Saturday, May 15, 2010
The Davis Double is one of California’s most popular organized long distance rides. Their registration is limited to 1,000 riders. I came across a person wearing rider number 1009, so the Davis Bike Club was able to meet and well exceed that number. The route covers 200+ miles with over 8000′ of climbing.
The goal for this ride is to finish before nightfall and for me to practice and improve my drafting technique behind Michael in preparation for the Terrible Two next month.
The ride starts out at the Veterans Memorial Center in Davis and takes you through Winters, Putah Creek, Lake Berryessa, Pope Valley, Middletown, Cobb, Loch Lomond, Lower Lake, Clear Lake, Rumsey, Guinda, Brooks, Capay, Esparto and back. The course has three major climbs; Cardiac Hill (Hwy 128), Cobb Mountain (Hwy 175) and Resurrection (Hwy 20) with plenty of flats and rollers in between. The Double is very well supported with a lunch stop and 9 other rest stops (RS).
After checking in, I see Frank Carothers and we exchanged greetings. I also spot Dick Ferrer in the parking lot, we talk for a bit and he decides to leave earlier than the pre-planned GPC start time. Michael and I meet up with 9 other GPC members; Mark Abrahams, Rob Hawks, Bruce Berg, Kirk Hastings, Mark Homrighausen, Tara Madsen-Steigmeyer, John Lutterman, Zach Kaplan and Barb McQuinn at the designated spot in the parking lot. The temp was in the low 50’s as we all roll out a little after 5:20AM. At some point, I hear Bruce say that we may have missed a turn. He asks me to take a look at the cue sheet but I can’t even read it, the print is way too small. We do see a bunch of blinky lights ahead of us. We all can’t be going the wrong way nor can we? By now, the sun is rising and the view is wondrous! We spot a corner marshal on the route and
everything is good again. We all manage to stay together as a group for the
flat 23 miles out to RS#1, Farnham Ranch. It was about 6:30AM. Michael and I
decide to stop and take in some food. We both only had a banana for breakfast.
Part of the group stopped too and the others just continued on. As we make the turn onto Road 89, we get greeted by Lee “Santa Claus” Mitchell. I holler back at him and give him a big wave in return. It’s this kind of little stuff that puts a smile on my face which in turn makes for a wonderful start to the day. We continue on for another flat 20 miles towards Winters.
It’s past 7AM already and I catch sight of 7-8 brightly colored hot air balloons in the sky. It’s nothing but open fields on both sides of the road. What a view it must be from up there. The sun is out and it feels great to be alive! I also spot some llamas, horses and lots of little sheep along the way. I enjoy the sweet smell of all the flowering jasmine bushes planted in front of the Winters Unified School District as we turn onto Route 128. We head west on Route 128 which follows Putah Creek and pass Putah Creek State Wildlife Area before starting the climb up to Monticello Dam. The main attraction at the dam is the “Glory Hole” spillway, the largest drain hole in the world. It’s named for the Morning Glory flower whose shape it resembles. Leaving the dam, you get a glimpse of Lake Berryessa, the second largest man-made lake in California.
It’s a sweeping descent to the Markley Cove Marina which is also the base of the notorious “Cardiac Hill”. This climb is 1.7 miles long with a steady gradient of 6-7%. The temp is now in the low 60’s. As I approach the top, I look to my left and catch a glimpse of the colors of the American flag. As I get closer, I realize that the whole front side of a trailer home is painted as the flag, there’s music playing and it’s Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”, a song about hope and salvation. There’s a guy out there ringing a huge bell, smiling and waving at us. I holler out “Thank You” and it’s another smile moment. I think to myself “God bless America!” We descend the other side of Cardiac and you can instantly feel the temps drop. I look up into the sky and notice that the morning fog in that area hasn’t quite burned off yet. There were abundant poppies and purple lupines growing along the sides of the road. We get a good pace going along the flats and rollers to the next rest stop.
We reach RS#2, Moscowite Corner, mile 56 at 8:40AM. It’s at the intersection of Hwy 121 & Hwy 128 and is considered the gateway to Lake Berryessa. Michael and I park our bikes together and there’s a guy in front of me who turns around and gives me a great big smile and says “hi” to me. It’s the DMD volunteer who helped me out on Mines Rd and Pet the Goat rest stops. It’s definitely another smile moment. I see many other GPC members at this stop; Steve Zavestoski, Barb Hailey, Grace Cassel, Rita Garcia and Dick Ferrer. We refill our Camelbaks and take in some food and get back out on the road. The Porta-pottie lines are always too long.
