutch, and garden variety-American tourists, plus the Nepenthe kitchen staff) all about Lambert, his physical attributes, educational background, and details about their sex life. It was all too, too much! After reaching a threshold level of amazement, some of us managed to gulp down our drinks and make our way down to the world-class gift shop below, where we looked at each other in disbelief at the lack of inhibition of this crazy person! As an antidote we spent the next 20 minutes admiring the wind chimes, waterfall sculptures, magic crystals, potions, and other mystical items in the gift shop; fortunately all of these items were too large to fit into the average Bikeaholic seatbag. After another 5 minutes gazing at the ocean from the deck, the Bikeaholics were once again ready for the road.

It wasn't long before we arrived at the "Vista Point" rest stop at mile 65 near the junction with Nacimiento Rd., where we feasted on sandwiches, fruit, cookies, and took in some sort of fluid (water or the pink sports drink, in this case diluted Hydragel). Right out of the rest stop at the beginning of Nacimiento Rd., we were required to roll over a steep, overgrown cattle guard, and most of us had to precariously walk over the grate and get back on our bikes in one of the steepest sections of the road. With such a feat accomplished, the remainder of the climb up to Fort Hunter-Liggett seemed easy in comparison. As we climbed up and over the coastal mountains, we were rewarded with a series of spectacular views of the central coastline and forested areas. The grade was not too bad, either, at about 2500 ft. over the course of 7 mi. But it was starting to heat up, and the shady stretches of road were welcomed. There was a rest stop at the summit, where we stopped briefly to refuel, but flies & other noxious insects kept us from lingering too long. The remaining 10 miles to Fort Hunter-Liggett were pleasant and slightly downhill, and we arrived at the base at around 4:00. Upon retrieving our camping gear, we set up our tents and walked to the showers at the recreation building nearby. We knew we were on an authentic military base when, at 5:00 (or "1700 hours", as we eventually learned to say), a very, very large PA system erupted into the bugled strains of "Retreat", and all regular base inhabitants, including those in the swimming pool, jumped up to stand at attention until the completion of the flag-lowering ceremony.

Bikeaholics Meet Spiderman

There was some time to relax before dinner, so while Don, John and Karl made their way up to the Officer's Club, Lisa and Ken decided to explore the fully restored Mission San Antonio de Padua. We decided to take a short cut through an open field, which turned out to be a BIG mistake. The short, dry grass transitioned into long, dry grass, manzanita, poison oak, and other unfriendly vegetation with lots of stickers and thorns, and we ended up hacking our way toward the nearest road. It was easiest to keep in line with the gopher trails, where the man-eating vegetation was more subdued. All of a sudden, Lisa came across a large tarantula (editors note: I can confirm that this particular tarantula was, in fact, Winnebago-sized)! We observed it for a while from a distance. Eventually Ken decided to walk over the thing, while Lisa found it more desirable to walk around it (editors note: around in this case meant a 50 ft radius). We then wondered how many more of these arachnids were lurking in the grass! We quickly got back on the road and proceeded towards the Mission. Unfortunately the church and garden area were closed for the day, so after a cursory walk around the site, we went back up the road and on to dinner. This event was held at the historic Hacienda Ranch House, originally designed by the famous architect Julia Morgan, when the base was still part of the original Hearst Ranch.

Although we arrived well within the specified dinner hours, it was clear that at least a hundred hungry cyclists had already made their way to the Officer's Club dining hall and had eaten all of the first servings of pasta, salad, bread and side dishes. So, we had to wait a while before the next round was delivered. The spaghetti with meatballs wasn't too bad, and we loaded up the plates, grabbed a glass of iced tea, and joined the rest of the group on a picnic table outside. Luckily, when it was our turn to go back for seconds, there was more variety available, and we were eventually able to get enough food. We sat around for a while, and then a rather mediocre country & western band began to play. At 8:15, a raffle was held, after which the Bikeaholics decided to call it a night and walk back to the campsite. We informed the rest of the Bikeaholics about the presence of potentially humongous tarantulas, and got a positive response from John.

