Memory Lane Is Steep!

Sometimes I take too many pictures while I’m riding.  Okay, pretty much every time.  But, this go around was exceptional for the number of photos taken.  And, while none of them are really all that special, the ride was spectacular!  Therefore, I’ve pared down the number of blurry, cell phone pics from 75 to 19 in the hopes that I can convince others to go experience the goodness Humboldt County occasionally has to offer.


Thanks to a running injury (she had a toe nail removed…GROSS!!!), Ruth wasn’t able to join me on this adventure.  It’s probably best that way.  While she is willing and able to tackle anything I’ve ever thrown at her, she doesn’t have a problem telling me how she feels when I “accidentally” forget to warn her about a 20% climb, or something along those lines. There were a few of them this day!


But, the ride started out flat.  With the Ferndale, CA fairgrounds as base camp, I took a roundabout way through town in order to add a little mileage to the ride.


First stop was the B and B known as the Gingerbread Mansion.


And, just down the street is the Church of the Assumption. There’s a chance I’ve got the wrong one but I’m pretty sure this is the church used in a few scenes from “Outbreak”. A not so great movie starring a lot of big name actors. You may have seen it. I’m sorry.


It doesn’t take long to get from downtown to out of town.  It’s still flat for awhile as one makes their way toward my home town of Rio Dell via Grizzly Bluff and Blue Slide Roads.


The “Foggy Bottoms” weren’t foggy at all this particular morning. Many of my Rogue Valley riding buddies can attest to the fact that this road is rough, often covered in cow you-know-what, and shrouded in a cold, damp fog nearly every time we begin the Tour of the Unknown Coast.


With the flat stuff behind me, it was up and over the 3 short, but stout climbs that often begin the separation between the men and me during the TUC!


Part of the joy of riding this route is the massive flood of memories that overcome me every single time.  This day, I took some time to ride a few of the back streets of Rio Dell.  I was amazed at how easily I remembered which kid lived where as I passed each of their houses.  I guess that’s what happens when your town only has 3000 people, give or take, in it.


But, the joy can only last so long when a climb up Monument Road is in the plan.  Although, I’d been up it many times in a car (crashed my toyota for the first time at the top, in the snow), I’d never ridden it.  I remembered it was kinda steep.  Kinda?  Sheesh!


Looking back, in the first 2 miles, I found one spot in my data that claimed a 23.9 % grade. Needless to say, I was a little more than happy when I hit the top of the first climb.


That minor euphoria was short lived though. A quarter mile later, it was back to the same ‘ol, same ‘ol.  Up.  Only now I was finally to the gravel that I’d been looking forward to for the week leading up to the ride.


I was surprised to see that I wasn’t the only dummy out enjoying the day. This guy’s, or girl’s, tracks wobbled the whole way up to the top. I never saw footprints though! The climb is no joke, and wobble or not, I was happy this person made it without walking.


By the time I could see Bear River Ridge, I was ready for a little break. The only car that passed me between Rio Dell and Ferndale stopped, and the guy in it told me good job and gave me a thumb’s up. Thanks man!


Often, I’m asked why I go ride in the snow, or rain, or heat, or mountains, or whatever. People that don’t ride, don’t always get it. For sure, one of the biggest reasons I ride is to be where not many people go, listening to the wind in the trees, and seeing views like this.


While the road looks like it could go forever, it doesn’t. From the start of the big climb to the point where Bear River Ridge meets Mattole Road is only 15 or 16 miles, depending on whether you make a couple detours. But, it is SO worth it.


Water break!!! Not really. But, I was attacked by approximately 1,352 grasshoppers while walking 50 feet from the road to take this picture.


It’s nice to have fans that appreciate what you do.  Clearly, they couldn’t take their eyes off me!


On. And on. And on.


Once you hit the ridge, you might think you’re done climbing. You aren’t. There’s still more than 1500 feet to go!


Kinda hard to see, but that blue line on the horizon is the ocean. By the time you reach this point, “most” of the climbing is done. The wind also picks up a little bit here. It was nice then. It usually isn’t.



Eventually, against my will, I started to drop back down off the ridge.


As an added bonus, you can add another 4 or 5 hundred feet to your ride by taking a detour up to the weather ball. I turned a couple of well traveled cattle trails into bike trails while I was up there. 


But, the fun had to come to an end. Just not yet!!! ‘Cause the 6 mile descent back into Ferndale isn’t only fast and fun, it’s also full of potholes that like to hide in the deep shadows! (Pics not included. Life too important to try)


And finally finished. 4400′ in exactly 40 miles. Lots of that elevation came in bunches. 


While the ride didn’t feel nearly long enough, I’ve decided it’s one of my favorite rides ever.  I can’t promise you’ll get the weather I got, in fact, I’d almost promise you WON’T, but I strongly urge everyone that rides to check this one out.  Come to think of it, the only thing that might make this ride even more fun in the future is if it’s done in a good Humboldt County rain storm.  Seriously.  This January.  Who’s in???

Aaron Mock

Local cyclist, crazy mofo, and good-natured masochist, Aaron Mock, is a Team Cycle Analysis rider with a penchant for taking the road less traveled. Sometimes, that isn't the best choice. Follow his weekly blog series for the latest on his never-ending escapades and exploits!

Leave a Reply