Caffeine Peter Colijn

July 09, 2017 (link)
Ride Report: Ski Trip

(Special thanks to my coworker Eric for joining me on this crazy adventure! I doubt I would have made it without him; the leg warmers you see me wearing below are his.)

Ever since I my first corporate ski trip in Tahoe, I wondered what it would be like to ride there. I remember sitting on the bus thinking that some of the roads looked quite pretty, and the weather seemed manageable (prior to this year, every time I had been to Tahoe in the "winter" it had been downright warm and the "snow" had been mostly slush).

So when I found out that my team at work would be having a ski trip this year, I decided I would give it a shot to actually ride there. I had more confidence at this point, having already ridden to the area for the Death Ride. That said, I was still worried: at the time I was considering this, I hadn't done a long ride in a number of months. The Death Ride was also really tough, and some of my memories from it made me question whether I really wanted to do another long ride.

Coincidentally, a little while after the ski trip was announced, a coworker asked me for a route recommendation for riding to Tahoe. I thought maybe he was planning to ride there too! He wasn't, initially, but when I mentioned that I was going to go for it, he decided to join.

Because I was anticipating snow, I wanted to ride my cross bike for this ride, but I hadn't used it for a long ride before. Because it has disc brakes, it won't accomodate the normal rack and pannier setup I have on my road bike, so I would need something else. I decided to just bite the bullet and use a backpack. I was also worried about the saddle on that bike; every time I had ridden it more than about 100km, it had not been pleasant. I ended up swapping my road bike saddle on to the cross bike, and buying a completely new saddle for my road bike, which I would break in on commutes over the next few months. I charged my massive battery pack, stuffed my backpack with some clothes, food (including delicious treats made by Christine), spare tubes, extra lights and an extra Garmin, and did my best to cruise down to work at a gingerly "chill" pace.

After an anxious workday, my coworker and I rolled out from work at 1616 and made good progress over the Dumbarton, through Union City (bleh), over to San Ramon and then up to Walnut Creek, where we stopped at a diner for some dinner. We then made our way up to Antioch and loaded up on food and caffeine at the local 7-11 before heading over the Antioch Bridge into "the delta", as we had been calling it, where we were expecting to be pretty much alone for a good 80km until we got to Sacramento. As expected, this portion of the ride was pretty deserted, though we did see a few cars. I also remember passing a sign for Poverty Road and thinking that was pretty depressing. We kept a pretty steady pace through this section, and passed the time chatting.

We ended up at another 7-11 in Sacramento around 0145, stopping to warm up for a bit and get more food and caffeine. On our way through Sacramento, my route had us get on a bike path for a bit, but the entrance to it was completely flooded. It being dark, I couldn't see how deep the water was, and decided to just go for it. Turns out it was deep! Significantly above my bottom bracket. Pedalling through it, my feet got soaked, and the water was pretty cold. Over the next couple hours up to Auburn, my socks actually froze and became crunchy, which was not exactly pleasant.

We stopped again in Auburn for more food/etc, and my socks and shoes managed to thaw a bit in the 7-11 (are you sensing a theme?) I was feeling pretty shitty at this point (sleepy, tired, and mildly upset stomach) and in retrospect I really should have had a better hydration strategy. Because I knew it would be cold, I had a thermos coffee mug in my bottle cage instead of a water bottle. I had been filling it with coffee at the 7-11s, figuring that having a warm drink would be nice, and I could certainly use the caffeine. The problem with this strategy was that 7-11 coffee is completely disgusting. I should have just switched to hot water after a while or something.

After Auburn, our next goal was Nevada City, where we stopped at a super cute (and, crucially, warm!) diner for breakfast (Ike's Quarter Cafe, if you're curious). It felt really good to warm up and eat something other than chips and bars for a change. The sun was finally up again, and after breakfast we would begin the long slog up CA-20. At the start of the climb, with the sun out, I actually remember feeling a bit warm. That didn't last long, as it got cooler the higher we got, and the road was mostly shaded. Along the way we had to stop a few times for crews that were pre-emptively shaking snow out of the trees, which was something I hadn't seen before.

I got to ride in arm/leg warmers approved conditions!

A post shared by Peter Colijn (@sirjoltalot) on

Eventually, we hit the CA-20/I-80 interchange, where we were almost at the top of the climb. We were only supposed to be on I-80 very briefly, until we could get on Donner Pass Road. Unfortunately, when we hopped off a couple miles later, we discovered it was completely closed, and not in any condition we could ride (there were several feet of snow). So.. back on I-80. About 10 minutes later, CHP came up behind us and used their megaphone thingy to tell us to get off at the next exit. I was almost certain we were going to get tickets and probably not be allowed to finish the ride, but to my astonishment the officer was super nice and understanding and offered to give us an escort to the exit for Donner Lake Road!

Unfortunately, I had another problem. We had reached the summit of Donner Pass at this point, so these last few miles on I-80 were all downhill. But my rear brake lever was completely seized. I couldn't get it to move at all. I think the lubricant in the cable must have frozen. In any case, this meant that I had to do the descent on the icy/slushy shoulder with only my front brake, which was pretty harrowing. I managed, and we eventually made it to the exit and thanked the CHP officer for his help.

There was another brief descent down to Donner Lake, and then we were able to cruise in to Truckee without issue. We were both tired and freezing, so we stopped at a Dairy Queen to warm up (we did not get any ice cream; just fries). My coworker was in rough shape, and was actually thinking of trying to get a ride for the last little bit over to Northstar, but he couldn't find anyone willing to drive us (unlike me, he's pretty extroverted and had no problem walking up to strangers to ask for a ride) and after warming up a bit he decided he was good to go for the last section.

The final slog up to the Northstar resort-y area from 297 seemed like a bit of a slap in the face after everything else, but we had finally made it! Unfortunately, once we found our corporate peeps I discovered that there was no shower I could easily use, since getting to my cabin thingy involved taking a shuttle bus, and there wasn't enough time to go there and back before dinner (and, without knowing where it was, I really didn't want to try to bike there and get lost). So I had a crappy paper towel "shower" and changed into real clothes to go for dinner. I was hypothermic and could not stop shivering the whole time until I finally made it to my cabin after dinner and stood in the hot shower for a good 30 minutes before heading to bed for a deep and satisfying sleep.

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