View Full Version : Tour of the Unknown Coast - Ride Report

05-14-2007, 10:54 AM
Tour of the Unknown Coast
May 12, 2007

The Tour of the Unknown Coast is billed as California’s Toughest Century. At the end of the ride, I certainly agreed.

My husband Doug and I decided to do this ride a couple of months ago. I was hesitant at first, but then saw pictures from along the route, and the beautiful scenery sold me. I guess you could say I’m a sucker for a pretty place. We drove up the day before and checked into our hotel in Rio Dell around 4pm. We then rode the 14 miles to the start in Ferndale so we could pick up our registration early. The route to the was over the first part of the course, through extremely green and lush farmland. There were some short climbs and a headwind, which Doug pulled me through. I was grateful to note that we would have more of warm-up and any wind would be at our back when we rode this section the next morning in the opposite direction. After this ride, we met up with some of his team mates for dinner at the Eel River Brewing Company. Good beer, tasty food, but busy—this was also the weekend of Humboldt State’s graduation. Doug’s teammates had done this ride before and were consistent in their recommendation to find somebody to help with the headwind along the coast. This is a very important piece of advice for this ride, and one Doug made sure I remembered the next morning.

I didn’t sleep well during the night, and had serious doubts about my ability to complete the ride the next morning. The traces of recent rain during the morning hours we’re not encouraging either. I was considering the 100K out and back option, but got in line with 100 mile starters anyway. This is not officially a race, but the fact that it is timed, they send you off with a start gun and the presence of Tinker Juarez all added to a race like feeling. Being here with his teammates and having a goal of completing it in less than 6 hours, this would be the last time I saw Doug for many, many hours. This was expected, so I was not discouraged by it. My goal for the ride was to complete it in 10 hours.

The first 32 miles were pure bicycling joy. Back through the farmlands we rode the previous evening, then down the Avenue of the Giants. No wind and a cool but comfortable temperature. I wish I had gotten some pictures of this area, but as I knew the tough climbing came after this, I was trying to keep my pace up to make up for my inevitable slowing up the hills.

After the Avenue of the Giants (and the 100K turnaround point – I was going for it) you start a gentle climb up Mattole Road through redwood groves. These groves were awe inspiring and make the Avenue seem almost kitschy. I got a picture of these, as they seemed to require some sort-of respect be paid to them.

Up next was Panther Gap. The first big climb of the day. I don’t consider myself a good climber, but this is the type of climb I prefer. Long and gradual. I passed a lot of riders with mechanicals along the side of the road and thought to myself how lucky I’ve been in that I’ve never had any mechanical issues during the organized rides I’ve done. This is the type of thinking that can get you in trouble, as I got a flat not too far from where the climb levels out. I got the tube changed, but can never seem to get the tire up to a good pressure when I use my frame pump. I figured I’d be taking the long down hill even more cautiously than usual, but I came upon a rider and his wife who was driving private SAG for him. This is banned by the organizers, but I was grateful to see them as they had a floor pump in the car. With both tires up to the PSI they should be, I enjoyed the downhill into the beautiful and scenic Mattole River Valley. Riding through here I made a mental note that Doug and I should plan a trip to this area in the future.

I rolled into the lunch stop feeling good, ate a small sandwich and a cup of soup, topped off my water bottles and grabbed some Hammer and headed back down the road. The wind started picking up for this second, hillier section of the Mattole Valley and there was even a little bit of sprinkling on top of the final low ridge before you drop down to the coast.

True to its reputation, the coast was WINDY!!! Howling windy. I caught up with a lady from Oakland training for the Death Ride, and we made it down the coast and through the wind together better than we could have solo. We even managed to pass a few folks, who for some reason didn’t make the effort to latch on. Besides the usual difficulties the wind presents, it also prevented me from noticing how lovely this section is. It wasn’t until after the ride when I was looking at a photo I took of the “Wall” in the distance, did I see that the road was thickly lined with wildflowers.

Next up, the Wall, which I had built up in my head to being almost impossible to even walk up. Looking up, I did see a rider criss-crossing while walking his bike, but most people were managing to ride it. I rode the whole way up also, despite the gusting headwinds during the climb. I did have to step off my bike and let me body rest, but I still managed to crank it all the way up.

