Tag Archives: cycling

Furnace Creek 508 ride report: Stage 3, the queen stage

Nancy Yu’s blog has a first person ride report for this stage.

Stage 3, with the Trona bump and Towne’s pass, is the actual queen stage, topping out with an elevation of 5000 feet on Townes Pass.  Nancy and Tim rode this stage and were outrageously strong on Townes pass, a 3800 feet climb with some stiff bits.  Per the 508 webpage this 100 mile stage has 7538 feet of climbing and Nancy and Tim cranked out this century in 6 hrs and 15 minutes.

Since this stage was ridden in complete darkness, we were required by 508 rules to do a direct follow of our riders with the follow car.  During the day, we are allowed to provide leap frog support with the car.  New national regulations have now made direct-follow support cars for bicycles illegal in national parks without a special permit, a permit which involves a 3 month study/review period.  The law is new and AdventureCORPS was not given enough time to request a special permit and make a study regarding impact of the follow cars, so we were grandfathered in for this year and this year only.  (My version of this story lacks any firsthand knowledge, is likely to contain some errors, and is definitely not the entire story.)  However, the Death Valley National Park was concerned about the dangers of having slow-moving follow cars going up Townes Pass and expressed their concern to Kostman.  As a result, this year, the follow cars were given permission to leap frog their riders on the climb up Townes in order to find a spot to pull over and allow other traffic to more easily pass. I am not sure why the park was more concerned this year than on previous years, but they were.  We directly followed Tim and Nancy the entire climb, except for one quick stop near the top.  The only cars were saw on the climb were other follow cars and the one ranger who was monitoring the event.

Last year a rider crashed on the descent down Townes and needed to be transported out by ambulance.  In the end she was ok, but the ambulance had to come from far away and involved a lot of coordination.  As part of this year’s permit, Kostman was required to hire an ambulance and have it stationed in Stovepipe Wells, near the base of Townes.  This ambulance would be able to help any rider on Townes pass or in Death Valley.  I am not sure how Kostman feels about the extra ambulance, but I was glad of its presence.  Death Valley always feels so isolated.

The tandem 4x teams are the only teams allowed 2 vehicles, since we are basically a traveling circus with 8 riders and 4 silly long bikes.  Jason and I were in the extra vehicle for the start of this stage.  We jumped ahead to before the climb up Townes and waited for the crew.  I liked this part of the race.  The start of Townes pass was in the distance and we could see a string of red lights, all other 508 people slowly climbing the pass in complete darkness. I tried to get pictures of the string of lights in the distance going up Townes, but the pictures, taken with my pocket camera did not capture the situation’s coolness.    We were able to stand around and discuss stars, the milky way, and the Pleiades, and why are rods only on the side of the retina?

We did a vehicle swap and Jason and I ended up in Willy’s van, the follow vehicle, with Willy driving.  Driving behind Nancy and Tim was great; they just went up Townes like it was nothing.  They conquered that hill and just being there to see them and witness their ride was a treat.

Nancy and Tim as they would have looked on Townes Pass, had they done it during the day and had the pass been flatter

The run into Furnace Creek from the Scottie’s Castle turn-off has always seemed disappointingly long.  It should be flat and easy, but instead I feel like that particular leg is interminable.  I have done it a few times as part of the AdventureCORPS Death Valley events.  However, it doesn’t seem long at all when done in an air-conditioned car, even when done at bike speed (or at least at Tim and Nancy bike speed).

We got to Furnace Creek.  Tim and Nancy dismounted, Julie and Steve mounted, Tim forgot to strap down the back tandem wheel onto the truck, Tim lost his helmet, and we were OFF to the next stage.

Stage 3, Trona to Furnace Creek. Stolen from the AdventureCORPS site. Map by Doug Dog Sloan.

Furnace Creek 508 ride report: Before the ride

Why?

Totems!!!

Who wouldn’t want to do a race where you get to pick a totem that’s then yours for life?  I think that Chris Kostman is simply a brilliant man.

The Furnace Creek 508 is a five hundred and eight mile bicycle race across the desert, through Death Valley.  The race is very popular.  (Popular, not in a Levi Leipheimer-Gran Fondo sort of way, but in a 508 mile race across the desert sort of way.)  It is also quite expensive, not just because of the race fees, but because of gas, lodging etc in such a remote location.  I am not complaining about the costs, just pointing out the costs of a race that has been going on for over twenty years, is very popular (this year’s race had 234 racers and a sundry crew) and involves riding five hundred and eight miles across the desert.

Totems.

Who cares how expensive it is?  You get a freaking totem. Who cares if it involves driving a car at cycling speed for five hundred and eight miles across the desert?  Totems are cool.

The other brilliant part of the 508 is that you can do it as a relay.  Signing up for a five hundred and eight mile race across the desert as a soloist is something that only really strong and fast people do.  Regular cyclists don’t do things like that.  However, most cyclists can do 1/4 of five hundred and eight miles.  The relays are a hook.  A bit of a taste and then people want to try for the whole shebang.

