Friday, June 15, 2012

SF to Tahoe - Day 4 Folsom to Alta

As had been my routine for this trip, and every day actually, I awoke early.  I'm usually awake by 4:30 most mornings and even on days off, rarely sleep beyond 6:00.  The challenge with having a roommate for the entire trip is to balance my internal clock and habits, with being a considerate roommate and not waking Dwight.

After seeing me wandering around the property waiting for the dining room to open, the lady working there finally took pity on me and offered me coffee from a pot she had made behind the bar. I grabbed a couple of cups and was going to head back up to the room, when Dwight stepped out of the elevator.  Evidently I hadn't been as quiet as I thought when I left and he was awake and ready for breakfast.  Maybe I should have renamed this blog "Eating our way to Tahoe"
Our plan this morning was to get on the road by 7:30. This was earlier than our normal start times so far of 8:30ish and was motivated by the fact that it was supposed to be in the 90's today.  Not only would be be heading up in to the Sierras, but we'd be doing it in the heat of the day.

A little later than planned but still earlier than normal, we were on our bikes and headed out of the parking lot.  It appeared from the map, that we could just get back on the bike trail we had ridden in on and continue up the road.  Um....nope.  The trail quickly degenerated into a dirt path, then even further into a single track hiking trail....a little more adventure than our skinny tires were setup for so we turned around, headed back to the parking lot and started out again, this time on the road.

As we left the downtown area, we crossed over the American River where it comes out of Folsom Lake and jumped back on to the American River Bike Path.  The path was nice and well shaded as it wound up and towards the lake. 

At some point we got off the bike path and onto the Folsom Dam Rd...which later became that damn road as it turned into a dirt multi-use trail that would have been more fitting for a fat tired bike than it was for my carbon fiber goddess of speed. 

Nevertheless, being more stubborn than smart, we continued on until we were at a point where it required a phone call to Bill and a conversation with a couple of hikers to figure out just where in the heck we were.
After a couple of starts and stops and some nice little climbs, especially impressive due to a complete lack of traction, we made it to the parking lot for the Granite Bay State Park and met up with Bill to regroup, get water, shed some layers and figure out a plan to get back on route.

Once back on route, we picked up Auburn Folsom Rd and settled in to a nice rythym and were actually making pretty good time.  The road was in good shape, the weather, though warming, wasn't uncomfortable and the traffic was light. 

Google Maps has a routing tool for bicycles.  Evidently its still in Beta and for the most part it worked well.  There were a couple of times where it took us off the main road, only to dump us back on after detouring through some residential neighborhoods.  I assume the goal is that since we're on bicycles we want to stay off main roads, but the reality is these "detours" didn't seem to add anything to the ride other than just a different road. 

A couple of times though, it almost seemed as if the engineers at Google were just being mean.  We turned off of Auburn Folsom Rd (which as I stated was a very nice road) onto Shirland Tract Rd which immediately went UP.  As a matter of fact, it went up on a switchback so steep, I actually heard Gail drop the "F" Bomb!  I later found out that Gail has a very distinct climb difficulty meter. Tough climb, really tough climb and after that, they're rated based on the number of "F" bombs dropped during the climb....Shirland Tract Rd will go in the books as a 2 "F" Bmb hill. 
Once we got the first two climbs out of the way though, the road was really pretty and continued to roll up, then down along the ridge before dropping us down at the next meeting spot in Auburn.

After getting water, gels, etc from the van we wound through Auburn and eventually came to the place we were to meet for lunch.  Auburn, like many of the towns we had gone through, is one of those places that in a car we go by on Hwy 80 and if we stop, it's usually just off the highway for food or gas.  There are actually some interesting things that most people will never see. Like giant concrete indian figures....
Lunch was at a Subway where we thankfully enjoyed the modern convenience of air conditioning as we sat and ate.  It had definitely gotten warm outside, but still not brutally hot as I had feared it would.

