Giving Back and Providing Support on Rides

It’s time to give back to the sport that we love, and for the past two weekends, I have spent time supporting others, who are participating in these epic events. Without the support staff, you won’t have these rides.

Tierra Bella was on 4/22/2023, and is done by my club Almaden Cycle Touring Club (ACTC). This is a huge event for the club, offering multiple rides up to a full century. My part was supporting the rest stop at Gilroy Hot Springs. Well, actually it wasn’t actually at Gilroy Hot Springs, but was at fire station 21, which was about 1/4 mile from Gilroy Hot Springs. However, when I look at my assignment, the location pointed me to Hunting Hollow Entrance. I think what confused me was in years passed, that was the rest stop. What I didn’t know was that it was supposed to be at the fire station. Oops … I felt something was wrong, and after a couple hours, I decided to head back down (because I had no cell reception up there).

I head down the hill, and then I see the fire station … ah … there’s where everyone is. Boy, I really feel like shit on my face. So embarrassing … so I timidly walk up and tell the captain that I goofed, and I’m supposed to be working this rest stop. Oh well … I guess I can help by making sure the food is not disturbed by flies, ants, etc … just make sure health inspectors don’t see any violations. But hey, I did get to take pictures of some of my friends participating in the event.

At least I assisted in helping to tear down the rest stop, and leave it like it was before we took over the place. It’s the least I could do. They were all so gracious, but I guess every little bit does help. I then turned around and helped store all of our equipment back into storage. That was a lot of work, lots of upper body workouts, and lifting, but it was all fun.

Then, this past weekend, on 4/29/2023, I was volunteering for supporting Devil Mountain Double (DMD), which I had done two weekends ago on the worker’s ride. That was tough, and now I get to support all that will endure the same tough course I survived. Just like me, many had started at 3 am. The nice part about this, is that the first loop is 46 miles, and they return back to the start. I could then come by at a more civilized hour of 8 am, to greet some of the riders, and then do Sierra Road with some of the participants.

I got there just in time to greet my friends Memo, Peggy, and Kirsten, all extremely tough, strong riders.

I then rode up Sierra Road, which is part of the highland route (when I did it, I did the lowland route, which bypassed this). A lot of riders opted for lowland, but as I was climbing, I did get passed by a couple of riders. Later on, I found one that was 3rd to the last to make it up to the Mines Road turnaround point, where I was stationed at, Control #9.

My assignment wasn’t until 5 pm at the Mines Road U-turn, at the 151 mile point. I was supposed to meet the Livermore Ham Operators at Control #8 at 4:30 pm, to install a tracker, so they can see where I am (since I am the designated SAG from Mines Road to Sunol). That was the plan, at least. When I got to Control #8, there were already a few riders there, and even one rider that already went up to the top, and came back. Holy crap, I’m supposed to be up there, 8 miles up, and I’m still here getting the tracker installed. Then, I also discovered, like an idiot, I forgot to bring a pump. What good is a SAG without a pump? Luckily, one of the Ham operators had a pump, so I borrowed that.

One of the motorcycle support riders went up to the spot where the turnaround point should be. So then we set up at that point. However, it turns out based on the route, it should still be a quarter mile up the road. The ham operator who was supposed to be at my stop was up there, and was worried that I didn’t show up. A little later, he went down the hill, and saw us. This was confusing, as some said the turnaround point was at the 10 mile marker (that’s painted on the road), but the GPS showed it was still quarter mile up. Since we had already set up by the 10 mile marker, we decided that this would be the turnaround point (although some wanted to complete it, based on what the route says). It still counted, no matter if you were at the 10 mile marker, or the turnaround up ahead.

The rest stop was supposed to close at 8 pm, but we were still getting riders past 8 pm. We looked at how many were still left, and there were still at least 6 more to go. Eventually, at 9:30 pm, all but 1 was accounted for. Since I was the sweep for the last rider, I had to wait for the last one. Eventually, that rider came at 10:22 pm. I then followed behind him, all the way to Sunol (another 30 miles or so). It wasn’t bad until we got into town, where I had to keep pulling over to let faster cars go by.

Sweeping a rider is a lot more difficult and tiring than one would think (because you are holding up traffic, trying to keep the rider safe). The actual rider was getting fatigued, as he was weaving a little bit, and he would pedal, then coast, then pedal and coast. I pulled up along side of him asking if he was okay, if he needed anything, but he acknowledged he was fine. Only later on, when we finally got to Sunol, we found he was not able to digest anything. In retrospect, I probably should have insisted to SAG him, as soon as he got to the Mines Road turnaround point.

Lesson learned … enforce a cutoff, before allowing them to attempt the out and back. As it stood, I didn’t get to the Sunol rest stop, until after midnight, and they still had 30 more miles to go, with some Rollies. We ended up SAG’ing him back to the start.

One thing I learned here is how difficult sweeping the last rider is. I now have a much greater appreciation for SAG drivers. I want to thank all the other workers on this ride, and give major kudos to everyone who completed this ride. This was one tough ride, and a tough one to support.

This was the first time our group, XDV, took over support of this ride, and we had many lessons to learn from this. The biggest part was underestimating when the rider would get to a certain part of the course. Second was enforcing a cut-off point. It’s there for the rider’s safety, as well as sanity for the workers.

I Finally Beat the Devil – DMD Completed

I finally did it, I finally beat the devil, and I completed Devil Mountain Double. This is the DMD worker’s ride, with the actual event to take place two weeks later.

My first attempt at this was 9 years ago, back when roads were not damaged by rain, and when it was run by Scott Halversen and Quackcyclists. This year, Dzung Dang, creator of XDV, has taken the reins. It is a different route, which starts in San Jose, instead of San Ramon, and does Hamilton first, then Sierra, before going to Diablo. Previously, Diablo was the first climb, which was always challenging, to get legal permits to do the event. My failed attempt is documented at

The ride started at 3 am, so alarm set at 1:30 am (takes about 30 min to get to Berryessa Community Center, where the ride starts). For once, it’s a local drive for me, but it happens one of the most difficult doubles you can do. There were a total of 11 riders, with two of them starting quite a bit later (i.e. faster riders).

The temps were in the high 40s, so not too bad, as long as we were climbing. What’s first? Quimby … Oh, the hard way, or as I like to say, the short cut up Hamilton to Grant Park. By the time I made it up to the top of Quimby, the group was spread out, and was already riding solo.

By the time I got to the top of Hamilton (not at the visitor’s center), it was already light. This meant descending in daylight … woohoo! We had to descend back into the clouds, and boy was that chilly. What’s worse, I left my balaclava at home. You always forget something, even if it’s a local event. The return was back to the start where we could stuff things we didn’t want to carry in a drop bag, and have it carried to Mines Road. It was still cold, so I just left my jacket on, and just left an extra light in my drop bag.

The next climb was either going up Sierra (highland route), or taking Calaveras (lowland route). The difference is about 1500 feet, but Sierra is pretty steep. Most riders went highland, but I figure if I finish this, I’ll get in < 18,000 feet in about 200 miles. That’s enough! I still had to climb Calaveras, and the wall!

