Sunday, February 22, 2009

Race: The Road to, Well, Hills

Last weekend I took an interesting drive. It started when I found the road blocked to where I wanted to be. But I had done my homework and knew there was a back way.

After a short stretch, a sign let me know the pavement was going to end, and I started rising above the orange groves . . .

. . . and rising . . .

. . . and rising.
If you study the first picture, you’ll see the road I’m on here, switchbacking its way up the side of the hill. The dirt road had a lot of moderate slope, but I started hitting steeper bits and tighter turns.

With every hairpin turn, I was getting higher . . .

. . . and higher.

The road looked like this. I was in an ordinary sedan, nothing with four-wheel drive. That’s fine, as long as the road doesn’t get any hairier. On the flat, this kind of rubble road is fine. As you start heading uphill, the drive wheels start fishing around for traction in the soft dirt and sand and gravel.

I never hit a patch of road where I was worried about going over the side, but I knew if I got in trouble up here—if I cooked the transmission or hit a stretch too steep to make it over—I was a long way from a tow truck.

That’s a long way to steer down in reverse.

Around a bend and on my way up (I was going from about 3,000 feet elevation to 5,000 feet, something like a 600-meter climb), I started seeing patches of snow off on nearby hilltops.

Still the road kept rising.

A lot of this area burned pretty badly a few years back. Note the fire-watch tower on the left end of the ridge, next to a microwave repeater tower.

Vegetation shifts as you get to higher altitude.

The snow that had been over on adjacent hillsides now was at the side of the road.

Always an interesting sign.

What my transmission really wanted wasn’t just a steep climb on a soft dirt-and-rock road. What my transmission wanted was a steep climb through snow and mud.

I actually had snow chains with me, in the trunk. But I sure didn’t want to have to get out and put them on in the muck and mire. Even on the flat, traction was getting dodgy as I slid through puddles and tried to hold momentum until the next high, dry spot.

I had gone from California February, with orange groves in full green, to the February the rest of the world is used to seeing.

By the time I reached the crest, I was a mile high and well positioned for the show I had come to see.


Kangamoo said...

Good thing you did your research. Nice to know what kind of car you drive, one that is as hungry for adventure as the driver.

CaliforniaGirl said...

I thought you stayed in California for that race. I am not sure I saw the Tour De Washington from here.