Rain?! What’s that doing in the forecast? I mean, I know it’s April in Northern California, but I’m signed up for the Devil Mountain Double, a ride of mildly inappropriate distance, with a s**tload of climbing, and I’d kinda rather not do it in the rain. Yeah, call me a wuss, whatever.
So, I put the fenders on and bring all the different permutations of rain gear (necessitating an inordinate multitude of trips to unload into my hotel room the night before, during one of which I somehow manage to shut the car door on the tip of my middle finger insert expletives here ugh hopefully that’s not a sign of things to come.) Having the fenders means either (A) it will be dry or (B) I’ll be semi-comfortable if it isn’t. Spoiler alert – it turns out to be (A). Yes, you’re welcome everyone.
The streets are wet, but the rain, such as it was, has stopped by the time we assemble for the 5 AM start. DMD is the first stage of the California Triple Crown Stage Race this year, and it’s the 20th anniversary of the ride, so there’s a big turnout. Fun to see familiar faces and meet some new people.
I haven’t made any specific plans to ride with anyone, or a time goal, although part of me would like to do better than I have the last couple years. So I’m thinking to push but not blow myself up. I do want to finish. I left the camera behind for the day too. Focus on riding. And we’ll see how the day goes.
Dark roll out over to Mt. Diablo. The McKenzie/Schroer tandem goes zooming by (insert Doppler sound effect here) a few blocks from the Marriott. And there goes Scott Duncan, with a smile and ‘hi’ as always.
UGH YOU PEOPLE WITH YOUR POORLY AIMED BLINKING TAIL LIGHTS MAKE IT REALLY DIFFICULT TO SEE.
Someone almost misses the turn. Ranger at the (open) gate wishes us luck and a good day. Thank you! Find my climbing pace. OK yeah gotta take the jacket off. Love seeing the snake of lights ahead and behind.
Although the precipitation petered out, there’s still cloud cover, so the fade to dawn is almost imperceptible. Until, BING! I pop (OK, more like ease out) above the overcast. WOW! So beautiful to see the sunrise above the puffy whiteness. Another rider also enjoys the views That’s why we do this.
Sherry goes by with a cheery greeting, and after I start wondering if maybe they’ve already been down and gone, the stream of descenders begins. MikeG is a few back, then a few more and ScottD and then another few and the tandem. WOOHOO!
Just at the split for the final pitch to the top there’s Metin! I’d known he wasn’t going to be there, but it was still a little disappointing not to see Señor Hawks, the SFR RBA of Awesome at the summit. Fill bottles, snack. Jacket on, zip up, deploy earflaps.
Take it easy, since the road is still damp, and, once back in the cloud cover the visibility is reduced, but I still pass a bunch of people. Oh hey! I think that’s the 6 AM start – MarC, CarlS, further on El Toro Miguel. And some club/shop ride with a follow car.
With the jacket and everything it’s the warmest I’ve ever been on this descent! WHEE! Bit of navigation, the course is, as always, well-marked, but there’s a couple first timers who are glad to ride along with me here since I’ve done it before. Cameo appearance by Stanley Mr. YouTube.
On to Morgan Territory. Climbing mostly solo again. Holy ****! Three guys power by, is that the 6 AM start already?! I haven’t even made it to the second rest stop. Shortly after a group of a dozen or so, including MarC and CarlS comes by. Yep, that’s the 6 AM wave. Le sigh. Whoops, sounds like someone overcooked/miscalculated the corner and out-of-biked behind us. Well at least I’m managing to stay upright. For what that’s worth.
The rest stop is back at the park this year, the Princess is the welcoming committee again. Yay! Fill bottles, snack, put cold weather gear in a drop bag for the Pet-the-Goat stop. There’s Ms. Fancy-K, and Miguel. The Burkes and their friend Ron are pulling in just as I’m leaving.
Little more rollery from the park and then the super sweet swoopy descent. Tall guy comes past me just at the end. Oh he’d probably be good to follow across the coming flat and windy bits but I can’t quite latch on.
Angle across toward Livermore. Turn into the wind. Turn, no so much. Turn, into the wind. See a few people who are maybe warming up for the Wente Road Race. I think I heard they changed the route, other than those few I didn’t see any big packs, and there weren’t marshals at the corners where I’m used to seeing them.
