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.

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R6: Halfway there

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

The San Franciscadero permanent route, like the Coastal Cruz route, begins in San Francisco and heads southwest along the coast, contains a fair amount of climbing and rural roads, and like the Coastal Cruz, has earned its place in my heart. It is a tough bike ride; some polite riders might call it ‘challenging’. Results for this route tend to be an hour longer than for the Coastal Cruz. Geoffrey H set the course record at nine hours, fifty-one minutes. Aaron W holds the Lanterne Rouge for this route at thirteen hours, thirty-one minutes. This just shows what a difficult route the San Franciscadero is: 200k permanent routes are supposed to have a time limit of thirteen hours, thirty minutes, but because of the elevation gain and five extra kilometers, you get a few extra minutes. Both Ely and John P have done it in the pouring rain, which can increase finish time also.

John and I did not have that excuse for finishing on the late side (um, results pending, but I seem to remember something about over thirteen hours), but we did have a full day on our bikes. He had just rebuilt his white Pelican as a Towny-and-Countryy bike, and was wanting to test it out for a 200k. IMG_2207I am not very good at even basic level bike maintenance in spite of having great hand skills from a lifetime in manual trades, so unfortunately most of John’s randonengineering goes way over my head. I do love the new version, though… possibly because this bike is a little like my own white townie, but with much (, much!!!) nicer parts. Also I love MKS touring pedals. I know by now this is way outside the bounds of conventional cycling wisdom, but check out this email response on the national randolist on the topic of hot foot: “+1 on the platform pedals. I tried the custom orthotics, expensive custom built bike shoes etc. with limited success. I now use the MKS Touring platform pedal with No Clips. I recently completed my 10 Super Randonneur series with this set up.” Wow…yay! You truly see everything in randonneuring, once you stick around.

Anyway, I rode my trusty blue Pelican for this ride as I have for all others. I was nearing 7000 miles on it as of this ride since I got it in early December 2011. I have replaced the chain & cog set once (probably due for another chain), the tires once (will be replacing those also), and the brake pads numerous times, but otherwise it’s just like new. sniff.

JP giving himself the victory sign in spite of losing the Moss Beach city limit sign sprint. Ha!

JP giving himself the victory sign in spite of losing the Moss Beach city limit sign sprint. Ha!

Here’s the descent on Stage Road, heading toward Pescadero, where I lost the city limit sprint (@%*!!)

IMG_2221Normally we take a long break to eat in the backyard of the grocery that serves as the contrôle in Pescadero, but we had decided just to buy a sandwich there to eat in the evening and have our lunch at the Beach House further along. So, off we went, departing from the section of the route as is used by the Coastal Cruz we did a couple weeks before.

Domesticated Wild Mountain Lions? Large-ish Horses? Don't ask John

Shhh! Don’t disturb the Domesticated Wild Mountain Lions

Or the, er, never mind

Or the, er, never mind

Large-ish tree

Large-ish tree

If you are reading this blog, you probably participate in long distance cycling to some extent, and if that is indeed the case, you may be interested to learn that Kroger brand Ensure is just as good as regular Ensure, at about half the price. Six buxx for a six pack on my sixth ride of the ol’ R-12. Unfortunately, although I brought two of these lovely savers (one for me and one for my companion), I failed to choose the correct time to consume mine and bonked haard on the climb up Alpine to Skyline Boulevard. I didn’t sleep enough the night before either, which kind of ruined a stretch of this route I usually love. Having chosen the proper time to consume his sensibly-purchased Ensure, John darted up Alpine like a spry mountain goat; he had also done the Hot Dart the week before (115 degrees on Mount Diablo ain’t noo joke), so while I wilted in the sweltering sun, he hardly noticed the heat in spite of his black t-shirt. At the info control, John encouraged me to drink my Ensure, and I did.

We arrived at the contrôle in Woodside with several minutes to spare, though fewer than my last run of this route. We enjoyed ice cream sandwiches, and John announced he wanted me to pull him over Cañada Road. Feeling refreshed, I was most happy to fulfill this request. He said if we made good time, we could have a picnic at a spot he’d picked out along the Sawyer Camp Trail. Yay! It seemed unlikely we’d have enough time at that point, but I was pleased to find I had the energy to try.

Cañada Road is hot and dry under the sun

Cañada Road is hot and dry under the sun

Crystal Springs Reservoir looks enticing... I want to jump in!

Crystal Springs Reservoir looks enticing… I want to jump in!

Headwind, headwind after our picnic

Headwind, headwind, headwind after our picnic

Once we get to the end of the bike path and have to ride along the highway, we ride into the wind for some miles more. The road pitches up, the road pitches down. It has been a long day, and now we are on the most trafficky, auto-speedy part. We ride quietly, with our heads down. On one of the uphills, I lift my head, and in the soft distance up ahead, I see– but wait! Could it be?? I dare not look back to see if John has seen it: the PACIFICA CITY LIMIT SIGN! I increase my speed imperceptibly. Slowly, slowly, I gradually go faster. Getting closer to the sign, I increase my speed faster, then faster. I hear a loud whine behind me, and then I know I’ve got it! Yessss!

John took this defeat rather to heart, so when we neared the San Francisco city limit sign, I handed the final city limit sign of this day’s cycling endeavor over to him. I did not race him for it; I left all my sprinting energy in Pacifica.

I'll always have Pacifica

I’ll always have Pacifica

Totems: a week away from the longest day of the year, we still have daylight

Totems: a week away from the longest day of the year, we still have daylight

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig

R5: 5ive times goodness

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For the fifth installment in my 2013 R12, I rode the Coastal Cruz route… for the fifth time! Yes, I like this route. It constituted a full third of my 2012 R-12, including a dramatic photo finish for the 12th installment. The third time I rode it was the first time John and I rode together (for the Santa Cruz Randonneurs Dart), sparking a flame that would turn into a full-fledged bicycle romance, which by now you are sick of reading about if you have been reading this blog. But something I discovered after completing this ride is that John and I have logged approximately 1500 miles together since that dart last August! Whew, that went by fast. Three camping trips, the fleche, the 400k, several 200k permanents, and other rides purely for pleasure, and all of a sudden we are racking up Big Miles. Go Team Poteman! or… Team Coltis? Anyway, John is a super guy and there are many reasons why we are compatible, but I will encapsulate the feelings I have for him by saying life and bicycling are better with him around.

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John takes the sprint for the Santa Cruz county line sign

I had resigned myself to this being my first solo 200k after hearing the tales from the 600k he had just finished two weeks before. I thought I had some difficult stomach issues on the 400k, but his were difficult-er, as he had to stop in the middle of a fast technical descent in the dark to barf by the side of the road. And then ride another 300k or so. Randonneuring is awesome, am I right? This kind of thing doesn’t happen all the time, but it does seem to happen to everybody at least once. When you do as many rides as John has done, it will happen eventually. I believe this is his 6th SR series (one each of 200k,300k,400k, and 600k). After our beautiful and worry-free, even barf-free, bike tour in April, I’m sure RUSA and ACP events don’t have the same shine for John. Even still, he rode along with me (though not for RUSA credit) for my R5. Yay! Check out the flickr set for the typical gorgeous views of the California coast, the lovely weather we enjoyed that day, and visions of the ever-popular Ugly Mug Cafe as seen by its piscine residents. I would consider myself blessed to ride this route five-and-twenty more times or more.

May installment? Check!

May installment? Check! Thanks, Pelican.

R12: The longest mile

The day before my last (hopefully the last!) 200k of this R-12 series, my dad called me on the phone. “We got about ten inches of snow yesterday, and it’s about thirty degrees today,” he informed me in a cheerful voice. My mind’s eye flashed on my own local weather forecast for the next day: low 50s and showers. Although that looks warmer than Wisconsin on paper, I knew by now that the dampness and chill in the bay area often made Wisconsin’s snow seem appealing. He asked me how I was doing, and when I planned to do my final 200k. “Tomorrow,” I said, my voice dripping with equal parts dread and fear. He let out a sympathetic laugh and said, “Well, you know which mile in a race is always the longest?” I was not in the mood for riddles and kept silent. A mile is a mile is a mile, and I would be struggling through 125 rainy, cold specimens of them twenty-four hours from now. “The longest mile is the last mile, Juli. It’s always the hardest. Dad knows you can do it, though.”

