Big day today, big hike, big sun, big heat, big black bear, big black bear feces, big window at top of mountain, big views..... Still bummed that I had to turn around on that last hike, especially after putting in the time and effort to climb so close to the top. Today, I was determined to make it to the top, an even more ambitious goal than the last hike. The trail is the Ventana Canyon trail, going up to what the locals call "The Window", a granite arch that has a flat bottom and sides with an arched top that looks to the south and north at the top of the Catalina Mountains. I left the parking lot at around 8:00am and immediately the trail begins to rise, staying within the canyon drainage and crossing the dry creek bed several times. The intermediate goal was the "Maiden Pools" a spot that has beautiful floral display. The overall goal was 6+ miles to the summit.
After leaving the pools behind, the trail continued to stay within the drainage and thus, having access to water, the plant growth was prolific. Thick grass bordered the trail and at times I could barely see my feet. that, combined with boulders, rocks, matted down dead plants made the area appear to be snake city. I did see a couple of tails sliding away but they were not my feared rattlers. About half way up the trail I passed this large rock with the concave spots, where 100+ years ago, early peoples of the area ground legumes. Kind of cool to think I was walking in their footsteps.
Farther up, the views opened expansively to the south. I had been hiking, slowly as I carefully picked my way through snake country, for 4 hours and had not seen anyone. However, I had come across several large animal feces. I assumed (hoped) they were big horned sheep. Some appeared to be from earlier today. Suddenly, as I rounded a corner I almost ran into....
....this retired forest service range who now volunteers to walk the area's trail, making notes for the office. He asked if I noted the animal feces, which he had counted 9 droppings. Yep, I told him I guessed it was large sheep and he said they were no longer native to the area. Instead he said they were from a black bear and it was in the area. Yikes! I still had a few hundred yards to
go and bid him farewell, finally reaching.....
.....the window. Next to the views from the spine of land at the top of Refugio leading to the satellite array in CA with views to the ocean and valley, this was probably the 2nd best I've seen. Southward and Northward past multiple mountain ranges, awesome. I had climbed 4300' in a little over 6 miles and would finish with 12+ miles, call it a mini half marathon with lots of climbing.
I did not dwell too long at the window, instead thinking it may be a good idea to hustle down the trail and catch the old-timer. I wondered what I would do if I encountered the bear. Yes, my initial instinct would be to turn and run, screaming like a little girl but I knew that would only trigger the pursuit instinct. I had read for bears or mountain lions, take off the pack, swing it around, making yourself appear to be larger than you are and make noise. I quickened my pace and soon caught the ranger. I must say, I really enjoyed the miles I spent as a crotch sniffer, drafting him like Grand Poobah on the wheel of the Rossi tandem. He had walking sticks gliding through the grass and commented that once the stick had taken a direct hit from a Mojave rattler. At this, I drew even closer. He identified all kinds of flora and showed fox, coyote and other animal feces on the trail. Really good guy. Said the environs was ideal for snakes and we had no doubt been observed by dozens but not seen any of them. Yet more reports to come!
John Gorrilla and Kyle Wingler are organizing a trail building task force and sent me the below info that I forward. Be warned, I plan to be there with my chainsaw and will be looking to even some scores. Please contact Kyle via the info below to let him know if you can attend. I've got quite a few reports to put up, including an encounter with a black bear at the top of the Catalina Mountains. The wounds should heal by the time I return to Ohio,
I'm emailing you because I believe you have mountain bikes or have some
interest in riding off road. Kyle Wingler is leading an effort to construct 7-9
miles of singletrack at Lobdell Reserve in Alexandria which is in riding
distance of a lot of you. We are planning a trail day to continue working on
the first section of trail on 11/11 at 10:00. I believe we'll be meeting in the
northwest corner of the park on Mounts Road, but Kyle can let everyone know
where to meet specifically if that's inaccurate.
I think the plan is to work for 3-4 hours clearing undergrowth and cutting
the tread. This is crummy labor, but yields fun results. The plus to trail
building is you can think of the work you put in every time you ride a section
you constructed as well as have some input into the trail itself.
