Just another 200k

Last month, I completed a 200k. It was a permanent route, my own in fact, and it was pretty uneventful. I rode with John, as I have so many times before. It was rather cold, which made it different than other rides. But it was sunny, the route was nice and quiet, and despite being practically catastrophically out of shape, it was a fantastic day on the bike. Many, many times throughout the day, I caught myself thinking, “this is soooo niiiice.” We encountered very few cars, and even fewer riders; only one other cyclist did we see on Mount Tam, and it happened to be another Box Dog customer, judging by the water bottles and frame. We got to go to my favorite brewpub at the finish and toss back a bit less than a pint (those dang artful brewpubs!), eat a fancy empanada, and go home for a shower.  Here are some pictures.

ta ta for now, SF!

TTFN,SF

 

base of railroad grade

base of railroad grade

 

mmmm forest at dawn on Tam

mmmm forest at dawn on Tam

 

adjusting layers on Old Railroad Grade

adjusting layers on Old Railroad Grade

 

West Point Inn

West Point Inn

 

Bronze model of Mount Tam

Bronze model of Mount Tam

 

Top of Mount Tam visitor area

Top of Mount Tam visitor area

 

cold, cold sunlight

cold, cold sunlight

 

Alpine Dam is spilling

Alpine Dam is spilling

 

Little Free Library in Samuel P. Taylor campground

Little Free Library in Samuel P. Taylor campground

 

Black Mountain off to the left

Black Mountain off to the left

 

Nicasio Reservoir, also full to spilling

Nicasio Reservoir, also full to spilling

 

Marshall wall inches closer, farmland is utterly at peace today

Marshall wall inches closer, farmland is utterly at peace today

 

not likely driving while texting

not likely driving while texting

 

at least it's warm on the climb

at least it’s warm on the climb

 

1000 shades of green

1000 shades of green

 

Mount Tam and Black Mountain align with the top of Marshall wall

Mount Tam and Black Mountain align with the top of Marshall wall

 

the new cockpit

the new cockpit

 

tip of the hat to another excellent year in rando adventuring

tip of the hat to another excellent year in rando adventuring

This ride wasn’t remarkable in any way except it was the 60th consecutive 200k or greater I’ve completed, beginning with my very first brevet to the Point Reyes Light House in January 2012. Yay for me! Whoop de doo! Next month, the series will continue. I hope. As I’ve said before, I never take randonneuring for granted. But I like doing the R-12s, because these days, being consistent seems more of an interesting challenge to me than being fast. I’ve always preferred having a good time to getting a good time, and that’s what I’ve done. In the past few years, I’ve really worked on finishing with a smile on my face, and I look forward to continuing that trend. But who knows? Everything changes. I might get faster and enjoy my rides, fancy that! If I do, you’ll surely read about it here on mmmmbike!

Advertisements

Another R1: Pierce Point 200k

The season opener for SFR brevets this year began with a beautiful and dramatic corkscrew dive by a pelican (white or brown, I couldn’t tell) about 40 feet above the water surface at the waterfront in Sausalito as I passed through early in the morning along with 92 other intrepid randos on January 30, 2016. Whew, that was breathtaking! The Brevet Wildlife Report for this ride is filled with two-, four-, and zero-legged creatures, some seen, some only heard, but the first one (the pelican) was the best! I think it bodes well for this year, let’s hope anyway!

I must admit I was not totally sold on this route based on my experiences last year. Losing the Light House route was traumatic, and adding more mileage to the out-and-back on highway one was not appealing. The traffic on the highway was busy last year to say the least. But I am pretty loyal to my home rando club, the season opener cannot be denied or shied away from, and heck I might as well since it’s time to start another R-12 if I wanna be like Willy N.

Another de-motivating factor popped up the week before the ride: I got a mysterious and painful earache, making me wonder whether doing this ride is quite sensible. But I made my preparations either out of habit or who knows why; you just have to get out there and try your best. I often think about PBP stories I have read in which the rider is 2 days away from the ride they’ve been dreaming of and planning for in some cases for years… and the rider has something go wrong with their bike, or some random slip and fall happens, or a bad case of jet lag leads to catching the flu or something. Although I obviously don’t have as much invested in the garden variety SFR brevet, I do cherish each ride, since you never know when you truly cannot go out there.

And I was well rewarded for my attempts to get out there! The day was gorgeous, the beauty of Point Reyes National Seashore was ravishing, I got to spend a good amount of time riding with friends but also some peaceful time on my own, and because of the two out-and-back legs of the route, I got to wave at all the riders passing by. Just perfect for a season opener! The route is definitely growing on me. Though I still miss going to the Light House, this route has far fewer cattle grates, an advantage which can’t be denied. My earache pretty much disappeared, confirming my belief that randonneuring is the cause and the cure of all my physical challenges.

As for the wildlife of note, I got to see the Tule Elk this year! One perk of the Pierce Point route is that it passes through the Tule Elk refuge. Just scanning over the Wikipedia page for Tule Elk, I felt fortunate to see the healthy populations of this species once thought to be extinct. Another wildlife sighting was less exhilerating but still unusual: a big, fat banana slug in the middle of the shoulder on White’s Hill outbound. I was just amazed that no one had run it over! Haven’t seen one of those in a while, but I guess because of the increase in wet weather, probably something I’ll see more of. Another great wildlife non-sighting was hearing frogs throughout Inverness. They were singing their little guts out! And finally, in addition to the diving pelican on the waterfront in Sausalito, I saw a seal in the water there as well as a lovely Western Grebe, a bird of the loon family native to my birthplace in Wisconsin.

