Archive for June, 2009

Alta Alpina Challenge

| June 30, 2009 2:15 pm

by Brian Chun

ACTC riders in the June 13th Alta Alpina Cycle Club’s Riding the Wild Sierra Challenge included ~160 miler, ~16700′ climber Carlos Perez Gautrin, who completed 6 passes: Kingsbury Grade East, Luther Pass East, Carson Pass North,  Blue Lakes, Monitor West & East (Topaz) and ~176 miler, ~17000′ climber Brian Chun, who completed Kingsbury Grade East, Luther Pass East, Carson Pass North, Blue Lakes, Ebbetts Pass East & West (wet & cold above Hermit Valley), and Monitor Pass West.  Brian arrived at Monitor West at 1920 hrs., just 20′ shy of starting the eighth pass: Monitor East (Topaz), which is a 22 mile,  8% descent and climb. Altogether, there were a total of  about 220 participants, with about 80 registered for the 8 Pass Challenge.  Other noted cyclists included Triple Crown Speed Champion Robert Choi of Santa Rosa Cycling Club,  Sean Smith of Lafayette, Vidas Placiakis of the SF Randonneurs and many past and present Devil Mountain Doublers.  Wildlife seen but not photographed included a juvenile brown bear, seen during the Blue Lakes climb, and a young fisherman dangling his catch of a huge wild brown trout, seen during the Blue Lakes descent. Lunch and dinner were prepared at the Turtle Rock Community Center by members of the Washoe tribe.  In the morning, juvenile youth fulfilled community service hours at the Pickett Junction rest stop along Emigrant Trail.


Brian Chun with Triple Crown Champion Dr. Robert Choi of Santa Rosa Cycling Club

Our thanks to the Alta Alpina Cycling Club, Washoe Nation, Juvenile Justice Youth, and all the public safety professionals and volunteers for supporting this unique event.

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Ride Across California

| 2:14 pm

by Brian Chun

ACTC members Brian Chun and Richard Hanke biked to Genoa, Nevada in their 500+ mile Ride Across California June 4th-8th.  On Day 1, aided by delta tailwinds, they climbed 140 miles to the historic gold mining town of Jackson (elev. 1200′), site of the Kennedy Mines, once the deepest gold mine in the world (>5000′). On Day 2 they encountered snowfall, sleet, and rain along Kit Carson Pass ( elev. 8730′) and Luther Pass (elev. 7240′) reaching  S. Lake Tahoe by 1630 hrs. (Richard) and 2030 hrs. (Brian).


ACTC Death Wish/Life Ride start: Michelle Rae, Dan Swinehart, K.L. Seh, Au Ly, Ben Luu, Ray Low, Steve Ching (not pictured: Brian Chun)

On Day 3 they merged with Death Wish riders to climb Kingsbury Grade, ride the Pine Nut loop,  and enjoy hot soup and fresh sandwiches in the historic town of Genoa in Carson Valley, Nevada. Later that afternoon,  they were hit with uncontrollable shivering due to harsh winds and freezing rains atop Daggett Summit.  On Day 4 the sun returned in the morning as they climbed and cruised for 95 miles along the gorgeous South Truckee River Valley,  Luther Pass, Hope Valley,  Carson Pass, and the El Dorado National Scenic Byway. Finishing early, Richard toured Jackson, and Brian explored Pine Grove, site of the world’s largest Miwok Grinding Rock (marble).  On Day 5 they arrived home safe and sound by the afternoon, finishing the last 140 mile leg with shared pulls through the fierce headwinds between Stockton and Livermore.

Our thanks goes to the ACTC board for allowing this ride listing, Dr. Steve Riggio of Mokelumne Hill,  Steve Ching for his hospitality and rainy day rescues, K.L. Seh for his famous Malaysian hot pot suppers, Richard Hanke for his speed, strength, sushi, foul weather preparation and water support,  Howard Morris for suggesting  the South Truckee River route, and all the bike buddies on the Death Wish/Life Ride to Genoa, Nevada.

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Ride Across California 2009

| 2:11 pm
Ride Across California 2009

by Richard Hanke

Pre Ride:

One day an email arrived announcing that Brian Chun would lead a ride to Lake Tahoe.  I checked the date and I did not have a conflict so I decided to join.  Since riding across America with Trek Travel last September I wondered what it would be like to do a self supported ride.   On a self supported trip you would have to carry everything with you.  A tour company has water and snacks every 15 miles so you never have to worry.  My biggest fear would be running out of water since one stretch through the Sierras would be sparsely populated and stopping at a store would not be an option.   Brian was going to camp and I did not want to carry a sleeping bag and tent so I opted for the hotel option.  Luckily he was camping near Jackson and I had several hotels to choose from.  In Tahoe, finding a hotel is never a problem.

As the date approached, I kept checking the weather.  It looked like Thunderstorms in Tahoe, but I felt optimistic since it listed it at as only a 40% chance.  I knew I had to carry rain gear anyway since I had heard plenty of stories of riders on the Death Ride getting hypothermia when it would rain in the passes.    I equipped my Trek bike with a rack to carry two bags.  My bike had brackets on the frame to hold a rack so I did not have any problem.  I waited to the day before to put it on and this would cause a problem the morning of the trip.  I did a brief spin the night before but not with the fully packed bags.

