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Bacon!
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
My wife and I rode the Wildflower Century on Sunday. This one was new to us and we thought we'd give it a try based upon the glowing reviews that other people have given us after riding it each year. There were both good and bad points to this organized ride and some of them could have been so easily corrected that I think it annoyed me more than it should have. But first, the good parts.

Description (From their website): The most popular loop out of Chico, CA is the ride up Honey Run Rd. to Paradise, down Pentz Rd to Oroville, then back over Table Mountain, then back to Chico by way of Durham. We made up the extra miles by including loops in Bidwell Park, which few people did, then claiming they didn't get to ride 100 miles! So, we added a loop up Humboldt Rd and down Hwy 32. That's some more climbing. And, for safety reasons, we reversed the route of travel over Table Mtn a couple of years ago -- now you come up from the Oroville side. This is the ride we did.

By far the best part of the ride was the gorgeous weather and scenery. Without a cloud to be seen and nothing but warm sunshine the ride started perfect and ended perfect. It hit somewhere near 82 or 83 degrees and only felt actually hot in the dead air of the canyons. Something like 4500 riders participated in the ride and it showed. Lots and lots of people. I found it pretty cool though. Got to meet a lot of people of varying capabilities and many with some serious get up and go. The ride starts fast and hard climbing an 800 foot hill to loop back and send you screaming at 50mph back down to the valley floor. The little hill is quite the challenge mainly because you are just getting warmed up and the road is barely holding together. Be prepared to knock shoulders with other riders as you dodge the potholes. Pretty crazy stuff. After the fast haul back down into Chico you head up Honey Run Canyon into Paradise. This is a one lane road covered in heavy oak forest. Beautiful stuff but a little crowded. Many riders began to die off on this part less than 20 miles into the ride. People looked miserable as bikes failed, wills failed, and sweat dripped solemnly onto the pavement. Some walked, but most fought on to make the top before finding some shade to catch their breath. But, it's worth the climb as you get to fly back down the road zipping down awesome pavement and around nicely laid out curves. If you like to fly this was the opportunity. You then descend back towards Oroville where you've got to climb up to the top of Table Mountain. This is the road that will make or break a person. The heat was almost oppresive and people were cramping up all over the place. Many folks had to stop and rest and drink before getting going again. It was pretty rough and I think made worse by the fact that many folks (myself included) are still in get fat over winter shape. At the top of Table Mountain I got in a hollering match with a driver who yelled at some poor girl who had her foot on the edge of the pavement. He starting yelling at her for being discourteous to drives. I guess I was bigger than the woman or something because the jerk didn't want to mess with me and drove off down the hill. Oh well. I don't think he realized he had 12 miles of single lane road and 1000 riders more to go. I bet he was steamed by the end.

The ride comes back down Table mountain and across the flats for about 40 miles before coming back to Chico. We had a head wind for 30 of those miles and almost 20 miles of fresh chip seal. Oh that vibrating feeling when you are already tired. :). People were getting tired at this point. My wife and I were two hours behind our scheduled ride after she cramped up and had to rest for a while and then we had come across a cool guy named Mario who had some bike problems we helped fix. We just wanted to get back and were racing along ahead of a peloton of women in training. They were about 100 yards back when I heard that sickening sound of bikes and bodies smacking pavement. Yelling at my wife to warn her I was slamming on the brakes I U-turned to see the damage. A woman had wobbled in the peloton, bounced off another rider and gone down. The rest of the riders were more or less OK but this lady was a bloody mess on her left side. I'm one of those weird riders who carries a significant first aid pouch that my brother helped me assemble (paramedic). For the next hour I worked with what training I have to bandage her up and clean up the mess. After doing what I could I told her she needed xrays for the subdermal hematoma showing on her elbow and then rode off. Hope she's OK.

Anyway, the last 20 miles or so is flat through the fruit trees farming country. Pretty but boring. We were happy to make it back to the end.

Bad Parts: Geeze, get some decent route markers people! The markers were hard to see, the map only so-so, and no que-sheet. We were the only 2 people in our group to complete the ride. The others made a wrong turn early in the ride and never completed. We spoke to dozens of others who did the same thing. Next, make sure you have at leat friendly people assisting at the stops. At the Honey Run bridge there were these two bearded guys trying to play rodeo with all the bikers. It was chaos and I understand their angst (lousy spot for a bathroom stop) but in one case a bearded (kinda scarey) dude grabbed a bike so hard from under a girl that she went down. I'm not even sure why. She was on the bike and just getting going after stopping. No riders or cars around her. Her husband yelled at the guy. I think he should have smacked the crap out of him. There was no cause to hurt the girl or her bike for crying out loud. Anyway, everyone did a really good job outside of these two incidents.

Well, hope I didn't bore you too much. Here's the overload of pics.

Starting out in Chico. I realized there might be a problem with the route markers when most of the people who had left ahead of me were turning around. Not a good sign.


Once we figured it out (many didn't) we were on our way up and out:
http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/4777/1877/1600/02%20Chico%20Start2.jpg/IMG]

And up, and up (Chico is in the background):
[IMG]http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/4777/1877/1600/03%20Hill%20Climb.jpg


And then, screaming back down the hill. 50mph! Whoo hoooo! At the bottom my wife was almost taken out by an out of control peloton. (Not allowed, but anyway. . .). They hit the turn so hard that one of the riders bounced off of her. She stayed upright but was POed.


Live music just for the riders!


