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Two Men In Tights – California Wine Country and Northern Coast Tour – May 6-18

| May 29, 2011 5:11 pm

by Bryan Shaner and Ray Persico

Ray and I had been trying to find a Bicycle Adventure Club (BAC) ride for some time.  First the Southern Utah Tour was full then the Sicily trip fell apart, so I was pretty excited when he told me about the California Wine Country and Northern Coast Tour.  And the ride leaders were our own Bill and Joyce Keckler.  BAC is an all volunteer organization that is not for profit.  So not only was the price reasonable, but we’re going to get a refund of several hundred dollars since Bill and Joyce kept us under budget.  Not only did they keep us under budget, but they provided an excellent riding experience.  We had very complete route information (including a few alternates for additional climbing and miles), wonderful accommodations, and a great happy hour every afternoon.  They did a good job of arranging the weather also.  Our one rainy day was spent at the Lodge in Olema which had a pool table in the game room!

Our first two nights were in Windsor, and the first days ride was a 40-70 mile loop to get all the kinks worked out.  Fortunately for me, it was also the day of the Wine Country Century, because I had a very important kink that needed to be worked out.  My rear derailleur cable broke at about mile 20.  Ray suggested we try the Century rest stop, and sure enough, $10 and 10 minutes later, I was back on the road.  That first day of 71 miles turned out to be our longest, and I have to admit, after a generous wine tasting and a hand full of chocolates, we enjoyed passing dozens if not hundreds of weary Century riders that last 20 miles.

Day three was from Windsor to Calistoga.  Ray and I were feeling pretty cocky having gone exploring off the route quite successfully the previous day.  But our alternative route to see new country had lots of traffic, and we were glad when we finally rejoined the suggested route.  We arrived in Calistoga pretty early so decided to do some extra riding.  Our original plan was to get up into the hills and do some more climbing, but after a few miles on the El Dorado Trail, we decided to restrict our miles and keep them level.  We saw a great photo exhibit at Mums and then had lunch in St. Helena.  The shared $20 wine tasting at Clos Pegase was good, but then some of our free happy hour wines were also.

The next day we headed off to Cloverdale, and the route included “The Geysers” which is one of the prettiest routes you’ll ever ride.  The climb was moderately difficult and the wide open views were spectacular.  Ray and I missed a turn and got to see where Geysers got its name.  There’s a plant tucked back in the mountains that converts the heat and steam from geysers into electricity.  They didn’t seem too interested in inviting us in for a tour, so we retraced ours steps and bumped down a road almost as bad as Eureka Canyon.  We felt a few drops of rain as we arrived in Cloverdale, and some of our fellow travelers got some hail.

We rode to Mendocino the next day and realized how beautiful our weather had been.  We were greeted by clouds and wind on the coast.  So the next day on our way to Ft. Bragg, I purchased some tights – well really leg warmers.  But they were wonderful.  My left knee had been complaining the last few days about not having any rest days but seemed very happy to be wrapped in its snug leg warmer.  So now we were two men in tights.  The section of highway 1 between Ft. Bragg and Mendocino is not fun.  It’s bumpy and there’s lots of traffic.  But along the way there was a wonderful botanic garden that was worth the $14 admission charge.

The next day I was prepared for more poor road, but miraculously, it got smooth just south of Mendocino and stayed that way down to Gualala.  I had dinner with some old college friends that night and was amazed I was able to get back on my bike the next morning for our trip to Bodega Bay.  As usual, we took one of the alternates for more miles and climbing. The alternate was King Ridge Road. It was one of our most scenic, traffic free rides on the trip.  When we got to Bodega Bay, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw our accommodations.  They were spectacular with a beautiful view of the ocean.  I wanted to stay.  We’d been cycling for a week without a day off.  This seemed like a good place to settle in and enjoy the hot tub, the view and the great food at the restaurant across the street.  And that is where Ray and I had our first real “couple” experience.  It’s true that all the folks on the tour (except Richard and us) were married couples.  The tour was set up to be at a moderate pace with 50ish mile days which appealed to married couples (three of whom were on tandems).  So our waiter that evening decided we were a couple too, and asked “And what would the lovebirds like this evening?”  Our fellow diners already knew we both had long suffering spouses at home wondering why their husbands were off on this crazy bike trip (I had that same thought a few times myself).  So they had a good laugh.  We did too.

Alas, we had to leave our great digs at Bodega Bay and head down to Olema.  After being together for nine days, Ray and I were really in sync.  We had been riding together all this time with him leading and me keeping track of our route usually quite successfully.  So right after I had my first (and only) flat of the trip, Ray decided he would have his first (but not only) flat of the trip.  Only his had ripped a pretty big hole in the tire.  Just as we were thinking of booting the tire and hoping we had something smaller than a twenty to do it with, Joyce showed up in the van, and Ray was able to get his spare tire out of his luggage.  That’s how on top of things Bill and Joyce were during this entire trip.  We had our second “couple” experience when we arrived in Olema.  The receptionist showed us to our room and made sure we knew that we could rearrange the single beds if we wished (wink wink).  She was having so much fun being politically correct that we didn’t disabuse her of this incorrect assumption.

The next day was really really tough for me.  We were just doing an out and back to the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse which was a mere 20 miles away, so we threw in an extra eight mile climb up Mt. Vision.  The climb went well, but then we hit the winds, which were strong and shifted often.  I think it took as much energy to fight the cross winds as the head winds.  The lighthouse was nice but for some reason I thought I needed to climb down (and back) the 300+ steps to see it.  On the way back to Olema my legs felt like lead and I slipped well behind Ray.  He stopped to see what had happened to me.  Ray gave me half his last energy bar (I was out) and after drafting behind him for a few miles, I began to think I might be able to complete the trip.  We made it back just fine. However, I wasn’t overly distressed when rain kept us from riding up Mt. Tam the next day (been there – done that).  In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed playing 3 sets of 7  games of nine-ball with Richard even though he beat me 4-3 all three times.

Our last day back to Windsor was delightful with beautiful views and little traffic (until we got close to town).  Ray had a flat but for some reason I didn’t, and we were back at the start by 1pm.  The two men in tights had completed almost 600 miles during 11 days of cycling with over 40,000 feet of climbing three flat tires and one broken derailleur cable.  We’d survived 12 happy hours and made some friends I hope we’ll see again on subsequent BAC rides.

L’Etape du Tour of California: the Mt. Baldy Stage

| May 9, 2011 7:18 am

by Mark Pryor

This story starts back on Tuesday, when I went to the garage to load up my trusty old Trek 5200 for the trip–Janet and I were spending a couple of days before the ride in Palm Springs, and we drove down Tuesday morning. Luckily, I was testing things out with the bike before tossing it in the back of my truck when I noticed a loose spoke on the rear wheel!  Crap, riding it up and down Highway 9 on the Argonaut Ride the night before must have messed up the wheel so now I am presented with my Batch O’ Bad Luck #1: what to do bike-wise for the Mt. Baldy ride?????

I have been doing my training largely on the 5200 rather than the Madone, as I have the XT set-up on the 5200 with the 11 X 34 cassette (versus an IRD 11 X 30 cassette on the Madone) and we’ve been climbing MoFos like Sierra and the backside of Hammie lately, so I really wanted the Bail-out Gearing on the 5200.  So, one option would be to bring the 5200 and have a bike shop in Palm Springs fix the rear wheel…BUT, I had also changed out my long-of-tooth Terry Zero saddle on the 5200 to a Fizik Aliente and I still was fiddling with the position of the saddle   OR, I could take my Madone with the higher gearing and not have to worry about things…what do I do, what DO I do?

So, I make the snap decision with the new saddle worries weighing heavier than the higher gearing to snatch the Madone off the rack and loading it up.  I fully intended to get a ride or two in around Palm Springs, but I sat around on my butt and didn’t do a damn thing but relax in Palm Springs from Tuesday through Friday when we headed up to Claremont for the Friday check-in and briefing.  I ran in to Steve and BrianB at the Doubletree briefing, and we agreed to meet at 6:45am in the Doubletree parking lot to ride to the start together.

We three rode down to the start–the organizers said they had 1,450 riders–and we quickly found Warren and Dan in the crowd, then Jon D showed up tricked out head to toe in a Michigan Wolverine team kit.  We set off in the Third Wave at about 7:15, but Brian got held back by a course marshal when he picked Brian to start Wave Four, so I hung back of my pack to allow Brian to catch up–but he never did, saying they held them back for about 10 minutes before he left.  I hung back until we cleared the ‘burbs and started climbing Mt. Baldy Road proper and I decided to settle in and start climbing, figuring Brian would catch me somewhere on that first 12 mile climb.

The first climb wasn’t bad…long stretches of 4 – 6% gradient with some kick-ups to 10% here and there, and I caught Dan on the first of the short grades. I figured it would take me about an hour-twenty to get to Mt. Baldy Village, and I guessed right on the nose…I passed the first rest stop at 1:19 in to the ride, opting to skip it as I still had a full bottle and it was all down hill to the second rest stop.  I had a nice descent, but I noticed a bit of shimmy in the Madone, and as I pulled in to the SRAM guy at Rest Stop #2, I spun my wheel and sure-as-shit, my rear wheel was way out of whack…dammit, another loose spoke (not broken), Batch O’ Bad Luck #2 and I’m only 25 miles in to the ride.  The SRAM guy tells me he doesn’t have a spoke wrench, so he takes some needle-nose pliers and a crescent wrench and gamely tries to tighten the spoke.  By now, I have been stopped for 15 minutes, sweating bullets…then the SRAM guy announces, “hey, you’ve got a couple of loose spokes!”  Double and triple CRAP!!!

Then the SRAM guy announces, “hey, we have some wheels!” and runs back to his truck and pops on a ZIPP 404 on the rear of my Madone!!!  A friggin’ ZIPP 404!  BUT, I look at the cassette and we come to Batch O’ Bad Luck #3, the low gear is a 25!!  So, I go from a 34 tooth low gear which was my original intent on my 5200, to a 30 on my Madone, NOW TO A FRIGGIN’ 25!!!  I said to the SRAM guy, “How the hell am I going to climb to Mt. Baldy Ski Station with a 25 low gear?!?!?!”  His retort is one for the ages, “If you make it, it will give you bragging rights!”

