Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The 2011 Tour of Two Forests Double Century

On this day I completed my 99th California Triple Crown Double Century. It took much more effort this year on my part to reach my goal by the Grand Tour at the end of June.

Mother Nature just made it difficult from the beginning. Most of the rides had weather challenges.
I have done 8 doubles in 2011. One of them I did not complete. The Death Valley Double was a wind nightmare. The Solvang Double was rainy and cold. We had heat come out of nowhere on Hemet. Heartbreak was a wind fest. Eastern Sierra was epically beautiful but was a real wind challenge at the end.
The rides since the end of April, the last month and a half or so, have involved a large amount of climbing. I calculated that, between the events and training, (and I didn’t train that much between), I have accumulated just under 100,000 vertical feet of elevation gained on the bike.
I am not built like a climber but I sure love it! The most beautiful of the rides involve climbing. On this event I definitely felt all the climbing I had put in my legs the two previous weekends!!

On June 11 I did one of my favorite rides. The Tour of Two Forests.

This is one of my favorites. The first time I did this event was back in the late 80’s when it started in Palmdale California. The start has since been changed to Santa Clarita, not far from home.
The event was done this year “Brevet Style”. Since there were not that many people doing the ride we just had one leap frogging support vehicle. Our support crew Jon and his sister Jennifer carried our drop bags and other goodies for us to eat and drink.
Before the event, a few of us decided we were going to start a little early and just enjoy the ride. We did not want to make it hard on the support guys by going too slow so we started early hoping that the fast people would catch us on the climb up to Pine Mountain somewhere and we would pretty much stay together from then on.

My friends Vic, Saralie, Terri and Ken started with me at around from the hotel on The Old Road in Santa Clarita.
Left to right: Me, Terri, Saralie, Vic and Ken
Ken motivating down Hwy 126 at first light

We headed out of town and down the Santa Clara River Valley on Hwy 126 before turning on
Torrey Road
for a nice ride to Santa Paula through the orange orchards.

We just cruised through this first leg and enjoyed the view and good conversation. We passed Balcom Canyon on the way and joked about taking a detour up this very difficult climb which we do on the Mulholland Double. Terri almost made the turn but we talked her out of it....ha ha.....didn't need those 20% grades on this day!

Once we got to Santa Paula the climbing began. We started the climb up Dennison Grade to upper Ojai Valley.

Along the way a few miles up the road we stopped for the first check point at Steckle Park. We ate, and got water from friends Jon and Jennifer who did an awesome job supporting us.


                                          This video is us toward the top of Dennison Grade.
Upper Ojai Valley
Off we went up the climb to Upper Ojai Valley. We stopped and re-grouped at the top before rolling through the valley and then descending to Ojai down below.

Down, down we went into Ojai, a great little town just north of Ventura. A beautiful place to live!

We made a right turn on Hwy 33.

Terri up ahead starting the 30 mile climb to Pine Mountain Summit
Now the climbing really begins.

Wheeler Gorge and the climb to the summit of Pine Mountain are as epic as it gets. 30 plus miles of climbing with some of the most wonderful views. The grade averages about 4-6% so it is not too bad....just long!
This year the Sweet Broom plants where in full bloom and the whole climb smelled of their fragrance.
I stopped at the bottom to strip out of my leg warmers, vest and warmer gloves in anticipation of the long climb.

And oh what a fantastic climb it was!!

We started the climb with overcast skies, climbed into and through the clouds, popped out of the clouds for a spectacular view of the road we came up. One of my favorite.....OH....I think I already mentioned was awesome.
Jon got this pic of us talking at the Ranger Station

Along the way we regrouped at the Wheeler Ranger Station. This is where the later starters caught us. Most of us started up and stayed pretty much together all the way up to the first summit. Did I say that it was an awesome and beautiful climb? Drive this route sometime. You won’t regret it!!

Friends Rick and Tony riding with Vic in the middle

Rene', Julie and Colin climbing in the mist

The climb below...from the first summit....Matillaha...I think?  Looking toward the Channel Islands and the Pacific

I broke out of the clouds about 2/3 of the way up then went over the first summit by myself for a nice descent into the Sespe Wilderness area.

I had a nice flat to gradual climb through this area before reaching the next check point before the final climb to Pine Mountain Summit.

I relaxed at the check point for awhile, ate, had something to drink and waited for my friends to come in. They arrived and did the same. We were about 85 miles into the ride at this point. It seemed longer due to all the climbing thus far.

Pine Mountain in the distance
Off we went for about a 6 mile climb to the summit of Pine Mountain. Terri, Ken and a few others left early and were going to wait for us at the Ozena Fire Station before our next turn.

I waited at the top for Vic and Saralie, taking pics of everyone as they passed by.