And finally, for some pictures!

The bends

The bends

MOSS

Thick coatings of moss and/or lichens coated everything in sight! It was like someone sprayed green foam all over the trees, ground, concrete

If you lived here, you'd be home now

If you lived here, you’d be home now

Wetlands

Wetlands near Inverness

Marshes

Marshes

Pierce Point Road

Pierce Point Road is steep

Ocean View

Ahhh the ocean!

Top of the climb

The Road Below

Pierce Point Cows

Happy, shaggy cows

Tomales Bay

Tomales Bay

Pierce Point Control

Peace and Serenity (and Lisa’s Cookies!) at Pierce Point Control

Tule Elk

Once thought to be extinct, Tule Elk are now protected on Point Reyes and a handful of other locations in California

The Golden Gate

Passing back through the Golden Gate

A Route of One’s Own

Hey, I have my own perm now! Pretty exciting!!!! The route idea originates with my cool boyfriend John P, and is based on a route he and I have been talking about for a coupla years; I just finally got around to doing all the work to make it official. Here is his blog post about riding it from a few years ago. The first part (to Fairfax) is from a Box Dog shop ride from 2008.

Part of the route was also the same as my first ride out with my blue Pelican, at least the climb of Old Railroad Grade. Funny how things go. I will always be grateful to RideOn member/rando Nick B for taking me out that day. I really had no clue where we were headed, but I was ready for adventure and loved Old Railroad Grade trail right away: it was the new norm, naturally. It feels like completing a circle to now manage a perm using that trail. It is in my bike’s DNA as well as mine. Sooo it should be easy, right? Wellll… ha.

I started working on the route in late October, hoping it could be approved for me to use as my December 200k this year. The application and approval process took a lot less time than I anticipated, and Mount Tam to Marshall, Route #2867 was made available to RUSA members to ride for credit in early November. Ten lucky randos enjoyed the ride before I finally scheduled a day for myself to ride it in December. Due to lots of rainy days in the forecast, teaching work on weekends and so on, I settled on an apparent break in the wet weather: the 16th (my lucky number!) as my big day.

I had only ridden the whole route once before, with John as a pre-ride and not particularly for time. We putzed around that day, even running into perm owner Mark G on the Cross Marin Trail on his fixie! We stopped and chatted with him for some time. What a great day that was. We had our traditional early dinner in Point Reyes at the Whale of a Deli, mmmmmeatball sub for me and carnitas torta for John. I amply photographed all the controls, poring over the details to come up with good info control questions. I now have almost three complete sets of different questions to ask in case someone rides more than once.

Overlooking Muir Woods from Mount Tam

From the pre-ride: overlooking Muir Woods from Mmmmount Tam in the early mmmmorning

 

Donkey on Fern Canyon Road

Also from the pre-ride: my buddy who lives on Fern Canyon Road. Don’t be stubborn, just keep pedaling!

Anyway, I was pretty nervous leading up to my first riding for credit of this challenging route. On paper, there’s a lot of climbing. And the climbing is all loaded into the first third or so of the distance, so you start off feeling behind the clock. I know in my mind that I can make up the time later on the flatter sections, but it was still a cause for worry for me. Would I be able to make it to the Point Reyes timed control in time? Wouldn’t that just be too annoying if I created my own perm and wasn’t able to finish it??

I had brought my nice camera, but ran out of battery in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge, so I just took snapshots of my bike at the info controls. There are a total of ten controls on this route, six of which are info controls. I didn’t really stop worrying about making good time until I got up Red Hill… then, even with Marshall wall, I started to truly unwind and enjoy the ride. Hicks Valley Road is soooo quiet and beautiful! Shh don’t tell anyone… At that point, the clock unwound too, and as I covered the quieter backroads, time seemed to stand still. I’m glad I got to make the tiny schoolhouse on Hicks Valley Road a stopping point.

Golden Gate Bridge is extra Orange

Last picture before the nice camera ran out of battery–Golden Gate Bridge is extra Orange!!

Control 1

Control 1, yes, Starsucks

Control 2

Control 2: Base of Old Railroad Grade, always a good time to down that Ensure

Halfway Up

About halfway up Mount Tam, always brilliant–and quiet!–in the morning

West Point Inn Surprise

When I rounded the last corner before the West Point Inn, I see a hugely tall figure with his hands in the air calling my name!! When does that ever happen?! Turns out it’s these cool cyclists, coming home from camping on the Mountain of Tam.

Control 3

Control 3: Top of Mount Tam! Too bad the Visitor Center is closed, because I bet they have some great patches!

I never tire of this view

I never tire of this view from Ridgecrest Boulevard

Control 4

Control 4 is at the junction of the Bolinas Ridge trailhead, Ridgecrest Boulevard, and Bolinas-Fairfax Road. You can’t go wrong with any of these choices, but this route takes you downhill to Alpine Dam and the town of Fairfax, home of mountain biking and the Coffee Roastery, the suggested receipt control

Cross Marin trail

Control 6 is at the end of the second dirt section, the Cross Marin Trail. The trail surface is usually covered with soft pine needles, and the air is filled with the aroma of either wet redwoods or campfire smoke from the Samuel P. Taylor campsites nearby. Again, not a losing proposition either way.

