Flashblog 2009


OLD BIKES REEK OF AWESOMNESS                                           021709

A few weeks ago I dusted off my 1991 Miyata and took it out for a club ride. Club Prez. Johnny H. remarked at a regroup, " Dude! You are rocking on the Miyata!". He was dead on, man, I WAS rocking on the Miyata. I was savoring a unique ride unlike any other, forged from the cutting edged technology of 1990 and a minimalistic vibe the complete opposite of todays carbon wonderbikes. How can a ride that old be that good? I can't really explain, it, but I know it when I feel it.

Set the WayBack machine to December of '06. UPS deposited a big box from Florida on my porch, and upon arriving home from work I dropped everything to take it down to the cave and open it. There it was in its metallic purple and yellow glory- mostly still assembled save for pedals and wheels. The chain was a nice rusty brown, nothing a little WD40 couldn't fix. The tires were flat and rotted, I expected to have to replace those. The paint job was almost perfect, but man, those early '90s neon decals in yellow, pink and green were just too funny. Very nice Shimano 105 full group in tinted pale green color. And, of course, the lug and tube pressure bonded aluminum frame and fork. Quite light for its day, and it looks just like a steel lugged bike.

I did some CSI type investigations to reveal something about the bike's story. The saddle was a lady's Terry model, only inches above the top tube. The innertubes were latex. The tires were light, razor thin---19mm! There was a sensor hookup for cadence, but no computer. Racy 13-24 7-speed cassette, 53/42 front rings (no hill climber this bike) The waterbottle was mauve purple. Conclusion: this bike belonged to a woman with LEGS, probably a triathelete, who didn't use it much at all. Remember that this was back in the day before anyone even thought of women specific designs.

On my test stand, chain lubed, the indexed downtube shifters worked perfectly, the big shift levers working exactly like a huge toggle switch--thunk---thunk---thunk, its very satisfying to work the gears. I swapped the 53/42 front rings for a 52/36 Sugino crank with 170 arms in order to get some spinny lower gearing for hills. I put on a racing saddle, Shimano MTB pedals, and Michelin Krylion tires. One thing I noticed, a very rare feature, is that the top tube slopes down from the seatpost to the headtube! Woah, that's time trial geometry! (ok, it only slopes a quarter inch or so, but still)

So I rode this bike for nearly a year as my main road bike. It didn't seem all that different than my '87 Carema steel road bike. I liked it but wasn't really feeling it. And the low down front end hurt my neck. When I got my '05 Lemond, I pretty much set the Miyata aside, considering it inferior. For a while I put fenders on it and it became my rain bike. I didn't ride it much. The Lemond continued to morph into an extreme hill climber, with mountain bike gear parts and ever more upright position, and I got it into the all around long range, all conditions bike I had hoped for. I got used to it, it ingrained itself onto my synapses.

When my exchange student Mark was here, he took an immediate liking to the Miyata and I allowed him to use it as a fast commute bike to frisbee practice. He wrapped the steel chain around the seatpost, scratching the paint, but I didn't care that much. I'm not sure how careful he was with it, but he didn't crash it at any rate. When he left recently, I decided to set it back up for myself, and when I took it out on the road I was wonderfully surprised at how light and nimble it feels. The minimalism pays dividends somehow. Even the aero brake levers have cable jackets under the handlebar wrap- there is very little cable showing on this bike. It looks lean and mean, and it rides the same way- more harsh than the Lemond despite its small tubing, but twitchy, lively. It understeers a tad in corners, but is instant in input response to correct. But the thing that makes this bike is that it wants to GO! This is the thing I can't explain. It just goes faster, it rewards hard efforts with more speed, it puts a big grin on my face. No, its still not a hill climber but is fine on moderate climbs and a traverser on the steeps.

So what do I have here? Nothing more than a magic bike. Magic explains it as well as anything. The ride transcends the sum of the parts, the materials, the construction method, or the year it was constructed. Can't adequately explain it but the closest construct I can think of is that the bike just... disappears, like its not even there. Like flying in a dream, an amplified sense of freedom. My advice is that once you have found your magic bike, keep it, don't change it, and thank the stars that you lucked into it.

Ride on my friends

'09 WINE COUNTRY CENTURY...AND BEYOND                      050409

(Preface: as I chose the longer 200K route this year, I did not get to ride with any of the Team Alameda contingent, I only saw them very briefly at the start, so this story is only about my saga of confronting my personal challenges presented this day by Mother Nature)

Mile 103: Chalk Hill

I must have been a sight: a dark rider in shades of black and blue with a hoodie flapping in the breeze, green vinyl rainpants hanging off the right strap of my Camelback, a found "dickie" bib hanging off the left, filthy white bike, soaking wet, head down, grinding up Chalk hill in a heavy drizzle. I was in the twilight zone, not really aware it was already 5pm or that I had been out in the rain for 10 hours, I was narrowly focused on just another stretch of road winding up ahead of me and I was the only rider in sight... or so I thought. "I'm not trying to pass you..." said a perky voice on my left. I snapped out of my daze and looked left at the young woman in neon green alongside me. "Oh, by all means pass me." I said feeling not one bit put out in any regard. She smiled and said that she couldn't. I told her I really was not feeling strong at this point. Maybe it was just that moment in time, but she looked at me and said perhaps the best thing anyone has ever said to me while I was on a bike: "Well..." she said, " you look strong!" I think maybe that one comment alone made it all worth it.More...

Mile 25, Ocean Song rest stop, Coleman ValleyRd. 9:30am

I rolled into the most miserable, third-world rest stop I've ever encountered. A blue awning on a muddy hilltop with wet, dejected riders huddled amongst earnest, encouraging course workers. Cold food, no coffee, no porta potties, the sound of heavy rain pattering on the canvas above and pouring off the sides, people standing around looking lost, wondering which way to go, wondering what the hell they were doing bike riding in awful conditions such as these.