The stop lights form up a small group of us but past the motocross track (oh that looks like fun) where the road kicks up a bit our paces diverge and things get a bit disorganized. When it flattens out a fellow with luggage (yes, a pannier. And awesome polka dot socks.) pulls us all the way over to the canal.
I drop off on some incline and then I’m solo into the wind. Yes, special treat of climbing Patterson Pass, with headwind. I try Matt’s ice cream… Sprite… except I’m not such a Sprite fan. Hmn… what else can I put in there…. a certain somebody’s name gets on the loop… OK, now that’s just distracting. Focus. Pedal comes up. Push down. Pedal comes up. Push down.
Monotony briefly relieved by BFK slowing to chat a bit as he passes. Back to my own little world. Shane Barnes! He says we’re almost to the water stop. Well there’s something to look forward to! And away he goes. Sign for a Wind Farm. What?! Farm? This is their fault – they’re growing this s**t?! Heh. Woman, if you have the energy to be making jokes get to pedaling!
Probably OK in the supplies department, but I need a mental health moment, it’s good to stop and be off the bike briefly before the last push to the top. Get going again. Almost there, almost there. Fancy-K motors by. Ah yes, the top. Don’t get blown over. WOOT another fun descent, then solo chug over to Mines Road.
Another fabulous rest stop. Fluids transfers. Snackies. PB&J to go. Again there’s the Burkes and Ron as I’m leaving. Michael and Ron don’t look too good, and Ron is talking about calling it a day. Sarah looks fine, she’s been riding super strong this year. When I’d asked before the ride she said she wanted to finish the same day she started, doesn’t seem like that will be a problem.
Off to the Junction! A group of non-DMDers passes me – hey I think a couple of those guys were on the Skaggs Hopper last weekend! Folks from the Mt. Hamilton Challenge headed the other way. The Dixons tootle past on their tandem. Ah, the hillsides have goldened up since the beginning of the month. Still pretty though. Water stop, sure, what the heck. Jeff, a nice Filipino fellow from Castro Valley catches up to me and we ride together for a while. Nice to have someone to chat with for a bit, and it turns out he knows Andrea too.
Quite the lunch spread at the Junction. Hot sandwiches coming out of the kitchen, or a cold sandwich, and all kinds of snackies. I’d been thinking about a cup of coffee and vanilla ice cream. I do ask for coffee, the ice cream seems a bit too much a special request, and now that I’m here there’s plenty of other stuff that looks good to eat. Not up for a whole sandwich, but I avail myself of some of the pulled chicken off one of them. Then, along with more sandwiches, SWEET POTATO FRIES appear oh warm salty manna from heaven.
Saddling up, and again there’s the Burkes. Michael and Ron don’t seem to have perked up any, and seem to be leaning toward packing it in. I ask Sarah if she wants to ride together. She says she’ll be holding me up and tells me to go ahead. Part of me is still stuck on the push thing (even though it’s not so much happening) and so I roll out.
Another rider is also on his way, we have a pleasant conversation until the bump over to the bayou, and he gets ahead. Solo again. Oh the blazing stars are still out! Wave to The Ranch. Oh sleepies… Man that coffee seemed like it helped for a while but it’s not sticking. Stop and take half a caffeine pill. The Rev tandem goes by. Over into the Isabel. Water stop but I’m good. Just give my number NEIN (with bad German accent) and keep rolling.
We now resume the regularly scheduled climbing portion of the program. Five miles. Somewhere after four I’m sleepies again. WTF?! I stop for the other half of the caffeine pill and Hey you! It’s Sarah Burke. Don’t argue with the universe. It has decided we’ll be riding together.
She asks how I am. Sleepy. She says that happens for her (during daylight) if she hasn’t been eating enough. Hmn, I feel like I have been, but I spose it’s worth a try. Probably can’t make it worse. Chuck some chews down. Sarah says she’s planning to take a moment at the 3 and I have a waffle while we’re stopped. That does seem to perk me up a bit, or maybe it’s the most excellent company.
Summit! Quick stop at the spigot to wash glasses – woo – seeing clearly, there’s a concept! And bundle up, to the extent possible. I’ve only got my vest at the moment. End up feeling colder than on the Diablo descent this morning. I hate to be wishing for a downhill to be over, but… On the lower reaches I get some wafts of warm air from the pavement that’s been in the sun all day, I’m debating finding a spot to lie down on when Sarah arrives.
