Get Out of Town!
Fun with Friends
October, 2021 - Issue #204

Naive enthusiasm. Dawning regret. Fatalistic determination. Like grief, long bike rides require riders to pass through distinct phases to achieve completion.
I know this, because in early 2020, my longtime friend and riding partner, Mike, invited me to join the team he was assembling for a fund-raising century ride. Century - as in 100 miles in a day. With a 50-mile kicker the second day.
Aside from a couple of minor details - I didn't have a road bike and I'd never ridden 150 miles in two days - it would be great. Like getting the band back together, actually. From early weekday sessions, to long Saturday rambles, Mike, James, Jason, Todd, Tony and I have ridden mountain bikes together in some combination for more than a decade. A couple summers ago, we even snuck away to Mammoth for a guys' get-away to bomb down the mountain's legendary trails.
This outing promised more of the same - a weekend with all of us camping, riding and beer tasting in and around Carpinteria. I was all in. Fully in the grip of naive enthusiasm, I was soon soliciting the requisite donations and getting fitted for the custom uniforms we planned to order. Oh yeah, and stalking Craigslist for an affordable XL road bike.
Fast-forward a year. After canceling the 2020 ride, event organizers put together a self-supported version for 2021. They published various routes and let riders choose one to complete on their own.
In a nod to realism, we opted for a 50-mile loop that would take us from our campsite at Carpinteria State Beach, down the coast to Ventura, up into the hills toward Ojai and then over Casitas Pass before dropping us back into Carp.
By race day, our original team of six was down to five. We straddled our bikes behind the makeshift starting line - a length of toilet paper held taut by our cheering wives. Rolling out of the campground beneath a blanket of gray clouds and fog, we built a strong pace on the mostly-flat path that runs along the beach from Carp to Ventura.
The dawning regret set in for me within 10 miles. My lack of training was evident when I couldn't match the group's moderate pace. I fell further behind as we turned inland at Ventura and began climbing toward Ojai. Guys dropped back to check on me and provide encouragement. Mike even tried drafting me, but my fading legs wouldn't keep me on his wheel.
"In a nod to realism, we opted for a 50-MILE LOOP that would take us from our campsite at Carpinteria State Beach, down the coast to Ventura, up into the hills toward Ojai and then over Casitas Pass before dropping us back into Carp."
We stopped at Lake Casitas to empty our bladders, refill our water bottles and down some snacks. With more than half the ride completed, I liked my chances, however. Casitas Pass, the toughest stretch of the day, lay ahead and it was tailor-made for fatalistic determination.
My minimal training had prepared me for this. During my daughter's track practices at Castaic High, I did hill repeats, grinding the two-mile stretch from The Old Road to the high school. Clicking into my lowest gear, I resolved to keep turning the pedals until I crested the pass.
It worked, and soon we found ourselves running downhill. The cloud cover turned to mist, forcing us to check our speed through the twisting turns. Skinny road tires grip only so much on wet pavement and the cars passing hard on our left reminded us a fall could lead to more severe consequences than road rash. Still, I whooped aloud as gravity propelled me along the steep straight-aways.
Less than four hours after starting, our little peloton was charging down Carpinteria Avenue toward our finish line - Lucky Llama Coffee House.
The ride ended like it started, with minimal fanfare. Just five sweaty guys sitting on the deck sipping coffee and savoring that fourth and final phase of a long ride - euphoric amnesia.
The one where you've forgotten the pain and say, "That was fun. Let's do it again some time."
Eric Harnish lives in Castaic.
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