Worth every pedal stroke
February 22, 2021 § 8 Comments
I got there only having ridden two out of the three days.
The first day I got to meet Bodfish-Caliente Road. It is one of the hardest and most beautiful roads I’ve ever ridden, and I took the easy way, which is southbound. How hard is it? It’s hard enough to make me want a Garmin when I return to prove I rode it.
The descent into Caliente is five miles of twisting hairpins followed by five miles of screaming drop along a valley. And before that a solid seven miles straight into a 20mph headwind.
I was doing my first bike tour of 2021, a ride to Long Beach to see my newest grandbaby, Suzunami. Since I live about 207 miles and a lot of mountains away from Long Beach, I figured now was as good a time as any to learn the commute. I started in sunshine and in great spirits. Neither would last.
I climbed to Lake Isabella, a nice 8-mile leg opener, and from there began the long grind up Bodfish-Caliente Road. It quickly became several miles of switchbacks with the obligatory dead person.
After a long descent the road continued in total silence; no wind or cars at all. These are the roads you long for but you have to fight to attain. I got to the “town” of Havilah, which is no town at all though it was extremely well-stocked with fierce dogs, all thankfully fenced.
Shortly after that nothing good happened besides huge wind and climbing. I descended into Caliente, another non-town, in full bonk, but was saved by Kristie who had driven ahead and stashed life-saving sugar and water at the bottom of the descent. She had to work in LA and was joining me for part of the ride.
Next came a murderous climb up Bealeville Rd. on dead legs, where I met up with Kristie, followed by four miles of more murder up CA 58 towards Tehachapi. We exited at Keene after having coffee in a ditch and prayed for cheeseburger at the Keene Cafe. Prayers were duly answered but what we should have prayed for was no wind.
Next came six miles of climbing into Tehachapi. Kristie had parked at the RV Park I stayed at last summer. No one was there but there were plenty of spaces. But we had no cash and I couldn’t remember if they took cards. So I called.
“Do you take cards?”
“No and move your car. It’s blocking the dump station.”
“Ok. How much to tent camp?”
“No tent camping allowed in winter. It is too cold and too dangerous. A storm is coming. Get a motel.” Click.
“Sounds bad,” Kristie said.
We saw a passing cyclist. I chased him down and explained our predicament. “No worries,” he said. “You can camp out by the MTB trailhead.” He gave us directions and on we sped to get the car. I hate cars.
On the way to get the car Kristie saw a sign to the Brite Lake County Campground. “Let’s try there,” she said.
We pedaled for miles into a horrible crosswind that became a luscious tailwind.
We got in the car and drove to the campground. “Tent?” the camp host said incredulously. “There’s a storm coming. You’ll blow away.”
We pitched our tent in the 20mph wind which would turn out to be nothing compared to what was coming. Thankfully we pounded in all sixteen stakes because the so-called Summit Series North Face tent, rated to 24,000 feet, was about to get tested at a fucking campground.
Did I mention Tehachapi is covered with wind turbines?
The storm came in over the lake and blew huge rain and 35+mph wind with 50+ gusts all night. The tent held except for our tiny porthole on the fly, which was ripped out, and when the rain started coming in from the side I went out and re-staked the guys. After which we were snuggly, dry, and warm despite the freezing temperatures. We awoke to more wind.
The wind never really abated and I was wrecked from the ride and the first night of camping so we slept in, ate late, threw the shit in the car and drove to our next campsite, Monte Cristo in the Angeles National Forest. Did I mention I hate cars? Well … I didn’t on Saturday.
The new campsite was cold but sunny, empty, gorgeous, and had a mere 10-15mph of wind. We set up camp and went to bed at 6:30, at which time the camp filled up. Our neighbors were a family of thirty including countless distant relatives named beer, tequila, boom box, and trumpet.
The trumpet playing consisted of two notes blown hugely towards our tent, which excelled at repelling wind and rain but not trumpet. How tired were we? We gave our remaining five fucks and crashed hard.
We got up early next morning but so had our neighbors. They had frozen and were all huddled around their picnic tables looking miserable. The most miserable was the trumpeter, who stood in a ditch and vomited. I cut up some oranges and brought them over. They were so grateful and ate them quickly, because nothing combats hangover and prepares you for Sunday morning drinking like fresh fruit.
We shared the oranges with a camper across the way, a vintner from south Africa who gave us a bottle of his best white wine. We will pass it on but appreciated the gesture, just as he appreciated the morning puking revenging itself on the trumpeter of the night before.
I had a few miles of climbing until I reached the descent into Pasadena. It was a beautiful morning with no traffic and balmy temperatures. I ran into a guy who tried to drop me but could not, so then we had a great conversation. He advised me to get riding clothes and shoes because he felt it would make me go faster. I told him that I had been riding for a while but was pretty sure that the clothing was not what pedaled the bike. He laughed and agreed.
“It just makes me look bad, you dropping me on the hills in those blue jeans, backpack, and tennis shoes.”
It took me a while to navigate from Pasadena to the bike path but from there it was smooth sailing all the way to my baby!