Saturday’s ride to Morgan Territory got off to a very inauspicious start. The ride was leaving from the Concord BART station at 8:20am, so I spent the night at a friend’s place in Walnut Creek, about 7 miles away. The plan was to get up, have a little breakfast, get ready for the ride and cycle over to the station. But as usual, I left everything to the last minute, or rather, I was just moving very slowly and before I knew it, the clock hit 8am. I rushed everything down to the car. Got my shoes on. Didn’t have time to pump up the tires or even check them for air pressure and I hit the road. I had less than 20 minutes to make miles and didn’t really know the way. I had check Google Maps a few minutes before and had some sense, but this was really unfamiliar territory for me.
So I hauled ass, averaging almost 19 MPH over the 7 miles and arrived at 8:23, just as the last rider was pulling out of the station. I breathed a sigh of relief and latched on to the end. I had the route map clipped to my bike, but I didn’t want to ride alone. But my work wasn’t done. I had to move ahead past most of the beginning riders, past the intermediate guys to catch up with the advanced group. I finally caught up to them in Clayton 6.5 miles down the road, but this is where the hills start and just as soon as I caught them, I was dropped like a sack of potatoes. I was beat. It was starting to get hot and the worst of the ride was right in front of me .
The road up to the top of Morgan Territory is truly spectacular. It’s about 10 feet wide at most, winding through backcountry farmland of rolling brown grass covered hills. Lots of cows, horses, goats and even a llama. Trees overhanging the road provide nice shade, but also drop tons of acorns, leaves and twigs. There are no cars. On the other hand, the road looks like it hasn’t been re-paved since the Depression and it was pockmarked with unavoidable fissures and pot holes. I was vibrating like a hypercaffeinated chihuahua most of the way up.
At first the hills are rolling, a little up and a little down. Then there’s a little up and a little plateau, and a little up and a little plateau, and again a little up and a little plateau. Then a little up and a little more up, but less steep, then a little up and a littlemore up, but less steep, then a little up and a little more up, but less steep. Then in the final 200 meters, the road smoothes out, but it kicks up at angle that made me want to spew my guts. After 10 miles of climbing, it was a killer. I’ve dubbed this climb, “The Meat Tenderizer”.
We had a nice 20 minute break at the entrance to Morgan Territory. I refueled: choc. chip Cliff bar and a vanilla Gu. I probably could have stayed there an hour. But it’s a club ride and I don’t make the rules. I’m just along for the ride. So we saddled up and hit the road.
There’s about 200 meters more climbing to the summit after the rest stop, but I felt energized so it was no problem. Plus, the ride is almost all downhill from there. It was going to be great, or so I thought. Just after the summit, maybe half a mile down I want to say, there was a club rider off his bike waving up to slow down. We put on the brakes and as we turned the corner, we could there’d been an accident.
Mark, one of the more advanced riders, a tall, lanky fellow was working on his bike by the side of the road. Blood was streaming from a gash in his forearm and his shorts were all ripped up. People we telling us he had a blow out and went down. It was lucky he wasn’t riding in a pack or he might have taken someone others down with him. Since was walking around and not screaming in pain, most likely nothing was broken. He was probably in a little shock. I’ve never had a real crash in cycling, but from skiing, I know these happen really fast, and it takes a moment to collect yourself and realize what happened.
First report of Mark’s accident and aftermath came from a club member:
Hi folks. Several of you have emailed me asking how Mark is doing
after his crash.
Mark went down Saturday on the Morgan Territory descent, perhaps due
to depth perception problems with his new prescription sunglasses.
Several OYJers were behind him fortunately – far enough back to avoid
crashing into him but close enough to make sure he was okay.
When I arrived on the scene, I first thought that he was helping
someone change a tire. Then I saw the blood and ripped clothing. My
heart definitely skipped a beat.
The two of us got back on our bikes (Mark’s rear tire was bent but
functional) and rode about 15 miles to the nearest fire station with
Mark’s bloody arm hanging by his side. Eek. The guy we met there gave
Mark bandages to wrap his arm and leg.
We then continued biking to the Walnut Creek BART and saw more OYJ-ers
there (thanks for the ibuprofin, Michael). Mark and I went to the
Kaiser Oakland emergency room where Mark was told to clean his own
wounds while waiting for the doctor. They further scrubbed his
various wounds (thigh, forearm, etc.) and determined that he didn’t
need stitches to cover the exposed muscle (!). We are thankful that
nothing other than Mark’s wheel was broken. Mark’s going back to the
doc today to ask about his fever and achy muscles. We hope there’s no
We expect a full recovery. Thanks to all of you who helped out and to
those of you who have send your good wishes.
And then we heard directly from Mark:
All I can say is that I am VERY VERY VERY lucky. As I was doing a
quick descent of the Morgan territory, I misjudged a turn. Attempting
to correct, I slightly locked up my back wheel for a fraction of a
second and blew the rear tire out. With my bike bouncing out of
control, I was able to slow down somewhat and for a moment even
thought I was going to keep the bike upright. But at the last minute,
I went down hard. Amazingly, no broken bones and my head was still
attached. Very bad road rash and cuts on my left side. But, being way
out in Morgan Territory, I had little choice but to ride back to the
Walnut Creek BART, the closest one. Susan escorted me home. Shortly
after the crash, I was able to get swept up by the remnants of the
Sat. House Of Pain (Lite) riders group who were in the area. They
swarmed me and took me in their draft to a CDF fire station where I
got some gauze. The pain was bearable while riding back. The ER room
scrubbing of the gashes turned out to be much worse and required
morphine. I have been on Vicodan for a couple of days and moving very
slowly. It seems the onset of the bruises, stiffness and strained
muscles has now set in.
In hindsight, I was surprised I crashed. The blown out rear tire
certainly sealed the deal. But I was not riding too aggressively and
was fairly familiar with this road. I have deduced that my new
prescription sunglasses are partly to blame. Since I’ve had them for
just a short while, I have struggled with depth perception. This is
probably my undoing and reason for this crash.
Again, I am very lucky I was not hurt much worse. My kit was shredded
and my back wheel ruined. But that’s a small price to pay!
Thanks for your concern. I will see all of my OYJ friends out there on
the road again soon.
After Mark’s crash, I was even more hesitant on the way down than usual, which is really too bad because it’s a beautiful descent on a very smooth road with spectacular scenery and very few turns. Better safe than sorry, I suppose.
We hit the bottom around 10am and the sun was starting to beat down on us. We had feared for a 100 degree day, but it was only around 85, but that’s hot enough. We started to head back from Livermore, through Dublin, Blackhawk, Danville, Alamo and finally Walnut Creek. I was achy. I couldn’t get comfortable on the bike. My thighs, lower back, shoulders and hands were all bothering me. The Meat Tenderizer really took a toll on my body. It didn’t help that I skipped last week’s ride and hadn’t ridden more than a few dozen miles this month. My body was rebelling. I couldn’t wait to get back to my car and get off the bike. It was such a relief to hit to the Iron Horse Trail. From there I cruised the last mile or so back to my car, put my bike away, got all my gear off and collapsed on the floor of my friend’s apartment.
Ride Time 3:38:57
Max Speed 38.5
Average Cadence 66
Here’s the route map: