S2: 300k SFR Russian River

The day before this brevet, I happened to be on my way into my local bike shop and glimpsed a Really Nice Bike leaning against the counter. I thought, “Wow, I wonder whose bike that is…,” looked up, and it was E Protorio! I rode with him on and off during the Lighthouse brevet, and after chatting a bit he said he’d be riding the 300k as well and was in the shop looking for a decaleur. I took care of my business there and we said “See ya tomorrow!”

I had a feeling when I saw him that this would be a great ride, and it was: for me, for Protorio, for many other riders I saw that day, and even for the club itself. There were around 120 riders, the biggest roster SFR has had for the 300k.

at check-in, with the Bridge looming overhead in the mist

at check-in, with the Bridge looming overhead in the mist

lots of us out riding today

lots of us out riding today

at the secret control, still quite misty

at the secret control, still quite misty

whew! at the secret control after holding the wheels of some of the speedier crew

whew! at the secret control after holding the wheels of some of the speedier crew

I did not take too many pictures for much of this ride, since I was desperately holding on to some of the faster group with Protorio, led by the Dixon tandem. This helped me make an early time goal to Petaluma. I didn’t waste time there, set out with Jack H, and caught up with another fast-ish group. I led the paceline… then got dumped by the paceline… and was on my own for a while. It was kind of nice to stop hammering anyway, and I enjoyed a peaceful stretch to the Healdsburg Safeway. Seeing many of the people I rode with in the morning still eating their lunch made me feel like I hadn’t lost too much time, and I didn’t want to eat a big meal. Some yogurt, iced tea and chips sufficed, and I filled out my card, slapped on some sunscreen, and was off again through the vineyards of Westside Road.

in bloom

in bloom

open sky toward Mount  Saint Helena

open sky toward Mount Saint Helena

lovely in the shade

lovely in the shade

At this point, I encountered Theresa, and we discussed cameras and photography. It was very nice to see her, and when we ran into Jack and his cohorts pulling out of the Guerneville Safeway, we developed a full-on paceline out to the coast.

P1000273 P1000274 P1000275 P1000277I let them go ahead of me on the climb after the mouth of the Russian River, since I knew that the pace would be too much for me. I enjoyed a lovely stretch of coastline southward to Bodega Bay and the next control: Diekmann’s General Store.

pretty view off the deck at Diekmann's

pretty view off the deck at Diekmann’s

we pause for a mouthful

we pause for a mouthful

When I’ve done this as a permanent in the past, I’ve enjoyed the pizza at Diekmann’s very much, so I was looking forward to having some again.Of course, they were out of pizza, but just like on the Lighthouse brevet this year, I discovered something better (breakfast burrito! eggs, potatoes, cheese, and bacon–perfect for long distance bike riding!) and kept moving.

At this control, I saw Jesse and French, who I have ridden with before. This was a terrific ride for seeing many of my rando-friends. Lots of great people out riding on this gorgeous day. And as it turned out, I kept making my time goals for the various controls throughout the ride! First time that has ever happened, really. I think it was the weather. Yes, the weather… (or the paceline after paceline I hopped on…) But I did hear of many people having a great day. And I finished fifteen minutes under my most optimistic goal. So weird. Another weird thing about the finish was running into Jesse and French again just before the Bridge! French really got jazzed once he got on the Bridge, and we all followed him, going FAST. I went over one of the seams in the pavement, and wouldn’t you know my cell phone popped out of my bag… unfortunately it did not drop into the water, but instead the very kind Jesse doubled back to look for it for me. Ah well, maybe next time.

My sweetheart John P was there working the finish and had brought me some special vittles on which to dine. I sat around eating and chatting with people for a while then finally had to make my way towards home. Part two of the SR series is complete. What a great day! I hope it doesn’t make me feel too full of myself as the hardest rides are yet to come.

Diversions on a theme, or, The 2014 Errandonnee

I’ve enjoyed reading the chasing mailboxes blog for a couple years now, and appreciate the light-hearted creative reinterpretations of randonneuring featured there such as the coffeeneuring challenge and the errandonnee. This year I finally decided to take the plunge and participate. I like the idea of the errandonnee since I have been commuting by bike my whole life. It’s nice to think that something so natural for me as going to the grocery store by bike might be something worth recording.

I initially wanted to give my errandonnee some kind of theme or use it as a way to show some of my favorite spots in San Francisco, but it turned out to be enough work just to record the rides. I’m not even totally sure I did it right, so hopefully the ride organizer doesn’t DNF me! It was a lot harder to fulfill the rules than I thought. Normally a randonee will have 3-5 controls, but this event has twelve! And…sigh. One thing about me is that my work studio and my living space share the same roof, and I’ve mostly structured my life so that my errands are a mile or less from this place. I typically walk to the grocery or the bike shop, two of the ten Errandonnee categories. The greatest challenge in doing the errandonnee would be to find a way to fulfill the thirty-mile requirement. Including the 186-mile brevet I did that just happened to fall within the time limit and my trip the next weekend up to Point Reyes Station, my total logged miles from March 7-19 were about 302.7, though I have to admit that my in-town errands only added up to 25.3 of them. Categories used were Bike Shop (twice), Lunch, Community Meeting (twice… I think), Dinner, Grocery Store (twice), Any other store (twice), Personal Care and Health (twice), Library, Work, and Wild Card.

