S4: Fort Bragg 600k

Sorry for the long absence. This entry has taken me a long time to write. Writing my bike blog has had to take a back seat on the loong Xtracycle of my life already full of work and bicycling stuff. This being my first 600k ride, it has taken me longer to think about how I want to record it. To release you all from the suspense I will come right out and report that yes, I finished with over two hours to spare (the results have already been posted to the SFR website for some time now anyway!).

feeling adequately rewarded

feeling adequately rewarded

But as we all know, there is much more to a ride report than the binary fact of finish/did not finish, so for the really important stuff, read on… (and I will try to keep it brief with lots of pictures!)

This ride did not have an auspicious beginning. Though I got a solid night’s snooze time and got out the door more or less on schedule that morning, I discovered several blocks from my house that I had left sans bidons–without my water bottles! Put in the embarrassing phone call to Rando 411 (day of ride contact) to relay to the start control volunteers that I would arrive after the official start of the ride, then head back to pick up these essential items. Once I finally reached the bridge, Volunteer Roland tested my lights and approved my (improved) reflective vest, and Volunteer Kimber handed me my card. With smiles and waves, they shooed me off over the bridge and there I went.

a demain, pont de la porte d'or!

a demain, pont de la porte d’or!

I was too busy trying to catch up to the others to be nervous, and luckily before long I did begin to see other randos. I passed a few at the roadside on Camino Alto, the first big climb; going through Samuel P. Taylor park I encountered one of those again as Brian C, and he said he had broken his chain and Todd T stopped to help him fix it. Brian and I rode together all the way to Point Reyes Station, the first control, where I saw several others of my kith. Still feeling slightly behind schedule, I made my purchase as quickly as possible and took off for Petaluma.

mmmmorning!

mmmmorning…the day opens

On the way to Petaluma, I began to enjoy the ride and feel my pace. The 600k is a route comprising sections of all the previous rides of the season, adding an out-and-back from Cloverdale to Fort Bragg. On this familiar stretch to Petaluma, I experienced a powerful feeling that the two 200ks, the 300k, and the 400k were all leading up to this one monumental ride. I was able to finish all of the others, and rode with wonderful people each time. I began to feel that whatever happened on this ride, it would be all part of the wonderful adventure.

When I arrived in Petaluma, I was already feeling the effects of the strong wind that day. There were several other randos I knew milling about in front of the Safeway, and hoped I might be able to leave with a group. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it happen. I got totally disoriented in the Petaluma version of this ubiquitous store that is a central feature, though in varied iterations, on all SFR rides, and couldn’t find the yogurt or the bathrooms. I also thought I would be eating a huge meal or something, and bought way too many items. When I got outside, I saw a group leaving, but wasn’t ready to go. Such is the result when too much time is taken at controls! I knew the consequences could be dire. The wind was just awful that day, and riding alone in it can really sap one’s energy. So I sorted out what I needed to do and saddled up ASAP with the aim of catching up with them. One important lesson randonneuring has taught me is to never give up!

just me all the way to Santa Rosa

just me all the way to Santa Rosa

I always end up solo for this windy stretch

I always end up solo for this windy stretch

Just in the middle of Santa Rosa, I did it! I caught up with them. It was a great big group: John Guzik, Gabrielle, Sarah, Kaley, Alex, Deb, and many others. They were all stopped on a sidewalk while John fixed something on his bike. Unfortunately this was not the first mechanical for this group, but I was so happy to have joined them, and also glad to stop for just a moment, that it didn’t matter.

IMG_3848

les poseurs sont heureux

IMG_3861

Alex and Deb led the charge for most of the way… along this stretch, we picked up Steffen, but lost John G.

IMG_3851

Typical crappy California weather… don’t hate us

Amazingly, this group stayed solid all the way to Fort Bragg and all the way back from Fort Bragg to the Indian Creek campsite.  I was so gratfied to ride with this group of accomplished randos. At some point during this ride, Deb earned her Mondial–she has now ridden the distance around the Earth in ACP brevets, 40,000km. I’m sure that Alex is getting close to earning that award as well. Kaley was impressive in riding a fixed-gear bicycle the whole way through this 600k, according to some the most challenging 600k in the region. We did have a lot of little “bumps” (one of the northern Clifornia slang terms for hills), and we tried to slow our pace on the climbs to make sure Kaley did not get dropped from the group as darkness approached.