I look closely at the wheel, and see it needs a super-duper long stem tube, so I think to myself, I better not flat on this bad boy…and, the Friday briefing the organizers said that CalTrans was going to sweep the course but to be careful for rocks in the road anyway.  Which turned out to be propitious…

About 10 minutes in to my stop, I see Brian zip through the stop (it was another long descent in to Rest Stop #3 and most of the gang decided to skip the first two)…I called out to him, but he just kept going.  And at about 30 minutes in to my stop, Dan rolls up, but by this time, I am steamed and dropping rapid fire F-bombs to myself much like Colin Firth was doing in “the King’s Speech” so I take off with my Zipp wheel worried like hell about how I was going to climb something as ugly as Sierra and the backside of Hammie with such a high-geared bike.

The descent from Rest Stop #2 was steep and technical, and I fell in line with a group of three smoothly carving the turns, keeping about 5 meters between us when about 3 miles in to this gas of a descent the guy two riders in front of me hits a good sized rock and pinch flats, and I make a snap decision in that instant to take a line right of him where the guy in front of me takes a left line and sure-as-shit, I get to Batch O’ Bad Luck #4, the rock kicks in to my line and WHAM, I hit it and pinch flat immediately on the front.  I slowed under control and pulled off to a sunny pullout on the steep road, and I then find out Batch O’ Bad Luck #5, the rock put a NASTY GASH in the sidewall clean through to the tube…this was no ordinary pinch flat…now I am 28 miles in to a 100 miler, and my front GP4000 is badly gashed.  More self-talk F-bombs…NOW WHAT?!?!?!?

I pull my seat bag out and I have a nice large Park adhesive boot (from some other give-away at some other Century) and I boot the sucker, and shoot it full of CO2 and it seemed to hold and not bulge out, but at that point I figured I had used up more than my share of cycling karma for one ride and I was seriously considering bagging the ride.  I could descend all the way to Glendora and head back east on the flats back to Claremont and just call it a day…

From my pinch flat point, there was about 5 more miles of technical descent, then you ride along a reservoir in to a stiff headwind down to Glendora.  I took it easy on the descent, stopping a couple of times to make sure the boot was holding, then when I hit the flats, I hooked up with a group of three other big guys (one guy sporting a Seattle jersey) and we formed a FAST paceline hammering the flats around the lake while single riders struggled against the nasty headwinds (blowing that hard that early in the day).  We four hammered fast and hard in to the next rest stop in Glendora, when I caught up to Dan again.  He must have passed me when I was fixing my flat, and we took off together along the rollers in the ‘burbs leading up to the Glendora Mountain Road climb.  I started out on the climb and I got to Batch O’ Bad Luck #6: I couldn’t get in to my low gear!  As the climb stiffened, I shifted in to the low gear and I got the plink plink of my rear derailleur hitting the spokes of my Zipp wheel.  Oh CRAP…now I am climbing KOM #1 in my 23 gear as my lowest gear.  The climb wasn’t brutal, but I was still burning some matches I would need for Mt. Baldy later.

Another long climb brought me back to the same SRAM guy that gave me the wheel originally, so I told him I couldn’t get in to the low gear, and he happily took a few minutes to set the limit screw such that I could now use the 25 cog and replenished, I set out on the 12 mile climb on Glendora Ridge Road back to Mt. Baldy Village.  I kept telling myself…”if I have another problem, I can just descend all the way back to the bottom, so I’ll just keep climbing until something else breaks.”  Again, the climb wasn’t too bad…more like a Diablo or Hamilton, with nothing really MoFo steep, just LONG LONG LONG.  And, I had the usual phenomenon of having the same people passing me at least a dozen times, then somehow I reel them in, and they pass me again, then they linger in a rest stop and I get ahead of them, and zoom, there they go again!

So, I pull in to the rest stop before Mt. Baldy Village and who is there but Brian!  I hadn’t seen him since mile 25; now at mile 70, and the SUPER SERIOUS FIVE MILE CLIMB up to Mt. Baldy Ski Station coming up, I regale him with my day of SUPER BAD LUCK and we resolve to stay with each other and take the last climb one pedal stroke at a time.  IF climbing a steep MoFo in a 25 was too much for me, I could always turn around and roll on down to the start (albeit with a severely slashed front tire).

We fuel up and roll down the short descent down to Mt. Baldy Village start the Death March up to the ski station.  From the village, you follow a creek babbling along to your right, all at about a 10% consistent grade for about a mile out of town, then you come to another cluster of homes and businesses, and a crazy woman waving a huge polka dot flag at you to take a left turn and start the REAL MoFo-ness of the climb, as the road takes 10 switchbacks up the last four miles to the ski resort.  Just after Brian and I took the left, Warren, Jon and Steve are heading down and we shout our HELLOS! but my head is just down, grinding out a slow cadence against the 10 – 16% grade that is now cooking my legs.  It brought me back to a few years ago, when I was just starting out, rolling over my cranks at 30 – 40 RPM, causing my lower back to tighten up further with every subsequent pedal stoke.

Man, was I wishing for my 34 at that point!  But, I was hanging in there…grinding it out…not giving up.  With about two miles to go, I saw a tent shelter on the opposite side of the road and, thinking it was an official water stop, I pulled in to rest my quivering quads.  Turns out it was some entrepreneurial family cashing in on my pain, so after about 2 minutes of rest, I set back out.  The stretch right beyond that point came close to breaking me…I saw a ranger truck pulled off in a switchback, but the ramp leading up to that left hander was so steep (probably 18 – 20% for about a hundred meters, I barely “survival stood” out of the saddle, not really pushing down on the pedals so much as allowing my weight to fall on the pedal, and made it to the ranger who proudly announced “only two more miles!”  Ugh…my quads were screaming at me, “STOP< STOP, you stupid SOB!!!!”

But continue I did…in a short distance, you top out starting at the bottom of the parking lot for the ski resort, and you descend in to a rough patch of road, then you start the final climb through the parking lot, but now climbing at a leg-searing 10 – 16%.  Brian had kept climbing as I paused at the shelter, and I saw him about 20 meters in front of me, and there were so many people walking their bikes at this point, I couldn’t tell if he was walking or riding.  As I got a better look, it seemed like Brian and I were the only ones riding, but those walking were progressing just as fast as we were, crawling up this final nasty pitch.  I started “paperboying” up this final pitch that seemed to go on and on, even though it was only about a mile long, but we finally got to a hard left that signaled the final few flat switchbacks to the finish.  I caught Brian just at that point, and fully intending to cross the line together, I spun up that Zipp and whipped around the final couple of turns and fully expected Brian to be there with me, but he was not to be seen.  He finished about 30 seconds back, but the flattish finish gave me renewed energy to finish strong, knowing I conquered a really nasty MoFo in an inconceivably high gear.

DONE!  I could barely believe I could finish that ride with so much crappy luck in one day…more crappy luck that could fill a year for me normally.

BUT, I STILL had a nasty gash in my front tire, and I still had 15 miles of descending in front of me.  Ugh…no time to rest on my laurels.  Brian noticed my front tire was bulging a bit, so I let off a bit of pressure from the front until the bulge receded, and then I started my careful descent from the top.  Not wanting to heat up my front rim, I dragged the rear brake on the Zipp (hey, it wasn’t my wheel…) down the first 5 miles of STEEP, stopping a few times to make sure the bulge stayed under control, and Brian agreed to stay behind me in case I had another blow out.

We saw Dan as he started that nasty stretch at the bottom of the parking lot, and I safely made my way down to Mt. Baldy Village.  I only stopped a couple more times and then gingerly made my way down the length of Mt. Baldy Road back to the start.  My luck held from mile 25…sort of…and despite the Cycling Gods ganging up on me the best they could, I MADE IT!

As I traded my Zipp wheel back for my trashed Mavic Aksium (it’s the one I hurriedly bought in the Pyrenees when I trashed another rear wheel on my 2009 trip), the SRAM guy was beaming “I worked on Bill Walton’s bike on the road, and I got him going again!”  Bill Walton was profiled in Bicycling magazine recently, him on a specially made bike to fit his 6’11” frame.

Despite all my set-backs, my official time from start to the top of Mt. Baldy ski station was 7:46:22.2 (about 75 miles).  BTW Bill Walton, Basketball Hall of Famer, finished with an official time of 10:13.8…TAKE THAT, Bill!  The winner, Jon Hornbeck, came in at 4:24:32, and Garmin’s Dave Zabriski came in 24th at 4:56:48.  I bet you Dave shaves an hour or so off the time in two weeks when it COUNTS for him.

Stats: 90.9 total miles, 11,260 feet of climbing, 11.8 mph average speed, 8:47 total time, 7:42 saddle time.  ACTC pace MB-

And, I guess, according to the SRAM guy, I now have “bragging rites!”

Mauna Kea

| April 26, 2011 7:42 am

by Bryan Shaner

I arrived at Mid Pacific Wheels in Hilo half an hour early hoping to get a jump on the ride up to the Mauna Kea Visitor’s Center. The cloud cover was thin for a change meaning it would be hot today.  They didn’t open early and had no record of my reservation. It took just over half an hour to get me set up on an old aluminum Giant (at least it had a triple) and I was off by 9:40am. It felt good to be back on a bike. Not that our time on the Big Island hadn’t been fun, but certain muscles had been neglected and were glad to be used again. The bike felt a bit sluggish, but that could have been the extra weight I’d enjoyed gaining during this past week in paradise.

The lady at the desk of the Dolphin Bay Hotel had told me about a short cut over to highway 2000 that connected to Saddle Road about six miles out of Hilo, but the fellow at the bike shop said that I should go down to the ocean and catch Saddle Road from there so that I could have a few miles on the flats before the relentless climb up Mauna Kea began.  I followed his advice and was glad I had.  I took highway 2000 on my way back, and it was really steep! They both told me about the two miles of gravel on Saddle Road that I’d have to deal with.

The first two hours went pretty well, but then I could feel the energy draining out of my body.  I was already in my granny in survival mode and had only covered 15 of the 30 miles to the turn off of Saddle Road.  After that I still would have a climb of 3000’ over six miles up to the visitor’s center.  I was in the construction zone and pleasantly surprised that the gravel had almost all been driven into the dirt by the car traffic.  It was slow but easy going.  And my speed (or lack thereof) was more about me than the condition of the road.  I was starting to doubt I’d have anything left for the final six miles if I even made it that far.  I just had to hope that I’d get a second wind.  Water was another worry.  I had my Camelbak plus a quart bottle in the one bottle carrier, but I’d been drinking a lot to keep from getting too dehydrated.  My deadline for getting to the turnoff was 2pm.

At 1:45 it looked impossible to make it, but the road flattened out for the last 5-6 miles, and I completed the first goat up Saddle Road at 2:15pm.  I stopped for a bit and then started up the road to Mauna Kea.  But after only a few minutes I decided to turn back.  I was pooped.  There had been no second wind.  I was at 6000’ and already feeling the elevation.  My Camelbak was dry, it was getting cold and the mountain was in the clouds.  Maybe that Molten Lava drink last night (after two glasses of wine) wasn’t such a good ideaJ.  So the Mauna Kea goat would have to wait.

What a descent!  I took Saddle Road all the way down and was back to the bike shop in an hour and twenty minutes.  I’d had to slow down to 10-15 mph for the two miles of unpaved road, but most of the rest was smooth and fast. As I was flying down the mountain I was glad I’d taken the time at the top to scrape off the tar on the tires that had picked up bits of rock (fortunately no glass) from the construction zone.  But it was still a bit scary on an unfamiliar bike that was producing a few interesting sounds and that had a slightly elliptical front wheel.  It was good to get back to the bike shop all in one piece (me and the bike).

The drivers I’d encountered had all been polite.  I’d been given half a dozen friendly honks and several “hang loose” signs.  I was wearing my Death Valley jersey and had quite a conversation with a motorist at a long red light.  “200 miles in one day . . . wasn’t it hot?”  I chatted with the bike shop owner, Jerry, when I returned.  He had been out cycling that morning and was apologetic that he hadn’t seen me off .  He also reinforced my decision to skip the last six miles.  “Even if you’d have made it to the visitor’s center, you’d have had a very difficult descent. I worry about inexperienced riders who push themselves too far.”  Whether he was just being nice or not, his words helped.  I’m not used to stopping before I meet my goal.  But last year I had completely exhausted myself climbing the last pass (Monitor) of the Alta Alpina Challenge and had an extremely difficult and dangerous descent.

One of the things I love about cycling is testing your limits and doing more than you could have imagined, but as I approach 65, maybe I’m maturing as a cyclist.  Or maybe I’m just getting olderJ.

Steeple of Tres Pinos

| March 12, 2011 10:23 pm

Ride Report, Our Favorite Kids ride, 2/20/11

by Guy Neenan

This was a special Favorite Kids ride on the Sunday after the 2011 Black & Blue Ball. Twenty-one of us gathered in Hollister to do a counterclockwise Cienega Road loop with an out & back climb over to remote Santa Anita Valley. Our host, Jerome designed a simple 55-mile route with two 1000-ft. hills and an option to add an out/back trip to the nether end of Qien Sabe Road. Special guests are Terry, from Sacramento, and Christine, a new member.

Some of the special was the bright sun, crisp air, view to snowcrest on ridges of the San Benito Mountain Range, and the buzz about the events of last night’s Ball.  No one realized how much shock, awe, and shaking this extraspecial adventure would bring.

The entire week has been drenched and dreary.  Now the sun breaks-out like a thermonuclear flash in the sky.  Carbo-loaded major muscle groups are fresh and bloated with pent-up glycogen that’s ready to burn.  In the hills of Cienega, leaders begin to break-off in twos and threes.  We regroup at Thousand Trails as usual.  We glide into the Harlan valley.  Riders cluster.  There’s Jon, Joan, Donny, Stuart, Angel, Bryan, Ken and a new rider, Christie.

As we begin north on Airline Highway toward Paicines junction, a discernable NW headwind begins to build.  Dutifully, I take my turn at the front of 9 riders.  We’re disciplined here because of the headwind, steady grade, lack of shoulder, and straight white line on the edge of the road.  It’s only about a mile to Paicines and I feel good enough to keep pulling the group, head down.

Eventually, Christie filters to the front.  “Want a break?”  My perception is imperfect.  Wind’s in my ear.  Excess T is in my veins.  I conceive that she’s said, “Want to race?”

“No, lady.  I’m not gonna race with you, here and now.  I only race if there’s a tailwind or a downhill.”

“No, mister, I’m not challenging you to race.  I just offered to take a pull.  Wouldn’t you like to take a break?”  Of course it’s so.  The wind’s a bore and so I’m.

We water-up from the hose bib in front of the Paicines roadhouse.  Stuart and I ask if others will join us for the extra Quien Sabe hill.  We leave the group here to get a headstart.  Possibly we can do the extra 8 miles and catch the group as we return to Hollister.  “We’ll see you on Santa Anita Road.”

At the Paicines Road junction we see five local riders regrouping.  They’ve come from the East on Paicines Road.  Stuart and I ride over to them.  “Hey, are you guys going North?”  “Yes, we’re returning to Hollister.”  “We’re going that way too.  We wonder if you guys could pull us 4.9 miles to Quien Sabe junction.”  “OK”.  “Alright, we’ll lead-off here if it’s OK.  Now are you all ready?”  “Yeah.  Let’s go.”

Stuart leads-off.  I get behind him, but I’m in monster gear.  I stand on the cranks and start a slow but showy chase after him.  Soon I’m able to sit and our new friends line-up behind us.  After a quarter mile, Stuart peels-off and I take a turn.  I peel-off and the blue demon takes over.  This guy is like a bull.  He pulls us for about 10 minutes, 3 miles.  None of his buddies interrupts him.

The San Benito hills are smooth and tree-free.  They’re soft and soggy with rain.  Grass sprouts yellowgreen over a vast expanse.  The rounded hills appear like the sculpted flesh of mother nature.  We tred like tiny bugs across her magnificent verdant body.

Past Bolado Park is a half-mile grade.  The demon fades and I lead again.  Eventually, the steeple of the Tres Pinos church begins to sprout from a low ridge.  Inspired, my left arm gestures to the steeple.  “It’s Sunday.  I have to go there”, I utter for some prophetic reason.  The others respond as if they’re late for church.  Two guys burst forth, charging up the grade.  This is their turf.  They’re going for the Tres Pinos town limit sign, just across the road from the church.  Elev. 367 ft., Pop. 453.  These guys are fresh, having had a free ride for the last 5 miles.  Stuart, the demon, and I are toast.  You see it in the Tour de France.  The sprinters never waste their energy by getting in front until the last meter of the race.

We laugh & waive-off our Hollister hosts and start up the Quien Sabe escarpment.  Onto the road to remote Santa Anita Valley we enjoy the easy grades and intimacy of this sculpted narrow road.  There are only a couple of ranches along 7.5 miles of this deadend.  The surface of the road is like other remote roads in San Benito County.  It’s worn pebbly asphalt, unimproved for 4 or 5 decades.  A rumbling boneshaker.

Returning, we encounter Joan and Donny.  Joan has a distressed expression.  We stop to see if she’s OK.  “No, I feel nauseated.  We just saw a parasailer fall from the sky.  It was horrible.  As we were starting up Quien Sabe we saw several parasailers jump out of a plane.  One of the jumpers got fouled in the sail and just fell right to the ground.  The chute was pinwheeling down.  There was nothing anyone could do.  After a few minutes we heard an ambulance siren.  But I’m sure there was nothing they could do.”  There’s nothing for us to do, either.  We can’t console Joan.  There are sports more risky than cycling.

Stuart and I continue over to the Quien Sabe Valley.  Our lives and lust will roam a few more miles, a few more goats.   It’s more scenic that ever.  The road ends in a soggy valley under Cibo Peak, a striking promontory of the San Benito Mountains.  A series of 50 meter pillars form like giant gills on the side of the mountain.  They’re composed of rugged burnt brown rhyolite.  They face West Southwest where they gather broadside sun this time of year.  It’s the perfect habitat for a crust of golden yellow lichen.  If the photo were a postcard or a poster, you’d say, “Oh, this is a gory fake.  This image has been touched-up by an illuminator.”

Descending Qien Sabe is a total body shock.  Earwax liquefies and drools onto the shoulders.  The buzz has got to be good for the glands.

We meet Joan and Donny loading their bikes in Hollister.  Now Joan seems relaxed and cheerful.  “Good news.  We returned to the landing zone and saw several rescuers parked along the road.  They told us that the chutist had cut-off the fouled sail and used a rescue parachute to survive.”

We’re looking forward to the next opportunity to swirl around Cienega hills, get a strong pull from Christie and the blue demons, see that steeple rise-up, win that sprint to TP, gaze at those soaring, plunging divers, and glide home with tweaked glands.  We wonder if our next adventure will have scenes, times, excitement, and friends like this.

4th Time’s the Charm

| December 6, 2010 7:12 am

by Stephanie Metz

January 1st. That usual time of the year when we resolve to “lose weight”, “do more good”, “save the world”, etc. I, however, wanted a resolution that I could actually obtain. My goal: complete at least 1 century ride before the year was out.

I had already signed up for the LiveStrong Challenge, so I had my sights set on July 11th as the day to complete my goal. Now the longest I had ever ridden up to that point had been 68 miles. Knowing that I’d need to get stronger to make my resolution, I started doing more riding, especially longer and hillier rides.

I did one of the Cinderella training rides and I realized that I should just start leading my own training rides. Nothing against the Cinderella training rides, but Morgan Hill I have to drive to and if I lead the ride, I can start it closer to home. I also have a bad habit of flaking out when I’m not the ride leader, so this meant I had to get out there.

I knew I wanted to do the Cinderella Classic and Challenge, if for no other reason then to see how much more training I needed to do before the LiveStrong Challenge. When the registration for the Cinderella finally came in the mail, I signed up and sent my money in the same day I got it. More than a month of riding and training later and my little green registration card for the Cinderella came in the mail. I was in.

