Ride route is very unique, rustic, and very hilly--and was blown away by it when I did the 140 mile course last year. This year my ride was very disappointing and I was very unmotivated. It was the first time I got off the bike on a climb all year, and cut the ride short by 24 miles when I turned around at China Wall.
Ironic that drove through Vacaville to get to Auburn, where the Knoxville Double was unfortunately occurring on the same weekend and some of my long distance clubmates would be riding. Strange doing a century solo. Instead of taking a get loose ride the day before I was real unmotivated to get on the bike (sign of things to come?) and instead kicked around old downtown Auburn, the even older old town section of Auburn, and then drove over the Forestville Bridge (tallest in North America) and out to Forestville--seemingly the home of McCain stickers, and American flags surrounding many houses--albeit the pickup truck with the confederate flag raised in the back. The next day I'd see a "No shooting/ hunting area" sign nearby--with a bullet hole through it.
(1) Huge miner statue next to Hwy 80 guarding Auburn and the old Courthouse (2) Restaurant terrace overlooking downtown Auburn
Auburn has two good bike shops and a trifecta of good shops next to each other downtown with one of the bike shops, a running store and a casual shoe store. Can check in at the bike shops--and the owner of the downtown one likes to inquire with a grin on his face if you're gonna do the 1.75 mile 13.5% time trial--a grin as he bags the winning time each year under 15 minutes. The place I was going to eat dinner was closed due to a "failing to pay rent" judgement so I ate down the block outside--service and food so so but the patio looking over the entry to downtown was nice.
In short--don't know if Auburn Century is a better ride than Knoxville Double, but Auburn is much much more unique than the outlets that have gone amok ambiance of Vacaville.
The ride route is the Gold Country, but not the Gold Country I know so well south of Highway 80--Sutter Creek, Jackson, Plymouth. This is the Gold Country north of Highway 80--Auburn-Colfax-Dutch Flat-Iowa Hill-Forestville-which is seemingly more rural, desolate, and with much bigger rollers. Once out of Auburn it this route may be as desolate as the Tour of the Unknown Coast in Humboldt County, though Highway 80 is just a stones throw away for the first 1/3 of the ride..
Unfortunately, knowing how much climbing would be on this ride, I played weight weenie and didn't bring a camera. I missed loads of good shots--thought only Ward probably would have been quick enough to get the photo of the deer standing next to the train crossing signal. A little while later I'd have had no problem taking a photo of the endless f-r-e-i-g-t-h t-r-a-i---n that had a few of us stuck at a RR crossing for 10-15 minutes outside Dutch Flat.
I got to the start a little before 6:00 and later read that it is suggested to start at 6:15 or earlier for the 140 mile course. But it was cold--not only in the mid 50's--but it was the first day in months that the morning air was damp which made it seem much cooler--so I didn 't want to start until first light which became 6:35. The ride instantly starts on the short but steep climbs that typify the streets of Auburn-- with huge flour arrows at strategic intersections. But even with giant arrows I missed a few turns last year (and some flour arrows were placed AFTER intersections or missing last year) so I paced behind two strong riders, but the cold dampness had my exercise induced asthma reappearing. So even though I stayed with them for 21 miles--my breathing really sucked and was too rapid from the start.
Heading North, and generally uphill, we skipped the "Doug Memorial Bathroom" rest stop at mile 9 and first stop was Colfax at mile 21. Up to now lots of rollers--nothing is level on this ride--but nothing significant, and though rustic there were peeks of civilization. Small town of Colfax is a nice backdrop to this rest stop with its 2 blocks of unique shops. Yes!--bananas at the rest stop this year--along with Heed. Started to get warm so put tee shirt and extra bag of Heed in drop bag.
