Crikey! It’s been a long time since my last post. I just noticed that I have put in 8800 km this year in recorded rides, so I guess I have been outside riding a lot–and not inside writing a lot. Generating material for my blog! Haha. 8800k seems like a lot for me, since the past few years have only yielded about 5500k in recorded rides. I don’t usually record my commutes or grocery runs, but do record any touring, brevets, or local riding on my rando or mtb bikes. Unfortunately I did not get it together to do Errandonnee or Coffeeneuring this year, so that’s not in there.
So where have I been riding? Well, I resolved to resume my long abandoned practice of doing R12s. I am about a third of the way through a new one and I’m so thrilled about it! I stopped R-12ing back in 2018 when my back went out for some unknown reason, and that kept me off any bikes at all for 2 months. Then that terrible lawsuit shut down the RUSA perms program. It is still a loss that I feel since so many old perms are still not entered into the new program. And I for one enjoyed interacting with other perm owners to register and file results. Registering for a perm online is easy, but there is no one there to tell you that a control location, for example a cafe or restaurant, has closed, or an entire section of the perm is off limits due to past wildfire damage. Yes, both of those things happened to me on 3 different perms! I guess we are truly on our own to do advance research on our routes now.
All I can say now is that I’m deeply stoked that the perm program is back at all, since readers of this blog know how much I love RUSA’s permanents program.
The most recent perm I did was one of my own contributions, Delta Double Crosser. Like most of my perms it is loosely based on a route that John P created. Although he and I met through rando, he has hung up his RUSA number for good and now focuses solely on unquantifiable riding (yes… silly, I know). It’s kind of unfortunate since he came up with some of my favorite fleche and dart routes! Oh well. I was able to convert one of those routes to a perm, thus we have the Delta Double Crosser #3505. This is a deceptively difficult route. It has very little climbing and in fair winds should be easy, but complications like the status of the Caltrans ferries and wind direction have led many an intrepid randonneur to DNF this route or at least find themselves within just a few minutes of the time limit at the end. It was originally designed as a route for the Davis Dart, to allow for maximum goofing off time among a team of rando pals. As always with John’s routes, low traffic roads have the priority, but as always in rando, some high traffic roads are required to make connections between those beautiful, serene, low traffic roads.
The route starts in Berkeley. The first control used to be at a Starsucks but luckily due to new policies around EPP results, we don’t have to get receipts anymore–I say luckily, since said Starsucks has vacated this location. Anyway, the route immediately starts up a very gentle climb over the Berkeley hills through Wildcat Canyon park. It’s been chilly and damp in the mornings lately, and the fog was low at the start. Once I summited over Wildcat Canyon, things cleared up considerably, though they never got very warm that day.
The route then takes a common track for local road cyclists, descending Wildcat Canyon Road, crossing San Pablo Dam Road, and climbing Bear Creek Road. It’s a bit of work, but not too bad. Then instead of heading back toward Berkeley, the route continues on Alhambra Valley Road over the pig farm climb. Then a bit of lovely coasting through tree-canopied winding pavement, and you’re at the first control, Martinez. Originally, the control was at States Coffee in Martinez, but on this Sunday morning, there was a line out the door, wrapping around the building. I opted instead for a liquor store on the edge of town, just getting some water and chips. I brought a lot of bike food with me and was hoping to avoid spending too much time at any of the controls.
After Martinez, the route heads over the Benicia Bridge, which has a dedicated bike/ped path. It also has a rail bridge right next to the hiway, which I would be riding on during my train trip back home at the end of the day. Did I mention that this is a point to point route that finishes at the Davis Amtrak station? Ok then.
Next up is the lovely section along the sloughs and waterways of Suisun and Cordelia! I like that this route offers Goodyear road as an alternative to the more common Lopes Road.
After some more pleasant, quiet miles on Cordelia Road, I roll into Suisun City. There are no real services between there and Rio Vista, the next control, so I take care of a bio break, removing my early morning layers, put on some sunscreen, and eat a couple bars. There is a nice public bathroom by the boardwalk, so I don’t have to buy anything. There are people fishing off the boardwalk in the bright sunlight.
