|This must be the GOLD COUNTRY !! (PC)|
Second year that the classic Plymouth (via Slug Gulch climb) route was back after an 8 year hiatus, with some tinkering with rest stops all for the better:
-Ione (mile 20 after mostly downhill) went from a REST STOP to WATER STOP, which was fine as we continue to bypass this and use the secret bathrooms in Ione anyway.
-Sutter Creek (mile 30 after some serious, warm rollers) now had a full REST STOP.
-No rest stop in the tiny tiny town of VOLCANO (mile 42) like the good old days, or on a dirt lot on VOLCANO Road (@mile 34). Now, instead of a WATER STOP at the top of Rams Horn Grade (mile 46) there is a full REST STOP on Daffodil Hill.
|Greek Theatre in Volcano (PC)|
1) great start-finish venue, great support
2) mostly well paved roads
3) little to no traffic
4) only about 8 stop signs for 124 miles, with half being in Ione.
5) surrounded by fields of oak at the lower elevations, pine forest at the upper elevations.
6) riding through "old west" towns
And I didn't even mention passing the alpaca ranch.
Shades of 2004, I thought I was going to be doing this ride solo. I've now done a double metric with most of my riding group--Ward, Dr. Dave, Cisco Dave and Christine--trouble is that we haven't been together on the same ride. Either people are going on the injury list, already on the injury list, or in the case of Ward also trying to purchase the see through yoga pants division of Lululemon (inspired by CA Mike.)
(Blue Lakes Road wins--though its a little steeper. Blue Lakes pavement is very good--Volcano Roads is fair to poor in places. Blue Lakes pine forest and snow capped mountains beats Volcano's trickling stream and California buckeye. Both roads have almost no traffic. Conversely, Volcano Rd does have a better destination--the unique tiny town of Volcano at the end--including hotel and Greek theatre, while Blue Lakes has a campground/ staging area and the lake is nothing special.)
|I'm relaxing on Mayor Rosie's Memorial bench in Volcano--in the old days she'd be sitting on the (former) bench yelling encouragement to the riders as they came into town (PC)|
To my surprise Cisco Dave texted me (actually about 4 times and called twice) to tell me he might come up. When I finally called back my full disclosure of my snoring didn't dissuade him--he'd arrive at the motel later at night. Great that I'd have a good Clubmate to ride with--bad news is that he's the fastest person in our club (30th on Devil Mountain) and I'd be in for a workout. But as he's gotten faster he's also gotten better ameliorating the pace so our group can stay together.
Walking around Sutter Creek I ran into a guy who knew the tractor driver who had a cyclist fall under his wheel in 2005 (no one ever blamed the driver--cyclist fell while trying to pass the tractor and slipped under the wheel.) Guy told me that his tractor driver friend was "seriously messed up" for years. I remember when word starting going around the course about a death in the ride, and days latter the ire of the locals who had to put up with cyclists tying up the road after one key country pulled their ride permit and the route had to be screwed around with. All of a sudden 2005 didn't seem too far in the distant past.
Dinner at the antique Amador City Imperial Hotel, where Ward, Toby and Dr. Dave and I ate last year. The maitre'd had a cute phonetic trick. He'd introduce the waitresses with phonetic nicknames--the knowledgeable Kathy will tell you about the wine list and the Lovely Lucy will then take your order. I was off to the corner reading my Nook in the mostly empty restaurant when a party of two noisy couples (a little older) came in--decided that the window next to me was the place they needed to sit, and they were placed at the next close table. I should revise and extend--most of the party was quite--except for Costa Rican Bed and Breakfast owner Gordon who quickly tapped me on the shoulder--apologized if they were going to disturb me--and then preceded to do so. Normally I don't like talking to people I don't know but partially as no one had been around to talk to all day, and partially as Gordon was as full of humor as he was loud ("you need to east more pasta before your bike ride," "I like your haircut-where do you get it cut," "how many RIB EYES did we eat in China?, "before I order the lamb, where was it raised," while Mrs Gordon would sssssh him constantly) it was a welcome distraction from too much introspection for the day.
|Cute Amador County fairgrounds where ride starts with faux western town (PC)|
|Plymouth, one of the many real Western towns (PC)|
In the morning air was cool but much dryer than in the Bay Area. The ride starts at the Amador Country Fairgrounds--a cute tiny fairground with an old west theme. See some other guy in an Alta Alpina 8 jersey and yell out Brian--taking a guess who it was. Sure enough, it is "the other Brian" who did the Alta Alpina on a recumbent. He was planning to do it again but this time on a regular bike with mountain bike gearing (which is what I had on my bike in 2003.) and the Sierra Century would be his test ride. Dave and I would see Brian all day--seems we'd be ready to pull out of a rest stop and he'd pull in, we'd BS awhile and check on how he was doing.