One of the bigger climbs is on CA-128 after leaving Cloverdale. I had done this climb a month ago for the 400k, so I knew what was in store. Our group spread out a bit, but afterward on the way to Booneville, I saw Alex and Steffen again. Alex wanted to stop at the Booneville store, where I found a nice kitty.

mmmmeow

mmmmeow

We also found Deb at the Booneville store, kicking back on the front porch for a spell with Glenn. With Alex and Steffen we hatched a plan to make an brief stop at the Indian Creek campsite where our drop bags were, to pick up some nighttime items such as warm gloves and sweaters, eat a quick bite and take off from there together as a group to our route’s turnaround: Fort Bragg.

our wonderful volunteers yeah!!!

our wonderful volunteers yeah!!!

stopping for cup o' noodles, chips, and Led Zeppelin at Indian Creek... things I don't usually have a taste for except when on a brevet

stopping for cup o’ noodles, chips, and Led Zeppelin at Indian Creek… things I don’t usually have a taste for except when on a brevet

For you non-randos out there, drop bags are the allowed support we riders can have during a ride of this length. Randonneuring is based on the philosophy of self-sustained riding, with no follow cars and no services (not even any arrows or chalk on the road telling us where to turn!). However, for the longer rides (600k, 1000k, 1200k, 1400k), we are allowed to bring a small bag such as a backpack to the start, containing extra food and/or fresh clothes for resupply at a convenient point during the ride. And for these longer rides, the hosting club will often get a hotel room and offer a few beds for riders to get a few hours’ rest and perhaps a shower. Our resupply point would be the Indian Creek campground, a shady area with a bubbling creek, giant redwoods, and a crackling and warm campfire to sit around. Volunteers also brought tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads for us to crash on, and a stove to make soup and pancakes! I knew I would need to get at least a couple hours of shut-eye on the way back from Fort Bragg, and checking out the campsite made me excited about that.

Taking highway 128 out to the coast and riding the final miles on highway 1 to Fort Bragg would be the only part of this route I had never done before.  It did not disappoint. The ‘tree tunnel’ was amazing and mysterious as the light waned. I don’t have any photos from this part of the ride. Just too beautiful for pictures. While we were riding through it, we began to see the first SFR riders returning from Fort Bragg!!! I was so excited and happy to see them, I don’t know what was going through my mind at the time but I started ringing my bell and cheering, and our group all cheered for them and rang our bells when they went by: Max, Jason, Rob, Bryan, and others.

Once we got out to the coast, we all stopped to turn on our lights and put on whatever reflective or warm garments we hadn’t already.

Steffen dons the rainbow mittens

Steffen dons the rainbow mittens

Happy to be here, we made it to the coast!

Happy to be here, we made it to the coast!

Mouth of the Navarro River at dusk

Mouth of the Navarro River at dusk

Many more riders passed us coming back from Fort Bragg, and we rang our bells to greet them all. Highway one at this point began to wear me down. By the time I got to Fort Bragg, I didn’t have anything left. My stomach hurt, I was cold despite all my layers, and the safeway did not have anything I wanted to eat (anything warm!). I got a kombucha for my stomach and had some candied ginger, which I also gave to Alex. Some of the faster guys in the group started to take off, and I was ready to get out of there. I heard someone say McDonald’s and that perked me up right away! We all left the Safeway for the McDonalds a ways back down highway one. Yeah…fries, coffee, and a frozen custard! That magic combo that has now worked its charms on me the past few rides. So many things I do during a long bike ride that I would never do otherwise! We all set out from Mickey D’s feeling fuller and refreshed. The night was dark, the surf was loud, and the tailwind was luscious going back down highway one. We all minded each other to make sure we multiplied our visibility on that busy highway with the switchbacks and dips.

When we got back to CA-128, we stuck together like glue. This was the most memorable part of the ride for me. Steffen and I were out in front, Deb and Alex in the middle telling gripping and humorous stories of encounters with hippos, wildebeests, and lions. The tree tunnel had faded to black, so the stories were an essential part keeping us all alert and moving together. The pavement on this stretch is smooth and the turns are gradual, and very few cars were out. I felt myself getting a bit drowsy, but I knew the campground was not far away. Before long, we arrived there and there were plenty chairs by the fire, plenty bowls of potato soup to go around. Deb and I discussed crashing in one of the tents for 2.5 hours–oh, the luxury!–and leaving together in the morning.

cammmmpfire

cammmmpfire

pancakes and espresso!

pancakes and espresso!

