Ever since the day nearly three years ago when I struggled to complete
the six-mile loop around Lincoln Trail State Park in Marshall,
Illinois, I'd been slowly but surely spending more time on my
(progressively nicer!) bicycles. Earlier this year, I had completed
my first metric century north of San Francisco. I'd finished an
80-mile Sunnyvale-to-SF round trip last month, and I'd done a fairly
hilly 55 miles on the 25th, just two days ago. I started putting
together some small organized rides for a local group; the rides
fizzled out due to the usual apathy, but I was left with several good
rides that I'd never taken. One of them was my first century, and I'd
been promising myself that I would do it on August 15th. Something
clicked and said that July 28th was the date instead.
Mind you, this century wasn't especially "difficult" in that it didn't
have the usual "snobbery quotient" of hills; but, as has been said countless
times before, everyone has to have their *first* century, and this one was
Talk about a sleepless night! Woke up at 2:00 -- nope, not time yet.
Again at 3:30 -- not yet. Then at 4:00; I guess now is as good a time
as any. Do the big breakfast (lots of fiber cereal with bananas, two
blueberry bagels, and tea), take a very quick shower (nobody to impress
with beauty today!), and start loading up the backpack. Brrr... it's
kinda cool outside, about 58 degrees or so. Load up a bag of Mrs. Field's
cookies from the night before, lots of Health Valley apple bars, a couple
extra bottles of Cytomax powder, two bottles of mixed Cytomax, contact
lens drops -- gosh, this bag's getting a bit heavy. Got everything in the
touring bag -- spare tube, the usual tools, cue sheet, money, lock, chain
-- talk about poundage!
Pile it all into the car and get out of the house by 5:15. I make it to
the starting point at the park-n-ride in about 20 minutes. I reassemble
everything and get set. Gee, it's still very cool, and the first hints
of daylight are just beginning to show up. Should I bring along the
sweatshirt and/or workout pants? If I do, I'll have to carry them all
day long! I guess I'll leave them behind.
5:45 -- I hit the road. Remember, pace yourself -- it's a long ride;
no need to sprint. Hold it to about 25 km/h. 30 minutes later, I've
left the last hints of San Jose civilization, and I'm out in the
middle of nowhere. It's darn cold! My legs are freezing, and I think
my fingertips have already fallen asleep. And I'm only halfway to
Morgan Hill!? As long as I stay on this road, there's bus service
back to the starting line. This isn't much fun.
6:55 -- Trundle into Morgan Hill. Detour about one block off the route
to Just Breakfast for... just breakfast, again. I'll sit here a while
and see if I want to turn back or not. Give me the pancakes with ham
and toast, and hot tea. Tastes good but, with all this food, I've *got*
to keep going just to do something with all this food! I can still catch
a bus back from Gilroy. All in all, I stay at Just Breakfast for about
an hour -- it's amazing: so close to the big city, but everything in
Morgan Hill moves soooo sloooow, and that's the way I like it. I almost
felt like a criminal reading the Business section of the newspaper at
After a while, I arrived at the Pacific West Outlet Center (aka
"Outlet Hell") in Gilroy. Gee, this part wasn't bad at all, and it
didn't even seem like another 25 km. Saw one other bicyclist on this
leg. I pull into the mall parking lot and rest on a bench. I pull
out my watch -- 9:45; they open at 10:00; I can browse the shops and
decide if I want to catch the bus back to San Jose. I sit and wait.
Gee; most of the stores are dark. 9:55, one employee arrives and says
hello. Is it a holiday? Or is this just how they do things in Gilroy?
I decide that I can't wait around, so I drink a little more Cytomax
(still on that first bottle... oops). Sun's starting to shine now, so
I put on the SPF 15. Back on the cycle, and away we go.
I'd mapped out the next part of the route earlier this year, and I
remember all of the nasty Farmland Dogs around here. I certainly
hear them barking. Right at the corner of Hwy 152 and Frazer Lake,
on my last trip here, one tried to race me. I won, but I was none
the better for it. So, as I round the corner from Hwy 152, I'm up
to a steady 30 km/h, I look straight ahead, and plow on through.
No dog heard, no dog seen. Phew. Get a respectable distance away,
quick. More drink!