April 10th. The day of the Cinderella Classic and Challenge was cold, overcast and windy. Not a good sign, but I was dressed in layers and I hoped that it would get warmer as the day went on. As it turned out, the weather got worse. In fact, I found out later that people were saying that the weather that day was the worst they’d seen during a Cinderella in a very long time.

I didn’t realize how bad the storm that was moving in was until it was time for me to go down the Altamont Pass. It took me an hour to go six miles, fighting for every inch… and it was downhill. When it was time to make the turn to finish the Challenge, which went up a rather steep looking hill, I took the escape they offered and headed back to the main part of the course. I finished that day with a new personal distance record of 79 miles. But it wasn’t a century and I knew I had more work to do.

When I told Paul about going over Patterson Pass, he pointed out that I had just done one of the club’s billy goats. That got me thinking. I knew Metcalf was part of the LiveStrong Challenge and if I really wanted to get over that beast, I’d have to start doing more hills. So in May, I started leading my ‘No Kidding’ rides. The person who swore you’d never find her climbing a hill, was now leading billy goat rides.

July 11th. The day of the LiveStrong Challenge started with its usual overcast skies, which I was very glad for. I knew it wouldn’t last long, so I didn’t even bother wearing layers. But it wasn’t the weather that was going to defeat me this time, but my body.

I had done one last training ride two days before the Challenge and through nobody’s fault but my own, I pushed myself too hard. When I got out of bed that Sunday morning, my legs were stiff and to add to my body’s rebellion, my time of the month started that morning. While popping ibuprofen like candy helped with any pain I was in, it did nothing for my stiffness.

By the time I got to the third rest stop at Calero Reservoir, the one before the turn off for the 100 mile riders, I was pretty miserable. While I was there refilling my water bottle and getting more food in me, I heard them announce over the radio that the 100 mile route was closed. Even if I was up to it, it wasn’t going to happen.

Knowing that I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t do something that I hadn’t done before, I set my sights on Metcalf Road. Metcalf climbs over 1,000 feet in just over 2 miles and there’s virtually no shade. It is one of the evilest climbs in my book. I stopped and wheezed more times that I can count and I gleefully let kids soak me with their Super Soakers, but I did it. However, I still hadn’t made my New Year’s resolution.

What to do now? I didn’t know of any century rides in the area that I really wanted to do and I was feeling a bit bummed. Then I remembered that the Tierra Bella’s workers ride still had to be done, so I kept on riding and kept on training.

September 4th. Despite some family turmoil, I got down to the ride start for the workers ride with Paul a little after 7 am. I’m not a fast hill climber, but I do eventually get to the top. However, I never really looked over the route beforehand, so I didn’t really know what I was in for.

I knew that Eureka Canyon was part of the course, but I also knew that it wasn’t a very steep hill, just long. What I wasn’t expecting was all of the climbing that we’d be doing before we got to Eureka Canyon or after. By the time we were done with all that climbing, I was more then ready for a rest stop and some real food.

Unfortunately, when we got to the first rest stop, no one was there. After checking to make sure we had the right place, it seemed we missed it by 45 minutes. We also learned that the next rest stop would be closing in another 45 minutes and that it was 25 miles away.

Tired, dispirited and disappointed, I knew there was no way I was going to make the century ride. I decided that I could at least try for a new distance record for myself, but in the end, I just couldn’t do it. We only did 64 miles that day, but I did set a new climbing record for myself by doing 4200 feet of climbing. But again, it wasn’t 100 miles.

Due to family turmoil, I didn’t have a lot of rides planned for September or October. But I did learn that Lane Parker was doing a 108 mile bike ride in the beginning of October, starting in Santa Cruz, going down to Monterey and back. Because of a previous commitment, I wasn’t able to do his ride, but I was able to get a slightly modified route from him. Ok, 3,500 feet of climbing is not really my idea of fun, but I’ve done worse over a shorter route, so I was willing to give it a go.

I submitted my 100 mile ride for November with visions of heavy fog and cold winds dancing around in my head. I tried to make sure that I got some more riding in, but the weather was against me again. In the space of four weekends, I only got to ride once as Paul and I switch off on the weekend days we ride. This left me with mostly weekday rides, however, since I have kids to pick up from school, even those rides had to be limited.

November 14th. The day breaks with a few wispy clouds, but some rather impressive winds. Thoughts of really nasty headwinds fill me with dread as I loaded up my gear, bike, water, food and the one and only route sheet I was able to print for the drive down to Santa Cruz. I kiss my boys goodbye (the two I gave birth to and the one I married) and head on down the road.

I got there to find that Kevin Henington, Jean Yamashita and Kristin Rozier already there and unloading with Vic Oros, Nanci Scharfen and Bryan Shaner arriving shortly after me. While I was happy that other riders were willing to make the drive down to Santa Cruz, I was even more thrilled that there was virtually no wind. After unloading and a quick visit to the bathrooms in Natural Bridges Park, I came back to the ride start to find one more had joined our merry gang.

Santa Cruz resident and ACTC member, Tony Ornellas had arrived. I had been told that he was planning on joining my ride and that he knows where all of the places to stop for water and restroom breaks were. Since I didn’t have a chance to drive the route beforehand, I felt a lot better about having a local guide.

At 8:08 am, we started to roll and the day couldn’t be more perfect. It was slightly chilly with a bright morning sun and just a light scattering of thin clouds with the still amazing lack of wind. Without a doubt, it was a breath taking day.

The ride was pretty easy going with only some minor amounts of climbing, though I knew that there would be hills at around the 13 mile mark. Before we got to the first one, Tony caught up with me and asked if I would like to avoid some of the climbing. That’s like asking me if I want to keep breathing.

With Tony’s help, we skipped Spreckles Dr., Bonita Rd. and most of San Andreas Rd. This was great as I was afraid that I would burn out my legs before we got to Monterey with all of that climbing. While the new route wasn’t flat, it had less climbing and a good part of it was on nice, quiet residential streets. This was great since all too soon, we were going to be on Highway 1.

I’ve never particularly liked riding on busy roads, so I was a bit worried about getting on an actual highway for over six miles. Not only are cars whizzing past you at sometimes insane speeds, but there are big rigs and vehicles hauling trailers to contend with also. With heart in my throat, I made the right turn.

Turns out all of that worry was for nothing. There’s a very wide shoulder on 1 and since it was Sunday, there weren’t any big rigs. Yes, cars were still zipping past us at speeds I’d rather not think about, but for the most part, they gave us plenty of room.

We finally turned off 1 onto a quiet country road that was surrounded by nothing but empty fields. We were all doing good, but personally, I wouldn’t have said no to a potty break and I was running low on water. Shortly before we had got to an overpass for Highway 1, I heard ‘PSSssssss’.

I quickly got the group pulled over and stopped and find that it’s Kevin who had the misfortune to have our first flat. We all pulled over to render what assistance we could which was pretty much just moral support.

While watching Kevin start to fix his flat, Tony let me know that the next rest stop was just on the other side of the overpass. Kevin encouraged us to go on and he’d catch up in a bit. Since the rest of us were just watching anyways, I led all but Kevin and Jean over to the rest stop which was at a fruit stand for a much needed potty break and water refill.

It didn’t take Kevin and Jean long to finish with the wheel and catch up with us. Once they had a chance to get a little rest and to get more air into Kevin’s tire, we were on the road again.

A short time later we finally reached the Monterey Bike Path. Another 10 miles and we’d reach Monterey and lunch. With the proverbial carrot, or in this case, a bowl of clam chowder, in front of their noses, I suddenly found myself riding with only Tony and Bryan for company. Since I’m quite used to my riders getting ahead of me, I thought nothing of it and just kept plodding along.

In due time Tony, Bryan and I finally make it to Fisherman’s Wharf and found that the others had only beaten us by a few minutes. After a quick meal of clam chowder, we made one last potty stop with a refill for the water bottles. Tony managed to get us together for a group shot and then he and Bryan headed back ahead of us.

By ‘ahead of us’, I mean they decided to go back at their own pace and we kept them in sight for all of about 10 seconds before they were long gone. It’s a good thing that I’m used to being left in the dust or my ego would have taken one heck of a hit.

I set a nice easy pace back and about 15 miles later we made it back to the fruit stand for another potty break and water refill. As we were leaving, I noticed I had a flat on my rear wheel. Lucky me.

After getting the tire partially off of the rim, we found the culprit. A piece of wood that was about 1-1½ inches long and about ¼ inch wide right in the middle of the tire. There were a lot of wood fragments from the crates used for hauling produce lying around so that was probably where I picked it up.

After getting a new tube in, Vic used his pump with a gauge on it to put air in my tire. However, it didn’t seem to be working. We tried 3 different pumps and finally came to the conclusion that there was something wrong with the new tube. When we pulled it out, sure enough, there was a puncture on the tube from when we used one of the tire irons to get the tire back on the rim.

Luckily, I had brought 2 tubes with me. We got the second tube in, making sure to not use a tool this time to get the tire back on and pumped it up. Neither Vic nor Kevin could get the gauge to go past 90 no matter how hard they tried, but the tire felt hard, so we figured it was inflated enough.

As we were finishing up fixing the second flat, a highway patrol man pulled in to use the restrooms and as he was heading back to his car he had to jokingly ask:

“How many bicyclists does it take to change a flat? ”

“Obviously six, ” someone responded, though I don’t remember who.

“One to fix the flat and five to run commentary, ” I added which got everyone laughing.

The wheel back on, 2 dead tubes in the garbage along with my sunglasses that didn’t take well to being dropped on the pavement and we were rolling once more. Despite the fact that I had just gone through 2 tubes and my sunglasses were now gone, I was feeling pretty darn good. A mile and a half later we came to the stop sign at Highway 1 which we had to turn left on and that’s when I hear ‘PSSSsssssssss’.

I look down and sure enough, it’s my back wheel again. Marvelous. While cursing my lousy luck with bicycle tubes, I was also thanking my lucky stars that it hadn’t decided to blow while I was trying to cross Highway 1.

