Coffeeneuring *finisher*

Coffeeneuring final ride #7
November 21, 2019
Mileage: 31 miles
Beverage: Kombucha brought from home in water bottle
Destination: Point San Quentin Beach

Sailing on the coat tails of the Richmond-San Rafael bridge opening excitement, Thursday night book club goes to Point San Quentin! Dan discovered a tiny beach just over the bridge on the San Rafael side. There is even a minimal concatenation of residential homes there, just on the eastern border of the prison.

This ride happened to coincide with the continued abundance of apples from Dan’s apple tree, resulting in various of Dan’s friends making off pretty well, apple-wise and consequently apple-containing-baked-goods-wise. What I’m saying is, Greg, who has been documenting his extensive and appetizing baking efforts on Instagram for months now, made an apple pie and carried it on his heavy bike with the platform rack in front so all five or so of us who came could enjoy it while hanging out after dark on the tiny beach in the shadow of California’s oldest prison.

Aaand that’s a wrap! Thus ends my first attempt at coffeeneuring. It has been a nice opportunity for me to spin the wheels of celebration, meditation, exploration, relaxation, seclusion, accomodation, and affiliation. Coffeeneuring has been a good way to consider a topic that has been on my mind a lot over the past year, namely the role of documenting my bike rides in a time when I’m not rando’ing so much. I’ve always taken lots of photos on bike rides, but writing helps me remember the rides in a better way. And coffeeneuring has given me a chance to write about some of the rides that are less dramatic but just as worthy of remembering. I hope it works out to do this again! If I do, you’ll surely hear about it here on mmmmbike!

An Historic Day for All Bicycle-kind

Coffeeneuring Ride 6
November 17, 2019
Mileage: 81.21 miles
Beverage: Black tea (hot)
Destination: Offhand Manor, Fairfax CA wombats.org

Picking up a thread from my first coffeeneuring post here. Darryl Skrabak was not only a founder of SFR and accomplished accordionist, he was also a bike advocate. He wrote many articles for Bicycling magazine about bicycling and the law, and he worked for a long time to get bikes to be able to be ridden on the Golden Gate Bridge.  Well, as it happens, only a couple weeks after his memorial, another key bridge in the bay area was opened to bikes: the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge!

!!!!

The Bay Area is defined by its land masses separated by bodies of water. Points of crossing are few, and even fewer are open to bikes, so this bridge opening is a cause for joyful celebration. Since moving over to the east side of the bay, I have been blown away by the work being done by Bike East Bay, and their part in this historic opening is impressive.

Great signage on the Richmond side

Great signage on the Richmond side

I had to work on opening day, but on the following day I had plans to ride with a friend who lives on the Marin side. She makes excellent tea, in fact she’s known far and wide for her love of mountain biking and tea and… well I won’t go into it but I will say I was pretty tickled to be able to ride my bike the whole way to go ride with her instead of having to take the bus over the bridge like I’ve done before.

Richmond San Rafael bridge bike lanes and Mount Tam

so effing exciting

Richmond San Rafael bridge with bike

Pelican is pleased

Mission San Rafael

Mission San Rafael with beautiful fall colors

Mt Tam from Pine Mountain

Mt Tam on the right and Mount Diablo in the misty distance from Pine Mountain trail

Even though I was a bit late to start, we still had enough time for a delightful loop around Pine Mountain, joined as well by her neighbor, and then I got to enjoy a lovely lunch she cooked, with venison chili (venison courtesy of the local upscale grocery’s dumpster! yep… twelve pounds in all, collected in one-pound sealed plastic wrappers) and tiny green and orange tomatoes from the garden. I headed back homeward over Deer Park trail and around Phoenix Lake to squeeze just a tiny bit more dirt from the day, then back over the bridge for my twofer. Super dreamy day made possible in part by a healthy quantity of black tea keeping my eyelids propped open… I hadn’t unpacked my bike after the camping trip, so was up half the night reconfiguring my bike to be able to ride.

Later I found out about this article about the historic fight to get bike lanes on the Richmond-San Rafael bridge. It is a great read, in part because it divulges that the bike lanes were supposed to open in April! WTF? Well, I’m glad they are open now, and yes I understand that this is just a test opening that could only last 6 months, but I’m not telling my subconscious about that part just now. I’m just going to ride and ride and ride and ride that bridge, rain or shine, in honor of Darryl and everybody who has marched, written letters, made phone calls, gone to meetings, and made this happen, until I wear out the pavement!

Richmond San Rafael Bridge bike lane

Rainy day bridge with newly installed fenders

Coffeeneuring Outside

Ride 5
November 14, 2019
Mileage: 15.5 miles
Beverage: Hot nettle tea
Destination: Sibley Volcanic Preserve, ebparks.org

More riding with rando friends combined this time with a local sub 24 hour overnight. I had made the bold announcement to the weeknight riding group that I would be camping overnight in the hills overlooking Oakland, and a couple cats volunteered to ride along with me to Sibley, a nearby East Bay Park, as part of our regularish Thursday night jam. I like to call it the Thursday Night Book Club because we meet at a public library where one of us works, and cuz I’m a bookbinder and we all like books. I was pretty thrilled that some people agreed to ride with me because I would be camping all by myself, bringing my single person tent and tiny alcohol camp stove. I had a larger solo tour idea I’d been hashing out and wanted to check whether my gear would work out.

