A solo ride over the Geysers

Sonoma County has got to be one of the best places on the planet
to ride a bike. This past Saturday was the 2012 edition of Levi’s Gran Fondo, which means that over 7000 cyclists got to discover just how incredible the riding here can be.

Back in the eighties, when I used to train “seriously”, I was glad to have all the roads
for the varied terrain and awesome scenery. Now that I am not so
interested in racing, I am glad to know all the local roads, yeah,
for the varied terrain and awesome scenery…

Riding in the Fondo, amongst thousands of other cyclists, is an amazing thing and it is a lot of fun. And one of the additional perks of a ride like that is that you get passed by very few cars. While I was riding the fondo, I tried to remember the last time that I had gone on a long ride and got passed by so few cars. And then I remembered this.

A few years ago back, I went out on a really nice bike ride. It was just me and my iPod.
For awhile, I really liked riding with that little gizmo. Normally, I wouldn’t recommend riding with headphones. My solution: I bought a cheap set of headphones and cut off the left earpiece. So, when I rode, I would only have the right one in. It didn’t offer the greatest sound quality, but it worked AND I had an ear free to hear traffic. It worked well.

That day, I had 85 glorious miles, with Rob Zombie and Rammstein to keep me
company. It had been raining a fair amount up here, but that day was clear.
And, with my minimal work schedule, there was nothing to keep me from reveling
in the spring-like sunshine that evaporated all but the largest of puddles.
The first and last 30 miles of the ride were rather flat. If it weren’t for
the middle part of this ride, there really wouldn’t be that much to write about.
But it was the middle 25 miles that made the first and last 30 so worth pedaling.
Yep, it was all about the Geysers. OK, up here, people talk about the
Geysers. For some, they may be talking about the Geothermal Electric plants
located several miles east and a couple a thousand feet above Geyserville, CA.
For others, talk of the Geysers may evoke images of the occasional plume of
white steam emerging from the rocky crags in that same area. But to cyclists
in the area, talk of “The Geysers” really means riding Geysers Road, from Alexander
Valley, up to Mercuryville (The Half Mile High City) and back down to
Cloverdale. It is a sparsely traveled road, offering extended climbs, stellar
views and unparalleled riding, that covers a 25 mile stretch of (mostly) paved
tarmac.

And on that day, over this particular 25 miles, I saw precisely ONE car.

It was the kind of day that reminded me, or perhaps just reinforced, why I LOVE
riding bikes.

The long and steady climbs offered a unique opportunity for quiet
introspection. With no traffic, it was just me, the bike and the road. The
39-25 offered a climbing gear of sufficient ease to allow the pedals to turn
with no great resistance. Steady pedaling and steady breathing, the tempo itself
carried me up the road. The internal focus on rhythm was frequently punctuated
by an external focus on the increasingly breathtaking views.
The summits arrived almost too quickly, providing the mixed feelings of
accomplishment and the desire for more. Any sense of longing for more altitude
was quickly replaced by the sheer delight at the well deserved speed that the
next 14 miles provided.

The descent from Mercuryville starts off steep, but after the initial plunge,
the road loses altitude gradually, so that over a period of many miles,
sweeping corners present themselves at perfect pace. One feels a sense of flying and freedom.

To be clear, the pavement is NOT perfect. There are sections of gravel. There are potholes. And there is any manner of debris. Even so, the riding is epic and fun.

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