On with the documentation! If I understood the rules correctly, there are three basic requirements: a total minimum mileage of 30, quantity of errands at twelve distributed somewhat evenly among ten categories plus a ‘wild card’ category, and photodocumentation of each errand. So, here are the errands I documented, their mileages, categories, and pictures of each, listed by date.

Ride 1: March 7, 2014

Box Dog Bikes; .8 miles round trip; Bike Shop category. I usually prefer to walk here, but it's fun to bike sometimes. This is my 'townie', an old Motobecane with peeling paint and several rebuilds under its bottom bracket... It's less theftworthy that way. Currently it's a fixed gear with hand-me-down fenders and a completely indexed headset that needs replacement. But what can I say, I've been riding this bike for so many years... and it is pretty low trail.

Box Dog Bikes; .8 miles round trip; Bike Shop category. I usually prefer to walk here, but it’s fun to bike sometimes. This is my ‘townie’, an old Motobecane with peeling paint and several rebuilds under its bottom bracket… It’s less theftworthy that way. Currently it’s a fixed gear with hand-me-down fenders and a completely indexed headset that needs replacement. But what can I say, I’ve been riding this bike for so many years… and it is pretty low trail.

Ride 2: March 8, 2014

Golden Gate Bridge Plaza, the start of the SFR 300k to Healdsburg. I am very fortunate to live in the city and be able to get to brevet starts without having to drive. 192 miles round trip, Personal care/health category

Golden Gate Bridge Plaza, the start of the SFR 300k to Healdsburg. I am very fortunate to live in the city and be able to get to brevet starts without having to drive. 192 miles round trip, Personal care/health category

Farmland out to the coast on the SFR 300k; typical Jack Moonbeam (neon landscape (neon green grass made possible by recent rains)

Farmland out to the coast on the SFR 300k; typical Jack Moonbeam neon landscape (neon green grass made possible by recent rains)

Ride 3: March 10, 2014

3 bookstores and a thrift store to clear some space in my studio; San Francisco Center for the Book to cut materials for a class I teach; Fed Ex Kinko's to make copies of articles for my students and forms for my business as a professional bookbinder and book conservator. Any store category and Work category; 5.7 miles total

3 bookstores and a thrift store to clear some space in my studio; San Francisco Center for the Book to cut materials for a class I teach; Fed Ex Kinko’s to make copies of articles for my students and forms for my business as a professional bookbinder and book conservator. Any store category and Work category; 5.7 miles total

San Francisco Center for the Book with their new Friends of the Urban Forest trees

San Francisco Center for the Book with their new Friends of the Urban Forest trees

fedex kinkos

fedex kinkos

on the way to fedex

on the way to fedex… SF is pretty ok

Ride 4: March 10, 2014

John's place; Dinner category; 5.2 miles round trip. Learning about my new digital camera, and its night scenery settings. I used my Lezyne USB rechargeable lights fore and aft. I also have a pair of terrific homemade reflective ankle bands that stick out a couple inches from my ankles like flags. The behavior of motorists around me is noticeably more respectful when I wear them.

John’s place; Dinner category; 5.2 miles round trip. Learning about my new digital camera, and its night scenery settings. I used my Lezyne USB rechargeable lights fore and aft. I also have a pair of terrific homemade reflective ankle bands that stick out a couple inches from my ankles like flags. The behavior of motorists around me is noticeably more respectful when I wear them.

San Francisco City Hall at night

San Francisco City Hall at night

Ride 5: March 15, 2014

Whale of a Deli and Black Mountain Cycles in Point Reyes Station, CA via Mount Tam and Bolinas Ridge Trail.Lunch and Bike Shop categories, 85.4 miles

Whale of a Deli and Black Mountain Cycles in Point Reyes Station, CA via Mount Tam and Bolinas Ridge Trail. Lunch and Bike Shop categories, 85.4 miles

Bolinas Ridge trail

Bolinas Ridge trail

Unfortunately I missed the open hours by about 25 minutes. But I did have a real errand as I lost a bolt from my toeclip on the way up.

Unfortunately I missed the open hours by about 25 minutes. But I did have a real errand as I lost a bolt from my toeclip on the way up.

I really raced back to town to avoid riding after twilight for too long. I was not riding my usual bike with the dyno hub and nice lights; I just had my townie lights. Luckily I made it back to Sausalito by twilight, and did not run out of battery power. I have USB rechargeable Lezyne lights fore and aft.

I really raced back to town to avoid riding after twilight for too long. I was not riding my usual bike with the dyno hub and nice lights; I just had my townie lights. Luckily I made it back to Sausalito by twilight, and did not run out of battery power. I have USB rechargeable Lezyne lights fore and aft.

Ride 6: March 17, 2014

Mission Community acupuncture, then San Francisco Public Library. 4.2 miles, Personal care and Library categories. I like how in San Francisco it's assumed you can bring your bike inside with you.

Mission Community acupuncture, then San Francisco Public Library. 4.2 miles, Personal care and Library categories. I like how in San Francisco it’s assumed you can bring your bike inside with you.

