Just another 200k

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

ta ta for now, SF!

TTFN,SF

 

base of railroad grade

base of railroad grade

 

mmmm forest at dawn on Tam

mmmm forest at dawn on Tam

 

adjusting layers on Old Railroad Grade

adjusting layers on Old Railroad Grade

 

West Point Inn

West Point Inn

 

Bronze model of Mount Tam

Bronze model of Mount Tam

 

Top of Mount Tam visitor area

Top of Mount Tam visitor area

 

cold, cold sunlight

cold, cold sunlight

 

Alpine Dam is spilling

Alpine Dam is spilling

 

Little Free Library in Samuel P. Taylor campground

Little Free Library in Samuel P. Taylor campground

 

Black Mountain off to the left

Black Mountain off to the left

 

Nicasio Reservoir, also full to spilling

Nicasio Reservoir, also full to spilling

 

Marshall wall inches closer, farmland is utterly at peace today

Marshall wall inches closer, farmland is utterly at peace today

 

not likely driving while texting

not likely driving while texting

 

at least it's warm on the climb

at least it’s warm on the climb

 

1000 shades of green

1000 shades of green

 

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

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

 

the new cockpit

the new cockpit

 

tip of the hat to another excellent year in rando adventuring

tip of the hat to another excellent year in rando adventuring

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

A Route of One’s Own

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

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

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

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

Overlooking Muir Woods from Mount Tam

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

 

Donkey on Fern Canyon Road

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

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

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

Golden Gate Bridge is extra Orange

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

Control 1

Control 1, yes, Starsucks

Control 2

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

Halfway Up

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

West Point Inn Surprise

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

Control 3

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

I never tire of this view

I never tire of this view from Ridgecrest Boulevard

Control 4

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

Cross Marin trail

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

Lincoln School

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

Marshall Wall Tree

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

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

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

Point Reyes

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

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