I get an email from Megan – Hey! You are on the list for the ORR Springs 600k. We are pre-riding the middle of the course – come join us! I immediately look for fellow rando’s who will join in on the fun and abuse. Some folks who might be around me while I am slogging my way up the 9% “average” dirt sections.
I add Drew, Larry (who adds Carl), Tom and Steve to the list. Drew, Larry and Carl bite, Tom and Steve know better. We email again on Friday – heading to Santa Rosa, meet Patrick and Megan for dinner – Korean BBQ – sleep at Megan’s – depart at 6:00 on Saturday.
Friday comes fast and I’ve had “that” kind of week. A week where nothing goes exactly as planned and you need 26 hours in a day (I’ll wish for that over the weekend too, but that’s another story). Needless to say, I am running behind. I pack quickly, throw a number of things into my bag and take a look at my Ibis cross bike. I throw in a set of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires (32’s) – bombproof on dirt I think (and they were), but oh my, are they heavy. I change out one tire while driving to Santa Rosa in Drew’s Honda Fit.
Glancing at my gearing I realize I have yet to change it and only now am remembering that I wanted to change it after a fun ride with Carlos last year with a Mixed Terrain crew around Marin where everyone was spinning and I was mashing (riding 38×32 – not low enough for me). Well, mashing is in for this weekend too, and I tell myself, “I’m in training for next weekend so HTFU”. It is what it is.
Drew and I jump into his Fit and make our way over to Santa Rosa. We recap our week of festivities – we’ve had three birthdays amongst our Sacto group of good friends and rando-peeps, and there’s plenty to discuss, plus future plans for the summer that are still in flux. We crawl on 101 up to Santa Rosa and make our way to the Korean joint where Megan is with Patrick Herlihy. Hugs hello and beer followed by good eats gets us in the groove for the weekend.
Back at Megan’s house we experience her fabulous homemade ice cream – glorious stuff from her freezer that she has concocted, and we sip a chocolaty minty IPA brew while making final preparations for Sat/Sun.
Our plan is to ride from SR to Occidental and pick up the Orr Springs 600k created by Max P. Ride the route to Ukiah, and spend the night. On Sunday, we’ll continue on the route until we reach the Alexander Valley and return to Megan’s’ via Chalk Hill, and the direct route back into SR. Sounds good enough. Weather looks good for the weekend – high in the low 70s on Saturday and up towards low 80’s on Sunday. Low wind, no precip. All is good. No fenders, no raincoats. YAY!
It’s 5:45 AM on Saturday and Megan and I are both still in our PJ’s when Metin and Carlos walk through her door, fully rando-ized with anklets and rando vests, bikes ready and rarin to go. Carl and Larry show soon after and we depart pretty close to 6:00, although we’re a bit late. We do not raise our right hands, nor carry brevet cards and that seems to make a difference in how the weekend unfolds…
The air is cold, mist is hanging low and the sunrise over the vineyards is lovely. Everyone is trying to warm up and no one really knows what the day has in store, which to me is the beauty of the adventure. Who knows exactly how the day will go? I am a bit nervous – I know I am the slowest of the group, and hope to not be slowing everyone down all day with them endlessly waiting for me (Who doesn’t hate that?).
We ride up to Occidental and then down to Cazadero and stop at Raymond’s bakery. Never been in before and it’s warm, and nice and it smells good. The service is slow and the line is long and IF we were breveting – we’d all be outta there in a flash with a, “this is taking too much time” – but we’re not and so, we sit together and sip coffee and chow on some pastries.
Next up is Kings Ridge road, which is always a special time on a bike. The sun is out, we are above the mist and people are stripping off clothing, commenting about the glare of white winter skin. The hills are nuclear green, with a bluebird sky and fresh air – it is great. Everyone moves along, climbing to the intersection where we regroup enjoying the sunshine. We blast down Skaggs Spring Road to the ocean and stop at Stewarts Point for refreshments.