Day 1: Saratoga to Jackson, CA

We wanted to get an early start since we planned on covering over 130 miles to Jackson. Brian was starting in Los Gatos and I would meet up with him at 5:45 on DeAnza Blvd. This meant I had to also leave at 5:30. I loaded up the bike; the two bags weighed over 20 lbs.  This additional weight on the rear gave the bike a totally different feel and I had to be careful not to let it tip over since I could not keep it upright by just holding the handle bars.  In the bags were another riding kit, wind jacket, rain jacket, rain pants, booties for the shoes if cold, head cover, one T-shirt, one shorts, one warm-up pants, gym shoes to wear when not riding, recovery powder premeasured into plastic bags for each day, electrolytes mix for each day, 2 extra water bottles for the mountains, alcohol wipes, 3 tubes, tooth brush and 20 cliff bars.  I would use everything on the trip.

I was a couple minutes late in the morning but as soon as I started out the bike began to make a terrible noise. I thought the bags weighed too much and was putting pressure on the one bracket that attached the rack to the brake assemble. Since I was late I kept going and thought I would look at it once I got to the meeting point. Anyway it was still a little dark and could not see since it was overcast.  I arrived at the meeting place a 6 am, a full 10 minutes late. But no Brian was in sight. While waiting I figured out the brake was rubbing against the tire. I was able to straighten it out and the noise went away.  While waiting I checked my email and noticed that Brian had sent one out last night after I had already gone to bed. He wanted to change the route to go through Calaveras instead of Niles canyon.  I decided to go ahead since I thought he would be in front of me.   Turned out he was late also and we did not meet up until Sunol.

In Livermore I had one of the bags fall off when hitting a bump. We then tied the bags together in the hopes they would not come off. They never did but I always had a fear they would it I hit a big enough bump and now that they were tied together they both would.
The ride went smoothly as we made our way through Pleasanton, Livermore, Altamont pass, and then in Tracy I got a flat when going under 205. We stopped at Carl Jr to change it.  This also proved a good spot to eat lunch. Brian had brought a sandwich and sushi.  We refilled out water bottles and we back on our way. Before long we were cutting though the center of Stockton, very depressing city where all the housed had bars on the windows. After Stockton we returned to the scenery of the central valley; vineyards, cherry trees, walnuts orchards.  With 24 miles to go to Jackson, Brian fell back and I just wanted to get the ride over. With 10 miles to go it became very hard. My odometer was already reporting 130 miles and still had 10 to go. I didn’t notice that it was a gradual climb since the landscape looked flat but on the return I sure would notices it. I ran out of water just a few miles from Jackson.  I should have filled up one of my extra bottles before leaving Stockton. Lucky there was a cemetery and I was able to pull in and fill up.

Once arriving in Jackson I took a quick look at their historic down town and set off to find a milkshake. Upon asking at one of the local establishments I was directed towards Mel’s Dinner and sure enough it was one of the best ones I’ve tasted.  Up the road was my hotel, first thing I did was to take a shower.

It had been 141.5 miles of riding with 9 hours 40 minutes in the saddle.  Ouch!

Day 2: Jackson to Lake Tahoe.

92.8 miles 8 hours and 40 minutes.
It was a cool and cloudy morning with the forecast calling for rain. My tire was flat in the morning but I pumped it up and rode to see if it would be OK.  We left by 7am and within a few miles stopped to change the tire. It was not holding the air. Right away from Jackson we started climbing. It was a gradual steady climb.  We soon passed the 2000 ft. elevation sign and then the 3000 ft. sign. We were making about 10 miles per hour progress on the accent. We would have to pass though Carson’s pass which is about 8000 feet.  We stopped at a store about 20 miles outside of Jackson and were told that it would snow at 7000 feet and above starting at noon.  We would have to move fast to make it to Carson’s pass.

At the 5000 ft elevation sign would be the last time I saw Brian as he started to slow at the higher elevation and I was still able to climb at steady pass. Just as forecasted it started to rain at 12 pm but I was not yet at the 7000 ft. sign.  I put on my rain gear to stay dry. I passed the first 8000 ft. sign and started to descend. The rain had now turned to sleet and as my speed increased to over 30 mph my face was getting sand blasted. Soon I was climbing again and cursing the fact that the road would dip and raise. This would happen 3 times before finally getting to Carson’s pass. The worst was when we dipped into Kirkwood because the road widened to add a turn lane but I could not see when the lane would end due to the fog, sleet and water on my sun glasses. (Needed the glasses to protect my eyes from the sleet pelting my face)  I was riding in the middle when a car came by blaring his horn at me.  Carson’s pass had a large turn off to enjoy the view but with visibility at only 20 yards there was no point in stopping. I continued to press ahead.

Carson Pass. 8000 feet

Carson Pass. 8000 feet

It was a long decent to about 5600 ft. and the sun came out. I turned onto HW 89 to Lake Tahoe and started climbing again. This time it would be Luther’s pass at 7500 ft. And just like Carson’s Pass it was covered in clouds and rain. I had to keep reminding myself that I could do it but it’s hard to imagine when you are only climbing at 4 mph and gasping for each breath.  I crested the top and started the decent in a heavy rain. About halfway down a van pulled next to me as I was traveling at 30 mph and asked if I wanted a ride. I told them no way. I had already done the hard part; going downhill was my only reward.  But if he had asked me that when I was only half way up; I would have certainly jumped at the chance. Once I reached Lake Tahoe, I stopped at a Subway and had lunch. I arrived at the hotel by 4pm. I cleaned up and got ready to join a group of ACTC riders for dinner. They had driven up and were staying at a house one of them had here. They picked me up from my hotel and I joined them for dinner. They had prepared a hot pot. That sure tasted good after the 90 mile ride from Jackson. Brian did not arrive until 8:45. He had been riding for over 14 hours.

