Saturday, June 30, 2007


Post Eastern Sierra Double. Following Week, Self Supported Century--Up Mt. Diablo pre Diablo Cyclist ride--then get hammered by Livermore Brian and Joe on the Bears and Tilden into Berkeley (Peets Coffee Ride)-then back up to Skyline where Jack, Ward, I took off for Castro Valley Golf Course. 105 miles, 8020' climbing. The next week, another Self Supported Century, as punishment for missing Terrible Twos (my baby's high school graduation) rode up Mt Diablo and did the 18% ending ramp 3x--met Diablo Cyclists for breakfast--then Jeannie, Ward and I took off for Sunol. After racing a guy with a tri setup to Sunol Ward and I continued over Calavaras--a very long 3% climb--where I promptly ran out of water in the middle of nowhere as temperatures hit the 90's. Found a regional park, life saved, then fast back with tailwind. 109 miles, 7500' climbing. SO IN TWO WEEKS ALL OVER THE EAST BAY AND DIDN'T SEE RUSTY--I HOPE HE DIDN'T SELL HIS BIKE

(June 30, 2007) CLIMB TO KAISER 155* miles, 13,500' climbing, 64th* of @304 riders 11:28* 5:30-4:58*with Jack, sorta with Joe (he drove in, said hello in parking lot and we never saw him again as he went off to finish 11(T), and Doug *i got lost on a downhill and shortcut the course 3 1/2 miles, or by 10-21 minutes, so would have finished 70-78th, and WORST CASED finished under 12 hours

Course-B: Grueling course--like a mini Terrible Two with "pernicious" climbs--but road surfaces are much much better and traffic is much much worse. Support-B+ The greatest (tied with Terrible Two) rest stop support, efficient but low energy check in and post ride meal, and though not a lot of turns course markings are inconsistant/ nonexistant. Overall-B

After doing Death Ride for four years in a row--ridden almost any imaginable way possible (self supported--bonus passes--for time--taking photos) I kind of lost my desire to do that overly produced but overrated ride this year. Jack's "Climb to Kaiser" jersey--with the elevation of 75 miles almost straight up and then 75 straight down was intriguing, so I decided to sign up for this ride. As doing this ride in lieu of the Death Ride, constant comparisons were in order.

While the Death Ride has longer climbs at a higher altitude (affecting thirst and breathing) I found Climb to Kaiser MUCH MORE DIFFICULT, with it's shorter but more frequent climbs that had a much harder grade than the Death Ride. Not an overcrowded merchandising machine like the Death Ride, but Climb to Kaiser had the best (on par with Terrible Two) rest stops for the far fewer riders. Unfortunately, instead of having to contend with Death Ride cyclists all over the road (much fewer riders who are more well behaved) , there were a few spots on the narrow roads that remain open to traffic that were covered with jeeps, boats and RV's all escaping to the mountains from Fresno. The other BIG negitive was that though few turns the Climb to Kaiser course is poorly marked.

Bottom line-the Death Ride is like a Rollings Stones concert in a mega-stadium, hyped like heck, THE event of the summer, production is incredible, and you can tell everyone you felt like a rocker though the band could only be seen on the Jumbotron and the sound from the well rehersed numbers kinda echoed around the venue. Climb to Kaiser is like a Patti Smith concert a a tiny venue--almost off the radar and you spend a good deal of your time in the standing room only crowd working hard to protect your space--but you wind up 20' from the stage and the music is so good you kind of ignore a few of the production problems

Going in I was kinda pissed at myself--been enjoying riding with a big group all spring--whereas 6 minute rest stops turn into 20 minutes. I had vowed to end my laziness on Eastern Sierra Double, but after 60 miles rode it more like a century than a timed event. My favorite timed event coming up, Mt Tam Double, so knew that I needed practice putting in a constant effort all day and to take care of business quickly and leave rest stops. Also knew that on a pure climbing ride it would be hard to stay in a group, so expected to do this solo.

Didn't know much about the climbs on the ride, and had trouble getting psyched for the ride (unlike the Death ride or a timed double)--but still spent the last two months riding to the top of Mt Diablo each Tuesday-Wednesday nite--but though Mt Diablo @11 miles long, and I'd try to go hard with the Diablo Cyclists to the Junction (midpoint) on Wednesday where I'd then continue on myself(side note--not coming close to the times I posted in 2003 & 04, but at least put off another year of decline as I was easily beating my 2006 times) the gentle 5-6% average grade of Mt Diablo would not adequately prepare me for the Climb to Kaiser. Hard finding this information out on their web site (would probably scare off folks) but here is the list of the Climb to Kaiser climbs, as you make you way from sea level to 9,200'.

Climbing Comparisons

Mt Diablo 11 miles-6% average-two parts:
N Gate To Junction 6.5 miles-5%
Junction to Top 4.5 miles-7%

Climb to Kaiser
(mile 23) Wildcat 4 miles-5% average
(mile 31) Burroughs-2.5 miles-5%
(mile 39) Tollhouse-8 miles-7%
(mile 47) Pine Ridge-4 miles-6%
(mile 63) Big Creek-4.5 miles-10%
(mile 73) Kaiser Pass-8 miles-7%
(mile 89) Tamarack Ridge-9 miles-5%

Death Ride
Monitor(1)-8 miles-6% average
Monitor(2)-9 miles-7%
Ebbetts(1)-10.5 miles-5%
Ebbetts(2)-5 miles-6%
Carson-14.5 miles-4%

To put it in perspective-the steeper 2nd part of Mt Diablo and Big Creek are around the same length. Mt Diablo goes up to 3849', if the 2nd part of Mt Diablo had the same grade as Big Creek, Mt Diablo would go to 4610'! And average grade doesn't indicate that Kaiser Pass starts out gently--so the final section is much worse than average. Up to this ride I was wondering how some of the Fresno Cycling doubles riders are great climbers coming from pancake flat Fresno--not realizing the foothills to Yosemitie start @15 miles to the East.

