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Part 4 - Coleman Valley Road
From the start, it was a short, steep and mostly a straight grind to the base of a wall. Then the road switch backed left a 180-degrees up the side of a vertical rock-face gaining hundreds of feet in seconds. More like a goat trail or hidden path to a lost temple, Coleman Valley Road was close to disrespecting gravity and civil engineering full stop. It was like that for two miles, and around every corner was another determined and nauseating double-digit left or right, smiling at its private soul-crushing joke on you. Inspirational messages written in paint in the center of the road, iconic European style, helped a bit, but even better was the running shove everybody got from the support crew at the top of the top. Even a couple of teenagers making-out in a van in a turn-out thirty yards down the slope got swept up in the moment and would beep-beep every time the group rounded the last corner into sight.
The road on top of the world continued rolling and lightly climbing; seven miles of Irish hillsides and Scottish highlands, shaggy foreign cows and magically diffused sunlight, moors and forty-four shades of green rolled by. The group was totally broken-up at this point and the last forty minutes into Occidental in the fading sunlight was a solitary proposition. First Ira, then Jeremy, then Aaron, then Slate and Lander rolled down the last hill into town, through the stop sign and across the street to the side of a building, where everyone stayed planted and cold except for frequent visits to the market around the corner for beer, fluid replacement drinks, beef jerky and more chips.
Luke, Craig, Sebastian and Aaron were still nowhere in sight. By this point, we knew that they were in fact behind the group climbing Coleman Valley in the dark, and not in a bath with a martini back at the hotel in San Francisco as we had assumed. It turns out that we missed them in Tomales Bay when they stopped for oysters and champagne and we didn’t. But now it was dark and very cold and they were somewhere on the other side of the meanest climb in five counties. It was decided that our support vehicle should head out to find them. About four miles out of Occidental, we rounded a tight left turn and caught them, like lycra-clad deer, in our headlights. They were descending, blinking and reflecting their way steadily along with Trystan’s van lighting their way from behind. We turned around, gave them a poor man’s after-dark mussette bag of beer and jerky, and drove back into town to alert the others. In what felt like minutes later, but was actually another three and half miles for Luke and his gang, the whole group was back together again, on the side of the building – talking, drinking, comparing notes and stories while we loaded bikes in the vans to head back to Sausalito.