For riders on the 110 mile ride--they DIDN'T continue north (click to see map) but now cut directly east to the Iowa Hill time trial. But I continued North to Dutch Flat., 14 miles away. Here we first rode on a few side routes which were reminiscent of Tunitas Creek--hilly but seemingly off the beaten path. A few times sorry I gave up the tee shirt but much warmer than in the morning. I still didn't have much zip and didn't see many riders going in my direction. Eventually the climb became more gradual when we wound up on the service road next to Highway 80- but unlike any service road I've ever seen elsewhere--many times you wouldn't see Highway 80 but just hear the traffic from this tree lined undulating road. Here I saw a dozen riders coming back in the other direction--so I was about 1/2-3/4 hour behind many on the 140 mile course. We eventually crossed Highway 80 and railroad tracks and wound up on the Old Lincoln Highway--which is actually the flattest part of the ride but desolate. Big drop down into Dutch Flat on a road advertising "loose gravel" (way to ruin a downhill) with a small rest stop by an old hotel. Not much of a food choice here--I had a cream cheese wrap which was a mistake.
Pissed I didn't take my camera for some great scenery--though I'm enjoying it much more AFTER the ride. Beautiful small photos taken from Adrian Schneider Photography--go to their site to see larger sizes. These are of the early side roads, I think Rollins Lake Road, towards Dutch Flat.
After reclimbing to get out of town, going South, and saw a deer that looked like statuary near the train crossing, as I approached the next RR crossing I heard a train rumble and sure enough an endless freight train was blocking our way, and a few riders were already stopped at the warning gate. Funny--I got off the bike to whizz and then most of those already waiting then did the same thing, I then started stretching and many followed. But was still holed up for 10-15 minutes, and no one came up from behind so we were probably the tail end of the 140 milers--and now even further back. (A little while down the road we'd start seeing riders coming in from the opposite direction but they were on the 70 mile out and back route that bypasses Iowa Hill.)
Heading South, fast back to Colfax as no side loops now--just mostly downhill. Nice and sunny so at the same rest stop as earlier found my drop bag and ditched my arm warmers also. Started looping around and saw a sign that showed IOWA HILL in big letters with a left arrow so I turned onto what was a residential block. An old lady in her yard started yelling "oh sir, sir-----maam" (jeeze--I don't even have my hair in a ponytail.) Seems many people had turned on her block, but the small print on the sign indicated that turn 800' away.
Get to proper turn heading East and very very fast--curvy downhill--which guy near me apologizes for taking it so slowly as he had two crashes in races this year--but I'm happy to be going downhill at a sane speed. I remember to shift into the small chainring so I don't do what I did last year and mash my ankle on an fn hard gear when the time trial started. But now we get to the Iowa Hill time trial start at 11:15 and it closed 15 minutes previous to our arrival, and no starter was at the beginning. No matter, I started my stopwatch for the 1.75 mile, 13.5% climb but I paid it to little respect. I got out of the saddle too early and with only 1/3 of the climb done my back was killing me every time I transitioned into standing. Even though I ride a compact I used a 36 as my small chainring--and any thought of leaving it on instead of a 34 for Devil Mountain and the Terrible Two next year went out the window as I could barely push the 36x27. I got off the bike twice to stretch my back. I think with other riders and being officially timed I would have been motivated to stay on the bike but who knows--I limped past the finish line and eventually got to the rest stop with the same cheering podium girls from last year. After a brief rest I continued on and the rest of the climbing wasn't nearly as hard and my back quickly came back so I could stand, but here is where I started thinking about cutting the ride short. Great scenic photos from Adrian Schneider Photography of Iowa Hill Climb and desolate Iowa Hill Road......and of course the podium girls.
The next 15 miles on the road to Iowa Hill was like riding in quicksand. Last year Doug and I would bs on an uphill, then he'd take off on a short downhill, and I'd be motivated catch back up on the next uphill. This year, riding solo there was no motivation to go hard on the uphill, and for the first 14 of 15 miles I never saw another rider. Heck, I may not have seen another person albeit 2-3 passing cars. The 15 miles typically featured a short (1/8) twisty downhill that would end suddenly with a 1/4-1/2 mile climb of 6-8%, with a few unpaved private roads off the unstriped one I was riding on.
