What a ride! The climb up past the Big Tujunga Canyon Dam overlook was almost routine by now: no wondering if we can do it, just the thrill of having done it, again, and, by now, comparatively easily.
Tom at the Big Tujunga Canyon Dam overlook.
Ron at the Big Tujunga Canyon Dam overlook.
So it was with a glad cry of “New road!” that we turned left, rather than right, when we got to Angeles Forest Road and headed toward Hidden Springs.
Google Earth had made wild claims about insane ravines and peaks in the route, but I had already preflighted it in the car, so we were expecting the huge bridge over the ravine, and the dark, scary tunnel under the peak, but they were still, respectively, huge and scary.
The bridge had a neat little observation deck made out like a castle battlement. Look at the scale of the thing!
The bridge over the ravine, seen from the battlements side, with the road down in the background.
The battlements leading to the scenic overlook.
The battlements at the scenic overlook.
The glory and the majesty of the bridge. Look at the trees underneath! And the sign on the far end!
As for the tunnel, we went through one-at-a-time, but that didn’t stop a car from accompanying each of us. Woof, it was dark in there. Next time, we’ll have some tiny lights, at least.
Tom enters the tunnel…
…with a car.
Ron exits the tunnel…
…with a car.
There was a tiny rest area immediately after the tunnel. It might lead down to the Hidden Springs, but we didn’t check it out.
Just a little bit later, we turned the corner to see the Hidden Springs Cafe. You have to understand, this is out in the middle of nowhere, on the road from nowhere to nowhere — a welcome sight. Good food and fresh water for sale, and clean restrooms for customers. Cash only.
Tom and Ron at Hidden Springs Cafe.
Also, a huge biker event on the day.
Just a mile after the Hidden Springs Cafe, we turned right onto Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road, and started over some rolling hills. I had told Ron that the worst of it would be on mile 22-27, with the worst of that at the end, and wow, did that come true! At one point, we came around a corner, and both involuntarily gasped at the stretch of road uphill that was revealed.
We plugged along, and turned another corner:
“Tom, look at that huge mountain straight ahead — do you suppose that’s Mount Wilson?”
“Well, you see, Ron, the road to Mount Wilson leads off from the Angeles Crest Highway, which follows a crest along the San Gabriel Mountains. We are on the wrong side of that crest, and have to climb up, and over it, to get to the highway. I think that mountain ahead is…involved.”
And look here, some power lines, headed up the hill in roughly the same direction, and yes, there’s a pass, but still leading…up, dammit. In the distance, we could see a line of pine trees, placed on the Crest in single file, as if to beckon to the lost traveler that civilization is Over Here.
Imagine our joy when we came upon the warning sign for “Firetrucks Ahead” at last! Oh, right, you don’t know: the authorities like to situate the fire/rescue stations at, or at least very near, the intersections of major mountain roads. That way, in the event of an Event, the firemen can race down whichever road is more convenient. So, here was the Shortcut Station! We were getting close!
And here was a lovely little downhill. And…a cyclist, coming around a corner from the other direction, and really coming up the (for him) uphill with remarkable speed — the kind of speed that comes from just having come down a big downhill. Which, after we turned the corner, was a another nice long uphill for us.
Eventually it ended, and we came to the Angeles Crest Highway for real. Some rolling hills, a mile and half of uphills, and then sweet downhills to our final challenge: the Mount Wilson Red Box Road leading to the observatory complex at the summit. 1,000 feet of climbing to go, more or less.
But first, please God, let there be water somewhere at the base. I was running low, and just wanted the security of a couple of full water bottles as I attacked the summit. And yes, near the Indian Cultural Center at the base, a fountain! I have seldom been so happy.
We chatted briefly with T. E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”), back from the dead and wisely sticking to bicycles now rather than motorcycles. He had virtually no square inch of skin exposed to the sun, and even still had the desert sun hat covering his face and neck, but most peculiar of all was his foot attire: what looked like Teva sandals, with socks, but fitted out with standard SPD bicycle cleats, so that he could clip in to the pedals — amazing. He reassured us that there weren’t any significant climbs left — just some good, general uphills.
