Today was the most beautiful ride yet. Almost the entire 67 miles was rural--farmland, vineyards and ranches surrounded by an assortment of hills. We rode from Santa Maria to Solvang and then on to a park outside Lompoc (pronounced LOM-poke by southerners, LOM-pock by northerners). Guess that's the test of which part of California someone's from. Anyway, I digress.
We were a sea of red today. This tradition started when the ride used to wind up a long series of switchbacks on day 5 and having everyone in red made it look like a red ribbon. Since the ride back then was mostly gay people, that message to dress in red translated to red dress day. At least 75% of the men were in dresses, corsets, stilletto heels or other red attire. It was refreshing to see most of the straight men in dresses, too. Women wore a variety of outfits from a tuxedo jacket with red cumberbund to cheerleader uniforms and graduation caps and gowns. Both men and women were attired in tutus or other lacy items. I wore red print boxers and a red ribbony headress on my helmet. I only heard one nasty comment about the drag when we were riding out of Santa Maria. Otherwise, we got cheers and waves when we hit towns. On the rural roads, drivers honked and waved, including truck drivers, which is not something I would expect.
Early in the day, I found myself riding very slowly and having trouble picking up any speed. Turns out we had about ten miles of very gradual incline which culminated in a pretty steep hill, although from this end of the day I really can't judge how steep it was.
The last ten miles were also very hilly with a strong headwind. As I turned a corner onto a highway, the roadie standing there told me I was through with hills--it would be downhill the rest of the way. Only when I turned down that hill, the wind was so strong, it was all I could do to keep my forward momentum. It's a very strange feeling on a downhill.
I realized in the last day or so that maintaining my ability to ride so many days in a row is almost completely mental. None of my aches and pains are serious enough to stop me from riding. It has really become a matter of choice.
The other funny thing happening is that we're so focused on riding that other fine details get lost. Everyone's laughing about forgetting what they were doing, where they were headed in camp or at a rest stop, or what they were looking for. This morning I thought I had lost my riding glasses and spent 5 minutes pouring through my gear bag even though I was sure I'd put them in my windbreaker. Sure enough, the jacket has a back pouch I had completely forgotten about and the glasses were in there.
People are so helpful to each other. If someone forgets where they put their bike on the racks, someone will stop what they're doing to help search. The last couple of nights in camp, my neighbors from the next tent over set our tent up for us. My tentmate, as well, is a faster rider than I am, so she, too, has made me look like a slacker. Except for the first day, by the time I get in, my tent is set up.
If only I had a video camera on my helmet so you all could see how beautiful today's ride was--both the people and the landscape.