In typical Bikeaholics fashion, veteran team members Ken and Lisa, intent on adding in extra loops, had brought their NiteRider lighting systems, and prepared themselves for an after dinner loop. We started off riding in running shoes on Time pedals and wearing a clearly inadequate number of layers of clothing. After about 2 miles, we found it to be completely impossible to continue riding without cycling shoes, and hypothermia began to set in. This was remedied with a quick return to base camp and a change into warmer clothing and real cycling shoes. A few miles out we finally got away from the sound of the raucous country & western band and bright lights of the base, and were able to enjoy the peace and serenity of the night. The full moon and twinkling stars illuminated the back roads as we explored them. At one point, we were even serenaded by coyotes howling to each other from ridge to ridge. The backroads of the base were for the most part deserted at this hour, although the occasional rumbling HumVee returning from night maneuvers kept us on our toes--- those things are wider than the average two-lane road! Having completed this mandatory exercise, we returned to the campsite, examined the tents for tarantulas, and agreed to a 4:30 wake-up call (we had vowed to be the first ones to the Officer's Club for breakfast).

That wake-up call came much too early, but it was our growling stomachs that prompted us to make our way to an early breakfast. We were among the first ones to arrive, and we feasted on plates piled high with eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes and waffles. We successfully brewed one large mug of Peet's coffee to kick start our bodies into action, and then returned to the campsite to take down our tents and pack our gear. The real army side of the base was also coming to life at this point, and we watched khaki-clad soldiers loading up HumVees and various other miltary vehicles for whatever activities they were planning for a typical pleasant Sunday morning (possibly a picnic with MRE's?). We then got on the bikes and made our way off the base and down the other side of the mountain towards King City.

After a somewhat slow start, we arrived at the junction with Jolon Rd., where we stripped off our outer layers, since the air temperature was rapidly increasing. The next 15 miles to King City were fast and easy, and it wasn't long before we got to the Hwy 101 entrance ramp, where we rode a brief stretch on the freeway to King City. The route continued along past fields of tomatoes and peppers. At one point we were almost sprayed alive by a stunt crop-dusting helicopter, but we managed to scare the pilot off with appropriate threatening gestures (editor's note: it is possible that the pilot, seeing Lisa's bright red & yellow jersey, mistook us for tomatoes & peppers). We turned on Spreckles Rd., which went up and down a slight ridge, turned westward, and proceeded to the first rest stop at Oak Park in Greenfield. Upon turning into the driveway to the park, we noticed Ken was missing. He showed up a couple of minutes later, whining and complaining about having gotten stung by a bee a little ways down the road. We made the appropriate sympathetic noises while quickly proceeding toward the food table, filling up on cookies and peanut butter sandwiches. On the way to the restroom, Ken complained further about his bee sting, and Captain Lisa verified that the sting site had indeed swelled up approximately 10x and was probably a little sore (editor's note: subsequent events finally ended all hopes of Ken's getting any real sympathy for the bee sting).

While the Bikeaholics were busy refueling, Lisa decided to break away to a distant table to take a required dose of asthma medication from her MDI (metered dose inhaler). Knowing that on previous rides the Bikeaholics timed the moment of her inhalation to deliver the punch line of jokes or to make fun of her, she had learned that in order to get the proper dose with the mandatory 10 sec. of breath-holding, it was necessary to find a suitable hiding place. She settled down on a remote bench, and having scanned the area for Bikeaholics and seen that they were either sufficiently far away or busy eating, got out the MDI, and shook it in preparation for the first dose. With the usual perfect timing, Ken, unaware that a medical procedure was underway, suddenly appeared before her and began a litany of jokes. After blowing out the asthma medication, an exasperated Lisa retorted with a "Leave me alone! Let me inhale in peace!" (editor's note: a Bikeaholics committee was quickly assembled to discuss this problem, and it was decided that, on future rides, Lisa will have to wear a large reversible sign emblazoned with the words INHALING when carrying out such activities).

