I remember it being a madhouse last year, maybe because we were a bit later, and
we were trying to do a lot- check
into a motel room, do some last-minute shopping, time everything to mesh with a
planned Latte picnic at Bidwell Park. This year we were earlier, the line was
almost nonexistent, and we were camping. We picked out a likely spot under a
tree. This was Bill’s idea, figuring that the last thing we’d want to face
Sunday afternoon after a long ride was a van that had baked in the sun. It was a
Now, at 3PM, we were left with essentially nothing to do but hang out. Not a problem!
I replaced my rear brake pads (yeah!). We hauled out the camp chair, read a bit,
and enjoyed the cool breeze. When it became a COLD breeze, we put on our jackets
and enjoyed that, too.
Eventually we wandered down to the food court for dinner. We had some very good tamales,
and I decided to follow that up with some mac-n-cheesethat was really sensational. We ended up turning in at 6:30. Really.
Somehow the stars aligned and we both got really good sleep –except for the 5 minutes of
rain around 2AM. Up at 4:30, dress, make oatmeal and coffee, and head out to
air up the bike tires. My rear tire (changed yesterday – new tube/tire) was nearly flat. I was seriously
considering declaring it a slow leak, pumping it up, and soldiering on, but Bill
dove in and fixed it. (Thanks!!)
The weather forecast was for a high approaching 70, and we knew it was going to be
just below 50 at the start, so we dressed a bit on the warm side – I had capris,
Bill had legwarmers, we both had our Team jackets. Bill had warm gloves, which
was a smart call, and he loaned me his spare armwarmers, which I initially
disdained but decided at the last minute to stuff into a side bag.
The early miles went just fine. There was a very stiff crosswind on the first big
descent (the warmup hill before heading out toward Paradise). A couple of DF
riders looked uncomfortable with it, but it wasn’t a problem for the Musashis.
Bill was kind enough to wait for me at the top of Honey Run, and we rolled into
The bike path – check, then after Magalia the climb steepens to Stirling City.
Jennifer and her posse caught up to us, and challenged Bill to a bit of hill
climbing. He was kind enough to wait for me after that, too, and we rolled into
Stirling City together.
It was cold at Stirling City, so we didn’t stay long. Later
someone said that their Garmin registered a temp of 39F. The rain started just
as we started down the slope.
I spent years riding in the Willamette Valley, so I know a thing or two about
riding in cold rain. And those two things are, in order of importance, if you’re
riding in 40 and rainy, (1) don’t dress for 60 and dry, and (2) don’t climb any
significant hills, because you’ll chill on the downhill. If you’ve read
carefully to this point, you’ll realize, as I did, that we were screwed on both
counts. True, we had jackets, which put us ahead of quite a few people, but –
they are, at best, “45 and dry” jackets. Nevertheless, the hill won’t descend itself, so off we
went. I pulled out every trick I know, including pedal-braking (pedaling with
the brakes on) to generate a bit of body heat.
We almost made it. Actually, I think we would’ve if I wouldn’t have gotten a second flat (front tire this time) a bit more than halfway down. After fixing the flat, Bill was shivering visibly. When
he couldn’t control the bike, we stopped to re-evaluate. Fortunately we stopped
in front of a mini mart, and fortunately it was the sort of mini mart that sold
hot chocolate, and had free newspapers to stuff into his jersey, and had a
proprietor who figured out that it wasn’t smart to interfere with the grimy
alien creatures huddled under his heater. For some reason, I was spared the worst
of it. I’d like to think that it was the pedal-braking.
After a bit of work on warming up, we were off to finish hurtling down the hill. We
decided to alter our ride strategy – we went straight to the lunch stop rather
than doing the loop out to Table Mountain, on the theory that one more cold
climb and descent would’ve done one or the other of us in. As
it turned out, talking to other folks, the weather was fine at Table Mountain,
so we would’ve been okay, but – better safe than sorry. The last bit of descent
is marked at 10%+. We passed a couple of people who were so hypothermic by that
time that they were walking down the hills.
At the lunch stop, lots of people had had enough and were being sagged in. The ride
organizers had opened up the school and cranked the heat in one room so that
people could revive a bit. It was the quietest lunch stop EVER – everyone was
trying to muscle up the courage to keep going. A bike mechanic at the rest stop spent
some time ogling my bike. The pink one always gets all the attention.
We knew we were going to keep going, but it was a question in our minds whether we
were up for the short route home, or the long route.
Bill, who had been most affected by the cold, was thinking about bailing
out. I was hoping we wouldn’t have to.
The weather stayed pretty indifferent the rest of the way home – 60-ish and
overcast, but no real rain. And the further we went, the stronger we felt. After
a couple of dry, tailwind-assisted miles, we were rolling along at death-defying
speeds. Because we were low, and relatively quiet, and had a significant delta
on most of the other riders, we surprised a lot of folks as we zipped by. So it
wasn’t really surprising to me that when we got to the turnoff point to take the
shortcut home, Bill wanted to keep on riding, too. Woo-hoo!!!
We got back to the fairgrounds around 2, ate, showered, and headed for home. One of
my ulterior motives in leaving off Table Mountain was that
we would have time to make a pit stop at Pumpkinland. And what can you
get at Pumpkinland? Well, let’s start with what you CAN’T get at Pumkinland. Any
guesses? That’s right, the one thing that you definitely can NOT get at
Pumpkinland is – pumpkins. But
that’s okay - what we were there for was asparagus. They have very, very, very
good asparagus. Moist, fresh, green, not woody. They also have chocolates, ice
cream, and caramel corn. In addition to the asparagus, a bag of caramel corn got
stashed on board the Red Pearl for provisioning for the ride home.
Home just before dark, unpacked the things that we knew we’d need on Monday, and back
to bed –so that we’d be up in time for spin class Monday morning. Whew.
I am SO glad that I thought to put new brake pads on. I wouldn’t have had the
confidence to do so much braking if I was still working with the old, worn ones.
And in talking it over with another “survivor”, I was glad to have taken it
slowly on the descent. Jennifer did some windchill calculations – at a normal
descending speed the windchill would’ve been 30F. Her instinct had been to get
down the hill as fast as possible, to get it over with. I was tempted by the
same thought process – that maybe I was screwing myself (and Bill, since he was staying with me) up by going too slowly, since we were exposed longer – but when we looked at the actual data,
slow and steady is a better, safer bet if you’re underdressed.