I decided to sleep in. This is vacation after all. I woke up completely congested, unable to breathe, and with a headache. With the excuse that I’m waiting for rush hour traffic to clear I eat a leisurely breakfast. Strange that I was so anxious to go, yet now I’m taking my time! To complement my general feeling of malaise the weather reports from the week prior were wrong. It wouldn’t be mid to high 80s, but rather high nineties (102 when I was riding home on day three)! Woo Hoo!
I finally get out, top off the tires, and am on the road at around 10:30. The first section of my ride follows the Adventure Cycling Western Express route (map 1) to Placerville, CA. It’s a fairly easy ride up to Rescue. The road is narrow, but traffic isn’t too bad. One black SUV passes close enough to elicit a verbal response, but overall it was peaceful. The further up I go, the steeper it gets, but still easy going. The route is easy to follow for the most part, but there is one place where Green Valley road makes a poorly marked turn. I continued riding along the main road when I suddenly realized that I was no longer on Green Valley road, but was now on Missouri Flat Road. When I saw the street sign I flagged down a construction worker at the intersection in his pickup. He seemed reluctant to talk, but waited anyhow. He said that he didn’t know the area, being from San Jose, but that the other workers just up and over the big hill where he’d come from would know. Anxious to climb a big hill for instructions I wasn’t, so I studied my maps more closely. It appeared that I’d just missed my turn, and looking around I could actually see where I’d gone wrong. Phew! At Placerville I diverge from the Adventure Cycling route and head into downtown Placerville. There is a vegetarian restaurant (they serve some meat) that I really enjoy there called Cozmic Cafe (http://www.thecozmiccafe.com/). Unfortunately I’d not looked closely enough at the elevation profile of the route that I chose and now looking at Google Earth with 3D terrain turned on I can see that I passed over one of the highest peaks in the entire town! I got a nice 11% grade to prepare me for the upcoming mountains! In downtown I was riding along in the center of the narrow lane avoiding the door prize and keeping up quite well with traffic, until I hit a slight grade that slowed me down. The idiot behind me decided to express his displeasure using his auditory warning device. An oncoming driver in the other direction took the opportunity to shout what I was thinking “SHUT UP YOUR *F——* HORN!”I ate a great meal, their Righteous Rice Bowl, containing organic basmati brown rice, balsamic beans, tomatoes, red onion, carrots, cabbage, melted Monterey Jack cheese, avocado, sprouts, green onions, fresh cilantro and sesame seeds, served with salsa, balsamic vinaigrette and cilantro sour cream. mmmm… makes me salivate to think of it. Along with copious amount of iced tea I refilled my two large water bottles and was on my way.I looked around for a city park to sit and read while digesting this treat, but didn’t find anything shady enough, so I decided to just press on.
Leaving Placerville, I headed north on hwy 49 towards hwy 193. At hwy 193 I called home to let everybody know that I’d survived this far and that I would probably not have cell coverage for a while. The 11% downgrade was a fun rush. Unfortunately I couldn’t let it all out since I was afraid to let the loaded bike go above about 35 MPH. Turns out that I actually hit 38.4 somewhere along there, even though I was feathering the brakes most of the way. At the bottom of the grade, hwy 193 crosses the south fork of the American River. I was looking forward to a refreshing dip in the river, but unfortunately at the bottom I found one side was a quarry, and the other side of the road had a private resort that was tightly fenced off. Darn. Since there was no shade here anyway I decided to just begin my climb back out of the river valley.
The climb out of the valley was long and hot, though not nearly as bad as I expected. Living in the flatlands near Sacramento I don’t get a lot of practice hill climbing. My 20 mile RT commute has maybe 400 feet of climbing over 10 miles, so climbing isn’t my strong point! I spent a lot of time in my low (26/34) gear and just spun on up. The sun was beating down on me such that I was actually wishing more for shade than for flat/downhill. No uncomfortable run ins with cars, even on the blind corners, though a few drivers shouted out encouragement “You can make it!”. The views back down into the valley were breathtaking, though honestly I spent far too much time with my head down trudging away to enjoy it as much as I should have. Dismounting from a loaded touring bike on a steep hill isn’t exactly trivial, so I was very happy to have my well broken in Brooks saddle since rests usually consisted of locking the brake and putting a foot up on a guardrail.