Vic crank'n to the summit

Saralie cresting Pine Mountain
Bombing down off of Pine Mountain

Once they got to the top we blasted down off the mountain to meet up with the rest and the turn onto
Lockwood Valley Road
Tony on Lockwood Valley Road
Now we joined the course of the Heartbreak Double Century which I did just a couple of weeks before. We stay on the same course as that event until we almost reach Palmdale, then the course changes.
When we made our turn on Lockwood Valley road, the temps really elevated. It was now in the 90’s and there was hardly any wind to cool us.
As we slowly climbed Lockwood toward Heartbreak Hill it got hotter and hotter and steeper and steeper capping out at the summit of Heartbreak.
The temp got to about 95 with a slight tail wind that only made it feel hotter. I started to bonk some about 1/3 of the way up so I slowed up, downed lots more food, then picked up the pace some until I started feeling better. I was melting by the time I crested Heartbreak. I was not the only one!

Tony got this pic of me melting just passed the steep part of Heartbreak

Then he got me again almost to the summit
Jennifer, Vic, Rick and I chowing down
We all regrouped at the top and had a nice meal. It was about mile 100 of the ride. We still had allot of climbing to do before we were finished but it looked like we were going to have a nice tail wind most of the way back.

We left the check point for the next two climbs before dropping to Frazier Park.

The next two climbs were real nice and not too hot. Through the pines we went before our first descent into the Lockwood Valley.

First climb after Heartbreak.....Lockwood Valley here we come

Lockwood Valley with Mount Pinos in the distance
Vic and I rolled through the valley together until we reached the foot of our next climb....Owls Barn Summit. We waited for Terri, Ken and Saralie there.

They rolled in not far after us and we continued to Owls Barn. The easiest of the days climbs so far.

Over the summit we went and down to Lake of the Woods before bombing down into Lebec via Frazier Park. We now had a nice tail wind.

Ken, Vic and I turned right on Peace Valley road for the climb to Tejon summit in Gorman.

We stopped at a convenience store there for refreshment. I had a mountain dew and Vic had two plus a hamburger. I had a peanut butter and honey sandwich.
When the rest arrived we relaxed for a while then headed south-east toward Palmdale.

Ken and I chasing Saralie down on Gorman post road
Saralie and Mr. Merlin flying up the old ridge route

Vic on the old ridge route

Terri crank'n up the ridge route

Ken coming up with Quail Lake behind
We had a nice tailwind down Gorman Post road to the 138 hwy and Quail Lake area where we turned on the old ridge route.

Up....up....up we went again to our turn on
Pine Canyon Road
Pine canyon is one of the most beautiful roads to ride! Pines and oaks mixed, no cars, spectacular views....just epic! We all loved it and it took our minds off the grunt climbs that were along the way.

Looking back at Pine Canyon Road

After dropping down to Three Points we started a couple tough little climbs to get to Lake Hughes. On shorter rides these don’t seem bad, but at mile marker 146 or so of a double century, it hurts.
The last one was about 11% toward the top. Vic and I waited there at the top for the rest of the group. Vic just powered up that climb like a man possessed!!
Saralie did not even stop and just rolled over the summit for the bomb of a descent down to Lake Hughes and Lake Elizabeth. We all followed and had a nice mild tail wind to the next check point in Lake Elizabeth.

Vic captured this pic of the swarms we had to deal
Getting hit by B-29 sized bugs on the way down and along the lakes we made it to the check point.
There were gigantic swarms of mosquitoes everywhere and they were not biting. Just swarming. Weird! Vic got a great shot of the possessed bugs.
We got all our lights set up, put on our cold weather gear and headed out for the last climb. Bouquet Canyon.
We were flying with a tailwind toward Palmdale before we got to our turn. We made the turn with still some light left and started the climb. We could see fog coming over the mountains and thought we were going to be damp and cold on the way back down to Santa Clarita.

Up we went and then we heard them.....coyotes...coyotes!! Were they stalking us? Could they smell our sweat and all the carbs we had been eating all day?  Were we to be there dinner?

We were joking with Saralie about it and howling ourselves when she thought she might have a flat tire. It was making a funny sound. It was a flat and just part of doing one of these events. It happens and you can’t get upset about it. Just fix it and move on.
Saralie and I working on the tire while Vic and Ken hold the coyotes at bay
She took her bad tube out and began checking the tire for foreign objects. I checked it and didn’t feel anything with my gloves. I thought I would snag it if there was something in there. She checked one last time before putting a new tube in and good thin she did.
She found a small piece of wire. So small that you could hardly feel it. We could not get it out. It became kind of frustrating until Ken found a pair of tweezers. Ken saved the day. We got it out, pumped up the tire and were on our way.

After the summit we had a long descent back to Santa Clarita and
Copper Hill Road. In the dark it just seemed to take forever.

We made the turn at the bottom, had a couple more climbs before reaching the
Old Road near Magic Mountain. Left we turned for a long gradual climb past Magic Mountain and the finish.

An epic day to say the least. We finished late but never really pushed ourselves to our limits. We just had a great time. All of us.

A great thank you goes out to Vic, Saralie, Ken and Terri. I had a great time and loved sharing this event with them.


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  2. Hey Steve, It was good to see you again at Borrego this year. what size camelpak did you bring on the tour of two forests ride?