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Eastern Sierra Double Report

Old 06-06-10, 07:31 PM
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Eastern Sierra Double Report

Whew, this one is in the bag too, that makes three and a qualifier for the CA Triple Crown Jersey. It's in the bag but it was tough, probably the toughest ride I have done, even tougher than the Death Ride. It was also the day I probably became a "real" cyclist.

I was really looking forward to the Eastern Sierra Double, it runs from Bishop up North to Mono Lake and back, an area I have visited numerous times for photographic trips. It's beautiful and grand scenery. There is something for us European that makes the vast expanses of the American West very special, there's nothing like it on the other side of the pond. The scenery is breathtaking at any time of the year, this year still very abundant snow on the Sierra peaks made it even more special.
After the scenery the other reason I selected this ride was the overall relatively modest climbing without crazy grades. Long, steady, mellow climbs would make the 10,000ft of ascent over 200 miles quite comfortable... so I thought.

Luckily Sonora Pass opened last weekend so I didn't have to drive though Lake Tahoe, reducing the drive by at least 50 miles. Still 300+ miles between the East Bay and Bishop, quite a long journey for a bike ride. Passing Sonora Pass was beautiful, the road was plenty cleared and safe but snow was everywhere on the sides. The creeks were full and furious, the water was brown, scrapping everything it found on its path. I arrived in Bishop around 7:30 in time to chose a campsite in full day light. The campground was only a mile south of town, it was quiet and had warm showers.

I was ready to ride one hour before the official time, the first one on sight. I just woke up at 2am and decided to get going, I needed to pack the tent as I was expecting to spend the next night at June Lake for a photo shoot at Mono Lake on Sunday morning. The official start was either 4am for the slow contingent or 5am for the studs. I think the total count was around 180 riders, certainly the lowest count I have experienced on an organized ride.

The 4am group probably had 50 to 60 riders, the temperature was a very comfy 64F so I left without jacket or knee warmers. I kept the arm warmers more as a sun blocker than for warmth. The ride out of town eastward toward the White Mountains had our nose full of the trademark scent of the area, sagebrush. The pace was very mellow, nothing like the shotgun pace of the Davis early miles. The route then veered south for a little while and back west to the bottom of the Sierra and up north to RS#1. The sun was peaking on the snowcapped mountains, it was magnificent. I met a nice fellow from Irvine, a double veteran who has ridden up to 10 of those in a single year, very impressive. I kept to the front of the group behind some stronger riders until they missed a turn on S. Round Valley. Holy cow! I suddenly was in the lead but quickly joined by a stud on a fixie. He had a reversible wheel, a cog on one side for the flat, a larger one on the other for climbing. Looking at the size of either cog and the size of his front bracket was just scary.

The climbs starts after RS#1, the first one, Old Sherwin Grade is where we were supposed to have the steepest grades of the day, around 10%. That would be fine but add a strong headwind and the mood quickly changes. Headwinds will actually be the story of the day, at least of the first 120 miles. All major climbs, aside from Deadman Summit, were made tougher, even downhills were hampered. At the end of Sherwin, a couple of miles before joining 395 we dropped into a pretty cool gorge with a steep ravin on the right. Every way we went the winds moved to slow us down so the speed wasn't as great as could have been. The scenery was nice though.

RS#2 at Crowley Lake reemphasized a realization I made at RS#1 and that we should have forecasted at the start at 4am. The start lady made a quick sorry statement then that there won't be any banana available as none was available at Costco. At the time I thought myself that they could go to Vons where I bought a couple the previous evening. It turned out there won't be any banana all day long, and no orange quarters either, and not much healthy food either. For someone liking real food instead of powdery, sugary stuff I wasn't in luck. I read bad comments about Planet Ultra before, I wasn't unpleased by Solvang support so didn't relate to them but, here, they really did bad, in my opinion. Aside from Heed, Sustained Energy, and Perpetuem the only available goodies were junk Nabisco cookies (I made the mistake of trying), bags of M&M (sometimes with nuts) and mostly junk bars. The only good stuff was P&B sandwiches at some stops and the Subway sandwiches at lunch stop.