Lincoln School

Control 7: The little white schoolhouse, built long ago. Still quite small, and still a functioning schoolhouse for the farm families who live out here. I can’t take a picture of it, because I’d be giving away the control question!

Marshall Wall Tree

Oh sweet lord, the tree at the end of the Marshall “wall” climb. It’s really not that bad of a climb, just looong.

The long stretch of remote, quiet road is over. Now the route turns south on CA-1, a very familiar stretch of road for SFR brevet riders.

The long stretch of remote, quiet road is over. Now the route turns homeward on CA-1, a very familiar stretch of road, and destination in itself, for SFR brevet riders.

Point Reyes

Point Reyes Station, the timed receipt control I was so worried about. I made it with plenty of time to spare, having made up lots of time on the flat Hicks Valley and Marshall Roads. Now I am smelling the barn!

There’s a lot to love about this route. There are a couple tweaks I might make if I could redo it, but it’s in the books now, so it has to stand as is. And it was a fair amount of work to create the route, cue, and info control questions, certainly making me appreciate a lot more the dedication, focus, and determination required to create a formal route such as this. A lot of expertise and riding experience goes into making a RUSA permanent route if it’s really good (in the case of Mount Tam to Marshall, the credit for that all goes to John). This one is challenging, though not as much as an Adventure Series ride. It allows riders of normal randonneuring capabilities to enjoy mellow backroads while keeping the amount of climbing doable. It offers a couple dirt trails, though one is flat and the other uphill, so that riders who would like a gradual introduction to mixed terrain riding can have it without any risky technical descents. It also includes three rails-to-trails in their entirety (super duper fancy prize for anyone who can name them in the comments section)! After riding others’ perms for so many years, I am glad I have finally come up with a route of my own to contribute. I can’t wait to come up with some more!

 

R36: Uvas Gold 200k

Yes, it’s true, despite my predilection against accumulating stats, my last ride has resulted in a consecutive streak of 36 monthly rides of at least 200 kilometers in length. Whoops! Never meant to do that, and so now what do I do if I want to get lazy and break my streak?? Oh those pesky rando-world problems… Actually at this point it’s no longer a question of lazy or bold. I start to notice when I haven’t done a long ride in a few weeks, and it’s not pretty. The call of the Pelican must be answered.

And speaking of the call of the Pelican, a few days after the Uvas Gold 200k marked my third year with ‘er. How I lucked into getting a bike as nice as this, I will never know and I do not want to know. I just know I feel this way about it… A bike can be a pal, an extension of our personality, a vessel into which we pour all our efforts to elevate ourselves, a simple (or complicated) machine that works (or does not), a vehicle which brings us closer to where we want to be. In bookbinding we say, “Use the best tool you can afford,” and I think I’ve applied this rule to my bike as well.  Anyway, I realized during the Uvas Gold 200k that if I finished the ride it would be my 36th consecutive monthly 200k, and one person asked, “And you did it all on that bike?,” and “Yes” was the answer. Even Old Caz, twice! Yes.

So anyway. Uvas Gold. This is a new route for SFR, and was promised to us to be a mellow year-ender. I believe the term ‘flat’ was used publicly. Good thing I do not pay attention to such terminology when it is bandied about in relation to an SFR route. Just pointless. The week before the scheduled brevet, our RBA rode the route as a permanent and reported an elevation gain figure in the neighborhood of the old Point Reyes Light House route. I’m not sure if anyone would describe that route as ‘flat’, maybe ‘flattish’? One enlightened person made the comment that a ‘flat’ route should avoid such roads with names including the following: Hill, Mount, Mountain, Valley, Grade, View, Ridge… which Uvas does not. But, like I said, when someone tells me an SFR route is flat, I have the same reaction as when someone tells me, “We will get to the top of this climb right around the next corner.” Heard that one before…

It was the rain, however, which gave me pause on the morning of the ride. It sounded like buckets of nails were overturning at the moment I got out of bed, and after eating breakfast, it hadn’t let up. Walking outside to the balcony hallway, it felt cold as well. Not the most encouraging scenario, making for the first time I ever questioned starting a brevet. I had ridden in a downpour the weekend before, but it was a 25-miler. Even that ride took my shoes 3 days to fully dry out. Finally when I decided to try it anyway, it was getting close to the time the BART train to Fremont would be leaving my station… I sprinted to the station, not having the time to put on my rain jacket, gloves, or hat! But I made it with plenty of time to spare as the train was stalled in the station, probably waiting for a connection. Taking BART was fun, since we now get ourselves organized to all hang out in the last car if possible. I got to chat with Therese C about her bike; I rode some parts of Old Caz and El Paseito Mixto with her, so it was nice to see her. Greg M and some others were also there, and Brian O and Alex P also showed up. Rando BART party!

There was light rain when we got off the train, causing us to put off walking across the wet parking lot for a few minutes… But we eventually trudged over and signed in, took the oath, and started off. By that time, there was barely enough rain for me to keep my rain jacket on, but the roads were still wet. After the first ten miles or so, the rain moved off and stayed away for the whole day, making me very glad I came out to ride. Some other great things about the Uvas Gold 200k: I liked the idea of riding all the way to Gilroy, which seems really, really far, even though we started in Fremont. I liked the Coyote Creek Trail, and the bright green early morning views from Mount Hamilton were spectacular after the rain. The post-rain forest aroma from San Felipe still lingers in my notsrils.

