June 23, 2018

Castle Crags

Another Saturday, another metric century. [What?! Three in a row?]

How could I resist when a friend asked me to join her for the Castle Crags Century Mountain Metric? We managed to squeeze yet another Friday off and headed for Mt. Shasta. Long-distance driving is not one of my strengths, so I was thrilled—normally I would not consider such a distant event. [Not to mention that this one was not on my radar.]

Our motel was close to the the route, so I suggested we just start from there—that approach worked well last time I rode here, too.

View of Lake Siskiyou with hills in the distance, Mt. Shasta, California
When I rode the Mt. Shasta Century a few years ago, I missed getting a good photo of Lake Siskiyou. This time, I knew where to stop. It wasn't long before we stopped again, my ride buddy shouting behind me to look up. Ospreys! And then ... a Bald Eagle. What a way to start the day!

Fir trees anchored in a rocky hillside, W A Barr Road, Mt. Shasta, California
We'd tackled the principal climb first; the ride three years ago was an out-and-back on this hill, not a climb to the summit. [Oh, what we missed!]

Snowy top of Mt. Shasta framed by tall evergreens, W A Barr Road, Mt. Shasta, California
A rear-view mirror is handy for more than just checking the traffic behind you. Sometimes, there's a picture-worthy view.

Cyclist pedals through volunteers waving international flags at the Gumboot water stop, W A Barr Road, Mt. Shasta, California
We got the full Tour de France welcome from enthusiastic volunteers at the first water stop.

Sign reading "It's Just a Hill, Get Over It" along W A Barr Road, Mt. Shasta, California
The gentle grade turned serious after that. Encouraging signs were planted in strategic locations. The first one reminded us “Remember You Signed Up For This.”

View of the Trinity Alps from W A Barr Road, Mt. Shasta, California
As I admired the Trinity Alps from the summit, my internal soundtrack spontaneously began looping on a particular song.
Over bridge of sighs,
To rest my eyes in shades of green
Under dreaming spires
View of the Castle Crags framed by evergreens, Mt. Shasta, California
Around the bend, Castle Crags came into view.
What did you do there?
I got high ...
Clear view of the Castle Crags, Mt. Shasta, California
What did you touch there?
I touched the sky ...
View of the Sacramento River from a bridge near Castle Crags State Park, California
Soda Creek Road on-ramp to Interstate 5, near Castle Creek State Park, California
Even the on-ramp to Interstate 5 framed a lovely view of the Crags.

Century / Super Century / Mountain Metric sign pointing to the on-ramp to Interstate 5, near Castle Crags State Park, California
And as you see, that's where we were headed ...

Semi truck passes cyclists riding on the shoulder of Interstate 5 approaching the Crag View exit near Dunsmuir, California
The orange cones on the shoulder of I5 were a helpful reminder to passing cars and trucks to stay clear.

View of Mt. Shasta with cyclists heading toward the distant mountain, near Dunsmuir, California
The weather was near perfect, but a tad warm in the afternoon. I was holding up better than last week, grateful to have my lowest gears again after I'd taken my trusty steed in for some adjusting. I'd also mounted some new (wider, 25mm) tires—the organizers had been emphatic about the poor road conditions. I chose to walk when my wheels started slipping on an uphill dirt section, but the rest of the route was rideable. The hazards were well-marked and all was well, until ... I got excited about a downhill stretch and slammed into a pothole that launched a water bottle. [At least that was the worst of it.] At speed, in the shade, I didn't see the markings.

The road kicked up, I shifted down, much clattering was heard. I stopped (luckily before the rear wheel would have seized up): the chain had dropped off the largest rear cog and become thoroughly wedged between the cassette and rear wheel spokes.

I nudged.

I tugged.

I yanked with all my might.

I was skeptical when the technician had turned the limit screws on both derailleurs last week. I'm no bike mechanic, but ... that wasn't the right solution.

My hands got plenty greasy, but the chain would not budge. [Somehow it always seems like Too Much Trouble to fish around in my saddle bag for the latex gloves. Why do I carry them?]

I looked at the map; so close, yet so far. The SAG guys transported me seven miles to the finish, and then carefully pried the chain free with a screwdriver, link by link. “We should have tried that out there, you could have finished the ride!”

After partying with my bike buddy and some newly minted friends we pedaled back to the motel as planned, rounding out my day with 55 miles and 5,805 feet of climbing.

It's all too beautiful ...

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