Sunday, May 4, 2008

Chico Wildflower Century

My friend Gino had invited us to come down to Chico, visit with them, and do the ride. I've wanted to do that ride for quite some time, if only to get the ride jersey; the prettiest cycling jersey ever. And, amazingly enough, Fitz thought he'd like to do a road trip!

Much packing and bicycle cleaning and accessory arrangement. I was taking Bleriot, because, well, I was. And the totally cool new Portland Velo wool jersey. And, of course, Little Pink Bear.

Duffels in the car, and bicycles on the back. Of the Mini. One 7.5 hour drive south later, we were in Chico. We went by the fairgrounds first, to pick up our ride packets. It was HOT. It was not supposed to be that hot, just low 80's. So I bought ride t-shirt as well, because it wasn't supposed to be so HOT.

Fitz and Claire (Count the Bleriots in this picture)

Over to Gino's. He and Claire had not picked up their ride stuff yet, so we unloaded, changed, and all had a nice pootle on the bikes around Chico, eventually ending up at the fairgrounds. Chico is very flat, and full of people on bicycles. Bidwell Park is in the middle, with a dammed-up river going through it (the water is delayed, not kept) for a swimming hole, which looked very, very tempting.

Gino can multitask...

Claire on our pootle through Chino

There was a guy riding a big homemade bike with car tires around the lot. Claire and I got to give it a spin. It must have weighed 150 lbs and had a really high top tube. Someone had to hold it while I got on, but it was very easy to pedal. Steering was different. "Lean!" I AM leaning! "Lean more!". I got to where I could do very big circles.

Riding the Big Toy

Headed back through Bidwell Park, including some of the unpaved trails. Wheee!

We stopped by the Sierra Nevada brewery, but it was very crowded, so went on home, as friends of theirs were coming over for pizza. A fun evening - everyone was filling us in on what we could expect on the ride. One friend had spent the day painting turn markers on the road. Gino had unloaded trucks, and he and Claire spent yet another day with gray paint and a roller, erasing some of the more objectionable writings on the roads.

Up the next morning, strawberry pancakes, and then riding to pick up the route a few miles from the house.

Heading out with Gino in the morning

Our first climb was up Humboldt. The pavement was distressed, but that isn't so bad going up. The top was the meetup point for Gino's friends. Gino was going to do parts of the ride and finish before it got too hot. Fitz was thinking the metric century; I was planning to do the century. Gino and friends vanished down the hill (much smoother pavement), then Fitz, then me. I found Fitz at the bottom, and we headed off toward the Honey Run climb.

Early on the road

Honey Run covered bridge

The road is narrow, and it winds around, with trees shading it. We stopped briefly at a park with a covered bridge, then continued on. The climb became steeper, and the road, even narrower. It was fun, and the views off to the left were great.

Fitz taking a picture

Climbing Honey Run

Questions from fellow riders:
1) are you really from Portland?
2) is that a wool jersey? Aren't you hot?
3) (incredulous tone) you aren't wearing a WOOL jersey, are you?
4) nice fenders!
5) what's with the bear?
(my favorite)
"She's got fenders AND a stuffed animal and she passed us"

Honey Run is truly the road to Paradise. The first rest stop was at a school. Saw two other Rivendells, but mostly the standard collection of fast, nice, often non-steel road bikes. No fenders, as this is California, and it does not rain there much.

Then a fun descent to the point where the routes diverged. Fitz and I waved good-bye to each other, and he headed off to lunch, and I headed off to Table Mountain.

Road shot

First, a fun swooping downhill, then riding through a town and over some watercourses, all circling around this flat-topped geological feature. Then the rest stop at a park on a lake (MY that looked inviting). Pastries and bananas. Not the type of fuel I was needed for the projected stiff climb ahead of me. Fortunately, I had a Salty Sweet Peanut bar in my bag.

Off again. The road wandered up and down. I was starting to wonder when the climb would start... Then it got steep. For variation, it would get steeper for a bit, then just return to steep. Some slow guy would hang out in the lane, making it really hard to pass him. Then I'd pass him on the right (after calling out). He'd get me on the downhill bits, then park himself out in the lane again. He was annoying. Perhaps he was just not having a good ride.

I finally had to pull over in a tiny patch of shade, just to let my heart rate drop from 185. A support car drove by, telling us was only a mile more.

Pause on Table Mountain

Sure enough it was, and the grade eased off a bit, too. Big, flat open area up there. One kind soul waved his hand out and said "that's where the wildflowers would be; they are done for the year".

Me at the Top of Table Mountain

A nice couple in EPA matching jerseys took my picture. Then a nice descent, followed by a much steeper, twistier, not-quite-so-nice descent, a short bit on Hwy 70, then into lunch. I got the very last pate sandwich (it looked like it required less effort to eat), a couple of cookies, and some strawberries. Topped off the water bottle and sports drink, and headed out.

From this point on, the route was flat. Pancake-flat. So I was riding along, and realized I was doing 17-19mph. Now, that's a normal cruising speed for some folks, but certainly not me on the Bleriot! Maybe it was my spiffy new Michelin Axial Raid tires? I finally concluded that we had a tailwind, and proceeded to enjoy every minute of it.

It was still a hot day. I kept drinking water and sports drink. The wool jersey did not make me hot - the breeze blowing though it was really nice.

Arrived at the last rest stop in Durham. I filled my waterbottle with ice, got more sports drink, and ate orange slices as fast as the volunteer was slicing them. Fitz called - he had finished and eaten.

Orchards and Cemetery

Off again, passing lots of orchards and olive groves. Flat, flat, flat :-) Then we turned north and east to curve back into Chico, and got a bit of headwind. More orchards and groves, and cyclists all heading in. I was particularly intriguied by by the red lines painted on the road, and the signs saying "don't drive through here if the red lines are covered by water".

Starting with the descent from Table Mountain, I saw a group of middle-school aged riders, all with matching jerseys (Mr Retzer's Sevvies), and some adults. I asked one of the adults what was up - this was a group of about 15 middle schoolers, some parents, and Mr. Retzer. They rode the century. Pretty amazing!

Then into Chico, and heading south for the fairgrounds. I dropped my bike outside the hall, and went it to eat. The line was very, very long.

Put a fork in me, I'm done

Route markers

Got in line, called Fitz... He was almost just behind me, figuring I'd finish about then. Eventually got some food, and visited with other folks at the table. Then we went back to Gino and Claire's where some people were overly fascinated by the salt marks on my jersey.

It was a hot day

It was then that I learned that the temp was 94...

Off to desalinization, then another try for dinner at the Sierra Nevada brewery. Fitz: "you can eat another dinner?" Me: "yes". We all stuffed ourselves in the Mini. I think Claire wants one. She and Gino were negotiating which vehicle they'd get replace :-)

Sierra Nevada Brewery bar

Another excellent beer (Summerfest), then dinner. Back home, then we all vegged in front of The Last Samurai.

It was a wonderful visit with Gino and Claire, and a great trip all around!

All the pics are here


Gino Zahnd said...

I just stumbled upon this post Googling 'Portland Velo wool jersey'. nice writeup! :-)

grandy said...

I just stumbled upon this post- Nice pics!I live near Table Mountain in Oroville.
I'm a steel bike riding, wool wearing person myself.

Anonymous said...

I use wool long johns and luv um...really do a great job of controlling the funk! LOL I am a steel salsa riding gal myself but lookin' to get a bit fancier bike for this ride in May. Thanks for the post!