In October of 2017 Brennen Lukas and I started cooking up a scheme to schedule a long weekend to ride bikes and do little else. When I first got into cycling Brennen was one of the initial people with whom I fell in, a founding member of the fabled Hostile City Rollers, but over the past several years Brennen actually fell OUT of riding. He was committed to finding the form he once had and we decided what better place to spend 3 days of guaranteed sunshine on fantastic roads than Southern California. He trained tirelessly on his home trainer using Zwift. He'll tell you he started from rock bottom, but by the time he arrived in Los Angeles he was 20 pounds lighter and ready to power through just about anything we could put in his way.
Tolsun Waddle became my first elite level cycling friend. Sure, the rest of us were competent enough on 2 wheels, but Tolsun was an aspiring Olympic level rower and had an engine to match. His accelerations were legendary within our crew and we knew that as he edged closer to his rowing objectives each year we had to be prepared to suffer. Tolsun was easily convinced to come join us in LA, if only for the chance to hang with friends and go see his beloved LA Dodgers in their home stadium. He was also promised burgers so, truly, it didn't take a lot of negotiating.
DAY 1: I took Brennen to Griffith Park to give him a taste of what some longer hill climbs would feel like. Just he and I on a Thursday afternoon, we rode up to the blacktop patch overlooking the city, and ultimately to the top of Mt Lee. It was a wake-up call of sorts for his primed legs and a chance to acclimate to my older road bike which he was borrowing. He pushed through like a champ and built some confidence for the longer days ahead.
DAY 2: We met up in the morning at Joe D's place in Culver City, pushed over to Playa to pick up an added guest and cruised the coast to Palos Verdes. Once south of Torrance Beach, the PCH ascends a set of cliffs and you're met with spectacular views out over the ocean if the weather cooperates. You couldn't imagine a clearer more perfect California day. By the time we hit the switchbacks we had probably built them up to Brennen more than necessary, describing them as some epic journey. I played his domestique, maintaining a manageable pace letting him know what to expect around every corner of the 2-mile climb. He never wavered, and upon reaching the top, I dare say old Brennen was officially BACK. We finished up the day with a trip to Dodger Stadium to watch the boys in blue tackle the San Diego Padres. It was also Friday Fireworks which meant some time on the field itself. All around, a pretty spectacular day.
DAY 3: The "Queen Stage" of our weekend was a 45-mile ramble which included Glendora Mountain Road (GMR) to Baldy Village. It's an iconic climb here in Southern California, but even after living less than 30 miles away for close to 4 years, I hadn't taken the opportunity to give it a go. With Brennen and Tolsun in town, we put together a nice bunch to explore together. It's ostensibly a 22-mile climb with a smattering of slightly downhill pitches to break up the effort. But make no mistake. It's a LONG grind.
Nacho played morale coach to Brennen for the duration of the climb, and I did my best to keep in contact with Tolsun once things got their hardest. Poor guy, was riding standard gearing with an 11-25 on the back while trying to climb mountains. All this to say, a ride I'll never forget, and a weekend which hopefully leads to more such gatherings in the near future.