Monday, June 24, 2013

Cycling in the 60s: To Europe with the AYH

The pamphlet describing the trips offered by the San Gabriel Council of the AYH, including the trip I took. Why is this pamphlet dated1966 rather than 1967? Did I get the pamphlet a year before I went? Did the AYH figure the 1966 pamphlet was good enough so didn't reprint it for 1967 to save money? I have no idea.

American Youth Hostels (AYH) is an affiliate of Hosteling International, a federation devoted to enabling young people of different nationalities, cultures. and social backgrounds to meet informally, share experiences and to learn about themselves, each other and their surroundings (paraphrased from Wikipedia). Although hitchhikers and train riders are welcome and in practice many such stay in hostels, Hosteling International definitely gives enthusiastic support to young people who experience their surroundings by hiking and biking from hostel to hostel. Among the activities it sponsored back in the 60s, AYH offered chartered bicycling trips that went from hostel to hostel in Europe. I don't recall how I found out about those trips, but once I did, going on one completely captured my imagination and I put all my time and my life savings into making it happen. Part of my enthusiasm for this trip came from the prospect of spending all summer on my bike, but another part came from the opportunity to be in what we in the US considered the heart of cycling, Europe. All the best bicycles were made in Europe, all the best bicycle racers were European, and so bicycling in Europe must be perfect.

Yes, this is a Youth Hostel. In 1967, many of the hotels and motels in Europe had a "low rent" section for hostelers. In a youth hostel, you almost always stayed in a communal room with lots of beds, and occasionally even the beds were communal, one large bed for several hostelers. In addition to its normal rooms, this motel had a dormitory section for hostelers. That said, I suspect that the reason I photographed this particular hostel is its deluxe appearance; I made the mistake of photographing the remarkable and forgetting to photograph the typical.

Despite being labelled a "Hotel", this hostel is a bit more of a typical hostel. Notice the kids in the window on the upper left (and my bicycle out front.) Most of the hostels I stayed at in England looked more like a village B&B, and many of those in Europe looked like a low rent ski lodge.

The San Gabriel Valley Council of the AYH, the group I travelled with, offered several different tours. These tours varied by route (northern, central, or southern Europe) and by schedule. Although all groups spent 60 days in Europe (July 1 through August 30) one set of groups didn't use bicycles at all but travelled by bus, train, boat, or VW van, and we shall say no more about them. A second and third set of groups travelled "by bicycle and train." If memory serves, these groups travelled mostly by bicycle with trains used to bridge segments of the bike trip. The second set of groups stayed together for the entire 60 days, whereas the third travelled together for 42 days, with 18 days at the end allocated to independent travel. The last 18 days did not have to be spent on a bicycle, and based on my experience with one of these groups, most people opted not to bicycle these last 18 days. I was in a fourth group, the "Independent Hostelers Program." We were dropped off in London and 60 days later picked up in Brussels. What we did in between was up to us. I bicycled during that time, but I could have taken the train or hitchhiked if I had been so inclined. All four groups flew from Los Angeles to New York, from New York to London, and then 60 days later from Brussels to New York and New York to Los Angeles. I don't know how many of us left from Los Angeles or how many AYH groups departed from cities other than Los Angeles, all I know is that the "Independent Hostelers Program" departing Los Angeles consisted of forty people. Extrapolating from that, however, there must have been a fair number of us who set out to spend the summer of 1967 bicycling around Europe.

Mr. Hetchins who built the custom touring bike I rode through Europe standing over my bike in front of his shop. Once I landed in London, I somehow got to Hetchin's bike shop and picked up my bike. Getting it back home at the end of the trip was an adventure in itself. Hetchins bikes are now considered classics.
A british rider we encountered at one of the hostels in England. Notice that he has a very fine bike, but it has only five speeds, five in the back and one in the front. In the US, this configuration was only found on bikes with flat handlebars and comfy seats intended for casual riding, but in England, this configuration was the rule. My bike had 15 speeds, five in the back and three in the front, which the british cyclists found hysterically funny. Also notice the grey AYH panniers on the bikes on the ground. This is what most of the riders on my trip used.

