Ride Recap: West Sonoma County

Well, you missed a really hot one yesterday. By the time we rolled back to John and Randy’s house at 2 p.m. it was over 100 degrees. Riding up their long gravel driveway with the heat pulsating off the ground, I felt like my head was going to explode. My legs had already exploded a few miles back after the last short uphill when Roger punched up it with 350 watts of e-power. Although I might ride in 100-degree weather in the East Bay, I’m always doing it adagio, not presto as in this ride. Both John and Daryl took turns setting a blistering pace during the day, John mostly on the flats and Daryl mostly on the uphills. Combined with the punishing heat, the tempo made the day a blur—mostly I remember following somebody’s wheel!

Driving up to Santa Rosa we knew it was going to be a hot one. It was already 80 degrees at the start. Maybe it was the weather forecast that kept some of you away or perhaps it was the drive up north. But you missed a beautiful ride. The Gravenstein apples were ripening and we could see them on the few remaining  orchards. We rode through the West Sonoma farm roads to Occidental, on roads just north of Apple Blossom Ride territory but no less rolling. The big hill of the day came early, Harrison Grade at 8%, and fortunately it was partly covered by trees so we didn’t melt completely. I was expecting the temperature to cool down a bit in Occidental but I was completely wrong: it started to get hotter. The heat was made tolerable by the long descent on the Bohemian Highway, mostly in the shade. John, Daryl and Kevin were absolutely relentless and disappeared down the road; perhaps their knowledge of the numerous potholes allowed them to drive the pace. Randy, Roger and I were more timid and went down less headlong. Winter has not been kind to Sonoma roads, not that they were in great shape beforehand either. But the roads have definitely seen better days (mostly many years ago!) On the uphills that’s no problem but they present a problem going downhill. My lord, the potholes had potholes! And I swear we passed a pothole that looked like a bomb had gone off in it. Some dear soul had come along and marked many of them with white spray paint so that hapless cyclists could see them in the darkness before dropping into them.

We took a long (and needed) break at the new Creekside Park coffee stand just outside of Monte Rio. It definitely is the place to hang out and chill if you’re riding up to Guerneville or thereabouts. We were all in need of liquid refreshment and to take a break in the shade on their pleasant wood deck. After iced coffees, smoothies, snacks, etc. and lots of delightful chatter we got back to the business at hand. The Fearsome Foursome took off from the starting line leaving Roger and I to chase them up River Road. We were averaging about 20 mph. I’d like to say that riding into Guerneville was fun. But it wasn’t this time. Sunday traffic was out in force and the back up heading into Guerneville was two miles long. That and the prolific amount of broken glass on River Road had me worrying that one of us (hopefully not me) was going to flat and we’d have to stop in the sun and change a friggin’ tube while our skin melted off. Fortunately no such thing occurred. Guerneville was experiencing a major traffic jam and I was sooo glad to be on a bike despite the Arabian weather—we passed a very long line of cars! But every time we got out of the shade into the sun I could feel the intense heating radiating back at us from the pavement.

We got off River Road onto Westside and of course Daryl punched it up the short climb. By now the shade wasn’t helping a whole lot and I kept looking at my cyclometer wishing I was closer to the end. Right around this point I think everyone (except Daryl) gave in to the heat and slowed down. I certainly didn’t want to stroke out and wake up in an ice bath at the ER. With about three miles to go Roger decided he’d had enough of the heat and just wanted the ride to be over and took off. I gamely tried to follow but my body was shutting down so I ended up sputtering along.

We made it back to John & Randy’s house, which despite the outside heat was cozily cool inside. They plied us with ice water and PB&J sandwiches, but all I wanted was water, food being far from my mind. My skin was coated with a sheen of sweat and my jersey was white with salt. They kindly allowed us to shower up (perhaps the stench was too much to bear!) John checked the local weather stations. At the house it was about 100; at towns nearby—some that we had passed through—it was 104, 107, 102, etc. Yeah, that was one hot ride. But I have to say that it was pretty awesome; I don’t often kick out the jams like that on a ride. We’ll be back but hopefully not during another heat wave!