Second FYI: You MUST check out the APOD today! It's INCREDIBLE!!!
And back to the normally scheduled programming...
Last weekend's ride originally it began as "Carmen's Jelly Legs Ride" - meaning, your legs would be JELLY by the time you were finished! She and I had spoken a week before about riding over Coleman Valley Road because neither of us had done it before. For anybody not from around here, the Santa Rosa Cycling Club has a nice profile of the climb here (along with all the other major climbs in Sonoma County).
Total climb in forward direction: 1089 feet
Total climb in reverse direction: 1633 feet (this was the way we went - the reverse way...in other words, that straight DOWN you see was straight UP for us - awesome!)
We both wanted to do this climb and thought of starting/ending a ride at the Wildflour Bakery I've written about in Freestone. But they're closed for a few weeks in January for their winter break. Boo. :(
Carmen's original route involved some 5,000 feet of climbing over 50 miles. We decided to file it away and do it when Wildflour reopens. Instead, we made a variation of her route that was still 50 miles but didn't have QUITE as much climbing (though, MapMyRide told me about 4,000 feet of climbing and Pat's Garmin had 6,000 feet of climbing...so I don't know, maybe it was just as much) and started/ended at West County Revolution in Sebastopol.
We called it Matt's Birthday Ride since Matt's birthday was Sunday. Ride profile on MapMyRide is here. The weather decided to cooperate and we were going to be in for a spectacular day. In fact, spectacular almost doesn't do justice for the views we were treated to. Our first hint that it was going to be an amazing day was climbing up Burnside Road (a very apt name for a road that makes your legs BURN!) and getting to experience 270-degree views at the top. The hills below us were green and out west we could see the coast, looking east we could see all the way to the Geysers. It was amazing.
Arriving at Hwy 1 seemed to come in no time. We'd been on the bikes for a little over an hour but it seemed like mere minutes. We were all in great moods. For the first ride in a long time, I could actually feel my toes! I didn't need my super warm gloves! This was awesome!
Instead of staying along Hwy 1 until Coleman Valley, we opted for a common cyclist route along a road called Bay Hill Road. It's a small country road that diverts off Hwy 1 at Bodega Bay and takes you up and over the hill and meets up with Hwy 1 again just north of Bodega Bay. Much safer and you don't have to deal with all of the tourist traffic (and hence, unsuspecting drivers not used to cyclists on a road with no shoulder). But, of course, there is some decent climbing involved here as well.
However, just as the top of Burnside Road rewarded us with magnificent views, cresting the last hill on Bay Hill treated us to an incredibly clear view of the coast ahead. There wasn't a speck of fog and the water was as calm as you could ever imagine. Wow.
We made our way down to Hwy 1 and took in the delights to our left. This was a day that made me so grateful to be in this place, at this time. Over and over in my head, I just kept thinking "wow, we are SO lucky." Apparently the surfers thought so, too - they were out in FULL force. There were perfect surf conditions - gentle-breaking waves and the air was cool but cold by any means (though I'm sure the water was freezing...that's what wetsuits are for!).
Reaching a parking lot, we stopped for a group photo and to savor the California coast for a moment before we began our tough climb back inland. Everybody agreed that there couldn't have been a better day to do this ride, as typically the coast gets socked in with fog and wind during the summer.
Our moment of tranquility ended before I was ready to let it end. It was time to CLIMB! Climb, climb, climb we did. Looking back, it doesn't seem so bad. But that's the mind just playing tricks. I won't lie, it was damn hard. The first part of Coleman Valley is a wall. Something like 19% grade at some parts, I think. When somebody built that road they just decided to cut to the chase and get to the top.
I was really wishing for a 27 on my rear cog. But I just kept turning my legs over, cautious not to let my heart rate get too high because I knew there was more climbing after the initial ascent and I didn't want to burn out too soon. It's also a tough climb because you see these turns and you think "well maybe it's over around that corner." Nope. It kept going (or seemed to). Usually the first time on any tough climb is the hardest, generally because you don't know the turns and where it ends.
Eventually, though, it did end. We all made it, and we did it well. I was very proud of all of us.
The view from the top!!
The road goes through a beautiful valley and then you have to do more climbing to get OUT of the valley (legs were tired by now), but then there's a great descent to Occidental that was a lot of fun and not too many sharp corners to have to slow way down for.
We made our way back to Sebastopol and had post-ride beer and lunch at HopMonk. I don't think I could've picked a better way for such an incredible ride to end. Saturday's ride was one of those rides I will remember for a long, long time. We stayed together as a group, we worked hard, we had fun and of course, I can't wait to do it again.
Here's a photo album of all the ride pics: