Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Death Ride Weekend

I'll start by making it clear I have never, nor do I ever intend to attempt this ride. In 2008 my husband picked up a road bike and within a year signed up for the Death Ride, saying this is a hard ride is a gross understatement. 129 miles 15K' of climbing, 5 mountain passes all before it gets dark. OUCH! on so many levels, yet every year it sells out all 3500 spots in a matter of hours.

 This was my 4th year watching this ride and it never gets old. We have a friend who rents us a large cabin each year and we invite some friends who are riding to stay a few days. The hardest part is having to keep the cabin a secret or turn away friends. Markleeville is in a cellular dead zone, the cabin has no Internet and this year was the first year we had satellite TV. Getting the mix of personalities that can take 4-5 days unplugged can be a challenge, but so far we have made good choices. We discovered one year we can never allow children to stay in the cabin, it's just too boring and even well behaved kids can break.

It is amazing how much fun we can have just chatting when everyone is unplugged from their electronic devices. A few people took a few trips to the parking lot of the library to get their fixes, but for the most part people just talked. We had board games available, but none were even opened. We took a few bike rides, went in to town for more supplies, and most of them pre-drove the course in the car over 2 days. I think it's kinda funny that driving the whole course in a car was too much for a single day, but riding it on a bike was fine.

Lots of food, this is a hungry crowd. I love supporting the riders, and they all seem to appreciate it. The more we do this ride the better the support I'm able to give. We have a spaghetti feed on Friday, we usually invite a few non cabin riders to join us, this year we had a few extras from the Hammerin Wheels club and 3 riders that I've only met online that will be doing the Climate Ride with me. This year I had a lot more help in the kitchen, which was greatly appreciated. I make waffles the night before because 4am is just too darn early to be thinking about cooking. After I watch them all ride off into the dark I start the beans and chop veggies for the after ride fajitas.

This year we had a large group and a wide range of speeds. I set out earlier than I have in the past. I wanted to be at the intersection of Monitor and Ebbettes by 7:30. It's only a 6 mile drive, but I have to park the car just over a  mile a way. I have walked it before, but this year I had a lot more riders and their gear so the plan was to bring my bike and trailer and ride the mile or so. I got into town a 6:45 and the road was closed at Markleeville. I told them I've always been able to drive 4 miles down and park, the officer who looked displeased to be there just said this must be new this year, the road is closed. I parked, quickly unloaded the bike, the trailer and all the gear bags with every one's nutrition, sunscreen, and any other security blankets they may have packed, then hit the road. Going up hill on a mt bike pulling a trailer wearing jeans I was going to be pushing it to get there by 8, which is when we expected the first rider to go through. Probably a mile into my ride cars start passing me, I just told myself they must be volunteers, I didn't want to even consider that they opened the road and if I had asked the right questions I could have driven as originally planned. I passed a young lady walking and offered to carry her chair and gear, she was happy to give me her chair. Just about then it dawned on me, I couldn't fit even 1 of the 2 sets of spare wheels in the trailer so I left them in the car, and I don't think I locked it. No time to go back, I just hope no one takes them. I finally get to my spot and within a few minutes Carl rolls up and is happy to offload cool weather gear and lights. Right on schedule a few minutes after 8. Next is Sarah, she's glad I talked her into bringing her jacket and full finger gloves, after a quick stop she's off. One by one all the riders I'm supporting roll in, all looking happy and strong. I see a few other familiar faces and chat with others out supporting their friends and family. I offer up sunscreen and lots of people forgot about it, and take me up on my offer, and a few of their riders also decide another layer couldn't hurt.

I run across the street and chat with Kristina who thought I was riding my bike from town because I wanted to. She offers to take me and my gear back to town, I'm happy to accept the offer. Last year Kristina's husband attempted the ride for the first time and didn't make all 5 passes, this year he looked strong and happy when we saw him at the intersection. I still had 2 more riders I was looking for Bethany who I met online through Climate Ride and I wasn't sure if I'd recognize her and hoped she hadn't already gone through, and Ralph. I needed to leave by 10 to get back to the car, stop by the cabin to change into shorts and get something to eat. I finally see Bethany and she refills her nutrition and has to replace a lost contact and I'm getting ready to turn toward town and I see Ralph taking a right to go to town, I holler and he comes over. He's had enough of the crazy descents and the speed demons being rude. We ride to the parking lot and he helps me get my stuff loaded into Kristina's Van, we see him as we drive into town, I get my stuff back into our car, drive up to the cabin and do what I need to do, Ralph comes up just as I'm getting ready to get back in the car and we toss in another chair and go to find our cheering spot. Kristina joins us again as we anxiously wait not knowing where everyone is and hoping we didn't miss any of the fast riders.

The earliest we expected anyone was 11 if they didn't stop for lunch. Finally around noon we see Carl and he stops for a spritz of sunscreen and something from his bag, as he's pulling over I see Sarah chasing a couple of fast guys, she sees us and says she's good. I expect to see Todd next but the next group was Helen, Craig, Alex and Mica and they tell me they saw Todd not looking so good on Ebbettes. They all look strong and happy, Helen forgot her inhaler, so Ralph takes the car to the cabin to get it and finds her on the course and gets it to her. Jav rolls in with Gil and I almost missed him, but Kristina saw him. Whoever thought of hot pink Hammerin Wheels jerseys is a genius. They totally stand out in a crowd. He tells me Jacob blew up and he will be taking a long break before he comes into town. Todd speeds through and grunts something as we cheer him on, he obviously has recovered and is looking strong. Bethany comes through and grabs a few things from her bag, this is also her first time and she looks strong and happy. I think Mark (Kristina's husband) was next, he looked happy and strong, he was well ahead of his time from last year and I have no doubt he was going to finish. Jeff pulls in and he looks good but he seems a little irritated, but determined. Apparently they ran out of sandwiches at lunch and he decided to just go get a sandwich at the shop and took his break with us. He let us know that Sharel was done and she's not too far behind us. He takes off knowing he'll be cutting it close on the cutoff, but as long as he keeps moving he'll make it. Jacob finally rolls in and he looks wiped out. He asked the time and seems to be pondering trying to finish, I told him not to worry about it, he's done this twice before and frankly he didn't look good, he went to the cabin and napped hard for a long time. Sharel rolls in and she looks happy, but has no interest in trying to attempt the 5th pass.

Back to the cabin hoping we get there before Sarah gets back, we did. I start the rice and start watching for the riders. One by one, tired, happy cyclists make it up the hill to the cabin. I start grilling up the chicken and veggies, I get to visit as I keep a steady stream of hot food coming off the grill, we get a few extras for dinner. This is my favorite part hearing each of them talk about the beauty, the fear, the doubt, the laughs, all the people they see along the way and the amazing emotions they feel when they finally get to the top of the final mountain. There is always a first to arrive and a last, dusk was setting so a few people went to see where Jeff was on the route, we'd already had enough updates to know he'd made all 5 passes. The hard part is trying to find a sober driver and leaving enough room in the car to pick him up if he wants it. He was just coming into Markleeville and wanted to call his wife to let her know he was safe and sound. I keep grilling until I'm sure everyone has had their fill. They stay up late chatting about their epic adventure and either swearing they will never ride a bike again or planning how to do it better next year.

I'll be there and will continue to find better ways to support them, so they all have a great experience, It sounds like lunch will need to be an option for those not lucky enough to make it early enough to get a sandwich. I'll also make sure to have ice creams in the freezer for post ride.

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