Since I was the only one in the 3 am group to do the lowland, I was doing it solo. As it turned out, I was the first one to arrive, and waiting at Control 5 is my fellow DC’er Peggy (who will be doing the same thing in two weeks!)

I also happen to bump into some friends who were doing a club ride going through Sunol. See what fun you can have doing a double?

The next big climb is Diablo, at around mile 86 … 86 miles in, and whatever climbing at that point, and then doing Diablo? At least the ride organizer didn’t have to worry about getting permits to ride through (which was an issue when it started from San Ramon and it was the first climb). I started to feel the miles and the climbing starting to catch up to me, but I kept at a steady cadence to this point anyways. I was marveling at how green the hills are here. If I weren’t doing the double, I’d stop and admire it, but I must continue on.

When I got to the summit, my fellow Owl Be Back SS 508 teammate was there to greet me at Control 6. I had to take an extended breather here, before descending down the hill. I was there so long, that my friend Stefan caught up to me (who had done Sierra). I descended down, but I was slowed way down by 1 car, who was going 10 mph around the turn. I was riding my brakes, but I didn’t feel it wise to pass him descending Diablo. Then, I went down to North gate, then a different car, was doing the same thing. Eventually, just after I got passed North gate, Stefan passes me up. I guess I’ll be meeting him at lunch.

Riding on Ygnacio Valley Road is never fun, especially with cars going at 50-60 mph, but at least we had enough shoulder room to work with. The sun was starting to beat down, but I was not about to take off my knee warmers and long gloves. I only had a long sleeve jersey, so I had to just suffer with that on.

Lunch was awesome … adobo spare ribs, it just hit the spot. The group is still behind at least 20-30 minutes behind, so we continue on. Oh, and yes, I was grazing again. 🙂

The next climb up is Morgan Territory, and the kicker with that is all the false flats. At least I’ve done it enough to not be fooled by the false flats … plus, my Garmin helps me cheat there, as it tells me how much more I have to climb. It has been > 1 year since I’ve done Morgan Territory, and the last 0.5 miles is a steep MF’er.

After a brief break for water at the top, time for the descent, aka “The Plunge”. Only thing about this is to watch out for bad drivers, so I kept my speed at a controlled pace. Lucky for me, because one car went way over to my side of the road (luckily I was still about 50 feet away from the car.

Next up is Mines Road (after passing through Livermore). We would then go 8 miles out on Mines Road, then turn around. Actually, the road is closed to cars at that point, so it was a perfect turnaround point. When we turned around, we had to turn on our lights. The good thing it was downhill back to Livermore. Stefan did have a bit of a problem, as his light was not as fully charged as he thought. I had extra lights, but unfortunately, his handlebar was shaped in such a way that I couldn’t mount the extra light on there. Luckily, Byron at Control 10 had an extra light with an adapter that would fit his handlebar, and we were all set.

We returned through the backside of Calaveras, but boy, it was dark. I had to use my other light, which was a 1000 lumen light (although I did have it on medium to low setting). It definitely looked much different at night than during the day. I couldn’t recognize where I was, even though I have done this route hundreds of times, but all in daylight. I was starting to get a little light headed. I was drinking, and I was eating bars, but for some reason, I was getting light headed. Then, all of a sudden, I approach what appears to be a bush in the middle of the road. No, that’s not a bush … it’s a tree that fell onto the road! D’oh! Luckily we were able to walk our way through the shoulder to get around that obstacle.

I had to stop for a minute and take some protein .. some beef jerky …Ah, that did the trick. I must have had some protein deficit at that point. Onwards, and we were on the home stretch. I looked at my clock, and it’s around midnight. Uh oh … I won’t make it before midnight. Oh well, the next goal is just to finish it … and boy we wanted this thing over.

We finally get back to the start at 12:30 am. I think we were the 6th or 7th to finish, but who’s counting. Now where’s my IPA, rice porridge and adobo?

I’ve gotta shout out to Stefan, who stuck with me from Mines Road all the way to the end. Having someone to ride with, in the dark, through Calaveras, definitely kept my mind at ease.

Final stats … 197 miles, 17,835 ft of climbing. Yeah, I did graze quite a bit … about 2:15:00 off the bike, but I don’t care … I completed DMD! I Beat the Devil!

Last Double of the Year .. I Promise

After accomplishing my goal of 25 DC’s, you would think I would slow down and relax … but how could I, when I enjoy doing them. Yeah, there is the going to sleep at 8 pm, to wake up at 2:30 am, to go for a 4 am ride. That’s normal, right? This time, it’s Dead of Winter. I’ve always enjoyed riding in this area, Port Hueneme, Oxnard, Camarillo, Ojai area.

I wasn’t sure who I would ride with this year, but I know that Kirsten (who is super woman, and I’m not sure how long I’d ride with her), and Peggy would be there (who I did ride with for “most” of the ride).

Kirsten was telling me the night before at dinner how she had not had much riding in lately, maybe a 30 mile ride, and it was going to be a slow roll. The route exited the parking lot, and a right turn and boom, she was out of sight. I remember riding for the first few miles, seeing a red dot ahead of us (that being Kirsten). We never caught up with her … like I said, Superwoman.

The route did a 40 mile, fairly flat loop from Port Hueneme through Camarillo and back, and who do we see jogging on the side of the road … of course it’s Memo. He is everywhere … we should start calling him Waldo … Where is Waldo? Memo is everywhere … is there only one of him?

It was a constant drizzle on the drive down, which made the road wet, but luckily the weather held up, and we wouldn’t get any drizzle or rain. However, it was still overcast, and the sun didn’t peep out too much, so we kept jackets on for most of the ride.

Since there was a loop for the first 40 miles, the next part of the route went on some of the same roads we just did on the first loop. We had loaded the route on our Garmin, and one of the after effects of doing that, with a route that travels on the same road, is it may think you are doing the first part of the route. In other words, it may take you in the wrong direction … and it did. We were supposed to be 8 miles from the lunch stop, and the route was taking us back to the hotel. I thought it was strange that we seemed to be going the same route as we did in the first 40 miles, so Peggy and I stopped, and looked at the route. Yup, we did miss some turn. We couldn’t tell where, but all that mattered is getting back on the course and onto the lunch stop.

I pulled out Google Maps, and had it route us the quickest way to Juanamaria Park. The ETA there would be an hour … damn! The thought in my head is I hope we will get there before the lunch stop closes. Google Maps took us through a bike path, and when you look on Google Maps, it looks like it wants you to go on the freeway (well Hwy 101). All it said was “turn right” but it didn’t mention a street. When we got there, I realized it wanted us to turn onto the bike path, which parallels Hwy 101. And boy, was that bike path dirty, and full of trash. We thought we would encounter some homeless camp there. Then, it took us on another bike path, but this time, it said “turn left”, and again, no street name. By that time, I figured it wanted us to go on another bike path.

Finally, we reached Junamaria Park, the lunch stop, approximately 1.25 hours later than expected, and there were still people there, with about 10 riders left behind us. We quickly fueled up, loaded food to go, and off we went, for the hardest part of the course, onto Ojai.