Driving in I wound up on surbruban nightmare Shaw road ringed by strip malls and parking lots while stuck in traffic. Had to laugh when I passed the bagel shop next to the mosque where I ate breakfast years ago when all the other soccer parents on my daughters traveling team were pining for Denny's. Luckily ride starting in Clovis--which is a continuation of Fresno but has a real "small town" downtown where I was staying. At dinner Jack told me that Climb to Kaiser harder than the Death Ride--funny, I never heard him say that before. School/ ride registration up the road--one of these big Fresno-Clovis mega complexes which guarentees your kid will never walk to a neighborhood school. A good farmers market in downtown Clovis, with the boutique stores staying open--lucky for me the rock band that was supposed to show had to cancel so when a country band took their place--I could go back and get an early sleep.

Scenes from Clovis, an oasis from mega suburb strip mall Fresno

Mass 5:30 start--and already around 70 degrees--beautiful. Joe and Doug say hello in parking lot--after doing so well on Terrible Two I don't expect we'll see Joe, and Doug indicates lots of business traveling/ lack of training so he wouldn't be riding hard. First 23 miles go East into the rising sun along flat farm roads with a few turns, and with a police escort out of town to get us thru intersections. Pace is much faster than start of Davis Double/ Brevet but still has a lot of yo-yo'ing with riders instinctively slowing near intersections or riders on the left (wrong side) of the road suddenly needing to cut in as a lone car approaches. I'm riding more aggressive than usual, watching out for spent riders/ groups so I stay solidly in the rear of the first group leaving town. At mile 23 the Wildcat uphill rollers start so more riders die out that I can move around--but with so much climbing in our future I am just riding pace. Area looks like what you'd find in the Gold Country. Jack catches up to me--he had gotten stuck in the second group on the road--we'd ride together about a dozen times. I knew Jack wasn't going to stop at mile 28 rest stop but stupid me had solidy frozen a Perpetuem bottle that hadn't begun to thaw, and I had already downed my one bottle of sports drink. So I pull into rest stop @6:59 w/ an 18.2 average.

Re frozen Perpetuem bottle--I knew that on a hot day when I put in an effort I tend to lose my appetite, so my plan was to down 4-6?? bottle of cold Perpetuem with a shot of chocolate Hammergel--BOSCO. Luckily they had Perpetuem/ Hammergel at the later rest stops--as my solid food for 12 hours consisted of @4 fig newtons, 1 real cookie, 1 popcicle, 1 small bag sports beans, 4 1/4 bananas, and 1 (yes 1) slice of bread.

A fast tailwind aided section took us into the gentle Burroughs Grade--still felt like I was in the Gold Country. No traffic except for sag motorcycles that passed frequently on the nicely paved roads. Another rest stop at mile 39 that I was out of in 8 minutes after handing bike off to voluenteer who parked it, seeing Jack leave, getting more drink, and getting seasick in the rocking porta poties on the trailer on the side of the hill.. First serious climb of the day--a huge rocklike peak with a giant bolder perched on the top. This one reminded me of the steeper portions of Diablo. With so much climbing I had vowed to sit in the seat, but after getting passed by enough riders I'd get my dander up and stand more and more so I could repass the group--I wound up climbing with one other guy until I caught up to Jack--then we rode together .

Photographers at event took photos all day-at end of day only 2 photos found--Action Photos

Getting close and closer to the boulder in the sky--when Jack pointed out in the distance a road filled with campers and RVS that was also going up--Highway 168--and he said we'd merge in with the traffic in a few more miles.

Quick 2 minute in and out of a waterstop right before the traffic merged and then a grind (not a bad grade but still uphill) on Hwy 168 with nary a shoulder as campers and RV's and pickup trucks pulling boats consistantly passed by on their way to Shaver Lake--which remained hidden from view.. This went on for about 5 miles--damn-- not the greatest part of the ride.

All of a sudden a downhill, voluenteers stopping traffic for a sudden left turn into the Shaver Lake rest stop. Mile 52--9:40. Another voluenteer grabs my bike but instead of parking it she held it until I was ready to leave--another great voluenteer mixed me a HEED and BOSCO PERPETUEM dirink to my specifications. This is where drop bags were sent, but as ride had HEED and now PERPEPETUM I didn't need what I has sent (along with extra Tums and Endurolights) and as we come here again on the return trip I didn't even look for my drop bag--that had just arrived. Had to ride up a hill to get to the bathrooms that were used by park patrons--so took 13 minutes to get out--first double digit rest stop of the day.

Photos from ALL ACTION SPORTS--so many photographers ers on the course and then a crapshoot finding photos which took 2 months to get-- I don't know where this was

"Bathroom hill" let me leave the park already 100' up the next climb--and I didn't know if Jack left before me, as he usually does, or if he was still searching for his drop bag. After a short climb the road flattens out around the lake, and then a twisty descent--which I took slower than usual as I expected the BIG CREEK (10% climb, max 20%-4 mile) climb to start after every turn. One woman from the Western Wheelers who I had briefly chatted with on the last climb came by and said with a latin flair "you don't decend very fast do you?" but then she added that neither does she...and she told me we still had awhile to get to Big Creek so I opened it up a bit and we rode together.

Besides doing Climb to Kaiser before she had also done the Death Ride, and when I told the story of how people on last year's Death Ride looked half dead and would complain out loud about how hard it was, I would smile and tell them it's a "FUN RIDE." Latina rider laughed and said "exactly"--she told me that Climb to Kaiser was MUCH HARDER than the Death Ride. I started getting a little apprehensive as I left all lights behind, but she told me not to worry as last year she finished at 7:30--so as we decended at the same speed and I climbed a little faster, I figured that minimally I had an hour of "fudge factor time."

Soon a scene right out of Italy, a huge powerplant in the middle of nowhere--making a constant loud humming noise as an (ironic?) sign on the road said something like "Quiet--Residential Neighborhood." Mile 63-@10:55, another 2 minutes at a water stop. Then BIG CREEK began.