OK; it's the San Benito County line. Last chance to get a bus back to
the start. We're only about 37 miles into this, and my legs are tired.
You came all this way just to wimp out? I can always call a friend from
Hollister, or I can always complete the return loop as far as Gilroy
and still get that bus for the last 30 miles. Forward, and more drink!
Hmmm... that second bottle's almost empty.
Shore Rd. becomes Fairview Ave. Pull away from the intersection, and
"WOOF! WOOF! GRRRR..." What now? Pedal faster, and look back -- two
*big* dogs on the other side of the road... and they're behind a
fence. The fence looks secure. Phew. Turn back around. Oh, dear,
that looks like the edge of the road. Bump! Into the soft dirt and
debris but, somehow, I manage to keep my balance and come to a fairly
controlled stop. "GRRRR..." "Well, and **** you too," I mumble as I
lift my bike back into the road and get away.
Up to about 42 miles now, doing the big arc around Hollister. Not
much except farms and ranches out here, so the one general store on
the road is a welcome sight. Buy some Gatorade and much on the
cookies. Read the local paper for a while -- 50 cents, and it's only
12 pages long. Ask to use the "employees only" restroom (and receive
permission to do so, but you didn't hear it here). Everyone else coming
in is a local field worker on break; I don't feel like exercising my
Spanish, nor they their English. Up drives a bread delivery van; the
driver goes in but leaves the radio on. Generic country music... "it's
10:00"... more music....
10:00!? Quick... pull out the watch. It says 11:10. No wonder Outlet
Hell wasn't open. We now have Time Correction for the watch. Gosh, I
guess I'm making decent time after all. And, it's awfully warm for so
early in the day.
This is another boring stretch. I know that, once I leave here, it's
another 10 miles or so of nearly straight, not-so-smooth highway. I
can't ask to be picked up from *here*, so onward I go.
Corner of Fairview Ave. and Hwy 25: the outermost point of the route,
52 miles. Stop to catch my breath alongside the road. Look for someone,
perhaps another cyclist, to take my picture (oh yes, there's even a
camera in my bag) by the Hwy 25 sign. Nobody's around. Darn. Well,
I've made it *this* far, at least, and all in one outing. More drink!
It's hot! I'm only 3 miles from Hollister, and all the fast food I'd
ever want is waiting; back on the bike. There are actual, real, live
roosters cock-a-doodle-doo-ing. Wow.
A few seconds later: why does my front tire look strange? Why, it's
got this brown stuff sticking to it. Oops... they're dead stickies,
presumably from the earlier side-of-the-road mishap. Pull on one...
whoosh! Pull on another... whoosh! As it says in the book, "So you
have a flat. Bah." Walk back to the intersection, up the hill to a
shady spot by the country club, and patiently use the spare tube.
That old one's history. Wow, that was easy, too! Celebrate with more
drink and another cookie. Guess that's the end of the drink.
11:30 -- Hollister, California, in all its glory. After where I've been
today, it looks positively cosmopolitan! Should I buy another spare tube?
The map says there's a bike shop somewhere in town. Well, it's not on
Hwy 25! Pull into the McDonald's and have lunch with the local crowd.
It's little-screaming-kids day. Not particularly hungry -- I'll have a
strawberry sundae, and a large iced tea. It already feels about 95 degrees
outside. I leave after about 20 minutes, and fill a bottle with what's
left of the tea. I see little vans that say "San Trans" and something
about being part of San Benito County... I wonder if one would take me
back to Gilroy if I asked.
Along Hwy 25: Last time I was here, it was later in the day, and there
were absolutely dreadful headwinds. Not this time -- oh, yes, they're
there, and I'm starting to get that summertime blast-furnace effect.