This is the part of the course where I anticipated I would be slower. Big thank you to Peggy for pulling me through Ventura Rd, till we got to the climbing portions of the ride. It was just a matter of time before I would lose sight of her. When we headed out to Dennison Grade and Ojai Summit, I knew I would be alone in the climb. There was no one in front of me, and no one behind me. This was a tough grind … not like Sierra Road or Hicks, but it still kicks your butt. As Peggy says, this was a MF’er climb.

On the way to the summit, I do see Peggy heading back in the other direction. I was meaning to tell her to go on ahead, and don’t wait for me, as I know I’d be trailing behind. She does have plans to do Double-Double (which is the same ride the following day …. one is enough for me).

When I got through Dennison Grade, and it flattens out, I thought I should be at the summit, right? Wrong. It descends a little bit before a couple of minor hills before we get to Ojai Summit. Oh, that’s cruel and unusual punishment.

Got to the summit before it turned dark, but I knew on the return, I would need my lights. By the time I got to the Mob Shop, for the next stop, it was definitely dark enough, where lights are required. This meant we had to climb Casitas in the dark. I didn’t anticipate this, but I was able to mount a light on the fork, near the hub of my front wheel. That worked out pretty good, as it would light up the road while I’m climbing. I figured I would use this, and save my main lights on the handlebars for the descent.

While climbing Casitas, there were just a few cars passing me, but there were tons of traffic coming the opposite direction (from the coast inland). The problem there was many cars had their high beams on, and at times, it would blind me for a split second. It’s a good thing there wasn’t any traffic behind me when that occurred.

For the descent, I had three lights, so visibility wouldn’t be an issue, but man, it was dark. Despite that, the descent was okay for me (although I was going extremely conservatively … aka slowly).

For the rest of the route, I hooked up with another group, who I recognized from previous doubles (Bass Lake and Davis), so I was not riding solo on the way back.

The original route was about 190 miles, but there was a detour which added 3 miles. With our extra detour, I ended up with 202 miles, 6942 ft climbing. The important thing is I made it back safely, and without any flats.

That’s DC #27 for me. Now to take it easy for the rest of the year, before ramping it up again for 2023.

Owl Be Back’s 2022 Silver State 508

I finally had the opportunity to race in the Silver State 508, and I had the honor to represent Owl Be Back. Our dear friend Ellen, who was killed in a bike accident earlier this year, wanted to do the SS 508 (after seeing an all woman team compete last year). So in honor of Ellen Le, I dedicated this race to her, as I know if she were still with us, she would be doing this.

It’s the first time racing on a team, so I went into this not having any expectations, as I didn’t know what to expect with this. It’s funny how this all started too … We were hanging out at Mountain Mike’s in Saratoga, and Owl Be Back had only 3 members, and needed a 4th. Everyone looked at me, and they pretty much asked if I wanted to do it. I paused for about 2 seconds, and I said “Sure, why not … I’ve got nothing better to do in September”. LOL

I took a week off (even though it would only take a couple of days), but I wanted to just clear my mind off of work, and just enjoy the experience of the 508. I know there is a lot of history with this event, and I didn’t want to completely embarrass myself (being the rookie in this type of event).

When we got to Reno, there was this ominous smoky air hovering over us. The race would still go on, but the air quality was a big concern. Hopefully, it wouldn’t follow us, as we go inland east towards Eureka.

We decided to go with two support vans, with 2 riders supported per van. The idea is to keep someone moving on the course, while the crew, and team, can get sleep (when the race goes into the evening and the early morning, in the dark).

Brian would be the first to go, and it would have to be a long leg, as we did not have the chance to transition to another rider until the 30 mile mark. After that, we proceeded with a rotation of taking 30 minute pulls. Memo, then Nancy, then myself, followed by Brian again.

The tricky part was getting the hang of passing the transponder (or baton). Easiest thing was to transfer it to the next rider’s jersey pocket, except when I passed it on to Brian, he doesn’t have a jersey, so no pocket to transfer it to. We had to just have it place it in his bag under his top tube. However, we got the groove of this, so that didn’t become an issue.

We did run into some challenges. First, the blinkers on Paul’s van wouldn’t blink. We think there may be a short somewhere, because if we bounce the blinker, it would blink again, until we hit a bump on the road. Second, and the one that gave us more anxiety, was the van had a problem starting (most likely because the battery on the key fob was low on battery. After a few re-tries, it did start. We were able to find a new battery, but when we replaced it, we couldn’t get the remote to lock/unlock. So we had to make sure, no matter what happened, don’t turn the engine off (at least not until we get back to Reno). Then on Dzung’s van, the blinker wouldn’t blink at all. He had to stop off at an auto parts store, to get a new one, which meant we had to alter our rotation for one turn. Such are the ordeals of crewing a ride .. you can do all you can to prepare, but then you find out some things you gotta take care of for the next time.

We were doing good time, as we seem to be in the middle of the pack. We would always see the same teams at various time checks, like Sloth Armada, Team Blerch (although they were a 2 man team), it was fun just to chat with the crews of the other teams.

After about 4 rotations, the team seemed to get into a groove. Brian is a good strong climber, while Nancy can climb, but she preferred to not go down the fast long descents. While I love the descents, and love the flat straightaways. Memo has great endurance, and can do long sprints, and hill climbs. One good thing is we didn’t have any mechanical issues, which is always a concern when crewing an event like this.

The climb up Carroll Summit was a beast … somehow I ended up missing most of the climb, although we did transition to me to do the last part of the climb, then continue down for a screaming descent. The crew saved the descent for me … only got up to 44 mph … I can only imagine what speeds a tandem would go down this hill.

As night time came, we increased the time for each pull, from 30 min to 45 min, and when I pulled, it was really dark. At one point, I got about 20 ft of a rabbit, and in my mind, I was hoping he would move … it would be bad to run into the little critter, going 25 mph, but luckily he moved. That was the only real obstacle I came across while riding in the night. Eventually we took our turn driving, so that everyone in the crew could get some sleep. It worked out so well, that when we got to Eureka (the turnaround point), there was no stopping … the next rider up just continued on. We were like a well oiled machine!

We eventually came back to Carroll Summit, from the other side. At this point, Memo was climbing, and the original plan was we would break up that climb into multiple parts. To this point, normally, the other van (driven by Dzung) would wait then pass us right when we would make the transition. However, at this point, he passed us first. We did our direct follow behind Memo up the climb, and we thought we would transition half way up the hill. Well we got to the top, and there was no transition. WTF? We descended down, and no one there … by this time, it started to get light, but it was damn cold (probably got into the mid-30s). Finally about 6 miles before the next turn, we got a cell signal, and got a message “we missed you somehow”. Missed us? How did you miss us … there’s only one road! We made them backtrack. It looks like that one time, where the van went ahead of us, make them mix up the order. Poor Memo … he did yeoman’s work, doing that big climb (was at least 5 miles long), so for the next leg, we skipped his rotation, so that he can get some rest.

Despite that mishap, I don’t think we lost too much time. We kept seeing the same teams at the time checks, so we must have been doing pretty good.

