Monday, February 26, 2007

Well...we made it through the first one!

Sooner or later the rain was going to return during Grasshopper season. It's hard to have a truly epic day without losing feeling in your toes and fingers. How deeply did you dig into your own personal "suitcase of courage" this time?


At 11:57 AM , Anonymous C Ward said...

Yes it was a pretty epic Old Caz. #4 for me and definately not the fastest. I knew it would be good when we were only 10 minutes in and I had to mash my palm into the shifter to get the big ring because my thumb was already frozen.

Some thoughts:

Hallucinating about hamburgers while chasing "mustard and ketchup" Shane and Glen up the hills.

Thurminator battling it out like a savage in only bibs and a vest.

Bringing a Team Chico grasshopper virgin out on his 23c road bike and shoes.

The super sick raspberry and apricot turnovers at the bakery.

Yee Haw!

At 12:52 PM , Anonymous Francois B. said...

This was my first Old Caz ride and yeah, I found it pretty epic too. From seeing over 100 cyclists there at the beginning despite the rain and drizzle, to taking over Bohemian Hwy and River Road, seeing that freaky crash 5 minutes into the race (I was only about 50 feet behind it...and luckily came through unscathed), to riding the steep muddy Old Caz fire road basically brakeless and crossing the nearly thigh high Austin Creek...this was just awesome. Only bummer is likely being the official DFL man, but still it felt so good to at least go the whole way and finish!

I was so blown away by this experience that I made an extensive report on the CL bike discussion forum:

Right on to Chris at the Bike Peddler and you Mig (I think I met you last fall one Tuesday night at Papas and Pollo) for turning me on to this ride and for all of you who "organize" it. No doubt about it that I WILL be back for more of these rides in the years to come! Totally Epic Ride!

At 11:07 AM , Anonymous David D said...

News from the back forty.
Hey, I didn't get lost !! (this year) That was brutally fun !! (even though I flatted)
I can hardly wait to give it a try again next year. (You know, get a real time)

At 7:10 PM , Anonymous Reverend Dick said...

So cold and soaked I had to use my teeth to pull on my liner gloves (which I cleverly held in reserve until I was cold and shattered by the climb up from Willow Creek- so pretty, so wet). I caught a guy on the Bianchi colored Rock Lobster, and tried to big him up with a heartfelt "woohoo", and he gave me the most unenethused/sour "yay" I have ever heard. Which pretty much summed it up. Exquisite. I'll be back for Kings Ridge and I hope to get everyone around me dangerously fucked up. Good riding...

At 1:41 PM , Blogger Mig said...

Master Po: What do you hear?

Caine: I hear the grasshopper.

As I entered the Wu Tang Temple of Occidental for the ninth annual Grasshopper ride under rainy skies, I felt like David Carradine in an episode of “Kung Fu” when he would cautiously enter a new village, not sure if some shaolin monk lurked around the next corner, ready to unleash his fists of fury on him. In my case, I knew that there were plenty of monks, cycling monks, ready to unleash their “pedals of fury” on me, who had made the yearly pilgrimage from far off places like Santa Cruz and Chico, who were inflating their tires, stretching, mounting mud fenders, and carefully selecting which garments to wear in preparation for the days battle that would unfold on West County roads, both paved and dirt. The route, 50 miles in length, dropped riders out of Occidental via Bohemian Highway into Duncan’s Mills, from there they headed east on River Road, making a sharp left hander that shot straight up into the neighborhoods. After ducking a gate and navigating some dirt fireroads, riders were spit back out into the neighborhoods briefly, and then hit one of the major climbs of the day,Old Cazadero Road. Old Cazadero Road becomes dirt at the top and drops precipitously down to a cold, knee high creek crossing, followed by more dirt climbing and then one more descent into the town of Cazadero. From there it was a mad dash on Austin Creek Rd. back to River Rd. and then north to Willow Creek Rd., the final dirt climb of the day to the top of Coleman Valley Rd.