The morning had started off with some stops and starts, a couple of missteps and some interesting routing provided by Google Maps.  Thinking the afternoon would be any different would have been a mistake.  It wasn't long after lunch that we had our first "adventure".  Evidently we were supposed to be looking for a certain road to turn on and somehow missed it.  This led to a "nice" climb (that's sarcasm in case you're not sure) in full sun up to a pretty lake.  It would have been even prettier if we were meant to be there and didn't have to go backwards from here.
Eventually though, after talking to our support crew in the van (did I mention that I LOVE cell phones?) we found our way back on route and continued on. There were some good climbs and some fun descents as we worked our way up the hill towards Colfax.  Evidently, the engineers at Google have never actually been to Colfax since they had us going on Narrow Gauge Rd which is totally NOT a road. As a matter of fact, I need to find out if I can sue someone to replace my cleats from all the walking we did on this route.  I'm not sure I could have climbed this one on my geared mountain bike.
Oh well, like I said, it's the things that don't go according to plan that create the memories and this was shaping up to be a good one.  Soon enough we came out on a paved road and were back on route yet again.  The route, it turned out was from Rollins lake up to and over highway 80. This was abou ta 3 mile climb that gains 1000ft.  Nothing too brutal, but in the heat this late in the day, I was definitely feeling it.
Thankfully, Gail and Leticia were in the van at the top of the hill with cold drinks.

Its on these types of long, steady climbs that my brain tends to check out and my focus turns inward.  For me, riding has always provided a outlet for stress, a time to think through issues and problems and a healthy way to turn myself inside out and work on life's challenges.  The singular act of making cirlces is almost like meditation for me.

It's an easy thing, when facing challenges, to get so caught up in them that you forget to keep things in perspective.  My personality probably leads me to do this more so than many because I tend to be a little obsessive (some people have even accused me of having control issues. ha!)  In my day to day life I often find myself so focused on one issue or another that I let things get a little out of whack.  Riding my bicycle really allows me to step back from that and put things back where they belong on the priority list.  I have an awesome family, good health, a roof over my head and food on the table. I truly am blessed. Afterall, here I am, on a 7 day bicycle vacation, through paradise, with almost all of my closest friends
Once we refueled, we crossed over highway 80 again, and continued our climb, descend, climb routine up towards the sky.  Bill joked that with all ups and downs, it was requiring 2000ft of climbing for every 1000 ft of elevation we gained.  And I don't think he was far off the mark.  The downhill sections, which should have been joyous, we actually almost disheartening since we knew they only led to more climbing later.  Still, the scenery was pretty, the road was empty and as it had been all week, the fellowship was perfect.

Eventually, the road we were on ended and we were forced to ride a section of Hwy 80 up to Alta.  There wasn't really anything scary about Hwy 80, it was just not fun.  The shoulder was at least 10 ft wide, fairly clear of junk and debris and in decent shape.  Still, the cars and trucks whizzing by at 65 mph with the noise and the dirt they kicked up and the wind combined to make this the worst section of the day.  Add to that, my legs were cooked, it was uphill and hot and I just wanted the day to be over.
And soon enough, actually it felt like the longest 5 miles ever, it was over.  We were taking our offramp and pedaling around the corner to be greeted  by a very cool, nicely renovated victorian house that was to be our lodging for the evening.  We quickly dropped off the bikes, got our stuff inside, grabbed a beer and went and put our feet in the pool.  The water was freezing but felt so good that I dared Dwight to jump in.  He in turn said "if you do, I will" which I responded by jumping in....yep, again, my little pea sized brain convinced my body to do something stupid....
After everyone had cleaned up and relaxed for a it Joanne, who owns the B&B, provided us with an awesome dinner of ribs or vegetarian raviolis.  Joanne, it turns out, is quite a character and although I think she would have loved it if we stayed up all night sharing stories, we were all pretty wiped out and hit the sack early.

Total for the day was about 60 miles and 5K of climbing (I'm guessing since my garmin no longer stays charged for a full day's riding)

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