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WORDS: Daniel Wakefield Pasley | PHOTOS: Brian Vernor
Twelve uncomfortable hours into a thirteen hour drive and I finally admit to myself, out loud just in case either Greg or Carey are listening, that I will be in no condition to ride 100-miles the next morning. Especially considering tomorrow will be followed by another 100-miles on Saturday and 75-miles on Sunday. For three days now, I’ve had a debilitating case of what I hope is just Rotavirus. Whatever it is, it’s why I now know there are no less than 22 rest stops between Portland, Oregon and the San Francisco International Airport. And it’s why I could write, were anyone to care or pay me for my efforts, a thorough review of each.
The next morning is wet-grey and quiet. Things move by without contact or friction, instead they drift. Ferris wheels, the jobless, vegan meats, taqueria carts, surfers, piers, tech-money and pick-up trucks. All float by, because in Santa Cruz on the nearly Lost Coast, things are constantly a bit foggy.
Flamingo Grande is an Epic wend traversing back and forth, along the Santa Cruz Mountains, a biologically diverse coast range celebrated for its eucalyptus groves, giant Redwoods and illegal marijuana plantations—all three of mythical number and proportion. Stunning views, disorientingly tight switchbacks, Big Basin State Park, majestic undulations, misty two lane back roads, a Tolkien-certified Elvin Forest and a General Store that time but not the It’s-It (a San Francisco ice-cream delicacy) delivery man forgot, all drift by over the course of 107-miles.
I didn’t go on the ride (see Rotavirus) so I can’t tell you what happened. But it’s possible, even likely based on several extensive interviews conducted in the months following the ride, it wouldn’t matter if I had.
All the Continental riders agree on Kelly’s Bakery. Hahn says, the bakery was fabulous with its beautiful fruit tarts and sweet, sweet ladies. Aaron mentions a cream filled pastry he describes as a crumpet. Greg recalls that it was actually called a Crimpy. Ryan describes it as a more than calorically adequate orgy of butter, cream, sugar and flour that fits in your mouth.
It’s still cold and thick with mist outside, so finally leaving the sugary warmth of Kelly’s, it feels like punishment. A residential street heading south and east climbs three miles out of Santa Cruz and the fog, and to the start of an 18-mile climb.
When we started I was freezing but the higher we went the warmer it got, which of course is the opposite of what you’re used to. Around every corner several hundred yards at a time, the street steepened by a degree and ratcheted us into something warm. – Aaron Erbeck
I hung in there for about six or seven turns before loosing all sense of direction. Which, frankly, was fine by me. – Hahn Rossman
I asked Brian (ride host and photographer) about the clouds and he said it would be sunny in 20 minutes. At the time it seemed unlikely but in 20 minutes exactly (how did he do that?), we were all on the side of the road at the top of the climb, blinking and squinting in the California sun, desperately stripping layers off. – Greg Johnson.