As usually happens, at the very beginning of the ride I get to chat with a few of the people I never see after the first control: Eric L, Andrea S and others. One of my favorite things about brevets is catching up with the people I know (sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively), putting faces to names of people I’ve heard about, seeing peoples’ different gear and bikes… but even though I valiantly took the Milpitas city limit sign, it wasn’t too long before I got dropped by most people, and then it was time to ascend the Mountain of Hamilton! I stopped to drink an Ensure brought specifically for this climb, and let my esteemed comrade Alex P climb ahead. This was the biggest climb on the route. About halfway up, I was confused (as were two other riders) by a twisted street marker, and had to pause to get in the right gear to restart… Along rode Jack H and Brian O. I rode with Brian O on the rest of the climb up Mount Hamilton, and we had fun chatting and mutually bemoaning our being out of shape. I think at that point, or at the first info control, we also ran into Ben G, Eric M and Theresa C, three people with whom I rode Old Caz this summer.

There were a couple wild descents that had been given mild passing notice in the pre-ride talk; Jack H noted to me prior to the ascent that these descents had been understated, and he was oh, so right. I was glad for the extra warning, I was glad I just replaced my front brake pads, I was glad I took the time to go to the bike handling skills classes, and I was glad my bike handles so well. Therefore, I was glad while descending, and I thought it was fun. But wow! Tight turns, those. In case anyone is reading this who is considering riding this route, consider yourself warned: watch those descents on Quimby and Metcalf if you’ve never ridden them before (there are at least a couple 180 degree hairpins) and be sure your brakes are working well. Then you will have fun.

At the base of Metcalf, we entered the Coyote Creek Trail, a very nice (its flatness was quite welcome to us!) multi-use path. There’s a little bathroom/bubbler shack close to the end where we took a break for stretching and replenishing of fluids. Not too much longer and we would be in Gilroy, the lunch stop. A bunch of us left together and made our way through the semi-rural streets of Morgan Hill and San Martin. It was a cheerful group with lots of chatting and a medium pace. I unfortunately have not ridden in a close group like that too often, and a minor calamity resulted when I touched wheels with Brian O in front of me and Dan B behind. I took a little dive and my right shoe came off, I tore a hole in my nice wool knickers (darn it!) and got a little road rash. But the funniest thing to happen was that my left rear fender stay got bent into an S shape… and in spite of that, the wheel turned fine. And I felt fine too. So, I put my shoe back on and we continued down the road, no worse for wear but of course much more consciously on my part.

As we continued riding, I felt pretty hungry. I mentioned to Brian about how my Most Frequent Riding Partner John and I ate sushi from the Half Moon Bay Safeway for Thanksgiving while bike camping, and we both started to look forward to lunch. As it turned out, the Gilroy Safeway had an excellent sushi chef making hand rolls on the spot! I had a giant dragon roll as big as a small burrito that also had one nigiri roll in the package, and I ate it all, no problem! …as delicious as it was large. While I dined at the picnic tables outside the Safeway, I was able to share one of my favorite brevet comestibles, surprising to me that more people don’t drink more of it: sparkling water. I overheard my table-mate say to her riding partner that she was having better luck with her stomach troubles this ride, so I felt compelled to share with her that sparkling water has never failed to ease any stomach sourness I’ve had. She was surprised, and gladly took the leftover of the large bottle I had bought! Woohoo another convert to fizzy water, yesssss.

I left with Dan B and James W, my poor sense of direction almost leading us through a high school football field, and then after not too long on Uvas Road, they dropped me. I knew it would happen sooner or later, and I didn’t mind riding around the Uvas Reservoir by myself one bit. What a beautiful road. Info control: check. Water level since the rains: up, though still very very very low. What is going on here, people?!? I know the Marin and Sonoma reservoirs are filled to overflowing after the recent rains, but inland California is another story. I did not bring my camera on this ride, so you will have to imagine the ring after ring of vestigial water levels left in a formerly huge reservoir.

After Uvas, there is another little bump before rejoining the Coyote Creek Trail in the opposite direction from the morning. I could not for the life of me find where the cue sheet said to enter the trail, and there were several highway on ramps sharing the same space, so I just tried to find the safest way to get the trail that I could. Doing that in near-dark was the least fun part of the ride for me, and something I would look at on Streetview next time. At the end of the trail, I ran across some other randos looking for the entrance to the mysteriously marked (or unmarked?) Road N… Dadblame new route, but we found it.

Sometime during the remainder of the only-medium-sucky suburban streets (mostly with bike lanes, though the disappearing bike lane section raising my neck hairs for as long as it lasted) I ran into Steve H and Tom H, members of the former Gilroy-bound gruppo. Yay! We rode through and through to the penultimate control where we got some life-giving beverages and snacks, and through to the very end. I am always happy to run into these guys, chipper as always even at the very end of a long day of human-powered pedaling.

Even with more climbing than promised, I had a great time that day on my bike. And even in the off season, so many fantastic people were there! The scenery was just amazing after the rains: bright neon green, so fresh and lovely. Uvas Road was quiet, remote, hilly, scenic–just what I love about SFR brevets. I look forward to next year…and may even continue my R-whatever! If I do, you’ll hear about it here on mmmmbike!

