Monday, March 29, 2010

SuperSweetwater-A report

A last minute route change averted potential negative fallout in the West Pole bike world and not a single utterance of discontent. I know many had planned to scale the last massive wall and some had forest nymphs hiding behind old growth stumps, ready to belay them up the final pitch. As fate had it the ride was longer, and maybe harder than was planned. The choice of machinery was typical for a cross-Hopper. Mountain, road, cross...which was your weapon of choice? I had not a second to work on my bikes before Sat. Even Friday evening I opted for dinner and a movie with Tera and just hoped what had worked last week would again work on Sat. Slid open the shop door Sat. morning to look at a hat-trick of Specilized wonder, chose the bike that would be fastest on the day, barring a flat. I had ridden Sweetwater twice on my cross bike and noticed the lack of confidence on the descent with my cross bike. I longed for the sticky side walls of my 23c road tires. Was pretty sure I would get dropped on the climb and thought there was a chance of catching back on the descent. Road bike it was, besides it was the cleanest machine in the shop. Didn't even switch tires. It was a gamble and I took it as such. The plan was to descend Old Caz carefully and if I made it, would pay off in spades.

Ride report (as viewed by helicopter and lead motorcycle)

A healthy but not massive peloton of 125 rolled out of Occidental early Sat morning for what looked like a "a 3 hour tour...". Unlike Gilligan's epic journey of ridiculous repetitiveness the weather did not start getting rough and the Captain did not get tossed as blue skies reigned all day long. The first of the three Hoppers to roll neutral gave the group a chance to catch up, reminisce old times, and warm up legs and lungs. A fortuitous green light at Frei Rd, calm traffic at Guerneville and River Road, and a well scheduled piss stop near the Laguna bridge on Eastside Rd. led the group to the checkered flag of Wohler Bridge and the first of the days intermediate sprints. Unbeknowenst (word?)to the group Mig took the first sprint to Hopkiln Winery that gave him a 30 minute time bonus. (It just might be enough to secure the overall series victory, depending on other miscellaneous, unpredictable and otherwise ridiculous time bonuses that only he can award). The first bump up Sweetwater saw a splintering of the group that kept a steady pace in the flats but the group was brought back together before the first of the days real climbs. Shane hit the front and set a pace that was certain to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Stuck to his wheel was White Lightning, Carl H., Krishnamurti, Brian Astell, Hot Tubes and a few others. Close behind were G. Hope, C. Brown, Redhorse,Brian F, Mig and several others who took the fast train to the top. (Noticibly absent from the days ritual was U-boat and Duncan-bra'; both of whom made magical appearance metamorphosed as childhood play-critters halfway up the Old Caz climb) A frantic pace on the decent saw C.B. and Geo drop off the pace and Mig managed to catch a lift on HT/Cervelo who caught the lead group of 5 at the intersection of Armstrong Woods Road. A short way back the chase group that included Geo, C.B. Caballo Rojo,Thumanator and several others dug deep and reconnected with the group as they headed onto Old Caz and climb number two for the day. Old Caz, which is well known to all who participated in Grasshopper #1, was once again the butchering block as Shaolin Shane put the group into the meat locker. Only the days strongest were able to follow the blistering pace and lumberjack-sized helping of tough love dealt out by the leader the the GH series. Rog, and Krishna followed over the river and through the woods as junior muscle man fell off the pace on the technical decent. Mig hit the gate in 8th position and picked up Brian Astell who was picking himself up but soon lost two places to the boys on mtn. bikes. The group hit a snag in the mother of all downed trees and as the 4 or 5 riders did the fireman's brigade Chris B. and Mig popped around the low side and took hole shot into the creek. The elite group of three including Rog, Shane and Krishna rolled off the front, hopeful that the group behind would either give up or not have the power to bring it all back together. A small group gathered near the Caz store looking confused as to which way to go and it was a blessing for Mig who showed up, pointed the group in the right direction and tucked in behind Anders Newbury. His blistering pace was cracking the group but as he notched it down a bit the group unified in their effort to catch the leaders. (Actually, Anders pulled all the way from Cazadero to Hwy 1 except for one brief rest!) The elastic of the chase group was stretched thin as those on mtn. bikes suffered the extra effort of spinning fatter tires. The next group back containing Brian Anderson, Thuronator, Kent I'mjustChillin'cott and the other brave soldiers kept a steady tempo in anticipation of the days final climb. On the one "riser" before descending to Hwy 1 the elastic snapped as it always does. Hot Tubes smelled blood and finally left his followers in the dust and Carl H. powered by Mig's left over coke came around and brought himself and Mig into contact with the new leaders. "Who's ahead", asked Mig. "This is it", responds Rog. New lines were drawn. Game on. It was a question of attrition as the lead group of 6 hit Willow Creek. A road where your best day can turn to your worst if you end up in the fetal position on the side of the road, begging water from your buddy you just dropped. A steady tempo spread the group out and a surge by Shane on the rocky lead in to Pomo split the lead group into six. As the battle raged for the top spots so to did it boil down through the peleton. There is no giving up in this group. There were battles being fought for the top 5, the top 10, the top 20, the first column of the results page, the first page of the results. This is a tough crowd. Rog, Shane and Anders rolled off the front and Mig, Krishna and Carl rolled together until Carl took off when it got steep. After the top 5 came rolling though the finish the next 12 people came in within 6 minutes.The V went to Anders Newbury, 2nd to Rog, 3rd to Shane. An epic day was had by all. What a great way to spend a Sat! Thanks to everyone for not leaving trash or pooping by the side of the road at the top of Willow Creek.
Give thanks,