“I’ll be riding with a great group of guys, they really know what they’re doing,” I said, trying to look on the bright side. Having been quite sick for the past month, although I felt much better, my training regimen was down to about nil, and I was having more than the usual pre-ride doubts. I emailed Tom Haggerty, who had graciously invited me to join him, Keith Beato, and Steve Haas (yes, the guy who had a heart attack in July had fully recovered and would be riding with us… though he had also been hit by a car in November, and now was riding a new bike). I wanted to be sure my slower-than-normally-slow pace wasn’t going to drag them down. Tom said it would be ok, and he wrote emphatically, “First of all, No DNFs.”

Les anciens: Keith, Tom, and Steve say "We like bikes!"

Les anciens: Keith, Tom, and Steve say “We like bikes!”

Of course, little did either of us know how close to the limit we would be pushing our luck! Riding with Tom, Keith, and Steve was the one bright spot I was looking forward to about this ride, and was relieved and heartened by Tom’s response. And despite all the self-effacing comments made in jest by each of them about me wishing I had ridden by myself, I was so glad for their company! They were funny, teasing each other throughout the day. I could easily tell the three anciens had ridden many, many miles together. To get an idea, look at Tom’s pictures on flickr from the ride. Hilarious!

Another great thing about riding with them was that over the course of the day, we all traded pulls in a sense. We didn’t ride in a paceline, but in the early part of the day, Steve and Tom rode up front… Steve was way up front! This is usually my weakest part of the day. I took my turn at the front after the Ugly Mug, on the climb up Soquel-San Jose Road. In the final stretch through Cupertino, Los Gatos, and Mountain View, Keith blasted ahead of us, really pulling us all toward the finish through his childhood home turf.

The three fellas had only done this route once, a bit eccentrically as an overnight ride Tom had crafted as a commute to his job in Mountain View (attesting to his fitness level, he said when he showed up for work, none of his coworkers could tell he had just ridden his bike on a 200-kilometer overnight “commute”!). For me this would be my fourth time on this course.

The first half or so of this ride was pretty rote, although there were a few tactical errors we made early on from which it was difficult to recover. One was that we did not leave Peet’s until about seven o’clock, almost a full half hour after our scheduled start time. The other was my fault: I had grown accustomed to taking the oceanside path along Sharp Park beach instead of taking the road past the golf course clubhouse, and I really like this way. The guys seemed into taking the path, as they weren’t familiar with going that way, but I think it added several minutes to our time. In any case, somehow we only made it to Arcangeli’s with 45 minutes to spare. I’m also accustomed to hanging out for a while in the lovely creekside back yard they have there, so when Tom announced it was time to hit the road shortly after Keith and I sat down to eat our half sandwiches, it was shocking! But he was right, there was no time to lose– not a pleasant feeling so early on in a ride.

It did not start raining until we were about midway through Santa Cruz, but we were all soaked and feeling frigid by the time we got to the Ugly Mug, with only half an hour to spare at that control. As we rode through Santa Cruz, the guys all asked me questions about the little cafe. I forgot they had used an all-night Safeway as their Soquel control, and had stopped at a diner in Santa Cruz for late-night sustenance. I didn’t want to give anyone high hopes about the Ugly Mug since they usually just had one or two things they could heat up (Birthday chicken pot pie aside), and it being almost three o’clock on a rainy day I figured they’d probably be out of them. Some of my favorite moments in randonneuring have occurred at the Ugly Mug, but today I just wasn’t up to the mellow vibes. I ended up buying a green juice to get my receipt (which, although their register was never on time, now that they’d switched to using a scientifically calibrated, precisely accurate iPad as cash register, they could no longer print receipts at all and had to email my receipt to me! whither the future of randonneuring without cash registers??), and hung out in the back hallway of an adjacent office building (it was warm!) where we parked our bikes, eating the remainder of my sandwich from Arcangeli’s and trying to figure out how on Earth we were going to finish this ride within the time limit. Rain + climbing + wet, dark descent + stoplights, stoplights, stoplights through Cupertino etc. = DNF any way I looked at it. All I could do was try to eat as much as possible to give myself some energy to put a smile on my rained-on face and keep plugging away.