Please plan on dressing for being in the woods with thorny vines. If you
can, please bring shovels, picks or hoes, garden rakes, loppers, pruners and
other tools you think would be useful for clearing, digging and cutting. We'll
have some trail building specific tools like you can see here: http://www.americantrails.org/resources/info/tools5.html,
but hopefully there won't be enough for all the help, so if you have some of
these or access to them, it would be great if you could bring them. We'll
probably have a few wheelbarrows and chainsaws just in case.
Please feel free to email Kyle at email@example.com or call him 614.506.0825 or
me firstname.lastname@example.org and 612.817.3353 if you
have questions. Ideally if you could respond to Kyle and let him know if you
can make it, it will help us plan and have the right tools and work ready to
And of course, please feel free to send this message to others who would
interested in helping.
If bitten by a rattlesnake, I once read that there is a 25% chance it will only "mouth" you, a 50% chance it will sink in it's fangs without envenomating (shoving in the venom with the fangs) and only a 25% chance you get both the bite and venom. I've had a few encounters with the critters. Once I was backpacking through a part of the Grand Canyon and upon rounding a corner, there was a Western Diamondback in full coil prepared to strike. Fortunately for me, it had half swallowed a mouse with only the tail remaining, hanging from its mouth. It disgorged the mouse and slithered into the rocks. In another part of the Canyon, I walked by a Pink Rattlesnake, a species found only in the Canyon, wrapped around the base of a bush. It's head was pointing away from me but the rattles were in full force. I bent over to touch the tail, thinking that would be cool to say I had once touched one but pulled back my hand, thinking better of the idea. Another time, I was sitting on a boulder at dusk, reading a paperback to kill the last few minutes before darkness. When it became too dark to read, I put the book down, glanced down and saw a very large rattlesnake slithering in the middle of the path towards my swinging legs. I threw myself backwards, stood up, did what I could with what I had to alter its path and then, in darkness, decided taking refuge in the tent was the best idea. Thus began the longest night, my first over night backpacking experience in the Canyon with, I imagined, a hungry rattler circling my tent. Did not sleep more than an hour that night. Then saw one hiking up Phoenix's Camelback Mountain, a little guy in a crevice about shoulder high. Until today, that was the extent of my experience with rattlers.
So, decided to hike the Finger Rock Trail up to Mount Kimball. Five very strenuous miles gaining 4000+ feet of elevation. Thankfully, for some of the trail the sun was behind the rocks.
Hiked along for awhile, passed a small group and then higher up ran into this guy. Wow. Today was his 1392 time up to the top! He catalogs all the plant and animal species and just loves the views at the top. Said they were the best in the valley and rattled off many peaks and mountain ranges one can see. He'd been life flighted out two times, once with a broken leg and once dehydrated. Probably not a bad ratio of hikes to flights. He warned me.....
......this area ahead, once emerging from the shade, would be prone to rattlesnake sightings and he had heard one when he stepped on a rock but could not find it. Ugh....I walked into this area with lots of thick grass bordering the trail. I was so apprehensive with the many rocky outcroppings and thick vegetation that I began rolling a rock ahead of me to try to give me advance warning but did not see any of the critters.
Farther up, the views were great and I looked forward to seeing the views at the top. However, I had brought a trail description with me and it described various spur trails and where not to go and at mile 3.5, the group I had passed I saw on the other side of the canyon, there was a lot of scat about, indicating mountain lions or similar creatures and had not seen anyone for a long time.
Kind of wierded me out and convinced myself I was off the official trail and so turned back. Turns out I had been on the correct trail and that group had gotten off on a spur trail. Oh well, will do it again.
It didn't help that there were dozens of these grasshoppers that when startled, would fly away with a clacking of the wings that sounded like a rattlesnake. Headed back down. Toward the bottom, the route finally flattened a bit and began trotting
when I saw a man standing in the path in front of me. I thought he yelled, "Stand still so I can take a picture of this rabbit", which seemed odd to me. I walked a little farther and there, on a stone facing south and away from me was....
.....a black tail diamondback rattlesnake! Had that man not happened to be coming up trail, would I have seen the snake in time to stop? Not a chance. Doesn't mean it would have struck me either but makes me wonder and I'm really glad I only have to wonder. It was a beautiful creature, green and brown and the rattle did not rattle. That's how some of these live a long time because the rattle function does not work. I calculated it's strike range, tripled the calculation and gave it a very wide berth. Well, doing the Ventenna Canyon trail tomorrow past the Maiden Pools and up to the "Window". 14 mile round trip hike. Still have to report on the bike rides too and that is coming.
Sorry I have to miss my favorite ride of the year, the COP Rockmill Brewery ride this Saturday. If you can't make the ride, get there for the beer and brewery. A very neat place and probably Flyin Tuna will be there to reenact one of my favorite images from last year.
This post qualifies as one in which most of you have little interest but it allows me to document something that I'll forget about in my 90's but will enjoy reading. Attended another "Big Game" at Splatter Park in Mt Giliad. Roughly 800 people show up and then divided into two teams, blue and orange. We are led out into the woods where I get to blast away at others for hours, with a paintball gun. Here, my son walks ahead of me as around 30 of us who previously left the game after getting hit are reinserted.
Getting hit with a paintball is kind of painful. I was standing behind the fort when a guy tried to organize a charge around the side and overcome Orange. I had been standing there for awhile and heard a constant sound of "pftt" as hundreds of balls came through the gap through which this guy was planning to charge. I jumped in with around 10 guys and immediately took hits to both legs and the "groin". That was really painful and I threw up my gun signaling I was out of the game. Unfortunately, too many people don't immediately stop firing and so I was "bonus balled" a few more times.
Something about blasting away at other people with a paintball gun is appealing. So too is running around the woods diving behind tree trunks, bunkers, running in to shipping containers, screaming like a banshee, etc... After the end of the game, there is a pause and then begins the "Rain of Paint" where the sides are divided, and you are permitted to blast the other side for 20 minutes in a field of containers. If you get hit, no worries, just keep firing until you can't take the hits anymore, run out of paint balls or the time expires. Then....
....around $20,000 in prizes are thrown out from the back of a truck and awards are given, the most coveted of which goes to the person who takes the most hits during the "Rain of Paint". This guy won the award. The image does not do justice to the welts that earned him the award. People of all ages and lots of women participate in this fun event. Well, back to cycling stuff.
Today was my last big day before the Ironman and I decided I wanted to explore the Hawaii Belt more to the south. I had previously gone out 16 miles and so I wanted to go out 25 miles today and come back for lunch. This time I was mentally prepared for the 1600 feet of climbing I had to do to get up to the high point. So, after breakfast I climbed up and up and up, once again experiencing the wonderful humidity. After the high point it rolled gradually back down to the 900s before climbing back up to 1300 for the turnaround point. This part of the island has more trees and other vegetation. Nicer surroundings to look at than riding north through the lava fields. I saw a sign for 180 acres for sale. A mere $1.83 million and it can be yours. It was a pretty uneventful ride compared to the day before.
After lunch at the hotel, I did a nice easy ride up to Kona and back. They were still working on setting up for the triathlon. They had blocked off further south now of the finish line. My buddy tells me they actually start in the water and have to tread water for maybe 10 minutes before they get to go. I thought that was really interesting. So, today I finished with 64 miles and 4700 feet of climbing. I believe that brings me up to 390 for the week. Tomorrow I plan on getting up at 5:00 am and heading up to my buddy's place at 5:30 am to store my bike and then walk the remaining 1.5 miles to the start. The Pros start at 6:30 am and the age classes start at 7:00 am. Should be fun!
If you could manage the cold start, you would have been treated to a great route, rapidly warming temps, new roads, strong tail winds on the back end of the route and great scenery on Saturday's COP Roving Ride. Now, about that start. It put some of us in a quandary, it being the first "cold" temperature start of the off season and our memory of what to wear for such starts, long gone. I chose poorly and left the parking lot with one too many layers. Out of the roughly 35 people who came out for the ride, maybe 15-18 departed with us, including some guys rarely seen on Saturday rides such as Joe G, Kevin S, Greg D, Rich R and Bob S. It was good to have them in the mix but I suspect the off season pace may have been too slow for that crew.
I overuse descriptions such as "Mother of...", Son of...., Brother of....." to describe how one climb or route compares to a standard bearer but it is fair to say this route was at least a distant cousin of a CFC route. I thought by now we'd be doing loops through the flat plains around Buckeye Lake but no, yet another knee buckler route. We departed the church via Coonpath and got on to Rainbow and took that in to Lancaster with the climb on Stringtown included. The route through the city was a little confusing and I immediately wondered how the route challenged Kendas would manage it as they missed the start.
We cruised through Sugar Grove and I gave silent thanks as we passed Savage and Bauman roads, before crossing 33, eventually reacquiring it and then climbing Opossum Hollow, down to 374, making a left and then a quick right up another climb, back to 33 through a cemetery (seemed fitting), through and up Wild Cat Road, Starr Route, Kreashbuam, another climb before gasping with relief as we stopped.....
at this classic stop, Grandma Fayes, where we had some fun with the bear.
We lost Dan Farley to the 78 mile shortcut but those that remained, Mark C, Jeff S, Mitch O, Flyin Tuna, Corvair, Mark V, Maya, Reynoldsburg Dan, plodded on via the 98 mile route. George too was there, sometimes not, flitting in and out of the group. From Grandma Fayes, we go onto some unfamiliar roads ( Pretty Run, Macedonia, Narrows, etc..) that included a climb with a patch of heavy gravel. So thick was the gravel, Flyin T unclipped, forcing other to do as well and we began pushing our bikes. I suddenly realized what a great pic opportunity this was and grabbed for my camera. In so doing, I dumped the camera, cash and coins on the ground. Mitch offered to hold my bike while I gathered stuff and I suggested he make himself especially helpful by also pushing it, while at the same time doing it to his own bike. Now I had the perfect opportunity, Tuna pushing a bike up a hill and Mitch O pushing two bikes! Unfortunately, the camera's charge had run out. We eventually took a stop in Laurelville before moving on, finishing with 96 miles and 4600' of climbing
Well, two options for Saturday, a COP Roving Ride out of the Gloryland Nazarene Church on Coonpath Road or a COP memorial ride out of Cyclist Connection in Canal Winchester. Both start at 9:00 but it appears the memorial ride will be more of a social deal so I've checked with several "Big Wigs" of the central Ohio cycling scene and they are all doing the Roving Ride. The Roving Ride has several route options including a 100 mile one.
I think I'll do my last century ride (helped enormously by an 8:00pm Buckeye start time) tomorrow and using it to get me ready for a big ride next Saturday. Yes, next Saturday I will be back in sunny Oro Valley, AZ for a few days and will participate in the famous Tucson Shootout Ride. Thinking about doing the Mount Lemmon climb again, hiking the Grand Canyon, gosh who knows what kind of trouble I can get in to, rattlers, scorpions, tarantulas, javelinas and that's just around the condo!
I mistakenly put up images from Andrews ride of yesterday, rather than of the day before. Since loading images is time consuming, I've gone ahead and posted yesterday's ride report with the correct images and will post the day before report with correct images later. Now, on with the story from Andrew.
The plan today was for my one and only century for the week. After two days of lots of climbing, I was looking to do some flatter terrain and have an easier ride. I decided to skip my oatmeal and pop-tart breakfast and headed up to Kona to the McDonalds for some breakfast with fat in it! I didn't want to be feeling hungry 30 miles down the road. After a Big Breakfast, Cinnamon Melt, and two milks and 7 miles under my belt, I headed north on the Queen Kaahumanu Highway to see more of the route that the Ironman triathletes would experience. Everything went well with warm temps, high humidity of course, and a light breeze blowing from the north. I breezed along at my 15 mph touring pace.
Until...25 miles north of Kona...(covers Young Nick Phenom's ears)...all hell broke loose! The so called trade winds that are legend began hammering me from the side and front. I endured about a 6 mile stretch of what seemed like 20 to 30 mph gusting, in which I struggled to keep my bike upright. All I could think about was how much fun the ironman triathletes would have if they got to experience the same this Saturday. At this point I also noticed how the ocean had a much deeper blue than down south; very pretty. After admiring the beauty, back into wind until I hit the Kawaihae Road. A left there to check out the gas station up the road and unfortunately down the hill. After that wind whuppin I felt I deserved a Grape Crush to help me get up the hill I knew I was going to have to climb to get to the town of Waimea. And climb I did. Not real steep, but a grinder. I figured it would be a 1000-1500 foot climb. Boy it sure sucks to be wrong sometimes! The sun was intense and the humidity taking its toll, and I was feeling quite hot, quietly complaining that it would be nice to have a breeze to cool me off! What's that phrase? Careful what you ask for.
