Inside, I see friends getting ready to order; they pull up a chair for me. Organic local coffee or Honduran? Organic. Then back to the room, pack the bag, check the tires and stuff some food in my pockets. Looks like great weather today, cool and clear. Fists in the center, a cheer on the count of three and off we go.
Today is different. Today is rolling family. I know everyone, some better than others but it's a tight-knit, no-drop ride. Aside from an early bio-break and a search for more coffee (Starbucks appeared before we saw "The Ugly Mug"), the first part of the ride is business - let's get away from the urban parts.
Santa Cruz is eclectic, laid back but not always cyclist-friendly. An old man yells at us as we roll past his house, "you're supposed to stop at stop signs!" Sean reminds us that there's a cyclist injured every week here. The rise and fall and turns of the road increase as we get further south. Then we're in the shelter of trees with the constant smell of the salty air. And just as quickly it changes to rollers then flat, exposed farmland.
Now we're heading into the south-westerly breeze. There's not enough shoulder for a proper echelon, so everyone suffers; everyone tires. Except Randy. Out of the saddle, pulling away, thinking we're all in his wake. He waits. We catch up. By now we all know who's capable of what, who's a bit wobbly, apt to touch the brakes, or chomping at the bit. As if, ...with 4,900 miles to go!
A bit more urban riding through Monterey, then up and over the hill. Okay, a little more up than necessary because of my mis-navigation. Half the crew detoured downtown to ride 17 Mile Drive, avoiding the hill but adding an hour. And certainly adding an experience of a lifetime. But I'm thinking of tomorrow.