2003 > Davis 600K > Don's Report
Speed Bump on the Road to Paris
Stats: 128 starters 99 official finishers 28 DNF 1 other 373 mi 15,000 ft. Personal stats: 37:45 elapsed time 0:00 sleep time 8:00 rain 2 ibuprofen 2 caffeine pills 1 cafe mocha (free) 6 hammergel flasks 1 dead Avocet 50 altimeter :-(
In the Beginning
The Davis brevet season was going great. The weather in Northern California had been cooperating beautifully, without too much of the wind or heat that are frequent companions to rides that start from Davis.
At 3pm, while brevet officials were still setting up, I left my drop bag by the Boy Scout cabin and went to park my car in a UC Davis parking lot for the weekend. I intended to return immediately to put my drop bag in the proper location to ensure delivery to Ukiah.
As I reached the parking lot, a severe thunderstorm cell parked itself over downtown Davis. Many riders were waiting in their cars, hoping for a break in the rain so they could at least be dry at the *start* of the ride.
After about 20 minutes, the rain let up a little bit, so I loaded up the bike and rode over to registration, getting only moderately wet in the process. Unfortunately, my drop bag had been sitting unprotected on the grass during the heaviest portion of the rain! All of its contents were packed inside ziplock bags, with the unfortunate exception of the sweatshirt I had thrown in there for extra warmth in case of cold weather. Sigh.
Riders preparing for the brevet had set up a temporary refugee camp under the eaves of the movie theater across the street, attempting to stay dry until the official start time. This could turn out to be a really soggy, miserable ride.
We may have been crazy for doing the ride, but at least most of us had the excuse of having signed up in advance. Just who were those people at the same day registration table???
At the appointed hour, riders tentatively hit the road for the start of the Davis 600k. Where did all of the cars come from?! It looks like Daryn forgot to arrange for a police escort out of town. As we left town, the rain stopped and the the roads dried up. Hooray! By the time we were five miles out of town, the roads were dry and the sun was coming out.
As we headed across farmland toward the dam, Tom Lawrence said that he was actually starting to like Putah Creek Rd.
What will this ride *really* be like?
For rides that leave Davis and head west over a known course, I find that I usually know how I will fell on any given portion of the ride based on how I feel as I start the the climb up Cardiac. Today, the yellow warning indicator for my right knee was flashing; perhaps I should have taken it easier the previous week on Mt. Hamilton. I stopped to put on knee warmers in addition to leg warmers, and although the climb was my slowest for this year, the warning indicator lights for both knees stayed off for the rest of the ride.
Somewhere, alone in the darkness before reaching Calistoga, I was beset with questions that I'm usually too tired to ask myself when darkness falls: What am I doing riding out here along in the dark?
I knew I should have left my helmet and gloves on...
Due to the rookie mistake of making one additional purchase in the Cloverdale minimart, I found myself leaving slightly behind the pack. The climb up Highway 128 was lonely and dark. Somewhere near the top, I caught up to Michael & Susan, and we prepared for Mountain House Road.
As we went down Mt. House Road in the dark, I thought for a moment that the Mendocino Highway Dept. had thoughtfully put out a warning marker to alert travelers to a section of rough pavement. As I approached the flashing light, it turned out to be a tail light separated from an earlier randonneur who did not see an abrupt 5-inch drop in the pavement.
Mountain House Rd. is where the action was: riders resting, riders with flats, sag vehicles taking inventory. It was good to see so many fellow riders.
About a dozen or so riders rode together from Hopland to Ukiah, a truly unusual experience for me 200k into a ride. As we turned west into town, I noticed some flashing lights far above; It occurred to me that those lights might be on top of the hill we had to go over to get to Boonville, but I tried to put that thought out of mind.
Raindrops keep falling on my head
As I left the Ukiah control at 5am, it started to rain. At first, a light drizzle. The light drizzle became a heavier drizzle. The heavier drizzle became a light rain. Memories of 200k brevet up Atlas Peak in 1999 started coming back to me.
