Los Milagros del Fleche

This year’s NorCal Fleche Velocio was a terrific experience. Lots of the typical ups and downs of any rando ride, a few surprises here and there (mostly pleasant), and beer and delicious breakfast at the finish! We encountered so many milagros along the way: the miracle of spring was evident on the hillsides and in the ditches; rain has returned and the countryside is loving it! It also seemed there were more baby farm animals than last year. Growth, rebirth, and multiplication were everywhere.  We even saw some jackrabbits hopping around (and some, sadly, no longer hopping around), just to give it the true Easter flavor.

I love to visit Madera, our start location, because it is so different from the bay area. It feels like a border town and has many many more Spanish speakers per capita. I miss my old Mexican neighborhood of Chicago, so I feel right at home in Madera.

01MaderaStorefront

One of my favorite storefronts on the strip

It is definitely a working class town where the day starts and ends early. Not too much going on in downtown Madera on a Friday night other than a few souped-up low-riders patrolling the strip. There is a thrift store on the strip that we went to last year, and we had fun checking it out this year too. We ate dinner at Maya, a restaurant we missed last year unfortunately, but was tasty and had great local beer.

Our team all turned in early the night before the ride. I slept fitfully, never stressed, but it took me an uncharacteristically long time to get to sleep, and I woke up numerous times throughout the night. Captain also woke up throughout the night, hearing Teammate Russ coughing more each time… uh oh… We all woke up on time, at which point Russ made the sad announcement that he would not be joining us for the ride. He said he felt feverish, achey, and had a bad cough, and that’s all I needed to wish him a safe trip back home on Amtrak. He obviously felt very bad about it, but he had given it a try by coming out to Madera with us, and unfortunately was only able to continue the ride with us in spirit. Ah well.

We had only started out with four on our team. Now down to three (the minimum required to receive credit), we started out for the Black Bear Diner, our start control. I usually don’t have a big diner breakfast before the start of a brevet, so this was nice. We had plenty of time to eat, fill our water bottles, and take care of other morning business (such as the important task of conveying the news of the loss of one teammate on Instaspam) before saddling up.

Our new route is easier than our old route through Eureka Canyon and San Juan Bautista, still beautiful, and one sweet perk is that we never have been buzzed by impatient or inattentive or hostile drivers. No matter how big the jacked-up 4×4 pickup, they all swerved way over when they passed, and some even waved at us! Two guys driving tractors out in the fields wildly pumped their arms like they were riding a bicycle and shouted “Andale, andale!!” Velocia and I also tried to get some of the semi truck drivers to honk their horns at us, and 3 out of 3 did! Such childish pleasures, but there you go. Hey, it’s Easter (almost), and we were on a bike ride far from home, so we all felt unfettered and fancy-free. This is one of the great things about team rides, especially when the team all know each other well.

And yes, there were occasional semi trucks out there! This is the heart of large-scale farming, the Central Valley of California. If you ever wondered how it is possible that millions of people can be fed by stuff sticking out of the ground periodically, kind of a milagro in itself, you should visit this area. We passed a farm growing grapes for wine production, we passed acres of leafy greens of some kind (broccoli?), almond orchards, fields of oats and winter wheat, and even a gin-producing facility. We also saw a small airfield for crop dusters… thankfully not spraying anything the day we rode through. Just one of the many ways cycling can be good for your health sometimes, sometimes not so much. I do enjoy seeing the hand lettered signs in Marin County saying “Organic Farm No Spray”.

After an easy warmup though the flat, friendly farm roads, we got to Foster’s Freeze for a malty pause before entering Panoche Road. Last year, Panoche was very very hot and sunny, so it was great to have a little ice cream shake before the hot part. Captain almost deleted this stop but I insisted on retaining it. When we got there, we were slightly ahead of schedule, so we got to relax going into our favorite part of the ride.

02LosPhotogs

Los Photogs

03TeamPhoto

Team Photo! V had just been to New Zealand and was sporting her epic suncreen, much needed today!

04PanocheRoad

Panoche Road is greener than last year. Trail conditions were excellent, very few ruts and the dust was not bad

05SanBenitoCty

Captain took the County Limit sign, right at the top of a steep pitch

06StreamCrossing

Stream crossing! We’re feeling Epic!

07Goats

Goats on a farm, many in the shade today

08PanocheInn

(Where) is Panoche? We’d been hungering for this, our lunch spot… I was captivated by this sage message about being self employed.

09PanochePass

My riding companions had both indulged in 2 beers at lunch, so I snuck ahead and pulled through to take Panoche Pass! Yeah!!!!

10PanocheRoadPaved

After the descent from Panoche Pass Summit, we enjoyed a seemingly endless (in a good way) stretch of road just like this. Nary a car nor cloud nor climb, not even a cow out here. Rando heaven. If you like that sort of thing.

