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    2003 Tour of Two Forests Double Century Ride Report
    (Saturday, September 27 in Lancaster, CA.)


    (Click here for my photo album from this ride)

    After a half day in the office and a too-long 340mi drive mostly on boring I5 from Menlo Park to Lancaster, I arrived at the Best Western Antelope Valley Inn at around 5pm and checked in. I knew absolutely nothing about the Lancaster area and was a little surprised when I discovered its in the Mojave Desert on the drive in. It was 101°F when I arrived, which didn't bode too well for a cool ride on Saturday! After a sub-par spaghetti dinner at the Desert Rose, and a no-fuss pre-ride checkin, I went back to my room to get ready and try to get some sleep.

    The alarm went off at 5:45 and I blearily fumbled to turn on the coffee maker. After a cup and the usual pre-ride preparatory activities, I rode to the front of the hotel and joined the gathering crowd of cyclists at around 6:05, ten minutes before the mass start. Chris Kostman, Mr. Planet Ultra, gave a brief pre-ride speech, and we hit the road, blinkies a-blazing, at 6:15 sharp. The peleton was about 140 riders, many more than last year, I gathered. As usual with a mass start event, the riders quickly split into groups, with the super-fast becoming blinking red dots on the horizon before I knew it. I settled in with a fairly fast group, and we zoomed south through Palmdale on the Sierra Highway at 23mph and before I knew it, 11 miles had melted away.

    Continuing on Sierra Hwy, I fell off the back of this pack, as I was having to work too hard to stay with them on the small rolling hills, and mile 11 of a 218-mile ride is no place to be putting in unnecessary effort! The sun rose red over the desert, casting a nice morning glow on the surrounding hills as I sped along with a couple other riders. We soon came to Soledad Canyon, rumored to be a lovely and long descent. Rumors proved to be correct and I had a grand time on the gentle descent through the Angeles National Forest (one of the two forests for which this ride is named) before re-entering semi-civilization AKA Santa Clarita. After passing Magic Mountain and nearly missing a well-hidden turn onto Henry Mayo Dr. I pulled into the first rest stop at a 76 gas station (47.4mi) at 8:44. I took some hammer gel and sustained energy, stretched a little bit, and headed back out.

    It was an uneventful ride zig-zagging through citrus orchards towards Santa Paula. I saw a fellow I don't know, but whom I've seen on every double I've done, and decided it was high time to meet him. His name is Dave ("Big Ring Dave"), and he proved to be a good riding companion into Santa Paula. I'd been to Santa Paula two years ago on the Grand Tour Double and it was as I remembered it - dusty, pale, and a little crummy-looking. I didn't want to lose my nice riding group, and wasn't planning on stopping at the water stop just out of Santa Paula, but just then the hose pulled out of my camelbak and it dumped a couple of liters of water on me - grrrrr! At least I was near the water stop. I pulled in to the stop (79.1mi) at 10:43, cursed my poorly-designed pack (if you put much of anything in it, it pinches the water bladder, not allowing it to move as you bounce around, eventually working the hose off of its attachment - this has happened to me quite a number of times previously), and got back on my way as quickly as I could.

    It was a lovely 8-mile low-grade climb up Ojai Rd. to the Sulphur Mountain summit (1,600ft.), followed by a pleasant descent into the Ojai valley. The descent wasn't as super-fun as I remembered it being on the Grand Tour, but that was at least partly due to being stuck behind a slow truck for the last leg of the downhill. Before long I arrived in Ojai and the second rest stop at Sarzotti Park (94.7mi) just before noon. They were out of Sustained Energy - ack! This was a very bad thing, as that's what I rely on for my calorie needs. They also had no desirable Hammer Gel flavors left (but two almost totally untouched bottles of Apple-Cinnamon - does ANYBODY acutally like that horrible flavor?). This wasn't good either. I choked down some nasty apple-cinnamon gelstuff and snacked, then hit the road.

    To this point, this had been the fastest century I've ever done, taking only 5hrs 45min including a fair bit of stopped time. My hitherto fast'ish average speed was to decline rapidly. After riding through Ojai, I turned on Maricopa Hwy (Hwy 33) and soon entered the Los Padres National Forest. "Highway" was perhaps overstating things a bit, as this quickly turned into a narrow windy two lane road as it climbed steadily. It was getting hot by this point, around 100°F, and despite being in a forest, there was virtually no shade anywhere to be had. I stopped to rest in one of the rare shady spots and briefly chatted with another rider there. He was not feeling at all well, but declined my offer of Tums, aspirin, and endurolytes. I saw him pass in a SAG car an hour or so later. There was supposed to be a water stop 10 miles into the climb, but 10 miles came and went and there was nobody around. Hmm. A passing SAG vehicle pulled off and offered us water, which was good, as I was running a little low. The driver said that the person who was supposed to staff the water stop never showed up, but that there was a water stop a little further up the road. A "little further" seemed to take forever, but eventually I got to it at 14:52, about 5 hilly miles farther than it was supposed to be. The folks manning the stop were very friendly and apologetic for the confusion, which was of course in no way their fault. It was very hot now, over 105°F, and as hot as 107 according to my watch. Owwwwwwww.

