A trip and ride report by Andy Speier with a few comments from Jeff Loomis
The opportunity to ride 300 km in weather above 40 degrees sounded good. After riding several sub-40 degree rides in January, I was in need of some re-warming. The flat 5 Rivers 300 out of Corona sounded like it would do the trick. I sent out an email to my local guys and Jeff responded back. Yes, he would love to get a 300 in early in the season but did not want to sacrifice a day off from work. Ok. Less than ideal, but, with a flight out of Seattle at 5:00 P.M., we could do it and be in bed by before midnight. With an 0600 start we could get 5 hours of sleep. More than an overnight control. Perfect.
As with all plans, they started to crumble a bit on the day of the departure. Alaska Airlines alerted us to a delay of 45 minutes. As the day progressed, it became 90 minutes. No harm done. We arrived and waited for our rental car. Jeff had spoken to me at length about the advantage of using Avis and being a “Preferred Member,” so I have reserved a car and enrolled in their program. There is only one Avis guy on duty. A family of 8 is working through the details of their reservation with 4 children running around. The insurance liability conversation seems to go on forever. Jeff is lecturing me on the virtues of the Preferred member status and that I have not attained that designation. [Jeff: Unfortunately this is an accurate accounting.] At one point a second clerk appears and he inquires whether any of us are Preferred Members. I say I am. He asks if my name is Chappman. It is not, so he calls the next person in line. When it is my turn, he asks to see my ID, hands me a car key and calls the next person. Apparently, I am in the club. They are just a bit less organized at John Wayne Airport.
Our transportation is an SUV that swallows up our bikes and bags with room to spare. Off to Corona. A 27-29 minute drive on 55 and 91. There is some mention of a toll road, but it is now 11:30 at night. Traffic is flowing quite well. Off we go. After about 10 minutes the traffic slows and then STOPS. Jeff consults his mobile app. There seems to be a long red line. How long? Very long. I will spare you the details: our 29 minute drive becomes 2 hours. Wow. We arrive at the hotel at 1:30. The bad news is there is only one bed. The good news is that it is a king and there is plenty of room.
Now the fun stuff: build up the bikes. My bike is done in an hour. Jeff finishes soon after. [Jeff: We made the decision to go fender-free because it is California and it speeds the assembly/disassembly process.] I am in bed by 2:45. Jeff by 3:00. Up at 0500. 2 hours in bed. Yes, this is a 300 with an overnight control.
Morning upon us, we check in with Terry, the ride organizer, at 0530. There are around 14 participants. Nearly all from the LA and San Diego area. Michelle has flown in from Minnesota. The CA folks are bundled up. Jeff and I not so much. It is 54 degrees at the start. Within the hour we will be stripped down to short sleeve wool jerseys, shorts and fingerless gloves. At one point sunglasses are critical to being able to see. [Jeff: We received many comments during the day about our lack of clothing.]
The route is 80 percent on paved bike trails. Though there has been recent rain and local flooding, there is little sign of this on the trails. [Jeff: A few puddles early in the day make us briefly regret the lack of fenders. Andy rides straight through some of these, having forgotten his bike is naked.] The trails mostly follow rivers, waterways and freeways. This would not be described as a beautiful cycling adventure on rural quiet roads. Often there is the sound of highway traffic. When not along a highway, the trails run alongside rivers and waterways. Most are empty or trickling and filled with debris along the sides. There is much garbage in the trees. [Jeff: many of the trails are bordering older neighborhoods that now appear to be low-income areas. Interestingly, there are large clusters of shacks and paddocks housing horses right here in the city.]
I did this ride last year and saw several homeless tent sites. This year there are tent cities along the trail. Most of these we pass by during daylight hours. There are large cities under the overpasses and at night this will resemble a scene from a Mad Max movie. The good news is that there appear to be several bike repair / replacement shops within the cities. Enter at your own peril.
[Jeff: Heading into Long Beach we chat with a new randonneur from the area. He is interested in our bikes and has clearly been reading Bicycle Quarterly. A new recruit! Andy has much to share… A bit later Andy is stopped to answer nature’s call and a guy riding the other way on the trail sees our bikes and asks if we are on the Five Rivers ride! It turns out he has ridden in in a previous year. He offered to take our photo (at top of post.)]
[Jeff: Near this point we also pass a small convoy of mini-bikes and maybe one full-on motorcycle riding the other way on the bike path!]
We hit the Pacific Coast Highway and cycle through towns of Sunset, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach. There is an option to ride the bike trail along the coast and that is a blast. A bit slower than the highway, but it is the beach. The ocean. Waves. Did I mention we were cycling in shorts? Though it becomes windy, it is not a blow in your face knock you down wind, and we are quite happy. It has got to be one of the flattest 300 routes you will find. Terry has done an awesome job of linking up the various trails.
Between the route sheet and Jeff’s ride with GPS app, we get around quite well. We, of course, blow a couple of turns in the dark and add a few bonus miles here and there. “No flats or mechanicals,” I’m thinking as we are 6 km from the finish, topping the hill on a bike trail with a small group of randos. I hear something fall off my bike, but write it off to a stick, as everything on my bike is packed up well. The bike is still functioning and we are beginning to descend. (Note to self: stop and check the bike.) Jeff notices that my chain has too much slack and that something is wrong. I continue to pedal thinking I am not in gear. Then it dawns on me. I stop and investigate and, sure enough, I have lost the lower rear derailleur jockey wheel. Hmmm. Not good. Jeff is upset. We are so close to the end.
I tell Jeff I’m going to go back to look for it. Jeff is skeptical. “You’ll never find it in the dark,” he tells me. [Jeff: Andy reminds me I am a “naysayer.” Guilty.] We turn around and start to ascend the hill we just descended. My bike does not want to go up hill so I run up the hill. I pull out a spare light and begin searching. Found the jockey wheel. Ok. So far so good. How about the bolt? Found it. Jeff is shocked. So am I. Jeff looks for the bushing and side plates, but I’m good with what we found and re-assemble it. A bit of friction, but it actually works. I can use all the gears and I can stand up and pedal going uphill. The bonus is, on the way bac,k I find my spare gear cable and the hotel room key, which I lost when getting my light out.
We are a couple of km from the finish when we come upon road construction. Road closed. The Police Officer gives us directions and, after climbing a fairly long multi-block hill, we check Google Maps directions: we are now 4 km from the finish. Nothing ever comes easy. At this point it is downhill and flat with more downhill. We arrive at the Best Western Hotel, but don’t know what room Terry is in. The hotel clerk is not allowed to tell me, so I ask him to call. Done. Room 116. Pizza and snacks are waiting. It is nearly 10:00 pm. Not as impressive as our finish just after 7:00 last year, but it was a comfortable 300 in good weather and company.
Back in our room, we take our bikes apart and, just after midnight, we are back in bed. Bikes packed with an afternoon flight, we are all set. Real sleep tonight.
We receive an alert from Alaska airlines of a flight delay. We arrive at the airport and it is delayed yet again. Again, a 90 minute delay. Such is life. If all goes well, we’ll land safely and be home by 6:00 tonight…