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Route change....The ride will follow the proposed route up to and including Sweetwater and Old Cazadero. We will finish Saturday's ride by riding 116 to Russian River and up Willow Creek. Will finish before locked gate at top. To avoid potential conflict and impact user access we will be skipping this climb. Those who have pre-ridden may not be so sad. The Freezout climb is on State land and user access is provided by permit. Visit Landpath's website for details about how to get a permit. Stay tuned for updates and ways to get involved. The ride will be longer but have less climbing.

Remember, Grasshopper are self-supported rides. Bring everything you need to get you through the day. Everyone must have a USAC license or purchase a 1 day. The cost of the ride is $10. 1 day license is $5. Sign in at the Occidental Community Center. Remember to eat lunch at the Union Hotel and ask for the Grasshopper Special.

There are no road closures, this is a large group ride so ride respectfully. We will ride as a group until Wohler Bridge and then it's on. Pee stop on Eastside Rd. after crossing River Road. If someone is giving you water on the course make sure there is enough to share.

If you have never ridden Sweetwater Springs Road please do the decent on Google Earth before Sat. There are several corners that are the tightest I have ever ridden...+/- 130 degrees! Follow someone in your group who knows the decent. There is a large tree down on Old Caz so do your best.

First-time Hopper earlier post "What is a Grasshopper" and others to help understand the history and spirit of these rides. TELL ALL FRIENDS AND FANS NOT TO DRIVE TO END OF WILLOW CREEK TO SEE THE FINISH....RIDE A BIKE! THERE IS NO PARKING AT THE END OF THE ROAD.

We all know what's at stake here, so when your buddy trash talks you before the start just use the words of the Dude, what more needs to be said.

Monday, March 22, 2010

SuperSweetwater or "Getting to Know Me"