Current SFPL display with a child's bathing suit from the old Sutro Baths. I have a giant architectural drawing of the interior of this building, which burned down in the sixties but was a great public bath when it was around.

Current SFPL display with a child’s bathing suit from the old Sutro Baths. I have a giant architectural drawing of the interior of this building, which burned down in the sixties but was a great public bath when it was around.

Ride 7: March 17, 2014

Rainbow Grocery, San Francisco Center for the Book, and Ladybones Print Collective. Grocery, Work, and Community Meeting categories; 3.8 miles. Rainbow is a cooperatively owned grocery near where I live. I usually just walk there, but since I had some other errands that were longer, I rode. Rainbow is located on Folsom Street, where one of probably the longest continuous bike lanes in the city is now located.

Rainbow Grocery, San Francisco Center for the Book, and Ladybones Print Collective. Grocery, Work, and Community Meeting categories; 3.8 miles. Rainbow is a cooperatively owned grocery near where I live. I usually just walk there, but since I had some other errands that were longer, I rode. Rainbow is located on Folsom Street, where one of probably the longest continuous bike lanes in the city is now located.

My friends printing, sewing (though not at the moment), and making books at the Ladybones Print Collective Community Night. We hang out, enjoy a beverage, offer suggestions on each others' print and other projects, and kvetch etc.

My friends printing, sewing (though not at the moment), and making books at the Ladybones Print Collective Community Night. We hang out, enjoy a beverage, offer suggestions on each others’ print and other projects, and kvetch etc.

Ride 8: March 18, 2014

Dr. Sketchys, a life-drawing group held twice a month at the great utilitarian space operated by Chicken John. I work the door, so I'm not sure if this is Work or Community Meeting... In the foreground wearing dark grey is the lovely Miss Alice Stribling, who rides Big Miles. 3 miles, Work or Community Meeting category

Dr. Sketchys, a life-drawing group held twice a month at the great utilitarian space operated by Chicken John. I work the door, so I’m not sure if this is Work or Community Meeting… In the foreground wearing dark grey is the lovely Miss Alice Stribling, who rides Big Miles. 3 miles, Work or Community Meeting category

Ride 9: March 19, 2014

Last day of Errandonnee 2014! Woo hoo! I head over to Petco to pick up some cat food, then go to the grocery for some people food. I walk home from the grocery because Mission Street is just inappropriate for bikes and it's too close to home to bother finding a way around. Wild Card and grocery store categories, 1.8 miles

Last day of Errandonnee 2014! Woo hoo! I head over to Petco to pick up some cat food, then go to the grocery for some people food. I walk home from the grocery because Mission Street is just inappropriate for bikes and it’s too close to home to bother finding a way around. Wild Card and grocery store categories, 1.8 miles

Finale... I grab some fresh tofu and chamorro de res and head home à pied.

Finale… I grab some fresh tofu and chamorro de res and head home à pied.

Workers’ Ride: Two Rock/Valley Ford 200k

I had not originally intended to ride this brevet. After two years of R12s, I wanted to break the chain and focus on my first SR series, and ultimately the Santa Cruz 1000k this summer. But since I would be Volunteer Coordinator for this event, and I invited my friends to volunteer, a bunch of us ended up riding together. In the end, I am really glad I did the ride. I had always been a bit scared of workers’ rides–even though I have become a serial volunteer, I never did a workers’ ride. People who work finish controls have often been the more experienced (read: faster) randonneurs. If there’s one thing I do not enjoy on a brevet, it is struggling to keep up, so I generally stay with the brevet and ride my own pace. Lately, there have been some no-drop workers’ rides that have functioned more like a team ride, with everyone staying together regardless of pace. That is how we did this one, lucky me! It was very sweet of Mike T-G to offer to hold back from his usual rapid pace and wait for us on the longer climbs of this route. He brought his camera along and took some great shots of the beautiful landscape along the way. Mike has an awesome bike with a relatively light setup, so when it would start raining, he didn’t have anywhere to put his camera to keep it from getting wet. But no worries: we orchestrated a couple mid-ride camera pass-offs so I could stow it in my handlebar bag for him. Ah, friendonneuring!

Starting out, it is warm and misty

Starting out, it is warm and misty -photo swiped from Mike

cardamommmm knot

cardamommmm knot -photo swiped from Mike

espressooohhh woah

espressooohhh woah -photo swiped from Mike

coffee stop in San Anselmo = best thing about a workers' ride!

coffee stop in San Anselmo = best thing about a workers’ ride! -photo swiped from Mike

funnn! Thanks Mike for the picture

funnn!
Thanks Mike for the pictures!

The Two Rock route is flatter than most of the SFR routes, and much of it traverses well-known territory for SFR regulars. According to the comments on the SFR google group in the week leading up to the brevet, it has become a bit like a populaire in that seasoned riders look for additional ways to make the ride harder, just to make it interesting. One group decided to take an extra detour to Sebastopol in order to visit a gallery show by one of our members. As for me, I was aiming just to practice riding on the roads that make up some of the longer rides later in the season. This route shares sections with the 300k, the 400k, and the 600k, though not necessarily in the same direction. Not to be a total randonnerd, but it is a great feeling when wrapping up a long ride to come to a section you’ve ridden many times before. Fatigue becomes Familiarity… and that means Finish! So even though this ride is not going to count toward my SR series, it will help me with it.

