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Part 1: Superette
Inland, the first set of rolling wooded hills are shallow but persistent and steep. We stand and sprint and shuffle through them. Eucalyptus crowds the narrow pavement. We come to the Elkhorn Superrette and reprovision under the low light and the flicker of fútbol on tv. Back on the road, we watch for several hundred yards as two kids ride a burro down a gravel road parallel to ours. We spin and stare as they bounce and bob, and laugh for the fun of it. Then six, maybe seven miles go by in tattered flags, busted cowboy-style ranch signs and driveways lined with machinery and trucks in various stages of disrepair. Small pockets of caravan homes, chickens and tricycles scatter the hills off to the side.
Past ‘The One-O-One’ (HWY-101), its volume and noise are trumped only by the act of crossing it. The countryside is open and uneven and mostly empty of much but the occasional farm and gravel turn-out. Smaller roads periodically join ours from adjacent hills and valleys. Telephone poles and the long, lonely sweep of their cables race us.
On a rangy section of road, now headed into the deepest valley in sight, we are joined by two gentlemen riding a brevet. The tall one, on a homemade fixed gear, coaxes, pounds and wills his bike up the hills. Down the hills, he chases and furiously pumps the ex-10-speed threatening to buck him. Before reaching a dirt passage, the only way over the steep grassy ridge now dominating the horizon, they turn around, lost. We continue on past the gate as the climb quickly switches back and forth, leaving the occasional oak and its shade for a washed-blue sky and the rocky, grassy pastures flanking the hillside. Our dirt road is narrow and covered in sand, gravel and weeds and rattlesnake tracks. Elbows and knees jut one direction, hips swing and hump another, as we body-english, as much as peddle our way to the top.
A perfect line separating the last of the hilly green farm country behind us, that world, and the infinite hot, sandy-brown valley before us, this world, runs right between our feet. We drop in, gritting and baring our teeth and forcing our arms to go supple. Down the fire road, fast and blasting, the hillside unfurls in a series of sweeping, washed-out turns and washboard straights. We trust the drift, hover over our bikes and let our knees take the big hits.
The valley shimmers and worbles and carrion birds circle above on our way to the main event. We climb, the temperature climbs. We ride harder, the road gets steeper. We ante and Fremont calls, hinting and hiding at the pain to come.
“We ran into a seven foot Sri Lankan riding an amazing shwinn varsity fixed gear, no bar tape and ½ a basket on the back. He and his buddy were in the middle of an organized 200k, they were lost.” – Greg Johnson
“We’ve crossed freeways before but this was different. To start with, it was eight lanes wider than most. And it was so fast, the traffic to our left appearing at the top of hill and a corner only seconds before they passed. Normally you need to drift with the cars at five or six miles an hour in order to cross safely. But for this one you had to ride a quarter mile to the left, turn around and come back at it at full speed. You had to sync 33mph with a break in the traffic and the cross road. The ride was completely worth it but for a second I was convinced this was a cruel joke.” - Daniel Pasley
“We had been riding through farms for awhile, Big Ag and industrial farms. Then all of the sudden we were in some rural area that was pretty but a bit funky too. Like Appalachia vs. Tijuana. It had a sense of history too, like this area had been handily resisting any all attempts at gentrification, californication, all of the ‘ications.” - Hahn Rossman