On the almost eve of the real event, while I should be polishing my spokes or packing or worrying or something, instead I’m trying to finish off my report on a partial pre-ride a group of us did in April… it is motivating to look at the pictures though!
I love to look at maps! Both as a reminder of places I’ve been, and for the sense of possibilities. Envisioning other routes, imagining new places to go and see – the lure of finding out what that line on a piece of paper really looks like in person… I had heard about Fish Rock Road and it sounded like a great adventure so when it turned out to be on Max’s new 600K route that sealed the deal to go check it out.
And hey I can ride there from my house, so why not do just that?! I put out an invitation to other people who had signed up for the 600k, that I had ridden with on other mixed terrain events or had heard that they like to do that sort of riding. The hook was that we would be doing the middle section of the route – the part that would be new to most people. (But really it was about being able to ride from my house rather than driving south first to ride north. Bwahahahaha!)
Turns out I got seven suckers! er… I mean hardy souls who wanted to join in the fun and adventure! Woohoo! Some stayed over the night before, some came up Saturday morning. The route was to go from Santa Rosa to Occidental, where it would join the official route. From Occidental the 600k route goes to Cazadero, out King Ridge and Tin Barn to Skaggs then down to Stewarts Point at the coast. Then north to Gualala and from there inland over Fish Rock and to Boonville. From Boonville northwest to Orr Springs Road and back around to Ukiah. From Ukiah south to Old Toll Road, over to Kelseyville in Lake County. Bottle Rock Road to Cobb then down to Middletown and then Western Mine/Ida Clayton and back to Santa Rosa. I called it preORRdained. (As you may suspect from the report title there was a slight deviation.)
Since this was an exploratory ride and most of it would be new to me I was hoping to do most of the riding in daylight, so the plan was to split the distance over two days. Unfortunately an even split of the distance would land us between Boonville and Ukiah with no real place to stay so the decision was made to do an uneven split. It seemed like it would be better to have a long day on Saturday and also there seemed to be more (reasonable cost) lodging options in Ukiah. That would make a first day of about 165 miles Santa Rosa to Ukiah and a second day of about 95 from Ukiah back to Santa Rosa.
SATURDAY – 0600ish
I don’t have any cards or an oath, so we make do with high-fives and away we go. It seems cool but not cold, or maybe that was just the effect of coming out of a nice warm house to start. I hadn’t made route sheet to get us from Santa Rosa to Occidental so everyone was a bit at my mercy for this section of the ride. It was still dark, and a little misty as we headed out the bike path.
From the path we took a fairly standard SRCC route to Occidental, parts of which are used, in one direction or the other, on Terrible Two or Levi’s GranFondo, so the roads, if maybe not the order, were familiarish to most.
As we rode along the sky lightened and the fog lifted (at least externally). There’s always something amazing and magical about riding into a new day, especially when you’re going to be exploring new territory!
And maybe it actually is cold. My toes are not so happy with me and my face feels like I’m chewing taffy when I talk. Debate whether it’s the warm of the house wearing off or whether it is actually coldest after dawn.
Other chitchat, mist and a great blue heron rising off an irrigation pond, metal scrap dog pack at a winery, wisteria in bloom – climbing what seems like a hundred feet up into a redwood tree, FIX THE ROAD spray-painted on the pavement, more scrap art in a field and then we’re in Occidental.
Whew, now I’ve done my bit – delivered everyone to the official route that they (should) have in some form either printed or magic widget and can find their way from here. On their own, if necessary. Speaking of which, we haven’t had any explicit discussions about pace or regrouping so I figure it’s probably good idea to take a moment at this point. OK, so I’m still feeling somewhat responsible for this endeavor. Someone suggests Stewarts Point as the first regroup but with the distance and amount of climbing between here and there we might be pretty spread out by then.
I suggest Raymond’s Bakery in Cazadero (the last time I went that way I rode right by it without stopping) or if that is closed then the Cazadero store. It turns out that we all stick together until then anyway. The bakery is just waking up and eight of us did make our own crowd, but the service is almost excruciatingly slow. Still, no one suggests pulling the plug and moving on. It does feel good to be inside where it’s warm, and the hot chocolate and blueberry sour cream coffee cake with an amazing blueberry-to-cake ratio really hits the spot. I also get a focaccia to go. RANDO TIP: bring spare Ziploc baggie!
