Last month the Yonder Journal was launched. A soon to be collection of “American Field Studies”. The Ridge Route, a local historical road, was selected for their first “guide”. I only became aware of the Ridge Route in 2005. I believe it was from an episode of California’s Gold with Huell Howser. Around that time a storm had washed away sections of the road. It was closed and I don’t think it’s been open since then. What bad timing. I wanted to go up there and explore it, but I could not.
Years later, I’m a cyclist. I like riding to far away places in remote areas. Then the Yonder Journal drops the Ridge Route Brovet in my lap. I’m in. When to do it though? The route is not the straightest to the Ridge Route. Instead of going around mountains, it goes over every one on the way out there. Damn, this is gonna be tough. I need some time to prepare.
Enter Joshua Bryant from Portland, Oregon. A fellow randonneur, Joshua set a date to do it. Bought tickets, booked a room. This was going to happen. Sooner than I’d like, but what the hell. I was able to arrange a hall pass for the day and jumped in. Nervous as hell, but I jumped in.
We met up in Chinatown at 6:30am. Then pedaled over to Golden Saddle Cyclery where Ty was waiting for us. A quick cup of coffee and it’s time to roll. An earlier start would’ve been better, but Serbrina and I went to see Morrissey the night before. I was running on only 4 hours of sleep and Joshua was kind enough to adjust to my draggin’ ass. Ty joined us for the ride to La Canada. A nice warm up for the climbing to come. We parted ways at start of the ‘Crest and headed up and up and up.
It was a warm day and many cyclists were out enjoying the road. A film crew had part of the ‘Crest shut down so we were rewarded with very little traffic. It would just come through in groups of 8-10 cars at a time, then nothing. It was the best I’ve ever seen it up there. Very few cars and very few motos. We were pretty lucky. Our fendered bikes and rando bags stood out though. We got quite a few questions as were riding up. “How heavy is that?”. “How far you guys going?”, to which I proudly replied “GORMAN!”. That usually got a headshake or an “oh shit” reply. We weren’t there to mess around. We came to play.
I’ve never ridden past Red Box on the ‘Crest. I’ve moto’d it. I’ve driven it, but never pedaled it. The world is so different on a bike. People don’t feel the undulations of the road in a car. The 45 mph downhills are slow in a car. On a bike it’s kinda scary. A drivers foot doesn’t have to adjust much to a 4% grade in a car. Miles of that on a bike though, it’ll get your heart pumpin’. Do that, then add miles of a 7% grade to it and you’ll eventually get to the saddle near Mt. Gleason. We crested at about 13:00. It was warm. I was tired, but excited about being somewhere new. This ride was three parts in my head. The San Gabriels, across the valleys to Castaic and then the Ridge Route proper. Felt good to be a third of the way through.
Miles of the downhill pointed road felt well earned. Hardly any traffic and mild rollers made for few quick miles. I think we managed 10 miles in like 20 minutes. That and losing about 1300 feet of elevation. No worries we’ll get it back. It’s out here somewhere. Around a corner we see the Shambala Preserve below us. It doesn’t look like much, and then we hear a growl and see some action. Are they pissed that we are here? Let’s take a pic and roll! The wind started up and made for some slow pushing for a while through Acton and Agua Dulce. We spotted a general store and pulled over for a snack. Paying for my ice cream sandwich the proprietor spotted my last name. Vasquez. We were in the land of Tiburcio Vasquez. He wondered if I was related and if I knew where the treasure was hidden. I told him I didn’t know, but I think I should follow up with my family. Have they been holding out on me?
Before long we made it to In-N-Out on Bouquet Canyon. I had been dreaming about a Vanilla shake for hours. It was exactly what I thought it would be. The Double-Double and fries rounded out the meal and then Joshua blew my mind. He said he was going to take another one with him. To eat up on the Ridge Route! What a great idea! I ordered a second burger, asked for it to be double wrapped and we rode off with a secret stash. We made quick work of the miles between lunch and the final climb. Before long we were in Castaic. Looking at the mountains in front of us. They were intimidating. I knew we weren’t going all the way over, but we were going MOST of the way over. We were going to climb as much as we had earlier in the day in less miles.
Nothin’ to it but to do it. We headed up as the sun was setting. We would be doing this in the dark. Our legs slowly crank the pedals that slowly turn the wheels that slowly run our generator hubs. Our lights illuminate just the road ahead of us. Who knows what’s lurking in the shadows of the road. The only time the shadows light up is when the road is so steep that I weave up the grade instead of powering up it. Miles and miles of climbing have made my legs like rubber. Every little downhill only makes it worse. The downhills are short and when the road kicks up again I don’t have much power. We have miles to go and it feels like it’s going to take all night. We’ve got plenty of food though, plenty of water. Maybe spending the night up here won’t be so bad. It’s probably pretty scenic during the day. That’s for another day though. Tonight we pedal!
Arriving at the site of the Tumble Inn came just in time. I was starving. I needed to eat and I needed to feel like we were getting somewhere. I needed some motivation. It was all there in those crumbling walls. I knew we were gonna make it. We took some pics and pulled out our burgers. Cold and messy. In other words, the best burger you could get at the Tumble Inn. They were perfect.
Before getting too cold we get rolling again, thinking we are heading downhill now. I mean, we must right? Nope, up again, but it isn’t long before we start to feel a downhill trend. Yep, that’s better pavement. It’s going steeper downhill! Holy shit! This is happening! We ride side by side down the hill to the 138. Our lights letting us go pretty quick down the hill. A short connector on the 138 and then the 5 mile climb up to Gorman. The lights are up there and with every pedal stroke they get closer. It seems to take forever, but they are getting closer. About 22:00 we roll into Gorman, a little later than we’d hoped, but we are in Gorman. 134 miles later and over 13,000 feet of climbing done! We have just completed the Ridge Route Brovet!
We are greeted by my Pops who has patiently been waiting for us. (Thanks Pops!) The Ranch House is closed, so we head next door to the Carl’s Jr. We must’ve looked like a couple of zombies as we walked in there. I know I felt like one. Time to eat. And eat. And eat.
The final step was to fill out the paperwork and send it in. This part was just as rewarding as doing the ride itself. Reliving the entire day as I filled out the route slip. My reward for this effort will be a patch. Not just any patch, but a patch you have to earn. And earn it we did. Get out there and do fun things. Explore your own area. Go Yonder!