It was a bit of a letdown packing up and leaving Healdsburg. We just finished 375km in 3 1/2 days including the King Ridge Granfondo 160km and we were tired. On the first ride, it was 34 plus deg and it seemed like a dry sauna to me (before you throw the water on). Within no time, my head felt on fire, I went through 2 water bottles of Gatorade and my buddy dumped some of his water on me which felt like a hot shower. We stopped at a Shell and I dumped a litre of cold bottle water on my head and back that did enough to cool me down. We stayed in the valley (dubbed Dry Creek Valley) which was shaded and few degrees cooler and rode for another 3 hours. We visited Sonoma Lake, rode along the Russian River and rode through Healdsburg. I had a blast! and whew, that ride was hot!
The next day was an “easy” ride before the big race and we rode on the Mill Creek Road. This road is along a creek and amongst huge redwood trees. The more rememberable moments is a 29% hill that I had to do the zig-zag bmx thing on the steepest section. Unbelievably steep!!! Riding down was my first test of the braking capacity of my new carbon wheels and luckily I didn’t soil my shorts!
The start of the granfondo was a site to behold! 7500 riders taking up 4 blocks 2 lanes wide and more streaming in from the sides. The pace was leisurely until the big climb to King Ridge. Okay when I say steep, I mean, “can’t keep the front wheel down” steep. There were people walking, or breathing very heavily and one thing I noticed was there was no talking. Everyone was in their space trying to tackle hills of seemingly impossible to ride gradients. The views during the fondo was absoluting stunning – from riding in the Redwood-filled valleys, to ascending into glassland/Tan Oak forests to riding along the western ocean shores; this fondo had it all. I have yet to find its equal.
The afterride the next day was to the Sweetwater and Armstrong Woods and the most rememberable ride of the trip. We rode through Armstrong Redwood grooves of 10 foot diameter trees and some 300 ft tall! We rode up to Bullfrog pond which averaged 15% grade but the steepest portion bounced between 25% to 15%. Bmx-zig-zag thing saved me from walking. Also, being called a female body part if I stopped did alot to motivate me to not stopping. I believed that anyone that saw me ride by would have overheard me chanting over and over again “Naked chicks and waterfalls around the next bend, naked chicks and waterfalls around the next bend…”. The ride up Sweetwater was neat and really steep. One of the sites was we rode through an old abandoned (early 1890’s) mercury mine “Great Eastern Quicksilver Mine” that is considered a toxic hazard to this day.
Along the way, I made a remark that it seemed like “Melissa Gilbert” would be running down the hill in a scene of Little House of the Prairie, as we rode along the grasslands.
Healdsburg, CA – lots of hills, lots of roads, hardly any cars and 100’s miles of fun, steep, and gorgeous rides!