11Aromas

The lake/swamp near Aromas is totally still, not to mention full… sun is almost gone for the day

12Aromitas

Last picture before the sun goes down, the beautiful valley on Aromitas Road

The ride through the Watsonville area, coastal communities, and up through Aptos (Hi Cousin Lise!) to Santa Cruz was pleasantly quiet, with the stars and the moon to guide us. At Jeffery’s, our Santa Cruz control, we were somewhat expecting or hoping to see a couple other Fleche teams come in, but nada for us. Hmmmm my phone was too low on battery to check if any other teams were posting their status. Last year we saw 3 other teams at Jeffery’s. I guess it was nice that Jeffery’s was quieter this year since I was making a serious attempt at napping, but it didn’t work anyway.

When we leave Santa Cruz, we have about 85 miles, almost all on Highway One, all in the dark, and usually with a light tailwind. Unfortunately for us this year, the weather roll of the dice gave us a strongish headwind and light rain… yes, more rainy riding for me. Sure the wildflowers are nice but can’t it rain some other time, like when I’m inside… and where is that rain jacket I left at home because there was no rain in the forecast? Hm. Well, nothing to do but pedal through it. I did not feel too fatigued, but around 4 to 5 in the morning I sure was feeling sleepy. The sleep demon would not be denied. It was just the three of us on our team, although we did periodically run into members of Rob’s team, who seemed to be suffering from multiple instances and types of mechanical issues. At least it was something happening, and it periodically woke me up from my drowsiness. I remember trying to keep a safe distance from my teammates, since I kept nodding off and was worried I would crash them. I think the wise thing to do at this point might have been to stop and try to ditchnap, although in the rain I’m not sure how that would have worked. As it was, I took advantage of the cushy nature of my sweet sweet Eroica tires that would sort of hop and wake me up when I steered into the fogline. Bizarro coping mechanism perhaps, but I got through it without crashing. Probably somewhat due to my sleepiness and thus lower speed, we didn’t have much time to spend at our penultimate control in Pacifica, which is fine I guess now that the Denny’s is gone and all we have is the cold, cold floor of the Safeway entrance to sleep on. At that point, I woke up and smelled the coffee, and we practically ghost pedaled the way back from there. I will never forget the view of Mount Tam from the southern corner of the Great Highway! It was so misty and all shades of pastel in the reluctant sunrise. We did not have a whole lot of time left on the clock, but at that point I realized the ride was almost over, with a mixture of sadness and anticipation for my pint of beer at the finish. It had been a long 24 hours.

13RandosReward

I never drink on a ride until it’s over… This beer was soooo tasty

14CrepesOnCole

Fellow teams enjoying their breakfast at Crepes on Cole after volunteers take care of our brevet cards and valet park our bikes for us. Volunteers (not pictured) are AWESOME!!!!!

15CrepesOnCole

Happy Easter

Milagros in Mexican culture are little silver or tin tokens used for praying for curing ills of all kinds: you can see some here. One of my teammates had a sort of milagro in her handlebar bag… you can see her randonneur version here. It was definitely a lucky-socks-fueled miracle we finished within the time limit, given the horribly annoying wind and rain in the last stretch on highway 1. Also a miracle I was able to keep my bike upright from 4-5 am when I was so tired and drowsy. Since then I resolved to work on my public napping skills. I’ve always felt like sleeping in public is just not normal, but I guess randonneuring has tested the limits of normal in so many ways, why not one more? I know I’ll have to figure this out somehow as the longest rides of the year still lie ahead… oh–was that a pun? Ha. I need to come up with some good jokes too, to keep me awake in those wee hours of the 400k and 600k… If I come up with any good ones, you may see them here on mmmmbike!

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That one ride, that one day…

Hi there good people of the bicycle persuasion, believe it or not, this is not a dead feed yet! Sorry it’s been so long, yes the time does go by rather quickly these days.

Pretty soon the year will be over, and another R-12 with it, with any luck and/or possible blessings from the Spirit of Randonneuring, my collection of guardian angels, etc. I have been extremely lucky so far this year. I have been able to go on some really fantastic rides. My local cycling club happens to be one of the most active randonneuring groups in the U.S., with several great rides to choose from every month. It’s been fairly easy to keep up my R-12 pattern with such an active calendar. In October, I did three different randonnées!

I decided not to go to PBP this year, which freed up my schedule for a lot of relaxed-pace fun rides. I will probably end up riding to Brest one day with thousands of other like-minded riders; it seems like it is my fate as a cyclist of Gallic ancestry. Instead this year, I spent some time on the local mountainsides with my sweetie:  climbing…

Seaview Trail/Tilden Regional Park

Seaview Trail/Tilden Regional Park

descending…

Wildcat Canyon/Havey Canyon Trail or Mezue

Wildcat Canyon/Havey Canyon Trail- or possibly Mezue Trail

climbing…

Deer Park Fire Road, Muir Woods

Deer Park Fire Road, Muir Woods

descending…

Rock Springs Trail

Rock Springs Trail…after the steep part

and eating excellent burritos in Fairfax.