I had started the ride later than I wanted, at 7:10, so I made up time early on by chasing tandems as I am want to do. It was only drizzling lightly at this point and I wore my usual cycling gear, I had rain paints strapped to my bike and a rain jacket in my backpack. There was a good amount of people on the road, many off the road fixing flats...haven't these people heard of kevlar? I had a good first 15 miles or so, legs were good, energy good, and soon came to the course split at Bohemian Highway. I seemed to be the only guy actually riding, with about 30 riders standing on either side of the road, the 100M/K contingent on the right, the 200K group on the left, watching me approach. I stood on it and turned left towards 200K with panache, which quickly wore off when I experienced the grade ahead of me, and into the fog I rose. This is when the tone of the ride changed from group activity to a solo randonneur/randomneur as I found myself riding alone on unknown, poorly signed roads. The rain started in earnest before the rest stop and I pulled off to don my rain pants for a descent. I left my bungie cord dangling from a road marker post, which would have implications later. As I spun up a steep grade in my lowest gear, I saw the first of several riders going back down the hill. Not encouraging, but I pressed on to the aforementioned rest stop. Someone there said on a nice day the ocean view was breathtaking. I could see maybe 20 yards into the fog, wind and rain. I pulled on my navy blue LL Bean rainjacket, put the hood over my woolen cap, and secured my Giro Atmos over the top. I felt like I was peering out of a tent, but at least I was warm under my plastic wear, which many shivering riders did not think to bring. I ate a cold potato, two wedges of PBJ, a fig bar, and a Clif 2X caffeine gel and set off down the treacherous Coleman Valley grade. As I left, a flatbed truck arrived carrying the Porta potties, too little too late.

Miles 26-30: A Spectre and cattle grates:

The fog was thick, the wind blowing into my face, the rain stinging my skin. There was an apparition standing on the side of the road under an umbrella shielding a ghoul from the wind and rain... an older woman made up in full Halloween costume as Death, her face a skull, long white hair, ribs apparent under her black windbreaker, she moaning: "Slow doown....Slow DOOOWNN!!" An unexpected, appreciated taste of Death Ride, literally. Her message was good enough for me as I applied the binders and slowly rolled down the mountain, reading the upside down Amgen Tour of Ca. pro rider names painted on the road ahead of me. Or trying to read... I realized I could barely see anything my glasses were so wet and fogged. So I took them off, which was better, much better and I found out my vision without glasses is not that bad really, sure, a little blurry far off, but not bad. This gave me a boost and I was congratulating myself when I rolled over the first cattle grate. WTF! I didn't see it until it was under me. My rear wheel slid some as I was braking. A cattle grate is 10 or so horizontal steel rails, much like railroad tracks, one after the other, cattle do not like to cross them. The second grate I slowed to a stop and walked across the rails. That was dicey as well, very slippery. Same with the third. The fourth came out of nowhere and I had to just ride over it. Damn it! Those are truly dangerous when wet, but I survived and sighed in relief as I arrived at the junction of Highway 1. I had made it to the coast!

North on the Coast Highway

As I turned north I immediately felt great relief---I now enjoyed a tailwind. I took stock of my condition: Utterly soaked on the outside, gloves, inside of shoes flooded, but warm in my vinyl shell. My Vetta computer was encased in a Glad bag condom of sorts, and it was working well. My lights had been on since the start and would not go off until the end of the day. Legs and energy were good, so I enjoyed the surrealistic scenery of this part of our golden state. Many rocks jutting out of the sea, homes perched on the edge of the world, a fantastic ribbon of undulating highway, I so wished it had been a sunny day, but it was what it was so I made the best of it. All of the 200K riders who continued on, what few there were, passed me along this part, but I was going at a good clip and didn't want to push it, and really enjoyed this leg.

Mile 40 Duncan Mills

I had been told at the rest stop that the only hot coffee on this part of the coast was to be found at a bakery in Duncan Mills, so I eagerly anticipated this improptu break, and when I pulled into this one horse town, every other 200K rider was there as well, which was about a dozen or so riders. I slogged into the old-timey, wooden building, dripping all over the floor, and the girl behind the counter gave me a concerned look, and she suggested I have my coffee in a big steaming ceramic mug to warm my hands. Man, that was a fine cup of dark roast java. I sat out under an awning and watched the world go by, and the only thing that harshed my vibe was a crusty old local guy who found me convenient to bounce his ultra right wing political views off of, and I just ignored him. I might have spent 25 minutes there but it was worth it. I felt much better, ate something, and took off up River Rd. to Monte Rio.

Mile 44 Monte Rio rest stop

Another forlorn way point, a couple dozen riders milling around in the light rain, the workers starting to put food away, which alarmed me. What time was it anyway? I ate some strawberries and some M&Ms, used the bathroom, and rode off in under 10 minutes.

I followed two guys at a good pace up to Guerneville where they missed the arrow on the road and kept going straight, while I turned onto Greenvalley Rd, a formidable climb. I was joined by a woman in neon yellow jacket and helmet, and her boyfriend in gray. She was strong, and dropped me on the hill, her friend fell way back.

At the very top of the climb is a vineyard and an old barn right at the edge of the road. The barn door was open and warm yellow light was coming out, contrasting with the dark gray skies. I impulsively pulled up to the barn door and stuck my front wheel inside. It was full of all kinds of farm equipment, and there were two guys working behind a big tractor, and they were playing the most melodic ambient electronic soundtrack on a big stereo while they worked. It didn't fit the scene, but I dig this music the most, and it was a highpoint moment, they didn't even know I was there, pirating their vibe.

Let the Randomneuring begin!

The woman in yellow was waiting at an intersection for her friend when I rolled up, and we chatted a while. She was quite fit and told me this was her 5th century this year. Soon the friend arrived and we three rolled... I didn't know where we were. After a while they pulled ahead of me until they were just faint yellow and gray dots, then I was soloing again. I came to a crossroads intersection, a major one, with a gas station on the west corner. The cross road sign said Green Valley. I crossed the road to find the gas station bathroom was out of order, figures. I pulled out my soggy, soon to be crumbling route sheet, looked at my mileage, and tried to figure out where I was. It didn't make sense. What road was I on? I thought I had just climbed Green Valley, but that couldn't be right because the cross road said Green Valley. So I finally found the street sign for my road... Green Valley! WTF?? Both directions were Green Valley! My instincts told me to keep going the way I was going, so I did that, and after a mile or so, I finally saw an orange route arrow on the pavement, so I had made the correct choice. And so it went throughout this portion of the ride, alertly searching for remnants of orange arrows on the street, no other riders
out whatsoever to follow. All the while I was wondering how the other TA riders were getting along. I especially worried about Flashette in the rain considering her crash last year and how that broken shoulder messed up her life for, well, its still not over yet. All the flats I saw along the roadside, I hoped someone was with her if she punctured. But then, I told myself she was with the finest group of riders out there, and I stopped worrying about it. (she and the others were fine)

Mile 66 Rest stop WohlerBridge

At mile 60 I came, solo, to a major intersection of River road. There were course marshalls in orange standing there, and a CHP car to my left, and an officer in rain gear standing in front of me, calling me to a halt. I stopped. "This is the bail out point back to the start!" stated the marshall. "Isn't there a rest stop up ahead?" I asked. "Five miles ahead, but it might be closed." I think I might have muttered, "Ah crap!". The CHP officer asked me "Do you want to continue?" I said "Hell yes, I'm not bailing!" So he walked out into the road and stopped traffic both directions for me to cross. I felt like a celebrity.

They were closing down the rest stop when I pulled in, draining the water truck, putting away the food, disassembling tents. I got some potatos and pretzels, some Gatorade, ate another gel, used the bathroom. I felt really late. How could it be 2pm already? Why did it take me this long to get here? Whatever, I got out of there fast and crossed the old bridge, again, soloing, but I remembered this long stretch well from last year, the West Dry Creek road, and knew it was only 17 miles to the lunch stop, so I vowed to get there before it closed. I knew the Nidekers would be there to take care of me with a nice sandwich. During this long stretch, my phone was beeping with messages, but it was too buried under layers to pull out, and I didn't want to get it wet. I pushed on, trying to make up time, staying in the 42 ring at around 17 mph. My mind started up with its internal jukebox, the Bad Company song "Rock Steady" played over and over, then some Queen songs, "We Are the Champions, We Will Rock You". The bands forgot a lot of words during this performance, heh heh. I was awed by some of the wineries I passed, Disneyland could not have designed more amazing estates. A rider came by me so I grabbed his wheel and we rode together for eight miles, all the way to the lunch stop. I was silently thanking him for the company, taking a shower in his dingy wheel spray to keep the pull.

Mile 88, Warm Springs Lunch Stop, 3pm

I was dreading the thought of pulling into Warm Springs only to find it closed down entirely. As I wheeled to a stop, who did I see but TA's own John and Sue Nideker, right there in front of me! What a great feeling! John took my arm, like an invalid, to help me down the very muddy, slippery grass to the sandwich station, where Sue served me up a custom for Board Of Directors only double meat avocado sandwich. It looked way too big but I ate the whole thing pretty quickly. Thanks Sue, that was fantastic, it really helped me. As I ate, the camp was being disassembled, and the course Marshall was telling us to get a move on, c'mon you guys, eat up and beat it! Oh man, I just sat down.... As I was sitting there, a woman two seats down from me looked at me, and I looked at her, and she was like "hey, I know you" and I'm like " ya, you look familiar" . It was Cynthia, a TA rider from about a year ago. Wow, good to see her, small world, and all that. I was totally soggy on the inside, so decided to take off my rain pants. Let me tell you, it was a rain forest environment in there, and when I got the pants off, man, my legs got instantly cold! But it had stopped raining for the most part, and I looked forward to drying out my shorts in the breeze, so I put up with the shock. A smiling woman with twin pony tails was tromping through the mud, asking around who was doing the 200. She was wearing a baby blue jacket with a brown mud stripe up her back, a pony tail hanging on either side. This struck me as especially funny. I might have said something. As I was mounting up to leave, the course marshal was getting militaristic at moving out the loitering riders left at lunch. Pony tailed woman asked him about the 200K diversion up Dutcher Creek, and asked if she was going to do it, she responded "I would very much like to do it." in a very coy way. She was funny! Course marshall then sternly announced the Dutcher creek add on was "officially" closed...but... as California tax payers we had every right to ride it on our own, unsupported. I really liked the surreal atmosphere at this place, but daylight was burning so I struck off on my own once again, rain pants hanging from my pack. (Recall that I had left my bungie way back there and I just could not bear stuffing that sweat soaked garment in with my rain soaked Powerbars)

Mile 89 Dutcher Creek Add on

I impulsively turned left onto Dutcher Creek and started, what it felt like, was backtracking, and immediately part of my brain began to override this decision. It was 3:30, I was 31 miles out from Santa Rosa, which would put me back to the start at 5:30 if I didn't do this add on. 6:30 if I did. I had a 7pm dinner date with the other Team Alameda riders. I would never make that on time. So I did a U turn back to Dry Creek Rd, and at the intersection, who do I see but Pony Tailed woman riding by in her group, not even attempting the add on. Huh? I guess we came to the same conclusion. I passed them and set off for Santa Rosa, feeling good at this point, the big sandwich providing fuel. My lower half was drying off and I felt like a proper cyclist again without those baggy pants on.

Mile 90 something: Rest stop Alexander Valley School

Ate a peanut butter cookie and watched the dismantling of the rest stop for a few moments. Left soon enough.

Mile 100.00: Somewhere on the road, a WhooHoo! moment.

Mile 103: Chalk Hill (I refer you to the start of this story) It seemed a lot longer this year than last year, and I was happy just to get to the top of it, let alone try to "own" it.

Mile 117: I pulled into the parking lot at the Wells Fargo Center. Where were the happy people with the cowbells welcoming us back? It was 5:40pm and the scene was gray and desolate, a smattering of cars left in the lot, no one milling around. I almost got lost in downtown Santa Rosa, but luckily the woman in neon yellow was in sight so I followed her. When I hit the outskirts of town, my body just sort of gave up, and I was suddenly very weary, my neck ached, and I had had enough riding for one day. I leaned my trusty Lemond against my car and I admired it, white, red, black, covered in mud, grass, brake grime, wet and dirty, but damn it, it performed flawlessly, carried me safely, and in that moment, I would not have traded it for any other bike in the world.


117.4 miles/189 Kilometers, 13.4 avg. 8:45 hrs pedal time, 10:32 total time 6,664 climb


This was an even tougher ride mentally than physically. I would never think of doing this ride solo in the rain, ever, that would be crazy, yet this is essentially what I did. I had the goal firmly in mind, and managed to shrug off the major hurdles of bad weather, bad road conditions, being sopping wet, not being able to see, seeing riders turn back, not knowing where I was, no company to distract me, nearly closed rest stops, and fading daylight. This was not a century ride as I know it, this was something else. This was a test of will, of endurance, of being able to tune out discomfort and just press on regardless. But I learned as well that this is probably the limit of my distance riding, I am not really cut out for much more than 9 hours saddle time, my body attests to that today with lingering soreness, aches and pain, and an underlying-but not bad- sense of being dazed. But what a bad weather comeback from my almost disastrous adventure on Ebbetts Pass last year, I learned my lessons well on that one and it informed my preparation for this one, in which I prevailed. I greatly tempered the material of what I am made of. How often does that happen in one day of normal life? I will remember this ride as one of the high points of my cycling career.

