1997 > Eastern Sierra Double > Lisa and KenS's Report
Team Bikeaholics Does the
1997 Eastern Sierra Double
Friday, June 27, 1997, 8:30 amEarly Friday morning, Team Bikeaholics members Lisa Antonino (Team Captain) and Ken Straub (Morale Officer) assembled to load up the car with tandem, tandem spare parts (the list is ever-growing, rivaling the tandem in aggregate weight), tandem tools (including most of what Park Tool Co. has to offer), miscellaneous bike gear, and provisions for travel to the Eastern Sierra Double Century, in Bishop, CA. This ride is part of the California Triple Crown series, and was first offerred in 1996. The route meanders along the scenic Owens Valley north to Mono Lake, then turns south and east on Hwy 120, followed by a return through the town of Benton and the Chalfant Valley. Total climbing is around 10,000 ft, with much of the ride between 7000 and 8500 ft in altitude.
The 7 hour drive took us through the hot Central Valley, brownish-yellow rolling Sierra Foothills, and over Tioga Pass through the most beautiful mountain scenery known to humankind (editor's note: the original version of this report used the term "mankind", which was deemed to be insensitive and potentially inflammatory by the Bikeaholics Editroial Review Board. Subsequent versions used "peoplekind", "man & womynkind", and "bikeriderkind". The term "humankind", while overtly species-centric, has been provisionally approved pending a more detailed study, and may be replaced by a mre acceptable term in future documents). There was quite a lot of snow left in the mountains -- in fact, at the top of Tioga Pass, snow was visible in the parking lot next to the ranger station. The road then plummeted down to Lee Vining, where it met Hwy 395 and headed south to Bishop. Ken, exhibiting his usual speed-demon psychosis, made a futile attempt to hire someone to drive the car down to Hwy 395 and tried to convince Lisa to join in a tandem ride down the pass sans brakes to see if a new tandem speed record could be achieved. This suggestion was curtly vetoed by Team Captain/ Safety Officer Lisa.
The drive to Bishop was hot and long, but not nearly as unpleasant as last year. We arrived at the Fairgrounds with plenty of time to register and get our numbers and route sheets. The rest of the evening was spent eating, filling up Camelbaks, making up 7% solutions of Ultra Fuel, laying out bike clothes, checking sidewalls, pinning numbers on jerseys, etc. (you know what it's like ...).
Saturday, June 29, 1997, 4:05 amThe alarm abruptly sounded. As the smell of strong, Peet's coffee permeated the air, Team Captain Lisa slowly regained consciousness. Bike clothes were donned. Sunscreen was applied. At 5:15, Team Bikeaholics assembled, prepared the tandem for take-off, and proceeded to the Fairgrounds at "one-quarter-impulse". Tandems CharlotteWill and LizSpike were spotted, as well as Bikeaholics Craig and Lorna. TNT's LarryMiloBob were also sighted in the crowd. At 5:25, the flag was dropped, and the 250-or-so riders were released into the early morning air, accompanied by a police escort.
We decided to stay to the back of the crowd for the departure out of town, but after the first mile or so, we slipped into warp drive and caught up to many of the over-enthusiastic starters--- it's amazing how easy it is to do that on a tandem. The eastern side of the mountains were awesome in the light of the dawn, with numerous snow-capped peaks evident. By the time we got to the first rest stop, we had already warmed up quite a lot. Liz and Spike were already there --- they thought we were ahead of them and were blasting to try to catch us! We also saw Sarah, a new bikeaholic we'd met in Palo Alto on a local ride the previous weekend. After scarfing down at least 500 calories and waiting in the Port-a-pottie line for much too long, we decided to "head-em-out". There were still many miles and many hills ahead.
On the way to Tom's Place (yes, that is the name of the town), we noticed a slight aberration in the pedal stroke of the tandem. It seemed as though the rear bottom bracket was loose, but we hadn't noticed it in other gears. We shifted up and down, and ascertained it was a gear problem. The possibility of a chipped tooth was discussed, so we decided to stay out of that particular cog as much as possible (even though it was our favorite climbing gear) and investigate at the next opportunity. Upon examination of the rear cluster, we discovered that we didn't just have a chipped tooth; two entire teeth were broken off the ring, and another two were ready to break off! We decided to REALLY avoid that gear, if possible, and made a mental note to add spare cogs to our list of essential tandem spare parts.
The 3000 ft. climb to Mammoth Lakes was relatively pleasant, even on the tandem. The air temperature was nice, the grade was gentle, and the scenery was gorgeous. Little did Ken know, that from that point on he was branded a "BIOHAZARD" by way of a bright orange sticker found in the first-aid refill kit (one of those little Stoker jokes...) Although StokerLisa got a laugh out of it for most of the day, no one else seemed to notice or even care! The other riders either were too busy looking at the road, or thought it was a little silly. It wasn't nearly as silly, however, as the squadron of ultra-riders with rubber duckies on their handlebars and high powered squirt guns hanging off the back of their Camelbaks.