2014 Davis Dart: Delta Montagnards Ride Again!

This has been a tough year for the ol’ mmmmbike. Lots of bad karma coming back to me for whatever horrible things I’ve done lately have made me want to wash 2014 down the toilet asap. No time for bike riding and work, work, work is all I get. I’d like to say things are slowly getting back on track now (at least I have time to update my bike blog!) but I don’t want to jinx myself, so let’s just say I feel lucky anytime I can get on my bike for a casual 200K (plus or minus a few special K’s) with some very nice people.

That was exactly what I had in mind for the Davis Dart this year, and it did not disappoint. We did the same route as last year, with the same team mates and the same controls. We even had the same captain, though now he’s calling himself Capitain Jacques Zut-Alors or something… And he came up with a new team name this year: the Delta Montagnards. A perfect expression of the route, since we ride over high climbs and then ride along the delta to Sacramento. And since it seems impossible to be a mountaineer of a delta, we know we don’t have to take ourselves too seriously. Capitain Zutalors promised us a 13.5 hour program teaching us “French for Randonneurs: How to Slowly and Loudly Pronounce English so the French Can Understand You at PBP Next Year”. Well, then at least he might not tell us his UFO story again! (Actually, he was just saving it for the train ride home. Gah!)

One great thing about this ride was that the route started in downtown Oakland, about a ten-minute ride from my new home and WHQ of Book Island Inc.

Broadway, now with bike lanes all the way!

Broadway, now with bike lanes all the way through!

P1020258

Brilliant red fall colors near Lake Merritt

 

Moving to Oakland has afforded me many perks: no more junkie-homeless-hooker-mentally ill people hiding from the cops on my block (!), no more construction dust from the continual conversion of all available space to $4000+/month apartments, and the Oakland hills are always in view, with their attendant greenery fair to see. There are five independent book stores within two blocks of my new place, a yarn store, a family ice cream parlour, and a corner two-screen movie theater, not to mention that Montano Velo is now my LBS. Not too shabby! And many randos live nearby, rando-pal and fellow Pelicanist Bryan C. probably closest.

Having lived in the bay area for only five years or so, and most of it in San Francisco, I haven’t explored the beautiful riding opportunities in Oakland and points east. The Delta Montagnards route has more significance for me this year now that I’m living here, so I pay more attention this time as we ride past the Chabot Space & Science Center and through Joaquin Miller Park.

P1020264

Views starting to appear on Butters

P1020266

Skyline is not too trafficky at this hour

Top of Pinehurst

Top of Pinehurst

We ride eastward, taking Pinehurst. We cross Redwood Creek, Indian Creek, and Moraga Creek. Lots of water-crossing today! Our first control is at the Safeway in Moraga. I take a bathroom break (I don’t need to go that badly, but there are not always chances to use a real bathroom on these rides) and make the unpleasant discovery that I have entered my moon cycle, as some might say…drat. I lose about 20 minutes purchasing some feminine hygiene products and dealing with all that crap, and we finally get on the move again. Then Andrea has to go too, so we meet her at the bike trail head over yonder from the Safeway.

P1020288

The whole paintbox

We traverse lots of multi-use paths from here to Black Diamonds, which is really wonderful. Lots of people are out jogging, walking their dogs, and walking with friends and companions. It is chilly, but sunnier than I remember last year. I am wearing all the extra clothes I brought, but wish I had my mittens. No worry, though, for before too long it starts to warm up, and we are climbing.

P1020299

It is going to be a beautiful day!

We take the Iron Horse Trail and Ygnacio Valley Road  to get to Black Diamond Mines Regional Park, a member of the East Bay Regional Park System. The oak trees are wiry, the trail surface is in great condition, and I’m feeling pretty ok. Last year the grade of the trail was a surprise and I just walked a bunch of it. This year I rode all of the first part, though now I look at the ridewithgps page and it shows some of the grade is 12-14%?!? Could that be right?? I did ride this part, but I was far behind my teammates, I think. This is such a unique trail and I like it a lot, but I still need to work up to it. It would be great to explore more of the trails in this park, since the part we ride is such a small percentage of the trails here. We have a descent, then some more climbing, some of it also at 13% or so… I have definitely taken off all my extra layers by now… It sure is beautiful up at the top, though, and you can see for many, many miles. It is a clear day with lots of sun and lovely crisp autumn air. The rains from several days ago must have improved the trail, because the surface is much more smooth than last year’s deep ruts. Hardly any other people are here, at least on this side of the hill. After we start descending we encounter a group of smiling, good-natured young hikers.

P1020302

Familiar

P1020314

Quercuses…or Quercae???

P1020317

Andrea is happy in Black Diamonds!

At the trailhead on the other side of the park, we exit and start rolling over the silky smooth blacktop road out of the park. There is a momma goat with an awkward little kid in the middle of the road. We slow down, and an oncoming car sees us and slows down too. We all watch as the the two goats clamber out of the road and back onto the farm.

