Los Milagros del Fleche

This year’s NorCal Fleche Velocio was a terrific experience. Lots of the typical ups and downs of any rando ride, a few surprises here and there (mostly pleasant), and beer and delicious breakfast at the finish! We encountered so many milagros along the way: the miracle of spring was evident on the hillsides and in the ditches; rain has returned and the countryside is loving it! It also seemed there were more baby farm animals than last year. Growth, rebirth, and multiplication were everywhere.  We even saw some jackrabbits hopping around (and some, sadly, no longer hopping around), just to give it the true Easter flavor.

I love to visit Madera, our start location, because it is so different from the bay area. It feels like a border town and has many many more Spanish speakers per capita. I miss my old Mexican neighborhood of Chicago, so I feel right at home in Madera.

01MaderaStorefront

One of my favorite storefronts on the strip

It is definitely a working class town where the day starts and ends early. Not too much going on in downtown Madera on a Friday night other than a few souped-up low-riders patrolling the strip. There is a thrift store on the strip that we went to last year, and we had fun checking it out this year too. We ate dinner at Maya, a restaurant we missed last year unfortunately, but was tasty and had great local beer.

Our team all turned in early the night before the ride. I slept fitfully, never stressed, but it took me an uncharacteristically long time to get to sleep, and I woke up numerous times throughout the night. Captain also woke up throughout the night, hearing Teammate Russ coughing more each time… uh oh… We all woke up on time, at which point Russ made the sad announcement that he would not be joining us for the ride. He said he felt feverish, achey, and had a bad cough, and that’s all I needed to wish him a safe trip back home on Amtrak. He obviously felt very bad about it, but he had given it a try by coming out to Madera with us, and unfortunately was only able to continue the ride with us in spirit. Ah well.

We had only started out with four on our team. Now down to three (the minimum required to receive credit), we started out for the Black Bear Diner, our start control. I usually don’t have a big diner breakfast before the start of a brevet, so this was nice. We had plenty of time to eat, fill our water bottles, and take care of other morning business (such as the important task of conveying the news of the loss of one teammate on Instaspam) before saddling up.

Our new route is easier than our old route through Eureka Canyon and San Juan Bautista, still beautiful, and one sweet perk is that we never have been buzzed by impatient or inattentive or hostile drivers. No matter how big the jacked-up 4×4 pickup, they all swerved way over when they passed, and some even waved at us! Two guys driving tractors out in the fields wildly pumped their arms like they were riding a bicycle and shouted “Andale, andale!!” Velocia and I also tried to get some of the semi truck drivers to honk their horns at us, and 3 out of 3 did! Such childish pleasures, but there you go. Hey, it’s Easter (almost), and we were on a bike ride far from home, so we all felt unfettered and fancy-free. This is one of the great things about team rides, especially when the team all know each other well.

And yes, there were occasional semi trucks out there! This is the heart of large-scale farming, the Central Valley of California. If you ever wondered how it is possible that millions of people can be fed by stuff sticking out of the ground periodically, kind of a milagro in itself, you should visit this area. We passed a farm growing grapes for wine production, we passed acres of leafy greens of some kind (broccoli?), almond orchards, fields of oats and winter wheat, and even a gin-producing facility. We also saw a small airfield for crop dusters… thankfully not spraying anything the day we rode through. Just one of the many ways cycling can be good for your health sometimes, sometimes not so much. I do enjoy seeing the hand lettered signs in Marin County saying “Organic Farm No Spray”.

After an easy warmup though the flat, friendly farm roads, we got to Foster’s Freeze for a malty pause before entering Panoche Road. Last year, Panoche was very very hot and sunny, so it was great to have a little ice cream shake before the hot part. Captain almost deleted this stop but I insisted on retaining it. When we got there, we were slightly ahead of schedule, so we got to relax going into our favorite part of the ride.

02LosPhotogs

Los Photogs

03TeamPhoto

Team Photo! V had just been to New Zealand and was sporting her epic suncreen, much needed today!

04PanocheRoad

Panoche Road is greener than last year. Trail conditions were excellent, very few ruts and the dust was not bad

05SanBenitoCty

Captain took the County Limit sign, right at the top of a steep pitch

06StreamCrossing

Stream crossing! We’re feeling Epic!

07Goats

Goats on a farm, many in the shade today

08PanocheInn

(Where) is Panoche? We’d been hungering for this, our lunch spot… I was captivated by this sage message about being self employed.

09PanochePass

My riding companions had both indulged in 2 beers at lunch, so I snuck ahead and pulled through to take Panoche Pass! Yeah!!!!

10PanocheRoadPaved

After the descent from Panoche Pass Summit, we enjoyed a seemingly endless (in a good way) stretch of road just like this. Nary a car nor cloud nor climb, not even a cow out here. Rando heaven. If you like that sort of thing.

11Aromas

The lake/swamp near Aromas is totally still, not to mention full… sun is almost gone for the day

12Aromitas

Last picture before the sun goes down, the beautiful valley on Aromitas Road

The ride through the Watsonville area, coastal communities, and up through Aptos (Hi Cousin Lise!) to Santa Cruz was pleasantly quiet, with the stars and the moon to guide us. At Jeffery’s, our Santa Cruz control, we were somewhat expecting or hoping to see a couple other Fleche teams come in, but nada for us. Hmmmm my phone was too low on battery to check if any other teams were posting their status. Last year we saw 3 other teams at Jeffery’s. I guess it was nice that Jeffery’s was quieter this year since I was making a serious attempt at napping, but it didn’t work anyway.

When we leave Santa Cruz, we have about 85 miles, almost all on Highway One, all in the dark, and usually with a light tailwind. Unfortunately for us this year, the weather roll of the dice gave us a strongish headwind and light rain… yes, more rainy riding for me. Sure the wildflowers are nice but can’t it rain some other time, like when I’m inside… and where is that rain jacket I left at home because there was no rain in the forecast? Hm. Well, nothing to do but pedal through it. I did not feel too fatigued, but around 4 to 5 in the morning I sure was feeling sleepy. The sleep demon would not be denied. It was just the three of us on our team, although we did periodically run into members of Rob’s team, who seemed to be suffering from multiple instances and types of mechanical issues. At least it was something happening, and it periodically woke me up from my drowsiness. I remember trying to keep a safe distance from my teammates, since I kept nodding off and was worried I would crash them. I think the wise thing to do at this point might have been to stop and try to ditchnap, although in the rain I’m not sure how that would have worked. As it was, I took advantage of the cushy nature of my sweet sweet Eroica tires that would sort of hop and wake me up when I steered into the fogline. Bizarro coping mechanism perhaps, but I got through it without crashing. Probably somewhat due to my sleepiness and thus lower speed, we didn’t have much time to spend at our penultimate control in Pacifica, which is fine I guess now that the Denny’s is gone and all we have is the cold, cold floor of the Safeway entrance to sleep on. At that point, I woke up and smelled the coffee, and we practically ghost pedaled the way back from there. I will never forget the view of Mount Tam from the southern corner of the Great Highway! It was so misty and all shades of pastel in the reluctant sunrise. We did not have a whole lot of time left on the clock, but at that point I realized the ride was almost over, with a mixture of sadness and anticipation for my pint of beer at the finish. It had been a long 24 hours.

13RandosReward

I never drink on a ride until it’s over… This beer was soooo tasty

14CrepesOnCole

Fellow teams enjoying their breakfast at Crepes on Cole after volunteers take care of our brevet cards and valet park our bikes for us. Volunteers (not pictured) are AWESOME!!!!!

15CrepesOnCole

Happy Easter

Milagros in Mexican culture are little silver or tin tokens used for praying for curing ills of all kinds: you can see some here. One of my teammates had a sort of milagro in her handlebar bag… you can see her randonneur version here. It was definitely a lucky-socks-fueled miracle we finished within the time limit, given the horribly annoying wind and rain in the last stretch on highway 1. Also a miracle I was able to keep my bike upright from 4-5 am when I was so tired and drowsy. Since then I resolved to work on my public napping skills. I’ve always felt like sleeping in public is just not normal, but I guess randonneuring has tested the limits of normal in so many ways, why not one more? I know I’ll have to figure this out somehow as the longest rides of the year still lie ahead… oh–was that a pun? Ha. I need to come up with some good jokes too, to keep me awake in those wee hours of the 400k and 600k… If I come up with any good ones, you may see them here on mmmmbike!

Mother Nature Returns: SFR 300k

For the past year or so of randonneuring, I’ve had that sinking feeling that results from getting something you haven’t earned. The weather has just been wayyy too good. Sunny, clear skies all winter long when there should have been rain. I grew up in a region with real (and yes, that meant at times dangerous or at least uncomfortable) weather: lightning storms, blizzards, ice storms, frozen roads blocked by excessive ice or snowfall, tornadoes. So in addition to the concern over California’s drought, during the past year I felt a sense of unease building, waiting for the pendulum to swing back.

As it turns out, I shouldn’t have worried: Mother Nature would not abandon us! The forecast for last Saturday’s ride was beyond grim: lots of rain throughout the day (could be uncomfortable, but temps looked like they would stay relatively warm) and 20mph+ headwinds on the coast from the afternoon through to the night (the discouraging part). A roster of 70+ riders shrank to 30- when people started voicing their concerns on the club listserv. Granted, some people voiced their excitement or just plain neutrality (the position I shared), but I couldn’t read anymore when it was suggested that the ride be cancelled or rescheduled. Fiddlesticks! I am glad that those who did not want to ride had a chance to transfer their registration to another, perhaps sunnier, brevet. In randonneuring, we are all responsible for knowing our own limits and what we want to deal with. For me, the prospect of bad weather brought back memories of my childhood! Kind of funny. In any case, I’m glad the ride was not rescheduled, because it was an extraordinary experience.

Start control

Check-in felt like a sparsely-populated Adventure Series ride, not like the SFR 300k I’m used to. In past years, riders have filled the Golden Gate Bridge plaza to start this brevet; the lack of participation gave a slightly chilling reminder that the day would be hard. Rob came up to me and subtly or not so subtly asked me if I had made any plans to ride with anyone. In fact I had: Steve H had found out from John that I was riding, and wrote to me asking if I would want to ride with him and Tom H. This invitation was easy to accept, having ridden with them before in the rain and finding them to be ideal riding partners. I explained further to Rob my thinking in attempting this ride in this particular weather: I had done this route 5 times, and it is an easy route for me, one I’ve completed successfully as a solo perm more than once. I also did a 318k ride that had 50% more climbing two weeks ago, so I felt confident of my training level. Furthermore, according to the forecast, the first part of the ride to Healdsburg should give us a tailwind, thus being easier than in past years, so we should still have energy in reserve for the tough part at the coast. Apparently he was convinced by my rambling and moved off while I went over to fulfill my volunteer duties and do some gear checks.

Rob reluctantly administers the oath "not to do stupid stuff"

Rob reluctantly administers the oath “not to do stupid stuff”

At this point, I was a little nervous, but no more than for a typical brevet. The weather would be an added source of uncertainty, but I was looking forward to the challenge, because I had done this route many times. As my riding companions were to comment later, it was the one route they had done the most, which was true for me too. The key factor giving me more optimism was that temperatures were forecast to be relatively warm, which if it’s raining, can be a big help.

The Easy Part: 85 miles to Healdsburg

It was not raining at the start control. I didn’t need to put on my rain jacket until the Marin wiggle. We saw the sun after Camino Alto.

Jack Moonbeam in his fluorospendor

Jack Moonbeam in his full fluorospendor

 

The only time we saw the sun that day

The only time we saw the sun that day

Rain was softly falling as I rode through the usual San Anselmo, Fairfax, up and over White’s and through Samuel P. Taylor Park. Tom H and I chatted pleasantly up until the secret control, noting that not a single car had passed us. The views of Black Mountain in the light rain were luxuriously green.

In Petaluma, we picked up Jack Moonbeam, and I still felt a lot of energy. I had finally begun to memorize the layouts of all the Safeways on the SFR routes. I moved quickly through the control, getting exactly what I needed and consuming it fast.

Perky in Petaluma

Perky in Petaluma

We got right back on the road and proceeded to the next stretch. As I anticipated, we had a tailwind, and though it rained steadily, it was never cold. The farmlands between Petaluma and Healdsburg looked pretty great, and due to the lack of glare from the sun, I saw outbuildings of the farms that I had never noticed before. I wanted to take tons of pictures of these, but it was already feeling risky to keep taking out my camera and putting it back, since there was a lot of traffic and I was riding in a relatively close group. A couple of times, I couldn’t resist…

Yellow and green and gray

Yellow and green and gray

Wildflowers

Wildflowers almost as bright as hi-viz (and hey, check out that paceline-friendly mudflap!)

Feeling no pain

Feeling no pain

Santa Rosa Selfie

The classic SFR group selfie looks slightly different today

It felt like we arrived in Healdsburg in no time at all. I found the excellent sushi I’ve enjoyed there many times, got some other stuff to eat and drink, and sat inside at the Starbucks cafe tables to chow down. My riding companions joined me, Tom looking at and showing us adorable videos of his son saying “I love you Daddy” on his phone, what would become a regular feature at every control. So far, the ride did not feel epic whatsoever. Sure it was raining, but no big deal. Sufferfest cancelled, right? Actually, I knew that the hard parts lay ahead. I wanted to split from this control as fast as we could. I finished eating and went outside to make some slight adjustments to my bike and pack up. Apparently my riding companions were confused and stayed inside waiting for me, only wasting a few minutes, but then as we rolled out of the parking lot, Steve noticed that Tom’s rear wheel was flat. Amazingly, he had the offending tube out on the sidewalk before I turned my head around, but said we should go on ahead and just soft pedal until he caught up. Jack had already left the control, also saying he would soft pedal and wait for us. Caught in between, Steve and I headed out on Westside Road.

More easy: Westside Road, River Road, Hwy 116

It was gorgeous that day. Being outside in the rain when it’s not cold is amazing. Like when it’s snowing, human-made sound is mollified by the raindrops. And once you’re wet, you can neither become significantly drier nor wetter, so the fact that it kept raining didn’t bother me. Traffic was not too much lighter, unfortunately, but the colors of the fields were quite beautiful.

Fields and skies

Fields and skies

Luscious green

Luscious green

Nearing the end of Westside Road

Nearing the end of Westside Road

Steve and I finally caught up with Jack, but at that point Tom was not yet with us again. We pulled to the side to decide what to do. I used the opportunity to eat a little snack. We decided to keep going and wait in a more sheltered place for Tom. Almost at the intersection of River Road, I decided to pull over and take a snapshot of the Russian River from the end of Westside Road–always a beautiful sight, but today more unique.

Russian River

Russian River

Steve and Jack had decided to wait under the River Road overpass, and while there, we made sure we had each others’ cell phone numbers. Before too long, Tom showed up and we hooted at him to let him know where we were. Nature breaks ensued (almost) all around, Steve made some brake adjustments, and finally we were off again. River Road was trafficky but relatively uneventful. Tom pulled most of the way, and before long, we arrived at the point of my greatest weather-related fears: the mouth of the Russian River.

The Coast

We climbed the first steep pitch, and the wind was surely there to greet us as I feared. Each gust reminded me to keep my eyes on the road, my hands firmly braced against the handlebars, and my butt squarely on the saddle. I learned how to drive on ice at a relatively early age, so I am no stranger to adverse weather conditions, but no doubt about it, this was tough. It took just as much power to pedal as it took to hold my bike steady. Though it would have been nice to paceline, it was too dangerous to do so, since the wind was so variable. Sometimes the gusts would blow more from the west than south, and one such gust could blow you right into the rider in front. I did my best to keep a safe distance, hold my front end stable, and stay focused. It was not easy. There were times when the full force of the storm was directly upon us, like when the road climbed to an exposed rise. Those of you who have ridden this road on a bike know that there is no shoulder here, and only a few iceplants between the edge of the road and a steep dropoff. I rode further in from the edge here, possibly a risky tradeoff since there was still a fair amount of car traffic. But the cars out were probably locals and gave us a wide berth that day, and I think that was due in no small part to Jack Moonbeam’s full-coverage reflecto.

On a day with more reasonable weather conditions, this is the most beautiful part of the route. Majestic sea stacks, rock outcroppings, natural arches, grottoes, and rocky beaches are fair to see for miles of coastline. On that day, however, we were witness to the other side of the coin. In its own way, it was majestic too, dangerous as it was. I did not look at the ocean too much (remember: target fixation!), but when I did, it looked unfamiliar to me. Usually the water is a clear, luminescent dark turquoise, calmly though inevitably crashing on the rocks. On that day, the water was gray, opaque, swirling, only slightly blue and angrily throwing its weight around with strong intention. We, too, felt tossed around. The rain shot at us by the bucketful, stinging our faces, chests, and arms. Finally we arrived in Bodega, exhausted from putting up such a fight.

At Diekmann’s I ate a small cup of roasted potatoes and half a breakfast burrito, and drank a nice beet ginger juice. It was great to have some warm solid food. Our clothes dripped on the floor and made a huge puddle as we commiserated about having ridden through that mess and watched another Grant video. Tom explained that the weather couldn’t be that bad because the rain didn’t wash away the dirt on his arm from changing his tube. Ha! But as I looked down at Jack’s shoe covers, previously spattered with road dirt, I noticed they were perfectly clean now and back to normal. We had gotten a thorough washing, indeed. Feeling humbled, I lingered, not able to conceive of getting back on my bike. Eventually, we all did. This time we went through the spin cycle until we got to Marshall. At that point, the wind died down significantly, replaced by soft rain.

Marin Post Office Tour

On the way to Valley Ford, Steve and Tom dropped off the back. I would get to the top of a hill and look for them, but didn’t see them. Jack also dropped off a little bit, so I stopped and got off my bike for a short break. Night had fallen, and I was worried about getting cold. Once Jack caught up, I suggested we wait for Steve and Tom in the Valley Ford post office.

It was warm in that post office… delightfully warm. Jack was reaching for his phone, and was saying something about “calling this in”. Whaaa??? I was shocked. “You mean DNF?!”, I asked. I couldn’t believe what I heard. To ride through all those wind gusts and then give up seemed terribly pointless. Completing this ride was of the utmost importance to me now. It had been tough, but the finish was in reach, and we were still well within the time limits. It was also critical to me that our group stay together. I think I convinced him to keep going, because he put his phone back.

Before long, Steve and Tom rolled up, explaining that Tom had gotten another flat. Someone came into the post office to check his mail, saying that he didn’t blame us for hanging out in there–it’s where he used to wait for the school bus when he was a kid! Now, he said, the kids have to wait on the porch of the supper club next door. The guy hopped into his black truck outside that had US Zombie Outbreak Response Team stickers on it, and drove off. Reunited, our group filled our bottles at the back of the post office, and took off for Point Reyes.

Valley Ford Post Office

Valley Ford Post Office: Storm Chasers

It was tough getting there, with all the climbing on CA-1 seeming much more steep than usual. Traffic was almost nonexistent at this hour–even the locals won’t go out now, I remember thinking. Once we got to the rollers on the coast, we got a hero’s tailwind, and were in Point Reyes at a comfy 8:30, at least to my mind. The Palace Market was still open and the deli counter worker gave us free cups of hot water to drink (THANK YOU, sweet, sweet man!), we bought some stuff, and went over to the post office to warm up and make some minor wardrobe changes. I called John and was glad to hear his voice. I also tried to message Eric W who I knew was working the finish control, to let him know the four of us were leaving Point Reyes. I’m not sure if he received it, but I thought it was a good idea anyway.

heated post office

…wait. did you say… THE HEATER IS ON???!!!

The Final Chapter: just one. more. little. obstacle

At this point I didn’t even notice the rain anymore, though it was still pouring. Being pushed around by the wind on the coast made any other weather seem just not worth noticing. We rode over Olema Hill, also insignificant, Whites Hill, boring. I started to notice myself feeling sleepy around Larkspur, and tried to open a bag of Gu chews, but my fingers didn’t seem to be working from the cold and I had to gnaw through the bag. Agh! Let’s just get this thing done. Up Camino Alto. I had considered proposing to the group that we sneak in via Camino Bajo instead, but didn’t want to be a cheater… But then we had to take it anyway when there were crews working on a downed tree on Camino Alto. Back up and down and over to Meadowsweet, and finally ended up on the bike path. It seemed endless. I think we were all beyond tired, just numb. I mean, of course, after this entire day, we would have to detour around a fallen tree…

But we did it! We finished with an hour to spare. When we arrived at the Bridge Plaza, Eric and Megan greeted us warmly, and thus we were returned to the world of the living. The last time I did this route as a brevet, I finished in 14:36, with an average time of 16 hours over five times ridden. This time it took 19 hours, and I was grateful to finish at all, in fact. I owe this completely to my compadres Jack, Steve, and Tom. Thanks guys, next time we will try for better weather.

Nice looking weather data from the day here

20 finishers ranging from 14h0m to 19h0m; 6 DNFs (compared to 126 finishers in 2015 with an average finish time of 15h2m)

Del Puerto 200m

It’s been a year and a half since I moved to Oakland from San Francisco, and thus my desires to do perm routes over here in the east bay have waxed accordingly. There are many great ones, thanks to Kitty G and others, but for the month of February I was beginning to settle in on Eric L’s Diablo Territory in spite of its daunting amount of climbing. Hemming, hawing, stalling, and probably reading the group’s list serv too often, I picked up on an announcement from Eric that he had a new perm building on SFR luminary Bruce Berg’s Del Puerto 200k. Eric’s version, at 200 miles, would have a start and finish in Berkeley, following familiar roads to and from the start/finish of the Del Puerto 200k. At 318k, it still has much less climbing than Diablo Territory, so yes, I admit to a bit of laziness in choosing it…

Anyhoo, Eric sent me my card and some words of encouragement after having completed the inaugural ride the day before, and I luxuriously slept in my own bed the night before the ride (for SFR brevets starting in San Francisco, I now stay over at John’s the night before, sometimes leading to uncomfortable realizations the morning of the ride such as important items left at home in Oakland). I woke on time, left on time, and got my receipt at the 7-11 at precisely 6:00 am! I was in such a great mood that I chatted with the clerk, who shared with me that he’s a distance runner and sometimes likes to ride “but only 40-50 miles”. He had huge biceps, and I could tell he was in good shape. It was kind of cool chatting with a random stranger who didn’t think riding 200 miles in one day was totally batty, which is usually the reaction I get.

Off I went, climbing up Spruce up to Wildcat. Familiar, easy way to start the day. The sun rose over Mount Diablo as I was still rounding swirly corners on Wildcat.

Mount Diablo sunrise

Mmmmount Diablo

Down Wildcat, into Orinda and onto St. Stephens Trail, one of my favorite east bay multi-use paths, of which there are many. While I just started getting into a groove, I noticed a pair of bright yellow hi-viz patterned arm warmers riding up next to me. I looked up and saw my fleche teammate and John’s cousin Russ, woohoo! He was riding out to Alamo and then meeting his son who would be mountain biking on Mount Diablo. We rolled along, chatting about our route stuff for the fleche this year, and about his son, who is on his high school’s mountain bike team. Yadda yadda and all of a sudden it was time for him to turn off, leaving me to continue the route through San Ramon, the next control.

At this control, I went into the gas station a bit confused, as it was too early for me to really want anything. I grabbed a bag of plain pretzels and walked up to the counter, Here, also, I ended up chatting with the clerk, this time about yoga. I have never really talked too much to clerks at controls, but today was very genial and relaxed, so why not?

I continued on, admiring the beautiful hills of Las Trampas backing up the city of San Ramon, and soon I passed the start of the SFR Del Puerto route. Now the sun started cooking, and although I had applied sunscreen liberally at the last control, I could feel a sunburn coming on. Drank plenty more water through Livermore, and as the buildings and man-made structures on Tesla Road started to thin out, I stopped to shed layers, put on fresh sunscreen, and take out my camera.

Tesla-Road

The old oak tree

The-Old-Barn

The old barn

One of the true jewels of this route, Tesla Road shimmered in the sun. Unlike when we ride here in parched November with the club, the hills were a bright, luscious green. Wildflowers were popping up all over, orange, yellow, and purple. Rams, sheep, cows, goats, and chickens were out.

Tesla-looking-back

Looking back from the top of the climb

Toward-the-Interior

Looking forward toward the interior

 

Sheeps

Big, burly sheepses must be broiling

Descending Tesla was peaceful and quiet on this sunny Sunday. There were lots of trucks hauling ATVs to the ATV park on Corral Hollow, but they all passed me in a pretty chill and respectful manner, slowing down and/or pulling all the way to the left. Rando heaven, I think they call it.

Before long I got to the section of orchards and farmlands preceding the route’s next control.

BeesThose boxes on the ground are beehives! The bees were actively buzzing around throughout this whole area. Bees love my hi-viz windvest, and I found a few clinging to it as I rode. No stings. It just heightened the experience of the day, though–beautiful day with not a cloud in the sky, the hills all cheerful and green, orchards with rows of trees in bloom for acres, and of course bees buzzing everywhere. Is it spring yet?

At Jimmy’s One Stop, I found another chatty clerk, the last of this ride. I just got some water here, my favorite mineral water, and didn’t tarry. I was ahead of time according to my plan, and didn’t want to lose ground.

Mmmmineragua

Mmmmineragua

I must have had a tailwind then, and stayed within my plan all the way to the next control at Patterson. This is the turnaround, at almost 100 miles. I still felt pretty good at this point. I ate some solid food, drank something yummy and cold, washed my face and rinsed my water bottles, and put on more sunscreen. It was time for the second beautiful jewel of this route: Del Puerto Canyon Road.

DPC-Road

The road is a ribbon

The-Old-Farm

The old farm, the old fence

Trees-in-rocks

Living wall

I guess now I have a really good explanation for riding such long distances if I ever need one. The beauty and remoteness of this place is so mind boggling each time I ride there. It may be hard to imagine why a person would ride their bike 100 miles just to get to ride on this road. I might argue that one of the reasons why it’s so enjoyable is because you have to ride 100 miles just to get there. And you can tell it’s rather far from anywhere meaningful to hurried texters. There could be a massive apocalypse or even the next version of iPhone could be released and this place would not change one bit.

Another special thing about Del Puerto Canyon Road is the natural spring. I often seem to find it at an ill-timed point when I don’t really need water, but I can’t resist.

Adobe-Spring

According to this bulletin board, King Solomon wanted us to work hard, do good deeds, and party hardy

This road is so beautiful, remote, and the landscape so rugged that you would almost not notice that you are experiencing a long, steady climb. In about 26 miles, you climb about 2900 feet, which would not really be that difficult if it weren’t for that one mile where you climb 900 feet of it. I like John’s description of the sign you’ve gotten to the hard part: you see a lump of hardened concrete on the ground where it must have fallen off the back of a concrete truck because of the sudden steepness. For a cyclist of meager ability such as myself, it is a crushing climb. This day was no exception. Thankfully, the next control is near the top, so you get to stop and take a breather. In the SFR route, we stop and have a sandwich and beverage at the Junction Cafe, but the Junction is between owners at this time and there are no sandwiches available.

I arrive at the Junction about half an hour before sunset and still precisely on schedule. Whew. There are still a few bumps before the very top, but about 30 miles of descending after that, and with the sun going down I decide to add a few items of warm clothing. I want to save most of my layers for later, as I fear the night in Chabot and Redwood Parks will be frigid.

Welcome-Sight

The best thing about riding solo is I take all the county and city limit signs

The point in the photo above is the true top of the climb. Here begins the long way down. The sun is sinking, and although I was pretty much still on my schedule, my mind started to spin out of control here. I did not like the thought of descending Mines Road in the darkness, since it is narrow in parts and has some tight turns. It hugs the edge of a deep gorge, and even though I’d be riding on the inside of the road, it seemed terrifying. It was also getting colder very quickly, but because I wanted to get as far as I could while there was still any light at all, I didn’t want to stop and put on my mittens, even though it was starting to affect my ability to use the brake levers. Yikes! I also became painfully aware that I was only 25 miles in to my 100-mile ride home from the turnaround, and it was already almost dark–I would have to ride the entire remainder in the dark.

Fortunately, I regained some semblance of mind during the descent, as I traveled around curve after curve, gaining confidence with each one safely passed. I thought of all the times I’ve done the Davis Night Brevet, a ride that begins at 8 pm. I thought of Cousin Russ and the fleche, another all-night ride I’ve done. I remembered the stillness and quiet to be found while riding at night, and remembered how enjoyable it could be. Of course, all those other times, I’d ridden with others, and now here I was, just me and the moon.

I made it to the next control, the Castro Valley Safeway, right around the time I had planned to be leaving it. I was pretty exhausted, and my teeth wouldn’t stop chattering. It wasn’t particularly warm inside the Safeway, and they did not have any more hot soup at that hour. I couldn’t quite decide on what to eat, definitely the low point of the ride for me. I think it was mostly due to my fears of how cold it would be when I eventually went back outside. Later I found it had been in the high 30s/low 40s. I had already put on all the layers I had brought with me, and my teeth were still chattering. So…I started to look around the store for any kind of extra clothing they might have for sale, anything at all. I found some cotton tights in the Health and Beauty Aids department, and they looked pretty good. I got a slightly larger size and put them on over my cycling tights. I was finally ready to go.

Riding that last stretch was hard. I never felt those roads contained quite so much elevation gain as they did that particular night…though I’ve never ridden them after already riding almost 300 kilometers. I definitely felt out of my depth…or out of my height, I guess. But I just kept going, did what I could, continued on. Although the climb warmed me up, I was still glad for the extra layer. The moon was full and provided a surprising amount of visibility. And there were loud choruses of frogs croaking all around to keep me company! It was a little scary to be out there all by myself, but it was peaceful too. I’m actually pretty grateful for this experience, since you never know when you might end up riding alone at night, even on a brevet. It’s nice to know I can get through it and even enjoy it.

This route was just the challenge I was looking for–mostly familiar, but with new connections and twists. The scenery was excellent, the traffic was low to moderate, controls well placed. I would love to do it again after daylight saving, to have more light, and to see what the orchards look like in a few months’ time. As is so often the case with the well-worn SFR routes, simply riding them at a different time of year yields brilliant results. Thank you Bruce for your contribution of the Del Puerto route to our group, and thank you Eric for making it more accessible and challenging with adding the Berkeley start. A new classic!

Another R1: Pierce Point 200k

The season opener for SFR brevets this year began with a beautiful and dramatic corkscrew dive by a pelican (white or brown, I couldn’t tell) about 40 feet above the water surface at the waterfront in Sausalito as I passed through early in the morning along with 92 other intrepid randos on January 30, 2016. Whew, that was breathtaking! The Brevet Wildlife Report for this ride is filled with two-, four-, and zero-legged creatures, some seen, some only heard, but the first one (the pelican) was the best! I think it bodes well for this year, let’s hope anyway!

I must admit I was not totally sold on this route based on my experiences last year. Losing the Light House route was traumatic, and adding more mileage to the out-and-back on highway one was not appealing. The traffic on the highway was busy last year to say the least. But I am pretty loyal to my home rando club, the season opener cannot be denied or shied away from, and heck I might as well since it’s time to start another R-12 if I wanna be like Willy N.

Another de-motivating factor popped up the week before the ride: I got a mysterious and painful earache, making me wonder whether doing this ride is quite sensible. But I made my preparations either out of habit or who knows why; you just have to get out there and try your best. I often think about PBP stories I have read in which the rider is 2 days away from the ride they’ve been dreaming of and planning for in some cases for years… and the rider has something go wrong with their bike, or some random slip and fall happens, or a bad case of jet lag leads to catching the flu or something. Although I obviously don’t have as much invested in the garden variety SFR brevet, I do cherish each ride, since you never know when you truly cannot go out there.

And I was well rewarded for my attempts to get out there! The day was gorgeous, the beauty of Point Reyes National Seashore was ravishing, I got to spend a good amount of time riding with friends but also some peaceful time on my own, and because of the two out-and-back legs of the route, I got to wave at all the riders passing by. Just perfect for a season opener! The route is definitely growing on me. Though I still miss going to the Light House, this route has far fewer cattle grates, an advantage which can’t be denied. My earache pretty much disappeared, confirming my belief that randonneuring is the cause and the cure of all my physical challenges.

As for the wildlife of note, I got to see the Tule Elk this year! One perk of the Pierce Point route is that it passes through the Tule Elk refuge. Just scanning over the Wikipedia page for Tule Elk, I felt fortunate to see the healthy populations of this species once thought to be extinct. Another wildlife sighting was less exhilerating but still unusual: a big, fat banana slug in the middle of the shoulder on White’s Hill outbound. I was just amazed that no one had run it over! Haven’t seen one of those in a while, but I guess because of the increase in wet weather, probably something I’ll see more of. Another great wildlife non-sighting was hearing frogs throughout Inverness. They were singing their little guts out! And finally, in addition to the diving pelican on the waterfront in Sausalito, I saw a seal in the water there as well as a lovely Western Grebe, a bird of the loon family native to my birthplace in Wisconsin.

And finally, for some pictures!

The bends

The bends

MOSS

Thick coatings of moss and/or lichens coated everything in sight! It was like someone sprayed green foam all over the trees, ground, concrete

If you lived here, you'd be home now

If you lived here, you’d be home now

Wetlands

Wetlands near Inverness

Marshes

Marshes

Pierce Point Road

Pierce Point Road is steep

Ocean View

Ahhh the ocean!

Top of the climb

The Road Below

Pierce Point Cows

Happy, shaggy cows

Tomales Bay

Tomales Bay

Pierce Point Control

Peace and Serenity (and Lisa’s Cookies!) at Pierce Point Control

Tule Elk

Once thought to be extinct, Tule Elk are now protected on Point Reyes and a handful of other locations in California

The Golden Gate

Passing back through the Golden Gate

A Route of One’s Own

Hey, I have my own perm now! Pretty exciting!!!! The route idea originates with my cool boyfriend John P, and is based on a route he and I have been talking about for a coupla years; I just finally got around to doing all the work to make it official. Here is his blog post about riding it from a few years ago. The first part (to Fairfax) is from a Box Dog shop ride from 2008.

Part of the route was also the same as my first ride out with my blue Pelican, at least the climb of Old Railroad Grade. Funny how things go. I will always be grateful to RideOn member/rando Nick B for taking me out that day. I really had no clue where we were headed, but I was ready for adventure and loved Old Railroad Grade trail right away: it was the new norm, naturally. It feels like completing a circle to now manage a perm using that trail. It is in my bike’s DNA as well as mine. Sooo it should be easy, right? Wellll… ha.

I started working on the route in late October, hoping it could be approved for me to use as my December 200k this year. The application and approval process took a lot less time than I anticipated, and Mount Tam to Marshall, Route #2867 was made available to RUSA members to ride for credit in early November. Ten lucky randos enjoyed the ride before I finally scheduled a day for myself to ride it in December. Due to lots of rainy days in the forecast, teaching work on weekends and so on, I settled on an apparent break in the wet weather: the 16th (my lucky number!) as my big day.

I had only ridden the whole route once before, with John as a pre-ride and not particularly for time. We putzed around that day, even running into perm owner Mark G on the Cross Marin Trail on his fixie! We stopped and chatted with him for some time. What a great day that was. We had our traditional early dinner in Point Reyes at the Whale of a Deli, mmmmmeatball sub for me and carnitas torta for John. I amply photographed all the controls, poring over the details to come up with good info control questions. I now have almost three complete sets of different questions to ask in case someone rides more than once.

Overlooking Muir Woods from Mount Tam

From the pre-ride: overlooking Muir Woods from Mmmmount Tam in the early mmmmorning

 

Donkey on Fern Canyon Road

Also from the pre-ride: my buddy who lives on Fern Canyon Road. Don’t be stubborn, just keep pedaling!

Anyway, I was pretty nervous leading up to my first riding for credit of this challenging route. On paper, there’s a lot of climbing. And the climbing is all loaded into the first third or so of the distance, so you start off feeling behind the clock. I know in my mind that I can make up the time later on the flatter sections, but it was still a cause for worry for me. Would I be able to make it to the Point Reyes timed control in time? Wouldn’t that just be too annoying if I created my own perm and wasn’t able to finish it??

I had brought my nice camera, but ran out of battery in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge, so I just took snapshots of my bike at the info controls. There are a total of ten controls on this route, six of which are info controls. I didn’t really stop worrying about making good time until I got up Red Hill… then, even with Marshall wall, I started to truly unwind and enjoy the ride. Hicks Valley Road is soooo quiet and beautiful! Shh don’t tell anyone… At that point, the clock unwound too, and as I covered the quieter backroads, time seemed to stand still. I’m glad I got to make the tiny schoolhouse on Hicks Valley Road a stopping point.

Golden Gate Bridge is extra Orange

Last picture before the nice camera ran out of battery–Golden Gate Bridge is extra Orange!!

Control 1

Control 1, yes, Starsucks

Control 2

Control 2: Base of Old Railroad Grade, always a good time to down that Ensure

Halfway Up

About halfway up Mount Tam, always brilliant–and quiet!–in the morning

West Point Inn Surprise

When I rounded the last corner before the West Point Inn, I see a hugely tall figure with his hands in the air calling my name!! When does that ever happen?! Turns out it’s these cool cyclists, coming home from camping on the Mountain of Tam.

Control 3

Control 3: Top of Mount Tam! Too bad the Visitor Center is closed, because I bet they have some great patches!

I never tire of this view

I never tire of this view from Ridgecrest Boulevard

Control 4

Control 4 is at the junction of the Bolinas Ridge trailhead, Ridgecrest Boulevard, and Bolinas-Fairfax Road. You can’t go wrong with any of these choices, but this route takes you downhill to Alpine Dam and the town of Fairfax, home of mountain biking and the Coffee Roastery, the suggested receipt control

Cross Marin trail

Control 6 is at the end of the second dirt section, the Cross Marin Trail. The trail surface is usually covered with soft pine needles, and the air is filled with the aroma of either wet redwoods or campfire smoke from the Samuel P. Taylor campsites nearby. Again, not a losing proposition either way.

Lincoln School

Control 7: The little white schoolhouse, built long ago. Still quite small, and still a functioning schoolhouse for the farm families who live out here. I can’t take a picture of it, because I’d be giving away the control question!

Marshall Wall Tree

Oh sweet lord, the tree at the end of the Marshall “wall” climb. It’s really not that bad of a climb, just looong.

The long stretch of remote, quiet road is over. Now the route turns south on CA-1, a very familiar stretch of road for SFR brevet riders.

The long stretch of remote, quiet road is over. Now the route turns homeward on CA-1, a very familiar stretch of road, and destination in itself, for SFR brevet riders.

Point Reyes

Point Reyes Station, the timed receipt control I was so worried about. I made it with plenty of time to spare, having made up lots of time on the flat Hicks Valley and Marshall Roads. Now I am smelling the barn!

There’s a lot to love about this route. There are a couple tweaks I might make if I could redo it, but it’s in the books now, so it has to stand as is. And it was a fair amount of work to create the route, cue, and info control questions, certainly making me appreciate a lot more the dedication, focus, and determination required to create a formal route such as this. A lot of expertise and riding experience goes into making a RUSA permanent route if it’s really good (in the case of Mount Tam to Marshall, the credit for that all goes to John). This one is challenging, though not as much as an Adventure Series ride. It allows riders of normal randonneuring capabilities to enjoy mellow backroads while keeping the amount of climbing doable. It offers a couple dirt trails, though one is flat and the other uphill, so that riders who would like a gradual introduction to mixed terrain riding can have it without any risky technical descents. It also includes three rails-to-trails in their entirety (super duper fancy prize for anyone who can name them in the comments section)! After riding others’ perms for so many years, I am glad I have finally come up with a route of my own to contribute. I can’t wait to come up with some more!

 

That one ride, that one day…

Hi there good people of the bicycle persuasion, believe it or not, this is not a dead feed yet! Sorry it’s been so long, yes the time does go by rather quickly these days.

Pretty soon the year will be over, and another R-12 with it, with any luck and/or possible blessings from the Spirit of Randonneuring, my collection of guardian angels, etc. I have been extremely lucky so far this year. I have been able to go on some really fantastic rides. My local cycling club happens to be one of the most active randonneuring groups in the U.S., with several great rides to choose from every month. It’s been fairly easy to keep up my R-12 pattern with such an active calendar. In October, I did three different randonnées!

I decided not to go to PBP this year, which freed up my schedule for a lot of relaxed-pace fun rides. I will probably end up riding to Brest one day with thousands of other like-minded riders; it seems like it is my fate as a cyclist of Gallic ancestry. Instead this year, I spent some time on the local mountainsides with my sweetie:  climbing…

Seaview Trail/Tilden Regional Park

Seaview Trail/Tilden Regional Park

descending…

Wildcat Canyon/Havey Canyon Trail or Mezue

Wildcat Canyon/Havey Canyon Trail- or possibly Mezue Trail

climbing…

Deer Park Fire Road, Muir Woods

Deer Park Fire Road, Muir Woods

descending…

Rock Springs Trail

Rock Springs Trail…after the steep part

and eating excellent burritos in Fairfax.

Casa Manana

Casa Manana

John’s much better at climbing and descending than I, but I try to be good-natured about getting off the bike and walking if I have to, and anyway, I’m much better now than I was a year ago. I’m pretty excited about these new adventures and the new skills I’ve gradually been honing.

Writing about randonneuring has gotten a bit complicated this year. Early in the year, one of my dearly cherished amigas was crashed into along with 4 other riders by a drunk driver. They all survived, but sustained serious injuries. Last summer, a young, sweet-sounding, and experienced randonneur was crashed into and killed by an underage driver. The litany of frightening things that can happen while “sharing the road” goes on. I try to be upbeat in this blog, but sometimes it doesn’t feel honest. I know that I am not alone among randos and non-randos in that human suffering such as this affects me deeply. There is a further feeling of injustice about it, since bicycling would appear to be such an innocent activity. The muse does not like the situation, does not like it at all. I guess the muse went on strike for a while. I did not stop randonneuring, but I definitely started orienting myself away from automobile-friendly areas. Sharing a trail with hikers, runners, and other people walking at a relaxed pace instead of “sharing” the road with stressed out texters feels good.

I think my most memorable ride this year was also the hardest (isn’t that always the way?). John, Eric W, and I rode up Railroad Grade nearly to the top of Mount Tamalpais, then rode the Bolinas Ridge trail

Bolinas Ridge Trail

Bolinas Ridge Trail

to Shafter, skirted around Kent Lake,

John and Eric edging the lake

John and Eric edging the lake

and then ascended again up San Geronimo Ridge

John and Eric at the top of San Geronimo Ridge

John and Eric at the top of San Geronimo Ridge, looking at Pine Mountain

to Pine Mountain,

Looking at Mount Tam from the north

Looking at Mount Tam from the north

finally descending via Bolinas Road into Fairfax, and routing home via the usual roads. The beauty, the remoteness, and the difficulty of this ride was surreal. I didn’t bring a camera, but I did have my phone with me, so the photos are from that. More here. I’m not sure if we rode even 50 miles that day, but it was the hardest ride of the year without question. And it wasn’t a formal ride of any kind (thus the title of this post).

Off-road riding seems to be gaining popularity with randonneurs lately. More people are enjoying the “mixed terrain” experience, and in the most recent SFR pair of populaires, more randonneurs chose the mixed terrain option. Many thanks to Carlos D for designing that very enjoyable route. I often think that bikes are only partly-suited to be on roads, and that trails are better designed for the scale and size of a bike. However, trails are also made for hikers, families, and sometimes horses, not just bikes, so bikes are not always entirely suited to be on trails either. Practically speaking, in order to get to a given trail, I ride to the trailhead, so it’s good to be able to ride both on roads and trails. Conversely, the skills developed in mountain biking help a lot in randonneuring. The brevets on narrow country roads with winding descents and highly charactered pavement definitely recall the tougher trail descents for me. Climbing rocky, uneven trails can be more difficult, which makes climbing on pavement seem a lot easier.

It’s nice to be well-rounded so you can take advantage of the best qualities of each option. Lucky for me, I have a bike that is well-rounded too. Now I have two Pelicans (bought one of John’s older ones): the one I keep clean for brevets, and the muddy one…

Hello? Bike cleaning fairy??

Hello? Bike cleaning fairy??

I guess that is the only disadvantage of mixed terrain riding that I can think of… but the views sure make up for it.

The view from Rock Springs Trail

The view from Rock Springs Trail

R36: Uvas Gold 200k

Yes, it’s true, despite my predilection against accumulating stats, my last ride has resulted in a consecutive streak of 36 monthly rides of at least 200 kilometers in length. Whoops! Never meant to do that, and so now what do I do if I want to get lazy and break my streak?? Oh those pesky rando-world problems… Actually at this point it’s no longer a question of lazy or bold. I start to notice when I haven’t done a long ride in a few weeks, and it’s not pretty. The call of the Pelican must be answered.

And speaking of the call of the Pelican, a few days after the Uvas Gold 200k marked my third year with ‘er. How I lucked into getting a bike as nice as this, I will never know and I do not want to know. I just know I feel this way about it… A bike can be a pal, an extension of our personality, a vessel into which we pour all our efforts to elevate ourselves, a simple (or complicated) machine that works (or does not), a vehicle which brings us closer to where we want to be. In bookbinding we say, “Use the best tool you can afford,” and I think I’ve applied this rule to my bike as well.  Anyway, I realized during the Uvas Gold 200k that if I finished the ride it would be my 36th consecutive monthly 200k, and one person asked, “And you did it all on that bike?,” and “Yes” was the answer. Even Old Caz, twice! Yes.

So anyway. Uvas Gold. This is a new route for SFR, and was promised to us to be a mellow year-ender. I believe the term ‘flat’ was used publicly. Good thing I do not pay attention to such terminology when it is bandied about in relation to an SFR route. Just pointless. The week before the scheduled brevet, our RBA rode the route as a permanent and reported an elevation gain figure in the neighborhood of the old Point Reyes Light House route. I’m not sure if anyone would describe that route as ‘flat’, maybe ‘flattish’? One enlightened person made the comment that a ‘flat’ route should avoid such roads with names including the following: Hill, Mount, Mountain, Valley, Grade, View, Ridge… which Uvas does not. But, like I said, when someone tells me an SFR route is flat, I have the same reaction as when someone tells me, “We will get to the top of this climb right around the next corner.” Heard that one before…

It was the rain, however, which gave me pause on the morning of the ride. It sounded like buckets of nails were overturning at the moment I got out of bed, and after eating breakfast, it hadn’t let up. Walking outside to the balcony hallway, it felt cold as well. Not the most encouraging scenario, making for the first time I ever questioned starting a brevet. I had ridden in a downpour the weekend before, but it was a 25-miler. Even that ride took my shoes 3 days to fully dry out. Finally when I decided to try it anyway, it was getting close to the time the BART train to Fremont would be leaving my station… I sprinted to the station, not having the time to put on my rain jacket, gloves, or hat! But I made it with plenty of time to spare as the train was stalled in the station, probably waiting for a connection. Taking BART was fun, since we now get ourselves organized to all hang out in the last car if possible. I got to chat with Therese C about her bike; I rode some parts of Old Caz and El Paseito Mixto with her, so it was nice to see her. Greg M and some others were also there, and Brian O and Alex P also showed up. Rando BART party!

There was light rain when we got off the train, causing us to put off walking across the wet parking lot for a few minutes… But we eventually trudged over and signed in, took the oath, and started off. By that time, there was barely enough rain for me to keep my rain jacket on, but the roads were still wet. After the first ten miles or so, the rain moved off and stayed away for the whole day, making me very glad I came out to ride. Some other great things about the Uvas Gold 200k: I liked the idea of riding all the way to Gilroy, which seems really, really far, even though we started in Fremont. I liked the Coyote Creek Trail, and the bright green early morning views from Mount Hamilton were spectacular after the rain. The post-rain forest aroma from San Felipe still lingers in my notsrils.

As usually happens, at the very beginning of the ride I get to chat with a few of the people I never see after the first control: Eric L, Andrea S and others. One of my favorite things about brevets is catching up with the people I know (sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively), putting faces to names of people I’ve heard about, seeing peoples’ different gear and bikes… but even though I valiantly took the Milpitas city limit sign, it wasn’t too long before I got dropped by most people, and then it was time to ascend the Mountain of Hamilton! I stopped to drink an Ensure brought specifically for this climb, and let my esteemed comrade Alex P climb ahead. This was the biggest climb on the route. About halfway up, I was confused (as were two other riders) by a twisted street marker, and had to pause to get in the right gear to restart… Along rode Jack H and Brian O. I rode with Brian O on the rest of the climb up Mount Hamilton, and we had fun chatting and mutually bemoaning our being out of shape. I think at that point, or at the first info control, we also ran into Ben G, Eric M and Theresa C, three people with whom I rode Old Caz this summer.

There were a couple wild descents that had been given mild passing notice in the pre-ride talk; Jack H noted to me prior to the ascent that these descents had been understated, and he was oh, so right. I was glad for the extra warning, I was glad I just replaced my front brake pads, I was glad I took the time to go to the bike handling skills classes, and I was glad my bike handles so well. Therefore, I was glad while descending, and I thought it was fun. But wow! Tight turns, those. In case anyone is reading this who is considering riding this route, consider yourself warned: watch those descents on Quimby and Metcalf if you’ve never ridden them before (there are at least a couple 180 degree hairpins) and be sure your brakes are working well. Then you will have fun.

At the base of Metcalf, we entered the Coyote Creek Trail, a very nice (its flatness was quite welcome to us!) multi-use path. There’s a little bathroom/bubbler shack close to the end where we took a break for stretching and replenishing of fluids. Not too much longer and we would be in Gilroy, the lunch stop. A bunch of us left together and made our way through the semi-rural streets of Morgan Hill and San Martin. It was a cheerful group with lots of chatting and a medium pace. I unfortunately have not ridden in a close group like that too often, and a minor calamity resulted when I touched wheels with Brian O in front of me and Dan B behind. I took a little dive and my right shoe came off, I tore a hole in my nice wool knickers (darn it!) and got a little road rash. But the funniest thing to happen was that my left rear fender stay got bent into an S shape… and in spite of that, the wheel turned fine. And I felt fine too. So, I put my shoe back on and we continued down the road, no worse for wear but of course much more consciously on my part.

As we continued riding, I felt pretty hungry. I mentioned to Brian about how my Most Frequent Riding Partner John and I ate sushi from the Half Moon Bay Safeway for Thanksgiving while bike camping, and we both started to look forward to lunch. As it turned out, the Gilroy Safeway had an excellent sushi chef making hand rolls on the spot! I had a giant dragon roll as big as a small burrito that also had one nigiri roll in the package, and I ate it all, no problem! …as delicious as it was large. While I dined at the picnic tables outside the Safeway, I was able to share one of my favorite brevet comestibles, surprising to me that more people don’t drink more of it: sparkling water. I overheard my table-mate say to her riding partner that she was having better luck with her stomach troubles this ride, so I felt compelled to share with her that sparkling water has never failed to ease any stomach sourness I’ve had. She was surprised, and gladly took the leftover of the large bottle I had bought! Woohoo another convert to fizzy water, yesssss.

I left with Dan B and James W, my poor sense of direction almost leading us through a high school football field, and then after not too long on Uvas Road, they dropped me. I knew it would happen sooner or later, and I didn’t mind riding around the Uvas Reservoir by myself one bit. What a beautiful road. Info control: check. Water level since the rains: up, though still very very very low. What is going on here, people?!? I know the Marin and Sonoma reservoirs are filled to overflowing after the recent rains, but inland California is another story. I did not bring my camera on this ride, so you will have to imagine the ring after ring of vestigial water levels left in a formerly huge reservoir.

After Uvas, there is another little bump before rejoining the Coyote Creek Trail in the opposite direction from the morning. I could not for the life of me find where the cue sheet said to enter the trail, and there were several highway on ramps sharing the same space, so I just tried to find the safest way to get the trail that I could. Doing that in near-dark was the least fun part of the ride for me, and something I would look at on Streetview next time. At the end of the trail, I ran across some other randos looking for the entrance to the mysteriously marked (or unmarked?) Road N… Dadblame new route, but we found it.

Sometime during the remainder of the only-medium-sucky suburban streets (mostly with bike lanes, though the disappearing bike lane section raising my neck hairs for as long as it lasted) I ran into Steve H and Tom H, members of the former Gilroy-bound gruppo. Yay! We rode through and through to the penultimate control where we got some life-giving beverages and snacks, and through to the very end. I am always happy to run into these guys, chipper as always even at the very end of a long day of human-powered pedaling.

Even with more climbing than promised, I had a great time that day on my bike. And even in the off season, so many fantastic people were there! The scenery was just amazing after the rains: bright neon green, so fresh and lovely. Uvas Road was quiet, remote, hilly, scenic–just what I love about SFR brevets. I look forward to next year…and may even continue my R-whatever! If I do, you’ll hear about it here on mmmmbike!