With that in mind, I’ll tell you about a bike ride I took last Saturday. Actually, since I remembered to bring my camera, I’m going to do equal parts showing and telling. But before we get to the pics, I have a couple of stories to share by way of introduction …
First, imagine this scenario: let’s say you’re in a middle-management position somewhere, and often get frustrated by the politics and bureaucracy of department directors and senior administrators. There’s nothing you can do to protest the situation that won’t jeopardize your standing in the company, so you play along as well as you can, and find some healthy outlet (such as your training) to blow off tension.
Now imagine that your senior administrators got an idea to sponsor a company team for a 100-mile bike ride that is a fundraiser for a national nonprofit organization. Aside from the high comedic value of seeing those directors and managers walking around in unflattering cycling apparel, it’s a golden opportunity to inflict physical pain upon your colleagues and supervisors without any fear of retribution. I mean … how quickly would you sign up for that chance?
That’s the situation that presented itself at last weekend’s Best Buddies Hearst Castle Challenge, to raise money for people with intellectual disabilities. Best Buddies is the creation of Anthony Shriver, so the entire Kennedy family pitches in to promote the organization. Their primary fundraisers are two bike rides each year – one in Massachusetts, the other in California.
The West Coast version starts in Carmel Valley and travels south for 93 miles on California’s scenic Highway 1 before finishing at the Hearst Ranch in San Simeon. Here’s the course profile:
The second introductory story is taken from my childhood.
One of the first rock bands I ever fell in love with was Cheap Trick. They wrote catchy, up-tempo rock songs full of smart-alecky lyrics about romance and teen angst. Basically, they were the Fall Out Boy of the early 1980s. They also wrote "I Want You to Want Me", otherwise known as the greatest rock love song of all time.
They were the first band I ever saw in concert, when I was 14 years old. At the show, the crowd was a surreal mixture of scraggly-looking guys just like me, and the largest gathering of beautiful women I had ever seen. As I was rocking along with the band, and watching all of these hotties acting completely uninhibited for two straight hours, I remember thinking, wow - this rock music stuff is pretty darn cool.
(I know that story doesn’t seem to make sense with a cycling report, but you know me better than that. Let’s get to the photos.)
Team CSC and T-Mobile were two sponsors of the event, and produced this gathering of pros for a photo op before the event. On stage here are Dave Zabriskie, Axel Merckx, and a bunch of other guys I probably should know but hadn’t heard of.
After the photo op, Merckx went home to get some shut-eye, while Zabriskie actually did the ride with us. You can guess who I’ll be pulling for to win the stage if those two ever end up together in a breakaway someday.
Miles 7-33 of the ride are the Big Sur Marathon course in reverse. This shot is from the first aid station at Rocky Point, which is at mile 16 of the marathon. This view looks south, and you can faintly see the Rocky Creek Bridge through the fog on the right. This bridge is the smaller, underappreciated little brother of the more famous Bixby Bridge further down the road – but for my money, it’s just as beautiful.
Somehow, I got the notion that I’d try to take pictures while riding, with mixed results. This is a shot of Hurricane Point, which is usually described in running circles as a grueling, relentless 2-mile climb. However, seen from the opposite direction, with the perspective of distance … actually, it still looks pretty intimidating.
Approaching the Bixby Creek Bridge. Unlike suspension bridges, the architecture of Bixby is impossible to see when you’re on top of it. It’s almost like the bridge was specifically made for aerial photography. But since I wasn’t in a plane, this is the best I can do.
View from the bridge, which is the halfway point of the Big Sur Marathon.
Point Sur Lighthouse, established 1886. During the marathon, the lighthouse sits at mile 8, and marks the point in the race when the hills officially start getting treacherous.
Remember what I said about returning to an empty bike rack at T2 during my last triathlon? On charity rides, that doesn’t happen. What’s more, it doesn’t faze me one bit - unless it's one of my co-workers ahead of me. Thankfully, I never had to worry about that.
