Of all the century rides I’ve done, the Strawberry Fields Forever ride in Watsonville is probably my favorite. This Sunday was my fourth time doing the ride. This year I did the ride with Ray, Richard, and Kiefer, and we decided to camp the night before. Originally I had planned to book a campsite at one of the state beaches close to Watsonville, but by the time I had looked for campsites they had all booked up. I ended up booking a campsite at Henry Cowell state park, in the redwood forests above Santa Cruz. The campsite we ended up at was tiny, pretty much the only place where we could pitch our tent was right next to the car. We found an ice cream place while driving towards the beach. It looked pretty popular, kinda like Mitchell’s in SF, where you have to take a number and wait pretty long. And we did a quick walk at the boardwalk to burn off those ice cream calories. Prepping hobo meals for dinner. Asians taking picture of food. Last minute tune ups and ride testing. The ride starts at a high school in Watsonville, then heads into the forests in the hills surrounding Watsonville and Santa Cruz. It’s quite scenic, riding uphill through the forests, my blurrycam shot doesn’t do the scene justice. Reaching the peak of any climb is great, but it’s even more awesome during a century ride, since you get to put all that gravitational potential energy to use, flying downhill for the next few miles. Plus the scenery is nice. The ride is called ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ because during the last half of the ride you ride through strawberry fields, and they seem to go on forever. We got to the lunch stop a little after the scheduled closure time of 2:30. Thankfully they still had food left.
At this point I was thinking of ditching everyone and riding at full speed to the end, to try to make it by the course closure time of 5:30. But we ended up riding together in an easy paceline. On our way to the lunch stop we had picked up another rider named Gary, who continued to ride with us after lunch. So the five of us rode together at an easy pace through the strawberry fields.
A few miles after lunch Richard started to have stomach problems, so he ended up calling the SAG wagon to pick him up. As we waited with him, we told Gary that he didn’t need to wait for us, after all his friends were already at the finish line waiting for him. He said he would wait with us because, “it’s the right thing to do.”
Often on long rides I find myself lost in thought. And so I thought about those words, it’s the right thing to do, and about my attitude earlier. I really was planning to ditch everyone. And for what? Fresh baked pies and strawberries and cream?
It made me think about why I enjoy century rides. Sure the food’s good on this ride. And the scenery is beautiful. But I think ultimately it’s the shared sense of accomplishment that really makes the ride worthwhile. Cycling is an individual sport, each person makes it to the end of a ride on their own pedal power, but it’s much easier and enjoyable riding together.
I forget that sometimes.
And so I’m thankful for that reminder.