And that is exactly what we did… Alex had left by the time we woke up, but Steffen, Glenn, Gabrielle and Peg were still in camp. Volunteer Eric made me a pancake and Volunteer Chris made espresso with his Italian stovetop espresso machine. Mmmm!!! It was hard to get out of there in the morning. I could not decide what to bring from my drop bag; my handlebar bag needed a complete overhaul and repacking; fuzzy teeth the nature of which I have not felt since college hangovers hung in my mouth… knowing Deb wanted to leave half an hour ago (but was also in the same boat) motivated me in getting my act together and ready to roll.

Finally we left the cozy campground and made our way through the heavy fog of Philo and Booneville. We found Gabrielle and Peg, and continued on.

We drop some layers and refill our water at the Yorkville Post Office...water not too tasty though

We drop some layers and refill our water at the Yorkville Post Office…water not too tasty though

We climbed and climbed, and crossed back into Sonoma county.

Welcome back to Sonoma County!

Welcome back to Sonoma County!

We descended into Cloverdale, and decided to pause at the Starbucks in Cloverdale to wait for Kaley. I had a delicious breakfast sandwich and a terrible juice. Kaley showed up, and we continued on. At some point, Glenn, Deb and I separated from the others, Glenn saying he had to make Mother’s Day dinner with his wife that evening. I kept wondering how on earth he was going to make that, but apparently he had everything carefully planned out, and even finished the ride twenty minutes before he told his wife he’d be there!

The miles ticked by…

Deb's still got it! Roll on Deb!

Deb’s still got it! Roll on Deb!

Glenn picks up the pace to make dinner date

Glenn picks up the pace to make dinner date

Hah! Oh, Geyserville.

Hah! Oh, Geyserville.

Geyserville seemed dry; Westside Road sizzled in the afternoon heat. The drought was over, yet we had not really had very much rain. By the time I reached Guerneville, I felt like a dried-out raisin. Tomato soup and another kombucha got me going again, and Steffen arrived at the Safeway; we all headed out to the coast. Wind, wind, and more wind was the recipe for the afternoon. The Tomales Bay wind tunnel was up to its usual nastiness, but we all shared the burden. On Highway One along the coast again, though, my heart sang. Those rollers!

IMG_3891

Once we got into Point Reyes Station, our last control before the finish, I discovered something amazing. I had made my projected times at every single stop within 20 minutes! It is incredibly rare for this to happen, even on a dart or fleche. I had indeed spent a lot of time planning this ride, planning time spent at controls as well as between them–that time really paid off. It was such a great feeling so close to the end of the ride to know that I had ridden according to plan, even with the lost time at the beginning.

still loving it!

still loving it!

Unfortunately, one tragic thing did happen at this control: the Whale of a Deli, my favorite place in Point Reyes Station, was out of meatball subs…I had been looking forward to that since Guerneville. And the cheese sandwich Deb got gave her a stomach ache later. Ah well…

back the way we came

back the way we came

At the finish... we did it! Boyfriend John extended his Volunteer shift to welcome me in and took this picture.

At the finish… we did it! Boyfriend John extended his Volunteer shift to welcome me in and took this picture.

In the final analysis, I’m still in disbelief that I finished a 600k, something I’ve wanted to do for so long. I had thought I would ride most of it by myself and that it would be a much harder ride. If it weren’t for riding with Deb, with Alex, Glenn, and Steffen, I’m not sure I would have finished, who knows. I might still be out there… But as it was, I had a fantastic time. I liked the 600k distance and route more than any of the shorter rides. It took me the entire week afterward to recover, so I decided against the 1000k later this summer. But I guess the honeymoon stage for me and randonneuring is still not over yet, now in our third year together… I’m still amazed by how much I’ve learned by doing these insanely long bike rides. What I learn affects my professional life as well as my personal life. I try not to get too philosophical about the meaning of it all, but I will say that I now understand a lot more about the relationship between humans and our bodies, as well as the need we all have for some kind of physical activity and the positive effect it can have. I’m not sure I can truly say that bicycling is good for your health–we all know too well the dangers involved, not to mention the more banal negative aspects such as having to eat at Safeway or Seven Elevens all the time. Bicycling has been good for me, though. Hopefully it will continue to be…either way you’ll only hear about it on mmmmbike!