Blue Pelican with camping gear

the rig

The ride up to the ridge was eerie since the whole area was wrapped in thick fog. We decided to take the dirt alternative to the usual paved Tunnel Road, just for kix, and found that the rutted, complicated and supersteep pitches had mostly been smoothed over. We were all disappointed by this turn of events. This trail had been a real challenge, and I had just started figuring out how to stay on the pedals for most of it! Oh well.

We continued on up Skyline, Jesse telling us about his recent bike tour on the C & O trail and the Gap Trail out east. We entered Sibley, which even though it was only about 7 pm was already looking pretty creepy with all the fog. We rode past a couple guys hanging out with their mountain bikes and smoking weed… was that me hoping they would not stick around too long? Sometimes I get a little paranoid about being by myself. Sibley is pretty big, how would anyone possibly find me? More importantly, why… although my homemade tin can stove is pretty sweet I guess. LOL.

mull foon

moody moony moon

We rode the short, rocky dirt trail to the place where I was going to pitch my tent, a nice bald spot with some bushes nearby… don’t ask me where, it’s a stealth spot! Though I shared the locale with Jesse and Greg, you can try asking them if you want to know where it is. When they departed, I sensed a slight confusion, like, “Why would anyone want to camp out here on a night like this??” But I was happy, I really needed to sleep outside–it could not wait another day. There was a near-full moon that was heavily diffused by the fog, making it very easy to set up my tent which I hadn’t seen the likes of for years. I changed quickly into my warm pyjamas and found my camp stove and two (yes, two!) candle lanterns. My tent has a little sheltered entry way, a perfect little space for cooking and hanging out. There was a fair wind out, so the shelter was helpful in keeping my stove from blowing out. My little homemade stove worked perfectly, as it has for years. This time, the fuel level was perfect to boil water for a fulfilling meal of dehydrated bean soup with couscous and a big thermos of hot tea. Yum!

alcohol burning camp stove

tin can stove…priceless…my cozy home for one night

I had been fantasizing about doing some reading or writing by candlelight in the tent, but as soon as I finished the last bit of soup and tea, I conked out, ne’er to wake until right before my 5 am alarm. I was able to pack up and ride home with enough time to hang up my tent and sleeping bag to dry before starting work at 8:30. It was nice to be able to go through the work day with a solid foundation of a peaceful night’s sleep, all sound muffled by the fog.

bike in the maze

hashtag bike in the maze

Almost Rando Coffeeneuring

Ride 4
November 11, 2019
Mileage: 75.037 mi round trip
Beverage: Tea Soda
Destination: States Coffee, 609 Ward St. Martinez CA statescoffee.com

Just a plain old social road ride among randos. Dan, Greg, Nate, and myself. Dan came up with the route, something he’s been pretty good at lately, and it just happened to go by one of my favorite hipster cafes in recently hipsterized Martinez. I had been having relationship troubles, and Nate’s beloved canine companion Peanut had recently died of cancer, so it was nice to get out with close friends and shrug off our heavy burdens for a short and sweet ride. I’m still on sabbatical from SFR but I do love a longish road ride in a rando style. I will always be a randonneur, no matter what happens with the permanents program, RUSA insurance, or my insufferable stubbornness. Brevet card or not, my rambling heart rando’s on.

States Coffee Martinez

Nate’s vegan donut and cuppa coffee

Franklin Valley coasters

Coasting down Franklin Canyon wheeee

Franklin Valley

After Franklin Canyon, pondering the remainder of the route

Car(free)quinez

Car(free)quinez

applz

Ended the ride at Dan’s to pick up a bag of apples! Good eats to come

The Grind: Coffeeneuring Ride 3

Ride 3
November 5
Mileage: 2.2 miles round trip
Beverage: Chai (hot)
Destination: Philz Coffee, 1775 17th Street San Francisco https://www.philzcoffee.com/locations-sf

Something I haven’t yet mentioned is the marked lack of coffee in my coffeeneuring. The thing is, I gave up coffee several years ago–mostly. Occasionally I will have a single espresso shot for those times (often while randonneuring) when I’m dangerously drowsy. But due to stomach issues, coffee just doesn’t work for me, so it is making my committment to coffeeneur more interesting.

In my work as a bookbinder, an important component is teaching, and several times per year, I step out of my studio to teach bookbinding for one week, 9 am to 6 pm, in San Francisco. There are some pretty great cafes in SF, so decided to try to include one in my coffeeneuring clatch. I had originally planned to visit Daily Driver since I miss bagels here in CA. But unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to ride there before work, so as a backup, I settled on what would be closest: Philz on 17th street in Potrero Hill.

The ride from the BART station was fun since there’s a little hill on the route, and riding it on my fixie-townie is always a good morning warmup. On this particular morning, I happened upon another fixie rider on the hill who was riding at just about my same pace, maybe a little faster. He had cool striped kneesocks exposed by his folded jeans cuff. I stepped up my pace a little to keep up, and at the next red light commented how nice it is to see another fixie rider on the hill. He smiled and nodded in agreement.

Sometimes after a long brevet I enjoy riding my fixed gear just to have a totally different ride experience. It’s a different way of pacing, a different relationship to one’s bike which is welcome on those days when commuting by bike is necessary though less than appealing. Sometime I’ll have to figure out a way to ride brevets on my fixed gear, but just riding around town on it makes me pretty happy too.

my fixie townie

Blackie

Coffeeneuring 2019 Ride 2: Is Bicycling Meditative?

