Mount Tam to Moscow 300k: Going Nowhere, Getting Nothing

It was recently announced to RUSA members that there would be a (hopefully) temporary suspension of the RUSA Permanents program. I had a strong immediate and emotional reaction to this of dismay, disappointment, even slight panic. RUSA Permanents have been a source of joy, excitement, and sense of achievement for almost seven years for me.

When I recovered from my first reaction, I realized this presented an opportunity to me to explore some routes that weren’t formal perms, yet could be. Or I could ride some routes that weren’t suitable to be RUSA routes, yet were good for just fun riding. In an effort to keep expanding the perms I own, I have been wanting to create longer versions of Mount Tam to Marshall. I have had the route worked out for many months, but due to work and other stuff, I haven’t been able to pre-ride the route before submitting it to RUSA.

Mount Tam to Marshall is not the hardest 200k route I’ve done, but it’s not the easiest either, and the 300k version continues that trend. It starts by climbing Mount Tam all the way to East Peak (kind of the top), then there is a little more climbing on East Ridgecrest Boulevard. If you’re at the top when you get to East Peak, how can there be more climbing? Don’t ask… Anyway, then you drop down on Ridgecrest, all the way down to Alpine Dam, up again and then down to Fairfax. The climbing is definitely front-loaded in this route. The 200k version then goes out to Marshall-Petaluma Road, climbs and descends to Marshall, and goes back to SF via CA-1 and Sir Francis Drake. The 300k version would go up Wilson Hill instead of to Marshall, then through Chileno Valley, Freestone, Occidental, Monte Rio, Moscow Road, and finally to the jewel of the route: Willow Creek trail. Then it goes back to San Francisco via CA-1 (at night, when traffic has calmed down), following the same return as Old Caz through Stinson Beach and Tam Junction. When describing these roads and tiny towns that are not more than a crossroads, a lot of people might say, “There’s nothing out there.” Fine with me! When there is no desirable destination other than the road itself, fewer cars will be there, at least. I prefer the peace of empty roads that go nowhere.

I had been wanting to ride the 300k version for many months, but whenever I started out, I ended up bailing and riding the 200k version instead. It felt like such a huge time commitment to go that much further. Always something else that needs to be done at home. Finally last week I set my mind to completing the 300k. Since perms have been suspended, no randobucks are available anyway, so I might as well do this ride that is not official in any way. Going nowhere, getting nothing.

It may seem punishing to ride the hardest climb of the route first, with not too much opportunity to warm up, but riding up Old Railroad Grade is pretty amazing first thing in the morning. It is really worth waking up for! As I have said before in the blog, Old Railroad Grade is my Trail One. It was the first place I went on New Bike Day when I got my Pelican, and I can almost recreate in my mind every berm, dip, and turn, many of the trees along the way, the streams that rush by the trail in the rainy season, the past and present ruts and slick rocks. Friday’s ride was typical…

Pure golden morning light

Pure golden morning light

Couldn't help but stop briefly for a snapshot

Couldn’t help but stop briefly for a snapshot

Looking backwards down the trail

Looking backwards down the trail

Sourced from the mountain

Water at the community tool shed is sourced from the mountain

Twin trees at intersection of Old Railroad and Hoo Koo E Koo

Twin trees at intersection of Old Railroad and Hoo Koo E Koo

Looking southeast at the Bay Bridge and financial district of San Francisco

Looking southeast at the Bay Bridge and financial district of San Francisco

Mount Diablo to the east

Mount Diablo to the east

Trails have drained well; seems like someone has been doing a lot of work here. There were lots of areas with medium-sized gravel placed in previously rutted areas

Trails have drained well; seems like someone has been doing a lot of work here. There were lots of areas with medium-sized gravel placed in previously rutted areas

Finally arriving at West Point Inn

Finally arriving at West Point Inn

At East Peak I finally encountered some people and we mutually commented on how beautiful the day was. I went on my way to East Ridgecrest, the highest paved road in Marin County, then West Ridgecrest.

Rolling hills of Bolinas Ridge from West Ridgecrest Blvd

Rolling hills of Bolinas Ridge from West Ridgecrest Blvd

Looking down on Bolinas Lagoon from West Ridgecrest

Looking down on Bolinas Lagoon from West Ridgecrest

Best intersection ever... No bad choices here

Best intersection ever… No bad choices here

Then downdowndown to Alpine Dam.

Alpine Lake as still as glass

Alpine Lake as still as glass

Up a little more, then down to Fairfax for a bite to eat. I always stop at the Coffee Roastery for their fresh beet juice and tasty, filling frittatas, but something was off in frittataland that day. I still ate it, but heading up White’s Hill from Fairfax, I didn’t feel too hot. I started to formulate bailout options. Hmm I could just go to Freestone and get a scone, then turn around, or I could go to Freestone and then do Barnett Valley, or… Okay stop. Just keep going and you don’t have to figure anything out. Easier that way! So I kept going, but in the back of my mind, or more often the front, I kept thinking I would not go the whole way. I just felt really tired, one of those days you are pedaling squares for hours. After being on Hicks Valley for a while I remembered that I hadn’t checked the air in my tires before starting out, and thought maybe the air pressure could be a little higher, so I stopped and added some air, which helped me feel a bit lighter. Chileno Valley Road, once I got there, was gorgeous that day, and I saw even more calves and cows than usual. The swans were mostly on the far side of the lake, but there was one closer to the road that had its head all the way down in the water. I thought it might be a pelican, but it drew its long, graceful neck out of the water and I saw that it sure was a swan! There were also a lot of red tail hawks and peregrine falcons in the air. Although I was struggling, I noticed I was making up time, and since I didn’t have any control closing times to meet, why worry? Rando without boundaries was liberating!

The Valley Ford Market was busy, but not like it was on weekends. There was a steady trickle of customers, mostly local. There was one tall, clean cut guy at the deli counter ordering sandwiches by saying loudly, “Let’s do the turkey etc etc etc…” So weird when people ordering food say they are doing something. Oh well, my sausage roll was excellent, not exactly the kind of thing I would have advised myself to eat at that moment, but I inhaled it and my chocolate milk, and refilled my water. I thanked the cashier on the excellent vittles, and she said yes, they were made in house. I have to say lately I’ve been really impressed with the old Valley Ford Market.  In one of my bailout fantasies I had been thinking I would not eat in Valley Ford but instead get a scone in Freestone or one of those wraps they have at the market in Occidental, but I’m glad I made the full stop in Valley Ford. It made it easier to keep riding through to Jenner/Russia House. One nice thing about this route, though, is that it does have several food options along the way.

Zooming along toward Monte Rio, traffic was light on this Friday. I love riding on weekdays, because local traffic is usually much more polite than the weekend out of towners, busy to get to their kayaking or wine tasting adventures. This route uses Moscow Road instead of River Road as well, further reducing encounters with crappy drivers. It did not disappoint.

View from Moscow Road of bridge crossing Russkaya River

View from Moscow Road of the usual bridge leading to 116

View across Russian River from Moscow Road

View across Russian River from Moscow Road

Moscow Road is a little like Cherry Street

Moscow Road is a little like Cherry Street: lots of redwoods… though nearly flat!

Sunlight from the west bursting through the trees

Sunlight from the west bursting through the trees

Russia House #1 is welcoming, its door wide open

Russia House #1 is welcoming, its door wide open

Russia House #1, the turnaround control, is a pretty interesting place. It used to be an Indian restaurant. It is situated in kind of an odd spot on Highway One, right at the junction of Willow Creek and CA-1. It’s sort of a dead spot though, on a stretch that doesn’t have too many other businesses. I have been wanting to try it out for a long time, since John and I both love Russian food and what seems to be the national beverage of Russia: kvass. Russia House #1 has a porch at the back where you can sit and look at the last bend the Russian River makes before emptying into the Pacific Ocean. On this day, the view was amazing, right at sunset with the light filtering through the clouds.

View from Russia House to Russian River

View from Russia House to Russian River

The food at Russia House #1 consists of a buffet with 4 or 5 items, with a sign saying “Please help yourself and pay according to your WISDOM”. You can pay in cash or with a credit or debit card. Apparently some Russian tourists have reviewed the place: in the original Russian or translated. The restaurant has lots of handmade wooden toys made in Russia, other Russian handicrafts on display, a large chess set and samovar, and an upright piano next to a harp.

