The email account

Here is the email account of Waganupa 2000, sent Tuesday, June 27.

Yesterday I rode the Waganupa.

Four of us (my brothers, Michael and Patrick, Pat's wife, Vivian and I) drove up to Red Bluff the afternoon before. We camped in a campground along the Sacramento River and were joined there by Ray, a seventy-year-old friend and Jeff, Ray's forty-year-old friend.

We rose before dawn, breakfasted and drove to Dales Station where we parked the cars at a roadside turn off and prepared to depart. Before my brothers, Vivian and I were ready, Jeff and Ray pushed off. There was no farewell, I looked around and they were gone. My brothers and Vivian complained that Jeff is always doing that—needing to be the first one up the hill or down the road.

Ten or fifteen minutes later we were on our way, riding through the parched, rubble strewn landscape that is the northeastern end of the Central Valley. The going was flat and gently rolling and we rode a rather irritable pace line. Patrick was pushing the pace faster than Mike and Viv were comfortable with. Tempers flared as they argued, calling into question the worth of working together. I kept quiet.

The issue was put to rest when we arrived at Manton just beyond which lies the first climb: Wilson Hill Road. It is the hardest climb of the Waganupa, a twisting, steep old road with numerous sections that require out of the saddle climbing. Pat, Mike and Viv all ride triple chainrings offering easier gears. I, with my double, rode away from them in order to maintain a good cadence and I was fairly spent at the top.

Wilson Hill Road ends at Shingletown where there is an idyllic little park at the corner with tree shaded benches alongside a brook. Ray and Jeff were there munching and resting. We did the same. However, before we were ready to move on, Jeff and Ray shoved off. I was having trouble eating anything which is a bad indicator that I'm whacked out. It was hot.

From Shingletown we rode Highway 44 to Lassen Volcanic National Park. The road is fairly straight and rolls gently past pastures and forests. We attempted a pace line. Again and there was still dissension about the pace but we managed to get along better. The part just before Lassen Park is many miles of climbing. Nothing steep, but what killed us was the heat and how utterly exposed the road was. Once again I rode away from the others and at the gate to Lassen Park found Ray and Jeff resting by a lake. The others arrived and we rode another half mile up the road to a museum on Mt. Lassen, the volcano, where we stopped for lunch.

My appetite was entirely gone and forcing down a sandwich was work. Celery sticks and fruit seemed tolerable. I was ready to turn around and go back the way we came. My head ached and my right knee was strained. But there was no turning back. I know from doing this ride before that the climb to the top of Lassen, though long and involving lots of altitude gain, is very smooth and manageable. We rested and ate. I went to get water from a nearby restroom and when I came back, Jeff and Ray had once again taken off ahead of us.

Michael gave me two Excedrin. Our group of four eventually pushed off. We now rode through pine forested parkland. There was a descent and then some rolling terrain. We reached the last campground which is like the final outpost before the real climb up Lassen and saw Jeff and Ray conked out on camp tables just off the road. We stopped and determined that the campground was closed and there was no fresh water to be had. Patrick asked Jeff how he was feeling and got "Oh . . . , great!" in reply. Pat then hustled us out on to the road before Jeff and Ray could take off and for the first time the six of us rolled off together.

However, Patrick then set a pace that had Vivian, Michael and I griping. Jeff took off after Pat, caught him and then faded back. I, with my head throbbing, slowly reeled Pat in and eventually sat back about fifty feet off his wheel while he continued to hammer up the grade. Vivian was just behind me, Mike and Ray were off the back, nowhere in sight. My knee was giving me stabs of pain. If I hit the right cadence, stayed seated and rigidly observed good form I was fine. But any deviation and I was crying out and cursing.

Vivian passed me as we crested into a valley with a meadow. I felt strong and quickly caught both Pat and Vivian. As I passed Pat he informed me he was cramping. Vivian stayed with him as I buzzed on up the mountain. I had my heart rate monitor on and noted that I was consistently up in the anaerobic zone. I might have gutted it out to the top, however, my form got ragged and I thought rest would be prudent. About two miles from the top I found some shade and stood breathing deeply and watched my heart rate go down on the monitor.

Patrick and Vivian passed by and I took their pictures. Some time later Michael came along, I took his picture and then rode after him. The two of us rode together to the pass, taking pictures and admiring the view. I had expected Jeff to be the next one up the mountain. Michael told me how he had slowly reeled in Jeff and when he came close to passing him, Jeff turned, expressed concern for Ray and rolled back to find him. Michael believes that Jeff could not stand to be passed by him.

Patrick and Vivian were waiting at the pass. They were impatient to be moving for they did not want to give Jeff a chance to catch us. That didn't seem likely and I didn't care if he did. I was amused at how serious they were about this. They had experienced too many group rides where Jeff was, as my father put it so eloquently this morning at the breakfast table, "the turd in the punch bowl," and now, it seemed, it was payback time.

They knew Jeff would bust himself to try and catch us. He is well over six feet tall and weighs 220 lbs. He has a new aerodynamic titanium Bianchi and with his build should be an outstanding descender. From the pass on Mt. Lassen (8,522 ft.) back to Dales Station (600 ft.) is one long fifty mile descent. There are some rises and flat spots, but virtually all of it is big ring, haul-ass descending. And once off of Mt. Lassen it is non-techincal riding with smooth often straight roads which would be much to Jeff's advantage. We decided that we would regroup after the steep descents and ride a pace line where ever we could.

Midway there was new road surface being laid down and we had to stop and wait for permission to proceed. Then riding a couple of miles on hot asphalt left thick tar stuck on our tires. Patrick flatted and which delayed us. And it was HOT. In the Central Valley it was well over 100 degrees and as we got lower the wind in our faces was like something from a blast furnace and the landscape was withered grassland with the odd tree here and there.

We stopped so Patrick could pee and in the distance behind us, three quarters of a mile away, we could make out Jeff hurtling down towards us. We were back on the bicycles in a hurry and riding our tired legs out. There was ten miles to go leaving plenty of time for him to reel us in or for us to pull away. The hammer came down and everyone worked; the pace line jelled. Of special note were the efforts of Vivian who generally rides very conservatively. She busted herself pulling us over rises. Patrick and I powered us along flats and kept the pace fast on descents.

We arrived at the bar at Dales Station with no Jeff in sight. I don't know how many minutes he was behind us. Ray arrived a good while later.

The charm of the bar, which is really all of Dales Station—not much else there—centers around the sixty-something-year-old woman who runs it like a big open house. We ordered salads and sandwiches and traded stories of the ride for the hour or so it took her to prepare everything. Stray locals came and went and expressed amazement at the ride we had done. I had little appetite. We were all quite fried. Jeff referred to his ride as "the ride from Hell."

That night on the drive back to Berkeley the talk between Mike, Pat and Viv was, with a note of deep satisfaction, of "that pace line." It worked.