Monday, April 8, 2013

The Modesto Roadmen Ride Again!

In the beginning, in 1963 or so, there were four of us; Tom, Paul, Jeff, and me. We attended high school together, spent our weekends bicycling through the Sierra Nevada mountains together, and founded the Modesto Roadmen bicycle club together. The last I had seen any of them was 1969. The last I had seen Paul was 1967. In early 2008, Paul emailed me, initiating a series of emails and then phone calls. At the time of that first email, neither of us had been on a bike for decades, and in addition to connecting us personally, that email may have been the event that got both of us cycling again. About a week ago, Paul and I met in the  parking lot of a strip mall in Modesto, California and headed out on our bikes to ride some of the most beautiful roads in California to one of its most beautiful destinations, the unincorporated town of Knight's Ferry, a fifty mile bike ride out and back. Here is our route:

Click on map to see it at a readable size

Paul wore a Yellow Submarine jersey because he remembered the week long bike tour where we all sang that song as we rode. I wore a Raulston Strokers jersey which is related to the Modesto Roadmen by a joke so long and convoluted that current ICANN regulations forbid its transmission over the Internet. Time is a friend to no man and while riding, Paul and I compared stories of fading memory and other health problems, and bemoaned the fact that "back then", the low gears we currently favor would have been silly and unthinkable. This is what Paul looks like today, on his new bike:

The route we took is not one ever ridden by the Modesto Roadmen, but is one of the standard rides of the current club in the area, the Stanislaus County Bike Club. During the ride, Paul kept saying "All of those years we rode up the highway, we never knew all this beauty was right here, only a few miles from where we were riding!" I was just glad to be back in California, absorbing the unmatched scenery.

Modesto has grown tremendously over the last 46 years, from a population of about 40,000 back in the 1960's to a current population of over 200,000, so a lot had changed; the crowded strip mall where we started our ride had been in the middle of the country "back then". That said, a lot of country remains. Our first stop was in the attractive town of Oakdale, at a general store:

Photo courtesy of Google Street View

According to Paul, Oakdale persisted for many years as an authentic cowboy town, but now has become a popular location for the affluent. On our way through, Paul took me on a detour through "the ghetto", a very high end housing development in Oakdale. This is an example of one of the unique houses therein:

That said, a lot of  True Country®  remains in Oakdale. This is a photograph of what looks to me to be a working ranch right next door to the castle pictured above:

One thing that struck me about the scenery we rode through was the impact of the broad river valleys which provided a lot of visual interest and beauty. Unfortunately, I was unable to capture this in photographs, but here is a picture of a bridge over the Stanislaus River:

Photo courtesy of Google Street View

Paul was determined to share the joy of Cemetery Grade with me, a 15% incline just outside of Knights Ferry. This climb was made even more interesting by the failure of my front derailleur. Hills never photograph well, but this is the best Google can do:

Photo courtesy of Google Street View

As a perfect ending to a perfect ride, we finished with lunch at The Scenic Drive In, a hamburger stand which was the hangout for the Modesto Roadmen back in the day, unchanged 46 years later:

Photo courtesy of Google Street View

We had their famous burgers with everything on them (as good as we remembered) and as homage to our youth, a Coca Cola with actual sugar, no Diet Coke, us!

As my excessive reliance on Google Street View betrays, I didn't take nearly as many pictures of this ride as I should have. My attention was consumed with keeping up with Paul and soaking up the experience, an experience I very much would like to repeat. Family brings me to California quite frequently (which is why I keep a bicycle there) and if I can twist Paul's arm to ride with me again, I will certainly do so.

* This post was edited in 2016 to correct an error in the original.

For those new to this blog, each week I am posting an update of my training results; see my previous posts for explanations of my aerobic training program, MAF tests, and this graph.

My MAF test results continue their upward trend, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that I have started my ramp of weekly long rides, currently at 55 miles and increasing at approximately 10% a week. On the one hand, the stress of these exhausting rides might be expected to interfere with my aerobic training progress, but on the other, their training benefits might help. I will discuss this in more length in a future post.

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