As much fun as racing is, it's only one small part of what I love about cycling. A much larger part has to do with the unique perspective the seat of a bicycle gives its rider-- IMO, there's no better way to experience a new place than to ride a bike through it.
(Side note: OK, maybe running. But, you can see more countryside by bike than you can by foot. Unless you're an ultra runner, which I'm not. However, I'm basing my opinion upon past experience. When I injured my achilles too much to run on it anymore, I joined up with a community cycling group [Diablo Cyclists] that did 50-100 mile rides both weekend days. I was living in the bay area and in graduate school at the time-- joining the group rides gave me the priceless experience of exploring some of the most beautiful places in the bay area by bike. I still go back and do some of those rides when I can sneak away from the brown side of the Sierra.)
Easter Sunday spelled "adventure" for the Mister and I: we packed up our bikes (mine, the Freaky-bee pink Felt bike) and supplies and drove over Donner Summit to the green side of the Sierra Nevada. I was told that this was some sort of a "climbing ride" and that it was beautiful, but that was about all I knew going down. Oh, and that the name of the ride was "Mosquito Ridge."
(Side note: last year, Rich took me on a mountain bike ride that climbed outside of Washington, California that probably should have been named "Mosquito Ridge." I've never inhaled so many of the little buggers in my entire life. The ones I didn't eat, unfortunately, just about ate me alive on the climb.)
This ride, though, was outside of Auburn. If you want to check it out, take the Foresthill exit, turn left and drive about 12 miles. "Mosquito Ridge" is a road that's on the right side of the road.
You start by taking a narrow, 9.5 mile winding descent into a large, green canyon. At the bottom is a beautiful bridge spanning an impressive fork of the Yuba river.
From there, the ride pitches up-- and stays up-- for about twenty miles. I used my time in the saddle to focus on efficiency. I tend not to use my left leg as much as my right. So, I spent most of my climbing watching the metrics offered by my Garmin power pedals.
The climb offered beautiful views, shade-covered roads, ferns and moss growing from the sheer slate face on the uphill side of the road and impressive views on the other side. While it was warm, (by comparison to Nevada, I mean) the temperature was absolutely perfect for a ride with this much climbing. The runoff from melting snow made a nice accompaniment (at least at this elevation) to our efforts to get up the hill.
Only this hill did...not...end. Around every corner, I started to wonder if the pitch would ease up. It wouldn't. If anything, there were a few sections when it did get steeper (nothing serious-- nothing like Mt. Diablo or Patterson Pass-- but after, you know 10, 15, 20 miles, you notice these things.) Then, all this green (which is so pretty) disappeared and we were surrounded by winter yet again.
And... in maybe two pedal strokes, the temperature dropped and we were surrounded by a snow-covered forest. It was nice, climbing. Calm and quiet, and I didn't mind the cold so much.
Soon, we arrived at a gate that closed the road off from motorists with a warning that we were not to trespass. My rebel-Mister, though, rode around the gate and said: "It's Easter! Who's going to care?"
He was right-- we literally had the road to ourselves. As we climbed, we crossed over several streams of runoff as the snow melted-- something that was enjoyable on the way up, but that really sucked on the way down.
Side note: OMG we were filthy. Coming down, those little puddles of snow turned the ride downright frigid, My face and glasses were covered in mud, my shorts and jersey were soaked, and it wasn't until we cleared the snow that I started to feel normal again, although I lost feeling in my feet until the final 10-mile climb.
As I mentioned, we were supposed to do a loop-- riding to the end of Mosquito Ridge Road where it rejoins Foresthill Road (which we would have followed back to the car.) However, due to the amount of snow, our ride turned into an out-and-back when the final six miles to the turn-around were covered in a considerable load of snow.
Yet, as soon as we cleared the snow, the descent became fun.
The winding climb turned into the world's most incredible descent. It was epic, beautiful, startling, breathtaking, beyond words, wind-in-your-face-and-pucker-your-butt and hold on tight. (Thank God for disk brakes.) What took us hours to complete went by in the flash of five minutes (LOL, OK maybe not quite that quick, but close.)
Once we returned to the bridge, we stopped for a moment to admire the turquoise hues in the river far below.
(INTERNAL DIALOGUE: This is going to hurt.)
What remained was a 9.5 mile (gradual) climb to the car, something that (on a normal day) doesn't sound so bad. But after the 20-mile climb into the snowy regions, parts of my body had already enjoyed enough climbing for the day and weren't looking forward to more.
And yet, the buttercup flowers, the purple lupine and the circling vultures above-- the natural beauty of the green side pulled Rich and I up the hill to the car.
I'm not going to lie-- I'm sore after this ride. But, I would do it again if only because it was so beautiful. I'd love to ride the loop rather than the out-and-back.
If you are interested in more details than are provided in my narrative, here is the link to my Strava data for this ride. You should really check it out-- it's beautiful, challenging and... fun!!