The ride from Crowley to Mammoth was kind of long, we had to ride on highway 395 for a while which is noisy but a lot was on side roads. The whole course was actually very well selected, well except may be for the road to Benton...
One thing you notice while driving in the area is that this is 'big country', looks small on the map but it takes forever to go from one town to the next. On a bike it takes a toll as some roads are straight as an 'I' so you can have the destination in view but its view grows very, very slowly.
Riding into Mammoth was slowed by the wind but the Mammoth Scenic Rd back to 395 was pretty in the midst of a pine forest. We were back to 395 at the base of Deadman Summit, the highest point of the ride. For once the wind seemed on our side so the climb was not much of a challenge especially with the highlight of the day, June Lake Loop and RS#3, a little further up.

June Lake Loop starts with a little leg jammer, Oh Ridge, but it's almost all the way downhill to Mono Lake after. The lakes were full, fishermen were a plenty, campgrounds look pretty much full (I might have trouble finding a spot for the evening). I really enjoyed this part and lunch break was only 10 miles or so up 395, well 10 miles against headwind. RS#4 (lunch) was a the county park on the northwest corner of Mono Lake, it had a nice grassy spot under the trees and along a small creek. Some people were sleeping on the grass, others dipped their feet in the creek. You could tell most were very tired. The morning had been a constant climb (7500ft so far), 120 miles with climbs following climbs and not much respite terrain in between as the wind was always there to make us work. The heat was now adding to the toll, my Garmin registered 95F at 2pm at around the time I left Mono Lake. We had to climb back to Lee Vining, retrace out route on 395 and head east on 120. For the first time the wind, still strong, was pushing us so it was cruising time until the bottom of the last climb of the day, Sagehen Summit. Sagehen is not tough by itself, it's a series of stairs and rollers but the heat, and the fact that we already had 120+ miles in the legs made it quite a challenge. The first miles had no shade due to a fire so it was becoming really hot. I had to stop a couple of times under a lonely ponderosa surviver to cool down. A impromptu water stop had been added at midpoint, what a good touch! The top is actually past a false summit after a mostly flat plateau. Reaching RS#5 was a huge release, 95% of the day's climbing was behind, much of the remaining miles were, from what they told us, downhill.

What they didn't tell is that there's a few more steep little bumps on the road and what a road. The worst you can imagine. A crack across every 10 to 20 yards, each crack being from a couple inches wide to 5 inches, non stop, over and over, for... 28 miles. I had read about this part before and anticipated it by keeping my front tire to 95psi and the rear to 105psi. I think it helped a bit but I still felt my body was receiving a blow every few yards for an hour and a half. The rollers part felt like never ending and there was a kicker of a hill to stop it all until the last 6 mile downhill to Benton.

When I used to ride horses as a teen, my instructor always told us that you never become a good horseback rider until you have a spill. Luckily unhurt from the experience you then become looser, unafraid to fall again. It took me a while to achieve the status as it seemed I was born with glue in my bottom. Well if that applies to bike riding Saturday was the day I may have become a 'real' cyclist. I do not count falls due to clip less pedals issues, I am talking about real spills, like the one I did as kid when my quill got loose on a downhill.

I was going fast in the high 30s to 40s, the pavement was for once nice, and I let it go. Until I reached a sharper turn to the left I misjudged. The Garmin shows I went from 26mph to 0 in 2 seconds. What I can remember is that some gravel was on the road when I applied the brakes, the rear wheel skidded, I released the brakes to regain traction which I did but then it was too late to safely make the turn with the gravel. I decided the safest route was straight into the deeper gravel/sand mix on the side of the road and kept the front straight to try to stay up. Last thing I remember was to unclip and going airborne over the bars. Once the front wheel hit the gravel it just stopped, it was very quick but the landing was very soft. I found myself sitting next to the bike both covered with dust. I admit I checked myself before the bike, all seemed fine except for a couple bloody spots on the knees due to the gravel, no road rush, no sore spot... very lucky. On the bike the wheels were locked but the brunt of the impact was absorbed by the hoods and the saddle. The rear caliper was pushed aside so that was an easy fix, the front caliper was locked, both sides, on the wheel. Turned out a pebble was stuck in the lever mechanism preventing the pads to get off the rim. The bike was lucky too.

