1997 > Winter Solstice Double Century > Lisa and KenS's Report
Winter Solstice Double Century:
Sunday, December 21, 1997
D-E/4 (7500 ft)/200
PrologueIt started out as such an innocent idea. Why not have a double century on the shortest day of the year? That way we can get an early start on the double season... we can pick a flat route... we should be able to finish in way under 12 hours if we ride the tandem...
With the exception of Bill and Craig, who had regular 30-50 mile commutes to work every day, rain or shine, most of Team Bikeaholics was ready to hibernate for the winter. Training schedules were thinning out, excuses were being made, certain members were disappearing altogether, body fat content was creeping back above 5%, several teammates had been observed consuming alcohol... What we needed was an incentive, a goal. Something to get us through the winter and into the new year, ready for Doubles, Mega Monster-Enduros, and Death Rides. One November evening at Una Mas, Team Captain Lisa announced her plan for the rejuvenation of the team. Faster than you can say burrito, firm committments were had from Bill and Craig, resounding approval from Tom and Ken, general noises from Thomas, and a willingness to drive SAG from Don, Stella, Karl and John E. (aka The Hibernator). Thus the first annual Winter Solstice Double Century came into existence.
We thought a ride in the direction of Gilroy and Hollister would offer the lowest elevation gain. Ken volunteered to be Route Master, and in no time had the entire course planned out, route sheets made with exact distances figured out, and an announcement on the web page. The basic idea was to head out through Saratoga & Los Gatos to the reservoirs & Gilroy, then on to Hollister, take Hwy 25 towards the Pinnacles, and loop back via Cienega Road. Craig even did a trial run two weekends before to check out the route and report back any problems or suggestions. Craig's time was a little over 12 hours. Whoops, maybe the rest of us will take 13 or 14 hours. The SAG volunteers offered to transport battery packs for recharging during the day, since we'd need about 4 hours worth of light.
We announced the ride to the Western Wheelers via e-mail in an attempt to enlist more riders, possibly even TNTrs. However, the only replies we received were from people who gave us some fairly inventive excuses, told us we had mental problems, or made gratuitous route suggestions.
Craig and Lorna offered their house as WSDC Headquarters. Craig instructed his mom to make soup for the mob of hungry riders after the ride. Lorna volunteered to station herself at Watsonville Rd. and Hwy 152 for most of the day. Even Jerry volunteered to drive the course from Gilroy out to Paicenes and bring us food and water. Liz and Spike agreed to meet us at the Calero reservoir and ride a loop out to Paicenes and back. The number of SAG volunteers kept growing, as the number of firm committments from riders dwindled.
The weather report was checked several times each day, and we speculated whether we'd actually have to go through with the ride or whether we'd all just gather together to have a large ranch/lumberjack breakfast and watch the downpour from the massive tropical storms we secretly hoped for. A big storm did materialize on Thursday night, but had begun to dissipate by late Saturday.
Finally the big morning arrived. It was cold, but clear. We met at Craig's house at around 4:45 am, and readied ourselves for a 5:00 am departure into the cold and dark. Roll-call included regulars Tom, Thomas, Craig, Ken, Lisa and Bill plus a new recruit, Randy. After waiting a few extra minutes for late-arrivals (there werent any!), we formed a regulation Bikeaholics pace line (yes, thats still 4-abreast in a ragged formation) and headed out, with an official start time of 5:08.
There was something serene about riding up Mt. Eden in the quiet of the morning. We were dropped by Bill and Craig early in the ride--- they were trying to beat Craig's record from the week before, no doubt. We pedalled on through Saratoga and Los Gatos without incident. Then, at the intersection of Kennedy and Shannon, we heard the dreaded "pssst pssst pssst" of a flat tire. It was the rear tire. In tandem-speak, this means "disassemble the drum brake in the dark, and make sure you dont lose any of the 50 little screws, clamps, spacers, and bolts in the mud!". Neither Ken nor Lisa were fully awake at the time, and it was a good thing; between Ken's general irritation and Lisa's unintelligible mumbling, there could have been a major captain/stoker incident. However, the tire seemed to come off easily enough, there was no obvious damage to the tire, we found an actual hole in the tube, and we even had the right size replacement tube (that was a major improvement over the previous week's training ride). Just as Ken was about to wield the pump, a spiffy white sports car with a titanium tandem on the back drove up. It was Liz and Spike on their way to the first rest stop, where they planned on joinng up with the ride for just the scenic 120 mile part. They provided us with a real floor pump, and we were soon on our way again.
We met Liz and Spike at the Calero Reservoir along with Stella, who relieved us of our battery packs. The two tandems blasted along the area by the reservoirs, taking turns at the front (we were practicing for the MegaMonsterGilroyPinnaclesEnduro ride). We caught up to Thomas and Randy standing over Tom, who was struggling with a flat tire. (editor TL's note: Hey no way man, I don't struggle with flat tires.. I rule flat tires. I kick flat tire butt!) After a brief regroup, we continued on to Lorna's rest stop, where we gobbled down muffins, Powerbars and Ultra Fuel. The ride out to Bolsa Rd. and out Hwy 25 to Paicenes was a sheer joy. We had a slight wind at our back, the tandems were in true form, it was warming up, and the scenery was spectacular: green fields, blue sky with white puffy clouds, mountains. Our average speed crept up above 18 mph just as we stopped at the store in Paicenes to eat lunch. A few minutes later, Jerry pulled up and offered us fresh bagels, muffins, crackers and water. Next, we headed out for the Cienega Rd. loop back towards Hollister. We picked up a young local racer-type, Jason, from Wisconsin, who was attending Gavalan College and had a daily commute from Hollister to Gilroy. We discussed the precepts of Bikeaholism with him and did our best to recruit him onto the team.
