Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Spring Stagecoach Century 2008 (Part I)

Nothing as refreshing as a weekend ride in the desert. With plenty of wind.

See this? See all that green? This isn’t the desert. No, this is on the way to the desert. Nice mountain, though.

If it hadn’t been blowing 15 miles an hour at 10:30 the night before, and if I hadn’t felt the swirling air sucking and tugging to pull my car out of its lane for the last 20 miles of the way there, these signs (on the way into Ocotillo) might have clued me in on what I was about to face.

My father, who used to fly and sail, taught all of us as kids to keep an eye out for elements in the landscape that show how much wind is blowing and where it’s coming from.

The untrained eye would easily spot the palm fronds blowing 180° around the palm tree and remark that some wind might be present.

The sharper observer might note the planks bracing the palm tree so it can stay upright and speculate that such winds might be common around here. (See in the landscape behind the tree how much protection nature has provided between here and the mountains to obstruct winds that sweep down across the desert the way water pours over Niagara Falls.)

That fence, by the way, is about waist high. So this is how much wind there was at just about the same level above the ground where a cyclist sits. And—in case you hadn’t guessed—the wind was coming from the exact direction I was about to ride in. (What cyclist spends energy describing a tailwind?)

Fortunately, the weather was fairly good otherwise, and the temperature was very pleasant—the wind was at least warm. On the way back, the headwind mostly turned into a tailwind, except for a stretch where it was a gusty crosswind that threatened to knock riders off their wheels.

This is the first ride I remember that went past a Border Patrol checkpoint.

I just about didn’t notice the first climb. I was prepared for worse, but it was relatively gentle. I probably didn’t notice I was climbing because I was spending so much of my energy fighting to work my way upwind. This is just past the end of that little rise—the top of Sweeney Pass—coming down into the valley where the ride would spend most of its hours.

After coming down out of Sweeney Pass, we crossed the old stage road that gave the ride its name: The Stagecoach Century.

I’ve been eyeballing this ride for a couple of years now. The first year I heard about it, taking part was out of the question: I was swamped up to my neck in processing my mother’s estate.

The second time I watched it go by, it took place on the same day I had promised to lead a workshop teaching architects about matching wood veneers—not nearly as exciting, but I felt some probably misguided obligation to make good on my pledge.

This time I wasn’t going to miss my ride.

Of course, it would have been easier to catch a bus to get out here, instead of riding all this way.

For the record, although the ride was a full century ride, with 100 miles of road available and just one stop sign, I clocked only 75 miles for the day. I was there to do 100, but I had two flats, both from the same piece of metal I’d picked up the day before in Long Beach. By the time I finally got the metal well and truly out of the tire, it was past turnaround time, so I headed for the barn. I didn’t want to get caught out on the road with another flat or some worse mishap after all the rider support vans had gone home for the day.

I’m not complaining—I had a great ride and enjoyed the whole day, even the parts with flats. (The support crew was cheerful and very happy to help.) But having shorted myself on the full length of the ride certainly gives me a good excuse to go back next year.

1 comment:

Kangamoo said...

I am glad you have an excuse to go back next year. Your favorite niece says HI!! You got a lot of great pictures. We are having for the first time all year (though it seems more like 2 years)some reasonably nice weather. No rain and a big glowing ball in the sky. I think we will get up to the 60s today and maybe up to 70 tomorrow. I can still dream through your pictures. I would rather just wait for the bus though, at least for the up hill parts.