Paskenta Century
Seemed like a good excuse to hit the road and rack up some winter miles for a long season ahead without having to ride the same roads all over again. This 'event' is organized by Chico Velo, though it's not your typical club century. For one, it's free. That's because no SAG or official rest stops are offered. Just show up at the ride start in Bidwell Park, pick up a map, and off you go.

By tradition, this ride is held on Superbowl Sunday. Probably good incentive for riders to keep the pace high, so you can get home with enough time to wash up and vacuum the living room rug before your buddies come over for the big game.

Lots of collegiate teams out here to get their fast, flat base miles and talk smack amongst themselves. Lisa and I lost sight of them very early. Come to think of it, we hardly ever saw other riders on our course throughout the day. And this should come as a surprise? It's flippin' early February, it's cold, it's raining. Why the hell would you wanna ride an unsupported century?

The course is nearly flat as a pancake, but the surroundings are surprisingly quite scenic (if you like the pastoral sorts of sights). Not a whole lot of civilization we rode through, so we had to be really careful about not missing the few in which we could restock food and drink. It seems Chico Velo has had to revise the graphical map for this ride over the years as more and more municipalities along the course empty out and become eerie ghost towns. Case in point: Paskenta itself -- the near-halfway point around this counter-clockwise loop.

The highlight of this ride IMO were the foothills along Black Butte Lake. Beautiful, remote area. But the 5-mile long stretch of gravel road was a real bitch. Chico Velo advertise this road as 'very ridable', yet the owner of the convenience store outside Newville shot us a look of disbelief when we said where we were headed on our bikes. We would soon understand why.

The road was ridable -- if you possessed sound cyclocross riding skills, that is. The gravel was the big and loose variety, made even more treacherous by the rain. And... the road rolled up and down a lot with banked curves. Man. I mostly feared the sight of Lisa just ahead of me, going down on the rocks just four months after her spinal surgery. On the outside, I was behind her, helping her pick safe lines and reminding her to keep spinning that small gear. We made it through all right, but I'd never heard her curse so much.

Probably won't opt to do this ride again, but happy to have seen the area anyway just for the hell of it.

Distance: 106 miles | Elevation gain: 1,730' | Ride time: 7h32m
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