A friendly "beep beep" announced the arrival of Don and "little Guido" (aka Lisa's 4-yr-old son, Arik). "Hi, Mom", shouted Arik in the cutest little voice imaginable. We met them at the top of a hill, where Arik was decked out in his cycling gloves, helmet, new Camelbak Jr., riding his little bike with training wheels. He seemed to be having a good time riding SAG. Don and Jerry leap-frogged each other several times between Cienega Rd. and Gilroy, always friendly and offering food and water. It was on Cienega Rd. that we realized: 1) we suddenly had a stiff headwind, accompanied by gusty cross-winds; 2) this part of the ride was turning out to be a lot hillier than we thought it would be; and 3) our ETA was ever-increasing. The stretch from Hollister to Gilroy was particularly grueling, and even with the tandems taking turns, the wind was sucking out all of our energy and mental strength. Our once-promising average speed began to plummet, and conversation beagn to taper off.
The distance from Gilroy to the Calero Reservoir was only 15 miles, but it took HOURS to get there against the vicious headwind. Liz and Spike, having accomplished their goal of a pleasant daylight outing, dropped out at that point. We met Don and Arik, who were more interested in checking out the horses than tending to a bunch of exhausted bikeaholics. In fact, Don commented that we had that We just want it to be over look.
Somewhere around mile 160, Captain Ken lost his sense of humor. We stopped the tandem to look for it alongside the road, but all efforts were in vain. The tandem continued on toward Los Gatos, in silence. The bikeaholics paceline had by now disintegrated into three groups; Craig/Bill were about 1.5 hrs ahead of Lisa/Ken/Tom, and Thomas/Randy were about another 30 min back. All anticipation of having a leisurely cup of coffee at the Los Gatos roasting company was abandoned as we watched the winter sun slip behind the coastal mountains. At this point the air temperature also plummeted, and we stopped briefly to force down Powerbars and Gu and to reapply our remaining layers of clothing/booties/gloves before entering... THE MAZE.
The MazeWeve been doing the maze (30 different streets in less than six miles) for what seems like forever, but never had experienced it in this way. It was four days before Christmas. People had put Christmas lights up, which totally obscured our normal landmarks. For example, turn left at the dark spot after Trinity just didnt work, as the dark spot was suddenly replaced by a 30 foot neon-lit Christmas tree topped by a 10 foot blinking reindeer. We were forced to slow to a crawl and reconnoiter at each intersection to determine the next course of action. This process took HOURS. But the houses looked nice and the lights seemed to cheer us up. We met up with Karl along Prospect. He tried to be helpful, but all we really wanted was for the ride to be over.
The hardest part of the ride was passing the turn-off on Foothill to a warm, cozy, Lorna/Craigs house in Los Altos, because that would have meant a Winter Solstice 1.8 instead of a full double. All participants avoided discussion of our bail-out options out of fear that someone might actually convince the rest to quit while we were still alive. We knew that such a decision would have meant a DNF and an obligatory repeat of the ride next year. Besides, Ken was totally incommunicative at this point, and we were unable to decipher the various grunts and groans.
Stella appeared with her bright shiny face. She intercepted us at a couple of points along Foothill, where we managed to convince her that we would be able to complete the remaining 15 miles. She left us, but with reservation. We were convinced that the Portola Valley loop, which weve ridden a million times and know every bump and dip, would be a piece of cake. At least, at this point, there was no wind. The reality of the situation was that we were totally exhausted from the hours of riding against a 20 mph headwind, Kens cold hadnt improved (gee, I wonder why?) and Lisaa was exhibiting signs of a hacking cough. Even the slightest elevation gain caused us to reach for the granny gear. We were continually disappointed to discover we were already IN the granny gear.
After more HOURS, we found ourselves on Foothill for the final five mile sprint to Los Altos. At this point, a near disaster was averted. With Tom on the back wheel of the tandem (yes, he had stooped to wheel-sucking!), Ken apparently attempted to multi-task by simultaneously looking at his watch, shifting and traversing a major intersection, and nearly steered the tandem onto a concrete traffic island. Lisas response to the wild manuevering was What was that all about? As Tom related later, Thats when I decided to stop drafting them! He subsequently sprinted ahead, apparently deciding that the tandem was more of a threat than a help at this point in the ride. Ken had nothing to say. In fact, he pretended nothing had happened, and continued pedaling in morose silence.
The sight of Craig and Lornas house seemed surreal through the hazy, streetlighted mist. We rolled up onto the driveway, attempted our standard Rodeo-quality dismount, and then thought better of it and brought the tandem to a shaky halt. We required assistance to get off the thing.
Lorna, Craig, Bill, Thomas and Randy greeted us at the door. Thomas and Randy had obviously had more sense than us and elected to do the WS1.8. A large pot of soup, prepared by Craigs mom, and loaves of sour dough french bread awaited the hungry finishers. Ken was suffering too much to notice the festivities. He slowly packed up and headed home. The rest of us sat around for about another hour recounting the days activities, sharing stories of headwinds, flats, and food stops, and planning next years WSDC. Even Craig and Bill said it was a hard ride, having finished at just over 13 hours - 1 hour longer than Craigs preview ride.
Summarya nice, scenic route, but a lot hillier than you might think! Also, beware of windy conditions, especially in the afternoon. Otherwise, Team Bikeaholics recommends the route as a late season/ early season character-building exercise!