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A March Century in California

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A March Century in California

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Old 03-27-08, 11:32 AM
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The Smokester
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A March Century in California

Bike check. Extra water. Check. Sunscreen. Heart rate monitor. Brewski to the fridge. Check, check, check.

It’s 7:15am and I head out to the local diner to fuel up. Today I am doing a Century bicycle ride that I have been looking forward to all year. I will go east from the Livermore Valley into the Central Valley of California, south for about twenty miles, climb west into the Antelope Valley, then head north out of the Antelope and back to Livermore. It is the westerly climb back out of the Central Valley—starting at the halfway point—that will be the challenge for me.

Fully fueled and a little stiff in the morning coolness, I take a leisurely pace and flow along with the Tuesday-morning commute traffic.



Soon I am on the outskirts of town, passing by vineyards. There is a slight quartering tailwind and I pass near a winery with an intense fragrance of freshly-squeezed grapes. I am headed for the pass at the lowest spot ten miles in the distance.



The grade rises gradually and my speed slows. I am in no rush. I have passed this way many times in the last thirty years and know I will be there in less than an hour. The commute traffic thins and I am in the land of the ranchette.



I reach the pass at about 1600 ft. I’ve gained 1100 ft since breakfast. There is a mist over the Central Valley to the east so I cannot see the Sierra Nevada. Now it’s a glorious 1300 foot drop over twelve miles to where I will turn south. I will average well over 20 mph and at first will spend a lot of time on the brakes. It is still chilly and I keep my jacket zipped up and long gloves on.



I reach Highway 5 and stand on the overpass to marvel at the power flowing along a main infrastructure corridor for California. Mega-horsepower flows beneath my feet. Just to the east water flows towards Southern California. To the west, megawatts of electricity flow also to the south. I will follow the inevitable and contribute another 100+ watts of pedal power towards the south.



The route south will be along the California aqueduct. Bicyclists enter through bicycle-specific, keyhole-shaped gates and can ride for many hundreds of miles along the west side of The Valley. The only downside is feeding your bicycle through a keyhole every few miles. But I don’t mind ‘cause I’ve got a tailwind and am again doing an easy 20 mph…Waahhhhooooo.



The aqueduct overlooks the valley, flows through orchards and usually is a mile or more from the highway.



In the distance to the west, the eastern side of the Hamilton Range glows golden with California Poppy…More of this later.



After 20 miles it is time to begin the climb back out of the Central Valley. This is going to be payback time and I am a little apprehensive. The wind, which has been my friend thus far, is sure to turn against me. I am below 200 ft and ultimately will need to climb to more than 4000 ft over two passes. The upper reaches of Canyon del Puerta has several miles with grades in excess of 10%. I turn west and am quickly overwhelmed by the pastoral beauty.



I will see less than a dozen vehicles (see the old blue MGB?) in the next forty miles. There are no worries.



Continued next post.
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Old 03-27-08, 11:37 AM
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I stop for a quick bite 16 miles up the canyon before the heavy going starts. The off-road park has water but it is not potable and I am glad I lugged the extra bottle since I now need it.
Not long and I am at 10 to 16% grade. Just a month ago Stage 3 of the Tour of California came this way. There is a soft click as my chain falls smoothly onto the smallest front chain wheel and I am grateful for the lowest gearing on my mountain roadster.



I arrive at the top without breaking my target of 150 bpm on the heart rate monitor. The air is cooler here and has the scent of Digger Pine. It’s a quick drop into the Antelope Valley. Clearly, antelope aren’t the only fauna in these here parts.



I make a stop at the Junction Café to get water but they don’t have pie so I quickly head north for the climb out of the Antelope Valley. Now I am in familiar territory and face what I call the Ever Rising Road. Compared to what it takes to get into this valley it really is not much—less than a 10% grade—but the terrain and curvaceous nature of this climb create the illusion of a summit around every next turn. Finally, I reach the top and enter my home watershed at 2900 ft. 30 miles to go with an almost continuous drop for 2400 ft. The brisk headwind not withstanding I can be pulling on a cold one within two hours. Except, I stop often to take pictures.



The poppies (my favorite) are stunning.



All too soon re-entering urbanization



and contemplating the ride of a century.



The numbers: 104 miles, 14 mph rolling average, 6100 ft climbing, maximum grade 17%.
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Old 03-27-08, 11:40 AM
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Remarkable. Thanks.
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Old 03-27-08, 11:43 AM
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Beautiful........just beautiful.
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Old 03-27-08, 11:59 AM
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Love the report and those red slippers
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Old 03-27-08, 12:17 PM
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Thanks for the report and pictures. Nicely written and nicely done. Having traveled I-5 many times, I know roughly the area you rode. I am going to look at it again next trip and imagine myself riding along the canal. Thanks.
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Old 03-27-08, 01:03 PM
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Very well done! The photos are beautiful and enabled me to go with you on the journey. Thanks for sharing it.

