State the primary objective:
1. Have fun!
2. Kick ass. OK, it may only be my own, but that’s plenty enough ass to be kicking. In other words – semi-seriously that is – stay out of mayhem and adrenaline poisoning at the start, but push myself. Although, when in doubt, see #1.
Sounds like a plan! And the ride doesn’t start til 10 o’clock, in Occidental, so I can ride to it. Winner already! Clear and sunny, it’s a little chilly when I leave the house, but it looks like it will be a splendid day. Not really the sort of weather we should be having in January, we really could use more rain, but may as well enjoy it while it’s here.
I end up getting to the Community Center with plenty of time to spare, so I’m not worried even when the A-F line is the longest of all. (Hmn, wonder what the distribution of last names by letter looks like. Is A-F most common or did we just clump at that particular moment?) The cheery volunteers actually check us in pretty quickly. Not that I have anywhere else to be today anyway. No line at the women’s restroom!
OK, get the number plate on the bike. Oops, zip ties are too short to go around the handlebars. Hmn. OH! I can go around the cables. Argh, little bit trickier, there’s probably longer zip ties, but by the time I go back and check and whatever, six of one, half-dozen of the other, I get the short ones to work. AND! They have scissors so we can trim the ends. Yay! (I did see some untrimmed ends. Apparently no one was policing. C’mon people. Let’s be tidy here.)
I’m kinda surprised I haven’t seen anyone I know yet, and am just thinking I’ll take a spin around town, and there’s Patrick. And Max. And Patrick. Oh, Max is introducing me to someone. I was going to say that’s not Patrick, he went inside to check in. Apparently there’s more than one person with that name though. This Patrick is Max’s carbon offset for the day, since he got a ZipCar rather than riding up from San Francisco.
Stand around and chit-chat. Urgh. This is one of the things I’m not so fond of. Let’s just ride already! Speaking of, where is the start? Out in the street. OK, maybe we should go line up. The lane is full halfway down the block by the time Patrick and I get out there (is that someone with a selfie stick?), and we just fill in. Oh hey there’s ChrisB! More people fill in behind us.
The pre-ride briefing is just mmmph mmm mmm indecipherable etc. where we’re at, and then … gooooooo…. the start takes a moment to trickle back, and we’re going uphill, so it’s this mildly surreal slow motion roll out. And slow for the corner and then really uphill up Coleman Valley. We seem to have inadvertently landed in an appropriatish spot in the conga line, at least for me I don’t feel like I’m getting passed by waves of people nor having to get by throngs of slower people. There’s some banter, people hold their lines, why was I so worried about this? I do have serious sock envy though. Lots of good ones out there.
Things thin a bit by the time we’re up to the ridge, and then here’s Willow Creek. Course marshals at the turn, yeah this is an Event now. A little more spreading out along the paved part. Oh look! Tin Man on a tree. Wonder if the gate will be open. YES!!! WOOHOO! Dirt o’clock! With 35s and a bit of tread I open it up more than the other times I’ve been on this descent (on slick 25s or 28s). Whee! With all the people that have been through before there’s a good line to follow. Lots of people on the side of the road with flats though (sad noise). Patrick really pours it on, I pass some people too but can’t catch him. He does wait at the bottom though. The lower gate is closed, but there’s an easy ride around.
Back on pavement, but chunky bumpy worse than the dirt in some spots. Then the perennially damp spot is the extended dance mix today, snotty mud and some big puddles. Where is this water coming from? And a section that’s gotten much rougher than the last time I was through here. Good times.
Highway 1, right turn and over the River and right turn again onto River Road and what the heck is the name of the road we turn on next? In Duncans Mills. But that’s not the name of the road. Ugh, I was just on it a month ago. Jeez, memory. Well not that I need to know the name, I know where to turn, but what the heck is the name?
Pretty nice paceline gets us there soon enough, I’m behind Patrick on the front, and jump out and get the city limit. MOSCOW ROAD. How could I not remember that?! Oh goody, I’m on the front now. Pull for a while. OK, that was fun, but I’m willing to share the fun. A few other folks take turns and here we are in, hey, isn’t there a shorter way to get to Monte Rio?
