Wednesday, September 7, 2011


(September 3, 2011) Self Supported Homage to Plymouth Sierra Century-102 miles, 8'735' climbing. w/ Ward, Jack, Christine, Cisco Dave. Historic Photos from 2003-2006 (PC)

Elevation (WI)

Once upon a time the Sacramento Wheelmen ran the greatest century--the Sierra Century.

roads as smooth as a baby's butt

virtually no traffic or traffic controls

surrounded by fields of oak or pine forest

great fairground starting point & rest stops

Oh yeah, they still run a bastardized version of the Sierra Century--moved three times after one of the counties wouldn't give the Wheelmen a permit.

Since the official Century ride ended our club has gone up and run the century backwards on the old course--eliminating the easy part of gentle Eddie Stanky rollers in the Gold Country lowland and adding the climbing portions of the (secret) 20 mile bonus of the old route for those who didn't get timed out and wanted to suffer some more after doing Slug Gulch--one of the hardest Century climbs. Done backwards as we then hit Slug Gulch at mile 20 instead of 70, and there is a natural cutoff at mile 50 for anyone who wants to bail and just do a metric.

This is the 4th time I've led the self supported ride. I've written (too) long posts about this seminal ride before and to learn more about the route you can read the recaps from the official ride in 2003, 2004, 2005, bastardized 2006 & the self supported ride in 2008, 2009 & 2010. This year it was warm, we had a small group that liked taking photos, and had a great time. Just some quick notes and then I'll shut up.

-Very dry. At noon, at a National Weather Station a few miles away (at 2,559' feet) it was 89 degrees and 21% humidity, and for the rest of the afternoon humidity would get lower in the teens. By way of comparison at our home base, Walnut Creek, it was 85 degrees but 34% humidity at noon. In the middle of San Francisco, it was 61 degrees and 81% humidity at noon. (I went to the SF beach to get moisturized and hydrated the next day) On this ride we all couldn't drink enough.

-I love when we have a new person on the ride as this is as close to cycling paradise you can get in California. On this ride Cisco Dave was the only newbee and Dave thought we'd be seeing dry fields of yellow grass all day, and was pleasantly surprised by our being surrounded by pine forest. as promised traffic was very light--in 12 miles of El Dorado National Forest we were passed by 3 cars. Most roads very smooth; Volcano-Sutter Creek Road is a little rough (would probably be the best road in Sonoma County) which is why we go up it and come down smooth Shake Ridge Road. Bonus--the 1/4 mile of road in Fiddletown, previously bad (the only bad spot) now is newly paved. Warning, do this ride soon--the outskirts of Sutter Creek growing--new stop sign put up--which made for 7 stop signs for 100 miles. In a few years they may get to 10 stop signs.

-No one did the Charleston Challenge out of Volcano (mile 75.) Slug Gulch is hard but a side road called Charleston is almost impossible. It has a 1/4 miles section STEEPER than the Diablo ramp (Diablo ramp @18%, but only a few 100 feet), relief then 1/4 mile just as steep as the Diablo ramp, then a downhill leading to a 1/8 mile section just as steep as the Diablo ramp. Pre ride Cisco Dave was gung-ho to do it, Ward brought a Garmin for me so we could measure the grade. But in the middle of the Slug Climb Dave's enthusiasm wained, which was fine by me as unlike all the other climbs that have lots of shade, Charleston is out in the open and the weather would have killed us.

-The Fiddletown Freeway sprint was won by Cisco Dave. The Fiddletown Freeway is 10 miles of downhill rollers--even when I hated downhills I loved this section. Our club doesn't have ride leaders for our in-town rides, but we do for out of town rides and I tried to keep everyone together and ride with anyone who lagged. Except for this section. After the initial downhill I wasn't far behind the pack, and then Cisco Dave ramped up the speed when we hit the rollers. I caught him on the first attention getting roller and then attacked on every uphill roller. Dave stayed with me even when we flew over a roller at 31mph. As he's faster than I am after a roller I got back behind him and stayed with him to the next fast roller and attacked again. After 8 miles of hammering we kind of called a truce--we arrived at Fiddletown together but he would have zoomed away if he knew where the road ended.

