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The Terrible Two

by Pamela Blalock

 

The Tour Before

It was 10:30 PM. The sign on the window at the hostel said the office closed an hour earlier, but that the warden was around until 11:00, and to knock if it was urgent. I wondered if it was considered urgent that I might kill John if we had to ride another 30 miles to Santa Cruz to find lodging for the night. We at least had a tailwind, relatively tandem friendly terrain and light traffic, but we'd already pedaled 90 miles (much of it uphill), on what was supposed to be an easy start to our holiday.

As John and I stood outside the office contemplating our options, a voice from behind the closed window answered the question for us. This very helpful and friendly hostel warden opened the window, and seeing us standing there in cycling apparel, looking like we'd had a long and tough day, asked if we had arrived by bike, just to confirm. She said that most folks who show up at this hour are in cars or motorbikes - and are usually sent on the 30 miles to the next point of civilization in this rather desolate part of the California coast. But the hostel actually keeps a few beds open for folks who arrive under their own steam. Since we fit that profile, we would not have to head back out into the dark for 30 more miles.

I'd like to say that this scenario is not typical for our travels, but too many of my touring stories include similar themes!

Our holiday plans are rarely terribly organized, and this one was no exception. I had just finished a conference in San Francisco and John flew out to join me and then tour the area by tandem for a week. Our only real plan was to arrive in Santa Rosa in time for the Terrible Two. After a week of getting used to actual heat and riding ourselves into shape, we'd do the event and then fly home the next day. Other than that, we had no hard and fast plans. We had a few friends in the area, and had bought a few bike maps, so we figured we'd call in to see folks when or if we were near, and go where our noses led. This type of itinerary would drive some folks nuts, but fortunately John and I do like the sense of adventure of choosing a road just because it looks interesting either on the map or in person. Of course, sometimes, we find ourselves having to do a few extra miles to find a bed, but that just makes the story we tell afterwards more interesting!

San Francisco

We spent Saturday exploring San Francisco, or to be a bit more precise, exploring as many bike shops as we could. Armed with a bike map of the city which showed the location of bike shops with large dots, and the names and addresses of a few must-visit shops, we headed out. It took a while for us to figure out the public transit system. We also picked up a Metro map, but had considerable trouble figuring out where the stops actually were. We've used public transit in Paris, London, Dublin, New York and Atlanta without difficulty, so I'm not quite sure why the maps in SF were so hard for us to figure out. We did manage to find a streetcar to our first destination, American Cyclery. We had a great time in their two shops, and managed to blow a large part of the vacation budget rather quickly. John has always been a fan of wool, and in Ireland had found wool jerseys easily, but since moving to Boston, it's been much harder to find nice wool jerseys. We'd recently ordered a few items directly from Swobo, but it was quite a pleasant surprise to find so much wool on the racks, where we could actually see, touch, and try stuff on first. In addition to jerseys, we also picked up a few more maps, some hard to find vintage parts, and one gold plated water bottle cage for my commuter bike, which already sports gold anodized headset and skewers, and gold decals and mudguards. But just so I don't seem too frivolous, I did pass on buying the gold cranks!

We did stop in another dozen or so shops as we wandered around the city, constantly amazed by how much wool they had. Why did we have to come from Boston to San Francisco to find wool?

Anyway, we eventually made it down to the waterfront to do more traditionally tourist things, like watching the sea lions and shopping at Pier 39, before heading back to the hotel to finish putting the tandem together and prepare for a relaxing week of cycling.

I had brought out one S&S case with the frame and most of the parts, and John brought the other case with the wheels. Since I had a week's head start, I had already assembled the frame and we just needed to put on the wheels and make a few minor adjustments. We arranged to leave our cases at the hotel and would retrieve them before the trip home. So we loaded down the tandem with our gear for the week, and rolled down Market Street toward the waterfront.

