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.

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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.

R12: Girls’ Ride!

Andrea S and I hatched our plan to ride together on the Davis Dart in November, and decided to follow through with it on the first day of December. I had a heavy workload leading up to the end of 2013, and knew I would not want to worry about squeezing in a ride. Moreover, the weather had been very kind lately, and we did not want to chance our December ride to the (supposedly) rainy season. Last year, both of us had to suffer through rainy, chilly rides for our December R-12 installments.

We also had a sort of tacit agreement we would not invite our boyfriends, and instead have a nice social ride, maybe gossip a little, but mainly just enjoy a relaxing girls-only ride. We picked the San Franciscadero route, not necessarily the most relaxing choice with about 8500 feet of elevation gain, but a scenic route nonetheless. Andrea is a much stronger and more experienced rider than I, but she was nice enough to slow down a bit for me in parts. It was great to get to know Andrea a little better. We had fantastic weather too, as you will see from the pictures to follow. Thanks Andrea for such a lovely day to wind down both of our R-12s, and thanks once again to permanent owner Mark Gunther for processing our cards and stuff.

Ocean Beach (s)miles

Ocean Beach (s)miles

New glasses from JP

New glasses from JP

wheeee

wheeee

fisherman

fisherman

Andrea said the moss grows where there is lots of oxygen... Stage Road

Andrea said the moss grows where there is lots of oxygen… Stage Road

Gazos Creek Road is always gorgeous

Gazos Creek Road is always gorgeous

Eyes like a hawk near Gazos Creek Store

Eyes like a hawk near Gazos Creek Store

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Pelicans covering a rock

Pelicans covering a rock

pretty light

pretty light

view at the top

view mid-way

still climbing

still climbing

beautiful summer... er, December weather

beautiful summer… er, December weather

still smiling

still smiling

more typical and majestic sweeping views

more typical and majestic sweeping views

IMG_3463

Getting back toward town

Getting back toward town

Getting close to home, big smile for a nice healthy chunk of a ride

Getting close to home, big smile for a nice healthy chunk of a ride

Another R-12 in the bag… Time to stop and ponder the riding I have done over the past two years of being a RUSA member, and the people I’ve met, the rock formations and forests I’ve ridden through, the cows, sheep, goats, strawberries, and artichokes I’ve seen in fields far and near. Some of the riding I’ve done off the RUSA books has had a deep and lasting effect on me, though the structure of riding brevets and permanents forces a sense of discipline as well. I wonder at how much I’ve learned about bike parts, supple tires (still on Paselas though! ha ha), sport shake ingredients, non-cleat cycling shoes, handling my bike through high-speed descents without spinning out, finding the perfect chamois, and of course, how many miles will I carry that Clif Bar in my handlebar bag without ever even considering eating it. I ponder the rider I was on my first brevet two years ago, and how far I’ve ridden in that time (almost 9000 miles by my bike’s odometer). It sure has gone by fast! Next year I’m raising the bar to do my first 600k, which I’m sure will be a whole new learning experience. Although I am nervous about it to some extent, I do feel a lot more confident now than when I first started. I’m grateful for all the time I get to spend riding, and still never take it for granted. Looking forward to next year… another mile marker for mmmmbike!

R11: Delta Beach Patrol

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Twilight on the delta

California’s landscape continues to amaze me. As soon as I think California is one way or another, I see something else that completely turns me upside down. In early November I went to San Diego, and flew over the length of the coastline in the afternoon. I saw the Monterey Peninsula and the Central Coast mountains from the air. Even seeing Los Angeles that way was a total surprise. I began to feel that I could live out the entire remainder of my years never leaving California and yet always seeing new things.

One thing I’d been missing this past fall, though, was the fall colors that other areas of the country enjoy. For whatever reason, we don’t seem to get them too much in San Francisco–maybe due to greater density of coniferous trees? Eucalyptus don’t turn colors either.

