Tour of the Unknown Coast
Easily my favorite ride discovery of the year. Lisa turned me on to this one, and, in the months leading up the ride, spoke ever so highly of its scenic attributes and challenges. 'You'll love it. You'll just love it.' I, as usual, was skeptical. She, as usual, was right.

Perhaps the biggest drawback of the event is the distance you have to travel to get there. Easily over 5 hours North from the Bay Area. Good thing hotel rooms are abundant and cheap in the area. You could even camp at the ride start (Ferndale fairgrounds). Everything I loved about this ride, however, make that travel inconvenience so worthwhile. Round up your friends, pile into a car and just go.

The scenery on this ride is downright spectacular. You get to ride through the Avenue of the Giants, a canopy of giant redwoods. Then you roll through Humboldt State Forest and visit one, green isolated canyon after another until you reach the lost coast of Northern California, nestled far away from any major road or highway. In fact, once you hit Mattole Road in Panther Gap, you pretty much stay on one road for nearly 70 miles.

The ride isn't short on challenges either. My altimeter registered a cumulative gain of over 8,800 feet. The real kicker: nearly 2/3 of all this climbing happens in the last 25 miles of the ride. How 'bout that?

There are some serious slugs and walls to climb on this ride. And the descents are often tricky and technical. Road surfaces in this part of the world are quite neglected. Gravel sections in the middle of fast descents are not uncommon either. Adrenalin flushed me as I hit one such patch about 100m long at about 40mph -- lived to tell though.

Perhaps the most interesting incident of the day for me happened at mile 70 or so. Just before hitting the coast, as I was riding along open fields, a crow rose up like a helicopter ahead of me from a roadside ditch. It hovered as I passed beneath it, then dropped a live snake on my arm. I can only assume that this was its lunch turned escape artist, else the incident stinks of bad omen. Snake. Crow. Hmm, not too happy.

Given the location of this ride, lots of Oregonians flock to this ride. Bay Area and Sacramento Californians are definitely a minority here, often humbled by the very able and unpretentious locals. I was amused to see, too, that people's roadside manners during this event can be downright atrocious. Folks climbing up roads on the opposite lane. Six riders abreast while cars wait to pass. Yet, drivers are extremely forgiving and even encouraging. How is that?

Key to this event's acceptance in the community is the fact that it IS put on by the local communities. Not a bike club. It's advertised heavily weeks in advance, hence the awareness. Locals sit/stand outside their homes and watch the 'race' go by, cheering. It is a timed event, but hardly a race; yet people really do eat up that gun start. I thought I finished fairly well at 7:08. The first finisher (a local) almost cracked 5 hours.

I'd love to be back there next year.

Distance: 98 miles | Elevation gain: 8,830' | Ride time: 7h08m
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