San Francisco to Pigeon Point

We planned to meet our friends, Richard and Elizabeth, at Cliff House for brunch. They had moved out here several years ago. Richard, who likes the same type of tiny out of the way roads that we do has explored extensively in the area and was a great resource. We spent a great deal of time looking over maps and getting recommendations for various must-ride places. It became obvious that we'd need several months to do the area justice, but with just a few days, we'd have to narrow our focus. After going back and forth about whether to go north or south first, we opted on heading south into the Santa Cruz Mountains. We have friends who had just moved to Aptos a week or so before, and decided we would aim in that direction and pay them a surprise visit! The hostel at Pigeon Point looked like a good intermediate stop.

There were two main roads heading south, Route 1 along the coast, and Skyline Drive, along the ridge. We couldn't decide which to take, so we rode back and forth between them! We actually started out heading down Skyline and missed our first planned turn onto Sharp Park Road. This became quite obvious when we found ourselves entering a limited access highway! We stopped and pulled out the map, and realized we needed to do a bit of backtracking. However, at this point we were on a one-way section of road. We noticed a lovely bike path on the other side of a fence, and I eventually spotted a gate through which we could pass. Of course getting to that gate involved crossing through some bramble like growth. Once on the path, we realized we had picked up all sorts of prickly things, and spent the next twenty minutes pulling them out of our socks, and cleaning off the tires. Eventually, we found our way back to our missed turn, and the descent down to Route 1.

After passing through Half Moon Bay, we took Verde to Lobitos Creek to Tunitas Creek back up to Skyline. This was a beautiful collection of quiet roads with hardly a vehicle to be seen. We did meet one fellow on what looked like an off-road skateboard, heading down what we had just climbed. Apparently we live a sheltered existence since most folks we told already knew about these new-fangled contraptions!

The plan then was to head back down to Route 1, and make our way down to Pigeon Point Youth Hostel. Our late start, combined with getting lost, and climbing for hours meant it was getting a bit late when we reached Skyline. We phoned a friend in Woodside, letting fate choose which way we would descend off Skyline. If any one answered at Rick's, we'd plan to go to his place. Otherwise we would press on toward the hostel. No answer meant we rode west. Apparently, we weren't thinking on West Coast time, or cognizant of impending darkness or how far we really had to ride, or we might have thought twice about our destination. We decided to take Old La Honda down to La Honda to Pescadero. It was a blast! The first descent was quite technical and the type John lives for and that I eventually find thrilling after we get to the end and are still alive!

Despite the twisty nature of the road, the scary part actually came later, as several deer decided they needed to be on the other side of the road, just as we were passing by. We had enough warning that this close call wasn't so close, but I could practically feel the breath of the second set of deer we encountered. Dusk was also moving in quickly, so we stopped and turned on our lights, and looked at the map. This road had flattened out substantially and we were no longer progressing as quickly as we might have hoped. We finally began to realize we might not make it to the hostel before closing.

We also recognized that our plan for heat training wasn't going so well, since it was actually downright chilly. At this point I had on a wool jersey, knee warmers and arm warmers. I was starting to realize why so many shops in San Francisco had all that wool clothing!

We scanned the countryside for any sign of a motel or B&B. We were relieved to enter Pescadero and find some signs of civilization in the form of a fast food Mexican restaurant, but still no lodging. They told us that the hostel was our closest possibility, and after that, 30 miles to Santa Cruz.

Seemingly jet fueled by burritos, flatter terrain, light traffic and a tailwind, we flew toward Pigeon Point. I mentally prepared myself for a long ride into the night, but was quite relieved when we landed on our feet, and found available beds at the hostel. With a bit over 90 miles, our first day was finally complete.

Pigeon Point to Aptos

The next day we pulled out the maps, and decided to go see some Redwoods. We headed up Gazos Creek toward Big Basin. After 6 miles or so, we passed a gate, and the road turned to dirt. It was amazing the contrast between the buzz of Highway 1 and the absolute quiet on this road. The Redwoods were magnificent, and we stopped to take lots of pictures. The light passing through the needle canopy was just spectacular. The road got steeper and going was tough for a while. We did lose traction on a damp section and had to dismount and restart once, but the route was quite rideable and enjoyable.