After Suisun City is probably the worst part of the ride. I felt like I had arrived in Suisun City relatively early though, and was making decent time. I was ready to ride the blasted shoulder of highway 12 and get it over with. Turns out, there was relatively little traffic that day.
I left Suisun and things seemed to be going fine, until my front tire started to feel soft. Dagnabbit. The shoulder on this particular highway is not the best for fixing flats, but I happened to be really close to Nurse Slough road, not an open road but at least there was a big pullout before the gate. The previous weekend, I got 3 flats on a ride and came to discover my once lovely Grand Bois Cerfs gifted from John were not going to make it through the ride I had planned. I was getting really efficient at roadside patching, but the sidewalls were too dried out and threadbare. This time, I was starting out fresh with a new set of Panaracer Paselas (also gifted from John…hmmmm), which I used a lot in my early rando experience and thought they were pretty bombproof. Humpf! All the flats I had gotten were in natural areas and they were all from thorns, so… maybe a seasonal thing. Anyway, I had a pretty pleasant experience fixing my tire and patching the tube actually.
Wheel back on, I continued down the highway, turning off on Dumbarton Road for a brief respite. Indeed it is pretty there, but apparently I am just a huge thorn magnet these days, because I got another flat, just before turning back onto 12.
A large jackrabbit showed itself to me while I waited for the patch glue to set, then hopped off into the distance. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the animals I see on rides. I don’t really see that many but when I do, I usually feel lucky. On another ride recently I saw a big old brown bear, and I felt lucky that it was just a glimpse.
There is a short climb after Dumbarton Road on 12, then you’re off it entirely. 12 is a direct route to Rio Vista, but what a relief not to take the short route. Instead this route takes Shiloh Road to Birds Landing and the classic Shirley’s Tavern, then Montezuma Hills Road to Rio Vista. There are a ton of levee roads out on the slough that I’d like to check out sometime… Dinkel Spiel Road is really a road apparently! I think these are all roads for duck hunters and there is some club which grants you keys to the gates out there. I guess this is probably duck hunting season, so not the best time. Sometime though.
For now, it is plenty for me to enjoy the sweet pleasure of Shiloh Road and Birds Landing. I wasn’t expecting Shirley’s to be open, and was starting to feel pressed on time due to the double flat fiasco, but the Budweiser light in the window was on and a $1 soda sounded like a good idea. I tentatively brought my bike up to rest on the porch railing, now painted bluish gray instead of the pink it was the last time I was there. Someone came to the screen door from the inside and opened it for me, welcoming me in. I stepped through it and let my eyes adjust to the darkness. There were four people inside, none of them Shirley, but that wasn’t too surprising since Shirley was in her 90s the last time I was there. Instead there were two women behind the bar and a nice older couple sitting in the comfy chairs by the window. The man of the couple was really interested in talking about bikes. It took the women a long time to come to grips with my having ridden from Oakland, but they were nice about it. I was super proud of myself for having several singles in cash to pay for the two beverages I wanted: a Jumex peach juice and a ginger ale. When I inquired about Shirley, the women explained that Shirley had died the previous August, and the family was still deciding what to do with the bar. One asked the other how many people came in on her shift on Friday, and she said she sold 2 beers her whole shift. It had always seemed like that kind of place to me, but they said that when there were crews out building the wind turbines that heavily dominate the landscape of the Montezuma Hills, the bar was very busy. Just when I was thinking I had spent too much time there, I suddenly thought I should pick up some water, so I got one from the refrigerator and said my fond goodbyes to them, hoping it wouldn’t be my last visit.
Next up, Montezuma Hills!!!!! Five exclamation points because it had been so long since the last time, and because of all the good memories of riding out there with so many different people. The nice couple at Shirley’s eventually passed me in their car and politely tooted their horn and waved. Not too many others out that day.
