One might think that having done 5 of these dirt rides, I would be getting the hang of it. Or, at least knowing what to expect. Two of the 5 have even been in Capitol Forest--the location for today's ride!
We met at McLane Elementary. I just rode from my house. It is 11 miles. The rain was already coming down when I left home. I made it to McLane as the other 5 riders were there and getting ready. Geraldine was ready, having also ridden from her house (lucky for her, not too far away). This was her first go with the gravel group, but she has had lots of experience riding on non-paved surfaces in her cyclocross racing.
Derik showed us the route. We would get to the dirt by riding down Delphi to Cedar Flats (which is more not flat than flat), to Maple Valley Rd. At the Y, we continued straight onto gravel and through a couple of narrow trails into the Forest.
When we got to the dirt road, Derik said we would be climbing for awhile. Some removed jackets. I unzipped my rain jacket and partly unzipped my jersey. We started climbing...and climbing...and climbing. It got very steep. I was trying to position my butt so the rear wheel wouldn't spin out, but then I started popping little wheelies. As I subscribe to the idea that, as far as gravel riding goes, there is no shame in walking, I got off and walked up the steepest part. Geraldine finally had to walk too. Of course, none of the guys walked. Derik said, as he rode by me, that this was the steepest part. Yeah, I thought...we'll see.
I got back on at a less steep spot and rode the rest of the way to the top, still wheezing like a donkey. At least I wasn't cold. In fact if I had removed my jacket, I'm sure I would have created my own fog layer! We pedaled on. When we came to the first downhill, I was, as usual, a little tentative. It takes me awhile to get my confidence going. Plus, even though the very first ride was also in the rain (and I didn't even have the new tires), there was more soft mud on this road (and more rocks too).
We did some more climbing and descending. On one of the descents, a pickup was coming the other way. I'm glad I was on the right side! Also, my glasses were fogging to the point of being able to see better without them. So, now, not only is it muddier, but I can't see as well either. Of course, I just go even slower than I already do. But, the group is great at waiting for me. Derik usually opts to ride back toward me. He takes these opportunities to fly down the hill I'm climbing like a mad man (really, he is a highly accomplished rider) grinning ear to ear.
The guys wanted to go up to the peak of Rock Candy Mountain. Since Geraldine and I would be slower (okay, really just me--Geraldine keeps up with them just fine), we would meet them as they came back down from Rock Candy. After another climb, Geraldine and I stopped to eat, and Geraldine put on a dry hat and dry gloves. I let some air out of my tires as I seemed to be feeling the rocks more than necessary. Hopefully, it would also give me more control going down.
Derik told us to stay on B-5000 to C-4000. So, whenever we would come to another road, we would look at the number. We didn't really notice when we got onto C-4000, but we did...somehow. Usually, I have my Garmin Edge Touring...not today. It would have told us when we got onto C-4000. But, that wasn't really the problem. The problem was that we missed the next turn which was C-8000. Funny thing is, we stopped at the intersection. I think, because we didn't know we were already on C-4000, we were looking for that sign--not C-8000. Anyway, we continued on C-4000. Shortly after the intersection with C-8000, the road went up very steeply. We couldn't see any bike tire tracks, so we weren't sure we were going the right way, but we continued. I finally reached a point where I could no longer ride, and got off to push. Shortly after, we heard Derik coming up behind us to tell us we had missed the turn. Thankfully, we didn't have to go up anymore, (turns out, we were headed up to Capitol Peak--no wonder it was so steep!). However, we had to go back down. I'm, of course, pulling on the brakes. I was still picking up speed, when I looked ahead and saw a car coming. I pulled the brakes as hard as I could, telling Stella, "Slow down Stella! Slow down! Come on, you can do it!" I managed to get Stella under control as the car went by.
Back at the intersection, we turned down C-8000. Derik said there would be some pretty steep downhill. He wasn't kidding! It was about 7 miles down with a good portion of it being quite steep. To keep my speed to a reasonable 12 mph, much of the time I was pulling the brakes nearly as hard as I could. Just before my hands were about ready to give up, the road flattened out some. Then, I'd get a little rest before the road would get steep again.
We came out to Noschka Rd. The original plan was to get back to the dirt on C-9000 and ride it to C-9200 where we would come out at Alpine Dr. But, everyone had had enough, so we just stayed on the pavement to Sherman Valley and the top of Waddell Creek. When we got to Delphi and Waddell Creek, Derik asked if I wanted a ride home in his car. I told him I thought I could make it. I'd go 62nd to Black Lake, over Sapp, and back home. Besides, that way I didn't have to go up Delphi to get back to McLane.
I made it home, soaked from head to toe, and cold. I'd have to say, today's ride in the mud and rain was not my favorite. Even though that route had a ton of climbing, I'd like to do it again when the road surface is dry and not so soft.
I didn't take the camera today. There wouldn't have been anything to see anyway.