This is the second installment in the description of my attempt to ride three double centuries this year. When last heard from, my friend Nick and I had quit the Death Valley Double at mile 160. My riding partner, Margaret, had left at mile 105 with bronchial pneumonia. We had three weeks to get in shape for the next double - Hemet.
Margaret finally decided not to ride, which was good. Since Death Valley she had an official medical diagnosis of a relapse into pneumonia, and had managed to either crack a rib or pull a muscle from coughing so hard. I was really glad she decided no t to ride since I have not fully developed my philosophic stance on assisted suicide. However, I wasn't alone - Thursday at work Nick and I made plans to meet Saturday morning, since he was flying down Friday night and I was driving down during the day F riday.
My drive down to Hemet was uneventful except that I had overhydrated, which necessitated piddling in a barren field behind the dubious protection of the van. If any of you have driven down Hwy 5 from the Bay Area, you know exactly how obvious I was. When I got to Hemet, Nick's motel was on the way in, so I stopped to leave him a message. The clerk eyed me knowingly and told me that Nick had canceled. It's been a long time since I've been suspected of a tryst, even one where my partner canceled - pr etty exciting all in all. I took it better than she had anticipated, and asked directions to the Travelodge, where I was staying. About 8:00 that evening, my motel phone rang.
"This is Vickie at the Best Western. We have a fax for you."
SHE REMEMBERED ME AND TRACKED ME DOWN! I told her to read it to me. Nick had been eating dinner, dislocated his jaw and couldn't talk - what a fate for a marketer! The upshot was that I was riding Hemet alone.
I made it to the start point the next morning in time to take off with the second wave of cyclists at 6:07 AM. I rode in a pace line with a couple of guys until we hit really rough pavement at about 5 miles: these weren't potholes, they were tank tra ps; some of the holes were 6 inches deep and 5 feet wide.
About mile 20, I caught up with an 8 person pace line, all from the same club, the Bullshifters, from Phoenix, Az. There were two women in the group, so I figured the line might be friendly - if they were already riding with females they wouldnÕt have to prove anything to me. I ended up riding with them for the remainder of the first 100 miles. They were REALLY organized. They waited for everyone, everybody pulled, nobody took monster pulls, and they had a couple of "enforcers" who would chastise anyone who was wasn't following the rules. They were also really pleasant to ride with - great senses of humor.
However, because of the speed, most of the ride is blur - I got great views of a whole bunch of rear wheels. I think we rode by a bunch of lakes and up three hills, and we stopped at one rest stop. The bottom line is that we finished the first hundre d miles at 11:20 - a 5 hr. 15 minute century, my best ever. This was perfect as I had been dreading riding the relatively flat first 100 alone, and (a) I didn't ride alone and (b) it was over before I noticed.
Lunch was at the 100 mile point and it was fabulous! Homemade baked beans, pasta, marinara sauce, pesto, potato and macaroni salad, cantaloupe and strawberries, and several types of cookies, as well as the normal sandwich stuff. It turns out that the ir volunteer force is from the retirees who live in Hemet. One guy from the bike group gets all the supplies to Hemet and all the women from one trailer park traditionally take responsibility for turning the supplies into lunch and dinner. It was great!
After lunch, the Bullshifters left without me - there was a long climb to Pine Flat ahead, and I wanted to do it at my own speed. I left lunch about 12:15 and started climbing and continued for about 4 hours. Hemet is at 1500' and Pine Flat is at 620 0'. In the 4700' of elevation gain, there is about 30 yards of relief, consisting of a flat connector road when you bear left in Mountain Center. The climb is truly unrelenting, but beautiful. It's totally open, so there is always a view of the valley as you climb. The start is in the desert, and the top is up among the pine trees, lots like the Sierras near Tahoe (it may BE part of the Sierras for all I know).
I was suffering up the lower half of the hill when I saw a key ring in my path. This presented an enormous ethical issue since the only thing in the world IÕm compulsive about is not stopping on hills. I just don't do it. On the other hand, if they were my keys . . . So I stopped and put the keys in my seat pack and took off again. I felt lots better. For the next 8 miles (over an hour) I pondered whether I felt better because I had done the right thing, or because I had stopped and rested. I tr ied an experiment. I stopped again. I got back on the bike. I felt better. Eureka! A new hill climbing technique has been discovered. I was so thrilled with my new approach that I stopped one more time at Idyllwild (4400Õ).
After Idyllwild, it was supposed to be 4 miles to the top of the ride at Pine Flat, 6200', but I was only 2 miles out of Idyllwild when I passed the "Pine Flat, Elevation 6200' sign". Yah! They made a mistake on the route sheet! All the cl imbing is done!
However, my hopes were crushed. Pine Flat takes the same approach to city limits as, say, Los Angeles. I had two more miles of climbing to do before I reached Pine Flat "city center" and, finally, the top, where I turned in the keys. I alm ost forgot. I was toiling up the last half mile or so, and a Cadillac on an intersecting road came to a bumper-bouncing stop to let me by on the main road. I expected at least disdainful looks as I motored by at 5 mph. Instead, an elderly woman leaned out the window and yelled "You go, Girl!"