I don't spin on climbs, I muscle up on them. As such I don't care how steep the road is--actually the steeper the better as long as their is added flat sections where I can get some relief until the next killer uphill portion. But Big Creek offered no relief (except for one 100' that was probably 3%)--it always went straight up while very little shade was offered. Nature of the climb was like the one at Riverbank to Mocisson--but just DOUBLE the grade. One guy passed me on the climb but in a mile he was off the bike stretching as I do on Ft Ross Road. (Ft Ross, coming at @160 miles on the Terrible Two, is the hardest climb I know, but this may be harder if it also came at mile @160.) Otherwise I passed a dozen+ riders, many of whom had stopped. Last year I know I would have stopped also but there was no fn way I was getting off the bike this year--but I contemplated next year going back to a 34 chainring for the TT and this ride. . My back was starting to hurt when I made the sitting/ standing transition, so I stayed "miserable" for the first two miles and stayed seated most of the way--my odomoter mocked me by registering many 3.? mph's.. On the last two miles I opened it up a little, felt a twinge when making the transition, but then felt great for a 30-40 standing pedal count. And when the climb was over and could stretch out in the drops I felt really good. Unlike the Death Ride--no fainfare-rest stop-stickers at the top of the climb.

Now at 7,000'--and getting off the sunny climb felt refreshing. Lunch stop at mile 71 in a nice shaded Bear Creek Cove--I was amazed how many riders were already there, but may looked like they didn't want to leave. I was a little "out of it"--as my Tums were in my left behind drop bag I bummed some from the rest stop workers, kept trying to take two but spilling a bunch all over. Not hungry for sandwich, and as I felt good wanted to get out of there. But made another cold Bosco/Perpetuem special and I was good to go--though line for bathroom. See Jack pull in and I set out, as I am going to do a "Sierra Club Dedication" down the road. But about 300' away is a day use area with great EMPTY bathrooms--at both rest areas for 13 minutes, pull out at 12:06 as one rider comes down the road--it's Jack.

Some rollers around Huntington Lake where I draft Jack's wheel and plan to return the favor on a straightway, but we immediately come to an UNMARKED (I would have probably missed it) left turn onto Kaiser Pass Road. Jack indicates the 8 mile climb starts off very gradual, but picks up as you go along, and is very steep at the top.

Now 12:15, so am about 60-90 minutes from the 9,200' Kaiser Pass, and the turn around point. All of a sudden we see cyclists already coming down--about two a minute. Then we see Joe in the middle of this elite group. This goes on for ten minutes-holy crap--there are LOADS of riders way in front of. But all of a sudden the deluge stops--in the next half hour we may only see another half dozen riders coming down this ski ramp (nicely paced-perfectly straight shot.)

OK-Action Photos make it hard to locate your photo and eventuaaaaaaaaaly send it, but they do take good pictures--this is one of my cycling favorites, as guy in back of me reflects that the climb is hard but I look calm.

Grade increases and I start pulling away from Jack--which is OK as on the downhill return trip--that looks just like a long ski ramp on the CTK jersey-as I told him "once you call out on your left and pass me I'll never see you again," which will happen if he passes me on the downhill at the 7,000' level. But if I can make it down to the 2,000' level before Jack passes when the ski ramp changes to downhill rollers, then I have chance to stay with him. Though average grade is supposedly 7% much much more gentle on the open road/ski ramp area--but with about 2 miles to go the open road pinches into an oversized bike trail, starts curving UP through the forest, and the grade dramatically increases.

This is only place with poor roads all day--and not that bad except for one chewed out section, but with sand piles along the edge that sometimes bleed deeper onto the road. Meanwhile bikes and jeeps are coming down this curved road while bikes and jeeps are going up--twice traffic grinds to a halt. (Just imagine the ending ramp on Diablo, but it is curved, a little bit wider for two way traffic, and 8 times as long and maybe the grade is 15% instead of 18%) Now a few cyclists coming down, one yells out "not far to go" another yells "your seconds away"--so I get anxious every time I turn a bend but his seconds going downhill are long minutes for me. Might be almost as steep as Big Creek but at 9,200' much cooler and easier to climb. Finally see a gathering just off the road--some cheers--low keyed placement of the sticker. Mile 83-1:10-a blazing 11.9 average speed.

Man making sandwiches to order but I am not hungry--in fact I'm sick of Perpetuem, but knowing I need carbs I get a slice of bread. I'm also sick of Heed so rest stop worker fixes me one diluted Gatorade. Want to stay hydrated and they actually have Diet Coke. Unlike Carson on the Death Ride where you can lounge at the top as the ride is essentially over, I am eager to get started on the, what I envison to be, the 72 mile downhill, so only hang out for 8 minutes--next year I lounge out for at least a half hour. As I pull out Jack is coming in.

I decide I might as well stay calm and count the number of cyclists who will pass me in the next 72 miles on the endless downhill. Right away, on the shandy twisty ramp with loads of traffic--two cyclists zoom past near the centerline--15 seconds later they would have become the hood ornament of a jeep. Then hit the 6 miles ski shoot--but it is nice and straight surprisingly no one comes by. Around same place I saw Joe coming down about an hour ago, I see Doug now going up.

Get to T intersection by Huntington Lake, am moving fast and there are NO ARROWS marking which way to go. I vaguly recall that we go down in another direction than we came up, so I make a quick left which heads me to the last climb of the day Tamarack Ridge But I don't see anyone in front of me and start wondering if I went the right way when 3 guys shoot by, one inviting me to get on his wheel for the climb. At first I don't, but then decide to do so and work to catch up.. Tamarack Ridge may be 9 miles but it is a relatively gentle 5% and I feel great. We all trade pulls, and second time around I am really zooming, at one point look back and everyone is far off my wheel. I figure that I might as well press on as they'll eventually pass me on the downhill--which they will.

