An Historic Day for All Bicycle-kind

Coffeeneuring Ride 6
November 17, 2019
Mileage: 81.21 miles
Beverage: Black tea (hot)
Destination: Offhand Manor, Fairfax CA wombats.org

Picking up a thread from my first coffeeneuring post here. Darryl Skrabak was not only a founder of SFR and accomplished accordionist, he was also a bike advocate. He wrote many articles for Bicycling magazine about bicycling and the law, and he worked for a long time to get bikes to be able to be ridden on the Golden Gate Bridge.  Well, as it happens, only a couple weeks after his memorial, another key bridge in the bay area was opened to bikes: the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge!

!!!!

The Bay Area is defined by its land masses separated by bodies of water. Points of crossing are few, and even fewer are open to bikes, so this bridge opening is a cause for joyful celebration. Since moving over to the east side of the bay, I have been blown away by the work being done by Bike East Bay, and their part in this historic opening is impressive.

Great signage on the Richmond side

Great signage on the Richmond side

I had to work on opening day, but on the following day I had plans to ride with a friend who lives on the Marin side. She makes excellent tea, in fact she’s known far and wide for her love of mountain biking and tea and… well I won’t go into it but I will say I was pretty tickled to be able to ride my bike the whole way to go ride with her instead of having to take the bus over the bridge like I’ve done before.

Richmond San Rafael bridge bike lanes and Mount Tam

so effing exciting

Richmond San Rafael bridge with bike

Pelican is pleased

Mission San Rafael

Mission San Rafael with beautiful fall colors

Mt Tam from Pine Mountain

Mt Tam on the right and Mount Diablo in the misty distance from Pine Mountain trail

Even though I was a bit late to start, we still had enough time for a delightful loop around Pine Mountain, joined as well by her neighbor, and then I got to enjoy a lovely lunch she cooked, with venison chili (venison courtesy of the local upscale grocery’s dumpster! yep… twelve pounds in all, collected in one-pound sealed plastic wrappers) and tiny green and orange tomatoes from the garden. I headed back homeward over Deer Park trail and around Phoenix Lake to squeeze just a tiny bit more dirt from the day, then back over the bridge for my twofer. Super dreamy day made possible in part by a healthy quantity of black tea keeping my eyelids propped open… I hadn’t unpacked my bike after the camping trip, so was up half the night reconfiguring my bike to be able to ride.

Later I found out about this article about the historic fight to get bike lanes on the Richmond-San Rafael bridge. It is a great read, in part because it divulges that the bike lanes were supposed to open in April! WTF? Well, I’m glad they are open now, and yes I understand that this is just a test opening that could only last 6 months, but I’m not telling my subconscious about that part just now. I’m just going to ride and ride and ride and ride that bridge, rain or shine, in honor of Darryl and everybody who has marched, written letters, made phone calls, gone to meetings, and made this happen, until I wear out the pavement!

Richmond San Rafael Bridge bike lane

Rainy day bridge with newly installed fenders

Coffeeneuring Outside

Ride 5
November 14, 2019
Mileage: 15.5 miles
Beverage: Hot nettle tea
Destination: Sibley Volcanic Preserve, ebparks.org

More riding with rando friends combined this time with a local sub 24 hour overnight. I had made the bold announcement to the weeknight riding group that I would be camping overnight in the hills overlooking Oakland, and a couple cats volunteered to ride along with me to Sibley, a nearby East Bay Park, as part of our regularish Thursday night jam. I like to call it the Thursday Night Book Club because we meet at a public library where one of us works, and cuz I’m a bookbinder and we all like books. I was pretty thrilled that some people agreed to ride with me because I would be camping all by myself, bringing my single person tent and tiny alcohol camp stove. I had a larger solo tour idea I’d been hashing out and wanted to check whether my gear would work out.

Blue Pelican with camping gear

the rig

The ride up to the ridge was eerie since the whole area was wrapped in thick fog. We decided to take the dirt alternative to the usual paved Tunnel Road, just for kix, and found that the rutted, complicated and supersteep pitches had mostly been smoothed over. We were all disappointed by this turn of events. This trail had been a real challenge, and I had just started figuring out how to stay on the pedals for most of it! Oh well.

