Beach, Bikes, and Tears: Sea Otter 2012

A confession: I didn’t actually spend any time at Sea Otter. But it’s not my fault! I had good intentions, but it just didn’t work out. Let me explain.

I flew into San Francisco late Thursday, so my first view of California was an amazing sunrise.

My friend Jeff picked me up around lunchtime and after an obligatory California lunch at In-N-Out, we started down Highway 1 to Monterey! I requested the slower, but much more scenic route to Monterey because I’d never been to California before. It was amazing! Jeff said it was like taking someone to Disneyland who had never been before. And he was right! I just couldn’t get enough of the mountains, cliffs, ocean, waves, beaches…! After I could resist the siren song of the beach no longer, I requested a stop to admire the ocean.

We also stopped at the Santa Cruz boardwalk so I could ride the Big Dipper roller coaster! I’m told this is a requirement of visiting Santa Cruz. I’d never been on a boardwalk before- we don’t have a lot of them in DC or in Iowa. Shocking, I know.

I was definitely wearing too many clothes

So you can imagine with all the side trips and ogling I was doing, it took us awhile to get down to Monterey. Which meant right when we got there, we had to go pick up the bike I was borrowing for the Fondo from Jan (@jvalen)! Bike aquired, we went to an AMAZING Italian seafood place in Marina. Seriously. If you live in the Monterey area, you must go to this resturant. Called Frutti De Mar, it looks like a little hole in the wall in a strip mall, but everything I had there was AMAZING. I don’t know if it was because I was starving or what, but the house salad was amazing, the bruschetta was amazing, the snapper was amazing..! I left stuffed and happy. For a perfect end to a perfect day, I got to see an ocean sunset.

So you can see why I didn’t get to Sea Otter on Friday! Too much discovering going on. Saturday was Gran Fondo day. We got there around 8 and OMG there were a lot of people and OMG it was HOT. This made me nervous, as we know how well I don’t do in the heat…

The coolest thing about Sea Otter was how all the different bike disciplines came together! BMX, mountain, road… they all seem to stick with their own kind in real life. But here, all the different “genres” were mixing it up together! The amount of bikes and the variety of bikes really gave me a RAGBRAI feel. However, once we got started on the ride, it was a distinctly non-RAGBRAI feel. There were not enough recumbents, tandems, people riding in sneakers, or portable boom boxes to make it like RAGBRAI- and too much spandex, fancy bikes, and clipless pedals. But the vibe was still great.

It was an out and back, so my enjoyment of all the awesome descending that started the course was tempered a bit that- all I could thing was “we gotta ride back up this fucker!” The only other thing that lessened my enjoyment was a slow leak in the front tire. Because OF COURSE I would get a flat. As the flat queen, it’s practically required. Luckily my riding partner, Jeff, had a spare tube. Later he mentioned that the tube had a patch on it, so it’s probably not my fault.

After the first major downhill and roller of the first 10 miles, it was pretty flat for the rest of the ride. Not totally flat, but definitely not terribly challenging. But OHMIGOD the views were stunning! I just couldn’t get over how beautiful it was. Normally, I don’t get off my bike too much when I’m riding, but I made an exception for this ride.

So I ride and I take lots of pictures and everything is beautiful. But really all I can think about is the monster hill waiting for us upon our return. We finally make the turn to the last uphill road. The wind dies down and the sun starts beating on us. And when we get to the base of the climb, I say “oh SHIT.” Because it is really long. And steep. I wish I had taken a picture, because it was impressive. It wasn’t all one big hill, but 3 hills broken up by a little downhill. As I start up the hill, I know there is no way I’m going to make it to the top without stopping. So I say to myself, “just make it to that little bit of shade, then you can rest.” And I do. I rest with two others, a couple of cars go by and ask if we need help. No, I’m just out of shape, I tell them. When I start again, I somehow pull one of my water bottles so hard that it rips the cage right off the frame. So when I make it to my next shade goal, on the next hill, I use that as an excuse to stop- I have to stop, I’m reattaching my water cage!  On the third hill, I shared my shade with another woman taking a break and a fast looking guy in spandex. That made me feel a little better ;) Anyway, the whole thing was very reminiscent of RAGBRAI- no shade, blazing sun, no wind. The hills were a bit more intense- I think the last hill hit 7% for a bit. I’m glad no one was there to see me riding- it was ugly. I had the opposite of nice form and was definitely pedaling squares. As I jerked my bike up past someone who was walking up the last hill, I gasped out “I’m pretty sure this is a circle of hell, where the hills never stop.” She assured me this was the last hill and I cried. Literally. As I saw the massive parking lot come into sight, I cried. I was so happy the hill torture was over.

I did have a coupon for a free beer and food and a massage for after the ride, but I was so damn hot and so tired that I couldn’t bear the thought of being out in the blazing sun trying to track these things down. I just wanted to have a shower and a nap. So that’s why I didn’t go to Sea Otter on Saturday.

Caution: bike will make you appear faster than you are

My ride and riding partner, Jeff (@jaowen)

That evening, we went to Jan’s house to return the bike and have dinner. Heather Nielson (@rideempowered) was staying with them, so I got to meet and chat with her as well. I wish I had taken a photo of all the Twitter folks, but I wasn’t that on top of things.

Sunday I had planned to go out and actually spend time at Sea Otter, but my ride, Jeff, had to leave around noon and I still had to figure out how to meet up with my brother. So no Sea Otter on Sunday. After I meet up with my brother, we drove down to Carmel Beach to see the ocean. Then we did a wine tasting and bought cheese for fancy grilled cheese sandwiches. All so very California.

Monday the only interesting thing I did was go the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Which is practically a requirement for visiting Monterey. Luckily, Adam’s roommate had a membership to the aquarium, so I didn’t even have to pay to get it! It was a pretty amazing place. Aquariums aren’t really my thing, but it was crazy well done. The deep sea tank was fascinating, but I think I liked the kelp tank a bit more- watching the swaying kelp and fish was mesmerizing.

Jellyfish fascinate me and creep me out

So my trip to California was a giant success and I can’t wait to go back. And next time I’ll wear more sunscreen so I don’t fry…

Check out more photos on Flickr!

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