Sunday, October 31, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Sunday, October 10, 2010
In completing the Powerhouse Bass Lake Double Century, Dan (LanceOldStrong) and I achieved our goal of riding five double centuries this season and earning the California Triple crown 1000 mile club jersey.
We rode the Solvang, Hemet, Davis, Knoxville and Powerhouse Bass Lake together. I know I couldn’t have done it without him.
We started last winter with the loose notion that, having completed the Davis Double in amazing heat, maybe we should try to do three doubles and earn ourselves the California Triple Crown jersey. That no sooner became a reality — as in a fact for a few minutes — than Dan pointed out that we could do two more and earn an even cooler jersey.
We started this season, if not equals with different strengths, at least on the same cycling page. Even though I trained a lot, Dan focused even more. Throughout the season he became stronger and stronger, and pretty much left me in the dust. Perhaps even more amazing, he’s somehow managed to do it while keeping the support of his family who text him words of encouragement throughout his ride.
This last double just about did me in, yet at the finish Dan said — and looked like — he was good for another 100. He stayed with me the last 60 when he could have easily jetted away. Having him make up weird cycling lyrics to semi-obscure rock tunes from the past may be the only thing that got me over that last climb in the dark. I couldn't ask for a better riding partner.
I’m a reader and a researcher. So is Dan. Yet somehow we made two errors before the ride even started. We thought we’d scouted the ride start. It was a block in front of the hotel at the Veterans' of Foreign Wars Hall on 4th. Little were we aware that going out the back of the hotel put you on 4th by the Clovis Veterans Memorial District Hall, the actual ride start. When we found it the organizers told us we could have checked in the night before, but I never saw it on their site, and neither did Dan. We missed our planned 3:30-ish start and got off at 3:51. Still, we were happy to be rolling.
We were both relieved to have dressed perfectly for the morning cool-not-cold temperatures. The ride itself was, well, dark. So it didn’t really matter where we were for the first 30 miles. We played “What fruit do we smell?” as we rolled through farmlands of grapes, oranges, perhaps grapefruit and who knows what else. Though we couldn’t see beyond our lights, we can report with confidence that the Clovis area is flat, flatter than anywhere I’d ever ridden. It continued like that for a bit over 70 miles. Then the hills started.
Along the way we picked up a rider from Sacramento named Steve, or “Software Steve” to differentiate him from Dan’s other friend Steve. We rode quite a ways with him. Steve was riding a standard double crank with a low rear sprocket of 24 teeth. (Note to non-geeks: That's a really high gear for a steep hill.) I saw him struggling up the hardest section, and later at a rest stop. I hope he finished. That’s one tough gear ratio.
UPDATE: “Software Steve” reports in a comment, below, that he did indeed finish, and will be buying another cassette before he tries something like this again.
Our first climbs were’t bad at all, and the view from up above Pine Flat Lake was a magnificent vista. The next climb up Maxon Road was a taste of things to come, but still not too tough. Burrough Road was everything good about California. We rode near a creek, still alive with running water. With cattle grates eliminating the need for fences, I felt like we were rolling through a cleaner, nicer past. I even stopped to photograph a great, big, road-crossing tarantula.
We missed a turn somehow and added a few extra miles before the Auberry lunch stop. Following lunch was a pleasant climb and at mile 112 a screaming decent. I couldn’t enjoy it knowing we’d have to climb it on the way out. I should have, because it would have been the last thing I’d have enjoyed for the next 2 1/2 hours. This was the hardest, most relentless climb I’ve ever done. I hate stopping, and though I didn’t get off the bike, or push the darn thing, as I saw a lot of others doing, I did have to take a break twice. I tried to smile and make a photo of my sweat-soaked face, but it doesn’t come close to capturing the pain I was feeling. I was as close to not being able to continue as I’ve ever been. I was pretty sure that if I ever got through this ride I’d never get on a bicycle again.
But, as with all climbs, this one eventually ended. After a long break and a spin around Bass Lake we got a long, long decent back past the powerhouse to that climb out I’d been dreading. We completed it in the dark and rolled into the Auberry rest stop.