Casa Manana

Casa Manana

John’s much better at climbing and descending than I, but I try to be good-natured about getting off the bike and walking if I have to, and anyway, I’m much better now than I was a year ago. I’m pretty excited about these new adventures and the new skills I’ve gradually been honing.

Writing about randonneuring has gotten a bit complicated this year. Early in the year, one of my dearly cherished amigas was crashed into along with 4 other riders by a drunk driver. They all survived, but sustained serious injuries. Last summer, a young, sweet-sounding, and experienced randonneur was crashed into and killed by an underage driver. The litany of frightening things that can happen while “sharing the road” goes on. I try to be upbeat in this blog, but sometimes it doesn’t feel honest. I know that I am not alone among randos and non-randos in that human suffering such as this affects me deeply. There is a further feeling of injustice about it, since bicycling would appear to be such an innocent activity. The muse does not like the situation, does not like it at all. I guess the muse went on strike for a while. I did not stop randonneuring, but I definitely started orienting myself away from automobile-friendly areas. Sharing a trail with hikers, runners, and other people walking at a relaxed pace instead of “sharing” the road with stressed out texters feels good.

I think my most memorable ride this year was also the hardest (isn’t that always the way?). John, Eric W, and I rode up Railroad Grade nearly to the top of Mount Tamalpais, then rode the Bolinas Ridge trail

Bolinas Ridge Trail

Bolinas Ridge Trail

to Shafter, skirted around Kent Lake,

John and Eric edging the lake

John and Eric edging the lake

and then ascended again up San Geronimo Ridge

John and Eric at the top of San Geronimo Ridge

John and Eric at the top of San Geronimo Ridge, looking at Pine Mountain

to Pine Mountain,

Looking at Mount Tam from the north

Looking at Mount Tam from the north

finally descending via Bolinas Road into Fairfax, and routing home via the usual roads. The beauty, the remoteness, and the difficulty of this ride was surreal. I didn’t bring a camera, but I did have my phone with me, so the photos are from that. More here. I’m not sure if we rode even 50 miles that day, but it was the hardest ride of the year without question. And it wasn’t a formal ride of any kind (thus the title of this post).

Off-road riding seems to be gaining popularity with randonneurs lately. More people are enjoying the “mixed terrain” experience, and in the most recent SFR pair of populaires, more randonneurs chose the mixed terrain option. Many thanks to Carlos D for designing that very enjoyable route. I often think that bikes are only partly-suited to be on roads, and that trails are better designed for the scale and size of a bike. However, trails are also made for hikers, families, and sometimes horses, not just bikes, so bikes are not always entirely suited to be on trails either. Practically speaking, in order to get to a given trail, I ride to the trailhead, so it’s good to be able to ride both on roads and trails. Conversely, the skills developed in mountain biking help a lot in randonneuring. The brevets on narrow country roads with winding descents and highly charactered pavement definitely recall the tougher trail descents for me. Climbing rocky, uneven trails can be more difficult, which makes climbing on pavement seem a lot easier.

It’s nice to be well-rounded so you can take advantage of the best qualities of each option. Lucky for me, I have a bike that is well-rounded too. Now I have two Pelicans (bought one of John’s older ones): the one I keep clean for brevets, and the muddy one…

Hello? Bike cleaning fairy??

Hello? Bike cleaning fairy??

I guess that is the only disadvantage of mixed terrain riding that I can think of… but the views sure make up for it.

The view from Rock Springs Trail

The view from Rock Springs Trail

Diversions on a theme, or, The 2014 Errandonnee

I’ve enjoyed reading the chasing mailboxes blog for a couple years now, and appreciate the light-hearted creative reinterpretations of randonneuring featured there such as the coffeeneuring challenge and the errandonnee. This year I finally decided to take the plunge and participate. I like the idea of the errandonnee since I have been commuting by bike my whole life. It’s nice to think that something so natural for me as going to the grocery store by bike might be something worth recording.

I initially wanted to give my errandonnee some kind of theme or use it as a way to show some of my favorite spots in San Francisco, but it turned out to be enough work just to record the rides. I’m not even totally sure I did it right, so hopefully the ride organizer doesn’t DNF me! It was a lot harder to fulfill the rules than I thought. Normally a randonee will have 3-5 controls, but this event has twelve! And…sigh. One thing about me is that my work studio and my living space share the same roof, and I’ve mostly structured my life so that my errands are a mile or less from this place. I typically walk to the grocery or the bike shop, two of the ten Errandonnee categories. The greatest challenge in doing the errandonnee would be to find a way to fulfill the thirty-mile requirement. Including the 186-mile brevet I did that just happened to fall within the time limit and my trip the next weekend up to Point Reyes Station, my total logged miles from March 7-19 were about 302.7, though I have to admit that my in-town errands only added up to 25.3 of them. Categories used were Bike Shop (twice), Lunch, Community Meeting (twice… I think), Dinner, Grocery Store (twice), Any other store (twice), Personal Care and Health (twice), Library, Work, and Wild Card.

