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D6: The Ultimate Dog Soldier Ride
May 14, 2006

D6 Slide Show

D6 Slide Show

Story by Drew Lazenby

This past weekend, a few of us from the Warrior's Society rode one of the toughest rides we have ever done. We came up with the plan to finish this ride almost four years ago, back in the day when even the Terminaut would have joined us. Unfortunately, on the day we all planned on riding it, the skies opened up and it rained for three days straight and we never talked about it since. Four years later, we were inspired enough to give it another shot.

We called our ultimate ride the "Dawn to Dusk Double Death Down... Dude" ("D6"). This seemed a fitting name for a ride that would include two of the longest and toughest "downhills" in Orange County, coupled with some pretty serious climbing. The ride consisted of: park in Rancho Santa Margarita, ride in Trabuco Road to Trabuco Trail, ride up Trabuco Trail, ride down Los Piños Trail, ride up San Juan Trail to Blue Jay Campground, ride up the Main Divide to the top of Trabuco Trail, and ride down Bell Ridge Trail to the cars in RSM. We haven't really figured out the actual distance in miles or elevation gain in feet. It's probably somewhere between 40-50 miles, with 10-12,000 feet of climbing. Sure, there are more daunting rides when you compare these stats, but anyone who has been on the Los Piños or Bell Ridge trails would agree that these are not your average downhills. There are some serious hike-a-bikes, steep climbing and steep descents. But man, they are fun, and that's exactly why we wanted to hook them both up in one ride.

Enough background, here's the story. Andy Lightle, Steve Timm, Ned Reynolds, and myself (Drew Lazenby) met up at the Albertson's parking lot in RSM just before 7am Sunday morning. Andy and Ned rode their singlespeeds, Steve was on his 5-spot, and I was on my hardtail. After a quick check to make sure we had all our gear, we were off at 7:08am. After riding up Trabuco Road to Trabuco Trail, we peeled off our arm warmers and other warmer gear. We quickly realized this was going to be a hot one. Being the ride photographers, Andy and I stopped at certain points along the trail to capture the beginning of a very long day. Everyone looked fresh and we climbed what we could but tried not to expend energy on some of the loose and steep shale. Oh yeah, and the bugs were out too, and I almost stole the bug net off the head of a passing hiker.

We reached the top of Trabuco Trail in good form and on pace. By pace, I mean to make sure we finish the ride before dusk. Andy looked a little whipped from the climb but (smartly) ate some food and was back in the action in no time. We later realized that each one of us would go through some kind of bonk, some worse than others, but our goal was to make it no matter what. A few group pictures later, we were on our way up to Los Piños Peak. Riding along the ridge was awesome to say the least. After a double weekend trailwork event earlier in the year by the Warrior's Society, the trail was in prime condition and we enjoyed every rock, rut and whatever else was thrown our way. This was until Steve had his first, then second flats for the day. When slime goes bad... The hike-a-bike on Piños was rather uneventful, but after reaching the top, we sat down in what shade we could find and took note of how hot the day, rather morning, had become. Ned had one of those fancy MacGyver watches on and we checked the temperature. After reading 108°F on his wrist, he took his watch off and put it in the shade. Five minutes later, we checked the temperature. It was 97°F out, and it felt like it. We were going to have to be careful.

With the serious hike-a-bikes behind us, we enjoyed the rest of Los Piños Trail with Andy and I exchanging the lead for Kodak moments. We got some great pictures along the way, of scenery, action shots, and a few crashes. Somewhere along the way, I had my first and only flat for the day and made sure I put enough air in to eliminate the chance for another pinch flat. Near the end of the trail, it starts to get rocky and I took the first crash of the day and ended up being pinned upside down with my bike on top. Knowing that Andy was on his way behind me with another camera, I attempted to get untangled but it was not going to happen. I was stuck and unfortunately had to smile for the camera... Steve was next on the crash list. For those of you that know Steve, catching a crash of his on camera is as rare as a Loch Ness Monster sighting. And even if you did get it on camera, no one would believe you. Believe it or not, we witnessed a crash and it was awesome! The only bad side that we found out later was that he dented the top tube of his 5-spot. On the flip side, at least we can prove he crashed!

So, after making it to the bottom of Los Piños, we found a secret water source, filled up our camelbacks and had a snack in the shade at the San Juan Trailhead. Some of us took our shoes off for some extra relief from the heat. After a quick 10-minute break, we started up San Juan Trail with Andy in the lead. Andy pushed a solid pace and after 2 miles or so in, we stopped for a quick snack and some shade. Steve was the next bonk candidate, but he (smartly) caught it early and inhaled some gel and an energy bar. It seemed it was getting hotter by the minute and I felt like my head was being cooked. Okay, so perhaps I'm being a little melodramatic, but it was freakin' hot and we had a long way to go. We moved on and three of us made the infamous, rocky left hand switchback, with hoots and hollers to prove it to each other. We continued on, getting baked (by the sun) along the way. Andy was still pushing a strong pace and I was the next to succumb to the heat. I let the others ride on while I crouched behind a small bush hoping to get some relief from what little shade the shrub could offer. I finished the rest of my Hostess Apple Pie hoping that Calvin's secret anti-bonk fuel would get me to our next stopping point. I chugged some water and continued on.