I needed a long brake at the last RS in Benton before the last straight, slightly downhill 32 miles into Bishop. This part is known for its tailwinds, yes I had them on the main downhill but when the terrain flattened the unfriendly winds were from the side, not much help. I had to turn the headlight for the last 4/5 miles and arrived at just slightly before 9pm.

I was really tired but glad to have earned the jersey. To be honest it has been a great challenge, I do not regret it but I don't think doubles are my cup of tea. I am sure lacking proper training yet 200 miles makes for a very, very long day. It's true that centuries now seem a ride in the park but I enjoy the whole experience more. Even with the Death Ride you still end the day with a social dinner. Starting in the wee hour all packed is a lot of fun, there's a lot of chatting, socializing. Ending late however is a very lonely ordeal, it's you against yourself and the only thing in your mind is a shower and a bed. At least Davis had some kind of dinner and socializing. With Planet Ultra there's nothing, sign out and get back home.

Well home was too far but I had plans for some photography at Mono Lake the next morning. I couldn't find a free campsite at Silver Lake, June Lake Loop, so I settled in setting the tent along a parking area. I didn't hear the alarm clock and woke up at 5am, half an hour too late for the dramatic light at the lake. I took a couple shots and quickly left and headed up the just opened Tioga Pass through Yosemite. What a stunning ride. Tenaya Lake is still frozen, Tuolumne Meadows is a mix of snow, bogs, and ponds, the creeks are amazing, many waterfalls spilling over the road. And a kicker to end the weekend, half an hour spent with a couple of yellow-bellied marmots at Olmstead Point. I was as close as a couple feet from them.

I would still recommend the ESD for its scenics. Just be prepared for relentless climbing.

Stats:
197 miles, 10186', avg speed: 14 mph, max speed: 49 mph.
Total time: 16h52, riding time: 13h57

Last edited by gpelpel; 06-07-10 at 06:08 PM.
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Old 06-06-10, 09:53 PM
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Hey Georges, congrats on finishing the ride and earning the cal triple crown! This ride sounds amazingly scenic but I just don't know about those 28 miles of road with the cracks. Sounds awful, especially toward the end when your body is already worn down. Did you happen to get any pictures either from the ride or just of the area in general?
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Old 06-06-10, 10:50 PM
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Well done Gpelpel. I was considering this one for my third, but the state track & field championships were on Saturday.
I think you were being generous in your critique of Planet Ultra and their miserable support. I rode Solvang and couldn't believe what they served us for food. They need to take lessons from Sacramento Wheelmen sponsored rides, The Death Ride, or the Auburn Century to find out how it should be done. They are just cheap.
Congrats on your triple.
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Old 06-07-10, 12:03 AM
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I don't have quite as detailed a ride report, but I wanted to chime in to say that although the early group might have started at a mellow pace, the 5 a.m. group went at a mellow pace for about the first mile and then things got progressively faster. The group splintered so quickly, that I began to worry that I'd be riding solo the whole day.

Fortunately, once the climbing began, folks began to calm down a bit and I ended up being able to get into groups through much of the day. Given the endless winds, this was a good thing since it eased some of the burden of pushing through the wind.

It was definitely the most beautiful double century I've done so far, maybe the most beautiful road ride I've ever done. Descending down to June Lake was breathtaking. It was also the hardest one I've done so far, but I think that's mostly due to the head winds. The first 25 and the last 60 miles were easy. The 111 miles in between ranged from tough to brutal.

I felt good most of the day, but dehydration got me in the last hour. Felt sick to my stomach and stopped drinking. Big mistake. I suffered like a dog the last 15 miles.

