Sometimes one of your friends get a great idea for a crazy ride…. all you can do it say “yep” pack a bag and hit the road.. San francisco to Los angeles in 3 days summer 2014
So back in summer of 2014 Marc Marino hit me up one day and told me he wanted to ride to Los Angeles from San Francisco in 3 day.. he had a route that took us inland and away from the coast (HWY 1) and while the days would be long, we would just bring backpacks and stay in hotels so it would be “easy.” This was still very much a time when track bikes ruled everything around us so doing this on bikes with gears did seem like an “easy” ride. Keep in mind 3 years earlier Marc, Crihs, and I rode to Las Vegas from SF on track bikes with backpacks (well Crihs had sling bag for some reason) in 5 days, so yea this was gonna be an “easy” ride.
An “Easy ride”……..
Day 1 - Sf to Panoche road exit on i5
On the day of our departure we all met up at Four Barrel coffee in the Mission, each with a small back pack full of street clothes, extra kit, and tools. Marc and Dave were on road bikes (Marc borrow his from Erica, he was Track bike only back then) and I was on a CX bike with wheels borrow from Mike Martin, all of us were on 700x25 tires. Marc had planned the whole route on Strava and so we were at his mercy. We took off and proceeded to ride the length of Mission st. starting in the Mission of SF all the way to San Jose 60 miles to the south, smashing every red light along the way like it was an alleycat. An early flat didn’t slow us down and we stoped at an In and Out right as they opened getting the coveted order #1 ! The stoke was very high as we started to finally work our way out of the urban sprawl and we finally left Gilroy in the dust, heading east into the hills. And more hills and then more hills, and then the road which started as a highway became two lanes, then one lane, then as we entered into Panoche valley it became a collection of potholes and washouts loosely translated into tarmac. With our snacks on the verge of exhaustion due to our assumption that there would “definitely be a store along the road” and the sun dipping lower and lower in the sky serious concern began to set in. So we did the logical thing, we stopped at the next building that had signs of humanity and begged for help, in this case it happened to be a goat farm run by a local family. The proprietor of said goat farm informed us that “we were pretty close to I5, like 25-30 miles and the pavement ended soon and most people didn’t try the pass unless they had a 4x4 on account of the river you have to cross.” Dave and I looked at Marc, who merely shrugged and stated that “it looked legit on Strava.” With little else to do but press on we filled out bottles, downed a fresh liter of raw goat milk (try it sometime, seriously it’s amazing) and proceeded to hit the road. The river crossing was barely a stream and while the pavement did end and a 4x4 would have nice our bikes did fine and after some serious #lightbro at sunset we rolled into the Panoche Road exit of I5 right as darkness set in. The Best Western had a room next to the pool, the Taco Bell was open 24 hours, 152 miles later we were “almost there”
peep the strava route here : https://www.strava.com/routes/6659330
Day 2 Panoche Road to Taft
The next morning we drug ourselves out of bed and proceeded across the parking to the Gas station/Macdonald’s combo to fuel up before the day ahead, gotta love desolate truck stops for their convenience. In our almost utter lack of planning we neglected to acknowledge that we planned on riding through the central valley of California in the summer time and it was already 83 degrees (Fahrenheit sorry this is a story set in America). So we set off into the blistering heat to ride Hwy 33 south along the coastal range. They call it The Oil Highway for good reason, when there wasn’t orchard there were oil derricks…and not much else. Once again our idea that there would be snacks along the way proved false, and our water consumption was much more than expected as we tried to beat the heat. This led to many initially awkward encounters at remote oil stations and huge corporate farms as 3 sweaty spandex clad dudes tried to fill their water bottle and explain their adventure to rough necks and migrant farm workers. None the less the day was ripping, a steady tail wind pushed out little pace line across the expansive wasteland. At that point none of us had much experience with a peloton, so we were blown away by our average speed of 29mph. We rolled into a small town called Taft as the sun was setting and without bothering with such formalities as checking into the hotel first, dove straight into the pool leaving a sheen of sweat and road dust floating behind us as we hunted down dinner. No we really were “almost there” after 138 miles Los Angeles was within our reach.
check the Strava route here : https://www.strava.com/routes/6659343
Day 3 Taft to Santa Monica
If you are ever in Taft CA there a restaurant called Paik’s Ranch House that serves a chicken fried steak as big as your face.. well actually it’s probably bigger than your face and my face together. SO needless to say we (Marc and I) each ate one of those monstrosities in an effort to fuel our depleted bodies for the last push into LA. This final was hot, and then it got hotter as we climbed out of the central valley and over the the Los Padres forest to the coast. We all were pretty tapped out at this point and numerous snack stops were made when ever shade was found. Once we finally crested the mountains the crisp refreshing ocean breeze was like an elixir of life, reviving us for the final push. After so much time spent on desolate highways and back roads the heavy traffic on HWY 1 through Malibu was a shock. Rather than getting us down it energized us to start ripping as hard as we could, the iconic Santa Monica Pier sign our distant goal. Arriving after 140 miles just as the sun was setting, burnt to a crisp with empty fuel tanks we collapsed in the grass along side the beach bums and crust punks. SF to LA in three days.. on a “best guess” route, we had made it! Only to realize that we were staying in Silverlake, all the way across LA, let’s just say that tempers ran a little high until we stopped at a donut shop along the way and then all was well. As always LA welcomed us with open arms and after a huge meal we join the Golden Saddle crew at Smog Cutters (RIP) for as many beers and laughs as we could handle. Marc was in fine form until he fell asleep on the sidewalk, there may or may not have been a fight in the parking lot with some locals over something stupid, and Dave may or may not have almost been kicked out for eating all the snacks on the bar without drinking a single beer, a fine end to a long trip. The next day we hit a surplus store for some clean clothes for the drive home and our ever supportive friend Erica stuffed us into the back of her car, packed in the snacks and took us home, sunburnt and stoked.
Trip total was 430 miles.. a lot of climbing I dunno exactly if you care look at the strava files.
Peep the strava route : https://www.strava.com/routes/6659358
So really this was kind of a big thing for Dave Marc and I because we had always stuck to track bike tours before this, this was our first time going out with gears. It was also our first time having a predetermined route that wasn’t just following a main highway, new roads, way more out there, more adventure. This kind of opened a bunch of new doors for us as far as where we could go on a bike, getting off the beaten path a bit. So hopefully this will inspire you to get a few good friends, kind of plan a route, and just get out there and have an adventure. 4 people to a 2 bed hotel room, dinner at gas stations, re-routes, roll with the punches, keep moving even if it’s not forward, and above all search for stoke!
I took some of these photo’s on my phone, some are from Marc who had a disposable camera from No Life like this life - check it here http://www.nolifelikethislife.com/nlltladventurecam-vol4/