A few hours after we started, we reached the visitor center, where we bought sandwiches and sodas and enjoyed our well-deserved lunch. Afterwards, we gave up some hard earned elevation and headed into Boulder Creek, where we stopped at a great coffee shop. One of our tour books described Boulder Creek as an experience of serendipitous proportions. We did find it thoroughly enticing, and while my iced coffee was not exactly life altering, it did improve my mood and bring the core temperature down in preparation for more hot climbing. The temperature was now quite a contrast from the evening before. Take care what you wish for Pamela!

The climb out of Boulder Creek was long and hot, but we were rewarded with great views. We stopped at one summit to check out some alpacas grazing in a field. These animals resemble llamas, but with a very heavy coat. It was really getting toasty at this point, and I was definitely not envying them their luxurious warm coats!

Soon, we popped back out on Skyline and we pulled out the map to seek a good route into Aptos. We found a tiny twisty road, which was again, the type John lives for. Unfortunately half way down it had long sections of gravel. It proved a good challenge, but we eventually came out on a main road, for a fast descent into Aptos.

Once on the main road, we spotted another cyclist heading in the same direction. John handed me the address book to look up Osman and Judy's new address. We pulled alongside this cyclist and asked if he was local. Then we asked if he knew where their street was. No luck, but it was worth a shot. We then debated about buying a local map, so we could really surprise them by showing up without warning and ringing their doorbell. In the end, we called and asked for directions. They were still very surprised when we knocked on the door, arriving on our tandem loaded with gear!

Riding with Judy

The following day, Judy took a break from unpacking (they'd only moved in a week or so before) and joined us for a day ride. She had found a lovely dirt road up into the Forest of Nicene Marks. She had done the ride a couple of times, but so far had only ridden to the first overlook and back down. We looked at the map and figured out a nice loop that would take us to the top and down a different way. Judy was great company, and the route was lovely. We again found ourselves riding under a canopy of Redwoods, up a lovely traffic free dirt road. We emerged from this canopy at the top and the character of the trail changed significantly. The shade was gone, and the trail became much more technical. But our 35mm tires and John's great bike handling skills conquered it with ease. Judy also survived!

We had recently bought a new fork from Co-Motion that allowed for significantly more clearance, so we could have fatter tires and fenders. Given how much we look for small roads, which are often rougher or dirt, and how often some of our small roads turn to trails, the fatter tires we can use with the new fork would prove quite useful.

The temperature was on the rise. Hot as it felt the day before, it was even hotter today. Looks like we would get that heat training to prepare for the Terrible Two, but I began to worry even more about how we would handle heat like than this on a very hilly double century. But our more pressing concern was to find a café with some iced coffee and something to eat. We lucked out and found a small shopping center with a few choices. We ended up going for Mexican, with frozen coffees from an adjacent coffee shop.

Aptos to Palo Alto

We spent a second night with Osman and Judy, but planned to start heading north on Wednesday. The forecast was for record high temperatures. We probably should have started early to avoid some of the heat, and maybe even stayed closer to the coast, but instead, we headed back up into the hills, aiming to visit a friend in Palo Alto. Looking at the map, we decided to climb Branciforte Drive to Granite Creek. We took a lunch break at Scott's Valley, where I downed several iced coffees with my sandwich. We headed back out and climbed more up Glenwood to Mountain Charlie until we finally reached Skyline. The heat was definitely starting to get to us, and after a while we realized we were low on water. Soon after that we noticed a group of cyclists talking in the shade at a side road. We asked if they knew of a nearby store where we could get water. It was quite some distance to a store, but one of the riders said that she lived just up the road, and we could stop at her place for water. Some of her companions were heading back, but one of them also joined us. When we reached her house, she also offered us iced tea under a shade tree and a dip in the pool. We filled up and drained and refilled our bottles. I soaked my head and jersey, and we headed out to find the shady spot on the patio. Our gracious hostess brought out a gallon of tea and some coffee cake. The four of us soaked up the ice tea like sponges and devoured the cake. We chatted a bit about the weather and how it wasn't the best day to be out climbing mountains on bikes. We told them our plans for the end of the week. They wished us luck. It wasn't easy to drag ourselves away from the cold drinks and shade tree, but we decided we better press on.

