16 riders (12 men, 4 women), 121 miles, 10,000', 3 flats, a few sprinkles, tacky dirt, lush green grasses, wildflowers, 1 cougar skeleton. That's the short story of the Three County - Four Hill Ride.
The Four Hills climbed are Geysers, Old Toll, Hopland Grade, and Mountain House.
Dave left the start in Healdsburg one hour before our group to get a head start. At 8:00 AM 10 more riders left the start, heading for Geysers. Conditions were beautiful, with a mix of bright sun, puffy clouds, light fog, and also some darker, threatening clouds.
The temperature dripped as we climbed Geysers, but the cool weather was comfortable given the effort. Jennie pretty much dropped the entire group on the first Geysers climb, but the male members of the species faired just a little bit better on the second hump.
Descending Geysers, Jennie was laughing at the contrast of road conditions on that stretch, from smooth, wide pavement with center double yellow, to narrow, potholed single lane, to bumpy dirt, with a few significant slumps in the pavement thrown in for good measure.
At Geysers and River Road, we picked up the "Cloverdale Crew," Trudi, Catherine, and Nick. And we lost Steve, who'd had enough after Geysers. But wait... there's more. Up the road, also starting in Cloverdale, was Darren.
Despite closed lanes for repair along the 8 mile stretch of Hwy 101, it wasn't really any worse than usual, and not too unpleasant on the bikes. Unfortunately, one rider got a flat on this stretch, followed by a second, unrelated flat. The bulk of the group carried on to our stop at the store in Hopland... no sense in having the entire group waiting along Hwy 101. Darren was waiting for us at the store. At this point it began to rain lightly, and skies were looking ominous.
After a regroup and a break in Hopland, we tackled Old Toll Road, a beautiful old road, with a mostly dirt surface. Fortunately, the sprinkles were short lived, and we were treated to absolutely perfect conditions on Old Toll, the best I have ever seen. The descent featured none of the loose dirt normally seen, as the light rain left everything nice and tacky. I caught up with David on the descent, so he was making good progress, holding off the group to about the half way point. Many riders commented on how much fun the dirt descent was — no argument here, I had the time of my life!
Once back on to pavement, we had another regroup planned, but several riders were a bit chilly and wanted to continue on. I let them go and we formed a second group. Unfortunately, the chasing group experienced another flat tire (different rider this time), so this put the "C" Group a further behind the "C/D" group.
The final regroup in Hopland resulted in a similar strategy. With the C group behind, the C/D group wanted to forge ahead and finish the ride. I sent them forward and rode in with the C group. We caught David again on Mountain House, and he was able to finish the ride with our trailing group.
The Cloverdale Contingency finished where they started, while the Healdsburg Homies were all in safe and sound by 6:15 PM. It turned out to be a perfect day for this amazing ride, with just a few sprinkles and dramatic weather. We never got soaked, and while a few riders complained of being a bit chilly while stopped, most were quite comfortable during the day.
Thanks to everyone for riding safely, being social, and accommodating the requirements of riding efficiently in a group.