When we got back on the road, I was very much cheered by the climb up Soquel-San Jose Road. I felt warmed by the body heat generated by physical activity, and I very much enjoyed the opportunity to chat with Tom about radio stations in San Francisco and other rides we’ve done or would like to do. By the time we reached the top, it was quite dark, wet, and chilly. I went ahead to the Summit Store to see if I could find some shelter or warmth while waiting for the fellas to regroup. As the rain steadily fell, my Pelican and I got a whole range of puzzled, sympathetic, and even some terrified, looks as I stood in the vestibule of the store next to the cords of firewood.

Diametrically opposed to the advantages of climbing in the cold and wet stand the disadvantages of descending in the cold and wet: you are not pedaling, so no body heat is generated; and you also move 6-7 times as fast, so the cold air affects you that much more. Luckily, Keith reminded me to put on my extra sweater before we left the Summit Store, the one I had brought in order to have a warm, dry layer to put on for the Caltrain ride home. Eesh. Another difficulty of descending in the rain and cold in this particular route was that the road has lots of switchbacks, yet no streetlights in many stretches– it is utterly rural, in the middle of a thick, dark forest. And as we left the Summit Store, I heard that Steve’s headlight had been shorting out! Luckily it seemed to start working again just as we got back on the road.

The last time the three of them had done this ride, they descended Old San Jose Road and Aldercroft Heights Road in the dead of night. What an amazing challenge and incredible experience to make this beautiful descent in the still of the night. Andrea Symons said that stretch of road “brings an tear to one’s eye,” and I agree. Tom said the group would do that ride again next year as an overnight, and I hope I can go along! Hopefully next time it will be less chilly, wet, and harrowing for me. I did ok by staying focused on Tom’s and Steve’s head and tail lights as they cornered up ahead of me to give me an idea of where the road would bend. Fortunately the wet pavement was not as much of a concern as I would have thought. The night before the ride, I had installed a fresh set of rear brake pads, knowing they seem to wear down faster in the rain.

Long, wet, dark, scary, white knuckle descent handily accomplished (at least, that’s how I felt once it was over!), all of us knowing we had very little time in reserve if any, we entered the short trail section to Los Gatos. We all got down the steep, rocky part, started to gain momentum over the smooth, pleasant, fine gravel surfaced trail that parallels the river, and… Keith called out to let us know he had a flat tire. Now when I look back on it, I can only laugh, but at the time we did not see the comedy in the situation, least of all poor Keith, who had already suffered one flat tire that day. We had about 15 miles to go, and 40 minutes remaining on the clock. Tom suggested we could split up, with Steve and I going on ahead to make sure I would get credit for the ride. Though I appreciated the offer, I didn’t feel good about doing that– I didn’t like the idea of breaking up the group, I felt that we should be able to replace a tube in a few minutes anyway, and I also knew that Keith was doing installment eleven of his own R-12. So, we all set to work. Steve and Tom had headlamps mounted on their helmets, so they helped Keith find his tools and tube. Keith had some trouble getting his tire off the wet rim, so with my ever-unfailing fine motor skills from years of benchwork, I was able to get his tire off. Once Keith got the new tube in, Steve helped him use a CO2 canister to fill it (much faster!). We reassembled ourselves within minutes, and set out again with new resolve.

There are two sections of this route I don’t like: riding through Santa Cruz to Soquel, and riding through Los Gatos, Cupertino, and Mountain View. They both happen to be urban or suburban streets with lots of stop signs, stoplights, and turning lanes of car traffic that awkwardly merge with bike lanes, and they both also precede controls (i.e., stretches where I’m bound to be hungry and possibly slightly just a little bit cranky). I don’t know why every time I do this ride I expect these sections to get shorter, but having done this route a few times now, they stunningly have stayed the same distance. “Okay then,” I said to myself as we entered the heavily trafficked shopping district of Los Gatos, “This is just going to take as long as it takes.” I reached for one of the honey stinger energy goo things my dentist told me to avoid, just to be sure I wouldn’t end up snapping at one of my new-found friends out of a lack of carbs. Steve and I eye our watches, then our odometers. Our odometers, then watches. Steve does some brief mental calculations, and looks at me reassuringly. “We’ll make it,” he says. I try with wet gloves to flip over my cue sheet, but I lose the wrestling match and just get ink and shreds of soggy paper dragged over the sheet. So much for fine motor skills… All the while, Steve, Tom and I are racing to catch up with Keith, who had a three-alarm fire under his saddle all of a sudden!