At the top of the big climb, things leveled out a bit (still uphill) the rest of the way into Georgetown. It was a nice quiet ride most of the way. One SUV passed me a bit too closely (pattern emerging?) and was pulled over by a CHP officer. Wow! Who’d have expected one to be sitting out there? I spent the next few hours worrying a bit about retribution, but it never came. Georgetown is quite small. I stopped at the first gas station that I encountered and bought a ginger ale. Real, brewed, ginger ale, the kind that burns on the way down. Yum, though difficult to drink after cycling. The gas station reinforced every stereotype of Georgetown that I’d heard. Guys wearing jungle cammo clothing, cammo face paint, and covered in tattoos were the majority of the customers. The others were tough looking girls with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths. I managed to drink about half of my ginger ale, then went looking for a restaurant. There were only three that I could find. Mexican, Chinese, and Pizza. The Mexican place was closed, so I finally settled on pizza.
While locking up my bike in front of the pizza place, Hungry Dog Pizza, I asked a lady who was smoking out front if they made good pizza there. She said yes, then put out her cigarette and went inside. It turns out, the place was empty except for her (the waitress), a cook (her husband?), and myself. I ordered a veggie pizza (smallest size, 10″) and iced tea. While waiting for my pizza to cook I pulled out my book and started in on it. Copious amounts of iced tea (yes, there IS a pattern fully emerged here), a completely consumed 10″ pizza, and three refilled water bottled later I was on my way. She was quite surprised when she came over to offer to box up the leftover pizza and there was none.
The ride from Georgetown to Cool was nice and easy, mostly a gradual downhill ride. I was looking forward to finding my campsite and things were looking good. My intended campsite was a few miles off of my planned course, but on the satellite map it looked really good, a group of trees near a small lake on BLM land. Reality didn’t quite match the mirage. The entire area was tightly fenced off with only a small gap for hikers. Many signs were posted insisting on no camping and that the park closed at 9:00 pm. Darn. Not wanting to risk problems I pressed on hoping to find something better. A long descent to the confluence of the North and Middle forks of the American river found nothing. The land was too overgrown and steep to set up a tent on, and besides, it was all fenced off with no trespassing signs.
At the river I started to worry. It was getting dark fast. Auburn was only about 3 miles uphill to the left with motels and all services, or the long empty road to Foresthill to the right. Deciding that I was out there for adventure and not going to carry the heavy camping gear for no reason, I took the unknown road that I’d never taken before. Up, up, up, about 8 miles up. It was completely dark and I was burning my headlight and taillight. More and more desperate. After many failed attempts (too steep, too exposed, gate too narrow,…) I finally found some mountain bike trails that had an opening wide enough for my bike, though I had to lift the entire load up and over a bar about 12″ off the ground that I think was there to discourage motorcycles. The areas was more exposed than I wanted, but it was late. Digging for my flashlight… can’t find it… OH NO! NO FLASHLIGHT, I FORGOT IT! Not wanting to expose my position I also didn’t want to use my 20 Watt headlight! Setting up the tent (second time ever) by the light of my cell phone screen I suddenly hear a voice. “Hello, hey, hello?!?” My heart rate shot through the roof for a moment until I realized that I’d somehow redialed the last number that I’d called and that the voice was coming from my phone. Pant, pant. Funny, when I’d tried to use it a moment earlier to check in it hadn’t worked! Worried about my position being exposed in the morning I set my alarm for first light.
Sleep didn’t come easily. It was HOT, lumpy, noisy (some road noise, but mostly crinkling of weeds under my tent), and I wasn’t entirely comfortable with my location. Just to add some interest to the night I had a horrible sore throat. Not the kind that comes from being sick, but it felt more like I’d bruised my esophagus. I think that it was caused by huffing too much air and water too fast. The sore throat lasted until the morning of day 3.
— 68.5 miles, many more than I had planned for a single day!