Day 3: Lake Tahoe ride to Genoa, NV

Steve Ching had listed a ride from Tahoe to Genoa which started with breakfast at Denny’s at 8am.  We set off at 9 after we had a great breakfast. I had Denny’s build it yourself 4 item Grand Slam. I had eggs whites, oatmeal, hash browns and chicken sausage.   It started to drizzle and as we climbed up Kingsbury Grade to Daggett Summit. I reached the top just behind K.L She. We stopped briefly to take a photo and then continued on since we did not want to get cold. The decent was great but could not be fully enjoyed due to the rain but on a sunny day I’m sure you could hit speeds of 50. By the time we reached the bottom the rain had stopped.  We regrouped and rode around Nevada and made our way towards historic Genoa, Nevada’s oldest settlement.  I was riding in front with Au Ly and we missed a turn. It took us a while to realize it and then we tried to pace line back to the group but missed another turn. Eventually we called for directions and found out we were way out. We did make it to lunch in Genoa before the others had finished. After a satisfying sandwich and bowl of soup we were on our way back to Kingsbury grade.  Going up seemed to take forever.  I think when the mountain is bare and you can see all the way to the top, psychologically it seems harder. It didn’t help that it started to rain half way up and by the time we reached the top we were soaked as well.  The decent became a chill fest. Soaked and now cold, I didn’t realize how much until I stopped for coffee at Starbucks and could not stop shaking.  It was only another 2 miles to the hotel. Once in the room I jumped into the shower with my kit still on. It was amazing how much grit and dirt washed away.  Finally I was warm.

With the detour, I recorded 77 miles.

Day 4: Lake Tahoe to Jackson

I checked out of the hotel and went to Denny’s for breakfast.  I wanted to order that Gland Slam again since it would be a long 90 miles to Jackson. I was a little fearful that the ride would be a repeat of yesterdays ride with the passes in rain or worst snow. The trip to Jackson would have 4 passes all at 7700 feet or more.

I met up with Brian at Steve’s house and we were off by 7:30.  Yesterday Howard had told us that there was an alternative to HW 89/Luther Pass. The Old Truckee Road ran parallel to it , would have no traffic compared to HW89 and would take us almost all the way to the top before reconnecting to HW 89. It was a great alternative and winded through the woods which allowed lots of time to take in the scenery.  Unfortunately once we started climbing it was the last I saw of Brian as he was having trouble adjusting to the altitude and had yet to find his climbing legs.  The threat of rain never materialized and soon the sun was out shining making for a great morning of riding.  Later a few dark clouds showed up but I never got wet.

The scenery was just great. I was retracing our route from Friday in the rain but this time all the views were available and the morning sun just lit up Carson’s valley. The climbing was not bad and I was making good time. By noon I had reached the last pass and from there it was all downhill to Jackson.  I pulled into Jackson by 2:30 and headed directly to Mel’s for another of their great milkshakes.   It felt good to be done early and have a chance to recover.

Day 5: Jackson to Saratoga

We left at 6 since it would be a long day. I was not looking forward to going back through the Altimont pass. They did not build all those wind farms there because it never blows.   There was a lot of traffic on the road out of Jackson as people went to work in either Stockton or Sacramento.  It was a steady stream of cars but the shoulder was wide. We were making good time and I now realized why the last 10 miles into Jackson had been so hard.  It was a steady decline that allowed us to easily do 20 mph.  We made it to Stockton is just over 2 hours and stopped at a Starbucks to refill the water bottles. I also had a coffee and coffee cake.

We decided to head another way out of town instead of taking HW 4 since that had a very small shoulder and was busy with trucks.  Heading out on California St and El Dorado St. was a much better choice and less hectic.  But once we turn west on Mathews Road the wind began to blow. The further west we went the stronger it became. We took turns pace lining but we were slowed to 11 mph.  We got a break for a while once we turned south to Tracy but once we started west on Grant Line we to slowed to under 10 MPH.  We finished crossing the central valley but now we’re faced with the Altimont pass. The winds must have been 25 mhp or more and we laughed at the fact that some of the windmills were not spinning since they must think it was not windy enough. We say a local bicycle club ride go the other way at speeds that must have been greater than 30 mph. We were struggling at going 4 mph and the slope was not even that great.  This would be the last time I would see Brian as I slowly pulled away.  I didn’t wait once I got to Livermore as I was now solely focused on getting home as quickly as possible and I still had 60 miles to go.

I was thankful the wind was not as strong and was able to achieve speeds of 15 mph.  This meant that I could be home by 3pm. I stopped in Pleasanton to refill the water bottles before hitting the Calaveras pass into San Jose.  I have ridden Calaveras before but today it seemed to go on forever. I think the fact that I had already had gone over 100 miles had something to do with it. I finally made into San Jose and onto San Thomas which would take me to Saratoga. By now I looked like just another bike commuter with my bags. No one would suspect that I had ridden from Lake Tahoe.  I felt good as a passed a couple bike commuters, even though my legs we by now feeling like toast.  This euphoria would not last long as the pain from sitting in the saddle for over 9 hours started to become unbearable. Finally at 4:30 I turned into the driveway. I was home. I had done it, 547 miles in 5 days.

