The weather ended up being quite nasty, with a lot of rain, and a cold wind (especially chilly when you are wet). We were meeting at a place called Skep and Skein on the Westside--about 9 miles from my house. I rode up there. There were 15 hardy souls that showed up. The women's posse numbered 6--Jen, Michelle, Monica, Jean, Erin, and myself.
The original plan was to do the "Sub-Black Hills" over to Delphi. Tim said it would be bad--impossible to ride up or down with all the rain we've had. So, scratch that--fine by me! Instead, we headed straight over to Delphi, then up Cedar Flats to Maple Valley, and into the forest. We did a short hike-a-bike to get to the gravel road (B-8400...I think). It's a heck of a climb up B-8400. When I first did it on Stella, I had to walk. The couple of times I've done it on Mama Cass, I've made it without walking, but MC has much lower gearing. I didn't know if I'd be able to make it up on Hal without walking, but I did! Granted, I was very very slow (possibly, I could have walked faster). Everyone made it without walking. Michelle and I were matched pedal stroke for pedal stroke. I could hear her telling herself, "Don't walk, Michelle. Don't walk." I told my legs to listen to Michelle.
It had actually stopped raining while we were climbing (great, because I had taken off my waterproof rain shorts-they tend to fall down when I'm climbing, making it harder to pedal). But, as soon as we started the descent, it started raining again. I was plenty warm enough. Soon enough we were back to climbing. Those who are faster than me (which is everyone) would wait at the top of each hill, or at every turn. The super fast people would add extra by either coming back down, or going up another spur, then coming back, only to pass me as I was slogging along.
We came down the long descent. At the bottom, we had to make a decision. This was where we could bail, and take the highway back from the Rock Candy Mtn Trailhead. But, we had only come about 10 miles or so--a little short. We decided to continue. They were not going to go all the way up to Capitol Peak anyway (one of these days, I'd like to do that--maybe in summer). There were two more big climbs, then we would get to come down C-8000 to Noshka Rd.
The rain was really coming down. Water was running down the road. I said to Erin that I didn't know how the salmon could do it. I was having a hard time "swimming" upstream! We finished the first climb, then got to ride along the ridge for awhile before heading up the next climb. At one point, the front group was told to go right at a fork in the road. By the time I got to it, Derik, chasing after the others, said the correct way was left. The few of us who were behind continued to the left. At another fork, Jason wasn't sure, so I stopped and waited. I looked back as the group was coming and saw Lee bunny hop a branch, and then crash! He was okay. Erin said he shouldn't have done the bunny hop as he has crashed and broken various bones before. Fortunately, not this time.
As I was riding along, Derik rode up and said, "Didn't we go this way on that ride where we all got really cold?" At first I didn't think so, but then I realized we must have. That was my third gravel ride on Stella. At least this time, even though the weather was close to what it was that time, I was not cold...yet.
At the top of the last climb, the wind was blowing and quite cold. We got moving, only having a few hundred more feet to go before we would turn onto C-8000. At the top of C-8000 I put my rain shorts back on for the descent. My thighs were a little chilled from the windy part. I knew I would freeze coming down the long descent. Those who had taken jackets off, put them back on. Some changed gloves.
The ride down was fun and scary. Part of the descent is very exposed--great views, but you'd hate to make a wrong move. I've only come down C-8000 once when it wasn't raining. After getting back into the trees, the road is not quite as steep. Then it's really fun. You can go faster without having to brake. At that point, I didn't look to see how fast I was going. In the upper section, where I was on the brakes the whole time, I saw I was going 16mph (on Stella I had gone 12 mph at the most).
After a brief bit of an uphill, we came down and popped out onto Noshka. At this point, I was really wishing the cars were waiting at the "Y" like last week. Alas, no. We would have to ride back to town. At least there was the downhill part of Waddell Creek Rd.
At the intersection of Waddell and Delphi, I told everyone I would turn at 62nd and go around Black Lake. That is the shortest way for me to get home. Although, I would have liked to join the group at Skep and Skein, I knew if I stopped, I would not want to get back on for the remaining 9 miles home. Nope, better to just keep moving. Monica said she would go that way too. So did a few others. It was actually shorter to get to Skep and Skein going on Black Lake Blvd.
I left that group when I turned to go over Sapp. From there it was just me. I was tired, and counting down the hills I still had to go up. At least it didn't matter that I was slower than a turtle. By then, my hands were pretty cold (lobster gloves can only keep out the water for so long).
I made it home. Turns out, I did 52 miles (counting the 9 to get to the start). Total elevation was over 3800 ft. Not bad work for a dreary day! I say it was epic, even though we cut it short! As always, a rainy day on the gravel is much better than a rainy day on the road, or sitting at home watching the rain from the couch!
Ready for the next one (okay, maybe not exactly ready...but I will be)!