Disclaimer--Only bad thing about the Sierra Century is that on the coldest part of the day it starts downhill for 6 miles on a rough road, (Bad roads in the Gold Country means bad patch jobs, uneven surface--not the ruts and potholes in Sonoma,) with baby rollers interspersed, and a line of cars first coming to the ride on the other side of the road. Usually a crowd of riders take off at the same time all trying to hammer each other. Today there weren't that many people who cued up for the start at the same time and only one guy who put in a dig and then was easily caught once the baby rollers started, he turned out to be a good guy we'd see all day. It was cold in this section and took my arm warmers and stuffed a ride poster down my vest.
|I'm on early morning rollers towards Ione--soon can get rid of arm warmers, vest, and poster stuffed in my jersey (DD)|
|Cisco Dave on same part of course (PC)|
We then cross Highway 16 where the Sheriff/ CHP waved us through a stop sign, and more serious rollers on nicely paved Carbondale Road. Ride poster in vest and arm warmers no longer needed. I like attacking steep rollers and Dave and I had fun on the series of them. A few times people we were about to pass put in a dig and Dave was off to the races while I'd just settle in until the next roller Dave had dropped whoever he was racing and slowed for me to catch up after I passed the exhausted rider.
When we got to the flats of Ione we had a large group of riders were were pulling along which was fine. I was going to uphold the tradition of skipping the official Ione stop and going to the secret bathrooms. This used to save 10-15 minutes when there was a real rest stop 1/4 mile away, but now the water stop was right on the route and seemingly people got out of it fast--we'd catch up to alot of people we had passed earlier on the next segment. Time to leave the ride poster in the secret bathroom and pull off arm warmers and buff. Another bike group was cuing up here for their weekly ride.
|Dave liked this waste water treatment plant at the edge of Ione with the plants growing in the water so he got a photo of me in front of it. (PC)|
|Big group of riders with us as we go into Ione. Only place with multiple stop signs on ride. (PC)|
|Dave and I at the secret Ione bathrooms instead of the water stop. (--)|
The next segment is serious rollers in full sun between Ione and Sutter Creek. Here is where Dr. Dave made friends with Gustavo last year. Like last year it got warm in a hurry At one point I yelled for Cisco Dave to slow down--some woman thought I had yelled at her for going to slow, so I slowed to explain the misunderstanding. Soon we came across someone wearing a Cisco jersey, which was great as Cisco Dave slowed down so that Cisco Dave could try to sell him on a new product. Dave also started giving me some breathing techniques that he uses as I don't have the same aerobic capacity as in past years.
|I'm on the rollers towards Sutter Creek (DD)|
|I'm with "the other Brian" who still owes me an ice cream from Alta Alpina (DD)|
|Cisco Dave with a happy Cisco customer (PC)|
|Early morning riding through another great old west town, Sutter Creek (PC)|
|Dave on Ram's Horn Grade climb. Tall pines keep the road nice and shaded (PC)|
|Oh no--Dave and someone else wearing white and black Capo jerseys on rollers from Rams Horn Grade to Fiddletown Expressway (PC)|
Fiddletown rest stop is nice--we'll be here later but with 80% of the folks and food gone. Was getting warmer and I had my favorite hot weather food--a bread sandwich with a diet coke. The next part of the route would be new to Cisco Dave as we never did it on my self supported Sierra Century--we'd now be going through the woods between Fiddletown and Mt Aukum on Bridgehead School Road (I have still not seen the school.)