We were in front of another fruit stand and we pulled into their parking lot to change my latest flat. I can change a flat, but not fix it, so I don’t carry a patch kit with me and I was out of spare tubes. At this point I was wondering if I was going to have to send my riders back to the start without me and have someone come back and pick me up. With more than 30 miles still to go, I wasn’t looking forward to a 3+ hour wait. Since I had the car, there was no point in calling Paul other than to tell him that I’d be home really late.

After examining the tube and the tire, it appeared something put a half inch hole in the sidewall of my tire. Since it was nowhere near the original puncture hole, we’re fairly sure something else caused that flat. Not wanting to chance something poking through the new hole in the sidewall of my tire, Kristin donated an instant patch to cover it up while Jean was also nice enough donate a spare tube to replace the one that we blew up. Thanks to both of these wonderful ladies and Vic and Kevin for fixing my 3rd and thankfully final flat, I was able to continue on.

Once my tire was fixed, again, we had the task of making a left onto Highway 1. Daunting and nerve-wracking doesn’t even cover the feelings I had. However, there is a section in the middle of the road so with my heart in my throat and our lights finally on, we made it across without too much of a problem.

I don’t know if it was because of the wind created by the cars driving by or if the wind had suddenly decided to come from behind us, but we were booking on that road. I looked down and saw that I was going about 17 mph on an uphill and I was barely trying! What a great way to make up for lost time!

As with all good things, it couldn’t last and we finally came to our turnoff. Another left across Highway 1 and we were back onto the quiet country roads. As fun as going 17 mph with little effort was, it was nice to get away from the exhaust and noise.

We continued to make our way back and while I knew where the next rest stop was, I wasn’t sure it would be open. I was worried that since we took so long fixing all of my flats that Manresa State Beach would have closed at sunset like all of the other beaches. But luck was with us and we got there with the gate still open and a breathtaking view of a beautiful sunset.

We quickly used the bathrooms, refilled our water bottles and had a bit to eat. I checked the route sheet and noted that we had maybe another 15 miles to go. I went to get back on my bike and that’s when my backside muscles decided to let me know that they really didn’t like me any more. I guess I had my own personal black and blue bottom.

Despite aching muscles and quickly dwindling sunlight, we rode on. Soon we were riding in full dark as we trudged our way up San Andreas Road and shortly after that, Bonita Road. Both were noticeable climbs and after going more than 80 miles, I wasn’t going up them at all quickly, even by tortoise standards.

We finally reached Soquel Road and while I wasn’t thrilled about doing even rolling hills, I was glad we were nearing the end of the ride. I was a bit tired and sore, but I was feeling great as we continued on through Soquel, happy to finally have some street lights to help us on our way.

While I did bring a headlight, it wasn’t exactly impressive with its wattage. Unlike Vic and Nanci’s headlights which I’m fairly sure that if you stood close enough to them, you’d get a tan. At least I knew drivers were going to see us unless they were completely blind.

After about 10 miles of going down that same road, we turned off into a unmarked path. If it wasn’t for Kristin, I would have completely missed it. As it was, we couldn’t see any street signs, so we didn’t know where to get off of the path and ended up getting a bit lost.

Where we ended up was near a hotel, so I asked the night clerk if he knew how to get to Natural Bridges. He didn’t have a clue. How can someone live or work in Santa Cruz and not know how to get to Natural Bridges? After staring at maps for a while, Kevin went across the street to another hotel and asked the night clerk there. That guy at least was helpful and we got going again.

However, we soon found ourselves at Beach Street which was one way going the wrong way. We rode on the sidewalk for a while. Even though the street was fairly quiet, I didn’t want to chance a head on collision. We only needed to be on the sidewalk for a few blocks and there were only a few pedestrians about, so it was an easy ride. Soon we were back on the street and headed up West Cliff Drive. We were on the last leg of the journey and we were feeling elated. That or the peanut butter M&Ms and chocolate covered coffee beans Jean was passing around was getting to us. Either way, we were a happy bunch.

I was thrilled that I was nearing the end of my ride and I was going to make my first century ride. But I have to wonder if the city of Santa Cruz has something against street lights. Man was it dark and it didn’t help when that obnoxious teenager went driving by yelling, “Go faster! ” I wonder how fast he would be going if he had just done the miles we had.

With still a couple miles to go until we reached our cars, Vic announced that we had officially done 100 miles! We all cheered and I’m sure there were a couple home owners that were wondering what all the noise was about. I also found out that not only did I just complete my first century, but Vic did as well! Congratulations, Vic!! At about 7:02 pm we finally made it back to our cars, tired but happy. While it had taken nearly 11 hours to complete the ride, we were only in the saddle 8 hours and 17 minutes. I couldn’t have asked for better weather or better riding companions.

Thank you, Lane Parker for the original route, thank you Tony Ornellas for helping modify it and pointing out the rest stops and thank you to all of my riders for being on this journey with me. A big Thank You to hubby Paul for encouraging me to get out there and ride so I could complete my New Year’s Resolution. I did it and I’m looking forward to doing it again.

New Mexico Enchanted Circle Ride

| October 29, 2010 6:50 am

by Carol Borders

There is often a type of tour that is not written about – The organized let them take care of the details trip. In late September I was on such a ride with Bicycle Adventures. The trip took us from Santa Fe New Mexico to Taos. This was a fully supported inn to inn trip. No roughing it for me! These trips are like taking a lot of day rides in areas you may not have explored as yet. This trip was the nicest trip of the 16 I have taken to date.

We (15 riders 2 guides) met Sunday morning in Santa Fe and were taken to the town of Lamy to set our bicycles and ride back to Santa Fe. I rented a Marin hybrid bicycle for the week. It was by far the best rental bicycle I have had the pleasure of using. Our tour guides Nate and Dave did a great job of setting up our bicycles for comfort and needs of each participant.

On Monday we started the day with a hike thru the Bandelier National Monument Park. There are cliff dwellings in the park and you can get to them via 140 feet of ladder climbing. This is the way the Indians had to carry everything to their residence. After the hike we took a short ride to Chimayo.

On Tuesday morning we started with a demonstration of Indian blanket weaving at Ortega’s Weaving Shop. There they continue to dye their own wool and weave various items. Then we were on our way to Taos our home for the next three nights.

Wednesday was our rest day in Taos. We started the day with a raft trip down the Rio Grande River. Not being a seasoned rafter I was glad to hear the river was low and that it was probably rated only a class II. We had great guides on the river and some splashing of course from other rafters. We all made it safely to the finish of the trip. In the afternoon some of us took a bicycle ride, some took a hike on Diviserdero Trail and some relaxed. That evening we had a margarita party and played “Center, Left, Right”. If you have not played this game I can fill you in on the rules etc. It was great fun.

On Thursday we cycled part or all of the Enchanted Circle. The full ride was 85 miles. I did not do all of it! Once again the sag wagon was available for the pesky mountain passes.

On Friday we started the day with a visit to the Rio Grande Gorge then were sagged to the top of Taos ski area for an almost downhill ride to Millicent Rogers Museum for lunch. The one hill we rode was difficult at altitude to I walked up it. At the top of the hill I was suppose to make a left hand turn which I missed. Finally I realized I was off course. I stopped a fellow cyclist (not on our trip) to check my directions and was told he had seen my group in Arroyo Seco and if I stayed on this road I would see them. So off I went and sure enough I ended up in Arroyo Seco but no group of riders. I then made a right hand turn and found myself immediately out of town. I returned to Arroyo Seco to get correct directions from the locals. They told me the group was down in Arroyo Seco so I started off to find them. There was no one in Arroyo Seco so I set out for lunch where I found the rest of the group

After lunch we visited the Taos Pueblo. This pueblo is 1300 years old and the oldest, longest occupied personal dwelling in the country. Our Indian guide told us about the pueblo and Indian culture. Even though the pueblo is still occupied there is no electricity or indoor plumbing in the pueblo. Most of the residents also have homes outside of the pueblo.

After our visit our group split up as some of them were returning to Santa Fe and the rest to Albuquerque for our return home.

This was probably the best-organized trip I have ever had the pleasure of participating in. Our guides were so well tuned to what needed to be done they never lost a beat in keeping us on the road. The accommodations were the best. We ate at some great restaurants and lunches on the road were varied and plentiful.

Bicycle Adventures does trips on the west coast of the United States and Hawaii. I would highly recommend them.

Bucket List

| October 24, 2010 12:32 pm
Bucket List

by Marcia Morrison

In 2003, three avid cyclists, Paul Greene, Ray Low, and John Mazzella rode three double centuries to earn the Triple Crown Award. Ever since then I thought that someday I’d like to see if I could accomplish such a feat.  Comments I heard were: “Double centuries really aren’t that much fun.” (That one kept from trying sooner).”You’d better do it soon, because it doesn’t get any easier.” At that time I was meeting other challenges, so it was put off but still in the back of my mind.

The year of 2009 started out great, but took a turn for the worse.  Just four days after returning from the National Time Trials I was hit with a gut-wrenching stomach ache. I went to the emergency room 4 times, was misdiagnosed twice, hospitalized for 13 days, had 5 internal abscesses and almost every “itis” possible, lost 25 lbs., and had to wait 4 months for an operation to make sure all the inflammation was down.

Finally in November I started riding slowly on my own.  I gradually picked up my mileage and started following a century training program. There aren’t many centuries in the winter, so even though I wasn’t up to 25 miles I found myself signing up for the Solvang Double Century.  I followed a training program I found online and knew I had to follow it religiously.  On the long rides I plodded along at a snail-like pace.  I felt comfortable with that because the program said to ride the long rides slowly.  The shorter rides were to be ridden faster, but that didn’t happen.  I was still down 15 lbs., so I thought my hill climbing would be faster, but when you put a large pack on the back of your bike and fill it with V-8 juice, power bars, tools, etc. the weight loss advantage wasn’t that much.

With my tortoise pace I really wasn’t sure I’d make the 17 hour cut-off time.  I figured I would either just make it or miss it.  You can imagine my surprise when at the first rest stop my average speed was 3 mph faster than my training speed.  I guess the adrenaline kicked in.   I thought my average speed would drop, but it remained consistent throughout the ride.  I even had several hours to spare before the cut-off time and finished just before it got dark.  Life was good again!

