The start was at Rochester Primary School in...wait for it...Rochester (surprise!). Because it's a Gran Fondo, which is not a race, it was a mass start regardless of which route everyone was doing.
Riders getting ready.
There wasn't a ton of riders, something like 62 or so, for the whole thing, but it was a good group start. There were lots of teammates, and other people I know. We tried to convince Andy and Katie to do the Dirty Medio with us, but they had their group plan for the Medio Road.
The weather at 9:00 was already plenty warm enough to go without arm and leg warmers. Karen even ditched her vest at the last minute. I had sun sleeves on, but that's just because I hate putting sunscreen on my arms.
Our initial plan was to stay with the tandem (pretty good drafting there!). However, early on, they got a flat, so no more tandem drafting. We passed a bunch of people, and found ourselves in the front. We could see the other large group ahead of us, so we decided to try to catch them. We were working hard, rotating amongst the three of us. We were gaining on them, but then the rollers started. Michelle made the call to stop the chase and let them go. Thank God! At that pace, we were going to be dead before we even hit the gravel! We caught up to, and passed a couple of people who had dropped off, but the rest of the group was gone. Of course, we didn't feel too bad, as the bulk of that group were on road bikes, and we were on our gravel bikes (Hal Jordan, my cross/gravel bike has 40mm tires).
We made the turn onto Garrard Creek. Before long, we were climbing up. That climb was, pretty much, the longest climb on the pavement (of course, we had to do it from the other side, coming back).
After the climb--good shadow picture, and you can't really tell, but Karen has Wonder Woman socks on with little mini capes.
More miles on the pavement, then we came to the turn to go to Brooklyn (left to Brooklyn, right to Oakville). At the turn was a rest stop. They had such treats as bananas, oranges, string cheese, and croissants. We didn't feel the need to spend too much time there, so I grabbed a croissant, and ate it while we continued riding (well, half, then stuck the other half in my jersey pocket--yep, just stuffed it in there).
The sign at the turn said, "Brooklyn 11 miles". What? Shouldn't it be 15 to make 30 miles of gravel roundtrip? Curious! Even when we made the turn, the road remained paved for a few more miles. Finally, we saw this sign.
Woo Hoo--gravel time!
Immediately, the road started going up, rather steeply up, in fact. We stopped where it leveled out just a bit to let some air out of our tires. Then we continued to climb. Every time we went around a corner, or came to another hill, Karen and Michelle said, "Please Sir, may I have another?" I said, "No thanks, I'll pass." That was not allowed, so I said, "I'll gladly pass mine on to another!" Finally, I caved, and towed the partly line by saying, "Please Sir, may I have another?" too.
Karen and Michelle asking for, and getting, more hills.
And the climb continues...strangely, there was a guy parked here who warned us to be careful on the descent. Thing was, we had lots more climbing before we actually started the descent. Some might worry that we may have forgotten the warning (then again...we're not stupid).
The descent was fun. Michelle was, of course, flying down. Karen and I were a bit more cautious. I managed to hit a few potholes that were in the dappled shade, and thus difficult to see until I was right on them. As Katie would say...Hang on Bitches! At times, John, from the Green Team, was in front of me. He had 28mm tires. I stayed back a bit in case he wiped out (he didn't).
Before we knew it, the gravel was over (for the way out, anyway). Hey, that wasn't very many miles! By our calculations, we figured it was about 8 miles or so. Then we were on the pavement for about 3 more miles into Brooklyn, and the turnaround point at the Brooklyn Tavern.
We made it!
One of those fancy weather stations.
We parked our bikes and went inside to see about some refreshments. The Brooklyn Tavern is billed as the most remote tavern in Western Washington. It's in the heart of logging country, so one can guess the usual patronage does not arrive in Lycra on a bicycle! But, that was the case today! The pickings, as far as food goes, were pretty slim. Apparently, there were hotdogs. Karen, and Michelle had beers and chips. I, not being fond of beer, but being super fond of sugar, had a Coke and a Snickers. It was delicious! Karen and Michelle had used the restroom, and said it was a must see. Let's say, this was the only slightly suitable photo I could take and put on this here blog!
Yes, that's part of a tree that looks like...well, I think you can tell.
We enjoyed our break at the Tavern, but still had to ride back the way we came. The climbs going back didn't seem quite as steep (except for one part) as the ones coming out. Or, maybe it was the Coke and Snickers (and I had finished off my croissant).
Selfie with Karen and Michelle coming along.
We caught up to John and Dave, both Green Team guys. The descent down was great, but I still managed to hit a few potholes (maybe even the same ones I hit going out?). We returned to the pavement with the five of us riding together.
Dave, John, Karen, and Michelle
We pulled into the same rest stop. I had another Coke and a string cheese. Karen and I added air to our tires with the floor pump they had. Then John and Sheila (?) arrived on the tandem. As we left the rest stop, Michelle said to get on the tandem's wheel...which we did. I asked them to not go terribly fast as I had just guzzled a Coke and string cheese, and didn't want to hurl while riding. They were kind, and didn't hammer the pace...mostly.
We just had one more big climb to get back to the top of Garrard Creek. As I was coming down, John and Sheila, with Michelle on their wheel, came flying past me. They went by so fast, there was no way I could get on Michelle's wheel. Karen was ahead of me, and the same thing happened to her. Down on the flat, Michelle let the tandem go, and waited for us to catch up.
When we got back to the intersection of Garrard Creek and Manners, we had a command decision to make. The official route went right, up Manners to Lincoln Creek, then up Michigan Hill back to Independance Valley. We could do that, OR...we could simply turn left on Independance Valley, and save us a few miles, and a couple of big hills. We decided we were good with going back on Independance Valley. We all knew we could make it going over Manners, but we were just as satisfied by not doing it.
We arrived back at the school at about 2:15.
The finish line!
Back to the car--thanks, Katie for taking the photo!
The three of us decided we had a really good time! Sure, there wasn't as much gravel as we thought, but it was fine. We couldn't have asked for a better day, weather wise! Please Sir, may I have another!