Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Gone Raven!

I'm back from an amazing road trip.

I bike-commuted to the Tour of the Unknown Coast. It's about 325 miles to get there. It was an adventure.
Highlights, in no particular order:   Aerosmith, Crystal (my waitress at Denny's and I'm sure a guardian angel in disguise), Avenue of the Giants, good times with friends, macaroni and cheese, Trinidad, scones, hummingbirds, wildflowers, the Best Sign Ever, and tsunami warning zones.
I left bright and early on Thursday morning - about 6:30, well after light but before much traffic was out. I had done several slightly different Google map routes and finally decided on the frontal assault: straight west to Florence, then south on Highway 101. Just outside the hamlet of Walton, still on Highway 126 heading west - far enough in that I was looking for a bathroom, and feeling like a snack - I saw the Best Sign Ever. It simply stated:
1/2 Mile.
Best Sign Ever. Gets my vote! Morning Glory Farm was selling soaps, honey, and very nice looking greens, in addition to espresso. I had a large au lait and a muffin..to go, of course. 

The trip west was a little windy and chilly. I was able to remind myself that I would have a tailwind as soon as I got to the next turn. In 47 miles. That's positive self-talk, RAAM-style. 

Once I got made the turn south, it was mainly sunny, and there actually WAS some tailwind. I stopped in Coos Bay for lunch (Wendy's, chicken sandwich, small fries, coke). I got to talk to some folks who were interested in the bike - is it easier to pedal? How do you balance? Why are your feet so high? When they heard I was racing it across the US, they were flabbergasted. 

Not far outside of Coos Bay I saw the first of many signs for the Trees Of Mystery scenic attraction: "Trees Of Mystery - 119 Miles Straight Ahead". Hmmmm. 200k....and it's still a ways from there to David's place in Arcata, which is where I'm spending Friday night. I'm not so sure I wanted to see THAT sign. 

I got to ride through Humbug Mountain State Park. I love that place! I used to do an annual trail run - the Bah! Humbug Killer race - on a regular basis, back in the running days. Beautiful spot. 

On along the coast. It seems like there are decent sized towns spaced out along the coast about every two cycling hours: Port Orford, Gold Beach, Brookings...I stopped for "dinner-ish" in Gold Beach - hit the supermarket, which has a deli. They had a lot of good-looking stuff there, but the treat for me was macaroni and cheese - the real, baked stuff. It went down very well. 

I came to despise the tsunami warning signs. Anyone who cycles in Oregon knows that "Right Lane Ends" is good news - the passing lane is going away  because you're at the top of the hill. Until I biked 101, I didn't realize that the opposite of "Right Lane Ends" is "Leaving Tsunami Hazard Zone"...in other words, you're headed toward the high ground, which can only be reached by...yep. Climbing. 

Brookings - keep going...California Dreamin'...I was quite the sensation at the ag inspection station at the California border. 

I ended up staying for a while in Crescent City. I hit the Dennys and had a nice pulled chicken sandwich and a LOT of coffee. Crystal, my guardian angel waitress, suggested that I should stay off the roads for a while, until the drunks cleared out. Her dad was also riding the TUC. I hung out in Crescent City until 4:30, and headed UP and out of town. A tough climb, for sure. Glad to do it with such light traffic.

Klamath. Finally! Trees of Mystery! There's Babe and Paul.....not too far to go now.

Breakfast in Orick. Really good ham and eggs and pancakes. I knew I was coming in quite a bit earlier than David expected, so I grabbed a map from their brochure collection. There's his street. Should be easy enough....Hammond Trail, took the Mad River bridge and got to his house at 11:30. I headed to Adventure's Edge for some tubes (I'd had two flats along the way) and general reinforcements. Since that's close to David's work, he met me for lunch, then took me to his house so I could wash up and get some real sleep. 

About the time I got out of the shower, the UPS delivery showed up - the box of clothes that I had sent down. Good timing! I hit the sheets for a few hours, then TUC registration.