As far as the weather was concerned, the air quality definitely improved once we got passed Fallon. On our return back towards Virginia City, the air quality continued to be good, so we lucked out, in that we didn’t suffer from the smokey air. We also lucked out, as we didn’t get triple digit heat, like we did two weeks ago. However, strong head winds greeted us, as we approached Virginia City from Fallon and Silver Springs.

We split the climb up Six Mile Canyon Climb between myself, Brian, then Memo, who would make the climb up Geiger Summit, then the descent into Reno. Brian had the hard part, going over the 12% grade … just the luck of the draw, I guess.

We got back into Reno, and at the finish at 3:16 pm on Saturday, with an elapsed time of 32:16:00, with an average speed of 15.9 mph. Wow, with this finish, we could have made it to the Journey concert that was playing in Reno.

Carmel Valley Double # 25 is Done

Carmel Valley Double is completed! This is my 25th Double Century, and I finally get a chance to buy, and wear the next level of awesomeness, the 25 DC jersey. This was not only a big deal for me, but we had a celebration of a 50 DC rider, Hoang Nguyen, a 75h DC rider, Peggy Kegley, and 100 DC rider, Dzung Dang, the directory of the Carmel Valley Double course. Awesome, with banners posted for all 4 of us.

I also came a couple days early, to assist in setting up this huge event. As with last year, I slept at the start. One would think that with others sleeping in the same venue, I would get enough sleep, but I normally don’t get as much sleep at these events anyways. With a 4 am start, I figure I would wake up 3:15 am, and hoping I would not wake anyone up … but soon after my alarm went off, everyone else’s alarm went off, so I was thinking the same thing, and lights went on in the building.

Check in at 4 am, and off I go. About 2 miles in, I suddenly realize I left my phone back at the start. There’s no turning back, I gotta just do it. Besides, they printed this big poster for my 25th, expecting I would finish this, so gotta pursue ahead. This just means I can’t take any pictures, so I’ll have to rely on what pics others have taken. This may not be a bad thing, no tempting distractions for me.

I rode with fellow awesome endurance rider Dr. Lam Do, from San Diego. We rode at around the same pace, so that was good, and not be tempted by the pace of other passing us. At around mile 16, we had our first excitement of the day. There was a house fire, with fire trucks, ambulance, and police all at the scene, blocking Elm Street. Ooh, but we have some directing us onto the sidewalk to get through the scene, and who was that? Oh it’s the awesome Peggy Kegley, the aforementioned 75 DC rider. Thanks a bunch Peggy .. you rock!

We get to the first rest stop, shortly after a series of small climbs, we get our first rest stop at mile 21. This was run by SF Adobo Velo, serving boiled eggs and Vicky Ma’s rice porridge. Oh, very yummy … it’s definitely the way to start a DC. Oooh … but no water. It was so early that it wasn’t a big issue for me, so off we go.

First climb up is Carmel Valley Road. That came quicker than I thought, but maybe it’s because I wasn’t lagging behind with no one in front. However, I did lose Lam somewhere here. Up the hill, we had two cows loose on the road, but we did see some ranch owners try to move them off with their trucks. We went by without a problem there.

Got to the summit, and the second rest stop, but couldn’t find Lam there, but I gotta move on, and limit my stops. Time for a long fast descent en route to Monterey. This is a nice recovery for the legs as there are no hard climbs until after reaching Monterey.

The climbs after Monterey are punchy … you know, short steep climbs, from 5-12%, just enough to wake you up. We then do an out and back of Jack’s Peak, and then my friends Brett and Brenda catch up with me. That is great … at least I get to ride and chat for a short time with them. However, that would last about 15 minutes, but it’s still good.

The next climb, San Benancio, is what starts to drain riders, me included. It is an exposed climb, with limited shades, so the climbers do gain time. We eventually get up to Laureles Grade, via an off road section that cars cannot get through. Lam eventually caught up to me at this point, but he passed me, and I would meet up with him later at lunch. The road exited through Rinconada Dr before we get onto Laureles Grade. There were reports from some cyclists that a pedestrian was complaining that it was a private road, but I think most cyclists came through there without an issue.

Finally lunch stop at Jerome’s Market. Before getting there, my friend Kirsten passes me. That was cool. I reunited with Brenda and Brett at lunch. They are ready to take off, and Kirsten limits her stops, so off she went (I don’t think she ever eats … hahaha).

Everyone was saying all climbs were front loaded, so second half should not have issues … except Cachagua is a tough climb. I know, because I’ve done that, and I helped SAG the workers ride two weeks ago. Soon after the summit of Cachagua, I start getting cramps. I was able to manage it somewhat, till we got to the water stop before starting the climbs again. I thought it would be fine, and I did munch on some salty chips, and popped some e-pills in, and ate a bar. However, it would still creep in.

I managed to get to the top of Calhoun Summit, where I spent a longer than usual rest stop, for probably a good 20 min. Here I downed some adobo chicken, rice, coke, and that seemed to help me recover. Most of the climbs were done anyways, but that was a good break.

There was another water stop at about mile 142. I didn’t think it was necessary, but since we had to check in at each stop, I couldn’t just bypass it. It’s just some more time to add into the ride. It was mostly downhill into King City. There were some combination head and cross winds getting back through Greenfield, so I had to go into time trial mode. I was still able to sustain 19-20 mph through there, so I felt pretty good. Those bouts with cramps …. what cramps? When we turned right on Metz, we got to take advantage of a stiff tail wind. That definitely help my time getting back.

Got to the next check-in before 8 pm, before we do the out and back down Jolon Road. It’s a 20 mile out and back, with one hill, but that was a cruel hill, at about mile 173. It was probably good that it was dark, so that I didn’t see how much hill there was in front of me. That was a nasty, sadistic hill (especially after 175 miles and 12k ft climbing in our legs), but we got through it. As soon as we summitted, I was eager to see the turnaround point … but we continued to go down. My thought was, the longer this descent is, the longer we have to climb back up.

While at the rest stop, Memo warns us to not stay to long, so that we don’t miss the time cut off for the ride. We have about 1:45 left to finish. Luckily the climb itself wasn’t too bad, which then would be followed by a descent.

As if the pressure to make the cutoff wasn’t enough, my chain dropped, and it’s stuck between the frame on the small chainring … Ugh … Finally got back with about 10 minutes to spare. Whew!!! I made it … 25th Double Century. This was harder than it looks on paper, and having cramps before Carmel Valley Road didn’t help either.

I’ll have to give a big shout out to Lam, who stuck with me through Cachagua and Carmel Valley Road. It probably slowed time by 15 to 30 min at least, so thank you Lam. I’d also like to thank Dzung, for all the encouragement, when I got back into riding doubles again … especially on a really hard Mulholland Virtual Double … I was ready to quit, but he kept at me, and it got me through it. I’d also like to thank Brenda and Amanda, for helping me out on those training rides.

And now I’ve got this big poster … need a big wall to post this on :). Thank you all that greeted me at the end. The camaraderie with this crowd is incredible, and the gratitude I have for their friendship and support cannot be put into words.

Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge … Epic Ride

This year, for the first time in a couple of years, the Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge was delivered as an actual event. No virtual this time, but an actual event, with actual volunteers, sign up, food, and riders … actual riders. It’s as epic, and enjoyable as I remember it to be.