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Climb to Kaiser 2009

| June 29, 2009 3:56 pm
Climb to Kaiser 2009

by Deborah Hoag

Climb to Kaiser is sponsor by the Fresno Cycling Club, which consist of 13,500′ of climbing and 155 miles with temperatures above 100 degrees.  The ride begins and ends at Alla Sierra Middle School in Clovis, Ca.  The first 23 miles is pretty flat. What makes Kaiser hard is at mile 23, the 13,500′ of climbing starts and ends at mile 98. I have provided climb statistics below provide by Fresno Cycling Club. The Big Creek climb is the worst climb with the steepest grade at 20% in areas, plus a rider is out in the sun throughout the climb.

Climb Start Mile End Mile Climb Distance Average Grade Worst 1/2 Mile Grade Steepest Grade Elevation Gains
Wildcat Grade








Burrough Grade








Tollhouse Grade








Pine Ridge Grade








Big Creek Grade








Kaiser Pass








Tamarack Ridge








I started doing Climb to Kaiser in 2000 and completed it my 7th time this year. In 2000, Pam Downs had a room and asked me to share it with her. So, I signed up and paid for the jersey. Don Axtell told me I had to do the whole ride to earn the jersey. I had not rode more than 100 miles. What a surprise I had! I got sucked in and did not know what I got myself into. Well, the first year I added extra 13 miles, because I missed a turn.  I also got hooked on the ride and did it five years in a row. By 2003, I started focusing on double centuries, so since 2004 I have only completed Kaiser in 2007 and 2009. The reason behind doing Kaiser this year is training for the Stage Race (the 3 hardest double centuries).  The hard part about the stage race this year is there is 2 ½ months of a break between second double (May 10),  and the third double (August 1), which creates it hard to stay in shape and peak at the right time.

Climb to Kaiser had a mass start at 5:30A with 243 riders with temperatures’ in the low 80’s. Fresno reached 105 degrees. Usually at mile 50, it cools off when the ride starts leaving the valley and starts the climbing; however, this would not be the case for 2009. It was hot on top of Kaiser. The only clothing required for the day was a jersey and shorts.  My goal for the ride was to focus on spinning and reducing rest stop times. The first rest stop after Wildcat Grade, my time off the bike was less than one minute. The second rest stop after Burrough Grade was four minutes. However, before the third rest stop Toolhouse, my calves started to cramp. So, at the third rest stop, Shaver Lake, I took a 15 minute break. At the Shaver Lake rest stop this is the turning around point for riders completing 100 miles. And every time, I want to turn around too. But, for some reason, I never do. Then on to Pine Ridge Grade to the fourth rest stop, before Big Creek climb, as I turn on to HWY 168, there is a big pile of broken glass on the road, and it crosses my mind that if I run over the glass, I do not have to complete the ride.  It is very hot, so before the Big Creek climb I poured water over my head and started the worst climb of the day out in the sun. Half way up Big Creek there is a stream that I always stop at and pour water over my head. Something I learned from Donny in 2001. It has always paid off, because I past riders walking this part of the ride. Then it is on to the fifth rest stop, lunch, however, with the heat I eat very little and moved on after a 10 minute lunch for the final hard climb up Kaiser Pass out in the open sun again. Kaiser Pass steepest grade is 18%, but after climbing Big Creek with the steepest grade of 20%, it seems easy.  When reaching the top of each climb the volunteers are encouraging each ride on.


This year on top of Kaiser, there was a flag waver, plus volunteries yelling. In 2007, they were sounded off truck horns.  I stayed long enough to get a picture. On the Kaiser Pass descend about quarter mile down; there is twenty-five feet of gravel with potholes averaging 8 to 12 inches. The top mile of Kaiser Pass is very narrow and it is hard for two cars pass each other (up and down).


I started the descending and realized there was car behind me and forgotten about the gravel and potholes in the shade. I hit a deep pothole about 12″ deep with my front wheel head on, at this point I thought I was going down. I held on and kept my front wheel straight. The front wheel popped out and then my rear wheel went in. At this point, I knew I was fine. Thanks to the mountain bike riding  I did with Richard Holterman paid off. Then it was on to a rippin’ Kaiser Pass descends. Final one easier climb and then an even better rippin’ descend to Shaver Lake rest stop (second to last rest stop).  The climbing is basically over; the rest of ride is a drop into Fresno’s heat (105 degrees). It is like opening up a hot oven and stuck your head in to it. The dry heat in throat is felt for the next 35 miles.

Why I keep riding Climb to Kaiser the Fresno Cycling club provide excellent support and the locate people ring their cow bells.

Terrible Two by Tandem 2009

| June 28, 2009 4:57 pm
Terrible Two by Tandem 2009

by Sheila Stevens

In 2007, Russ and I were riding our first organized double century (Davis) on the tandem when we met another tandem couple wearing matching Terrible Two jerseys.  Russ commented that it would be really cool if we could get matching TT jerseys ourselves.  It was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard.  But then again, here we were, trying to do 3 doubles in a year in order to get Triple Crown jerseys after seeing a tandem couple pass us with them on the 2006 Death Ride.  Still, 200 miles with 16,000 feet of climbing and aggressive time cut-offs – it was just crazy talk.  Little did I know that 2 years later he would have convinced me to give it a whirl.

We arrived at the ride start at 4:50 am for the scheduled 5:30 mass start.  The parking lot was already bustling with activity.  I went to check in while Russ got the bike off the car.