Another thing I began to wonder about was whether I would ever see anything flat again. Sure there are valleys here, but mountains still loom within view. Hill, mountain, ridge, rise, peak, roller, cliff, valley, lowland, etc here are like the Sami peoples’ 180 different words for snow/ice. Maybe I was still thinking back to Old Caz, but flat bike riding was becoming a hazy, distant reflection of a memory.

Both of these concerns were answered by our route for the Davis Bike Club Dart 200k team ride. Riding through the deltas of Solano county, we saw beautiful fall colors on the deciduous trees and enjoyed flat flat flat miles across levee roads lining old local waterways. We saw lots of cool old ferries and bridges in use, and we even got to ride on a modern ferry. Many thanks to my cool boyfriend for coming up with a route that provided some balance to my year in randonneuring!

The first part of our ride did include the requisite bay area ridiculously steep climbing, just to make sure we didn’t feel too let down by a perfectly pleasant, flat ride with delightful weather.

bumpy ruts

bumpy ruts

this was not the hard part... though I did walk it anyway

this was not the hard part… though I did walk it anyway

nice view

nice view though

oak trees and good friends

oak trees and good friends

wide view

taking the long view of things

On the (new) Rivet, Andrea is pleased

On the (new) Rivet, Andrea is pleased

This was not the hard part either, though I walked here also... didn't get a good start on it

This was not the hard part either, though I walked here also… didn’t get a good start on it

We love a good doggie

We love a good doggie

Rose Hill Cemetery contains the remains of old coal miners

Rose Hill Cemetery contains the remains of old coal miners

You...!

You…!

This was through the Black Diamond Mine Regional Preserve, part of the East Bay Regional Park District. We passed a few hikers and a couple bikers on the trails there, which were deeply rutted in spots. The combination of the ruts and the pitch of the trail was a bit too much for me, not to mention my lack of prior route study, and so I dismounted for a short stretch. I had slept quite badly the night before–was that the night I got food poisoning from the Yemeni restaurant near John’s place? It might have been… Anyway, after walking a short stretch and topping off that little climb, the serious climbing began. The part after the dirt trail led into a paved trail was particularly memorable. I think we all walked for at least a part of that and got about half an hour behind schedule. The ruts on the trail going downhill felt pretty hard on my true blue bike (as always, with fenders), but it held together well. I wish I had gotten more sleep the night before, or pre-rode this part of our route to get a little practice, because it sure was pretty, and nothing like I had ever ridden on before. I would like to go back and ride it again.

Because of the rules governing randonneuring team rides, we were able to cut our losses and take a short cut out of the Black Diamond trail without losing credit for the ride. On our way out of the park we passed by a goatherd and his dog, and an isolated, very old cemetery from the days when this land was a coal mine. I’m so glad it’s not a coal mine anymore. Let’s say it together: “PUBLIC LANDS RULE.”

food

Yum! photo swiped from bonkifyoudontknowvelocio.wordpress.com without asking

Not too long after Black Diamonds is our lunch control. It is a Vietnamese family restaurant in a strip mall in Brentwood. Nothing fancy, but the ladies inside see us piling up our bikes outside and insist that we bring them into the restaurant while we dine. The food is wonderful. I got “salted lemonade” to drink, a taste explosion I may never experience again, but it was perfect mid-ride. Mmmm, that whole meal was delightful and the people working there were sooo friendly despite the inhospitable suburban drabscape outside. Good captain that he is, John filled all our water bottles while we cleaned up and he and Carlos attended to Andrea’s rear brake which was dragging on her wheel all through Black Diamonds. Yeow.

We passed over the Antioch bridge without incident though it scared the crap out of me to be so close to fast-moving traffic, and then we got to The Flat Section, which was pretty much the rest of the ride to Davis.

Flat! Whuut?

Flat! Whuut?