I had hoped heading inland, we would see a reduction in the wind. Not so. It never let up again. This wind was gusting over the endless hill, with its switchbacks and areas one would have expected to be protected from the wind. Eventually, the endless hill does level out a bit, but I experienced something new—my vision was seriously messed up. My glasses were filthy, but cleaning them didn’t help and taking them off didn’t help either. At some points I was seeing double and occasionally had to close one eye, set my course and then proceed. I was well hydrated and fed, my legs were feeling good, so I have no idea what caused this. This was the least safe I’ve ever felt on a bike and I probably should have flagged one down one of the few SAGs I saw. But I knew Doug was waiting for me at the end, and his encouragement leading up to the event kept me going. I took the rest of the ride slowly and made it to the finish and there was Doug, with camera in hand to greet me. I finished in 10 hours and 27 minutes, a little over my goal, but still the best I’ve done over terrain like this and I’m proud of the accomplishment. A big thank you to Doug for helping me do this. I got my finishers patch, took a quick shower and had dinner before we hit the road.

A few lessons learned:

• Do not forget chamois cream
• Make friends with as many fellow riders along the way as you can– they are your help and encouragement while you’re out there
• Stop and take more pictures, they’ll gloss over the suffering and remind you why you do rides like this.
• If the hot plates are almost empty in the food line, wait for a new one (in addition to my patch, I also took home a mild case of food poisoning).

05-14-2007, 10:59 AM
So where are the pics? I'm so happy for you. I knew you were excited and anxious about the ride, but it actually sounds like you did really well.

So where are the pics? :D

05-14-2007, 11:01 AM
Excellent report, Deanna! This ride sounds beautiful. Great job on a VERY tough course!!!

I have a number of friends who did the ride - I wonder if the woman you met who was training for Death Ride is one of them... Susie or Barb? I think they were about this pace.

05-14-2007, 11:24 AM
I have to re-learn how to attach the files. I think I may need to reduce them, I'll post them later. I promise.

The lady training for the Death Ride was Narja. She's worked with TNT in the past, but not this year.

05-14-2007, 12:14 PM
Wow Deanna - amazing ride and great report!

How much climbing total was the route? And how long did it take for your vision to clear up?

05-14-2007, 12:18 PM
Deanna, just put your photos someplace like photobucket.com and you don't need to resize them. You just post the url with the little icon (the yellow sqaure with the mtns in it below the left facing arrow -- assuming your screen looks the same as mine).

Your photos will then be handy to share with friends, family and other forums.

05-14-2007, 12:21 PM
The organizers say there is around 8,000 feet of climbing, but both my computer and my DH's show closer to 10K (9,750 on mine). My vision "improved" within half an hour after switching from contact to glasses, but it was about an hour before I felt it was completely back to normal.

05-14-2007, 12:55 PM
Okay, here's a link to the photobucket album. For some reason they are being shown in the reverse order that I listed loaded them, so if you view it as a slideshow, they will be in reverse order. As I mentioned, I wish I'd taken more pictures.


05-14-2007, 01:07 PM
Oh, wow. Seeing the road stretch out above. Just wow.

Those flowers and the redwoods. I need to do some riding over there one of these days.

Thanks for posting all those.

You know, you could have managed to look a bit worn and bedraggled there at the end. :rolleyes:

05-14-2007, 01:28 PM
You know, you could have managed to look a bit worn and bedraggled there at the end. :rolleyes:

I can't even manage to hold that little patch up straight and I kept my sunglasses on because I was sure my eye's were pointing in different directions.

05-14-2007, 03:20 PM
Wow great pics Deanna!!
Congratulations on a wonderful ride and yes I agree with SK you look too good.:)

05-15-2007, 10:03 AM
Great report, Deanna! That wall just looks sick. You're obviously now in the TE Amazon Club (I determine its membership, but alas am not a member :p ).

P.S. You can change the sort order in PhotoBucket to sort by file name - I think it defaults to some sort of reverse upload time or something equally stupid.

05-18-2007, 12:32 PM
The following post by new forum member AliceB.Toeclips was in the "to be moderated" queue (the offending item? an itsy-bitsy ".com", as in Hypnosis.com), and I inadvertently clicked delete because I thought it was a double post. Fortunately, I cut-n-paste before deleting "just-in-case", so her post has been preserved:


