Coastal Trip Day 1: Cupertino to Santa Cruz

pretzel buns

Pretzel buns are what happen when rolling and twisting dough into the classic pretzel shape is just not your thing.

Pretzel buns are undeniably delicious, but that wasn’t the only reason why I was making them. It was September 5, 2014, and I’ll admit it. Maybe I was a little nervous the day before Cortney and I were leaving for a week long bike ride down the California coast. Starting in Cupertino, we weren’t going to turn back around until we hit Santa Barbara. Farther, actually, we were going to go all the way to Carpinteria. Lodging is cheaper there.

That’s a total of about 350 miles. We were aiming to hit about 50 miles a day. And I kept telling myself that that’s fine, that’s nothing! We regularly went out on 50 mile bike rides. But we had never strung two 50 mile bike rides back to back before. “It’s fine,” I told myself, “you’ll have all day to bike 50 miles. Usually you’re in a rush to get it done in a reasonable amount of time and squeeze in other things you gotta do. You don’t have to do anything but ride all day long. It’s fine.” But there I was, baking pretzel buns. Let the carb loading begin!

I was also baking for Erik, our support car driver. I was finding myself extremely grateful that he was going to be there for us. Originally I was hoping to go without a sag wagon. I find the idea of carrying all your stuff and being truly independent extremely enticing, and that is how I will travel when I go across the country. But for our first multi-day trip, I was easily convinced that the sag wagon was the way to go. Erik volunteered and now I was baking him pretzel buns to express my gratitude. Sometimes I’m clumsy in expressing how I really feel. Pretzels are the universal symbol of gratitude, right? I considered dying them blue to make them more Erik-centric, but I’m pretty sure blue pretzels are the universal symbol for sympathy. Wrong occasion.

Anyway, I baked the pretzel buns, took them over to Erik and Sue’s house, and Cortney and I loaded up the stuff we wouldn’t need for a day into Erik’s car. Cortney and I were going to start off on our own by riding to Santa Cruz, but then Sue and Erik were going to drive down to meet us there. From Santa Cruz the four of us would continue the ride to Santa Barbara. Excuse me, to Carpinteria.

Cortney was open and honest with her nervousness. She did not have an armload of pretzel buns to compensate; the nervousness was obvious. I felt an eerie calm settle on me. We’d done the ride to Santa Cruz before. It was difficult, but surely it would be easier now.

350 miles to go!

350 miles to go!

Anyway, the next morning, September 6, Cortney came over to my house, and after finishing up my last-minute cleaning of my rats’ cage, we took our first picture of the trip and took off!

Now, to put this trip into a little perspective. In April we had decided to do pretty much this exact same ride. We started in Mountain View, which adds about eight miles, but eight miles of mostly flat riding. The big part of this ride is getting up and over the Santa Cruz mountains that stand in the way. If you’ve ever driven Highway 17, you probably know that this stretch is not to be taken lightly. We stay away from Highway 17 and take Old Santa Cruz Highway, but the mountains are the same. In April we started our venture around 9am. I remember Cortney happily making plans for the evening, as she expected to be home by 4pm, I believe it was. I raised an eyebrow at that, I didn’t think we should be so optimistic, but then, what did I know?

I think it was probably at about 4pm when we took this picture in April:

Well, it's all downhill from here, right?

April 2014: Well, it’s all downhill from here, right?

Yup, we’re at the intersection of Old Santa Cruz Highway and Summit Road. So we were still high up the mountains when we were hoping to be down by the beaches. We also appear to be propping ourselves up on that fence. Ah well, at least we could mostly coast the rest of the way. We had dinner that of course included beer, then loaded our bikes onto the 17 Express bus and climbed aboard, along with just about the rest of the Santa Cruz population, and settled back to marvel at bumper to bumper traffic. A few hours later we finally staggered into the train station in San Jose, rode the train to Mountain View, then rode our bikes in the pitch dark of midnight back to our CrossFit gym where we had left our cars.

Let’s just say it was a long hard day, and we figured we had just signed ourselves up for another long hard day. At least we knew that we didn’t have to come back. I splurged a little bit on a nice inn where we would be able to pamper ourselves for the night.

Lo and behold, the ride never got difficult! Maybe it was the pretzel buns. Maybe it was Cortney’s new bike speakers pumping out Switchfoot songs. Do we dare consider that it was all the training we put in since April? We started climbing those mountains and everything was just great. In the back of my mind I was convinced, though, that the fun would end and the real climbing would start.

climbing old santa cruz hwy

Feeling suspicious that all these hills are so much fun to climb.

But then we came to a bend in the road that seemed eerily familiar. I didn’t want to say anything, but I looked over at Cortney to see if she had the same sense of recognition that I had. We both cautiously approached this bend and then we saw it: the sign announcing the intersection of Old Santa Cruz Highway and Summit Road! We let out a whoop of joy and leaped off our bikes, waved down the cyclist who just then happened to be coming from the other direction, and had him snap this photo:

And this time we had loaded saddle bags!

September 2014: And this time we had loaded saddle bags!

I think it was about noon when we took this picture. We were extremely pleased with ourselves. We zipped down the rest of the way into downtown Santa Cruz to Mission Inn, where we had our reservations, and worried about something that we hadn’t considered before: what if we arrived before we could check in? We couldn’t stop laughing. At 2:35 we were in the lobby of our inn.


We’re done already?!?

Well, as soon as we stepped foot in the courtyard, we were blessed with the amazing sight of maybe twenty bicycles and the cyclists who belonged to them. They took one look at us and poured us some beer and wine. We had just met up with Team Alameda upon the completion of their ride from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. We happily settled in with them and shared stories about cycling trips. They were incredibly generous and happy to adopt us as part of their group. We tipsily went to our rooms to shower and get ready for dinner with our new friends, which was when I hilariously learned that Cortney had not brought any clothes other than her pajamas! Remembering how our last trip went, she was convinced that she would do nothing but crawl into bed. Heading out for some social time at a restaurant was just not something she considered. I lent her my pair of sweats and we went out for some fun.

alameda team

Team Alameda getting pumped up for another long ride in the morning.

We didn’t have as much fun as Team Alameda. We’re still confused as to how they can plan on waking up at 7am to bike back to San Francisco (some of them were continuing on to Monterey) and still enjoy going out to the bars until late. But we did have an amazing time learning about a particular dish served at Burger on Mission: a burger served in between two grilled cheese sandwiches! After our lesson in just how crazy burgers can be, as well as our lesson on the importance of leg strength for cycling from one Team Alameda member, we returned to the inn to sit in the hot tub for a while. We both felt pretty darn excited for Day 2 to begin.

The TL;DR version: Day 1 was an enormous success!

Our route to Santa Cruz via Old Santa Cruz Highway.

Our route to Santa Cruz via Old Santa Cruz Highway.


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