I got on the road as fast as I could, since I knew it would be a long ride with a lot of climbing. When I was done, it turned out to be more than 5,000 feet of climbing today. The details are here at the ride summary. I encourage you to look at the View Analysis at the bottom of the Strava ride summary. To give you a better idea of some of the terrain, here is a screen shot from Google maps of Russian Gulch State Beach. When I wasn’t grinding up to the next cliff, I was trying not to lose control on the downhill afterwards. I will need new brake pads when this ride is done!
To get me warmed up, I had to climb 150 feet in the first 2 miles. To make matters worse, the pavement was very rough and uneven for the first 15 miles. Not only does it make for a bumpier ride, but it creates more rolling resistance. You have to work harder!
I didn’t even wait around for the continental breakfast from the hotel. I had a Cliff Bar, banana, and milk I had bought the night before to get me on the road. I pushed on 15 miles to Gualala, where I could get something that approached a real breakfast. When I went around the building to go to the bathroom, I noticed a bicycle loaded with panniers and a tent. I walked around the restaurant and found its owner. Ian was riding with another friend from Canada to San Diego. They were going to camp that evening in Bodega Bay, not far from my destination in Valley Ford. After breakfast, I said my goodbye and headed down the road ahead of Ian. The road got much smoother in a bit as I entered Sonoma county. It wasn’t long before I could see a cyclist in my rearview mirror. After a couple of short hills, Ian went right by me at a pace that was ebarrassingly faster than mine. I thought maybe he was on an e-bike! He mentioned in passing that he was trying to catch his friend who was an hour ahead of him.
I made a snack stop at a store in Stewarts Point. Afterwards, there were the usual photo opportunities for the ocean, I was stunned by the sight of what looked like a golden eagle or large hawk. It had swooped ten feet above me only to perch in a tree ahead of me. At a photo opportunity not far from there, I asked a young man in a truck to take my picture. It turns out he was from near my destination in Valley Ford. Miles down the road I stopped for a photo, and once again heard the sounds of sea lions barking. I was not close enough to get a good picture, but if you turn up the volume on this video, you can hear them. Really, you can!
After one of the switchbacks, traffic had come to a stop for road construction. The 2 way traffic was shut down to one lane. A traffic signal controlled the alternating direction of the flow. I could see 2 cylists near the front of the line to go up hill. As the light was changing from green to red, I recognized Ian was making his way behind the last car in line for that interval. His friend, John decided to wait for the next light. We shared our backgrounds as we waited at the front of a line of cars. After the line of cars coming the other way had finished, the light changed for us to go. John and I waited to go after the last car in our direction so we wouldn’t slow them down. There was no shoulder, a concrete barrier on one side, and steep hill on the other. There was no room for cars to get around us. We had to drop to our lowest gear to climb the hill behind the cars in our turn with the light. As we came around a bend, we see a line of cars headed by 2 huge pickup trucks coming downhill towards us! I quickly unclipped from my pedals and got to the right, next to the concrete barriers. John was trapped against the other side of the road next to the hillside. I straddled Hidalgo while I walked as close as I could to the concrete barrier. When the last car coming against us went by, I jumped back on the saddle and sprinted to the top where the road widened back to 2 lanes. When I looked back, John was finishing his ascent ahead of a new line of cars from our direction. It was pretty scary when we saw that first truck headed toward us!
Further up the road, at a view point, I caught up with Ian. While we were talking, John went by. I mentioned to Ian that I wanted to stop not far away at the town of Jenner for a snack. Preferably some ice cream. At our own individual pace, we each arrived at a convenience store and exercised the “license to eat” that a ride like this allows. I was the first to get back on the road, unsure if I’d see them again.
I stopped for a couple more photo ops. At the second or third such stop, I reached in my bike jersey for my phone and it was gone. I have 3 pockets that go across the back of my jersey. On the left, I keep a zip lock bag of trail mix, center has my wallet and mini tripod, and the right has the phone. I could feel the trail mix in the left, my wallet in the center, but no phone in the right. I did a mental review to make sure I hadn’t left it anywhere. My only guess is that it might have popped out after a bumpy stretch of road when I was pedaling hard. It had been 4 miles since we were together in Jenner. I couldn’t imagine finding it over that stretch. Soon John came by. I flagged him down, borrowed his phone to call Becky and let her know I would be invisible to her. We have an app that can track each other. Unfortunately, cell service had been so poor for so many miles, I decided to save battery with airplane mode. She wouldn’t be able to track my phone. Further up the road I met Ian. I told him I wouldn’t be able to send him the pictures we’d taken together because I had lost my phone. Ian and John sympathized, then we parted ways. I had lost my phone, but it was sunny, less than 10 miles to the hotel, and I still had my wallet and tablet (which is how I write the blog). The tablet only works on WiFi.
With only the GPS as my guide, I had to faithfully follow its directions. My hotel was on CA 1, so I couldn’t get too lost. The GPS had me turn into a state park near Bodega Bay. I told the ranger at the entrance that I was not camping, but headed to Valley Ford. He said this route should save me a mile and keep me away from the traffic on CA 1. Suffice it to say, the GPS lost signal for a bit under tree cover, was going to have me go up a dirt trail, and I ended up back to the entrance to the park. By saving a mile, I had added a mile, but at least I was back on CA 1. When I was 3 miles away from the hotel, I stopped after a hard climb for a little trail mix and water. I reached in my left pocket, took out the bag of trail mix and noticed something else in that pocket. It was my phone! Feeling from the outside, the smooth surface of the phone was hidden by the lumpy surface of the trail mix. I might have lost my mind, but I hadn’t lost my phone after all.
This was the second time in less than 24 hours that God reminded me that I have it really good. Last night, I rotated the tires on Hidalgo because the rear gets so much more wear from the panniers. I have to take out the “skewer” on the quick release of the wheel to get the rear off. There is a pair of small springs that are on the skewer. I was doing this work on a second story balcony of my hotel last night. The floor of the balcony was solid, so I knew nothing would fall through a crack to the ground below. As I was pulling out the skewer, one of the springs slipped from my hand. Because it was kind of dark, I took one of my headlights and searched the balcony, but couldn’t find it. As I looked over the balcony to the ground below, I thought it was hopeless. I went down anyway with the headlight. I looked on the sidewalk, the edge of the parking lot, and the garden area below the balcony. On a second pass through the dirt, I found it! Between the phone, the spring, the broken spoke, the rain, rough roads, thousands of feet of climbing, I still think I have it good.
“I broke a spoke and the nearest place is 23 miles away”. A good Samaritan took me 23 miles and I picked up Marco along the way. “I lost the spring and the wheel might not stay in place properly”. I found the spring – what are you worried about? “I lost my phone!” No you didn’t, you knucklehead. But don’t you feel grateful? I feel very grateful and thankful.
The Lone Rider