Ride 2
October 18, 2019
Mileage: 6.0 miles round trip
Beverage: ginger tea
Destination: Berkeley Zen Center, 1931 Russell St Berkeley CA/berkeleyzencenter.org

Whenever I explain randonneuring to people who have never heard of it, there’s always someone who comments that it must be very meditative. Sometimes people ask what I think about over so many hours on the (mostly) open road. I always cringe a little when people suggest that something (other than meditating) is meditative, because meditating can be really hard at times. It’s only as peaceful as the inside of your mind, and we all know just about how peaceful that can be. I also cringe since there are so many ways people seem to misuse the term Zen, especially to sell things such as their social media marketing schemes or even just boiling it all down to Zen in a Jar!

There was a moment on the fleche from 2 years ago when Dan and I rode past the driveway to a Zen monastery up in the mountains on Skyline, and Dan commented that he’d love to just sit around all day, it must be easier than riding our bikes for 24 hours straight. I expressed my doubts at this conjecture, though I’ve never tried sitting zazen for a full day (so far). At least while riding, one has the road to distract one from the thoughts that occur to one’s oft-befuddled mind.

That said, I do think there are a few parallels between meditation and randonneuring, though they may not be ones you’d expect. The first thing that comes to mind is in both activities, you spend a lot of time with most or all of your weight on your sit bones. Having to tolerate muscle soreness, possible joint pain, and tenderness in the sit bone area are all things you might experience. I’m not sure if you can get saddle sores from a zafu, but you need to develop a tolerance for small amounts of physical pain or distraction in order to sit zazen. Quite often in randonneuring, things like this will come up, too: a pain in my knee that randomly appears, then an hour later, disappears, also for no reason. I’ve learned that it’s not worth giving too much attention to these sensations, and this is something meditators also know. My randonneuring and zazen habits tend to support each other: it helps to have solid core strength to sit zazen, and it certainly helps to develop patience to be a randonneur. Another unexpected similarity between the two activities is the feeling of freedom I experience in both, although both activities carry with them the possibility of Type 2 fun.

Regardless of whether it’s good for you or enjoyable in the way most people seem to think, I’ve been meditating every so often on my own since I was a teenager. I have almost no memory of how it occurred to me to do this, but as soon as I started, I never stopped. One thing I haven’t done this whole time, though, is visit a zendo or try to meditate with others. I finally realized about two months ago that the Bay Area is home to several world class Zen centers, so maybe I should go see what they are like.

I settled on Berkeley Zen Center because it’s very small, and very close to my apartment. I went first for the weekly meditation instruction they offer on Saturday mornings, and then started going for Monday morning zazen (sitting meditation) which begins at 5:40 am. Already I felt comfortable getting up that early because I do that so often for brevets and perms, and I learned that everything good starts early when no one else is out.

However, there had to be a beverage involved to qualify as a coffeeneuring ride, so this visit was for their Friday afternoon tea, discussion, and zazen. At the discussion, there was a Presbyterian scholar of religion who was dropping in to chat. He didn’t want to stay for meditation, although he professed to want to “improve his thinking.” This confused the rest of us, and though no one pressured him to stay, one person commented that meditation is a good way to “defrag your brain,” which I though was an apt analogy. Another parallel between rando and Zen is the emphasis on the role of the community in one’s development. If you want to go far in Rando or in Zen, go with others. It was a lively discussion we all had over tea and cookies, and then we crossed the garden for a short period of zazen followed by bowing and chanting the heart sutra.  Since I have only visited Berkeley Zen Center four or five times, I am still lost when it comes to the choreography of the ceremony, but others have been helping out and, like randonneuring’s structure and rules, I’m sure it will become natural to me soon. I wonder if there is a coffeeneuring equivalent in Zen? Hmmm.

Parallel Randoverse: Coffeeneuring 2019

My first attempt at coffeeneuring ever! I did the Errandonnee years ago, maybe 2013? 2014? I still had my beloved teal blue Motobecane then which died of a deeply indexed headset and subsequent unsolveable steerer tube issues. But… why coffeeneuring?  It’s not going to be easy, since I don’t drink coffee! I am not sure how best to document fun rides, either. Not having to collect receipts is confusing. At least there’s a control card that somewhat resembles a brevet card. It’s funny, even though I don’t feel compelled to rando for credit as much as I once did, randonneuring has deeply affected my riding habits. I’d like to think of this coffee(neuring) clatch of rides as a way of taking a snapshot of my relationship with bicycling, how it looks at this moment, and see where it takes me. Also, I’ve run into some other fun coffeeneurs over the past year, even rode with one in Nevada!

Day one: Gamblers 1000k

Day one: Gamblers 1000k

October 12, 2019
Ride 1
Mileage: 27.46
Beverage: coffee stout
Destination: Biketoberfest, downtown Fairfax, CA 760 Center Blvd Fairfax 94930

The route for this first coffeeneuring ride was an easy dirt route to Fairfax from San Francisco. I love this route, and John and I have trodden this path many times.

Blithedale Ridge from Eldridge Trail

View of Blithedale Ridge from Eldridge Trail… or possibly from Hoo Koo E Koo

John is Not randonneuring today

I get my own sticker

Bike: 650b blue Pelican with WTB resolute tires which don’t mount well to my Velocity rims. There’s always a bump or something–they don’t inflate evenly. This time, I tried overinflating them to even them out, then letting off some air. It has definitely improved but not eliminated the problem. Otherwise the tires are perfect for that paved/dirt mix which characterize most of my routes these days.

When we got to Biketoberfest in downtown Fairfax, John and I parked our bikes at the free bike valet and almost immediately found our friend we were planning to meet. She was directing traffic on busy Center Boulevard so that fairgoers would be able to visit the tents and vendors on both sides of the street without worrying about cars speeding through.