On with the documentation! If I understood the rules correctly, there are three basic requirements: a total minimum mileage of 30, quantity of errands at twelve distributed somewhat evenly among ten categories plus a ‘wild card’ category, and photodocumentation of each errand. So, here are the errands I documented, their mileages, categories, and pictures of each, listed by date.

Ride 1: March 7, 2014

Box Dog Bikes; .8 miles round trip; Bike Shop category. I usually prefer to walk here, but it's fun to bike sometimes. This is my 'townie', an old Motobecane with peeling paint and several rebuilds under its bottom bracket... It's less theftworthy that way. Currently it's a fixed gear with hand-me-down fenders and a completely indexed headset that needs replacement. But what can I say, I've been riding this bike for so many years... and it is pretty low trail.

Box Dog Bikes; .8 miles round trip; Bike Shop category. I usually prefer to walk here, but it’s fun to bike sometimes. This is my ‘townie’, an old Motobecane with peeling paint and several rebuilds under its bottom bracket… It’s less theftworthy that way. Currently it’s a fixed gear with hand-me-down fenders and a completely indexed headset that needs replacement. But what can I say, I’ve been riding this bike for so many years… and it is pretty low trail.

Ride 2: March 8, 2014

Golden Gate Bridge Plaza, the start of the SFR 300k to Healdsburg. I am very fortunate to live in the city and be able to get to brevet starts without having to drive. 192 miles round trip, Personal care/health category

Golden Gate Bridge Plaza, the start of the SFR 300k to Healdsburg. I am very fortunate to live in the city and be able to get to brevet starts without having to drive. 192 miles round trip, Personal care/health category

Farmland out to the coast on the SFR 300k; typical Jack Moonbeam (neon landscape (neon green grass made possible by recent rains)

Farmland out to the coast on the SFR 300k; typical Jack Moonbeam neon landscape (neon green grass made possible by recent rains)

Ride 3: March 10, 2014

3 bookstores and a thrift store to clear some space in my studio; San Francisco Center for the Book to cut materials for a class I teach; Fed Ex Kinko's to make copies of articles for my students and forms for my business as a professional bookbinder and book conservator. Any store category and Work category; 5.7 miles total

3 bookstores and a thrift store to clear some space in my studio; San Francisco Center for the Book to cut materials for a class I teach; Fed Ex Kinko’s to make copies of articles for my students and forms for my business as a professional bookbinder and book conservator. Any store category and Work category; 5.7 miles total

San Francisco Center for the Book with their new Friends of the Urban Forest trees

San Francisco Center for the Book with their new Friends of the Urban Forest trees

fedex kinkos

fedex kinkos

on the way to fedex

on the way to fedex… SF is pretty ok

Ride 4: March 10, 2014

John's place; Dinner category; 5.2 miles round trip. Learning about my new digital camera, and its night scenery settings. I used my Lezyne USB rechargeable lights fore and aft. I also have a pair of terrific homemade reflective ankle bands that stick out a couple inches from my ankles like flags. The behavior of motorists around me is noticeably more respectful when I wear them.

John’s place; Dinner category; 5.2 miles round trip. Learning about my new digital camera, and its night scenery settings. I used my Lezyne USB rechargeable lights fore and aft. I also have a pair of terrific homemade reflective ankle bands that stick out a couple inches from my ankles like flags. The behavior of motorists around me is noticeably more respectful when I wear them.

San Francisco City Hall at night

San Francisco City Hall at night

Ride 5: March 15, 2014

Whale of a Deli and Black Mountain Cycles in Point Reyes Station, CA via Mount Tam and Bolinas Ridge Trail.Lunch and Bike Shop categories, 85.4 miles

Whale of a Deli and Black Mountain Cycles in Point Reyes Station, CA via Mount Tam and Bolinas Ridge Trail. Lunch and Bike Shop categories, 85.4 miles

Bolinas Ridge trail

Bolinas Ridge trail

Unfortunately I missed the open hours by about 25 minutes. But I did have a real errand as I lost a bolt from my toeclip on the way up.

Unfortunately I missed the open hours by about 25 minutes. But I did have a real errand as I lost a bolt from my toeclip on the way up.

I really raced back to town to avoid riding after twilight for too long. I was not riding my usual bike with the dyno hub and nice lights; I just had my townie lights. Luckily I made it back to Sausalito by twilight, and did not run out of battery power. I have USB rechargeable Lezyne lights fore and aft.

I really raced back to town to avoid riding after twilight for too long. I was not riding my usual bike with the dyno hub and nice lights; I just had my townie lights. Luckily I made it back to Sausalito by twilight, and did not run out of battery power. I have USB rechargeable Lezyne lights fore and aft.