Thanks for reading and ride on my friends,



"No formula exists for epic. It happens when the right conditions are present and it cannot be manufactured. Mental, physical and emotional stress are all components as is suffering, which in the case of cycling, usually means extended periods of self-inflicted pain. Exposure, distance, duration, elevation, great camaraderie, road surfaces, waning sanity, exhaustion, rapidly fading sunlight, weather, empty pockets and broken chains. And competition both healthy and not so healthy are all likely a part of any epic ride. Epic is essentially the result of a series of intense experiences and hard riding."       From the Rapha Continental website

July 9th, 4pm:

I had just had an excellent descent from Highway 88 at Carson Pass into Hope Valley.  The sky was blue with a few white clouds, the vast valley spreading to the base of craggy mountains circling the plain of green with its meandering river.  As I dropped into Woodford Canyon I saw our old summer campspot at Showshoe Springs, now closed to camping.  To the left I saw the trailhead to Horsethief Canyon, we had hiked that one year nearly to the very top of the rocky mountain.  I was heady with old memories and instant new ones as I plummeted down the canyon, freewheeling towards Markleeville.  When I made the right turn at Woodfords and began climbing, my reverie evaporated and I was suddenly gasping for air, wheezing up this grade, which, at sea level, would be easy.  I was at 6000' and the effect was something of a shock and at that moment of clarity I realized the Death Ride is probably more about overcoming the thin air than it is about mileage or climbing.  "Ugggh..." I muttered to myself as I pushed the seven miles towards town.More...

July 10th, Noon:

Cathy, Rose and I had been hanging out at that high alpine lake just before the summit of Ebbett's,  around 8,200 high.  We were awaiting Fred's front side ascent of Ebbett's Pass.  We were ready to offer him support, or a ride if needed, and when he arrived he was a little dazed, but feeling good so he pushed for the summit.  We drove ahead and parked at the top, I pulled out my bike and gear to join Fred on the drop to Hermit's Valley.  Once there, Fred took a short break then we were off, we had the whole road to ourselves going down, very light traffic going up.  At the valley floor I put my bike back in the van, and we drove back up the mountain leaving Fred to his task of fulfilling his goal of a complete Ebbett's ascent, front and back.  So I got the full-on run down the front side of Ebbett's, the only thing slowing me down was a Sparklett's water truck I would overtake.  Then I waited a few minutes, pushed off, and eventually there was the water truck again, but I was having fantastic segments of the descent, really carving up the turns.  I missed this fun last year because I was grinding down my brake pads in a rain storm trying to keep control of my bike.  I continued on all the way to Markleeville, where I saw the van parked on the edge of town, but not the gals, knowing they were off shopping.  So I went in the country store, purchased a can of Coors, and set to drinkin' it in the chair on the front porch.  That was nice, I watched the world go by, come and go, I met some other cyclists.  The world was warm and friendly.  About an hour later Fred came pedaling into town and I must say he looked pretty good despite what he had just put himself through.  The subtle powers of the Fredly Pace had paid great dividends.  He slept good and long that night, I can't say that I did.


                     Yoda climbing Ebbett's front side near the pass, elev. 8000'+

July 11th, 1:45am

I awoke in the tent with an urgent need to take a bio-break, but that would mean unzipping the tent and walking outside on sharp pine needles in the black of night.  I looked at my watch and thought it read 2:45, fifteen minutes before the alarm was to go off, so I thought I'd just wait until 3 and get up.  So I lay there thinking about what I was about to undertake, that this day was also Cathy's birthday,  that I had not specifically trained at all for this event, I couldn't find a cake for her up here, went over my gear choices yet again, etc.  The alarm did not go off, I had to pee, and I realized it was 2am, not 3.  I was wide awake, so I heeded Cathy's advice that "dark-thirty is dark-thirty", so I got up to ride.  I was thrilled at the  early-birdliness of my preparations.  That is so not me.

In the dark of night, I made an extra large cup of java on the camp stove, ate two homemade banana muffins and a banana, used the facilities, got dressed, stuffed my pockets with ride condiments, sun screened up, and made ready to depart.  All this in the pitch black of a forest night trying not to wake the other campers, mind you.  With my dark glasses on I could hardly see a thing, my Cateye headlight casting a faint bluish orb on the blackness in front of me.  I set off at 3:30am from Grover Hot Springs.  I felt really good, I was ready and excited by my super early departure.  It was unusually warm at 60 degrees, but the sky was cloudy and the moon was a faint sphere of light behind a veil.  I would soon discover that I love night riding, it is something really, really different, and oh so cool.

The ride into Markleeville was nice and smooth, I was passed by a few cars with bikes on their roofs, it was delightful how much light a car makes on the road.  I could hear wind high in the tree tops, or was it a far off waterfall?  I dropped down into town and could see the few cars that passed me disgorging riders and bikes.  I turned the corner and stopped in front of a porch light on the Cutthroat Saloon to read my watch.  3:50am.  The town was asleep and only two riders passed by.  Eerie calmness compared to the steady stream of riders a year ago at 5:15am.  I set off south and soon found myself paceing with a red blinking light ahead of me.  I slowly gained on this rider  as we set off down the valley, and soon enough I joined up with a younger woman, Lisa from Emeryville.  This was her first Death Ride and we talked about that for a while, and soon we came to the Monitor/Ebbett's junction, which I did not see in the darkness, and she alerted me to it---if I was soloing this I might have gone on towards Ebbett's pass before I realized I had missed the turn!  Hear me now and believe me later, it was dark out there and there were only a handful of riders at this hour.

We rode together the entire front side of Monitor, I was talking steadily, to distract both of us from the long climb at this un-godly hour.  It worked, and as we gained the summit the sky was lightening and we both felt good.  My advice was that we get a sticker and then keep moving, rest on the descent and she agreed.  I was elated to be going down to Topaz already.

The descent was fantastic---no cars, no other riders, I had the whole mountain as it was being lit by the yellowish light of sunrise.  Beautiful.  This downhill seemingly goes on forever.  There were swarms of gnats at the bottom, and I made a point to keep my mouth closed.  At Topaz there must have only been 50 or so riders milling around, including Warren, Tim, Stan, and JP.  We said hello, ate what we needed, and set off back up the mountain.  Stan and Tim took off briskly, and surprisingly, Warren rode with me a few miles which was a nice treat.  We chatted about body and fit issues, and at some point he pulled ahead and that was the last I saw of him until the end.

I passed my new friend Lisa about a third of the way up and that was the last I saw of her until much later at Turtle Rock.  The climb was long and demanding, but not arduous.  I emptied a water bottle so one of the running lads half way up could grab my bottle and fill it for me.  Hey, take advantage of all the perks, I say.  I should say here that I was being passed way more than I was passing, it was a bit of a mind tweak, but I stuck with my plan of steady progress at a comfortable speed, and soon I was near the summit of Monitor again.  It was a lot of work, a constant grind up a long, long road.  A sense of giddyness overcame me and I started shouting and waving at the increasing number of riders going the other way towards Topaz.  They waved and shouted back, it was gratifying.  I was wearing my '08 green and orange DR jersey and felt proud to represent in it.