We finally reached the big descent for the day, Page Mill Road down to Palo Alto. Again, John was in his element carving the turns with great skill. It was just amazing how fun and technical all the descents out here were. Even from the back of the tandem, I could sense John's ear-to-ear grin as we flew down the mountain. Of course the other thing I could sense was the intense heat. We had had no heat at home and this was brutal for us. The fresh cold water in our bottles was already boiling. Even the water in my camelbak was warm already. Saturday would truly be interesting.

After a spin through Stanford, we decided to seek out a café, where we could get something cold to drink and phone our friend Eric to see about getting together for dinner. After another 10 miles of thankfully flat riding, we got to Eric's place (actually his brother and sister-in-law's place). Cool showers were quite welcome, and dinner with Eric and his girlfriend Katie at an air-conditioned restaurant was great. We tried to buy ice cream at the supermarket next door, but their freezer units were overstressed and almost everything was melted. We found one solid half gallon, and also went for a soft pint of Ben & Jerry's. By the time we returned from dinner, the rest of the household was home from work. They graciously offered us floor space for the night, if we could stand the heat. It was truly record heat, and everyone was suffering.

Car to Guerneville

The next morning we pedaled up to the airport, where we cheated and rented a car. Actually I'd been trying to figure out logistics for how to get from Santa Rosa after the ride on Saturday, get the bike packed and make it to the airport for our midday flight on Sunday. Picking up a car allowed us to pick up our cases in the city and drive up to Santa Rosa, where we would stay both the nights before and after the ride. Then we could pack up the bike and drive back to the airport on Sunday morning. And since we were so close to the airport now, we could save money by not doing a one-way rental.

We ended up driving up the coast and talking about what a beautiful, but challenging ride it would be on these roads. Next time! We decided to spend the night in Guerneville. Fortunately the heat from the previous day had broken. We heard from locals that the mercury showed 114 F the day before, as opposed to comfortable temperatures in the 70s when we arrived.

The Day Before the TT !

The next morning we decided to explore some roads to the west. While I was driving the day before, John had been looking at maps and had mentioned going to Cazadero, and over King's Ridge to the coast, and back. When I looked at the map in the morning, I saw Old Cazadero Road, with a few arrows indicating John-loving steepness. It also appeared to be partly dirt. Since we'd been doing this all week, I went along. I pointed out the turn when we reached it, and we headed up, and up and up. At the top, we found a beautiful view, and a closed off, dirt track to go down. As we headed down, it got more and more technical and at some point we hit a sharp rock and punctured both tires! Our first flats of the trip. We made the necessary repairs and continued on, until the road headed into a stream. We waded across and found the road on the other side, where a bridge used to be, and eventually popped back out at a crossroads, where we could climb King's Ridge.

At this point we started talking about the wisdom of wearing ourselves out the day before a tough ride. It didn't really occur to us at the time that we'd already had a pretty hard week. We talked about taking the main road back into town. It was also at this point that John indicated this main road was the one he had intended to take out, not the brutal climb and descent I had navigated us over! So he thought I wanted to go over this road and I thought he wanted to take this route, and in reality neither of us did - got to work harder on that mind reading stuff! We headed back to town, and loaded up the car, went in search of lunch and then on to Santa Rosa.

After locating our hotel, we sought out a bike shop so we could get some new tubes and some pocket food for the ride. While at the shop, I began admiring a super lightweight Calfee carbon fiber tandem that likely weighs less than our rack top bag! I joked about taking it out for a test ride the next day, but somehow I don't think they would appreciate the 200-mile test ride I had in mind.

Don't get me wrong. I do love our bike. Besides after riding around most of the week fully loaded, riding without panniers would make the bike would feel quite light tomorrow.

The Terrible Two

An early dinner was followed by an early bedtime. And the next thing I knew the alarm was going off. We got up, grabbed the stuff we would need for the day and drove down to the start.

It was a bit chillier than I had expected, and damp too. Some people called it fog, but it actually seemed like light rain to me. I changed my mind a few times about what to wear, but ended up deciding to go with shorts, mesh top, short sleeve wool jersey, knee warmers and arm warmers at the start. I could take off the jersey and just use the mesh top when it got hot in the afternoon, and add a jacket for cooler temps along the coast in the evening. The temperature ending up being great for riding, but the damp conditions proved problematic for many.

We bumped into a few old friends, among them Cindy Long. We've done a few tours with Tom and Cindy on tandem. Tom was riding solo today, while Cindy was doing support and a shorter ride. They've done the event on tandem several times, and seem to enjoy it! Cindy offered John lots of advice and warnings about the early descents. She wished us well, and after listening to similar warnings from the ride organizer, Bill Oetinger, we were off. It was a small group by California standards, about 250 riders, but still pretty big, and it took a while for things to spread out. We started near the back, and didn't want to push too much early on. We joined up with another tandem, ridden by Lisa and Ken. John thought he recognized them from the PBP start and thought we even had them in some of our pictures. One of these days, we plan to find the pictures and send them copies.

Anyway, we rode along and chatted with lots of folks. Many seemed surprised we had come all this way just to do this ride... Things were going relatively smoothly, when we suddenly came upon a traffic jam on a fast descent. When we saw the cause, my stomach almost turned. There were several bloodied cyclists on the side of the road, and one still lying in the road with another rider keeping pressure on his leg to keep him from bleeding to death. We talked about the danger of descents in crowds, and hoped everyone would be OK. A short while later we saw ambulances and emergency vehicles headed toward the scene. This unfortunately was a scene to be repeated many times during the day.

Soon afterwards, we started the first major named climb of the day, Trinity Grade. At first it didn't seem too bad, but it just kept going and going. I kept thinking we were at the top, and then we'd round another corner, and go higher. Just before the actual top, Eric and his brother, Chris passed us. They'd had a couple of punctures early on, and announced they had one tube left between them. In the end, one was enough and they had a successful ride!

Uh Oh

Just after we passed the summit, I heard another rider comment about a hairpin turn below. I passed this comment onto John. The descent was quite twisty. We were keeping well in control, but still making good time. But then as we were approaching a particularly sharp and steep right hand corner at a very slow controlled speed, it felt like the front of the bike was almost slipping. John and I have taken a few tumbles on the tandem. Since we ride through New England winters as well as doing some off-road tandeming, it's almost inevitable. In all of our falls, I've had no warning. We are riding along, and next thing I know, I am on the ground. This was different. I felt something happening, but then it seemed like we'd recovered, and then, BOOM, we were down. John describes accidents with this wonderful slow motion sequence for a while, and then suddenly fast-forward and you are down. It was like that. We got up and tried to get out of the road as quickly as possible. We checked on each other, and damage seemed minimal. Another rider handed me a battery from one of our taillights. I was still a bit fazed, and it took a few seconds to understand why he was handing me a battery. We then looked at the bike. Both sets of handlebars were twisted, so we set out straightening those. Once done with the bars, I noticed the front wheel just didn't look right, and mentioned to John that something else was wrong. At first glance, he said he could true it up, but I looked closer, and figured our ride was over. The rim was twisted pretty badly. John's a good mechanic, but that wheel needed a lot more than truing.

I looked at the odometer. We had done 25 miles! Our Terrible Two really was over and we weren't even warmed up yet. Now we'd be hitchhiking back to the start. I thought to myself that at least we'd had a nice week of touring, and most importantly we had walked away from the accident with our bodies relatively unscathed. John still thought he could get the wheel back in good enough shape to ride back, even if we didn't press on. So we pulled out the tools and prepared for a long truing session. This was when Betsy came along. She was officiating and asked if we were OK. I jokingly asked if she had a spare front wheel. Amazingly she did. She had her own touring bike with her and offered to loan us her front wheel. It was a relatively heavy-duty touring wheel (great for tandem duty), with a rim the same width as ours, so no brake adjustments would be necessary. We swapped tires, putting on our own front tire, and gave her our battered wheel, and pressed on. Our Terrible Two was not yet over!

On the Road Again

We had a few false starts, as we made a couple of adjustments, but did finally get going again. At this point, we figure we'd lost about an hour, and it seemed we were the last people on the road. We also realized that with the different wheel, we'd lost our computer (and all that data about how far we had to go and what speed we were averaging) and more critically we'd lost our lights, since we use a generator hub! Hmmm, lost time, lost confidence, lost lights, lost data feedback. Oh well - all is not lost.