Thanks to alert riders Graham Hewson (writer of good fiction, and roadie pal of mine) and his wife Angelina, I was able to do the Tour of the Unknown Coast. It’s a mid-May riding ritual held in Ferndale, a healthy six hour drive from here in Marin…Friday morning they collected me , my bike and my banjo.
In my picnic basket : rhubarb pie and strata (savory bread pudding with nettles, potatoes, tomato and eggplant and not quite enough cheese). We arrived at the Humboldt Co. fairground to find at least a hundred tent-campers, and half as many motor homes parked among the old –fashioned Quonset style pavillions, cabins and livestock paddocks. The grassy surrounds were perfect for this sort of night-before hanging out, signing in, and sizing up everyone else. On the whole, it was the typical stringy Mature Audience with graying hair and brilliant neon yellow windbreakers.
Camped next to us were officers in the Sacramento Police shepherding about a dozen teen boys on their first 20-mile group ride. These kids, mostly black and latino, were the sole color at the event, and they were riding around in circles, excitedly practicing ways to take out their buddies.
A local kid had a banjo, so since I’d brought mine (boredom abatement tactic) I showed him frailing, he showed me his punk/rock stylings…
Slept in my cheap dacron bag-- or more accurately: lay awake for hours, menudo from dinner at Chapala’s , reminiscing about how much this was like the fat tire Eighties, where we all hung out together, so few people bothered with a hotel: the action was always at the campground (Repete raising hell with his beer buddies, campfires), and we took off in a sort of collective sleep deprived stampede. The hotel-dwellers (read: Team Ross) were inevitably late because the directions to the actual start were wrong.
TUC is the acronym for this long-running north coast tradition. It’s also the pose I assumed for the first 25 miles clinging to the pack of somewhat serious racers types—they time this event--issue a number and everything.
Tinker Juarez was there, well, he was supposta be on the line at 7 a.m. Vic Armijo (promoter) was megaphoning “Where’s my star attraction?”, and I saunter up, a perfect counterfeit. (the dreadss) said, “ I’m his Sisty Uggler.”
Oh, and Clark Natwick was there too, with some of his upper crust fitness clients from Mill Valley …don’t forget: road riding’s supposta be the new golf!
I had on my extra special COLUMBUS thermal tights, with the huge embroidered letters along the thigh and the pink lycra on the inside lower leg (to better show my chainring marks?). Antonio Columbo had them made for me when I raced for him in 1992. He also made three pink wool jersies with BRAIDS embroidered down the front! Those are too precious to ruin in a crash, so they are wrapped up in my closet (feeding the moths?). Under the suspenders, my ancient black short-sleeve wool undershirt from that 92 World Cup season in Italy. It’s more holes than wool, but still warm when wet, and it’s very fine soft wool that dries fast. The delicate appliqué flowers on the v-neck are nice, too, but they were obscured by the windbreaker that I wore nearly the entire time. Thick woolen sweater-arms under the windbreaker did the job of keeping my nonfat arms warm. I tellya, sometimes the tactical dressing is the first step to the podium. But a fifty one year old wombat only gets to look up at people ON podia.
Over the bib tights I zipped on a tiny white patterened low-rider ruffle skirt. A little something I felt sorry for on the dollar rack at One More Time, the suicide prevention thrift shop in San Rafael (their motto: “Don’t give up if you fail on your first try”). Yah, I do last-minute impulse costuming for big gigs.
For about 2 yrs my Road‘ham has sported a colorful plastic kiddie necklace under the seat. This area is the best “statement” zone, akin to the automobile rear bumper, with its potential for stickers that say stupid things, but mostly they say “I’m into telling people what I’m into”.
And you know me and fame, right? Like a moth, I am drawn to it, and of course get burned now and then (please don’t read the spring Dirt Rag).
I figure the skirt, the beads and flowered helmet helped broadcast the message: Buffoon In Yr Midst.
And for some reason, I enjoy infiltrating the Serious Zone for the sole purpose of, uh, showing off.
Call me Fredwina the Fool. So much better that Sirena the Squirrel!
By mile 25 in Avenue of the Giants, I was all alone—spat out by the peloton, and ahead of the serious tourists. An hour and some change had elapsed. Maybe I could do a six hour? Dream on….
My first catcher-upper told me his son was a pro with the unforgettable name of Damon Clook. (Turns out it’s “Kluck”) This guy was tall an’ strong (well, as strong as I am) and narrated a harrowing tale of his own crashes (lost teeth, broken facial bones) which led me to suggest he take my patented Instant Finesse™ class the next day. “I need to do something” he admitted. “My handling’s not what it should be. ” I stayed to his side, and we talked about his kid who’d been obliged to quit the road scene when a chronic hip injury sidelined him from the USPostal team for the second year in a row.
”I am not so sure that professionalizing play is such a good idea” I told him, beginning a rumination I refer to as my Commodified Childhood Sports “cassette tape”.
“When bones haven’t finished growing, and training is too intensive (motivated in part by the rewards of pro career, or even just college scholarship) a young person can ruin their body, and not be able to goof off on bikes later on…which is a pity, no?”
Naturally this fell on deaf ears.
I don’t know if he is a Little League dad, because only the kid can tell you that, but I am concerned about these things. If cycling’s gonna be your lifetime thing, you gotta protect yr skeleton, immune system (I think I wrecked mine, but the skeleton’s in perfect order), skin….
Away he rode, partly to avoid the chasers that were swallowing us up…I stayed with this next gang of about 6 guys through scary narrow pot-holed roads , elbow-to-elbow, at one point with a couple of cars behind, one towing a horse trailer. I’m good at holding a line (finally! Only took 15 years) and of course riding rough stuff, even on my scary new 18 spoke Shimano Dura Ace wheels (who’s Commodifying now?). Happily nobody yelled at me for riding too close to them, or leading them over a pothole. Things were way too Roubaixish for any of those silly Point-out-the-Hazard-While-Creating-Another-By-Riding-One-Handed “thoughtful gestures” (which I teach my students to not bother with. Ya just do a really good job ov scoping the road ahead and tangenting the hazard. Pardon the freaky verb.)
Aside: it turns out my friend Pete Lewendal’s lawyer is this guy Larry Kluck. Small world up there in the Redwood Empire. Pete’s the world’s least famous downhill champion teenager, back in the day.