Will you tell me about your seat pack? I see a blinkie on it. Is the pack for your long rides (e.g. century)?
And about the "extra water" -- did you carry a 3rd bottle in the pack?
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Old 03-27-08, 01:25 PM
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Thanks for the report and pictures! Riding along the aquaduct sounds very appealing.
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Old 03-27-08, 02:29 PM
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Beverley: My favorite slippers given to me for Christmas by my daughter.

Mojo Slim: I initially crossed Highway 580 from the east on Corrall Hollow Rd, traveled south 24 miles along the aquaduct past where 5 and 580 merge. Got to Patterson and turned east on Sperry Avenue which then goes under 5 and meets Del Puerto Canyon Rd within a mile.

Yen: The saddle bad is a Carradice "Pendle" (11 liters capacity) fastened to the seat with a "Bag Man Sport" rack. Carradice makes several models larger and smaller. This one will just hold all my repair gear and spares, food plus winter foul weather gear. Yes. The 3rd water bottle was carried in the bag. The Superflash blinker clips onto a loop sewn on the flap.

LynnH: Riding along the aquaduct is very tranquil. You can't be in much of a hurry, though, because of the gates every few miles (so "serious " riders don't like it). The prevailing wind is from the north or northwest so it's best ridden in a southerly direction.
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Old 03-27-08, 02:50 PM
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Very nice! And not far from here, either.

Your pictures are great, too. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 03-27-08, 07:33 PM
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Great post, Smokester! I really enjoyed the trip.
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Old 03-27-08, 07:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Yen View Post
The photos are beautiful and enabled me to go with you on the journey. Thanks for sharing it.

Sentiment echoed. The countryside surrounds where you live and ride is in some ways very similar to regions I often frequent here. I've particularly enjoyed seeing the subtle differences.
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Old 03-27-08, 08:31 PM
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That was fun! Thanks a lot.
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Old 03-27-08, 08:37 PM
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Great trip and photos. Beautiful scenes and country and it is quite a contrast from our tall oaks and pines. Although we have our share of 10+% grades around here as well.
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Old 03-27-08, 08:52 PM
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Inspiring!
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Old 03-27-08, 09:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Red Rider View Post
Very nice! And not far from here, either.

Your pictures are great, too. Thanks for sharing!
There are easier and shorter ones (30 to 50 miles) that go from here out into the Central Valley, along the aquaducts (northward) and then back over easy passes. Let me know if you want to give them a try. It is the perfect time of year.
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Old 03-27-08, 11:33 PM
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Great ride, report and pics.
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Old 03-28-08, 08:58 AM
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As I await the leaving of the snow and the arrival of a new bike, these ride reports are my favourite posts.
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Old 03-28-08, 08:39 PM
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Originally Posted by The Smokester View Post
Yen: The saddle bad is a Carradice "Pendle" (11 liters capacity) fastened to the seat with a "Bag Man Sport" rack. Carradice makes several models larger and smaller. This one will just hold all my repair gear and spares, food plus winter foul weather gear. Yes. The 3rd water bottle was carried in the bag. The Superflash blinker clips onto a loop sewn on the flap.
Thank you!
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Old 03-29-08, 10:43 AM
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How about a route map? I just went to Google Maps and looked. Was Tesla Road on your route?
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Old 03-29-08, 08:45 PM
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BBT,
Yes. I went east from Livermore out Tesla, south on the path beside the first aquaduct to the east of Highway 580/5, west at the town of Patterson up Canyon del Puerta Rd (where the Tour of California 2008 went), then north at the Junction up Mines Rd and back to the intersection with Tesla at Livermore. Going south from Corral Hollow Road (which is what Tesla is called after the pass, and is when it hits Highway 580) down Highway 5 the Canyon del Puerta Rd is the first option to return that goes west all the way back over the mountains.

Below is a map of the overall route taken from the GPS tracks. I went in the clockwise direction.

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Old 03-29-08, 08:46 PM
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Excellent!
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Old 03-30-08, 12:10 PM
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Thanks. I'll file that away in case I'm ever in the area. I live about 3 hours south, but have in-laws by you.
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Old 03-30-08, 05:12 PM
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Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
Thanks. I'll file that away in case I'm ever in the area. I live about 3 hours south, but have in-laws by you.
It's a great ride and there are many others, of course. Drop me a note if you get into the area and need a guide.
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Old 03-30-08, 05:29 PM
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Great ride report.
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