Not only do you get your own totem that you can keep for life, you can also be inducted into the 508 hall of fame after 5 events.  Willy just completed his 4th 508: once as a soloist, once as a two man relay, once as a two tandem relay, and now once as a 4 tandem relay.  He is definitely going to do one more event just to get into the Hall of Fame.  In order to be inducted into the California Triple Crown (CTC) Hall of Fame, one needs to complete 50 doubles.  50.  At my rate of double riding, for me to get into the CTC, I am going to need to find me some strapping young man to pull me around on a tandem as I pedal into my dotage.  5 events is awfully tempting and who on earth would want to do all 5 events as a soloist?  (There is an answer for this question.  You can look it up.)  You would want to do some of the events as a relay and then you would be looking for fresh blood and hooking a whole new set of cyclist into the 508 web.

Which is how Jason and I got involved in the 508.

I love riding in the desert.  Jason and I have done the Death Valley century/double a few times and I love riding there.  I ride along and can see forever.  The roads warp and warble and disappear into points on the horizon.  The land is vast and open.  Geology is on display like a textbook.  Mountain ranges miles and miles away seem close enough to touch.  It feels surreal and other-worldly.   I sign up for the Chris Kostman’s Death Valley double every few years, after the terribleness of the 9 hour drive has been forgotten, but the memory of the desert’s beauty still lingers.

I love these views of the road disappearing into the horizon.

When Willy mentioned the tandem relay, it sounded like a great idea.  We would be involved in this cool race in the desert with a lot of people we know.  It would be pretty and it would not be that hard, since 508 divided by 4 is not that much.  Not until much closer to the race did I actually think out the situation.  While the cycling would be fun, most of the ride would be done in a car, traveling at bike speed across the desert and while I like cycling in the desert, I cannot say, in all honesty, that I like driving across the desert.  And where would I get to pee?

When I told MarkN about my plans to do the 508 as a relay, his reply was:

I have to admit the 508 sounds awful but that is just me. Not my cup of tea at all. I have heard that some people like that sort of thing though.  … I think it would be fun to get 4 tandem teams together in Death Valley and ride 60 to 80 miles in the daytime together. Then go to the hotel for drinks and dinner. Maybe a hot tub soak. Repeat the next day. I’m just saying.

Mark is awfully fond of hot tubs, but I still think that he might be onto something.

The driving turned out to be fine.  Driving wasn’t as nice as riding, but it was sort of fun to drive along slowly across the desert and stare at the horizon.

Lodging

Willy wrote to us in March and told us to get hotel reservations at the start and finish sites.  He warned that the rooms would be hard to come by as the event approached.   Jason and I got a room at the start host hotel, but were unable to get a room at the finish host hotel and so got a room at the Motel 6, which Willy had mentioned in his email.  Nancy was really on the ball and managed to snag a room at the finish hotel.

On August 30th, having completely forgotten about his March email, Willy wrote to us again and suggested that we should all get rooms.  He hadn’t looked into getting rooms yet, and was hoping that rooms were still available.  Nancy and Jason replied that we had already reserved rooms. Willy, Steve and Tim were unable to get rooms at the start hotel, but they decided to get rooms at the Motel 6 for the finish since Jason and I were booked there (on Willy’s suggestion).

That motel 6 was pretty much a dump.  When we got to the motel, Willy told us that he would never have stayed there, except that we had already gotten rooms there and he decided to be a team player and book his room there, too.  We had only stayed there on his suggestion, of course, but that was from an email he had long forgotten.  The Motel 6 wasn’t really that bad.  It didn’t have bed bugs, roaches or obvious scurrying rodentia and it was really, really cheap.  I haven’t stayed in a room this cheap in over 15 years.  Our room was dinky and smelled faintly of urine and cigarette smoke, but only faintly.  All in all the room was great; it was cheap, it had no bed bugs or roaches and you acclimated to the smell in a matter of minutes.

Nancy showed up at the finish hotel, to discover that her reservation was for a different day. After a few calls, Deb was able to find a room in town for them.  Their room, apparently, did not smell of smoke and urine, but it was more expensive.

The start host hotel, the Hyatt Regency in Valencia, was fantastic.  The rooms were reasonably priced and very, very nice.

Who?

  • Me and Jason
  • Tim and Nancy
  • Steve and Julie
  • Deb and Willy

Jason, Me, Julie, Steve, Deb, Willy, Nancy, Tim. Photo by Ron Jones from the AdventureCORPS site

We rode under the totem Gray Goose, which is a great totem, since it is a combination of Julie’s and Steve’s last names and they are interested in doing the ride as a solo tandem team or a 2-man relay.

Floyd Landis had been signed up as part of a 2-man team and people were somewhat relieved that he was not able to come, so that the attention would be back on us regular folks.

Deb and Willy have ridden the tandem together quite a bit and they did last year’s 508 as a 2 tandem relay with Steve and Julie.  They were our honored veterans.  Jason, Tim, Nancy and I were the clueless rookies.  Jason and I have ridden quite a bit together, though we don’t ride as much as we used to do.  Nancy has ridden tandems on numerous occasions with various captains, though she, herself, does not own a tandem.  Tim was the odd duck.  The two stages of the 508 were his 4th and 5th rides on a tandem.  He signed up for this event, having never ridden a tandem at all.  He signed up to this event with the understanding that he would buy a tandem in order to do it.  I know couples who have been married for years, but are unwilling to get a tandem, so worried that they might not like it and he bought one, because he was riding with Willy on a brevet one lovely day and Willy told him about the tandem relay idea and Tim thought it sounded fun.  He agreed on the spot to sign up, buy a tandem and ride with Nancy.  Who does that?

I really liked Tim.