Which was awesome, because we ended up getting to the 7-Eleven with only five minutes to spare. Five minutes! Think of all the things that take only five minutes. Microwave popcorn? Cup o’ Noodles? Third Uncle? That length of time made the difference between getting credit or not for this ride. What a suspenseful and dramatic finish to my R-12! Thanks Tom, Keith, and Steve for another heroic, epic, comical, entertaining, and challenging day on the bike.

As promised, I bought a bottle of 7-Eleven’s best champagne for us all to drink on the train ride home. Tom had brought cups, so we wouldn’t even have to drink it out of our water bottles! I even offered some to a crazy person on the train who said he had been a bike messenger in New York. Steve presented to me a Real R-12 Medal (in fact belonging to, and borrowed from, Jason Pierce), which was kind of touching, if anything involving Jason Pierce can be described as “touching” without seeming really icky… ahem. As I have mentioned earlier, it was kind of his fault I got wrapped up in this R-12 business anyway, so it seems fitting he was somehow insinuated at the end.

And now, we have come to the end of our tale entitled mmmmbike: appetizing rides carried out while pursuing the RUSA R-12 award. There will be more tales, to be sure, and possibly an entry recording what I think I learned. I’m not sure yet what form my future ride reports will take, since my only goal for the new year is to ride a 400k. Perhaps the blog needs a new subtitle. Writing blog entries about my rides has helped me review what I’ve learned throughout the year, so I definitely want to keep writing. Reading others’ ride reports is endlessly fascinating to me as well, so I want to continue to contribute to the form.

As for riding, ideally I would like to give the Pelican the month of January off, but the Lighthouse brevet beckons. In the meantime, to keep from getting restless, I’ve been enjoying indoor activities such as lap swimming and yoga. I used to love lap swimming in Chicago in the winter months, especially in the mornings when the sun would hit the beautiful indoor pool at the park district near where I lived. Lately I’ve also enjoyed a couple short social rides, and another bike camp to rejuvenate my excitement for riding. Other than that, who knows what the future holds for me and my Pelican? To find out you will just have to stay tuned for the next exciting installment of mmmmbike!

R11: The Black Friday Christmas Miracle

So here it is, month eleven of a twelve month commitment, and I am not feeling anywhere near 100% health-wise. Various work and other commitments have prevented me from fulfilling my November ride until nearly the last weekend in the month. Then, an impulsive decision to ride to Point Reyes Station on a weekday before my 200k was scheduled (to test out the road resurfacing in Samuel P. Taylor Park– which was indeed smmoooove) turned out to be a very bad idea. I knew it was going to rain that day, so I have only myself to blame, but the ill effects from that ride linger even still, two 200ks and a full month later. Ugh.

Having followed through 83% of my goal, what was I to do? Luckily (and I attribute my thus-far success with the R-12 to favorable luck as much as anything), I had scheduled this ride with someone willing to take an easy pace, a solid rider with a lot of miles under his belt and someone with whom I’d done a few rides with previously so there would be no surprises in terms of pacing, mechanicals, or personality conflicts! John P.! John had already done two 200k rides in November (one of them being the sopping- wet Davis Dart), so it was very sweet that he kept his commitment to ride with me at the near-end of the month.

One other great thing in terms of a lack of surprises was that we would be riding the Jittery Jaunt, a route I had already completed twice successfully. Oddly enough, in spite of it being Black Friday, ringing in the Christmas shopping season, the roads were peaceful and relatively car-free. We also had fantastic weather– the thermometer at the Valley Ford store read 70 degrees!