We saw other ACTC folks – Paul Duren, Paul Vlasveld, Ehud Yuhjtman and Ken Holloway, and kept our eyes peeled for other folks we thought were riding from the club.  Maybe it was just me, but the atmosphere of the ride start was an extreme combination of excitement, anticipation and palpable dread of the day in front of us.

We knew from the website that there were at least four tandems registered for the ride. There is such an instant, unexplainable camaraderie among tandems that were we quickly comparing notes and rigs with the Albers, Taylors, and Seely/Radtke teams.  The Seely/Radtke team is the only tandem attempting the Stage Race this year.  Guess they threw in Terrible Two just for kicks. Later we would meet the Clark tandem team at the finish.  Turns out, 4 out of the 5 tandems finished, which is a testament to the favorable conditions in store for us. Temperatures are typically 100+ for much of the ride, but this year temperatures maybe maxed out in the high 80’s.

At 5:30 the mass of ~230 riders was led out by a four wheeled moto-pacer.  Before the ride, I was really nervous about this portion of the ride.  Based on Russ’ previous TTs, I knew it was imperative to keep up with the front of the pack so as to not miss any of the lights tripped by the pacer.  There are 20 stoplights to be navigated going through Santa Rosa, which could eat up a lot of time.  I am also really uncomfortable in packs, especially when I do not know the riders around me.  It might have something to do with the fact that as a stoker, I have no ability to steer or brake.  My pathetic little bell is the only way I can influence the environment around me.


It was a fairly quick pace to and through Santa Rosa.  I was surprised to see several groups of people along the route (some in bathrobes with large mugs of coffee) ringing bells and cheering us on.  There was even a life sized Han Solo cut-out in one group.  The pack spread out such that we ultimately lost sight of the front riders, yet we only got held up by a few of the traffic lights.  Turns out the pack riding was fine.  I sound a bit like Rainman, but I must say, Russ is a very good driver, I mean captain.

Now, many of the people who ride with us have heard about Russ’ spreadsheets.  I often make fun of them, but for us they are an invaluable tool.  He calculates and tracks our power outputs and progress during training and then figures out how long it will take us to finish certain rides.  They are amazingly geeky, and accurate.  Over Memorial Day weekend we led the “Not so Terrible Two Days” rides for ACTC which included back to back centuries that covered the entire course over two days.  Based on our times, we knew we would need to pick up the pace in order to leave lunch at the 110 mile mark by the 1:45pm cut-off.  However, a few weeks of training later, our speed and power improved such that Russ was predicting we could leave lunch by 1:35 and finish by 9:15 pm.  The “I did it!” t-shirt given to all who finish before 10pm was within reach!  An unspoken goal was to finish before dark (~9:00pm).

Back to the ride.  After about 25 miles, we started the first climb up Trinity Grade.  I saw Man-Fai Tam, and a short distance up the hill we saw Laura Hipp.  Powered by our now traditional chocolate milk filled starting bottles, we reached the top of Trinity about 7 minutes ahead of Russ’ prediction.  We breathed a sigh of relief in that it looked like our legs did indeed show up for the ride.  Shortly after starting the descent, we passed Paul Vlasveld.  Paul then passed us on the short climb up Oakville Grade, but we hooked up again for the long flat of Silverado Trail.

We picked up quite a train behind us on Silverado Trail.  Drafting a tandem for 16 miles is an opportunity not too many single bikes can pass up.  We made a conscious effort to not “Silverado Trail” ourselves. That is an expression Russ uses to describe blowing yourself up by going way too hard, on a road that is just too much fun, doing pacelines way too fast, much  too early in the ride.  He kept his heart rate in check and we rolled into the Calistoga rest stop (mile 55) at 8:40 am.

Another strategy to meet the cut-offs was to keep our rest stops really quick.  We refilled water, grabbed food and I even got to pee before rolling out a mere 3 minutes later, 15 minutes ahead of schedule.  We lost most of our paceline buddies at the stop, but we found new folks to chat with along the next stretch. As we approached the entrance to the Old Faithfulgeyser, we were treated to an eruption.  On we rode toward Geysers Road – the highest climb of the day.


Towing a Train to Geyser

I don’t really remember anything remarkable about the climb itself.  Long. Hard. Steep. Typical.  Part way up the climb we passed the Albers tandem parked next to a SAG – likely some sort of mechanical.  We got passed by a lot of single bikes on this climb, but nearly every one of them had something incredibly positive to say about us doing this ride on the tandem.  It was completely different from the Death Ride where I got at least 25 comments of “Hey, she’s not pedaling” by the time we reached the third pass.  I guess Terrible Two riders get it.  This is such a hard ride that if you are out there at all, you have got some serious toughness that deserves respect.  By the way, “She’s not pedaling” is never funny.  Ever.

We saw the Taylor tandem at the rest stop at the top.  After a quick four minutes to get water, food and let Russ pee, we took off again.  The back side of Geysers is not a smooth road and there were several short gravel sections.  There was a LOT of flat tire carnage, but luckily none for us.

Before the ride we debated about ways to shave weight off of the bike.  Gone were the rear rack, trunk, some tools, and the front bag/rack.  We kept a smaller tool bag, super tubes in both wheels, spare tire and the kickstand.  It is so nice to not have to search for a spot to lean or put your bike down at the rest stops.  We must have gotten 5-6 comments during the day about how unusual it was to have a kickstand on the bike.  One guy even asked us to pose so he could take a “Look ma, no hands” picture of it.  Wow, if only people knew that this kickstand was actually our second.  The original one failed and broke off after ~17,000 miles.