    My body and mind started an inexorable drift downwards somewhere en route to the Maricopa Summit at 3,805ft (a climb of 3,000ft. in 13'ish miles out of Ojai), but once on the summit, I enjoyed a 4-mile descent into the Sespe Gorge, which unfortunately was immediately followed by another climb. I was starting to seriously question my desire to finish this ride, as there remained about 100 miles ahead of me, and a good deal of climbing. It was still over 100°, which was really starting to take a toll on me. I was determined, however, to at least ride to the lunch stop a few miles ahead. I passed a recumbent rider sitting in a patch of shade and stopped to see how he was doing (and to take a break myself). He wasn't feeling at all well either, but soon some of his friends arrived, and I took off. I finally pulled into Wolf's Grill (124.4mi) at 16:50. I had a subway sandwich and a coke and relaxed a bit, thinking about what I was going to do. As I pondered, a rider threw up his lunch, and another rested on his back, unable to sit up. Annoyingly, Wolf's Grill was not open (it was supposed to be), and hence there were no restrooms available - gah! I decided to give it a go, and after a stretch, hit the road again.

    A short ways down the road I saw a tandem whose riders were also wearing this year's Climb to Kaiser jerseys, and when I pulled over to rest and talk to them, it turned out to be the nice folks I'd met on the Climb to Kaiser. One of them was having sharp knee problems, and was wisely waiting for a lift. As we talked, SAG-driver-extraordinaire Lee pulled up, tooting a very appropriate Lone Ranger theme. Before too long I regretted my decision to continue on, as my joints were aching, my spirits low, and consequently, at a little after 18:00, I pulled over into a shady turnout and waited for a ride. My ride was over, and with it, my chance to get my third California Triple Crown. At least I no longer had any pressure!

    Although my ride was over, my day was very far from it. I was not expecting anything like a speedy lift back to the hotel, but had I known how long it was going to take, I would have continued riding, as I could possibly have bicycled the remaining 90 miles in the time it took me to get a lift back! A ride staffer who was transporting goods in a van pulled over and offered a lift to the next aid station, where she said I could probably get a ride back. I got to the Heartbreak rest stop, waited for all of the remaining riders to go past, watched as the two SAG vehicles that came in proved to be full, helped pack up the rest stop for lack of anything else to do, and eventually, when there remained only one rider on the course, put my bike in staffer Brian's car to get a ride at least as far as Tejon Pass. Uh oh, his car wouldn't start. His battery had completely died, and neither he nor the rental van had jumper cables. We tried to push-start his pickup down the hill, but that just resulted in him coasting down a windy road in darkness with no lights to guide him - not at all a safe situation! We pushed Brian's truck onto a turnout, Pam took us back to the rest stop, drove back and picked up the last rider, and we all set about stuffing 4 people, 3 bicycles, and all of the gear of a rest stop into a van. Not an easy proposition, but it was made easier by the odd rider stating that he absolutely would not stack his bike and he would rather ride on than stack it. Um, ok, whatever, more room for the rest of us.

    Pam drive Brian and I to the Best Rest Inn rest stop near Tejon Pass, where I sat around for a while, waiting for that stop to close. When it finally did, two other riders and I piled into another van, this one driven by Chris Kostman, Mr. Planet Ultra. He was nice and chatty as we drove back to Lancaster. Turns out he knows the rider who wouldn't stack his bike. Apparently said rider has a 16 lb. bike but carries a 45 lb. load in his camelbak - rather eccentric to say the least. Anyways, just before midnight, I finally got back to the hotel, nearly 6 hours after calling it quits!

    This was a beautiful ride, at least what I saw of it, but the weather was awful, and the support wasn't too great (not for lack of trying on the part of the nice volunteers, though!).

    Ride Stats:
    Distance: 126.5mi
    Total Time: 11h 53m
    On-bike Time: 9h 7m
    Average Speed: 13.9mph
    Average Speed
    (including stops):
    10.6mph
    Maximum Speed: 44.2mph
    Total Climbing: ~8,000ft.

    Overall Ride Rating (out of 10):
    Difficulty: 8
    Support: 5 - typical of Planet Ultra rides - no-frills, but friendly. Lack of restrooms was a bit problematic.
    Food: 5 - running out of Sustained Energy at the Ojai stop was a real bummer.
    Route: 9
    Weather: 2 - too damned hot!
    Overall: 7 - would have been nice to finish, but oh well....


    Last modified 02 November, 2021 MST
    Copyright © 2009 Adam R. Paul
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