Mile 0: I almost don’t realize we’re riding. There’s some talking, a photo, a round of names I don’t remember. Some people make a right turn out of the Golden Gate Bridge parking lot and it’s like, OH. I guess we’re riding 80 miles now.
Mile 6: There’s a hill on the back side of Lake Merced? No wonder I always feel so speedy on the second half when I’m going around clockwise.
Mile 10-12: I’m climbing up a hill in a neighborhood in Pacifica. This must be what happens when you take Skyline Drive, the calm residential street, instead of Skyline-that-is-actually-Highway-35. A dog is barking rhythmically and I’m hearing his “woof! woof! woof!” as “go! go! go!” This hill feels hard, which is freaking me out more about Devil’s Slide, because I don’t remember seeing this one on the map.
Yeah, it totally was on the map.
Mile 13: I’m going downhill, and so is everyone else, when we realize we have no idea where we’re going. Our directions involve turning at a golf course. Everything seems to be a golf course.
Mile 18: Pacifica State Beach stop to regroup before Devil’s Slide. I’m kind of freaking out. I’m babbling in the general direction of anyone around me. I have spent enough time on Google Street View for this stretch of road that I literally recognize specific trees.
Mile 19: “Tunnel: 2000 feet”? That cannot possibly be true. This is the easiest 7% climb in the world! Why did I freak out about this?
Mile 19.5: This tunnel is amazing. Note to self, maybe when you thought the guy who GoPro’d his trip through the tunnel was riding on the sidewalk because there was no bike lane, you should have realized there was an entire empty car-width “emergency lane” next to him that bikes could ride in.
Mile 21: Through the tunnel. There’s some wind. Oh, a lot of wind. And a cliff. It’s OK. Don’t look. DON’T LOOK! …OK, I bet it’s really pretty. You can look.
Mile 30: 30! Some stoplights through Half Moon Bay, then open highway. We’re by the water; the hills are green and bursting with yellow flowers. There’s a guy cruising on the other side of the road, and I think, “That’ll be me tomorrow.”
Mile 38: There’s a hill. I don’t see it coming till I’m climbing it, but I just take off. I pass the other women I’ve been riding behind; I pass these two other guys; I’m flying. I’m rolling through these beach towns, Pescadero and San Gregorio, and I’m remembering the days when I used to drive more. Before I biked, before I ran, I’d drive to clear my head. Pete and I had a sunset picnic at San Gregorio on one of the days of our week-long first date. I haven’t been out here in the middle of the day in years (if ever), and I don’t remember the water being this blue. Up and down, these rolling hills between 92 and 84 become my favorite part of the day.
Mile 50: Maybe I should have eaten something during those rolling hills. Whoops. I’m starting to get tired, and I’m starting to hate sitting on my bike seat. I bargain with myself: You can stand up and stretch every mile. Every three minutes. OK, once a minute, but just on the downhills.
Mile 54: Thank heavens — it’s our gas station. I pull over mostly just to stand and not sit. A couple of other riders roll in a few minutes behind me; one of them buys Pringles to share and they melt on my tongue. Someone says “We’re so close!” and I think, huh, we’re an Olympic-distance triathlon ride away; when did that become “close” to me?
Mile 65: There’s an amazing downhill; we sweep around and we’re on the other side of a cliff, snuggling right up to the ocean. It feels like LA, or like somewhere else that isn’t here. But it is here; I’m here.
Mile 68: Davenport! Suddenly, we’ve caught up to the group in front of us, who are just leaving the rest stop. I’m too lazy to make a left turn and too energized by the thought of having more company to take a break, so I cram some food in my mouth and pick up the pace again. I roll through the hills I last tackled at the end of the Santa Cruz tri bike leg, remembering how much bigger they look in real life than on an elevation chart, remembering that momentum is my friend.
Mile 77-80: We turn off Highway 1, following city signs now. Almost there! Winding around West Cliff, down down down next to a line of cars at the traffic circle. I spot our little blue hotel and pull in after about 5:45 of riding time, just in time for the second half of the Michigan basketball game. Perfect.