Included in my independent trip was two nights each in hostels in New York City, London, and Brussels. While in the New York and London hostels, I made a friend, a rider from one of the bicycling clubs in Los Angeles. This club took themselves way more seriously than the Modesto Roadmen did. They dressed the same all the time both on and off their bikes. On the bikes, they wore their club jerseys and red berets. (This was in the days before helmets.) Off the bikes, they wore matching jumpsuits. Finally, they all had nicknames they used instead of their real names. Thus, I have no idea of what my friend's real name was because, at his request, I always referred to him as "Edifus."

Left: Edifus at the start of the trip, in London. Squinting at the back of his jersey, I think (under SO. CALIF.) it reads "Rallye Team." Could this have been the name of his club? It sounds right. You will see this jersey again, in a future post.

Upper Right: Edifus, at the end of the trip, standing behind my mother, holding his little sister. He is wearing the official "Rallye Team" off-the-bike uniform, a biege jumpsuit. Notice the pins in his beret.  He collected pins as  souvenirs of the trip, adding to the collection on his beret. 

Lower Right: Similarly, I collected patches which, when I got home, I sewed onto a ski jacket which I have to this day.

Edifus was in the 42 day, central Europe group. When it came time to depart London, I spoke to the adult leader of his group, and we concluded that there was no reason I could not ride along with them, and so that's what I did for the first 11 days of my trip, from London to Amsterdam. Edifus and I did not become friends for life but I did see him again the following year at the Great Western Bike Rally (the topic of a future post).

Although I tagged along with this group because of one my new friend, I ended up becoming friends with the whole group, and so we were all a little sad when, in Amsterdam, I bid them adieu and headed off on my own, with a promise to reunite with them in Innsbruck, Austria at the end of their time together. Edifus and I, being the only members of the group who wanted to bicycle the whole trip, planned to join forces there and spend the remainder of our trip cycling, which we did. I could have stayed with their group for the entire 42 days, but I felt like I had made a plan to ride independently and that I would not have been satisfied if I abandoned that plan. Besides, I think I probably wanted to ride faster and take a more challenging route than the group, one traversing the famous mountain passes of the alps:

Map of my European Tour as published in the local newspaper. The  ><  icons along the route in Switzerland and Austria mark major mountain passes.

My route covered 2,300 miles, 1,500 by bicycle, the rest by boat or train. Collecting mountain passes was definitely part of my plan. In Switzerland, I passed over Grimsel Pass, a 20 mile climb reaching 8,300 feet, Furka Pass, a 6 miles climb reaching 8,700 feet, and Oberalp pass, reaching 7,500 feet. In Austria, I crossed Flexen Pass at 5,500 feet and Arlberg Pass at 6,000 feet. In my notes from the trip, I commented that I found Furka Pass to be the steepest and most difficult. I remember that there was a family on bicycles going up at the same time I did. Their family included young children and they had very basic bicycles, so they walked all the way up the pass. I insisted on riding, but had to stop quite often to catch my breath. As a result, we reached to top together. Of these five passes, I have pictures from four of them:

It was on this trip that I first heard about a "double century", a one day bicycle ride of 200 miles. The Modesto Roadmen routinely rode 100 miles in a day, but the idea of 200 miles in a day never occurred to us. When I got back together with Edifus in Innsbruck, he told me about receiving a letter from his bike club back home describing their first double century. He was so jealous that, on a rest day for his group, he took the opportunity to do a solo, 200 mile ride down one side of the Rhine and back the other.

I have approximately 200 photographs from this trip, which was quite a few pictures back in the days before digital photography when film and processing were not inexpensive. In retrospect, I am kicking myself for most of them; very few really captured anything interesting. For example, there are the pictures of cars. Second only to a fascination with European bicycles, the Modesto Roadmen had a fascination with European automobiles, so I have way too many pictures of random cars. That, and the pictures of poorly photographed, random, unidentified buildings left me with an almost manageable number of pictures appropriate for this post. The remainder of this post will consist of selected photos with what narrative there is contained in the captions.

This is the airplane we took from Los Angeles to New York. It may have been the same plane we took from New York to Longdon. Even back in 1967, propeller airplanes like this were obsolete. Using obsolete equipment that nobody else would use was one way that AYH kept the costs of the trip down.

An interesting event on the flight is one of the engines, visible right outside my window, failed and had to be shut down. At 17 years of age, I considered this hysterically funny. I couldn't understand why the adults around me were not similarly amused.