S3: Hopland 400k

The rainy season is dead. Long live the rainy season! Yes, folks, after a long drought, California is wet again. I fully jinxed myself and everyone in SFR by my joyous posts regarding the beautiful weather on the Light House and Russian River 300k brevets. You’re welcome…

Rain at the beginning of a ride is more difficult than when showers show up at the end, for obvious reasons: you and your gear get soaked, then you have to ride through miles and miles with wet clothing even when it’s no longer raining. Most people were sensible on this ride and started out wearing their rain gear. I decided to tough it out, not wanting to overheat, but also feeling smug after riding through several rainy days early in the season and getting the hang of it. Though dry at the start, rain began to fall about 7-8 miles in (depending on where you were), for me on the north side of the hill between Camino Alto and Mill Valley. Prolonging the inevitable, I did not stop to put on my rain jacket until I topped White’s Hill. My wool arm warmers and jersey were pretty soaked at that point, but I wasn’t cold, so I just put on my jacket because, well, I like it. I figured that descending into chilly Nicasio without it would be unwise.

wet on White's

The rain continued all the way to the first control in Bodega. It only started to bug me about then. It made the valleys and hills between the Nicasio Cheese Store and Bodega so beautiful. For some reason I started to get fixated on all the country schools out in the boonies, and took a couple pictures of them.

ejt 008 ejt 011 ejt 012 ejt 013

The first people I saw in Bodega were Ian K-B and Carlin E, who assured me that, according to forecasts, the rain would disappear by the time we all got the Guerneville. It mostly stopped before I left the control, where I also saw Theresa L. Some people were getting soup and slices of pizza, which smelled really good and looked so warm, but it was too early in the ride for me to eat a big meal. I had some fruit and juice and got more water to top off my Max-Mix shake, and was off toward Joy Road.

'till next time, Bodega!

’till next time, Bodega!

Joy Road and I are on decent terms, believe it or not. It’s pretty slow going, but something I like about it is that I feel like I’m really sinking my teeth into the ride at this point. I picked up the pace a bit and rode alongside Mike B and Deb B, not able to chat and climb at the same time, but I enjoyed their pleasant company.

going up...

going up…

good company!

good company!

happy chatting

happy chatting

One thing that was great about Joy Road for me this time is I tried hard to eliminate any unnecessary items when packing my bike, and it was noticeable as I climbed. I felt the difficulty of the steep grade, but no drag on my bike. Maybe it also had something to do with the Ensure I downed right before leaving the Bodega control! Two valuable tips from Boyfriend John, who was not there to ride with me as he did last year, but still provides support in the form of good advice.

From Joy Road through Occidental, Monte Rio to Guerneville I descended, still mostly with my jacket on and feeling a bit clammy. In Guerneville I encountered Clyde B, recovered from an unfortunate run-in with a puddle in Ross or thereabouts and forecasting the absence of rain for the remainder of the day. I ate a yogurt, a pastry, some caffeinated tea, and again refilled my Max-Mix. Straight maltodextrin, soy lecithin and concentrated whey protein are the “Max-Mix”, a powerful and elegantly simple (not to mention muy cheaper) shake powder that keeps my engine running lately.

road dirt yecch

road dirt yecch

countryside still bright green

countryside still bright green

In spite of Clyde’s rosy weather predictions, I was becoming concerned about my wet clothing come nightfall. There was no rain at the moment, but no sun either, so nothing was drying out too much. Heading toward Hopland, I decided to take off my arm warmers and rain booties, and hang them from the various outside pockets of my handlebar bag. I’m sure it looked pretty comical going down the road, but it did eventually work, which even though it didn’t get very cold at night, eliminated a large source of anxiety for me about the night ahead. My jersey being soaked was another thing entirely: even by the time I got to Cloverdale, it was still wet enough that when I sat down in the oh-so-comfy armchairs at the Starbucks, the satin stitching of “SAN FRANCISCO RANDONNEURS” seeped into the upholstery…

visions

visions

Sitting on something wider than a saddle produces smiles

Sitting on something wider than a saddle produces smiles

leg stretching yeah!

leg stretching yeah!

