When I’d been preparing for the ride I’d asked others who had ridden 1000 or 1200ks before for helpful hints. Jason had given the ProTip to pack all the bits of each day’s kit in a large ziplock baggie. Small thing, but I wouldn’t have thought of it, and it did make the thatcan’tbethealarmIjustfellasleep ohdarkthirty prep that much easier with one less thing to have to try to think about – just open the Day 2 bag and put on what’s inside.
The night before Jason, Patrick, Jon and I had agreed to roll out together, but Jason had some last minute who knows what dinking around, and Patrick had to Instagram something, so Jon and I went ahead and hit the road. It was a long straightaway shallow descent, which was a nice way to ease into the day. At some point the thought got in my head that it couldn’t be right, and I started to worry that I’d have to ride back up the decline. I also kept thinking Patrick and Jason would catch up to us, but they didn’t – I found out later that Jason had been taking it easy on his knee. Eventually Jon and I did get to the first turn indicated on the cue sheet, which set to rest my fears about being off course.
However, it did turn out to be a climb. Twisty, and steeper than what we’d come down from Weaverville. In some ways it was nice having the cover of darkness hiding the extent of the uphill. The full moon was still out and beautiful. We started to feel a slight breeze and Jon remarked we must be nearing the top. Huh? Air that is blocked by the mountain lower down can flow through at the top cut/pass. Ah. Duh. Right. Never noticed/thought of that, but yeah it makes sense. OK, learned my new thing for the day – may I go home now?
The temperature, which had been chilly but comfortable while climbing, dropped as we descended. The lack of self warming from not pedaling made it even colder, and the wind chill was absolutely cutting. I finally stopped and deployed whatever extra warm bits I had – hatwithearflaps, neck gaiter, surgical gloves – my fingers and toes were pretty iced. I shook my hands and stomped my feet to try to get blood flow going, and commented about cold extremities. Jon commiserated, and deployed a fingerless glove down the front of his shorts. Note to self about shaking hands with Jon…
I was glad when that descent finished, and had slightly warmed with a bit of pedaling when we reached the first control in Hayfork. Charlie the Redding Randonneur was there with his usual good cheer, although I could have done without him telling us that the temperature was 32 degrees. He did redeem himself with hot chocolate and a shot of brandy though. He also said we’d soon be in sunlight as we headed across the valley, which didn’t quite pan out, but it wasn’t a descent, so I managed to stay warm enough with making circles.
The sun did make its way up in the sky, and the climbing began again. Between the degree and amount of it, Jon was off, I figured never to be seen again. I enjoyed some solo time, with a quiet, generally well surfaced road and beautiful scenery to keep me company. Then there was Murphy’s Law of Bio Breaks, as soon as I pulled over to spend some time with nature a couple other riders came along. Nope, I’m fine, thanks. Really. Nothing to see here, keep moving.
Folks had mentioned the Mad River Burger Bar as pretty much the only place along the way if one wanted Real Food. As I pedaled along, enjoying my own company, that sounded better and better. Jon, Roy and Metin were there getting some food, so I joined them.
We also had our cross-cultural exchange for the day, a nice chat with three hunters who ended up being from Cloverdale, back in Sonoma County. Small world. One in particular seemed curious about what we were doing, and wanted to know how much our bikes cost. Depends on the bike. I gave him a range. He seemed surprised about how much you can spend at the top end, but allowed as how if you were going to be riding it that much maybe it made sense.
As we were finishing up and getting ready to hit the road again, Jason and Patrick and also the famous Mark Thomas and John from Seattle rolled in. Jason and Patrick gave me some crap about leaving them, and Jason said something about me being on fire I think meaning riding well. I briefly considered hanging with them again, but they were going to get food, and after how long it had taken to get ours I didn’t feel like being off the bike that long again.
The climbing resumed pretty much out of the gate, but then there was the reward of a long, swoopy descent. Jon had been a bit ahead at the crest, then further gapped me on the downhill, but was still in sight. He waited for me to catch up and towed me off to the next hill. And so it went through the next section – me working to hold up both uphill and down, figuring I’d eventually get dropped, but on the runouts after the descents Jon would soft pedal a few strokes and look back with the “hey you coming or what?” and I’d push and jump back on. A car passed with a license plate saying: RHVNFUN.
As we headed west the terrain flattened and became generally downtrending – following a river to the sea. We passed Bridgeville, of UFO Fest fame, and continued along Highway 36. This bit was actually I’d actually ridden before, on Andrea’s 400k. Although there was less verticalness happening, we were now encountering a stiff headwind, and I was glad to be able to hunker down behind Jon.
And, speaking of Andrea, between Fortuna and Ferndale, there he was, at the side of the road with both sweet and savory home-baked bread choices! And camp chairs. And beer. Awesome boost.
We angled through coastal dairy land, with a slight detour for a bridge being out, and a bit of confusion but soon figuring out we were , in fact on course. One line on the cue sheet had an express (SORRY), although, of all the things we’d ridden (and would ride) I wasn’t sure why that one merited it.