A Happy cyclist is a non-serious cyclist

A Happy cyclist is a non-serious cyclist

Nice old bridge, Carlos's new Magnic lights in effect

Nice old bridge, Carlos’s new Magnic lights in effect

We really scooted through lots of gorgeous scenic farmland and wineries. I found my second (tail)wind and got accused of being a Serious Cyclist… Andrea and I rode up front to devise a plan for our December R-12 installment, and that allowed Carlos and John to engage in guy-talk at the back for a while. We regroup, and John slyly shares with us that “Carlos doesn’t want us to know, but he is royalty…” I will remember this time as some of the most fun riding I’ve had all year: humming along in perfect weather, enjoying good company who is all happy to be there. What a privilege it is to do these rides; once again I feel like the luckiest person on the planet.

Approaching Sacramento, the roads become more like highways, and we go through a town with a city limit sign that John wins pretty easily. I start to switch on my city-limit-sign radar and notice a giant water tower ahead that says Sacramento. I see the Sac sign up ahead, though it is far. Too far for a lead-out? I have lost these sprints in the past trying to lead John out for too long, but this time I think I have the energy for it. I quietly downshift a bit, but John sniffs my resolve and speeds up. I match his pace and keep my eyes on his front wheel. I pedal harder and don’t let up. I pull ahead just enough to take Sacramento!!! Yessss!

Insert victory song here

Insert victory song here

Sacramento Food Co-Op, we love you!

Sacramento Food Co-Op, we love you!

Captain is happy

Captain is happy

After the food co-op where I had a fantastic turkey sandwich and John had an excellent chicken soup, we rode the short distance to Davis, part of it on the bike path next to the highway: weird, but if you need to go that way by bike, it’s nice to have that there. We saw another team along the way, we stalled a bit at a gas station in order not to arrive early, and finally arrived at Sudwerk. After some brave struggles the nature of which only a randonneur would be able to endure, we got our food and beer. With the rest of the group we hopped on the Amtrak train back to San Francisco, sitting with Angela and Steffan and their team. It was great to hear their stories from a route crafted with the purpose of visiting four swimming holes along the way, with two people who had never randonneur’d before! So cool!

Thank you, Davis Bike Club for sponsoring and spurring our adventures. Thank you team Delta Beach Patrol. And thanks to my sweetheart for the quality miles; I wish many happy returns for us both.

R9: Davis Night 200k

SFR RBA Rob Hawks gives the pre-ride schpiel and oath

SFR RBA Rob Hawks gives the pre-ride schpiel and oath

I was very happy to be able to ride this unusual brevet held each year at night. It begins in the evening and takes riders through quiet rural roads from just north of Berkeley to Davis (ouside Sacramento) and back. In my preparations I got a little nervous when I realized that all the Google Streetview pictures of the intersections were taken during the day–what if I didn’t recognize them at night? It’s not easy to read a cue sheet in the dark, either, nor my poorly-backlit cheapo odometer. I think that getting lost, and riding alone in the dark (cyclists are more visible to cars and trucks when in groups) topped my list of anxieties about this ride. Well, as usually happens on these ride thingies often called brevets, my worst fears end up being answered with a resounding call to stop worrying. My primary riding companion was none other than the King of Conspicuity, Jack Moonbeam! Jack earned his title last year by volunteering to sew 4″ wide strips of orange or yellow retroreflective material on the wind vests and jackets of many grateful randonneurs. He also has given informative talks on the importance of being visible in traffic, and it seems to be an idea that is gaining ground among us. Several randonneurs have publicly admitted to wondering “What would Jack Moonbeam do?” when choosing their bike attire when randonneuring or commuting. So, you can imagine the peace of mind I felt upon running across Mr. Moonbeam! I also assumed (though incorrectly) that he knew where we were going. In any case, between the two of us and more we gathered along the way, we had a grand time reaching our destination of Davis and heading back as well.

Aaaand we're off!

Aaaand we’re off! Over the Carquinez Bridge

Raccoons, stray dogs, who knows what-all will cross our path

Raccoons, stray dogs, who knows what-all will cross our path

I come across a curious figure

I come across a curious figure

On this stretch, I saw a rider stop far ahead and tell us later a raccoon ran between his front fender and his pedal! Several miles later, a stray dog ran out from the roadside, inches from my front wheel. I think my blood curdling scream may have scared Jack more than the dog scared me… sorry Jack.

