by Brian Chun on 4/26/08
The Diablo interrupted a dream I had the night before D Day and persuaded me to rise early, pack my provisions, and ride from home. Would I be allowed to rest, or would I perish, as many others had, along his infernal Mines Road, or elsewhere along his spiked and serpentine-shaped circuit? His temptation offered no consolation: “Cycle 225 miles and ~18,500 ‘ in 17 hours from Los Altos and return no later than 9:00 pm,” he rasped, his voice dry with dust and humming with the high voltage power lines of Patterson Pass. Then a cool angel appeared, from the clear waters of Calaveras, waving the petals of the rare snow orchid, sprinkling jeweled water droplets and a vision of me gliding, via hybrid, homebound, across freeway 237, with my sweet wife, my legs still and resting. No longer were they rotating on a relentless ride with the devil.
I awakened and found myself spinning past 2175 Grant Road (base camp for the classic Java Jive Monday ride) at 3:40 am, with 4 bottles and enough food & gear to add 10 pounds to my XRL double (53-39 x 32-11), crossing the sleeping Santa Clara Valley at its width. Then I saw cows, standing silhouetted against the valley’s sparkling city lights, silent under a half-moon lit sky, witnessing my march up Sierra Road with my mini LED torches and tail light. My plunge down Felter road pierced pockets of warm thermals, hinting towards more heat to come. Too early to kiss goats. Far to the right, the flickering jeweled city lights of Pleasanton beckoned.
I snaked along Calaveras reservoir for the sunrise. It was bright, clear and in the low 60s by the time I reached Norris Canyon. Free range turkeys jaywalked. Proud stallions stood tall, strong and silent, like Tang horses from the sentries of ancient China. And except for their “crumb trail”, the good Quackcyclist folks were gone, leaving the entire route as “free” as they found it. After my first of four 25 minute meals in one of Blackhawk’s jog-path pagodas, my tank was full and I was ready to roll up dazzling Diablo. This time, there were just a couple of rattlesnakes to furtively glare at me, basking in the fresh sunlight on butter-like asphalt. Would hawks or condors suddenly swoop from above and would my helmet protect me? I stopped for my second 25 minute picnic just below the summit, then continued, reaching the top by 11:00 am when my cell phone chirped in celebration!
Several groups, strong or recreational , were charging up from the North Gate as I ripped and rattled down Diablo’s northern switchbacks. Later, after running the highway gauntlet through Clayton and Diablo Valley, I piqued and passed a couple of grey-haired bicycling veterans, midway amidst the cool tree lined shadows of Morgan Territories. Last year I chased a strong local rider’s vortex to rapidly prance by pedal through this pelvis- pounding equestrian ranch wilderness. On yet another ride it was Russ and Sheila Stevens whirring before me like an express Caltrain, myself in tow.
Yet this afternoon’s experience was more placid as I bobbed and weaved this rural rutted road in relative reticence. My passage was occasionally punctuated by some full throttled motorbikers or rumbling truckers, who alerted me with their lights on, little beams sparkling in my bug-like mirrors. After emerging from this shaded sanctuary and slipping further behind schedule, I lounged for lunch at the Carl’s restaurant on North Vasco Road, Livermore, for another undeserved yet luxurious, 25 minute, lunch break #3. I had lost significant time in the territories, and did not start pushing up into the parched passes until 2:30 pm.
Altamont and Patterson passes were warm and breezy, with the excitement of the Wente Bike Racers descending lower Altamont Pass Road. After removing a pesky popped drive spoke, I reached the “Oh My *” summit by 4:00 pm. My wiggly rear rim held, and I descended into Livermore to cross Mines Road at 4:55 pm, more than a bit too late at this rate to complete the entire route by 9 pm. So like my snapped spoke, I broke my pact with the Devil, skipping the climb to the Junction, Isabel Creek, and Mt. Copernicus!
I set sail due west along Concannon, a relaxed run amidst vineyards to stop and dine for my fourth 25 minute layover at the Taco Bell across from the Raley’s supermarket in Pleasanton. It was just before 7:00 pm when I went over to visit the local tandem shop. From there it was a cooler cruise along the tree lined roads to Calaveras. I was climbing up past the dam in time to spot Russ and Sheila Stevens at 7:20 pm at one of the Calaveras Road hairpins, shooting by me on their tandem pro-tempore. I also saw about 15 other riders, mostly travelling singly, many whirring along in focused “DMD” style with Triple Crown jerseys. I did not recognize any of them as ACTC members.
Later I would read that many of our stronger members, such as Steve Saeedi, Franz Kelsch and Gary Franck, were already well on their way to the finish in San Ramon. Then the red DMD SAG Chrysler van came cruising down Calaveras with just one bike on top, a good sign for the day. Earlier, the Mt. Hamilton Challenge SAG van driver passed me in downtown Pleasanton, and later, on Calaveras Road in Milpitas, unladen. I reached my Mandalay Noodle finish line by 7:45 pm, enjoyed tea and a second dinner before sundown, then rested in the car as my relieved wife drove home. We were back by 9:00 pm!
So I did my best to honor my pact with the devil, but the angel prevailed once again. I was glad to hear that the rest of our fabulously strong club members were quite swift this year in completing their DMD “trial” with a “verdict” of “fast and faster”, instead of “did not finish”. My day was actually a pleasant Tri-Valley tour, with so much food and good climbing, everything a ACTC sherpa could wish for in one day! With a little more proper conditioning, better mechanicals, and similar weather, I should be able to meet the devil’s worst and angel’s best wishes for me, and I hope that many of you will be able to join me for your own challenging adventure!
My thanks to (not in any particular order) Franz & Ann Kelsch, Russ and Sheila Stevens, my brother Dr. Stephen R. Chun, Patty Dougherty, Joe and Rosa Farinha, Gary Franck, Steve Saeedi, Nina, Austin and Tyler Yeats, Jon Kaplan, Patrice and Steve Carney, Mark Pryor, Michael Khaw, Roger and Hisako Coombes, Bikemaster Donny Axtell, Spencer Frink, Deborah Lefferts and David Hoag, Quackcyclists, the Jorgensens, the McGeoughs, Google Maps, our Amazing Brevet Bikers, Ken Emerson, Cristin Sohm, Guy Neenan, Paul Duren, Benjamin Waters, David Lee, Bob Schultz, Mani Harihara, Steve Ching and family, Megan Nguyen, Nancy Kenny, Mylo and Pat Stenstrom, Lane Parker, Melanie Clark and family, Udi, Patrice Courtier, Ravi, Kevin Kozar, Granger Tam, Lou Mason, Linda Matsuhiro, Barbara Murphy and Fred O’Leary, and all of the rest of our members and friends, young and young at heart, who, in our club and biking communities, continue to energize us with the spirit of this sport and system of travel. Thanks to you and countless others, it has been an amazing two years for me in our club.
May the force propel you!
Ride Data (info only):
Physicals: Sore rear and feet (shoes a bit tight when hot). More high RPM speed training needed.
Perhaps too much to eat/drink. Start training on the tandem & recumbent and do track wind
Mechanicals: Broken drive spoke. Stronger rear wheel needed.
Weather: Clear, light breezes, warm afternoon. Near ideal conditions, especially for Patterson Pass.
Total Distance: 180 miles
Total Time: 17 hours, 5’ Biking Time:15 hours, 10 ‘. Alternative Time: 115’.
8 goats: Sierra, Palomares, Norris Canyon, Mt. Diablo South, Morgan Territories, Altamont & Patterson Passes, Calaveras North.