Downtown Fairfax... so fair

Downtown Fairfax… so fair

Biketoberfest 2019

Biketoberfest 2019

Like several other of the fair volunteers, she was in a German folk dancing costume and a cool velvet porkpie hat with a feather! She gave us her beer glasses and we got a couple small glasses of beer–coffee stout for me, lager or something for John.

As soon as we sat down with our beer and our sandwiches, I noticed our friend Braxton roll right by with his two daughters, aged ten and seven (?) and his gal Erin! They said they were planning on taking the ferry back to San Francisco later, so when it was time to go, we joined them and rode with them to the ferry terminal. This wasn’t really part of the coffeeneuring ride, but it was so much fun! Braxton’s daughter Claire is riding pretty fast now *and* we have matching wrist watches.

After we got back to SF, it was time for John and me to go to the memorial celebration for SFR founder and past RBA Darryl Skrabak. This was sad for me since I never got to meet him, but he seemed like a pretty cool guy for many reasons. He built and maintained boats for the Dolphin Club, where the event was held; he was a draft resister in the Viet Nam war; he rode both on pavement and on trails like I do; and he even played the accordion.

Darryl's PBP bike

Darryl’s PBP bike

Custom fabs

Custom fabs

Darryl Skrabak

Darryl Skrabak: rest in peace, though we wish you could have been with us a little longer.

Mount Tam to Moscow 300k: Going Nowhere, Getting Nothing

It was recently announced to RUSA members that there would be a (hopefully) temporary suspension of the RUSA Permanents program. I had a strong immediate and emotional reaction to this of dismay, disappointment, even slight panic. RUSA Permanents have been a source of joy, excitement, and sense of achievement for almost seven years for me.

When I recovered from my first reaction, I realized this presented an opportunity to me to explore some routes that weren’t formal perms, yet could be. Or I could ride some routes that weren’t suitable to be RUSA routes, yet were good for just fun riding. In an effort to keep expanding the perms I own, I have been wanting to create longer versions of Mount Tam to Marshall. I have had the route worked out for many months, but due to work and other stuff, I haven’t been able to pre-ride the route before submitting it to RUSA.

Mount Tam to Marshall is not the hardest 200k route I’ve done, but it’s not the easiest either, and the 300k version continues that trend. It starts by climbing Mount Tam all the way to East Peak (kind of the top), then there is a little more climbing on East Ridgecrest Boulevard. If you’re at the top when you get to East Peak, how can there be more climbing? Don’t ask… Anyway, then you drop down on Ridgecrest, all the way down to Alpine Dam, up again and then down to Fairfax. The climbing is definitely front-loaded in this route. The 200k version then goes out to Marshall-Petaluma Road, climbs and descends to Marshall, and goes back to SF via CA-1 and Sir Francis Drake. The 300k version would go up Wilson Hill instead of to Marshall, then through Chileno Valley, Freestone, Occidental, Monte Rio, Moscow Road, and finally to the jewel of the route: Willow Creek trail. Then it goes back to San Francisco via CA-1 (at night, when traffic has calmed down), following the same return as Old Caz through Stinson Beach and Tam Junction. When describing these roads and tiny towns that are not more than a crossroads, a lot of people might say, “There’s nothing out there.” Fine with me! When there is no desirable destination other than the road itself, fewer cars will be there, at least. I prefer the peace of empty roads that go nowhere.

I had been wanting to ride the 300k version for many months, but whenever I started out, I ended up bailing and riding the 200k version instead. It felt like such a huge time commitment to go that much further. Always something else that needs to be done at home. Finally last week I set my mind to completing the 300k. Since perms have been suspended, no randobucks are available anyway, so I might as well do this ride that is not official in any way. Going nowhere, getting nothing.

It may seem punishing to ride the hardest climb of the route first, with not too much opportunity to warm up, but riding up Old Railroad Grade is pretty amazing first thing in the morning. It is really worth waking up for! As I have said before in the blog, Old Railroad Grade is my Trail One. It was the first place I went on New Bike Day when I got my Pelican, and I can almost recreate in my mind every berm, dip, and turn, many of the trees along the way, the streams that rush by the trail in the rainy season, the past and present ruts and slick rocks. Friday’s ride was typical…

Pure golden morning light

Pure golden morning light

Couldn't help but stop briefly for a snapshot

Couldn’t help but stop briefly for a snapshot

Looking backwards down the trail

Looking backwards down the trail

Sourced from the mountain

Water at the community tool shed is sourced from the mountain

Twin trees at intersection of Old Railroad and Hoo Koo E Koo

Twin trees at intersection of Old Railroad and Hoo Koo E Koo

Looking southeast at the Bay Bridge and financial district of San Francisco

Looking southeast at the Bay Bridge and financial district of San Francisco

Mount Diablo to the east

Mount Diablo to the east

Trails have drained well; seems like someone has been doing a lot of work here. There were lots of areas with medium-sized gravel placed in previously rutted areas

Trails have drained well; seems like someone has been doing a lot of work here. There were lots of areas with medium-sized gravel placed in previously rutted areas

Finally arriving at West Point Inn

Finally arriving at West Point Inn

At East Peak I finally encountered some people and we mutually commented on how beautiful the day was. I went on my way to East Ridgecrest, the highest paved road in Marin County, then West Ridgecrest.

