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

IMG_3463

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!

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

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.