Sigh. So, Jpcponrad (John) and I decided to do this little ride he loves to do at the most ungodly hour, which is: start from Pasadena (for me, the Rose Bowl) and ride up to Highway 2 (Angeles Crest) and climb it up to Newcombs from the bottom, have breakfast and return. 64 miles with roughly 6-7k feet of climbing...oh, and starting at 4:30am to ride up to Clear Creek in the dark. Sounds perfectly sane, right? Well, I thought so, and thus signed up for it. I awoke today at 3:00am () and met John, in the dark, and took off. There is something to be said for riding AC in the pitch black. It is eerie, silent, star-spattered and serene beyond belief. I couldn't feel my lower half (often happens that early in the morning), so I didn't mind the climb up La Cresenta. I knew John would push me a bit as he is much faster than I am, and even with him "taking it easy," I was still climbing steadily a little faster than I normally can sustain - especially when gaining 5000+ feet in 32 miles!!!
As we arrived at Clear Creek, the sun was just coming out and it was stunning. But I forgot about the grind to Red Box (ugh) and by the time we neared Newcombs Ranch, I was famished. John, who was ahead of me, suddenly stopped. His spoke had broken on his super-duper-uber-light wheel - clean off! I immediately urged him to call his wife, Sonia, to come pick him up. The descent off of AC is a fast one, but with a wobbly wheel (which he admitted it now was), I feared something could go drastically wrong. He didn't argue with me, and once at Newcombs Ranch, he called Sonia. He and she had a lunch date to be at 11:30am, but we were within great time (8:00am), so her getting there, although inconvenient, was definitely doable. We sat down to breakfast and talked about the year end's rides (I've decided I'm NOT doing the Solvang double, he’s gearing up for Everest etc.)
Well, this is where life throws you a fun little dilemma to deal with when you just think you are out for a ride (notice I didn't say easy ride - my legs were feeling those 5000+ feet already!). As the time went by, something seemed wrong. Over an hour and a half had passed. Sonia should have been there already. John, immediately worried, asked a motorcyclist if something had happened on the road as we had noticed no cars or motorcycles were passing. Yup, sure enough, a tour bus had spilled something (not sure what) and three motorcyclists had skidded through it around a curb, gone down with two injured and one who was killed when he landed face first on the road - not a good day for those guys for sure! The road - like it had been a few weeks ago on Bob's ride - was closed to all cars/motorcyclists.
Now, John is level headed and rational, but the thought of his wife being stuck, worried and frazzled on the Crest was not sitting well with him. So, I suggested we try "limping" back with the hopes of catching her (mistake number one). Off we went, heading back to Redbox thinking that we would find her there or very nearby. As we approached Upper Tujunga Road, two sheriff deputies (dumb-asses is more like it) who obviously had better things to do like listening to a baseball game on their radio, waved us past their road block, stating "yeah, you guys can get through." So, again, off we go toward Redbox (second mistake). After climbing my least favorite climb up toward Redbox, we are suddenly signaled to stop by another cyclist. Um...NO, it is NOT okay for us to go through, and as we arrive we are told by a very nice, but a bit scared of me and my *****y attitude, fireman who tells us that we would have to wait for an hour to an hour and a half to pass. The coroner was on his/her way and they would let no one through with the dead body on the road. Now, I understand the sensitivity with these types of things, but they DID let another cyclist through just moments before we had arrived (a cyclist whom we asked to find Sonia if he could and tell her we were on our way - third mistake). Why couldn't we just walk our bikes through all of 25 feet? Another group of cyclists arrived and finally (duh!) a cop was dispatched to tell the sheriff dumb-asses not to let anymore cyclists through.
At this point, I had 6,000 feet of climbing and 44 miles under by belt. I was not in the mood! John wasn't either but more because now he was really worried that Sonia might try to drive up Upper Tujunga to Newcombs to find us or, worse, think that HE had been injured or killed on the highway. He was truly concerned and made a very quick decision that he would take Upper Tujunga back (which meant climbing back to Big T!). I didn't want to do it, but I understood his logic and with a broken spoke, didn't want him to go alone. So, in lieu of waiting (and without knowing that Sonia was, in fact, less than 1/2 a miles down from us and that the cyclist who got through had told here that we would soon follow), we took off for Big T (fourth mistake).
Since John was now super-worried, "taking it easy" was no longer the rule of the day. I knew how much he wanted to get to a phone (both of our cell phone receptions were useless up there) and ultimately to his dear wife. So, I just had to suck it up and move the booty. Those of you who have climbed with me know that the booty doesn't move so fast up hills in all its round, voluminous glory. The booty was not happy! But I really had no choice (no offense to John at all as he was just trying to get to his loved one). We stopped briefly at a small cafe so that John could call Sonia on a land line (didn't reach her because, of course and unbeknownst to us, she was arriving at Newcombs Ranch after they removed the road block and was frantically trying to find us!). I swallowed a Pepsi and some crackers hoping to appease or at very least fool the booty into thinking it still could climb and off we went toward Clear Creek. You see, John didn't want to go down Big T, he wanted to go back UP to AC to try and stop Sonia from driving all the way to Newcombs Ranch, which he assumed was going to happen (and did).
Oi Vey! I, who was now losing steam at the speed I was trying to maintain, asked John how much more climbing there was UP to Clear Creek. "Only about 200 feet or something around that." LIAR! It was another 1,000 feet! Halfway up, I teased (not good to do to a worried man) that he had lied. He barely cracked a smile as he really needed to get to AC, and here I was like an anchor tied to his ankle. I finally told him to go ahead and I would catch up or get down on my own. I knew how to get to AC and down off of the mountain perfectly fine. Unwillingly (as he was determined not to leave me alone at any point on this ride), he finally agreed and took off. This left me to crawl in my granny's granny gear the last 500 feet up to Clear Creek. I was toast - 65 miles with close to 8K feet of climbing...give me morphine!
When I arrived, John was at the van with Sonia who was crying (poor thing was so frazzled and worried, I don't blame her one bit – and might I add, she looked beautiful. How is that? I get upset or cry, and I look like a blotted snot rag!). She had driven all the way to Newcombs Ranch, and John, as he had hoped only not quite the direction he wanted, was able to flag her down on her return. She was trying to be so sweet with me there, but I could tell she had just had enough of her own ordeal. I offered to ride down the mountain and back to my car, but they both emphatically refused. So, we all piled in the van, and took off. I rubbed Sonia's shoulders and we all talked about it - what a drama of a day! As we got to the Rose Bowl, I kidnapped Sonia and we went off to have lunch and a margarita. What a perfect ending!
All in all, it was a wonderful ride - challenging due to the pace at the end and the amount of climbing in just 65 miles - beautiful weather, and great company both on the mountain and off at lunch. I'm sorry Sonia had to endure all of that, but I got lucky to have her company at the post meal. So, win-win for me!
A few pics coming...