Suddenly around 1800 feet into the climb....(covers Young Nick Phenom's ears once more)...all hell broke loose again! Those winds I had experienced before down below now hammered me head on or from the side depending where the road was winding. And they felt a little bit stronger now. It was all I could do to keep the pedals turning when it was head on or to stay upright when it they hit from the side as the road went east. I had to endure this until I climbed up over 2600 feet of gain. Finally once I got into the town, I had some shelter. So, on to McDonalds for lunch and then south on the Hawaii Belt Road. My suffering was finally rewarded with 20+ miles of very enjoyable tailwinds. I saw a couple of riders riding up to town as I was leaving and I know they had to have suffered a long time coming in from that direction. I wasn't sure what to expect from this road, but I was very pleasantly surprised, as it had a two foot shoulder most of the way and didn't have nearly as much traffic as I was thinking it would. So, most of those miles, I was coasting on the flats and downhills and pedaling with ease up the uphill parts. When I got down to 12 miles to go to Kona, the climbing started again but not too bad. At some point, I saw what looked to be fog up ahead. Turns out it was a rain cloud. Bummer! It was mostly very, very light sprinkles and turned to a very light rain until I started descending out of it. Fortunately, for the really nice descent part into Kona, it had stopped and I enjoyed dry roads. I saw they were setting up the finish line area for Saturday and I called my buddy to see what they were up to. He directed me to his digs and I got to see his nice ocean view apartment, complete with kitchen. I chatted with him and his wife for a while before heading back for my 3rd trip to a McDonalds today and then headed back to the hotel. Finished with 104.5 miles and 6600 feet of climbing (oops, was supposed to be an easy day). I'm not sure how accurate that elevation gain was today. I think those gusting winds were wrecking havoc with my barometric altimeter. It sometimes showed me descending when I knew I was really climbing. Too funny! But great ride today!
I decided I wanted to explore south of my hotel and made up a route of 40+ miles so I could return for lunch in my room. Little did I know how much climbing I would be subjected to. Right off the bat, I had a 400 foot climb to get up to the Hawaii Belt highway. But did it stop there? No! I kept climbing good until I hit 1000 feet elevation (remember I'm starting from sea level) in 4 miles. To put that in perspective, if you did that for 100 miles, you would have 25K feet of climbing. Fortunately it got less steep, but I still kept climbing until I hit about 1600 feet elevation. Once I got further south on the highway, the traffic thinned out and it got more scenic. After 14 miles I had my turnoff and hit an awesome descent that took me back down to the ocean. Of course that meant I would be climbing again soon. And so it was, climbing back up to the highway.
Even though it wasn't hot, the humidity is oppressive and you are sweating up a storm while climbing. Once I reached the highway, it was back north until I took a split off that had a lot less traffic. I took a right off that road to do another climb, just to do it. It took me up to 2175 feet elevation. But not before I got chased by a big black dog on one of the more level parts. He looked like he meant business and so I had to run and eventually got rid of him. But the effort made me go nearly anaerobic and I had to stop to recover. The downhill was clutching brakes the whole way. Following the Mamalahoa a little longer, hooked back into the Hawaii Belt and enjoyed the downhill that I suffered so much on coming up. A left turn and my 400 foot descent to get me back to the hotel for lunch! 4700 feet of climbing for 42 miles. For the afternoon, I rode up to Kona and then out on the Queen Kaahumanu Highway for 20 miles. It was a struggle to go north into the winds. Coming back on the Queen was a joy! I think I coasted for at least halfway.
Back to the hotel and then out to the Pizza/Pasta place to gorge on a 12" pepperoni pizza before climbing up the 400 foot climb once again to watch the sunset. Not a stellar sunset this evening with a bunch of clouds out there. The camera enhanced it and made it look a lot better than it was. Finished with a total of 89 miles and 7000 feet of climbing. My buddy from work should be arriving this evening. He will be competing on Saturday in the Ironman Championships.
Andrew Clayton is in Hawaii to support a friend who is competing in the Ironman Champtionship, this Sunday. Andrew, arriving early is hitting the roads on his bike and sends this report:
Today I did 72.5 miles. That was about my limit as I was still adjusting to the time change and I think my body was a little dehydrated from all of the airplane travel. I'm staying at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort and Spa. It's a pretty nice place, down on the oceanfront. The 1st picture is of a golf course close by. I woke up at 6:00 am ish and worked on the breakfast of oatmeal and poptarts that I brought with me. I got my bike put together. It seems to have survived the airline trip, though my back rim looks to be slightly out of true. Not sure if that was there before my packing job.
I took off after 9:00 am and headed up along the Alii Dr along the coast up to Kona where all the action is. Lots of triathletes out and about, running or bicycling, looking very, very fit. I headed out on the Queen Kaahumanu Highway north to the Kona International airport. This is the bicycle route of the World Ironman Triathlon. Saw lots of bicyclists on this road. It's very nice with a wide berm. Just have to watch out for the occassional glass. As I was getting hungry, I turned around and headed back to Wendys in Kona for a double cheeseburger. Satisfied, I headed back up north again to put in another 20 out and then 20 back. I only had two water bottles, which is enough for 50 miles. There's nothing out there for a good while!!!! So, you have to manage your fluids and sustenance well. Let me tell you. Even though it isn't that hot (upper 70s), it was quite humid! And then there was the lava rocks reflecting the heat at you from both sides of the road. It felt like it was in the mid 80s in the afternoon as I was heading back.
I tried a different route back to the hotel from Kona and ended up on busier, narrower road that went up and down until it finally climbed up to 500 elevation. Then it was a right turn for a very nice decent to the hotel. Up at top there, it has a nice view of the ocean and below. I'm thinking of biking up around sunset time to get some good pictures and video. And that was it for the biking.
Now we arrive at Saturday morning and COP's Fall HOOT ride. Todd Lee, aka Grand Poobah, the dean of central Ohio cycling, was brought out of retirement to create a new route, map and mark the roads. Given all his experience, coupled with all the "constructive" criticism doled out (maybe heaped) to us ride leaders over the last several years, we were all expecting a perfect ride.
As I was standing in line to sign in, a woman asked if the route was marked. Poobah pointed to the ground and I looked, but saw nothing but asphalt. I stood to the side, saw nothing, dropped to all fours and yes, there was a dark green mark. Hmmmm, naturally I assumed the best and concluded Poobah, wanted to challenge us. After a season of following road markings that contrast starkly with black pavement, Poobah used a very dark green paint that blended in nicely with the road. Very creative I thought but don't think others shared my optimistic conclusion.
Around 15 of us rolled out, including Steve O, Adam, Ricky G, Tri-Andrew, Flyin Tuna, Kenda Janet & Paul, Jeff S, Michele friend of Andrew, Mark & Karen Rossi, Dan, etc... Soon, Flyin Tuna flatted and our group split between those that pretended they did not hear the shout of "Mechanical", those that did hear it and were too close to pretend we did not hear the shout and those who are always looking for a reason to take a break and so gladly stopped. Immediately, Tuna assumed the helpless woman role, fumbling with the tire levers, appearing not to know how to remove the wheel from the frame, etc... so Andrew intervened and did all the work until, I jumped in and.....
.....pumped up the new tube. My main concern was getting the psi high enough so that it could withstand the pressure to which it was about to be subjected. At 150psi I was too exhausted to continue and hoped the tire would hold. During the down time, many of us were scanning the map and I commented, "Nice map" to no one in particular. Karen R noted it would have been helpful if the road names were on the map. Hmmmmm, I concluded Poobah had thrown another challenge at us by giving us a map with a highlighted route but no road names. Probably he thought we knew the area so well, road names were not needed or it would promote on the run, group discussion and decision making. I don't think too many shared my opinion.
We rolled in to Bremen and peered into a restaurant, seeing the Kendas and others sitting around tables but decided we'd stop at the gas station market instead. Here, Andrew's friend Michele pulled out a peanut butter and jelly mix stuffed in to a hot dog bun. Great idea! The extra bread would protect the contents and not be that smashed goo that Janet pulls from her pocket.
Leaving Bremen, we got on to a flatish road through a valley and enjoyed that a lot. Soon, all the hills the route had avoided could no longer be avoided and we got onto the Bauman climb and others before finishing with 67 miles and 3000' of climbing. Nice route and I for one appreciated Poobah's effort at mixing up the usual routine of huge well marked maps and bright road markings. However, the best part of the day was discovering that the advertised 100 mile route had been reduced to 67. It don't get no better than that.
