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To Ride 100 Miles - My 23rd Solvang Century

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

To Ride 100 Miles - My 23rd Solvang Century

Old 03-10-14, 01:09 AM
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To Ride 100 Miles - My 23rd Solvang Century



Another March, another Solvang Century, my 23rd in the last 27 years. [Edit: I think this was actually my 24th Solvang Century). I rode my first century in 1977, when I was 39, which makes me 66. This year, this past Saturday, on a cool morning, I straddled my bike, my brother Dan and long-time friend and riding companion, Silas, beside me, as we looked up at a decorative windmill at the start of the ride.

Where did the time go over all those years? I can tell you where some of it went earlier this year: riding up super-steep hills in Los Angeles, spinning my way to the Santa Monica Pier and back, riding in the rain – rare as it is in L.A. – most of those rides coming in just the last few weeks before Dan and I and Silas traveled to Solvang, the little faux Danish tourist town tucked into the Central Coast Mountains of California, about 125 north of my home.





At my age, there are many cyclists fitter than I am. Because I made an unconscious commitment in the early 1970s to stay fit for as long as I could through the rest of my life, I'm probably in better physical shape than most people who share my same or approximate number of years. To complete 100 miles in a day, on a ride with 5,000+ feet of elevation gain, you need to in reasonable shape, or you will suffer.



Once on our way, the first few miles of the Solvang ride led us generally west, toward the first rest stop, in the town of Lompoc. Somehow Silas slipped by us, while Dan and I shed our outer layers at the top of a hill when the day began to warm. We wouldn't see Silas again until the end of the ride.



The route led through a beautiful rural geography. In prior years the hillsides have been green. The rains that used to occasionally visit the the ride were absent, as they have been the past few years; as a consequence, the fierce drought that's cooked California in its own juices this year has kept much the landscape of the Central Coast as brown as a rump roast. It' still beautiful, just not as green.

The preternaturally warm winter sun may have began to take a toll on a few cyclists, who had to walk up the last hill before a long descent into Lompoc and the first rest stop.



Long ago, my brother and I rode the Solvang Century each year with a group of friends. While most of them still ride, they've all stopped pedaling 100 miles in a day. For me, though, I need to keep the flame lit, to feel the force of life, to set a goal and, for as long as I can, stay the course. I'm fairly certain Dan and Silas feel they way I do, too.



A chance meeting with Mira after the first rest stop more than made up for losing Silas. If she wasn't as strong as Dan and I were - she probably was - she made up for it in stamina, having put many more miles on her cyclometer than either of us. After chatting for a bit, assessing our strengths, we decided to stick together for a while, which turned out to be the next 70 miles and the end of the ride. Mira definitely had a positive attitude.



Part of the route led through the vast Vandenberg Airforce Base, where missiles are tested for war and blasted into space to place satellites into orbit. At one point, after pushing hard up a hill, I posed for a photo with two more new friends, who worked on the base, while waiting for Dan and Mira to catch up with me.



As usual, support for the ride was awesome. There are five rest stops well supplied with food and there's Spiz, the energy drink created by Randy Ice, the man who also created the Solvang Century in 1982. I always manage to eat too much food on century rides. Next year, I'm going to try to make it through the day mostly on Spiz if it's available again. I drank a fair amount the second half of the ride, when the temperature rose above 80 degrees; I felt the drink helped me get through the day.

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Old 03-10-14, 01:09 AM
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After leaving the air force base, we traveled over hilly terrain before riding several flat miles into the city of Santa Maria, and another rest stop, where we took a 30 minute break. We knew the next part of the ride involved some long, steady climbing and we wanted to recover some strength. I'd felt an odd, undefinable sensation in my right leg, where it joined my hip, and I worried what the rest of the ride might be like. The rest, though, and encouragement from Mira, got me back on the bike in a better frame of mind, and I found my strange pain was gone.



Past Santa Maria, we sweated our way up that series of climbs, though a strikingly beautiful landscape. Finally a long, swift descent brought us to my favorite rest stop, the fourth, in the little community of Sisquoc. The word Sisquoc may have been a word used by Chumash Indians that meant "stopping place," and apt description of the rest stop. I made a picture of a couple of riders I met there, as they stood in front of a little red ranch house. I'm always worried that one day, when I pedal back there, the ranch house will be gone, with a massive, corporate ranching operation standing in its place.



For now, the little ranch house and the land around it is a throwback to another era.



This is a place to see cattle and watch cowboys disappear into the distance, where dogs only chase after horses and don't chase cyclists.





