RBA Lori Cherry has been hosting brevets in the Fresno area for a few years now. My first thought, when I heard she’d started a new region, was, “Fresno?” in a slightly incredulous tone with perhaps a smidge of disdain. But then the reports from people who actually went and rode the brevets started trickling back – all favorable – and there were pictures, which looked awesome. So this year I made a point of putting the 300k on my schedule.
The picture on the 300k event page had 3 riders – all SFRians, and the start felt almost like an SFR brevet there were so many familiar faces. Minus the Golden Gate Bridge, and, although I’d been casting vague aspersions on Fresno, the start/finish was actually in Clovis. Lori was there signing everyone in, handing out brevet cards and taking sandwich orders for lunch. We’d see her numerous times throughout the day on course and then again at the finish – talk about end to end support!
The first part of the course was a nice flattish warm-up – straight lines and 90 degree turns. It was a bit headwindy, but there was still a fairly big group together and several people took nice pulls. At Friant we passed by the Millerton Lake Dam to one side and a washed out bridge to the other, and heard a pack of coyotes yipping in a field.
Dawn faded into day as we eased into the squiggly bumpy section of the route. For a while we were riding along a stream that was so picturesque I kept expecting to see a unicorn come out and drink from it. In a word (or three) – bucolic as f–k.
Everything was still super green from the rains, and there were lots of wildflowers out. That was rains, past tense – the day of the ride was sunny and clear. A bit warm but never crazy hot, almost perfect riding weather. EricM, who’d ridden the route last year, when it did rain, weighed in, “yeah, it was OK, but this (dry) is way better.” It was fun riding with him on his monstertruck bike, Therese and BFK for a while.
The climby portion started, and we got some views of snow capped mountains in the Sierra. Then we were up in to coniferous forest. There was a sign for Oakhurst – oh hey, we could go to Yosemite! The climbing continued and we eventually topped out at the high point of the ride, around 3400 feet, at Bass Lake. Eric and I rode out on the dam to check out the lake and the views. As we got back on the road we saw a family fishing.
Shortly after we came to the info control, but I needed the bathroom and some coffee, so we went into the store across the street. Fluid redistribution complete, we continued on the circumnavigation of the lake. Quite lovely, but we couldn’t help noticing many dead and dying trees, and stacks of logs in several places.
There was a particularly scenic spot with a river flowing into the lake and people fishing and enjoying the view. We stopped to check it out, and I asked a couple sitting on the side of the bridge if they were locals – I said it was the first time I’d been there, and was wondering what was going on with the trees. The woman explained it was a combination of the drought and beetles. Ah. Sad. But still very beautiful. I’d gotten my answer, but then the woman continued on with asking about our ride and recommending other things to do and see in the area and that we really should come back for Fourth of July – they have FIREWORKS over the LAKE! and erm I was getting kind of antsy to get moving again but she was on a roll. Very sweet that she was so enthusiastic about where they live though, so I managed to be patient until a polite point to extricate myself came.
Back on the bikes, we rolled through some lakeside neighborhoods and to the next control at the Pines Resort. It was nice to see some other randos, and a pleasant volunteer, who was recovering from an injury. “I wasn’t going to be riding today anyway, so I figured I may as well help Lori out.” We’d seen some trucks with mountain bikes in the back, so asked him about that – it sounded like there were a ton of great riding options, both road and mountain, in the area. I’m sorry Fresno, I may have misjudged you.
We finished riding almost around the lake – we could see the dam we’d ridden onto earlier from the other side. Then a sweet descent to North Fork, the Center of California (who knew?), and a continuing descent to a smaller lake with a power generating facility. Map says Kerckhoff Lake.
