Palm Springs Adventure Weekend–13-15 February 2015
by Rob Verfurth
Our last group adventure to Palm Springs was in 2013. Len, Hodges and I left Spring Meadow that day well aware of the terrible weather that potentially lay ahead. We had to ride up through Temecula and toward Hemet due to snow in Anza, our original route. It was blowing rain, hailing and eventually we rode through inches of snow up to Beaumont. Fortunately we had a back-up plan with Bill Wood driving out to Palm Springs. He picked up our cold and tired bodies from Beaumont. The rest of the weekend was a success as we crashed in a small hotel room, rode the 100 mile Tour of Palm Springs on Saturday morning and then drove back to San Diego.
We learned from our mistakes the years before so we planned the trip differently for 2015. We obviously did not learn all our lessons because we signed up again for a weekend riding adventure with Hodges. Shelley Hodges was great helping us find a house to rent and more details on restaurants, etc. The plan was to ride again from Spring Meadow, leaving about 7 am. We had four riders this year: Len, John M, Hodges and me. John’s wife, Mary Beth, was driving our team vehicle later in the day and planning to follow our route to sweep us up as needed. The weather was going to be much better than 2013. We had expected warmth with a subsiding Santa Ana wind on Friday. I checked the hourly weather and the winds in Santa Ysabel were still 20+ mph Friday am. It was going to be a long day.
I got to Hodges house just about 7 am and guys were ready to roll. After getting the luggage vehicle ready, we rode off about 7:20 am, heading for Poway Grade. It was brisk, a bit windy but sunny. Hodges quickly fell to the rear and struggled up the climb. We hit the top of Poway about 8 am, turning north on highway 67–off to Old Julian Highway. I pulled most of the way with Hodges either playing possum or really struggling as lanterne rouge of the group. We rode up OJH at 9 am and waited at the top for Hodges before tackling the open road of highway 78 for Santa Ysabel. The winds were still in our face, Hodges fell back again and we slowed to stay as a group. I went back to imitate my best Rick B role of the "Hand of God" and pushed Mike along for a bit. We eventually made it to the bakery where we stopped for food & drink.
Mike seemed to regain some form as we headed north towards Warner Springs. The traffic was fairly busy, the winds STILL in our face and we rolled along as best we could, passing the S2 dirt parking lot about 11 am. We flew out of Warner Springs, past the Gliderport and onto Sunshine Summit. We stopped for some rest and a coke. It was now 12:30 and we were falling behind our planned schedule. Fortunately, Mary Beth, was heading out behind us if needed. I had to use the restroom so Hodges and the group left me behind. The descent to Aguanga and the start climb up highway 371 was about 11 miles. I hauled fanny trying to catch them but they had already made the turn by the time I got there. John was up about a half mile while Len and Mike waited closer to the turn. It was now 1 pm and we needed lunch.
The climb up highway 371 is always tough. The traffic is busy and the road narrow. The worst part, of course, is the winds in your face while facing a steady 4-6% grade. Mike was getting steadily strong, Len never wavering and John coming up the climb a bit more slowly. We stopped after a long climb to regroup. We were just on the edge of Anza and then we passed the Cahuilla Mountain Market. This is where I stopped 3+ years ago on my solo ride to Palm Springs. Mike wanted to go to this great diner at the east side of Anza. It was after 3 pm when we rolled up to Diner 371. I was done and needed some food. The burger and fries were not that great but they quickly disappeared. John caught up to us and Mary Beth was now there with the car.
I knew the climb out of Anza to Highway 74 was going to hurt. I told everyone that at the bottom of 74 in Palm Desert, I would be done for the day. John got a ride with MB to the top of the climb. I was again a not quite ready to leave so Hodges and Len rolled off without me. I struggled up the final 6 mile climb, watching Hodges and Len roll out of sight. I still had 25 more miles to get to Palm Desert when I finally turned onto highway 74. The rollers along 74 sapped the remaining energy from my legs but the final 15 mile descent was loads of fun. Beauty views and lots of speed. The best view of the day was to see John at the corner of Highway 111 with MB and the car in the parking lot next door. I had ridden 113 miles from Poway to Palm Desert; it was almost 5 pm and I was done. We loaded into the car and drove the final 15 miles to our house near downtown Palm Springs.
Len and Hodges rode along highway 111 and met us at the house. They had completed the full 128 mile ride–studs. Shelley had baked us a large lasagna and we had salad. I brought a case of beer and made a quick grocery store run to get milk and OJ for the group. The house was great. John and MB had the Master BR, Hodges had the room to himself (due to his professed snoring), while Len and I shared the 3rd BR. The house had a great pool and hot tub, awesome backyard and views of the San Jacinto Mountains. We ate dinner on the back patio and then relaxed by watching the Lance Armstrong documentary. I stayed up to watch the whole movie while everyone else drifted off to a well deserved night of rest. I had already proclaimed that I would start the ride late and likely do just the 50 miler on Saturday.
Morning came early and Hodges, Len & John were ready to ride by 6:45 am. I waved good-bye and went back to my morning coffee. They rode the 100 mile event. I headed out about 8:45 am and rode into a slight breeze toward the wind farms. I pushed the pace and start to roll by groups of riders. The downwind turn south provided lots of speed as I continued to pass many riders. The 50 and 100 mile routes reconnected for many miles. At the turn of Thousand Palm Canyon Road the 50 mile route turned right and we hit a long descent that allowed speeds of 33 mph for a extended period of time. I had ridden solo until this point but hit the wheel of a fast guy that made this section even more enjoyable. The final 4 miles back into Palm Springs I met up with a fast group of riders that maintained 22+ mph so I just stayed with the group and mistakenly attacked a few times when guys went out hard. I hit the finish of 54 miles averaging 19 mph and then rolled back through downtown to our house; a total of about 60 miles for the day. Pool and beer time for me.
Mike, Len and John rode the full 100 miles and then made it back to the house a couple of hours later. We relaxed and then went out to dinner at the Ace Hotel. It was Valentine’s Day and reservations were impossible to get in town. This hip, artsy hotel had a nice restaurant. We enjoyed a good meal and then strolled through downtown Palm Springs before heading back to watch more of the Lance movie.
In the morning Hodges wanted us to leave by 7am. I protested and demanded I have my morning coffee and enjoy a bit more of the day. He still managed to pressure to get all of us packed and off by 7:30 am. We had decided to drive back the same route we had ridden and Mike knew of a French bakery in Palm Desert for breakfast. We enjoyed a nice feast at Clementine Marketplace before driving up highway 74. It would be much more scary to ride up that curvy narrow road then our fast descent we had done two days before. We stopped to see the great views and drove toward home. Hodges had to make a stop at Dudley’s for pie. We got back to Spring Meadow about noon. Congrats to Mike and Len for riding all the miles. Congrats to John for riding the 100 mile event on Sat and thanks to Mary Beth and Shelley for all their logistical support. It was another fun adventure. Attached is a link to some photos from the weekend.