"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Sunday, May 10, 2009

California's toughest century? (part 1)

In honor of Mothers' Day, to test the genes for perseverance I like to think I inherited, and in pilgrimage to the area where she grew up, I finished the 100 mile Tour of the Unknown Coast on Saturday. I rode my bike at least 98.5 - 99 of those miles, and hiked a little bit on the hill they call the Wall. More about that later. Here we are heading out of the town of Ferndale, the dairy heartland of Humboldt County (the cows there really do look pretty happy).

Doesn't take long in these parts to get out of town. Here we're taking the back road to Rio Dell. I got to an intersection that can be clearly viewed from my Aunt Merilyn's front porch up on the hill and I waved vigorously but found out later she had gone back to bed. She said she thought about the likelihood that I would wave when I passed, though. Good enough.

Here stopped at the first rest stop near Weott and Humboldt Redwoods State Park. "Avenue of the Giants" country. I like wearing my sushi jersey because I'm shy, and it entertains people and encourages them to talk to me. Though mostly only about sushi and jerseys.
I was pleased with the sandwich choices. Plentiful. I had a tasty little tofu sandwich at this rest stop (from the vegan box) in order to make sure that they saw people eating them. You don't have to be vegan to appreciate having a choice other than lunchmeat or PBJ. Though I like those too.

From the first rest stop we headed further south, where, on not too steep a hill, my chain fell off when I shifted in to my front 'granny gear' chain ring. In the past when this happens it usually results in falling over because I can't get my feet unclipped before I lose all momentum. (Spinning your feet around and around when the chain isn't attached doesn't help at all, but it's hard to stop yourself from doing it.) Happy to report that I did NOT fall over this time, nor the next time about 30 miles down the road, and the mechanic at the lunch stop adjusted it for me so no dropped chains. Good thing, if it had happened on some of those hills, I would definitely have met the asphalt.
Turning west onto Mattole Road (almost rhymes with pothole road) I was glad for the pothole-dodging practice I've had in my training rides. After rattling along for several miles we came to another little rest stop and I topped off my bottles and put on sunscreen, since the morning fog had burned off. I admired this gentleman's mustache and his hat.

Around Mile 40-something came the first big climb of the ride, Panther Gap, with wooded switchbacks climbing steadily for about 2,500 feet. I had agreed with myself ahead of time that it was okay to stop wherever / whenever I wanted to, whether to take pictures or rest. Early in the Panther Gap climb I stopped at a different sort of rest stop -- didn't stay, though.

During my 'attack' of Panther Gap I caught up with a couple women who appeared to be in their late 40s. One had Markleeville Death Ride "Five Pass Finisher" jersey. Jerseys are good conversation starters. I asked her how this ride compares to that one and she said "Oh, this is much easier." The Death Ride is in the Sierras, 129 miles and 15,000+ feet of climbing depending on how much of it you can finish. I'm not (yet) tempted by it. They asked me what my hardest ride had been and I said "This one." They asked how many times I'd done it and I said "Just this time." One of them kindly said, "You're a strong rider, you'll do fine." I made that my mantra for the rest of the ride. I am a strong rider, I'll do fine. I am a strong rider, I'll do fine.

Summit of Panther Gap!

Here I am with the sign marking the top. It's good to be king.

The view as I started the descent down the west side of Panther Gap was lovely. The west side of the hill is much more steep and twisty than was the ascent up the east side, making one both grateful and fearful to ride down it. Earlier a helicopter had flown over, and it turned out it was to pick up a cyclist who had wiped out on one of curves. Everyone knew where the spot was because of the great big red splotch on the road. Reportedly he suffered a broken arm and cuts to his forehead, hence the splotch, but it looked worse than it was. By the time I passed that spot all I saw was the splotch. It was not a good place to try to stop for a picture.

At the foot of the treacherous Panther Gap descent was the quaint and curious forgotten town(?) of Honeydew. They have a cute little store and some large pickup trucks there. Not sure what goes on in Honeydew but I think something does.

To be continued...

1 comment:

Bellabell said...

Wonderful post, Emily! I enjoyed every word of it until we came to the red splotch. Now I'm tempted to join your Aunt Merilyn. As for you, I have one word for you: Brava!