Julian Fall Ride-6 November 2021
by Rob Verfurth
Riders: Geoffrey M, Len N, Mathijs, Dennis C, Dave Ernst, Don W, Brain V, Hodges, Tony O, Dave Voris, Cresap, John M, Bernie, Larry, Rick B, John A, Oleg, Flo and Rob
The annual Julian Fall Ride could not have picked better weather and a great group of riders. We had a total of 19 Descenders out for a fun ride. Everyone met in the gravel parking lot behind the Julian Pie Company in Santa Ysabel. It was supposed to be in the high 40’s according to the weather forecast. There was fog in Poway on the drive there that broke to clear sunshine past Ramona and the temps were already in the low 50’s at the start. Arm warmers were needed but most riders put away their vests. Hodges, who drove the decision to add the lightweight gilet to our team kit inventory, still wore a vest; but it was a yellow one! His faux pas was overlooked because he volunteered to buy pie for everyone if we had more than 15 riders. The team gear concession stand was opened on the back of my car. Two pairs of socks for $5 was the deal of the day. We sold a number of pairs of socks and gave away the last of the old Sock Guy inventory. We had a special guest rider, Dave Voris, down on a visit from NorCal. He bought one of the last pair of arm warmers.
Most riders were in Descender team gear. A few riders needed to update their kit inventory and we also had a number of guest riders out of uniform. The two most spiffy riders were Dave Ernst and Rick Bienias. Both wore the newest Descenders jersey they designed and it looked awesome. Dave drove the design changes with Eliel that lightened and brightened up the original "Blue" kit jersey. He bought the minimum of 5 jerseys from Eliel and apparently shared this new gem with his best riding buddies. It goes great with the original blue kit bibs as well. Rick B wore the new jersey, along with the original "Blue" kit bibs and arm warmers. He accented perfectly with his yellow shoes, socks, gloves, helmet and even glasses; no wonder he is just a good rider, just look at him! Fortunately, Dave E has now made this new Descenders jersey available to all of us. I recently sent out a kit order message to the group. All kit items are available. Xmas is arriving soon and there are no shipping delays expected since this gear is made in CA. Get your new gear ordered and call me if you have any questions.
After a group photo, there were attempts to go over the route for the benefit of the new riders. Tony O started the discussion. Hodges tried to interpret the Irish and translate it into Queen’s English. Someone tried to add some good old American words, but apparently it was all lost in translation. I fault myself for not breaking through all the misinformation and make clear that ONLY the "A" team riders should descend all the way down Banner Grade; others should turn around at the store or somewhere later on the descent but well before Scissors Crossing. As we tried to tell riders we would ride up towards Julian and turn onto Wynola Road, Voris gave us his best command voice by telling everyone to regroup at that corner. Clearly no one was really listening; everyone was just so eager to ride.
We set off from Santa Ysabel in the brisk mountain air with the sun just starting to peak over the rising road. Car traffic was not too bad as we rode, mostly single file, up highway 79 towards Julian. The Apple Tree Inn finally came into view as we approached Wynola. The group took the right and, of course, no one stopped. I looked back and slowed to see Tony and John A pulling the caboose; everyone at least made the first correct turn. Bernie pulled John M and I back towards the main pack. The pace was pedestrian and most everyone rode in a large group. We even stopped once to let cars pass along the tight curves of Wynola Road. It is a beautiful section of tree-lined road that loops around Julian and past Vulcan Mountain before getting to Banner Grade. It could use some road repairs but it is still a fun loop. After the Vulcan Mountain turn the road descends slightly and speeds accelerated in a nice line of riders as we headed to highway 78/Banner Grade. Everyone turned left and I waited at the corner to make sure all riders knew where to go. John A and Tony showed up on the road just above the turn before I took off down Banner.