Time on the day: 13:51 total time, 12:11 riding time.
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Old 06-07-10, 08:08 AM
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Congratulations Georges! I didn't fair as well. I was having trouble right from the start and it only got worst. For some reason the legs just didn't have it and I turned around at Mammoth and went back it Bishop.
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Old 06-07-10, 08:18 AM
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Originally Posted by melgarpoe
It was definitely the most beautiful double century I've done so far, maybe the most beautiful road ride I've ever done. Descending down to June Lake was breathtaking. .
Of all the DCs I've done, it is easily the most beautiful. IMHO, the June Lake Loop is the highlight ... descending down from Oh! Ridge ... scooting through the aspens at the foot of Horsetail Falls (did you get a look at it?), and even the stretch back down to US395. The only part of the route that I don't like are the cracks on the Mammoth Scenic Loop (which are going to be fixed over the next month or so) and those in Adobe Meadows (half of which were fixed a couple of years ago).

There is something about high desert near high mountains.

I'm attempting the Alta Alpina DC this weekend, and that should be fab too.
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Old 06-07-10, 08:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Biker395
The only part of the route that I don't like are the cracks on the Mammoth Scenic Loop (which are going to be fixed over the next month or so).
These were only an appetizer to things to come.
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Old 06-07-10, 08:35 AM
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Originally Posted by VaultGuru
Well done Gpelpel. I was considering this one for my third, but the state track & field championships were on Saturday.
I think you were being generous in your critique of Planet Ultra and their miserable support. I rode Solvang and couldn't believe what they served us for food. They need to take lessons from Sacramento Wheelmen sponsored rides, The Death Ride, or the Auburn Century to find out how it should be done. They are just cheap.
Congrats on your triple.
No doubt ... the DCs sponsored by the bike clubs have the best support. Tops for me goes to the Santa Rosa Bike Club for the support on the Terrible Two. I mean ... not only did they have every kind of food you could want ... not only did they have every kind of drink mix you could want and make your bottle for you ... they even had cold wet towels at the top of the Skaggs climb. I'll not forget that. The Quacks do a marvelous job too.

But I think it's a little unfair to compare the support from Planet Ultra with that of bike clubs. The bike clubs sponsor only a few rides, have oodles of volunteers, and in the end of the day, don't need to make any profit. Go to the Auburn Century's website and here is what they say:

"We are fortunate to have tremendous support from the City of Auburn, Auburn Recreation District, our local merchants, Placer County, the US Forest Service, Auburn State Recreation Area and the surrounding communities."

Planet Ultra has none of that help. Yea, they have volunteers, but for a ride like the ESD, they often have trouble finding them. And they compensate them by letting them ride another ride for free. Bike clubs also have oodles of volunteers to prepare for the rides too. Planet Ultra does not.

Not that the non-profits always do a great job. You wanna see bad support? Try the Solvang Century. I recall the fee being $65, and they provide virtually nothing at all.

No doubt, there is room for improvement. IMHO, on any ride, they should never run out of anything that has a long shelf life or can be returned to the market it was bought from. PBJ and water are cheap, and any that is not used for one ride can be used for the next. Ditto energy bars, Endurolytes, and cup-o-noodles. And I've been on DCs, both profit and not for profit, that have run out of one or more of these.
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Old 06-07-10, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by gpelpel
These were only an appetizer to things to come.


Yea, the local bike clubs have been complaining about those Grand Canyon-sized expansion cracks on 120 for a while now. They managed to convince CalTrans to resurface the road from Adobe Flats to Benton Crossing Road a couple of years ago.

Damn, those things hurt. You try to hop over the first ... oh ... couple dozen or so. Then, you give up and submit yourself to be spanked.
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Old 06-07-10, 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by silentben
Did you happen to get any pictures either from the ride or just of the area in general?
I had plans to take plenty of pictures but realized half way to Bishop that I forgot my Son's camera. That meant I had to use my iPhone with its very limited photo qualities. Here are some shots until Mono Lake after which I was so tired I had other things in mind.

Sun peaking on the Bishop Creek mountains:


Owens Valley scenery:


Descending into June Lake Loop:


Silver Lake:


Descending to Mono Lake from June Lake Loop:


Mono Lake:

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Old 06-07-10, 09:54 AM
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^ Wow.
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Old 06-07-10, 04:58 PM
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I am not all negative regarding Planet Ultra. I would say that they are close but need to improve on the food aspect.