At a bridge… that meant climb. And a bit of a dip and jig-jog across Highway 168 and erm what are those swirly lights for? We pulled over. The CHP pulled over behind us and got out and came over. Oh, I guess we rolled a stop sign. He started off pretty heavy handed, with what a bane (my word, not his) cyclists are in the area, and as if he were expecting an argument, but neither of us took the bait and so it devolved into the generic warning – let’s all follow the rules and be safe and well, I’m not going to write you a ticket this time, but… OK, right, thank you. Sir.
It seemed a little unnecessary, but it was such a beautiful day it was impossible to be peeved about it. A fun descent helped clear the encounter away and got me back to the task at hand – having fun riding bikes! And then there was Lori with the lunch sandwiches! And other randos! Eric had come up with the idea to rename the brevet the Bass-o-matic 300k, but no one else seemed to find it as amusing as I did. Lori explained that the name, like the route, was the combination of parts of two popular rides.
After lunch we rode with Ryan and Mary for a bit, it was cool to hear some of Ryan’s plans for other brevets in the Sonoma County area. We were back down out of the forest, into rolling green hills and then farmland again. Unfortunately Mary had had a tire blow out on one of the descents before lunch, which had shaken her up a bit, and she was also worried about the fix lasting, so they short cutted, and it was back to Eric and I.
There was a bit of the flat 90 degree turn terrain through orange groves and a section of expansion cracked pavement. Ka-chunk. Ka-chunk. The omnipresent Lori came by and topped off our water bottles. Then back to more squiggly along the Kings River.
At our turn toward the Wonder Valley I thought I heard the sounds of ice cream truck music. We went by a park which was marked as a place with bathrooms. Lots of people were there enjoying the day. And yes, that was an ice cream truck. We debated for a brief moment but then back tracked and got ice cream bars. Brad rolled in while we were eating – I think for the bathroom, but then he saw our ice cream and his eyes got big. “WHERE DID YOU GET THAT?” We pointed out the truck, which had moved down the road a bit. He immediately rolled after it.
The Wonder Valley definitely lived up to its name – in a good way – and then: Start of 3.6 mile climb CAUTION PASSING PIG FARM – loose animals, volatile owner – be quiet, quick and courteous. Even in a detailed cue sheet that stood out. Fortunately we did not encounter the owner, and the only loose animal I saw was a peacock, which just sat on the side of the road. However, the climb, which was the last of significance on the ride, did kinda make me wonder what I was doing on the bike. Fortunately the views were amazing, and there was a bubble break.
And, the thing about the ups is then you get the downs! Eric overshot the turn to the next control, I yelled at him but apparently he didn’t hear me. He figured it out pretty quickly though and got back on course. As I was pulling in at the store a woman getting out of her car in the parking lot said, “hey, you have a flat tire.” Huh? It hadn’t felt like it, but I looked. Uh, no… As I looked back at her and was about to say something she asked, “What’s the date today???” and smiled. Ah, right. April 1. You got me.
It was a receipt control at a small store, and I’d been thinking something like a corn dog, but they didn’t have hot food. Sad trombone. The counter man talked about the previous riders that day and how last year people had come through in the rain. There was another fellow just hanging out, seemed like friends with the counter man, he wanted to know if we were playing poker. “I go on these poker rides on my motorcycle – is it something like that?” Yeah, something like that…
It was getting toward twilight as we got back on the road for a last bit of rolling hills. Then we were back in straight, 90 degree turn land of ORANGE ORCHARDS IN BLOOM! The sun had set, I suspect we didn’t miss much in the way of visuals, but the smell was amazing. We had a last info control, and I would have been fine being done there, but we had to get back to Clovis. This s–t is where a tandem would come in handy… I mean, I was just following Eric’s wheel anyway… Eventually we started to see a glow of lights in the distance that became Clovis. Lori and a couple other riders where there at the finish, with pizza! and then Lori went out to check on the few folks who were still out on course behind us.
Great day on the bike – beautiful route, very little traffic, overall good road surfaces, nice weather and excellent company. Everyone gets a good Yelp review on this one! (Even you, Fresno, even you.)
Ride date: April 1, 2017