It is now time for lunch! We speed out of the park and say, “Till next time, beautiful and difficult trail!,” heading for our lunch stop at the Pho place in Brentwood.

mmmm

mmmm

It is marvelous, just like last year. In fact, the salted lemonade is better and I think I could drink two. I am amazed at Capitain Zut-alors’s ability to find a place like this, truly a golden noodle in a haystack of inedible junk food. But seriously, it is also kind of an art form to cobble together a 200k ride from various pieces and segments one might want to ride on. This ride has some fantastic segments all in need of connectors, something I would not have been able to figure out! We try not to tarry too long as we are already behind schedule. Last year we made up a lot of time on the delta because of its luxurious flatness, but we may not be able to do that this year because as Subcommandante Sordo brought to our attention the week before the ride, our ferry (the Real McCoy II) is out of service! Fortunately, he found us another waterbus, the J-Mack (how do they come up with these names?). Just a couple kilometers further upstream, and we would be back in business.

Last year, riding over the Antioch bridge over the San Joaquin River was pretty scary for me; the walls on the sides of the bridge leave just enough space for a cyclist to ride on the shoulder, but there is a lot of debris in the shoulder (flat tire potential), and traffic moves fast. This year, I was prepared for that, but I was not prepared for the bottle thrown in our path from a passing pickup truck. Not cool! What was also not cool about it was that it was a bottle of Martinelli’s apple cider, one of my favorite kinds! The kind with the bottle shaped like an apple. Oh well. I have never had something thrown at me during a ride, so at least now I can check that off my list.

We had another stupid traffic incident later when another pickup was pulling out into the roadway to prepare for a turn, blocking our path and forcing us to merge into the lane of traffic. Maybe people were pissed that the Real McCoy II was out of service? Really no excuse. We certainly did not experience anything like that last year.

Finally we got to the ferry crossing. The J-Mack was much smaller than the Real McCoy II, and the operator was very nice and smiled at us. I deduced there had been other dart riders on the ferry before us. Being on the ferry made me feel completely released from the stress of being in traffic. The Sacramento River was so lovely, and so green. There were lush grasses and other plants on the riverbanks and the still surface reflected the blue sky. The soft buzzing motor pulled the ferry along its cable, simply going back and forth from one bank to the other, from that bank back. It’s a different pace of life when you depend on a ferry.

Calm and clear

Calm and clear

We disembark from the ferry and are back on our route from last year, which follows the sloughs and channels, levees and islands southwest of Sacramento. It seems more beautiful than last year; the weather this year has been much clearer, and even the suburbs looked better. We are still behind the clock, but not as much as I thought, and Capitain is happy.

Is everybody happy??

Is everybody happy??

The light wanes, and we get to the washboard-y part of the road, surprisingly coming across a car. It’s still quite pretty around the fields where some crops have been cleared, and in others there are still grape vines.

Delta Dusk

Delta Dusk

Around this point, a young hawk kept following us

Around this point, a young hawk kept following us

We arrived in Clarksburg still about 20 minutes behind schedule, and stopped outside the general store there to put our night time reflective vests etc. on and check our lights. We roll past the bikes of another dart team that is dining at a barbecue joint there, but we don’t stop until we get to the Sacramento Food Coop–our last stop.

The Coop is great like last year, but I’m feeling antsy about leaving our bikes outside in the dark, even though we amply locked them. Carlos and John are having some kind of disagreement probably stemming from having done too many Super Volunteer Series together, and I go to the washroom to run some cold water over my face. I’m pretty exhausted in spite of the many flat miles, and am looking forward to our arrival at Sudwerk, the final control. We eat our food and take off, crossing the Sacramento River for the last time that day. It is completely dark by the time we get to the bike path next to I-80, thankfully separated from Interstate traffic by a high concrete barricade and fence. We pass a dude hanging out on the path  which is sort of limited in width; he has a big overloaded grocery cart and is fussing around in the dark with something. John said later he had a green glittery helmet on, but I thought it was just a hat. Later when we were talking to another team at Sudwerk, we found out when they traversed the same path, the guy was on the ground, and one of the team nearly missed running him over! They doubled back to find out why he was on the ground. One person asked him if he needed some help, and he said, “Can you help me get my ex-wife back?”

It was terrific to see everyone at the finish at Sudwerk! The dinner was much nicer this year too. It seemed like most teams’ routes took it easy this year, no epic Davis darts.

The train ride back was great other than the aforementioned telling of the UFO story (which rousted Subcommandante Carlos out of his chair in disbelief that John was really going to tell that story yet again). We did get to talk to Eric L about his recent riding of the new 1000k Shasta Mountains SFR route. John and I had both just read his written account posted to the SFR list, and it’s a real page turner!

Thanks again to my sweetheart for another great day on the bike. I know it must take a lot of planning and expertise to put together the route, and a lot of patience to lead us all around all day! And of course, a big thanks go to the Davis crew for organizing, but my biggest thanks go to Andrea and Francisco for the ride home from the train station at the end of the night. Thanks for the lift!

 

Workers’ Ride: Two Rock/Valley Ford 200k

I had not originally intended to ride this brevet. After two years of R12s, I wanted to break the chain and focus on my first SR series, and ultimately the Santa Cruz 1000k this summer. But since I would be Volunteer Coordinator for this event, and I invited my friends to volunteer, a bunch of us ended up riding together. In the end, I am really glad I did the ride. I had always been a bit scared of workers’ rides–even though I have become a serial volunteer, I never did a workers’ ride. People who work finish controls have often been the more experienced (read: faster) randonneurs. If there’s one thing I do not enjoy on a brevet, it is struggling to keep up, so I generally stay with the brevet and ride my own pace. Lately, there have been some no-drop workers’ rides that have functioned more like a team ride, with everyone staying together regardless of pace. That is how we did this one, lucky me! It was very sweet of Mike T-G to offer to hold back from his usual rapid pace and wait for us on the longer climbs of this route. He brought his camera along and took some great shots of the beautiful landscape along the way. Mike has an awesome bike with a relatively light setup, so when it would start raining, he didn’t have anywhere to put his camera to keep it from getting wet. But no worries: we orchestrated a couple mid-ride camera pass-offs so I could stow it in my handlebar bag for him. Ah, friendonneuring!