I have ridden two of their offerings, Solvang and ES, all I can say is that they can turn out very impressive routes. The administrative side is very efficient from the signup to the end results. The volunteer support was excellent, very friendly and always trying to help. The number of rest stops was plenty adequate, they even added an impromptu water stop on Sagehen to cover the heat. SAG teams were seen all day long, going back and forth on the road always asking if help was needed if they found you resting on the side of the road. The turns were properly marked, no extra miles for me this time, thank you very much.

Regarding supplies they had the most important on such a day, even the Death Ride doesn't have it, ice and plenty of it. To me it makes any sport drink tolerable as most taste like junk when warm. The water was mostly bottled water, only the lunch stop at Mono Lake had tap water which didn't taste bad. All kinds of iced sodas and v-8 were available. They had plenty of Heed, Sustained Energy, and Perpetuem as well as Endurolyte capsules. I don't know if they get those for free from Hammer but it's not cheap stuff. The missing element was on the regular food side. This could be a personal thing but I am touchy regarding food; junk bars, m&m, junk cookies that are fat rich and everything else poor won't cut it. The Subway sandwiches were great. I appreciated the very few pretzels and saltines that I only saw at one stop, I would have loved bananas and oranges, especially oranges when it was hot.

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Old 06-07-10, 05:14 PM
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Originally Posted by gpelpel
I was going fast in the high 30s to 40s, the pavement was for once nice, and I let it go. Until I reached a sharper turn to the left I misjudged. The Garmin shows I went from 26mph to 0 in 2 seconds. What I can remember is that some gravel was on the road when I applied the brakes, the rear wheel skidded, I released the brakes to regain traction which I did but then it was too late to safely make the turn with the gravel. I decided the safest route was straight into the deeper gravel/sand mix on the side of the road and kept the front straight to try to stay up. Last thing I remember was to unclip and going airborne over the bars. Once the front wheel hit the gravel it just stopped, it was very quick but the landing was very soft. I found myself sitting next to the bike both covered with dust. I admit I checked myself before the bike, all seemed fine except for a couple bloody spots on the knees due to the gravel, no road rush, no sore spot... very lucky.
Great write-up here. Felt as if it happened to me, up to and including that imagined out-of-control weightlessness of flying over the handlebar. Congratulations.
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Old 06-07-10, 05:51 PM
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Yay! George.
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Old 06-07-10, 06:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Biker395
N
But I think it's a little unfair to compare the support from Planet Ultra with that of bike clubs. The bike clubs sponsor only a few rides, have oodles of volunteers, and in the end of the day, don't need to make any profit. Go to the Auburn Century's website and here is what they say:

"We are fortunate to have tremendous support from the City of Auburn, Auburn Recreation District, our local merchants, Placer County, the US Forest Service, Auburn State Recreation Area and the surrounding communities."

Planet Ultra has none of that help. Yea, they have volunteers, but for a ride like the ESD, they often have trouble finding them. And they compensate them by letting them ride another ride for free. Bike clubs also have oodles of volunteers to prepare for the rides too. Planet Ultra does not.

Not that the non-profits always do a great job. You wanna see bad support? Try the Solvang Century. I recall the fee being $65, and they provide virtually nothing at all.

No doubt, there is room for improvement. IMHO, on any ride, they should never run out of anything that has a long shelf life or can be returned to the market it was bought from. PBJ and water are cheap, and any that is not used for one ride can be used for the next. Ditto energy bars, Endurolytes, and cup-o-noodles. And I've been on DCs, both profit and not for profit, that have run out of one or more of these.
Sorry, I wasn't clear. I was talking about the 2010 Solvang Double. The volunteers were terrific. It was the food that left a lot to be desired.

Last edited by VaultGuru; 06-07-10 at 06:35 PM.
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Old 06-07-10, 06:57 PM
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Wow, so that's what the scenery looks like when it's not raining or snowing. After seeing these reports, I wished I had signed up, but I was definitely not in shape for it.
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Old 06-07-10, 07:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Biker395
But I think it's a little unfair to compare the support from Planet Ultra with that of bike clubs. The bike clubs sponsor only a few rides, have oodles of volunteers, and in the end of the day, don't need to make any profit.
I had this conversation with a PU person via email after the ugly Solvang DC support. I still don't understand how a for-profit operation that charges as much as other rides expects to be held to a lower standard than the club-sponsored rides.