We were just getting moving again, when we passed another accident, this time the rider was off in the woods being attended to by others, and soon after we heard sirens. And unfortunately this was not the last time.

These descents were definitely taking their toll. John and I tried to figure out what had happened to us. We were actually taking it quite cautious around that corner. The turn was tight and off-camber, and the best we can figure is maybe as John turned the front wheel, the momentum of the tandem and the slippery roads kept us going straight, pushing the front wheel sideways thereby taco-ing the wheel and taking us down.

While we were collecting ourselves, we saw loads of single bikes take the corner much faster, but they all got through it. I tried to explain to others later that if we had been going excessively fast, we would have been hurt. You just don't stand up and walk away from a high-speed tandem accident.

The next part of the route was deceptive. It looked flat, but was actually a gradual climb. It also had a nice stiff headwind. The tandem advantage in the headwind enabled us to finally catch a few riders just as we approached the first rest stop at Calistoga, which we reached just minutes before it was due to close. We did a quick refueling and pressed on. We rode along with a few folks here and there, and started to get into a good rhythm again. John's knee had been sending out pain signals, but this was easing up just as we started the second major climb up Geysers. We jokingly referred to it as Geezer's, since it was making me feel like an old one! Betsy was a sight for sore eyes at the top, but greeted us with the bad news that this was a false summit - there was a descent followed by more climbing! It wasn't until after the ride that I looked closer at the profile and discovered all the climbs have double summits. You climb and climb and then start to descend, but then have to climb again. It's just cruel!

The lack of computer (or familiar landmarks) left me with no feel for how far anything was, or how we were doing against the clock. When we did reach the real checkpoint, we had a few minutes in hand. We figured we should make up time on the next section as it was mostly downhill. Of course, we were taking things pretty easy, since we'd already had an accident AND were riding a borrowed wheel that we did not want to damage!

We were also warned there was a pretty serious accident already on this descent and too be even more cautious. After getting through the initial steep sections, we flew along the lower slopes. We had half an hour in hand by lunch! We scrambled to get some calories in, and I talked to Bill, the ride organizer about our lighting problem - trying to figure out if there was anywhere we could acquire lights. He suggested we would probably be able to borrow from someone who sent lights out to the checkpoints near the end, but didn't make it. We'd just go on faith that we would be able to arrange something.

I was certain that we would not finish by dark, and pretty sure we wouldn't make the official cut-off. I didn't convey all my doubts to John, just the worry about lights.

Lunch

We bumped into Cindy again at the lunch stop. She was relieved to see us after hearing of our little accident. She offered some advice about the next series of climbs and descents and wished us well.

It was at lunch that John finally saw the extent of his injuries. I had noticed his vest was ripped up along the back, most likely a sign he had rolled when we fell. When he went to the loo, he noticed a couple of inch diameter bit of road rash on his right hip (under his shorts). I guess adrenaline had kept him from really feeling it earlier. Fortunately the adrenaline continued to mask some of it for the rest of the ride. We were both feeling sore and stiff, but not nearly as much as we had right to!

We felt the pressure of time and headed out for the infamous Skaggs Springs Road. We've read about this climb many times. Like all the others it was a double summit climb. But it had the added benefit of total lack of shade and timing to be in the hottest part of the day. It was, by nature of being an Army Corp of Engineers road, one with more steady grades and wide long sweeping turns. These are John's least preferred types of descents as cornering is much much harder around the long sweeping arc of the turn. The temperatures, while warm by our New England standards, were much less intense than in other years, and folks were doing quite well on this section. Still there were water stops set up every 10 miles or so along this part of the route. We by-passed by the first, but did take a quick break at the second at the top of the second climb - remember all the named climbs are doubles! I guess that's part of the nature of the Terrible TWO. The volunteer at this water stop noticed the couplers on the tandem and asked how we liked them. My response at the time was that I no longer liked them, since they made it possible for us to pack up the tandem and bring it out for this hellacious ride. I was no longer thinking of Betsy's wheel as a blessing at this point either ;-)