We passed the Taylor tandem and lots of single bikes on the descent.  We saw Ken Holloway fixing a flat a few miles short of the lunch stop.  We arrived at lunch 12:28pm.  Our leisurely 12 minute stop allowed the Taylors to sneak out ahead of us, never to be caught again.  We left the lunch stop 56 minutes ahead of Russ’ prediction.

Lunch Stop

Lunch Stop

Next up was Skaggs Spring Road – a 38 mile jaunt to the coast with 4800 feet of climbing.  Shortly after we started the first climb, Ken Holloway passed us.  We leapfrogged a bit as we would pass him on the all too short mini-descents and he would pass us as soon as the road pitched up.  He ultimately also got out in front never to be seen again.  We were regularly downing salt packets to keep cramping at bay.

At mile 116 I felt a sharp smack on my face and yelped as a bee, for the third time in two years, got caught between me and my helmet.  In response to my noises, Russ asked if I was ok.  I replied, “Yeah, but a bee got me right on my temporal mandibular joint!”  His response of “Where the hell is that?!?!?” made me laugh and reminded me that we really do speak different languages sometimes. (BTW, it is the part of your jaw just in front of your ear).

There were great water stops at both high peaks on Skaggs where I kept getting told “You are the third woman to arrive”.  We took a quick break at the rest stop at Camp Gualala so Russ could rub his feet before the dreaded “wall”.

The wall climbs about 900 ft in less than 1.2 miles.  It is brutal, and not nearly short enough.  We made it up without stopping which was a major mental victory for me.  After that it is just one more small bump (that seemed endlessly long) until we descended among the fern covered hills (I bet a lot or riders never noticed the ferns) and emerged onto the coast at Stewart’s Point. We left Stewart’s Point at 4:00pm – 1 hour and 11 minutes ahead of schedule.

At the coast we were treated to beautiful clear skies and a strong tailwind.  The next 16 miles sped by as we let the tailwind do some of the work.  We were on our own for most of this stretch, but eventually we caught up to a rider who had broken a spoke earlier on Skagg’s and was now riding without front brakes. That did not sound fun given that 16000 feet of climbing also translates to 16000 feet of descending.

We arrived at the Fort Ross rest stop (mile 163), where luckily the other rider was able to borrow a new front wheel.  Have I mentioned that the support on this ride is fantastic?  Han Solo also must have taken a short cut as he was now present next to the large pots of hot soup.

I was really nervous about the impending Fort Ross climb. Russ assured me it would be ok, and he told me to just plan on taking a break somewhere in the middle of the hill.  We left the rest stop at 5:00pm.  At 5:05, I got that break we talked about, but not exactly as planned. We tried to shift into our lowest gear and dropped the chain. Despite immediately clipping out, the chain was royally jammed between the cassette and spokes.  It somehow worked its way below the cassette pin that prevents that from happening. We couldn’t get the chain back out, remove the wheel or even access the master link.  We finally broke out the chain tool and got everything back in order. We were rolling again by 5:15.  Not too bad given that for a few minutes we were really wondering how the heck we were going to fix it.

Russ predicted the climb would take us 45 minutes.  We hit the summit at 5:45 – we matched his predict even with a 10 minute mechanical!!  After the summit, we were descending and knew there was just one more hard climb to come – the second summit of Fort Ross.  I was distracting and powering myself up Fort Ross with a 300 calorie King Size Salted Nut Roll I had been packing as my special stash of magic food.  The climb just kept going and going, but we finally hit the summit.  At this point it started to dawn on me that we were really going to do this!  I asked Russ to be cautious on the descent.  His response was, “Are you crazy, there is no way I am going risk blowing this now!!!”  Russ started to cramp again once we were back on the flats, but we were able to salt him up and kept rolling our way to the last rest stop in Monte Rio.

By the time you reach Monte Rio, you are pretty sure you are going to make it, but you are still pretty darn exhausted.  Russ and I split up. I decided to put the lights on just for added visibility and refilled the bottles. Russ again needed to give his feet a break.  I didn’t see any of this, but Russ said he was a total slob trying to rub his feet with one hand while simultaneously inhaling an enormous handful of BBQ potato chips with the other. Russ later told me he was trying NOT to eat the chips with the same hands he was rubbing his feet with, but was not sure he was entirely successful.  The volunteers commented on how good everyone looked.  That was another testament to the excellent conditions.  Normally, everyone looks a bit like death warmed over by the time they reach Monte Rio.

We left at the rest stop at 7:00pm with just 17 miles to go.  Some easy math said we could flirt with an 8:00 pm finish if we pushed. We took off and picked up a rider named Jack on our wheel.  We hauled the entire way and arrived at 7:54pm.  The finish line had people lined up to cheer every individual finisher.  The giant digital time clock read 14:24 total. Our computers indicated that we spent 13:26 rolling.  The weather conditions allowed us to blow Russ’ conservative predictions out of the water.

The first order of business was to get that t-shirt and buy a jersey.  I recognized the volunteer at the jersey table from out on the course.  She said she started at 4:00am directing cars, was planning to stay until after the last riders finished and would be back to help clean up on Sunday.  She said, “My whole weekend is Terrible Two”.  Or maybe she said, “My whole weekend is terrible, too”.

As we collapsed into bed that night at the nearby Good Nite Inn, I asked Russ if he was glad we did it.  He quickly responded, “Yes, absolutely”.  We’ve been married, and riding tandem, long enough to know not to ask the question “Would you do it again?” until well after New Year’s.