At the Davis Safeway, I steal away to the mailbox

At the Davis Safeway, I steal away to the mailbox to drop an unofficial postcard in the mail to my sweetie

Taking a break at the intersection

Taking a break at the intersection

Retroreflection comparison

Retroreflection comparison

Bob P, Mark B, and Jack M compare tales of PBP 1898 and the Davis Night Brevet

Bob P, Mark B, and Jack M : circa 5:15 am, Cordelia Denny’s… is that un maillot Alex Singer?

Hazy first light of morning

Hazy first light of morning

This stretch seemed endless

This stretch seemed endless. I was so grateful for Jack’s company and his stories about the early SFR 1200k grand randonnées in which 4-5 riders participated. Jack was one, and Willy Nevin was another, though Willy DNF’ed for some unknown reason…

Back on the bridge

Back on the bridge; I didn’t think my vest would pass the Moonbeam test, but Jack approved.

We made it! Thank you Jack Moonbeam.

We made it! Thank you Jack Moonbeam. That’s a very stylie Singer maillot.

Oh What a Beeyooteeful Morrrrninggg

Oh What a Beeyooteeful Morrrrninggg

R8: SCR Dart

The Santa Cruz Randonneurs’ Dart event was the highlight of my 2012 riding year. (A Dart is a 200k team event similar to a flèche, but it is shorter, and teams do not ride through the night.) The finish control dinner was held at the Tied House in Mountain View, with great food, beer, and company. It’s a large enough venue that all teams could show up at more or less the same time and all sit down together to eat, drink, and swap stories. To commemorate the occasion, the Dart organizer commissioned this poster from a fellow randonneure who also happens to be a very talented artist. IMG_0445

This year, I would be sure to participate. John had been trying to arrange a way to get several teams together on the same route, yet with slightly different start times, so we could have a big movable party along the way, but we couldn’t get enough people together for it. I thought it was a brilliant idea, one I hope someone uses sometime! But for this year, John assembled just one team, comprised of everyone from last year’s team except Heath–replaced by the creator of the above poster: Alice Stribling!

It was fun to get the chance to ride with all of them. I haven’t been able to ride with Ely or Jim too much, since both have young families. Despite Jim’s pre-ride moaning about his lack of being in shape, I was pretty impressed with how he rode.

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Jim enjoying the coast

The weather was slightly cloudy for most of the morning, though it cleared up later on the climb up Soquel-San Jose Road. We used the same route as last year, Jesse Marsh’s Coastal Cruz permanent.

Me n Capitaine Quelle Heure Est-Il at the Half Moon Bay wayside...

Me n Capitaine Quelle Heure Est-Il at the Half Moon Bay wayside… photo courtesy of Alice

Randonneuring is soo classy

Typically classy randonneur behaviours on display at Arcangeli’s. Visible in front is Alice’s war wound in her recent battle with the train tracks near Townsend Street in SF

As far as city limit sign sprints, I think John took most of them, though I do recall an intense early-morning contest for Daly City between Ely and John. For some bizarre reason, John and Ely arrived at the Pescadero sign before me but did not cross it, so I won that one. That was odd. But then I stole a really good one at Davenport from a completely unsuspecting Jim, and decided to stop and reward myself with a pint of roadside blueberries, being so far ahead and all…

ride to eat to ride to eat to ride...

ride to eat to ride to eat to ride…

There was a very unfortunate bike crash near the city limit sign: a woman had gone over the railroad tracks at the wrong angle, gotten her wheel stuck, and flipped (according to the blueberry vendors); then, unable to find assistance in Davenport, she got back on her bike to go back the way she came and tripped over the tracks a second time. Agghhh we saw her being loaded into an ambulance as we passed (she still seemed conscious), and the guys at the fruit table spilled the whole story to me as they gave me testers of the honey they were selling. Alice had just taken a dive in SF due to some misplaced railroad tracks, so I’m sure it gave her extra shivers.