One other perk that happened on this ride was I met a Girl Scout who recognized my Girl Scout pin that I keep on my handlebar bag! That was fun, and the second time that has happened on a ride. She was with her parents in the Petaluma Peet’s Coffee, our first control. I didn’t stop to talk to her for too long since we had to stay on the move, but I am always amazed anyone sees that pin since it’s kind of hidden. I got so much out of being a Girl Scout and am so thrilled to see young gals still interested in it.

Something that got me thinking while riding through the farms of Marin and Sonoma Counties was the signs you see by the roadside stating, “PROTECTED AS FARMLAND FOREVER”. What do they mean, protected by whom and from what, etc. When I got home, I looked into it just a little and found MALT. Lately there has been so much discussion about the cost of living and price of real estate in our lovely little town of San Francisco… Imagine if real estate developers had their way and divided up all the historic family farms of Marin County into gated communities or suburbs like the old proposed Marincello.

MALT_MAP_small_2013_June

Cycling would not be so fun anymore if Marincello were a town and not a trail. We are so fortunate in the bay area to have so much protected land to enjoy, and yet, it doesn’t come purely through luck. Some find the Two Rock route boring, and it’s true that it doesn’t have the challenges other routes have, but it’s still a good day out on the bike. Compared with the endless roving suburbo-power-grid of places like Chicago (where I used to live), it’s really nothing to complain about.

pretty farmland toward Petaluma

pretty farmland toward Petaluma, once again Mike’s picture

windmill

windmill -thanks again Mike for the picture

sheeps near Petaluma

sheeps near Petaluma

more sheep near Valley Ford

more sheep near Valley Ford

Taking a breather in Valley Ford

Taking a breather in Valley Ford…another great phot from Mike

Misty day along CA-1

Misty day along CA-1

We love the Marshall Store

We love the Marshall Store… taken by Ely

Unfortunately we did not all make it to the finish of the route. Ely had to call it quits as we got back toward Sir Francis Drake due to a reaction to some medication he’d been given for a bad case of poison oak. I was pretty worried about him, but we helped him find a way to a bus going back to San Francisco from Lagunitas. While he waited at the little grocery store there, he had some of their homemade beef stew, which he said was “bomber”. I worried about him getting home safely throughout the rest of my ride, but it turned out the bus he took was comfy and direct.

Mike, Jesse, and I continued on toward Fairfax and home. The heavy mist gave way to drizzle, but it never fully rained. The moisture in the air made everything seem more peaceful. I pushed hard to keep up, and only asked once for them to slow down (at least, that’s how I remember it!). We made decent time back to San Francisco where the rain had vanished, and in its place, my boyfriend appeared, eager to meet us for a beer at Rogue. Jesse ditched us, but Mike, John and I had a couple beers and gobbled down some food together. Another brevet in the bag, another rainy ride to make me feel more comfortable with riding in the rain. I almost like it now.

IMG_3744

S1: 200K, Point Reyes Light House

Back for more to the wild seashore

Back for more to the king of seashores

From identifying my rides with the code “R” and the number in whatever R-12 I am doing, I have now graduated to the next letter of the alphabet and the next level of randonneuring accomplishment: S for Super, as in Super Randonneur Award. I also considered identifying the rides this year in terms of what installment of the Qualifying rides for the Santa Cruz 1000K, but I don’t want to go backwards alphabetically, so Super it is.

My sweetheart did this brevet as a Workers’ Ride on the same day as the rainy Populaire this year, and pretty much got dumped on as soon as they passed the sign in the picture above. He said they did not have too much traffic, but there was also a nasty headwind from Point Reyes Station to the turnaround in Marshall, California. My ride was exactly the opposite: the weather was delightfully clear, with temps low enough not to feel overheated or sweaty, and calm wind even on the way to Marshall, which is rare. Car traffic was heavy on this beautiful day, with everyone deciding to visit our national seashore and escape/recreate their own personal rat race by flooring it on scenic country roads and punishingly passing, honking at, or tailgating any violator of their own idea of the low end of the speed limit.

But anyway… did I mention the cows? One day, many lifetimes from now, if I’m reeeeeally good, I will be reincarnated as a Point Reyes cow. These cows have the shaggiest, glossiest coats of any cows I’ve ever seen. Here again, as I do every year, I will share with you some of my favorites. I did not take as many cow pictures this year–there were some beautiful brown Jerseys I wish I had photographed.

Has it been a whole year since I last saw this cow?

Has it been a whole year since I last saw you, baby?

Thistles and wildflowers are dry; the ocean waves are loud!

Thistles and wildflowers are dry; the ocean waves are loud!

I started off the morning by volunteering at rider check-in, something you can do even if you’re planning to ride. I love to volunteer because I get to have a reason to put on my cheerful morning face for everybody. I love to see how smiling at people makes them smile too. In truth I am so ready to get this brevet season started; I haven’t ridden a 200k for almost two months, and it is time for me to get back on my bike, and not just for a fun social ride.