With no riders near me, I swiftly descended Banner Grade giving a quick nod at the tight left turn corner where I wiped out in 2009. I saw riders ahead and quickly passed a half dozen of them. Banner is such a smooth descent, Strava said I got a PR for the segment: 8:04. Funnest eight minutes of the day. I eventually saw the lead pack of "A" team riders just ahead but could not catch them as they blew by the General Store and past my designated turn around location-Queen’s Banner Ranch. Ernst and I have turned around there the past few times we have ridden Banner. I saw a number of riders continue on down the descent and tried to yell for them to turn around soon; that is a long climb back up to town. I failed to get the message across.
Ernst took a photo of me and we began our ascent back up. We quickly picked up Len and then passed Tony who had stopped at the store. Ernst, Len and I rode together up the climb. Near Wynola Road we finally corralled John M. We all continued on back into Julian and rode up to our usual stopping point at the Julian Pie Company. The pretty fall day brought out lots of folks as most all the tables were full and a line was out the door to buy pie. We sat down at the last table, relaxed and waited for the rest of the group. The wait extended much longer than we had hoped as the "A" team riders showed but a number of others were still missing; mostly the new guys. Hodges was slow to show so no one got pie. A planned event, only Hodges knows. The lines were too long anway.
We were concerned the new riders might get lost so we congregated at the main Julian intersection continuing our wait. Flo called Brain and we learned that Don had a mechanical, they were still climbing Banner. Geoffrey M had stayed to help fix the tire. Ernst, Voris and Rick had already descended towards Pine Hills Road. Ernst was heading all the way back to his car as his schedule was tight. I suggested that the slower riders head out while the fast boys waited for Geoffrey, Don and Brian. Hodges volunteered to stay as did others. I pedaled off with Cresap, Len, John M, Tony and Mathijs in tow. We met up with Rick B and Voris near the turn and explained that others were waiting at the top. Voris and Rick led us along Pine Hills and Eagle Peak to Boulder Creek and eventually to the climb up Engineers. Eagle Peak Road and Boulder Creek Road had recently been repaved so the slick new tarmac provided a great riding surface along the tree-lined mountain road with great views. I pulled to the point near the white fencing to make sure no one made the mistake of riding the wrong direction onto Boulder Creek Road. Voris and the rest of the guys followed close behind as we sped fast down towards Engineers Road; fun descent with some tight corners.
By the time we hit Engineers Road only Cresap, Len and I were with Rick and Dave V. We followed their carrot pace as long as we could, eventually falling behind on the long switchbacks of the road. The last steep sections before North Peak had us fall farther behind but it was a fun chase. We all regrouped at the Cuyamaca Fire Station, overlooking the lake with Stonewall Peak in the background. Water refills and snacks were needed while we waited for the rest of the riders. Larry, Oleg, Bernie and Dennis showed up first; they had kept up a "smooth" 240 watts climbing Engineers; awesome stuff. It now seemed like most riders had either made it to the Fire Station or planned to turn before the last descent to start the long trek back.
I quickly headed out as I knew I would need as much of a head start as possible. I passed Tony and John M who had started back already. I saw Flo still heading towards the fire station and suggested he turn around. The faster riders quickly passed me. I hid on their wheels while we all speedily descended down Engineers and Boulder Creek Road. When the road started to climb again, the wheat separated from the chaff. Larry, Oleg, Voris, and Rick disappeared ahead of us before we passed Camp Winacka. Dennis, Cresap, Bernie and I kept pushing but settled into our own group. We regrouped when Pine Hills Road met back up with highway 79 before the final six mile descent to Santa Ysabel. The faster boys were long gone. Cresap and I traded front position on the pulls as we screamed down the road. I got back to the parking lot with nearly 52 miles and 5,500 feet of climbing; many were over 60 miles with 6K of climbing.
Don’s market was having a 30 year anniversary party with live music. I had to head out so I missed the post ride pie feast that I assume Hodges bought. He just pedaled up as I drove out of the parking lot. It was a great morning Descenders group ride. Below are the photos I took, along with a few from Oleg and Ernst that I added to the album. Julian Fall Ride is one of my favorites of the year; it saved my life, remember. We have Dudley’s Dream Ride scheduled for December 4th, another favorite. Mark your calendar.
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