Another R9: The Solo 300K, a ride in sixteen or so pictures

Almost before the September 1 200k was over, Ely and I were scheduling another ride. I pride myself on never turning down a ride unless I have to work, so when Ely proposed another September ride, I immediately told him of my desire to do another 300k before the year was out. So of course, because Ely rarely turns down a good ride idea either, we scheduled it for the last Saturday in September. We even did a tough Marshall wall training ride to lead up to riding 100k longer than to which we were accustomed.

foggy morning headed into the sun

that last tree before the top

we did it… though I still don’t know what this ‘wall’ is all about. maybe going clockwise? anyway a very nice other cyclist who happened to be out took our picture.

Perhaps as karmic retribution for my having to turn down several good ride ideas in September for work, Ely found out he had a work obligation on that day. Hm. It is easier to ride with friends in most cases; the time goes by faster, and you do too, particularly on a route with a lot of wind. However, I had already gone through registering for the ride and my brevet card was in hand, really a fait accompli if you ask me. This is something I like about the Randonneurs and their rules… Pretty often, good ride ideas get abandoned or the time and date changes too much when several peoples’ schedules are involved. When you have to formally recognize the start time of a ride, you’re more likely to stick to it. So, in the interest of maintaining a sense of discipline, I decided to do the ride anyway by myself. I didn’t want to invite anyone to ride with me, since it was too late to ask the permanent owner to process a new brevet card.

To keep myself focused throughout the ride, I decided to take a photo each hour of the ride as close to the hour mark as would be practical. So… here they are. I finished the ride in about 15 and three quarters hours, and since there were just a few shots I took in between hour-marks, I have photos here in the quantity of sixteen and change.

0500 hours: Marina Safeway potted plant offerings. Pelican is ready to go! 5 am start time worked great to get lots of good riding in before the fog burned off or people with monster trucks awoke and rumbled around.

0600 hours: Camino Alto, partying with the owls, coyotes, deer, and raccoons

0700 hours: golfers are starting to appear close to Nicasio Valley Road

0800 hours: fog is still around on the way to Petaluma, dripping like rain and the front of my bag is soaked with it; man in bakery delivery van is sleeping in his van parked by the side of the road (not in picture)

0900 hours: thought the 7 eleven was the control for Petaluma; opened handlebar bag and discovered the drink powder I had brought in a ziplock bag had distributed itself all over the inside of the bag. Got handi-wipes, cleaned the bag, read the cue sheet and discovered the 7 Eleven is not the Petaluma control grr.

1000 hours: ok, the whole Petaluma disaster is over and I’m moving on. I pass my bookbinding mentor’s studio in Penngrove and ponder the connections between bookbinding and bicycling. Also practicing rolling my r’s and reciting Carter Family songs.

I pause to photograph the jackelopes frolicking in front of The Last Record Store in Santa Rosa for my Field Museum friend in Chicago, Ken Grabowski.

1100 hours, I am getting close to Healdsburg. Vineyards abound. The fog has finally abandoned and I am readying the sunscreen. My butt hurts and I am wondering where I will find some bag balm or something in Healdsburg– I don’t think Safeway, the location of the next control, carries it.

1200 hours: Westside Road. This is the third time this year that Westside Road and I meet, and it’s not unpleasant. I am getting used to the ups and downs and the broken pavement. Having found a little tub of carmex at the safeway in Healdsburg, my posterior is feeling much better, so the bumpy road doesn’t bother me.

1300 hours. Ten hours into the ride and I am in Guerneville! It feels like a real accomplishment until I remember I started an hour earlier than the typical 300k brevet.

1400 hours: I had to take a long break in Guerneville. I hadn’t really stopped to take a meal break, and was pretty hungry and needed to just wash the road dust off my hands and face. So this picture is at the mouth of the Russian River, not too far from where the last picture was taken, but ah well. If I hadn’t been on a formal brevet permanent, I would have headed north to Jenner at this point just to check it out.

1500 hours: I encounter the riders of the Levi’s Gran Fondo, happening that same day and sharing my route for several of my favorite and most beloved miles of this area: the stretch between Jenner and Bodega Bay. I chat with a nice old gent who likes my bike and thinks I am fast in spite of my giant handlebar bag. I am surprised he doesn’t know about randonneuring and doesn’t seem to be too interested. He peels off into a sag tent and we ring our bells in a bike-style fare-thee-well. As I continue, there are crowds lined up cheering cyclists along the sides of highway one. There is a group of women with a bedsheet spray painted with something about supporting the Gran Fondo because of all the good looking men rolling by in tight shorts. They enthusiastically cheer me on anyway, even though I’m not a dude and not in the Gran Fondo.


1600 hours: from Valley Ford to the coast. My least favorite stretch of road. Headwind city. No shoulder and no shade. Broken pavement on steep grades.Some cute farm animals to look at, though.

1700 hours: taking a break at the Marshall Store yayyyyy! I come so close to buying a t-shirt this time, I am so happy to be greedily guzzling chowder. The people who work here are always nice to us randos, and this is no exception. I am particularly glad I made it in under 12 hours, what would be the cutoff time for this control on the 300k brevet.

1800 hours: my shadow on Point Reyes Petaluma Road as I round the Nicasio Reservoir. I am smelling the barn…

the same bridge I crossed under at 0700 hours

1900 hours: the top of White’s Hill outside Fairfax. The moon is up!

