What is it with my obsession to ride Priest Grade so often?
When most people from the Bay area, or any part of northern California, drive to the mountains, the most popular way is taking Hwy. 120 east to Groveland. It is mostly two lane and very busy. A lot of RV’s. Small to extra large. Trailers, campers and busses travel to one of the most beautiful places on God’s green Earth, Yosemite.
Groveland is called he Gateway to Yosemite. To get to the gateway, you have to take Priest Grade from the Moccasin reservoir,which at the lowest point is 876’ elevation, to Big Oak Flat, at 2838‘ Elevation.
The grade is six miles long. The steepness varies from 5% to 9%. The first mile seems the hardest. It is a steady 7% grade. Then it calms down to between 5% and 6% for the next four miles. The last mile is where the burn sets in to my legs and my heart rate soars.
My heart rate is a steady 142 as I climb the middle four miles and my cadence is 72. The last mile is at 9%. My rate jumps up to the high 150’s. According to my monitor I burned 1368 calories in only 45 minutes of climbing. Try that on your treadmill.
The people that I see along he way are amazing. Somebody rolls down a window and has me on video. People taking self pics with me as their back ground. Looks of amazement and disbelief. And comments.
A guy driving a F-350 truck, towing a trailer, sticks half of his body out of the window and yells “go, go, go, go, go”. A girl asks “do you need any water?” A 15 passenger van, towing a 24’ trailer goes by me, so close, that I would call it getting skimmed. A lot of hellos, waves and smiles.
Then in a turn out is a blue BMW. The driver, a young woman, is outside of the car obviously car sick. She is bent over facing away from the road. I give a healthy shout out, “how ya doin”? I say with a grin. “Oh just fine” she answers, somewhat embarrassed and annoyed. I tell her, “It’s okay,you still look cute”. Between wretches she look over to me and coquettishly says “thank you”.
I stop at the top and refill with water, before climbing more hills to Coulterville. Then finishing the 54 mile ride back to Jamestown with a few great downhills. I hit 40 to 50 mph at times. I have to monitor my speed, because there are some very tight corners marked at 20 mph. I hate when I miss a turn and go into oncoming traffic.
A great ride with just under 5000’ of climbing. Great views of Lake Don Pedro and the mountains. A couple of bridge crossings thrown in. I drank 22 oz. of electrolytes and 22 more of Amino replacement along with over 80 oz. Of water. I drank a 20 oz. recovery drink when I got done and another 20 oz. of water. I only lost three pounds in four hours of riding at 96 degrees. My average heart rate for four hours was 128.
I like being able to ride Priest Grade and not have it do me in. I like the life of a recreational road bike rider. I love riding my green Orbea Orca. I think I will do it again in a week or two. If you see me, please make sure that you give me just a little room. And I will talk to you if you get car sick and barf!