The route headed away from the coast to the 101 corridor, passing through the lumber town of Scotia, and alternately being on the shoulder of the highway and frontage or loosely parallel roads until the Avenue of the Giants. Although it was still daytime, it was twilight under the redwoods.
Off an overpass I was able to get enough momentum to come around Jon and take a turn on the front. It was Day 2 and I had something like 350 miles in my legs but all of a sudden none of that mattered. In the magic light under the redwoods I had a feeling of sublime transcendence – that somehow, while of course it was me, at the same time there was something more than me – that the spirits of my friends Paul and Matt were turning the cranks with me – it was all so smooth and fast and nothing hurt.
And then, of course, it ended. Ugh, yeah, it did hurt. And, “Do you want to be annoyed?” Jon asked. I was not fast enought with a NO. He pointed out the road side mileage markers, and how much further we still had to go on that section. Erm, thanks.
Eventually it did end, and we were back on 101 heading to Garberville, our next stop. I could feel all the keeping up with Jon catching up with me, and as I saw an extended climb coming up I anticipated and executed a perfect reverse drop. Yeah that’s the thing about being on fire… you burn up.
When I rolled into Garberville Kevin was signing cards. He had some concern in his eyes – maybe I looked as whooped as I felt or that I was riding alone – but he didn’t say anything besides where others had gone for supplies and helped me get my lights in order for the impending night riding.
Jon was just wrapping up at the gas station, I needed to sit for a few. Some snacks had me feeling a little better, and no one else had come in, so I got back on the road with me, myself and I.
The twilight deepened to inky blue and then black as I rode along a side road, first on one side, then the other of 101. In the dark and on my own I was a little unsure of the navigation, and with the various twistings when I came back to 101 my first thought to turn right was mistaken. Fortunately I double – and triple – checked the route sheet, and, although it at first felt wrong, took the left.
The full moon was out again, and as I rode, the eclipse began. Most of the cars rushed along, on their way to wherever, seeming oblivious to the spectacle. I wanted to yell at them – STOP!!! LOOK!!!! Someone is eating the moon! I did see one car pulled over, which somewhat restored my faith in humanity.
I stopped and took a picture. Nothing. Another. Still nothing. What? It seemed so large and obvious to the naked eye, but yeah, I guess it was pretty far away, so it was only a tiny speck in the picture. With zooming as much as the camera could I sort of got something.
The excitement from the eclipse carried me for a while, and I also wanted to be off that section of 101 sooner rather than later, so it was a relief to see the signs for Leggett and Highway 1 to Fort Bragg.
OK, only another 45 miles. Haha. Only. This next bit I’d never ridden, and if I’d been on it in a car it had been a long time. The profile and route sheet had a couple of bumps between Leggett and the coast, which I was not particularly looking forward to, but there was no other way to get there.
Parts were under tree cover, but where it was open the now uneclipsed moon shone brightly. I kept thinking it was cars coming, but it wasn’t. There were actually very few cars in this stretch. On the first descent I realized I was starting to get cold. I had a jacket in my bag but at first resisted stopping. C’mon. You have more clothes. Don’t be a dumb ass. Stop, put them on. There’s no reason to be cold. It’s the middle of the night. It’s not going to get warmer. Finally I listened to myself. Ah, should have done that sooner!
There turned out to be more than two bumps, or I wasn’t clear on what the “summits” were – at one point I thought I heard the ocean but I was not there yet. Sad trombone. As always, eventually I did actually get there. The ocean was splendid in the moonlight, but after a while it seemed to be almost mocking me, as Fort Bragg never seemed to appear.
But, yes, they left the light on for me. Two in the morning, I was there – that was a long, hard day. And it wasn’t quite over yet. I had to wait for the front desk clerk to come back from the laundry to check in. Then my room was on the second floor. Seriously? Tim was kind enough to carry my bike up for me.
I was hungry, but no way I was going out again. I think there was a food vending machine in the lobby, but even going back to that seemed like too much. I made do with instant oatmeal and road food as I waited for the shower water to heat up. And waited. There was hot water in the sink, so it’s not like there’s no hot water… just for some reason it had a hell of a time finding the shower. It never got as hot as I would have liked it but I gave up and washed up anyway.
There were about 177 miles left, and about 30 hours to do them in. The next control was a timed one, in about 100 miles, but it didn’t close for 20 hours. What to do? Yes, I would love more sleeps, but I also didn’t want to ride too much in the dark again, although it would be on familiar roads. I texted Patrick and Jason to see if they’d come in/what their plans for the next day were, then decided on my own compromise, sleeping in to a little bit of the day, but not too much, set my alarm, and hit the hay.
Ride date: September 27, 2015
Word of the Day: minimax – a strategy of game theory employed to minimize a player’s maximum possible loss.
Faster than me on the bike, and with his write-ups (hmn, maybe those things are related…) here’s Paul’s version.