Later, as we rode up, and up, and up, we thought of hunting him down and giving him a talking to, but of course he was much faster than we were.
About half-way up. You can see the Angeles Crest Highway, where we just were, in the distance.
A little farther to the right. Sure, we’ve ridden our bikes there.
Still only about half-way up.
Nevertheless, however slowly, but slowly, we made good the summit, and made it our own by dint of photographing it for posterity.
The place was riddled with these things.
Ha, Ron has an antenna growing out of his head.
Here, you can see an old quarry (now partially filled with water) near the San Gabriel River near the intersection of the 210 and the 605, about 8 miles to the southwest of us:
…and hey, we’ve ridden our bikes there, on Ron’s first century on the river trails!
And here, about 8 miles to the southeast of us, you see a bridge where the 134 passes south of the Rose Bowl:
…and we’ve ridden our bikes there, as well!
As we started our descent, a horrible thought struck me. I had been pretty consistently outperforming Ron on the uphills, though it was a little unfair, because we were consciously saving ourselves for the later hills, and Ron was playing with a new and unfamiliar heart rate monitor, which was telling him (the lying robot that it was) that his heart was beating at 106% of its maximum heart rate. But I was sure that I was, for the moment at least, ahead of Ron in average speed. I should try to get this number on record. Artificially in my favor — maybe! But all the more reason to get it on paper!
But there went Ron, ahead of me, down the hill, and he’s really much faster than I on the downhills, because Inertia doesn’t tug at him with the same insistence that it does me. And it’s not as if I have special Fat Guy brakes or tires, after all. Alas, by the time I caught up with him, back on Angeles Crest, my average was 8.2 mph, and his was…8.3! Too late!
The only bit of unfamiliar road left was a rather fierce downhill on the Angeles Crest Highway, with a moderate uphill leading back to Angeles Forest Road. Ron zoomed down it, and I chugged along at 20 mph or so.
But what’s this? A flat! Well, I had a spare tube, and a patch kit, too. But as I took the machine apart, I couldn’t find any reason for the flat — the tire seemed fine. The tube wouldn’t hold air, but I like to be able to find an evil thing in the tire, and remove it, and I couldn’t.
A nice Forest Service guy came by, and asked if I needed any help. No, no, I’ve got everything I need. Five or ten minutes later, I’m just about to put the new tube in the tire, and here comes Ron! The Forest Service guy had noticed him waiting uphill, wearing the same shirt (Ron’s idea to coordinate!) and asked him if he was waiting for a guy dressed the same way. Why yes! Oh, just at the bottom of this hill? Super!
We muscled the tire back onto the rim, and the thing held up for the rest of the ride, though I crippled Ron’s time by asking if he wouldn’t mind hanging back with me on the downhills.
We’d never gone back on Angeles Forest Road the other way, from Angeles Crest Highway to Big Tujunga Canyon Road. Ron insisted that there would be a significant uphill there. I didn’t remember it…until I was climbing up it, rather than sailing down it. Oh, yeah…that.
The downhills got to be almost Too Much Downhill. I wanted them to be over already, and finally we got past the dam, over the bridge, up the final noteworthy climb, and back on the last 10 miles to home, which are still downhill, but of the perfect grade for me to sail effortlessly down, rather than having to apply the brakes for the whole time. Delightful!
total ascent: 5,000 feet
distance: 63.91 miles (102.85 kilometers)
saddle time: 6:30:31 (not counting breaks)
average speed: 9.8 mph (not counting breaks)
distance: 62.97 miles (101.34 kilometers)
saddle time: 6:26:57 (not counting breaks)
average speed: 9.7 mph (not counting breaks)
“Hey, I saw you guys when I was driving up to open the Cafe! Slow? Well, you’re faster than I’d be!”