The next 15 miles back over the mountains to the top of Carmel Valley Rd. were slow and steep as the temperature began to rise. At an emergency water stop, Science & Technology Officer John attempted to demonstrate his knowledge of flora and fauna by partially disassembling a walnut tree. Unfortunately he managed to permanently stain various parts of his body and clothing with walnut oil in the process, but he did succeed in entertaining the watching Bikeaholics. We stopped briefly at the rest stop at Miller's Landing to cool off and rehydrate, then made our way uphill towards Tassajara Rd. There was another rest stop at the top of the hill, featuring ice cream. We were quite tired at that point, and knew that the rest of the way to Carmel Valley would be shaded and essentially all downhill. Ken and Lisa sucked down tubes of Gu, while John and Karl munched on real food. Don compromised and stuck to a generous helping of ice cream.

Bikeaholics Meet 911

On our way down, we saw a mountain biker on the side of the road playing with yet another humongous tarantula, so we stopped for a photo-op before continuing on our way. After a very fast initial descent down Carmel Valley Rd, we came out onto a flat section and slowed to about 25 mph, riding in a fairly neat paceline. All at once, a loud, metallic scraping sound was heard, and the Bikeaholics turned to look behind them and witness Captain Lisa being flung from her new Sonica, rolling off to the right side of the road. There had been a large horizontal bump in the road, which resulted in her hands being thrown off the brake hoods, and the handlebar turned the wheel to the left, causing the bike to go out of control and crash at speed.

Lisa remembers the bump and realized in an instant that a crash was inevitable. After some indeterminate period, she remembers sitting by the side of the road, wondering how she was going to get back on her bike to finish the ride. Unfortunately, she didn't remember exactly where she was, where she was going, or even which ride it was!

Team Bikeaholics, as usual, reacted with speed and precision. We checked for serious damage, determined that there was some, and got out the first aid kits. "Damage" in this case included a cracked helmet, trashed Oakleys, shredded "Death Ride" jersey, a little blood, LOTS of road rash, contusions, scrapes, bruises, etc., but nothing apparently broken. The formerly new Campy-equipped Sonica fared a little better, with only a broken left shift/brake lever, torn-up Cimelli bar tape, and minor bits & pieces from a Time pedal scattered about. Other passing cyclists stopped to help, and then a number of motorists with cell phones stopped. We contacted the ride officials, and then bundled Lisa into a VW van that had stopped and proceeded back to the first aid station at the Carmel Valley Community Center. Once there, an EMT team examined her and tried to haul her off to a hospital while strapped to a back board. Having regained her memory and other critical brain functions, Lisa did a self-test and determined that she was "just a little beat up", told the paramedics "No way!", and signed their release form to get them to go away. She then submitted herself to the care of the nurse-on-duty, who proceeded to wrap her in a maze of ace bandages, ice packs, gauze, adhesive tape, and band-aids. The rest of Team Bikeaholics arrived at the end of the ride shortly thereafter, and the Big Sur Ride was pronounced "OVER".

Having loaded up the cars, we decided to meet for espresso before heading back home. After some driving around, we found a coffee place at the Carmel Shopping Center, where we convened and reviewed "The Crash" over more lattes and cappuccinos. Lisa's memory of the event had by now been fully restored, but any illusions that our Team Captain looked normal were shattered when a passing shopper glanced at her, did a double take, and exclaimed something like "My God! What happened to you?!! That must have hurt!", etc.

A final defining moment of the 1996 Big Sur Ride was when Team Bikeaholics delivered a slightly damaged Team Captain back to her parents' house in Aptos. The problem is that only 36 hours earlier they had picked up a cheerful, undamaged, fully functional Team Captain with a brand new bike, and now they were returning a rather bruised and dazed Captain Lisa along with a broken bicycle, and her parents wanted an explanation! It took all of his skills in diplomacy and a lifetime of training for Morale Officer Ken to successfully complete this last part of the Big Sur Ride (editor's note: Gee, Ken, I hadn't realized that this was such a traumatic experience!).


The Big Sur Ride is one of the most relaxing, scenic two-day rides in the central coastal area. Although it has a stiff entry fee (~$100, including meals and camping), a large portion of the money goes to local schools, and, in fact, most of the rest stops are staffed by energetic & cheerful high school students. It is very well organized, and the rest stops were sufficiently stocked, although this year with 200 riders, the Officer's Club at Fort Hunter-Liggett had pretty much surpassed its capacity! Nevertheless, we recommend it!

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