We continue on Hwy 128 and make a pit stop at the Turtle Rock Store-no lines! We’re back on the road in no time and make the turn pass Nichelini Vineyards onto Lower Chiles Valley Rd. We catch up with Barb H. and Grace C. and pass several vineyards and wineries along this back road. The next turn takes us on Chiles Pope Valley Rd. This stretch of road is very fun. We enjoy riding along the rolling hills and flats which provides me with more opportunity to practice drafting behind Michael. We get to RS#3, Pope Valley Grange Hall, mile 76 at 10:12AM. As I pull in, I’m greeted by Sue Jacobson who is volunteering as the on-call first aid person. I ask about Michael Tigges and she informs me that he was out driving a SAG vehicle. I also spot Frank Carothers at this stop. Once again, Porta-pottie lines are too long.
We head over to the H & M Market and use the facilities there. We continue on Pope Valley Rd and pass many hanging hubcaps shining from the reflection of the sun along the fences of the historical landmark “Litto’s Hubcap Ranch”. Pope Valley Rd eventually becomes Butts Canyon Rd aka Honey Hill. The temp is now in the mid 70’s. The climb on Honey Hill is a bit less than 3 miles with an average gradient of about 6-7%. Once you get up and over Honey Hill, you immediately see both sides of the road lined with white fencing for as far as the eye can see. There were little yellow wildflowers across the fields to my right. Further down the road, I see horses out in the pastures. What a gorgeous sight! We head pass Detert Reservoir to a very tricky left turn onto St Helena Creek Rd which leads us into Middletown.
We pull into RS#4, Middletown High School, mile 95 at 11:40AM. I refill my maltodextrin bottle and load up the Camelbak with ice and water. I chug a V8 and had some watermelon before getting back on the road.
We ride along Hwy 175 through the flat valley of Middletown for a few miles and you can see the oak trees strung out along the road with green pastures in the background. We see a sign that show it’s 7 miles to Cobb. The dreaded climb up Cobb Mt is approaching. The average gradient is about 8% and hits a max of 11%. For a few sections, you’re climbing under a canopy of trees and then you’re fully exposed to the sun with no shade what so ever. The temp reached a high of 88. I see some riders stopping under what little shade they can find. The climb wasn’t so bad, considering that it was 20 degrees cooler than the previous two years. At the top, we pass the small community of Whispering Pines. There is another little climb up to RS#5, Cobb Mountain Elementary School, mile 104.
It’s 1:05PM and we decide to bypass this stop and continue on for another 13 miles to the lunch stop at Lower Lake. While riding through Cobb Village, you feel like you’re transported in time to a different era. The air is also a bit cooler underneath the pine trees. There are quite a few resorts with little with single room cabins. As we head towards Loch Lomond, we get passed by 2 guys riding fixed gear bikes. I’m thinking “great, more power to you”. We make the turn on Loch Lomond Rd, hit a few rollers and then it’s a fast steep descent that continues down onto Siegler Canyon Rd. I hit a max speed of 43 mph.
We turn onto Hwy 29 to get to Lower Lake. While stopped at a traffic light, I noticed that there were two little girls in a blue pick up truck on my left waving and saying “hi’ to us. I return the wave and greetings. As soon as the light changed, the truck makes a left turn, we go straight and I see the girls still waving their hands out of the window and yelling “bye.” It was another smile moment. Life is good!
It’s 1:54PM and we reach the lunch stop at Lower Lake High School, mile 117 Michael and I both have half a ham/turkey sandwich with watermelon. We sat on the lawn and had lunch with Kirk and Tara. We filled our Camelbaks with plenty of ice and water in preparation for the climb up Resurrection. I also saw and said “hi”to Mike Kuenzli.
The least favorite part of the ride for me was heading out on Hwy 53. There’s too much traffic and much of it was big trucks towing boats. Before too long, we turn onto Hwy 20 and begin the three step climb up Resurrection.