Oh well. That was a nice non-control, spent with Mike B and Theresa L. I’ve always loved even a bad breakfast sandwich: there’s something about eggs, cheese, and bread that seems twined with my very core; maybe my long-ago French ancestry? Who cares, it got me back on the road, where the three of us climbed 128 out of Cloverdale.

Something about heavy climbing gets me envigorated, and I attacked the hill with all of the (once again, Ensure-fueled) energy I could muster.

yessss

oh yeah baby

Mike pulled ahead, Theresa lagged behind for a short time, eventually pulling ahead of me, and we all regrouped after the lovely descent into Hopland.

I think I would be willing to do two Joy Roads on this route if I could have some other turnaround point than the Hopland Valero. I don’t know what it is about that place; the pizza is great, but my morale as I eat it has taken a serious nosedive both times I’ve been there. Even after hanging out there for half an hour, when Theresa and Mike were ready to go, I just couldn’t pull myself together to leave with them. They offered to wait a few more minutes, but I sent them ahead. Finally after another twenty or so minutes, I started to pack up. Sarah B was gathering a large train of riders which consisted of pretty much anyone still at the Valero, and barked out, “Coleman! You with us?” That snapped me out of my stupor, and I was ready for action. THANK YOU, SARAH! Night riding alone is not a really great idea, and I was excited to be a part of this group.

fun group woo hoo!

fun group woo hoo!

yellow light

yellow light

Once we all made the 101 crossing safely, I noticed all my clothes were dry, and I was in the middle of a big, cheerful group, my spirits rose. There was still some sun left in the day (though I knew I wouldn’t get to Chalk Hill before sunset as I hoped in my ride planning); the Russian River was absolutely gushing past us, thank jehovah for the rain; and I was flying down the road with a nice tailwind.

Our big group splintered and reunited, with me riding with Deb B and Phil A most of the way through 128, Chalk Hill and Santa Rosa, stopping for a long pit stop at a McDonald’s in Windsor. I had been looking forward to stopping at the Denny’s in Petaluma just before the control, but after I led the three of us astray for a good mile due to misreading my cue, Phil made a beeline for a nearby McDonald’s and we all ate the same thing I would have had at the Denny’s: coffee, fries, and milkshakes. The lady at the counter very graciously filled my water bottles and we were back on the road.

Phil was an absolute machine of a pacesetter. That was amazing. We made great time through the quiet farmlands and outskirts of Sonoma County suburbs. I feel so grateful to both Deb and Phil for allowing me to join them for this stretch.

After Petaluma, my energy definitely waned, and I was able to keep up with them only until Fairfax or so. My drowsiness started to take over around Larkspur, and I decided to get off my bike and walk off my sleepiness. At one point under a canopy of trees over the road, I saw a gray blur move over the road with a rhythmic beating of wings. A complete absence of sound meant that was an owl, wow. Some of the riders who had ended up behind Deb and Phil and I started passing me: Gabby, then Peg, Sarah, and others. They asked me if I was ok, and I waved them all on, telling them I was just sleepy. We had all seen another randonneur loaded into an ambulance around the Nicasio reservoir (apparently due to dehydration), so I understood their concern. I walked a little further, thinking about how great it was to ride with Deb and Phil, and suddenly it occurred to me they had been listening to headphones… I don’t usually do that myself, but I remembered I had some music stored in my phone, and turned it on to softly play through the speaker. It perked me up right away! I got back on my bike and pedaled up Camino Alto and the inclines to the Bridge. So…there you go, I never know what odd thing will save me on a brevet. I guess I would have finished regardless, but it sure was nice to wake up and be able to ride.

This is the second time finishing this brevet for me, and it has not been easy either time. The weather is always an issue for this one: if not howling winds, then rain or extreme temperatures. Both times I’ve arrived at Hopland, I would have fiercely argued that there was no way I’d be able to make it back to San Francisco by bike. But I have to remember that it’s a front-loaded route: all the difficulty is in the first half, then you generally get pushed back home by kind tailwinds. It’s still not easy, though: after doing two years of 200k rides every month, I can assert with confidence that the 400k is more than twice as hard as two 200ks. I look forward to the time when a 400k is as natural to me as a 200k. Then perhaps you will see some pictures from later in the ride instead of just me yakking about it. Now that would be an improvement…

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!