Thursday, June 07, 2007

Part 14 First Cross Country

Please excuse the long delay in posting this blog update. I have been busy with Brevet Week in Wisconsin and driving to the start of the Elite Tour in San Diego. I am writing this update in the parking lot of the Best Western at the start of the Elite Tour.

Part 14
The crew found a place to park the motor home in Indio at the base of the ten mile downhill. I slept for a few hours and was up again at sunrise. I got back on the interstate and bypassed most of Palm Springs. These were the days when riding the interstate was allowed through here or before any cyclists ever considered riding across the desert. I hadn’t seen any other cyclists since Missouri or since the fellow I rode with the morning leaving Prescott, Arizona.

The west wind was starting to blow as I climbed from sea level up the gradual 30 mile grade to Banning, California. The total climb was only 2,600 feet but I was barely riding at 12 mph against the wind. On the other side of Banning was the downhill of San Timiteo Canyon. This road would become a famous climb for east bound riders during the Race Across America during the next 10 years. For me it was a welcome downhill going west. I was getting closer to Riverside and San Bernardino. My dad was in the motor home talking on the CB radio and told the crew we were looking for a specific route toward Los Angeles. It was probably Old Rt. 66 but in 1981 Rt. 66 had been decertified and no longer was posted with road signs. The follow car behind me told me to pull over and stop. The motor home was on the correct route and asking on the CB where I was. I was lost for the first time of the whole trip. The support car told me to load my bike on the roof and we needed to drive back several traffic lights to the motor home. The detour only cost us about ten minutes but added to the stress of finding our way across the city.

Once I was back on Old Rt. 66, which wasn’t called Rt. 66 in 1981, I proceeded west. Every three blocks I waited at another red traffic light. Ironically several years later I would be leading tours on Old Rt. 66 and would be quite familiar with the neighborhoods. During the Rt. 66 tours one of the riders counted 375 traffic lights in 80 miles between San Bernardino and Santa Monica. As I continued west the traffic was getting heavy. I was barely averaging 10 mph with all the traffic lights. The final 150 miles would take me almost 15 hours to cover.

I finally arrived at the Santa Monica City Hall, which was the official starting or ending points for USCF cross country records. It was just before sundown and the parking lot was fairly deserted of business traffic. I was met by the regional USCF official and Victor Vincente who had set the Double Transcontinental of 36 days several years earlier. I was really surprised he came out to see me. It was really an honor to meet him. There wasn’t any celebration with the crew because we knew we were only half way done. Everyone was hustling around just like it was a normal sleep break. It was really a strange sensation to have ridden across the country and know we had to turn around and do it again in a few hours.

My East to West time was 12 days and 18 hours. I had missed breaking John Marino’s one-way record by several hours. I would have to go faster on the return trip.

The Specialized Bike Company had given me a new red Allez bicycle to ride on the return trip. It had all Campy Super Record parts. These were the days when I still used 27 inch tires. I took the bike on a test ride around the parking lot. It fit well and I knew I would like the way it rode.

We decided to get a hotel room in Santa Monica, which was a mistake. The only hotel we could find in the area cost $200 and didn’t have parking for the motor home. It was getting dark and I still hadn’t seen the Pacific Ocean. I didn’t want to waste anymore time so I went into the fancy hotel and took a shower. I must have slept a couple hours and was up again at 2:00 AM. We wanted to miss the Los Angeles traffic and get out of the city before 6:00 AM. The crew and I went back to the Santa Monica City Hall. The USCF Official was waiting for us. I have to give him a lot of credit for staying awake most of the night. At 3:00 AM I started riding again. The traffic lights were now flashing yellow and the streets were vacant. I was cruising out of town at 22 mph. I felt fresh and excited to be on the return trip. Our crew had learned a lot about cross country racing.

The first half of the Double Transcontinental had ended. Now it was time to pick up the pace and hope for tailwinds heading east.