Ride 6: March 17, 2014

Mission Community acupuncture, then San Francisco Public Library. 4.2 miles, Personal care and Library categories. I like how in San Francisco it's assumed you can bring your bike inside with you.

Mission Community acupuncture, then San Francisco Public Library. 4.2 miles, Personal care and Library categories. I like how in San Francisco it’s assumed you can bring your bike inside with you.

Current SFPL display with a child's bathing suit from the old Sutro Baths. I have a giant architectural drawing of the interior of this building, which burned down in the sixties but was a great public bath when it was around.

Current SFPL display with a child’s bathing suit from the old Sutro Baths. I have a giant architectural drawing of the interior of this building, which burned down in the sixties but was a great public bath when it was around.

Ride 7: March 17, 2014

Rainbow Grocery, San Francisco Center for the Book, and Ladybones Print Collective. Grocery, Work, and Community Meeting categories; 3.8 miles. Rainbow is a cooperatively owned grocery near where I live. I usually just walk there, but since I had some other errands that were longer, I rode. Rainbow is located on Folsom Street, where one of probably the longest continuous bike lanes in the city is now located.

Rainbow Grocery, San Francisco Center for the Book, and Ladybones Print Collective. Grocery, Work, and Community Meeting categories; 3.8 miles. Rainbow is a cooperatively owned grocery near where I live. I usually just walk there, but since I had some other errands that were longer, I rode. Rainbow is located on Folsom Street, where one of probably the longest continuous bike lanes in the city is now located.

My friends printing, sewing (though not at the moment), and making books at the Ladybones Print Collective Community Night. We hang out, enjoy a beverage, offer suggestions on each others' print and other projects, and kvetch etc.

My friends printing, sewing (though not at the moment), and making books at the Ladybones Print Collective Community Night. We hang out, enjoy a beverage, offer suggestions on each others’ print and other projects, and kvetch etc.

Ride 8: March 18, 2014

Dr. Sketchys, a life-drawing group held twice a month at the great utilitarian space operated by Chicken John. I work the door, so I'm not sure if this is Work or Community Meeting... In the foreground wearing dark grey is the lovely Miss Alice Stribling, who rides Big Miles. 3 miles, Work or Community Meeting category

Dr. Sketchys, a life-drawing group held twice a month at the great utilitarian space operated by Chicken John. I work the door, so I’m not sure if this is Work or Community Meeting… In the foreground wearing dark grey is the lovely Miss Alice Stribling, who rides Big Miles. 3 miles, Work or Community Meeting category

Ride 9: March 19, 2014

Last day of Errandonnee 2014! Woo hoo! I head over to Petco to pick up some cat food, then go to the grocery for some people food. I walk home from the grocery because Mission Street is just inappropriate for bikes and it's too close to home to bother finding a way around. Wild Card and grocery store categories, 1.8 miles

Last day of Errandonnee 2014! Woo hoo! I head over to Petco to pick up some cat food, then go to the grocery for some people food. I walk home from the grocery because Mission Street is just inappropriate for bikes and it’s too close to home to bother finding a way around. Wild Card and grocery store categories, 1.8 miles

Finale... I grab some fresh tofu and chamorro de res and head home à pied.

Finale… I grab some fresh tofu and chamorro de res and head home à pied.

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.

Rnaught: Freestone Bread Run

Marvelous day on the bike, out in the country. Very little traffic and the best views north of the bridge I’ve seen so far. The day started out cloudy and wet, but the clouds disappeared as soon as I left Wild Flour Bakery, making for a perfect ride. All the climbing was well rewarded with beautiful views, some so breathtaking I refused to take any pictures. This was a 200k route posted by a fellow randonneur but is not registered with RUSA as a permanent, so I got no credit for doing it. I hope he registers it sometime, so I can use it for my R-12 at some point, but I know I will do it again regardless.

The objective: a loaf of bread from Wild Four Bakery in Freestone

The objective: a loaf of bread from Wild Flour Bakery in Freestone

CA-1

CA-1

CA-1 is foggy. They say that the heavy fog on the coast creates a climate much like being underwater, and looking at the stones and plants at the roadside, it's easy to imagine why.

CA-1 is foggy. They say that the heavy fog on the coast creates a climate much like being underwater, and looking at the stones and plants at the roadside, it’s easy to imagine why.

In Marshall, I take a quick break

In Marshall, I take a quick break

I loves the sheeps

I loves the sheeps

Baaa

Baaa

Cresting Middle Road

Cresting Middle Road

Looking into Sonoma County

Looking into Sonoma County

A couple in Valley Ford tell me I have a nice bike. The big plastic bag in my handlebar bag is full of roadside cherries mmmmmmm

A couple in Valley Ford pull up in a tiny hybrid car and compliment me on my bike. The big plastic bag in my handlebar bag is full of roadside cherries mmmmmmm I eat them all.

