You know that the cycling bug has hit when it starts affecting your life in the subtle ways. You're more worried about finding the perfect jersey than the perfect street clothes, the guys at the local bike shop start remembering your name and you stop at one drink while you're out a bar the night before a group ride.
I set the alarm for 6:10 a.m. and I was up, eager to start my day and get ready for my first group ride. I was meeting some members of the Team Estrogen forum and our fearless leader Pam had put together a great ride for us. Our meeting point was in Tustin Ranch at Cedar Grove Park. As I pulled into the parking lot, I was greeted by the smiling faces and waves of Pam, Tracy and Cathy. I knew right away that I was going to like this group of enthusiastic women. As we were getting ready to ride we snapped a few pictures and talked our heads off.
More riders trickled in as time went on and Pam's friend Wayne kindly changed my rear tube which had a slow leak that we noticed as Pam was inflating my tire with her floor pump. As we were all getting ready, the guys from Paramount Racing were getting ready for their ride as well. I thought about joining them on their ride, but I didn't want to embarass any of them with my lightning fast speed, so I opted to stay with the Team Estrogen group ;)
Before long we were off on our journey which Pam had dubbed "Tour de Orange County Bike Paths." We jumped from path to path, starting off on the Mountains to the Sea Trail and then hitting Hick's Haul, Walnut Creek, Quail Hill, Shady Ridge and San Diego Creek Trails before reaching the Dover side of Back Bay.
After a white knuckle descent on the trail running parallel to Dover, we pushed on to Balboa Island with the intention of taking the ferry across to Balboa Peninsula. Plans changed as we got a glimpse of the holiday traffic and the line of cars, pedestrians and people on bikes waiting to cross on this Memorial Day. We backtracked off of the island and headed for the shopping center across the road for some lunch at Java City. I don't frequent Java City very often, but when I do I have to order the Vegetarian Sandwich with three cheeses on wheat. This is quite possibly the yummiest sandwich ever. Yum.
Our bellies full from lunch and feeling much more energetic, we headed across Pacific Coast Highway and through Newport Dunes RV park where we crossed a bridge that was so bumpy that I'm pretty sure that I'm now a victim of something similar to shaken baby syndrome. Leaving the "Ritz of RV parks" we found ourselves in Back Bay. It was absolutely gorgeous out and the views were amazing. One short but tough climb at the very end and we were back on the San Diego Creek Trail heading back to Tustin. The ride back was almost entirely bike path and went by really quickly. About two miles before the end of our ride our fearless leader Pam flatted, but was quickly back on the road with Wayne playing the part of mechanic and changing out her tube.
As we rode back in to Cedar Grove Park I was informed that our ride was 42.5 miles...my longest ride yet! My first group ride was a success. Saying goodbye to new friends, we were already plotting our next ride. I am so thankful that I landed with such a nice and friendly group of cyclists. Walking away, I felt like I was a better cyclist after this group ride and I learned so much today. Can't wait for next time!