I also take the opportunity to adjust my rack which had sagged down (heh heh you said your rack sagged) and is making annoying noises hitting my fender when I go over bumps. The day is promising to bring more bumps so it’s probably best to get that sorted out sooner rather than later.
Then it’s off to the splendor of King Ridge which for some people is completely new and for others the first time they’ve done it in this direction. How cool is that?!
The day is getting a warmer now and the climbing is getting the blood going as well. “Anyone cold?” “It’s warm now!” gets pointed out just in case anyone is missing that. It turns out to be a recurring motif for the day. Any chilliness from stopping is quickly banished once we get going again.
King Ridge is always amazing, and today it seems to be turned up to 11 – eye-popping green, amazing views, perfect weather and great company. Patrick and Carl get to chatting and I chuckle to myself that they’re going to just ride off in their own little world. Which they do. I wonder if at some point they realize that the rest of us aren’t with them.
I take it at my own pace, enjoying some solo time, riding with various combinations of others, stopping to take pictures and soak in the view. Where’s Julie Andrews?
We regroup at Tin Barn. Focaccia time!
Turns out Deb and I had gotten the memo to wear our classic (traditional? old school? vintage? retro?) SFR jerseys with the saturated blue, green and red, while Metin and Carlos have on the modern version with the more subdued colors. Which, I do have to admit, the bridge color is closer to the actual bridge color, and the combination is starting to grow on me. Either that or I’m just getting used to it.
Larry had said to go on without him, and hasn’t arrived yet when we start to think about continuing on, but some motorcyclists pull up and say he’s not far away. It’s nice to be able to set out again all together.
More splendor along Tin Barn Road. Incongruous Buddhist compound surrounded by razor wire topped fence. High security meditation. Who knew? Debate whether it’s for keeping people in or out. Pop out into the settlement of Rancheria and take a left turn for the Coast. A dog jumps out of one of the yards and runs along with us for a ways down the road. Three roadies have come up the wall on an out-and-back from Lake Sonoma to Stewarts Point. We have a bit of a failure to communicate about Rancheria, but I know what I’m talking about, which is what’s important.
Rippin’ descent ahead but remember that cattle guard hiding around one of these right turns now. OK, done with that, WOOHOO! downhill!!!! Oh that puts a smile on my face. Whoops another bump to get over before Stewarts Point. Happen to look left in the final bit before Highway 1, and maybe it’s that it’s earlier in the year than the Terrible Two, which is usually when I’m on this road, or maybe I’ve just never looked over at that particular time, but there’s an amazing wall of ferns carpeting the forest floor over the entire side of the hill. Wow!
It’s not a control for the ride, but we regroup at Stewarts Point. Gualala isn’t far away, but some folks have a lunchish thing here, so we end up being stopped for a while. I’m still feeling like I should be directing things a bit, perhaps hurrying things along, but I hadn’t made up any kind of schedule, so no way to say if we were behind it. And I don’t want to be any sort of slave driver, taking people on a death march. We’re all (nominally) adults here.
Anyway, Larry has already decided he’s foregoing the Orr Springs segment, and talks about heading over to Mountain House from Fish Rock and getting up to Ukiah that way. I’ve got an actual paper map, most of us are also familiar with the Boonville-Ukiah road option. Seeing the loop up to the north that Orr Springs makes is a little daunting, and knowing there are shorter options is starting to seep into my mind as well.
Beautiful day at the Coast, but there’s a stiff headwind to Gualala. Fortunately we’ve got Carl and Patrick who kindly pull us. Gualala is a control on the official ride, with a couple of options. What Carlos says is more a regular grocery store on the right or like a Whole Foods on the left. He recommends, and we take, the left option.
This was mostly to fill up on fluids, since we’ll be leaving civilization to head over Fish Rock Road, and it’s about 40 miles to Boonville. Even though it hasn’t been that far since Stewarts Point most of us end up getting food too, (oh they have It’s-It! I can’t pass that up, although Carlos’ corn dog looks pretty tasty too) and we sit down and again end up being off the bike for a while.
We say we’ll reconvene at the end of Fish Rock Road, although I admit with the time that it’s getting to be I’m having second thoughts about the Orr Springs portion. Yes I know it’s the marquee name for the ride, but I’d just done a 400k the previous weekend, and not riding in the dark is sounding kinda good at the moment.