This is an easy ride to have time goals since there are only two controls. I think my first year on this ride I got to the lighthouse at 11:49 or so (it rained in the late morning then); this year I made it by a cool 11:14. I had a big grin on my face upon checking in with the SFR luminary Bruce Berg and didn’t stay too long.

me n the raging surf

me, my new design SFR jersey, n the raging surf

Esteban and I leave the control together and are able to chat for just a bit and admire more cows. As we head back, we encounter a peculiar figure in green, howling down a descent and taking our picture. Esteban is nursing a slight hangover from pre-brevet festivities, and I am feeling an overwhelming yen for Marshall Store chowder, so I pull on ahead through the climb and descent to Inverness, back along the bay to Point Reyes Station, and Highway One to Marshall.

As I mentioned, there was little to no wind on the way to Marshall, so I got there in record time (for me), too. When I got there, I saw the two volunteers staffing the control–a new feature for this year, and thank goodness. Normally the Marshall Store clerk stamps our cards, but with the beauty of the day, the line even in remote Marshall, California for oysters and clam chowder was formidable. It’s also nice to have a choice of eating (the mindblowing chowder & ginger beer, yahoo!) at the Marshall Store or having more food choices in Point Reyes Station, though for me there is no question. I rarely get up to Marshall, so I eat there. While in line in the Marshall Store I chat with my fellow lineholders about bicycling and traffic and one lady comments that people honk at her if she slows down to wait for a safe place in the road to pass cyclists. I try to stay on the positive side with this complete stranger and say what a beautiful day it is to ride out to the Lighthouse, and she changes the subject to the fact that she’s been staying at the hostel in Point Reyes and how much she loves it there. The guy next to her in line is impressed with the bike riding and asks more about our route. The two elderly ladies ahead of me in line take the last of the chowder, causing some consternation, but I smell something better. After a thorough huckabuck, they move toward the cashier and I step up to the steam table to ladel out the only solid food I will eat all day, something I have not yet tried… FISH STEW! Wow. I take my portion and my ginger beer and a seat at a table with fellow rando Heath Allen, and we both bask in the glow of the really good stuff. The great thing about the stew and chowder is the self-serve aspect as you can get back on the road much faster than if you have to wait for the kitchen to make you a sandwich.

So… that’s what I did. I chatted a bit with Brian O., and then geared up for the return trip. Time and wind direction were on my side, and I found Esteban again along Highway One.

Pelicans of a feather flock together

Pelicans of a feather flock together

We rode together for a little while again, but I was in a hurry to get back home where my sweetie would be at the finish control to greet me. Up and over the final five climbs I went: Point Reyes-Petaluma to the Nicasio Reservoir (so dry this year you can now walk across much of it),

Was: Reservoir. Is: Soccer Field?

Was: Reservoir. Is: Soccer Field?

Nicasio Valley Road, White’s Hill, Camino Alto and Sausalito Lateral. I had been hoping to finish the ride this year in ten and a half hours, and thanks to the spotless weather, good company, fish stew, and new SFR jersey, I did. It sure would be nice if the rest of the rides of this series go as smoothly as this one. I did have one mini-mechanical: I heard one of my fender bolts working its way loose on the way into Inverness, and I stopped and had to flip my bike over and remove the rear wheel to tighten it. I did not see any way I would make it over five cattle grates and all the ups and downs of Sir Francis Drake out to the Lighthouse without losing the bolt if I didn’t tighten it, so I did. But that was pretty much it.

Hanging out at the finish control this year was a lot of fun. John was volunteering, so he flitted around in an official way and I didn’t get to hang out with him too much, but I did get to chat with some friends old and new. Steffan P. and I realized we both rode our first brevet on the Point Reyes Light House route two years ago! And it was great to see Brian O. and his new 650b Pelican. John got to sell some of his bike pieces and parts and some of the mudflaps we made together on Christmas Day.

Thanks again to Rob, all the volunteers–especially those who staff the remote controls like the Lighthouse and the Marshall Store, and to all the other riders who populate these rides and make each brevet a special and unique experience.

R12: Girls’ Ride!

Andrea S and I hatched our plan to ride together on the Davis Dart in November, and decided to follow through with it on the first day of December. I had a heavy workload leading up to the end of 2013, and knew I would not want to worry about squeezing in a ride. Moreover, the weather had been very kind lately, and we did not want to chance our December ride to the (supposedly) rainy season. Last year, both of us had to suffer through rainy, chilly rides for our December R-12 installments.

We also had a sort of tacit agreement we would not invite our boyfriends, and instead have a nice social ride, maybe gossip a little, but mainly just enjoy a relaxing girls-only ride. We picked the San Franciscadero route, not necessarily the most relaxing choice with about 8500 feet of elevation gain, but a scenic route nonetheless. Andrea is a much stronger and more experienced rider than I, but she was nice enough to slow down a bit for me in parts. It was great to get to know Andrea a little better. We had fantastic weather too, as you will see from the pictures to follow. Thanks Andrea for such a lovely day to wind down both of our R-12s, and thanks once again to permanent owner Mark Gunther for processing our cards and stuff.

