Desolation +/-215K

Astute readers will notice I keep changing the name of this randonee.  Not the ‘desolation’ part – that is a given due to the general environs of the ride…..yes, it’s the distance that keeps changing.  The route keeps being tweaked.  Too many options and too much concern about keeping the ride manageable but still including a respectable amount of non-pavement.  I have to admit that it’s fun to keep experimenting with the route and doing scouting rides for follow-up, but if we’re going to submit this thing as a permanent, we have to settle on a final route one of these days.

Goals for the day’s ride included a careful examination of the cue sheet, and to convincingly test the relative feasibility / practicality for doing the full ride.  That, plus it’s downright irresponsible not to fully pre-ride a permanent course before submitting it to RUSA (and having an unsuspecting innocent randonneur not be accurately forewarned about what to expect from the route owner).  Oh, and we planned on enjoying ourselves too (via the typical gravel grinder’s recipe of both fun types I and II.)

Started at 6:30.  E.K., Bill, and myself.  We rolled northeastward initially in darkness in Penns Valley to Woodward.  The sunrise was nice but hard to accurately capture.  Arriving at Woodward, we noted the location of the Post Office.  We don’t think we will need a controle here  (we’ll see what Christa B. says..) but if we need one, we’re set.

Then we climbed the now semi-familiar Woodward Gap road and noticed there is really no gap in the mountain there.  Yep, it seems you climb to the damn top.  There was no gap that we could see any way when riding.  E.K. speculates it was an early marketing ploy by an innkeeper 150 years ago or some-such to trick travelers into coming through that area. I dunno.

On the descent down Cherry Run, I explained to Bill how pinch flats aren’t a particular problem on these gravel roads because they are pretty well maintained and you won’t find any large, sharp-edged potholes and the like to produce one.  And just then we found Eric stopped with his front rear tire half off.  There goes that theory.

Not long after we scouted the Weikert Post Office’s location  (this one IS needed for a controle), and started up the White Mountain /  Hunter Road climb.  Near the top, three pickup trucks passed us going the other way.  One kid in the back of the 2nd pickup truck yelled “Nice recumbent!” at me.  I was gobsmacked.  Are these contraptions actually becoming commonly known?  It’s weird.  I am not sure how I feel about that.

The long descent down Hunter / Treaster Valley was uneventful (this time; thank goodness), and we had a reasonably efficient controle in Milroy.  Then we took our semi-recently discovered route to Allan Seeger via Lingle Valley-Spruce Mountain-Stone Creek.  Damn, that climb up Spruce Mtn. then Stone Creek really kicked my ass.  Eric’s too.  Bill didn’t seem to mind. We all kind of dug the sketchy pavement descent down Stone Creek Road.

The following 15 miles or so over to Diamond Valley were more or less un-scouted heretofore, so I was nervous about what we might find.  I was tickled to find it was a great route.  Silver Pine, Miller, Sassafras,  Winchester, Playhouse, and Eberle were all really great.  Too bad we had 1.5 miles of the devil’s road  (Rt. 26) to navigate.  There’s no good way to avoid it if we want to hit Whipple Dam Store on the route.  (“good way” does not really equal climbing up to Greenlee…although I have thought about it…)

The final major obstacle of the ride awaited us – the climb up Tram Rd. and Colerain, before the descent to Spruce Creek.  It was hard.  All three of us felt it was the hardest climb of the day.  The surface was annoyingly thick, loose, and chunky.  As if the grade and elevation gain weren’t enough.  We enjoyed the view at the top for a little while – it was well deserved.

We decided that the plan to send folks down to Spruce Creek proper and back on Rt. 45 for an info controle was too cruel, so we skipped it as well, and we spent about 10 minutes finding a few info controles in that area that were not off-course so much instead.  The route was 222K, so we definitely had a few Ks to shed if possible.

We uneventfully finished up the ride on familiar roads in fading daylight.  Eric paced Bill and I home the whole way along Rt. 45, and for that, I was thankful.  It was a lovely day and a great ride with friends.  With a small dose of adventure thrown in for good measure.  What more else should there really be to expect out of this goofy sport?  I know I sure can’t think of anything.

Photo op in the morning mist (photo by E.K.)

This sign confuses me for some reason.

Cyclist Shelter? (photo by E.K.)

Fix-a-flat on Cherry Run

So the Weikert Post Office does exist.

Bill and I…stopped. I have no idea where this pic was taken. (photo by E.K.)

Nice descent down Spruce Mountain

EK and Bill at McCool Rd. No, we didn’t ride it, but probably should have.


Bill’s expression says I have too much air in my tires but I am going to smile for the camera anyway. (photo by E.K.)

E.K. 2/3rds the way up Colerain. A tough climb late in the day feels tougher.

View of Half Moon Valley from top of Colerain. A very well deserved vista. (photo by E.K.)

Strava entry:

Eric’s pics and my pics all mushed together  (the higher quality ones are Eric’s; all I had was my crappy phone….):


About rothrockcyrcle

I am an endurance cyclist always looking for new ways to maximize fun and minimize BS.
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3 Responses to Desolation +/-215K

  1. Martin says:

    “it’s downright irresponsible not to fully pre-ride a permanent course before submitting it to RUSA” — Absolutely, 100% agree. I have been amazed when I’ve seen someone write, after having done the inaugural ride of a perm, “oh, this isn’t going to work,” or something similar.

    “if we’re going to submit this thing as a permanent, we have to settle on a final route one of these days” — Well, not exactly. If you go the “free-route” way, then you do need to have a standard route with cue sheet and controls, but you can continue to do variations, as long as you go through all the controls (and complete the course within the time allowed for the standard routing / distance).

    My one bike would not do well on your Desolation route — I’d want fatter tyres before tackling so much gravel or dirt (and I’m not sure I could handle the required climbing), but it is interesting ‘watching” you experiment.

  2. Martin,

    You know, I just read the section on the RUSA site for free route permanents ( ), and I think it’s a great suggestion.

    Such a set-up really fits the character of this ride – both the lack of intermediate timed controles as well as the freedom to design route variations are quite helpful. It’s sorta like a Fleche in the sense of how the route is managed and distance credit is determined.

    I suppose those riders not wanting to bother with their own course design can just follow the ‘standard’ route that we’ve developed and still have a great ride. I can see how free route gives Eric and I the ability to still get RUSA credit for the perm without going through the motions of submiting new perms every time we want to mix things up a little. We also have extra Ks on this ride, so I don’t think we will dip below 200 when we calculate the ‘minimum navigable distance’ between controles.

    For this ride, both Eric and Bill agreed that 35 mm tires are about right. You need something with minimal center tread and perhaps a few small knobs on the side. Something like a dry conditions cross tire can be good.

    • Martin says:

      Glad you like the ‘free-route’ idea. Be sure to note that Crista expects maps or cue sheets or whatever to prove that there are viable alternative variants. I found that additional RWGPS maps work(ed).

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