The Solvang Prelude was my first organized bike-only event, with a choice of a metric century, 50 mile or 25 mile courses.

The Santa Ynez Valley is one of my favorite places in California: wineries, golden rolling hills studded with oak trees, twisty scenic roads, good restaurants. Hitting all my high points! and the workout the ride would offer would burn enough calories to indulge post-ride relatively guilt free.

I’d actually never been to Solvang before, despite all my trips to the area. Solvang is a ‘Danish village’ of a tourist town — think wooden beamed buildings, waitresses in clogs and aprons, endless arrays of touristy gewgaws, Danish themed restaurants (all with basically the same menu), and yep, a Thomas Kincaide ‘gallery’. There’s a reason I’d never been to Solvang before. Ah well, the nighttime twinkle lights on all the buildings were pretty. And it’s close to Los Olivos (which has two great restaurants, Brothers at Mattei’s Tavern and the Los Olivos Cafe (featured in Sideways, but we’d eaten there many times before that ever came out)) and all the wineries.

Regardless, the ride started in Solvang, so we got a hotel room at the Royal Copenhagen Inn. The room was basic but large, with two double beds, a table and chairs, a bureau, a vanity area, and a large bathroom with a corner shower (no tub). The room was set up for handicapped/wheelchair access including a rather awkward toilet seat. Plenty of room for our bikes — the most critical aspect for this trip. We usually stay at B&Bs, so this room lacked the charm and intimacy in comparison, but the price and location were good.

We arrived Friday late afternoon, got checked in, and used our free wine tasting coupons at the tasting room kitty-corner to the hotel. (Bought some ‘quaffable’ whites, nothing great, but tasty and good when you want to open something while hanging out with friends and not feel obligated to really experience or focus on the wine — what we’ve termed a ‘patio’ wine.)

We went to pick up our packets at the Royal Scandinavian Inn and found a huge line — we decided to grab dinner first then come back for our packets. After wandering aimlessly and finding no restaurants that didn’t feature knockwurst (I know, German) and other variations, I dashed into a gift store and asked the proprietoress for a dinner recommendation. She recommended Cafe Angelica.

The food was tasty, a little overpriced, but better than our other options in town. (Our original plan include Los Olivos Cafe but unfortunately they were closed that weekend for kitchen renovations.) We both had pasta dishes.

Back to pick up our packets — no lines — peruse the course map, and browse through the expo tents. We didn’t buy anything that evening; I’m trying to limit my clothing purchases to LA Tri Club gear.

The next morning we were supposed to meet Melanie and Mike. Although Dave and I had decided to do the 50 mile course, Dave reconsidered and figured he and Mike could do the metric century and Mel and I could do the 50 together.

We weren’t able to find them.

Also, it was horribly cold (keep in mind I’m used to balmy 50-60 degree weather, even in the early mornings) — someone said 38 degrees. I was wearing bike shorts and a short sleeved bike jersey. I hadn’t even BROUGHT a long sleeved jersey, let alone a jacket. I knew darn well how hot it would get (and it did get hot) and was trying to pack light.

So, we spent pre-race time alternating between looking for Mel and shopping for things to make us not so freezing. I bought some bright blue arm warmers that will coordinate with my LA Tri Club gear and some gloves and Dave bought a light windbreaker that stuffed into itself to make a fanny pack and some glove liners to wear as gloves.

The race didn’t really start on time but that didn’t seem to be a big deal to anyone.