Ocean Beach (s)miles

Ocean Beach (s)miles

New glasses from JP

New glasses from JP

wheeee

wheeee

fisherman

fisherman

Andrea said the moss grows where there is lots of oxygen... Stage Road

Andrea said the moss grows where there is lots of oxygen… Stage Road

Gazos Creek Road is always gorgeous

Gazos Creek Road is always gorgeous

Eyes like a hawk near Gazos Creek Store

Eyes like a hawk near Gazos Creek Store

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Pelicans covering a rock

Pelicans covering a rock

pretty light

pretty light

view at the top

view mid-way

still climbing

still climbing

beautiful summer... er, December weather

beautiful summer… er, December weather

still smiling

still smiling

more typical and majestic sweeping views

more typical and majestic sweeping views

IMG_3463

Getting back toward town

Getting back toward town

Getting close to home, big smile for a nice healthy chunk of a ride

Getting close to home, big smile for a nice healthy chunk of a ride

Another R-12 in the bag… Time to stop and ponder the riding I have done over the past two years of being a RUSA member, and the people I’ve met, the rock formations and forests I’ve ridden through, the cows, sheep, goats, strawberries, and artichokes I’ve seen in fields far and near. Some of the riding I’ve done off the RUSA books has had a deep and lasting effect on me, though the structure of riding brevets and permanents forces a sense of discipline as well. I wonder at how much I’ve learned about bike parts, supple tires (still on Paselas though! ha ha), sport shake ingredients, non-cleat cycling shoes, handling my bike through high-speed descents without spinning out, finding the perfect chamois, and of course, how many miles will I carry that Clif Bar in my handlebar bag without ever even considering eating it. I ponder the rider I was on my first brevet two years ago, and how far I’ve ridden in that time (almost 9000 miles by my bike’s odometer). It sure has gone by fast! Next year I’m raising the bar to do my first 600k, which I’m sure will be a whole new learning experience. Although I am nervous about it to some extent, I do feel a lot more confident now than when I first started. I’m grateful for all the time I get to spend riding, and still never take it for granted. Looking forward to next year… another mile marker for mmmmbike!

R11: Delta Beach Patrol

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Twilight on the delta

California’s landscape continues to amaze me. As soon as I think California is one way or another, I see something else that completely turns me upside down. In early November I went to San Diego, and flew over the length of the coastline in the afternoon. I saw the Monterey Peninsula and the Central Coast mountains from the air. Even seeing Los Angeles that way was a total surprise. I began to feel that I could live out the entire remainder of my years never leaving California and yet always seeing new things.

One thing I’d been missing this past fall, though, was the fall colors that other areas of the country enjoy. For whatever reason, we don’t seem to get them too much in San Francisco–maybe due to greater density of coniferous trees? Eucalyptus don’t turn colors either.

Another thing I began to wonder about was whether I would ever see anything flat again. Sure there are valleys here, but mountains still loom within view. Hill, mountain, ridge, rise, peak, roller, cliff, valley, lowland, etc here are like the Sami peoples’ 180 different words for snow/ice. Maybe I was still thinking back to Old Caz, but flat bike riding was becoming a hazy, distant reflection of a memory.

Both of these concerns were answered by our route for the Davis Bike Club Dart 200k team ride. Riding through the deltas of Solano county, we saw beautiful fall colors on the deciduous trees and enjoyed flat flat flat miles across levee roads lining old local waterways. We saw lots of cool old ferries and bridges in use, and we even got to ride on a modern ferry. Many thanks to my cool boyfriend for coming up with a route that provided some balance to my year in randonneuring!

The first part of our ride did include the requisite bay area ridiculously steep climbing, just to make sure we didn’t feel too let down by a perfectly pleasant, flat ride with delightful weather.

bumpy ruts

bumpy ruts

this was not the hard part... though I did walk it anyway

this was not the hard part… though I did walk it anyway

nice view

nice view though

oak trees and good friends

oak trees and good friends

wide view

taking the long view of things

On the (new) Rivet, Andrea is pleased

On the (new) Rivet, Andrea is pleased

This was not the hard part either, though I walked here also... didn't get a good start on it

This was not the hard part either, though I walked here also… didn’t get a good start on it

We love a good doggie

We love a good doggie

Rose Hill Cemetery contains the remains of old coal miners

Rose Hill Cemetery contains the remains of old coal miners

You...!

You…!

This was through the Black Diamond Mine Regional Preserve, part of the East Bay Regional Park District. We passed a few hikers and a couple bikers on the trails there, which were deeply rutted in spots. The combination of the ruts and the pitch of the trail was a bit too much for me, not to mention my lack of prior route study, and so I dismounted for a short stretch. I had slept quite badly the night before–was that the night I got food poisoning from the Yemeni restaurant near John’s place? It might have been… Anyway, after walking a short stretch and topping off that little climb, the serious climbing began. The part after the dirt trail led into a paved trail was particularly memorable. I think we all walked for at least a part of that and got about half an hour behind schedule. The ruts on the trail going downhill felt pretty hard on my true blue bike (as always, with fenders), but it held together well. I wish I had gotten more sleep the night before, or pre-rode this part of our route to get a little practice, because it sure was pretty, and nothing like I had ever ridden on before. I would like to go back and ride it again.

Because of the rules governing randonneuring team rides, we were able to cut our losses and take a short cut out of the Black Diamond trail without losing credit for the ride. On our way out of the park we passed by a goatherd and his dog, and an isolated, very old cemetery from the days when this land was a coal mine. I’m so glad it’s not a coal mine anymore. Let’s say it together: “PUBLIC LANDS RULE.”

food

Yum! photo swiped from bonkifyoudontknowvelocio.wordpress.com without asking

Not too long after Black Diamonds is our lunch control. It is a Vietnamese family restaurant in a strip mall in Brentwood. Nothing fancy, but the ladies inside see us piling up our bikes outside and insist that we bring them into the restaurant while we dine. The food is wonderful. I got “salted lemonade” to drink, a taste explosion I may never experience again, but it was perfect mid-ride. Mmmm, that whole meal was delightful and the people working there were sooo friendly despite the inhospitable suburban drabscape outside. Good captain that he is, John filled all our water bottles while we cleaned up and he and Carlos attended to Andrea’s rear brake which was dragging on her wheel all through Black Diamonds. Yeow.

We passed over the Antioch bridge without incident though it scared the crap out of me to be so close to fast-moving traffic, and then we got to The Flat Section, which was pretty much the rest of the ride to Davis.

Flat! Whuut?

Flat! Whuut?

A Happy cyclist is a non-serious cyclist

A Happy cyclist is a non-serious cyclist

Nice old bridge, Carlos's new Magnic lights in effect

Nice old bridge, Carlos’s new Magnic lights in effect

We really scooted through lots of gorgeous scenic farmland and wineries. I found my second (tail)wind and got accused of being a Serious Cyclist… Andrea and I rode up front to devise a plan for our December R-12 installment, and that allowed Carlos and John to engage in guy-talk at the back for a while. We regroup, and John slyly shares with us that “Carlos doesn’t want us to know, but he is royalty…” I will remember this time as some of the most fun riding I’ve had all year: humming along in perfect weather, enjoying good company who is all happy to be there. What a privilege it is to do these rides; once again I feel like the luckiest person on the planet.

Approaching Sacramento, the roads become more like highways, and we go through a town with a city limit sign that John wins pretty easily. I start to switch on my city-limit-sign radar and notice a giant water tower ahead that says Sacramento. I see the Sac sign up ahead, though it is far. Too far for a lead-out? I have lost these sprints in the past trying to lead John out for too long, but this time I think I have the energy for it. I quietly downshift a bit, but John sniffs my resolve and speeds up. I match his pace and keep my eyes on his front wheel. I pedal harder and don’t let up. I pull ahead just enough to take Sacramento!!! Yessss!

Insert victory song here

Insert victory song here

Sacramento Food Co-Op, we love you!

Sacramento Food Co-Op, we love you!

Captain is happy

Captain is happy

After the food co-op where I had a fantastic turkey sandwich and John had an excellent chicken soup, we rode the short distance to Davis, part of it on the bike path next to the highway: weird, but if you need to go that way by bike, it’s nice to have that there. We saw another team along the way, we stalled a bit at a gas station in order not to arrive early, and finally arrived at Sudwerk. After some brave struggles the nature of which only a randonneur would be able to endure, we got our food and beer. With the rest of the group we hopped on the Amtrak train back to San Francisco, sitting with Angela and Steffan and their team. It was great to hear their stories from a route crafted with the purpose of visiting four swimming holes along the way, with two people who had never randonneur’d before! So cool!

Thank you, Davis Bike Club for sponsoring and spurring our adventures. Thank you team Delta Beach Patrol. And thanks to my sweetheart for the quality miles; I wish many happy returns for us both.

R10: Old Cazadero 300K

IMG_3173

My general goal in doing an R-12 this year was to maintain discipline and keep in shape in order to work up to a full Super Randonneur series (one each of a 200k, 300k, 400k, and 600k, all ACP-sanctioned brevets) in 2014. After riding the 400k this year, I knew that simply riding 200ks each month would not be enough to make me ready for a 600k next year, so I wanted to do something longer this fall. But when John suggested we do the Old Caz 300k permanent, I was not so sure it would be a good idea. Max, the route owner, says of this ride that one should add 30% to one’s average finishing time on the regular SFR 300k in order to get an idea of what to anticipate on Old Caz. That would put me outside the time limit by almost an hour. So, I started jogging again a few weeks before we planned to ride, and established a routine of stretching exercises in the morning. I also took care of groceries, etc. to make sure I had no reason to skip meals like I sometimes do when I’m hard at work. I also did some research on the route to see if I could figure out some goals to set for myself as far as timing for each control (ha! I am pretty naive). In studying the Old Caz route, I compared finishing times (according to the SFR website) among a sample of ten riders who finished the SFR Russian River 300k this year and the Old Cazadero 300k. John P’s results had the least variation: 15%. The greatest variation among finishers was an increase of 40%.

Old Caz is a challenging route by all accounts. There are several grinding climbs, and yet, the rewards are great: lots of natural beauty, and country roads empty of traffic. There are some dirt sections, rough pavement, and even a stream crossing. I have read numerous discussions on the SFR list about the appropriate tire size, gear etc for a ride of this nature, but I stuck to the usual plain old 700C Pelican with the same 32mm Panaracer Pasela tires I always ride. Mr. Potis rode his old standby red custom 650B Pelican.

