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.