Rolling hills of Bolinas Ridge from West Ridgecrest Blvd

Rolling hills of Bolinas Ridge from West Ridgecrest Blvd

Looking down on Bolinas Lagoon from West Ridgecrest

Looking down on Bolinas Lagoon from West Ridgecrest

Best intersection ever... No bad choices here

Best intersection ever… No bad choices here

Then downdowndown to Alpine Dam.

Alpine Lake as still as glass

Alpine Lake as still as glass

Up a little more, then down to Fairfax for a bite to eat. I always stop at the Coffee Roastery for their fresh beet juice and tasty, filling frittatas, but something was off in frittataland that day. I still ate it, but heading up White’s Hill from Fairfax, I didn’t feel too hot. I started to formulate bailout options. Hmm I could just go to Freestone and get a scone, then turn around, or I could go to Freestone and then do Barnett Valley, or… Okay stop. Just keep going and you don’t have to figure anything out. Easier that way! So I kept going, but in the back of my mind, or more often the front, I kept thinking I would not go the whole way. I just felt really tired, one of those days you are pedaling squares for hours. After being on Hicks Valley for a while I remembered that I hadn’t checked the air in my tires before starting out, and thought maybe the air pressure could be a little higher, so I stopped and added some air, which helped me feel a bit lighter. Chileno Valley Road, once I got there, was gorgeous that day, and I saw even more calves and cows than usual. The swans were mostly on the far side of the lake, but there was one closer to the road that had its head all the way down in the water. I thought it might be a pelican, but it drew its long, graceful neck out of the water and I saw that it sure was a swan! There were also a lot of red tail hawks and peregrine falcons in the air. Although I was struggling, I noticed I was making up time, and since I didn’t have any control closing times to meet, why worry? Rando without boundaries was liberating!

The Valley Ford Market was busy, but not like it was on weekends. There was a steady trickle of customers, mostly local. There was one tall, clean cut guy at the deli counter ordering sandwiches by saying loudly, “Let’s do the turkey etc etc etc…” So weird when people ordering food say they are doing something. Oh well, my sausage roll was excellent, not exactly the kind of thing I would have advised myself to eat at that moment, but I inhaled it and my chocolate milk, and refilled my water. I thanked the cashier on the excellent vittles, and she said yes, they were made in house. I have to say lately I’ve been really impressed with the old Valley Ford Market.  In one of my bailout fantasies I had been thinking I would not eat in Valley Ford but instead get a scone in Freestone or one of those wraps they have at the market in Occidental, but I’m glad I made the full stop in Valley Ford. It made it easier to keep riding through to Jenner/Russia House. One nice thing about this route, though, is that it does have several food options along the way.

Zooming along toward Monte Rio, traffic was light on this Friday. I love riding on weekdays, because local traffic is usually much more polite than the weekend out of towners, busy to get to their kayaking or wine tasting adventures. This route uses Moscow Road instead of River Road as well, further reducing encounters with crappy drivers. It did not disappoint.

View from Moscow Road of bridge crossing Russkaya River

View from Moscow Road of the usual bridge leading to 116

View across Russian River from Moscow Road

View across Russian River from Moscow Road

Moscow Road is a little like Cherry Street

Moscow Road is a little like Cherry Street: lots of redwoods… though nearly flat!

Sunlight from the west bursting through the trees

Sunlight from the west bursting through the trees

Russia House #1 is welcoming, its door wide open

Russia House #1 is welcoming, its door wide open

Russia House #1, the turnaround control, is a pretty interesting place. It used to be an Indian restaurant. It is situated in kind of an odd spot on Highway One, right at the junction of Willow Creek and CA-1. It’s sort of a dead spot though, on a stretch that doesn’t have too many other businesses. I have been wanting to try it out for a long time, since John and I both love Russian food and what seems to be the national beverage of Russia: kvass. Russia House #1 has a porch at the back where you can sit and look at the last bend the Russian River makes before emptying into the Pacific Ocean. On this day, the view was amazing, right at sunset with the light filtering through the clouds.

View from Russia House to Russian River

View from Russia House to Russian River

The food at Russia House #1 consists of a buffet with 4 or 5 items, with a sign saying “Please help yourself and pay according to your WISDOM”. You can pay in cash or with a credit or debit card. Apparently some Russian tourists have reviewed the place: in the original Russian or translated. The restaurant has lots of handmade wooden toys made in Russia, other Russian handicrafts on display, a large chess set and samovar, and an upright piano next to a harp.

Buffet with all home made vegetarian food

Buffet with all home made vegetarian food

Chess set and interesting sculpture on the main table

Chess set and interesting sculpture on the main table

There are lots of posters for some kind of spiritual healer up in the bathroom… I wasn’t too interested in that, but the apparent caretaker and I had a scintillating conversation about local Oakland politics, since he said his son lives in Oakland and I do too. I had a lovely bowl of borscht, making two out of three of my meals containing beets today. Can’t go wrong with that. Also got some dark rye bread, a hard boiled egg, and some Russian tea from the samovar. Perfect rando food for a chilly day.

Bowl of vegetarian borscht with lots of potatoes and sturdy broth

Bowl of vegetarian borscht with lots of potatoes and sturdy broth

One thing I was happy about in arriving at Russia House #1 was that it was not dark yet. Riding this as I was in December, there was very little daylight to be had that day. I think I made the most of it, but I had a suspicion that I would be riding Willow Creek, and the rest of the route, in the dark.

Riding dirt trails in the dark has become one of my winter passions lately. I’ve been fortunate to find some friends who enjoy it too, and we’ve ridden some trails I never would have thought possible to ride in the dark without crashing. It is a new challenge and made much easier by riding in a group, and it makes me feel rewarded for investing in good lighting for my bike, although when the moon is full, sometimes you don’t even need a light.