Last year my friend Ray Thompson did the Levi Leipheimer Gran Fondo in Northern California and came back with great stories of riding along the Pacific coast and riding through redwood forests. I met Ray a few years ago while doing the La Vuelta Puerto Rico ride that happens each winter. Dave Chesrown and I stayed in a cabin with Ray this spring when we did the Blood, Sweat and Gears ride in Boone NC.
I booked the guest house in a small winery someplace in the middle of Sonoma County. We also had a friend Dennis who joined us at the guest house. I heard that there were other riders from the Columbus area doing the ride but never saw them.
We got out for an easy warm-up ride on Friday, we got lucky and ended up on a very scenic road north of where we were staying. We met up with a local rider and he helped us stay on scenic rural roads.
It was a little cool the morning of the fondo ride. I would guess about 57 degrees. I think that I would have been fine with just a short sleeve jersey but was scarred into wearing some thin UV guards on my arms by listening to Ray and Dennis. These guys are from Florida and they were bundled up like it was winter. We arrived about 45 minutes before the start, it looked to me like we got a decent starting position, maybe a 75 yards back from the start banner. This year there would be about 7,500 riders. I was surprised that it took 3 ½ minutes before we rolled across the start line and there were probably 1,500 or more riders in front of us that we would try to pass.
Early in the ride we passed through the town of Occidental. We discovered Occidental on Friday evening while looking for a place to eat. We were surprised by the hippy culture while visiting the Friday night market. We see a few guys here in Ohio that have dreadlocks and drive Subaru’s. These Ohio guys might try to look the part but in Occidental they have real hippies. The food was great and the place was in a valley surrounded by evergreen trees.
I was not able to catch the lead group of maybe 50-75 riders but there were guys dropping off the back and I was riding with some of the drop offs and a few like-minded riders who wanted to catch the lead group. As the hills got bigger the lead group broke up completely, it was every man for himself. The first big climb was Kings Ridge and was about 1,600 ft of elevation gain. It was somewhere on this climb that I bent a chain link. I was shifting my big ring up and down a lot, I guy in front of me broke a rear spoke and it went flying, my chain came partially off the big ring while hitting a rough section and I pedaled hard without realizing it. My rear cassette would skip some after this but the ride must go on. The road would later be littered with chains and spokes.
Things were warming up nicely and I took off my UV guards. I am not sure what the guys with shoes covers and winter wear were doing but I was glad that I did not have any winter wear. Later in the day it was in the 80’s.
It was about 50 miles into the ride that I found myself riding with a gal named Rebecca. I could not keep up with her on the descents and could tell that she really knew how to ride a bike. I would catch up and sometime even pass her for a while but we kept finding ourselves riding together. We talked a little, it was her first year doing the ride. We would occasionally catch a few more riders and some would drop off the back. On the rare flat section we had a small group of maybe 8 riders that would work together but the group was always changing.
At 70 miles into the route we make this left turn and the road looks abandon, I wondered if we were lost but there were still green signs along the road and later even a guy handing out water. We both stopped and topped off our water. A few miles later the road turns into a trail (I later find out it is a hiking trail). Now I am really wondering but I never thought to ask any questions. At this point we are down to 4 riders and I am riding with Rebecca and two very strong guys with matching racing jerseys. As we continue up the hill Rebecca starts to open a gap on us but I am feeling good about it because I have seen these guys work and know that we will work together once we get on pavement again. It turns out that this scenic dirt climb will last for something like 8 miles. About halfway up the climb the guy in front of me snaps his chain while climbing out of a stream crossing. His teammate is behind me and stops to look at the damage. He will later get picked up by a sag.
At this point I try to catch back up to Rebecca and it is just not working. On the road there were climbs that I was ahead of her and then she would catch up on the descents. Sure, I could blame some of it on the chain skipping but she was riding away from me. A guy catches up to me and then asks if there is something I can do about the chain skipping. I block him out and soon enough he is walking up a steep gravel section, serves him right for being soft.
I pass a few more guys along the way to the finish but never see Rebecca again on the course. I finish the ride in 5 hours and 19 minutes 59 seconds.
