Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Gold Rush Randonnée - a Thumbnail Sketch

June 24-28 is the fourth edition Davis Bike Club's Gold Rush Randonnée. The GRR is the second oldest US 1200k, after Boston-Montreal-Boston, and a few months older than the Colorado Last Chance.  It has the largest ridership of current US 1200k's.
The GRR could be called a "classic" 1200k in that it's a quadrennial, out-and-back event with deluxe support and communal sleeping facilities.
But it's also a "Western" 1200k - like the Cascade, Colorado High Country, and Last Chance - as it ventures into sparsely settled country and open, exposed landscapes.
The GRR has 26,000 ft. of climbing (less than PBP or BMB) ... but 98% of it is in the middle 900km.
The first and final century have 285 ft. of climbing each, following the Sacramento River valley between Davis and Oroville.  It's a good chance to ride together, if you can find a congenial group.

The course monitoring and staff presence along the route are very good. 
As daylight fades, Lee Mitchell's famed Bike Van is stationed to provide water after what tends to be a toasty evening start.

Riders climb the scenic Feather River Canyon at night, perhaps accompanied by trains, empty logging trucks, and the moon overhead.

Checkpoint facilities are well-staffed and well-provisioned, such as the rustic Tobin Resort in Feather River Canyon.
There are a number of gradual climbs such as Feather River Canyon, and some stiff ones such as to Antelope Lake, as well the attention-grabbing Janesville Grade (19% max).
The GRR tops out at 6,034 ft., above Janesville Grade, succeeded by other climbs such as Antelope Summit, and altitudes in the 4,500 - 5,000 ft. range on the high plateau towards the north end of the route.

While temps in the Sacramento Valley can easily reach the 90's, it can get pretty chilly at night at the higher elevations.  That space blanket could come in handy!
Outposts such as Grasshopper, between Susanville and Aiden, provide much-needed water in this sparsely-settled country.  Here Lois Springsteen and Bill Bryant (RUSA #8 and #7, respectively), welcome a rider.

Some characterize the GRR as a good first 1200k, because of the fine organization and supportive staff.  That doesn't make it any less challenging, however, and certainly memorable!

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