Over the River again, and some unflattering comments about cyclists, including expletives. I don’t look and see who is making them. Back on to River Road, not far to the next turn, but still have the paceline. Sweet. Next turn is Duncan. Not so sweet. Hard right and super steep. We now resume the regularly scheduled climbing portion of the program. With a vengeance!
Closed gate onto dirt road. Car up. What?! Not sure if they are there to open it for us or what, but we’re already through. And climb and climb and oh jeez wow it’s so beautiful and gosh why have I not been out here since the other time I did this Hopper? Patrick wonders if Max might alter the SFR Old Caz route. Finally whew, what goes up gets more rippin’ dirt descending! Wait, wasn’t there a bit o’ hike-a-bike in here somewhere? OK yes, my memory hasn’t totally gone. Well, the hikey part is a bit longer than I remember, but whatever.
Another gate step through and then pop out on to Old Monte Rio Road. Tricky turn coming up, don’t miss Cherry Street but again there are marshals. Sheesh, what kind of Adventure is this? May have to take away the capital A…. Brief respite of flat through the neighborhood, and then, hey guess what, more climbing! It doesn’t really seem any easier than usual, even though I haven’t ridden here from San Francisco, but it feels like it goes faster. Or maybe it’s the “Everybody smile” spray painted on the road that helps me think happy thoughts, and makes me think Everybody dance now (which is actually a pretty good climbing song.) Look we’re at Pig Turd Flat already. And yes, there’s supposed to be a rest stop up there somewhere.
Quite a few people are stopped at the stop. And Patrick (very un-rando) only has one bottle, so we stop too. Oh that sounds like a soda burp. Yep, they do have Coke. Nope, not feeling the need for that. Oh fig newtons and half a banana, thank you very much. Probably haven’t been drinking enough, so do that and top up the bottles. Hey it’s Jim from Bike Peddler (the awesome guys who keep my bikes happy, THANK YOU!!!), shoot the shit with him then Patrick remembers he needs to adjust his derailleur. I’m ready to roll – well you’ll catch me. He says to wait at the bottom if he doesn’t. OK.
Still not quite at the top. Urgh. Somehow having the break it’s not quite as interminable as usual. And there’s the gate to the dirt! I get off and walk around. Someone comes up as I’m doing that and has to stop. Oops, I know you were going to ride that. He laughs. Nope. Well you coulda told me you were, I would have believed you…
Down hill and out of the trees and Laaaaaaaaaa (the splendor sound) the view – which has been teasing us all along the ridge – BAM opens out and just bonks me on the head. WOW. That. Never. Gets. Old. No matter now knackered and cranky I am from however stupid many miles and climbing up that dang hill, it makes me forget all that. Well, and then there’s the impending weehaa downhill!
Speaking of that downhill, watch where you’re going! Another gate, this one limbo under. Whee! On your right, c’mon people, faster is smoother… hmn… wonder what the distribution is as far as how people would identify themselves as road or mountain bikers… um lemme guess on these folks. Road? You are seriously killing my buzz, and not great passing options and flatting is going to be even more of a buzz kill than creeping along behind these people and OH YAY here’s a wide spot and I get around them. And YES I’m going to ride the creek crossing today!
But then when I get to it there’s a knot of people stopped in the approaches dithering about whether it’s rideable or not and I don’t feel up to blasting through them. OK, really I don’t want to fall over in the water in front of a bunch of people. I admit it. Wade through. Yeah, there’s some water. You’d really need some help from our friend momentum to get all the way through that.
Still no Patrick. I probably should have said I’d wait at the top of the next climb. Oh well, this is not a bad spot to hang out. Still a fairly steady stream of people coming through. Someone says something about how Levi’s finishing right about now. Heh. We’re way mores getting our money’s worth.
Patrick arrives with freshly adjusted derailleur, happy to have all his gears, especially for the climbing again. The dirt conditions really are splendid today though. Another closed gate. More climbing. Hey are we here already? The gate at the top is open, and there’s a High Five Guy! Then the fun little descent to the intersection of Adventure.
Then on to Cazadero. SRCC has a 200k today, from Novato to Cazadero, wonder if we’ll see any randos. Oh that seems way to much like a word problem, I can’t do math and ride. Plus I can’t remember what time they started anyway. Slow as we pass the store – that does look like a rando bike. Peg! With her pretty purple chain and cranks. Someone says ‘hi’. Kayley! They’re fixie-ing today. Silly.
