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

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