The numbing was odd. It spread from the core of my body, and I seemed to reflect the fierce gaze of the sun. Yet this was only a fleeting thought because I could not be wasting my energy on thinking. My view was hung on the pattern of the tire rotating in front of me. I found some comfort seeing the little star shaped nick appearing with every revolution because it was the only thing I was certain of. Was I going to be paid back for booking the hotel rooms after our trip? Whatever. Was I even going to make it alive? Meh. Do hotels even make cancellation exceptions if the person booking it died on the way there? Eh.
“I’ll plan the trip,” he said. We all suffered because of those four words. We were all excited, and we had a pretty good time on our very first bike ride from Santa Barbara to LA a few months earlier. I had also just built up a Giant TCR2 frame with Sram Force and was dying to take it out for a long ride to see how it rode. The plan was to start off in San Diego, stop halfway at Dana Point, and then meet up with some friends in LA the second day. It sounded like a solid plan, and he said he had the route sorted. Having taken the Amtrak down to San Diego earlier in the day, we decided to stop by the supermarket for some last minute supplies. We stood in the granola bar aisle and debated over which flavor was the best. We settled on Nature Valley’s Peanut Butter Crunch and my friend picked up a box and said, “This will probably be enough, right? We only have so much room in our bags.”
They were the most glorious granola bars I have ever had. We broke the last bar into thirds by the 4th hour of our ride and cried together, swearing that the peanuts were harvested by faeries and crushed into peanut butter by Zeus himself. We started to question our friend’s route planning skills when we noticed that we only saw cyclists going the other direction. At that point, we probably still had another 35 miles until Dana Point. It also didn’t help that the wind seemed to be blowing into our faces the entire way. Thoughts of calling someone to pick us up was running through my head because we couldn’t buy food anywhere even if we wanted to. We slowed our crawl to about 7mph, handle bars wobbling and twitching in the wind.
As I was deciding who to leave my bike to in my will, my friend spotted a tiny convenience store in the distance. We eagerly increased our speed to 8mph, fueled by the thought of glorious, glorious food. As we collapsed onto the benches outside the store, my friend proceeded to purchase anything that looked even remotely edible off the shelves. Among bananas, crackers, and energy bars, he spotted some tamales sitting in a dirty looking rice cooker, selling for $1 each. Let me tell you something about those tamales. While they had to be the oldest, driest, crustiest, and nastiest tamales I have ever seen, I swear to you it was the best thing I’ve ever eaten. Funny enough, we came to regret our decision to eat all that terrible food once we realized we were only a few blocks down from an actual restaurant. Needless to say, we had ourselves a proper meal before we trekked onward to Dana Point.
By the time we arrived at the hotel, we were all super exhausted. However, the feeling of hunger was not forgotten in our minds, and we set out to find some dinner. A McDonald’s was right around the corner, and we knew we needed it the second we saw it. Now, I must admit, while we may have regained some of our energy earlier in the day, we certainty didn’t fully regain our mental state.
Yes. That is a picture of 80 chicken nuggets, 1 quarter pounder, 2 cheeseburgers, and 2 large fries.
Yes. We finished it all, and it was glorious.
As we prepared to head out again the next day, I had my worries. While my legs weren’t as sore as I had anticipated thanks to all the fixed gear riding I did around campus, our new buddy was suffering a bit. But, we stocked up on more than enough food this time. We weren’t going through what happened to us the day before. Yet, looking back, we still made a few questionable decisions along the way. For one, our route took us through the pot-holed roads of Compton. Our bikes were pretty heavy in the rear because of the seatpost racks we installed so every bump we hit would make us swerve dangerously close to the cars screaming past us. Secondly, we decided to debut our clipless pedals on this trip, which resulted in a bent derailleur hangar when my friend tipped over onto me at a stop sign. Oh, the struggles of climbing when you lose three gears. Lastly, we booked a night at the Cecil Hotel. For those of you unfamiliar with this hotel, it is notorious for having murders occur here, and we didn’t realize it until we called a friend about our trip and he persuaded us to cancel. Even our replacement hotel seemed kind of sketchy. Our room was at the end of the hall, but once we got to our room, not only was the number pulled off the door, even the carpet was pulled up. I joked and said that they probably had to cut out the carpet because of all the blood they had to remove, and my friends nervously chuckled. We left the lights on that night while we slept.
Yet, as crazy and problematic as our trip may have seemed, it was a blast. I personally believe that a 100+ mile ride should be on everyone’s bucket list. Not only that, I’m proof that just any newbie can do it. My first bike trip down to Los Angeles changed my life. We bought road bikes and with zero experience made the trip in about 12 hours. We didn’t have fancy bikes, helmets or gear. Heck, we biked in regular shorts, a t-shirt, and platform pedals. Fast forward a few months and we’re caught up in everything road bikes. We’re constantly sending each other craigslist ads of awesome bikes, funny bikes, and down-right weird bikes.
Its great being on the road with a friend and just enjoying the scenery you pass through. Ultimately, for me cycling is about camaraderie, and that feeling of accomplishment when you complete your ride. While you may enjoy the pleasant sections together, it’s really those sections where you’re struggling to stay alive that brings you closer. Especially when you’re suffering because of your buddy’s poor research and planning.
So go forth and conquer the roads, because there’s nothing you can’t get through with your friends. And don’t forget to pack an extra peanut butter granola bar when you do!