One of the things I was interested in was the Bike Culture in Europe. Apparently, I found this bike rack striking in 1967. Compare it to the next picture, a bike parking lot in Amsterdam in 2013.

Photograph from the New York Times, June 20, 2013, taken by Pavel Prokopchik. This is a bike parking lot in Amsterdam today.

Liechtenstein is a small country lying between Switzerland and Austria.

Switchbacks in the Swiss Alps.
I got very excited when I came across this whilst scanning slides for this post, but  then remembered it had come not from one of the mountain passes I crossed, but a cog train I rode to a scenic vista.

Ruins that caught my eye.

Coming into an honest to gosh walled city.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Cycling in the 60s: Tour de Graceada

Northern California bicycle racing was in the 1960's was a strictly amateur activity which was heavily dependent on volunteerism. The national organization that regulated bicycle racing was the Amateur Bicycle League of America (ABL of A), and a year after the Modesto Roadmen was sanctioned as a bicycle racing club by the ABL of A and began racing, we were asked to put on a race for the cycling community. The style of race we decided to promote was a criterium, a race of many laps conducted on a short course on city streets. We chose that format to make this race maximally viewable to the people of Modesto. The course we picked circled Graceada Park, a park named after the two sisters who were responsible for its creation, Grace and Ada. Besides organizing the event, the Modesto Roadmen competed in it. I competed in its first three years, 1966, 1967 and 1968, and thus have pictures from those years. (As per my previous characterization of myself as a bad bicycle racer, I got dropped by the field all three years.)

Wally Gimber, from a newspaper
article about the race.
Bob Tetzlaff, competing in the 1966 race.
I say the Modesto Roadmen organized the race, but that characterization is extremely unfair to the many adults we thought we didn't need when we founded the Roadmen. On the one hand, I think it was tremendously valuable that our cycling was truly boy-run. On the other hand, without the help from our parents and many other adults, we never could have accomplished much of what we did. Before we even got to the Tour de Graceada, Bob Tetzlaff and Wally Gimber of the Northern California ABL of A spent huge amounts of time, all out of the goodness of their hearts, to help the Modesto Roadmen become sanctioned as an ABL of A club, culminating on their driving to Modesto to go on a ride with us. As I have previously mentioned, our parents spent a lot of time driving us all over Northern California to races. When it came to organizing the race, this was something entirely beyond our competence. Among many other things, we needed to raise prizes for the race. Because bicycle racing in the 60s was an amateur sport, cash prizes were forbidden, but product prizes, usually a mixture of bicycle gear and household items, were expected. In the best races (which was what we were determined to run), the first place prize for Senior riders was expected to have a value of about $200; a professional quality racing bike was typical, and prizes were usually given to the top 10 finishers.

Bob Parsons, winner in 1966. 
In my previous post I introduced "HL", a neighbor who became involved with the Modesto Roadmen. He did not have a son or daughter in the club, he just wanted to help. Given the kind of guy he was, it is not surprising he was an active member of the Lion's club, a public service organization. I don't see the Lion's Club listed as a sponsor on the program for 1968, but my memory (which is not to be trusted) of the 1966 event is that they were central in helping us organize it. In any case, "HL" taught us how to approach merchants to solicit the prizes we needed to put on the race, how to approach city officials, etc. Again, if memory serves, we were not always the most gracious recipients of said training, a sin that I only partially did penance for during my years as an assistant scoutmaster with the local boy scout troop. Many of the parents, mine included, prepared side dishes in advance and charcoal grilled chicken during the race to provide a lunch for the racers after the event. Even after mentioning all the donors of prizes and printing and other services, I am sure I have not come close to thanking everyone I should.

Bob Parsons, winner in 1967 as well.
It was impossible for me to judge at the time, but in retrospect, the race was a smashing success. I certainly don't know all the subsequent history of this race. There currently is a professional bicycle race in Modesto named the "Harvest Moon Criterium" and in its description is the following:
1983, the "Tour de Graceada" raced into downtown and now it is still going strong, attracting top class racers beginning Saturday at 8 am as the Harvest Moon Criterium.
This suggests that the Tour de Graceada may have been run through 1982. In any case, the Tour de Graceada had sufficient impact that many years later, when the Tour of California went through Modesto, it went by Graceada Park in homage.