Veer right past the store. Marshals again. Standing like statues. Can we get a move here? Work with me. Man I don’t think I’ve been on this upper part of Austin Creek Road since I last rode the Old Caz Hopper either, that is also a shame. I mean it does roller a bit, which is somewhat less than amusing to my legs but damn it’s beautiful. Redwoods and little waterfalls and an ad for the Garage painted on a roadside rock and wow!
Then we’re back to Cazadero Highway and is it right turn here? Nope, arrow on the road says continue on Austin Creek Road. Okey doke. Familiar road again. There’s the totem poles! Catch up with Patrick’s friend Julie. She says she’s having a good day, but her knee is bothering her. We ride along together and chat. One of the bumpier sections and Patrick’s bike has a rather disturbing sounding clunk. (Turns out the front quick release wasn’t properly fastened – yay for lawyer tabs.)
River Road, heading back out to the Coast, didn’t we have a headwind coming the other direction this morning? I’m on the front, Patrick says Wind, what wind? Julie tells us to go ahead, and maybe she really did want to get rid of us, but we end up riding the rest of the way together.
Duncans Mills, I make my move too soon and Patrick gets it this time. 0.500. If I were a baseball player I’d be golden. Still seeing another rider here and there, ooo! daffodils in bloom, then zoooom (insert Doppler effect here) George Hope zips by, towing a little train. WTH? I try to explain who George is to Patrick. I know, he’s sorta inexplicable, whatever. Super strong rider – one of those guys I wouldn’t think I’d see out on the course. You just never know though. Anything can happen out there. (I did see him at the finish – wheel/tire issues. One of those days. Shrugs and smiles.)
Crossing the River a pack of Harleys comes through. They are obnoxiously loud, the sound bouncing around between the concrete walls of the bridge. It’s painful. Hearing damaging level painful, fortunately they are gone soon. That ought to be illegal. Not that I’m a big fan of lots of laws, but seriously. Or hey, how about this crazy idea – how about just not being a jackass, and having some courtesy and consideration of other people? I wonder if they had to sit on the bridge and someone went by them on the motorcycles… Anyway, a very small spot on an otherwise flawless day.
Back on to Willow Creek now, the last retracing of our steps. Oh hey, another snackie stop. Really? We’re almost done. Well, they’re here, Patrick could use fluids again. Oh what the heck, I’ll have a Coke. Give Julie some ibuprofen since we’re stopped. Chit-chat with the volunteers. Several groups of people ride by. Patrick says something about how many places we just lost. Wait, I thought we were going for Laterne Rouge?
OK, that hill’s not going to climb itself. Fine, here we go. Psuedo-grumble. Oh yeah and there’s the snotty mud puddle section. At least no cars come by while we’re picking our way through. That could be interesting. The mud seems to have gotten stickier. Patrick says It’s grabbing my tires, and not in a good way.
Then back past the gate and into the redwoods. It’s actually really lovely. Of course you can make the whole thing as hard as you want, but there’s really only the one hella steep bit on the climb. Yup. Which, even after all these times, I can’t quite remember where it comes, so I try to not worry too much about it before I get to it. It’ll be here when it gets here, and I’ll ride up it.
I’m kinda surprised at the number of people we’re still seeing. Mostly passing us. Julie might be more of a racer, she says something about “all those ladies that I passed on the down hill” that are going by us now, and sounds a little wistful. One little pod of guys goes by all racey-like. Where did you come from?! We’re on our second lap. Heh, really? We’re on our third. (if my snappy response-o-meter had been working better, that is.)
Connor corner and keep going and out of the redwoods and it can’t be far now and hey there’s a bunch of people just up there yep it’s the finish! Yay! Glad to be done. And glad that I rode it. To plan. For sure the primary objective was fulfilled. Super duper fun day.
Hung out for a little bit at the finish, saw a few other folks I know, then we still had to roll back to Occidental, which is (mostly) downhill. Oh yeah, and then there was the riding back home for me. Which was actually a really nice unwinding of the day. I saw cars with bikes in or on them going by, it felt good to be riding rather than sitting in a car. The passenger in one waved and cheered, that made me smile too. As did the chocolate dipped cone at Fosters! Tasty day indeed.
Ride date: January 31, 2015