About 2/3 of the way up, the lead pack went by on their return trip to Ukiah. I caught up to Michael & Susan near the top. They provided me with a detailed description of the descent, having done it 4 years earlier. Susan optimistically added that "It's really quite beautiful when the weather is nice".
Due to memories of the infamous Atlas Peak ride, I did in fact have my closed-finger winter gloves with me, and managed to get down the hill while keeping the feeling in all of my fingertips.
Rumor has it that the thing to do in Boonville was to strip off all of your clothes at the local laundromat and dry them out while drinking fresh coffee, using a windbreaker as a sarong. I'll leave it to Dave Leonard (or anyone else who can give a first-hand account) to expand upon this.
The turn-around point was in what must usually be a beautiful location, a campground in a coastal redwood forest. However, in the unusually wet early-May weather, the campground was cold & wet. I was barely able to stave off hypothermia, even while quaffing multiple cups of hot chocolate and hot soup.
The rain teased us by stopping for minutes at a time [Forecast: Rain with isolated pockets of dryness] but by the end it turned out that the only way to escape the rain was to leave the soggy coastal section of the Highway 128 corridor.
I arrived back in Boonville just in a nick of time for breakfast, joining Michael & Susan for hot pancakes.
Climbing the hill on the way back to Ukiah, the rain started to dissipate. It warmed up and started to get nice, with only a light shower on the descent as a final goodbye to wet weather.
Leaving Ukiah, we finally left the rain behind us. After a few miles of pleasant rolling terrain, I caught up to Michael and Susan on the front porch of the general store in Hopland.
The lady working in the deli wanted to know if we were the same group that had been there two weeks earlier; I told her it was a ride put on by the same group, and that we were doing the same ride, with an extra 200k tacked on. She took this as an opportunity to sell me an extra large sandwich.
Leaving the control in Cloverdale, I got that warm fuzzy feeling that only happens on 600k brevets where you sigh with relief and say to yourself "Only 100 miles left to go".
The Cafe Mocha in Calistoga was on the house, as the lady taking orders took pity on a tired-looking rider who wasn't stopping until he made it back to Davis.
After an infusion of ibuprofen and caffeine, I was climbing Sage Canyon Rd. like my bike was rocket-powered! (At least that's how it felt - when you can't see the cyclometer, you lose a bit of objectivity) I passed several other riders, then stopped at the top to lay beside the road for some stargazing, so we could finish the ride to Moskowite together.
As we entered the pool of frigid air that surrounds Moscowite Corner late at night, I found myself once again trying to stave off hypothermia. While a few people opted for a brief nap, I sat and waited, eating soup, hot chocolate, and sandwiches.
Despite my wonderful NiteRider headlight, I was just a little too tired to feel comfortable cruising down Cardiac and the dam at full throttle. However, the reflectors on the sides of the road never acted like a heard of wild animals threatening to jump out in front of me, as they occasionally seemed to on other 600k brevets.
Somewhere in the neighborhood of Lester Farms on Putah Creek Rd, it became evident that roosters don't feel compelled to wait for the rising sun before they start issuing their wake-up calls.
The sun came up as I reached Old Davis Rd., and soon I was back at the Main Street Bagel Cafe, with a full complement of fresh bagels to choose from!
Brevet cards were signed, medals were purchased, PBP strategies were discussed. Tom L. popped over to say good morning. I managed to check-in to the Hallmark by about 7:30, getting at least a few hours of sleep before being kicked out.
After riding brevets for five seasons, I realize that I've developed a suspension of objectivity with respect to any ride that starts in Davis. LisaA was describing the San Luis Obispo 600k brevet route to me, and all I could think was "That sounds like a long ride!" Start a ride the same length in Davis, and it sounds almost normal.
Don Bennett firstname.lastname@example.org