Spring Solvang Double

  • Highlights-Foxen Canyon Rd. was the first big climb.  Had lush, green hills, wildflowers, little traffic, great weather, enjoyed the small towns of Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, perfect weather.  Reststops were frequent with Subway sandwiches for lunch. Friendly riders througout the ride.  Tailwind for much of the finish.  Leapfroged with 2 guys and finished with them.
  • Lowlights-Rough roads, lost my taillight. A 1500 ft., 3 mile climb near the end of the ride with the descent having mega potholes and cracks.

Davis Double

  • Highlights-Temperature can be deadly, but wasn’t.  Reststops were frequent, great food.  Nice seeing vineyards, Lake Berryessa, Chiles and Pope Valley Rd. had rolling hills with little traffic.
  • Lowlights-Of course there were many friendly riders, but was it just my mood or were there too many rides with a sense of superiority?  Most of the roads had too much traffic with trailers, boats, etc.

Knoxville Double

The Fall Solvang Double was going to be my 3rd double, but I signed up late for the Knoxville Double just in case I couldn’t make it to Solvang or some disaster happened during that ride.  Originally, I was going to do this ride, but I didn’t like the Davis Double and the middle of this ride has a section of the Davis Double in reverse.  Anyway,  I’m not sure I want to start this challenge over again next year, so I wasn’t going to take any chances.  Training wise I wasn’t ready, but I adjusted my training schedule and thought of this as a training ride.

  • Highlights-Friendly riders, beautiful ride up Howell Mtn, can see a view of all the hot air balloons.  Howell turned into White Cottage Rd. and again continued for 4 miles, with a pretty descent into Pope Valley. Was complimented by a guy who told me I did a “hell” of a pull on Silverado Trail, thought for sure you’d pull off and tell us to go by.  Six guys were drafting behind me?!  Had the best volunteers, were plentiful and were always in sight and provided water stops between reststops.
  • Lowlights-Went to bed at 9:30 pm, arose at 1:30 am, left the house at 2:30 am, started riding at 4:30 am.
    Knoxville Rd. was a long climb in the heat.  Had a flat just before the summit of Knoxville Rd.  Climbing Loch Lomond Rd. after lunch in the heat was a challenge and 4 miles seemed like an eternity,  heard it was 106 degrees.  Could have BONKED, but took care of myself, stopped, rested, ate, and drank.

Fall Solvang Double

Instead of being my 3rd double it is now my 4th and a bonus ride.  I came down with a cold the week before and it would have been easy to skip it.  I had paid for it, had a reservation and since I liked the Spring Solvang Double  I decided to ride it.  Persistence has gotten me through many challenges, but it has also got me into trouble.

Everything was going great and was enjoying it as much as the spring double except the lush, green hills are now brown with no wildflowers.  The signup was small and I heard the 20 riders DNS.  The crowds were small at all the reststops.  At the reststop before lunch we were told that there was a traffic fatality and they would reroute us, but the volunteer had no other information.  I was 70 miles from that point with the next stop being lunch, so I figured the traffic accident would be cleared by the time I got there.  At the lunch stop there were 3 volunteers and only a handful of riders.  It would have been the perfect opportunity for them to tell us what was ahead of us.  I even complimented a volunteer on how well marked the course was and she assured me that would continue.  Off I went and finally when I got to the Pismo Beach area traffic was still backed up and I followed the yellow arrows onto 101.  Here’s where my nightmare began.  I thought I was on 101/1 and there were no arrows or direction as to when we got off, so I kept going and going.  Needless to say, my life was at risk riding on 101 with merging and exiting traffic.  Finally, I stopped under a sign and called the ride contact, and told him where I was.  He told me to keep going and enjoy the ride, so on I went for another few miles.  Then I saw another rider on the side of the road tallking to the ride contact.  We were on 101, not 1 and had to cross both the south and north bound lanes, another dangerous incident.  The contact told us to take an exit I saw going south, but unfortunately that exit didn’t exist going north, so we ended up at our original point onto 101.  Now we’re told to go down to the beach and walk a 1/4 mile until we hit Hwy. 1  We didn’t want to do that so we ended up doing what we should have done the 1st time.

We finally got the the turn on Costa Mesa Rd. which I had been looking for far too long.  The guy I was with said we’d probably not make the cut-off time of midnight, since we went approximately 24 extra miles and had wasted time trying to figure our way back on course.  I didn’t care if we got sagged in since I had already earned the Triple Crown Award, but the poor guy I was with had more at stake as this was to be his 3rd double.  I offered to ride with him and to give it a try, but he wasn’t up to it.

It was 8:00 pm when I got sagged in.  It felt good to take a shower and have a nice hot dinner with Al and missing the ride in a night time drizzle.

I am lucky I didn’t “kick the bucket” on this ride because another scary incident was on our return on 101 I hit a rumble strip and had trouble getting out of it and veered out onto the freeway.

  • Highlights-Lots of the same scenery on the spring double, but is significantly more challenging with more climbing.
  • Lowlights-Didn’t finish which is still bugging me.  Already mentioned my 101 adventure.  Not enough volunteers or direction.

Final thoughts

I don’t dare say this is my last double century, because I said that 18 times about running marathons.  My favorite double was the Spring Solvang Double Century.  Now, I can check the Triple Crown Award off my bucket list.

Finally Finished Four Hundred – Bass Lake QUAD

| 12:11 pm

By: Cristin Sohm (Pinkie)

I’ve had a burning desire to do a quadruple century ever since I completed the triple century at the Grand Tour in June. I tried for a quad at Knoxville 2 weeks ago, but it wasn’t my day. With 5 flat tires, temperatures in the triple digits, 21k feet of climbing, and rattle snakes freaking me out in the middle of the night, I abandoned with 300 miles.

So here we are two weeks later and my husband says I can go to one more cycling event. The wheels start turning “What if….”.  My daughter, Mellissa, plans the whole thing before I can even say I’m going to Bass Lake. We left about 8am on Friday morning. We arrived in Clovis and had a leisure lunch at Togos, changed into my cycling clothes and headed to the Veterans Hall. After lots of hugs and kisses of support from my daughter, I rolled at noon. Mellissa sometimes drove behind me and sometimes drove ahead to the next turn and waited for me. It was incredible to have her support.

We had made a goal of trying to keep me on the bike as much as humanly possible to save time. We had never tried handing me food or bottles while on the bike and we were excited and nervous to give it a try. At mile 11 I needed a nature break. We were already out in the secluded areas and I didn’t want to waste time. I pulled over on the side of the road and squatted to pee. I’ve never done that before. I was feeling pretty proud of myself and like a pro cyclist 😉

At mile 35, I had an average speed of 18.4 and was feeling great. We had decided to change the course, not taking me up the hills at Powerhouse so that I wouldn’t be descending steep grades in the middle of the night all alone. At mile 52 I was already descending the steep Maxson hill that had 14% grade of climbing. There were tons of tarantulas on the roads. Mellissa even stopped to take some photos of them. For some reason there weren’t nearly as many of them the next day, maybe they enjoyed having one cyclist on the road vs tons of cyclists.

At mile 70 we found more 14% grade climbing at Nicholas hill. I had been doing really well with eating and drinking which can be difficult for me on the long rides. I was not using my Sustained Energy bottles and instead trying to get food in me since the heat wasn’t nearly as bad as Knoxville. Mellissa was in charge of handing me bottles and food while I kept rolling. We actually got really good at it. At one point I told her she didn’t have to smash the bottle into my hand quite as hard and she laughed and said that she just holds the bottle out, but the force of me riding by and grabbing it was smashing it into my hand. Mental note, slow down a bit while grabbing bottles 😉 I kept my bento box empty and the food she gave me I put either in the bento box or into my back pockets on my jersey and ate while I kept riding.

My toes were hurting by this point. I think that was the only part of me that hadn’t fully healed from Knoxville. I’ve never had this happen before, but in Knoxville, all my toes went completely numb and stayed that way for a week after the event. I think it was from all the vibration of the rough roads on the pressure points of the bottom of my feet. At one point while I was riding, I had to unclip my shoe from my pedal and rest my foot on the top tube of my bicycle while pedaling with the other foot just to give my foot a rest from the pedal.

At mile 87 we were out of the hills and on our way back to Clovis to the start. I needed to register/check-in, so we worked that into the route. At mile 93 we were back at the start and I had only been off the bike for a maximum of 2 minutes for a nature break at mile 11. All the rest of time, I had stayed on the bike. I was really proud of that. We decided to stop and register at the Veterans Hall. I walked in and someone said “are you the one they call Pinkie?” and it turned out to be Steve from mutual cycling friends on Facebook and Alfie & Lisa who volunteered at Knoxville. Alfie had remembered that I tried for the quad at Knoxville, so they wished me good luck at trying again.

After registering, Mellissa and I stopped and ate the other half of our sandwich we had earlier from Togos and chatted about the day. We had a very nice break and I read all the text messages that my friends and family had been sending me to support my crazy goal. Burcu sent messages often saying “you will complete the quad this time. I know it” and Cindi wrote “call if you need to, otherwise just ride that pink beast like the wind!” Mom said “please be safe”. Hubby said “good luck” and Nick said “way to go Mom!” Other messages of support from David, Leo, Mike & John too. I knew people were praying for me.

I put on my jacket, knee warmers, arm warmers, and all my lights and I was ready to roll again. At mile 125 I had an average speed of 15.7. I told Mellissa that I was thankful the only wildlife was frogs, crickets, snakes and tarantulas compared to all the critters at Knoxville. Unfortunately I spoke too soon and had a couple of dogs think that I was their dinner as they chased me down the road.

At mile 150 I was tired, sore and getting cranky. I wanted to be done with the night riding. I really have never cared for that part when I’m alone. I don’t seem to mind it quite as much when there are other cyclists on the road, but when their snuggled up in bed and I’m stupid enough to be out on the road, it gets old! I kept plugging along knowing that if I could keep my average speed up, I would likely get a little time for a nap before the official start of the 2nd half.

At mile 170 we finally got to start the 30 mile trek back into the city of Clovis. I was keeping a good pace, hoping for a nap if we could finish before 4am.

At mile 187 Mellissa leaned out the window and said “13 miles left to go, you’re doing great and we’re almost there!!!” I unclipped, pulled my tired leg over the bike and said, “that’s it, I’m done”. Mellissa’s little face looked worried as she said “that was supposed to motivate you” and I said “I really appreciate it, but I know there is no way I can stay awake for another 13 miles”.  I was slurring my speech, freezing cold, and couldn’t even stand up without falling over. I was very literally about to fall asleep on my bike and I knew it. Mellissa knew me well enough to know that if I could have stayed awake the last 13 miles, I would have completed it then and there. It just wasn’t going to happen safely. Mellissa loaded up my bike and we started our way back to Clovis. I finished with an average speed of 15.8 and 11 hours 51 minutes moving time and just under 13 hours total time with the sandwich break and registering.

Along the drive, I called my ultra-distance cycling superstar friend, Cindi Staiger. I seemed to need approval for abandoning with only 13 miles left to go. Cindi agreed that it was the safe decision and boosted me up for what I had accomplished. Along the way, we found a stray dog with a collar that was lost. Mellissa being the ultimate animal rescuer that she is, insisted on stopping and coaxing the dog to her. I was beyond tired and not thinking clearly. The dog ended up jumping into the car with me and giving me kisses. Mellissa called the number on the dog’s collar and described to the lady where we were in the middle of the night and then we waited for the lady to come pick up her dog. Unfortunately this was eating away at the very limited amount of sleep time we had left, but it was the right thing to do.

When we got back to town, Mellissa took me somewhere to change my clothes. I can’t for the life of me remember where that was being as tired as I was, but I got out of my sweaty cycling clothes and into pajamas. Mellissa and I curled up in the car at about 1:45am and fell fast asleep.

At 3:30am my alarm went off for more cycling. I think that’s when I felt like the most stupid person in the world. Seriously, how insane in this! I wanted to just drive home and really had no desire to go and do it all again. My legs had tightened up during the 1 hour 45 minute nap and it was cold and dark and I didn’t want to do anymore. I went through the motions of getting ready in hopes that it would get better. Knowing that I would have the opportunity to ride with Patty & Clyde made it more appealing since I enjoy both of them very much and their very even style of cycling. I knew they would get me through it. I was in my pink pajamas camped outside the Veterans Hall. I grabbed my cycling clothes and toothbrush and headed inside the Veterans Hall. Amazingly I saw the same couple of people that I had seen the night before and they asked me how I did during the night. I told them that I only got in 187 miles, not the 200 I was hoping for. They seemed to think I’d be able to pull it off today. Why is it that others always have so much more faith in my ability than I do? I let it pump me up enough to at least get into my cycling clothes.

I was supposed to meet Patty & Clyde at 4:30 at the Veterans Hall, but I guess Clyde had two flat tires the night before and again this morning. Oh boy, that’s not a good sign! I tried to not let it worry me that it was a sign of what was to come. Clyde, Patty and her boyfriend, Richard, showed up just before 5am and checked in. Deborah & David Hoag were there too. I gave out a few tubes since they had so much trouble with flat tires that morning and I had extras in the car. Mellissa went to sleep and then enjoyed the day with her fiancé, Irik Edmonds, in Bass Lake where they will be getting married next summer. I thanked her for all her help the prior night and the group rolled at 5:08am for the 2nd half.

We missed at least one turn in the pitch dark morning. A SAG vehicle came up alongside us and told us we were going the wrong way. Somehow the group heard the SAG and I was up front and missed hearing it and they all turned around and I kept going an extra mile. Too tired to think clearly I guess. Thankfully they all waited for me as I figured out that there weren’t any lights behind me and turned around and prayed that I would find them again. Unfortunately this meant that our mileage was off from the route sheet the rest of the day, but it turned out that EVERYONE had missed turns and unmarked roads and difficulties with the route. While I’m sure it was frustrating for most, for me it just meant less mileage I would have to add on at the end of the ride! J

We were making good time as a group and it was really enjoyable to have extra cyclists out on the dark roads. At mile 70 (260 for me) at 10:12 am we started toward the hills. The beginning of the hills I had remembered from climbing them the night before. It was nice to be able to tell the group to gear down for the upcoming hill that it would hit 11% grade and then jump to 14% grade.  At some point I got a bad cramp in my right calf. I ate part of a banana and took some endurolytes and it worked itself out. Patty chatted cheerfully during most of the ride. I was very thankful for her chatting. The night before riding alone felt very lonely. I had been thankful to have Mellissa with me, but having a cyclist next to you chatting makes a big difference.

At 1:33pm we hit the lunch stop at mile 110 (300 for me). I waited for quite a while for Clyde to make sure he didn’t miss the turn, but it turned out that he had gotten a flat. Since I’m usually longer at the stops, I went and ate a sandwich and chatted with other riders. Scott Halverson, the coordinator for the Knoxville ride, was there along with some of the volunteers I had met at Knoxville. Lunch was great. I had a very simple sandwich, but everything tasted delicious. Clyde came in and worked on his bike a bit more and ate lunch. Patty & Richard decided to start up the hills so they could take their time and I did some texting and rested while waiting for Clyde. Cindi sent me a text saying “very proud of you for getting back out there to do the 2nd double today! What great will and determination, and independence” there was more, but it was cut off from the limited text characters. We left the lunch stop about 2:10pm.

The Bass Lake course is back-end loaded which means that the first 70 miles were completely flat, followed by miles 70-160 of LOTS of climbing and then rollers and flat into the finish. When we left the lunch stop there was a long descent and then a whole bunch of climbing. The climb up Powerhouse was especially difficult. The grade was manageable, but it was long and tiring. The temperature hit 91 degrees and I saw several people sag on this climb. When it got really difficult or I was showing signs of frustration, Clyde quoted scripture for me. Inspirational stories from the bible. It was exactly what I needed to get me through. While we were climbing, we saw David Hoag coming the opposite way in a strong descent. He is fast and strong and was on course to finish in probably 12-13 hours total time. Oh and by the way, he was on a fixed gear bike!

Toward the top of the climb, I got stung by a bee inside my jersey. We saw Joan Grant Deitchman coming the opposite way (descending) about that time. She was riding really strong, especially considering she just finished Furnace Creek 508 solo a couple weeks ago!

We hit the 4th rest stop at mile 131 (321 for me) at 4:46pm. We hit the 6th rest stop at mile 185 (375 for me) at 9:14pm. Everything was aching at that point, but it felt really good to be almost done. About this time I started seeing things. My eye contacts were dry and the right one was very cloudy causing starbursts and other weird sights. Several times it looked like the plants and trees on the right hand side of the road were crouching down and then would spring up and start spinning around. I thought maybe I was having hallucinations like Ken Emerson did on the Furnace Creek 508, but I knew it was just that faulty contact… or did I? At one point I was convinced there was a large paper bag on Clyde’s foot. I had to really convince myself that it wasn’t real!

We finished the 2nd half of the ride (203 miles) about 10:15pm with Clyde, Patty, Richard and myself. David Hoag was there too, already out of cycling clothes and looking very fresh. I think he finished about 4 hours earlier! He certainly didn’t look like he had just ridden 200 miles, let alone on a fixed gear bike! I ran into the Veterans Hall to check in really quickly and then I left to go finish up the last 11 miles that I would need to complete the quad. I hoped Clyde & Patty would still be there when I finished. We finished with an average speed of 13.8. Cycling time 14:47, total time 17:12.

I think I cried the entire last 11 miles. I was so excited to know that I was about to conquer my goal! I knew it was a waste of energy to be crying, but I couldn’t help myself. Mellissa was laughing at me in the car. Those last 11 miles went really fast. When I rode back into the Veterans Hall, Patty and Clyde hugged me and a bunch of people asked me if I finished my goal. It was very exciting! We sat together and ate some dinner and chatted about the day and the obstacles of the course.

We left about midnight for the long drive home. Mellissa had slept during the early morning and another nap during the day, but being up all night Friday night wiped her out. She ended up waking me up on the way home to get me to talk to her to keep her awake while driving us home. I don’t remember a single thing we talked about. I’m sure I slurred my way through it. I was so beyond tired. She was such a superstar in coaxing me to try again at Bass Lake. I couldn’t have done it without her.

The pains that I felt the next day after the 401 miles were pretty intense. My quads were extremely tight and sore, even to the touch. My knees ached, my shoulders and neck were on fire from holding my head up for 30 hours on the bike. My toes are completely numb. My quadriceps muscles were so sore that I couldn’t use them to lower my body onto the toilet. I had to hold one hand on the counter and one hand on the bathtub to lower my body onto the toilet. Ouch! Advil was my new best friend. I took a lot of Advil on Sunday and a pretty good amount on Monday. By Tuesday I thought I was completely better and I scrubbed my whole house, vacuumed, cleaned, you name it, it got done. I then went to Yoga & Pilates class and I thought my teacher had a personal vendetta out to torture me. Have you ever tried balancing Yoga poses without any feeling in your toes?! I still had a lot more healing to do!

I’m blessed that I’ve been able to do a lot of different rides in my training. I ride about 3 times a week with the weekday group. They ride about 25-35 miles in the morning and they go out really strong, but then they also enjoy the socialization and the coffee break in between. Then I also ride 1 day on the weekend with the Long Distance Training Ride (LDTR) folks. I call them the Weekend Warriors. They ride hard and fast and are way out of my league. Everyone fends for themselves on those rides and you’re lucky if they stop to eat. I’ve also been blessed to always find someone willing to ride with me on the doubles. These rides are out of my league too, but my one saving grace is that I’m good at saving energy and feeling strong at the end of the long ride. Now I’ve done two rides that I rode alone the night before the event to add mileage in hopes of completing my personal goal. It’s not social like the weekday rides, it’s not a grind yourself into the ground ride like the LDTR’s and it’s not even like the regular double because it’s lonely and scary. I couldn’t have done it without Mellissa, there’s no doubt about that. I’m glad it’s done though and the burning desire for a quad is gone. Goal accomplished and it feels good!

