I started looking around the net for training routes and found the Los Angeles Wheelmen website (LAW). Luckily for me they had a training ride scheduled. Also, talk about convenience; the ride started less than a mile from home. I printed out the route slip and the required waiver for ‘non-members’ and showed up at 7:45 am to join the group – Yerba Buena Canyon here I come!
When I arrived I met four riders and after a flurry of introductions and small talk some others joined. Bill, Gary, D (that stands for Don or Dan), Chris and three others I don’t remember (sorry!). Bill, Gary, D and Chris’ names stuck with me, because I spent most of the ride with them (well, on and off at least), whereas I never saw the others again.
Leaving Brentwood we quickly dropped down onto PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) and Chris and I were at a red light turning onto PCH stopped behind two unknown riders. These two young hammer-heads pulled us all the way to Malibu at a nice 22 mph. Another unknown duo was drafting behind as well and when they took the lead it was lights out. Their increase in speed happened so fast that by the time I figured out what was about to happen, they were already 10 bike lengths ahead. Chris chased them for a while (eventually lost them), but I didn’t because I was here for the ‘hills’ and knew I needed my legs a bit later.
Mile 31 marked the turnoff to Yerba Buena canyon and supposedly was to be a rendezvous point according to the route slip. I knew Chris was well ahead and D just pulled into the turn, but I learned earlier at the start that there might be two others who took off before the start time. When I spotted a brunette in a Conejo century shirt (the same shirt two of the men in our group sported), I figured she might be with LAW, but she was not so. I learned later that she was a friend of MErider, who is an avid cyclist and prolific (and might I add excellent) blogger. Her site is called MyDogParty (you really should check it out, a lot of worthwhile stuff to read). I didn’t want to hang around, because I felt good and strong and was ready to tackle that ‘hill’ (ahem, mountain).
The next 10 miles were a continues climb (at least I don’t remember a single section which let up), most of the grade gradual climbing, although some section I could only handle by getting out of the saddle and pedaling standing up (most of that was in the first 5 miles). I loved going up that mountain! Once I was above 500 feet the coastal fog disappeared and I traded dramatic mountain views with really hot weather.
Along the way I ran into a cyclist named Steve (not with LAW) and we rode most of the climb together, chatting (did you catch that? I was riding up the hill and talking, also known as “sputtering sentences in between gasps for air”).
He was fun company and knew this area very well. He also was a very strong rider who indulged me for a while but it was time to part ways after filling up our water bottles at the X-Ranch ranger station.
The ride from the station to Mulholland Drive was a very steep 2 mile climb and then a series of long roller coaster with the occasional strenuous incline thrown in for good measure. After a total of 20 miles of this I reached Rustic Canyon General store, which was our lunch destination (right around the 52 mile marker).
I arrived at the store about the time Chris was swallowing his last bite of lunch, but he was nice enough to hang with me until others from the group arrived. This little place came a s a welcome rest stop. Clearly a popular stop for cyclist and motorcycle riders alike, this historical artifact sits in the shadows of huge oak trees and misters provide for much needed cooling off. However, the real stunner was the food: great sandwiches, awesome looking burgers and the uh’s and ah’s coming from the folks eating the pulled pork sandwiches coming of the BBQ spoke volumes.
As it turned out, I only would see Gary and D, everyone else was too far behind and I did not want to spend more than 30 minutes resting in fear of stiffening up. I said good bye to the guys and thanked them for having me along. They were returning via the valley route in order to get their miles in for the COM (century of the month) vs. my coastal return, which was 20 miles shorter. The rest of the trip had plenty of challenge left along Mulholland Hwy. and through Malibu canyon, but the big climb was out of the way and the mountain (yes, this was no stinky little hill) was behind me.
My good feeling about the ride, the climbs, the company and feeling strong did not fade when I was back on PCH. I still had gas left in my legs and rode Malibu to Santa Monica in a respectable 19 mph (respectable for me after 5000 ft of climbing). I usually dread the climb up the California Incline, but compared to the mountain this was just a little mole hill, and before I knew it I was home.