1996 > Grand Tour Double > Lisa and KenS's Report
1996 Grand Tour
Team Bikeaholics continued their 1996 season with a "remarkably successful" Grand Tour. The ride, part of the Triple Crown series and celebrating its 38th year of operation, starts in Malibu, goes up Highway 1 to Oxnard, turns inland and traverses up & down numerous canyons to Ojai, then rejoins the coast at Carpenteria and completes the loop to Malibu via Highway 1. There were Lowland and Highland options, the latter being significantly more hilly. Team Bikeaholics, represented in this event by Captain Lisa Antonino and Medical/Morale officer Ken Straub, naturally chose the Highland Route.
The event was officially initialized during pre-registration the afternoon before, in which Team Captain Lisa received a potentially debilitating injury to her right thumb during a game of not-quite-ultimate Frisbee. Medical/Morale officer Ken examined the injury, and taking into account that the ride was "mostly flat and would not require advanced braking techniques or bike handling skills", determined that Lisa would not be released from her contract and would have to complete the ride.
The day started with the usual up-at-3, in the car by 3:30, start riding by 4:30 scenario. Since we had determined that this was going to be a piece-of-cake ride and that riding in the dark was "highly unlikely", Team Bikeaholics made use of minimal lighting in the form of a $12 clip-on-Cateye for one bike and a single bulb Nightrider for the other one. Appropriate lighting system repairs had been made the night before. This consisted of borrowing the two AAA batteries from the Team Captain's brother's VCR/TV controller for a rear blinking light and trouble-shooting the absence of light on the Cateye using two pieces of wire and a verifiably new AA battery (advanced electronics for chemists). After driving up & down various Malibu Canyon roads in search of a parking space, riding commenced with an official start time of 4:33 AM.
The ride up Highway 1 (heretofore referred to as the "PCH", as mandated by Southern California-speak) was cool, quiet and filled with anticipation. The sound of the crashing waves and smell of the thick salt air made us aware we were riding right next to the coastline. A number of riders were seen on the side of the road wrestling with flats and sidewall blowouts in the dim dawn light as a result of a rather sadly maintained road surface. The first rest stop at Point Hueneme at mile 35 was reached in record time, and the usual assortment of bike food was consumed. The route turned inland and proceeded up the first major climb, Potrero Rd. It turned out to be significantly harder than it looked, required the day's first use of a 39x28, and we noticed many of our fellow Highlanders were tacking or walking . After waiting for heart rates to reappear and settle down, we continued along bucolic country roads. This part of the ride was quite pleasant, with some very nice scenery, minimal traffic, and a reasonable temperature. The latter was due to the fact that the sun had not yet made an appearance. Up until this point the N. California riders were somewhat surprised to see that riding a bike in S. California was possible and even enjoyable. Two events conspired to challenge this viewpoint: (1) the sun came up; and (2) the route began to intrude into canyons that real estate developers had discovered.
As the morning wore on, the temperature began to escalate and the route turned into a tour of famous suburban developments such as Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, and Moorpark . The fragrant scent of carefully manicured bushes, flowerbeds, and yuppie joggers filled the air as we rode through the Valley communities. By the time we pulled into the second rest stop at mile 79, the temperature could only be described as a BLAZING INFERNO. The early symptoms of heat stroke, namely dehydration, irritability, and a glassy-eyed look, began to show up in many of the participants . The next part of the ride turned up Grimes Canyon. Team Bikeaholics worked in their mandatory extra-loop by missing this particular turn and added a few extra miles by going down a very heavily trafficked, high speed highway with non-existent shoulders and train track crossings that were specifically designed to ensnare bike wheels. After realizing their error and doubling back, an extra 5 miles of very dubious quality had been added to the ride total. The climb up Grimes was not too miserable, but the descent down the other side could only be described as "like standing in front of a pizza oven" or more accurately like riding through a blast furnace. The route then negotiated a series of climbs and descents before dropping into Santa Paula. The temperature at this point was in the low 100's, and the number of riders dropping off to the roadside from heat problems began to increase. A general store in Santa Paula was declared to be an unofficial cool down rest stop, and brain-damaged riders bought out their inventory of cold drinks and ice.