Next we head north up the coast and Carl pulls. Patrick is taking pictures by sitting off the back, flying by the group taking random shots, pulling, taking more shots while pulling and then slipping back down the rando-line for more scenic shots. Carlos, Megan and Metin all have their cameras too. I am really glad they do, cuz I am already tired with the bad gearing on the Ibis. I am living in my own HTFU world, and the day isn’t even close to being half over.
We stop in Gualala for lunch. Everyone buys a bunch of food and Megan whips out the map of Mendocino/Sonoma counties. We look at the proposed Orr Springs route and when she traces her finger over the section from Boonville to Orr Springs and then to Ukiah, I start to laugh! I am already feeling like there is no way in hell I am gonna make it over Orr Springs Road to Ukiah. There is a fairly straight line from Ukiah from Boonville – Highway 253 – which I am sure will be my ticket to paradise and sleep in the Best Western we have rooms reserved in. Everyone decides to make a final decision in Boonville once the large circular route that includes Orr Springs to Ukiah (read: another 50+ miles and 6000’ of climbing) sinks into everyone’s legs.
Larry has already told me that I am not the Queen of Common Sense, and that when given the carrot to do “stupid things” I will bite. He is somewhat insightful and what he says is typically true – but in this case not so. I have already thrown in the towel on the namesake of the ride, but it doesn’t matter, there’s plenty of work to do on Fish Rock Rd. and it does not disappoint. It’s surface is perfect – a bit tacky, but dry, and few potholes. But it is a steep MF and I walk a few places. My compact cross crank set is not low enough for this old gal… I promise myself to change out the gearing as soon as I get back to Sac. I come upon Drew who is fixing his second flat and I make my way up to the lead group. Carlos is having crank/BB issues and everyone else is casually enjoying the scenery, chewing on some bars and bantering with each other. I relax and catch my breath.
We haven’t yet arrived in Boonville. This takes another hour or so. Fish Rock Road is long: 24 miles and change of dirt, plenty of steep-assed hills and some screaming downhill too, with a little meandering thrown in to round it out. It is a GREAT road! Awesome. Beautiful. Carless. Hard. Intimidating. Worthy. Soul crushing. But in a very friendly way.
We end up riding out of a redwood grove and into a valley before reaching 128. From there it’s still 7 miles to Boonville. Carl leads us out and I am gassed. No way can I hang onto the group and I am shelled. Drew drifts back to ride with me and is pretty surprised at just how tired I am. Let’s go with pretty damn tired. We limp into Boonville. The group is in the store and buying up provisions for the next section.
But wait! Instead of the long 50+ mile route that takes us to Orr Springs, the troops have decided to go directly to Ukiah – the path of least resistance wins! Dinner, brewpub, hot showers and bed sound better than Orr Springs in the middle of the night, arriving in Ukiah well after everything has shut down. We are not on a brevet – we do not have to ride – all – night – long. So we don’t.
For me, it is still a long and slow slog up and over 253 to Ukiah. I am crawling I know, but I have no juice left and am left to ponder why. In the end, it doesn’t matter: whatcha got is whatcha got and I am a long way from home and I have no one to call to come and pick me up. Sunday is another day.
We shower! We convene at the Ukiah brewpub! Megan brings me a birthday rose! And some Peeps! We drink brews! We eat! We decide on a departure time for Sunday! We return to motels! We collapse! We sleep!
Sunday AM we group up for a quick physics lesson from Carl. Daylight is burning – lets get moving! It is 8:00 am and Carlos has opted to head directly to Healdsburg, cutting his ride short because of his mechanical. We say goodbye to him on the River Road roundabout where we head towards Hopland Grade and he takes the exit towards Healdsburg. For us, just down the road we turn off onto Toll House Road. Where are the choco chip cookies?
The sweetness of the road is that it meanders up the valley, not too steep, but with just enough rise to keep you working. Oaks shadow the road with lush green valley vistas down below. One car passes me on this Sunday AM and all is good with the world. Spirits are high as we stop at the top and take in the view – snowy mtns are visible – and everyone agrees Toll House Road should be a staple on other rando-rides. It is Just. That. Good.
