Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ukiah-Comptche Ride on Thanksgiving Sunday

M. and I decided that we want to have a quiet Thanksgiving holiday doing some self-reflection. We attended 2 days of a 3-day Chan (the original Chinese word for what later became Zen in Japanese; it came from the Sanskrit word dhyana) meditation retreat at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas--a Buddhist campus in Ukiah, California. During the retreat we participated (separately because of gender separation on campus) in 9 hours of quiet sitting meditation a day (with walking meditation interspersed) and reflected. I went to high school on the campus so the retreat also led me down memory lanes in those long hours of sitting, though I tried not to indulge in reminiscing too much. We have much to thank for--solid spiritual practice, good health, stable jobs, great group of friends and a community, good relations with family, compatible interest with and affection for each other. We both love cycling and are devoted to live progressively. We also bought a rental property this summer together that breaks even on the monthly basis.

We enjoyed the quiet time for reflection and as we planned beforehand, headed out for a bike ride on sunday, foregoing the last day of the retreat. We started out on the campus of City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB) and headed Northwest toward Ukiah on Talmage Road. It was only 40F and our fingers were freezing. Since I went to high school there and still am involved with the community, I am really familiar with the area. We took a back road toward the center of the town, passed quiet residential neighborhood and shopping centers in town. Ukiah is a sizble town with more than 30 000 people. On the way over we passed by Home Depot and Mervyn's California department store, which is closing down. After a few more turns on the residential streets, we got on to State Street, which is the main throughfare in town. We went north on this main road for a mile, passes Hwy 101, rode for another 1/2 mile and made a left turn on Orr Springs Road.

We would not leave Orr Springs Road on this ride. This road used to be one of the stagecoast road between inland and coastal Mendocino county. The road is fairly narrow and has a few houses and ranches along it. One can take ths same road all the way to Comptche--a former logging town--then further to Mendocino on the coast. M. and I did an out-and-back from Ukiah to Mendocino last year when we were training for the 1-day version of STP, and it still is the most challenging ride we did. Today we are not going as far, the plan is to start as early as we did, go all the way to Comptche, then turn around to get back to Talmage a little before 3 so we can enjoy lunch at Jyun Kang Restaurant on the CTTB campus--which is famous for its great Chinese vegetarian food.

Soon after we made the turn onto Orr Springs, we began a very long and steep climb to the summit. According to the elevation profile for our route on Bikely, we started the climb at mile 6.5 or so at about 600 ft above sea level. At mile 10 or so, our elevation reached about 2400 ft (that's almost 10% the entire time!). Then after a drop to about 2000 ft at mile 11, we climbed again to reach close to 2600 ft at mile 13. Even though it's a challenging climb, it was quite pleasant. It was cool in the morning so climbing helped to warm us up. We stopped at a moment to peel off some layers and got to enjoy the view of the Ukiah valley. The traffic level is very low, the scenery is great, and pavement is pretty good. All one needs is some legs (or low gears) and some patience. There is a ranch called "Wonder" at the top. It's a very satisfying climb.

A little on our equipments for the day. I took my Rivendell Romulus with Baggins Little Joe saddle bag. Because there is no services on the road until Comptche (even then, the store there doesn't open everyday), I carried a Nalgene water pouch that can fit 125 ml (4 of our stainless steel water bottles) of water in the saddle bag. The weight of the water (almost 10 lbs) certainly added the difficulty on the first climb. The Romulus performed wonderfully, it didn't tend to tip over, and stayed in a straightline without too much effort. I was able to alternate on and off the saddle going over the top. On descent, it took me a couple of turns to get used to the handling with added weight on the saddle, but it wasn't difficult and compromised the bike's handling only slightly. As we transferred water from the pouch to our bottles, obviously the weight of the bike/bag returned to normal. I really like having the little joe on my bike and will keep it there for a while.

M. took her 650b Serotta CRT with matching Acorn Bags--a small saddle bag as a handlebar bag in the front and a medium/large saddle bag in the back. She didn't carry water (since I was the mule) but carried energy bars, sunscreens, and her fleece jacket. Her bike also performed well for her. The lightweight tubes suited her very well, as she is light. The stiff frame also helped her on climbs as she is more of a masher than spinner on the climbs. And the grand bois cypres tires provided her more comfort on some patches of bad pavement than 25mm Panaracer Pasela TGs on her Torelli. She also felt more confident on descent with those tires. Her speed on flat has not suffer because of the 650b wheel size. We both wore reflective hi-vis vest for safety and both have bells from Jitensha Studio.

Between mile 10 and 13 when we were at the top, the road winds slightly and rolls a little. Here the vista is pretty open, looking over unincorporated regions of the Ukiah valley, with what must be new-growth forests. At mile 13, the road took a fast and winding dives, with many switchbacks for the next 4 miles. I stopped at a switch back to enjoy the view, give my hands some rest and allow M. to catch up. At mile 17, we got to the edge of the forest. The next 6 miles we will be in Montgomery Woods. We passed by Orr Hot Springs Resort along the way. This stretch of the ride is probably my favorite, as is M.'s. We rode under the tall canopy of several different kinds of trees--redwood, pines, oaks--and there is a creek running next to the road. I tried to take some picture but it was pretty dark in the forest to take good pictures while on a bike. It felt magical! The pavement is decent, but bad at a few spots, and the traffic is very low, with most of the cars going to and from the hot spring resort. We both remarked that this is probably our favorite place to ride.

At mile 23, we began another significant climb. Though not as hard as the first one, this 3.5-mile climb gains close to 800 ft. Throughout the entire time, we were pretty much under the shade of the trees, but gets to peek out to get an expansive view of the valley once in a while. At mile 30, we reached the point where the road began to descend for 4 miles down to the town of Comptche. We decided that we didn't want to climb up this hill on the way back and decided to turn around.

The ride on the way back was slower, but no less enjoyable. After descending the last hill we climbed up, we are riding against a slight gradient back through Montgomery Woods. We took our time and went at about 13-14 miles per hour. At Orr Hot Springs Resort, we bumped into our friend Annie whom we arranged to meet somewhere on the road today. After chatted for a bit, we began to climb back the pass back to Ukiah.

This is the steep descent that we took after the first climb this morning. Although not as steep (7.5% for 4 miles), the weather has warmed up significantly (now at a toasty 70F) and we were getting hungry and tired. It took some significant effort on our part to get back to the top. After a fast and furious descent down the hill we climbed this morning we were back cruising in Ukiah.

Overall, it was a challenging (60 miles and 9400 ft of climbing!) and wonderful ride. The food at the restaurant was excellent as always. I chatted with some people who have been working there since i was a teenager more than 15 year ago. It was a wonderful sunday to conclude a great quiet thanksgiving weekend!
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