Buffet with all home made vegetarian food

Buffet with all home made vegetarian food

Chess set and interesting sculpture on the main table

Chess set and interesting sculpture on the main table

There are lots of posters for some kind of spiritual healer up in the bathroom… I wasn’t too interested in that, but the apparent caretaker and I had a scintillating conversation about local Oakland politics, since he said his son lives in Oakland and I do too. I had a lovely bowl of borscht, making two out of three of my meals containing beets today. Can’t go wrong with that. Also got some dark rye bread, a hard boiled egg, and some Russian tea from the samovar. Perfect rando food for a chilly day.

Bowl of vegetarian borscht with lots of potatoes and sturdy broth

Bowl of vegetarian borscht with lots of potatoes and sturdy broth

One thing I was happy about in arriving at Russia House #1 was that it was not dark yet. Riding this as I was in December, there was very little daylight to be had that day. I think I made the most of it, but I had a suspicion that I would be riding Willow Creek, and the rest of the route, in the dark.

Riding dirt trails in the dark has become one of my winter passions lately. I’ve been fortunate to find some friends who enjoy it too, and we’ve ridden some trails I never would have thought possible to ride in the dark without crashing. It is a new challenge and made much easier by riding in a group, and it makes me feel rewarded for investing in good lighting for my bike, although when the moon is full, sometimes you don’t even need a light.

There was still some gloam by the time I left Russia House #1, but after the long road to Willow Creek trail, that had faded. I began climbing the soft trail strewn with pine needles. The woods were quiet and completely dark. At sections where the trail opened up, I could see bright stars in a deep blue sky. This was why I wanted to make the route longer, not so I could check a box for RUSA saying “yes, I did a 300k.” A route that includes Mount Tam’s Old Railroad Grade, Chileno Valley, and Willow Creek in one day? Yes or yes??

I got to the top of Willow Creek and paused to put on my jacket and mittens for the descent. There would still be some climbing to get to the top of Joy Road, then the descent down Joy. The rest of the route involved familiar territory: Bodega Highway to Freestone-Valley Ford Rd, then Valley Ford and CA-1 most of the way back to Sausalito. It was a tough slog, quite cold and I was drowsy. I took quite the tour of local post offices to nap along the way.

The post office in Marshall was the best one I found, the warmest and with the added bonus that I was able to access the free wifi of the Marshall Store all the way across the street! I took my phone out of airplane mode, and opened my email. Amazingly, there was an email from the RUSA board advising members that the perms program had been reinstated!

So, did I feel like my route scouting had been a waste? Of course not. The ride had been just what I needed: a way to get back into shape after a forced break due to smoke in the air from the Camp Fire. It was a tough ride, an excellent training opportunity, and my body remembers even if my RUSA stats don’t show it. I felt well rewarded. It was good to know I enjoy randonneuring with or without paperwork, and that I have the discipline to get through a ride of that length without the imposed restrictions of the brevet card.

,


The Dao that can be trodden
is not the enduring and unchanging Dao.
The name that can be named
is not the enduring and unchanging name.
-Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

 

 

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The Miraculous Story of Babe the Blue Townie

A few weeks ago, while working at my bench on a Wednesday late morning, I read the following email from my building manager:

Juliayn,
We had another burglary last night or this morning. I didn’t see your bike with the saddle bags when I went down to have a look, so I wanted to check in to see if you’re elsewhere and your bike’s with you, or if you’re here.
Andrew M found that the hide-a-key (for use by a number of people who periodically need building access—washer-dryer repair, fire-extinguisher check, etc.) had been cut off, so I’m assuming that that’s how the burglars got in.

Well! That was chilling. This, only 5 days after a previous burglary of our locked basement space during which at least four bikes had been stolen. I started off at a walk, then ran down the stairs to the basement to discover the awful truth. The thief had left the lock and my helmet behind, but no bike. No Babe. I noticed several other bikes missing, and another broken lock on the ground. There was a spatter of burned, liquifed rubber around the area where Babe had been–had they used a blowtorch?? The lock had clean saw marks, though.

Babe was a godsend of a townie, but sometimes I removed the bags and took her on fun rides, too. Here’s a photo album of a ride John and I did in Coyote Hills just three days before the theft. There’s even a picture of her that John encouraged me to take, laying on a bed of poppies, the California state flower.

PoppyBabe

Poppies in the marshes at Coyote Hills

When I was looking for photos of my bike to post, to file an insurance claim, fill out the police report, and make flyers, I found that there were several to choose from. This bike was much more than a bike to me. Since John found her in 2014, I often took pictures of her while out riding. I’m not sure how normal this is. I mean, maybe people take shots of their randonneuring bikes or mountain bikes, but do people take pictures of their commuting bikes?

Babe the Blue Townie

Andrew Wyeth on the brain, just out doing a delivery for Book Island: 2015

An eye-catching townie is not actually a desirable thing, because it seems it would invite theft. For better or worse, though, I really adored Babe. A lugged steel 1980s production mountain bike with recently redone cables and housing, cantilever brakes, and perky gel saddle… with John’s later additions of upright bars, shiny steel Berthoud fenders, front and rear racks, kickstand, cool (and humongous) Dutch panniers, and dynamo front hub with wired front and rear lighting (super ultra spiffy tail light was a Valentine’s Day present from 2016!)… everything a commuting bike needs, on the foundation of a tough yet sporty frame with a classy blue paint job! I think my bf is pretty good at building bikes, but with Babe, John took it a step farther somehow. Babe answered a very deep part of my personality. John saw how I hauled stuff by bike, even when I had a bike with no racks at all. How many times did I carry a 30 lb. container of cat litter plus groceries… or huge bookbinding projects… or just the usual supplies for teaching workshops, on my back in my old messenger bag? I’d rather not recall! But no more of that. Now I had Babe.

Or not. Heavy sigh.

But! I was not giving up. I dutifully filed a police report in person. I contacted the insurance company and filed a claim. I planned to go to the Laney College flea market (though it was not being held when I went, so I went to the one at Ashby BART instead). I had a hard time posting the news about the theft because it just felt so depressing. But I went through the recommendations on the Stolen Bikes Bay Area webpage/message board, and did everything there and more.

The Return

Two weeks later to the day Babe was stolen, I got her back. How? Charlie at Lakeview Bicycles on Grand Ave in Oakland (about 1 1/2 miles from my apartment) acted on his suspicion that the new bike his assistant had just bought was probably stolen. He noticed the fenders, the racks, and the dynamo lighting, and told me later he thought to himself, “Someone’s got to be missing this bike.” Charlie looked up the details of the bike he saw on Bike Index, and found the entry I had made on Babe which contained Babe’s description, serial number, and my contact information.

There it is, ladies and gentlemen. Some ordinary person just plain did the right thing. And there was a network in place to allow complete follow-through. Sometimes it happens. You are all going to go and register all your bikes on Bike Index, right? While I go clean off the rest of the gold spray paint the assistant applied to Babe… kind of amazing, though, all the parts are still there. Both racks, head and tail light still work despite the total meltdown on the top tube from the blowtorch or whatever caused the explosion of the rubber on the old lock. Even the bell is still there.

Return of Babe

Return of Babe

Throughout the two weeks when Babe was stolen, I emailed my rando pal Jenny Oh for advice and support. I knew about her involvement in trying to improve the situation for people whose bikes have been stolen, so I naturally turned to her for advice, while trying not to be a burden. She gave me a lot of essential information for my particular situation with Babe, so I thought it would be helpful to ask her a few more questions for the blog here and give her a chance to expound on this topic for anyone who might want to learn a little more.

I’m so grateful to her, to Charlie at Lakeview Bicycles, and to everyone at Bike Index for helping me find Babe again. Now I can go back to carrying tons of crap no other bike could haul and do it in style. I hope for the same for any of you who have lost a bike due to the senseless crime of bike theft. I hope the following will be helpful in preventing theft, too.

Interview with Jenny Oh of Stolen Bicycles Bay Area

How long have you been moderating the Stolen Bicycles Bay Area message board, and how did it get started?