Outboard motors and abalone shells, Valley Ford, CA

Outboard motors and abalone shells, Valley Ford, CA

I am here!!! Wild Flour Bakery, Freestone, CA. I get a Gravenstein apple and toasted walnut scone-- the first Gravensteins of the season, the nice counter lady tells me. And of course, I get a loaf of bread to carry home.

I am here!!! Wild Flour Bakery, Freestone, CA. I get a Gravenstein apple and toasted walnut scone– the first Gravensteins of the season, the nice counter lady tells me. And of course, I get a loaf of bread to carry home.

A honeybee thinks my hi-viz jacket might have something for him

A honeybee thinks my hi-viz jacket might have something for him

The clouds have disappeared

The clouds have disappeared

This isn't even the top, but I can see Mount Helena

This isn’t even the top, but I can see Mount Helena

Looking southward

Looking southward

Masonic Hall in Bloomfield

Masonic Hall in Bloomfield

Chileno Valley looking beautiful today

Chileno Valley: cloud-shadows crawl over the dry grasses. The field looks vast and empty, but there are birds, bugs, and bunnies everywhere

Open sky, open land

Open sky, open land

2 cows

2 cows

Wide open expanse

Wide open expanse

First sign of civilization again offers water & restrooms, thank goodness

First sign of civilization again offers water & restrooms, thank goodness

Steeling my nerves for the urban adventure

Steeling my nerves for the urban adventure

Sun's going down on a perfect day on the bike

Sun’s going down on a perfect day on the bike

Breakfast next morning reminds me of fresh air and open spaces

Breakfast next morning reminds me of fresh air and open spaces

Decembruary: my off season scrapbook

This is my third winter in Northern California, and I am still puzzled and mystified by the phenomenon. The weather patterns are different than other parts of the year, but how to describe what shape they take exactly is like trying to hold fog. This winter has had some incredibly dismal and cold/wet days, preventing me from going on a superior bike camp plan for Christmas week, but there have been some bright spots, too. After finishing the R12 it was a hard fight against burnout, so I thank my pal J Potis for bringing me along on some light-hearted and social rides. I feel so lucky to be living in an area where bicycling in the winter is only subtly different from bicycling any other time of year. After bike commuting in Chicago for year after icy, salty, blizzardy, windy year, I have a deep appreciation for being able to ride without borrowing outerwear (and underwear!) from activities like snowmobiling. Here, then, are some snapshots from the riding I did in my “off” season.

R & R: A Break for Some Contemplative Randonneuring

It should be no secret by now to anyone reading this blog that I think bikes are pretty cool. A person can go far with a good bike just under one’s own propulsion. But another great thing about bikes is you can effectively go short distances on them too. Bikes are vehicles, but on a human scale. It is fun and exciting to drive fast in a car for sport (speaking as the daughter of a racecar driver, I know what I’m talking about!), but to me it is even more fun and exciting to go s l o w. I like to look at the scenery down to the last patch of lichen, and when you bike, you can stop quickly to chat with a person or look at a bug or a bird. In California, seasonal changes are more subtle than other parts of the country, so if you want to know what time it is, you have to pay attention.

This is why I was so glad when my friend John announced his plan for a Slow Tour. There were other reasons (as if a reason is necessary to go bike camping). I wanted to improve on my bike camping gear, which can only be described as novitiate, and the only way to find out what works and what doesn’t is to try it. I was also glad because John proposed a route through the trails we opted out of on the San Franciscadero. Riding trails is another way to ride at a human scale– instead of having to make your way on a road that is a size, shape, and surface designed for car traffic, you are in a place designed for people walking or riding bikes. This has so many positive implications, and I often find trail riding to be so much more peaceful and enjoyable as a result. I am perfectly comfortable sharing the roadway with cars, but why would you if you didn’t have to?

Another reason I was happy about the Slow Tour was cuz I think Mr. Potis is a cool dude, and I like riding with him. He knows a lot about bikes and bike routes, he knows (or at least is able to convincingly make up) the names of local flora and fauna, he has ridden lots and lots and lots of brevets, and I thought he was a veteran bike camper, though he told me during the Slow Tour it was only his third time bike camping. Anyhoo, I’ve ridden with him a couple times this year and I think he has the right attitude. Also, he seemed to be willing to tolerate my utter lack of preparation, though I think he might have assumed I would be a little more put-together than I was when I showed up totally late at Trouble Coffee with my Pelican loaded up with panniers overstuffed with camping equipment, pre-tour anxiety, and whatnot.

The Load… my valiant bicycle, my less-than-noble packing job.

The more you know, the less you pack; the inverse is true as well. Really, I just didn’t want anything to fall off my bike, but I wasn’t totally sure that wouldn’t happen. I had never taken my bike this far with a load before, or used this front rack more than once before, or used my DIY stove on an actual trip instead of in my backyard. Trouble Coffee’s iconic cinnamon toast, a cup of peppermint tea, and my friend Annemarie who came to see us off calmed my nerves, and we began moseying.