EARLY start on Saturday, but not as early as Jim, who'd driven straight through the night from the Bay area and would be riding recupright (David had Jim's nice shiny new Khalsa on the roof of the support vehicle). A small but hardy group took off at 5AM. 200 yards in, my headlight blew off the mount, which put me off the back. Oh, well.

The TUC route is beautiful. I caught myself sightseeing quite a bit, but who can blame me?

First BIG climb - Panther Gap. Wow. Just as I'd knocked off the hardest part, here comes David, complete with bagpipe music to buoy me up to the top. The trip down wasn't as rewarding as I'd hoped - a LOT of 10 mph switchbacks. I figure that they MEAN 10 mph if they take the trouble to park an EMT there, complete with stretcher/backboard. Then on to lunch! Soup and sandwiches - by then the soup was sounding fantastic, and I knew that I'd want to be well-fueled for the next couple of climbs. This stretch is where I saw a summer tanager - I've only seen two, ever.

A bit of climbing out of the lunch stop, then down to the beach. By this time I was groovin' pretty well, and I was able to fend off a pretty enthused and organized pack of riders behind me. Coke at the base of The Wall! I downed one and took one along for the ride....which was partially a walk. I *may* have been able to get the Raven up that grade (17-20% for the first bit, with some ugly pitches and then a 6-8% finish) but I decided it just wasn't worth the risk, especially considering that walking was danged near as fast from what I could tell. And after The Wall comes the Endless Hill - aptly named - which I thoroughly enjoyed. I figured if I shot my wad on The Wall I'd regret it and I'm probably right. Lots of hummingbird sightings on Endless Hill. There weren't so many birds out when I was riding upright....oh...maybe I'm just looking around more?

Down to the bottom, giant burrito, and I'm done for the day. I'd had visions of doing another lap - or a partial lap - but the lead guy was well over 2 hours ahead of me, and David needed to support everyone on the 200-miler, which just wasn't going to happen if I stayed in the game. And there are more miles that can be ridden tomorrow. I felt really happy, my legs were feeling good/strong.

I spent the rest of the day helping David and Bill support the three hardy souls who were still out there: Jim R (who needed no support, which was good because it took us forever and a day to get to him because he was so FAST!), Jim K, and Dave L. Dave was about 1/2 hour behind Jim K, and we treated him to RAAM-style support on the way in. By the time we got to the descent back into Ferndale, it was dark enough that it was good to light up the road. And having music helps, though it turns out that the local cows don't particularly like Aerosmith. Dave is danged good at air guitar, when viewed from behind.

Sunday, we hit the Latte Warriors ride. OK, for the most part, we WERE the Latte Warriors ride: Hammond Trail to Clam Beach, then along mainly side roads to Trinidad, where we stopped for coffee and treats. Chocolate chip cherry scone? Don't bother to read the rest of the menu.

Here I am at a scenic viewpoint in Trinidad...that's me on the right. I don't know the guy on the left.

As I was later to find out, the reason the Latte Warriors weren't out in force was that they were all madly cooking incredible treats for their annual post-TUC potluck, which I got invited to as a tagalong friend of David's. Nice folks, great cooks, lots of stories and fun....then I was off to the airport for my 7:44 flight.

Sort of. Bad weather in SFO delayed my flight, so that my connection would've been missed. I was re-routed onto a flight the following morning. So I was forced to go back to David's, where I could drink scotch, hang out in a hot tub, and hit Bill's 6AM spin class on the way out of town.

I just felt incredibly lucky - again - to have had a gang of people supporting this effort, and to be able to make it work to my advantage. Compliant weather, good company, good experiences, and a lot of confidence gained.


  1. Sandy, just want you to know how great it was to have you ride down for my local century ride and having you along with Bill and I for the evening SAG support was a real plus. And you were a hit at the Latte potluck. Celebrity status for sure. Let me know if you need a manager for all your endorsement and appearance (Leno or Oprah first?) offers after RAAM

  2. Wow it would have been nice to meet you. My friend Kevin met you on his trip up to Eugene to order his Bike Friday. Told me all about your RAM training. We were down at the TUC and your name actually came up, but we had NO idea you were actually there riding it. Good luck with the RAM and if you ever need a place to crash in Arcata look us up.