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  • Sunday, April 17, 2016 4:38 PM | Dennis Prior

    Hello all,

    We had a great ride today going over Harrison Grade, Coleman Valley to the coast, Bay Hill,Joy rd, and back over Occidental rd.  We had I believe over 20 riders at the start of the ride. Dave and Carolyn Neal, Robin, Susan N, Karen Gouldilocks, Buck, Andy, Larry, Mark G, Lorenzo, and myself of the Mountain Goats and then Bob O, Melissa, John A, Johann, Lynn B., Brian, Jeff, "Oh so lucky Samson", and one other fellow who works for PG&E who's name I can't remember and I apologize for that….and maybe one or two others.  We had a number of riders who had never been over Bay Hill or the joy or riding up Joy Rd. so it's always nice to see people try new terrain.

    We had a great weather with some amazing views of the coast.  The group got split into several groups after Harrison grade and for the most part it stayed that way all the way back with a big regroup at the town of Bodega and then gradually in groups of 2-4 everyone rolled out at different times and headed back to Ragle over "Oh so Joyful Rd.".

    We did have one very scary incident on Coleman Valley Rd.  Once we dropped down on Coleman Valley past Joy Rd. and then started the steep climbs up to the top this white Volvo station wagon came flying down the mountain and I mean flying down!  Way too fast and blasted his horn at us and we were already on the right had side of the road. That move even incited Karen to a possible swear word!  I commented that at least his front fender didn't have any lycra on it which meant he hadn't hit anyone in front of us…..but he did manage to run Samson off the road up ahead of us apparently.  As we got further up the hill there were a group of about 6 riders on the side of the road and we thought maybe some one had a flat or mechanical but apparently the Volvo ran Samson off the road and over a barbed wire fence and into the bushes.  He only ended up with a scratch on the back of his leg….and hopefully not any poison oak…Hence the name "Oh so lucky Samson".  We all couldn't believe that was all that happened to him or his bike.  We all felt very lucky for him.  

    So with all that being said he do we contact in law enforcement to let them know this happened because I'll bet he lives up that road somewhere or somewhere near by for him to be driving that fast down that stretch of road.

    I hope everyone has a great weekend and keeps piling on those April Alpina elevations!

    Enjoy the day,


  • Monday, March 21, 2016 4:38 PM | Bob Owen

    My first Apple Cider Century and great to see the large crowd gathering at Ragle. And my first time doing one hundred on an unsupported ride, so I ask Susan Noble what she is carrying in the way of food. She shows me a handful of energy sources and welcomes me to “our world.” Put some fig bars and gel shots in my pocket and I’m good to go. Also first time riding to Cazedero, up Fort Ross Rd., and down Meyers Grade through Jenner to 116. The crowd gives me comfort in that I can do this! Talking with Robin Z. takes my mind off my internal doubts. Looking over to my right I see the CD riders lined up, almost as if they are at a start line, although they are facing the crowd, not the exit. There are bunches of people clustered around Bridgette for the AB option and Dennis for a shorter B pace option.

    Bill stands on the truck and gets everyone’s attention. How much can you say to more than 50 riders? How much do they hear? The CD group is released and MarC takes off with about a dozen, maybe more. Wonder what it’s like to ride "D pace on the climbs and C pace on the flats?” Is that like a constant speed over the whole ride? I think, “Now that’s a way to cull the herd.”

    Bill leads us out. A huge group heading out from Ragle; stop signs and transitions help to spread the riders out. At Graton Rd., someone turns left and a bunch of others follow. I yell out, “Wrong way!”, and keep on straight. Robin and I ride over Green Valley and to the first rest stop in Monte Rio. He rides on where I stop to use the restroom. I don’t see Robin again. There’s a cluster of riders at the park in Monte Rio, getting relief and refueling. I decide to go on alone at this point as I’m sure I’ll be passed on the Fort Ross climb. Along River Rd I catch up to Joyce and Sherry and ride with them to Cazedero, where Sherry demonstrates the water stop etiquette by purchasing a half gallon of water and sharing it with me and Joyce. The remainder is left on the steps of the store for the next group of riders. I ask if they mind if I hang with them and they agree without hesitation. Dennis arrives just as we are about to leave. 