Starting out, it is warm and misty

Starting out, it is warm and misty -photo swiped from Mike

cardamommmm knot

cardamommmm knot -photo swiped from Mike

espressooohhh woah

espressooohhh woah -photo swiped from Mike

coffee stop in San Anselmo = best thing about a workers' ride!

coffee stop in San Anselmo = best thing about a workers’ ride! -photo swiped from Mike

funnn! Thanks Mike for the picture

funnn!
Thanks Mike for the pictures!

The Two Rock route is flatter than most of the SFR routes, and much of it traverses well-known territory for SFR regulars. According to the comments on the SFR google group in the week leading up to the brevet, it has become a bit like a populaire in that seasoned riders look for additional ways to make the ride harder, just to make it interesting. One group decided to take an extra detour to Sebastopol in order to visit a gallery show by one of our members. As for me, I was aiming just to practice riding on the roads that make up some of the longer rides later in the season. This route shares sections with the 300k, the 400k, and the 600k, though not necessarily in the same direction. Not to be a total randonnerd, but it is a great feeling when wrapping up a long ride to come to a section you’ve ridden many times before. Fatigue becomes Familiarity… and that means Finish! So even though this ride is not going to count toward my SR series, it will help me with it.

One other perk that happened on this ride was I met a Girl Scout who recognized my Girl Scout pin that I keep on my handlebar bag! That was fun, and the second time that has happened on a ride. She was with her parents in the Petaluma Peet’s Coffee, our first control. I didn’t stop to talk to her for too long since we had to stay on the move, but I am always amazed anyone sees that pin since it’s kind of hidden. I got so much out of being a Girl Scout and am so thrilled to see young gals still interested in it.

Something that got me thinking while riding through the farms of Marin and Sonoma Counties was the signs you see by the roadside stating, “PROTECTED AS FARMLAND FOREVER”. What do they mean, protected by whom and from what, etc. When I got home, I looked into it just a little and found MALT. Lately there has been so much discussion about the cost of living and price of real estate in our lovely little town of San Francisco… Imagine if real estate developers had their way and divided up all the historic family farms of Marin County into gated communities or suburbs like the old proposed Marincello.

MALT_MAP_small_2013_June

Cycling would not be so fun anymore if Marincello were a town and not a trail. We are so fortunate in the bay area to have so much protected land to enjoy, and yet, it doesn’t come purely through luck. Some find the Two Rock route boring, and it’s true that it doesn’t have the challenges other routes have, but it’s still a good day out on the bike. Compared with the endless roving suburbo-power-grid of places like Chicago (where I used to live), it’s really nothing to complain about.

pretty farmland toward Petaluma

pretty farmland toward Petaluma, once again Mike’s picture

windmill

windmill -thanks again Mike for the picture

sheeps near Petaluma

sheeps near Petaluma

more sheep near Valley Ford

more sheep near Valley Ford

Taking a breather in Valley Ford

Taking a breather in Valley Ford…another great phot from Mike

Misty day along CA-1

Misty day along CA-1

We love the Marshall Store

We love the Marshall Store… taken by Ely

Unfortunately we did not all make it to the finish of the route. Ely had to call it quits as we got back toward Sir Francis Drake due to a reaction to some medication he’d been given for a bad case of poison oak. I was pretty worried about him, but we helped him find a way to a bus going back to San Francisco from Lagunitas. While he waited at the little grocery store there, he had some of their homemade beef stew, which he said was “bomber”. I worried about him getting home safely throughout the rest of my ride, but it turned out the bus he took was comfy and direct.

Mike, Jesse, and I continued on toward Fairfax and home. The heavy mist gave way to drizzle, but it never fully rained. The moisture in the air made everything seem more peaceful. I pushed hard to keep up, and only asked once for them to slow down (at least, that’s how I remember it!). We made decent time back to San Francisco where the rain had vanished, and in its place, my boyfriend appeared, eager to meet us for a beer at Rogue. Jesse ditched us, but Mike, John and I had a couple beers and gobbled down some food together. Another brevet in the bag, another rainy ride to make me feel more comfortable with riding in the rain. I almost like it now.

IMG_3744

S1: 200K, Point Reyes Light House

Back for more to the wild seashore

Back for more to the king of seashores

From identifying my rides with the code “R” and the number in whatever R-12 I am doing, I have now graduated to the next letter of the alphabet and the next level of randonneuring accomplishment: S for Super, as in Super Randonneur Award. I also considered identifying the rides this year in terms of what installment of the Qualifying rides for the Santa Cruz 1000K, but I don’t want to go backwards alphabetically, so Super it is.

