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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My First Century!

Now that sounds really old. Actually, in the cycling world a century is a 100 mile ride and I am pleased to say I just completed my first organized one after only about a year of riding. I have been training for this and anticipating the ride called Strawberry Fields Forever. As you will see in some photos to follow this ride took place mostly in the beautiful rural agricultural stretches of Monterey County.

This is my sister-in-law, Kristy, and I still quite perky as we just got our numbers and we were pumping up on all sorts of energy foods. Kristy is not really hung up on numerology but the "666" was just a little too much so she decided to hang it on her bike upside down so it read "999" instead.

The Strawberry, as it is most affectionately known, has a reputation for having some of the best food at their rest stops. We enjoyed fresh orange slices, coffee cake, bagels & cream cheese, granola, mini burritos and even cappuccino in addition to all kinds of beverages for re-hydration. There were four rest stops and one full lunch break along our trek.

The coolest thing about these stops were how very GREEN they were. Each stop not only had triple recycling bins but a person monitoring them to make sure no waste went wasted. There were even volunteers stationed at all the bins to make sure that your food scraps made it into the compost bags. Cycling and Recycling. They go hand-in hand.

The green spirit is not only part of the cycling world but also very representative of the kinds of people who take this sport seriously. By definition cycling is one of the most eco-friendly means of transportation. Cyclists are generally quite fit and courteous of others around them. Check out this sign someone posted along the Strawberry route. Bike GPS devices are quite expensive and when they fall off it causes significant disappointment. Someone took the time and effort to make this sign. Locating the owner might be a bit of wishful thinking, however, as the device was found at last year's event. Oh well, it is still an amazing gesture and completely indicative of the kinds of great people who love this sport and have created a community around it.

And now for the scenery which is one of the most amazing perks of this ride. They don't call it Strawberry Fields Forever for nothing as this next shot reveals. Although this region is famous for its artichoke production there are also rows and rows of strawberry plants and we are right in the middle of the harvesting season. There is nothing like a cool Pacific breeze mixed with fresh strawberry essence to give you a lift while pushing that crank around and around!

One of the rest stops was near the Monterey Bay Academy. Here's the view from their long entrance off San Andreas Road. Their motto is "Where Land and Sea Unite to Inspire" and it is not hard to see how this slogan came to be. The campus rests in one of the richest agricultural belts you'll ever see. This stop had a theme called "Italian Festival" and they served all kinds of antipasto treats and Italian coffee drinks. Weren't we supposed to be pushing our collective athletic envelopes on a rigorous sporting event?

Could there have been a more natural spot on this route than the Elkhorn Slough? Outside of San Francisco Bay it is the largest tract of tidal marsh in California. My propensity to stop for photos did not win us any time trial awards but it was well worth it to document Mother Nature's constant display of beauty.

No first century could be complete without the proverbial flat tire award. I caught a construction staple in my rear tire just shy of the big rest stop for lunch. My very hungry state made this the fastest flat I have ever fixed but we did have to pause for one silly shot of me and my spent tube around my neck like a lei. Ahh-Low-Hah!

How about this sign for a little bit o' irony along the way. Fire safety aside I could not help but think they were also pushing those of us century newbies towards that big 100 mile mark.

OK, now it's time for some truth in blogging. The REAL reason they call it The Strawberry is your final reward at the end of the ride. You guessed it. The freshest strawberries you'll ever taste and many of them dipped in a variety of chocolates too. Kristy and I were certainly not shy at that point to partake in the red delicious.

Strawberry Fields Forever...
And in the end the love you take is equal to the miles you make.