We continued on up Skyline, Jesse telling us about his recent bike tour on the C & O trail and the Gap Trail out east. We entered Sibley, which even though it was only about 7 pm was already looking pretty creepy with all the fog. We rode past a couple guys hanging out with their mountain bikes and smoking weed… was that me hoping they would not stick around too long? Sometimes I get a little paranoid about being by myself. Sibley is pretty big, how would anyone possibly find me? More importantly, why… although my homemade tin can stove is pretty sweet I guess. LOL.

mull foon

moody moony moon

We rode the short, rocky dirt trail to the place where I was going to pitch my tent, a nice bald spot with some bushes nearby… don’t ask me where, it’s a stealth spot! Though I shared the locale with Jesse and Greg, you can try asking them if you want to know where it is. When they departed, I sensed a slight confusion, like, “Why would anyone want to camp out here on a night like this??” But I was happy, I really needed to sleep outside–it could not wait another day. There was a near-full moon that was heavily diffused by the fog, making it very easy to set up my tent which I hadn’t seen the likes of for years. I changed quickly into my warm pyjamas and found my camp stove and two (yes, two!) candle lanterns. My tent has a little sheltered entry way, a perfect little space for cooking and hanging out. There was a fair wind out, so the shelter was helpful in keeping my stove from blowing out. My little homemade stove worked perfectly, as it has for years. This time, the fuel level was perfect to boil water for a fulfilling meal of dehydrated bean soup with couscous and a big thermos of hot tea. Yum!

alcohol burning camp stove

tin can stove…priceless…my cozy home for one night

I had been fantasizing about doing some reading or writing by candlelight in the tent, but as soon as I finished the last bit of soup and tea, I conked out, ne’er to wake until right before my 5 am alarm. I was able to pack up and ride home with enough time to hang up my tent and sleeping bag to dry before starting work at 8:30. It was nice to be able to go through the work day with a solid foundation of a peaceful night’s sleep, all sound muffled by the fog.

bike in the maze

hashtag bike in the maze

Almost Rando Coffeeneuring

Ride 4
November 11, 2019
Mileage: 75.037 mi round trip
Beverage: Tea Soda
Destination: States Coffee, 609 Ward St. Martinez CA statescoffee.com

Just a plain old social road ride among randos. Dan, Greg, Nate, and myself. Dan came up with the route, something he’s been pretty good at lately, and it just happened to go by one of my favorite hipster cafes in recently hipsterized Martinez. I had been having relationship troubles, and Nate’s beloved canine companion Peanut had recently died of cancer, so it was nice to get out with close friends and shrug off our heavy burdens for a short and sweet ride. I’m still on sabbatical from SFR but I do love a longish road ride in a rando style. I will always be a randonneur, no matter what happens with the permanents program, RUSA insurance, or my insufferable stubbornness. Brevet card or not, my rambling heart rando’s on.

States Coffee Martinez

Nate’s vegan donut and cuppa coffee

Franklin Valley coasters

Coasting down Franklin Canyon wheeee

Franklin Valley

After Franklin Canyon, pondering the remainder of the route

Car(free)quinez

Car(free)quinez

applz

Ended the ride at Dan’s to pick up a bag of apples! Good eats to come

The Grind: Coffeeneuring Ride 3

Ride 3
November 5
Mileage: 2.2 miles round trip
Beverage: Chai (hot)
Destination: Philz Coffee, 1775 17th Street San Francisco https://www.philzcoffee.com/locations-sf

Something I haven’t yet mentioned is the marked lack of coffee in my coffeeneuring. The thing is, I gave up coffee several years ago–mostly. Occasionally I will have a single espresso shot for those times (often while randonneuring) when I’m dangerously drowsy. But due to stomach issues, coffee just doesn’t work for me, so it is making my committment to coffeeneur more interesting.

In my work as a bookbinder, an important component is teaching, and several times per year, I step out of my studio to teach bookbinding for one week, 9 am to 6 pm, in San Francisco. There are some pretty great cafes in SF, so decided to try to include one in my coffeeneuring clatch. I had originally planned to visit Daily Driver since I miss bagels here in CA. But unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to ride there before work, so as a backup, I settled on what would be closest: Philz on 17th street in Potrero Hill.

The ride from the BART station was fun since there’s a little hill on the route, and riding it on my fixie-townie is always a good morning warmup. On this particular morning, I happened upon another fixie rider on the hill who was riding at just about my same pace, maybe a little faster. He had cool striped kneesocks exposed by his folded jeans cuff. I stepped up my pace a little to keep up, and at the next red light commented how nice it is to see another fixie rider on the hill. He smiled and nodded in agreement.

Sometimes after a long brevet I enjoy riding my fixed gear just to have a totally different ride experience. It’s a different way of pacing, a different relationship to one’s bike which is welcome on those days when commuting by bike is necessary though less than appealing. Sometime I’ll have to figure out a way to ride brevets on my fixed gear, but just riding around town on it makes me pretty happy too.

my fixie townie

Blackie

Coffeeneuring 2019 Ride 2: Is Bicycling Meditative?

Ride 2
October 18, 2019
Mileage: 6.0 miles round trip
Beverage: ginger tea
Destination: Berkeley Zen Center, 1931 Russell St Berkeley CA/berkeleyzencenter.org

Whenever I explain randonneuring to people who have never heard of it, there’s always someone who comments that it must be very meditative. Sometimes people ask what I think about over so many hours on the (mostly) open road. I always cringe a little when people suggest that something (other than meditating) is meditative, because meditating can be really hard at times. It’s only as peaceful as the inside of your mind, and we all know just about how peaceful that can be. I also cringe since there are so many ways people seem to misuse the term Zen, especially to sell things such as their social media marketing schemes or even just boiling it all down to Zen in a Jar!

There was a moment on the fleche from 2 years ago when Dan and I rode past the driveway to a Zen monastery up in the mountains on Skyline, and Dan commented that he’d love to just sit around all day, it must be easier than riding our bikes for 24 hours straight. I expressed my doubts at this conjecture, though I’ve never tried sitting zazen for a full day (so far). At least while riding, one has the road to distract one from the thoughts that occur to one’s oft-befuddled mind.

That said, I do think there are a few parallels between meditation and randonneuring, though they may not be ones you’d expect. The first thing that comes to mind is in both activities, you spend a lot of time with most or all of your weight on your sit bones. Having to tolerate muscle soreness, possible joint pain, and tenderness in the sit bone area are all things you might experience. I’m not sure if you can get saddle sores from a zafu, but you need to develop a tolerance for small amounts of physical pain or distraction in order to sit zazen. Quite often in randonneuring, things like this will come up, too: a pain in my knee that randomly appears, then an hour later, disappears, also for no reason. I’ve learned that it’s not worth giving too much attention to these sensations, and this is something meditators also know. My randonneuring and zazen habits tend to support each other: it helps to have solid core strength to sit zazen, and it certainly helps to develop patience to be a randonneur. Another unexpected similarity between the two activities is the feeling of freedom I experience in both, although both activities carry with them the possibility of Type 2 fun.

Regardless of whether it’s good for you or enjoyable in the way most people seem to think, I’ve been meditating every so often on my own since I was a teenager. I have almost no memory of how it occurred to me to do this, but as soon as I started, I never stopped. One thing I haven’t done this whole time, though, is visit a zendo or try to meditate with others. I finally realized about two months ago that the Bay Area is home to several world class Zen centers, so maybe I should go see what they are like.

I settled on Berkeley Zen Center because it’s very small, and very close to my apartment. I went first for the weekly meditation instruction they offer on Saturday mornings, and then started going for Monday morning zazen (sitting meditation) which begins at 5:40 am. Already I felt comfortable getting up that early because I do that so often for brevets and perms, and I learned that everything good starts early when no one else is out.