    We start to climb. I concentrate on breathing while Joyce and Sherry are having a conversation most of the way up. I feel fortunate that they have each other to talk with so I can stay with them. At Meyers Grade we regroup and head out again. Cows in the road! We slow and ride around a bunch of cows who are on the wrong side of the fence. Joyce and I quick-stop to add a layer before we descend into the mist on the lower half of Meyers Grade. A quick regroup at Hwy 1 and we’re off to Jenner. The mist is gone and we have great views of the ocean and coast. Some pace line work and we make it to Duncans Mills where we meet up with a faster bunch. I eat a slice of pizza, a cinnamon pastry and drink water. Del Bogart and Lynn Best decide to join us. We ask Bonnie too, but she heads out before we are ready.

    Now that the big climb is behind us, it’s supposed to be easier from here, right? Well, I fall off the back on the BoHo ‘climb’. I catch up and pass Del stopped on the side of the road as his chain dropped, so when he catches me, we ride together through Occidental and down the other side. We catch Joyce, Sherry and Lynn just before reaching Freestone, with me drafting behind Del most of the way. A quick stop for water at Wildflour Bakery and we’re off again. On Franklin School around mile 73 I’m falling back again on the uphill. At Whitaker Bluff we stop to talk with Bill who is taking on some calories and enjoying the view, which allows me to catch the group again.

    Arrive at Tomales and we scatter between the store and the bakery for whatever we need. Bonnie joins us, but as Del and I are lounging, and talking, in the deck chairs, we notice that Joyce, Sherry and Bonnie are gone. We strap on our helmets and with Lynn, set out to catch up with the women before turning left on Twin Bridges. Mission accomplished. Then we hit the Carmody bump and I fall off the back again. Legs are hurting but I keep pushing. Over the top and flying down the other side. I catch the group on Bloomfield and we are, more or less, together all the way back to Ragle. On Pleasant Hill Rd., waiting for a green light at Bodega, I say to Del, “I’m pretty sure I’m going to make it now”, and I was right.

    Thank you Bill for leading your 23rd, and my 1st, Apple Cider Century! Thank you Sherry, Joyce, Del, Lynn, Bonnie and Robin Z. for the companionship on the ride and making it so much FUN!

  • Sunday, February 21, 2016 2:36 PM | Steve Saxe

    (I wrote this last spring after an especially memorable solo ride in the Mother Lode.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed the ride.)

    I was five miles into a strenuous three-mile climb and questions were starting to pop into my head.  The longtime, hardcore, local cyclist I met at the park five miles back described this as a three-mile climb.  He didn’t seem to be a lunatic, but maybe three miles to a local is actually much longer to a visitor like me.  Then there was the sun – it was on the wrong side of the road.  I should have been going west and it was on my right (and I’m not in Australia).  And finally, I recognized a carport with three RVs in it.  Yesterday, as my wife and I were driving back to the inn, they appeared on the left.  Now they appeared on the right.  There was only one logical conclusion:  I was going the wrong way. 

    Cycling in new places always carries a sense of adventure – that’s one of the main attractions.  To fully enjoy the encounter, however, I maintain one should stay attentive to gentle nudges in new directions.  My wife and I were taking a few days away and decided to explore California’s Mother Lode.  I brought my bike and planned to take a couple of rides, as I find nothing helps me experience a place like cycling it.  We had scouted some of these roads in the car the day before, but I hadn’t settled on a bike route.  I wasn’t sure how much energy I might muster at this altitude on a lazy vacation day and I didn’t know the area, so there was some uncertainty from the beginning, with which I was at peace. 

