Two weekends ago, a small cadre of Team Fun riders headed east to Borrego Springs for their December century. We gathered in the chilly temps (low 40s!) around 8:00 am to face the challenge of a desert tour on less-than-savory road surfaces. David and I did this century together last year, and I recall that this was the sort of ride where there wasn’t much to focus on except the pace. The goal for this year was to try to make it more enjoyable than last year, which shouldn’t be hard to do.
Everyone was all smiles and shivers at the start, with Jill, Ellen, Julie, and Heather attending, along with Kim and Sally, who both rode with their respective husbands. I banished poor David from this ride – I wanted to be in slightly less pain than at the Palm Desert century.
We took off at a moderate pace, hoping to diminish the pain later in the ride. I actually had the ability to look up at the scenery this year, and strangely, I found it to be less depressing than last year. I’m still not certain it qualifies for, the “greatest desert scenery anywhere“ accolades, but then again, I guess among desert scenery, there probably isn’t a lot of competition. Also perhaps misleading is the claim of “well stocked rest stops“, as when we stopped at our first stop around mile 35, they only had jelly sandwiches. Yes, you heard that right. Jelly sandwiches. No peanut butter. Nothing else, except some yellow Gatorade on the weak side. I had the feeling that yet again, a bonk would be in my future.
However, the jelly sandwich reminded me of a jelly donut, and in addition, I had a Hammer Gel that I brought for myself (knowing how “well stocked” the rest stops were last year…), so I was in a rather chipper mode as we headed out toward the Salton Sea.
Last year, I complained rather vociferously that although we went toward the Salton Sea, I never actually saw it. Perhaps I was so focused on David’s wheel, or just downright delirious from traveling at warp speed, that I didn’t happen to notice it (David claims he saw it). But this year! I was so very excited when I saw the rich blue of the sea standing out gloriously in the barren surroundings – there it was, to feast my eyes upon! Granted, I wasn’t close to it, nor did I allow anyone to stop and snap photos (sorry, Jill) – I have a hard time keeping the “Fun” in the name, especially when it comes to mixing it in when we’re trying to get something done!
It was on the way out and back from the Salton Sea that Jill and I decided to pick up the pace a bit. I think I’m just impatient, and with the road surface rattling my bones and brains, I was ready to head to the finish (or at least, the 67 mile rest stop, where pie was a possibility) as quickly as possible. I ended up going “David style” and we powered back toward the main part of the valley at a pace well above 20 mph. This artsy photo from Jill gives you a sense of our scenery for the day.
At this point, we had split up with respective partners: Jill and I, Julie and Ellen, and Sally and Kim with their husbands, although the out and back nature of the Salton Sea leg allowed for crossovers and big waves from everyone. Even with just five of us sporting the kit, we were one of the biggest contingents to attend.
Jill and I had fairly high hopes for the mile 56 rest stop, or at least, I did. I think Jill bikes on love. I was starving, having completely burnt up my jelly sandwich. Alas, I was to be disappointed, since while this rest stop managed to include peanut butter in their sandwiches, they only had the sandwiches and bananas. As I was soon to confirm, yes, bananas do in fact make me cramp when I ride. At least we got some more photo ops.
On rides like these, you have plenty of time to contemplate the mysteries of life, or just the simple mysteries of what’s in front of you, like those poor orange trees on the right of this picture, that somehow manage to eke out survival growing in sand.
I think if I were to do this ride again, I’d advise myself and just about anyone else to go ahead and stop when you return to the start the first time. You did a little over a metric century, you earned your pie, you enjoyed your desert scenery – just be done with it already. Because at that point, all you have ahead of you is about half of what you just did, almost exactly, but this time, with more wind. Unless you are just a glutton for punishment, go ahead and eat that pie and hang out with the cool volunteers (because while the offerings out on the rest stops are only memorable for their lack, the volunteers are all super sweet and Julian pie pretty much makes up for everything else).
This year, the second lap was especially disappointing as you barely got to see the “prehistoric desert sculptures” – it was dry enough, and windy enough, such that the roads back that way were completely covered in small sand dunes. We did glimpse a few of them, but crack-whipper that I am, I didn’t allow Jill to stop for pictures (or at least, so the story goes – I think Jill was the crack-whipper). She did manage to take this donkey shot.
The signage on this course was, at best, “subtle”. I was aware of the basic route from having experienced it last year, and although it changed somewhat due to shifting sands, we seemed to follow the course accurately. We all hit at least 90, but none of us reached the full century mark. Jill and I ended up with a respectable 5:19.57 moving time (average speed 18mph – http://www.strava.com/activities/100230811), and Julie and Ellen had a fantastic showing at 16mph. We left more than a few men wondering, who is this “Team Fun” anyway?
And of course, we all ended with a nice big slice of Julian pie! Can’t wait for the next Team Fun adventure, and hope more of you can join us!