There was some kind of charity walk going down the Great Highway that I tried really hard to ignore while we made our way out of town, and we began our Tour of Detours by taking John Muir Drive around Daly City, avoiding a part of that first climb along toward Pacifica.  We avoided Devil’s Slide by taking Planet of the Apes, what used to be highway 1 but is now a trail for cyclists mostly. There is a new patch of Highway One being built for car people to avoid Devil’s Slide, thus making the current section of highway one… a sequel to Planet of the Apes?

The view from Planet of the Apes

Top of Planet of the Apes photo op spot. Nice moment for some plums John brought.

I saw a couple hikers too, but most notable was the run-in with Velocio’s ghost! Gives me a chill down to my flat pedals to think of it. The pushbroom-mustachioed and rubber-band-around-the-acid-washed-jeans-legged gent on a purple mountain bike told us about a way to avoid more sections of highway one. We appreciated that and thanked him, though I think it made us more lost for a while, fumbling around areas to which I had never given much thought. After having some tacos at El Gran Amigo (they were just okay), we found our way to a previously untried trail that turned out to be really nice. This led us along the ocean cliffs to Pillar Point, inching closer to our goal of the Half Moon Bay campground.

Pillar Point… can you see the ship aground (to the right on the far beach)

Trail at cliff’s edge

But why hurry? The mileage on the agenda for day one was essentially the same distance I am accustomed to covering by 10 am in a formal permanent ride. So meandering, avoiding, detouring, losing our way and finding it again could occur over and over without worry about finally making it to camp before dark and settling in for the night. And we did all those things rather well. And nothing fell off my bike. And my stove worked, too.

Half Moon Bay hike-in/bike-in area: we count ourselves among the oddballs assembled here on a Sunday night in October

For dinner we ate some quiche I brought as an afterthought, just some food I had made earlier in the week that would have gone bad if I left it at home. Potis and I had a boil-off to see whose stove worked better, the results of which were relatively inconclusive (though personally, I think mine boiled water faster AND it was homemade out of a pop can and some thin stainless steel).

DIY alcohol stove the winner?

I had some miso soup, since it was cold after dark next to the beach, and we drank tea.

Sunset at Half Moon Bay campsite beach

The quarter- operated showers at the Half Moon Bay campsite were hot, my tent and sleeping bag were cozy, and the surf crashing onshore 100 feet away– all contributing factors to my excellent night’s sleep and the affirmation that Slow Tour is a good idea.

The next morning, John chatted with an interesting character camping in the hiker/biker area while I assembled myself. Then I chatted with him too, a bit about bookbinding (when people ask what I do, I tell them…) and other stuff. John talked to him about landscape architecting while a hawk dove around camp looking for its pound of flesh and eventually found it.

Our wild morning friend

The fog seemed like it was lifting, but then changed its mind. We packed up and as I lifted up my handlebar bag from the ground, a large, light brown bug crawled around looking for cover. It didn’t crawl too fast, and John was able to identify it as a Jerusalem cricket. It was pretty big, almost as big as a small frog.

As Chief Route Advisor for Slow Tour October 2012, John had put a lot of time and energy into finding our designated day two breakfast joint by typing “breakfast Half Moon Bay” into that one internet search engine. It totally paid off. We ate Portuguese sausage omelettes among the community seniors and lots of vinyl upholstery and great works of art. Inspired and stuffed, we headed off toward the business district to find a bookstore we had ridden past the day before. While I poked my head in, Mr. Potis sat on a bench outside, chatting with another tourist, though not of the bicycle kind. The bookstore had some interesting Californiana, but nothing worthy of carrying as far as I was about to go.

Back in the saddle, we found the Purisima Creek Trail, part of the California Coastal  Trail.

amazing views of the ocean along the trail

More cliffs and ocean…

Some beautiful fields and hills too…

The trail edge is close to the dropoff in many places!

John is pleased with Slow Tour

We are ten

One of two ospreys flying above us, waiting for us to take our snapshots so they can fight in midair with a hawk

End of the trail section for now

We then made our way eventually toward Stage Road for a good deed and corresponding photo op.

Stickering Stage

…then to Arcangeli’s for a sandwich. I think I had thought the grocery stores in Pescadero were more developed or something, why did I think there would be couscous there? I did not prepare too well foodwise on the second day. But it was fine, the sandwich from Arcangeli’s held me over for a while. We found some fantastic riding on Old Haul Road, but not before a little mishap.

There is of course some argument about what exactly happened. Passing through Loma Mar, a baby hawk swooped down on my handlebar bag to take my last piece of yogurt seed bread, John waved his finger at it, and in doing so lost his balance and went down… some may say. Or was it that he reached out to push me up the slope, going for the typical goofy Potis Manoeuver, and his panniers bumped into mine and caused the fall? Ladies and gentlemen, you are welcome to form your own opinions. Anyway, at the moment it happened, I thought I heard a big car behind us, and my heart leapt up into my throat! But when I stopped and looked back, I saw that luckily only John’s pride was injured aside from a few scrapes.