The tense anxiousness that accompanies race day, or battle, was coursing through me as I pulled into the back lot of the Union Hotel where the samurai, fighting monks, and kung fu experts were gathering, readying their bikes and saying final prayers before the day’s epic battle began. The beauty of the annual Grasshopper series is that it attracts riders from all backgrounds and levels. Bruce Lee’s quote, ” Forget about winning and losing; forget about pride and pain,” seemed very fitting. The parking lot was a teeming mass of colorful lycra clad monks running the gamut from Cat. 5 roadies to Continental Pro team riders and recreational mountain bikers to Olympic contenders. The Seven Samurai team of Mike Broderick and Mary McConneloug rolled up , as did the Shaolin Specialized riders Glenn “fists of fury” Fant and Shane ” your kung fu is child’s play” Bresnyan, all of which added to the electric energy that was building as more and more riders filtered in for the fight. Other monks of note who had made the journey for the day’s showdown were Grand Master Funk Hope of the Inverness Temple, White Line Roger- the fastest dentist in the country, and Rick “Praying Mantis” Hunter. I quickly changed into my cycling robes, hoping that my base layer, jersey,knee warmers, and Adidas rain jacket would be enough to ward off the cold rain that was steadily increasing as the minutes ticked down to the start. Legs were rubbed with secret Belgium “heat sauce”, bottles were topped off, espresso was drunk, and people adjusted and got safe in preparation for the wet roads and danger that lurked ahead.

Master Po Fuerza gave preride instructions/warnings to the 85 plus riders who had shown up and, as is tradition, we rolled neutral down Boho Highway. Glasses were immediately rendered useless by the gritty spray that plumed off of tires as we quickly dropped out of Occidental, like some writhing lycra Chinese Dragon,expanding and contracting around every wet turn, slicing through the cold rain, snaking our way through the narrow pot holed roads. After the pre-designated road side relief on Moscow Rd., the ride was officially on. The Shaolin Specialized monks lifted the tempo and the gruppo compacto became gruppo strung outo. The climb off of River Rd. and the first fireroad gate to be ducked created the intial separation in the dragon that shaped the break and groups of the day. I found myself in the second group, obviously my kung fu was not that good compared to the others, but not to worry, the day was long and as the immortal Bruce Lee said, “Just like water, we must keep moving on.” I kept moving on until I flatted after exiting Austin Creek Rd. Now, if Caine had a sidekick, which he didn’t, he would want the Redneck, not only for his superior fighting skills but, more importantly, for his “I’ll sacrifice my ride for you” attitude. In a selfless act of true team commraderie he stopped with me, even though we had been rolling along in a fast paceline group of five riders that was sure to bring back a few stragglers on Willow Creek, to help me fix my rear flat. I unleashed my “fists of flat fixing fury” and within minutes we were ready and were lucky enough to rejoin a group of four fighting monks who happened to roll up on us we were putting my rear wheel back into the drop outs. With snot streaming out of my nose and legs stinging from the lactic build up after the stop, the Redneck and I quickly caught up with this group and scanned the horizon for stray riders as we approached the last climb of the day. Willow Creek Road, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, is a gradual, grinding wheel-sucking dirt climb that goes from the coast to the top of Coleman Valley. It is punctuated by two extreme pitches, the Sisters, and then finishes off with undulating pavement that rolls to the finish. It was at the base of this climb that I tasted my own blood for the first time at the hands of Rob ” I’ll drop you” Dillion, who proceeded to show us his best climbing fu and rode away from us. The next death blow came from the Redneck, who I knew from having ridden with him on countless night rides was very strong, when he unleased his best “these boots were made for walking” round house kick to the groin and pedaled off, leaving me mortally wounded on a switchback, and faded off into the distance. I was now truly like Caine, left to walk the earth by myself, struggling to come to grips with the carnage that had been inflicted upon me and the hunger knock that was settling in and sapping all my strength. My riding had become more “drunkin’ style” than anything else, as I struggled to make it out the valley of darkness without losing more places. I was lucky enough to have Mary “Olympic maiden” McConneloug cheerfully roll up on me, hand me a half eaten bar, and continue pedaling on. I would eventually stagger to the finish, unexpectedly cheered on by Duncan “grapes of wrath” Meyers at the top of the climb, chasing Mary’s tire tracks, happy to have surived the days battle.

The post ride parking lot resembled a WWI trenches scene with equipment strewn on the pavement, muddied, dazed riders staggering around in different stages of undress, recounting the day’s heroics, as they tried to make sense of what had just happened. I silently rolled up, congratulated and thanked the Redneck for his selfless help and excellent ride, undressed, put on some warm clothes, and went to the Union for some pasta. The Chinese monks say that “shaolin is in the spirit and the heart, not in the strength of your punch”. Hum…I had definitely felt the strength of many fists today, but as I stumbled into the Union and saw some of the day’s main protagonists sitting around a table of food and drink, I was reminded that we do this to ourselves because we love testing our spirits and measuring the depths of our hearts.

Posted by Yuri on Sunday, February 25th, 2007 at 6:20 pm.


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