The plans had been discussed and dissected, plotted and planned, agonized over and approved and in the end quashed and cancelled.
The group held out hope until the very last possible moment, but the annual early season mileage monster, the California Coast ride, from San Francisco to Encinitas was imploded to smithereens by the Cyclone Bomb. The roads we needed to fulfill the plan were covered in rocks and water and only god knows what. And even with one of the best route planners in the game poring over the reports there was no clear way South.
The group splintered with most of the riders choosing to stay in The Bay Area, while some coming from colder climates decided to reroute themselves to the Hawaiin Islands or somewhere in Arizona where the weather looked more promising.
But not Nate and I. We were positive we could salvage our training camp with a couple tanks of gas and some creative route planning.
Afterall, the Central Valley weather forecast was only calling for ridiculous amounts of rain and was not expecting an atmospheric river.
Wheels up and Siri calling out directions for Hollister, our first stop was going to be Jackass Pass. I mean what better way to start off a botched vacation then attempting a ride over Jackass Pass?
As it went I was to drop my riding partner in Hollister and then skiddadle over to the other side of the pass in the car and ride the route in reverse.
“This ride is going to be amazing,” said Nate. “You’re going to love it. You get to have the gravel on the front end of your ride.”
It turns out the problem with this plan is the only part of the ride Nate couldn’t really see or plan for on Google Street View was the “short” 10 mile stint of “gravel” on my side of the pass.
As it turns out Central Valley “gravel” is both emotionally and physically clingy, like hotel oatmeal. You want to love it as much as it loves your tires, brakes and shoes, but you can’t.
I could go on for hours or days about how traumatizing those 10 miles of my life were, but I will just say that Nate had a pretty great ride on the first day and I discovered how difficult it is to hike through miles and miles of thick, sticky mucky goodness.
The other epiphany of Day One was the realization some people thrive under the idea there is no plan and others find the idea of “going with the flow” to be unnerving.
So back to the drawing board we went for Day Two of the big adventure. There would be no more searching out the gravel of the Central Valley. Now we were poring over weather reports and maps in the hunt for the perfect Day Two ride and after several adjustments and a choice recommendation from a trusted friend and the owner of Raid Cycling, Brad Sauber, the stoke again was high.
We spent the night in Visalia and planned another meetup, shuttle route between there and lovely downtown Bakersfield. The sky was clear, the roads were surprisingly challenging and satisfying and the weather cooperated by holding in the moisture.
Day Two epiphany came in the smell and texture of breakfast. It turns out hotel breakfasts are shockingly similar the world over. At least at chain hotels which offer the pancake machine, powder eggs, orange-ish juice, waffle griddles and coffee so weak you can read the paper through. Although, I would prefer some overpriced porridge and a whole milk latte, on the road the hotel breakfast becomes crucial to getting things started right each morning.
The ride included riding East out of Bakersfield along their network of bike paths, past fields of oil rigs and rolling hills past what can only be described as modern day McMansions. Once you reached the end of civilization you were treated to a couple of stunning climbs and little or no traffic.
We both ended the day stuffing Sancho’s Tacos into our face and grinning ear-to-ear.
Another night spent poring over weather reports and Google Street View, RideWithGPS and other interweb sources round us a route up the mountain from Bakersfield headed toward Kernville. The weather reports said the rain would hold off until 9am and it almost did. That is if you consider 7am close to 9 am.
A little over 30 miles and close to 6000 feet of vertical we reached the snowline and a few miles later we had to call it. We were still about 1000 feet from the summit, the rain was drizzly out of the sky and things were getting a nudge slippery. It was the right call and it was heartbreaking. The climb was so good, we have promised each other we would return soon to finish what we started.
With the heat cranked up and the defroster on stun, we drove down into the town of Kernville to drink artisanal beer, eat pub food and spend the night in a hotel room out of a Hollywood movie.
Another night spent on the computer poring over weather reports and route possibilities for our final day were maybe just a little less enthusiastic then when we started the trip, but Nate was no less thorough.
We can’t recommend highly enough the breakfast at Nelda’s Diner in Bodefish. The service is great, the prices are very 2018 and it feels like a pleasant step back in time.
Our final day ride and travels home are an entire book unto themselves, so we will leave that story for another time.
Let’s just say the final lesson which was learned is friendship concurs all and there are not better friendships then one born of and grown by time spent on the bike. Whether that be in the bright sunshine of Summer or the blustering winds and rain of the California Atmospheric River.