Ride to Palm Springs…almost and Tour de Palm Springs Ride Report
8 and 9 Feb 2013
by Rob Verfurth
I should have listened to the sage wisdom of Len or at least read the weather report headline in the Friday newspaper, “Rain and Mountain snow expected today.” The weatherman sure got it right for Friday. Len had sent us a message during the week suggesting we do not ride to Palm Springs due to the bad weather coming. Mike stopped by my house on Thursday to evaluate other routes to avoid the higher mountain route through Anza to get over to Palm Springs. We found what should have been a good route up through Temecula to Hemet and up towards Beaumont, before descending down into the desert.
The small group of hardy riders met at Hodges house before 7 am to begin our ride to Palm Springs. We put our extra clothes in the Hodges car as the family was driving over later in the day. The three of us rode under dark skies towards Escondido. It rained some as we got past the mall. By the time we got out of Escondido rain and sleet with a bit of hail had joined in the party. The ride was going to be tough. I flatted going up Old 395 before the Lilac bridge. We found cover to fix my rear tire and continued on towards Temecula. It was pouring rain on the descent down Rainbow Valley Road and during our ride through Temecula. I found what looked on Google maps to be a great route out of Temecula and up the eastern side of Hemet. We rode on De Portola Road many miles, past all the wineries, until the road turned into mud. It went through to Hemet but we had to find another route.
We rode back west on Glen Oaks and north around Skinner Reservoir connecting to highway 79 to Winchester. Road construction narrowed the shoulder and the cold rains continued to pound down. Mike crossed over to the other side of the road away from traffic to ride in the smooth surface of the construction road while Len and I trudged forward. We were all a little disoriented on our exact location, thinking we were in Hemet. Unfortunately we were still west and a bit south of Hemet. We stopped at the Bum Steer Bar and Grill to dry, thaw out and get some hot food. The crowd inside was what you would expect at 1 pm on a Friday afternoon, but they were all very hospitable to us. We had covered about 69 miles by this time and we had a long road still ahead. We rolled our bikes into the bar and wrung out our wet gear near the pool tables while Mike found us some hot coffee. Lunch was questionable at best–bacon burgers that were supposed to be chicken. We were so hungry and cold that it went down anyway. There was already some discussions on stopping the ride. I called Bill Wood, our back-up plan, to give him an update. He was still a few hours from leaving so we decided to continue the ride.
The directions from the bar maid were good as we finally rode around the west side of Hemet. I got another flat and we changed this tire in the rain as no cover was available. All we could see were dairy farms on both sides of the road. The rains were still heavy and the temperatures were dropping. Now over 80 miles in, we all agreed to stop riding, as soon as we could find someplace to stop and get warm. We were on the corner of a road called the Ramona Expressway and Highway 79 heading up to Beaumont. The top was about 7 miles away, our only choice was to keep going. The climb up was slow and painful, snow was coming down and piles of snow were on the sides of the busy highway. I watched Mike and Len pull away knowing they would stop at the first place near the top. My hands were numb, body soaked and tired so I just rode up slowly into the falling snow.
I finally reached the top and met up with Mike and Len in the gas station convenience store. They had begun to thaw out, hands still numb and the body shaking from the cold. We drank some coffee before moving over to Jack-in-the Box to wait for Bill to pick us up. Len and Mike huddled around the gas fireplace sipping bad coffee, trying to get the blood circulation back and drying out a few clothing items needed for the Tour de Palm Springs the next morning. We had ridden just over 93 miles and climbed 6,00 feet. Bill came and we piled into his truck for the 30 mile drive to Palm Springs. Chapter 1 done.
Shelly Hodges arranged a fun dinner for the group at Zini Cafe. The Hodges family was staying fairly close to the ride start line and Bill, Len and I were having a sleepover in the hotel Curve a bit farther along Palm Canyon. I found a hose to wash out the grit from the bikes and we took hot showers before heading over to meet for dinner. A full meal and then off to bed.
Tour de Palm Springs
It was cold and breezy in the morning when Larry Gitman joined us at the hotel. Mike was riding with his family so we had four
riders–Len, Bill, Larry and me–set out before 6:30 am to ride over to the start line. The route took us out and away from the San Jacinto mountain base into the very exposed valley. The winds howled from the northwest. The temperature was in the 30’s and gusts exceeded 40 mph, very tough riding the first 15 miles before we turned down valley after crossing I-10. We flew with the winds behind us. There were hundreds of riders within eyesight, over 10,000 total riders for all the events. I got my first flat of the day after stopping at SAG 2. Bill had gotten a flat a few miles earlier. The four of us regrouped, Larry bought a few spare tubes from the bike repair tent and we were again off and rolling. We kept up a good pace and stayed together most of the time; regrouping at each food stop. I chased a fast group and got a bit ahead pulling into the SAG 4 at mile 74 well ahead of Bill. We both ate and drank plenty waiting for Len and Larry, A hour passed before we decided to pedal on and hopefully meet up at the end. Larry and Len followed a group that missed the turn in La Quinita for the SAG stop and cut off about 8 miles from the ride. Phone service was weak so we missed getting messages to each other. I finally got a call from Len when they were at the finish. We were just leaving the last SAG, about 12 miles still to ride. The weather had turned nice and we pedaled on passing many folks that had gotten in front of us during our extended rest stop. The tour is 103.5 miles and after we pedaled back to the hotel we had ridden over 107 miles and 3,800 feet of climbing. The Tour ride was much more enjoyable than the ride out but the experience of both days made for a great weekend. Mike and Francesca rode the 100+ mile ride while Shelly and Sam did the 55 mile loop. We saw Sam and Shelly as we were leaving town. They were on their way to meet the 100 mile riders. Bill drove Len and I back to San Diego while Hodges stayed another day in Palm Springs.
We should consider making this a Descenders weekend event next year.