After riding in Levi’s Gran Fondo, I had not planned on riding another big ride for some time. That changed quickly last week when several family members and friends encouraged me to participate in the Shasta Wheelman Jamboree Century held this past Saturday in Palo Cedro, which is just east of Redding. Lucky for me that I had a few days to convince myself that it would not be as hard the King Ridge Gran Fondo.  I obviously have lost most of my functioning brain cells, because I could not have been more wrong.

First of all, let’s get the Redding myth that it is hotter than pits of Mordor out of the way. Yes, between Memorial Day to Labor Day it is crazy hot, as thermal heating of the interior valleys scorches the landscape while our coastal area is bathed with the cool onshore afternoon breeze. However, the other nine months of the year are even more desirable in my view than our Sonoma County weather. If you flip over to the back of the Empire News section in today’s newspaper, you will see that Redding was cooler yesterday than all of our county’s weather except for the immediate coast.

Redding is more known for mountain bike riding around the three area lakes than road biking. With the development of the Sacramento River trail to Shasta Dam and the establishment of community-wide bike lanes, that perception is changing. Rolling out of Palo Cedro with my riding partner for the day, Tim Jenne, we proceeded through soft rolling grasslands scattered with cows as the early morning sun rays poked over from Mount Lassen to our east.

Shasta Wheelman is a small dedicated club which presented itself in an intimate way to the 200 or so riders as we rolled through the various rest stops. Well supported, the final stop of the day was staffed by the couple who were married by Levi on Portuguese Beach during the 2013 Gran Fondo.

As nice as everything and everyone was, this ride was painfully hard. The suffering was partially offset by the landscape of riding under shaded forest canopies, lush meadows and flowing water through numerous creeks.  I had forgotten what rushing water sounded like. Occasionally the views would open up with sweeping views of Mount Shasta and the Trinity Alps in the distance. Being able to view wide open spaces for 50-75 miles in the distance really broadens the senses.

Finally, in early afternoon, Tim and I found our way to the final climb of the day, Buzzard’s Roost. I don’t make this stuff up and it was aptly named! For some reason, the forest disappeared and we were exposed in the sun on the brutal 13% steeps. I did see buzzard’s there and thankfully I did not become their afternoon meal. The rest of the climbs were just as insanely hard, but nicely tucked into the forest. When we finally emerged out to Oak Run Road for the long descent back to Palo Cedro, my saddle felt that it was made of porcupine quills. I will never forget to take chamois cream again!

After high fives at the finish, 103 miles and 9,000 feet of climbing, it was time for the pool! If you are a complete fool and find enjoyment in suffering on the bike the way I do, here is the link for the ride.

– Bruce McConnell

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