As noted on the program at the top of the post, the Tour de Graceada was a B.A.R. race (I can't remember what that acronym stands for) which meant it was possible to set a new national record for 30 miles in this race. The national record, set in 1935, was 1 hour 10 minutes and 48 seconds. The 1966 race was definitely slower than that. It appears that the 1967 race was faster than this time, but it seems that it did not set the record, I don't know why not.

In 1968 at least, there were three races run, a 15 mile race for Juniors (riders less than 18 years old), a 30 mile race for Seniors (riders between 18 and 40 years old) and a 3 mile race for Veterans (riders over 40), Ladies, and Intermediates (I can't remember what an Intermediate was.) Only the winners of the Junior and Senior events were recorded. The winners in 1966 and 1967 were as follows:

1966 Seniors (Winning time 1 hour 13 minutes 17.3 seconds)
  Bob Parsons - Pasadena Athletic Association
  Dan Butler - San Francisco Wheelmen
  Eric Neff - San Francisco Wheelmen

1966 Juniors
  John Gallagher - Berkeley Wheelmen
  Steve Lubin - Pedali Alpini
  Howard Hickingbotham - Belmont Bike Club

1967 Seniors (Winning time 1 hours 9 minutes 30 seconds)
  Bob Parsons - Pasadena Athletic Association
  Jackie Simes II - National Sprint Champion, Pan American and Olympic Teams
  Bob Tetzlaff - Olympic Team 1964, National Road Champion 1966

1967 Juniors
  Ed Kinney - Santa Rosa
  Joe Radialli - Southern California
  Mark Gates - Santa Rosa

Additional Pictures

The Modesto Roadmen debriefing after the 1966 Tour de Graceada. From left to right are "Terry", Zombie, "Peter", "HL", "The Coach", and another member of the Roadmen hereafter known as "ER".  "Terry", "Peter" and "HL" are wearing the original, home-silk-screened Modesto Roadmen T-shirts. The Zombie (me) and "ER" opted to race in cycling jerseys. "The Coach" (in the grey suit) was another adult who, on their own, just to be helpful, adopted the Roadmen. He was a retired bicycle racer from Holland who one day saw us riding down the road and noticed that we needed all the help we could get, and thereafter took it upon himself to coach us.

This and the next picture are to show that the Tour of California included part of the route of the Tour de Graceada. Notice the fence around the tennis courts in the background. You can see the same fence in the next picture of the Tour of California.

This and the previous picture are to show that the Tour de Graceada and the Tour of California passed along the same route as identified by the fence in the background. The Tour of California had more riders, but it looks to me like the Tour de Graceada had more spectators. To be fair, this spot was the finish line for the Tour de Graceada, whereas the finish line for the Tour of California was about a kilometer down the road.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Cycling in the 60s: The One I Won

Official Photo from the 1996 Columbus Day Race

I have previously opined that, although I was bicycle racer in my youth, I was a very bad one, a judgement by which I stand. I can remember winning one intermediate sprint, receiving as my prize something unimpressively modest like a water bottle, but that's about it. There was one exception, not one that changes my status as a bad racer, but one that, as a bizarre turn of events, provided me with a unique memory.

I say "unique memory", but in fact my memory is so bad it is only by digging through the fragmentary artifacts I have from that era that I can actually reconstruct what happened. Within the last year or two, I had occasion to chat with my dad about this race. "It occurred the first year after I turned from a junior rider (less than 18 years old) to a senior rider (18 and over)" I told him "and was at Lake Merced in San Francisco." My dad is 91 years old, and has started to worry a bit about his memory, so he said with some trepidation "Wasn't it at Lake Merritt in Oakland?" I assured him he was wrong and promised to document that when I got back home. He was right. Jeez, 91 years old and his memory is better than mine! Not only that, the race took place when I was 17 years old and still a junior rider. Nonetheless, we were racing with the seniors, presumably because this was a handicap race, and I guess the handicap was supposed to take care of the junior/senior distinction. According to the newspaper report1, this race took place one year to the day from when the Modesto Roadmen first started racing.

