Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Steel Wüleur Chris Grenier- Father of the Yosemite Ride
The Gren as we call him is truly one in a million. This is a guy who never met a man he did not like (well,... there might be one out there). He has that rare ability to speak from the heart with utter conviction to anyone anywhere at anytime. Here is a story that proves it.
Chris always wanted to ride to Yosemite so on his 50th birthday (2006) he decided it was time. I got the phone call invite and was hooked on the idea. He promised Jess and I one night at the Ahwanhnee so it did not take much convincing on our part. The story takes place on Old Priest Grade so I have to preface you with the fact that this was not our intended route. Those of you that have ridden it know why. On the morning of day 2 while kited up in chamois we ate our powdered eggs, sugar cereal, and hotel sausage at the Holiday Inn in Turlock, we got the news that Highway 140 was closed due to a rock slide and Highway 120 via Groveland and Old Priest Grade was our only choice to enter the Valley.
As we approached Old Priest later in the day, I quickly recognized it as the up hill time trial coarse from the 1992 Gold Nugget Stage Race (check record books for GC winner). New Priest Grade was under construction so we were forced to tackle the old beast with temperatures in the high 90's. This climb makes Alba look like Larkin Valley. As we began our accent, Chris commented on the jugs of water in the lower turnouts. I told him that the urban legend was that CHP officers place those jugs for overheated vehicles on the 20 percent grade. We quickly settled in to our own rhythms and slowly lost view of each other. It felt like I was by myself for hours. About half way up the grade an old silver back CHP officer stopped me and asked, "son, what do you think your doing?". I told him, "I am riding to Yosemite". He said, "you folks are nuts, do you know how dangerous these roads are?". I told him we had to reroute due to the slide. Just before he drove off shaking his head at me, I asked him if he could check on my brother in law (Chris). I settled back in to the climb and forgot all about the Chippy. About 20 minuets later, the officer rolls up next to me rolls down his passenger window and said,"hey your brother in law is doing just fine, he does have a small cut to this elbow and knee but he is ok". I thanked him for going the extra mile for us and just before he drove away he said, "oh yea,..... your brother in law told me to pass a message along to you,...... he said to go fuck yourself!". I said, "copy that traffic Sir,and thanks again". He said, "no problem, there is food and water at the top." I knew right there that Chris was not just surviving this climb he was actually riding it.
For those of you who know Chris Grenier it is not hard to picture how that conversation went between them. Chris probably had a huge grin on his face and was loving life. I can practically hear him say, "hey chippy do me a favor....." Chris has this amazing ability to defuse anybody.
And thus was born the Grenier Yosemite Invitational ride - 6 years and counting. Needless to say we have not ridden Old Priest Grade since.