The next part of the route was a great descent down to an official checkpoint. Since lunch, we had started seeing more and more riders on the road and at the stops and there were several at this rest stop. We chatted away with a few, and one woman asked if I knew about what lay ahead… More of the same, I thought. I mean how bad could it be, just another one of those long brutal climbs, right? I should mention this checkpoint was at a place called Gualala - pronounced wall-alla, and what lay ahead was a WALL. It was brutal. It was definitely the steepest climb on the course, and like all others, it was a double summit. It also had a tight twisty descent. As stoker, I get to see my captain's back a lot, and what I saw on John's back was a ripped up vest - which just helped fray my nerves a bit more on every descent! In the end the damage to our confidence probably affected our time as much as the actual accident.

Lights, please

We reached the coast and much cooler temperatures. I was back in my wool jersey and arm and knee warmers. While the ride down the coast had no major climbs, we did rack up another 1000 feet of climbing in 10 miles. The road followed the little coves, diving down to sea level and back up a 100 feet repeatedly as we wound our way down the coast.

We arrived at the Fort Ross checkpoint and started asking about borrowing lights. One of the volunteers at the checkpoints had a helmet-mounted light that he offered to loan us. We figured out that we could put the battery pack in John's camelbak and mount the light on his helmet. We should make it to the next rest stop before needing to use it, so we put it in our rack top and headed out for the last of the big climbs up from Fort Ross. Like the others it had a double summit, and a great technical descent. Somewhere along this section we hooked up with Gary, a rider from San Francisco. Gary was a great source of entertainment, and distracted me from the agony of the ride.

At this point I was sure we would not make the time cutoff for official finishers, but John had other ideas. We reached the final rest stop in Monte Rio where we grabbed food and mounted the light on John's helmet. We stopped a mile or so out of town to try to readjust it, and aim it toward the road! Fortunately we were able to get it working well, because there was one more climb and one more descent! I really should have studied the course profile better before the ride. This wasn't that bad on it's own, but was just what I didn't need with the time deadline looming. But we needed more climbing to get the advertised 17,000 - gotta' get our moneys worth, ya know!

The Finish

Gary rejoined us along the way, and we had a great time winding it up to try to make the finish. We roared in with 5 minutes to spare!

Oh what a feeling. This was by far the most grueling one-day ride either of us has ever done. And we made it - officially too. To a certain degree, our week of non-restful touring, our accident, and our non-existent east coast version of heat training made it tougher. The cooler than normal temperatures benefited everyone, especially us. The climbs were long and grueling and the descents quite technical. I asked Bill to please reject any future application I might make to do this ride again - just in case the memory of the pain faded enough for me to try again. But our feeling of accomplishment was immense. I was again quite grateful to have those S&S couplers which made it easy to bring the tandem out, and most thankful to Betsy for coming along at the right time with the right wheel, and our benefactor with the lights. Most importantly I was thankful to John who had the faith to push on and overcome all the obstacles along the way.

All four tandem teams finished the ride this year. This route is not kind to tandems and not many tandem teams are up for this kind of torture. 24 have completed it in its 25-year history. The funny thing is that it was an article about Pete and Joanne Penseyres doing this ride on tandem many years ago that got us interested in doing it ourselves. It was the fact that it was so tandem UNfriendly that attracted us. What is it about our nature that makes us need to prove that we can do anything on our tandem?

It took me over a year to complete this article. I started it right away, but distractions have pushed it to the back burner. Funny all this time later later, even after reviewing and editing this article, and refreshing my memory of how brutal it was, I do think that maybe someday …

Sightseeing in San Francisco

 

Wow, those hills are steep

 

Logis de France!
Did we make a wrong turn?

 

Map Reading is a common theme
on our trips

 

Sea Lions at Pier 39

 

Finally on the road
The Golden Gate Bridge

 

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

 

Yes, John was on the trip

 

It's lovely and shady under the Redwoods
Pamela is hiding in there!

 

Osman, Judy and Pamela enjoying
frozen coffee and map reading

 

Good choice of roads for the day
before the event

 

The Start

 

And somehow no other pictures
during the ride


The twisted wheel!