santa cruz challenge


Mark Friis


As with the first tour, climbing infected the mine and the participants brain. There is a disease you get sometimes when you're in good shape, you have amnesia of the amount of suffering you endure. It actually transforms into a euphoric experience at times. There are positives to cognitive dissonance. So the second tour breed another mountainous expedition to find the steepest and most elevation in four days on the road. This was a full camping trip and I did some serious upgrades to the equipment which included a large stove and industrial cooking materials along with a full rack system for the vans. Scratching the trailer was the best idea. 

With 14 participants we set for Bodega Bay to enjoy a loop to Calistoga and back, via wineries and oak lined roads. The first day was 106 miles and as the legs ate away at them the fatigue also made its fact known. We got into camp later than expected and rushed to make dinner. All was well and the cool ocean evening was a welcomed event compared to our 1st night at the prior year's tour. The next day was a shuttle to the foot of Bolinas-Fairfax Rd. I had accidently found this road a couple of years before and fell in love with it. Quiet and void of almost any vehicles, it is a cyclist's dream. As the road rose the fog didn't and it made for a rare experience for much of these SoCal riders. After Bolinas-Fairfax, we hit the ridge to ascent the famous Mt. Tamalpais above the San Francisco skyline. As the sometimes grouchy Mark Twain said, "The coldest winter I ever spent, was a summer in San Francisco", held true for these hot climate residents. The balmy, cool conditions had everyone suiting up for the descent to Mill Valley and then the ride over the Golden Gate Bridge to dodge thousands of tourists. Though it was something of a novelty to ride over this monumental structure, the hype dissipates quickly at 3 mph. Once over the bridge the daylight was burning and once again we needed to round up the group and get them set up. We stayed at Sam McDonald Park which proved to be a treat, sleeping under redwoods felt secluded despite the other campers near by. Though one of our fellow camp occupants decided that the bathrooms needed to be redecorated is feces, so we all looked for a second location instead of having to buy new shoes.

The next two days were a rehash for me of the Santa Cruz Mountain Century. With spectacular roads, views and climbs, you hurt and smiled at the same time. Climbs like Bonny Doon, Alba Rd, Empire Grade, Ice Cream Grade, Jamison Creek, China Grade and more, a cyclists has to soon find the will and the strength to endure the ups and downs of such a concentration of elevation changes. The last day was topped off with Mt. Charlie for just of few that needed to say they did the whole enchilada of pain. Loaded the whole gang up and many a snore could be heard on the drive down the 5. 

This tour gave me the confidence that incubated the thought that I might be good at this. The next year's tour would put that thought to the test and would make me rethink some strategies.  


©2023 by Thyme. Proudly created with