Sunday, February 06, 2005

Palm Springs

On Friday my friend Vincent and i drove up to Palm Springs to spend the night before doing the Tour de Palm Springs century ride on Saturday. On the way up we picked up his friend Volker from his parent's house in Moreno Valley. We got to Palm Springs about 5pm and then went to the ever-luxurious TravelLodge on E. Palm Canyon. I've stayed there for the last three years, not because it's a nice hotel, but because it's almost always good for a story or two. After the first year when one of the desk clerks got into a shouting match with a customer, i was hooked.

We dropped off our bikes and then went to the main section of Palm Canyon to get some pasta. We went to a place called Al Dente, which was good despite the trendy location and clientele. We had an interesting, wine-induced discussion about traveling, politics, and religion. Afterward we stopped by a grocery, got some water and some beers, and went back to the TravelLodge to sit in the jaccuzzi. We hung out in the jaccuzzi and pool for about an hour, drinking beer and talking to whomever else came by. Some Mexican guys came around with some Coronas, but soon the hotel manager came out to yell at us for having glass bottles in the pool area so we decided to call it a night. Volker, an experienced rock climber, took a shortcut back to our room by climbing up the outside of the hotel to our second floor balcony. Vincent was about to follow him when the manager came out to yell at us again.

We got up at about 5:30 on Saturday morning, got all spandexed up, and drove over to the ride start area. The ride got underway about 7. It felt like it might be a bit windy, but it never got too strong. By the first SAG station at about 15 miles, the worst of it was over. We burned through the next downhill section, stopped briefly at the SAG station, and then hit the long, straight section of rolling hills that lead up to the halfway point. As usual it was a lot of fun, although it was a bit scary this year since there seemed to be high percentage of wannabe Lance Armstrongs who couldn't quite keep to their line on some of the 40 mile/hr descents. But we reached the 50 mile point unscathed and relatively fresh.

There was a really bad local post-grunge band playing at the 50 mile stop who had perfected the art of writing original songs that nonetheless sound like covers of Staind. But there was water and peanut M+Ms and Chex mix, so all was good. By now it was a bit overcast and still fairly cool, but the wind had died down. We hung out for a while and then hit the road for the second half.

The section following the half-way point was changed this year, probably to avoid the shitty roads in Indio. It wasn't as scenic though, and about 5 miles along i flatted. Volker helped me fix it and we got back underway. Fortunately, a big group of riders came up from behind us at around 60 miles and we jumped on the back and let them push the wind to the 75 mile SAG station. This stop had the Buddy Rogers Youth Symphony, which we enjoyed far more than the previous band. We got some more munchies and water and took off.

After the short incline that comes after the stop, we dropped back into the valley and then we started doing a 3-man rotating pace line. After several miles we hooked up with a group of riders from Phoenix and basically stuck with them until nearly the finish. Both Volker and Vincent had it at about 101 miles. We finished in about 5 1/2 hours of bike time.

All in all a pretty good ride. Some of the roads around Palm Springs are getting so rough as to be dangerous, and i think the traffic control was badly managed this year. There were some really pissed-off motorists, and all bikers know there's nothing scarier than an angry moron with a two-ton weapon. A fun ride though, and it was great to ride with Vincent and Volker.

After the ride, we went back to Palm Canyon and went to our traditional post-race Mexican restaurant, Las Casuelas Terrazza. I've never eaten at this restaurant without first having ridden 100 miles, so i'm not absolutely certain that the food is any good. After 100 miles on a bike, roadkill would be tasty. It's got a great atmosphere though, the beer is always nice and cold, and this year they had an excellent band.

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