For the climb I found some company. There was Greg, a huge friendly pup with with sneakers draped around his pedals, toes barely stuffed into too-small toe-clips.
“Do you realize you’re a hero for riding a hundred miles in those squishy shoes?” I asked him. “And that, if you had hard soled touring shoes you wouldn’t feel like yr feet were being sawed in half?”
”Really? I just like using baskets better. Besides those shoes and pedals are expensive” he replied.
“Stick with what you’ve got, and tell anyone who hassles you I said it was the cooler thing to have baskets. You never have to Remember Your Shoes”.
Next, I passed a guy just finished relieving himself, and heard him fall over loudly (probably couldn’t put his clipped-in foot down in time to recover from a shaky uphill start).
I didn’t say a word, since Pretending You Never Saw/Heard A Thing is how Miss Manners says to deal with social death.
Then I caught a guy whose shorts read “Hypnosis.com” or something. Was drawn in for awhile, then reached the top of the 2 mile climb to Panther Gap. The long elegant descent felt like I was entering a really amazing painting with steep, grassy mountainsides knuckling a wide pastoral valley below. A few sketchy hairpins at the bottom to make you concentrate on the fact that you’re not in a painting, you’re on a very lonely steep road trying to stick to it like crazy.
There were lupines filling the lowlands outside of Honeydew, tidily corralled blue vastness. My companion at that point (I kept dropping guys on the descents, picking them up on the flats) told me he was a cell-phone company employee, he and his wife lived simply up in Ferndale, pop. 1500.
Quick mega-lunch: hot red bean soup, three sandwiches in succession, and disgusting energy drink with fake sweetnener, ptui…Bowling ball in belly, rolled off to find Mr. Natwick and his clients. Who dropped me.
Then I overhauled
Darryl(Lickt? The guy with a tooth missing) and his friend Dan, who's done the TUC 5 times. Darryl has only been riding a BIKE since August!
Classic crusty character from Manila (‘other side of tracks’ from Arcata) area, perhaps had a rough early life. We blabbed the entire stretch of the beach highway, (me heavily coaching him on the joys of drafting, and how to look at my shoulder + the road ahead, not look at my wheel) and
then I lost him on the climb. This time I was the one dishing the hurt.
I smiled to think I've discovered the antidope to headwinds: Lip-flap!
Lots and lots of fun dragging my *** up the next ten miles, tongue wrapped around my front hub. A photographer named Arlene caught me mid-gasp…and said “you’re the third woman I’ve seen”.
I grumbled, “How do you know I’m a woman?”
AND no crashie-poos dropping into Ferndale, not even hypoxic or hypothermic. I didn’t even smack into the customized Greyhound bus towing a Honda behind, up the impossibly steep hill (as I caromed down)…they were on an inside turn thank Goddess.
At the finish I learned I’d done less than 8 hrs, maybe 7:45 or so. No division by gender so I’ll imagine that I’m within the top dozen or so of wimmins.
No tab’d results, but hey, for 35 bucks, free camping and all that wonderful lunch, sag in case of die-off, I’m not complaining. Just hope to break 7 next year, perhaps skip lunch? Wear more aero clothing? Shave off the dreads?

05-18-2007, 02:40 PM
Wow - I am really glad that ride report got saved - that was great reading!!

05-18-2007, 02:51 PM
I like the outfit descriptions. Oh and I gotta find that copy of Dirt Rag. :D


05-21-2007, 11:59 AM
I went to school up there and don't visit enought. This gives me something to work towards next year! It is some of the most beautiful country and with very little traffic. Thanks for the ride report and hope to experience it in the next few years! Got to get working on those hills! -Nic