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We really lucked out that day in other ways too, finishing with about forty minutes to spare. I’m not kidding when I say I was sick that day! I have never ridden that slowly, even on my very first brevet. Of course, since John had just done the Davis Dart, he was used to taking the entire allowed time for a ride, but it made me feel more than a little nervous at the penultimate control with so little time in the bank, and having a cracked rear fender to boot. Thanks again John, for stopping in Black Mountain Cycles and braving the testosterone- laden atmosphere to get me some washers so my fender would not make goose-honking noises all the way back to town. (I should add that the fender was still under warranty, and Gabe at Box Dog replaced it for me the following week. I should also say that for the amount of tough mileage I have put on my Pelican, only a fraction of it reported here, my bike has had very, very few mechanical problems in its first year. And in fact, I probably would not have wanted to keep up with the R-12 if it weren’t for my sweet, sweet ride, all thanks to Gabe and Box Dog Bikes, really.)

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my sweet, sweet ride, only a week old!

I don’t usually like to spend (waste?) a lot of time and word count tooting my own horn about how great my bike is, but hey, this is my blog. If you don’t want to read it, you can go read someone else’s! But seriously, I’m not kidding now, my bike is so dope. It is always ready for adventure, it even cheers me up on rides like this one when I’m not feeling my best. Before you suggest that maybe I have a slightly unnatural attachment to an inanimate object, I would point out that I’ve noticed a lot of people who ride their bikes too much (!) also have this same feeling toward their bikes, and frankly, why would you spend ten to upwards of eighty continuous hours with an inanimate object if you didn’t really, really like it? I think the difference with my bike is that I did not try to get the cheapest possible bike and then later realize I need to add things to make it functional. When I decided to get a Pelican, I knew I needed a lot of help with the build list, and fortunately (again, I benefit from good luck!), Gabe was there to come up with a superior build list for me and for the style of riding I said I wanted to do, and not too far from the budget I had to work with. Well, maybe a tad over, but I do not regret a single penny. Anyway, there are way stupider things one can spend money on, a point not lost on me on Black Friday, the World’s Most Pointless Shopping Day. These are the kinds of things that rolled through my mind on this penultimate ride of my 2012 R-12 series, as I struggled though and eventually accomplished the ride in twelve hours, fifty minutes… lots of thinking-time. Oy.

Another R9: The Solo 300K, a ride in sixteen or so pictures

Almost before the September 1 200k was over, Ely and I were scheduling another ride. I pride myself on never turning down a ride unless I have to work, so when Ely proposed another September ride, I immediately told him of my desire to do another 300k before the year was out. So of course, because Ely rarely turns down a good ride idea either, we scheduled it for the last Saturday in September. We even did a tough Marshall wall training ride to lead up to riding 100k longer than to which we were accustomed.

foggy morning headed into the sun

that last tree before the top

we did it… though I still don’t know what this ‘wall’ is all about. maybe going clockwise? anyway a very nice other cyclist who happened to be out took our picture.

Perhaps as karmic retribution for my having to turn down several good ride ideas in September for work, Ely found out he had a work obligation on that day. Hm. It is easier to ride with friends in most cases; the time goes by faster, and you do too, particularly on a route with a lot of wind. However, I had already gone through registering for the ride and my brevet card was in hand, really a fait accompli if you ask me. This is something I like about the Randonneurs and their rules… Pretty often, good ride ideas get abandoned or the time and date changes too much when several peoples’ schedules are involved. When you have to formally recognize the start time of a ride, you’re more likely to stick to it. So, in the interest of maintaining a sense of discipline, I decided to do the ride anyway by myself. I didn’t want to invite anyone to ride with me, since it was too late to ask the permanent owner to process a new brevet card.

To keep myself focused throughout the ride, I decided to take a photo each hour of the ride as close to the hour mark as would be practical. So… here they are. I finished the ride in about 15 and three quarters hours, and since there were just a few shots I took in between hour-marks, I have photos here in the quantity of sixteen and change.

0500 hours: Marina Safeway potted plant offerings. Pelican is ready to go! 5 am start time worked great to get lots of good riding in before the fog burned off or people with monster trucks awoke and rumbled around.

0600 hours: Camino Alto, partying with the owls, coyotes, deer, and raccoons

0700 hours: golfers are starting to appear close to Nicasio Valley Road

0800 hours: fog is still around on the way to Petaluma, dripping like rain and the front of my bag is soaked with it; man in bakery delivery van is sleeping in his van parked by the side of the road (not in picture)

0900 hours: thought the 7 eleven was the control for Petaluma; opened handlebar bag and discovered the drink powder I had brought in a ziplock bag had distributed itself all over the inside of the bag. Got handi-wipes, cleaned the bag, read the cue sheet and discovered the 7 Eleven is not the Petaluma control grr.

