|Heartbreak......looking down on the Lockwood Valley|
I have done this event many, many times over the years. This event was born due to the closure of the Highway on the Tour of Two Forests course back in the early 90’s when heavy rains caused a mountain side to come down on Hwy 33 above Ojai.
In fact, this was the course Vince and I rode back in the 1993 wash-out of the Tour of Two Forests re-route. (It was early June and it rained and sleeted on the ride. 250 started……22 of us finished. It was brutal to say the least.)
It was closed for many years and the organizers were forced to change the route of the event from a Southerly approach to the Lockwood Valley and the Heartbreak Hill climb to an approach backtracking out of Palmdale on the Tour of Two Forest return course then adding the climb to Pine Mountain Club and Apache Saddle before the long descent to Hwy 166 and then approaching Lockwood Valley through the CuyamaValley.
This year I did it as a self-supported staff ride with some of the staff. This course is very remote so we had to plan our stops accordingly.
I love doing staff rides now that I am older and not concerned about pushing the clock. It is so much more laid back and fun because we all try and stay together so no one is left out by themselves.
My plans were originally to do the ride this year on my single bike but found out at the last minute that my double century tandem stoker Teresa Beck was able to get the day off work.
We are both training for tough races this year on our single bikes. You can’t ask for better training than on a tandem, especially on a ride with climbing.
Maybe the climbs in Utah this year won’t seem as bad on the Hoodoo 500 if I get used to riding such a heavy bike in training.
Part One: Palmdale to Lebec/Frazier Park Mile 0 to 50.7
We rolled out of Palmdale about 5:15am with 6 of us. Teresa and I on the tandem, Terri, Tony on his fixed gear bike, Rob and Joe. The weather forecast was iffy so we were carrying a lot of extra cloths and food. I used my rear pack on the bike and we were again carrying much more weight than normal. (No problem……just better training right?)
We rolled up Elizabeth Lake Road through Lake Elizabeth and Lake Hughs in the Leona Valley before starting the real climbing toward 3-points and the turn up Pine Canyon Road.
It was amazing watching Tony climb and descend on the fixed gear.
Pine Canyon is a really beautiful climb up to the “Old Ridge Route”. Pines and Oaks and some really nice ranch properties up in that area.
Here is a video of us going through this really nice secluded section of the event course.
|The group climbing Pine Canyon|
|Tony riding fixed on Pine Canyon with Rob to the left|
We dropped down the ridge route to Hwy 138 and Quail Lake. From there it was up into Gorman.
So far the weather was pretty cold. It was warm on the many climbs in Pine Canyon but the cool, mild headwind really helped out.
Unbelievably for a change, we had a tail wind going into and through Gorman to Frazier Park. The riders on event day were not so lucky.
We stopped to re-supply at the Flying J store in Frazier Park with water and food.
The middle part of the course from Gorman and back to Gorman goes through 5 counties.
LA, Ventura, Kern, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.
LA, Ventura, Kern, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.
From Frazier Park we started the long….long climb up to the turn on Mil Potrero Hwy for Pine Mountain Club.
The wind started to switch on this climb and we had a head wind which was actually pretty nice on this section because the sun tends to heat this climb up. The cool wind really helped.
The clouds started to build now and it started to look like rain up on Pine Mountain.
Teresa and I were really feeling good so far on the ride and the pace was really nice.
Teresa had just completed the Davis Double Century the Saturday before and here it was Wednesday. I had done the Baldy Ski Lifts to watch the Amgen Tour the prior Saturday so I was tired too. Coming into the ride we were both concerned that we were not recovered.
We knew we had a really good descent coming up just before the long climb to Pine Mountain Club.
Just as we reached the summit before the turn on Mil Potrero Hwy, two big trucks made the turn. We both went “oh crap….. These guys are going to slow us down on the descent”.
We stopped and took a little rest before starting down. We flew down the first part of the drop but at the best part where we needed the momentum to get up the first hill, we caught the trucks and had to slam on the brakes…..on the uphill. We geared down and crawled up the hill which was about 10% grade. We then had a nice descent were we were stuck behind the trucks again and on the brakes all the way.
We grunted up the final hill to Pine Mountain Club for our next stop for re-stocking at the store. We took a long break there before the final climb to Apache Saddle at mile 71.
The final climb up to Apache Saddle seemed almost effortless as we just spun the pedals in a low gear. We seemed to get there in no time.
Part 3: Apache Saddle to Ventucopa Mile 71.1 to 103
Now came the fun part on the tandem. A nearly 21 mile drop down to Hwy 166.
It was not all descending though. There are a few spots on the way down where the road goes up and very steeply at that. There were a few 12%+ sections in there but it was mostly down hill.
Here is a video of this nice section of the ride.
We made a left turn and then had about 6 miles of gradual desent and mild tailwind to Hwy 33.
We were now in the Cuyama Valley. This valley is a beautiful river valley with the town of Ventucopa right in the middle of it. This would be our lunch stop.
We notice while gradually climbing through this valley that many of the crops seemed abandoned. We were thinking that it much be a lack of water due to the drought. Pretty sad looking out there.
One of our riders, Rob, had called the little restaurant in the town called “The Place in Ventucopa” to find out if they would be open for us between one and three. They had agreed and we had a great lunch there before heading out. They were really nice people and I would highly recommend them if driving Hwy 33 to Ojai from the 166.
|Tony was tired|
|Tiger clowning around as usual|
Part 4: Ventucopa to Lockwood Valley and Heartbreak Hill. Mile 103 to 126.7
|Cruising up Lockwood Valley Road with Rob. The ominous cloud up ahead is where Heartbreak is.|
Now came the toughest part of the ride, as if it has not been tough so far.
With all the climbing we had done so far and the miles in our legs we had to do the very long gradual climb up the Lockwood Valley.