After downhill, and beautiful view of Shaver Lake (nicest view of the day) the endless downhill I imagined is broken up by some sharp uphill rollers--good--will delay Jack's arrivial until we get closer to my 2,000' goal. Go into nearly empty Shaver Lake rest stop, now nearly empty, as on worker grabs my bike, and another mixes Heed Perpetuem. My drop bag is still here--I leave the powder I was carrying--take out the bars (but still not hungry) but down a pack of Sports Beans (what a marketing ploy--jelly beans with sodium). Another 1/2 can of Diet Coke--just to drink something else--8 minutes and I'm back on the road,

Here's where things get f'd. It is a little after 3:00 and back on Highway 168--but unlike the morning not a lot of traffic going back to Fresno mid afternoon. Yippie. Fast downhill. I know we go down to the right of how we came up in the morning--next rest stop is in a town called Auberry. So I'm speeding along and there are a few roads that go off to the right and left, I figure the turn will be marked and/or if it isn;t there will be a road sign that says AUBERRY--x miles --->. As it turns out there is neither--there is a directional sign that says to Alton Springs (>) but that name wasn't on the CTK map. One intersection has street sign leaning at an odd angle--it looks like I am on Auberry Rd. I continue on speeding downhill, when the 2 lane country road I've been on changes into a divided 4 lane road with wide shoulders. I'm waiting for the turnoff to Auberry but it never comes. You can see the vallety from the ski ramp downhill and no other cyclists are visable. My feeling grows stronger and stronger that I'm off course.

Luckily I don't mind riding on the main road but have loads of thoughts skampering thru my head. Apparent that I'll be back in the Valley at about 130 miles-25 miles short--so obviously DQ'd, but what the hell, I saw Kaiser Pass anyway and the finishers jersey isn't that great (prepaid for a while ago but just unveiled by Volar yesterday.) Of course I can wind up anywhere in Fresno/ Clovis (not knowing 168 runs a few blocks from the finishing high school)--so once I'm back in town how the hell do I get back. Only real disappointment is I wouldn't have a real finishing time.

The T ramp splits and off to the side is Millerton Road, and I know the last water stop is at the Millerton Store, so I make turn. Just riding pace as I'm not sure if I am back on course/ what I missed, when someone creeps up and gets on my wheel. At this point I don't care--I'm feeling good, and figure my chance for being back on course has gone up. Eventually look back and it is a woman in pink. We keep going and somewhere she asks me something about the course and I tell her I have no clue, I might be lost--and she freaks "Stop, we have to look at a map, you don't know where you're going." I know where I'm going, back towards Clovis, but slow (mistake) to hear her rant as she pours over the map. Hey--I didn't force you to follow me and sit on my wheel. Soon another woman with a DMD jersey is traveling down the road who indicates we are on course--figuring I did enough pulling I just sit on their wheel until the Millerton Rest Stop. Temperature has shot up from the high 70's at higher altitude to mid 90's.

Funny water stop where I am for about 6 minutes (only 68 minutes of rest stops for the day) and many other riders sitting around looking half dead. . I'm thirsty (altitude didn't effect breathing but thirsty all day) so I just want a popcicle. Bur rest stop workers keep asking "do you want a wet towel," "you sure you don;t want a wet towel..." finally I take one. Webcore racer says he saw me take wrong turn; and he almost did also as turn was not marked. He then wanted to know if I wanted to paceline in, which I was game for--though I asked workers 2x how we got back, as I did not want to get lost again. "Don't worry--a straight shot back"--they said. We head back hard--Racer Frank keeps looking at his watch--as he wants to complete course in under 12 hours, and I tell him lets go for it. Someone who started with us dropped out. Eventually we hit a T intersection that is also unmarked. We have no clue which way we should go, Frank asks me what I think and I laugh as I'll pick wrong. After we both think we should turn right, and have our bikes pointed for a right turn, Frank looks at his map and sure enough we have to turn left. Spotg huge school football towers in the distance. Get back to the school and check in at 4:58--total time 11:28. I tell lady that they need to put an asterisk by my name as I missed Auberry, but after she asks if I did all the climbs I get checked in as a finisher. I'd wind up 64th of 300+ starters.

Call Joe, he is almost halfway back to the Bay Area--winds up he finished (11th) I'm still dehydrated--I'd love a shake or some diet sode--but all they have is homemade tea that isn't quite doing the job. Venue isn't very crowded as most riders still on the road. Good tri tip with pear-mandarin salid that really hits the spot. Large group over by ride photos--as we're told photos wouldn't be posted online (eventually they are), and I only find two ride photos as binders are passed around and around and around. See Jack while he is eating and join him--he doesn't remember Big Creek being that hard and he confirms Auberry turn wasn't marked and he started going the wrong way until he caught himself.

I like that I finished but not knowing how much of the course I missed bugs me--and if I would have finished under 12 hours if I did the whole thing. Almost first thing I do when I get home is take out a mapping program and see that I only cut course by 4 1/2 downhill miles, which at 25 MPH is only 11 minutes, and I wouldn't have slowed to look at witches map and would have ridden harder if I knew I was on correct route.

On a worse case scenerio, the 25.4 miles I missed were curvey downhill miles with hairpins (est 20 mph). My alternate was 16.8 miles of a straight ski shoot downhill (est 25 mph) plus 4.1 miles of rollers (est 17 mph) Throw in the mph figures in the parenthesis and 2 minutes for a water stop and I would have taken 23 more minutes, so I'd still finish under 12 hours--est . 11:39-11:51, with a 70th to 78th place. Figuring this out made me feel better.

Postscript--ride coordinator did an honorable thing and asked for feedback for the ride--lots of people complained that course was poorly marked and/ or got lost on Auberry turn.. One example: "When I told the event staff that my friend was lost on the course, and that I had been lost on the course, their immediate reply was 'you're not from around here." Somehow being a local makes a difference? Perhaps you should restrict the Climb to Kaiser for locals instead of inviting all riders, that way you don't have to put road signs up anywhere," Ride coordinator apologized for not taking better care to mark the course--a reason to return for next year.