The weather was even nicer than last year, a bit more sunny but about the same temperature. Typical coastline views made me think that the SCR strategy of placing most of its brevet routes along CA1 is not such a bad idea after all.

Laid back at the Ugly Mug

Laid back at the Ugly Mug

You can't take riding too seriously.

You can’t take riding too seriously… If you do, it could drive you crazy!

After leaving our old haunt The Ugly Mug cafe in Soquel, we began The Climb. This is the longest climb of the route, an elevation gain of about 1600 feet in ten miles. I started off with my team, Jim taking the lead, and Senor Captain dropping back. I just kept riding at my own pace. I caught up with Jim and we agreed to stop and catch our breath at Stetson Road, about seven miles in. Soquel-San Jose Road is shaded through most of the way, but it was a hot day. The rest of our team were nowhere to be seen, but we figured we’d all collect ourselves at the Summit Store.

Climbing pain...elevation gained.

Climbing pain…elevation gained. We heart Summit Store!

We did! It is truly all downhill from there, so we savored the beautiful downhill stretch of the Old Santa Cruz Highway. Alice, Jim, Ely, and I all took the bike handling skills classes last year, and I still constantly think about putting into practice good cornering and handling techniques. I love how my bike handles descents… like buttercream frosting. mmmm. Not too much later I got to eat some buttercream frosting at Great Bear Coffee in Los Gatos at our penultimate control.

Everybody wave!

Everybody wave!

We.enjoy.riding.bikes.

We.enjoy.riding.bikes.

When it was time to leave Great Bear, we wound our way through the odd Silicon Valley suburbs to the beautiful Mary Avenue Bike Bridge and took some glam shots of ourselves and our bikes.

Setting up the shot

Setting up the shot… the pedals must be in the correct position

Dramatic angles

Dramatic angles

Les Wotnaughts

Les Wotnaughts

We picked up some weird dude on the way to the Tied House

We picked up some weird dude on the way to the Tied House

Another biketastic California day thanks to the Santa Cruz Randonneurs. John and I got wind vests from the SCR group order to remember how happy we are they put on the summer Dart. Next year they’ll be holding the Central Coast 1000k/1200k instead. Will this be my first 1200 or 1000k? Only time and mmmmbike will tell.

R7: Brevet/Camp

Randonneuring and bike camping are both terrific activities, though different. They nourish each other, as I see it. Randonneuring keeps me in shape so I can go on tour and not feel too exhausted; bike camping lets me stop and smell the flowers, so to speak, so I feel a greater sense of adventure to apply to my brevets as well as learn more about the areas where I ride.

Camping is especially important to me in retraining myself to be a better occupant of the place where I live. In the city, thanks to modern civil engineering, we generally take things for granted such as constant sources of potable water, plumbing, electricity, and communications channels. As a result, these resources are pretty often overused. When I camp, a 5 minute shower seems excessive. I use a trickle of water from the spigot to wash dishes. I don’t use any electricity to speak of, and as for communications, they are of course enhanced by the lack of extraneous media. When I return from camping, I do return to my old bad habits to some extent, but much less. It’s a great exercise. Living in the wild also allows you to appreciate the myriad purposes of biodiversity, and understand the impact of the extinction of so many species of plant and animal life, while at the same time enjoying the aspects of nature we do have. I grew up in a fairly rural area (in the same state as John Muir!), so these are things I do often think about. Maybe if more people went camping they’d understand the reasons to avoid “disposable” plastic grocery bags (or anything else intended for disposal!), shorten our showers, or (gasp!) stop using cars for transportation… or maybe not, some people just don’t get it. I have plenty of bad habits as well, though. Anyway, enough ranting, on to the ride.