Nancy’s willingness to ride a tandem with someone she did not really know is remarkable, too.  All in all, the team was great, except for me, who has a slight tendency for baseline crankiness (especially when hungry and I missed a couple of meals on this weekend due to ride timing).  No one got upset or seemed stressed out and everything went smoothly.

Steve made a rack so he could carry three tandems on his truck.  Willy has a van decked out from previous 508 events for supporting this type of event.  Willy was on one of the support teams that crewed for Joan Deitchman this year in RAAM.  Willy is of the opinion that you can only plan so much for these events.  His main plan is to be flexible, because you never really know what is going to happen.

Willy drove Tim, Deb, and Nancy down to Valencia, but between the four of them, they failed to adequately clamp down the skewer on Tim’s brand-new tandem and the tandem fell over on the roof as they drove down Interstate 5.  Fortunately, it did not fall off the roof or into some other unsuspecting driver’s window.  They stopped, put the tandem back into place, and everything was fine.

Pre Race

Jason and I arrived at the start hotel on Thursday evening, got nice and settled and then went for a nice ride on Friday morning.  We wanted to get there early, so we would be all settled and comfortable before registration on Friday, which started at 11 am and ended at 4 pm.  Willy, Nancy, Deb and Tim arrived in time to finish registration 3 minutes before 4.

Steve designed and made a rack for his pick-up truck to carry the three extra tandems. Steve and Tim on the right

Julie and Steve to the left and me, sitting on Steve and Julie’s truck dressed as a yellowjacket

Nancy and Willy

Jason and I did get a very nice ride in on Friday morning and I was very happy that we had arrived early.  Valencia was a bit odd, but we were able to ride the first bit of stage one, going through San Francisquito Canyon, which was very pretty and interesting.

San Francisquito canyon ride before the ride

See Nancy Yu’s blog for the full Gray Goose Tandem 4x race report.

Click here for Nancy Yu’s video of the weekend.

OYJ Petaluma ride report: Cyclist versus car

Since the hospital ER bays are separated only by curtains, we could clearly hear the ER doctor telling the man’s family that they had been doing compressions on the man for 25 minutes and had given him meds.  The doctor explained that they were running out of things that they could do and that it didn’t look good.

Jason and I were doing great, however.  I had had my xrays and was feeling much better.  We were pretty sure that the xrays would be clear and we were really just waiting to be released by the doctor.  Despite the dire situation occurring nearby, the doctor soon came and released me.  He warned me that my right shoulder would probably take longer to heal than I expected and that I might need some physical therapy.  I didn’t really believe him.  My shoulder hurt a little, but it did not seem that bad.  When we left, they were giving the cardiac arrest patient his third dose of epi as his family watched on.

Garmin trace showing ambulance trip

Of course, I hadn’t turned off my Garmin when I crashed.  I didn’t even know what had happened to my bike, but they had put it into the ambulance with me and the Garmin dutifully recorded the trip to the Petaluma Valley Hospital.

The OYJ (Oakland Yellowjackets) Petaluma ride is a great ride.  It goes over Joy Road and climbs the east side of the Coleman Valley Road wall.  The route then goes up the coast to Jenner, before returning along River Road and Bohemian Highway.  The official route has a bunch of climbing at the end, but we decided to cut out the final climbing and take the flatter way home.  Often on this ride, people cut out the jaunt up to Jenner and eat in Monte Rio instead.  I love Jenner and I wanted to go to the mouth of the Russian river to look at the seals.

To Jenner via Joy and Coleman

Don Mitchell and Jim Swarzman died in separate incidents after having been hit by cars.  Their deaths were awful.  Neither death should have happened at all.  There was absolutely no excuse for either incident.  I could go on and on, but the incidents were too upsetting.

Jack Holmgren, tired of having his friends killed, has embarked on a safety and high visibility crusade.  As part of this crusade, he gives lectures on how to be visible while you are cycling.  He also organized a mass buying of a high visibility neon-orange, day-glow vest with reflective tape on it.  In addition to the reflective tape already on the vest, Jack sewed large reflective tape on to the bottom of each vest.  When you lean down, the very reflective orange tape will still be visible.  “Moonbeams,” he called them.  People donated money in Don’s and Jim’s memories to Jack for him to buy the reflective tape.   I had bought one of these highly reflective vests with the Jack Moonbeam treatment and had been wearing the vest on my commutes.  Saturday’s ride was the first time I wore it on a regular ride.  Jack says that when cyclists are hit by cars, the car drivers say “I didn’t see him (or her).”  He argues that we owe it to Don Mitchell’s and Jim Swarzman’s memories to be as visible as possible.

Mavic vest without the special Jack Moonbeam treatment.

As I lied on the ground with a woman (an off duty nurse) holding my head to prevent me from moving, I could hear the woman who had cut me off, saying over and over that she hadn’t seen me.  At the time, I was happy that she was there.  I was happy that she had stopped and had not left the scene.  I was happy that she was upset that I was hurt.  Alexis told me later that she had been angry at the woman for going on and on about not seeing me as I lay there in my bright orange vest.

Moreover, I was happy that I was not seriously injured.  When the car had cut me off, I had not been able to see a way out.  I thought that this was it- this was going to be my bad accident and it was going to hurt a lot.   However, I was able to slow down the bike a lot more than I thought I would be able to and while my right arm hurt some, I knew that I was going to be ok.