Saturday, June 2, 2007


(June 2, 2007) EASTERN SIERRA DOUBLE*, 196 miles, @17.3mph, 75th of 245 riders while F'ing around w/ Don, Mike, Rusty, Jack, Steve, 5:00am-6:29pm*not to be confused with the Gold Country SIERRA CENTURY--same weekend-miles, and miles, away...

Course-A-, except for the miles of expansion THUNK-THUNK joints, and loads of left turns on Hwy 395, really nice ghost town route in valley surrounded by snow capped mountains Support-B, some minor annoying things (green bananas, no one to check you in outside motel), but Planet Ultra stepped up for this one
Overall B+, as really really unique worth the long drive

Didn't hear great things about the planned route of the New Sierra Century in Calavaras Country (rough roads) so figured I'd try the Eastern Sierra Double in Mono County, which is wedged in between Yosemite and the Nevada Border, and where Los Angeles steals its water from. It's a Planet Ultra ride and after the clusterfuck in Solvang last year I vowed never to do another of their rides, but Jack indicated they supported Eastern Sierra a little better. Ride starts in Bishop, where the hell is that?? I finally got a map the week before--no real direct route to Bishop--choice is either Hwy 120 through Yosemite--$$$ pay park fee and get stuck behind loads of campers, or circle north of Yosemite on Hwy 108 which is less direct, just as hilly (have to go over the 9,000' level), but may be uncrowded. Either way, a 6 hour drive to the middle of nowhere which is a few hours south of Death Ride territory. And just like the Death Ride, weather forecast gave chance of thunderstorms forming in the afternoon. And just like the Death Ride, as the valley would be at very high elevation, between 4,100-8,200' feet.

Helpful Planet Ultra had on their web site ROUTE SHEETS ARE NOT AVAILABLE PRIOR TO RIDER CHECK IN; PLEASE DON'T ASK US TO SEND YOU ONE. Great. But Mike had his from last year, but hard to follow on a map--loads of turns, crossing Hwy 395 early in the ride. After 29 direction changes, the last 77 miles are only on two roads. Actually (though not all turns marked-another Planet Ultra exclusive) the course is easy to follow.

It loops clockwise South of Bishop (4140') then heads NNW on Highway 395, a lightly traveled highways with large shoulders and wide rumble strips. Then basically any time there is a resort or ski loop off to the West you left turn off the highway, do the loop, (3 loops inc Mammoth Lakes (8,230') and then cut across and left turn back on the highway. In the distance are snow capped mountains. Reach Lee Vining (6500'') next to Mono Lake where you turn around at 105 miles. Up to now had loads of pine trees-kind of remind one of Blue Lakes Road. Return starts SE on Highway 120 you wind up on Highway 120--44 miles a desolate road that features expansion joins/ crack every 50', and endless views of sand and tumbleweed. Another climb-to Stagehen Summit through volcanic rock (8140') then to the ghost town of Benton where you pick up 30 miles Highway 6 for a SSW flat run back to Bishop in a crosswind..

I figured that drive wouldn't be bad, that I'd stop off and kick around SONORA to break it up, and take a lot of photos (Steve had emailed that route we drive in on is a large part of Eastern Sierra.) Hours of driving though ag land to get to Gold Country foothills, then up to Sonora--which had become a little to commercialized, so I didn't stay long. From there it was long, windy, steep (27% grade) drive up to the Dardanelle's/ Sonora Pass, and found SNOW at the 9600' level. In June!!! Sonora-town grid locked with cars--interesting place selling soda was stocked full of hunting knives and guns
Later got rid of most cars close to snow level on Sonora pass

About 75 degrees but air is nice and dry so it feels warmer. Been stopping off at almost every roadside mini-mart and downing a drink. Long curvy downhill to Hwy 395 junction. Going north would run into Death Ride land but now going south for a few hours. At least a flat-straight road. Oh crap, sky is getting dark gray. Wind picking up. Getting close to Mono Lake--what is that?--lightning in the distance. Now 59 degrees and windy at Mono Lake overlook. Next town has mini mart so I stop to get out of car--I'm very underdressed, while cold wind is howling. Gas over $4.25/ gallon (around $3 normally)
Continue South with more lightning strikes off to the side--sky clears a little past Crowley Lake--temperature starts going up--it jumps to 80 degrees and mostly sunny in Bishop, and it is late in the day. What can you say about Bishop--hearing that the ride started in the Sierra's and used to be hq'd at an place called the Outdoorsman Lodge--I pictured Julia Morgan-eque village. Instead Bishop full of Motel 6-Strip Row esque buildings.. (At least gas back down to $3.50) Surrounded by mountains it seemed we were in a real low valley--at 4,140' almost 1000' higher than Mt Diablo (and this was the LOW elevation mark for the ride.)
Mono Lake-cold & windy -thunderstorms moving in

Came in right before 5:30-time where Mike, Steve, Don, Jack and I planned to get together for dinner--while Rusty, who I thought would be the first to arrive from Tahoe, had not yet shown up as he was doing a lot of last minute prep. Then off to the formerly named "Outsdoorsman Lodge" where we ran into Nevada Doug who did last week's Planet Ultra Double where they ran out of ice in 90 degree weather--wouldn't sag riders etc...., and he bitched a storm as he recounted the highlights. Then a huge board with loads of rules and regulations and justification--must have been written by a lawyer--later on I found out a lawyer runs Planet Ultra. Then NO NUMBERS where given out-weird; weirder still--Planet Ultra concerned about riders NOT having lights at night but is having a mass start at DARK 5:00-at civil twilight--though sunup is about 25 minutes later. Loads of people making peanut butter sandwiches in the background--someone joked that I should call Rusty and tell him he had to hurry down here to make his two peanut butter sandwiches for tomorrow. When I got back to motel a couple of blocks down Rusty had arrived and he was working on his bike--getting it ready for its first double.
Weather forecast hadn't changed-warm in Bishop--cooler at Mono Lahe, and 30% chance of thuderstorms moving in at Mono Lake after 1:00. Hmmm-if we ride 16mph and take minimum rest stops, that is when we'll be turning around at Mono Lake.

