Terrible Two Course Description updated 1/22/18
For the third year in a row, the Terrible Two course has to be modified to accommodate changing conditions. Once again it is the permit process in Napa County calling the tune. They will not grant us an event permit that includes Dry Creek Road (the backside of the Trinity climb) because of extensive damage from the recent wildfires. Many burnt trees have had to be logged out and they are concerned about massive mudslides before our June event. (We have seen the road in question and have to agree with them. It is already down to one lane in at least one spot and likely to get worse.)
But they want the event to pass through their county and have instead suggested an alternate route over the next mountain pass to the north, the combination of Calistoga Road, St Helena Road (both climbs) and Spring Mountain Road (descent). With a little creative routing near the start, we have adjusted the route to head this way. We hope this is another one-year-only alternative but who knows? We expect most riders will enjoy this route. St Helena Road and Spring Mountain Road are both superb biking adventures. Miles and elevation gain for this route are comparable to our traditional route.
The ride starts and ends on the north side of Sebastopol at Analy High School, a pleasant facility with parking, rest rooms, and showers. The course heads north and east for six flat miles to the city of Santa Rosa and takes the next seven miles to cross the city (usually very quiet at that hour in the morning). At 13 miles, the route becomes rural again, with the first rolling climb out of Bennett Valley. Our detour to the alternate route begins at the far end of Bennett Valley. We turn left on Warm Springs Road and bend back to Hwy 12, then use the wide shoulder of the Hwy to return to the outskirts of Santa Rosa, where we pick up Calistoga Road.
After leaving Santa Rosa, Calistoga Road offers up one mile of steep climbing. (The highway sign says 11% and that sounds about right.) After a brief descent and a right turn onto St Helena Road, riders will tackle a long—six miles—but usually moderate ascent. It stair-steps up to the ridge with a mix of easy grades, a few slightly steeper pitches, and even a few flat or nearly flat sections. We will find a spot for a water stop somewhere near the beginning of this climb in the 30-plus miles range.
The descent on Spring Mountain is big and gnarly: two miles of steep, corkscrew hairpins and then three miles of fast roll-out down to the town of St Helena. North of the town the route settles out on the mostly flat valley floor, rejoining our traditional route at mile 47.
The next 30 miles (47-77) roll easily through the picturesque vineyards and meadows of Napa, Knights, and Alexander Valleys, with only a few moderate hills. The first rest stop is in central Calistoga (mile 57). Serious climbing begins again at Geysers Road, with the next rest stop at the top of the nine mile, twin-summit climb (mile 86). The descent off the backside of Geysers begins with an extremely steep drop of about one mile. Following a hard left turn, it settles into seven miles of gradual downhill into Sulfur Creek Canyon, then several miles of small climbs and longer descents along the canyon. This is an active geothermal area with steep, unstable terrain. The road is often washed out or in some state of disrepair. There are several sheer drop-offs into the canyon, with no guard rails. Caution is advised. A short climb on Dutcher Creek and a descent into Dry Creek Valley lead into the midway lunch stop at the Warm Springs Dam Visitor Center (mile 112).
After lunch is when the Terrible Two gets truly terrible. The first half of the TT climbs over 7500' in 112 miles. The second half climbs over 9500' in under 90 miles, 5000' of it in the first 30 miles after lunch. It often takes riders up to three hours longer to complete the second century...if they finish it at all. Skaggs Springs—the road the Army Corps of Engineers built to bypass Lake Sonoma in 1981—is an endless series of steep, sun-baked climbs and false summits. It can be very hot (90°-115°). There will be two informal water stops along this stretch, ten miles apart. Eventually, the old road emerges from under the lake and the course returns to pavement from an earlier age...bumpier, but also shadier. After 15 miles of steep ups and downs, riders can recuperate on 12 mellow miles of downhills and rollers along the beautiful Gualala River.
The next full rest stop is at Kashia School (Rancheria) at mile 145. There is a notorious climb leading up to this rest stop: a wicked, 1.7-mile, 900' wall. After the stop, there is a steep, technical descent to another fork of the Gualala River, an easier 300' climb, then another tricky drop to the sea. At Stewarts Point, the route turns south along the ocean on Hwy 1. Temperatures are usually much cooler here and sometimes one can even catch a tailwind while cruising for 15 miles alongside the rugged coves and pounding surf. Although this Hwy 1 section is considered easy, it actually adds nearly 1000' of climb to the total before reaching the next rest stop at Fort Ross (mile 164).
The climb on Fort Ross Road—after the rest stop—is 2.6 miles, averages 11%, and feels even steeper. Some riders find it to be the hardest climb of the whole ride. However, most of it is shady and all of it is beautiful. It’s followed by a bumpy, narrow descent, a more gradual climb to the Black Mountain summit, and a long, technical descent to the village of Cazadero. A flat, shady run along Austin Creek and the Russian River leads to the last rest stop in Monte Rio (mile 186). After that, the road climbs gradually along Dutch Bill Creek for seven miles, just skirting Occidental, before a long, smooth, fast downhill. After the long roll-out at the base of the descent, there is one more small climb on Graton Road and then, just over the top, the right turn onto Sullivan and the route back to Analy High School. These last miles include a few more small climbs and moderate descents.
Except for the 7-mile transit of Santa Rosa and brief passes through St Helena and Calistoga, the entire course is rural and very scenic: vineyards, orchards, pastures, oak-studded meadows, shady forests of redwood, bay, and madrone, the spectacular coastline, wild rivers, lakes and streams, and always the sweeping panoramas from the summits of all those climbs. It’s enough to make you forget how hard it is! It is of course very challenging but it is never dull.
The ride will be held, rain or shine. (Yes, it has rained on the TT, although very rarely.) Temperatures can range from 50° in the morning to well over 100° in the afternoon on some of the inland portions. It will cool down again as riders reach the coast and encounter fog or its influence. The wind can be a factor, but is not usually a major player in this hilly terrain.