Sunday, April 12, 2009

If you ever go cycling in Murphys, CA... ride your bike — have I got a ride for you! Last year, a group of CWC racers hung out in Murphys after the Copperopolis race and we rode Sunday with the S/O's. It was an epic day complete with sighting of the Easter Bunny. Read that blog here:

Beyond Copperopolis...Lies Murphys

As good as our post-Copper ride was last year, we didn't have any takers this year. So it was an opportunity for me to try to fashion the ultimate, killer, Murphys/Sheep Ranch ride on my own. And by golly, I think I've done it!

I poured over the maps and came up with a plan. Estimating the ride, or underestimating as it were, at around 60 miles and 7,000 feet, I hit the road in Murphys at 8:30 AM on Easter morning hoping for another Easter Bunny sighting. Sheep Ranch Road out of Murphys could easily be mistaken for a driveway. It's so narrow between the old town's buildings that it's one way at the bottom near the town. The cyclist begins climbing immediately and repeatedly as there are three stiff climbs before arriving in the lovely town of Sheep Ranch.


The town's gas station appeared to be closed for Easter. Probably since Easter in the 1940's!


After Sheep Ranch, I passed the site of last year's Easter Bunny encounter. Nothing happening. Either I was too early or it just didn't happen this year. Too bad. On to Railroad Flat road where a resident created what might be called "Little Africa."


Next to Jesus Maria Road, maybe one of the best cycling roads in Calaveras County. Tons of climbing, quiet, and lots of variety. Mostly wooded, the road then opens up on a huge descent heading toward Mokelumne Hill, a town with a surprisingly low population of just 328!


There are some steep climbing sections on Jesus Maria and one arrives in 'Mok Hill' with nearly 5,000' of climbing in just 33 miles or so. But then the rider gets a break. After Mok Hill, it's more or less a cruise to San Andreas. Riding smooth pavement with a nice shoulder, it's easy to cruise the mostly downhill at 25-30 mph, a welcome relief after all the climbing!

The rider then leaves Hwy 49 via Gold Strike Road, a back way to San Andreas. I took a brief break in San Andreas at a picnic area to study the map and get some nutrition.


From San Andreas the cyclist then heads toward the little sleepy town of Calaveritas on a beautiful one lane road.


I saw this fixer-upper there...


Now on to Fricot City Road. This road traverses a ridge top and has splendid views. And tons of climbing. The easy middle part of the ride is over now, and it's hard all the way back to Murphys.


The road eventually turns to dirt, but very smooth dirt this time of year. The rains pack the clay soil in such a way that it's smoother than some of the rough pavement, and there is no dust due to the moisture. I can't speak to how it would be later in the season, but in April it's perfect. This dirt lasts for 5.5 miles.


Fricot City Road brings the rider back to Sheep Ranch. From there we trace our route back to Murphys. This, of course, means we have to do the three climbs in reverse, so we still have another 1500' more to climb.

The ride stats? 67 miles and 9,040'. Not bad for an after race day spin!

On the way home, in Lathrop, CA, we ran into Trent Stewart and his custom '57 Chevy bicycle. Nice work, Trent!P1010639.JPG