In years passed, some people referred to this as the local Death Ride. True, it did not have the altitude acclimation that you need for the Death Ride in Markleeville, but this included steep climbs.

I met up with my friends Amanda and Marshall, and we decided to do “just” the century option, which was just 101 miles, and 9800 ft of climbing. There was a double metric option, with 120 miles, and something like 12,000 ft of climbing … but if we did that, most likely, by the time I would finish, there would be no post ride meal. That’s no bueno!

I was hanging in with everyone, up until we did the long climb up Zayante. It’s a 10 mile, 1660 ft climb, but as with most long climbs, it kicks up at the end of the climb. I was definitely falling behind, but at least I wasn’t passed by too many people, which is always a positive sign. I was able to catch up to Amanda and Marshall just before reaching the next rest stop. All that work, and I probably could have just reunited with them at Bear Creek and Skyline. Oh well.

Was able to meet up with friends Shawnery and Yvonne (really strong riders). It was great just to say hi for a few minutes, because that’s the last we would see of them … until they passed us speeding through Ice Cream Grade near the end of the ride. Then I met up with my friend Cha Cha … and at first, I saw her face, and just couldn’t put my finger on it … I knew I’d seen her before on some other ride. Funny how that all works out … how could I forget Cha Cha … especially with a name like that! She’s a hoot! She saved me from going the wrong way later on in the ride. Cha cha hung in with us as we descended down Hwy 9 into Boulder Creek. While in Boulder Creek, we caught up with some Western Wheelers friends … Dang, we’re meeting up with everyone on this ride, that we haven’t seen in a while. Cool!

The marquee climb for this ride is Jameson Creek. Oy vey! This climb reminds me of the Decker Canyon climb on the Mulholland Challenge, that I did in April. Tough climb, with 15-17% grades … The strava segment shows it’s only 2.9 miles, but average grade is 9.8%. My friend Adam passes by me like I was standing still. I was wondering if he would be on this ride. He’s another really strong, good climber.

I finally get to the top, and my legs felt the same way when I got to the summit of Jameson Creek, as I did when I summitted Decker Canyon … like jello!

Ok, next is lunch. But lunch is all the way down in Bonny Doon, right? But Adam says it was just over the next hill. Well, Adam was wrong, it was down in Bonny Doon, but it’s mostly downhill, with a few rollies. I then saw Cha Cha, point me to a right turn. It’s a good thing, because I would have flown past that. So we ride together, looking forward to lunch, which should have been at the 77 mile mark. One problem … we get to the 80 mile mark on our Wahoo/Garmin … wait, did we past it? We then see a sign pointing us to go left for 100 mile … Lunch would have been good, but then, I started thinking .. lunch at 77 miles, and post-ride meal at 100 miles? Almost seems pointless. At this point, what I want more is water, because I have plenty of energy food to munch on.

We were a little worried that Amanda and Marshall might be wondering where we are, and start looking for us. We decided to just head over to the next rest stop, which is not that far away, and text them to tell them we went to the next rest stop. We get to the rest stop, and who do we find??? Amanda and Marshall. Apparently, they missed the lunch stop too. In fact, at least 6 riders missed it. Hmm … I wonder if the lunch stop is wondering why they have so much extra food!

The group is all in good spirits, despite missing lunch. We head down to Santa Cruz, and we could feel the nice ocean breeze from Santa Cruz.

From here, we head up the hill back to the start. We got back, and it’s only 9800′ (according to my Wahoo). We’ve done 101 miles, and we’re only 200′ from 10,000, so we gotta do an extra 200′ … There’s just something magical about a 5 digit elevation gain.

After doing some extra hills, we got back for the post ride meal. Hmm … burritos are so good after a hard ride.

The actual stats for what I rode was 103 miles, 10,300 ft climbing. Woohoo … that’s a nice ratio.

Eastern Sierra Double #24

This past weekend was Eastern Sierra Double Century, which starts in Bishop, Ca, just south of Mammoth Lakes. Before I go any further, this has got to be one of the most beautiful double centuries you could ride.

This is like unfinished business for me. I last attempted this 10 years ago, but the weather conditions were quite ominous then. Back then, we re-routed the course, so that we would avoid the rain … well we ran into rain, and then it hailed, then snowed, so I DNF’d that year. This time, I’m determined to finish this.

This year has been really tough for ride organizers, as the participation is still not up where it was before Covid-19 lockdown, so I want to first shout out to Planet Ultra, for making all these efforts to plan and prepare this wonderful event.

Getting to the start was a challenge, before actually doing the ride. First, I couldn’t find anyone to carpool with (most people participating were driving up from Southern California). Then, I got a good tip from my friend Mark, who said the most direct route is through Tioga Pass, Hwy 120, through Yosemite National Park. However, to drive through you need a reservation. Okay, fine, so I went onto, to try to make a reservation for Friday and Sunday, but no option to even make a reservation. It didn’t even say it was full. Bogus! So what are my alternatives? Either go all the way down to Bakersfield, then go east, and take Hwy 395 north … but that’s a long detour. Then there’s going through Sonora Pass, Hwy 108. Okay, that’s not as long, but it is steep, and the peak is ~ 9800’ … Dang! Oh well, I guess I have no choice. However, the view did not suck!

I’m staying with my friend Victor, in his condo in Mammoth Lakes. This will be his 50th Double Century. That’s quite an accomplishment … Hall of Famer indeed

Victor Cooper, on his 50th DC

Most of the riders were starting at 5 am, and that’s when we would start. I know a couple of friends are starting at 4 am, but the condo we are staying at, in Mammoth Lakes, is 45 min drive away from the start. We would have to leave by 3:15 am, and wake up even earlier.

5 am Riders

The temperature at the start was comfortable, not chilly at all (I probably could have started without the jacket, but I’m staying on the conservative side). As you could see, Stefan, has no jacket, and not even leggings, like it’s a summer ride.

We only needed lights for about 45 minutes, and then it started getting warm. After the adrenaline of the start of the ride wears off, we got into a good group, to pace ourselves before the climbing started.

In this group, we had the very unique situation of having two Ron’s in the group. Actually, there is a third, but we didn’t get a chance to take a picture with all 3 Ron’s, so you’ll have to settle for two instead

Photo courtesy Victor Cooper

The climb on Sherwin Grade on paper didn’t look that bad … but doing it .. that’s a different story. The first section of it, from Lower Rock Creek to Gorge Rd is 7.2 miles, and average 5%, but I faded towards the back of the group.

Not only were we climbing at altitude (beginning at 4500 ft), but we were also battling headwinds from time to time. The climb itself was deceiving, as when you look at it from the side, it doesn’t look that steep, but looking at my power and speed, I can definitely see I am climbing.

The climb continued as we turned onto Hwy 395. I then bumped into my friend Bob (who has a last name, that is pronounced the same way as mine, except he has a vowel in his name). At least I got some company before the next stop.

I finally caught up with the group at the next rest stop (surprised that they were still there). And I finally got to meet Nora in person (who I have been Facebook friends for awhile).