The incident was not only witnessed by my husband and my friends, it was witnessed by an off duty deputy.  There were two off duty nurses at the scene.  I do not know how they could have gotten to me so fast.  As far as I can discern, I collided with the car and instantly this woman was there holding my head and telling me not to move.  The EMTs arrived immediately.  The policeman (David Gilman) who came and talked to me in the ER was very nice and helpful.  The woman who hit me did not leave.  She was loud and upset and she called 911.  The nurses at the ER were nice and the doctor was unhurried, nice and informative.  The XRay tech was great, very friendly and he made me very relaxed. Everyone at the Petaluma Valley Hospital was great.  Next time I crash, I want to do it in Petaluma.  As Jason drove home, he remarked about how great everyone was and that we should move there.

On Saturday evening, I was on a bit of a high.   I was so relieved that I had not been worse hurt.  I have moved past that stage and am currently a little annoyed that I cannot lift my right arm.  It does not hurt much, but the arm is weak and it lacks mobility.

I am also very upset that the vest made with “Moonbeam” reflective tape bought with donations made in Jim’s and Don’s memories still did not prevent me from getting in this type of incident.  I would not have been as upset if I had been wearing another high-vis item, but the wearing of this particular vest for the first time on a ride and still getting hit in this manner makes me unreasonably upset.

I stole this picture from Willy’s facebook site. It shows Willy (wearing the hat) and Don Mitchell.

Picture stolen from Chris Kostman of AdventureCorp

I am glad we went to Jenner.  I love Jenner.  The cafe is great.  Jason and I split a chicken sandwich, but not any ordinary chicken sandwich.  It was a chicken sandwich on focaccia bread with red pepper compote.  It was sooo yummy.  We  also split a hot chocolate to ward against the lingering fog and we sat outside watching the wildlife on the Russian river through a glass screen that protected us from the wind.  We listened to live music; a reggae singer was preforming.  It was one of those perfect moments that occur regularly on bike rides.  All the senses are delighted, you are surrounded by friends, and you sit there and think about how lucky you are.

After lunch, we rode up to see the mouth of the Russian river.  We saw a bunch of seals and two otters and that was nice, too.

Part 2: Santa Rosa Double Trouble

Continuation of the Santa Rosa Double Trouble ride report

Stores

I love the little stores that make these rides possible.  Every time I am in one, I just want to tell them how happy I am that they are there, selling me junk food and water and providing a bathroom.  I usually resist, except at the Junction, where my normal laconic nature is over run by my relief to be sitting in air conditioning before a plate of food.  “Thank you for being here,” I yell at the woman who works there.  She must think me nuts, but I love these places.   My favorite places in the world for food are:

  • The Junction at the corner of Mines, San Antonio, and Del Puerto roads.
  • Spanish Flat near Lake Beryessa (yummy yummy panini)
  • The Stewart’s Point store
  • Raymond’s bakery in Cazadero (my favorite bakery)
  • The Tomales bakery (yum)
  • The Jimtown store (opens at 0730 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday! best grilled eggplant sandwich I have ever eaten)
  • The Valley Ford store
  • Roberts Store in Woodside (has anything you could want)
  • Steady Eddys cafe in Winters

I was very happy to be able to buy water at the Sanel Valley Market before the 18 mile trek over and down Hopland grade in the heat.  Sanel Valley Market, though I am very happy for its presence in the world, will never make it onto my list of favorite places, but the Kelseyville Soda Bay Market may.  I loved this place.  It was really small, but seemed to have a little of everything and it was a hub of activity.  Two people worked there and other people seemed to be coming by mostly to visit.  One rather gregarious, good natured man talked at length to a woman about music, places he has played, places he will play, music he has written, people he has written music with, and what wonderful souls they had.  The woman, though less loquacious, was also quite interested in music and had provided the shop with some of its music memorabilia.  Johnny Lee Hooker had had a large impact on both of their lives.  The loquacious man offered to me, without prompting, the location of the bathroom and told me that I was free to use it.  They questioned me about my ride and told me about the other riders who had gone by earlier.  A woman in the clothing department noted that one of the dresses had fallen on the floor, getting dirty.  The dress definitely needed some dusting off and the woman wanted to know if she could get a discount.  The loquacious man declined to offer a discount, but did go back and help her pick herself out a dress, which at full price was $19.  I would have described the dress as more of a negligee.  It wasn’t transparent, but it was rather short, had strappy sleeves and a very low neckline with an oddly padded bust. However, they called it a dress and the woman thought $19 too good of a deal to pass up for such a nice dress, so she bought it.  I bought water, chocolate milk, and a hard-boiled egg and was about as happy and content as I had been all day.  I love eggs.

The area along Clear Lake was very pretty, but I had a hard time taking pictures. The road had no shoulder and I did not feel safe stopping at many locations. The areas with turnouts and no cars were not necessarily the most photogenic.

Google apparently does not know all

Check out that blank spot between 78-89 on the topography map.

That area couldn’t be that bad, its topography isn’t even noticed by google and google knows everything.  That section was tough.  Up, down, UP, down, UP, down, UP!  On one of the ups, I wasn’t able to down shift gears fast enough (I was slightly distracted by a fast passing car) and I ended making a u-turn and stopping to prevent myself from falling as I bogged down in too tall a gear.  It was pretty, but Soda Bay road and Point Lakeview road were tougher than expected.

Point Lakeview Road

I don’t like 29.  It has a shoulder.  It does not really have much climbing.  It should be fine, but I grew tired of the constant stream and noise of fast moving traffic.

I ran out of water about 12 miles from the end.  I knew I would run out of water, but I could not stand the idea of adding any additional mileage by going a couple of blocks into Middletown to buy water.  I am an idiot and I knew I was being stupid.

Party in Pope Valley

The Santa Rosa cycling club is really like no other club.  They throw ridiculously well supported events for alomst no cost to the participants.  There is no way our entry fee pays for that support.  The Santa Rosa club owns a lot of supplies that they use for their two large organized rides (the Wine Country Century and the Terrible Two), but they also have a lot of gear for the various trips and tours they do.  We were staying at the Pope Valley Farm center, which had a large room for sleeping and a couple of bathrooms.  Bob had set up an outdoor shower in the back.  He had a large overhead light (a street lamp, really) for outdoors lighting, a projection screen for showing a multitude of concert music videos, and a ton of yummy food.  They brought cookers and chafing dishes and everything was just over the top and great.  Anything you could want to drink, they had.  He played music videos  on the screen all night.  Should I say that again?  He explained that he was preparing for Nascar, an explanation that shed no light on the situation, as far as I was concerned.  Isn’t Nascar a series of a type of car racing.  What does that have to do with an outside wifi network, a large projection screen, music videos, an outside stereo system, wine, beer, sodas, yummy abundant food, and a lovely campfire?  I am not sure, but apparently we were practice.

I became very sleepy and was disappointed to feel compelled to leave the party and go to bed.  I missed most of the 600k people.  The 600k people were serious and in a completely different state of mind than us 200k slackers.

I met a bunch of people at the party in Pope Valley, but I have forgotten most everyone’s names.  Everyone was very nice and I had a great time.

Party in Pope Valley.   Brian, Susan, Andreas, Dave, Paul (hidden) Bob

Denis, Tina, Brian, Susan

I like this picture of me; it sums up the weekend. I had a couple of annoying moments, but I was happy every minute of the two days.  Me, Peter, Firouzeh (?)

The next day, using the danger of the Hopland descent as an excuse, I returned a shorter route.  I went over Ink Grade to Calistoga (yummy yummy eggs over-easy) and then up to Pine Flat road.  I climbed Pine Flat to the guardrail and then returned to Santa Rosa.  I love the 7 mile climb to the guardrail on Pine Flat, with its huge vistas in all directions.  After the guardrail, Pine Flat is stupid.

Food galore awaited us at the hotel room at the end of the ride.  yum

Useless stats

  •  19 600k riders started, 4 DNFs and the rest finished.
  • 12 Double Trouble starters.  8-9DNFs!
  • 1 (Garth) rode the Double Trouble straight through as a 400K.
  • Number of eggs eaten by me: 5
  • Number of pictures taken by me: 114

Day one:

  • distance= 127.3 miles
  • avg moving speed=12.7 mph
  • total time=10:46:46 (yay! beat 11 hours)
  • ride time=09:58:73

Day two:

  • distance=74 miles
  • avg moving speed=11.3 mph
  • total time=7:28
  • ride time=6:30

Society page

I met Barley and Susan Forsman, who are quite famous in these circles.  Omar doing his first brevets, did both 200ks.  He also spent much of the evening test riding Volagis, because the 200k wasn’t quite long enough.  Tina Forsman was also signed up to do the 200ks.   Robert Choi, Susan and Barley’s partner in Volagi cycles, was the first rider into the Pope Valley on the return.  Graham Pollock was the second rider.  I saw Linda Bott and Peg Miller on their way out.  Clyde Butt fought nausea valiantly and beat me in to the finish.  Firouzeh and Susan Noble worked the Pope Valley stop.  Firouzeh and Dave took the short way back from Pope Valley, but stopped at a winery for a picnic and wine tasting and just beat me back in.  Michael McGuire worked the Blue Lake stop. Bob Redmond organized the whole thing, did not sleep, and left his projection screen in Pope Valley.

View from guardrail on Pine Flat Road

Part 1: 2012 Santa Rosa Double Trouble

I was pleased by the sight of about 6 hot air balloons floating above wine country as I rode along Faught a little after 7 am. I was amazed that anyone would get up so early to ride in a balloon.

“My ride was going good until the nausea set in,” Clyde Butt said to no one in particular as we all meandered around the Pope Valley Farm center front yard trying to figure out how to feed ourselves. That sentence is a good synopsis of a lot of long rides.  Clyde had done the first 200 miles in 13 hours, but was eventually overwhelmed by nausea and stuck on the side of the road over a guardrail in the dark.  It was a little after 6 am on Sunday and he was at the mile 230 Pope Valley rest stop preparing to leave.  He had completed the first 200 miles by 7 pm the night before, but after that had had a rough night and a very difficult 30 miles.  He looked pretty good at this point-just a little tired and dazed.

My ride, on the other hand, was going quite well.  A few weeks ago, Bob Redmond, in a bit of a panic at the small number of registered 600k riders, decided to add the Double Trouble rides to the 600k weekend event.  While the 600k people would start at 6 am on Saturday and struggle through 375 miles by Sunday night.  The Double Trouble people, using some of the 600k route, would do 200k on Saturday; sleep and party in Pope Valley, trying not to make fun of the silly 600k riders; and then return to Santa Rosa by retracing our outbound route.  The obvious problem with this scheme is that Pope Valley is only about 35-40 miles away from Santa Rosa.  The next day most of the Double Trouble folks shortened the route for the return.  In order to do a 600k you need to be a little blind to other options like short-cuts and cabs.  The 600k-ers were on a mission and were focused, while also seeming slightly confused.  They seemed completely unaware at how close they actually were to the finish as they headed out back north in the opposite direction to home.

