Dusting Off the Cobwebs

San Francisco Randonneurs Del Puerto Canyon 200k **November 2021 edition**


Amongst the tumbleweeds blowing around on my RUSA member results page there have been few rides logged over the past couple years. A single 200k perm in 2020; a fleche and the beloved Old Caz 300k this year. Still plenty of riding has been enjoyed, just not in a RUSA sanctioned way. Yet I do long for that brevet card with torn, stained, and soggy receipts inside; that tattered, stubbornly unchanging printed cue sheet; that rainbow of my comrades’ reflecto. Absence has made my heart grow fonder for those days, so I jumped at the chance to sign up for one of my favorite SFR routes: Del Puerto Canyon 200k. Come to receive the voluminous pre-ride mailings, and there are surprisingly few names on the roster! Later in the week, the roster grew to nearly pre-pandemic size, and we had well over 100 starters for this classic route.

It's a new randoday!

It’s a new randoday… fraught with possibility!

It was nice to see some familiar faces when I got off my BART train to transfer to the Dublin-Pleasanton line. I had not seen Michael T in a couple years, and it was great to catch up with him about what we’ve both been doing in the absence of rando. Lots of new faces too yay! Irving had some doughnuts on offer at check-in where some of us loosely congregated, and Michael C was working the start, getting us signed in. I left with a small group that slipped away without taking the classic SFR oath. Stupid stuff, readysetgo!

The Crew

The Crew

I’m sure pretty close to 100% of us were all using electronic proof of passage, and you can see Tom in the above photo carefully setting his phone. No forgetting to start your logging device on this ride! I had tried using Strava a couple times for my proof of passage in the past, but it kept stopping. The timestamped photo app I had been using as backup to Strava appeared to be interfering with my Strava recording! It’s pretty disturbing to notice mid-ride that your proof of passage medium is failing you.  I’m going with RidewithGPS solely now, and no whacky timestamp photo apps. When I rode Old Caz this year, I used my film camera with time stamping as a backup. This was fun, and I do love that camera, but it was hard to remember to follow up and take photos at each control throughout that ride. I think that route has ten or twelve info controls. I have been using brevet cards for close to ten years now, so the transition to Electronic Proof of Passage has been a bit rocky. I chose to print out a brevet card and use that for my backup proof of passage for Del Puerto, but the final info control question required a timestamped photo of your bike, which still necessitated the timestamped photo app which seems to interfere with my primary method for proof of passage. I think it would be good going forward if there was a backup method available that did not involve using a smart phone, since sometimes they run out of battery too, even if all the apps behave as desired.

Sorry if it seems I’m belaboring this topic, but I’ve always felt and said that paperwork is a critical component of randonneuring. To Americans, the procedures involved may seem tedious, nit-picky, or even draconian. I interpret bureaucracy as a bedrock of French culture and society that was intended to ensure fair treatment for all citizens, and this extends to our sport. As applied to randonneuring, it is the great leveler, and reflects the necessity for self sufficiency–all riders must complete their own paperwork. No one does it for you, in the same way we don’t have aid stations or sag vehicles. Filing our own results is a common thread we all share as randonneurs, and I see it as a way to ensure fairness to all.

Anyway, on to the ride! The weather was perfect this November day. There had been some intense rains in the weeks previous. This gave a sense of deep relief to me, other riders, and the whole region including the land itself. This is supposed to be the beginning of the rainy season for us, and it has been a series of several years of ever worsening droughts. So the fact that there were recent intense rains made the ride feel sweet.

I brought my fully automatic film camera, loaned/gifted by fellow film shooter and rando Mike Teng G. It has been a fun camera to use on long rides where I need to shoot from the saddle–no time to stop and set aperture or shutter speed. Shooting film on bike rides is a source of great joy and frustration both. Sometimes you hit the jackpot, sometimes you waste a heckuva lot of film… But the good shots make it worthwhile. And they look good in a way that only film can.  After I posted a couple of my bike photos on Instagram, I got several comments that “filters are fun, aren’t they?” Haha… Yes, I’m aware Instagram offers filters to make digital pictures look analog. It’s amusing to me that someone created what they thought would be an automatic way to imitate something that is completely random. And does it also make you suffer through all the heartache of losing most of a roll due to improper metering, forgetting to set the correct film speed, lack of focus, wrong camera or lens for the situation, insufficient agitation in processing, too much dust on your negs, just plain missing the shot, etc etc etc? Like randonneuring, film photography is deeply character building and must be approached without expectations. In that frame of mind, though, every good or even decent photo is a triumph. And with that understanding, I’ve come to learn about all the automated post processing that happens when all of us take pictures with our cell phones.

The first climb up Tesla Road wasn’t too bad; the weather was beautiful if slightly chilly, the sun was out, and there was excellent company. I met someone riding a nice Jack Taylor up at the top of the climb, then we all savored the swooping descent down to Corral Hollow. Most of the big pickups carrying OHVs to Carnegie  gave us a wide berth at that hour of the day. Sadly I missed the sign indicating the Livermore bomb testing site that I always want to photograph because I was trying to catch up to Steve and Tom who had sped off the front. I encountered them at good old Jimmy’s One Stop, surprised to see me as they thought I was the one off the front. We all left together for Patterson.

Uneventful flat miles ensued until our lunch break in Patterson, where Bryan C retrieved his voicemails to hear one from his wife, whose back suddenly went out. He decided that the fastest way to get home to help her out would just be to ride the rest of the course, so he took off immediately. The rest of us leisurely finished our lunches and set off for the namesake road of this route, Del Puerto Canyon Road. I was feeling pretty amped for this!

The absolute joy and wonder of Del Puerto Canyon, of course, must come to an end eventually, but shortly before it does, one is treated to the life-giving waters of Adobe Springs. This is a natural spring that someone has made fixtures to enable one to pour water out like a faucet (actually, there is a faucet). It really does make my stomach feel better after a long day of energy shakes and pseudo-junk food.

After Adobe Springs, we all just set it in high gear and were back at the start before we knew it. I vowed at that time to reinstate my practice of doing R-12s, but unfortunately was not able to follow through. I’ve still kept riding 200+kms per month, just not for RUSA credit. This was a great ride to get those tumbleweeds out of my RUSA results page, though, and really fun to see and ride with old friends.

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