If you charge the same but do less, expect complaints. Maybe running doubles isn't a good business, but don't expect people to give you more leeway when you're for-profit.
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Old 06-07-10, 08:20 PM
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Originally Posted by DanteB
Congratulations Georges! I didn't fair as well. I was having trouble right from the start and it only got worst. For some reason the legs just didn't have it and I turned around at Mammoth and went back it Bishop.
Sorry to hear that Dante. It was nice seeing you at the start. I was feeling great up to the road off 395 to Mammoth, that's when the wind started to kill me. I figured something didn't go as planned on your side when I didn't see you pass me. Hope your legs come back soon.
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Old 06-07-10, 08:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Biker395
^ Wow.
+1

If your shots look that good with an iPhone, you must be really good with a proper SLR!
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Old 06-07-10, 09:21 PM
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Originally Posted by gpelpel
Sorry to hear that Dante. It was nice seeing you at the start. I was feeling great up to the road off 395 to Mammoth, that's when the wind started to kill me. I figured something didn't go as planned on your side when I didn't see you pass me. Hope your legs come back soon.
Thanks, went out for a ride today and I felt fine. I think it was because I was all over the state last week and putting in some long days at work, just not enough rest. Next up Grand Tour.
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Old 06-08-10, 07:45 AM
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gpelpel, congrats and what a great report. I can never remember a ride with that much detail. I really enjoyed reading it. An I'm glad you came through your tumble OK!
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Old 06-08-10, 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Ygduf
I had this conversation with a PU person via email after the ugly Solvang DC support. I still don't understand how a for-profit operation that charges as much as other rides expects to be held to a lower standard than the club-sponsored rides.

If you charge the same but do less, expect complaints. Maybe running doubles isn't a good business, but don't expect people to give you more leeway when you're for-profit.
It's pretty simple, really. For-profit operations need to compensate volunteers with free rides and have to pay for all of the food they provide. Non-profits do not compensate their volunteers and often get a lot of food donated.

As for giving more leeway ... I don't look at it that way. Instead of criticizing the profit enterprises for not offering the same service for the same cost as a non-profit, I'd rather give the non-profit enterprises extra props for offering even better service for free.

In other words, I expect people to make a profit. That some are willing to work without making any is icing on the cake, and I'm grateful. But that doesn't mean I think the for-profit enterprises are ripping me off.

If maximizing service for the dollar is that important to you, you're probably best off limiting your rides to ones that are sponsored by bike clubs. Personally, I'm glad Planet Ultra and others are out there sponsoring doubles, even if they offer less support. The Eastern Sierra Double is a good example. I think it is a kickass double, and whether there are enough bananas or orange slices doesn't make a lot of difference to me. I guess you pays your money and makes your choices.

Having said all that, I think the issues raised about the ESD are valid. For profit or not, the basics should be provided, and that includes things like bananas and orange slices. And they should never run out of anything that is perishable or can be returned (cup-o-noodles, PBJ, energy bars, Endurolytes). There was also a time when there were pizzas at the end of the double centuries, and people could sit around and chat over a slice of pineapple-canadian bacon pizza. I miss that.
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Old 06-08-10, 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Biker395
In other words, I expect people to make a profit. That some are willing to work without making any is icing on the cake, and I'm grateful. But that doesn't mean I think the for-profit enterprises are ripping me off.
+1, well said, totally agree.


Originally Posted by Biker395
there were pizzas at the end of the double centuries, and people could sit around and chat over a slice of pineapple-canadian bacon pizza. I miss that.
A pineapple-canadian bacon pizza? That would have been icing on the cake on the return to Bishop. I want to turn the clock back.
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Old 06-08-10, 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by gpelpel

A pineapple-canadian bacon pizza? That would have been icing on the cake on the return to Bishop. I want to turn the clock back.
LOL. We make it a habit to end the ride at one of the local pizza eateries.

With any luck, I'll be doing the ES double next year, and we can share a hawaiian pizza. I'll get the first round.
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Old 06-08-10, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Biker395
I'll get the first round.
Sounds good to me!
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