They have a big party at the finish with celerity riders like Patrick Dempsey, Barry Bonds, Tommy Danielson ect.. In order to win the first finisher prize you needed to take the Willow Creek rd section with the dirt road. A former pro racer Neil Shirley takes the first male finisher prize and there is champagne and celebration. The first female rider gets announced as Rebecca Rusch, more champagne and celebration and they explain that Rebecca has been the first female finisher of the Leadville 100 for the last 4 years in a row. She is the queen of suffering and is not to be messed with on dirt or gravel. Someone from the audience asks: where is Barry Bonds? The announcer says “still on the course” and gets the whole place laughing, then he apologizes to Barry.
It took some time for Levi to sort out the results, I was the 8th place finisher of the competitive course. The first 3 guys were all Pro or Cat 1, 3 more guys and Rebecca in front of me. I joked around with Rebecca after the ride about how I tried to catch her, she laughed, maybe next year.
It turns out that in Sonoma County no epic ride is complete without a section of dirt. The locals all know this and they felt it was only fair to share with their out of town guests like myself.
Here is a video link to some of the trail through the forest:
Still to Come, The Fall HOOT report, ride report from Andrew C in Hawaii, Style Queen update and paintball fun.
An interesting and eventful weekend. Firday morning and I'm snipping grape clusters off the vines at the Winery at Otter Creek. I somehow had discovered they needed volunteers to help harvest the grapes and so I volunteered, thinking I may learn a little more about wine making. I was in luck, spent 2 hours directly across from the wine maker/owner as he snipped one side and I snipped the other. Towards the end of my shift, I also snipped the palm of my hand with the very sharp snippers and soon, blood began trickling out. Figured they'd freak out about blood mixing with the grapes but no worries, the wine making process would have eliminated any pathogens and they were none too worried.
Drove to Mark C's house to help him reshingle his roof. Here, Mark struggles under the weight of tar paper as he climbs the garage roof, having a pitch similar to Chickencoop. I'm not afraid of heights but I do have a problem walking on a roof with this steep of a pitch, two stories off the ground so had to beg off 2nd story duty in favor of cleaning up old shingles around the house, hauling squares of shingles on to the garage and making frequent visits to Mark's kitchen to sample all the free food. After Friday, Mark decided he too was leery of walking around the roof and decided after having removed the old shingles and applied the tar paper, he'd leave applying new shingles to the pros. Next, Saturday's COP Fall HOOT hosted by none other than, Grand Poobah. Yes, COP dragged this relic out of retirement to lead a ride.
With the forecast, I've heard 9:00am is the preferred start time for the Fall HOOT. Of interest is Poobah created and marked the route. With his breadth of knowledge and experience, I expect this to be the perfect route. Let me know if you'd rather start at a different time but the Alpha Female, Flyin Tuna wanted this as the start time.
My good buddy, Mitch Tallen, has posted what is easily the comment of the year. Since some of you miss the comments when reading the blog reports, I repost it here for your enjoyment. My favorite line, among many good ones, is the "sit with my admirers (in the school broom closet)". Now that's funny! He also gets credit for taking a dig at Kenda Janet. Enjoy.
As I was passing you at the forty mile mark the blur induced by our relative speeds made identification of rider a challenge but I suspected it was indeed you due to 1) the tell-tale outdated paint scheme of your Madone 2) your prairie dog posture atop your bike, and 3) the tell-tale drip of sweat that seems to be ever-present at the tip of your nose like fake frost spray painted on a cheap Christmas tree ornament. I am sorry I did not (do not) possess the social grace to slow down and chat about past conquests in Northern Georgia like Mr. Mullens, but my cork brake pads are glazed and tend to squeal upon hard braking like a feral pig at a cheap Chinese restaurant and I did not want to startle
you. At the 70 mile mark I spied you sitting with all your admirers among the gallon jugs of windshield wiper fluid at a gas station looking forlorn and lonely and secretly thought you foolish for not hitting the food stops since as a lawyer in good standing in this great State, I believe it would have been perfectly ethical for you to join the masses at the food stops and again, sit with all of your admirers (in the school mop closet). I trust that your closing comments comparing CFC to tHH is part sour grapes and part ignorance since CFC is a two day event for most of us and tHH is one. I love you Mr. Wilson, so no revenge posting of pics of my ugly mug, please.
P.S. Kenda Janet; sorry the ice machine bothered you. That's what you get for sniping my room like an evil eBay-er counting down the seconds til the last bid.