Sometimes the end of the story stays with you the longest. A day after the San Diego Randonneurs Corona 300K, the last few hours constitute the thickest of memories for this rider: tired, soaking wet, quite cold, and dreaming of the beach.
The day started out great in Solana Beach – 17 riders registered, although I counted 20 at the start. Temperatures were cool and the ground was wet, but folks seemed in good spirits and ready for a long day in the saddle. We were off at 6am, and up through the beach communities to Oceanside – a familiar route for me and mostly flat, providing a good warm-up.
Then we took Interstate 5 for a section. I’d never ridden the freeway before, and I don’t think I want to unless its part of an event. It was a lot faster than going through the marine base, but less scenic and not bike friendly in the least. Especially when drivers used the inside lane to pass on the “California Autobahn.” Then it was a charge up through San Onofre.
The first control was my standout favorite: the Bagel Shack in San Clemente. With so many controls being chain restaurants (which, admittedly, have more reliable hours and accurate clocks on their cash registers), the Bagel Shack was clearly a local favorite. I enjoyed a jalapeño bagel with crème cheese and a coffee. The other riders also seemed to enjoy the early morning fare.
As we made our way up the coast, dodging cars in Laguna Beach and heading toward Newport Beach, the sun began to shine. At the Starbucks control in Newport, A big group gathered and we made our way to the Santa Ana River Trail. What followed was about 30 miles of riding without stops. It was beautiful and sublime. The rain began as we approached Corona. Part of the group turned into a Jack-in-the-Box on the other side of the street. I followed, pedaling ahead and looking behind me for traffic – but the rider in front of me didn’t turn and I grazed his wheel and went down. No harm, no foul, as it was a slow-motion silly fall – but my arm and keen would begin to hurt later in the ride as the miles wore me out.
In some ways, this matched a point in the ride that descends on many randonneurs – when the fun seems to fizzle and the work begins. Luckily, I was riding with John and Wayne, and we decided at the Corona control to sit down and get a real lunch. We found Jimmy’s Diner (highly recommended!) and enjoyed a BLT. We began again and I felt great. The wind was pretty intense and we broke up, as I rode on my own down Temescal Canyon Road and through to Temecula.
With a 90% chance of rain and thunderstorms forecast for the entire day, I should have anticipated the conditions during the last portion of the ride. It seemed as though we dodged bullet after bullet during the day, as I counted 3 relatively brief showers during daylight. I remember riding through Lake Elsinore and Murrieta, seeing a huge dark cloud hovering to my west, thinking “I can ride around it!” That turned out not to be the case, and as dusk came, I put away my camera in Temecula and tried to survive the big climbs, the dark, the wet, and the cold.
On the way out, I found some other riders. I was happy to get some company climbing and descending Old Highway 395, which was unfamiliar to me. The rain was heavy, and at one point following Dave and a couple of other riders when I noticed my taillight had shorted. Earlier on the ride, I overheard a talk about how the Planet Bike Superflash shorts because the switch is on the bottom, where water pools. Being a San Diegan, I remember hearing about this before, but taking no notice of the apparent consequences. But there I was with no taillight. I had a spare in my Zugster, but I decided to follow the other riders on the inside of this very dark and very creepy country road until I found a place to stop. At a market, I pulled off the light, flipped it, and it worked. Now I needed to take off the mount, flip it, and put it back. This took a while, as I was in the pouring rain… but no problem.
I made it to the Wendy’s in Escondido following Kelly and John. Osvaldo was there, and a collective desire to linger settled upon us, drinking coffee and talking about the day. With 15 miles to go on Del Dios Highway, I followed Kelly and John, who really pulled me along, through the rain and down to the finish.
The Ebisu was a joy to ride. After the ride, bike was filthy, as any good randonneuring bike should be. It will clean up, but I like to think of it as a tool. The Honjos came in handy! The Zugster bag kept my stuff dry, and despite getting muddy through the day (lots of road spray from un-fendered riders), it came out clean (likely thanks to the drenching I got at the end). But on that last stretch, I was cold and wet. I’ve had a lot of experience in cold weather, but this has me scratching my head for more durable wet, cold weather gear. The Ibex knickers and long sleeve Woolistic jersey were perfect. The wool gloves kept me warm until the last few hours – wool is great, but the combination of conditions over time pushed the utility to their limits.
It was a difficult day for me, but I never felt faded and no part of my body or the bike gave me trouble. Like any ride that proves memorable, it was the company, the camaraderie, and the finish that will stay with me the longest. Well, maybe the cold, wet memories too.