How Far Is It To The Summit?

Screen shot 2016-04-03 at 9.17.27 AMAround the campfire last night we had a talk and made plans for the final day.  Day 4 contained the biggest single climb, and, we were also riding 52 miles, ten miles longer than the previous day. To top the day off we had a train to catch at the other end and it wouldn’t wait for weary cyclists.  The plan then, was to leave by 7:30 and be in Ventura in time to pick up the Uhaul truck and catch the train. Sub-plan: Courtney decided that her legs had reached their limit and was going to get a ride and meet us at the train station.

Everyone was looking toward the mountain we had yet to climb. How long was the climb? What were the elevations? What’s it like on the top? After three full days, how would our legs respond? I didn’t really remember much about it except that it was longish and pretty steady. In fact, the climb was longer but not as steep as I remembered from several years before.

Day 4 Begins

After a short flat section the climb started. It immediately turned to switchbacks, but long drawn out ones. Traffic is never too light on a bike ride. We had been spoiled with minimal traffic since hitting Soda Lake Road, but trying to get a ride for Courtney on a deserted road was tough and we were hoping for the farm truck to come by with a friendly and generous driver.

Day 4 Courtney's AngelWell, he didn’t show up, but we flagged someone down and he, unfortunately,  said, “Nope! Can’t do it,” then pulled away from us only to stop forty yards up the road. He had a change of heart. He was Courtney’s Knight in Shining Armor- we packed all of her gear in his van and waved good bye, with plans  to meet up in Ventura, not before taking a picture of him and his license plate just in case.

Day 4 Uphill for 5 milesFrom then on it was uphill to the summit. It was cool in the early part of the ride, but the exposure to the sun quickly warmed us up . The 2000 feet plus climb to the summit contributed. Still, even a hilly, hot day on the bike is better than most other days.

Day 4 Summit R & S and MattThe summit was welcomed and we regrouped there for a picture or two before heading into the next section, the Sespe River canyon.

Day 4 Sespe Downhill LizDropping into the Sespe is soooo much fun. The road goes down fast with just a few rollers to pedal over. The road is smooth and wide and you can pretty much forget about using the brakes. The river and rock formations were eye candy and the descent was awesome. I continually scanned the sky hoping for a glimpse of a California Condor, but no luck.

Screen shot 2016-04-03 at 9.17.27 AMAs seen on the day’s course profile, it’s a pretty easy day, at least on paper. But reality has a way of making what’s on paper a bit different. We topped out at 5,732 feet elevation and our downhill was to take us down to 7 feet in Ventura. If there is a better final day on a bike tour than a 5,725 descent over 25 miles, then I want to find it and ride it. Notice the little bump at the mid point of the profile. That little stretch is were the road leaves the Sespe River watershed and crests a ridge that leads to Ojai. It was also the hardest  quarter mile section of the trip. The wind blew up the gorge and right into our faces. Not a mild or gusty little wind, but a strong and steady wind fueled by the hot inland temperatures. Small gears ruled, and getting as aero as possible only slightly lessened the difficulty factor.

Day 4 Second Summit LunchAt the bump of the false summit we found a handy and scenic roadside picnic spot for our lunch. Strangely, the wind was not blowing there.  The food was shared around and we enjoyed the rest stop knowing that the remainder of the ride was downhill.

Day 4 False Summit downhillFrom our picnic spot, we could see the coming afternoon’s descent. In the distance was the marine layer, the cooling fog that’s often on the coast and reaching inland, but in this case it blocked our further view of the canyon.

Day 4 Matilaja Creek Yellow FlowersWe dropped into the canyon in small groups and singles. Smiles and white knuckles all around. This section proved to be steep with many sharp turns, perfect for going fast and learning the bike over.

Day 4 Fat GeorgeSome of us gained a little weight from the fine cooking on the trip.

Day 4 Tunnel SusanThe section of road passes through a tight canyon called Wheeler Gorge. There were a couple of tunnels there and some of us shared the tunnels with semis, and while the roads had more traffic as we approached Ojai, they were still pretty much deserted.

Day 4 Three Dirty CyclistsAfter a bit more pedaling we rolled into Ojai and our lunch spot. The super-market had everything we needed. I seem to remember beer and chips to go with the actual food for fuel.

Day 4 Posse on Bike Lane BridgeThe final eleven miles from Ojai to Ventura we enjoyed the Ojai Valley Bike Path, a Class One bike lane that parallels Highway 33. It’s a wonderful place to ride and well used by the community.

Day 4 Posse Bike Path MartyWe took lots of photos and stuck together as a peloton, dodging families, strollers, dog walkers and other people out enjoying the day.

Day 4 Class One Bike Lane DanielIn Ventura, Marty and I cycled across town to the uHaul dealer while the others pedaled to the Amtrak station. Each of the two groups bought some beer, cause, well, beer.  Half an hour later the truck was packed, we were changed and waiting to make the return trip to SLO.

train-stationBike touring is pretty much always fun. I’ve toured alone, with Liz, with small and with large groups, and in every case, it’s fun. Twelve people is the largest group I’ve ever toured with, but each person brought something unique to the trip-food, wit, skills, equipment, positive attitude…

Last night we met to talk about this spring’s tour. We don’t have a route yet, but the four days are from Friday, March 31 to Monday April 3. Yep, April Fool’s Day is in there. I’m looking forward to seeing what trip the group cooks up for the next ride and getting back out on the road. Want to join us?




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