2010 Events

  • LiveStrong Challenge – 100 miles, raised $1,346.00 against the battle of Cancer
  • Davis Double – 200 miles
  • Grand Tour Triple – 300 miles
  • Knoxville – 300 miles
  • Bass Lake – 400 miles
  • California Triple Crown Winner

What an amazing year! Thanks to all my friends and family for your incredible support!!!

Bass Lake Quad

  • Miles: 401
  • Climb: 16,010 feet
  • Total moving time: 26:38
  • Total rest stop time: 3:25
  • Total sleep time: 1:45
  • Average speed 14.8
  • Max speed 40.1
  • Average heart rate 132
  • Max heart rate 164
  • Max temperature 91 degrees

Santa Cruz to Monterey

| October 5, 2010 8:20 pm

by Franz Kelsch, photos by Lane Parker

For the third time this year we joined a club ride, led by Lane Parker, that started in Santa Cruz and headed down to Monterey. Our last adventure was in July when we had a tire on our tandem fail. Unlike the prior two times we did this route, Anne wanted to ride her single bike. Since we bought her a new bike in February, we have not been using the tandem nearly as much. While we were in Utah, we didn’t even bring the tandem along. After returning to California, we did take the tandem out for one ride, but it seemed heavy and we were not use to the saddles. So we decided it would be best to ride what we are use to. This would therefore be Anne’s longest ride on a single bike.

Although it was now October, the weather was just as warm as in July. There was a large turnout, as in the prior two times, maybe about 20 riders.

The route started out along Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, right next to the ocean.

There were a few modifications to the route but it basically was the same. We took the roads that kept us close to the ocean where we had a great view.

After leaving Santa Cruz and making our way through Capitola, we started to head a bit inland, taking us through farm land near Salinas. This is our least favorite part of the ride because of the winds and all the farm vehicles on the road which is a bit covered with smashed down blobs of dirt.

From there we went through the Elkhorn Slough Preserve. At Castroville, the “Artichoke Capital”, we had a brief ride on the freeway until we were able to get on a bike trail. From there it was mostly on bike trails for the remaining 15 miles to Monterey. Most of the bike trail was right along the ocean.

As we were riding along the bike trail it was still overcast and you could even see the fog rolling along. We had a headwind and that section seemed to go on forever. We had removed our arm warmers early in the ride but the temperature was now cool, but we decided to keep riding and not bother to stop to add more clothes. Just before we reached Fisherman’s Wharf the sky was clearing and it was now sunny. At Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey, we both enjoyed clam chowder in a bread bowl.

The route back was the same as we had just taken, until we got near Capitola, where we headed a bit more inland. In Santa Cruz we were suppose to take some bike trail, but we could not find it so we made our way back to Cliff Drive and then back to the car. We ended up with 108 miles and over 4,000 feet of climbing.

Southern Utah Tour

| 7:57 pm

by Byan Shaner

As I lay there on the gravel, the last few minutes gradually came back to me. I had turned my bike into a parking area to take a picture of this beautiful mountain at Capitol Reef. The gravel was much deeper than I had expected. Rather than just stopping, I had tried to turn around and had hit my head pretty hard when I went down; and that mountain wasn’t quite as beautiful when viewed from this strange angle.  Then I thought maybe it would be a good idea to get up and do an inventory of the damage. I knew my head hurt on the left side where my helmet hit the ground; also my left hip was complaining a bit, but there didn’t seem to be any blood. My arm seemed OK, so I guess my head and my hip took most of the force.  And most importantly, the bike was fine. I had just started the bonus ride by myself down into Capitol Reef and really wanted to see the rest.  How bad was my head?  I suppose there could be some internal damage, but there was not a soul in sight and it was several miles uphill back to the motel.  So I decided to continue on and see how I felt.  After a few miles, my headache was practically forgotten as more and more beautiful vistas opened up.  Two years of cycling without a fall and now I’d met the pavement twice in the last two weeks.  Let’s hope these things don’t come in threes.

The good news is that this fairly minor fall was the only one any of the eight of us had on Planet Ultra’s Southern Utah Tour.  In fact our group only had one flat tire the entire 500+ miles, and that was during the last twenty miles of the last day, and it happened to our co-leader Brian.

Sunset at Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef was absolutely spectacular but only the last 38 miles of an entire 99 mile 8000+’ day of beautiful sights.  This was the fourth day of our tour, and we had started in Escalante after recovering from a cold descent through the rain the previous day.  Some of us stopped at the Kiva Kafe for breakfast.  Besides great views, the Kiva Kafe has a small house on the edge of the canyon that you can rent:  worth looking into.  After breakfast we climbed up to the hogs back where you have great views in all directions.  Our other co-leader, Deb mentioned that this place can be a bit scary for the HooDoo 500 riders.  They get here in the dark and both sides of the road seem to fall away into nothingness (which they sort of do).  But for me, despite my carelessness at Capitol Reef, this fourth day was the peek experience of an entire week of beauty.

Lunch Stop on the way to Bryce

My first day from St. George to Carmel Junction could have been better.  I wasn’t paying attention to the verbal instructions about our lunch stop and went roaring by it by three miles.  I was a bit perturbed because the route sheet seemed to have the mileage wrong, but when I finally found the lunch stop, my roommate, John said “Don’t complain to Deb or she’ll charge you extra for your bonus miles”.  Although probably meant as a joke, that was great advice, and I didn’t complain.

I had visited Zion with my wife, Ellen, three years ago on a car trip, but seeing it again from a bike was great.  After Zion we met for smoothies (an experience to be repeated many times during the week) and loaded the van with bikes and riders so that we could continue our ride on the other side of the non bikable tunnel.  My garmin (which I left on the bike) kept careful track of our 19 miles in the van, and with all the traffic, our average speed stayed about the same as it had been up to Zion.  Once we found a safe place on the other side of the tunnel, Carmel Junction was only 20 more miles.  There was very little enthusiasm for getting back on our bikes, but I was feeling pretty good and wanted the full experience, so I said I’d ride the last part if anyone else wanted to.  And gradually, just about everyone got back on their bikes.  All was going well until we got about five miles from our destination, and all of a sudden I started to feel weak and incredibly hungry.  I stopped and ate the two bars I still had with me and downed some Endurolyte capsules, and after a few minutes I started to feel better.  My roomie, John, after hearing my story, said that I had “bonked”.  I’m just glad I still had food with me.  So the end of the first day showed 87 miles although 19 of those my bike was without benefit of a rider.  So the first day totals were 68 miles with 3768’ of climbing.

Day two (60 miles, 3700’) was designed to give us time in the afternoon to go hiking in Bryce.  The first 24 miles were uphill with a headwind, but the grade was not bad and I drafted behind Deb most of the way.  I offered to pull, but she didn’t want me to get worn out with five more days of riding ahead of us.  So I arrived at our lunch stop (see picture above) in good shape.  After lunch we hopped on a spectacular bike trail that took us within a few miles of Bryce.

On the way, I saw the place Ellen and I had stayed two years before, and feeling nostalgic I stopped to take a picture.  I remembered that the place had an excellent restaurant, and that’s where our group ended up eating that night.  I absolutely stuffed myself and enjoyed every bite; especially the homemade pie.  (Riding is all about the food, right?)

Bryce Canyon Pines Motel and Restaurant

But before dinner, I had time to take the shuttle to Sunset Point at Bryce and hike the Navajo Loop trail.  I got some great shots and felt very high which could have been due to endorphins or the fact that we were above 8000’ or both.

Navajo Loop Trail at Bryce Canyon

Day three started out with a bike tour of Bryce.  I went to every view point and took tons of pictures:  so many that I didn’t have time to make it all the way to the end of the road at Rainbow Point.

My old reliable Sequoia at Bryce Canyon

We were scheduled to head towards Escalante at noon, and by then clouds were gathering.  I had heard a lot about the wonderful 20 mile descent down into Escalante, but it was raining pretty hard by the time I got to that point, so my experience fell a bit short of wonderful.  In fact, it took half an hour in a hot shower to get some feeling back into my fingers and toes once we arrived.

The only thing I didn’t mention about day four from Escalante to Capitol Reef, was the rain that caught our faster riders (Brian, Deb and Brook) just after lunch, but was already past by the time the rest of us slowpokes showed up. Maybe there is a cycling godJ.

Day five to Panguitch was supposed to be 106 miles with only 3400’ of climbing.  But none of us made it that far.  The more experienced riders knew better, and the rest of us found out what it was like to fight the almost constant 30-40 mph headwind.  Only two of us were still riding after 25 miles, and I decided that I was going to quit when I got to mile 65 where the van was supposed to be.  I was just worn out and wanted to save something for Cedar Breaks the next day.  My rommie, John was driving the van and must have known what I was going through, because he stopped at mile 60 rather than 65.  It was like getting a wonderful Christmas present not having to ride that extra five windblown miles.  It was that bad.  However, Christine Nguyen, with whom I’d driven with to the tour, had only completed two centuries in her cycling career and wanted to do her third that day, and she fought the wind all the way to mile 98 (close enough).  We were all very impressed.

Day six to Cedar City started at 9:30am after a leisurely breakfast.  I was riding with Julie having a good talk when I finally realized at mile 20 that I wasn’t feeling very good.  I slowed down and took some Endurolytes.  Soon I felt better but the elevation was a challenge.  The total mileage was 57 with 5300’ elevation gain.  But it was the 10,500’ altitude at Cedar Breaks that was the issue, plus it was cold up there.  I used the hand dryer in the restroom (I had to press the button eight times) to get some feeling back in my fingers.  The descent down into Cedar City was just plain fun.  There wasn’t much traffic and the 5-6% grade was perfect.

Lynn, John, Julie and Christine at 10,500’

Cedar Breaks

The last day back to St. George was fast.  I felt great and there was only 2500’ of climbing over 85 miles.  We took our time going through Snow Canyon (where Brian had our only collective flat tire), and we found our way back to our starting point.  I’d completed just over 500 miles with 30,000 of climbing.  It’s true that Russ Stevens did virtually the same route when he completed the HooDoo 500 a week earlier in less than two days, but I got way more pictures 🙂 .