We regrouped and rode to Cocktail Rock. But, before reaching the rock, Steve practically jumped off his pedals in a loud yelp. After trying to figure out what his contorted face could possibly mean, we realized he had some serious quad cramps. Trust me, we have a picture of Steve looking like a chipmunk to prove the agony he was in. Good thing we always have the camera ready to help out our fellow comrades. A few Tums later, we were off again, with Andy continuing the pace. We rested up for about 2 minutes at Cocktail Rock then continued on to Blue Jay Campground. We had our one and only "aid station" waiting for us at Blue Jay, and we had an hour or so to get there before it left. We cruised through the meadow on the San Juan backloop and started climbing out to Blue Jay.

(On a personal note, this small section of trail, from the backloop meadow to Blue Jay, was a killer for me. I think I was beyond a bonk, in dire need of food, but no appetite to take anything I had down. I'll leave it at that, but I was grateful for the words of wisdom from my aged brethren, Andy, Steve, and Ned!)

We reached Blue Jay Campground and what an incredible sight! Keith Eckstein and Jim Simescu were waiting there with turkey sandwiches, Gatorade, chips, cookies, ice, and oranges. These guys were a Godsend and they will never know how grateful we were to see them... We were truly grateful for Keith and Jim and the life they instilled back in us. Keith was initially going to ride with us but unfortunately had to bail due to an injury earlier in the week. Keith offered to meet us with some sandwiches and Gatorade and we were all over that. Our initial plan was to drop a car off at the bottom of San Juan Trail with some supplies but we canceled on that after Keith's offer. You guys are money!

After spending 30-45 minutes cooling off, chatting with Keith and Jim, each eating a sandwich (complete with pickles), drinking a liter of Gatorade, eating a ton of chips, practically swallowing a whole orange and refilling our Camelbacks, we were off up the ever-so-daunting Main Divide stretch to Trabuco Trail. This was one of those sections that we wanted behind us. It sucks, and there's nothing more you can say about it. It's a fairly long, progressively steep, loose, and exposed fireroad with no other purpose than to get you to a worthy singletrack. Steve impressively rode the whole thing, shifting down to granny where he needed. Andy and I alternated riding and walking on the steep pitches... again, we had no interest in trying to ride the sections; we still had Bell Ridge ahead of us, which in itself is a ride. Although, being on a singlespeed, Andy had more of an excuse to walk than I did. But, my agenda was to recover from my earlier bonk, and it proved worthwhile not to push the limit. I was refueled and energized by the top. Ned pushed on behind us doing whatever he could to keep moving. Once Ned reached Trabuco Trail, it was obvious that it was Ned's turn to feel the bonk...

We all regrouped again at the top of Trabuco Trail. The last time we were at this point was about five or six hours ago. The bugs were still cruising around but we had lost all interest in swatting them and honestly forgot they were even there from time to time. Ned approached and immediately laid down, done. We gave Ned 15 minutes to regain some form of consciousness but it was not going to happen. Ned was done, feeling as I was on that meadow-to-Blue Jay stretch. I knew how he felt and we respected his decision to bail on Bell Ridge and finish the ride down Trabuco Trail to the cars. This in itself is an impressive ride for anyone, with the most difficult trails behind us. But it wasn't the D6... we'll give Ned props for the D5.

Andy, Steve and I continued on up to Los Piños Peak and started our way down Bell Ridge. Five minutes in, Steve had his third flat, the fourth for our group and last for the day. With all of our bonks now behind us, we had a phenomenal ride—cruising through the loamy sections, sailing on the loose rutty sections, and just enjoying some epic riding. Again, after a few weekends of Warrior trail events, this trail is in incredible condition with only a small stretch of overgrown brush. But for each of us, a backcountry, overgrown trail was an attractive trail. Upon reaching the big hike-a-bike, we threw our bikes on our backs and plodded up the trail. Poison oak sightings were everywhere, but we didn't care—nothing that a Technu bath can't relieve (knock on wood). We reached the top of the hike-a-bike and took a toll of how far we had come. Behind us was Trabuco, Piños, San Juan, the Main Divide and ahead of us were the rewarding downhill and rolling sections of Bell Ridge.

We felt we were flying, seemingly revived from a full day of riding and exposure in the hot sun. Climbing pretty much all of the remaining climbs and letting it go on the descents was an incredible feeling. Bell Ridge is a roller coaster of a ride...

The sun was starting to fall ahead of us and we had our first peek of "civilization" since we started. Our adrenaline jumped and we pushed on with the excitement that accomplishing our goal was near. We cruised over the loose, cobble sections and even took a final, steep trail detour that almost took us all out in the end. We finished by riding down a short, concrete storm drain to the pavement. We made it! After a few high fives and knuckle hits, we were on our way down the street to our cars. We made it to the cars at 6:48pm, which brought the ride duration to 11 hours and 40 minutes.

Although "D6" implies an all day ride, we never really thought it would take this long. But, add the 90+ degree exposure throughout the day and we were relieved we finished, let alone under 12 hours. After cleaning up a bit, we made a pit stop at the local Rite Aid for some Technu and we were off to the local sports bar. We sat down at the table and the waitress came up to us and told us how tired we all looked. No kidding. It was amazing, even after a full day ride and who knows how many calories burned, our appetites weren't what you'd think they would be. Andy and I could only finish one beer each... now that's saying a lot. We shared some stories from the day, both the high and low points, and left with smiles on our faces.

This was one of the most incredible rides I have been on. Of course, the trail choice was incredible to start with, but it goes beyond that. We had a group of riders get together with a common goal to finish what we thought was a truly epic ride, no matter what. The ride tested each other's wits and endurance, and it turned out to be one for the books. We're eager for the next adventure... hopefully it won't be another four years from now.

-Drew Lazenby

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