So yea, The Death Ride.
It's a ride and it's named after something that sucks that makes people scared. Hence one could assume that it might be slightly more difficult than your regular ride through your neighborhood park. There were a number of things that I wasn't really prepared for with the Death Ride, despite all the preparation. Some of those things were good, some not so much...
The first thing I wasn't prepared for was having another rider I've ridden with to do the ride with. More so I was less prepared for said rider to be a stronger rider than me, which under normal circumstances would result in me pushing myself harder than I should, thus making the ride harder than it should have been. But low and behold, I get a call from none other than Chris Bryce, the downward thrower of the hammer from Orange County. "Hey, you're doing the Death Ride right?" next thing I know we've got 10,000 dollars worth of bike magically packed into the back of a Prius along with a cooler full of super-go-hard caffeine juice, water, a bag of Doritos and a Mcdonald's Ice Coffee and we're on our way to Northern California. I would soon realize that I was ill equipped to even do the ride as I'd forgotten my helmet and lights, which are required for those starting earlier than 5:30... yes, I was off to a great start.
When we arrived in the
sprawling suburban landscape one intersection town that is Markleeville, I wasn't prepared for how strikingly sublime and beautiful the town is. Despite it being a bit lax on services, Markleeville is embedded in what could be the most beautiful part of the country I've been to in a while. The views and vistas rivaled Rockie Mountain National Park. Although there weren't as many snow covered peaks and craggy, exposed rocks there was ample beauty for the eye to behold. Additionally Chris and I drove in over Ebbets Pass, a part of the Death Ride route, and we were both really impressed by the landscape. If you want to go somewhere to visit, but don't want to be around the hordes of humanity that gather at King's Canyon or Yosemite, Try Markleeville, or any part of Alpine Canyon for that matter.
Oh, I also forgot my packet, so I got to stand in line with those who just "showed up" to get the packet I paid for on the 12th of March. Oh well.
Fortunately for this 130 mile ride that included 15,000 ft. of climbing I managed to get the "getting lost-ness" out of my system before the ride started. We got lost driving around Angels Camp as we were looking for highway 4, another small outcrop of awesomeness. When we arrived in Markleeville I did a quick warm up ride to test out the special equipment I had acquired (review of special equipment will be in this weeks Throwdown) and I couldn't have been more pleased. I rolled in to finish the ride at 5:30 p.m. satisfied, and frankly a little shocked at how good I was feeling.
Markleeville lies at 5500 ft. above sea level. I live at 300 ft. above sea level. Needless to say I was a bit pensive about the adjustment in elevation, but I tried not to think too much about it. Markleeville is surrounded on all sides by soaring peaks, much like Estes Park in Colorado. The difference is the roads taking you to these peaks are narrower and more treacherous than even some of the jeep trails in Colorado. The summits that are included in the Death Ride are Monitor Pass at 8,310 ft. Ebbett's Pass at 8,730 and Carson Pass at 8,580. This route takes you up and over Monitor and Ebbett's twice and Carson once. You get ice cream if you make it to the top of Carson.
We started the ride at 6 a.m. it was 45 degrees when we rolled out. We happened across my friend Nick from Mulholland Challenge, a descending maniac who resides in Ventura County. We rolled through Markleeville and hit highway 89, the beginning of the climbing up Monitor Pass. The climbing started Moderately and Nick, Chris and I took the road together. When the road started to pitch up to 12% I lost contact with the two of them as I rode ahead. I was feeling stellar! My wheels were spinning clean and smooth, and my heart, lungs and legs all seemed to be working beautifully despite the rapidly thinning air. I was astounded by the vistas as I rode up the mountain. People kept telling me "Wait until you see the view on the downhill!" I couldn't imagine anything being better than what I was already seeing! Chris, Nick and I regrouped at the first check point on Monitor. We started down the hill together but that quickly changed. Nick is a fearless descender, and watching him drop down the mountain like a rock I knew he'd be hitting speeds in the low 50's. We crossed a false summit on Monitor, and the road opened up , then turned a beautiful sweeping switchback to reveal an incredible high mountain valley surrounded on three sides like by rocky jagged mountains that shot up out of the sublime green pasture. It was absolutely awe inspiring. Despite it taking me about an hour to get up Monitor Pass it only took me 20 minutes to get down the other side. Despite it only taking me 20 minutes to get down that side it took me another hour to get back up and over. The trip over Monitor pass was basically a 25 mile out and back from the junction of highway 4 and highway 89, but it was an amazing, trying and difficult out and back.