The lunch stop in Ojai at mile 117 was grueling. The organizers had somehow not anticipated the number of riders or the toll that the heat was beginning to take and had run out of most of the types of food that heat stroke victims wanted to eat, but had plenty of the kinds that no one wanted to touch. The person-in-charge of the rest stop had driven off to buy additional supplies, while the remaining workers tried to cheer people up by dishing out Dixie cups of warm potato salad and mayonnaise. The Bikeaholics were forced to stay at the lunch stop for almost an hour to refuel and rehydrate. Medical/Morale officer Ken's pallor, lack of appetite, unresponsiveness, and unwillingness to consume vital calories was of primary concern, and Team Captain Lisa tried all forms of persuasion, coercion, and eventually nagging to get him to take in something other than Diet Pepsi or Diet Coke. The final plea involved an offer to completely clean and polish his beloved Eisentraut in exchange for eating a minimum of 350 Calories. Ken finally succeeded in forcing down a tube of Gu, which involved a lot of gagging and about 10 min. worth of effort. The worst part was that, as Morale Officer, he was not allowed to publicly display his frail state since it might negatively impact the morale of the rest of the team, so he suffered in silence, while publicly mouthing training platitudes such as "Hot enough for you?", "No pain, no gain!", and "You can pay now, or you can pay later!". His apparently Herculean efforts at character-building were largely misinterpreted by the other team member.
By 3:00 it was clear that further attempts at rehydration were no longer worth the effort, and we climbed back on the bikes. On the way out of town, a digital thermometer on the Ojai Savings building confirmed our suspicions with a reading of 102°F. A long, infernal climb up Baldwin Rd ensued, followed by a moderate descent out to Carpenteria and the coastal highway. The temperature finally began to drop to reasonable levels, and by the time we pulled into checkpoint # 4 at Rincon Point it was a comfortable 90° or so with a slight sea breeze. The tour organizers managed to redeem themselves for the abysmal lunch stop by providing us with frozen Popsicles. In addition to our favorite bicycling snacks, we were treated with the perennial S. California favorite, Hostess Twinkies . The Bikeaholics teamed up with a couple of S. California riders for a brisk paceline down the PCH, still with vane hopes of getting in before dark. The other riders passed the time by teaching us S. California-speak (not to be confused with Valley-speak or Mall-speak). For example, a male cyclist wearing a tight-fitting Furnace Creek 508 jersey was refered to as a "stud muffin". A driver of a car with Arizona license plates is a "Zonie", and is presumed to be incompetent and an imminent danger to all cyclists. A later encounter with a Zonie while negotiating the back streets of Ventura proved this stereotype to be correct.
Although we were justifiably exhausted and weather-beaten, the cool breeze and deep blue ocean had cheered us up. The route back to the first rest stop in Point Hueneme was extremely pleasant, proceeding along the coast and through various side streets of Ventura. Despite our lassitude, lack of appetite and gastro-intestinal distress, we found ourselves eager to partake of the authentic, homemade chicken soup, replete with vitamins, minerals and other rejuvenatives, being served right out of the pot in the kitchen at the rest stop . We were then able to take in more nutritives, such as chocolate chip cookies, Ritz crackers and packaged pastries, and after retrieving our lights & jackets, we pressed on in a ragged but effective pace line.
The final stretch was about 25 mi. down the PCH, from Pt. Mugu to Malibu. We encountered two friendly light-less riders, and as it got dark we formed up a paceline consisting of bikes with good headlights at the front, bikes with good taillights at the back, and bikes with no lights interspersed. The road surface was dangerously unsafe, with long stretches of unrideable or narrow shoulder that forced us into the traffic lanes, and coupled with the heavy traffic, mostly consisting of monstrous RVs, this made for a not-terribly-pleasant experience. We rolled through the finish line at around 9:30 p.m. with shouts of jubilation and sighs of relief.
The check-in station had a party atmosphere, complete with a 4-person Jazz combo, colorful helium-filled balloons and the usual assortment of left-over bike food. One source of amusement was to listen in as participants rolled up, wobbled, staggered or crawled over to the officials, shouted out their number, and were issued a rather pathetic looking 25 cent ride patch. One participant, clearly disappointed, began shouting at her limping riding partner/significant other: "That's it?!!! That's all I get?!!!". One can only wonder what was promised before the ride.
We finally pulled ourselves up and away from the festivities at about 10:30 p.m. The conversation in the car was largely incoherent and was punctuated with of a variety of gasps, sighs and wheezes. By the next day, our appetites had begun to return and most body parts and systems were coming back on-line. We munched our way back to the Bay Area, arriving at about 6:00 p.m. on Sunday in generally good spirits and with a great sense of accomplishment.
L.A. & K.S.