Eighteen Billy Goats

| June 13, 2009 9:12 pm

by Franz Kelsch

We couldn’t help but be intrigued by the ride posting of 18 billy goats.  We realized that would be impossible for us to do but the ride posted by Russ and Sheila had the great flexibility of offering three sequential rides, or laps, with a fixed route and optional billy goats.  I guess if you did them all you would do more climbing than on the Devil Mountain Double.  Russ and Sheila are getting ready for the Terrible Two Double Century next week.

We skipped trying to make it to the 6:00 am start for Lap 1.  Besides we already went up Quimby West on the tandem this year and once a year is enough.  But we were anxious to climb Mt. Hamilton so we got there in time for Lap 2 at 8:30 am.  Although there were eventually over 25 different riders on the 3 laps, about 20 of them were on Lap 2.  It was a cool day for June.  The group split as  soon as we started the climb.  The two tandems and several guys on single bikes went out ahead.  We decided to get some pictures before we got dropped.

The temperature dropped as we climbed and soon we were in heavy fog.  We made a stop at the observatory and then headed down the backside.  Those who had skipped the stop at the summit were already headed back up before we reached Isabel Creek.  After we made a U-turn, I started the timer to see how long it would take us to climb up the backside.  One of the other rides had a jersey that said “If you think this is too steep, you are getting too old”.  That kind of inspired me to push even harder up the hill.  With about 500 feet of climbing left my legs were about to give out but I said to Anne, I am not going to give up now after all this hard work to climb fast.  She replied, “what are you talking about, you are not timing this climb are you?”  “Of course”, I replied.  I then realized that although I was pushing my heart rate over 160 all the way, Anne must have some reserve energy left, which really came in handy.  It looked like we could come in under 50 minutes so I took my heart rate up over 170.  We finally reached the top and set a new KOM time for ourselves.   Although we are old, I guess this hill was not too steep for us.

By the time we reached the summit the weather was much better than the first time up.  It was a bit cool but there was some sun.  We headed down to do Kincaid but decided we would only go out to reach Russ and Sheila coming back.  The road on the first part of Kincaid was newly paved and nice to ride on.  The clouds were beautifully set against the blue sky.  We wanted to to a picture but with no one else there, we took pictures of each other and later merged them using Photoshop.

Before we reached the bridge, we met Russ and Sheila coming up the hill.  They stopped to wait as they could see were going to make a U-turn and join them.  When they stopped they noticed they had a cut in their front tire and the tube was starting to protrude through.  Their politeness of stopping to wait was rewarded with them discovering something that could have caused a blow out while they were later descending down Mt. Hamilton road.  Like many of the tandems, they had a spare tire and quickly replaced their front tire.

After deciding to skip Quimby East we were making the short climb up when I saw another snake in the road.  “Did you see the snake?”, I asked.  “No,” Anne replied, “You can see what is in front of you, I can only see a behind“.

Back at the start we loaded our tandem in the car and went over to chat while Russ and Sheila were refueling for Lap 3.

Some new riders were now showing up for the last Lap, which would include Sierra, Caleaveras, Welch Creek and many other options for those who want to prove that no hill is so steep that it makes them old.

I was wondering how many miles and feet of climbing Russ and Sheila would get in.  Maybe not all 18 Billy Goats, but enough that next week’s Terrible Two will not seem so terrible, I bet.

Eastern Sierra Double

| June 8, 2009 10:00 pm
Eastern Sierra Double

by Jon Kaplan

Just back today from Eastern Sierra.  It was definitely an adventure.  Getting there (to Bishop) on Friday took 9 hours – Tioga Pass and Sonora Pass were closed, and Route 4 had chains required.  So we (Patrice Carney, Vince Cummings and I) wound up going up north and over on 88, then down Route 395 153 miles to Bishop.

All week long they were predicting 35-36 degrees and 40% chance of rain around the June Lake area for Sat., the highest elevation on this double.  Then on Friday they were predicting six inches of snow, so we got re-routed.  We were told the new route would have only about 7-8,000 feet of climbing.  The regular route has 10,200.  We wound up with 12,200, PLUS we had 36 degrees and sleet and hail at the top of Death Valley Rd. (Route 168).  What we all thought was going to be a 3,000 foot climb, which would then level out or modestly roll for the next 15 miles up to the south-end turnaround point, turned out to be 3,600 feet of gain and then a 4300 foot drop down the other side to the turnaround point, from where we had to then come back up the 4300 feet we just descended!  That totaled 7900 feet of climbing just in the space of 43 miles.

By the time we did the descent back down toward Route 395, the weather had cleared, it warmed up into the 40s, and the road surface turned back to smooth.  With mostly blue skies and the snow-capped Sierras ahead of us to the west, and an incredibly steady descent with barely any brake-below-30 mph turns, this descent was one of those great, I-won’t-ever-forget-this experiences.

After lunch (back in Bishop on what was a figure-8 course), we then headed north on US 6 into 15-25 mph headwinds, with a bout of rain, for 34 miles to Benton.  And then, we had 7.1 miles with almost 1500 feet of climbing up Route 120 to the north-end checkpoint.  Fortunately, Roger Coombes, Hisako and a train of others showed up a few miles into the northward trek, so we could all take turns pulling into the wind.