-In the live and learn department, I couldn't shift into the big ring unless on a downhill and would have to try 2-3x. Fuck. Once in the big ring didn't want to get out of it on some uphill rollers. I was ready to screw around with the front derailleur adjustment screw at the first rest stop--but Ward had me first squirt a few bottles of water on the front derailleur and the underside where the cables go--under the theory that spilled drink mix gunked up the works. I didn't expect this to work, did. Shifting got markedly better--and problem was totally corrected the next day when I scrubbed down area and lubed everything.

-As you can see below almost everyone packed a camera. Ward almost took 200 photos--Christine also getting real good at taking photos while riding (and so is Dave when he borrowed a camera.) I still have to get uphill before anyone and stop the bike. Photo credits below Ward (WI), Christine (CB), me (PC) and Cisco Dave (CD)

Led Zeppelin comes to Plymouth? No, a bluegrass festival at the fairgrounds from where we start he ride (WI)

"Downtown" Plymouth--not one of the better towns in the Gold Country--though the nearby County Fair Grounds looks like an old Wild West Town. I had to hustle back to the car for forgotten sports drink powder. (WI)

Jack and Christine on the rollers immediately out of town through the growing wine region (WI)

Our paceline on the rollers outside Plymouth. The old Century used to go Southwest to the lowlands--we immediately start going Northeast to higher ground. Plymouth is at 1000', eventually we'll get to 5,000' after 36 miles. (CD)

I'm having fun in the Shenandoah Wine Valley. Most wineries open at 10:00--we're going through around 9:30 and wouldn't come back until they are long closed (CB)

Cisco Dave signs up for the Ansel Adams section of the Diablo Cyclists (CB)
Another Shenandoah Valley paceline photo (WI) After loads of practice taking bar photos with his cellphone for Facebook, Cisco Dave takes a great self portrait (CD)

Rest Stop 1-Pioneer Park in Fairplay, mile 17. All rest stops shaded with REAL bathrooms and water. Here is where we had a water fight with my bike to loosen up the shifting. (WI)

Almost immediately on rustic Perry Creek Road. The rollers get serious, the little traffic we had previously almost nonexistent during our 4 mile ride to Slug Gulch. (CB)

Dave enjoying Perry Creek Road , thinking "Slug Gulch can't be that bad"(WI)Ward on Perry Creek Road. Ward's done this ride numerous times--he's not laughing about Slug Gulch (CB)

Sudden left turn and Slug Gulch begins. Five mile climb but second half is gentle--which does you no good during first half. But its a climb I like as the climb is terraced into 4 hard sections with relief points after each. (WI)

Cisco Dave and I on Slug Gulch--I'm getting the camera ready. How do I change the film while riding? (WI)

Some homes with barking dogs (all well behind solid fences) on Slug Gulch and a few surprises. (WI)

Cisco Dave on Slug Gulch with Ward in background getting camera ready. Dave still looks like he wants to do the even harder Charleston Climb later ( PC-fresco)

Ward photo ready on Slug Gulch. Since I would never hold the camera crooked--we must be riding uphill. (PC)

Jack at the end of Slug Gulch, where its been much more gentle for awhile than the beginning. (PC)

Reward for climbing Slug Gulch--one of the great rest stops--Indian Diggins School with a schoolyard surrounded bu tall pines. Rest stop 2, mile 26. (PC)

It's almost football season and Ward had lots of practice kicking rocks, pine cones and beer cans off of Diablo roads so he is ready to kick a field goal--but one of the local kids has other ideas. (PC with WI post production editing)

Now 10 miles of more climbing, but the trip though the El Dorado National Forest-Omo Ranch Road is much more gentle than Slug Gulch. We're now doing the extension of the old 120 mile route through dense pine forest. Cisco Dave is ready to roll (PC)

