|Ray and I at the finish. Still smiling after a hard day.|
I never saw Ruben Tao or Harley after the start so have no idea how they faired over that obstacle. Ray and I tip-toed around the mess (with some hysterical high-pitched person screaming "OH MY GAAWWWD!!!! IT'S BLACK ICE. Thaaaat's blaaaack IIIIcE!!!!" I later confirmed the screaming was indeed, Ray).
We settled into a pace and rode in and out of groups up the climb over Willow Creek Road and down the descent. On the dirt road at the bottom I was busy filling my mouth with some power chew and catching back up to Ray when I came around a corner to find him on all fours in a patch of ice. Trooper that he is, he grabbed his bike from me with a, "Let's just get going, I'm okay." but I could tell it was a pretty hard fall.
We continued on and on back inland and up some pretty cool climbs and even a little bit of single track logging road before actually getting on Old Cazadero Highway up to the feed zone. At the feedzone my attempt to figure out my nagging derailleur problems turned into a failed attempt to rebuild the cable connection but eventually we continued on down to the Austin Creek. I plunged right in but Ray took the wiser route of removing his shoes and socks and keeping them dry (my numb right foot at the end of day was like, "See dummy, that guy's feet are nice and happy. See?")
Anyway we dug back into round two of "Let's waste our time on Roy's derailleur" on the other side of the creek. It was better after that (and a third readjust in the middle of the following hill) but continued to cause all kinds of misshifts and annoyances that made me want to throw the bike down into the ravines and creekbeds we seemed to be next to all day long.
We finally poked our way back out to the coast and back to the final climb up Willow Creek where I continued to futz with my cable. And then, out of nowhere, was the finish. Surprise! You're done. There were no numbers so they were just getting peoples' names as they came across. I forced my cold climb-numbed mouth to mumble something like "Rory Bomstone" or something like that and they excitedly yelled out, "You're a prize winner!" and pointed me to an emptly bin with one small t-shirt and some gift certificates and such in it (I guess you gotta be faster if you want a good pick from the raffle basket). I was in no mood at that point to sit reading a bunch of gift cards so I just grabbed the size S t-shirt and went and found Ray.
We took the short cut back to Occidental, grabbed a pretty nice meal from the Roach Coach and that was that. Being familiar with the area and a Sonoma County vacationer for many years I was really happy to FINALLY get a grasshopper ride accomplished. I'd definitely do another one and, frankly, between Ray's crash and the 30+ minutes wasted messing with my bike, the next experience has a dang good chance of being a better one.