We continued on where our next destination is the climb up to the Mammoth Lakes area. Again, I find myself stuck at the back.

Pic courtesy Victor Cooper

One of our other friends, Molly, was going to ride with us from Mammoth Lakes. However, I was so far behind, I didn’t catch up with her until much later in the ride. I pretty much was riding solo, with some of the 6 am riders passing me (which I expected). Soon after getting to Mammoth Lakes area, we have a descent where we go back to Hwy 395 (we basically did a loop around Mammoth Lakes area).

I know the next destination is June Lake, which is a gorgeous area, and pretty much the highlight of the ride. With all this in mind, I somehow missed the turn to the next rest stop. I only figured that, when I see the same people that passed me earlier on, is passing me again. Wait, what happened? Then one of my friends Chris, comes up along side of me, and ask if I missed the rest stop. Well, I guess I did. Luckily, my friends Teresa (aka Tiger) and Nora, were doing leapfrog support, and I saw them parked along the side, and I topped off water, got a few snacks, then headed on. I already saw Vic and Molly pass by, but there’s no way I’ll catch back onto them, so I just continued at my own pace.

Pictures don’t do it justice, but this is the highlight of the entire ride. With Carson Peak hovering over June Lake, it is definitely a destination that should be on every California cyclist bucket list (no matter if it’s a double or not).

Next destination .. lunch … and thankfully, I got there to reunite with the rest of my group. I also found out I am not the last one on the route … one other guy came in after me, and then Andy, from New York, was about 45 min behind me, but he’s gone through the hardest part of the ride, so I know he’ll be able to make it through.

After lunch, there is still a climb up Sage Hen, which is another gradual grind, but with over 8000 feet of climbing, and 110 miles, each hill will drain you … and it did to me.

Sage Hen does have some downhills where you could really pick up some speed. I overheard Chris say on the tandem, they reached 65 mph. The best I could muster is 51.5 mph. Although that sounds fast, I didn’t feel like my bike was unstable going at that speed. However, I wouldn’t really want to go any faster than that. However, it was not all downhill. We had what Victor calls “whoop de doo” .. I guess that’s an appropriate description for it

Adobe Valley whoop de doo courtesy Victor Cooper

I hate these, especially at the 150-160 mile mark … every little bump takes it out of you, and that’s definitely what happened to me. I was really laboring at this point, and just waiting for the next descent to come, where I can tuck down, and just coast back.

I did have one concern about the trip back … and that is if we were going to have a headwind on the way back. Well, we kind of lucked out, as we had a tailwind for the last 30 miles back from Benton to Bishop. That definitely made the ride back oh so enjoyable.

We got back just after dusk, where we barely had to use our lights. Once again, Memo is there to greet us as we finished … of course, he started an hour earlier, and finished an hour quicker than us. But thanks for greeting us Memo. It was very well appreciated.

I’d have to say this was one of my most enjoyable double centuries, despite the suffering, and the rest stop mishaps I had earlier in the day. The views are just spectacular, and I want to take this opportunity to thank Planet Ultra, Deb and Brian Bowling, Teresa (aka Tiger), Nora, and Evan, for the fantastic leap frog support. I wasn’t sure what to expect coming into this, especially with the thread of not being able to get this ride approved .. but I’m glad you all made the effort, and it made for one of the most enjoyable DC’s I have ever done. I think this may be my new favorite, despite how difficult it was to get here … it was all well worth it. I can’t wait to do this next year, although it would be hard to beat the weather conditions on this day.

I also have to give a huge shout out to Deb and Brian Bolling for continuing to push this ride through to reality. Despite the low turnout, and skeleton crew for support, this had to be one of the most enjoyable, and well supported ride I’ve ever done. The weather really cooperated with us, with only a few drops here and there, it was dry. We really lucked out, as it rained half the time on my drive back home to San Jose area, so this was almost the perfect ride.

Ok now for the stats … 190 miles with 10,526 ft climbing, and 1.5 hour stoppage time.

Oh and congrats to my friend Victor Cooper, for completing his 50th Double Century. That is quite an accomplishment. Well done! Thanks for letting me stay at your condo for this. And this is my 24th DC. Next up, Carmel Valley in the end of August.

Davis Double #23

This past weekend was Davis Double, one the best supported double centuries. It had been on a two year hiatus due to Covid-19, but it’s back! It is also one of the most popular double centuries too. It is also the 23rd DC for me.

This year, I got a room right in downtown Davis, and was just a mile from the start. My friend Victor, from LA drove up, and we rode out together, starting at the wee hour of 4 am. This was more to beat the heat, rather than beating a time cut off. I don’t even know if there is a cut off … maybe just to finish before midnight?

You would think that riding at 4 am would attract those of us who are steady and not a speed demon, but there were several pack of fast riders, and I was passed left and right. I guess they wanted to finish in daylight, but they still needed lights to start the ride!

I’m not sure at what mile it was, but very soon after we started, I couldn’t keep up at the pace Victor was going at. One thing I remember about Davis … it’s always a sprint fest in the first 25 miles, so I decided to just keep within my own pace. I was able to see Vic at lunch, but only briefly.

One thing I live about doing DC is riding in the dark, and seeing the sunrise… it’s just an awesome sight, and photos just won’t do it justice.

Soon I caught up with my friend Dan, aka Lanceoldstrong, and my future SS 508 teammate Nancy. It’s so cool suddenly catching up with friends on an event like this.

First rest stop, and the sun is out. My two favorite supporters, Memo and Peggy are there to greet us all. They are so awesome.

Even though the sun is out, it is not ready to take the jacket off. It’s still cool, especially descending through the cool canyons. I’m still getting passed by some stronger riders (probably ones who started an hour after us). I couldn’t keep up with Nancy, so I just had to let her go, and just settle into my pace.

A lot of the ride used the same roads, and in fact, same rest stop points as the Knoxville Double, so it kept thinking to myself, am I doing Davis, or am I doing Knoxville. We just did a bunch of them in reverse. Of course, that meant climbing over Pope Valley.

Pope Valley

I was able to ride with my buddies from One Cycling, out of Stockton. They are so much fun to ride with, as long as I can stay with them.

I still have to work on limiting my time at rest stops. At rest stop 3, I felt I spent too much time there (about 20 min), but there is that balance between having rest time, and not resting too much.

Leaving rest stop 3, we start the climb up Big Canyon, which BTW, includes a 4 mile stretch of gravel. The good thing is it wasn’t a steep grade on gravel, probably 4-5%, if that. However, I did notice my speed was not stellar .. ~ 7-8 mph. Even though it was fairly flat, it still felt like I was climbing. It had ridges, which went perpendicular to where my bike was going, which made the road all that much tougher. Once we got through with the gravel, the grade started to go up … it just gets better :).

Once we finish Big Canyon, it’s a screaming descent down Seigler Canyon, reverse direction of the same route on Knoxville (where we climbed after lunch). I get to lunch, and reunited with Vic, who rode with a strong fast group, but we was about to leave … so short reunion. Here, we get to enjoy the benefits of ice socks, and stick it in around my neck to cool myself off, as I prepare for the climb up Resurrection.

The climb up Resurrection is not bad. There is a short climb, then long descent, only to climb back up again. The rest stop is at the top of the hill, where traditionally, people are suffering up the climbs, as it is all exposed. Peggy was many rider’s savior, replenishing us with ice and water.

Photo courtesy Mark William Calaway
Rock stars of the Day
I got a sock on my neck 😀

The hard part was done, but by no means did the mean the end of climbing. However, the rest was a series of rolling hills, but there was still about 70 miles left to go.

Rest stop 6 was in Guinda, yet another shared rest stop with Knoxville. They had a much larger layout of food, including baked potatoes, and every DC’s favorite, Cup o Noodles. Something about that salt, but because there was all this food, I spent way too long here. Looking back at my stats, I probably spent 30 minutes here … that’s even longer than the lunch stop. I definitely need to improve in this area.

The rest of the ride was a matter of continuing through, ignoring the pain in your butt (from all the time in the saddle). I couldn’t quite make it back before dark … I think I had a good 30 min where it was completely dark, but was able to see the sun go down.

I finally finished a little before 9 pm, which seems to be my average. I really need to limit my time at rest stops. I say this every time I prepare for a double. I guess I just gotta keep practicing, and eventually, I’ll get it right. There’s always something to learn on these events.

Ok, total stats … 194.30 miles, 9098 ft climbing.

Mulholland Double became Mulholland Challenge

I signed up for the Mulholland Double Century, one of the stage in the California Triple Crown Stage Race. I wasn’t originally going to do this, but my friend Brenda asked if I would do it with her (to have a carpool partner, and a riding partner as well). I said yes, but in the back of my mind, I know I’m not as strong as her, so I had a little hesitancy in doing it. However, I figure what the heck .. if all else fails, I’ll be able to do the Mulholland Challenge, which is only 106 miles, 12,000 ft of climbing, instead of 192 miles and 18,000 ft climbing.

It turned out our friend Mark was going to be able to come along, so it was us three carpooling down.

Credit Mark William Calaway (aka Memo)

I originally signed up for the tourist option, which would not get Stage Race credit, but if completed by midnight, I would still get CTC credit. However, I wanted to ride together with Brenda and Mark, so instead of starting at 4:30 am, we started at 6:30 am, and didn’t need lights at the beginning of the ride. The double century riders, and the mountain challenge riders would start at the same time.

Right off the bat, a lot of the riders charged on ahead at a brisk pack riders pace (since it was a gradual descent). We decided to go at a warm up pace, not going to crazy. After all, we have 200 miles, and 18,000 feet of climbing to do.

The first 30 miles were a good warmup, with nothing too crazy, and we all pretty much stayed together.

The first water stop was at mile 26, because we had our first major test of the day, Stunt Road. Immediately after the first rest stop, on the first climb, I got distanced. After about 10 min of climbing by myself, I knew I wouldn’t be able to catch up with Mark and Brenda, so I just went at my own pace. It’s good that we had the century riders to ride with, just so I had some company while climbing.

Stunt Road is a good 4 mile climb, and about 1340 ft climbing, at an average grade of 6%. That’s not too bad. At the top, I see my friend Teresa, aka Tiger. It’s so nice to see old friends on a ride event, and it was good to see her out. She told me Mark and Brenda had just left 5 min ago, so I’m not too far behind.

After a short descent, and some climbs up Piuma, the next 30 miles were what I call lumpy, or with a bunch of rolling hills (nothing too dramatic as far as climbs were concerned, but still climbing). The route does take us back to the start, so that’s the first loop. I then see my friend Shelby back at the start, and she tells me Mark and Brenda left … you guessed it .. 5 min ago. This is encouraging, so I kept the stoppage time short, and continued on.

I did get swept up by a pack of ~ 20 riders, and hung in with them for a few miles. At least I got some momentum to take me up the next hill. The next hill … ooh, this is where the ride starts getting really tough. We climb up Westlake (Hwy 23), and it’s a 2 mile climb that averages at 7.2%, but the lower half had some really cruel steep pitches (in excess of 23% at times). Once we got through the hard part, we still have to climb 7-10% grades, and that takes a lot out of your legs. For some reason, Strava lists the segment as Decker wall. Little Sycamore was another hill that just burned my legs. That was only 8-10%, but all these hills add up.

Tiger’s boyfriend Chris, caught up with me, so I rode with him for awhile to the next rest stop to Circle X. I know the fatigue is really starting to hit me, so I spent a little longer at this rest stop, but still kept it at a minimum.

After the rest stop, we still climb some more, before we make the descent on Deer Creek to Hwy 1. At this point, my legs are jello, and I was really look for the descent, all knowing I’ll have to climb eventually. I just want to get the cool ocean breeze so my body can absorb the coolness.

Ah finally, the descent is coming. I didn’t bring my Go Pro, and I should have. It would have been good to take a video of the descent down Deer Creek. It is a steep descent, so I had to watch my speed coming down

At the bottom of the descent, another water stop, but this time, with ice. Hmm … I just had them fill my bottle with ice, as it would fill up the bottle. Now we get to enjoy a fairly flat 5 miles stretch of PCH. That is a much needed flat section, before we tackle a difficult Decker Canyon Road climb. If the hard climb wasn’t bad enough, we would have to negotiate a left turn on Hwy 1. Luckily, I caught a break, and didn’t have too many cars to wade through.

At this point, climbing Decker Canyon has the sun beating on your back, and more specifically, on your neck. Decker Canyon is a 3.6 mile, 1500 ft climb, with an average of 7.8% (but does have some 12-14%, and even some sections at 16%). With the sun beating down on me, and my legs are spent, I had to stop under a tree, and suffer the consequences of riders passing me while I let me heartrate down in the shade. I was okay, but just fatigued, spent, fried … I stopped probably for 7 min, as I didn’t want to wait too long, then off I go.

I did see another rider with an Everesting Jersey, and heard him complain “more hills. Where is the rest stop?” It’s kinda funny, an Everesting guy, complaining about so many hills?

I mustered enough energy to finally reach the fire station, which is my signal that it’s the top of Decker. I see that Planet Ultra tent, and I am relieved. My friend Steve, knows I need an ice towel, so her drapes it on my neck. Oooh that felt good … but this is a great candidate for the “slumped over the handle bars” FB group.

Credit: Steve Meichtry

I am spent at this point, but I have to move on. If I want to beat the cut-off, and continue onto the double, I have to check in back at the start no later than 5 pm. It’s still another 20 miles, and there are still some more climbing left to do.

After I get through the climbing, we get to descent a section of Mulholland, that is closed to traffic, but bikes can descent down. We do pass the Rock Store, and I wanted to take a picture here, but I didn’t have time to waste.

I started having headgames … if I do make it by 5 pm, do I have anything left in me to do another 91 miles and 6000 feet? As I approached Agoura Hills, it’s looking more and more like I’m going to miss the cutoff. I finally get there, approximately 5:10, 10 minutes past the cutoff. Oh well, it looks like I finished the Mulholland Challenge, and that was it. I just wanted to take my shoes off, and have a seat.

