A lesser man may have heeded these signs’ collective advice. However, mostly paying attention to the stenciled sign on the right, I looked down and noticed that I was not riding a motor vehicle and therefore proceeded beyond this gate and along my merry way on this very ominous road.
Who knows what the locals call it, but I’ve dubbed this the Paradise Loop north of Santa Barbara. It starts out entirely paved with a nice climb, San Marcos, out of Santa Barbara. Then a ripping descent, then a right handed turn, an entertaining visit with a local grocer who unsolicitedly blurts out, “Boy, those have to be the most uncomfortable shoes I’ve ever seen!” I took the time to correct him, that they are in fact quite comfy and that even though I walk as though I’m struggling through my seventh day of having learned how to walk, they’re not actually made for walking and that they make the sport of cycling much more pleasant. He didn’t really care what I was saying because he interrupted to say, “Cycling is one sport I just don’t get. My wife? She’s a sleeper. She’ll sleep all the way until 7 o’clock in the mornin’. Meantime, I’ve already run six or seven miles by then. I wake up around four, four-thirty and get out the door. I just like to run…”
Thanks for sharing that Forrest Gump. Please give me my water and stop dissing my shoes. I bid you adieu.
So from there, you rip through a park and past maybe one car for the subsequent ten miles before you dodge your first road closed sign, river crossing, and ardent attempt to be badass while wearing spandex all within a short mile of each other. Minutes later, you’re greeted by the above photo of very foreboding nature. But ignorance is bliss so I darted by it and crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t get flats and started issuing watts to my bike.
Many watts later, the view was spectacular. You’re now approaching Gibraltar Reservoir, you’re surrounded by some amazing mountains, spectacular rock formations, and you’ve seen one mountain lion too many (yup, true story – darned scariest animal on earth in my humble opinion). You’re also low on water, but you just know that everything always works out in the end. So you carry on…
Look closely and you can see the road crossing left to right through the mountains ahead. Three miles later, I’ll be over there.
And now even more than three miles later, I reached the summit and descended Santa Barbara’s well known Gibraltar Road. I took the opportunity to rest my brakes pads and speak with some local hang-gliders who were about to launch. Without much thought, I just figured you could stay up in the air for an hour max; turns out when the air, wind, and temperature are all working in harmony (and user error is low) those folks can stay afloat for six hours or more!
And so many hours later, zero flat tires later, a few NPR podcasts later (excellent, edifying riding “tunes”), and many watts later, I arrived home.
In the meanwhile fastforwarding to the present, after 36 legendary hours of travel in which I drove to the Santa Barbara airport, flew to LAX, jogged through the airport, flew to Miami, sat on the tarmac for about an hour which caused me to unhappily run through the Miami airport, I then flew to Buenos Aires, Argentina, waited for my luggage to arrive on another incoming flight from Miami because putting my suitcase and bike onto my plane would have made too much sense, ignored customs and security entirely because I had a bus to catch and it was exhibited to me that playing ignorant and acting as though I’m in a hurry will make most people get out of your way here in Argentina, then bussed across town to another Buenos Aires airport, flew to Mendoza, then took a bus to our final hotel here in San Luis. Obviously that’s how you get from point A to point B when they’re on nearly opposite ends of the western hemisphere.
Oh, so I was saying in the meanwhile, I’ve arrived to Argentina where it is hot and dry and the people are friendly and the billboards are excellent for honing my high school Spanish. My favorite so far translates to, “It is easy to be happy!”
Here are a pair of photos of our ride today. I’m particularly fond of the first one which takes place in our hotel’s version of our team HQ-slash-garage. Everyone is carrying about their business, filling bottles, airing tires, putting on shoes and helmets… including Timmy who’s already accomplished that lengthy list of stuff and therefore found time to read the paper (a lot of being on any pro cycling team is finding time to occupy time).
Next are the friendly folks riding along and taking photos of us. Given how freakin’ hot it is here, you might think this is just fifteen minutes into the ride – optimum for mid-ride water topping off. But no, we made it a full hour before thirst got the better of us. Anyway, Argentina is so far excellent.
As I said to the verbose grocer before, adieu.