At the top of Pass 2, I again stickered without stopping, and out of nowhere appeared JP, and the two of us had the whole mountain to ourselves, lots of people still climbing, but very few going down.  It was descending at its finest- fresh morning air, no wind, smooth pavement, gigantic sweeping corners, steep grades.  The speedo rarely dropped below 40 and there were sections where I felt like a motor had been strapped on the Lemond and the throttle was wide open and a heavy metal soundtrack was blasting in my skull.  You know its fast when there is no time to even glance at the speedo, I only braked for one corner that said "trucks-20mph", and went through that in the mid-30's.  JP was receeding in my mirror.  Oh man, was I digging it!  At the junction of highway 4 we pulled off to let the adrenaline burn off a bit and to eat something, and my computer showed a high speed of 50.5--- just coasting!   JP was juiced by that and said his bike actually started a high speed shimmy and he had to back off.  On the inside, we were grinning from ear to ear.

We set off up towards Ebbett's and JP went ahead and I lost track of him in the next few miles as I started muttering my mantras before this mega-climb.  I passed the lunch stop and figured I would stop at Scomas' stop just before the real climbing began.  This section along the river is one of the prettiest areas, lush green trees, bucolic barns, rambling river right there.  I pulled into Scomas and noticed my right shoulder was starting to get a sharp pain.  I ate some food, took off warmers and got down to shorts and jersey.  Other than that I was carrying a rain jacket.  JP rolled in, which surprised me, he had stopped at the lunch area to do something and I got ahead, so we did a reality check, counted fingers and toes, and headed up the mountain, he soon disappeared ahead of me and I realized that the way it was going to be was me riding my pace and everyone passing me.  Again, this played with my mind.  That's not how it was in '08 when Bruce and I seemed to do all the passing.  It gave me something to ponder on the long climb.  I was again thanking myself for having converted to mega-range gearing, I was using my lowest gear (32)on the hairpin turns, but most of the climbing all day was done in my 28x 28, that's what felt best.  I was working hard, I'm not going to claim otherwise, but my plan was to do it clean, in one piece.

My legs were good and I climbed the front side of Ebbett's in one big piece, and at the top I was feeling some weird combination of elation and anxiety, but again decided to rest on the descent.  My shoulder was now angry with me and I was feeling considerable pain.  I got my 3rd sticker and pressed on, riding the brakes all the way down, only saw one cow on the leeward side of the mountain, and soon enough I rolled into Hermit Valley.  When I stopped for my 4th sticker, I knew something was wrong.  Very wrong.

I stood there straddling my bike.  A Death Ride associate came over to me and asked "may I fill your water bottle sir?"  I handed it to him slowly,  in a daze, then thanked him.  Another worker approached me from behind and asked "may I take your bike, sir?"  I must have looked like road kill.  Or something.  I declined his offer as that would have meant getting off the bike, which I could not do at that moment.  What had happened was that my shoulder and neck were spasming and about to go into a cramp, a thought that scared the hell out of me.  If that happened my ride was most likely over and I'd have to SAG back.  So I stood there, not moving a muscle, waiting for the pain to subside.  It relaxed somewhat, allowing me to park my bike, then I walked around, ate some watermelon, and pondered my predicament.  And who should be standing there but JP?  We compared notes and he said his legs were crampy as well, but I think he was in better shape than me at that point.  Looking at a huge, unrelenting climb out of this valley I really doubted if I could make it because of this shoulder issue.  So I layed down in the shade of a pine tree and watched the DR play act itself out all around me.  Some others looked like me, maybe different issues, but facing the same dreadful thoughts, sitting around, looking whipped.  I came to the conclusion that I had pushed too hard, too long without resting and this was the result.  I also suspected a lack of electrolytes may have come into play.  After a while I sat up and massaged my shoulder, took some pain meds and Enduralytes, and decided to press on regardless.

I should say at this point that I was facing my greatest fear.  For years, and many of you remember this, I said I would never ride long distances because of my neck and shoulder pain issues.  For the most part its been a non-issue the last year or two, and then suddenly, on my longest event ever, it reared up more ferociously than ever before.  But I was determined to work through it somehow, I was not going to quit over this, no matter how long it took.

I started climbing slowly, changed my hand positions frequently and checked in with my shoulder every minute or so, catching it in a clenched condition, and relaxing it as needed.  This was working well, but I was climbing gingerly and everyone was passing me yet again.  Then it occurred to me why... because I had started so early, this mixed me up with the elite riders, the fastest people were the ones out front, the slower ones were behind me.  Now it made sense and I felt better.  I was riding in a whole other group than last year, and a check of my average speed showed the same as last year, which felt fast at that time, but slow this day.

Meanwhile, hordes of riders were bombing down the mountain at harrowing speeds, three abreast, and it was making me angry and anxious.  Why can't they descend at a sane speed instead of dangerous passing manuevers, yelling at the top of their lungs at each other,  some putting us climbers at risk?  I felt this unease climbing the backside of Monitor too, the endless whooshing sound of riders passing mere feet away at 45mph.  It was stressful, and I felt it, and I started despising the downhill riders.  Weird tricks the mind, the fatigue, the thin air plays.  This climb to Ebbett's Pass seemed to take an eternity, but I was elated to make the top!  My shoulder was better, just a dull ache that I could control.  It was like a melee at the top of the pass, riders coming in, course workers, riders milling around, people crossing the road everywhere- I was just barely  able to ride through the bustling.  Seemingly hundreds of people and bikes in this small turnout on the very top of the Sierras.  I gave a shout-out to Ian, the massage guy Cathy and I have come to know.  He sets up at the pass every year under a white tent and is very busy.  He said I could be 4th in line for a rub, but since I felt better, I opted to go down to the lunch stop and rest up there.

The descent was good, I took it easy, as I had ridden it flat out the day before as part of my acclimatization training so did not need to risk anything on the actual ride, as this road is narrow and twisty with big drop-offs and 15 mph hairpins.  Not to mention  all the humanity pedaling up it,three abreast, while I was going down it.  About one third of the way down, you emerge from a forested plateau and a gigantic valley view suddenly appears, with towering granite peaks all around, and huge drop-offs into a river gorge far below.  Its stunning.  The road gets rolling towards the bottom, and I was keeping a nice 25mph pace going, pedaling in a big gear.  It felt good to get some tempo, and soon I was at the lunch stop.

