A few weeks ago, a friend of mine on Facebook mentioned that he was trying to ride from Central Point to Gold Hill, but he was deterred by the hills. This challenged me to try to find a way to ride to Gold Hill, that wasn’t hilly, if indeed there was any such route. I’ve spent most of this last year, riding south from Central Point to Ashland, and since the greenway is under construction, I’ve spent the summer exploring rides north of Central Point. I’m eventually working my way up to being able to ride to Grants Pass, but in the mean time, finding viable routes to points in between is definitely a priority.
Last March, the Significant Other (the SO) and I rode to Gold Hill via Old Stage Road. This is a challenging ride, because the hills, while short, are fairly steep. For the new cyclist who hasn’t learned how to use the bike’s gears adequately or who doesn’t quite have the legs for it, these hills can be challenging. On a hybrid or mountain bike which is usually heavier than a road bike, the weight on the climb can be killer. (The downhill side is pretty fun, though.)
I’ve ridden the route from Central Point to Gold Hill on Old Stage Road twice this year, and I find the hills to be very challenging, but not impossible for me. By this I mean, I don’t fly up the hills (I’m far to heavy for that), but I can make it up each of these hills without having to get off and walk. On a hot day, I might shift all the way to my lowest gear, but I can keep pedaling and make it up the hill without feeling like I’m going to die or vomit. If you are riding a road bike, you won’t work quite as hard getting up the hills. If your fitness level is better than mine (I’m not a super athlete by any means), then these hills will be a fun workout for you. If you’re new to cycling, you might want to build your endurance a bit before tackling them or give yourself permission to get off the bike and walk it up if you need to.
On my quest for a less taxing ride to Gold Hill, the SO and I set off last Sunday, via Blackwell Road. In order to get in some mileage we meandered around the country roads north of Central Point before getting on to Blackwell Road. Taking Upton Road, to Gibbon, to Downing and winding our way eventually to Kirtland Road proved to be a very nice ride with little road traffic and nice country views until we reached Kirtland. Kirtland does have a nice wide shoulder, so the traffic and trucks hauling by at breakneck speeds isn’t terribly intimidating.
At about mile 9 we started up what we now refer to as the Blackwell Road Hill of Death. This hill lasted for over a mile and while not terribly steep, it was steep enough and hot enough and long enough on this day to force us to stop just after mile 10. At that point, we weren’t even all the way to the top. This hill, however, was the only real challenge on the entire ride into Gold Hill.
After reaching Gold Hill, we didn’t have nearly enough mileage in to turn around and head home (we were aiming for a 40 mile ride), so we decided to ride north through Gold Hill and see where North River Road led. The main road through the center of Gold Hill turns into North River Road and eventually runs right into Rogue River, but we did not know this at the time. After leaving the little berg of Gold Hill (don’t blink), we found ourselves riding along some very nice country roads. We passed Del Rio Vineyards.
As we rode, we kept waiting for some big hill to present itself. Instead, we encountered lovely shady roads with serene views.
We were pleasantly surprised to have such a beautiful road all to ourselves almost the entire ride into Rogue River.
Once we reached Rogue River, we scouted around for a place to eat and have a beer. Leo’s BBQ, was the typical little hole-in-the-wall place inside the Double R Pub. It boasts surprisingly decent food for a reasonable price. I’m not a foodie by any means, but the SO raved about the burgers. I thought they were great, but I think all food is great. The most impressive thing about this place is that for a dive bar the bathrooms were immaculate. We don’t know Rogue River like we know Ashland, but for a 22 mile ride, with a place to chill before we turn around and come home, we’ll get to know it. That ride was delightful…after we conquered the Hill of Death.
On the return trip, we stopped for another water break in Gold Hill. It was in the 90’s and by this time we were at about mile 30 in our ride. Instead of heading back up the Hill of Death on Blackwell Road, the SO convinced me to take Old Stage Road back to Central Point. I had a feeling this was going to be worse than facing Blackwell Road, and I was right. Not one big long hill, but several met us on the return trip. We definitely had to stop and rest a couple times on the way back. Fortunately, the ride from Gold Hill to Central Point is shorter going Old Stage Road, but it’s not easier, especially not in the heat. Lesson learned, when in doubt, bring the CamelBak with bladder filled.
In all, we rode 40 miles on this ride. There were just enough hills to push us to exert ourselves and we were able to keep a quick pace on the level stretches without over exerting in the heat. I’m not sure this ride qualifies as a “route to Gold Hill without hills”, but it definitely qualifies as a great road ride with minimal traffic and just enough hills to make for a great workout.