Because I was so bad, I was in the maximum handicap group. I knew I was going to get dropped (part of the reason I was such a bad racer is that I had a bad attitude) but when the maximum handicap group took off like a bat out of Hell, I frantically stuck with them. Getting dropped is one thing, getting dropped on the first lap is quite another. One of the riders seemed to be taking charge and was lashing us forward, not as if he was trying to drop us, but as if we were a team. As it turns out, we were - he had a plan. He had figured out that if we rode that first lap as fast as we could, we might be able to lap the zero handicap group, and then draft them to the finish, winning the race. Is that even legal? In general, drafting a lower handicap group is forbidden in bicycle racing. However, it had not occurred to the race organizers that lapping the leaders was possible, so they had failed to make this against the rules, an oversight which was firmly corrected in all future years. But that one year, what my fellow rider planned to do was technically legal, and his plan succeeded. We came around the last curve just as the zero handicap riders were just starting. The guy who had planned the whole thing, who lashed himself forward mercilessly in service to his plan, was all in and dropped out of the race, urging the rest of us to make his plan a surrogate success.

Is this the maximum handicap group catching the zero handicap group? It looks like it. I am third rider from the left. Note the helmets, strips of soft padded leather. That is what we wore back in the day, and we only wore them to race, never for other rides. Photo by LJS, "Father of the Zombie."

By that time, I had figured out the plan, so glued myself to the back of the zero handicap group. I had no idea who from the maximum handicap group was still with us, I just held on for dear life. Somehow, the zero handicap group had not figured out what had happened, and so did not realize that I was a lap ahead of them. They did figure out pretty quickly that I was not doing my share in the pace line, and I got a lot of grief for that. About half way through the race, I could hold on no longer and got dropped. Were there other riders from the maximum handicap group still with the leaders? Would the leaders manage to retake the lap that I was ahead of them? I didn't know as I time-trialled my way to the end of the race. Somehow I must have figured out that I was ahead of all the other maximum handicap riders because as I crossed the finish line, I threw my arms in the air in a victory salute as I had seen the European bicycle racers do.

Having been dropped by the zero handicap group, I am time trialling to the finish.  
Photo by LJS, "Father of the Zombie."

I can't remember the name of the second place finisher, but it was one of the major names in cycling at the time. He had no idea that he had not won the race when he won the sprint, and as he crossed the line, he threw one arm into the air. He was not a happy camper when he was told that his win was in fact a second place finish. Everyone involved in the race was unhappy with the strategy that I had not instigated but which I nonetheless benefitted from to win. Although this strategy was not against the rules, ironically, crossing the line with both arms in the air was (for safety reasons.) That is why the sprint winner raised a single arm. It would have been an obvious solution for the race organizers to disqualify me for the relative technicality of raising my arms to balance the technicality that nobody had remembered to outlaw drafting the leaders, and as I understand it, this was seriously considered in the moments after the end of the race. In the end, however, I guess the organizers decided that the benefits of letting the underdog win overbalanced the frustration of how he won, so I was given the victory after being sternly warned about raising both arms in a victory salute, something I never again had to worry about.

My illegal victory salute. The two riders with me are one lap behind.  
Photo by LJS, "Father of the Zombie."

Update: (November, 2014) When I first published this post a year and a half ago, I claimed that I was the only one of the Modesto Roadmen who had decided to compete in this particular race, and made up a whole morality tale on the value of showing up. Since then, I have reconnected with some of the the Modesto Roadmen, and they have corrected my memories. There were at least two other Roadmen in that race. They are actually shown in the picture above and I should have recognized them. What happened was that, of those of us who attended, I was the only one who managed to catch and then stay with the no handicap group and as a result lapped my fellow Roadmen. When I was no longer able to stay with the no handicap group, I asked them to help me stay ahead until the finish by forming a pace line, which they did. That is why they were with me as I crossed the finish line. I hereby take this opportunity to thank my fellow Roadmen for their help in making my one victory in bicycle racing possible!

All three of us Roadmen were all relatively equal in ability, so I have no idea why I was able to stick with the no handicap group and they were not. Maybe I was having a particularly good day, maybe we made different tactical decisions during the race, who knows? A year and a half ago, I wrote: "Winning this race taught me an early life lesson, just showing up is a huge part of success." That was the wrong lesson, it never happened that way. But what is the right lesson? Maybe it's this: "It just goes to show you, it's always something - if it ain't one thing, it's another."

