June 2008


Today my plan is to assemble my bike and take it out for a test ride. It is market day in the nearby town of Mortagne Au Perce however so the plan for this morning is to do some shopping and see the sights. Shopping is hard work though and I am sure that coffee and pastries will be required to sustain us. My last visit to Mortagne was in the dark of night and the streets were flooded due to the rain. I must say it is a much more inviting little village in the light of day with coffee and food!

The bike assembly went well and once I got it together I was able to take an easy 40 kilometer spin through the nearby towns and villages. There is a new church nearby our place with a working convent that was quite scenic. The locals don’t seem to think much of it though. After all it is a copy of a much more famous church elsewhere and isn’t that old really. It was built in 1850. The weather was cool but humid and felt warmer than it actually was. All that was left to do now was pack my gear on the bike and get started.

The panniers I am using are pretty small so there is not a lot of room for extras which is fine. It will keep me from bringing along too much stuff! Of course it may also keep me from bringing the things I need as well, but I think I have the right gear with me. Perhaps the only thing I have an excess of are maps and route guides! I have multiple copies of several different types with quite a bit of detail. It’s probably a little too much but I can always ditch them later.

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Arrived safely at CDG and picked up our rental car. Here is where the adventure stepped up just one notch, trying to navigate our way out of Paris on the motorway! It is kind of a controlled chaos and things are fine as long as you know where you are going. This is where we get our first small taste of adventure.

Traffic around Paris is always a challenge even when not at rush hour. We were just at the tale end of rush and had some delays. Soon though we were on the motorway and headed towards the town of Mortagne Au Perche. Our final destination was just outside the little village of St. Mard de Reno where we will be staying with a friend. We have a studio apartment at our disposal during our stay and our host acts as an occasional tour guide as well as restaurant translator. This greatly reduces our chances of ordering tripe at local restaurants which puts us more at ease.

Mortagne was one of the first controles on the PBP route and what I remember most about it was all of the water running through the streets as we passed through before dawn last August. It seems to be much drier this time around! The weather is great, alternating between sun, clouds and light rain. It’s just the perfect mix to keep you confused and guessing wrong as to what to wear. I think I will put the fenders on the bike based on these observations.

Tomorrow (Saturday) I will get down to business on getting ready for my ride. I have to assemble the bike and test ride it as well as pack my gear. Hopefully I have brought everything I need. If not I will just have to make do.

Okay, the adventure has begun. You might think I would be referring to a cycling adventure or some physical effort but I am not. Most adventures begin with the basics of travel. Sometimes getting to your adventure can be an adventure in itself. So far however things have been going pretty well and we have few complaints. Our Delta flight to NY was on time and we were able to enjoy our time between flights in the Air France lounge at JFK. We are now over the Atlantic just off the coast of Newfoundland and our biggest challenge has been trying to tell which was the fruit compote and which was the Foie Gras at dinner. I think there will be greater challenges to come.

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This is a disclaimer that the following blog entries are not being posted in a timely manner, but they should at least be in chronological order. Lack of internet access as well as the rigors of travel are taking their toll on my ability to make my posts in real time. As a result of this lag more of a fictional component may creep in to my entries and I ask for your forgiveness in advance. Just consider it a little artistic license under the influence of a little too much French wine!

Merci!

Another day another 400 k, that’s pretty much how 7 randonneurs approached this day’s ride. All but 1 rider was experienced at this distance and 3 in the group were using this ride as preparation for the Cascade 1200 in a few weeks. It was good to have a solid group of riders.

The route immediately started on a climb right out of Hurricane and then continued east into the rising sun. About 20 miles out riders crossed the state line and into Arizona. The Arizona RBA might have been offended for this encroachment but she was on the ride and offered no complaints to me. The towns of Colorado City, Pipe Springs, Fredonia and Kanab all wheeled by without incident. Just past Kanab the climbing started again up to Coral Pink Sand Dunes junction followed by a swift descent to Mt. Carmel junction. After that, more climbing and more exotic locations, Orderville, Glendale and Todd’s Junction all marked points on the climb up the Grand Staircase, the predominant geographic feature of this region. This passage follows the course of the Virgin River up to its headwaters beginning with the deep red sandstone common to the Zion area on up to the white cliffs and Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. Once at Todd’s Junction however you enter into the Great Basin and begin following the Sevier River for the next 50 miles. The elevation is now over 7000 feet and even though it is June, temperatures are quite pleasant. Ponderosa Pines and green meadows are the rule in this area.

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Just outside the town of Hatch we had our first incident, a call for assistance. It seems that one rider had eaten something bad and was throwing up at the side of the road. The RBA rescue squad responded and within an hour or so was on the scene. Apparently if you have an open flask of gel, keep it in your car for a few years and then eat it you will get an upset tummy.  I guess even experienced randonneurs can learn something new occasionally.

The weather continued to be good and even the winds were often favorable. Once riders turned south again along I-15 they had a fast section with a good tailwind. That gave them a break and a chance to rest a bit while cruising along at 25 mph. Darkness fell again somewhere between Parowan and Cedar City for most riders but they still kept a good pace.  From here on in with the exception of a bit of interstate highway the roads were mostly quiet rural roads with little traffic. That made one less thing to worry about for this tired bunch riding in the dark.