View to the south from aid station #3 (mile 62), near the coastal village of Lucia.
It's crazy - but after 70 miles or so, scenes like this start to become routine: blue ocean, clear sky, spectacular vistas, rugged coastline interspersed with pristine beaches, large waves breaking on rocky outcroppings, yada yada yada.
South of Sand Dollar, the course flattens out a bit, and several of us rode in a pace line for a while. I’m usually terrible at pace line riding, because 99% of my training miles are done solo, and because my aero bars make sudden braking or quick handling difficult. Also because I sometimes sit up and snap pictures when I should be concentrating on the riders ahead of me.
San Simeon Beach, the finish area of the ride. The beach is crescent shaped, and this is the southern half.
Here’s the northern side. Beaches don’t come any more tranquil than this. It was a great place to chill out for a couple of hours and get ready for the post-race barbecue. At least, most of it was great …
Ugh. This is the “executive” portable shower unit I used. Not exactly a high point of the day. But we had to get cleaned up, because there was a serious party ahead.
The post-race party was at a facility humbly named “The Barn” on the 80,000-acre Hearst Ranch. There were nearly 1000 people in attendance. When it comes to parties, the Hearst Family is first-class all the way. I suspect they’ve done this sort of thing before.
This is the martini bar, not to be confused with the margarita bar, or with the two outdoor mixed drink bars, or the indoor ranch bar. By the way, all food and alcohol was free of charge. Have I mentioned that the Hearst Family knows how to throw a good party?
If the party is big enough, there’s no telling who’ll show up. If anyone was wondering whether Andy and Tessa are still together, the answer would appear to be yes.
I didn’t try to hang around them, but I imagine I could have eavesdropped on something like the following:
Him: This party is amazing.
Her: I’m so glad you chose to bring me along.
Him: My heart told me it was the right decision.
Here’s the difference between rich people and the rest of us: If you or I were to host a big party, we might go out and hire some local garage band to liven up the festivities. When the Hearst Family throws a party, they get Cheap Trick.
“Mommy’s all right, Daddy’s all right, they just seem a little weird … “ Classic stuff.
See those guitar picks on guitarist Rick Nielsen’s mic stand? Back in the day, he threw them into the crowd during concerts, and there would be huge pileups of bodies lunging for them. Remember those beautiful girls I talked about earlier? Some of them would do anything to get a guitar pick – and I mean, anything. I wish I could tell you more.
Guess who’s a big Cheap Trick fan? Rob Lowe! I stood right next to him for about half of the show. We even exchanged some comments between songs, and he seemed like a really friendly guy – so much that I felt kind of bad for secretly taking his picture. But, you know … not so bad to make me refrain from posting it.
Rick Nielsen recognized Rob Lowe in the crowd, and gave him a big handful of guitar picks. Rob handed me a couple before passing them out to the rest of the crowd.
Have you ever wished you could travel back in time? If there were any way I could put these picks in my hand and go back to a Cheap Trick concert in 1984, there’s no telling what kind of fun I could have. Then again, I’m married now … so maybe it’s best that time travel doesn’t exist. But speaking of women …
It took me much longer than it should have to realize: No, wait - they’re not staring at me. I’m still standing next to Rob Lowe.
Sorry, these next two pictures are terrible - you'll have to click and enlarge to see what I'm talking about. But I had to post them … because guess who ELSE likes Cheap Trick? Our Governator! He’s barely visible in the background here.
Later, he spoke with Rick Nielsen in the middle of a song. What could these two possibly have to talk about?
“Thank you vor visiting Caleefohrnya. Vill you please play Dream Police?”
The rest of my photos all came out too dark to post, but they weren’t nearly as glamorous. A 3-hour bus ride home, picking up my bike in the Chateau Julien parking lot at midnight, and driving home exhausted to conclude a 19-hour day.
But all things considered, there are certainly worse ways to spend a Saturday in California.