My sweetheart did this brevet as a Workers’ Ride on the same day as the rainy Populaire this year, and pretty much got dumped on as soon as they passed the sign in the picture above. He said they did not have too much traffic, but there was also a nasty headwind from Point Reyes Station to the turnaround in Marshall, California. My ride was exactly the opposite: the weather was delightfully clear, with temps low enough not to feel overheated or sweaty, and calm wind even on the way to Marshall, which is rare. Car traffic was heavy on this beautiful day, with everyone deciding to visit our national seashore and escape/recreate their own personal rat race by flooring it on scenic country roads and punishingly passing, honking at, or tailgating any violator of their own idea of the low end of the speed limit.

But anyway… did I mention the cows? One day, many lifetimes from now, if I’m reeeeeally good, I will be reincarnated as a Point Reyes cow. These cows have the shaggiest, glossiest coats of any cows I’ve ever seen. Here again, as I do every year, I will share with you some of my favorites. I did not take as many cow pictures this year–there were some beautiful brown Jerseys I wish I had photographed.

Has it been a whole year since I last saw this cow?

Has it been a whole year since I last saw you, baby?

Thistles and wildflowers are dry; the ocean waves are loud!

Thistles and wildflowers are dry; the ocean waves are loud!

I started off the morning by volunteering at rider check-in, something you can do even if you’re planning to ride. I love to volunteer because I get to have a reason to put on my cheerful morning face for everybody. I love to see how smiling at people makes them smile too. In truth I am so ready to get this brevet season started; I haven’t ridden a 200k for almost two months, and it is time for me to get back on my bike, and not just for a fun social ride.

This is an easy ride to have time goals since there are only two controls. I think my first year on this ride I got to the lighthouse at 11:49 or so (it rained in the late morning then); this year I made it by a cool 11:14. I had a big grin on my face upon checking in with the SFR luminary Bruce Berg and didn’t stay too long.

me n the raging surf

me, my new design SFR jersey, n the raging surf

Esteban and I leave the control together and are able to chat for just a bit and admire more cows. As we head back, we encounter a peculiar figure in green, howling down a descent and taking our picture. Esteban is nursing a slight hangover from pre-brevet festivities, and I am feeling an overwhelming yen for Marshall Store chowder, so I pull on ahead through the climb and descent to Inverness, back along the bay to Point Reyes Station, and Highway One to Marshall.

As I mentioned, there was little to no wind on the way to Marshall, so I got there in record time (for me), too. When I got there, I saw the two volunteers staffing the control–a new feature for this year, and thank goodness. Normally the Marshall Store clerk stamps our cards, but with the beauty of the day, the line even in remote Marshall, California for oysters and clam chowder was formidable. It’s also nice to have a choice of eating (the mindblowing chowder & ginger beer, yahoo!) at the Marshall Store or having more food choices in Point Reyes Station, though for me there is no question. I rarely get up to Marshall, so I eat there. While in line in the Marshall Store I chat with my fellow lineholders about bicycling and traffic and one lady comments that people honk at her if she slows down to wait for a safe place in the road to pass cyclists. I try to stay on the positive side with this complete stranger and say what a beautiful day it is to ride out to the Lighthouse, and she changes the subject to the fact that she’s been staying at the hostel in Point Reyes and how much she loves it there. The guy next to her in line is impressed with the bike riding and asks more about our route. The two elderly ladies ahead of me in line take the last of the chowder, causing some consternation, but I smell something better. After a thorough huckabuck, they move toward the cashier and I step up to the steam table to ladel out the only solid food I will eat all day, something I have not yet tried… FISH STEW! Wow. I take my portion and my ginger beer and a seat at a table with fellow rando Heath Allen, and we both bask in the glow of the really good stuff. The great thing about the stew and chowder is the self-serve aspect as you can get back on the road much faster than if you have to wait for the kitchen to make you a sandwich.

So… that’s what I did. I chatted a bit with Brian O., and then geared up for the return trip. Time and wind direction were on my side, and I found Esteban again along Highway One.

Pelicans of a feather flock together

Pelicans of a feather flock together

We rode together for a little while again, but I was in a hurry to get back home where my sweetie would be at the finish control to greet me. Up and over the final five climbs I went: Point Reyes-Petaluma to the Nicasio Reservoir (so dry this year you can now walk across much of it),

Was: Reservoir. Is: Soccer Field?

Was: Reservoir. Is: Soccer Field?

Nicasio Valley Road, White’s Hill, Camino Alto and Sausalito Lateral. I had been hoping to finish the ride this year in ten and a half hours, and thanks to the spotless weather, good company, fish stew, and new SFR jersey, I did. It sure would be nice if the rest of the rides of this series go as smoothly as this one. I did have one mini-mechanical: I heard one of my fender bolts working its way loose on the way into Inverness, and I stopped and had to flip my bike over and remove the rear wheel to tighten it. I did not see any way I would make it over five cattle grates and all the ups and downs of Sir Francis Drake out to the Lighthouse without losing the bolt if I didn’t tighten it, so I did. But that was pretty much it.

Hanging out at the finish control this year was a lot of fun. John was volunteering, so he flitted around in an official way and I didn’t get to hang out with him too much, but I did get to chat with some friends old and new. Steffan P. and I realized we both rode our first brevet on the Point Reyes Light House route two years ago! And it was great to see Brian O. and his new 650b Pelican. John got to sell some of his bike pieces and parts and some of the mudflaps we made together on Christmas Day.

Thanks again to Rob, all the volunteers–especially those who staff the remote controls like the Lighthouse and the Marshall Store, and to all the other riders who populate these rides and make each brevet a special and unique experience.