Mile 0: Ow. Ow. Ow. Why does riding a bike involve sitting?
Mile 2: We crash a race. The road closure signs we saw the night before had said it was a marathon, but I googled and learned it was the “she.is.beautiful. The Pinkest 10K and 5K”. Before I share this news, I remind everyone that we are currently doing a thing known as the Diva Ride. Then I giggle.
Mile 8: On the road to Davenport, I’m behind the main group. Close, but not close enough to really catch up and ride at their pace. The funny thing about yesterday is that I came in smack in the middle of the riders; I had just assumed I’d be last, but I wasn’t close. Weirdly, I’m now more OK with being last today. Plus, it’s nice at the back. I’m not alone, and we get our own escort.
Mile 20-something: I’m riding with two other women when we come up on the signs for Pie Ranch. We start talking about pie. The woman in the front suddenly signals a turn and it’s done, we’ve gone rogue, we’re making an unofficial pie rest stop at 10:30 a.m. It’s kind of obnoxious, and it puts us more than 15 minutes behind the main group, but it’s also the greatest decision, and I ride the rest of the way back to San Francisco with half a chocolate chunk cookie wedged in my back pocket.
Mile 30: I steel myself: This was the longest stretch yesterday, 30 miles with no rest stops, and I know those rolling hills are coming. Partway through, the ride organizer catches me, and we chat side by side for a few miles. Then she asks how comfortable I am riding on someone’s wheel. Me: “Not very?” Her: “Great, time to practice!” She takes the lead; I cruise behind. It’s amazing. Half an hour flies past. Just before a climb, she pulls off, and I chat my way up with one of our guides … until I realize how long the hill is, and our chatter turns to just me saying “how are we still on this hill?” over and over again.
Mile 57: I’m surprised when we hit the stoplights in Half Moon Bay. The rest of the group is there, snacking on Subway. I cant resist the urge to brag about pie. It feels like we’re almost done, and yet I know the worst is yet to come, Devil’s Slide and that hill in Pacifica. The first group leaves, and I wait to go with the second. Suddenly, I am not so sure about this last bit.
Mile 60: Devil’s Slide is worse going north — partially road conditions, partially time of day with more traffic — but the climb is fine. When I hit the descent I say, out loud, “This is why you rode down Twin Peaks all those times when the wind was bad in the middle of the day. You did it so you could feel good about what you’re doing right now.” Then I realize someone is right behind me, listening. Cool life.
Mile 65: Nate: “Do you want to see the graph of the hill?” Me: “Nope.” Nate: “It’s a spike that goes straight up through the neighborhood.” Me: “Nope.” Nate: “I think it feels harder going this way. Yesterday we had a stair-step, and this time we’re going straight up it.” Me: “Nope.” Nate: “I think it’ll be over 10% grade sometimes.” Me: “Nope.”
Mile 67.5: I’m actually OK with this climb. I mean, it sucks, and I’m fantasizing about the moment that the houses on the hillside start pointing down instead of up, but I’m 100% sure I’m going to make it up without stopping, if only because I’m not sure I can keep going if I stop. And then BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP a city goddamned bus pulls up, and a dozen people are waiting to board. I unclip, wait. I guess I can stop and start again after all.
Mile 68: I’m done! I mean, I’m not done, I’m probably still riding for another hour, but it’s easy from here. It’s stuff I know. It’s the lake and the park and the zoo. It’s my home base. It’s home.
Mile 75-79: Of course, home is where all the crazy stuff starts to happen — like cars pull out randomly from Beach Chalet, like I drop my water bottle and it rolls to the other side of the street and while I’m waiting for a break in traffic to retrieve it, a car runs over it and it explodes into a dozen pieces. Like there are all these children popping wheelies in the park and why are children more terrifying than Devil’s Slide? I am tired and wired and dumb; I am so glad I went home instead of back through the Presidio because if I’d had to get myself home from the bridge I probably would have called a cab. And instead, here I am, pulling up to my front door, walking in like I’m back from a regular ride through the park, except this one was two days and 160 miles long.