I was thrilled to find that most of the route was downhill from mile 164. We flew through the darkness.
Clarification: It was downhill and faster than uphill, but I didn't exactly fly the whole way. I had a few rough spots. I felt OK, but just couldn't generate any speed.
I was happy to finish. Even though I kicked it up the last 8 miles or so, Dan had been chomping at the bit for the last 30. He said he felt like he’d be good for another 100, and he looked like it. I was toast.
Dan’s family met him, Tricia met me (with an ice cold beer — I may have been slow, but I was the envy of the room for a while) and I crawled off to bed, with dreams of a new jersey order dancing in my head.
The route was a delight. I love California, and this ride showed off its beauty. I loved riding through the rolling hills and past the oaks and golden fields. What an experience.
I failed to love the haphazard marking of the course. As Dan pointed out, at the Hemet Double they said “We didn’t mark a thing. Pay attention. You are on your own.” Here they marked some corners with hard-to-see paint, but they missed a few too, so we never knew if we should trust them, or if we’d miss an unmarked, or poorly marked, turn. The route sheet was on regular paper in a small font that made it hard to see. Mine disintegrated and I had trouble getting another at the rest stop. A rider who was bailing out gave me his, thank goodness.
Not that the route slip was accurate. Apparently we weren’t alone at being confused because we didn’t know already, like the locals, that Millerton was Hwy 168 and we should turn right, and not go left on Millerton, which was what the sheet said.
As long as I’ve got my bibshorts in a wad, someone should point out they make food grade hoses that don’t flavor the water you serve with a sharp plastic taint. Yech.
But the worst thing on this ride was the waterless water stops. Water stop 1 was out of water when we rolled through, and water stop 2 was just an unstaffed pile of empty plastic litter on the edge of the highway.
Even with these serious flaws, I enjoyed the ride, and I’m pleased beyond words that I finished. As one of my favorite saying goes, “It’s not how well the bear dances, but that the bear dances at all.” Now he’ll be dancing in a California Triple Crown 1000 mile club jersey, stumbling and smiling as he does.
Endnote: Even though I swore never to ride again, Tricia had me out on a short recovery ride the next morning. Oh well.
Click for much larger version
Monday, October 04, 2010
Carlos Gonzalez is now with the SF Chronicle, but a zillion years ago I worked with him at the Ledger Dispatch (back when it was a real newspaper.) He was at the Robert I. Schroeder Pedestrian and Bike Bridge opening and sent me this swell photo. Hey! That's George Miller clapping as I ride by. Thanks Carlos.
Sunday, October 03, 2010
Tricia and I got to be "extras" in the grand opening of the Robert I. Schroeder Pedestrian and Bike Bridge over Treat Blvd. by the Pleasant Hill BART station in Walnut Creek. We'd responded to a note from the East Bay Bicycle Coalition looking for interested folks, and we were picked. I don't think there was much competition.
I grew up a block away from where the bridge is now and remember walking home from Walnut Creek Elementary and Intermediate along the tracks that are now part of the Iron Horse Trial, so it was really kind of neat to get to be there for this event.
They had us ride to the top and wait while politicos made speeches, then roll down when they cut the ribbon. It was great because we couldn't hear them yammering; we just chatted with the other extras and enjoyed being on a beautiful bridge.
After the event we went for a ride up Diablo. Part way up a cyclist yelled to us "Bike Forums! Margaret Thatcher!" I looked at Tricia and wondered "Margaret Thatcher? Huh....??" Later that day there was a post on bikeforums.net from "nthach," who recognised our jerseys and was telling us his name as he went by. Mystery solved.
On our way back stopped at a Greek restaurant by Sports Basement for a bite. Sitting outside a young man came by and introduced himself as "Gui" and asked "Curtis?" He'd recognized us because "I follow your blog." I'm always amazed to find anyone reads this. It makes me think maybe I should pay more attention to what I write.
Still, internet fame, where is thy monetary reward? I await you.