Sunday, October 6, 2013

10:25 PM
Probably for most people the idea of a perfect birthday weekend wouldn't include 5+ hours and 40+ miles of mountain biking, even if said activities were taking place in some of the most beautiful country you can imagine. But then again I have never aspired to be like most people.

My husband, knowing me well, planned to my mind the perfect outing to celebrate my 37th birthday - a weekend free of kids and full of two classic mountain bike rides, good food, and a comfortable place to stay in the Lake Country region of the Sierra Nevadas.

10 Miles In - Day One Ride
Thanks to my parents, we got a one-night pass and made the most of it. We left the Bay Area earlyish Saturday morning and were biking in the mountains near Auburn by 11 AM - an amazing 24 mile singletrack trail that weaved and climbed and dropped along the ridges that mark the confluence of the North and Middle forks of the American River.  We had the trail to ourselves for the most part and celebrated the epic ride with a quick swim in the river before heading into town for an equally epic lunch at the local brewery (sweet potato fries drizzled with lemon anyone?).

We then grabbed an ice cream and pizza and chocolate mousse from the local Italian restaurant to have for dinner and headed northeast to a small town called Downieville which is an old gold rush town (in 1850 it was the 5th most populous town in the state and lost the bid to Sacramento to be the State capitol by 10 votes), and a now famous mountain bike mecca. The tiny main street covers less than a block and the few restaurants, stores and B&Bs that make up the heart of this small river-front town have retained much of their gold rush aesthetic.
Crossing the Bridge to Our Dive Bar Date

We got to Downieville about 6:30 PM, just in time to watch a group of very stoked-looking mountain bikers in full body armor ride into town, taste of what was ahead for tomorrow. We checked into to our funky, old-style "resort" hotel and then walked across the bridge back into town to have a drink at the local dive bar. We nursed our drinks, chatted and watched the locals and other adventure tourists play pool, dance to the juke box, and talk biking for an hour or so before heading back the five minute walk to our room.

We were out the door by 8 AM the next morning, had coffee and a pastry at the local bakery, and then were at the outfitters by 9 AM to get shuttled up the mountain to start our mountain bike ride - the infamous Downieville Downhill - a rip-roaring, super fun 16.5 mile singletrack with 5,000 vertical foot of net descent. um, YYYIIIPPPPEEEEEE!!!! The ride would be expected to take us about two hours; the record holder did it in 45 minutes.

I will note that I was one of two women amongst the 30 or so of us that caught the 9 AM shuttle. In the van I overheard a lot of talk about bikes and biking, and then the conversation turned to kids. A couple of the guys in the van were expectant fathers for the first time and chatting about how having a kid wasn't going to change their lives much (i.e., they were still going to be biking or skiing every weekend). I might have had to set the record straight for them. Their wives will thank me for it.

And so we started and finished and loved every minute of the ride. It  lived up to all the hype and was really among some of the most fun single track descents I have ever had the pleasure of riding (Better Than Sex near Hood River, OR comes to mind as a close second). It was just technical enough to keep me on edge and just fun enough that we already have plans to return. An awesome Mexican meal and a beer along the river post-ride sealed the deal. Downieville, the next chance we get, we will be ditching our kids and be back riding your oh-so-sweet trails. I have crawled out of the tunnel of tending-to-infants and am ready for adventure!

Towards the End of the Ride - Enjoying the River View

Chillin' Mid-Ride With the Hubster
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