Thursday, May 2, 2013

Chico Wildflower Wildcat Double Metric Century (2013)

In Memoriam of Jim Hamilton

Jim's sudden passing the same week of the Chico Wildflower brings back lots of memories as Jim was from Chico and the Wildflower was his ride.   He'd go and stay with his folks as we all stayed at sleazy downtown motels, and we'd all joke all early spring that Jim has to train to pull us across the flat lands of Chico-Durham, and that Jeanne could not exclusively stay on his wheel.

Delightful guy, always laid back with a nice sense of humor.   He had a few rules on the bike--he wasn't riding for more than 6 hours, and if he had to get in the small chain ring he was in trouble.   I'll miss the tallest guy in our club spilling out of the smallest car in the parking lot. I wish I could hear him again complaining that the music I listen to is over 30 years old, or that I'm wearing an abomination (self made) Diablo Cyclist Jersey.   Jim would let me pull at 21 mph, for a few minutes, before he'd come to the front and effortlessly take over at 23 mph.  When he thought our group was going to nuts and playing too much wanna be racers he'd put in a 1000 watt dig until we all had to fall back.   Jim would tell us NOT to jump on a passing paceline that was all over place--we'd safely ride behind and then usually hear a crash emanating from within the mob.   He'll be missed.

Big Jim leading Dr. Dave* and me through the Chico agricultural land in 2010. What the hell am  I doing riding behind the 'bent instead of Big Jim (WI)
Congrats to Cisco Dave & FU Boys

Cisco Dave finished Devil Mountain Double in almost 14 hours--after swearing last year he'd never do a double again.   On rides though he kicks our butt he's a delight to ride with.    His friends Blinky Ray and Fredrik also lightening quick--on DMD Ray finished close to 14 hours and Fredrik  came in at 13:30.   Good people to ride with.  Three people in our ride group in the Top 30!  Maybe we are not getting slower but the people we ride with are getting faster.

We best put this special edition newspaper away for safekeeping before Cisco Dave makes an undershirt from it (PC/CB)
(April 28, 2013) Chico Wildflower Wildcat Double Metric Century, w Dr. Dave*, 127 miles, 7500' climbing, 6:30-3:30, 15.9 mph  (*did something between the Childflower and the Double Metric Wildcat.)
(Dr. Dave*)
Chico 250' elevation, Paradise 1775' elevation, Stirling City 3600' elevation

Chico Wildflower is a very special ride to me.   Seems like yesterday it was 2008 when I did the metric  (finally bought road bike shorts for the occasion) with my friend John, and if I wasn't the slowest person on the ride John was, and we may have been the last people to finish.    But I was amazed by this college town hidden deep in the farm belt hours away from Sacramento--and the good looking brown brick campus.  I was just hoping that one of my small daughters would one day go here instead of a commuter college as I had done.

In 2001 with baby daughter at Chico State.  I hobbled around Chico State with the kids a few weeks after a big cycling accident ripped up my knee as Mrs. Pumpkin did the Wildflower 
Now my oldest daughter graduated Chico State six years ago.   Did the Wildflower Century a half dozen time--sometimes solo, sometimes with a big group of Diablo Cyclists.   After a big bike accident still came up with my kids to cheer my wife on the ride.   The century course is kinds strange, kinda pedestrian--but the century always enhanced as it takes place around Chico with lots of local speciality food at the rest stops.  Could never decide if the Chico Wildflower or the Santa Rosa Wine Country, which usually take place on back to back weekends,  was the #2 Century ride in Northern California..

Mrs. Pumpkin and I visit Chico State the day before this year's Wildflower/ Wildcat.   Administration building in the middle (PC)
Let me expand on kinda strange-kinda pedestrian.   The three climbs are not hard but unique.  Humboldt Road is a pothole strewen climb when you are looking right into the rising sun.  Honey Run is a tight, twisty climb where riders from the 65 and 100 mile routes arrive together and its more work getting around people than doing up the climb.  And Roundtable PizzaTop Mountain (formely Table Top Mountain  but Chico may have gone the way of major bowl games) is 4 miles in full sun during the heat of the day where you are climbing to a plateau, not a peak.  In between are a few fast downhills, and lots and lots of flats through farmland--especially at the end of the ride.   The Wildflower Century is only 95 miles so our Club would do the finishing 25 miles twice--once with Big Jim leading the parade and the 2nd time left to our own devices with Jim laughing at us for riding it again.

