Friday, August 8, 2008

Byway of a Bygone Era: 10,000' challenge, ride #4

I live in an area with a fair amount of history. A lot of it has been paved over in the name of progress but some still remains. Some of that is of value to local cyclists because it was paved over! It is in the shape of a winding, uphill ribbon of asphault and old concrete called the Old Ridge Route. Finished in 1915, the RR served to connect the LA area with Bakersfield and the central valley. Spanning three mountain ranges, it was a major engineering feat of the day.

From the Ridge Route website article:

"According to historical accounts, the Ridge Route Road was one of the first products of the newly formed California Highway Commission and an $18 million state highways construction bond voters approved in 1910. Historians note that it may have actually saved California from splitting into two states.

Crews operating primitive, mule-powered graders began clearing the Ridge Route's path in 1914. Because of extremely rugged terrain and no funds to use for blasting, the route from Castaic to Gorman took 697 turns. An Occidental College student figured out that motorists sputtering up and down the road's sometimes 7 percent grades made the equivalent of 97 complete circles over the 36-mile stretch and 110 circles over the entire 48-mile route from Castaic to Grapevine.

The road opened in 1915 and was paved four years later with 41/2 inches of reinforced concrete, for a total building cost of $1.2 million. Fencing and 10-inch-high curbing kept the death toll from being worse than it was 31 died in accidents between 1921 and 1928, many resulting from runaway trucks and cars or drivers' failure to negotiate turns.

Because cars and trucks had no fuel pumps, it was not unusual to see vehicles going up steep grades backward. Truck drivers often took drastic, almost stuntman-like measures to escape the heat that had built up in their cabs.

``I drove a truck and trailer up there in 1931 loaded with pipe and the best I could do was 8 to 12 miles per hour,'' said Frank Kaufmann of Taft. ``It was hotter than the devil. I'd stand out on the running board to get away from heat of the engine and I'd drive with one hand through the window.''

When the road opened in 1915, motorists had their choice of routes to get to Los Angeles from the San Joaquin Valley and vice versa, but chose the Ridge Route. Despite following every mountain contour and its 15 mph speed limit, the Ridge Route Road was a far more direct route to Los Angeles than the ``Midway'' route through Mojave and the Tehachapi Mountains, cutting the distance to Los Angeles by nearly 58 miles.

Despite its hundreds of sharp curves, hazards and steep grades, the Ridge Route Road was considered the Cadillac of the superhighways, an engineering marvel. It is no longer, but it still invites traffic."

Well, it still invites bike traffic, that is for sure. Heading out of Castaic at the south end of the road, it is a steady climb all the way for miles with very little traffic. It is quiet except for where you parallel I5 and that is just for a little while. Tonite I rode up 8 miles or so to a viewpoint on the SS Monkey and then turned around for a nearly pedaling free return to town.

Total: 1,913' x 1.2 for the SS factor and I get 2,295.6' for the night.

Running total: 9,844.2' gained from last Sat to this Fri. With the goal of 10K' in a month, I think I will make it. Shoot, I may even go for a bunch more. Who knows.

For more info on the Old Ridge Route, click here. Some photos came from the SCV Historical Society website linked here.

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