At one point I could hear a house tucked in the back woods blasting country music. And in the heavy shade it was damp and cool--wish I had the tee shirt I had left in the drop bag.
Finally dropped down to the Sugar Pine Reservoir and up another long hill to the Sugar Pine Boat Ramp lunch at mile 68. I was weary as hell, and for the first time sat in the shade while a cub scout troop filed bottles and shotguns were heard in the distance. ("awfully big sound for a 12 gauge"--one of the rest stop workers volunteered.) I had my deli sandwich special without any condiments and figured out if I'd be more pissed NOT doing the 140 miles or if I should cut the ride short. It was apparent that most folks on the true 110 mile ride that didn't go to Dutch Flat had already gone through, and so had the folks doing the 140 miles that were faster or had the good sense to leave earlier. It was still cool out and the prospect of riding in the last afternoon downhill into the chill wasn't endearing. I remembered last year how rest stops were in the process of closing when I passed by and there was no food at the end of ride meal--so i figured I'd go up Foresthill Road until the next rest stop and then turn around.
It was just a few more miles to the Foresthill Road junction, where we were finally out of the narrow, tree lined secondary road and onto a main road with little traffic. Going North the road continued to climb but it was now a steady 3-5%, not the sudden killer hills that had been too long to call fun rollers. Now passed a few people but waves of folks on the 110 mile ride were now going in the opposite direction.
China Wall rest stop at mile 78, and overlooked a nice valley clearing. Missed another great photo op--not of the valley but of the giant poster of Palo Bettini that was up at the rustic staging area. It was now 2:20 and I had averaged a whopping 12 mph. If I continued the 15 miles (uphill) North to Robinson Flat I'd see a lot more nice valley scenes. If I rode hard I'd probably get there in 1 1/4 hours, rest for 1/4 hour, and get back down in 3/4 hour--so I'd be back here at 4:40, well after the rest stop closed. Hell, time to head back.
More great scenic photos from Adrian Schneider Photography. These photos AFTER Sugar Pine stop where you start seeing civilization
Now heading South nice downhill on a main road with almost no traffic. Very soon in Foresthill; featuring homes with fences holding multiple American flags and road signs with bullet holes. Rest stop next to a VFW lodge holding a wedding surrounded by huge wood carvings. Yep toto--we're not in San Francisco, this place comes right out of "The Deer Hunter." It was chilly at the shady rest stop--good move turning around. One guy in the rest stop argued that Iowa Hill was a misnomer,a s there is probably more climbing on Iowa Hill than in All of Iowa.
After Foresthill traffic to Auburn picks up on the main road, and last year missed a turnoff and stayed on the main road. This year they had workers out to direct folks to the side road, with one worker hastily putting down an arrow and yelling out that there was no arrow yet at the next turn.
(1) Wood carvings at Foresthill Memorial Park (2) Typical nicely paved back road that isn't flat leaving Foresthill (3 & 4) The Foresthill Bridge that is next to Auburn-not Foresthill (5) The Duke wearing an Auburn Century jersey--though I doubt he'd be cycling, he be up here shooting away.
About this time I was joined by a Benecia Bike Club member who I had seen earlier in the day when I asked about a mutual acquaintance. He had done the traditional 110 mile course, skipping the run to Dutch Flat early on but had gone up to Robinson Flat. Now we were on some back roads that ended the steady downhill--oh, there was alot more downhill but another 2-3 "rollers," one for 1/4 mile of about 10%.
After 6 back road miles back on Foresthill Road for the run into Auburn. After riding 90 miles with hardly seeing a sole it was nice to bs with someone and didn't even chase when someone came flying by. It was mostly a gradual downhill until the Foresthill Bridge--the tallest in the United States but otherwise nondescript, where the road went up slightly. But then another kick in the %#%@, another 1/4 mile at 7%.
In summary really really unique ride through some beautiful back country, but wouldn't do it again unless a handful of club mates wanted to do it, which may be doubtful as we'd have to leave by 6:15. And damn did it beat me up--next day slept until 9am which I never do.