About 10 minutes goes by, and I see Mark. I thought he had gone on ahead, but apparently, he suffered 3 flats, and had no more supplies, so it didn’t make sense for him to continue. So we both DNF’d the double, but made it through the Mulholland Challenge.

We then hopped in the car, and followed Brenda and the rest of the DC riders along the route, just to aid them if they needed help. Brenda eventually rode with Dennis, also of XDV, so they rode together, and finished by 11 pm, well within the cutoff.

So congrats to Brenda and Dennis, and a really difficult double century. I’ve gotten so many comments, that it was an accomplishment for me, just to even attempt this, and to complete the Mulholland Challenge. I heard some DNF’d, due to mechanical issues. One rider had to DNF, due to a broken chain. That sucks!

Look at that profile!

Solvang Double Century – Number 22

Solvang Double Century in March is probably my favorite double century. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that it is held in the same month as my birthday? It’s also one of the most popular, as it attracts riders from all over California, and it’s a nice reunion with all my DC friends.

I carpooled with my friend Dzung, who was going for his 99th DC. He did have an accident a month ago (tire blowout on a descent), so this would be one to dig deep down. As per tradition, we also met with a bunch of friends at Firestone Walker just down the road from the start of the ride.

We started out at 4:30 am, known as the “Tourist” option. That allows you more time, plus as long as you finish before midnight, you get credit for it. I probably didn’t need all that time, but I wanted to start with Dzung in the morning. It’s better to ride in numbers in the dark.

Tiger (aka Teresa Beck) messaged me the night before, as she met this kid, Quang, who was riding his first double, and wanted to ride with a group. So I agreed to look out for him, so he can ride with us. Quang is the one on the far left. It turns out he’s a friend of another young rider that I ride with, Nguyen. What a small world. It turns out he had no problem with the double, as he rode ahead about 15 miles into the ride.

There was 40% rain forecast for the area, but not till late in the afternoon/evening. By the time we climbed, then descended Foxen Canyon, it did get really misty. It was still a little dark at that time, just before sunrise, so we still needed our full lights. It got to the point I had to take my glasses off.

There was a group of cyclist, One Cycling, who is from Stockton, who volunteered to support Carmel Valley Double last year, and I saw them pass by us like we were standing still. I did catch up to them at the first rest stop.

They are such a fun group. I kept passing them, when they got a flat, and they would pass me after they fixed it. They had 4 flats on the day. Each time I passed them, I say “again?” They started on, and I wanted to see if I can catch their train. I was about 5 seconds behind, but they distanced me really fast, and no way I could keep up. Oh well.

The next rest stop was at mile 78, and at the home of Adam Bramwell (son of Chuck Bramwell, who runs the California Triple Crown, aka CTC). They were across the street from a park, so it made for a perfect venue, with ample bathrooms nearby.

From this point, we did a loop up to San Luis Obispo, passing Cuesta College, then back to the same spot, for lunch. There is one thing I have to improve upon … is the length that I stay at these stops. When I looked at the data afterwards, I had a total of 1.5 hours of stoppage time.

To this point it didn’t rain, so I decided to take my jacket off … would this be a bad decision? Uh … yeah … it started to sprinkle about 5 miles down, and had to put it back on. However, it was just sprinkles, and nothing really bad. We then encountered a new climb, Ormonde. Nice little climb, about 5-8%. There was one other cyclist, who was mentioning something about his Garmin being screwed up, and couldn’t read the map properly. However, I told him we are on the right course. Then we came up to a T, and we are supposed to go left, but he was ahead and turned right. Before I could tell him, he was already about 500 yards ahead, and I yelled out left turn, but he was gone. Hope he found his way back, because I never saw him again on the ride.

Further down, I bumped into my friend Kirsten (it’s actually pronounced sheer-sten). She was helping out another rider with a flat, who had no tools … what? On a double? Anyhow, we both continued to ride on, and she is so strong (who has ~ 140+ DC’s, done many endurance gravel rides) … i.e. She is a badass. I was actually able to ride with her for about 40 minutes (15 miles), although some of it was downhill. Hey, that’s an accomplishment for me!

Next rest stop at Guadalupe, I spent quite a bit of time there … probably 20 min … waaay too long. Of course, having the bathroom not next to the food probably took a bit of that time away. A lot of it was probably chit chatting with Shelby … awesome DC rider … such a hoot!

Onwards, and this stretch between Guadalupe and Los Alamos is always tough. Luckily there was no stiff headwind, but is going along Hwy 135, with cars speeding pass you. I was struggling to maintain a 10-11 mph pace, then came the tandem train, and Steve Meichtry was the captain of the tandem, and I proceeded to hop onto that train. My pace jumped from 11 to 18-20 mph .. nice.

Next rest stop is at Los Alamos, and little did I know it, but my friend Ron Tag, who I rode with at the end of Bass Lake, was on that same train. Great to see him. And of course, the best part on this rest stop is the cup o noodles. Ooh the salt!

From here, it’s the home stretch, last 20+ miles. I started the climb up Alisos Canyon with Q (who has over 85 DC’s in his belt). He’s quite a character. He’s a strong rider, but hadn’t ridden much lately. However, that didn’t stop him from charging ahead of me on the hill. It did started sprinkling again. By the time I crested Alisos, and made the right turn onto Foxen Canyon, the rain started getting harder. It was still light out, but that would not last. As luck would have it, when it did get dark, it started raining harder. I could see the stream of water come down, as it passed through my beam of headlights.

I recently bought a new headlight, Cygolite Ranger 1400 … that’s a really nice light … and I only had it on the low beam and it still lit up the road. That was much needed for this dark descent.

Another change in the route was to return climbing up Foxen Canyon, to follow the same route that the Solvang Century goes. It continues, where you cross Hwy 154, and takes you straight into Ballard Canyon, where you continue a short climb before descending. On the other side, the road is really rough, and that’s where the new light came in really handy. At least I was able to see where all the potholes I was about to hit.

I got back to the start around 8:20 pm, so it’s about 15:47 total time, with 14:23 moving time …. 1.5 hours stopping time. Kirsten says the only reason why I need to start so early is because of all the time I stop … that maybe partly true, but I’m not a badass endurance rider like she is.

Celebrating successful DC with my friends Shelby, Dee, and Tiger

Dzung made it back ~ 10:30 pm, so not too bad. He definitely made it within the midnight cutoff time. However, to my suprise, Q didn’t … he didn’t check in at the end, and had everyone worried. Many calls to him was unanswered (probably not in a place with cell reception). He was eventually found, and he ended up with 30 extra miles (220, instead of 193). He somehow got lost, and his Garmin got confused which direction he was going. That was strange, especially for a rider of his stature. It’s lucky he had extra supplies, like food, water … and he even left his water bottles at the last rest stop. All we cared about is that he is safe and accounted for.

This year’s Solvang DC was definitely one to remember. I’ll need to work on stoppage time, as my next DC is probably the toughest I’ll attempt … Mulholland (although DMD was right up there, which I DNF’d). Mulholland is also the first DC Stage Race … I signed up for the tourist option. I was convinced by my friend Brenda, that I should do it. We’ll have to see how I do on this one. That’s only in 3 weeks … I’ll need to do a lot of hill repeats to prepare for this.