Left to right, me, the Columbus Day Queen presenting trophies, and the guy who would have won had our handicap group not used the strategy we did. That trophy still sits in lonesome splendor atop my bookshelf. Photo by LJS, "Father of the Zombie."


1) Yes, there was a report of this race in the local newspaper, the Modesto Bee. What can I say? I had a good publicist. When my family moved to Modesto, a neighbor took an interest in me. He tried to get me involved in Boy Scouts, which I did not enjoy at all. When, independent of adult involvement, we formed the Modesto Roadmen, he involved himself and did a tremendous amount to help promote our club, including getting this article in the newspaper.

2) I promised last week that this week I would discuss my MAF tests. As it happens, it makes more sense for me to delay that discussion and to continue my pause of MAF test postings until I have more data and have done more research. Once I have a better idea what is going on, I will devote a post to recent MAF tests. If you have no idea what a MAF test is, that's fine, just stay tuned.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Cycling in the 60's: Mountain Loop

"In the mid-‘60s, nobody over 12 bought or rode bikes ... in 1970, teenagers didn’t ride bikes. (if you were the exception, allow yourself a proud, private moment, and please don’t write demanding a retraction—because the statement is largely true.)" - Grant Pederson, Rivendell Reader #42

Thank you Grant, I will do that, but rather than allowing myself a private moment, I will indulge in a series of blog posts about Cycling in the 60's, starting with this one.

Please forgive the extensive color fading in this picture from the 1966 Mountain Loop. That year, we rode over the Sierra Nevada mountains via Tioga Pass and back via Ebbets Pass, shown here. My Peugeot PX10 is the bike in the front. I still have the bag on the front of my bike and, every now and again, threaten to use for brevet riding. I think everyone on this (minimally) loaded tour in 1966 rode on sew-up tires, something I find inconceivable today.

Another badly degraded picture, this one of the 1966 Mountain Loop contingent heading out of town.

I'm not sure if my memory was ever very good, but I am quite sure that it is now terrible. This is frustrating as I try to remember the history of my first bike club, the Modesto Roadmen. Looking back at old Schwinn catalogues, I know that I couldn't have gotten my first road bike, a Schwinn Continental, before 1963, the year I started High School. I know that my friends that became the Roadmen, "Peter", "James", and "Terry",  were friends before that, perhaps as early as 1961. When and how they got road bikes, what the progression of rides we rode was, at what point we called ourselves a club, I have no idea. For some reason, neither my parents nor I have many pictures from that era. I can remember some of our favorite rides, to Turlock Lake State Park, to the town of La Grange, to the towns of Sonora, Columbia, and Copperopolis in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, to Yosemite National Park. I think I could even come up with some of the routes we used to ride to get to these places, and I may at some point do a post on that. However, it is not until 1966, by which point I had traded in my Schwinn Continental for a Peugeot PX10, that I have any pictures. In fact, I didn't start having a significant number of pictures until 1968.

Four of the 1966 Mountain Loop contingent cooling off at the end of the ride. We are in my family's back yard, right after a jump in the pool, enjoying a large supply of "Original Coke." Left to right are me, "James", "Peter", and one of the second group to join the Roadmen, hereafter referred to as "F". We all appear to be wearing cycling shorts in this picture. If you look at the subsequent pictures, you will see this was the exception rather than the rule.

The culmination of my bicycle touring with the Modesto Roadmen was a more or less annual ride we did called "The Mountain Loop". The idea was to ride east from Modesto into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, to cross those mountains at one of several mountain passes, to ride along the eastern edge of those mountains, to cross back over a different mountain pass, and then return to Modesto, a ride that would take us about a week. If you had asked me a few months ago how many of these "Peter" and I had done, I would have said four or five. A few weeks ago, when I got back together with "Peter" (whose memory is a lot better than mine), he assured me he had only done one, and as we talked back and forth, we concluded I had done two, an assessment supported by my photographs. As best I can tell, our first Mountain Loop was held in the summer of 1966 and both "Peter" and I participated. I assume a Mountain Loop was held in 1967, but I spent that summer bicycling through Europe and so would have missed it. I was home from college the summer of 1968 and rode my second Mountain Loop. ("Peter" had stopped cycling by 1967.) Thereafter, summer jobs and the like prevented me from doing any more. I don't know how long the Modesto Roadmen continued this tradition, or even when they disbanded as a club.