    I am, unlike my park acquaintance, definitely not a longtime, hardcore cyclist.  I came to cycling only four years ago, in my mid-to-late fifties, and still haven’t developed the killer instinct of serious riders.  So when presented with the lovely Sierra foothills, no matter how scenic or enticing, I hedge my bets and keep my route options open.  I had plotted out rides, for example, that spanned 45 miles 4,000 feet of climbing, but more as an academic exercise to be left to the serious student.  And even though I had recently stepped up my training, I was more in the 30 miles and 2,000-foot camp myself.  2,500 feet was my daily personal best and I didn’t feel compelled to set any new records while on vacation.

    With only my first destination fixed, I made the gentle 1100-foot climb from Sutter Creek, where we were staying, to the tiny town of Volcano, riding along burbling Sutter Creek.  Mid-week morning traffic was light, the scenery was lovely, and the pavement ranged from excellent to passable.  As I climbed the last, steeper section into town, I was breathing pretty hard and thinking I’d just rest a bit at the little park in town and head back down the same road, meet my wife for lunch, and go back to lazy vacationing.  Eleven hundred feet seemed like a creditable accomplishment while on vacation, and I really didn’t feel like knocking myself out.  So I made a quick loop down Volcano’s main street (100 yards, it didn’t take long), and started wheeling my bike toward the park gate for a rest.

    “How many miles you got so far today?”  I looked around and located the voice coming from across the street.  Another cyclist, helmet and water at his side, was taking a rest at a picnic table by the post office.  I glanced at my bike computer.  “Twelve and a half,” I called back, redirecting my bike across the street.  “You?”  “Twenty-eight,” he said, “and it’ll be about 50 by the time I get home.”  I sat down across the table from him, broke out my water bottle, and we fell into the comfortable conversation that complete strangers can have when they meet cycling.

    My companion, it turned out, was not only a dedicated cyclist but a local expert, and chatty.  He seemed to know the county from one end to the other, not only the cycling routes but the inns, restaurants, businesses, and people far and wide.  “We have really good wines, not the cabs like you have in Sonoma, but good chardonnays and zinfandels.  And the restaurant at the inn around the corner is fantastic, it’s run by the same guy who runs Taste in Plymouth,” and so on.  “So,” I said, “what do you do when you’re not cycling?”  My standard conversation-opener on club rides.  “I’m a garbage man,” he said.  “I own the garbage company in Amador County.  We serve everyone from 100 feet to 8,800 feet in altitude!”  “Ah, so that’s how you came to know the county so well,” I observed.  Just then, a spiffy, new, green garbage truck came around the corner and roared down Main Street in front of us.  He smiled and pointed at the truck.  “I bought that truck three months ago - $350,000!” 

    I asked him about various routes back to Sutter Creek.  He described four or five different ways to get there, then drew my attention to Daffodil Hill.  He pointed north.  “Just go around the corner there and stay on that road.  It’s about three miles, then you meet Shake Ridge Road, turn left and you’ll go right back into Sutter Creek.  It’s not too bad, about 10-11% grade at times.   My buddies and I race up that road in the summer.” 

    I felt refreshed by then and inspired by my garbage-man acquaintance, so as he put on his helmet and jumped on his posh red-on-red Specialized, I resolved to take on Daffodil Hill, sight unseen. 

    It was a climb, alright, but I took it at my own pace and was feeling okay.  The pavement was smooth and traffic was light.  The temperature was perfect – cool in the shade and warm in the sun.  To distract myself from the breathlessness and burning in my legs, I forced my attention to the scenery around me.  It was beautiful.  Creeks carved up a landscape of chaparral and tree-covered slopes.  Ranches were spacious and houses were sparse.  The road flattened out and I noticed a well-kept rustic fence to my right, separating a lush meadow from the road.  There were a couple dozen picnic tables dotting the meadow, and I wondered if it was a public park, maybe somewhere to rest and have some water.  As I approached the entrance, however, there was no sign.  It seemed to be just someone’s elaborately furnished back yard.  Puzzled by the incongruity, I looked back over my shoulder to be sure I didn’t miss anything, and rode on.  My odometer said I must be close to the three-mile mark so I started looking for the left turn at Shake Ridge Road.