It was bustling at the lunch stop, and there wasn't a space on any of the bike racks, maybe one tight space on the end rack, but I decided to park against a nearby tree.  I walked to the lunch tent and realized I was salmoning- entering the exit against the line of grazers- and as that thought occurred to me, a huge gust of wind blew through the lunch tent and the air was brown with dust, paper plates and napkins flying everywhere!  The lunch people were using small two-packs of Fig Newtons to hold down stacks of napkins and plates, so Fig Newtons were all over the ground as well.  It was hilariously absurd for a moment.  I got a plate of ham and cheese wraps and got a seat at a table with some random riders.  Nearby was the Clif tent, and on display was a Clif Xtracycle bike with sound system that cranked out some sweet rock tunes.  My table discussed the Tour and suddenly CRASH!! the sound of a portable bike rack collapsing along with 2o carbon wonder bikes piling on top of each other!  It was the rack I had almost parked at.  A collective "Whoa!!"  and about twenty "OH SHIT!"s resounded from the resting riders.  "There goes a hundred thou..." said one jaded luncheon mate between bites of ham wrap.  I felt somewhat smug 1n my parking decision.

During lunch, and... an early lunch by my normal standards, I figured I had been on the bike for 9 hours already!  And it was only lunchtime!  There exists a paranormal quality to this ride in that time seems to...not exist.  First its dark, then light, then lunchtime, then late afternoon, then evening, and you're not sure how it all happened, you've been drifting in a river existence, a place of just being.  Its magical.

I left the lunch stop at 12:30pm, feeling pretty good, my shoulder had relaxed quite a bit and I was eager to get moving.

Heading north along the Carson River, I could see fast groups of riders overhauling me, and as I was riding into a headwind, I toyed with the thought of drafting them, and I joined one group for a while, but they were disorganized, and of different abilities, and I realized that it was risky doing this with people I didn't know, so I fell back and rode alone back to town.  I knew that once at the edge of town there would be a welcoming committee on the grassy slope of the courthouse, so I rehearsed  some responses in advance.

When I rounded the corner, about 200 people started cheering for me and ringing cowbells, blowing horns and noise makers!   I loved it!  It really perked me up, that they really cared for what we were doing. So I put on my biggest smile, gave them the Royal Wave, British Style, then I started blowing huge kisses like the most garish Vegas Lounge act you can imagine.  They loved it!     Other people lined both sides of the street through town and I hammed it up the whole way.  The local response was heart warming and really gave me resolve.

I climbed the hill to Turtle Rock and passed the gauntlet of cars lining the road for miles.  I didn't turn into TR, vowing to avoid the siren call of Cathy's massage table setup there, which I fell victim to last year.  So I now found myself, at mile 89 , in the "unknown zone"---the rest of the adventure would be unexplored territory for me.  I knew there was a nice down slope to Woodfords and used this time to stretch and relax on the bike, avoiding the passing peletons of fast riders overtaking me.  I skipped the stop at Woodfords and pressed on up the canyon.  I had heard this is the climb that really kills you after lunch so I steeled myself for it.  It was hard alright, and now, unlike the first four passes which had been blissfully free of traffic, there were now internal combustion vehicles flying along in both directions, including big rigs.  I was focused on staying in the painted shoulder area, but at some point the shoulder disappeared and it was just a white line on the edge of the road with gravel to the side of that.  Riders were passing along this narrow stretch, cars were veering, slowing and avoiding, but no one was honking, the drivers seemed to get it.   I stopped for a minute on the short bridge over the West Carson River, below which was a deep green pool of water.  I so wanted to dive into that!   I also pulled over into a gravel turnout at the Horsethief Canyon trailhead, very near the top of the climb.  Other riders joined me in standing on the side of the road.  Herd instinct I guess.  I was feeling fatigued, no doubt about it, and I just needed short rest stops of a minute or two to catch my breath and rest the legs.

At the top of the canyon climb is a country store named "Store", and in the parking lot was 2 dozen spectators in lawn chairs, cheering us on.  I gave them the same waves and kisses treatment, they loved it.  I had my act together now, and would use it a lot along Hope Valley.  Not much further along was the Pickett's Junction rest stop, which was bustling with activity, lots of orange cones in the road and a stationary sheriff's truck with lights on alerting drivers.  I pulled in, and of course, the first person I see is JP.  We said something in passing, I was more than a little dazed at this point.  I sat down on a low log in the shade with another gentleman and we joked about needing a chiropractor to straighten us back into riding position.   This was pretty near the century mark, mileage wise.  My altimeter was reading mid 13's, which made me smile.  Soon enough I struck out again, to do the last leg up a seemingly far away mountain.

The weather was changing and we had a headwind up the valley which reduced our speed to about 7.5 up the mild incline, at that rate it would be 1.5 hours to the top, but I knew it would be longer because no way could I climb the steeps into a wind at more than 4mph, so I figured 2+ hours, then I said, screw it, I don't care how long it takes and stopped considering the time.  I followed rider 1205 for quite a ways, he was blocking some of the wind, but really, the wind was swirling from all directions.  There was an SUV on the side of the road, and its windows were painted with the words "Bob's Babe Wagon", and Bob's Babes were outside cheering us on.  The Babes' really dug my blowing kisses routine, and they would leap frog me several times up the long grade.  By this point, some of the younger riders---the racers, faux-racers, or Lance-wannabees, had slowed considerably, and one fit guy with not so low gears was really struggling up the mountain.  I was spinning going 3mph but that was still 1 mph faster than him as his front wheel wobbled back and forth.  The look on his face said it all, he was deep in the pain locker.  A few hours ago I probably despised this rider, but now I felt empathy for him and suggested we pull off into a narrow shoulder and rest.  He said nothing but pulled over.  And we stood there a while, saying nothing, watching the sky darken, watching the death march of weary riders, heads down, struggling up the mountain.  We started again, and I passed him and left him behind, I looked ahead and could see the measure of what we still had to do, a narrow line cutting up and to the left towards the top of the mountain.  I was digging deep, maybe deeper than I ever have, just one pedal in front of the other, looking down, trying to ride straight, and after a while, I made the turn to the left up that narrow line to the top, and I knew I had it in the bag.  As I slowly passed an outcropping of sheer granite cut out of the mountain, an overwhelming feeling came over me, welled up from some deep place inside me, one I could not shake off or stop.

I started crying.  I kid you not, I could not stop it.  It just came over me.  I would have been embarrassed had anyone been near me, but I was fairly alone, so I just let it happen for a few moments.  It was the tears of suffering, the tears of relief, the tears of having achieved a formerly impossible goal, the tears of victory.  I rounded a right turn, regained my composure through bleary eyes, and knew the top was just a hundred yards ahead, for I had ridden down from here Thursday.  As I summitted, people were cheering from the side of the road, I stopped pedaling , and started crying again.  I mean, really, what was this all about?   I felt confused...happy and sad at the same time as I coasted down to the rest stop, which was a bee hive of activity.  No sooner had I parked my bike than JP came over to me, I put out my hand for a shake and he said " No way is that good enough!" and he grabbed me and hugged me, and it felt good, this brotherly bonding, this sharing of intense experience.  I was dazed, I couldn't really talk, I wanted that ice cream everyone talks about.  They gave me my sticker, my 5 pass pin, I got a fudge bar and found a seat and just let it all sink in.  I knew I still had 20 miles to ride, but this was it man, this was the forge, the ring of fire, and I had surmounted it.  When the metal is forged, it comes out harder, stronger.  I sat there thinking up all kinds of metaphors, but really, I just soaked up the vibe, the energy of all the happy riders, newly minted Death Riders celebrating, a huge tribal gathering.  I got up and signed a large Death Ride 5 Pass Poster, I simply wrote "Flash" in what little available white space remained.  I saw the young fit guy I had stopped with on Carson, and I went up to him, shook his hand, and offered congratulations.  He looked at me and simply said, "yes, to you to".  A man of few words, this one.

It was around 4:00 and the wind was blowing, the sky turning gray, so I put on my Goretex  jacket loaned to me by Eric Kondo as a windbreaker, and set off down the mountain, cautiously.  Again, I had ridden this flat out on Thursday in ideal conditions, so had no need to repeat that today, and I took it conservatively.  I mostly watched the continuous line of riders trudging up the Mountain.  My God it seemed endless!  I scanned the line looking for people I might know.  Hundreds went by, then I saw Brian and shouted his name, he looked my way and said " uh, oh, hey!" as if taken by surprise, which I'm sure he was and probably didn't even know it was me.  Pedro was right behind him and shouted "Hey Flash!" for the second time today.  Right about then it started raining and I felt so bad for all these people because I knew exactly what they were in for, having been caught full force in the brunt of it last year at the top of Ebbett's Pass.  Oh, well, what could I do about it?  I felt protected in my jacket and continued on past Pickett's junction where riders were still pulling in for a rest stop!  I felt empathic pain knowing how far they still had to ride.  That would be have been me last year if I had continued on then.

The spectators at Store were scattering to get out of the rain as I dropped into the canyon.  I was passed by a fast group of 4 riders, spinning their 50x11 cogs.  "Where do they get the strength to do that?" I asked myself as they pulled way ahead.  I found myself behind a guy going just a half mile per hour slower than me, but I didn't want to pass in this narrow area, so I braked, then both of us got passed by a huge 4X diesel pickup, so I passed the rider, and the most amazing thing happened.

The road widens to four lanes to allow passing, and this is a long stretch.  As I rode into this widening area, a huge tailwind came blowing down the canyon and pushed me like a Tsunami wave, I mean it made me gasp how rapidly I went from 34mph to 48mph, and I was still accelerating!  There was one of the fast guys in the group of four, in a full tuck on the side of the road, and I passed him like he was riding a beachcruiser!  This mighty wind did not seem to touch him, just 10 feet to my right.  I had so much speed I was gaining on the 4X pickup up the road, the speedo was at least 50mph when I grabbed a handfull of brakes.  I didn't think I was going to make the right hand turn at Woodfords, that I was going to have to ride it out half way to Minden, but I got the speed down at the last moment and made a sketchy turn.  What an incredible rush!  Did I mention it was full-on raining at this point?  I was tweaking on adrenaline and managed to go quite a ways up the hill in my big ring, the same hill that had me gasping on Thursday, before that wore off and I was left to battle the crosswinds to Turtle Rock, slowing  back to a crawl and eventually came upon the outer row of cars heralding the approach of Turtle Rock.  Many significant others were camped by the cars awaiting the return of their riders, that was poignant for me, and I tried to greet each of them with a smile or hello.

I pulled into Turtle Rock at 5:20 and immediately encountered the TA group of Warren, Tim, and JP---it was reported Stan was sleeping in a car somewhere.  I found Cathy and got a warm hug and offer of massage, but I needed some food first, and a cold brewski from the Sierra Nevada vendor- I never had a better tasting beer, let me tell you.  So we ate, listened to a good blue-grass band, talked to people, I got a nice rub from Cathy, which made other people want it too, so she went back to work while I wandered around, got another beer, and set up a chair at the entrance to the expo, and just watched the show go by me.  After a while, who did I see but Lisa from Emeryville- she completed the whole ride!  We congratulated each other!  I had the most contented, relaxed feeling at that moment.   A feeling like I had just done something I was always meant to do.

You might wonder "Flash, how did you feel at the end?"  Simply, I felt good, great even. I didn't feel any differently than say, at the end of the Tunitas Creek ride I did with Fred and MacGyver the week before.  No staggering around in a delerious state of exhaustion like you see at the end of the Ironman Triathalon.  Sure, soreness was setting in, but a really good kind of soreness.

Cathy had had a great day at the expo, massaging 16 riders plus Rose and Fred back at camp.  We had made a sign that said "Free Death Rider Massages brought to you by Team Alameda Cycling Club" and she was very popular, positioned right next to the Alpine County Search And Rescue tent. We packed her gear and my gear in and on the car and went back to Grover where Fred and Rose were relaxing at camp, and we got a nice welcome from them.  We sat around the fire under the darkening sky, and I related some parts of the day, but really, at that point words failed to do it justic.  At 10pm, 20 hours after I started my day, I crawled into the tent, sore, smoky, salty, and sated and slept the sleep of those that rest in eternal peace.


I made the decision to ride this event only two weeks ago, so I didn't specifically train for it.  My plan was simply that I knew I could ride 90 miles of it because I did that the year before, so this year I would just grind out the last pass, doing whatever it would take to finish.  You could say my training was the 5000 miles I've ridden since the Death Ride the year before---riding year round, staying in good form and then towards summer pushing more hills, bigger rides, riding in blazing heat or all- day rain, these things help develop the ironskin necessary to mentally do the ride.

Is the Death Ride all that its cracked up to be?  Does it live up to its fearsome reputation?  Yes and yes... throw in some smokey air, bad weather or blazing heat and its even more than that.  At times I was at my limits, wondering how I was going to go on, other times I was soaring like an eagle.  This ride is about discovering yourself, what you are made of, the good and the bad, and accepting whatever you find there.

My story cannot convey the size, scope, suffering, and grandeur of this event.  I can only hope I have presented a coherent timeline of events as they took place in the hopes of giving you an inkling of what is in store if you too should decide to become a Death Rider.  I would encourage you to do it, for having done it is a transformation, a ritual, a rite of passage.  Having completed it, for a brief moment in time, you get the feeling of being a God of Cycling, and that feeling my friends, is as good as its going to get.

Ride On,

(photo: cathy.  Flash at Carson Pass, elev. 8,500'  Thursday 7/9 before descending.)

click photos for larger views


(PS:  this came in Monday from my new friend Lisa,)

"Hi Flash -

 just wanted to say thank you again for the stories on Monitor.  it was a great start to such a great day and really helped me stay relaxed on the first 2 passes.  It was such a pleasure to meet you & I'm glad I got to reconnect & also meet Cathy at the end of the day too. You were the first of a handful of really incredibly nice people i met throughout the day.  What an amazing event. "

img00032.jpgLisa with the Five Pass poster on Carson

And of course, my Director Sportif and Fan Club President:


Photo: Lisa W, Rainbow in Hope Valley



On a recent weekday things were really getting me down. I felt anxious and restless, weighted down, a sense of depressing existential angst swirled around me like a pervasive ground fog, but, hey, that's me some days. I looked out the window at a beautiful sunny day. It dawned on me that I could be out riding. But I didn't really feel like it, an unfortunate condition of the condition I was in. However, standing there looking above my neighbor's roof where I can just see a tiny piece of the hills, I determined that a ride would be just what the doctor ordered, and set about the familiar ritual of transforming myself from Jim, professional volunteer and mid-life transitioner, to Flash, dauntless solo rider of Montclair and environs. The ride got off to a rough start, a frenzied motorist almost cut me off on the Fruitvale bridge, and then I proceeded to hit every red light between the bridge and International--- I had to stop for an Amtrak train as well--- which makes it hard to get any rhythm going. Fruitvale north of International got better as I took in the Hispanic atmosphere, and I usually make the light at MacArthur, which I did, but even the 1% grade going towards Foothill was feeling like more work than it should, and I got the nagging thought started that this was not going to be my best day. Some days there is just nothing there, and you know that feeling---the legs are sore or the gas tank is empty, or some virus is making itself known. Somedays I have turned back after only a few miles, just totally laggy and disappointed with the situation. But I cut myself some slack, we all have bad days, even on the bike. It's best to just bag it until another day. This day was not one of those days.More...In the Diamond district I jogged right, as Fruitvale does not continue straight up that mini- MoFo "wall" there by the park, but jogs over one half block to the east. After some mild climbing, I usually veer north toward the little shopping strip at the bottom of Leimert hill to take the hill from that direction, but this day I decided to go straight up Fruitvale, which is considerably steeper than the usual approach, then even steeper as it joins into the backside of Leimert Hill at Wrenn, then over to Arcadia, you would be hard pressed to find harder climbing than these two streets in combination. I'm not sure why I chose the harder way. The considerable effort it takes to go this way was being felt and I ground it out in a low gear, not really feeling like a worthy climber. Once up on top the hill proper, I took some side streets over to Monterey, and noticed my mood was considerably more upbeat, you might say refreshed even. It can be the dregs getting to the good part of Oakland through the bad parts, but once there, it is always worth it. And that climb must have burned off some excess charge in my system as my legs were coming online, finally.I dispatched the short climb up Monterey and ventured over to Burdeck, and marveled in the beauty of the day and nature as I spun up Butters Canyon, the canopy of trees overhead casting everything in dark green and shadow, no cars, no people, few other cyclists, it was even more beautiful than usual.After a short stop at the ranger station, I headed up Skyline north and felt that it was noticeably easier than usual, and at Robert's park I glanced at my elapsed time and was mildly surprised, as it was just a tad quicker than my benchmark cruising speed. Surprised because I was just riding, enjoying the day, and not feeling particularly fast, but rather, it felt like my energy output was less. A good feeling.The rest of Skyline north towards Pinehurst was just a grin, the bike seemed to roll along under it's own head of steam, and as I passed Skyline Gate, the urge to randomneur the Wilds of Montclair overcame me, and I turned left at Evergreen, just before Shepherd's Canyon, to see where it goes. It dips, it rises, it turns into Exeter, which does more of the same, and meanders along the cut of the hill. The scenery was all new and I relished all the unexpected climbs out of deep little saddles that were found on this side of the canyon. I made my way around, up and down Carisbrook, then drastically down Chelton, to Banning at Shepherd's Canyon, rode up to Saroni, and took the first left on Woodrow to Paso Robles, to Balboa, which offered up more twisting up and down, mostly up. Again, this was all new terrain, and I was amazed I had missed this as I've ridden almost every back road in Montclair. (Of course, it takes so long to ride every back street up there that by the completion of the project you have to do it all over again because you've forgotten the streets where you started.) I made my way over to Asilomar and explored some side cuts off that, including descending apparent dead ends, with corresponding climb outs. I finally popped into Montclair Village via Magellan near the bottom of Colton. It was all so good I had to stop and ponder what had just happened.The feeling I had by this point was something of wonder, as I had barely convinced myself to even ride this day, then thought I was going to have a bad day, and suddenly, I had done something like 2,500' of climbing in 15 miles and found myself in a sublime place for nearly an hour. I realized that my mind had shut up long ago and that the Flow State had, at some point, completely infused the ride without my awareness of it."Why today?" I wondered to myself. Ah, then the deconstruction began as it occurred to me that I almost never achieve this state on group rides, this Zen thing is almost exclusively the result of solo outings. The group thing: ongoing distractions, talking, competition, it's about the wills and wants of other people, it's about group dynamics, situational awareness, and sometimes, yes, it's about cat wrangling. The solo ride is actually about none of those things. It's about total freedom and perfect harmony with myself and nobody else. That might sound selfish, but you know what? I seek that out, I embrace it when it happens. I see how group riding---especially ride leading, club politics, conflicting personalities and egos, and the myriad other issues and responsibilities that have over time attached themselves to me like sucking Remora fish, have distorted my personal vision of what cycling is or should be. Seeing as how my last blog was about the Death Ride, at this point I should also say that these "epic" style event rides of distance, endless pedaling hours, record climbing, personal bests, herds of people, personal hardships, elemental challenges and the like have never rewarded me with a Zen-like state akin to my most memorable, and far shorter, solo rides. Sure, there is the unmatched feeling of satisfaction after completing epic rides, but very rarely during the ride itself. Perhaps one has to do these kinds of rides in order to break through mental and physical barriers to get to the place where cycling nirvana occurs without trying but rather by just doing. By just letting go. The team group rides have many rewards for me, and I've had many moments with my friends where great feelings of bonding and sharing of the moments were had, but for sheer cycling transcendence, make mine solo please.
Yours with a left-hand roadie wave,