The Terrible Two
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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!
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
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
And somehow no other pictures
during the ride
The twisted wheel!