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Part 2 - HWY 39
It’s 12:15 and the inland heat is solid and oppressive. Highway 39 takes us quickly out of the flat, past the last few hyper-green lawn communities and into the foothills. The ride architecture is suddenly clear and familiar, twist and turn with the river, the San Gabriel, and then climb. We are no longer together. Ira and Ben stay steady with Cole, Hahn and Neil close behind. Aaron and I follow. The first real climbing of the day is a little less than four miles and takes you over the San Gabriel foothills, past a reservoir and drops you off at the base of the mountains for the next three hours of riding. Traffic is light and the edge of the road is level, clear and smooth. The turns are painfully long and exaggerated, the grade is easy but sneakily demanding.
Aaron doesn’t look so good.
Daniel: Hey Aaron, you don’t look so good.
Aaron: I don’t feel good and I’m hearing discouraging voices. ‘Military Dad’-type voices: You’re not good enough; you’ll never make it to college; get a real job. And you probably shouldn’t start cycling because you’ll be intolerably slow, that kind of thing. And I’m hot.
It’s 1:30pm and we’ve all regrouped in the parking lot of a Ranger Station, not far from where the road is closed to cars. The first thing I notice is Ben’s two untouched water bottles. His jersey is dry and he’s still wearing his helmet. I’m snorting and panting like an agility pug and dripping with sweat. Ben smiles and patiently calls to my attention the butterfly, large and colorful, stuck in my brakes. Cole comes stumbling, fresh and smiling, over a low, stone wall on the other side the road. Behind him is a deep, wooded ravine, at the bottom of which lies the river.
On my way across the road, Aaron finally comes into view, he’s alive and still turning the pedals over. My scramble across smooth, near vertical rocks down to the river isn’t easy. I’m all carbon fiber and cleats. The water is black, shaded and magical, so cold and beautiful, I think we’re about to have a religious experience. Before I can get my shoes off and my head submerged, I’m joined by Cole, who’s back for seconds, quickly followed by Aaron and Hahn. Our caps become water buckets that we dump onto our heads repeatedly.
"The pain cave is universal and I know everybody has spent time there. But that day I got dark and down into it, like deep space. I started daydreaming about filing my bike into dust. The whole thing, every piece." - Aaron
"Aaron caves in completely as we continue. It’s awful to watch and I can only imagine how it feels. We have a long way to go, it’s getting hotter. Ira and Ben are climbing well, while Cole and I keep a nice pace behind them. Daniel looks like a salty, red-faced winter-weight Jan Ullrich." – Hahn
"Ira and I scramble down a rocky slope to splash around in the river like a couple of ducks. The water feels like life itself." –Hahn
"I wanted to leave my head in the river for the rest of the day." - Aaron