Click here to watch a short video of the ride.
On Friday, Michael and I head north on Hwy 101 towards Humboldt County. We're registered to ride The Tour of the Unknown Coast the next day. We stop at a few tourist sights along the way.
**Photos may be enlarged by clicking on the selected image
We take a drive along Main St before arriving at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds in Ferndale for the early check-in. There is free tent and vehicle camping at the fairgrounds along with restrooms and shower facilities. No reservations are required.
There is a mass start time of 7:00 AM for all century riders. Temp: 47F
We go south on 5th St to Ocean Ave to head out of town.
We continue through the Ferndale Bottoms on Grizzly Bluff Rd towards Waddington. We ride along the flats and see nothing but old farms, ranches and open fields of green. There is one short climb here; the gradient starts off at around 6% and maxes out at 11% as you near the top. Thereafter, it's pretty flat with a few small rollers as we head towards Rio Dell. You can hear the water flowing along the riverside. The road changes name several times; to Blue Slide and Belleview Ave.
The descent is extremely steep on this really bad pot-holed road. You must proceed with caution! There are two sections of loose gravel along with many tight hairpin turns. I am truly scared as my bike rolls through the gravelly sections of road. There is also the warning of loose sheep on the road.
We cross the old Honeydew Bridge; it's a single lane wooden plank bridge with gaps in between. Once again, proceed with caution and take it slowly. There is a rest stop at mile 55 next to the Honeydew Store.
We stay on Mattole Rd for the next 7.5 miles; you get plenty of rollers on this stretch of road along with large sections of loose gravel. My mantra for crossing the gravel was "relax, stay upright, don't hit the brakes and roll through". I did feel my rear tire slipping a bit and it's just scary, I don't want to take a spill. There is one gravel section that you must be aware of, it's like a huge dip in the road; a downhill followed by a quick uphill, the gradient hits 12-16%! You can't even get out of the saddle to get over it fast enough. What a hairy experience, I never felt so petrified! It seemed like a booby trap was in place to take someone down. If I ever do this ride again, it'll have to be on a cyclocross bike with knobby tires. Oh yeah, watch out for all the cattle guards too.
We arrive at the A.W. Way Park at mile 63 for our lunch stop. They had different types of sandwiches and hot V8 vegetable soup along with all the other standard foods.
After lunch, we continue on Mattole through Petrolia. There are several climbs along the way. At mile 66, we hit "Surprise Hill" which is a 300 foot climb. The gradient starts off steadily at around 8-9% with pitches of 10-13% in between. You get a nice down hill that is followed by another climb of a 5% grade. There is one short steep climb into town when you see the school xing markings on the road. After crossing through town there is another climb as you head on out towards the coast, it starts off at around 3-5% and hits 10-12% as you near the top. Thereafter, the road levels out. Yes, those are zebras out there!
Mattole Rd takes us all along "The Unknown Coast". The views are absolutely stunning! At mile 79, you can see Battleship Rock from the shore. The sights, sounds and smells of the ocean are actually very exhilarating! The wildflowers are out in force as if they were there to pave the way and to beckon us to continue on. I felt very drawn to it; like following " the yellow brick road", I just wanted to keep going to see what else was around the bend. I'm really loving the ride at this point! The slight headwinds and misty conditions made it all feel very mystical and magical at the same time.
We arrive at "The Wall" rest stop at mile 81.5.
"The Wall" is a one mile climb with a 16-18% steady grade. I can see riders traversing the road to get to the top. I sit tight and spin my way up; thanks to my brother Rick for upgrading my bike! The views from the top are spectacular; it is certainly worth the climb!
The climbing continues on after you reach the top of " The Wall'. There are more dirt and loose gravel sections for the next few miles. A few of the climbs have 9-10% pitches. At mile 84, the descent begins, it's steep with very sharp turns and dangerous sections of gravel areas. Proceed with caution!
There is a unstaffed rest stop at Capetown, mile 86 with a porta-potty, water and snacks at the side of the road.
We are now approaching "The Endless Hill" climbs. It's 8 miles long with several false summits. The first section is the steepest; average 9% grade with portions holding steady at 10-12%. False summits are good, it usually means the road will ease up a bit to give you a break before the next climb.
The next section has a steady grade of about 6% with another downhill followed by another climb of 9-10%. Thereafter, the gradient hovers around 2-3% and that seemed to go on forever. There is one short 7% climb through loose gravel followed by a fast downhill through yet another section of loose gravel; danger, danger!
At mile 96, we're at the top of "The Endless Hill". The fog is quickly rolling in and the temperature drops to 47F. The 3+ mile descent back to Ferndale is treacherous! It's steep with more gravel and hairpin turns on a very rough narrow single lane road.
We get back to the fairgrounds at around 4:30 PM and cross the finish banner with people cheering us in and receive our finisher's patches.
The post ride meal was great; BBQ pulled pork and chicken, baked beans, potato salad and cole slaw.
According to TUC's website, this ride is considered "California's Toughest Century". They should also add "The Most Beautiful Century" as well. The route itself was wonderful; you get the farmlands, the redwoods, rivers and ocean views all rolled up within the rural back country with minimal traffic. The "toughest" part was riding through poor road conditions with dirt and loose gravel.
99.74 miles with 9021' of elevation gain
Weather: Some morning sun turning to overcast cloudy skies with headwinds along the coast with a gentle mist. Starting temp of 47F, reaching a high of 64 at Honeydew and holding in the mid 50's for a majority of ride. Temp dropped back down to 47F near the finish.
Nutrition: Maltodextrin mix, water, a banana, a few pieces of orange, a slice of roast beef, half of a PBJ sandwich and a cup of V8 vegetable soup.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>PUSH ON-KEEP MOVING!>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>