Past Sisquoc, Foxen Canyon turns south, toward Solvang, rising gradually, and I think annoyingly, for nine miles, past strawberry fields and wineries. And then an incredibly annoying and steep hill has to be topped, at about mile 8o. Whatever miles I had done in training, plus our relatively easy pace on the ride itself, paid off for me. There was plenty of strength left to jam up to the summit, as I shot past cyclists who were slowly turning their cranks, or walking their bikes, or leaning over their bikes, or sitting on the side of the road; they'd set too fast a pace for themselves and now they were paying the price.



Gaining the top of the hill led to an awesome descent to the last rest stop. Dan (above; at 62, he looks like he could ride the TdF) and Mira were not far behind me.



A couple more climbs and 15 more miles along the open road, and another century was ready for deposit in the memory bank.




Across the finish line, Dan and I bade farewell to Mira, and found Silas.



The day ended as it began, with a glance up a the windmill at the end of the ride. And then it was time to pack the car with our bikes and gear, and make the drive home. I hope all the rest of this year I keep riding. And I hope I can return next year for another Solvang Century.
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Old 03-10-14, 05:20 AM
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Awesome post!
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Old 03-10-14, 07:01 AM
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Great narrative, great photos!
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Old 03-10-14, 07:03 AM
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That's a great Century to do and it looks like the weather was great. I remember the one time I did it, it must have been 40 degrees when we left and I wasn't prepared for the cold at all. I froze my butt off for the first hour of the ride.
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Old 03-10-14, 07:30 AM
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Great writeup - and a wonderful ride. I think all of us with somewhat "advanced" years want to just keep doing it as long as possible and as well as possible. The effort slows down the inevitable.

Just curious though about your arithmetic. Was your first ride in 1977 or 1987? Something isn't right in the dates.
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Old 03-10-14, 07:31 AM
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Your ride reports and photos are always an enjoyable read. Looks like a great Century.
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Old 03-10-14, 09:46 AM
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Originally Posted by thunderworks
Great writeup - and a wonderful ride. I think all of us with somewhat "advanced" years want to just keep doing it as long as possible and as well as possible. The effort slows down the inevitable.

Just curious though about your arithmetic. Was your first ride in 1977 or 1987? Something isn't right in the dates.
Thanks for that. I was always terrible at math. I meant, though, my first century was in 1977; my first Solvang century came ten years later.
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Old 03-10-14, 09:54 AM
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Had a lot of friends from the local shop ride that went up for this one. Maybe I'll join them next year. Thanks for the narrative and great pix!
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Old 03-10-14, 09:57 AM
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I always do enjoy your photo documented adventures.
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Old 03-10-14, 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by TakingMyTime
That's a great Century to do and it looks like the weather was great. I remember the one time I did it, it must have been 40 degrees when we left and I wasn't prepared for the cold at all. I froze my butt off for the first hour of the ride.
It was 41 degrees at the start of our ride. After that long, frigid wind blast beginning, we had trouble moving our lips. I've ridden a few times when frost covered the grass lawns in Solvang, though.
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Old 03-10-14, 10:55 AM
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great ride report! I rode it too as my first century (albeit metric) and I thought it was fantastic!
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Old 03-10-14, 06:27 PM
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Thanks, Dave for the write-up. I enjoyed it, almost as much as the ride. The second half of the century was tough for me this year--not enough miles in training partly due to illness a couple of weeks before the ride. But I'm glad I was able to do it, even if my body is not too sure about it as I write this. Next year will be easier, I hope!

Dan (Dave's brother)
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Old 03-10-14, 08:04 PM
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That is so rad!!! You're doing it right, icyclist!!!

GREAT post.
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Old 03-10-14, 09:18 PM
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I rode the century this weekend as well. It was pretty chilly going down the hill early in the ride it took a while for my fingers to defrost. The roads were pretty rough in places and there were lots of flat tires. I had 3 flats one was from a sidewall cut in my rear tire. SRAM neutral support were great, they helped me and my friends a few times.

Nice write up. The only problem I see is that we didn't go onto the airforce base this year. We rode near it, but not on it. The base commander didn't give the ride organizers permission this year. We did ride on the base last year.
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Old 03-10-14, 09:27 PM
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Nice post! My parents are from the SLO area. I miss it every time I head off to school
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Old 03-11-14, 05:41 AM
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Great pics and writeup! I should really slow down and take some pics on my rides
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Old 03-11-14, 05:39 PM
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beauty!
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Old 03-11-14, 06:06 PM
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Truely a beautiful ride. My first time and second ever century. The grind on Foxen really got to me more than anything, much more than the steepish grades that followed. They do kinda stack all the climbing in the last 30 miles.

My ride on strava: Solvang Century
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Old 03-12-14, 08:33 AM
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Really enjoyed the great pics and narrative. Well done. Thanks.
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Old 03-12-14, 02:55 PM
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Thank you !

Thank you for such an enjoyable and well done post!
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Old 03-12-14, 03:35 PM
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What he said ^
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