The Honey Run was cool. Kinda jungle like and fun climb. Very crowded though when it went to one lane.




Lots of resting at the top of Honey.





Yes! More downhill!


These kids were congratulating riders as they went by:


Lots of grass and olive trees:




The climb into Table Mountain. 5.5 miles long is all but 1050 foot of climb. This is after already doing 2300 or there abouts. Definitely a kicker and hot!


Me beginning to realize a cold one would be good about now.
 

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Bacon!
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Wildflower Part II

As you reach the top of Table Mountain you hit some "false flats". Just when you think you've reached the top the there's another climb. My wife was beginning to have cramp problems in her quads at this point from not hyrdating often enough. One girl crashed near the top when her legs froze up. Ouch. We had to sit for about 30 minutes at this point until the cramping went away. At least the view was good. Just over the hill we would meet Mario who was having some mechanical problems. Another 30 minutes of helping the guy and we were once more on our way.



We were 2 hours behind by the time we hit the lunch stop. We had lost a half hour wondering what happened to the rest of hour group, about 1/2 hour waiting for cramps to go away, and 1/2 hour helping Mario. The lunch stop was empty and people looked at us funny when we rolled in. Oh well, I was hungry and got some good sandwiches.


Then it was back into 30 miles of headwind, almond trees, chip seal, and a chain tattoo on my wife.




These were the funniest helpers on the route. This lady was smoking the whole time staring off into space and the dude was talking to the trailer or anything else he could find. Funny stuff! But they were helpful (truthfully).


If you look behind my wife in this picture you'll see a peloton closing the gap. About 1 minute after this shot they went down. As mentioned above one girl really got chewed up. Ouch.


Almost back to Chico. There was wateroverflow everywhere from the spring flooding they had had. It was by far the worst smelling water I had ever been graced with smelling. Yuck! And then it was back into Chico with a smile (lots of people missed the route markers here and got lost wandering around town. Fun, fun).



The dinner stop was pretty much empty. Not much food left and not many people. They were giving away all the left over sodas and ice cream but my wife settled for beer and some shade. My dinner was ruined. As I held the chicken in my hands and had just taken a big bite I noticed blood was still on them from helping out the crash victim from earlier. So much for my appetite.


And finally, it was time to go home. As you can see we were about the last to leave the place. Made us feel wimpy, but we also felt good in that most of the time lost was in helping some other folks and the evening was perfectly warm and wonderful, so what the heck! You can see our poor little pickup out there and lonely.
 

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Cipo's long lost cousin
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975 Posts
Missed you again!

I drove over the day before with a couple of friends. We pulled into Chico about 3pm and found a shady tree among the other tent campers next to one of the livestock pavilions at the fairgrounds. After the tents where set up and the bikes were taken off the roof rack we took a spin into Chico to check out downtown. Upon our return we could hear the loud crackle of a PA announcer... It turns out that the Chico fairgrounds not only have shady trees but also dirt track motorcycle racing on Saturday nights. We put up with dust and the roar of open throttle racing until about 9pm. Thats when all the race fans who rode their Harleys out to the fairground started rumbling through the parking lot. I was suprised not to wake up with mud and oil covering my tent.

The century went pretty well. We got an early start (7am) thus really enjoyed the rest stops. I gotta say that this is the first century I've ridden where I may have gained weight! The decent off table mountain to the lunch stop was a blast! Nothing like being wobbly tired after a big climb then dropping in at 40 mph on a twisty road. The wind was pretty rough for the last 20 miles but we got the paceline going to share the work.

Back at the fairground the metric century riders had started to pack up in the afternoon so our camp area was about half full. I was able to enjoy the lunch/dinner then get a good shower which more then made up for the noisy night...

Final note - I agree with you on the route markers. I'm used to arrows on the pavement not the goofy little pointer guys they had...
 

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Bacon!
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Glad you had a good time. We weren't sure about the camping so we held off. We registered around 5:00PM on Saturday and the engines were all ready revving over there. Pretty loud. We stayed in a cheapo hotel that wasn't too bad. My wife and I make a lousy paceline :) and the rest of our group went MIA so it was slow going on the way back but not enough to really bother us. We're glad we did it and will do it again next year.

PS: I bought an RBR Kit so in the future watch for the guy in tribal gear on a black Felt. I'll probably be the slow one on the climbs!
 

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Nice photos. I was out there again. This was my fourth Wildflower plus I went to school there for a few years so I know the route pretty well. I'd have to agree that the route markers could be improved, especially the couple on the downhill stretches. I can just see folks blowing by the marker at 30 mph thinking, "Oh, that was the turn." (if they see it at all).
It's a great place to ride but overall I think that the ride has almost become a victim of its own success. There are just too many people out there. I lost track of how many times I saw packs of riders 4-5 abreast blocking cars when a simple single file line would have accomodated all road users. Then you get some inexperienced riders in group situations making life risky for everyone (saw two people almost body checked into guardrails). Or my personal favorites, the Einsteins who stop at the top of Honey Run to catch their breath but never pull off the road so riders wind up piling up at the top of the hill with people stopped, people swinging wide into the road to get around them, people filtering through stopped riders; just a mess.
On the plus side my 8 year old daughter did her longest ride to date; the 30 mile Flatflower (which actually came out more like 40 miles). Proud dad has to brag a bit :D
 

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Bacon!
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I was so busy working on the woman that I forgot to give my camera to my wife. I didn't even think about it until we rode off. Oh well.
 
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