There was still some gloam by the time I left Russia House #1, but after the long road to Willow Creek trail, that had faded. I began climbing the soft trail strewn with pine needles. The woods were quiet and completely dark. At sections where the trail opened up, I could see bright stars in a deep blue sky. This was why I wanted to make the route longer, not so I could check a box for RUSA saying “yes, I did a 300k.” A route that includes Mount Tam’s Old Railroad Grade, Chileno Valley, and Willow Creek in one day? Yes or yes??

I got to the top of Willow Creek and paused to put on my jacket and mittens for the descent. There would still be some climbing to get to the top of Joy Road, then the descent down Joy. The rest of the route involved familiar territory: Bodega Highway to Freestone-Valley Ford Rd, then Valley Ford and CA-1 most of the way back to Sausalito. It was a tough slog, quite cold and I was drowsy. I took quite the tour of local post offices to nap along the way.

The post office in Marshall was the best one I found, the warmest and with the added bonus that I was able to access the free wifi of the Marshall Store all the way across the street! I took my phone out of airplane mode, and opened my email. Amazingly, there was an email from the RUSA board advising members that the perms program had been reinstated!

So, did I feel like my route scouting had been a waste? Of course not. The ride had been just what I needed: a way to get back into shape after a forced break due to smoke in the air from the Camp Fire. It was a tough ride, an excellent training opportunity, and my body remembers even if my RUSA stats don’t show it. I felt well rewarded. It was good to know I enjoy randonneuring with or without paperwork, and that I have the discipline to get through a ride of that length without the imposed restrictions of the brevet card.

,


The Dao that can be trodden
is not the enduring and unchanging Dao.
The name that can be named
is not the enduring and unchanging name.
-Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

 

 

Sadboiz 200k

Dan B and I had been trying to work out an east bay 200k perm route for a while, and I had spent a good deal of time on RidewithGPS hashing out possibilities. My sweetheart John P had created a route for the Davis Dart years ago that went through Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. I had ridden that route and a variation of it three times. I liked the route, but I wanted one that would start and finish in the east bay instead of finishing in Davis. Black Diamonds is one of my favorites of all my favorite East Bay Parks, is excellent for bike riding on road or MTB machines, and is remote enough that not too many people ever go there. The only problem with it is that it’s ringed with crappy ten-lane suburban roads with fast traffic, peppered with freeway interchanges and now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t bike lanes. This is true for a lot of the parks in the east bay, not just Black Diamonds. It makes creating a 200k perm route quite a challenge.

After hashing out a couple ride ideas, I finally stopped editing and sent what I had over to Dan. I was still concerned about areas around San Ramon and Castro Valley, towns with busy shopping centers that were sure to present problems, but they seemed to have bike lanes throughout, so why not try it? Dan tried a pre-ride with Eric M but didn’t make it to that section. I encouraged Dan to submit the route to the RUSA perms coordinator anyway, and it got approved. Dan and Eric had found a bunch of graffiti along the route (the secret control…) and decided to name the perm after some of it. OK cool. Dan had made some nice edits himself as well, like the addition of the East Ridge trail on the return leg. I had to go out of town for a conference the next weekend and was working the weekend after that, but we planned to ride it the following Friday. OMG weekday East Bay perm?!? If this works out, I’m in heaven, though it seemed risky.

7 am we agreed to meet at La Fournee, the start control. One of our friends had thrown down a course record challenge over email, and Dan answered by stating he would set a course record for the amount of calories consumed during the ride, intending to fill up on croissants in Black Diamonds and DNF. Silliness aside, I was feeling barely up to the ride much less set a course record. I was out of my usual training regimen, and even had a minor wipeout on Wooden Valley the week before during the Davis 300k. Somehow I banged my chest on something and it felt like a broken rib, though I had a visit with my awesome primary care physician (thank you Obama!) and she declared there was nothing broken. Anyway for my own part, I was looking at the route for potential points of bailout, and being an east bay route, there were several areas of close intersections with BART. Hey, it’s a tough ride, as Dan was to point out to me later.

La Fournee opens at 7, so it took us a minute to get rolling after purchasing at least one croissant each. The start control is right across from the Claremont Hotel, known to many cyclists as being at the base of Claremont Avenue which is a fun descent or kind of a hard climb if you happen to be going in the direction we needed to go. My original route had Claremont as the return, but for some unknown reason Dan changed it to use it going uphill. Hey, whatever… This way, just in case you were wondering if the route would be some work for you, you discover right away that it will be. Because of my small physical issue, I couldn’t climb out of the saddle without it being painful. I wondered aloud how riding this route was going to work. Dan said generously, “There aren’t that many spots where you would need to do that…” and his voice sort of trailed off. I just laughed, thinking of John’s old dart route in Black Diamonds. Well, I made it up Claremont without keeling over, so might as well keep going. On to Bear Creek and Briones. I’ve been riding in Briones in the evenings occasionally, which is quiet at that time of day, and the sunsets are nice. It was different in the morning, with the bright eastern sun in my eyes blotting out all the beautiful hills. There were some hikers there that morning; usually it’s just the huge, docile black cows sharing the trails with us. There was one nice mountain biker lady who came through the gate at the top with us and affirmed my greeting of, “nice day.”

Then we descended to Reliez Valley and over to the Contra Costa Canal Trail. Dan had told me at the start that his battery headlamp wasn’t working and we briefly discussed the possibility of taking a slight detour to Rivendell so he could buy a new one. But I wasn’t sure if their store was open that early even though I thought the level-headed staff had decided to shift their hours to begin the day earlier. So we kept rolling, and Dan said there might be a bike shop at the control in Blackhawk.I was still wondering if I would make it that far today and wasn’t sure how the day would end for me. However, I wanted to follow the lesson I learned from King Ridge this year. I DNFed that ride, mostly because I didn’t have confidence I would get through it, and took a long break early on. I wasn’t thinking things through very well, and it didn’t occur to me that I could have gotten through it if I hadn’t taken that break. So the lesson is to just keep riding as if you’re planning to finish. No more abandoning the ride before giving it a chance! So I picked up the pace a little on the CCCT where possible. There were lots of people, dogs, elderly, and children out on the trail though (a good thing!), so I didn’t want to push it. I had a lot of experience riding this particular trail, so I had a good feeling for how to ride around all the pedestrians politely without losing too much time on it. Before long, we made it to the turnoff for the Ygnacio Valley trail–good views!–and Ygnacio Valley Road. The road has wide shoulders, and a prolonged climb though at a low grade. Once on the Davis dart I got John to hang back with me on the climb and snuck up from behind to take the Concord city limit sign, which is at the summit. Not so today. I don’t think I took a single city limit sign all day! Bummer but given my fitness condition, I was just happy to be out on my bike.

After Concord was Clayton, where we stopped at their ornamental town hall park with water and bathrooms. A guy rolled up who was on an electric assisted tricycle. He was fun to talk to so we chatted with him for a while. He said he had taken that bike “all over, ahh, what’s it called, the old mines, you know…” “Black Diamonds?” Dan asked. “Yeah!!,” he said, as he waved his arm up and down to indicate the shape of the trails there. Color me impressed by this guy in casual sneakers and a golf shirt, 72 years of age by his own admission. But he said the handling of the bike wasn’t to his liking and he had tipped it over once, so he wanted to try something else. Dan suggested an electric assisted mountain bike… We had to get back on the road, so we rolled on and left him to his bike dilemma. On to my heart’s desire, Black Diamonds.

In many ways, it was just like I remembered it from the dart. So scenic, so steep!

This time, the trail was a lot more dusty, with the dust forming deep patches of powder. I pushed my bike in the same spots I had pushed before, and Dan waited for me in the same place my team had waited for me before.

This time though, instead of going up on the stupid-steep road, we went down when the trail turned to a paved path. I liked not having to do the stupid-steep part, but I had enjoyed the descent that trail affords.

This time was also different in that we got to continue on the dirt and pass by the ranger station, instead of passing through the parking lot and going to Brentwood on suburban roads. In the new section, there was a beautiful golden valley and huge rock outcroppings above us. It went on forever and it could have gone longer as far as I was concerned. But all of a sudden there was a short steep descent and it was all over, we were on Empire Mine Road. The sun was warm, the grass was dry, but I still had plenty of water in my pack. I started to go fasterfasterfaster to get to the next control but noticed Dan was not with me and heard him calling out to me so I turned around. The secret control! With all the graffiti on the road. So we photodocumented the moment and then moved on. I looked at the rusty old building of the mine and bid farewell to Black Diamonds this day.

The Brentwood control is a huge shopping center with tons of food possibilities, but I was feeling overwhelmed by the choices, and just opted for the simplest thing: tomato soup and a bagel at the Safeway. Sometimes Safeway controls are boring, but they can sometimes be simple and fast, and I wanted to do this ride like I was going to finish, even though I still wasn’t convinced.

We slipped out of that control relatively quickly, and started up Marsh Creek Road. The last time Dan rode this part, he said it was the most dangerous riding he’d ever done, but today the mood was mellow and courteous! Bonus! Sometimes drivers just do what they’re supposed to. Dan got ahead of me on Marsh Creek, but waited for me at the turnoff to Morgan Territory. Dan had waited for me at the top of each climb so far that day and I tried to show my gratitude for this by being able to roll through when I reached the top of each climb and not waste time. Unfortunately, Morgan Territory kind of sacked me and I had to take a break at the top of that one. My chest hurt (though I could climb out of the saddle now!), I was out of shape and Morgan Territory was the highest elevation of the route, soooo I just needed a little breakie. That done, we started the wild descent down, down, down the other side. I think you can see all the way to Fremont Peak, and it feels like being in an airplane. I don’t think I’ve ever taken pictures of the scenery here because I need to focus on the road, and I don’t feel like stopping. So you’ll just have to do the ride yourself to see!

The last receipt control is Blackhawk. I was not looking forward to climbing Redwood, but when I thought about the possibility of taking BART back from Castro Valley, it seemed too depressing. It’s a long BART ride, much longer than climbing Redwood Road would seem anyway. Dan and I stopped at a juice bar that was next to a Starbucks, and I was able to gulp down a fresh beet-apple-lemon juice. Dan looked up the bike shop on his phone, and said he’d only be a moment if I’d stay at the juice place. I sat down on the cement and drily chawed on an energy bar. When Dan came back, we were still poised to leave the control well before the closing time–always good for a penultimate control. That was my cue to identify whatever would help me finish this ride and consume it immediately! I picked an espresso from Starbucks, some kava and an ibuprofen from my bag. We were out of that place like a shot, and moved along with the fast suburban traffic in the fast bike lane, turning off where the route directed to use a quieter road. Late in a brevet is when I get my energy most often, one reason why randonneuring is a good sport for me. Even after all the climbing that day, I still had something left. I was anticipating riding the East Ridge Trail in the dark and was getting pretty excited about it.