The Lockwood Valley road starts off relatively flat and usually with a tail wind and it is often very hot at this point. You get no cooling from the wind because it is behind you.
This year we had a very cool tail wind up the valley which kept us nice and cool. It was not easy by any means though.
It is about a 10 mile climb and the road slowly starts to get steeper and steeper until you get into the mountains again and can see the cut in the mountain miles up ahead which is Heartbreak Hill. This is what made this ride famous. It can be a grueling climb especially on a tandem because it keeps kicking up and is not very forgiving as it tops out at about 12% just before the hairpin turn and final climb to the checkpoint.
There are 3 summits in this tough section of the ride. Heartbreak which is called Wagon Road Summit at elevation 5,140 feet, then comes Lockwood Summit at 5,516 feet and finally Owls Barn Summit at 5,525 feet, ( the highest of the three although it does not seem like it. )
After each summit there is a nice descent but you know what that means……..what goes down must come up!
The weather was really looking threatening up on the mountain. It was getting cold too as we went over the summit.
|Climbing Heartbreak Hill|
Part 5: Heartbreak to Frazier Park. Mile 126.7 to 150.7
As soon as we started the descent off of Heartbreak Hill, it started to rain. The temperature dropped very quickly to 42 degrees in the rain and it poured for about 20 minutes. We stopped and put our rain jackets on before we descended and started the next climb up to Lockwood Summit. (My GoPro also died from battery drain in the cold. I was hoping to get video on the rainy descent and climbs.)
Lockwood summit is a long climb but not as steep as Heartbreak. It really felt good and smelt amazing after the rain on this climb. We reached the summit, which is actually about 400 feet higher than Wagon Road Summit, fairly quickly. One more summit to go before we would be dropping back to Frazier Park.
We had a great and long descent to our next climb. It’s a gradual descent and not technical but it was cold and we got chilled. We planned to put on all our cold gear at the top of the next summit because by then it would be really much colder.
We had a steep kicker just before dropping slightly to the climb up Owls Barn. This area has a nice mix of ranches and what looked like old homesteads. There is a cool sign near one of them that depicts a couple of cowboys napping. It’s pretty cool.
Below is a pic I took of Teresa at the sign on event day. (We went on a ride before working the event in the opposite direction on course up to Heartbreak and back.)
The climb up to Owls Barn is not too hard and we got to the summit pretty quickly. We stopped with Terri and put the rest of our cold gear on.
The others were up ahead since they climb much faster.
We flew down to Lake of the Woods where we saw the guys munching at the store there. We did not want to stop there since we didn’t want to cool down before the long descent to Frazier Park.
We told them that we were going to grab some dinner at the Carl’s Jr. in Gorman.
We flew down the hill in a cross wind at close to 50mph.
Part 6: Frazier Park to Palmdale. Mile 150.7 to mile 202
We made the right turn to go up Tejon Summit in Gorman, Elevation 4,144 feet.
Down we went on Gorman Post Road to our stop at Carl’s Jr for some fatty food to keep us warm.
I had a big fat burrito which was really good. As soon as we ordered the rest of the group showed up except for Tony on his fixed gear. We saw him fly by. He had eaten up at the last place and didn’t want to stop.
As soon as I wolfed the food down I started to get the chills. I didn’t get it. I was not very cold when I came in and it was nice and warm inside. I was still wet from the rain underneath my jacket and from sweating on the climbs.
Teresa mentioned something that I did not think of before on other occasions where this happened to me on cold rides. All the blood went out of my extremities and toward digesting all that food I put in my stomach, so for the moment, my engine was concentrating on engulfing the new fuel and not going toward warming me up. (Stands to reason)
After our long break for dinner, we hit the road.
As soon as I started working hard on the bike, I immediately warmed up and had all kinds of energy. The human body’s metabolism is an amazing thing.
We flew through this section with a tail wind until we hit the little hill before Hwy 138.
Left on Hwy 138 we went and then turned right on The Old Ridge Route. Up up up we went again for a long climb up to Pine Canyon Road once again, but this time back-tracking in the opposite direction from our start in the morning. We could see the bright flashing tail lights of everyone up ahead on the single bikes as they moved up the hill.
We turned on Pine Canyon one last time. We had a cross wind out of the south which was kind of strange. Terri kept saying that it was creepy up there the way the trees were rustling in the wind. We had an absolutely beautiful setting crescent moon with Venus visible and very bright just next to it. A spectacular evening. (all I could think was…….how many people get to experience this type of thing in their lifetime…….just amazing!!)
We continued very carefully on the descents on this road in the dark as we remembered places where there were rocks and sand from the morning run through there. We made the final climb and then made it to the summit.
We now had a great descent back down to 3-points.
As we were descending a giant bat almost hit me in the face. He was going for my helmet lamp I think. He veered off at the last second. That was CRAZY!!!
We turned right on Elizabeth Lake Road for the final climbs. We now had a long slog of up but just took it easy. We stopped with Terri at the first summit for a bathroom break out in the middle of nowhere.
Down we went on a real nice descent until we reach the final very tough kicker. It was then mostly all downhill for the rest of the ride into Palmdale.
We saw Tony up ahead on his fixed gear climbing up that beast of a roller. We passed him toward the top and then waited for him and Terri. That was a tough 12% grade so late in a double century.
We pretty much rolled together the whole way back kind of leap frogging each other.
We rolled in to Palmdale after a very long day at around midnight.
We all had a great ride together and a lot of fun. Thanks guys and gals.
Thanks go out to Tiger for being her upbeat, positive, self at the stoker position. An absolutely stellar job Teresa after finishing the Davis Double on the single bike just 4 days before. Thanks to Rob,Tony, Joe and Terri for the camaraderie!!
Below is the computer data from the ride: