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

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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.

R10: Old Cazadero 300K

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My general goal in doing an R-12 this year was to maintain discipline and keep in shape in order to work up to a full Super Randonneur series (one each of a 200k, 300k, 400k, and 600k, all ACP-sanctioned brevets) in 2014. After riding the 400k this year, I knew that simply riding 200ks each month would not be enough to make me ready for a 600k next year, so I wanted to do something longer this fall. But when John suggested we do the Old Caz 300k permanent, I was not so sure it would be a good idea. Max, the route owner, says of this ride that one should add 30% to one’s average finishing time on the regular SFR 300k in order to get an idea of what to anticipate on Old Caz. That would put me outside the time limit by almost an hour. So, I started jogging again a few weeks before we planned to ride, and established a routine of stretching exercises in the morning. I also took care of groceries, etc. to make sure I had no reason to skip meals like I sometimes do when I’m hard at work. I also did some research on the route to see if I could figure out some goals to set for myself as far as timing for each control (ha! I am pretty naive). In studying the Old Caz route, I compared finishing times (according to the SFR website) among a sample of ten riders who finished the SFR Russian River 300k this year and the Old Cazadero 300k. John P’s results had the least variation: 15%. The greatest variation among finishers was an increase of 40%.

Old Caz is a challenging route by all accounts. There are several grinding climbs, and yet, the rewards are great: lots of natural beauty, and country roads empty of traffic. There are some dirt sections, rough pavement, and even a stream crossing. I have read numerous discussions on the SFR list about the appropriate tire size, gear etc for a ride of this nature, but I stuck to the usual plain old 700C Pelican with the same 32mm Panaracer Pasela tires I always ride. Mr. Potis rode his old standby red custom 650B Pelican.

Chileno Valley was still in the morning... We had perfectly clear weather the entire day: no clouds to obscure each and every beautiful view available

Chileno Valley was still in the morning… We had perfectly clear weather the entire day: no clouds to obscure each and every beautiful view available. Unfortunately, there was little time to stop and take lots of pictures; we needed to stay on the move to finish within the time limit.

I haven’t yet figured out what exactly makes one route more difficult than another. Some routes have similar amounts of elevation gain, but one seems much harder than another. There are several blog entries with ride reports on Old Caz, and most of them scared me into keeping up my training routine. Of course, the one that echoed through the vast caverns of my vacant mind as I rode Old Caz was this. For the most succinct and accurate description of the Old Caz route, I look to the route owner himself, here.  Most SFR brevets and permanents will have at least one or two mean climbs over a 200k, and most of the standard brevet routes try to keep us away from trafficky highways as much as possible. But Old Caz is part of the SFR Adventure Series: a group of brevets that have more strenuous routes, go to more remote places, and (wait for it…) No Safeway Controls!!!!!

I always thought the Adventure Series would be something nice to do after finishing PBP a few times. As exciting as PBP is, I’m sure there’s a certain segment of the randonneuring population that needs a new horizon. In fact, there are brave and noble randonneurs in my area who have accomplished multiple 1200ks in one year, and continue to ride afterwards, too. I have not even attempted a 600k, so what am I thinking in trying any of the Adventure Series rides? Just blind ambition, I guess. It was also very nice that John invited me to join him, and that he believed I would be able to complete the ride. I trained as hard as I could in the short time available to prove him right.

Any time I ride a route that is unfamiliar to me, it’s a bit of a gamble. I worry about getting lost, but more importantly, it’s difficult to pace oneself when you don’t know what to expect. Difficult sections are made easier for me by knowing when they’ll be over. I can eat extra food and know it will digest before a tough climb if I give myself at least 20-30 minutes. If I run out of energy in the middle of a climb, I usually just give myself indigestion by eating in the middle of it. I prepared as much as I thought possible for this one, and then, I had to resign myself to the adventure.

To pace myself, I printed out the elevation profile in addition to the cue sheet

To pace myself, I printed out the elevation profile in addition to the cue sheet

I thought it would be a great idea to carry extra water along in a platypus bladder like I use when camping, but the sealant loosened while inside my handlebar bag and turned John’s lovely Alps bag on loan to me into a little swimming pool for all my stuff. In case you ever doubt the waterproofing of plain cotton canvas duck, I’m here to tell you it holds water, yes it does. In feeling that I was packing too much stuff, I left my wool mittens at home, a decision I regretted deeply later on.

But a lot of things went right on this ride, long, slow slog that it was. Most of the controls for the Adventure Series routes are info controls–you have to answer a question about an intersection or a street sign to prove you didn’t take a shortcut. Info controls, hallelujah, are not timed, so you have a bit more leeway in your pacing. Receipt controls are timed. Jenner is a receipt control on this route which happens to follow the two main climbs: Fort Ross and Old Caz. I had been pretty sure throughout those two climbs that we wouldn’t make the Jenner control in time, but tried to keep the pace constant anyway. When we arrived in Jenner well before close, I was shocked. The next timed control was Point Reyes Station, another control I was pretty sure would cause a DNF for us, but we made that one too. I don’t think John has ever ridden this route so slowly; in the end, we finished the ride with 45 minutes still on the clock. I am currently the record-holder for the slowest finisher on this course at twenty hours and one minute. John and I kept joking throughout the ride that if we DNF’ed, I would have to do the Jittery Jaunt permanent to fulfill the October installment of my R-12… so, at least there was no Jittery Jaunt for me.

Doing this ride in October meant there would be less daylight for us while riding. Some of the later hours were the most memorable for me, such as riding around Bolinas Lagoon in the dark, and the climb out of Stinson Beach. The only sound was the surf hitting the shore, so incredibly peaceful. Motorists at that hour were more likely to be locals and gave us a wide berth on the road. Riding our usual rando bikes meant we had our nice, bright lights and of course we always wear good reflective gear.

In the final analysis, I am so glad to have done this ride, and so grateful for a patient and generous riding companion like Mr. P. When my Platypus broke open, he offered to carry a couple of my things to take some weight off during the Old Caz climb, and although we rode more at my pace than his, he never complained. I think I have finally convinced him that he is a much stronger rider than I, a point I’ve been arguing for some time now unsuccessfully, so I’m glad we’ve put that to rest.

Thank you, my friend, for a long and beautiful day on the bike

Thank you, my friend, for a long and beautiful day on the bike

I am also grateful to Max, the creator of the Adventure Series rides. To some he is a sadist, to some an evil genius; to me he just seems like a guy with an extraordinary aptitude for endurance sports who wants to enjoy greener pastures than those of the typical (though also, it must be said, not too shabby) SFR routes. To enjoy the beautiful, sweeping views, you must work for them. Being at the top of Fort Ross and looking over the coast toward Jenner and Point Reyes Seashore was like being in an airplane. Only at the top, looking down over the coastline, did I realize what I had just been doing for the past few hours.  It’s a very tangible feeling of accomplishment. At that point I also realized there is no way to fully prepare for an experience like that; you can only do the ride, and hopefully keep doing rides like it. So… ’til next time, Old Caz.

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.

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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