APL warned me that day four was one of the hardest days of the ride – and it certainly had the most climbing! Everyone was talking about “the Twin Sisters,” two steep climbs that occur one after another on the way out of Big Sur, but there was a fair amount of climbing before we even got to those. In fact, we started with a big climb directly out of camp.
But it was also a beautiful day. We passed Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, where a waterfall falls directly from a cliff and on to the sandy beach below. Though I had driven past the park on previous tours, you can’t see the waterfall from the road – and I had never had a chance to stop since I always had to set up the rest stop before the riders arrived. So I was excited to have a chance to see the waterfall and take in all the sights at a slower pace.
We were almost the very last riders to arrive at the rest stop before the Twin Sisters climbs. Strangely, instead of feeling intimidated by the challenge, I felt invigorated. I knew I could do it – and it had been a long, long time since I felt that sure of my physical abilities. But I also knew that I would have to go slow and stop a lot, so as the sag team started discussing sweeping the few riders who were behind us, we hurried back on to our bikes so that I could attempt the climb on my own.
I will admit to feeling a flicker of doubt when I saw the second Sister looming up in front of me – after having just climbed the first – but I kept moving forward at whatever pace I could manage. I made it to the top, and the feeling of accomplishment was one that I haven’t felt in many, many years. Likely since before my RA diagnosis. It was an almost unrecognizable feeling, but it felt fantastic.
Unfortunately, after having accomplished the majority of the climbing, there was still about 24 miles to ride before we got to camp. It was pretty easy riding, but it was still mile after mile under my tired legs. It helped that there was a beach covered in elephant seals near the end – so we were able to stop and watch them for a few minutes, which was fun.
Unfortunately, about five miles out from camp I essentially ran out of gas. But instead of flagging down a sag van, I stubbornly pushed on – determined not to let five miles stop me after everything I had accomplished so far. I knew we were headed to a new camp than previous years, but what I didn’t realize was that it was at the top of another climb – just like the camp in Monterey. But unlike Monterey, I had no fuel left in my tank and the climb nearly killed me. I felt like I was going to cry, but I was persistent. By the time I made it to the top, I was literally the last rider into camp, dinner had already started, and I couldn’t do much more than flop down in the parking lot for a few minutes. Someone from the Arthritis Foundation saw me and graciously brought me a soda and helped APL find our bags. Then I dragged myself to dinner, which I ate like a zombie.
Thankfully, APL and I had decided to get a hotel room that night thinking that it might be a good idea to splurge halfway through the ride to give me a break. After dinner I sank very gratefully into a short Epsom salt bath and then went straight to sleep in a real bed. Definitely a good choice!
To be continued…