2000 hours and I am in Sausalito, looking over the moony San Francisco Bay. The final control is within reach, and as I arrive there before the turn of the next hour, I do not take any more pictures.

This was a great ride for me. I enjoyed the route very much, and it felt like a big accomplishment to do by myself. I felt tired, but happy at the end of the ride,  ready to take on a 400k next year. There were some definite improvements I had wanted to make over the 300k I did in March, such as eating more overall and stretching at breaks. There is still more room for improvement.

R9, feeling fine…

For the month of September,  Ely and I agreed to attempt Mark Gunther’s San Franciscadero permanent. I say attempt because the last time Ely attempted this ride, he had to bail on it, so he was pretty concerned about taking on this challenge. He warned me that there is a lot of climbing (which is true– 10-12K’), and that if it’s not timed correctly, you end up having to ride in darkness for much of the ride. Riding in darkness is a major showstopper for Ely since he has night blindness. When he and his friend Chloe rode it, it was rainy and cold, and that was also a factor that could potentially affect us as well.

Mr. Potis contacted us to see if he could join us for the ride, and we happily agreed. I thought the ride would not be as difficult as Ely warned it would be, especially with John riding with us. He’s a strong rider who knows the route well. He proposed doing some slight detours through some trail known as Planet of the Apes, and trails around Half Moon Bay and Old Haul Road. Um, John, that is not on the cue sheet–won’t we get in trouble? He said Mark wouldn’t mind. Lately Ely and I have started doing some trail riding in the Marin Headlands, and I was psyched to try some more trails, so I said we’d see how it goes. But Ely was still pretty concerned about finishing the ride in time, and did not want to venture into the Planet of the Apes. We were also doing this ride on the same day as the Santa Cruz 400k, in which our permanent owner would likely be participating. Anyway, once we got down Highway One around Davenport or Half Moon Bay, we saw not Mark Gunther but Jason Pierce, Ken, and Rob Hawks riding along! I was super happy to see our RBA, and we all rang our bells and waved at them. Later, Rob posted on Facebook that he was happy to see the three of us as well, since he had been working hard to keep up with Jason and Ken all morning. It is a huge morale boost to see people you know out on the road. Especially when you see someone who is not doing the same ride as you, it’s a great feeling.

Shortly after that, a silver Jeep Cherokee buzzed too close to me on the highway, and we decided to break off onto the trail parallel to the 1. We saw a group of seven pelicans flying together along the coast, possibly the same group we saw while riding along the Great Highway in San Francisco! John pointed out a camping area near the coast, and we continued along the scenic path for a bit. I don’t mind riding along with traffic and am pretty accustomed to that stretch of Highway One in particular. Riding on trails is so much more relaxing and pleasant though, since you don’t have the speeding cars and trucks to worry about.

In any case, we reached Arcangeli’s in good time, and the next control as well. The control after that was preceded by a tough climb, and we stopped part way up at the turn for Alpine Road to refuel. My derailleur was shifting on its own again, probably stemming from a well-intentioned but ineffectual stem swapout (and swap-back) the week before, and Ely and John did their best to resolve the issue. Having ridden a single- speed for many years in Chicago, I am very appreciative of what a good derailleur can do, but often frustrated by basic derailleur operation and maintenance. Once it was reassembled and we started rolling again, I had to blow off steam and tore off up the road to the next control, where I waited patiently for Ely and John to catch up with me. Whew! While I pounded up and around the hills I heard laughter from Ely and John echoing against the hillsides, which made me smile.

That control was an info control– no receipt, just answer a question pertaining to the location on your printed brevet card. This was the third to last control for this route, and we were doing well on time. Ely still seemed to be a little nervous that we would finish after dark, because he kept pulling up ahead. I dropped back with John as it was a pretty hot day up on Skyline and after all, it had been a steep climb. Somehow the three of us pulled it together for the descent into Woodside, and I got to watch Ely and John use their descending and cornering skills. Now that I’ve taken a couple bike handling classes, I pay close attention to other riders’ cornering techniques. Watching John and Ely doing their descents together that afternoon was totally fascinating to me– it is wonderful to watch cyclists who are good at it.

At Roberts Market in Woodside, we ate and drank, and petted an outgoing Lab that had been waiting in the driver’s seat of its owner’s car for some time, when the owner returned and loaded up her groceries.  Then we headed off on Canada Road toward the Crystal Springs Reservoir and the Camp Sawyer path. The path is so beautiful! Many joggers, walkers and other cyclists were out on the path enjoying the sunny weather. As we continued north, we could see the fog coming over the ridge miles ahead of us like a giant puffy glacier. So much for beautiful sunny weather. We reached the final Safeway control after navigating successfully through a risky merge with freeway- bound car traffic. Yikes! Jarred back into coexisting with cars from the peaceful lakeside path.

No photos for San Franciscadero… only memories: waving at Rob Hawks on Highway One, flocks of Pelicans zooming through the air above the ocean shore, sitting next to Potis and Ely for a lunch break at the scenic corner of Pescadero Creek and Alpine Roads, descending through the tight switchbacks into Woodside, and riding along the sun- dappled reservoir in the late afternoon. I hope to do this ride again soon.