|Riders at Fiddletown checking the map to see where the serious hills are (PC).|
|Leaving Fiddletown an immediate serious roller with 'the other Brian' and Cisco Dave. I'll be like Photocrazy and blame "the other Brian" for not riding closer to Dave so as to not get into the photo (PC)|
|Cisco Dave thinks that the sign needs to be 55 miles up the road instead of in the Bridgeport School Rd forest (PC)|
|Dave and I liquoring up before the warm Slug Gulch climb--Pioneer water stop (PC)|
|"the other Brian" (his orange bike looks much nicer than his recumbent) ready to attack Slug Gulch (PC)|
From the water stop we first hit Perry Creek Road--a nicely shaded road with lots of short/ steep rollers. Here we pass a coed climbing tandem whose riders are wearing Victory Velo Jerseys in Auburn. The Auburn area is like where we are riding now but on steroids--all the rollers are steeper. I congratulate the tandem for doing this ride. They never did Slug Gulch before so I try to describe it to them. It four miles with the first half wickedly steep--but it has four tiers with the first tier the worst and a a 5% recovery section between the double digit tiers. Then the road twists to the right for the last climb and the second half is a gradual uphill to the end. I think Sierra Road is harder--later I saw the tandem couple and they said Slug Gulch was a "Piece of Cake"--they considered their local Iowa Hill harder.
|Dave on Perry Creek roller--Auburn climbing tandem up ahead (PC)|
|I'm at the start of Slug Gulch--the steepest section comes first and its in full sun this time of day (DD)|
|Dave at the beginning of Slug Gulch (PC)|
|Dave half way up Slug Gulch, but now it will start leveling off (PC)|
|I'm on the much easier final section of Slug Gulch (PC)|
|Senor Brooklyn comes by and we go through the 1969 Mets lineup as he tries to chase down his significant other up ahead (PC)|
|Cisco Dave getting ready for the soccer game (PC)|
|Joanie injured--so Cathy fills in supervising Doug's ice sculpture of Lance Armstrong at Omo Ranch rest stop (PC)|
|The start of the beautiful El Dorado National Forest--this is great (PC)|
|"Get back on your bike Mr. Cisco Dave before your leg seizes up"--Phil Liggett (PC)|
|Dave in El Dorado National Forest (PC)|
|We don't know if Clint Eastwood is scolding the empty chair reserved for Diablo Cyclists who didn't do this ride, or Cisco Dave for not using a crystal glass for water (PC)|
|Portrait of Cisco Dave and I on Shake Ridge Road (DD)|
One more real climb coming up, Ostrum Road, and I felt good. I was pleased how I was riding, then just when the Ostrum Climb started a half dozen riders shot by and I had NO CHANCE IN HELL to get on there wheel. Any speed I once had is now gone. Its a two tier climb with a sudden descent in the middle and Cisco Dave is ready to take one more dig and he charges up to the group that passed and I soon lose sight of them.
I summit and start the downhill, get to the bottom and there is Dave off his bike--waiting for me like he did a half dozen times today. I yell "good to go" and he yells "OK" and I start the 2nd climb, get to the top and surprisingly not passed by Dave so I wait for him before the next descent. Dave straggles up and he told me that he lost the bike on the downhill turn, the wheel slid out and he was headed for barbed wire. Luckily he crash landed into a bush before the barbed wire. Oh crap.
|Cisco Dave ready to catch riders who are ahead of us (PC)|
|Cisco Dave at top of last climb--he caught something on the chase but it wasn't the other rides--luckily he came out unscathed (PC)|
Parking still has about 20% of the cars. Plenty of food options, pulled pork with fruit salad is what I picked and plenty of cold drinks. IF SACRAMENTO WHEELMEN CAN FIGURE OUT HOW TO HAVE ENOUGH FOOD FOR PEOPLE DOING THE LONG COURSE AND FINISHING AFTER THE METRIC AND CENTURY RIDES, COME OTHER CENTURY RIDES HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THIS???. Joined by "the other Brian" for a nice end o ride meal.
|Hope to see the 76th year poster next year (PC)|
Postscript-I knew I'm getting slower but got real depressed on how much the dropoff has been. In 2005 I had a great ride with a face paced group, and I figured after 15.4 mph this year that I probably rode 2005 at 16. I looked back and found out I almost hit 17! F, lost 1 1/2 mphs in 9 years.