Stop to put on more sunblock. And more drink, too. I'm reading my
metric computer... 98 km, 99, 100! At least I've done a metric today
and, in this weather, that's something to be proud of. But what if I
have another bad flat? A roar behind me... whoosh, a double grain
trailer! My bike jerks about five feet to the right and lunges
forward. Whoosh, another one; smae thing. I start riding as far
to the right as I can, and I hold on *very* tight till I get off the
At 116 km, I reach the first civilization after Hollister: a gas station
along Hwy 101 on the outskirts of Gilroy. The bottles are completely
empty, and I'm sweating cows. Must be at least 100 by now. Into the
station to buy the *big* bottle of Gatorade. I pay the money, and then
I hear another voice: "Excuse me?" I turn around, and there's this guy
holding a little paltry bottle of some clear liquid. "How'd you like to
try some of this <mumble-mumble> sports drink?" He's wearing a polo
shirt with the same logo as is on the bottle. I've never heard of it
before. I mumble something about "No thanks". He says, "But it's got
more <mumble-mumble> than your Gatorade." "Thanks anyway, but no. If
I were on a shorter ride, I'd try it, but I'm not taking any chances
today." Drat... now I've opened a new topic. "Oh, yeah? How far're
you goin'?" "I'm doing the full 100 miles today." "Wow! In weather
like this?" "Pretty foolish, no?" I turn quickly, and bid my not-so-
fond farewell. I don't see a beverage truck outside anywhere; where did
that guy come from? Fill up both bottles, drink some, put on more
sunblock, get strange stares from the two families having picnics at
the tables ("Gee, let's do something really special today... let's have
a picnic at the gas station by the freeway!"), eat another cookie, and
onward into Gilroy. Can't be too bad now, I'm back into the land of
frequent bus service back to San Jose. Remember to save two dollar bills
so I can buy that day pass for the bus.
Head west onto Hwy 152. Here's where I laid out some hills into the
trip. Nothing large at all, but some variety. Wait a minute... what's
this headwind doing here? Why am I only going 18 km/h? Why does it feel
like I'm cycling inside my hair dryer? And why is that bottle already
empty? Onto Burchell Rd -- only 5 miles here; I can do it if I just
go at my own pace and don't rush. 17 km/h... 16... another lower gear...
15... more drink.... phew, made it to Watsonville Rd.
Picnic area here, with a portapotty. If outside was like a blast
furnace, inside the portapotty was like sharing a 350-degree oven with
last month's meat loaf. I stretch out, stomach-down, on a picnic table
to rest my legs and buns. I keep my head up and watch the cars go by,
just so nobody thinks there's an ex-bicyclist by the side of the road.
And I lay my head on my backpack, just in case anyone had any ideas.
Even that's uncomfortable after just a few minutes. No point in dilly-
dallying; I've gone back off the bus line, so I've got to press on. 3
miles on is the junction with Uvas Rd. Here's where the map says to go
up on Uvas, around the reservoirs, and back into San Jose on the Almaden
Expwy. I'm maintaining about 18 km/h on flats and slight downhills;
what would happen in the rollers of Uvas? Plus, the second bottle's
almost empty, and there are no more services of any type before San Jose.
The heat is downright oppressive, and I'm sweating entire bullet factories.
I make the decision... time to modify the route. I'll go back into
Morgan Hill, decide whether or not to abort; if I keep going, I've
got mostly flat road all the way back, with services, people, and
Corner of Watsonville and old 101, time to turn north on old 101. The
mysterious all-ways headwind is now pointing directly at me, and it's
up to about 30 mph. This is No Fun at all. But I've gone 83 miles now;
to give up now would be a real shame. Let's see... 30 km; even at just
15 km/h, I can be back in two hours. I can take two more hours of this,
can't I? Shift into the granny gear and plow forward into Morgan Hill,
tearing up the pavement at a rip-roaring 13 km/h. The legs don't hurt
at all, but they sure are tired. It's not getting any cooler... let's
see, 9 times 9 is 81; 9 times 8 is 72....
Stop at McDonald's for another large tea, drink half of it, and fill
a bottle with the remainder. The buildings of Morgan Hill give me
temporary partial relief from the wind but, five minutes later, the
furnace is on full-blast yet again. I'll stay on old 101; it's got
more traffic on it, and there's probably more spots to stop and rest.
Aye... a soda machine by the side of the road. Bletch, everything's
carbonated; oh well, Diet Pepsi into the other bottle. And there
went the last of the cookies.
3:30 -- My palms hurt. This is taking much longer than I wanted. The
wind isn't letting up. How to rest my palms... I bend over into racing
position for the first time of the day. Wow... what happened to the
wind? Shift up. 18 km/h. Not bad; shift up again. 22 km/h. So much
for remembering this week's aerodynamics lesson! But my neck hurts from
craning it up so much....
Bailey Ave., and time to cut back over to Santa Teresa for the 10-mile
dash back to the start. Wow... 90 miles, only 10 to go. Pull over to
drink some more. There's a field in the middle of this research park,
and it's being watered with giant sprinklers. And the wind's still
blowing, and it's blowing one of the sprinkles right onto the sidewalk
by the road! In true Wile E. Coyote fashion, a light bulb goes off. I
take off my helmet, gloves, and backpack, lift up the bike and prop
it against a dry tree, and walk up the sidewalk. Here comes the
sprinkler on its circular cycle. Spray... spray... spray... SPLASH!
Wow. Spray... spray... spray... SPLASH! Neat! After about three minutes,
and probably surprising many IBMers leaving the research park, I'm now
ready for the wet T-shirt (and wet cycling shorts) contest, and I'm
feeling more invigorated that I'd been for the last several hours.
Back on the bike... almost home.
Onto Santa Teresa... just one more hill, and it's down into outer San
Jose. The wind is there, but it somehow doesn't seem so bad anymore,
and I'm back up to 24 km/h. Now it's back into the traffic lights,
rude drivers, and torn-up pavement, and everybody seems to be in such
a hurry to get somewhere they're not. 158 km... 159... 160... 161!
I did it!! But, I'm not home yet... when I modified the route back in
the hills, I made it just a wee bit longer. No problem; the road has
turned westward, and it's now just a slightly annoying crosswind.
28 km/h, and everything feels fine. Down the last of the bottles at
a traffic signal.
Where is that darn Coleman Rd? 162 km... 163... 164... there it is!
Dash across to the left-turn lane, up over the little rise, and there's
the park-n-ride! I let out a loudly-whispered "Yeah!" Someone waiting
in a car in the lot stares at me. My shirt is hanging out, although it's
already bone-dry. My hair is a mess; I feel the sunblock that's been
rubbed into the back. I look like crud, but I feel great. Load the
junk into the car, change into fresh shorts and shirt, turn the air
conditioning on FULL, and join the 5:00 commute across San Jose, back
home to Sunnyvale.
So what did I learn?
- It's been said too many times before: drink before you're thirsty.
When it's disgustingly hot outside, drink even more. And, whenever
you buy drink, buy double what you think you need, because you'll need it.
- If your body says it only wants to go 15 km/h, only go that fast
till it wants to go faster.
- Where wind patterns are predictable, try to lay out the route to
take advantage of the winds, and not to be taken advantage of *by* them.
- Replace that spare tube as soon as possible. I didn't have a second
flat, but I sure spent a lot of time worrying about what would happen
if I did.
- I was glad I didn't have a pre-arranged way to abort the trip. Knowing
that I'd have to negotiate buses and/or make a sheepish call to a friend
40 miles away made it a little more difficult to quit.
- Why didn't I ever use my extra Cytomax powder? I have no idea.
All pretty simple stuff you've heard before, right? Well, it was my
first century, after all, and the lessons aren't really learned until
they've been learned the Hard Way, right?
Let's see... 165 km. Gee, that's not too far away from a double metric,
is it!? Not tomorrow, at least.... Tired? You bet! Excited? Of course!
That's why I'm still up at 11:00 tonight writing all this!
start at Almaden Light Rail Park & Ride (San Jose)
Santa Teresa Blvd. (becomes Hale Ave.)
Main Av. (Morgan Hill)
Central Av. (San Martin)
Buena Vista Ave.
Noname Uno / San Ysidro Ave. (Gilroy)
Hwy 152 east
Frazer Lake Rd.
Shore Rd. (becomes Fairview Ave.)
Hwy 25 north (to and through Hollister)
Moneterey Ave. (through Gilroy)
Hwy 152 west
Moneterey Hwy. (through Morgan Hill)
Santa Teresa Blvd., retrace route back to start (San Jose)
Total distance: 165 km (102 mi)
Total elapsed time: 11 hrs, 10 mins
Total on-bike time: 7 hrs, 50 mins
Total climbing: (est.) 500 ft.
Max speed: 38 km/h