So – what to call this…. “John and Mark’s Excellent Adventure”, or “Stupid Is My Specialty”?
A few weeks back I finished The Mendocino Monster which was a rather epic effort for me, wherein I actually achieved something I’ve never done on a bike – 109 miles and 10,000’ of climbing in one day. Why I would do such a thing or how I succeeded is not germane to the story, for it is enough that I did so… that is the salient point. It is because of my success then that another Stupid Idea arose unbidden to the forefront of my consciousness.
I have climbed Mount Hamilton on more than one occasion, and have ridden Mines Road from The Junction down to Livermore on many more. But I had never ridden off the back side of Hamilton down into the San Antonio Valley, and I had never ridden up from The Junction through San Antonio Valley to the top of Hamilton. 20 miles of unknown, unseen road that connected roads that I was very familiar with. The problem was that these roads are very sparsely settled, and the area is remote, arid, and wild. There just isn’t a lot of opportunity for water or food, there is no cell coverage, and for a less than strong rider the route is fraught with peril. Since I didn’t want to burden the faster riders I knew with my slow pace and I was reluctant to go it alone, the idea just sat and festered in the back of my brain. It was something I’d probably never do, so I set it aside.
Fast-forward to this year. A few events transpire in close enough proximity to allow the window of opportunity to flicker and dance like a chimera before me.
First, I fell in with a New Crowd. I had made the acquaintance of a fellow named Chuck about 3 years ago, that led to a few casual rides together. A couple of months ago, being acquainted with him led me to a serendipitous meeting with another Chuck, the octogenarian owner of Dublin Cycles. Chuck and Chuck are preparing for the Death Ride, an annual event that they’ve been doing together for years. To that end, they’ve planned and executed a schedule of training rides, and published it to a mailing list that I get added to. I knocked off their Patterson Pass ride without issue, a 75 mile ~5,000 jaunt that leaves me a little spent but really no worse for wear and tear.
Second, Dan (otherwise known as Lanceoldstrong on BF) announces The Mendocino Monster, an organized century ride I had no business doing and hadn’t a prayer of finishing. Against my better judgment I signed up for it, anyway. All the Cool Kids would be there, and I wanna be cool, too. To the amazement of everyone, I finished the ride and chalked up 109 miles and ~10,000’ of climbing for the day.
Third, Chuck sends me an email inviting me and Mark on their next training ride, the Mt. Hamilton Loop. An “all-dayer” he says, about 112 miles and 9,000 or so feet of cumulative altitude gain.
An unsupported century, a ton of climbing, remote locales with no cell coverage, and little opportunity for water and food. That festering little idea that lay dormant in my brain started to blossom like a tenacious little weed, and elbowed its’ way past reason, trepidation, and caution. Well, there it was. A chance to do something I’ve always wanted to do, and since it was right on the heels of the Mendocino Monster, I had this crazy notion that I might possibly be able to pull it off.
Mark was in, Chuck was in, and that sealed the deal. I mean – what’s the worse that could happen? And that’s how it came to pass that Mark and I met up with Chuck and Chuck, rolled out of the Dublin Cycles parking lot at 6am under leaden skies, and headed out to seize the day.
When we rolled back into the parking lot it was 8:45pm. We had covered 114 miles, climbed 9500 feet, and cruised though some pretty spectacular Northern California countryside. Along the way we joked and laughed, suffered a bit, stopped to smell the roses, and had an exhilarating sunset-chasing 10 mile sprint for the barn.
It was a pretty good day all around.
Calaveras in the morning:
Downtown San Jose from the beginning of the Mt Hamilton climb:
The road ahead:
The road below:
Snack at the top:
Point of no return, 52 miles in and mile marker "0" at the top - heading for Livermore: