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WORDS: Daniel Wakefield Pasley | PHOTOS: Brian Vernor
Unshaven and smiling, and leaning back into a chair with his feet up, wearing only bib shorts and a dirty cycling cap, Ryan Thomson knocks back a shot of Laphroaig. Aaron, on the phone with his wife but watching Ryan, grins big. Greg, still on the floor where he woke up, quietly stretching his neck and his hips, is well impressed. I look up from my socks and a William Eggleston book, Cole continues singing from somewhere in the back of the house. Hahn walks in from outside with a bag of Crimpys. “I thought we’d celebrate with pastries on account of needing to ride so far, for so long, up a hill that Vernor (ride photographer and host) claims is the worst and meanest on this continent, but shots it is then.”
Outside, the porch is soaked in dew and littered with bicycle apparatus, various tools, and someone has left their shoes out. A helmet, a new grey leather Brooks saddle and locked to the railing, four exhausted Rapha Continental bikes. Meanwhile, on the worn, slippery stairs that lead to the day and the ride, a floor pump sleeps standing up. Beyond it, sunlight, low and diffused, has the town of Santa Cruz surrounded.
Later that morning, settling into our legs and the idea of a long century, speed bumps and mist dole-out our slow roll through an old neighborhood on the edge of town. We coast into the marina. Hundreds of naked masts stick like push-pins from a stand of boats beached near the waters edge. Like the bay, the wind is down and flat. Nothing moves, except a sand covered volleyball some college kids play over a slack and weathered net. We stop for a coffee, and so Aaron can eat one more pastry. Cole reads the newspaper.
Back in the saddle, the coastline passes like postcards lined end to end. Surfers paddling, bobbing and trimming. Parked cars, wedged tight and colorful on the edge of the road, make a seawall mosaic. The fog, heavy and banked, is slowly forced by the ratcheting sun over a cliff, down the beach and out to sea for the day. Waves build, crash and foam. Dogs bark, kids shout and beach cruisers coast by. We continue south through Seacliff State Beach and past the Palo Alto cement shipwreck.
Strawberry fields forever in Watsonville and it smells like sugar and manure. Large semi-trucks laden with produce rumble by at speed, but it’s okay because the shoulder is wide and we’re going downhill and it’s all working nicely. Soon, it’s flat and the road heads in among mile-long, perfect squares; row after row of green, leafy, irrigation-wet food, growing out of the rich dark-brown ground. We zigzag through it all in right angles in a pace line and when the wind plays-up, in echelons. It’s sunny and warmer, and like us, the clear visqueen greenhouses are sweating now too. Pick-up trucks stacked with wooden crates plod and sway down the lesser dirt roads leading into the fields.
“I started the day with a shot of whisky and finished it with a few more shots and a vampire movie. What? It was my birthday.” - Ryan Thomson
“Standing around in the fog watching the coldest game of beach volley ball ever while Aaron purchased and ate yet another pastry, his second or third of the day, I couldn’t help but laugh about it. I mean, most of us are from Seattle and Portland but yesterday and all morning today, we’ve been complaining incessantly about the fog and the chill. We couldn’t get over it. Half the people on the beach were walking around wearing down vests and scarves. It was August too, the whole scene was near absurd.” - Hahn Rossman