Next came the part of the ride I was kind of sort of prepared for. We rolled up the false flat of highway 4 towards Ebbetts Pass. By prepared I mean we had driven down the section we'd be riding up in the Prius, so really I wasn't prepared at all. Chris managed to get ahead of Nick and I by utilizing his trade mark "throw it down" move on the false flats leading up to what would be the 3rd most difficult part of the ride. Chris was long gone by the time Nick and I hit the climb. We started going up the road, passing large groups of riders as we weaved our way up the one lane road. Then we stopped to piss. Then we continued passing groups of riders had already passed. The road leading up to Ebbetts pass was harrowing. It was steep with lots of switchbacks and winding s-turns. We just kept climbing, climbing and climbing with no refrain... It was awesome. When we got to Ebbetts we met up with Chris, refueled and headed down to the 2nd to last checkpoint. Now I said the first part of Ebbetts was the 3rd hardest part of the ride, and that's true. The back side of Ebbetts was steeper and less forgiving the the front side, but just not as long. It was the 2nd hardest because we hadn't made it to Carson pass yet, Carson may not be the hardest on it's own, but after 90 miles and 10,000 ft. of climbing it would prove to be pretty difficult.
So yea, Carson pass. By this time we'd lost Nick so Chris and I headed up highway 89, by the car, passed it and up to Woodford. We turned right onto highway 88 and headed up to Carson pass. It wasn't a tough climb at only 5-8%, but after 90 miles and 10,000 ft. of climbing, well... it was tough. So we made our way up Carson Pass. Chris and I were both demoralized and beat to hell. We'd been on the road since 6 a.m. and it was 3:30 or so. But we just kept climbing, we kept going up. We came up on this recreation area after having been climbing for a while and I could see the road go up, turn left, then go up more. It was crazy, looking up the road knowing that this was the end, but... it seemed so far still. We got to the top of Carson Pass and it was smiles and handshakes, laughter and hugs. I think that neither of us could believe that we made it. Despite the fact that we had come here for the Death Ride, and that we had been on the road for 106 miles it still seemed kind of surreal that we had made it, and we really hadn't even made it yet, we still had 20 miles or so to go from the top of Carson Pass. But the work was over. We got our Ice cream and signed the poster. I actually didn't get any ice cream as I gave mine away. After signing in and eating we were ready to head out. The only problem is as we were getting ready to head down the mountain mother nature had other plans. It started hailing like nothing I'd seen since I'd lived in Colorado. It hailed for a good 30 minutes. So we sat and waited it out. When the rain cleared we rolled out, but the rain started again and so did the hail. We'd committed to getting down the mountain, so we did, at 40 mph, in the pouring, hailing rain.
20 minutes later we'd gotten back to Turtle Rock and finished the ride. We arrived, grabbed a couple beers and got some BBQ. We later hung out at the Prius/Roadside Campsite, drinking beer and talking about how great it was to be out on the open road, out in nature and in a town where you could camp on the side of a freeway without worrying much. We crashed out, got up on Sunday and rolled out.
Here is what the route looks like in Google Earth, along with the profile of the route from my Garmin 305 before it died at mile 103 or so.
Monday, July 14, 2008
So yea, The Death Ride.
Posted by Corey at 14.7.08