Regardless, there’s still Fish Rock to be gotten over. (That’s almost sounding like a country song.) So back on the bikes, a bit more north on the highway, some awesome metal dinosaurs at a nursery, and then turn inland and upward. Through a neighborhood of A-frames. What the heck? er, the Seventies are calling…
The cue sheet notes this with “steep grade”, and then, attaining the ridge, “climb eases.” Ha, it’s all relative. After a few miles there’s Fish Rock, but on our left. This is not the Fish Rock you are looking for. Continue on, and yes, here it is on the right. The right one. Or the correct one anyway. And apparently also the way to the dump.
It opens up with an exciting downhill, and after a brief flat section at the bottom, the pavement ends. Soon after that, the road tips up. Great surface conditions though. Moist and firm, enough grip to climb, even with 25mm tires. I can imagine it being dusty and loose when the actual ride is run in June.
The climb goes on, and verges on ridiculous at points, but it’s also ridiculously beautiful. And just so fantastic to be out here, with friends, seeing an amazing new road that really isn’t that far from where I live. What’s not to love?
The downhill is pretty washboarded, so we migrate to the outside edges in search of a bit of smoothness. I’d imagine there’d be some great views, except for all the darn trees. At one point there is a gap and OH SNOW!!! a distant peak is capped in white.
We regroup partway along, there’s been some flats, and Carlos’ bottom bracket has gotten loose. He carries on, figuring he’ll be going a bit more gingerly, and the rest of us eventually do as well.
There’s more climbing, and a bit of pavement tease then back to more dirt, and amazing views and a huge meadow and a farmhouse with some daffodils still blooming and and and and verging on sensory overload. Pass through Maillard Redwoods SP, I think that means we’re getting close-ish to 128. Soon we do in fact pop out at 128.
How many times have I seen this turn off? And now I know where it goes!!!
At this point I think we’ve all decided, well at least I have, to bag the Orr Springs segment. There’s some debate between 253 (Boonville/Ukiah Road) and Mountain House. My vote is for 253. There might be more climbing, but then you get a screaming descent and are pretty much at Ukiah, rather than having to slog up the valley from Hopland quite likely into a headwind.
Either way, we need some resupply, and head toward Boonville. Who said headwind? A stiff one here reinforces my clarity about shortcutting the route. Again Carl and Patrick are quite useful additions to the group here, although, as the stronger riders, I worry that they will be disappointed about the abbreviated route.
The store provides an excellent selection of victuals, this time I go for the corn dog and Carlos has his first It’s-It. Impulse chocolate-covered Peep buy for a little something sweet, and it turns out there are folks in the crowd who don’t know what Peeps are. How is this possible? I may need to institute more rigorous screening procedures for my riding companions!
Saddle up again, with the decision to bee-line for Ukiah over 253. The short segment from town back to the turn off now has that killer headwind at our back. Woot! And then there’s that hill thing. Well yes, but we’re into the magic light portion of the day and it’s splendidly beautiful. And there’s a bed with my name on it on the other side of this hill.
I express some angst over deviating from the primary objective of Orr Springs. Metin asks if I’m having fun. Oh yes, I am!!! Well that’s the primary objective, he reminds me. Indeed. Thank you.
Views. Llamas! Racing the sun now. Oh truck-on-triangle here we go WHEE! Bug-eating grin descent time. Roll in to the hotel before full dark, yes this was the right choice. There’s cookies at the check-in desk. Totally the right choice!
Change and head out for dinner. Stop in at Safeway (the irresistible pull, don’t forget a receipt) for a belated birthday rose for Deb and some Peeps for educational purposes. Over at the brewpub it’s getting to that point in the evening that there’s going to be live music, but Carlos and Metin were able to get us in without paying the cover and have staked out a table in the back away from the music. Pizza and beer really hit the spot.
Back to the hotel, and a quick dip in the hot tub. There’s no bubbles when we first get in, but it still feels good. Then the bubbles come on, and a Rubenesque woman joins us. Apparently she has late meetings, but is a regular there so she knows who to talk to for getting the after hours bubbles. I don’t ask what type of work she does that necessitate these late meetings. The bubbles are pretty nice though.
Or would I rather be out in the dark and cold, still climbing? Uh yeah no. Not that I couldn’t, but just cause you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. As someone with much more distance riding under their belt remarked, it’s good to save those “have-to”s for when you really need them.
The fresh clean sheets are quite welcoming, as is the consensus for a leisurely 0800 departure the next morning. I’m asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.
Date of ride: April 5, 2014