We now move from 1966 to 1968. Once again, we started the ride by crossing the Sierras at Tioga pass. This picture is looking down on Yosemite Valley which is at an elevation of about 4000 feet from the road climbing up towards Tioga Pass which reaches a maximum elevation of nearly 10,000 feet.

Here I am, lounging under the sign announcing Tioga Pass, the highest pass in the Sierras. Most Mountain Loops first crossed the Sierras at Tioga Pass because it is in Yosemite National Park, making it particularly attractive.

My memory tells me that a key event in the development of the Mountain Loop was an encounter with two other Modesto cyclists who I will call "A" and "M". "A" and "M" were not Modesto Roadmen, and were very proud of that. Both were older than us, "A" by about a year, "M" by more. "A" was the student body president of one of the other high schools in town, was a rebel and a trouble maker, and because I looked up to and emulated him, I ended up in a lot of trouble myself. On the bike, he was a very low key cyclist but one with almost infinite endurance and a very adventurous spirit. I have a photograph of "A" mooning a car on one of our rides, a photo which I will spare you the pleasure of viewing. "M" was a more serious and faster cyclist, and rides the same roads today as he did back then, though he has gone from being a stealth camper to a credit card tourist. If, according to Grant Pederson, the Modesto Roadmen were pioneers of cycling, "A" and "M" were pioneers of pioneers. We met "A" and "M" one day as we were out on a ride. They sped past, mocking us as they went by. Somehow, we ended up regrouping with them, and they allowed that if we tried very hard not to be annoying, they might be willing to show us how real cyclists rode. The result was the Mountain Loop, a ride they had been doing for some time.

The gentleman to the right of the picture is "M". The gentleman to the left of the picture was one of the second wave of Modesto Roadmen, hereafter referred to as "SD". In an earlier post, I commented that the Bianchi Specialissima was the go-to bike of the Modesto Roadmen. Note that all three bikes in this picture are Bianchi Specialissimas.

Most of the group on the 1968 Mountain Loop. Although I have no picture with more than six riders in it, by looking at all my pictures and identifying everyone, I conclude that there were (at least) eight riders on this trip, seven of whom I recognize, six of whom I can name.

This particular mountain pass does not cross the Sierras, it is on highway 395 which runs parallel to the Sierras on their eastern side.

I am ashamed to say that drafting trucks, as shown here, was part of our modus operandi. By following a truck very closely, we would get a significant speed advantage due to the reduction in wind resistance. For perspective, the speed record on a bicycle for motor-paced drafting is 167 mile per hour. This photo shows "F", pulling off from behind a truck, giving the truck driver a friendly wave in thanks for the lift. Don't try this at home kids, or adults, or anyone else ever! It is incredibly dangerous and you are likely to end up dead, crushed under the wheels of a truck. Smart truck drivers realized what a bad idea this was and would drive in a way to prevent us from doing it. This meant that the only trucks we could draft were the ones driven by stupid drivers, making this really bad idea even more dangerous. Why did we do this? Because we were bad to the bone.

"Stealth" camping as practiced by the Modesto Roadmen. We didn't take any particular precautions to avoid being spotted, we would just dump our sleeping bags directly in the dirt by the side of the road wherever we felt like stopping and call it a night. As best I can recall, our meals were all uncooked junk food.

Part of the group playing some snarky, teenage, and (at this remove) incomprehensible game in the road. The purpose of this photograph is to show "Terry" at the bottom right of the picture. "Terry" was the fourth of the original Modesto Roadmen. I know you can't see his face, but more important than his face, you can see that he is wearing one of the original, home-made, silk-screened Modesto Roadmen T-shirts.

Note the road sign. Were we intimidated? We were not!

One of the group grinding up that steep grade as it winds through the pine trees.

Off in the distance, near the top of the picture, Lake Tahoe can be seen. This is the view from the road leading up to Echo Summit.

For the 1968 running of the Mountain Loop, we began by crossing the Sierras west to east over Tioga Pass as noted above and crossed back east to west over Echo Summit, the mountain pass on highway 50 which runs along the southern edge of Lake Tahoe. From here, it was downhill all the way home. Another great ride, forever past.

I have a lot to say about my recent MAF test results, but because I have so much to say and because this post is already so long, I will save it for my next post.