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Old 05-02-13, 09:37 PM   #1
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The Wildflower Century and the Meaning of Life



What's the point of an organized 100 mile ride? Why would I ever fork over my hard-earned money to join 4,000 other mostly lycra-clad cyclists, when I usually like to ride alone?

Why did I pay to suffer – not too much – up steep, long climbs, in the unshaded heat of the mid-day sun? And why did I drive 480 miles to suffer on the Chico (California) Wildflower Century?

One answer: Tradition! This was my tenth go at the Wildflower, and there is something to be said for repeating the rituals of a ride that takes a commitment of time and physical effort to make. Especially at my age, now that I'm a card-carrying senior citizen.

The other answer? Riding a century, for me, is a good way to connect, on a deep level, with other people and the world around me. It's a chance to ride and see old friends (a long time ago I lived in the town of Chico for a few years), to make new acquaintances, and to test myself against gravity and – this year – heat. It's a time to forget about aches and pains that come with the aging body.

It's a time to plug into something greater than myself, even as I am a part - a very small part - of that greater something. While I'm nominally an atheist, there is something biblically rhythmic – no matter what the religion – in a long ride's beginnings and endings, in the sense of renewal (symbolized both by my ability to make the same journey yet again, despite my age, and by the returning wildflowers), and in the communion of the road.

That's why I'll shell out money to share the road with thousands of other cyclists, as we ride through an ever-changing and mostly natural and beautiful landscape.

The ride from Los Angeles to Chico is long, and, especially in the northern half of the state, scenic. I made the trip with my brother, Dan, and my good friend, Rick. We stayed with friends from my days at Chico State, who still live in town.



Arriving in Chico, we parked at the Silver Dollar Fairground for registration. It's a good time to check out some of the bikes.




With temperatures predicted to reach into the 90s, we were up well before dawn, eating breakfast and putting on sunblock.



After riding a few miles through the pleasant, tree-lined streets of Chico, we began the first climb of the day, up the oft-patched, always uneven pavement of Humboldt Road.



While the ride up Humboldt is long, it's not steep. It's followed by a super-fast descent back into the Sacramento Valley via Highway 32, which is both steep and straight-as-an-arrow.



We rode beneath one of the two Steve Harrison Memorial Arches, dedicated to a local bike activist and vice president of the local Sierra Nevada brewing company (I'm a huge fan of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale).



Another six easy miles took us through Butte Canyon, where miners dredged for riches during the state's famous Gold Rush in the mid 1800's, and to the wonderful Honey Run Road Covered Bridge, spanning Butte Creek. I recall kissing my girlfriend, Nancy, one dark winter night under the roof of the bridge. We walked out onto the span, the sound of our footfalls echoing beneath the roof, the waters of the creek burbling below. And when we kissed, the night went suddenly silent.



Past the bridge, the road narrows like a coronary artery clogged with plaque. The angle of the pavement shoots up, too; so does my heart rate.



From the bridge, it's four twisting, uphill miles until the road mercifully tops off in the town of Paradise. Along the way, there are occasional views across the canyon to layers of lava that flowed from a monster Cascade Range volcano eons ago.

I wonder each year if I still have what it takes to climb roads like Honey Run with any vigor. Although most of the faster riders left earlier than we did, my brother and I managed to pass, without trying to race, at least a couple hundred cyclists on the way to Paradise. That's what lots of miles and thousands of feet of climbing up the steepest streets in Los Angeles did for me.



My friend, Rich, reaches the heights of Paradise on his old Serrota Atlanta, which drew many admiring glances. From there, it was a few rollers to reach the first rest stop.

~ I'll add a few more photos, including those of the crux of the ride, up Table Mountain, further down this post. ~
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Old 05-02-13, 10:37 PM   #2
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I rode the wildflower/Wildcat this year. It's my third trip to Chico for this ride and it is really a good one. This year was a bonus with light winds for the last 30 miles in the valley. I highly recommend this ride.

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Old 05-02-13, 11:45 PM   #3
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Sun-Scenery and a few slopes.

What's not to like. By the look of things only the state of the road in that 4th picture.

Insert "Green Envy Emoticon" here.
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Old 05-03-13, 12:16 AM   #4
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Sun-Scenery and a few slopes.

What's not to like. By the look of things only the state of the road in that 4th picture.

Insert "Green Envy Emoticon" here.
It's fairly cool where you are, isn't it? Around 10 C for the high for your day? It was about 29 C in Los Angeles, today.
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Old 05-03-13, 01:48 AM   #5
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The first rest stop included fruit and pastries and water and energy replacement drinks.





We left Paradise via a series of short uphills and some fast descents, and then a miles-long, 40 mph run past the massive Oroville reservoir. Above, my brother, Dan. He looks likes he could ride the Tour de France - he's 61.





We dropped out of the pine forest and into the oaks and orchards and pastures of flatter lands.



After another rest stop, Table Mountain loomed above us.



Se began the long, hot climb up Cherokee Road, the major climb of the day. The road was steep in places, and mostly exposed to the heat of sun.



Muscle, bone, blood, breath - bit by by, pedal stroke by pedal stroke, I made my way toward the top of Table Mountain, a vast plateau. Some cyclists pedaled faster than others, some were forced to stop and rest or even walk.





"...when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning” - Hesoid, ancient Greek poet. Above: the eagerly anticipated rest stop at the end of the climb up Table Mountain.





We returned to Chico and the fairgrounds, partook of the finishers' dinner, and then, as the day had cooled, we pedaled a few extra miles through Bidwell Park, the town's civic pride and joy.



It was time to say goodbye to my friends and to my college town, to Table Mountain and the Sacramento Valley, to the Covered Bridge and Paradise. While it was time to break the physical connections I'd made long ago, I have my memories, and I plan to reconnect in person, on the next Wildflower Century.
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Old 05-03-13, 03:12 AM   #6
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It's fairly cool where you are, isn't it? Around 10 C for the high for your day? It was about 29 C in Los Angeles, today.
Warming up a bit but the problem is the cooling wind that can make it cold. Today is forecast to get into the 60---make that high 60's for a spell- so it is warming nicely. My problem in 90f would be that we are not used to it but it would be nice to experience how you suffer in the heat.
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Old 05-03-13, 04:27 AM   #7
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Thanks for the great ride report and really nice photos. I rode Wildflower about 5 years ago. Beautiful route and such a departure from the cool wet pacific northwest springtime weather I am used to.
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Old 05-03-13, 04:40 AM   #8
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Looks like a great day out.

Well done on doing it on an old-school mtb as against what looks like the vast majority on road bikes.
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Old 05-03-13, 04:52 AM   #9
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Most excellent!

Did you GPS this? I'd love to see the route.
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Old 05-03-13, 05:09 AM   #10
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That is an excellent ride report and some neat pictures, I enjoyed this thread, you did an excellent job of giving us your feelings on the ride. How are you doing now? I seem to remember you had a hard get off a few months back, hope everything healed up well.

Bill
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Old 05-03-13, 06:31 AM   #11
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Great photos, and I love the Memorial Arch.
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Old 05-03-13, 06:40 AM   #12
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Very nice photos. It was a bit warm for the ride!
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Old 05-03-13, 07:11 AM   #13
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Very nice ride report--well written--and lovely photographs. Thanks for sharing your experience and your feelings.
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Old 05-03-13, 07:30 AM   #14
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Another six easy miles took us through Butte Canyon, where miners dredged for riches during the state's famous Gold Rush in the mid 1800's, and to the wonderful Honey Run Road Covered Bridge, spanning Butte Creek. I recall kissing my girlfriend, Nancy, one dark winter night under the roof of the bridge. We walked out onto the span, the sound of our footfalls echoing beneath the roof, the waters of the creek burbling below. And when we kissed, the night went suddenly silent.
^ That is great prose, sir. In fact, the entire write up is great!

I've done the SLO Wildflower, but not the one in Chico. After seeing/reading that, the Chico wildflower is on my list.

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We left Paradise via a series of short uphills and some fast descents, and then a miles-long, 40 mph run past the massive Oroville reservoir.



Not to be a creeper or anything, but she is beautiful! Kinda epitomizes a ride on a warm summer day.
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Old 05-03-13, 07:39 AM   #15
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Hey ... wait a minute. Other than the obvious answer (42), what's the meaning of life?
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Old 05-03-13, 07:48 AM   #16
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Hey ... wait a minute. Other than the obvious answer (42), what's the meaning of life?
42 is the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything!

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Old 05-03-13, 08:18 AM   #17
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icyclist, really enjoyed the pictures and the prose. Thanks for posting, made my morning
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Old 05-03-13, 08:44 AM   #18
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Thanks for this. Nice photos!
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Old 05-03-13, 08:55 AM   #19
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Typical for California! Re-pave the car lanes, but leave the shoulder where bicycles ride unpaved and rough.

I really enjoyed your travelogue and photographs. You're quite the romantic.
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Old 05-03-13, 09:33 AM   #20
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Looks like a great day out.

Well done on doing it on an old-school mtb as against what looks like the vast majority on road bikes.
I'll pass your compliment onto my brother - he was on the mt. bike (although I've made that ride on my own mt. bike, too). He looks better than me in photos, anyway.
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Old 05-03-13, 09:39 AM   #21
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Most excellent!

Did you GPS this? I'd love to see the route.
Here's the original route that I usually follow: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/2051745

The organizers this year offered several other routes: http://www.chicovelo.org/main/century-series
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Old 05-03-13, 09:43 AM   #22
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That is an excellent ride report and some neat pictures, I enjoyed this thread, you did an excellent job of giving us your feelings on the ride. How are you doing now? I seem to remember you had a hard get off a few months back, hope everything healed up well.

Bill
Hi, Bill,

I'm good. I did an impressive flip over the handlebars in November - broken wrist and collarbone. Both have healed as well as they can, at least good enough to let me ride my bike and post on BF.
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Old 05-03-13, 12:52 PM   #23
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Sweet report and pictures! I appreciate your thought that there are "no athiests on group rides." The outdoors, community, common effort and feeling more alive are great spiritual events.
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Old 05-03-13, 03:07 PM   #24
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Thanks for a great post. Any idea how much climbing there was?
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Old 05-03-13, 03:51 PM   #25
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You face kinda looks like "Clay" (Ron Perlman) from Sons of Anarchy!

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