    Around the next bend I saw another long, steep climb.  Taking a deep breath, I shifted down and headed on up.  The crest leveled off briefly and then led into another long climb.  I dropped my head, muttered an oath, and started doubting my acquaintance’s judgment of distance – that was a long three miles!  At the next crest, there was some blessed level ground, so I shifted up and tooled along absently as those questions started popping into my head.  I glanced at the odometer again – five miles.  Three-mile climb?  Why is the sun on my right?  Haven’t I seen those RVs before?

    I pulled over on the gravel by some mailboxes and opened the mapping application on my phone.  I pushed “my location” and the glowing dot slid smoothly into the middle of an empty grid.  No data service up here.  I inspected the mailboxes closely, hoping a street name might give me a clue.  Nothing.  I considered knocking on a door, but the gates all had “Posted – No Trespassing” signs on them.  This isn’t a holler in West Virginia, but there was no point getting shot just because I don’t know where I am.  A few cars went by, but none stopped at a nearby driveway. 

    I could simply have retraced my steps – I was sure that would get me back to the inn.  But that’s no fun – I’d already seen those places!  I stood there for a few minutes, looking around and trying to come up with a plan.  Nothing was coming to me.  Then I heard a roar in the distance, from the east, and it was getting louder.  Lumbering over the hill came a huge, spiffy, new, green garbage truck.  It was my acquaintance’s employee in his new truck!  It was stopping to empty cans along the road as it made its way toward me.  I clipped in and sprinted across the street to where the truck was about to stop.  The green monster ground to a halt and the driver hopped out to queue up the can for the mechanical lifter.  I waved and he stopped to look at me.  “Hey,” I shouted over the noise, “I’m lost.  What road is this?”  “Shake Ridge,” he said.  “Where you trying to get to?”  I told him and he directed me back the way I came, with instructions.  I considered mentioning my meeting with his boss, but that would make it complicated, so I just thanked him, turned around, and started back down the hill. 

    A few minutes later, I was on the screaming 40-mile-an-hour descent, giddy with joy as I reaped the fruits of my climbing labor, and I started wondering how the heck I missed my turn.  At the bottom of the hill, I see ahead, clear as day, the intersection I must have ridden right through.  As I approached, the turn to westbound Shake Ridge Road was on my right.  On my left, wouldn’t you know, was a well-kept rustic fence and beyond it a lush meadow dotted with a couple dozen picnic tables.  In my noble, and apparently effective, effort to take my mind off my climbing pains, I had zipped by and completely overlooked the turn home. 

    An hour later, as I rolled back into Sutter Creek and my data service returned, I opened my cycling app to look at the route.  There was the climb to Volcano, the steep climb up Daffodil Hill – oddly missing 350 feet of altitude from the record – and the double-back on Shake Ridge, of course.  But then I noticed the headline:  32 miles and almost 3,500 feet of climbing – a new personal best!  And I wasn’t completely exhausted so my wife and I could still go sightseeing in Jackson that afternoon! 

    I took off that morning with nothing more in mind than my first destination and the intent to enjoy a bike ride.  I ended up meeting a one garbage man who pointed the way out, and another garbage man who pointed the way back.  I saw some gorgeous country and, owing to the human brain’s miraculous ability to overlook the obvious, unintentionally set a new personal best for hill climbing.  Mission accomplished and then some, I would say. 

    One never knows where the road will lead.  Two wheels, an attitude open to serendipity, and two garbage men can show the way.

  • Wednesday, February 17, 2016 10:50 AM | Bridgette DeShields (Administrator)

    Great ride with absolutely gorgeous weather with about 30 riders making their way from Healdsburg to Calistoga. For several riders, it was their first time on this route and all enjoying the beauty of Knight's Valley. After a stop at Calistoga Roastery, we headed back. See below for a video of our departure from our regroup at Jimtown.