Three of the 600k riders were from Orange county and completely unused to hills.  One of the Orange County guys told me that the first 200k of this ride was the hilliest 200k he had ever done.  When they were told that they were only 35-40 miles from the start, they perked right up.  “You mean I can stay the night here and then just ride 35 miles back in the morning?”  The three DNFed on the spot and settled in to the Pope Valley party.  They had come up to the area with the hope of seeing new beautiful landscape and they certainly had succeeded on that goal.

Route for The Santa Rosa Double Trouble

The first day, I did the prescribed route, which starts in Santa Rosa, goes up Chalk hill, 128, Dutchner Creek, Cloverdale, north on 101, Hopland Grade, along the south side of Clear lake, 29 from Lower lake to Middletown and then Butts Canyon to Pope Valley.  Either you know what these words mean or you don’t. The only thing that matters is that Hopland grade is long and beautiful, that the road along Clear Lake is much harder than expected, and that 29 is annoying (completely expected).

If you ride slowly enough, Chalk Hill Road is easy.

Ride’s beginning

I am such an unsociable crank.  The start for the 200k was at 7 am, which meant I was able to sleep until 0430 and I was able to have breakfast.  Brilliant.  I love later starts.  0430 is almost verging on a perhaps, slightly reasonable time to get up.  It is too early, but it, at least, does not feel like the previous day.  A couple of weeks ago, in order to make the Davis start, I got up at 3 am, but did not have breakfast, since even with a 3 am wake-up call, I still did not have enough time to eat before driving to the start.  (My intestines hate me.  Honestly, they straight up hate me.  Biking wreaks havoc with the digestion system anyway and the earlier starts just ensure that no matter what I plan to eat, I’m screwed from the very start.)  However, Bob Redmond, in a stroke of genius, chose 7 am to start the 200k.

Liz was questioning Bob at the start about with whom she should ride.  Bob, seeing me, said “Let me introduce you to Lisa.”  I, being the crank that I am, answered, “I prefer to ride alone.”  Both Liz and Bob seemed pretty appalled by the answer, but I did want to ride alone.  I wanted to go at my own pace, taking pictures and I was certain that Liz was too fast for me.  At some point, when talking about pace, I told them that I was planning on taking 11 hours, which seemed to relieve me of having any obligation of riding with anyone else, since everyone was planning on a faster 200k than that.  I felt slightly bad for my answer, though, and at the end, Susan Forsman, with her voice dripping with sympathy, queried me about why had I ridden all by myself.  I assured her that I like riding alone, but occasionally I do feel like a freak for doing so.

Red Winery Road

101 Northbound

I like riding south on 101 from Hopland to above Cloverdale.  The pavement is smooth and the shoulder wide.  It is downhill and usually has a tailwind.  It is also gorgeous.  I mean just beautiful.  A lovely river-like thing runs along the west side of the highway and the highway runs within a valley, hills to both sides.  -And you are flying.  Wind at your back, slight down-slope, smooth pavement.  I feel like I belong on a highway, I am going so fast.  Wheeeeeeee!

101 northbound, however, the route I took Saturday, lacks many of these fine qualities.  I still think the road pretty but I can’t see the river from this side. I have a bit of a headwind and I am going slightly uphill, so I am not suffering from the delusion that I belong there.  Instead, I feel a tad slow.  At one point, due to some stupid drainage issue, the shoulder actually disappeared, forcing me out into the lane of traffic.  I was on the edge of the lane, but I didn’t want to share the lane with traffic doing 70.  This section was short, but I was still passed by cars while riding here.  A little later, still due to the same drainage issue, the shoulder was completely covered with algae-filled standing water.  I was afraid that the algae-covered wet asphalt would be slippery and didn’t want to ride through this section, but I really didn’t want to go back out into the lane of traffic on 101.  I could see a few bike tracks through the algae, but no body imprints, so I figured no one had fallen and I rode through.

On 101, a large electronic sign warned that 175, the road through Hopland grade, would be closed on Mon-Wed, Jun 4-6 for paving.  I noted that this date did not affect us and dismissed the notification as irrelevant.

Reminder not to go too fast on 101

The view was pretty, but the skid marks left by a semi with locked up wheels were a little daunting

Hopland Grade

Thus, the road surface, despite the notification, came as a surprise to me.  175 was chewed up in preparation for the impending paving.  At first, I thought it was not that bad.  I imagined myself on pave and fancied myself in Belgium. After about 1/2 of a mile, I found it very annoying and kept thinking it could stop anytime now.  After about a mile, I was struck (and I mean struck, like struck hard) with the idea that this could go on for a while.  11 miles.  It went on for 11 miles and not just any 11 miles, 11 miles up Hopland grade, so 11 SLOW miles.  It was not really that bad, but I was lucky that I had ridden my very comfortable, bump and pothole-eating, cushioning-steel-forked Rex, instead of my nervous, notice a pea under 40 mattresses, aluminum Cannondale, that drinks expresso every morning to start its day.

