Ride Report: Rumble in the Ranchlands
The second ride in this year's Gravel Gauntlet series, with start/finish
near Mariposa, outside Yosemite. Unlike the other rides, this one was on
a Sunday, so I had all day Saturday to ride there.
This time I actually planned to leave from the east bay, both to get
a bit of a change of pace (I ride south from SF all the time for my
commute) and because I wanted to get some pastries from my friend Faye's
favourite bakery (La Fournée) and ship them off to her.
For the ride itself I would again need my cross bike, but I wanted to
avoid using a backpack like I did for Panoche. So I got one of those
big seatpost bags a few days before the ride. Having never used one
before, I didn't really load it very well the first time. As a result,
about a minute after leaving my house, when I went over a speed bump
the bag kind of "kinked" and started rubbing on my rear tire. Before I
could stop I had already worn through a small section of the bag. Not
off to a great start. I re-packed things and re-tightened all the
straps and that at least allowed me to get to BART without any issues.
I rode over to La Fournée at a fairly leisurely pace, picked
up the order and then gingerly made my way over to FedEx to ship it
off, being careful not to drop anything on the way (riding one-handed
with a big box). After FedEx, I hit Peet's for some coffee and ate
a few of the pastries for breakfast (sorry Faye!) Then I made my
way up tunnel, over skyline and into Livermore. Redwood was "closed"
at one point due to a washout, but the barriers weren't particularly
arduous and were easy enough to walk around. I found some cyclists
coming the other way in the "closed" section, so it didn't seem like
people were taking it all that seriously.
I stopped in Livermore for some more coffee (iced this time, as
it was heating up) since I knew there wouldn't be much stuff for a
while after that. Next up was Patterson Pass, which I had only ever
ridden in the opposite direction (on the Devil Mountain Double). It
was quite nice in this direction, and I definitely lucked out since
it wasn't super hot or windy. The view from the top was pretty nice;
things were still green from the rain.
After Patterson Pass, the ride would be pretty much entirely flat
until the climb up to Mariposa at the end. It was definitely warm
at this point, so I needed to drink pretty regularly. I had been
trying out a new kind of water bottle (Fabric) where the bottle clips
in to some pegs instead of sitting in a normal bottle cage. This
was actually pretty annoying, since the bottle needs to be oriented
just right to re-seat it back on the pegs. Getting it clipped back
in while riding, especially on a bumpy road or at night, is pretty
tricky. At one point I failed and the bottle fell and went under
my rear wheel. I was fine, but the bottle was cracked and useless.
Fortunately it wasn't too much longer after that happened that I was
able to find a convenience store and buy another bottle of water. But
because I didn't have a normal bottle cage (just the peg thingies),
I would have to keep all my drinks in my jersey pockets from now on.
I stopped again in Modesto for some more cold drinks, then made my way
on to Merced. Along the way I passed through Atwater, where my work
team does some testing, but wasn't able to see anything from the road
(intentionally, presumably). In Merced I hit a Little Caeser's for
dinner, just grabbing one of their "hot 'n ready" cheese pizzas. It
wasn't very good but it was salty and carby and hit the spot pretty
well, along with some coke.
From there I just had the last climb up to Mariposa on CA-140. It was
starting to get dark and the road was quite busy, with a very narrow
shoulder in some sections. About halfway up, my friend Chris (on her
way to work one of the aid stations the next day) had pulled over in
a little pullout area, so I stopped to say hello. We chatted for a bit
and she convinced me to use both my rear lights instead of just one
(which was probably a good idea). About 15-20 minutes later, a CHP
officer stopped me and asked me what I was doing. I think she was just
surprised to see a cyclist. CA-140 is bike legal and I was riding in
the shoulder, with lights, so I really wasn't doing anything wrong.
She eventually let me continue on, and I made it to my hotel in Mariposa
without any other issues.
After checking in, I went to the shop across the street to buy some
food for breakfast and then hit the hot tub, which felt great after a
long day of riding. On the way back from the hot tub, there was a butt
naked dude trying to get into a room on the second floor of the hotel.
I don't know what his story was, but he wasn't there in the morning so
I guess he got in eventually somehow.
My friend Yvonne showed up a bit later, and I got a solid 6ish hours
of sleep before waking up in the morning to drink some of that
bad-but-better-than-nothing in-room hotel coffee and hop back on the
bike to ride to the ride. The ride to the start/finish was about 20km
with a brief uphill followed by mostly downhill, and went smoothly.
I saw quite a few familiar faces at the start/finish, and was feeling
a lot better than I felt at the start of Panoche. The hot tub time the
night before, combined with a decent sleep, was definitely helping.
The ride itself started fairly hectic but then settled into a steady
pace. I was feeling pretty good and was enjoying the ride, slurping
up cokes at the rest stops and making pretty good time. The course
was really pretty with everything still being green, though the
winter rains had taken out a few bridges leaving some rather large
Unfortunately, about 10 minutes after the last rest stop I came across
my friend PfC who had crashed and was pretty out of it. His bike was
messed up (front wheel wasn't turning), his helmet was smashed and he
was pretty incoherent. So I decided I needed to wait with him until
somebody could come give him a ride. I told everyone who came by to
let people know, since I didn't have any cell service. Eventually, a
local in a truck came by and agreed to give PfC a ride. I followed
them on my bike and a little while later we intercepted Murphy,
who took over from there.
The rest of the ride went smoothly, though I was low on water after
waiting in the heat with PfC. When I got to the finish, I found out
that PfC was at the hospital and decided that instead of riding home,
it would be best to take his car (the team car) and meet him there
with our friend Alex, since nobody else left was able to drive it.
We got to the hospital and found PfC shortly afterwards, a bit scraped
up but otherwise doing fine. After grabbing some gas we drove back
to SF without trouble, though the team car struggled a bit at highway
speeds, as is its way.
I had been planning to ride back via Mount Hamilton, not all the way
to SF but to Mountain View for work the next day. It would have been
amazing to be at the top of Mount Hamilton in the middle of the night,
but that adventure will have to wait for another time. And as a bonus,
I got to go to work on a full night's sleep the next day :)