Last year--to celebrate Chico State's 125th anniversary they came up with a 125 (actually 127 mile) option.  I had never even started to go into the highlands where the route went, so looking forward to this ride.  Unfortunately only Dr. Dave signed up for the long course.

I thought Dr. Dave* signed up for the Wildcat but I found him cued up in the morning on the wrong line. (PC)
+++ Pluses for Chico Wildflower-Wildcat
+Additional 32 miles is beautiful, cycling though tall pine forest on a mostly gentle climb
+Local artisan pastries at rest stops
+Well marked course, friendly course workers
+Chico State and Downtown Chico very special
+Great checkin atmosphere  and post ride meal at the fairgrounds

---Negatives for Chico Wildflower-Wildcat
-Some local product fall flat, like locally made sports drink, taste like kid's box juice
-No basic food like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (but we have M&M's)
-Oroville rest stop out of food & pastries while dozens of riders still behind (But we have M&M's)
-What happened to the "hula clown" signs that used to augment the course arrows.
-Some bozo pickup truck drivers in the outskirts of Chico.
-Split up the first rest stop for people doing the Wildcat.

As Chico is 3-4 hours away from the Bay Area, got to Chico they day before with Mrs. Pumpkin. We took an ez spin ride around Bidwell Park--one of the largest muni parks in America right in the middle of Chico.  Unlike other muni parks--much of it remains undeveloped.  We rode to the end of a paved road leading into a gravel road down to a watering hole.  While taking a few minutes to plan out the next part of our route a half dozen pickemup trucks sped out the other way with some young person usually riding on the top of the cab.

The streets around Chico aren't bad but far from as smooth as a baby's butt.  My rear wheel making lots of clicking noise.On way back one of many bike shops in town told me I could leave wheel later--some spokes were loose but it sounded like the welding plate in the rim had detached. Luckily I always bring a spare rear wheel with me for out of town rides.

Quilt of old Wildflower t-shirts at the fairgrounds (PC)
I was a little po'd from the wheel problem when we went to the fairgrounds for day before checkin, even with the beautiful rose filled entrance and dozen bike vendor stands.  Lines weren't long and Mrs. Pumpkin pointed out that guy in front of us in the next line had an Alta Alpina Jersey.  Out of character I derisively said "well, its not the 8th pass jersey."  A few minutes later we discovered that person was Dr. Dave, and Mrs. Pumpkin relished in telling him what I said.

Wife and I parked downtown and walked around campus which I think is one of the most beautiful.  Then we met up with Dr. and Mrs Dr Dave for dinner at Woodstock Pizza.  Before big rides I love having a mini-cheese pizza and a spinach salad.  I wind up in Amachi's is in many places the night before many Doubles, and they are good, but Woodstock Pizza is much better.   

Dr. Dave and I very ride compatibly, we climb about the same speed, he's a much better downhiller (who isn't) but he doesn't like the heat--and forecast went from 83 to 88 to 90 during the week.  We decided to start at 6:30 am (Flight for 127 mile route is 5:30-6:30, Dave quipped--"what do they think this is, a Double?"   I vowed to be on good behavior, after all if I wanted to race I would have done Devil Mountain Double instead but I am now retired from crazy rides--though retirement is hard.    Ward wasn't here so I'd have to take lots of photos.

Slept great--remembered when I used to worry about century rides.  We drove down the street leading to the fairgrounds at 5:45 and tons of cyclists already riding in the dark with NO lights.  At fairground parking lot at 6:00 it is warm, so ditched lightweight t-shirt.  I did take a cap knowing that sun would be right in our face on Humboldt Road climb.

Lots of riders cuing up at the fairground gate.  Some lady yelling at her group that they should have been on the road but someone not ready.  Wonderful.  Dave and I shove off; sometimes I've taken off very hard just to warm up, but its perfect with just a jersey and thin vest.  Dave and I mostly rode a strong but not killer pace all day, we rarely chased, and I think we passed 95% of the riders we came across.  But But But, we are getting old, when we were passed by 5% of riders they usually  ZOOMED by us.