This section of the course is fully exposed with no shade. The first climb is short and not too difficult with the gradient being around 4-5%. That’s followed by a long, fun and very fast downhill to the bridge over North Fork Cache Creek. At this stretch, I’m passed by another 2 guys on fixed gear bikes. The bike doesn’t give the ability for the riders to coast at all. So here is where I get a bit of comic relief. I’m fixated on watching the cyclist in front of me spinning like mad and bouncing up and down on the saddle. I’m thinking “Ouch, that’s got to hurt!” Next thing I know, the climbing begins again. I need to refocus. It’s approximately another 5-6 miles to the next RS. The ascent is longish but never too steep. The max gradient hits 8%. I look down at my odometer and it showed the temp to be 95 degrees.
We make it to RS#6, Resurrection, mile 136 at 4:05PM. I get greeted by Jack Holmgren, who is working as a volunteer. He tells me that riding is hard work, today’s easy because he didn’t have to ride 200 miles and can get in his car and just drive back home. I think he has a point there. We get more ice and water and munch on some fruit before getting back on the road. I wave good-bye to Jack as we make our exit.
Yes, it’s all downhill from here. Well, not quite. There’s a small climb after Resurrection to the Colusa County line. After getting over that hump, the remainder of the ride is all downhill with plenty of rollers and flats back to Davis. It’s a fast, fun, sweeping 3+ miles descent on smooth pavement along Hwy 20. We make a right turn on Hwy 16 which is a beautiful stretch of road that follows Cache Creek. You can see and hear the water flowing along the creek which is very soothing and calming. The view is absolutely grand! We take in 14 miles of this fabulous landscape before approaching Capay Valley and the very small town of Rumsey.
The next RS at Guinda is another 5 miles away. Many ranches and farmhouses with almond and walnut orchards occupy a huge percentage of this valley.
We arrive at the Guinda Fire Station, RS#7, mile 162 at 5:49PM. I was looking forward to having a few popsicles at this stop, but alas, none were provided this year. I ended up standing next to a bag of Lay’s potato chips and just chomped away. Another cyclist mentioned that these were the best chips ever and I just nodded my head. I mixed my last bottle of maltodextrin, refilled the Camelbak and off we went. We continue on Hwy 16 for another 15 miles, all the while passing more orchards and open fields of hay. As we round a bend, you can immediately see the huge monstrosity that is; Cache Creek Casino Resort. Eastbound traffic was unusually light at this time. It seemed that more vehicles were heading from the west to the Casino. We ride along the brick paved shoulder through the town of Capay before turning onto Route 85B.
We roll up to RS#8, Farnham Ranch, mile 181 at 7:05PM. They had very eager volunteers there whose sole job was to hold your bike up while you go do your thing. I chow down on a cup of chicken cup o’ noodles and share some of it with Michael. We attached our lights and hit the road. It’s only 20 flat miles back to the finish. The temp was now in the low 70’s.
We bypass RS#9, West Plainfield Fire Station at mile 196. Road 31 into Davis seemed like it went on forever. I can see traffic lights ahead and know that we’re getting much closer to the finish. I can smell the fragrance of all the Jasmine flowers planted along this road. We take a few more turns and make it back to the Veterans Hall at 8:45PM. Yeah! It’s a bit chillier now with the temps dropping to the low 60’s.
I go inside the Hall to check in and hear Mark A. shout out at me. I turn around and see him, Rob, Bruce and Zach all sitting together. I wave back and head outside to change out of my bike clothes before going back inside for dinner. Bruce and Rob are exiting as I am entering. We all exchanged congratulatory greetings.
The best part of the ride is at the finish. There’s a BBQ dinner waiting for you. I have the chicken with spicy BBQ sauce, baked beans, vegetarian lasagna and a big salad. I also manage to have 2 frozen fruit bars. I sit down with Michael, Mark A., Mark H., Kirk, Tara, Barb M. and Frank. Everyone is talking and there’s plenty of laughter to go around. What a day! FUN, FUN, FUN!
Avg Speed: 15.2 mph
Ride Time: 13:19
Total Time: 15:25
Nutrition: Maltodextrin mix, lots of water, couple sips of Coke & Squirt, 1 can of V8, half PBJ, half turkey/ham sandwich, watermelon, strawberries, 2 pickle slices, handfuls of Lay’s chips and a chicken cup o’noodle.
This is the Davis Double route:
*Many photos are courtesy of Tara Madsen-Steigmeyer