Signs of the times--AMERICAN-THAI-WESTERN FOOD??? combo in Bishop, we didn't eat here

Planet Ultra board with loads of rules and regulations and no post ride meal explanation, and course isn't fully marked explanation etc..

The boys trying to be helpful and letting me know where the return route comes in from--Jack knows I'll probably get lost anyway.

The Diablo Cyclist contingent check the route sheet, Mike and Don wondering where they can add more miles, Steve wondering when he can hammer off the front, and Jack wondering if all the rest stops really needed..

Kind of fun staying at motel row so I can bike to 5:00am start, warm in Bishop proper so I wonder if I'm overdressed with thin rain resistant jacket instead of arm warmers. Yesterday Don 's plan is to start all the way in the back to avoid the clusterfuck of a mass start, but as soon as we were rolling he was zooming up.
To CP#1 Round Valley School @29 miles -Quickly out of Bishop and on flat secondary roads circling the South of town--and temperature dropped quickly. NO sign of the sun yet but a BIG full moon. Roads OK but the sand from the landscape had trickled over onto the road-following Mike who was creating a path along the left edge, with Don on his wheel and me on Don's, was a little treacherous; especially with some riders on the right weaving in the pack. One Marin Cyclist especially couldn't keep a straight line and numerous times he'd cut between Don and I. The topper was when we hit a few controlled intersection and the pack would slow while yelling slowing/ stopping--and Mr Marin Cyclist would take this chance to cut in front of someone to move up a WHOLE bike length. After he cut me off for the 6th time I just sped around him and returned the favor. End of problem with Mr. Wobbly. Saw Sacto Doug II and Veronica from my hometown--who had started a little early as this course had a 10pm deadline to finish--but she is game and had done the Triple Crown last year. Now some rollers started so mass of humanity broke up a bit. First cross of Hwy 395 where some people shot in front of oncoming trucks but were soon caught. Nice surprise--see sag wagon about a half dozen times. Actually the pace had settled down--and I could see Steve itching, about 6 bikes ahead he's riding 2nd-3rd wheel. As soon as I mention this to Don, Steve takes off, the pace picks up, and we go flying into the first rest stop. 19.4 average. Mike had been dropped on rollers--and he shows his endurance by bypassing this stop, Steve out shortly also. Don/ I don't stay long, @ 8 minutes, just in time to try to peel/ bite one of the rock hard green bananas. We left before Rusty and I think we even left before Jack (for once.)
To CP#2 Crowley Lake @49 miles-Now heading NNW but starting a climb from 4620' to 6930' Not a bad climb, maybe 2-4%, but always battling a sidewind or crosswind. Wanted a camera when we passed a front yard of vacation homes with giant "Far Side" characters on the front lawn. A few people would motor past Don/ I but get beaten up in the crosswind and we'd soon repass. Passed Steve and Mike on the climb.There was a steep downhill into a canyon off the part where I expected Steve/ Mike to pass but they didn't, and Don/ I contined another short climb, turn East to Hwy 395, and on to rest stop. 16.1 average. Down a bottle as dry air has me thirsty and haven't been drinking enough, which the Quackcyclist working rest stop confirms--he also likes my combo Diablo Cyclist/ Triple Crown/ Devil Mountain/ Terrible Two jersey. After 12 minutes no one from DC had pulled in and we were off. Now we're at 6920' level, you'd never know it surrounded by snow capped mountains towering ahead of us.

To CP#3-Crestview Safety Area @mile 72-Now we were at the 6920' level, would gradually go to 7300', mostly on Highway 395, and then make a left turn across and increasingly busy Highway to do the Mammoth Lakes Scenic Loop, where we'd reach 8230'. Don and I making great time--blowing by lots of riders. It is now mile 60, on a side road to Hwy 395 that I wouldn't have gone on but Don knew about. Time to celebrate an ez metric century with the Johan jingle. "JOHAN-JOHAN"
Don quickly fell apart--though he blamed altitude sickness and not my singing. Unfortunately we still had to do a little more climbing on Hwy 395 and then start the Mammoth Lakes climb--which was the worst place to feel bad, but that is what happened. Don didn't look bad, like he did at TT last year, but obvious that all power was gone--and I couldn't help pull on the uphills. At one point a bunch of guys sped by, didn't say anything, so I kick it into gear and flew past them on the climb--and then looked to kill some trees at the top while Don struggled in. Mercifully now starting the Mammoth Scenic Loop (aka evacuation route), as series of downhill rollers. Get to mile 68 and hear the first cyclist who shouted out a warning all day, a familiar voice, "car back"--it is Jack. He was surprised to have caught us--but he may be the most consistent doubles ride--adding to his ability to fly out of rest stops, if there is any faltering Jack is usually on the spot.
We continued on the downhill rollers and on the straight portions I'd try to go to the front and pull hard, and then draft Jack/ Don on the downhill sections--but Don not fully recovered and he'd fall off on the flats--which NEVER happens to probably our fastest doubles rider on varied terrain. Another left back on Highway 395, a Furnace Creek 508 rider pulls a fast turn in front of a truck bearing down while we luckily stop. Another left across the roadway, we pull in into to the rest stop none to soon for Don, the first actual checkpoint where they take your numbers-oops, I mean names. Average speed down to 15.2. Nice park but like most rest stops only one small regular bathroom--but we were no longer in any hurry so 20 minutes here while Don recouped, Steve pulls in, almost flying off his bike. Jack leaving but much to early to try to ride with him and his insane rest stop pace. Mike/ Rusty pull in. About 75-80 but in dry air feels warmer so tee shit gone. Rest stop, like the others, is well stocked with Sustained Energy, Hammargel, Eundurolights, and carb snacks--only thing missing are YELLOW bananas, tums and Heed. Another left on Highway 395...
Eric Smith missed Don/ I but got Rusty, Jack, Steve and Mike.