Dr. Dave* at the start of the pothole strewn climb into he rising sun that is the chaos of Humboldt Road. (PC)
Soon on Humboldt Road climb.  Already warm with hat and vest and dodging potholes.   Dave and I always calling out when we pass someone and I got my dander up 2-3 times when someone made a stupid pass without calling out--and I'd up the pace to catch up and repass.  Otherwise good climb followed by ski shot descent on main road nearby.

I'm in front of new arch on short bikepath that gets us from base of Humboldt Road to Honey Run fast run in (DrD*)
New arches over a bike path they detour you on, the arches look like bike chain ring.  Dave and I stop for photos--nearby a group of photographers with real cameras.  We get to the run in to Honey Run and pass Mrs Pumpkin who is doing the metric.

At the start of Honey Run, Dr. Dave put in a dig.  A chunky lady in a halter top came flying by the flat section shrieking at everyone "are we having fun this is great wow woopie."  But on the first uphill roller she stalled out and I think Dave upped the pace to get far away from her.  Meanwhile we passed a few people with SF Giants Cycling Jersey's so I got the bad news as I got details of the extra inning game the night before (I went to sleep in the 10th inning--Giants lost in 11)

Dr. Dave* on the narrow Honey Run climb--when we reached a congested pocket I couldn't F around with the camera (PC)
I've seen Honey Run in the past more crowded than it was today--though still jammed.  Dave and I picked our way past a dozen cyclists when someone would then fly by us.   Repeat--repeat--repeat.  I tried the reading the graffiti all over the road.   No wildflowers anywhere except on the event jerseys. Mrs Pumpkin later quipped the dozen wildflowers were picked and put on the end o ride tables.

On preride web map it showed that we had a different rest stop than everyone else at mile 24, but as it turned out everyone went to the same rest stop about a mile after the top of Honey Run.  That was a clusterfuck--even with many porta potties very long lines of people crossing and blocking the road.  Dr. Dave and I decide that we can throw away our Flowmax and wait until rest stop 2 at mile 48 to whizz--thank Museeuw that it was warm and dry.

Typical rest stop food on the Chico Wildflower/ Wildcat.   Reason #13 why this ride is harder than Devil Mountain Double--anyone can climb after being shot up with Hammar Products---try to climb a 95 degree Roundtable Pizza Top Mountain in full sun after eating coffee cake all day (PC)
Dr. Dave and I got away from the rest stop mess and a tiny bit of backtracking to get on our 16 mile uphill route instead of speeding back down to the Chico Valley as in past years.   We ran into and followed Clubmate Beth out of the lot, and after loads of merged cycling traffic, we were about 8 riders back.  Beth and 90% of the riders turned onto the busy main road.  Dr. Dave remembered that we should be on a bikepath, and did a strange acute angle turn onto the sidewalk.  A young course worker said "you're going the right way--I tried telling passing cyclist but no one was paying attention to me."    So for 4 miles through Paradise, with very few other people we were on a nicely paved bike path between tall pine trees.  A few crossing streets and just when tree roots started raising the blacktop we were kicked back onto the main road--now with much less traffic for the next 12 miles.   .

Dr. Dave* on secret bike path--part of the route that not to many people took (PC)

 Main road well paved, usually a gentle climb, and we'd suddenly go through tiny towns I never heard of--eg. Magalia?, on our way to Stirling City.   At one point Dave commented that a rustic section reminded him of the Sierra Century's El Dorado National Forrest.  On another section with a few buildings I said it reminded me of the Sierra Century's Shake Ridge Road.   Any sections of a ride similar to the great Sierra Century is high praise indeed.

Big Hammar Christian Group passed and were very friendly "hey Diablo Cyclists!,"    so I figured we'd just ride behind them at their pace.  But there were sudden downhill rollers and their last guy almost flew into the oncoming lane, while their climbing leader pulled away on the next uphill section.  With their group breaking up Dr. Dave and I went up to their climbing leader and rode with him as we passed loads of people.   Of course two guys shot by without saying anything so I tried to lead a chase but I had no luck on the rest of the climb and when the road turned into a long descent I had no chance in hell.  When road straightened out one of the other Hammer Christian guys caught up to Dr. Dave and me--his leader a few hundred feet up down the road, and I said I'd bring him up to his climbing leader and I did.  I wish we would have been able to ride with these guys on the roller run in to Oroville but (ssssshhh) on the return trip they passed and then ran a traffic light which ended any chance of us catching up with them.
Team Hammarpray on the road to Sterling City (PC)
Pull into funky park in Stirling City, funky as it had cheezy statues all around under tall pine trees.   Luckily grabbed a few extra bars here as next rest stop would be out of food.   When Dave and I rolled out lots of people at rest stop, and after 15 minutes of mostly downhill there were many large packs of riders on the other side of the road navigating the uphill.  Though we had started at the end of the time slot for our ride we were situated nicely.