1000 hours: ok, the whole Petaluma disaster is over and I’m moving on. I pass my bookbinding mentor’s studio in Penngrove and ponder the connections between bookbinding and bicycling. Also practicing rolling my r’s and reciting Carter Family songs.

I pause to photograph the jackelopes frolicking in front of The Last Record Store in Santa Rosa for my Field Museum friend in Chicago, Ken Grabowski.

1100 hours, I am getting close to Healdsburg. Vineyards abound. The fog has finally abandoned and I am readying the sunscreen. My butt hurts and I am wondering where I will find some bag balm or something in Healdsburg– I don’t think Safeway, the location of the next control, carries it.

1200 hours: Westside Road. This is the third time this year that Westside Road and I meet, and it’s not unpleasant. I am getting used to the ups and downs and the broken pavement. Having found a little tub of carmex at the safeway in Healdsburg, my posterior is feeling much better, so the bumpy road doesn’t bother me.

1300 hours. Ten hours into the ride and I am in Guerneville! It feels like a real accomplishment until I remember I started an hour earlier than the typical 300k brevet.

1400 hours: I had to take a long break in Guerneville. I hadn’t really stopped to take a meal break, and was pretty hungry and needed to just wash the road dust off my hands and face. So this picture is at the mouth of the Russian River, not too far from where the last picture was taken, but ah well. If I hadn’t been on a formal brevet permanent, I would have headed north to Jenner at this point just to check it out.

1500 hours: I encounter the riders of the Levi’s Gran Fondo, happening that same day and sharing my route for several of my favorite and most beloved miles of this area: the stretch between Jenner and Bodega Bay. I chat with a nice old gent who likes my bike and thinks I am fast in spite of my giant handlebar bag. I am surprised he doesn’t know about randonneuring and doesn’t seem to be too interested. He peels off into a sag tent and we ring our bells in a bike-style fare-thee-well. As I continue, there are crowds lined up cheering cyclists along the sides of highway one. There is a group of women with a bedsheet spray painted with something about supporting the Gran Fondo because of all the good looking men rolling by in tight shorts. They enthusiastically cheer me on anyway, even though I’m not a dude and not in the Gran Fondo.

sheep!

1600 hours: from Valley Ford to the coast. My least favorite stretch of road. Headwind city. No shoulder and no shade. Broken pavement on steep grades.Some cute farm animals to look at, though.

1700 hours: taking a break at the Marshall Store yayyyyy! I come so close to buying a t-shirt this time, I am so happy to be greedily guzzling chowder. The people who work here are always nice to us randos, and this is no exception. I am particularly glad I made it in under 12 hours, what would be the cutoff time for this control on the 300k brevet.

1800 hours: my shadow on Point Reyes Petaluma Road as I round the Nicasio Reservoir. I am smelling the barn…

the same bridge I crossed under at 0700 hours

1900 hours: the top of White’s Hill outside Fairfax. The moon is up!

2000 hours and I am in Sausalito, looking over the moony San Francisco Bay. The final control is within reach, and as I arrive there before the turn of the next hour, I do not take any more pictures.

This was a great ride for me. I enjoyed the route very much, and it felt like a big accomplishment to do by myself. I felt tired, but happy at the end of the ride,  ready to take on a 400k next year. There were some definite improvements I had wanted to make over the 300k I did in March, such as eating more overall and stretching at breaks. There is still more room for improvement.

R9, feeling fine…

For the month of September,  Ely and I agreed to attempt Mark Gunther’s San Franciscadero permanent. I say attempt because the last time Ely attempted this ride, he had to bail on it, so he was pretty concerned about taking on this challenge. He warned me that there is a lot of climbing (which is true– 10-12K’), and that if it’s not timed correctly, you end up having to ride in darkness for much of the ride. Riding in darkness is a major showstopper for Ely since he has night blindness. When he and his friend Chloe rode it, it was rainy and cold, and that was also a factor that could potentially affect us as well.