    A couple more images from the ride below - top is contestants for the "best use of red" - John Mills won for decorating his bike; bottom is John providing a lecture on how to pass safely - "on your left!"


  • Sunday, February 14, 2016 9:52 PM | Sarah Schroer

    It certainly didn't feel like winter today, but at least the two hills on today's ride lived up to expectations.  No one was complaining about the unseasonably warm temperatures (or the steep hills), and we all enjoyed the brilliant yellow of mustard in the vineyards in the Napa valley.

    Nine riders assembled at the start this morning. There were some of the usual suspects, as well as a few new or seldom seen faces.  For trivia lovers, this Valentine's Day ride included five club members under the age of 50, and three under the age of 40.  Of course, those over 50 put in a strong performance as always.

    The route took us from Howarth Park to Calistoga Road, with an "insignificant" climb that taught us all to pace ourselves for the rest of the ride.  Then Hill #1:  St Helena Road over Spring Mountain.  We regrouped in St Helena for a frisky paceline trip to Yountville.  After a brief pit stop, the pace was leisurely along level ground toward Napa, then picked up again on the gradual uphill of Dry Creek Road.  And on to Hill #2:  the back side of Trinity.  After that, it was all downhill back to Santa Rosa . . .well, not quite, but our tired legs were glad that the big hills were behind us.

    Thanks to a great group of competent, friendly and courteous riders for coming out on a Sunday and leaving loved ones at home!
  • Monday, February 08, 2016 9:48 AM | Bridgette DeShields (Administrator)
    Just a quick ride report and thanks to Bridgette for today's ride out of the Barlow. Great Ride! It was a chilly morning that I was quite surprised to have so many people show up to ride. So many in fact we decided to split into two groups. I took the original  route with over 20 happy participants on a nice spirited AB pace ride up and over Cherry Ridge and down a pothole filled Occidental  and Green Hill roads. There were quite a few large craters on the decent. I stood in about a foot deep one at the corner to help warn others of the danger of getting swallowed up in the abyss. On to the rollers of Westside/Eastside and wonderful treats at Cafe Noto. Pretty much a sprint back to the Barlow finished the day. Thanks again Bridgette for organizing the Saturday rides and helping make them such a success. I can only assume that the "flat" group Bridgette led had a great day as well. I think overall we had 30+ riders in the A and AB groups. 

  • Monday, March 03, 2014 12:28 PM | Robert Redmond
    from Sarah Schroer - Having heard much about the Grasshopper rides, when I found myself with a free Saturday I decided to check out one episode of this "Adventure Series". The weather forecast was for rain when I registered for the event last week, but it cleared up at the last minute.

    There were about 240 riders at the start in Occidental, the glitterati up front and me towards the back. After a mass start at 10am, the group spread out going up Coleman Valley Road, and by the time we reached the first descent the crowd had thinned to a safe level. Bad cross winds going south on Hwy 1 to Bodega Bay made it hard to keep the bike going straight, and became bad headwinds once we turned east toward Valley Ford. I was in a good sized group, so mostly protected from the winds. Middle Road's hill and Fallon's rollers shelled many riders off the group, and by the time we reached Chileno Valley we were down to six -- 4 women and two guys. We worked well together, sharing pulls all the way to Wilson Hill. I got through the water stop quickly, just grabbed my bottles and took off by myself along the Marshall-Petaluma Road. I was soon caught by a freight train of fifteen riders, including some Team Swifters, who pulled me at a fast pace to the base of Marshall Wall. That group shattered on the climb, and once over the top I found myself alone again and running out of steam, so I settled into maintenance pace up to Tomales. The big group caught me on Hwy 1 and left me behind. Another group caught me on Franklin School Rd, but I couldn't latch on. I took it easy from Valley Ford to Joy Road, no other riders in sight, then put my head down and started up the hill. I was out of water at this point, and just about out of gas with legs threatening to cramp, but a test ride up Joy earlier in the week helped me greatly -- I knew just how much further I had to go. The finish was somewhat anticlimactic -- no cheering fans this time -- just a bucket of Cokes and bags of chips laid out on Charles Beck's front lawn.