I'm on the podium in Stirling City Park/ rest stop.  I finished 2nd to the little guy who is pulling a Sagan and pinching the podium girl even if she's dressed conservatively. (Dr. D)
Strange coincidence abound.  At family memorial service Big Jim's dad talked lovingly about a cabin in Philbrook--he made it sound like a dump that was his and Jim's continual fix up project.   Well, when we left Stirling City and went back down I wondered what we would find if we continued North??  Maybe next year we could go another 15 miles North and then skip part of the Chico Valley later on.  Well, on the map I found were we'd be headed--Philbrook.

Some cold spots on the mostly downhill--after Magalia this time we are on main road through Paradise and there is lots of traffic on the Skyway with a very limited shoulder.   Talk to this guy wearing cool looking compression socks--and ask him about it.  Turns out they are not compression socks but compression calf guards--then you can wear any socks you want.  I gotta try this.  Finally pass Honey Run--we are back from our 32 mile detour and back on the familiar course.    Long downhill which leads into a Photocrazy autophoto shoot--Dave and I slow as a rider about 200' ahead of us, so rider can clear robocameras when Dave and I roll through.  But nitwit in blue jersey just stops right in front of the camera.  Buddy--the portrait studio is back in town.

About 15 degrees warmer in Chico Valley. (Dave said his bike odometer said 100 but we know how it lies from last year's Sierra Century--the high for Chico was 93.)   The usual "hula man" signs pointing in the right direction was gone--there were lots of arrows on the road but confusing when we got to two sets of arrows pointing in opposite directions.  We are passing this point 2x today and in faint marker it is written 1st and 2nd but I can't see when going 20 mph.  Dave and I go the wrong way, get back on course, and draft a tandem until the road starts to go up.

Seventeen mile run in to Lake Oroville is great--basically on an extra wide bike path that is mostly downhill biased straight with many sudden uphill rollers.  Two years ago our club was racing other folks with Mark and I slamming the rollers and Ward, Stephen and Jim pushing the pace on the flats.   Dave didn't have the same fond memories--he was on a recumbent then and he'd lose the group on the sudden uphill rollers.   This year we pushed the pace for no reason other than what the f--no one passed us and a couple of people tried getting on our wheel and fell off. 

Dr. Dave* following his recumbent brother and sister at start of run in to Lake Oroville.  (PC)
Near the end of the Oroville run in, Dave* pretending that it is hot (PC)

At Lake Oroville only misstep by Chico Cycling Club.  All pastries were gone, no bread to be found.   Worker said -we have fruit and M&M's,  Shades of the Sequoia Century.  They were shocked when I told them they best get some food as minimally 200 riders behind us on the Wildcat Course.     Luckily I had pocketed a Cliff Bar earlier and had some Nunn Fizz Tabs with me--the local Hansen's Sports Drink taste like something you give your kids for their box lunch, and the water in large clear jugs was now pretty warm being greenhoused in the full sun.   Being retired doubles riders Dave and I got our of rest stops quickly all day but here Dave took a little extra time in the shade--to bank some coolness before going up Roundtable Pizza Top Mountain .

Something missing from the Lake Oroville rest stop---food (PC)

At every rest stop I'd find Dr. Dave* deep in the shade (PC)
Life seems unfair--all those tall trees in the highland around Chico and not much in our run in to Lake Oroville, which leads right into Roundtable Pizza Top Mountain --4 miles which also has little shade during the heat of the day.   We reminded each other that climb was only 4 miles and then tried to figure out with the sudden short pitches if it was more like Morgan Territory or Mt. Tam.  Lots of people were suffering here but soldiered on as Dave and I tried to offer encouragement.  Dave was very happy NOT to be on the recumbent though gave lots of support as we passed his recumbent brethren suffering on the climb..