Next stop, Crothers. It is pretty amazing to have a stop at someone’s home, so I don’t want to seem ungrateful in any way, but really with the steepass driveway, must we? The Cup Noodles is pretty worth it though, as is rinsing my face off. Fresh like new feels good!
Bit more descending and then over to the Sierra Road climb. Settle in and grind it out. Hunt comes by, on his first DMD! Amazing views over the Bay, it sparkles in the low angle sun of evening. The Filipinos are out again. Higher on the climb, and upped their game, with drums and cymbals this year. Thankyouthankyouthankyou for being out here.
Brian Mr. Photo Chun catches us again near the summit and we ride over to Pet-the-Goat together. No goat, but a big hug from Phillip and yummy hot cocoa. I put on more clothes from my drop bags.
Beautiful sunset from Felter, try to enjoy the descent, but not so much that we miss the turn onto Calaveras. Gear down gear down oh still not quite the right gear oh got a couple more but no the gear fairy hasn’t come well at least it’s short.
At the top there’s something in the road. Someone lose something out of their car? Box? No, seems organic shaped. Rock? Doesn’t seem to be anywhere for big rock to come from on either side of the road. Hmn. Cat? There are some scattered houses out here, nothing too close but… yes, some kind of animal. It uncoils itself, stands up and walks off the road. Not cat. Not racoon. Not skunk. Not possum. Weasel? Badger?
When we get up to where it was, I look over to the bank. There’s a distinctive white marked face looking out of a hole. I EEP, since I’ve never seen an American Badger in the wild (that I can think of, certainly not this close) and it’s very cool, and I want Sarah to see it too, but I only manage to startle it and it retreats down the burrow. Sarah is still voting for Long Tailed Weasel. Me, I’m going with badger.
Last light along Calaveras. See a few cars – wonder where the heck they are going. Heh, didn’t think of it at the time but they might have been thinking the same about us. Have some company for a bit, but then seem to misplace him. I take the Alameda county line. We get some serious miso soup gravity going.
SUNOL! Oasis of cheery volunteers – MichaelSvi, Jason, Denise, Kitty (in super awesome fleecy Hello Kitty pants that I want), Alfie and Lisa, Cheryl (who asks if my name is Karen) and more. Amazing. Yummy miso soup and hot dog to fortify myself for the last however many miles it is from here. Michael and Ron are there with some help for Sarah’s electronics – lights and nav. Michael thanks me for riding with Sarah. I think she’s helping me more than the other way ’round. Either way, it’s wonderful having congenial company, especially now that it’s dark.
Niles Canyon, always want to get that over with. Sarah starts to wonder if we’ve missed the turn. I don’t recall going by anything that could have been it, but we stop and double check. Neither of us wants bonus miles. Whew, we’re still on course, the turn is just ahead.
Another of those to the right and gear down for a little gut punch climb onto Palomares. I don’t know what I was on the first year I rode this I’d made it all the way here by twilight. Then I thought it was going to be uphill the whole way for the next 9 miles and it seemed like I was never going to finish. Turned out it wasn’t all uphill.
There’s running water sounds from the creek, and the frogs are talking away. Big chunky rocks have come down across the road in several places. They’re avoidable at the speed we’re going, good thing they’re not on a descent.
I’m a little premature in thinking we’ve gotten to the top, but eventually it does come. Wend our way back into civilization, ah that’s the rush of traffic sounds now, from 580. And there’s going to be an uphill from a stoplight. No not this one. Next one. Yeah. And really I’d like to be done. Oh kinda sleepy it can’t be that much further and it is dark now so I kinda have an excuse now but I’ll go ahead and have a little snack. Oh someone went to the trouble of laminating a route slip and then they dropped it. Can’t leave that in the road.
FINALLY. Norris Canyon. Last year this went on FOR. EVER. Maybe since I’ve braced myself for that it doesn’t seem to take nearly as long. Sarah takes Contra Costa County line at the top. That new hip is treating her right! Yay for a descent, although one of my lights is having last gasps. Hold out just a little longer.
Through the neighborhood, last categorized climb of the overpass and the squiggle around to the Marriott! YAY! And it’s still today. Well, every day is today, but it’s the same today as we started. We finished! Welcoming smiling faces of other riders and more fantastic volunteers who check us in and feed us. Was good to be on the bike, but now it’s good to be off it too.