It was with a heavy heart that I started the first double century of the season on Saturday the 9th of February.
My cousin Nick Gillespie lost his life in an avalanche while skiing up in his Grand Tetons just a few weeks ago.
I can’t even imagine what his parents Jim and Alison are going through as well as his sister Heidi who was there when it happened.
This ride is dedicated to the entire Gillespie family. Below is a nice story about Nick written by his girlfriend. What an amazing young man Nick was!!
|Nick and his sister Heidi last month in the Tetons|
This year I did the ride again on the tandem with my brother in law Vince. This year Vince really had no base miles so we planned to just do it as a training ride. Not that we could go fast anyway with the weight we were carrying.
We volunteered again this year to work as part of the staff on the event. The organizers knew that we wanted to do the staff ride a week before the event so they asked us if we could “Recon” the course and give them an update about the road conditions for the event the following weekend.
We left home about 2:30 am and planned on starting no later than 4:30 am.
For a couple of days prior to our ride the weather had turned pretty nasty. Cold temps with snow at very low elevations just the day before the ride. The forecast was for a chance of scattered showers the morning of the ride and it was going to be real cold for SoCal.
We left at about 4:30 with the roads still wet from the rain and hail...yes hail... the afternoon and evening before. The temperature was about 35 degrees in Irvine when we started. It was very damp so it felt way worse.
We did the ride “self-supported”, meaning that we carried everything but the kitchen sink with us on the bike since we had no rider support. We were supporting ourselves and had to be prepared for any problem be it, weather related or mechanical. WE WERE REAL HEAVY!! Felt like I was towing a trailer or something that heavy.
We wanted to leave early to beat the traffic in Newport Beach and Laguna Hills since the first part of the ride has us meandering through the hills of the south coast of Orange County.
It was nice rolling through the area in the early morning darkness. Not much to see anyway. We hit the coast hwy and headed to Laguna Canyon where we started a nice easy climb up to El Toro road. In this area it was the coldest. It was about 32 degrees here and there was steam rising up from the streams in the canyons. I guess the water was warmer than the air.
Just after sunrise we hit beautiful Dana Point Harbor. This is usually the first check point on the day of the event. We only stopped long enough to take a picture at the overlook and headed on through San Clemente to San Onofre State Park where we planned to make our first true rest stop.
|Vince with Dana Point Harbor in the background|
|San Onofre Campground. Our first rest stop.|
We stripped off our jackets but left our full leg warmers, shoe covers, wool base layers, full fingered gloves and vests on. It was still pretty cold while moving. (we never pealed off another thing the whole ride...it stayed pretty cool)
We filled up with water and ate before heading into Camp Pendleton Marine Base for a short while on the bike path.
So far the roads were in fantastic shape on the course. Even the usual mud filled tunnel on the Marine Base was not too bad.
Through the base we went then we exited and hit Interstate 5 for 7 miles before exiting in Oceanside. Whew.....that was a blast! Very noisy but nice wide shoulder and we were cruising!
Finally we got out of that noise and were back on the coast hwy again before hitting the San Luis Rey river bike path for about 7 miles. Up the path we went dodging the joggers and slow riders like a slalom course before exiting on College road.
From here we headed up North River Road toward Bonsall. This road was the roughest on the course. It was narrow with no shoulder and could be a problem for a group of riders riding in a pace line and not being able to see all the ruts and pot holes ahead. Bad situations could happen in that scenario!
We got through that area ok and on to Old River Road. This road used to be real rough but now it is re-paved and in pretty good shape.
Into Bonsall we went toward the traditional lunch stop at the camp ground. I think this was the fastest we ever went through this section. It was beautiful and green with beautiful cold air cumulus clouds everywhere; in fact, it was looking somewhat ominous for awhile but got better.
We stopped for about 30 minutes at the camp before heading up the hill.
|Heading through Bonsall|
This middle part of the course is the nicest. Riding through the rolling hills to Fallbrook and then back to the coast in Oceanside again. We had allot of wind in this section and the climbs just seemed tougher this year on the tandem. I think it was all the weight! I was also feeling a little off the whole day and especially toward the end.
|From West Lilac Road|
|Highway 15 looking toward the north and Temecula area|
The long climb through Fallbrook was pretty stressful on the tandem. It was hard to keep the bike steady on the heavy trafficked, narrow, road during the climb. I had quite a bit of torque steer from my strong rear engine. The descent back to the coast was epic though but we had allot of headwind which did not look good for our return.
Back on to the interstate we went for the 7 mile stretch. We had no wind.....halleluiah!! We flew even faster back to the turn -off onto the base. I think we were going along close to 30 mph in the flats in the slipstreams of the vehicles and trucks passing us. It was great. (and you don’t get that effect as much on a heavy tandem). I can only imagine the draft on a single bike!
|Heading north on Interstate 5....flying!!|
We made our way through the base, northbound and again stopped for water in the campground before heading to San Clemente.
This is where we made our traditional burrito rest stop at The Green Burrito. Vince had two of them and a coffee. I had one and a cherry coke. For some reason, junk food at this point on a long ride really is appealing.
We took another 30 minute break before heading out. There was still plenty of light and we were ahead of last year’s time at this point by about 30 minutes.
|Sunset while heading toward San Juan Capistrano.|
Now we headed north through San Juan Capistrano to our turn inland on San Juan Creek road. From this point we had more climbing through the area to get to Crown Valley Parkway.
It got dark with allot of traffic while we were on Crown Valley heading toward Rancho Santa Margarita and it was getting cold! Not a fun section for us on a tandem.
We made our left turn on Antonio Parkway and started the long gradual climb up to Santa Margarita. The temperature dropped to 40 degrees at this point and it really zapped our energy this year. I was lucky I brought a backup tail light because the batteries went dead pretty fast on my good one. Must have been the damp cold.
We stopped to put on our warm jackets and eat. I had a peanut butter and honey sandwich with a Hammer Perpetuam chaser and Vince wolfed down the rest of his Perpetuam shake.
Just as we started up again we saw a gigantic owl, fly over us real low in the dark. It was one of the largest I have seen. The first thought was that it was Nick stopping by to say hi. I have not seen Nick since he was a young kid but he was in my thoughts this whole ride.
We made our turn on Trabuco Canyon road and then had a very chilly descent into Trabuco Canyon. It was freezing as usual in there but this year was the coldest I had experienced. I could only imagine what it was like a couple of years ago when there was freezing rain through this section in the evening on the event.
It took forever on our heavy tandem to get out of that canyon but we made it and we bombed down to the turn on Santiago Canyon road.
Up up we went through Santiago Canyon.
We had a new found strength knowing that after this summit we had an almost all downhill return to the finish in Irvine.
Once we reached the top I put on my very heavy gloves for the descent. Now we really had a great descent into town but very cold. I wonder what the wind chill factor is when you are traveling at 40+ mph in 40 degree temperature. COLD!
I think all day it was the dampness from the rain the day before coupled with the cold that was the major problem. I felt wet all day! And cold!
As we rolled down Jamboree road we heard a bunch of women screaming at us. We looked to our left and there was a giant, tour size, party bus with about 20 women hanging out the windows screaming at us. I think it was a bachelorette party or something. Made our day!
We made it back to the start a little before 9pm.
No flat tires this year but we had to stop 4 times to true the rear wheel. We kept loosening spokes on the little climbs.
Moving time: 13:48
Overall ride time including all stops: 15:57
I broke the ride up into two parts on my Garmin computer so I could charge the battery at lunch just in case the cold temp effected the battery.