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
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)
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.
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#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.
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
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.