The constant bumpiness from the grading done to the pavement made the climbing slow.  My tire tended to slip when I stood, from the lack of traction due to the rough surface.  The sides of the road, in addition to the roughness, had gravel, which made them a little more slick than I liked.  The cars weren’t giving me a lot of room, which I did not understand.  They could certainly see that the road conditions were bad and, even in the plush ride of a car, you can feel the roughness of the road.  Why weren’t they giving me more consideration?  Upon complaining about them at home, Jason pointed out that they were likely unhappy with the road conditions, too, and did not have any consideration left for me.  I felt bad for the motorcyclists; they must have had a rough ride.

I was quite disappointed when the pavement continued to be rough after the county line.

The rough pavement only lasted a little bit beyond the top, but that small patch of the descent was horrible.  I was a few feet into the descent, when I decided that the scenery was pretty and wanted its picture taken.  I love the views along Hopland grade.  I restarted the descent and made it past one corner, before deciding that another picture really needed taking.  The descending really was terrible.  I was having a hard time reaching the brakes, because of how much I wanted to grip the handlebars.  My arms were shaking so much I felt like I could not really see them.  I restarted and made it a few more yards, before being, yet again, overwhelmed by the desire to take a picture.  This stop, my third, was my last for the descent.  The pavement became normal and the rest of the descent was ok.  I am happy for the pictures.

The next day my hands seemed slightly bruised and hurt slightly as I rode, but they weren’t bad.  My right has a slight bruise on the base of the palm, but I have no swelling and no neuropathy.  I have only done one 600k, but my palms were swollen and red on day 2 of that ride and the neuropathy lasted 5 months.  I am wary of possible damage to my hands on these long rides, but the only real damage from this weekend’s ride was a lost bar end plug.  (My friend James can go on at length about the bodily damage caused by missing bar end plugs, so, fearing his wrath, I went to the wonderful Cycle Sports today and replaced the plug.)

Hopland grade. 11 miles of road prepared for repaving.

Looking west as I climbed the west side of Hopland Grade

View north towards Clear lake from just beyond the top of Hopland Grade. I was avoiding the descent by taking pictures.

I took 114 pictures. Really, you should consider yourself lucky that these are the only ones being shown.

To be continued

Davis Double Ride Report

I have done Davis Double once before and the experience was miserable.  Beyond hot.  Too hot.  Felt horrid at the end- heat exhaustion-hot.  Spent the day pulling over to the side of the road to cool down under trees, trying not to fry my brain- hot.  Until yesterday, I haven’t done it since and I was not going to start this year’s ride if temps were predicted above 100, but the predictions were for mildly hot conditions, so I did it.

My facebook staus for the ride was: ” Cardiac was lovely, Honey was ok, Cobb was hard, and Resurrection was soul-sapping. I think that the Davis Double is worth doing just for the joy of reaching the rest stop at the top of Resurrection.”  Reaching the top of Resurrection is such a fabulous feeling.  I was overwhelmed with a sense of joy for having reached it.  The joy was probably mostly from the relief of the pain from climbing resurrection.   Resurrection is just a harsh climb.  It is hot and exposed and a slightly miserable experience.  Yesterday wasn’t too hot and we had a occasional cooling breeze, which really should have made for nice conditions.  However, Resurrection is still hard, even when it really isn’t overly hot.  I think that the expanse of open wide road road, being on a highway, makes the grade appear less than it is.  I can still feel the grade in my legs and the hot sun on my back, even with the occasional cooling breeze.

I spent the first 42 miles in pacelines, which is unusual for me on doubles.  I don’t really like pacelines on long rides.  My average speed for those 42 miles was 20.7 miles, a record for me.  Jason and I haven’t even gone that fast on the tandem for 42 consecutive miles.  I skipped the first rest stop in order to stay in the group and did not stop until mile 53 at rest stop two.  I was in a sketchy paceline at the very beginning of the ride and the big guy I was behind and I jumped a paceline lead by two tandems. We went from doing 21 to doing 27.  That paceline slowed, but it remained too fast for me.  I had someone behind me, so I was anxious about being dropped and causing him to be dropped, too.  I felt much better when the wheel (big guy) I was following fell off and I turned around and realized that the guy on my wheel was long gone, too.  We then followed a white jersey guy and the white jersey guy pulled us onto the 508 guy.  The 508 guy was fantastic.  He was steady like rock.  It was the perfect paceline.  His only problem was that he was extremely fast through the corners and would drop us all and we would be clamoring back on.  Eventually, after one corner, I gave up, realizing I would not be able to jump on.  The big guy said “he’s something in the corners. Let’s get him.”  He was able to catch him, but the white jersey guy and I weren’t.  We got on another line and everything was good again.

I stayed in pacelines until mile 42 when the headwinds blew me off.

Lots of people I know passed me and said hi.  Throughout the day, I kept being passed by the same people over and over again. That was really nice.  I liked being able to recognize people and I liked the feeling of everyone being in it together. I like riding alone, but I really like seeing people as I ride.  Everyone seems so nice and supportive.

Cobb was okay.  It was slow, but at least twice as fast as the last time I did it.  I was happy about Cobb.  I was riding on and off with a SF Randonnuer guy, whose name I never caught.  He told me that the last time he did Davis Double and went up Cobb, a guy standing on the side of the road in Cobb offered to sell him some Meth.  Wondering if it would help his performance, he considered buying it for  moment, but was able to resist the temptation.