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Back in Hurricane at RBA headquarters I began my vigil, waiting for the riders to show up. I was hoping not to get any more calls for assistance so I didn’t have to abandon my post, mostly so I could get a nap in. Eventually the first riders turned up at 2:00 am and the next riders a few minutes later, while the last pair rolled in at 3:20 am. All were in surprisingly good spirits considering that they had just been on the bike for 21 hours or so.

Overall the ride went well.  The weather had been good, traffic was light, there were few mechanicals and everyone except the vintage energy gel eater finished the ride. Congratulations to all who participated in this challenging event!

Coming to ride in the Davis area is a little like coming home for me. I have ridden a lot in this area and did my first long rides here. My first double century was the Davis Double back in 1989 and I have been back for that ride many times since. This 600k route interested me for the fact that it follows the route of the Gold Rush Randonee’ 1200k which is held every few years and is also hosted by the Davis Bike Club.

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The start time for this ride is a little unusual with the departure set at 8:00 pm. That gave about an hour of daylight and then riding through the night. There were perhaps 30 riders at the start and the group stayed together pretty much for the first 50 miles or so until the second control. It was an impressive sight with this large group so well illuminated. The first 100 miles were pretty flat, traveling mostly through farm fields and along levee roads which were sometimes quite rough. There were very few residences so outside of our LED illuminated peloton the world was quite dark. The third control was at a 24 hour mini-mart in Sutter. It was probably the worst excuse for a convenience store that I have seen in some time but the DBC was there and provided a good rest stop in spite of the stores charms.

I was riding solo now with no other riders in sight so I had to be sure of my navigation. For the most part the cue sheet and the road signs matched pretty well, and with good lights I was able to follow the route easily. A front flat tire delayed me for a short time but I pulled into the forth control in Oroville well before sunrise. This control was well stocked but I wasn’t that hungry, or at least nothing sounded good to eat and I soon departed.

After a few miles of rollers the real climbing started. We headed up Highway 70 on a long but low angle climb. It seemed to go on and on with a number of false summits but eventually the final “top” was found. From this point I gave back much of the elevation I had earned by descending into the Feather River Canyon. This is a wonderful scenic route and this early in the day there was virtually no traffic. Once at the river the climbing resumed as we followed the river closely now. Typical of the mountains the morning winds were “down canyon” which made them a headwind. We would fight these winds all the way to the turnaround.

Control #5 was in a cabin at Tobin Resort just off the river. It was still cool in the morning when I arrived so a hot drink was in order but I still wasn’t able to eat too much. I got in a little rest and continued up the river. The scenery continued to be excellent with alternating rapids and still water and I thought I was making good time. It was only another 40 miles uphill to the turnaround but it took me almost 4 hours. I think I was starting to fade a little. I was quite happy to see Control #6 in Taylorsville but the route had a little surprise. You had to ride past the control for a few miles to get the distance right before returning to the spot to check in. This stop had excellent food choices but I only managed to get down a few snacks. My stomach was quite unhappy by now so I had to be careful what I put on it. I did get in a good rest for the return however.

I though everything would be great from here but as I headed out of Indian Valley and back towards the river the winds seemed to have shifted. Sure enough once I was back at the river, what was only an hour ago a “down canyon” wind had reversed itself and the wind now blew in my face again. It was now a warmer wind coming up from the valley below. The relatively gentile descent along the river wasn’t steep enough to overcome this headwind and I averaged from 12 – 15 mph back down the canyon. This made the return to Tobin about 2 ½ hours, which was longer than I had hoped it would be. On this visit to Tobin I stayed much longer but the extra rest did little good. I forced down some food and drank more but no energy returned. I continued the slog down the canyon to the bottom where the route turned away from the river. It was a 1500 ft climb out of the canyon and I wasn’t looking forward to it but the climb seemed to be protected from the wind and it wasn’t so bad after all.

Dropping out of the mountains and back to the valley all I had to overcome was some rollers to get back to the control in Oroville, but the south wind had picked up and the next 10 miles were really tough for me. I fought the evil forces of wind and hill which were working against me and finally made it to Control #7. This was going to have to be a major stop for me, I had to do something to try and recover! I tried to eat but managed only a few bites, my stomach was in full mutiny. I tried to sleep but after a half an hour I felt worse than before. I found it hard to focus my vision and my balance seemed off. I was able to drink a little but I knew that I could continue on that alone. It was now getting dark again and based on my recent pace I estimated that it would take me 10 -12 hours to complete the ride. That could get me in before the cut-off but I was dreading a second full night in the saddle. When I realized that there would be no available service for the last 77 miles due to the late hour I decided to throw in the towel. It was better to do it here than to be out on the course somewhere in the dark waiting for a support vehicle.

I had gotten to the 440 km mark in 23 hours which isn’t all that bad I guess but I was not feeling good about my accomplishment. In the end about 4 or 5 riders DNF’ed that day, one due to a broken frame from the rough road early in the ride and the others from fatigue or illness like myself. The DBC once again did a great job in supporting this event and they are to be congratulated.