with apologies to William S. Burroughs on the title… I was also considering “Be Gentle, It’s My First Time” or “A View from the Rear” but those seemed a bit suggestive… although, on second thought, perhaps there’s nothing wrong with a good suggestion! but I digress… oh wait, can that be a digression when I haven’t even started the story yet?!
well not that it’s really going to be a story anyway, at least in the strict narrative sense. more a loose collection of remembrances that are still in my head after more than a month has passed.
so where to begin? I’d actually heard about the Grasshopper not a races from a friend about 5, maybe 6 years ago now, but had not been in a space to do them until recently. and then another friend mentioned them this year so… why not?
actually there were probably many reasons to not, but in somewhat uncharacteristic fashion I manage to stifle them. or at least somewhat muffle them. and with a pillow firmly on the head of expectation, I set off to Occidental on a slightly unsettled Saturday morning for the Old Caz ‘hopper. my goal (if you can even call it that) – to finish, and not dead last. with perhaps some emphasis on the not dead (as in no grievous bodily harm to myself or others as any results of my being present, not as in being a vampire. not dead… undead… it’s a fine line sometimes)
I pull up and find a parking spot near the Community Center. one of the first people I see is the friend who brought up doing Old Caz this year. the other friend who I originally heard about the ‘hoppers from is having ego issues and doesn’t show. I mosey down to the registration table. get a big smile and high-five from Kim Dow, HillJillys maven and artist extraordinaire. see a few other familiar and familiar-ish faces. wonder what the heck I’m doing…
go inside the Community Center to use the restroom. enjoy the unusual twist of no line for the women’s room while there is one for the men’s! [one of my theories: although women have longer life expectancy on paper, much of that “extra” time is spent in line for the restroom, so it’s actually much closer to a wash than the numbers suggest.]
mill around a bit, at loose ends waiting for the not a race to start… not exactly nervous, but could we just get started already? I’m not a big fan of the waiting around thing, since it gives me time to think, which is probably not a good idea, as those thoughts tend toward the “what the heck am I doing?!” flavor. but eventually the crowd starts to coalesce and move toward the street. there’s some talking over a megaphone, but I miss most of it, being off to the side and toward the back.
and speaking of missing things, I didn’t even know that Levi Leipheimer was there until I heard afterwards that he hadn’t come in first. not that knowing he was there would have made any difference in my day, but yeah… not a race… anyway, turns out the amazing Shane Bresnyan nabbed the top spot. but they may as well have been on another planet.
back on my planet, I’m trying to not get jeebed out (see goal of avoidance of grievous bodily harm) by the unfamiliarity of riding with a bunch of other people. generally these days I’m riding solo, and if there are other people involved it rarely hits double digits. now that I think about it, the only thing I’ve ever done large numbers wise is the Pine Mountain loop on Thanksgiving one year, and that, while more people total than here for Old Caz, is spread out time wise so there’s never really any big clumps like this.
the moments I get over myself enough to just flow with it are quite exhilarating though, flying down Bohemian highway, one spoke in the wheel, one link in the chain, one bicycle reference too many…
and just as I’m thinking “wow, if this is NEUTRAL…” the front hits Moscow Road and it feels like one of those sci-fi movies where the ship I’m chasing after has just made the jump to hyperspace or light speed or whatever the heck it is and I’m looking at this blank spot where there used to be something… cue the lonely sound of crickets chirping. well, at least it’s not banjo music I’m hearing. okey doke. back to riding solo. which is what I’d be out doing today anyway.
so I chug away (see goal of finishing)… start to come across the mechanicals and people that have blown themselves up. I stop and let someone use my pump. he says something about not wanting to hold me up. “from what?” I think. he gives me some tips for the turn off 116 and the next bit of the route. right after the first steep up on Duncans Grade someone is lying on the ground, steaming. he waves and says he’s OK though, so people roll by.
I’d ridden out from Santa Rosa a couple weekends before, but hadn’t gotten the full scoop on the route, so had just gone up Old Caz from 116, then down Cazadero Highway, out 116 to the coast then up Willow Creek. so for the real route there’s some bonus climbing and dirt in the first section. good times!
and in a couple places I’m not quite sure of the way, but get guidance from other riders or guess correctly, as I don’t get lost. which hadn’t been part of the goal, but is a definite plus for the day! what else… gates to be gotten around in some fashion. a step up that maybe some body could ride but not this somebody. guy with taco’d wheel. hmn… did I put the spare wheel in my pocket today? let me check… ah… no. keep chugging away.
pop out into the neighborhood at the base of Old Caz. someone in one of the houses is ringing a cow bell. awesome! a cheering section! don’t they know this isn’t a race?! on one of the turns going up Old Caz some of the camo set is having a confab – one vehicle stopped and a few guys standing in the street talking to the driver. they look over with flat expressions and no response to a friendly greeting as we go by.
the mantra of “the faster you get up, the sooner you can go down” battles with the goal of finishing not completely cratered. I’m seeing more people now. back onto dirt for the descent to Austin Creek. yep, there’s been some rain the last couple weeks and the creek is running quite well. people are debating where to cross and whether to take off shoes and socks or not and whether they should have brought spare dry socks. I roll up my tights but leave the shoes on and slosh across. mmm… squishy feet.
climbing again. then descent into Cazadero. bit of a debate about which way to go, but make it onto Austin Creek Road. this bit is also new to me. in a group of about a half dozen now, so there’s some chat to help pass the time and then some awesome pulling on 116 by a couple of the folks to ease the headwind coming off the coast. that stretch would have been much longer and more painful without that. I’m just starting to lose touch on the last rise before hitting 1, but one of the people hangs back slightly and brings me back up to the group. thank you thank you thank you.
somewhere back on Austin Creek Road someone had said it was hard to believe, but they were looking forward to Willow Creek, since that would mean that we were almost done. speaking of done, at some point someone checks the time and comments that the leaders are already finishing…
a little ways after we turn off 1 a guy is walking his bike back toward the highway. he’s got blood on his face but indicates he’s OK and help is coming so we continue on our way. up. I’m glad I’ve done this climb before, so I know that yes, it does eventually end. and it does actually seem a bit shorter today too, due also in part to some pleasant conversation with new acquaintance Jessica Conner. she spots part of a pedal on the road and stops and picks it up. close to the top we pass a guy walking his bike with a broken chain. hey another plus for my day – no mechanicals!
and then we’re back on pavement and screaming down Coleman Valley and there’s Kim for the finish. I MADE IT AND I’M NOT DEAD! woohoo!!!
coast into town, change into some gloriously unsoggy clothes and go foraging. just about everything in the market looks good. decide on the turkey, ham and cheese sandwich, which seems like a bit of an unusual combination, then the counter person hands it to me, and the wrapper has THC written on it… gotta love the west county!
sit outside, basking in the sun, eating and chatting with another rider. fantastic!
now what’s my goal for next time…