    Overall this event was a good experience, but not much fun. The good experience part was the novelty of riding with a very strong field of cyclists, including a fair number of women, and the challenge of riding for a time goal. The not much fun part was that for most of the ride, the pace was slightly above my comfort level, and the strong headwinds kept us in a well-ordered paceline which put a damper on friendly conversation. I paid for the fast pace of the first 50 miles by watching my average speed drop over the last 25 miles of the ride. According to the bike computer, my average heart rate was about 10 beats higher than usual for a long ride. I missed my time goal by about 15 minutes, finishing in 5:15. Still not a bad time for a tough ride, and according to Charles Beck only one hour and twenty minutes behind Levi :)

    from Ken Cabeen - The wind foiled me shortly after the turn onto Hwy 1 off Coleman Valley. I was with a pretty fast group out of Occidental and over to the coast that I felt fairly confident of staying with. But just a little way down Hwy 1, the SE wind combined with my fatigue to pick me off the back of the group, and I watched helplessly as they pulled away. The direction of that wind made it impossible to draft, with everyone having to stay to the right. I don't think I've ever missed those prevailing coastal NW winds quite so much! I struggled on my own until being picked up by a group of twenty or so near the turn off to Doran Beach. In this group were two young boys, one of them really tiny and 11 years old! Future pros in the making. I stayed with this group as we made our way to the base of Wilson Hill, losing some and picking some up as we went. Everyone was together at the rest stop on top, but I left early wanting to keep moving and not stiffen up. I figured they'd all catch me somewhere before the climb on Marshall. I must have gone into a different gear then, as I decided to ride as fast a sustainable pace as I could, without soft pedaling to help the group catch me quicker. I figured maybe I'd stay ahead of them and improve my finishing time, but if they caught me, so be it; I'd be back in the company of a group I'd enjoyed riding with. I then began reeling in riders who'd gone ahead of me at Hwy 1, and by the time I got to the base of Marshall, I was still alone, except for very brief company of the riders I continued to catch and pass. I caught up to a pod of four a few miles after the turn onto Hwy 1 and we worked together to Tomales, where I left them on the rise leading to Franklin School Rd, passing more and more riders as I went. I saw a bunch more riders along the rollers to Valley Ford, where I was very happy to arrive, still feeling strong and the end seemingly in sight. I caught up to another small group waiting for the left turn onto Bodega Hwy, and we effortlessly sailed with tail winds along this very fast section of the ride, which belied the suffering that lie shortly ahead on the final gauntlet of Joy Rd. This is a tough climb, especially after almost 80 miles of going hard, and I again wondered out loud who named this road, to which another rider replied, "The guy who went DOWN it all the time!" Thankfully though, it's never quite as tough as I build it up in my mind to be. I reeled in another five or so riders, catching my last one around 50 yards from the finish, who voiced his sincere agreement with my utterance of "Hallelujah!" The finishing area scene at Charles' place was very cool, and I thank him very much for making his place available. I chatted with him and some other riders after enjoying a tour of his studio full of beautiful art work over a much welcomed Coke. I headed off for the ride home when I began to get cold, and ended up with 114 miles for the day. I was really, really shot after this ride. As with the other Hoppers I've done, I mostly don't realize how hard I've ridden them until after it's over. They seem to push me into another degree of effort and riding that I'm not overtly conscious of at some level while in the act of riding. The legs and lungs are very aware however! These rides are a blast, and I heartily recommend at least trying one if you've never done it. There are riders spanning the spectrum of ability, so there's always someone to ride with.
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