To CP#4-Lunch, Mono Lake Park @mile 105 Another left turn where we cut across Highway 395. We are at 7500', and we'll stay on Hwy 395 as it gradually climbs the next 8 miles to Deadman's Summit, 8040'. On the 500' climb Don is still not at full strength but we soon leave Mike and Rusty behind as we pass a bunch of riders jamming the shoulder. Then a downhill where we have to scurry across the Highway again, and another loop to the west around June Lake. It starts off with gentle climb, where a few people pass us as Don recuperates. Then the majority of the 15 mile loop is mostly downhill roller. Don and I taking it easy when all of a sudden Rusty and Mike bridge up to us--way to go. We continue on and around mile 95 we run into Steve who had a dropped chain problem. A new record-on a timed double, 5 Diablo Cyclists riding together at mile 95. Another left on Highway 395 where our paceline has some "Postal" (non DC) riders hang on--so Steve attacks on the flats and downhill sections and I go hard on the uphills. The volcanic outcropping in the east end, and Mono Lake begins. Oh no, a fast downhill which means when we leave the turnaround we'll have to climb. It is 12:00 when we are about to pull in and Jack is leaving--so if we get out at a reaonable time we'll only be 12 minutes behind him. It's mile 105--I didn't even notice the mile 100 mark.
F, we're not leaving in 1 minute--the gruppo found a beautiful spot in the shade next to a brook-Mike has his shoes off and his feet in the water. Park bathrooms 300' away. I have my last Sustained Energy shake of the day. Lunch stop features premade Subway sandwiches dripping with mayo so I pull off one piece of deli and chuck the rest. "Chuck" wearing a Planet Ultra shirt comes by and I thank him for the support--albeit green bananas it has been fine. But Chuck goes over the top in his response "OF COURSE, IT IS A PLANET ULTRA RIDE." I respond "wait, how about Solvang last year" and Chuck says "well, the weather had a lot to do with it." Before we start debating how a ride organization should step up in emergency situations, a giddy Rusty, who has now experienced a whole 4 double rest stops, starts gushing on endlessly thanking "Chuck" for everything--not wanting to ruin the love I just stay quiet.
With the climb looming Steve leaves after @15 minutes--Mike sets out in 20 minutes. Don/ I get ready and we yell for Rusty who is looking for something--then we look over again and he is talking to everyone. Rusty is not allowed to complain about people doing to much talking on rides ever again. We yell out again--Rusty still bsing, and Don I set out 25 minutes after we pull in.. Jack wouldn't probably spend 25 minutes at the next two rest stops combined. .
another irony of life--next year I'd be dead and couldn' spend long enough sleeping a makeshift rest stops