However, there had to be a beverage involved to qualify as a coffeeneuring ride, so this visit was for their Friday afternoon tea, discussion, and zazen. At the discussion, there was a Presbyterian scholar of religion who was dropping in to chat. He didn’t want to stay for meditation, although he professed to want to “improve his thinking.” This confused the rest of us, and though no one pressured him to stay, one person commented that meditation is a good way to “defrag your brain,” which I though was an apt analogy. Another parallel between rando and Zen is the emphasis on the role of the community in one’s development. If you want to go far in Rando or in Zen, go with others. It was a lively discussion we all had over tea and cookies, and then we crossed the garden for a short period of zazen followed by bowing and chanting the heart sutra.  Since I have only visited Berkeley Zen Center four or five times, I am still lost when it comes to the choreography of the ceremony, but others have been helping out and, like randonneuring’s structure and rules, I’m sure it will become natural to me soon. I wonder if there is a coffeeneuring equivalent in Zen? Hmmm.

Parallel Randoverse: Coffeeneuring 2019

My first attempt at coffeeneuring ever! I did the Errandonnee years ago, maybe 2013? 2014? I still had my beloved teal blue Motobecane then which died of a deeply indexed headset and subsequent unsolveable steerer tube issues. But… why coffeeneuring?  It’s not going to be easy, since I don’t drink coffee! I am not sure how best to document fun rides, either. Not having to collect receipts is confusing. At least there’s a control card that somewhat resembles a brevet card. It’s funny, even though I don’t feel compelled to rando for credit as much as I once did, randonneuring has deeply affected my riding habits. I’d like to think of this coffee(neuring) clatch of rides as a way of taking a snapshot of my relationship with bicycling, how it looks at this moment, and see where it takes me. Also, I’ve run into some other fun coffeeneurs over the past year, even rode with one in Nevada!

Day one: Gamblers 1000k

Day one: Gamblers 1000k

October 12, 2019
Ride 1
Mileage: 27.46
Beverage: coffee stout
Destination: Biketoberfest, downtown Fairfax, CA 760 Center Blvd Fairfax 94930

The route for this first coffeeneuring ride was an easy dirt route to Fairfax from San Francisco. I love this route, and John and I have trodden this path many times.

Blithedale Ridge from Eldridge Trail

View of Blithedale Ridge from Eldridge Trail… or possibly from Hoo Koo E Koo

John is Not randonneuring today

I get my own sticker

Bike: 650b blue Pelican with WTB resolute tires which don’t mount well to my Velocity rims. There’s always a bump or something–they don’t inflate evenly. This time, I tried overinflating them to even them out, then letting off some air. It has definitely improved but not eliminated the problem. Otherwise the tires are perfect for that paved/dirt mix which characterize most of my routes these days.

When we got to Biketoberfest in downtown Fairfax, John and I parked our bikes at the free bike valet and almost immediately found our friend we were planning to meet. She was directing traffic on busy Center Boulevard so that fairgoers would be able to visit the tents and vendors on both sides of the street without worrying about cars speeding through.

Downtown Fairfax... so fair

Downtown Fairfax… so fair

Biketoberfest 2019

Biketoberfest 2019

Like several other of the fair volunteers, she was in a German folk dancing costume and a cool velvet porkpie hat with a feather! She gave us her beer glasses and we got a couple small glasses of beer–coffee stout for me, lager or something for John.

As soon as we sat down with our beer and our sandwiches, I noticed our friend Braxton roll right by with his two daughters, aged ten and seven (?) and his gal Erin! They said they were planning on taking the ferry back to San Francisco later, so when it was time to go, we joined them and rode with them to the ferry terminal. This wasn’t really part of the coffeeneuring ride, but it was so much fun! Braxton’s daughter Claire is riding pretty fast now *and* we have matching wrist watches.

After we got back to SF, it was time for John and me to go to the memorial celebration for SFR founder and past RBA Darryl Skrabak. This was sad for me since I never got to meet him, but he seemed like a pretty cool guy for many reasons. He built and maintained boats for the Dolphin Club, where the event was held; he was a draft resister in the Viet Nam war; he rode both on pavement and on trails like I do; and he even played the accordion.

Darryl's PBP bike

Darryl’s PBP bike

Custom fabs

Custom fabs

Darryl Skrabak

Darryl Skrabak: rest in peace, though we wish you could have been with us a little longer.

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