Day One: 200K brevet from San Francisco to Cloverdale

July is the month for the SFR Cloverdale double brevet overnight, something I love to do since it’s like a rando-sleepover: ride a 200k to a place far from San Francisco, then everybody stays in the same hotel & has dinner together, then we all ride a 200k back the next day to San Francisco. Funnn! This time around, Gabe E sent out a general invite about an idea to use the outbound leg of this pair of rides as a springboard for a camping trip: stay in the hotel with everyone the first night, then instead of going back to town the next day, spend a couple nights camping at various spots in the area. Yes please! Great idea. Even better was the fact that SFR coordinates drop bag service for those who would not want to carry their pyjamas on the bike throughout the pair of rides. Originally I intended to tough it out and carry all my camping gear on the brevet (randonneurs are self-reliant!), but when I arrived at the start and noticed that most riders had left, yet there was plenty of space in the car, I caved and tossed almost all my stuff in the back. Why suffer? My campmates Carlos, Gabe, and finally Ian also put their gear in the car. My sweetie John P would be camping with us, but had decided not to ride the brevet in order to design his own route and not be bound by RUSA’s controlling helmet requirement, which meant he would be doing a loaded 200k.

We got a bit of a late start (30-40 minutes), but the four of us settled into a nice and easy pace to Point Reyes Station, making the control in decent time.

Pelican convention

Pelican convention

On the rollers north of PRS, I lost the three of them, but we regrouped in Valley Ford. There was a woman with a farmstand in Valley Ford selling blueberries.

IMG_2346

Roadside blueberries farmed by a randonette

Fruit is a huuuuge boost to me on a long bike ride, especially early in the ride, so I stopped and bought a half pint. While chatting with the woman, she revealed that she’d ridden some SFR populaires before! How cool. I shoved the entire half-pint in my mouth while standing there talking to her, and gave her back her plastic container, which she was happy to have.

Glad to rejoin my friends, I kept up a good spin with them through the countryside on this warm day. I wondered how John was doing: no brevet, no drop bag service, so he was essentially riding the same mileage as we were, yet with a much greater load. He carries the tent we share as well.

Underway

Occidentally

The next control was Guerneville, which we also made in decent time, though having started later and stopped in Valley Ford, we did not see too many other riders. In Guerneville I had some tomato soup, chips, and more fruit from the Safeway. I thought more about John and wanted to get back on the road, anticipating meeting him in Cloverdale. John is a pretty strong rider, and even with a camping load I knew it was entirely possible he would arrive at a similar time. I led the train out of Guerneville on West Side Road and Dry Creek Road etc, and surprised myself by keeping a fast pace on that stretch.

pretty pretty vineyards and hills

pretty pretty vineyards and hills

I must have surprised Carlos, too, because he asked me what they put in my soup at the Safeway! Eventually we made it to the next control and took a good solid break out of the sun. I really wanted a popsicle, but that store is so expensive, I just didn’t feel like buying much. I had accumulated snacks in my handlebar bag anyway, so I just ate them instead and got some soda and water.

The final stretch of this route is pretty flat, but it was getting hot, and we were all ready to be at the hotel.

How many chimneys? Or shutters? I wonder when they will run out of info control questions to ask about this farmhouse

How many chimneys? Or shutters? I wonder when they will run out of info control questions to ask about this farmhouse

That rarest of photos of Gabe: smiling! Totally busted.

That rarest of photos of Gabe: smiling! Totally busted.

Well, it just so happens in randonneuring and in life that if you just keep moving toward your goal, however slowly, you will make progress. We made it to the Cloverdale Quick Stop, got our popsicles and receipts, and made our way to the hotel. As much as I had thought I would want to jump straight into the pool as soon as I reached the hotel, I just took a shower and tried to relax. Unfortunately for the second year in a row on this ride, by the time I reach the hotel, there is not much food left from the catered dinner. Ian and Carlos went out and got burritos from a cute Mexican place in town, but they went while I was turning in my brevet card and I didn’t know they went… Next year I am skipping the catered food entirely and just getting myself a burrito on the way back from the Quick Stop. There is not much worse than ending a ride and not having any food to eat!