At the end of Montezuma Hills Road is the town of Rio Vista. It’s the first town you go through that is truly on the delta. There is a big fishing store in the middle of town that is sometimes the only store that is open. This time, I was feeling pretty hungry–my strategy of not stopping for a meal was sort of falling down so I checked into the Mexican restaurant for a bite to eat. I’ve pretty much given up on rando math at this point in my rando career, and I decided that even if the two flats and Shirley’s Tavern got me really far behind I would probably catch up on the flat levee roads? Or something. Anyway it was definitely my stomach doing the talking when I decided to stop, and when the waitress asked, “would you like the burrito wet?” I was like, “Yeahuh!!” Ooooo that was a good burrito! It was big which is normally a problem for me on brevets since I have never been a fast eater, but this one went down fast and I was out of there and back on the road pretty quick.
When I was in the restaurant, there was a dropped ceiling with those foam panels… you know. Some of the panels were replaced with paintings of local stuff. The one above my table was confusing though–I couldn’t tell what it was. About an hour later when I was on the Real McCoy II ferry, I realized it was exactly this view:
I’ve written before in this blog about how much I love riding on the delta and how the ferry forces you to slow down and appreciate a different pace of life, so I won’t go into it here. I’ll just say I’m glad the ferry was in service that day! Detours around the ferry kind of suck, especially if you’re on a bike.
The ferry does take what feels like hours to traverse that wide waterway, and when I got to the other side, I was feeling the need to burn up some mileage. Not really the vibe of the delta, but I was still able to enjoy riding there. Really no cars to speak of until I got to Clarksburg, a distance of about 40 kms. And if you add Shiloh and Montezuma Hills Road, it becomes more like 75 kms. With. no. cars!
In Clarksburg, I just needed to stop for water, so I stopped in the little convenience store before Husik’s.After Husik’s the route has to use 160 to connect to a bike path, which was probably more unpleasant than highway 12 actually. It is a narrow, winding road with no shoulder and pretty high median speed… Most drivers were courteous but it’s annoying that Caltrans is still doing repaving projects on roads like this with absolutely no shoulder.
The rest of the route is mostly relaxing bike paths throughout to West Sacramento and then the Yolo Wildlife Sanctuary Bypass to Davis.
However, there is a pretty dangerous overpass with high speed on- and offramps in West Sac that needs to be removed from the route. It is a new overpass since the last time I rode here. It made me feel really glad that I have so little trust in civil engineers that design these types of things, because even the sidewalk makes it impossible to avoid cars coming off the freeway. If I had the safety expectations of any normal person (as opposed to myself, knowing that just because there’s a sidewalk doesn’t mean it leads anywhere you want to be) I definitely would have been squashed.
Still firmly not doing rando math, I did have my sights set on the 7:10 train from Davis back to Oakland. I had put the hustle on throughout the delta but especially from Clarksburg. I had a smokin’ Stereolab loop stuck firmly in my head, and it was forcibly propelling me forward. And the whole West Sac thing I just wanted to be over as quickly as possible. Soooo I did end up making the train, just by a hare’s breath!
It was Halloween weekend, so everyone on the train was smashed. It was really crowded too! I had forgotten my courtesy lock to lock up my bike to the train’s bike rack, so I just stood downstairs near my bike for most of the ride. I remembered when I was at Shirley’s, the woman of the couple sitting next to the window had asked me, “If you make the train from Davis, do the conductors wake you up when you get to your stop?” At the time I thought it was a silly question, but when I was leaning against the windows in the lower level, feeling the gentle rocking back and forth of the train car, I did feel a bit snoozy. It had been a full day with a lot of chapters… which is why I still like doing these long rides. They still feel like an adventure, since something different and unexpected happens each time. I hope I can keep up my R-12 streak though it seems like I’ve just been squeaking by, riding each one at almost the last day of the month (or the very last day in some cases!) If I do, you’ll only hear about it here on mmmmbike!