Mr. Potis contacted us to see if he could join us for the ride, and we happily agreed. I thought the ride would not be as difficult as Ely warned it would be, especially with John riding with us. He’s a strong rider who knows the route well. He proposed doing some slight detours through some trail known as Planet of the Apes, and trails around Half Moon Bay and Old Haul Road. Um, John, that is not on the cue sheet–won’t we get in trouble? He said Mark wouldn’t mind. Lately Ely and I have started doing some trail riding in the Marin Headlands, and I was psyched to try some more trails, so I said we’d see how it goes. But Ely was still pretty concerned about finishing the ride in time, and did not want to venture into the Planet of the Apes. We were also doing this ride on the same day as the Santa Cruz 400k, in which our permanent owner would likely be participating. Anyway, once we got down Highway One around Davenport or Half Moon Bay, we saw not Mark Gunther but Jason Pierce, Ken, and Rob Hawks riding along! I was super happy to see our RBA, and we all rang our bells and waved at them. Later, Rob posted on Facebook that he was happy to see the three of us as well, since he had been working hard to keep up with Jason and Ken all morning. It is a huge morale boost to see people you know out on the road. Especially when you see someone who is not doing the same ride as you, it’s a great feeling.

Shortly after that, a silver Jeep Cherokee buzzed too close to me on the highway, and we decided to break off onto the trail parallel to the 1. We saw a group of seven pelicans flying together along the coast, possibly the same group we saw while riding along the Great Highway in San Francisco! John pointed out a camping area near the coast, and we continued along the scenic path for a bit. I don’t mind riding along with traffic and am pretty accustomed to that stretch of Highway One in particular. Riding on trails is so much more relaxing and pleasant though, since you don’t have the speeding cars and trucks to worry about.

In any case, we reached Arcangeli’s in good time, and the next control as well. The control after that was preceded by a tough climb, and we stopped part way up at the turn for Alpine Road to refuel. My derailleur was shifting on its own again, probably stemming from a well-intentioned but ineffectual stem swapout (and swap-back) the week before, and Ely and John did their best to resolve the issue. Having ridden a single- speed for many years in Chicago, I am very appreciative of what a good derailleur can do, but often frustrated by basic derailleur operation and maintenance. Once it was reassembled and we started rolling again, I had to blow off steam and tore off up the road to the next control, where I waited patiently for Ely and John to catch up with me. Whew! While I pounded up and around the hills I heard laughter from Ely and John echoing against the hillsides, which made me smile.

That control was an info control– no receipt, just answer a question pertaining to the location on your printed brevet card. This was the third to last control for this route, and we were doing well on time. Ely still seemed to be a little nervous that we would finish after dark, because he kept pulling up ahead. I dropped back with John as it was a pretty hot day up on Skyline and after all, it had been a steep climb. Somehow the three of us pulled it together for the descent into Woodside, and I got to watch Ely and John use their descending and cornering skills. Now that I’ve taken a couple bike handling classes, I pay close attention to other riders’ cornering techniques. Watching John and Ely doing their descents together that afternoon was totally fascinating to me– it is wonderful to watch cyclists who are good at it.

At Roberts Market in Woodside, we ate and drank, and petted an outgoing Lab that had been waiting in the driver’s seat of its owner’s car for some time, when the owner returned and loaded up her groceries.  Then we headed off on Canada Road toward the Crystal Springs Reservoir and the Camp Sawyer path. The path is so beautiful! Many joggers, walkers and other cyclists were out on the path enjoying the sunny weather. As we continued north, we could see the fog coming over the ridge miles ahead of us like a giant puffy glacier. So much for beautiful sunny weather. We reached the final Safeway control after navigating successfully through a risky merge with freeway- bound car traffic. Yikes! Jarred back into coexisting with cars from the peaceful lakeside path.

No photos for San Franciscadero… only memories: waving at Rob Hawks on Highway One, flocks of Pelicans zooming through the air above the ocean shore, sitting next to Potis and Ely for a lunch break at the scenic corner of Pescadero Creek and Alpine Roads, descending through the tight switchbacks into Woodside, and riding along the sun- dappled reservoir in the late afternoon. I hope to do this ride again soon.