I did end up having a vegetarian sandwich and some beer later, but it kept me up all night with a stomach ache and finally had to come out at about two in the morning. Ugh. Not the most auspicious way to start a 3-day tour: hardly any sleep or food in the bank, and Fish Rock Road the next day.

Day Two: Cloverdale to Gualala Campground via Fish Rock Road (50 miles +/-, 6600 ft. elevation gain)

We were all looking forward to Fish Rock, having heard tales of it from Brian O’s fleche team, and from the fact that Max P would be including it in his Adventure Series 600k. So, the next morning we set out. A big diner breakfast at the Owl Cafe in Cloverdale finally put some good, healthy carbs and proteins in me to restart my system. And while sitting in the enormous corner booth there on Cloverdale’s main street, we got to watch all the SFR riders go by the windows as they began to wend their way back to San Francisco.

Our route took us in the opposite direction, northward past the Mendocino county line through Yorkville.

Our bikes: Carlos, Gabe, John, me, Ian. Lots of front-loading except for John and Carlos, who were more balanced.

Our bikes: Carlos, Gabe, John, me, Ian. Lots of front-loading except for John and Carlos, who were more balanced.

Bustling downtown Yorkville

Bustling downtown Yorkville… note to self: there is water at the Yorkville post office

We pause before ascending and Ian tries to mentally prepare us

We pause before ascending and Ian tries to mentally prepare us

Fish Rock Road paved section

Fish Rock Road paved section

View aat the top

View at the top

A view on the way up

A view on the way up

Lunch

Lunch

Fish Rock was tough for me. During the climb, John and I fell back significantly from the others, and I got a flat tire from a staple in the road, which set us back yet further. I think I had expected this trip would be more like our trip with Jake and Leah was, when we rarely all lost sight of each other. On the way down from the summit, I got another flat tire, this time a pinch flat due to all the loose and fixed rocks in the dirt road, and since John helped me pump up my tire both times, we both got behind. It sure was pretty, though, and (at least I thought) was well worth the difficulty. We had no problem reaching our campsite with plenty of time to set up before nightfall, even with a lengthy stop in Gualala for groceries (tamales from the deli counter, yumm!).

Back on the road after the descent into Gualala, it is c-c-c-cold

Back on the road after the descent into Gualala, it is c-c-c-cold

mouth of the Gualala river

mouth of the Gualala river

Canopy of trees in Guala-la-la-la-la campground

Canopy of trees in Guala-la-la-la-la campground

It was the first time trying out John’s new MSR Hubba Hubba tent, and it was super! We loved it. John had set up our tent on a little spot under a tree which had a slight incline, and we ended up setting up our sleeping bags with our heads on the low part. The blood went out of our legs overnight, and we felt terrific in the morning. There had been some pretty weird dudes bicycle camping at Gualala that night; we thought we would avoid them by getting our own site away from the hiker/biker site, but unfortunately they invited themselves over to our site and bogarted our campfire. Ugh. One of them, upon seeing me, shouted, “A female?!?!? I haven’t seen a female bicycle camper since I was in Germany blah blah blah…” He also shared with us, in the light of our campfire later, that “It was my first tour in 1979 that I found Jesus.” He was the more normal one of the two. Eventually we let the two lame-os battle it out at our fire and went to sleep, but it was a bummer that we couldn’t have more communal camp time for ourselves. John had brought more brevet cards to discuss and burn, and I got to burn the one for John’s 2012 400k (the hot 400), for which I had been the volunteer signing him in. That was before I really knew him, but my initials were on his card. In the morning, Ian brewed us some coffee with beans he had roasted himself, and he explained the process to John, who has been toying with the idea of getting a coffee roaster. After some nice camp time only intermittently interrupted by the annoying people, we packed up and made our way back on the road toward a taqueria Ian wanted to go to in Gualala for breakfast. It turned out to be fantastic, and we ran into a very nice couple, bicycle camping along the coast. They were impressive in what they were doing, funny, and the lady had made her own merino wool shrug out of old sweaters, just like I like to do.

