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Central California Coast 2014

On Sunday morning May 4, eight riders and a sag wagon driver arrived in Santa Barbara to start a week-long tour along the California coast. The tour's official name is the Kickass Tailwinds Central California Coast Tour. Julie Topliffe (leader), Terry Finstad, Lois Horowitz, Ken King (sag driver), Chris Polta, Kathy Strege, Cindy Tozer, Joi Vogel and Paul Vogel met at the AMTRAK station to load bikes and ride the rails to Salinas. All went well on the trip north to Salinas; three of us were in the van, and six took the train. The van was loaded with two bikes and almost all of the luggage, so when it arrived in Salinas with a couple of hours to spare, it seemed logical to offload everything into the motel. Wait. There are four helmets? Won't they need those to ride from the Salinas train station to the motel? Also, some had packed their pedals and shoes in the van, since the van would be meeting them at the train station in Salinas. So several frantic minutes were spent going through luggage and trying to get a clear communique from the train on exactly how many items we were searching for and where they might be. The train was a half hour late, so most of the needed biking gear had been located by the time the train arrived. The bikes were unboxed and reassembled as the sun was about to set, so all riders went to a Pollo Loco, ordered dinner and continued to the hotel. The van delivered the food to the hotel a few minutes later. At our meal, Lois was given her Knickerbiker jersey, a surprise gift from her son-in-law. Everything was now in order for a short trip tomorrow.

On Monday, perfect weather, perfect scenery, and lots of laughs combined for a day to remember. We rode over to Monterey to see Cannery Row and the bustling town, and then rode the famous 17-mile drive alongside the ocean and the golf courses. The ride turned out to be a little more than 40 miles, and everyone arrived in plenty of time to rest up, clean up, and go to a Thai restaurant for dinner.

Tuesday's ride from Monterey to Big Sur was mostly right along the coast. We stopped at Point Lobos State Reserve, and hiked some of the trails, spotting lots of flowers, sea mammals, and birds. The latter part of the ride climbed into conifer forests with cooler temps. The Big Sur Lodge had cabins surrounded by beautiful redwoods and some wild turkeys; the males were strutting around showing off their plumage.

Wednesday May 7 was supposed to be the tour's toughest day, and it was! 68 miles and 5,000 feet elevation is quite a feat. The team started at 8:00 (48 degrees) and immediately climbed several hundred feet. The weather was clear with a tailwind all day. By early afternoon they were climbing the two killer hills at about mile 45. Actually the group split into to three riders in the lead, 4 in the peloton, and two in the van (Ken the driver and a rider with a bum knee). The coastal views were spectacular, with rugged cliffs and dense forests. The traffic wasn't bad, but the shoulders were usually non-existent. After the last summit was conquered, there was a 20 mile downhill to the huge elephant seal colony and the hotel in San Simeon. After cleaning up, we celebrated with a big dinner! [Note: The Amgen Tour of California rode the same route a week later in much higher temperatures!]
The ride on Thursday was essentially a layover day with a short 28 mile cruise down the coast. This gave us time to see charming Cambria, Harmony and Cayucos in detail. After lunch in Cayucos (home of the famous brown butter cookies!), we continued on to Morro Bay, arriving early enough to walk around the town, do laundry, and just hang out. Most of us went to dinner with Bob Behnke on the Embarcadero in Morro Bay. The weather continued to be perfect with temps in the 60s and light tailwinds.
On the next day, the ride from Morro Bay to Santa Maria was a pleasant 40+ miler with strong tailwinds and 70 degree weather. Part of it was along seaside resorts, and part of it was through flat, rich agricultural lands. We had lunch at a taco stand where the local fieldworkers seemed to congregate. The tri-tip tacos were outstanding! We spent the night at the historic Santa Maria Inn, which is very nice. Keith Topliffe joined us today, but managed to break a seat post. A local bike shop couldn't replace the post, but they did lend him a bike to do the remainder of the trip. Kudos to the bike shop!

This tour will be called the Tailwinds Tour; again today (Saturday May 10) the riders had strong winds behind them as they rode a little over 40 miles from Santa Maria to Buellton. The route navigated through flat farm country, where broccoli, cilantro, and raspberries were being grown (and harvested in the case of the broccoli and cilantro). Then the route entered Foxen Canyon, which is really more of a lovely valley than it is a canyon. Lots of large oak trees and pastures dotted the landscape. As we approached Los Olivos, vineyards became prevalent. Los Olivos was the site of a half-marathon, and the place was crowded (45 minute wait for lunch was common), but that's one of the few lunch places along the route. From there it was a short hop to Solvang, where some enjoyed a brief snack. It was crowded there too. The four or five miles to Buellton had HEADWINDS! It was just a reminder of what could have been. We spent the night at the Days Inn Buellton, site of the movie Sideways.

The last day of the 270 mile tour ended today in Santa Barbara after a 47 mile ride with 2000 feet of climbing and strong tailwinds. The last leg found the cyclists cruising along the beautiful coastline in 70 degree weather with big smiles on their faces!

After lunch in Goleta and a 10-mile ride to our classy hotel in Santa Barbara, some riders wanted still more, so they went to the beach and harbor (and wharf) to join the Mother's Day celebrants.

Keith, whose car was in Santa Barbara, drove back to Santa Maria to return the loaner bike. The loaner bike had a blowout and a flat (lightweight non-Kevlar skinny tires) but was it fast! The hotel hosted a happy hour for its guests, so we drank their wine and ate their cheese. The venue served as a place to award gutter gifts as well. The group awarded Ken with a beautiful photo of the Big Sur coastline and the famous Bixby Bridge. Thanks, all!

On Monday morning, folks headed south to San Diego. Thanks, Julie, for organizing a spectacular tour of one of the most scenic coastlines in the world!

Ken King