This is the race that did it. This is the race that solidified the radio itch. Grinduro rocked my radio world and I have not been the same since. The event was held on Saturday, October 8th at the Plumas-Sierra County Fairgrounds located in the quaint mountain town of Quincy, CA. Grinduro is 60 mile bike race on mixed terrain – pavement, gravel and single track downhill. But it is so much more than a bike race. It’s a weekend-long festival celebrating the world of cycling complete with bike art displays, excellent food, live music, camping and beer. Lots of beer. Festivities get started on Friday as final preps are being made and registration opens. Grinduro is hosted by the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship.
Ken and I arrived early on Friday afternoon to set up camp, test our handhelds to make sure we have the repeater we will be using programmed properly and have some time to wander the festival area. This is the first time for us to work this race and we had no idea what to expect. The place is buzzing. Organizers are dashing around, finishing the last of the preparations. Race participants are streaming in at a steady pace and the fairgrounds is rapidly filling in with tents and campers. Once we are settled, we grab a bite to eat from one of the food trucks then wandered over to registration to give them a hand until it was time for the comms briefing with the race organizers.
We volunteered to work this event to help support the Plumas Amateur Radio Club. This was the first time we assisted this radio club and our pre-race communications were all via email and phone. The comms briefing was the first opportunity to make our first face-to-face introductions. After the comms briefing was over, we were invited to attend PARCs monthly club meeting. We were happy to tag along. It was a great opportunity to meet the rest of the operators that would be working the race tomorrow as well. After the meeting wrapped, we headed back to camp to settle in for the evening. Tomorrow was going to be a big day!
Fall mornings in the mountains – there’s simply nothing else like it. The air is cool and brisk with the heavy smell of pine. I wake up feeling refreshed and energized, ready for the events of the day. I woke up before the sun, found a cup of coffee and a breakfast burrito (Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship really do know how to throw a party, I’m just saying.) The fairgrounds begin to come to life as people stir from their sleeping bags and roll out of their tents. Race organizers are putting the final preparations together. We have a last minute briefing before the race begins, grab our lunch and then head outside to watch the mass start. There really isn’t any way to describe the mass start, so you’re just going to have to watch the video.
I’m going to save you all the trouble of having to hear about our debacle with Ken’s trailer tire and skip straight to the part where we get to the location of our station. We arrived early with plenty of time to deploy our portable radio equipment and make our signal checks with net control. Our station is at mile 56. It’s the final stretch of the single track downhill portion of the race before racers head back to start/finish. The trail crosses the forest service road, takes a sharp right bank. If this bank is not navigated correctly by the rider, a large tree stood directly in their path. There’s a high potential for crashes at this section. The station was manned by myself and Ken, 3 volunteer fireman from the Plumas County Fire Department were there for any medical emergencies. Shortly before riders began arriving, additional race crew folks joined us with bike repair kits for riders and to help provide any assistance that a rider may need and ensure the riders are safely making it down the course.
It was a rather uneventful race. Riders streamed through our station at a steady stream. One rider went over his handlebars after the sharp right bank but he was back on his bike without missing a beat and gone before any of us could jump to his aid. Another racer came through riding in his carbon rim. He had lost the back tire a long time ago but was determined to complete this race. We also had one rider stop to rest for a minute because he was having pain in his collarbone. He had broken his collarbone previously and he thought he may have popped out the pin in his collarbone. He caught his breath, took a drink of water and continued on to finish the race. A few more riders had stopped to fix their flat tires. The race crew guys were like NASCAR pit crews doing those tire changes.
Because our station is so close to the start/finish, it’s a long day for us. The last rider came through late in the day and the sweep crew gave us permission to secure the station. It was getting close to 1700 hours. We packed up as quickly as we could and headed back just barely in time to get in line for dinner but in plenty of time for a nice, cold beer from Sierra Nevada Brewery.
The evening festivities consisted of a short documentary about the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship (link) played on a large outdoor screen while race officials tabulated times. The was an awards ceremony was full of all sorts of frivolity. After the awards ceremony, live music entertained the crowd and Sierra Nevada kept the beer flowing late into the evening. It was a long today and the excitement of the event caught up to me. I turned in a little early and snuggled warmly in my sleeping bag, exhausted from the day but feeling so grateful to have had this experience. I drifted asleep dreaming of the next year.
Sunday morning, we broke camp and headed into town to grab some breakfast at Patti’s Thunder Cafe. This place was hopping and busy, filled with race participants getting an early start on their drives home. The cafe was cozy and inviting. The smell of coffee was inviting and a warm welcome on another brisk fall mountain morning. And breakfast comes with a muffin! The food was yummy and filling. After breakfast, we stopped at the Carey Candy Company to pick up some treats for the family at home. Our weekend adventures were complete. It was time for the lovely drive home, reflecting on this awesome weekend and looking forward to next year.