On the northern edge of the town of Castro Valley, Dan and I regrouped for the last time that day. I wanted him to ride ahead because I wasn’t sure I would be able to finish within the time limit. I did have plenty of energy, but my chest still hurt and I was climbing well below my usual pace. Dan admitted he did want to get credit for the ride to put toward his R-12. I was just thrilled I had made it that far, and was ok with taking it easy through the final 20 miles. We rolled on together for a few more minutes and he explained to me where the trailhead for the East Ridge trail was: a key piece of information since I’d never ridden the trail before.

As I climbed Redwood Road at my ponderous pace, I considered skipping the trail and just taking Pinehurst all the way home (forfeiting my chance at getting credit). But Pinehurst has a steep, winding, thickly forested descent where I’d seen many creatures of the night popping out of the bushes before. Riding the trail definitely seemed like a safer alternative. I suspected the trail stayed up on the ridge instead of dropping down and then having to climb back out as I would have to do on Pinehurst. At the trailhead, there were maps, and I saw that there weren’t any turns that might get me lost. It was completely dark by this time. So I proceeded up the trail, which had a huge rut on the right side that loomed even larger as my headlamp cast shadows beyond it. In the past couple years, I’ve been riding trails at night with random randos. It’s been fun, and a good learning experience. I’ve learned that my headlamp makes little bumps look big, so not to worry, and I’ve learned that if I can keep my head together, riding trails in the dark is a transcendent experience not to be missed.

That night was quiet; the trail was completely empty. No bunnies, no skunks. There was a short section with some frequent owl hooting, but other than that, the woods were still. Thanks to Dan who patiently waited for me throughout the day, and thanks to my putting off the decision to bail always until the next control, I made it to this quiet trail in the woods. This trail following the ridgeline, surrounded by cool night air.

I got to the end of the trail and started descending my usual training-ride roads: Skyline, Old Tunnel. Usually I am cautious and slow here. Potholes, off camber curves, wild turkeys, drivers coming uphill are all hazards on which I fixate while riding Old Tunnel. But I calculated I didn’t have a lot of time left, so I descended with dispatch this time… and finished… with only seven minutes remaining on the clock! Getting credit for the ride was a completely unexpected bonus, but when I told Dan I had finished and he offered to file my results, I accepted graciously. I guess I will be the CR holder on the low end probably for some time, which I also accept graciously. I can still see the landscapes of Black Diamonds from that day in my mind when I close my eyes, and I know I’ll be out there again soon.

-typed while listening to fellow rando Pete Dixon’s Monday night radio show on kfjc

W2: Russian River 300k

This is a forgotten draft from my archives from the 2015 season. Somehow it never got published. Too amusing not to publish now, so here goes…

W is for Workers’, as in Workers’ Ride Yeahhh! A Workers’ Ride is a ride scheduled on a different day than the regular brevet so that anyone volunteering to help staff the brevet can get a chance at finishing the ride also. This Workers’ Ride was conducted Audax style, with all of us staying together throughout. However, for most of us, an Audax ride will consist of a team of five riders, occasionally six or seven if there are tandems. This ride had ten of us! The volunteer coordinator, the lovely Megan A, scheduled us for none other than Valentine’s Day, a perfect holiday to be in such great company (ourselves and our bikes!). It was a special ride for another of us–Ann K’s first 300k, and a ride following a tough illness at that. This was only my second attempt at a Workers’ Ride (thus the W2 in the title of this post), which I’ve gotten the impression is more often conducted by riders on a much higher cadence than myself. But it was agreed that this would be a no-drop ride, so I gingerly threw my helmet into the ring.

Megan was great at reeling in all the diverse natures of the participants that day (need I say more than to mention Jason P was one of the natures?), and keeping us all together despite the wide range of paces represented. I only have a few pictures I took on my cell phone, but here they are.

Luther Burbank Home and Gardens in Santa Rosa, where we took a brief pause

Luther Burbank Home and Gardens in Santa Rosa, where we took a brief pause

Sushi from Healdsburg Safeway!!

Safeway sushi mmmm tasty!!

Mouth of the Russian River

Overlooking the mouth of the Russian River on a beautiful February day, nothing like the beautiful February days where I grew up, but I’ll take it!

Many thanks also to Jenny, who procured some caffeine for me when I really really needed it, to Steffen for hanging back with me on the inbound side of White’s Hill, and after all to Jason for buying us all pizza in Fairfax on the inbound (I imagine requesting forgiveness from us for putting up with him all day???).

However great the ride was, it was my volunteer shift on Brevet Day that really made this 300k memorable for me. I loooove volunteering as most of you know, and I got the best shift, the last finish control. It was during this shift that I finished my first 300k, rolling in with Jim G, so it was fun for me to staff it. I was working with Bruce, our shift following Jason and Patrick and Ann’s. Jason and Patrick stayed long after the end of their shift, and we all had fun watching Jason taunt the raccoons at the plaza with offers of hugs and Sun Chips…it kept us awake, in any case. I also laughed heartily (on the inside!!) observing one exhausted rider saying she would rather write swear words in her brevet card instead of signing it. A few minutes later, after eating a hefty burrito brought for her by her friend, she took it all back and seemed to be looking forward to her next brevet.

Riding brevets is not easy no matter when you finish, and it’s a great feeling to support riders by volunteering in whatever capacity one can. I highly recommend it!