Author: Les Becker
The Saturday, June 14th, weather forecast for Ashford was 45-55 deg and zero chance of rain in the morning. And indeed we started riding on dry pavement with temperature in the upper 40's. With plenty of riders for friendly conversation and enough warmth pedaling uphill, I did not focus on some subtle but important changes taking place. A heavy mist developed under the overcast sky and on the upper part of the climb I felt a chill and was surprised to see 38 deg on my Garmin, but dismissed it, thinking things would warm up once we descended Stevens Canyon. Standing in the Paradise parking lot with Leon and Mark, I felt cold and wet, I realized I had to get serious about getting down safely. Scott Wagar's Garmin said 33 degrees, so I started down clad in just my base layer and short sleeve jersey under my non-waterproof jacket, shins exposed under knee warmers and summer cycling gloves with fingers exposed. My rear brake had developed a metallic grinding sound I assumed was grit embedded in the brake pads which together with the rain, made me question the braking effectiveness. So I stopped, took off the back wheel and scraped the pads with my car key. That was the last time I could feel my fingers for some time. I continued down and shortly found Mike at the side of the road as he'd circled back to check on other riders. When I told him, "I've got to ride back to the cars, I was relieved that he quickly replied "so are we." As I headed down, my bike was quivering not due to speed or bumpy roads, but from my whole body shaking. And of course, I couldn't feel anything in my bare hands. Shifting required me to look at the lever to see if it was moving. At the Ricksecker Point turn-off I stopped, and was joined by the others. Even jumping jacks and hands in armpits (mine) did not warm me. Jim was very attentive and pushed some plastic under my jersey for a wind break. Then an angel from heaven showed up in the form of Peter, his wife and two children who were vacationing from Arizona and saw us standing there shivering so they pulled over. Over my objection, they and Jim put me in the car and bike in the back. Forgive me if I have ever said anything bad about seat heaters. And get this, he is an ex cat 1 racer who used to own a bike shop. And it didn't hurt that he is now a paramedic and she is a nurse. They were so kind and their two kids so sweet with this cold, wet, shivering stranger plopped into their car. They dropped me off at Longmire Lodge. I thought I was way ahead of the others who had to brave the entire descent on their bikes, and I was surprised when Conor immediately rolled up. On second thought, why should I have been surprised? We all gathered in a room adjacent to the lobby and after stoking the fire in the large stone fireplace, drinking hot chocolate purchased by Jim, wringing out soaked socks and hanging them on the fireplace screen, and much laughing, the shivering decreased and we began to feel better.
Best prepared - Nick had full gloves, couple coats, long tights, full shoe covers and I don't know what all else, next time I'll be more like him.
Humanitarian - Jim kept me out of trouble with wind protector, putting me in the car, and the hot chocolate.
Innovation - I think it was Mark who found the gift shop and started the dry sock purchases.
Persistence - Scott must have continued right past the Lodge without stopping on his way to the cars.
Leader - Thanks Mike for being aware of everyone's location and condition and ensuring wise group decisions.
Lesson learned:Watch the temperature on Garmin and be aware of the rain, duh.