It's been nearly 20 years that my only social life involves biking. Now that I have kids I have made new friends with something other than bikes in common, the experience and challenge of raising kids. But mostly, time with friends is spent on the bike. If you're reading this I need not explain. When I returned to Sonoma County after graduating from H.S.U. I remember turning down concerts, a day at the beach, parties, to ride with my friends from Gianni Cyclery. There were many firsts, both solo and with groups.Many unknowns; routes, abilities, breaking points of our equipment and ourselves. Firsts like King Ridge solo from my house on Mt. Jackson on my mountain bike with slicks, Hi-Tech hiking boots...snacking on top of Hauser Bride with a pb&j and a king size Snickers. Riding Old Caz with Leo en route for Fort Ross Rd. Discovering Mill Creek on my own. Getting darked on at Mannings Flat on Mother's day and finally making it to Guerneville at midnight after an evening nap on Gilliam Creek. Grasshopper Peak solo on my roadbike, then driving all the way to Snap's to make a party. The triple in Moab with Winkle; Behind the Rocks, Pritchet Canyon-Hurah Pass to Jacobs Ladder, Kings to Skaggs on goes on. But why? Early on I was enticed to race for the thrill and challenge, but the ride itself wasn't an adventure. Racing is about how fast you can do a particular route. Racing on the road can be exciting, but there was too much waiting, watching, planning. There's an appeal to this still and I alternate adventure rides with suffer fest races. When it comes down to it there's nothing that beats the silence and shallow breathing that accompanies the sensation, the uncertainty, the questions that no one is willing to voice..."will we really get back before dark?" "Does Mig really know where the fuck we are?" "Do I have enough water?" "How long can one go without feeling fingers and toes before you really need to worry?" "Am I going to get shot by a pig hunter?" Sometimes I wonder if we've ridden the word "Adventure" out of the Grasshopper Series. This year there is no doubt it remains, perhaps more prominent than ever. Even on the roadiest of road loop I know there were many people on Wilson Hill who were considering bailing through Freestone and not complete the loop up Joy.This thought probably tortured the mind, chewed on it like some stale mental beef jerkey to pass the time. Some even in the top 30 called it a day and limped home. I did get bucked off momentarily on Joy and whooped it up, but oh well, I'm not imune to my own medicine of suffering as many will attest. This is a tough crowd. If there is one thing the Hoppers isn't, is "negative". Almost everyone, everytime is riding their hardest. There is no "laughing bus", no "omnibus" of sprinters. It's tribal and it's the school of tough love. Combining dirt with road is as good as it gets. In Sonoma County we have a few options and most have been done. The beauty is in creating something new. A new loop, a new dance, a new way of being on the bike. Doing something different is an adventure. Doing something different with 200 friends is like ultimate cage fighting men's circle complete with talking stick..especially when we finish up Freezout. Think about the hardest climb you've ever done at the end of a long day. Then think about Brad chasing you, cackling, waiting to force feed you nutella-coated cold bacon and warm beer if he catches you, then think how lucky you are to be riding your bike, inches from the edge of our continents, healthy lungs heart, mind (at least mostly) and a bike to see you through (hopefully). The more you curse me during the ride, the more you will thank me at the end. After all, it's for your own good grasshopper. Stay tuned for more Grasshopper details.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Here's the map for the Willow Creek State Park section. All trails are open to bikes. The south face is wet so be careful. Watch for hikers and bikers. This route will not be marked so will be best to pre-ride. You will need to climb over a locked gate when turning left on to State land from Freezout Rd. It is the SECOND left. If you're off the front you can wait for me. If you're off the back...follow the tracks. Additional route info to will be posted soon. Finish will be BEFORE locked gate at top of Willow Creek, not at Coleman Valley.

To tired to write anything witty but here's the road directions in case you have time to ride the course.

Remember to carry all your own food and water. No support. If you need a bottle hand up you are taking these fun training rides much too seriously. It also makes things unsafe for others and un-evens the playing field.

Graton Rd to Graton—Cross 116—continue straight on Frei Rd.—Left on Guerneville Rd.—Rt. Laguna Rd.—Rt. Trenton Healdsburg—Cross River Rd—Continue on Trenton/Healdsburg Rd.—Lft. Eastside Rd.—Rt. Wohler Rd.—Rt. Westside Rd. (It’s on when we get to Westside Rd.) –Lft. Sweetwater Springs Rd.—Lft. Armstrong Woods Rd.—Rt. River Rd.—Rt. Old Cazadero Rd---Up and then down to creek. Up again and down to Cazadero—Rt. After Caz store on Austin Creek Rd.—Cross Cazadero Hwy and continue on Austin Creek Rd. –Rt. River Rd.—Lft Moscow Rd in Duncan’s Mills—Rt. Freezout Rd.—2nd left on Freezout. Climb gate, enter State Park.-Follow Map
Approx. 60 miles and 7000ft of climbing
Finish on Willow Creek BEFORE locked gate at top