Chileno Valley was still in the morning... We had perfectly clear weather the entire day: no clouds to obscure each and every beautiful view available

Chileno Valley was still in the morning… We had perfectly clear weather the entire day: no clouds to obscure each and every beautiful view available. Unfortunately, there was little time to stop and take lots of pictures; we needed to stay on the move to finish within the time limit.

I haven’t yet figured out what exactly makes one route more difficult than another. Some routes have similar amounts of elevation gain, but one seems much harder than another. There are several blog entries with ride reports on Old Caz, and most of them scared me into keeping up my training routine. Of course, the one that echoed through the vast caverns of my vacant mind as I rode Old Caz was this. For the most succinct and accurate description of the Old Caz route, I look to the route owner himself, here.  Most SFR brevets and permanents will have at least one or two mean climbs over a 200k, and most of the standard brevet routes try to keep us away from trafficky highways as much as possible. But Old Caz is part of the SFR Adventure Series: a group of brevets that have more strenuous routes, go to more remote places, and (wait for it…) No Safeway Controls!!!!!

I always thought the Adventure Series would be something nice to do after finishing PBP a few times. As exciting as PBP is, I’m sure there’s a certain segment of the randonneuring population that needs a new horizon. In fact, there are brave and noble randonneurs in my area who have accomplished multiple 1200ks in one year, and continue to ride afterwards, too. I have not even attempted a 600k, so what am I thinking in trying any of the Adventure Series rides? Just blind ambition, I guess. It was also very nice that John invited me to join him, and that he believed I would be able to complete the ride. I trained as hard as I could in the short time available to prove him right.

Any time I ride a route that is unfamiliar to me, it’s a bit of a gamble. I worry about getting lost, but more importantly, it’s difficult to pace oneself when you don’t know what to expect. Difficult sections are made easier for me by knowing when they’ll be over. I can eat extra food and know it will digest before a tough climb if I give myself at least 20-30 minutes. If I run out of energy in the middle of a climb, I usually just give myself indigestion by eating in the middle of it. I prepared as much as I thought possible for this one, and then, I had to resign myself to the adventure.

To pace myself, I printed out the elevation profile in addition to the cue sheet

To pace myself, I printed out the elevation profile in addition to the cue sheet

I thought it would be a great idea to carry extra water along in a platypus bladder like I use when camping, but the sealant loosened while inside my handlebar bag and turned John’s lovely Alps bag on loan to me into a little swimming pool for all my stuff. In case you ever doubt the waterproofing of plain cotton canvas duck, I’m here to tell you it holds water, yes it does. In feeling that I was packing too much stuff, I left my wool mittens at home, a decision I regretted deeply later on.

But a lot of things went right on this ride, long, slow slog that it was. Most of the controls for the Adventure Series routes are info controls–you have to answer a question about an intersection or a street sign to prove you didn’t take a shortcut. Info controls, hallelujah, are not timed, so you have a bit more leeway in your pacing. Receipt controls are timed. Jenner is a receipt control on this route which happens to follow the two main climbs: Fort Ross and Old Caz. I had been pretty sure throughout those two climbs that we wouldn’t make the Jenner control in time, but tried to keep the pace constant anyway. When we arrived in Jenner well before close, I was shocked. The next timed control was Point Reyes Station, another control I was pretty sure would cause a DNF for us, but we made that one too. I don’t think John has ever ridden this route so slowly; in the end, we finished the ride with 45 minutes still on the clock. I am currently the record-holder for the slowest finisher on this course at twenty hours and one minute. John and I kept joking throughout the ride that if we DNF’ed, I would have to do the Jittery Jaunt permanent to fulfill the October installment of my R-12… so, at least there was no Jittery Jaunt for me.

Doing this ride in October meant there would be less daylight for us while riding. Some of the later hours were the most memorable for me, such as riding around Bolinas Lagoon in the dark, and the climb out of Stinson Beach. The only sound was the surf hitting the shore, so incredibly peaceful. Motorists at that hour were more likely to be locals and gave us a wide berth on the road. Riding our usual rando bikes meant we had our nice, bright lights and of course we always wear good reflective gear.

In the final analysis, I am so glad to have done this ride, and so grateful for a patient and generous riding companion like Mr. P. When my Platypus broke open, he offered to carry a couple of my things to take some weight off during the Old Caz climb, and although we rode more at my pace than his, he never complained. I think I have finally convinced him that he is a much stronger rider than I, a point I’ve been arguing for some time now unsuccessfully, so I’m glad we’ve put that to rest.

Thank you, my friend, for a long and beautiful day on the bike

Thank you, my friend, for a long and beautiful day on the bike

I am also grateful to Max, the creator of the Adventure Series rides. To some he is a sadist, to some an evil genius; to me he just seems like a guy with an extraordinary aptitude for endurance sports who wants to enjoy greener pastures than those of the typical (though also, it must be said, not too shabby) SFR routes. To enjoy the beautiful, sweeping views, you must work for them. Being at the top of Fort Ross and looking over the coast toward Jenner and Point Reyes Seashore was like being in an airplane. Only at the top, looking down over the coastline, did I realize what I had just been doing for the past few hours.  It’s a very tangible feeling of accomplishment. At that point I also realized there is no way to fully prepare for an experience like that; you can only do the ride, and hopefully keep doing rides like it. So… ’til next time, Old Caz.