The descent down Cobb on Seigler Canyon contained a large and nasty dip.  The dip was freshly painted a fluorescent orange when I went by, but it was not painted until after 5-6 people crashed.  I could see the fluorescent paint, but I could not really see the dip until I was close to it.  The pavement was sunken down, but it was not cracked, so it was difficult to see.  At the top of Cobb, we were warned that people were crashing on Seigler and to be careful.  At that time the people at the rest stop did not know what was taking people down, they just knew that people were crashing.

Chris of GPC crashed on Loch Lomond when he flatted going fast down the descent.  He was so happy that he was not badly hurt.  He finished the ride.

My favorite part of the ride occurred about 2 minutes after the start.  I had parked on the street along the high school a block away from the start.  The course went right by my car, so I was able to stop and turn off the dome car lights I had left on.

I bonked around mile 150, going along highway 16 though the Cache Creek area toward Guida and the Cache Creek Casino.  The ride to the Guida rest stop was slow and very painful.  I thought that I would never get there and I was dreaming of food.  I hadn’t eaten breakfast, because I didn’t want to have to get up before 3 am and is the meal you eat at 3 am really breakfast?  Isn’t that just a late night snack?  Honestly, who thinks that getting up at 3 am for a bike ride is reasonable?  (or before 3 am, if I were to eat?)  What was I thinking?  I skipped lunch, because it was hot at that rest stop, I didn’t feel like eating, and the last time I ate before going up Resurrection, I spent much of the climb chanting “Don’t puke, don’t puke, don’t puke.”  I wasn’t really surprised that I felt lousy at mile 150, but that knowledge didn’t make me feel any better.  My on bike temperature for the day also reached its maximum during that section.  I saw 101 at one point.  (The on bike readings are always higher than regular air temperatures.)

I sang the Merry Minuet to myself over and over.  I haven’t heard this song in years.  My mom would sing it too me when I was a kid.  I learned this song at the beginning of the Iran religious takeover and hostage crisis in the late 70s.  At the time, I was stunned that lyrics seemed so timely for a song written in the late 40s/early 50s.  My mom had said that people don’t change.

By the time I got to Guida, mile 162.8,  I felt pretty bad.  I felt like I was starving, but all food was unappealing.  I ate a peanut butter and banana sandwich, which was quite unappealing but I ate it anyway.  I had a can of V8, because it was the only thing that actually appealed.  I paced around the rest stop, hoping to feel better, but I never really did, so eventually I left.  I don’t sit at these later rest stops, because I have a hard time getting going again.  I feel very faint and become unable to get back up.  My blood pressure seems to plummet.  I do better if I keep moving.  I am like a shark.

CASINO!  The last time I did Davis, I rode by the Cache Creek Casino in complete darkness, which was horrible.  Dreadful.  The traffic was heavy, the road was narrow and I was blinded by the lights from the constant stream of oncoming cars.  I couldn’t see the side of the road, so I rode further into the lane than necessary.  Riding by the casino during the daylight is not that bad at all.  I can see the road and the traffic is much lighter.   The lane is wide enough for most cars to pass me without problems.  The difference was night and day.

I threw up along this section.  I have never actually thrown up while actually still riding and I was really happy that no one was behind me.  Pierce referred to it as a moving violation, a quip I appreciated.

I hung around the last rest stop, looking at food with a combination of longing and disgust.  After I while, I grew tired of circling and left with Steve, Alfie and Pierce.  Hanging on their wheels was great.  Eventaully we hit a headwind and I was blown off the back, dropping from 19 mph to 13, but I was feeling better, so all was good.  I was slightly confused at this point and completely alone. I was glad for the road markings, because I wasn’t really able to deal with the route sheet. I got on someone’s wheel for the last few miles, which was great.  He seemed to be happy that I was with him and I got in two minutes before sunset and everything seemed fantastic.

I was eventually able to eat again.  I ate slowly, but got down some beans and a coke.  I am fond of beans.  I needed the coke, in order to drive my self back home and not fall asleep.  I visited with LisaJ, Tony, Alfie and LisaLisa, Steve, Jim and Pierce.  Steve showed me how to operate the spot tracking system I had been carrying around all day.  JasonMc had wanted me to use it, but I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the tracking in the 15 seconds of consideration I had given it in the morning before starting the ride. Steve told me to turn it on for the drive home, so that when I drive off the road into some bushes, they would be able to find me.

LisaLisa tried to die last year when her aorta dissected.  She was at home when it happened, Alfie called 911 immediately, the ambulance responded quickly, she had the surgery at Summit for the repair and she did not die.  The odds weren’t in her favor and she is lucky.  She is facing possible more surgery in the future, a scary prospect for them both.  LisaLisa did a little over 40 miles today.   Steve’s regular riding partner, KenE is in the hospital recovering from coronary bypass surgery after his heart attack last Saturday.  He went into cardiac arrest while on a bike ride and was found by an off-duty nurse, who did CPR.  The ambulance came quickly and he also lived.  LisaJ did 46 miles today, riding out to the first rest stop with her husband, Tony, and Steve and then retruning to the start.  She is having surgery on Thursday and will find out then the stage of her cancer.

I only have a limited number of riding days left to me and I was glad I did yesterday’s ride.

The most questionable part of the whole day was the planned ride home.  If I felt sleepy I was going to stop in Dixon and stay the night there.  I am not a good driver and I once feel asleep driving home after a 300k.   I did fine and didn’t even feel sleepy as I drove along the highway in the dark, singing old disco songs along with radio.