Monday, April 12, 2021

Half-Pint Gran Fondo Ephrata

I had just about decided to skip this year’s Gran Fondo Ephrata on March 27 when bike buddy Arnold, who I rode it with a few years ago, texted and said he had just signed up for the 45 mile Medio 9:40am Saturday start. Darn! I’m not up to this, I’ve only ridden more than 20 miles at a time a few times this year, max 30 miles and on mostly flat land. Nothing close to 45, and I’m not bike commuting 9 miles a day which is usually enough to get me half-ready for a long ride. But I said ok, I’m in. I am walking our dog, Dash, every day on lunch and weekends, I hope that helps.

I had signed up last year for the 80 mile ride (or Grande), which got cancelled, and gladly moved down to the minor leagues and signed up for the half-pint route, a still formidable challenge with plenty of climbing. I would miss out on one of my favorite parts of the Grande, the Baird Springs Road downhill, but still get to do the fast Sheep Canyon Road as both routes converge towards the end on it. 

I stripped down my Salsa Vaya and removed the fenders, pizza rack, and Swift Zeitgeist saddle bag. I switched out the Wolf Tooth Half Bottle Adaptor with the B-RAD Double Bottle Holder from my camping Fargo so I could carry 3 bottles within easy reaching distance. Sharp-eyed readers who know their bottle cages will notice I have a left Lezyne side-mount bottle holder on the right sidedown. That’s a long story*. It doesn’t make much difference, it’s still easy to pull the bottle out; also, I often stop for a break to take gulps of water with the lid off.

I pulled into town Friday night, got a double Dusty Cheeseburger with onions, fries and shake, then checked into the Best Western at the south end of town. It’s just a few blocks from the old homestead where my 90+ mother still resides. She’s had both her COVID vaccine shots, and I’ve had my first but I figured I’d play it safe and not stay overnight.

The 9:40am start had a full complement of bikers and 25 of us hit the pavement, heading out of town up Sagebrush Flats Road. Our route bypassed the Johnson Canyon climb of the 80 mile route seen below. I didn’t really miss it.

We had our own climbing to do, and continued up Sagebrush Flats Rd. The Vaya sure felt good without the racks and fenders on it. And with 46/30 crankset up front and 11-36 cassette in back, the climbing was better than years past. But it wasn’t long before I was off the back. 

Then onto the gravel, still climbing. This is where the riders from the next wave started catching up and passed us. [ed. note: here begins the less talk, more pics section of the blog.]

And the next wave. And so on. 
Also, Primitive Road sign, getting into the good stuff. 

A welcome downhill section. whoa, out of focus.

Peak elevation, maybe.

Arnold, motoring along.

I believe this is heading down towards the half-way mark and the snack station (it could also be on the 2nd half of the route, that’s what I get for taking a couple weeks to finish this post). After the snacks, there was some boring pavement riding that went past the Rimrock Meadows community about 16 miles northwest of Ephrata. 

A couple of times on these downhill gravel sections the tires slipped a bit, and I second guessed my decision to go with the 47mm wide smooth Teravail Rampart tires. Or maybe I should’ve stopped and let some air out of the tires. Those slippery times I also remembered I forgot, again, to sign up for the emergency helicopter ambulance service offered by Life Flight. Only $69 a year for you, your spouse or domestic partner, and dependents.

Woo-hoo, rollers.

We biked past tons of wheatland, so I stopped to take pics of remnants of the sagebrush-steppe or brushsteppe land when we came across some. It’s habitat for sage-grouse and pygmy rabbits, rattlesnakes, jackrabbits, deer, antelope, and assorted other critters. 

I looked down and saw my mask was acting like a drag-chute.

Back on gravel, and another fun section.

A most welcome sign, Sheep Canyon Road. Only trouble is it’s about another mile of up and down climbing to get to the fast paved downhill section. 

I didn’t feel like I went as fast downhill on Sheep Canyon as years past and the bike didn’t want to go faster. Maybe I was more cautious, or didn’t get in a good aerodynamic position, or the 47b tires were slower, or maybe a brake was rubbing. Still fun. I finished off my 3rd bottle and headed into town for the last few miles. 

Neither Arnold or I were quite sure when we started if we’d be able to finish the route, but we did. I joke about the Medio being a half-pint or minor league ride, but it’s a full-fledged ride in its own right and worth celebrating. 

With a nap in my case. I biked to the motel on the other end of town and snoozed for a bit before getting dinner with mom, brother, and nieces.

[insert abrupt ending to blog post here]

* I had an extra left side bottle cage that I put on the right side of my Vaya awhile ago, and then before the fondo I borrowed a right side one from a Fargo and found another left and put it on the seat tube. I guess I could’ve pulled the left-side one off the right and then put them on their proper spots, but that’d would’ve been an extra step. I’ll get around to it someday, maybe after I finish turning my Marin Muirwoods into a single-speed (or 2x10, still going back and forth on that).