Christine and Dave start the El Dorado National Forest. We're over 4,000' feet. My favorite part of the ride. (PC)

I'm in the El Dorado National Forest (CB)

We approach Cooks Station for our lunch break. (PC in MC Escher style)

Christine at the 5,000' sign-hard to believe we are 1,000+ highre than the top of Mt. Diablo. (WI)I can't drink enough--Gatoraid was a nice change of pace from Heed--actually a Cold Beer would have been also though I probably would have laid out and slept the rest of the day. Rest stop 3, mile 36--this detour was never on the Sierra Century but found by accident on a training ride when trying to guess where the bonus miles went.(WI)The papparazzi found us eating lunch at Cook Station (WI) Most of teh climbing is over--now the fun begins as we gradually descend in 25 miles from 5,000' to Sutter Creek at 1,200'. Quick downhill along lightly traveled Highway 88, then long downhill with significant rollers on Shake Ridge Road. We stay on Shake Ridge as it is a nicely paved, divided road. Here Cisco Dave yelling at his support vehicle, Christien following. (PC)

Rare photo--both Cisco Dave and I are finally serious going down Shake Ridge Road. (WI)

At secret bathrooms in Sutter Creek Christine says she hasn't gotten enough exercise (rest stop 4, mile 62--supposed to be a mini stop but we stay there longer and longer as it gets hotter and hotter) (WI)

(above and below) Jack and I riding along the tree lines Sutter-Volcano Road--9 miles of gentle uphill with a tailwind so it feels like a magnet pulling you up--at FABIO road marking (which we are riding over below) last 3 miles becomes noticible. Creek on the side all the way up--nearly dry until Ward stopped to help Christine change a flat--the runoff of his sweat helped flood the creekbed. (WI)I arrive with Christine to the megalopolis known as Volcano--now up to 103 folks. Rest stop 5, mile 74. (WI) General store closed but new bakery open. Luckily Jug n Rose Baking had Gatoraid and good Sourdough rolls--though they tried to poision me by first suggesting something like onion and parsley and dill rolls which I would have tasted and retasted for the remained of the ride. (PC)

Volcano might just have 103 folks but it has one more Greek Theatre and one more Cobblestone Theater than almost anywhere else. This must be the place to see Paris Roubaix movies. (WI)

Jack taking a break on Volcano's ex-Mayor Rosie's bench. On the century ride Rosie was a fixture yelling encouragement (or something else) to all of the cyclists (WI)

Christine and I getting cobblestone water--maybe some of the Johan Museeuw magic will rub off. (Note the socks almost everyone has on) (WI)

Leaving Volcano Dave/ I veto Charleston and we go up the "easy" (in comparison to Slug/ Charleston) Rams Horn Grade, with annoying uphill continuation at the top. We're back to 3,400'. But Jack is getting close to the Disneyland turnoff--the 10 miles of downhill rollers on the Fiddletown Freeway. (WI) Fiddletwon Freeway is more fun with air in your tire--Jack fixes flat and Dave consults. (WI)Christine & Ward find a nice place to relax while flat repair ensues before the "D" ticket ride down to Fiddletown. (PC)Cisco Dave heard a rumor that Heed/ Cytomax and Gatoraid runs out of the hoses in the front yards. (PC) What a great day, and we haven't even done Fiddletown yet. (WI)Fiddletown is a quiet Gold Rush town and Christine looks happier than she did on the Rams Horn climb. Rest stop 6 at mile 91. (PC)

A short but attention getting climb of Ostrom Road is thown in just to remind you that you best like to climb on the Sierra Century. Ward relaxing through the vineyards. (PC)

Christine enjoying her Sierra Century (WI)

Dave wondering how long this climb will be. I may have lied and said 20 miles so Dave wouldn't sprint off. (WI)

Christine and I finish another of the long uphill rollers on Ostrum Road, Happy we'll now being doing the downhill rollers that we climbed earlier this morning. (WI)

Cisco Dave going to a post ride toga party while I'm entered in the local Scottish games (WI)

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