So here I am, having finished NorCal AIDS Cycle for the seventh year in a row. This year promised a showdown between Snoopy and The Red Baron. To clarify, Snoopy is the bicycle belonging to my River City Roadies teammate Gayle Monroe, and The Red Baron is my bicycle.
During the 2016 edition of NCAC, I was nursing a painful shoulder injury from a crash in January. It was a difficult time, and I only rode about two-thirds of the ride. So I was looking forward to testing myself against the new route in good health.
Day One – West Sacramento to Auburn: 135 km/+2,000′ We started early in the morning on April 11th at “The Barn” in West Sacramento. After photos and yacking, we were quickly off heading north along the Sacramento River to our first rest stop at quirky Stingrayz Marina in Knight’s Landing. We continued north on highway 113, then did a short part of highway 99, before heading east towards our lunch stop in Lincoln. After lunch we started to ride up into the Sierra Foothills to our base camp in Auburn. This was the first test of my climbing legs, and though it was challenging, I felt good all the way into our camp.
After I got my tent set up, it was time for a shower, and a massage from our wonderful Cycle Massage crew. This is a real bonus after a long day in the saddle! We had a delicious dinner, a short evening program, and off to bed. I was fast asleep before 9:30 pm.
Day Two – Mountain Day/Auburn to Colfax loop: 69 km/+3800′ Our second day was the shortest of the ride, but had a lot of climbing involved. I had some anxiety about this day, as in the 2017 ride I was only able to ride less than half of the day because of my shoulder pain. The day starts with some climbing right at the start, and doesn’t let up. We made our way north through the communities of Clipper Gap and Weimar. Just outside of Colfax, there is a short stretch of road approaching a 20% grade. I started up the climb, and it became clear that there was no way I was going to make it on two wheels, so ended up walking the short distance up the hill. Pulling into old town Colfax, we enjoyed lunch at the historic Colfax rail station.
For most of the day, I rode with a new NCAC rider, Judy, and we did all of the return trip together. Some of the route markings were a little sketchy, and there was some concern about getting lost. Fortunately, frequently referring to our route sheet, we managed to stay on course. Near the end of the day, we stopped at the ‘1/2 way’ point for a quick photo. There were some thrilling fast downhill sections, and more steep uphill sections, but soon we found ourselves back in Auburn for our evening at base camp. I was very happy about having completed this day, as I really didn’t have any idea how I would fare on the climbs. Most of my training is done on the Sacramento River Delta, so I am very good at riding flat roads with wind! The usual routine followed… shower/massage/dinner/progam/sleep. Our next day promised a long route with significant climbing, and I needed rest!
Day Three – The return of Clubber Lang: 125 km/+3,300′
There is a scene in Rocky 3, where Clubber Lang (played by Mr T) is preparing to fight Rocky Balboa. A reporter asks Clubber his prediction for the fight. His answer… “Pain!” Clubber would be joining me on today’s ride.
This was the long one… a loop which ran through Newcastle, Granite Bay, Roseville, Loomis, Lincoln (again!), Camp Far West, and that climb back up to Auburn. The route begins in the morning with a brisk descent to Granite Bay, and then lots of rolling up and down through most of the day. Towards the middle of the afternoon, I started to feel very tired and run down. And on top of it, the battery in my GPS computer ran out of juice! The hills were really taking it out of me, and despite my best efforts, my body was in pain, and I knew that the last hill was not possible. So was able to hitch a SAG ride for the last two miles to camp. I was a little disappointed, but knew that I wanted to save my energy for our last day, the return to Sacramento.
That evening was “Family and Friends” night, so Sharene was able to join me for dinner and our evening program. After a delicious meal, we gathered outside for a short candlelight vigil, to remember those we have lost to HIV/AIDS. This is profoundly moving, as people say out the names of those we remember, putting a person to this disease which can seem a little distant at times. I shared the name of Ken Piercy, in whose memory I ride, and a couple of others who have been lost to friends of mine. It was lovely to have Sharene with me that evening, and I looked forward to being home on Sunday. Sleep came quickly, once again.
Day Four – Auburn to Sacramento: 87 km/+960′ Sunday morning came early, though frankly, I am usually up pretty early on Sunday anyway. We packed up all of our gear, and got ready for our journey to Sacramento. Our last day took us out of Auburn (one more climb!), followed by a long fast down hill on Auburn-Folsom Road, to our first rest stop at Beals Point on Folsom Lake. Most of the rest of the route took us on the American River Bike Trail, a route which is familiar to most of us. However, due to the closure of Discovery Park from winter flooding, there was a somewhat convoluted route to our finish in William Land Park. Unfortunately, some key points in this part of the route were poorly marked, or not marked at all, and some inaccuracies in the route sheet created confusion. But I found myself sailing into Land Park at exactly 11:30 am, the designated time for our arrival.
After a quick lunch, we all lined up for the parade into the amphitheater in the park. This is always an emotional moment for me, and even after seven years, I still find it to be so. After a few speeches and awards, we rejoined our families and headed back to our homes, happy with what we accomplished, both from a cycling and fund-raising standpoint.
So what of Snoopy and The Red Baron?? On this occasion, a truce was made, and both of them flew through the four days with flying colors!
I want to give my deepest thanks to my NCAC friends… those with whom I rode, and those who supported us as crew. These friendships are deep and one of the reasons I return year after year. I also want to thank the River City Food banks for sponsoring our small-but-mighty team. And especially a big thank you to all of those who supported my fund-raising with their dollars. This is the real point, after all! I have surpassed my fund-raising goal of $6,000 for this year, but still want to raise as much money as possible. If you haven’t yet made your contribution for 2017, we can accept donations for the next month. Just click here to make that easy tax-deductible donation! https://www.classy.org/fundraise?fcid=696466