Mr. Potis tries to show me his scrapes… wait, where are they??

Thusly we proceeded to Old Haul Road and toward our goal for overnight two: Portola State Redwoods Park. Pretty desolate on a Monday: the large ranger station building looked like it would be cool inside, but was unstaffed and locked. While John went to the loo I found a half bag broken open of firewood, which he tied to his rear rack with one of his neverending striped straps, mumbling something about the papers he brought for kindling. He had mentioned a couple times before something about bringing something to burn in the campfire on the second day, but did not specify exactly what. It sounded serious… what on earth would a person drag all this way on a bike?

Look at all the moss on the trees at left!

We found a nice little spot to camp and pitched our tents. I went to the bathroom and John collected all the unused firewood he could find from the unoccupied campsites’ fire pits, and started a fire in ours. I came back and he handed me a small paper bag. “Burn it,” he said. “Um, should I throw the whole bag on?” “No, it’s more fun to burn them one at a time.” I slid the papers out of the bag to reveal old brevet cards. Totally stunned, I said, “John, I don’t want to burn these!” I’m not even through with my first year of riding brevets. “I’m done with those rides, I have the medals at home, I don’t need the cards.” We looked at some and I asked him about the rides they recorded, and one by one each went into the campfire. Night fell, and John lit his little camp candle. We had some tea, talked a little more, then he went to bed. I stayed up to read my book for a bit. There wouldn’t be any brevet cards to burn for this ride– no checking in anywhere, no receipts to collect or times to log. But this kind of riding, so adventurous in a different way, is just as essential to the sport. Finding new trails and routes takes time and intention. An open attitude and being able to talk to locals is helpful, too. End of day two and Slow Tour is still a good idea.

Half an hour after John went to sleep I heard a soft thump on the bench I was sitting on. I looked sideways, trying not to turn my head, and saw a little fur ball jump off the bench. It ran up the slope to the road and paused… I grabbed my headlamp and shone it at the animal. A little fox with a big frizzy tail! It was staring at me! Then it turned tail, as they say, and scurried off.

In the morning, I woke up before John and walked around the campsites. I spied a hiking trail sign and felt personally invited, so I hiked for awhile. I saw lots of moss, upturned redwoods, a creek, and several signs dedicating this particular area or that to some family or other. Kind of annoying as one would hope that people visit hiking trails to find something other than man-made signs reminding you how broke our nation’s green spaces are. At some point I realized I was still wearing my camp slip-ons and pyjamas, so I turned back.

John was awake by now, so I told him about the little fox in our camp. He asked me if it was my spirit guide– I think he was joking, but it reminded me of my beloved dog Shera and how people used to tell me she looked like a fox.

While we waited for our breakfast bread to toast and water to heat up for John to make us coffee, I looked at John’s bike and he said the lugs are “like delicate baby birds’ mouths”. Ah, bike lovers. Of course, John has a terrific bike and great set-up for camping. While we waited for breakfast, John added to his list of Things That Worked and Things That Did Not. I was pretty impressed that he brought a bottle full of tasty kvas from Cinderella. Definitely in the ‘worked’ column. The wind-proof camp candle was a ‘worked’. For my own list, although my sleeping bag is comically huge and uncompressible, it was incredibly warm and cozy. My tent is the bomb. I think I need a light duty rear rack that I can tie things to like my hugeass sleeping bag, so I don’t have to awkwardly tie it to my saddle hooks after sitting on it for half an hour trying to jam it into a stuff sack. Again, thanks John for putting up with my less-than-ideal setup. At some point a new and more compressible sleeping bag will come into my life (when the budget allows). I actually like the way my bike handles when the weight is in the front, even on technical descents, so the bartered-for-homemade-jam Tubus front rack is in the ‘worked’ column. Definitely lower tire pressure next time would make the trail sections like Old Haul and Planet of the Apes more comfy.

When breakfast was over, it had gotten late in the morning, so we quickly packed up and said our goodbyes, though not before me having to fix a flat tire that must have happened on Old Haul or something. I would head back to San Francisco via Alpine Road (one of my favorite climbs in this region) and Skyline Boulevard through Woodside, then Canada Road

Water Temple!

to the Camp Sawyer bike path around the Crystal Springs Reservoir (where I flatted again, this time from a metal shard in the road) and up to the BART station in Millbrae.

On my way home! No more pedaling today.

A gorgeous ride and tougher climb with a camping load it is, making it a good challenge. John would go on further south to Santa Cruz and stay with friends, family, and friends’ parents. It was a great trip for me; I think it was also for John. I learned a lot, I saw a lot, I rode a lot, I slept a lot… perfect little getaway! My appetite for bikecamping is whetted, and I can’t wait to do more. Maybe northward next time. There are so many great parks and campsites easily within bikeable distance, so there are plenty of opportunities to go slow– if you can handle the pace, that is!