Day three: Gualala to Jenner, then Cazadero/Austin Creek

We had planned to camp the next night at Bodega Dunes, so we made our way south along highway 1. Lots of beautiful vistas, and we stopped at the wonderful Stewarts Point store, which had beer on tap and a very sweet poochie in the side lot whom we all took turns petting.

Our Gualala site, getting ready to leave

Our Gualala site, getting ready to leave

Poochie!

Poochie!

He was happy to see us

He was happy to see us

Coast rocks

Coast rocks

Coast road

Coast road

Toward Jenner

Toward Jenner

We pause to take in the scenery

We pause to take in the scenery

Las bicicletas de Gabe, John, y mi

Las bicicletas de Gabe, John, y mi

Steep dropoff

Steep dropoff

grotto

grotto

Ian takes yet another city limit sprint

Ian took most of the city limit sprints on this ride

Ian phones the 'rents from Jenner

Ian phones the ‘rents from Jenner

Begin scenic route

Begin scenic route

Mysterious Lamborghini in the bushes... but who is that creeping toward it?

Mysterious Lamborghini in the bushes… but who is that creeping toward it?

Carlos had been feeling sick to his stomach for some time, and by the time we reached Jenner, we decided to take Ian up on his previous offer to us to stay at his parents’ home in Cazadero that night instead of camping at Bodega.

Ian’s parents treated us like royalty. They ordered us a pizza, made us an excellent soup from scratch, Ian’s dad talked to John about bikes for hours, it was amazing. We all took brief showers and Ian’s dad put our clothes in their washer. They have a gorgeous home in the woods, in a lovely setting on a steep creekside. They love bikes too, and even named their cat after Eddy Merckx. Ian’s dad was very interested in our trip and was really excited to hear our stories. That was incredible.

Day four: Cazadero to Larkspur Ferry

And so, we reached the final day of our tour. Waking up at Ian’s parents’ home was fantastic. His dad made us breakfast, and took a group portrait before we set off. The way back to SF was familiar territory for Gabe, John, and Carlos, as it traced various segments of other brevets long finished. I wasn’t so sure myself, and got a little nervous when our group started to spread out. After some time, I could see no one ahead of me nor behind, and stopped to wait for anyone to show up, hoping I hadn’t somehow missed a turn and gotten myself completely lost. Dadblame experienced randonneurs… Eventually Carlos showed up, and we regrouped with Gabe. John showed up and we set out again. We climbed and stopped to snap some photos, though the cloud cover was fairly somber. We discussed hopping on the Larkspur Ferry back to town, which sounded like a great idea.

Waking up at Ian's parents' house

Waking up at Ian’s parents’ house

Eddy Merckx, the cat

Eddy Merckx, the cat

Now we are four

Now we are four

We pause at Duncans Mills

We pause at Duncans Mills

Russian River still somber

Russian River still somber

We toodle along. Pretty houses on this road

We toodle along. Pretty houses on this road

Old friends

Old friends

I pause to see if anyone will show up and notice a tree marked by a fence

I pause to see if anyone will show up and notice a tree marked by a fence

Where is everybody?

Where is everybody?

Topping off

Topping off

Larkspur Ferry, first time for me. John and I snuggle against the chilly wind

Larkspur Ferry, first time for me. John and I snuggle against the chilly wind

Coit Tower

Coit Tower

I’m really glad I went on this trip. For a long time I’ve wondered about combining  randonneuring with loaded touring, and now I know more about it (possibly… why you do not do it? doing all the usual hills with a load was indeed noticeably harder…). Fish Rock Road was an amazing experience, and so was the coast road. Camping at Gualala was terrific, and a place I would love to visit again. Staying at Ian’s parents’ home was a lucky break for all of us (THANK You Ian and folkses!!), yet my appetite for bike camping is still unsatisfied. I can’t wait for the next camping adventure.

p.s. check out this nifty and cool video Ian produced about our trip.