Day 2: Arroyo Grande to Lompoc - I Hate You Because I Love You - CycleBlaze

June 3, 2018

Day 2: Arroyo Grande to Lompoc

I had planned on today only being about 40 miles long because of the hills I had to negotiate. I'm glad I did that. 

 Coming off of the mesa southbound is a joy, with long sections of gradual downhill. You come into the flat valley loaded with farmland – fields of broccoli, cauliflower and other vegetables in the process of being harvested. The first town you come to, Guadalupe, is a purely functional working town.   Dusty and seemingly half abandoned, there is nonetheless new housing construction going on on the south edge of town. There are several markets and a Subway sandwich shop, but not much else beyond the Amtrak station. 

Southbound view from the mesa
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In case you're wondering how far you are from anywhere.
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There are far too many of these along our roadways
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 But the ride through the valley is a joy, with very light traffic and a prevailing tailwind once you  leave the town and make a slight left. Mostly flat with a few rolling hills, you are surrounded mostly by your own thoughts. Everything seems to move slower there; I watched a hawk lazily circling, occasionally flying towards some smaller birds who easily escaped his grasp because he really wasn't putting that much into it .  These are all big corporate owned farms with romantic names like RANCH 5 NO TRESPASSING  and the like, but mile after mile of seeing food crops makes for a really quiet, peaceful ride. The few cars that passed gave me plenty of clearance.  A lone strawberry farm with a roadside stand filled the air with the sweet aroma of its crops.

 I knew I needed to avoid my mistakes from past rides and eat soon, so I stopped in Orcutt  for lunch. I had to laugh when the kid operating the pizza joint where I ate asked me if I wanted it to stay or to go, when I'm standing in front of him all sweaty in my full kit with my bike right behind me.  There is a longish rise out of Orcutt that I took slowly, then began another long slight decline down to the turn onto Harris Grade Road.

 I'll be honest: I had been dreading this stretch of road since I began planning this trip. I talked to several riders, all of who said it wasn't that bad and that I could easily negotiate it. Standing at the  bottom of it,  I actually spent 15 minutes considering it. You go from absolutely flat to an immediate 5% grade, a bad harbinger in my eyes. A few small flat areas and slight grades  tempt you, then the serious climbing begins.  You gain around 1000 feet of altitude in a bit over 3 miles, so the average slope I encountered was about 5%, sometimes more.  I walked well over half of the climb, as the gradient was just too much for me to pedal. The sun was beating down and I drank every ounce of water I had before I reach the top and was still feeling parched.   A few bikers passed me, all of them much younger and riding lightweight road bikes unencumbered by any kind of equipment like I was carrying.  The SAG wagon from a group I had encountered came back to refill my water,  and I reached the top about a quarter-mile later. Turning on my action cam, I spent the next several miles  in a blissful, 28 mph coast to Lompoc. It almost made the climb up the other side worth it, as if anything could. I will never make that climb again on anything except an E bike. At least I have that video of the downhill to remember the joy of that part of the ride.

" Harris Grade isn't that bad," he said. "You shouldn't have any problem at all."
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Looking up that 5% gradient
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 Arriving in Lompoc, I decided that I had earned a real bed and a real shower at a hotel rather than camping again. 

Today's ride: 37 miles (60 km)
Total: 67 miles (108 km)

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