I created the Google group back in 2012, soon after I had my mountain bike stolen (http://www.plattyjo.com/my-stolen-bike-was-found-with-your-help/) – and then recovered – in just 4 days. I had spread the word on social media, cycling forums and even created flyers. A mutual friend of mine had spotted it at the Laney College Flea Market (she’d seen my post on Facebook) and recovered it for me.
But prior to getting it back, I realized there wasn’t much available online at the time, in regards to resources, as to what I should do. Some of it was obvious (file a police report, call my insurance company), but otherwise, I just felt rather helpless.
So after I got my bike back, I decided to help create a comprehensive online resource that could serve as both a clearinghouse of information and a place to share info about stolen bicycles. I decided against Facebook since not everyone had an account on there, and this was an easy, free way for folks to post and search for stolen bikes. I did find one website, the now defunct Stolen Bicycle Registry, that had been created by a guy named Bryan Hance. It was another free searchable database where folks could list their stolen bikes. If someone happened to spot it on Craigslist or at a flea market, they could look up the bike to see if it had been listed. If you wanted to get in touch with the owner, the site would send an email to that person and put him/her in touch with the would-be rescuer. It was also auto-tweet out info about the theft on Twitter.
We struck up a friendship and for several years, tried to build a West Coast coalition to tackle bike theft. Unfortunately, our efforts didn’t really get anywhere since the various institutions and companies we’d contacted were mired in bureaucracy, understaffed or had commercial interests. (I also served on the board of Bike East Bay for two years and tried to convince Laney College to ban selling bikes, but that went nowhere as well. Here’s another post where I’m trying to crowdsource ideas: http://www.plattyjo.com/bike-theft-prevention-what-can-we-really-do/) But Bryan ended up retiring his website and merging it with Bike Index, which I highly recommend now as the go-to place for registering bikes (and looking for it there if it’s been stolen. https://medium.com/@stolenbikessfo/what-to-do-after-you-bike-has-been-stolen-in-the-bay-area-e08e6b6f005b) And Bike East Bay, along with other cycling coalitions, share much more info on their websites now about what to do when you’re bike is stolen. BEB even held a few bike registry events in partnership with Bike Index, and they maintain an active page with a ton of resources, too: https://bikeeastbay.org/theft
I update general info posted in the introduction of the Google group when I can, and I also try and share info pertaining to stolen bikes via my personal Facebook page to my followers time permitting.

There were so many things I didn’t know about that a bike owner can do once a bike has been stolen. I think it’s so great that the info on the message board is pro-active, since when a bike has been stolen, you feel powerless. What are some things you wish more bike owners knew about bike theft that would make them feel more empowered to search for their bikes?

The number one thing is to spread the word as widely as possible! Number two, never lose hope and never, ever stop looking. I once helped a friend of mine recover a bike after 6 years: http://www.plattyjo.com/rescued-in-portland-a-stolen-de-rosa-bicycle-has-been-found-after-6-years/ I recovered a wheelset: http://www.plattyjo.com/my-usa-bicycle-wheels-have-been-found/ And there’s many, many more happy recovery stories that I’ve helped with or heard about over the years. Bike Index has a really impressive track record, and Bryan regularly blogs about their stats: https://bikeindex.org/news/bike-indexs-february-2018-recoveries.
You never know when you might get your bike back, so keep spreading the word! With the advent of social media, it’s much easier to do so. Thieves are actually moving away from Craigslist since it’s harder for them to sell stolen goods on there and using smaller sites or flea markets. And SFPD is using more bait bikes and also promoting their efforts.

A lot of randonneurs have bikes that are virtually irreplaceable. Are there special things one can do for theft of more high-end bikes, aside from prevention and good insurance?

I urge everyone to be proactive beforehand and to register your bike(s), take lots of photos and have a record of your serial number(s). If you’re reading this sentence, step away from the computer and DO THIS NOW if you haven’t already! It will help you so much if you do have your bike stolen. Unique bikes actually have a better chance to being recovered as they have details that stand out, so be sure to make note of any components, markings, etc. It’s much harder to retrieve a stock bike that looks so much like many others from a big box store. (And if your bike doesn’t have a serial number, etch something underneath the bottom bracket that can serve as one, or place a sticker inside the seat tube or someone else that’s hidden on the bike that’s a unique identifier.)
Also, NEVER leave your bike unlocked and unattended. I don’t care how safe you think it is, DON’T DO IT. I can tell you many snatch-and-grab horror stories. DO NOT leave your bike in your car, especially overnight. Don’t leave it locked anywhere in public overnight. There are certain areas in SF that are known “hot spots” (they’re listed in the Google group.) Every city has them, so try and familiarize yourself with where thieves will steal bikes. Bikenapped (http://bikenapped.com/sf/map.html) has data for SF.

When buying a used bike, what are some things to look for to ensure it has not been stolen?

Check Bike Index to make sure it’s not been listed as stolen. Try and buy used bikes from a reputable source (like from a bike shop that has obviously vetted their sellers, selling last season’s demo bikes, from a mutual friend.) If a post on Craigslist or another online site has glaring errors in the description, it’s a huge red flag. (One guy had his last name on a decal on the top tube; when it got stolen, the bike thief thought it was the name of the brand and listed it in his ad as such!)