After the top, there were 10 miles of rollers, trending downhill. Finally, at mile 140, the actual descent began. It was 13 miles of complete no brakes, full speed rolling on perfect pavement. No hairpin turns and only one rude driver. Well, actual ly, he wasn't even rude, he just had total confidence in my ability to hold my line in a perfect constant radius turn at 40 mph, so he passed me with about 6" to spare. Yikes! I also got passed by Team Gravity in LA Sheriffs jerseys. More on them later.
After the descent, we had about 5 miles to the next rest stop - it felt like I was pedaling through cement. At the rest stop I had some chicken noodle soup (salt in a cup) and said to the LA Sheriff guys - "Hey! You guys were flyin' when you pass ed me!" They looked at each other, did a perfectly synchronized high five and, in chorus, "Duuuuude!" What a crack up - right off the sound stage of "Wayne's World" and right into the Hemet Double!
I took off into a head wind. My speed was 12 mph. Visions of Death Valley jumped into my head. The route turned right, up a 2% grade, still into the wind. My speed slowed to 9 mph. Serious visions of Death Valley. Finally the road turned, I got s ome protection from the wind and I started riding as fast as I could. It was getting on toward dusk and there was still one more 500' climb, and, I assumed, descent to do.
I flew through a beautiful valley for about 7 miles, then finally turned up the hill at mile 173 and started climbing. I heard someone catching up with me. There was quite a lot of car traffic, so I said "If I could go faster I would. If I coul d hold a better line I would. But I can't, so just tell me when you're coming by and I'll try to stay our of your way."
The response? "The only reason I caught up with you is that your smooth style is contagious. If I passed you, I'd just slow us both down. You are a model of power and consistent confidence. You ride smoothly enough for both of us." This went on til the top of the hill. I would stand up and he'd say "What a transition! Not an erg of wasted energy!" I'd sit down, and he'd say "You sat down just as your cadence reached perfection. What timing!" Since I'm married, I d ecided to adopt him, and support negotiations were underway when we crested the hill and I discovered it was one of the LA Sheriff Duuuudes. He really motivated me over that hill, and I sure wouldn't have figured him for a candidate. Ain't people funny? P>
We rode on through serious darkness, picking up 2 more LA Sheriffs and 2 unattached riders. At the next rest stop, the Sheriffs stopped and the 3 of us rode on. About 5 miles from the stop, we got on a highway. There aren't very many of them on the r ides in Northern Cal. They are two-lane, bi-directional, 65 mph roads with breakdown lanes. Our Southern Cal brethren think of the breakdown lanes as bike lanes. So. We turn onto this highway with cars flying along at 70 mph. There is absolutely no mo on, and we are navigating by the white line defining the breakdown lane and our little bicycle headlights.
It starts with about a 1.5 mile climb. Then it takes about a 3 mile descent. I don't know how fast I was going, but I was spun out, so more than 30 mph. My headlight was totally useless. If I pointed it far enough in advance of the bike to be useful , there was no light. I was trusting in Cal Trans for removing the debris, and guiding by the white line defining the breakdown lane. Suddenly the line disappeared. Holy Smokes! An intersection. Total panic until I found the line again. There were t hree intersections on the descent and all three of them gave me near coronaries. When they came, I lost my only reference point, so the intersections were completely disorienting.
At last the road flattened. We stayed on it for quite a long time and the speed of the traffic was intimidating, but at least we had slowed enough to see where we were going a little. Actually, we stayed on that road for about ever. As one of my ridi ng companions said, "We've been riding for hours and those stars just aren't getting any closer." We rode and rode and rode and rode. You get the point. We didn't know how fast we were going and we couldn't see any landmarks. It seemed to la st forever.
Finally, we turned onto Warren Road - the rough road from the first century. About half way through it, my headlight literally shook apart and parts were strewn all over the road. Fortunately, at that point we only had about 6 miles in, so my riding companions rode one in front and one in the rear and we limped in. We finished at 9:30, and went in to dinner, where there were even more food choices than lunch. The second century took almost twice the time of the first. It deserved it.
It was a great ride. I expected it to be really boring and I had heard bad things about the support. The first 100 miles may have been dull - I'm in no position to comment on the scenery, but I sure had a good time on it. The second 100 miles was sp ectacular. The views on the climb were unbeatable, I've never done a major descent where conditions were so perfect, and the night riding kept me from being bored, at the very least. The rest stop support was adequate and lunch and dinner were stellar. The volunteers were mostly retirees who were very pleasant and enthusiastic.
By the way, if anyone in the Phoenix area wants to start doing these types of rides, the Bullshifters ride phone is at 602-862-6262. They would be a great group to train with: lots of experienced riders, large groups who actually go to these events and ride them as a team, organization AND they were really nice people. Well, one down, two to go. I'll keep you posted.
donna stidolph San Francisco Bay Area, US
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