Mono Lake-the next day
To CP#5-SAGEHEN SUMMIT--@mile 130. Annoying 400' climb right after lunch back to Lee "Mitchell" Vining--I'm still passing lots of riders; Don not fully recovered yet--if we are going to catch Jack (30m up), Steve (20m up) or Mike (5m up) we have to start motoring now. We eventually pass Mike, but then we again cut across Highway 395, and go East on Highway 120. We hit a fast descent where we hook up with a few other riders and Mike catches back on. Look around and not many trees here--mostly sand and tumbleweed. After we jump from all the other riders fun is over as we hit the Sagehen Summit climb, only 1000' feet (@6800' to 8139'), but a series of short but steep grades puncuated by less severe grades. Now Don is coming back and we do the climb together. Luckily some cloud cover (rain on the way?) as this section out in the open and very dry. Planet Ultra has a water stop with ICE (thanks Nevada Doug for aggitating), which is welcome. We finally catch and pass Steve .It is about mile 125, appx 6 miles to the rest stop, and the road flatten out for awhile. Don looks fully recovered and is easily spinning down the road, meanwhile I have lost all my power-it is my turn to suffer. I am working so so hard but I lose Don's wheel and he qucikly zips down the road while the endless sand and the tumbleweed are making me sick. Finally see the last short climb to the rest stop, struggle up there and stop at the outhouses 200' before the rest area--then slowly proceed to the rest area--just a tarp over a table and a bunch of chairs--and slump into a chair. It is, 2:20 and I don't even check average speed which I am sure has gone down the toilet. So has any chance of catching Jack as I'll need at least 12 minutes here.
While we are sitting at 8140' the wind picks up--any bikes leaning against the awning posts are knocked over--the sky gets a little grayer, and a few drops start coming down. Mike comes in and says he needs awhile--Don says until 3:00 is OK. We are wondering where Steve is when a guy who just came in says there is a guy with a knee brace down the road, wearing our club vest, barfing away. "Oh that's Steve" we say nonchalantly--to the shock of the informant. Steve arrives shortly (smiling) and to Don's shock scores the only cold Mountain Dew. Rusty comes in with leg cramps and is wondering why we talked him into doing 200 miles.
to CP#6-BENTON @mile 159 .Its 2:45 and Steve left a few minutes previous--all of a sudden Mike, the guy who wanted to sit around until 3:00 slips out. So after 25 minutes Don/ I leave with Rusty. The next section has fast downhill rollers in multiple directions--
at one point I am doing 50 off of one roller, and I have no idea which direction we are headed in. Highway 120 (yes we are still on it, for a total of 44 miles) straightens out, flattens out, and THUNK, the expansion joints THUNK, every 50' THUNK really take hold as now with a tailwind we are doing 17-20. Or at least Don can do 17 to 20, I'm not recovered and I ask him to slow a few times, which he does. I'm still low on enerygy and haven't had a Sustained Energy since lunch--and really haven't eaten much at the stops--so figured now it was time to eat a carb rich & chewy LARA bar while riding. Mike catches up and says something like "oh no, Jay's not talking"--which only happens when I'm hammering (which I'm obviously not), or falling apart, or EATING! THUNK-THUINK-THUNK, we hit some uphill rollers which is a good thing as the expansion joints are less frequent on the uphills, and less annoying hitting them at 15 than 17.
Also, I have a better chance staying with Don on the uphills than on the flats where he is so consistantly strong and can easily spin away. I'm still grateful to Don for doing most of the pulling--but when a "Postal" joins us I start taking the lead to get the new guy to take a pull. Rusty and Mike dropped on the uphill rollers. We hit a section that levels out, I hear Mike? say something, a "Death Ride jersey couple" tandem speeds by with Mike either 2nd or 3rd wheel with a huge shitfaced smile. Don later said this was my motivation-I go into a full bore sprint so I can catch the end of the tandem train with Don right behind me.
We are now on gentle uphill rollers so I get in front of the tandem a few times, and then wait for it to come by again. Suddenly a big climb and Don takes off, but i figure I don't want to outrun the tandem. Stupid me--I soon realize that there will be a big downhill off the "roller" (sign 7% downhill caution comes to mind but I don't know when I spotted it.), as soon as I realized what was up I went balls out on the climb so I woudn't be passed by the downhill gold rush. Crest and see huge curvy downhill and Don already in the distance, and I'm not doing badly on the downhills today so the pelaton doesn't catch up until I'm 3/4 down and a series of shallow rollers are starting. In fact, a second tandem has now joined the fray. The tandems take turns hammering and I stay with them until one or two rollers to go where I can't get in the draft fast enough on a downhill--by that time only one solo rider had managed to stay with them. 44 miles on Highway 120, without ANY cars, and we now reached its end in Benton. I had earlier asked what is in Benton and in unison was told "nothing" and everyone was right. Another park bathroom 100' away which didn't have running water. Pick up lights here that certainly NOT needed--its 4:08. But drop bag had sports beans that were were great tasting in the heat (@88 and dry), and a bag of Perpetuem and Heed. Some wind so when I went to dump bags the powder started blowing everywhere, a great rest stop worker showed me what she does on rides, just bite off the tip of the bag and the powder funnels right into the bottles. Great Stop-- even had rice krispie treats. Mike, I and Don sit around while Rusty pulls in and Steve leaves. We hang out until 4:30--22 minutes., well all but Rusty who left 5 minutes before us.
Back to Bishop-@193 miles per Planet Ultra, 196+ miles on all odomoters. If we took a wrong turn out of Benton we'd be in Nevada, but we go SSW on Highway 6--some traffic so have to stay in wide shoulder, nicely paved, and a favorible wind until road turns SW and finishes W--so the Westerly wind (@12 miles) became more of a hinderance as we got closer to Bishop. 33 miles of Highway 6. You can feel the heat coming off the pavement which was over 100 degrees a few hours ago. I announce my plan to spin easily for a few miles, that is "ruined " when a rider comes roaring past, I get on his wheel and we start to hammar. We catch up with Furnace Creek Spongebob so now we have a 5 man paceline--but guy in the front is doing all of the work until I tell him "thanks, we can do some also." For some reason (shifting winds) our paceline doesn't stay even and there is too much coasting. Also, I've never seen Mike get out of the saddle so much (and so did I) to relieve the pain from the 44 miles of expansion joints on Highway 220. We soon see Rusty struggling down ahead--I jump to him and tell him to get into the paceline to conserve energy. Usually he'd be great to draft behind but he's just hanging on so its good that he can sit in. This part of the ride is kinda tedious; at least the paceline makes it interesting. See another unannounced water stop so pull in with water/ ice--I'm po'd that two guys passed us while we are in the stop so I go like hell to bridge up to them but no one else interested so I waited for Mike/ Don to get back on--Rusty had disappeared.
I announce that no one is passing us any more--and when we start curving West into Bishop--so the pace become harder--I see a rider bearing in on us. I go to the front and pick up the pace for the couple of miles into Bishop, but when I look back Don/ Mike far down the road. I continue riding toward the finish, past my motel, and then past the "Outdoorsmen Lodge" (or whatever it is called) with some finished riders inc Jack who has already showered, standing around clapping. Fumble around to take off my shoes--as NO SHOES ALLOWED INSIDE, and Planet Ultra wouldn't think of having someone outside to check in riders. Person checking in riders is busy-finally takes my name and looks at watch.
Meanwhile Don told Mike to hang on and he started sprinting--the guy behind never hooked on/ or they dropped him--and Don tears through the door--seeing that I give check in person Don and Mike's name and tell them "mark down same time." Cool--so we all finish together.. I had down 6:22 but Planet Ultra time is 6:29

Rusty smiling the next morning in front of the place we should have eaten breakfast

But what happened to Rusty? We all spend a brief time chatting and agree to meet back at 7:30 so everone can shower and then head over for dinner. Then I bike back to the motel, but have to use the crowded sidewalk as on my side of the street I'd be riding against traffic--and get stuck behind a local fixed gear rider talking to his girl while weaving through pedestrians and doing trackstands. Back at my motel I dig out my sandals and cell phone from the car and carry my bike up the balcony. Now looking down the street I see Rusty go by and give him a shout out., He did great-finishing his first double--but Planet Ultra has him down finishing just 8 minutes behind us, which shows that Planet Ultra blew my-Don-Mike's finishing time. When Rusty comes in he is dead to the world and can't join us for dinner--he keeps mumbling about having to beat "Grandma Shmuckers" who had passed him. The rest of us go for pizza, and then go back to the driveway at the "Outdoorsmen," see Nevada Doug, and BS until 10-, interrupting our conversation to cheer when a rider arrives. I'm surprised by how many riders were still coming in. With Don, my, Mike's collapse at different times and our f'ing around at the 4 last rest stops where we waited for our weakest clubmate--I figured we'd be lucky to finish near the top 50%. I was really surprised by the results-Heck we were in the top 33%. Don/ Mike/ I finished 75th of 225 starters, Steve @65th and Jack was @33rd. Rusty did great, finishing 84th.
Next day terrible as we could have gone to breakfast at a cool German bakery but the oldtimers wanted to eat at Jack's--which may have the worst coffee in the Western Hemisphere. One pound of coffee must last a month. Then a loooong drive home. But as the week went on, the uniqueness of the ride made it grow in stature. Now that I know the course--I am looking forward to trying to hammar it next year. .
NEXT YEAR-NO BREAKFAST AT JACK'S this one promise I was able to keep in 2008