We descend down into Kelseyville, do a few stream crossings on the way, and stop to re-fuel. Never been to Kelseyville before. There’s a woman walking down the street with a cockatoo on her shoulder, and a huge truck running monster wheels with a tiny dachshund leaning out the driver’s window. We don’t stay long with a big climb looming and are planning on lunch in Middletown. The next section is pavement and it winds around the back of Cobb Mtn. Been on Cobb plenty of times – it’s almost my backyard, but this road is completely new to me, which makes it really interesting. It’s steep, but not horrific, exposed and could be really hot, but it wasn’t bad on Sunday. Larry and I keep pace with each together and grind our way up and over. The road intersects at Whispering Pines, right where the steep switchbacks on Cobb Mtn “direct” are and this stretch of road I know like the back of my hand so I scream down the descent into Middletown. Lunch!
It has gotten warm. Everyone has peeled off layers and are now in jerseys and shorts only. Riding out of Middletown I am struck by all the ribcages and backbones I can see protruding through jerseys. No wonder I am slow. We’ve been joking about love handles and I think that I have more than one set of love handles to grab onto. I make a mental note to stop eating. Rand-orexia can sit right alongside my rando-nesia. Think the DCSM III would ever consider these?
We are finally pointing our bikes towards Santa Rosa, but we need to get over another ridge to land ourselves in the Alexander Valley. Larry and his better half once opted for Western Mines/Ida Clayton Rd when DNF’ing a SRCC400k. They thought the 9% average grade for 3+ miles was easier than working their way around Clear Lake. Bob Redmond was amazed that they came back into the finish having cruised this road, which is way harder than the brevet route. I smile as I start the ascent. We each make our own way up.
Again, as with all the dirt sections, it is quieter and lovely. There is more traffic on this road, perhaps the proximity to wineries makes it so, but still, with the greenery and foliage, it feels quiet and hidden. And special. It is 3+ miles to the top and the tippy top has a steep ramp leading up to it, but no views to speak of. Everyone is enjoying a bite of something when I arrive, and we move along in great spirits. The descent is longer than the climb and Patrick and I Herl, I mean hurl ourselves down the road. We catch a BMW Z something, that is obstructing our descent, and it is a blast to pass this highly tuned German engineered sports car. Views appear of acres of geometric rows of vines. Alexander Valley in full Spring glory.
We regroup and head down 128 towards Chalk Hill. Just here last week, and the late afternoon light is starting to set everything aglow. We make our way over and now that we are in the SR valley, people are horses to the barn. Problem for me is, I am ready for the glue factory. For the life of me, it’s all I can do to hold the last wheel, and I watch the group put distance between me and them. Drew has again dropped back and we miss a light. Megan has changed course, so she and Patrick scoop us up and we crisscross through pretty neighborhoods until we are, at last, again at her door.
Survived. Thrived! Thoroughly enjoyed the company, the scenery, and the route. Max – you are amazing to have put this together. While I have learned that it is highly unlikely that I could complete the 600k in the allotted time, I still think it is a ride worth doing as 3 x200ks, or as 4-day tour starting and ending in the city, or as how we did it with an overnight in Boonville. Seriously wonderful.
Stats: 20,700’ of climbing over 230 miles or so. Speed? Slower than molasses, but it was sweet, nonetheless.
Many thanks to Carl, Patrick, Carlos, Megan, Metin, Drew and Larry for hauling me around all weekend long and for being such good sports about it. To Metin, Carlos, Patrick and Megan for camera shots that I will be borrowing to illustrate my story here! Special thanks to Max for putting together the route – it is really an amazing slice of Cali riding. And extra special thanks to Megan for her generosity of home and spirit and her ever-smiling face. I had a great weekend. And, I need to get back over to Mendocino Co to ride Orr Springs road… Anyone care to join?