Even though it's late in the season and many cyclists are already starting to taper off from the big rides of Spring and Summer, a few hardy SRCC members are still out there, tackling the big rides. Case in point is Joyce Chang, who knocked off the Knoxville Double on Saturday, September 27. She sent in this report about her adventure…
Last time I rode a double century was the TT in 1999 (can you say “Has Been?”). Barley Forsman’s stepmom Tina inspired me a few years ago. She told me she started cycling when she turned 50, and then started doing 5 doubles a year after she turned 52! So 2014 appeared to be “the year” for me. The stars of bike training were aligned this past summer when I rode a couple of double metrics and in early September, I rode Allan Reeves’ Pyrenees Tour (1000 mi, 100,000’ climbing in 12 days). On the Mt Tam 200K, I met my new BFF Kris Jones, during which she and I hatched the plan to train and ride the Knoxville DC together.
Bill Carroll, a 3-time veteran of the Knoxville, warned me that I should buddy up with someone who knew the course, particularly in the beginning, because the route can be hard to follow in the dark. Kris recruited her friend Don, a tall guy who has ridden a bunch of doubles, PBP, as well as the KDC 4 previous times, so we weren’t going to be directionally challenged. I also printed out and carried the course map along with elevation profile that I had downloaded from the ridewithgps website. To familiarize myself with the course, I drove the final 40 miles along Hwy 128 on my way to Vacaville. Also, given that there’s about 13 hours of daylight in late September, I came fully equipped with handlebar-mounted light (thank you, Bonnie!), helmet light (250 lumens!), and second Garmin (my daughter’s). So I was prepared for this one.
The strategy went beautifully. We ripped through the first two rest stops. Cut-off time at Rest Stop #2 (mile 70.5) at Lake Berryessa was 11:30AM, and we got there at 10:00AM. The Knoxville DC gets its moniker for the 37-mile stretch of road that goes from Lake Berryessa to Lower Lake. Along the way, the name morphs from Knoxville Road into Morgan Valley Road, but it’s basically the same road. We rattled along 2 miles of rough road, when a road sign warned “Rough Road Next 10 Miles.” What we were riding on already? However, true to its word, the road did get worse, as if that were even possible. We traversed 3 cement creek crossings that dried up this year; Lou Salz warned me that cyclists fall here during wet years. The canyon broadened as we climbed to the water stop at mile 92.3, affording wide vistas of dried amber hills and scrub oak. We passed a couple of mines along the way, which appeared to be defunct. Along Knoxville Road, I rode a bit with Chuck Bramwell, himself, father of the California Triple Crown. He started riding doubles 24 years ago, and has 112 double centuries under his belt. Dude! That’s a lot of riding, I say. Chuck replies that just means riding 2-3 doubles a year; the man is losing it – I can do the math; it’s more like 4-5 doubles a year, but uncharacteristically I refrained from correcting him. Anyway, he entertained me with his large Camelbak and transistor radio playing 60’s tunes -- definitely not a weight weenie.
At Lower Lake (Rest Stop #3), we made sure to eat lunch sparingly because we knew about the Siegler Canyon Climb up to Loch Lomond, having experienced it on an earlier training ride. So it was just one burrito and some cantaloupe for me. I had my second sandwich from lunch properly aging in my pocket to be enjoyed at Rest Stop #4 at the Langtry Winery. By this time we had 3 other women on our train. (Single guy alert: if you’d like to meet women, show up to a double century and offer to pull the ENTIRE time.)
We got to Rest Stop #5 at 6:15 PM with 40 miles to go. At that stage my Garmin showed that we had already climbed 10,832 feet, so in theory only about 2000’ of climbing remained. Don and I left the Moore Creek Park Rest Stop, with Kris saying she’d catch up with us. We hung a left at 128 and went up the canyon a mile, waiting there for Kris to catch up. (You get no cell reception here.) We spent 23 precious daylight minutes there waiting for Kris, after which I made Don backtrack to look for Kris. I forged ahead, figuring I’d find a group to ride with on Hwy 128. No such luck. So I rode Hwy 128 in the dark pretty much by myself. Two groups passed me, one going too fast for me even to consider hopping on. The second group of two guys appreciated my headlight, as with it you can see well ahead, particularly important on the fast descents. They slowed a bit so I could hang with them. However, I still couldn’t keep pace with them up Cardiac Hill, and so from there to the final rest stop, I rode alone.
Before this double, I vowed never to ride a double that I didn’t think I could complete within the daylight hours. I changed my mind. It is SO MUCH FUN! It’s like being a kid again, without a care in the world (other than being creamed by a car). In any case, I arrived at the final rest stop at 8:30PM. No Don, no Kris. Half an hour later, Don rolled in alone, still no Kris. Finally at 9:03 PM, I got a text from Kris: “We’re lost.” Phew, now I knew she wasn’t alone. So Don and I waited. Hold on: another text came in at 9:23PM. It’s from Liz Sinna; she’s asking me how it went. I tell her we’re still riding. Don’t use the past tense! Finally, Kris and Francisco showed up, having gone 10 bonus miles back to the Silverado Trail. WTF! They went south on 121, not north on 128 towards Winters. Despite the wrong turn, Kris was in good spirits, and she was ready to finish. We left the final rest stop around 9:45 with only 13 miles to go and 700’ of climbing. Considering it was dark, we rode in a pretty fast paceline with Don leading and picked up a couple of stragglers. We rolled into the finish at the Pena Adobe gazebo by 10:30, and basked in the glory of having finished a double, Kris’s first. Despite the pathetically late time we arrived, my Garmin showed an average speed of 14.3 mph with only 14 hours of ride time. Obviously, we were off the bike a LOOONNG time.
At the post-ride dinner, we sat with some of the other finishers, many of whom knew each other. Among them, Dzung and Francisco flattered us by saying they saw us earlier on Knoxville Road and complimented our climbing. They casually mentioned that, by the way, there’s still the Powerhouse double, which is in two weeks, and then the Solvang Autumn for the Triple Crown. Hmmmm… I’ve got to buy a light; I can’t keep borrowing Bonnie’s. Kris and I have a new plan.