Scenic water crossing (we rode over @200, though not all scenic and not necessarily with water--but to pass the time you have to call them out.(PC)

Wildflower goes the Corporate College Bowl route--Table Mountain now has a large billboard on it and it's renamed Roundtable Pizza Top Mountain. (PC)

See, Dr. Dave* is really happy on Roundtable Pizza Top Mountain(PC)
At top of climb is a very crowded water stop--Dave and I just push on for the long flat road at the summit.   We actually spot some wildflowers here and lots of different animals which gets Dave breaking out into Patti Smith's Horses....Horses....  No stopping for photos here as we know what's ahead--a few miles of a tight curvy fast downhill that is suicidal when packed full of riders.   We wanted to get off of Roundtable Pizza Top Mountain before the hordes of riders at the water stop decided to leave. 

Fast tumble down to lunch spot.  I needed some carbs and we both needed to refill our water bottles, so I was going to just look for a slice of bread.  No luck--premade gourmet deli sandwiches whereas when you knock off the "stuffing" you still taste the mustard and lettuce for the next 20 miles.   Mrs. Pumpkin had been here on her metric ride, and was amazed that they didn't just have peanut butter and jelly here.  She marveled that some riders see free food they grab 2-3 hero sandwiches.

Dave needed to shortcut back to Chico after the finial rest stop--he blamed it on Mrs. Dr. Dave but I think he just had bad flashbacks to the times we'd do the last loop 2x to add miles in the blazing sun.  We got out of lunch fast (big group positive--can ride in a big pack, big group negative-someone always had their shoes off at this rest stop and it took over 1/2 hour to get out of it.)  We now had to ride 15 miles across the Chico Valley with a mild crosswind we laughed at--about 10% as windy as it had been at Pt Reyes or Patterson Pass on rides this year.  Good two man with Dave-- I think Jim was around directing us when to come through and chuckling that our two man was still weren't as fast as him.  Dave added a little bit to come with me to the Durham rest stop and down a Coke before heading back to Chico the most direct way while I was going to circle the agricultural fields around Chico.
Big Jim keeping an eye out for Dr. Dave* and I as we cross the Big Jim Memorial Valley which leads into the Big Jim Memorial Agricultural area. (PC)
I started off looking at a lonely road for the last 21 miles--flat 100 mile riders already finished, many hilly 127 mile riders behind.  Figured I'd just settle in to a comfortable pace of 18mph when soon a two man came by at 20-21 and I jump on their wheel.  At first I don't think they welcomed this as when they took turns pulling, instead of the 2nd man moving up gradually he would fly off the front, but I just had to stay on the wheel of the person who was coming off.  Finally the younger guy said "I can't take a pull" so I volunteered, and moved up slowly so the young guy could follow.  From that point we had a good three man rotating paceline passing lots of people on the road and no one else coming up.  Turns out they were father and son with young guy graduating Chico State last year--and the paceline made the last 21 flat miles interesting.

When we hit Chico it was 3:25 and Mrs Pumpkin would long be waiting from her metric.  I set a target to get back to the fairgrounds at 3:30, hit most lights and pulled in with a surprised Mrs. Pumpkin waiting.  She had a great metric ride, did well on Table Mountain which had worried her all week, and we were joined for dinner by a clubmember, Andy, who had solo'd the 100.  Andy hadn't know that Jim had died, got a paper from his motel in the morning and was shocked when he saw the obituary.

Good end o ride meal--as much rice/ cold noodle salad you wanted with a defined portion of one entree--grilled tofu or pulled pork or chicken.    Nice but long drive back to the Bay Area, weekend was really enjoyable and couldn't figure out how my kids got so old quickly.   Chico Wildflower and Santa Rosa Wine Country always in a see-saw battle over what ride was the 2nd best Century in Northern California--Chico used to suffer in comparison with its pedestrian route--with their new Wildcat course they have corrected their only deficiency.  Now--if they only got a few jars of Peanut Butter & Jelly and some loaves of bread for the rest stops.

Thought all week about not the sense of accomplishment that I would get from doing Devil Mountain Double again, but i had a heck of alot more fun.

No comments: