The Long Slog: San Diego to Home (533 miles)



Last night I was up a bit later than expected so I figured I’d just sleep until I woke up.  Morning called about 8:30 and that was a pretty full night’s sleep.  Nothing to complain about that!

There was no way around that today was going to be a long day.  Actually it will be my longest day ever on the bike.  The prior record was 521 mi crossing Kansas.  The ride path though is quite similar: ride straight and fast.  It’s freeway all the way.  Not even a slightly twisty road like 152.  Looking at the weather we had a few issues going on.  Winds were gusting to 20mph and it was 29 and snowing over the Grapevine.   Given that California drivers can barely drive in rain, I’m not crossing the Grapevine with all the lemmings heading home from Thanksgiving in the snow.  That meant I was going 101 which was prettier than 5, but slower and more miles.

Kickstand up was about 9:30 that morning.  I figured I’d do the same ride plan that I did on the way down.  Fill up, ride till the tank starts blinking and repeat.  The first tank of gas got me to San Juan Capistrano, just south of LA.  I try to eat reasonably well on the road (aside from the occasional Taco Bell) so I hit up the local grocery store.  As I was putting some stuff away a little girl waved hello while she was getting out of the car to go see her mom.  I waved back and smiled.  I added a cup of hot tea to the order from the local bagel shop.  75 miles down for the first stop.

The next major hurdle was getting through Los Angeles.  Given that this was peak travel time, I was expecting the worst.  I took toll CA-73 to the 405 out to the 101.  It was totally the right call.  The 73 seemed to be getting lots of love as the pavement was brand spanking new.  The wind had been a bit of an annoyance for most of the ride, but made the skies clear of smog.  When cresting over one of the hills near Irvine the view of Los Angeles was incredible.  All you could see from end to end was city packed in.  I’d never seen so much city at such a density.  Between Ventura and Santa Barbara the highway runs right along the ocean.  The skies were clear and the view was awesome.  I’ll take the extra 50 miles for such a nice ride.

The second gas stop was in Santa Barbara.  It’s always a nice stop to get a meal.  Usually I don’t go for swanky Italian restaurants, but Trattoria Mollie is just awesome.  I was halfway done with the ride so I took a bit longer stop than the others.  The meatballs are my favorite there.  They have a few different kinds of meat, some rasins, and spices in them to give a nice blend of sweet and hot.  Since I got there well after the lunch hour, I got a table even though I was a road weary, dirty, biker.  When I’m in town I always make a point to go see Mollie.

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Traffic was rolling in this next stretch.  The highway cuts inland for a while and then makes it out to the coast again at San Luis Obispo. I had considered making San Luis an overnight stop, but it was nearing sunset and I was feeling good so I pushed on to Paso Robles.  Paso Robles was a quick gas stop and Starbucks refuling spot.  I only had 168 miles to go so I pressed on for home.   I won’t lie, this part of the ride sucked.   It was dark and cold. The freeway was straight as an arrow. Traffic was aggressive.  Traffic stopped about 60 miles away from home.  By the time Gilroy rolled around I figured what the cause of the traffic was: outlet malls.  The thing of it was, the freeway wasn’t that jammed.  Again it was the we’re not commuting mindset.  After about 30 miles of stop and go the highway opened up and the last 30 miles were smooth sailing back to home.

I was on the road 12 hours.  I’ve thought about doing an IronButt ride which is 1,000 miles in 24 hours.  Yes, there are organizations that track and certify this stuff.  I was halfway done.  Did I want to get back on that bike and ride to San Diego?  No way.  Had I had a desire to be an Ironbutter, that was now over.  One way was enough.


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