The whole route was 7 miles shorter than the regular Eastern Sierra Double that I did two years ago, but it took me 45 minutes longer, putting me into twilight and then total dark about 3 miles out of town.  But I have no complaints.  There were 225 riders signed up; only 160 showed up, and of those only 106 finished.  I was probably among the last 10-15 finishers, but I finished.  A lot of the people who started turned around before the top of the 3600 foot climb; others who went over the top of the climb and down the other side were so violently shaking from the wet and cold that they sagged back; others made it back to Bishop for lunch, but then bagged the second loop.

Out of Patrice Carney, Vince Cummings, and me, Vince was our “the man”.  He finished 2-1/2 hours ahead of me.  He was coming south as I was about 20 miles out of Bishop headed into the headwinds on the north loop.  I still had 63 miles to go, and he was just one hour away from finishing.

Patrice DNF’d.  She saw me and Vince wearing just bike shorts and looking lightly dressed at the start in Bishop where the temp was about 45 at 5:00 in the morning.  So, she dressed and packed light.  Then when we hit the sleet and temperatures dipping down into the 30s, she turned around.  Plus, her asthma had kicked in.  She waited until I got back to Bishop for lunch, then she did the second loop and rode it very strongly.

Between Davis and Eastern Sierra, I wound up doing back-to-back doubles with a temperature spread of 65 degrees between the two.  I’m assuming Grand Tour Triple temperatures will hold somewhere in-between.  Maybe it will hit 100 in the town just before we go up 150 to Ojai, but overall, the weather should be a whole lot more moderate.  I sure hope so.  There are only so many “adventures” one needs to have in a season.

Central Coast Double

| June 3, 2009 3:51 pm

by Deborah Hoag

Central Coast Double (Second Leg of Stage Race, 3 hardest 200 milers) starts and ends at City Park in Paso Robles. The route takes you over the Santa Lucia Range to the Pacific Coast via Adelaida, York Mt., and Santa Rosa Creek into Cambria. The route then takes you from Cambria to the Nacimiente Fergusson (7 mile climb) via HWY1 with 45 miles of nasty head winds. After the Nacimiente Freguson climb with temperatures in the nineties and no tree coverage due to a fire last year, the route drops down into Fort Hunter Liggett for lunch at mile 113. After lunch (3rd rest stop), the route continues through Salinas and Lockwood (4th rest stop) Valley via Quinado, Espinosa, and Tule Canyon. Then the route continues on to Bradley School the 5th rest stop at mile 184. Leaving Bradley, the route then turns up Hare Canyon for the last eight mile climb. From there the route is 27 miles of rollers into Paso Robles.

The Central Coast Double started with 175 riders and finished with 150 riders. For the riders completing the stage, the route was 219 miles with 13,800 feet of climbing. There were eight ACTC members (Barley Forsman, Art Cruz, Ken Emerson, Ehud Yuhjtman, Bernard Cushing, Paul Ries, Barry Schwartz, and Deborah Hoag) who completed the route for the stage race credit. For the riders completing 204 miles for Triple Crown credit, there were four ACTC members (Ken Holloway on a tandem, Gary Boal, Paul Vlasveld, Richard McCaw) who completed it. Cindi Stailger provided sag support.

I went into Central Coast focusing on finishing strong, not blowing up the last 40 miles like I had done on Devil Mountain Double. I had completed this ride in 2008 at 9:39P, however, 9 miles were added on to the ride in 2009. We rolled out at 5:41A with clear skies with great temperatures.

I started off slow. The motor would not get going. By the first rest stop after climbing Santa Rosa Creek, I was feeling warmed up. And who was there at the first stop, Kitty of course. I chased her last year. I told Art as long as we are with Kitty, we will finish. Before, we left the first rest stop, Art took off his jacket. He had his Terrible Two Jersey on. I could not believe it, because I had mine on too. We had done this a few years go together with David Hoag beating on us.

Then it was out to the coast for 45 miles of coastal riding on Highway 1 with some pretty nasty headwinds.  After lunch (that lasted 28 minutes) at mile 113, Art and I headed out on our first detour of the day additional 5 miles of nasty headwinds. As we turned into the head winds, I fell behind Art and end up riding solo, until the next rest stop. At this point, I kept focusing on the pain in my hands. I could not find a comfortable spot for my hands to rest on the bike. Doubles play a lot of head games with your mind. I started focusing on having my best friend being with me. And I was able to buckle down and enjoy the ride. What I remember between the lunch rest stop and the next rest stop is five miles of nasty head winds, then two miles of descending with nasty cross winds (keeping one leg down to stabilize the bike), and then another two miles of nasty head winds again. However, I was in very good spirits.

We reached the fourth rest stop, Lockwood at 6:30P and still had 70 miles to go. Art told me no way, were we going to reach the finish before 12P. I told him yes we were. I had talked Art into doing Devil Mountain Double. And then I talked him doing the Central Coast Double. What are friends for? Now he is looking forward to the Mt Tam Double to earn his Stage Race Jersey and so I am.

It was dark when we reached the fifth rest stop, Bradley School. This would be our last rest stop. We would skip the sixth rest stop. Last year, I skipped the last two rest stops, but felt this was a mistake. So, we fueled up at Bradley, and headed up the last climb, Hare Canyon with a beautiful full moon. After the climb, Art and I treated the last 27 miles of rollers as a Time Trail. Our Bailey Time Trail on Monday evenings had paid off. We past several people and raced into the finish. We came in at 11:51P. I had reached my goal and finished strong. The following weekend, I was able to complete 90 miles in a little over six hours.