The climbing seemed never to end. By Mammoth Lakes, we were at an elevation of 8000'. Because the ride was two months earlier than last year's Eastern Sierra Double, we were able to enjoy the delicately beautiful alpine flora. We soon arrived at the "Rest Stop" rest stop near Deadman Summit along Hwy 395. There we took some time to socialize, refill bottles with Ultra Fuel and Spitz, and nourish ourselves with four of the five basic double century food groups--- carbos, salt, fat and ibuprofen (caffeine was the missing element).
The next stretch of the ride continued north on Hwy 395 and then toured the June Lake loop. The town of June Lake is small and quaint, with picturesque cafes, restaurants, cabins and boat launch areas. The views of the lake were splendid, particularly from the back of the tandem, and there were high mountains to the west. We came back to 395 for the last bit to the lunch stop along the shore of Mono Lake. At that point, we noticed that our average speed was really going up, and the riding seemed significantly easier. Suddenly, the tail/headwind detector began to flash, and we realized that we were going to have to fight a ferocious headwind on the way back from lunch. As we approached Lee Vining, we saw Tandem CharlotteWill (waaayyy ahead of us) and Craig heading the other way. Oh, well, we were having a fun time. Although our average on-the-bike speed was high, we seemed to lose all our time by "dilly-dallying" at the rest stops in our typical Bikeaholics fashion.
By around 1:00 PM, we had reached the lunch stop. We gave our numbers to the official, then settled down to the business of calorie replenishment. TNT'ers BobMiloLarry were still there, but looked like they were ready to head out soon. In fact, our arrival seemed to be a cue for their departure! After a couple of minutes, Liz and Spike made it in, and while we were sitting around on the grass eating our pressed turkey sandwiches, potato chips and bananas, we saw Sarah and Lorna ride in. They were doing really well - first time Triple Crowners, too! We enjoyed our official rest time, socializing with the other Bikeaholics, but before we knew it, it was nearly 2:00, and the dreaded headwind and climb up to Sage Hen Pass awaited us.
The headwind was as bad as we thought it would be. We trudged along at about 12 mph, cutting our way through the wind to the turn-off to Hwy 120, where the headwind became a ferocious side-wind. The view of Mono Lake was beautiful as we began the ascent into the pine forest. Fortunately, we were mentally prepared for the climb this year, and Lisa was spared last year's whining and complaining by her teammates. The pine trees seemed to be growing right out of the volcanic rock, and there was an absence of the undergrowth or detritus usually seen in forests on the west side of the mountains. At the top of Sage Hen Pass, we retrieved our lighting system, filled our bottles, and ate what we could (the Cup-O-Noodles went down very well). The rolling hills on the other side of the pass were tedious, but the final descent into Benton was crowned by a new Starcruiser land speed record of around 58.5 mph (the exact max velocity information is unavailable to Stoker Lisa for security reasons)(editor's note: it was observed that TeamCaptain Lisa, who normally is curious about statistical information and asks for frequent updates on tandem velocity, became noticeably quiet above 53 mph -- the significance of this is being investigated).
Tired, hungry, dirty, and sweaty, TandemLisaKen finally arrived at the Benton community center rest stop. Chairs were placed around the perimeter of the room, and tired, weary riders were scattered around the hall, grasping various forms of nutrition. Although we had enough time to spare before sundown, there was a sense of urgency to get back on the road. Lisa stuffed down a couple handfulls of potato chips, filled up a bottle with UltraFuel and freshened up in the Ladies Room while Ken waited impatiently outside with the tandem.
The remaining miles to Bishop were relatively easy, although we had a side-wind most of the way. One rider attempted to draft us on the side, but nearly pushed us off the road when a large tandem trailer truck blew by. We decided it was safer to ride alone and proceeded to drop that particular single rider in one fell swoop. We were very tired and irritable at this point. The sun moved lower and lower in the sky, and finally set behind the mountains. There was a rest stop 11 miles from the end, where we briefly stopped, mostly to relieve ourselves of the saddle for a few minutes. Two hundred miles on a tandem is a lot harder on the saddle than on a single bike. We arrived in Bishop at around 8:10, and cruised into the fairgrounds. It was still light out, and the temperature was pleasant. Due to the usual gastro-intestinal uneasiness, not much food was consumed at the end of the ride, although Lisa did manage to inhale a bowl of the tasty home-made vegetable soup, while Ken contented himself with a Diet Coke. Bikeaholic Craig had arrived a few hours earlier and was waiting for his wife, Lorna. Will and Charlotte had already showered and dressed in fresh street clothes. Larry, Milo and Bob were seen lounging around. Milo commented that he was "inspired" by the Bikeaholics. In this context, "inspired" meant that the TNT'ers were "inspired" to leave the rest stops when we got in so that they would beat us in to the finish! Within the next hour, Liz, Spike, Sarah and Lorna arrived, and we all sat around until nearly 10:00 PM reliving and sharing the days' events.
All in all, it was a good ride, we improved our time, got in before dark, and generally felt better than last year.
Recommendationsthis is still a great double, unequaled for scenic mountain and high desert vistas. The earlier date relative to last year's ride (late August) afforded prettier views, since snow was still in abundance at the higher elevations. We recommend it!