Kingdom of Heaven 1000k: the exciting conclusion

Day 3

On the morning of the third day, I overslept my alarm by a few minutes. The accumulated fatigue was starting to affect me, I knew. And my comfy hotel bed and pyjamas were pretty difficult to leave behind. But I also knew that we were still riding a timed event, so there was no time to waste. I got up and started to reassemble my belongings into their various niches: handlebar bag, stuff sack, drop bag. This was the final overnight control, so this was my last chance to restock supplies from my drop bag. I made sure I had all the malto, other snacks, sunscreen, and other supplies I needed.

When we arrived at the control the night before, Eric was there, giving instructions to the volunteers regarding our route. Since I was so tired, it all sounded like gibberish to me. Eric also drew a map for us on a large tablet of grid paper before he left.

Look for the gold microbus!

Look for the gold microbus!

I figured it would make more sense to me in the morning. In the morning, it still didn’t make too much sense, but John had assured me as soon as we got out on the road, we’d see signs for where we needed to go to find Eric. The reason for all this was the fact that due to bad weather conditions yesterday and our need to reroute, we had to add on mileage today. So we would need to do a short out-and-back trip that was cooked up by Eric and John G, the SFR Routemaster. John had figured out exactly the amount of distance we would need to cover in order to ensure we would make our final distance of 1000 kilometers. I’m so amazed that they were able to figure this out on the fly! I was also extremely grateful, since without that, we would not have gotten credit for this most arduous and long ride I’ve done so far.

The way to Eric’s station couldn’t have been easier, and contained a long, enjoyable descent (after climbing Luther Pass out of South Lake Tahoe). I seemed to lose track of Tom for a long time, and so I pulled to the side and took a few pictures.

We all got to the spot where Eric had parked his van and prepared a big spread for us of fruit juice and all kinds of food. After I had been there just a few minutes, he handed me an egg sandwich, just cooked on his camp stove! It was super tasty.

Good cheer and morning sustenance

Good cheer and morning sustenance

Tom changed into his warmer clothes, and we observed Jeff changing his tire, which he had a slash in the sidewall. Eric’s dog Arthur wandered across the road a few times, chasing gophers, but always came back. I tried to digest the egg sandwich as fast as I could, because I knew there was a lot of climbing coming up: Carson Pass, the highest pass of this ride at 8574′.

Finally, I left with Bryan and Tom. They dropped me fairly soon, but I was just amazed I didn’t feel excessively tired, considering. I figured it was okay at this point if I couldn’t keep up with them all the way back home, because I had made it pretty far. Going into the climb of Carson Pass, I knew I was moving a little slower than the day before, but I was happy to be there. Eventually I did see Tom and Bryan, so I knew they were not too far up ahead. I could feel the sun’s higher intensity, and since Luther Pass, I could feel the thinner concentration of oxygen in the air. I pedaled steadily on. The scenery was amazing. Water continued to be a dominant feature on the landscape, creating small cateracts and streams on the valley surface.

Traffic was not bad here, though it increased as I climbed higher toward the pass. Like other climbs on this route, there were no steep grades, but it was just relentless. As I was climbing, it didn’t look like it should be that much work, but it sure was! Perhaps that was because of the strong headwind. Oh yeah, did I mention the wind? Uggghhh that was tough! I remember thinking it was exactly like it feels when you ride around the pylons of the Golden Gate Bridge–when you turn the corner to face a gust full force. But this was a wind of that force, throughout a 1500 ft climb for 6 miles! As I neared a left curve around the mountainside, I just had to stop and pull over for a moment to catch my breath. I had been using my novelty gear (John calls it the bailout gear)–the lowest gear available, but was still just too exhausted to continue. There were some hikers who had parked there, and normally I would have chatted with them, but I just couldn’t. It didn’t take too long before I was moving again, though, and just as I made it up to the left curve around the mountain, the headwind abruptly and radically changed direction, pushing me as if someone had given me a shove from behind! Mountain weather! That was as unexpected as it was welcome. The other unexpected and welcome thing was the sign indicating Carson Pass–the summit! I could hardly believe it. I felt a strong mix of emotions: excitement, relief, exhaustion… I looked to the left and saw a small parking lot. An SFR volunteer was there with a minivan, and my friends were there too! Wow. AND! A ranger station, and you know what that means: patches!!

I pedaled every inch

I pedaled every inch

I went into the ranger station and talked to a lady working there who said her husband is a randonneur! She asked me how many other women were on the ride. (I think there were 5 others, out of 27 starters). She said she does ultra hiking and backpacking. It was so great to finish that climb and find someone who kind of knew what we were all doing. While I talked to her I started to realize how tired I was, though. I felt myself slowing down. Which to me meant it was time to move on. I had encouraged Bryan and Metin to ride on when I arrived at the summit, but Tom had stayed with me, and he was out sitting in the luscious bucket seat of Volunteer Mike’s ultra-comfy van.

Tom, my bike, Volunteer Mike

Tom, my bike, Volunteer Mike (thanks Mike!!!)

I sat inside the van for a little while after getting my patch, eating some of the great snacks there. Normally when I do a big climb, I consider the descent as the resting period, but Carson was different apparently. Finally I felt I could go, and Tom came too. The descent was long and the pavement was smooth. Like the other descents on this route, I never felt like I had picked up too much speed. It was all really fun. At one point, I passed by a lake covered in chunks of ice–still, in June! This was Caples Lake, as I was told by ancien Mark B who took some photos of it:

Caples Lake

Caples Lake

caples2We still had some climbing to do, Carson Spur and one other pass. The scenery continued to amaze me as I passed through climbs and descents.

Beauty of a day

Beauty of a day

Tom and I stayed together through this section of mostly descending, though there were several small bumps in there too. It felt like a massive roller coaster ride, the beauty of the mountains, the forests, the unbelievable amount of snow cover. I think the thin mountain air was probably getting to me too. At some point we passed by Ham’s station, which our group had roundly decided not to visit when we found out they had refused service to a black person. A couple miles later, Tom pulled over for a nature break and to adjust layers. We talked about stopping at Cook’s station, a few miles down the road. Not too much further, we saw a sign for Cook’s, and Bryan’s and Metin’s bikes were out front! Yay!

mmmmCook's

mmmmCook’s

Even better was when we walked in and there were two plates next to them on the table with burgers and fries on them! Did I die and go to heaven?? Bryan had already ordered food for us, what an extraordinary act of thoughtfulness. They had already finished eating, but they patiently waited for us, then took care of putting on more sunscreen and washing up etc. A few other riders came in, once again making me impressed at how close we all were on the course.

I can’t say enough good things about Cook’s. They were so nice to us, and the food was super! They refilled my water bottles, kindly rinsing them out as well. I guess it’s a stopping point for bike campers, because Bryan said he saw one arriving while he was eating, and he decided to stay there for the night (they have space for pitching tents out back).

Cool mugs at Cook's

Cool mugs at Cook’s

When we left Cook’s, I felt totally refreshed and excited. I didn’t even know there was more to be excited about shortly!

The four of us left together from Cook’s and before long met the turnoff for Shake Ridge Road. There were signs indicating Road Closed and a big barricade: practically an open invitation to us veterans of the SFR Adventure Series. It turned out the road had few hazards other than the soft pine needles that had accumulated while the road was closed to cars. What an amazing find, though! No pics, since it was a smooth, fast, well shaded descent where I needed to pay attention to the road surface. There had to be some reason why it was closed… (there was a washout where the road was down to one lane) We passed a nice, friendly older couple walking their dog who smiled and waved at us. I was in bike heaven (again)!

Flatter part of Shake Ridge

Flatter part of Shake Ridge

I was reminded of the riddle, How can you tell a happy cyclist? By the flies in their teeth! Ha. Anyway, Shake Ridge did come to an end and gave way to Ram’s Horn Grade, a twisty descent faintly reminiscent of the shape of a ram’s horn. Then there was the comparatively flat Sutter Creek, which ran next to a lovely creek. We passed through some cute towns where we considered pausing for a snack or beverage, but the riding was so fun, and I think we just wanted to keep the momentum going, so we didn’t stop. The big highway descents had been fun, but I was happy to be on local roads again, traveling through smaller towns that had a lot of character. This route just kept on giving, and there were several more sections of beautiful roads to come. One of those was Amador/Turner/New Chicago, a set of rough farm roads where I felt so at home…

Wheee

Wheee

more and more beautiful

more and more beautiful

some stream crossings (not pictured)

some stream crossings (not pictured)

...and steep parts

…and steep parts

kindly waiting for us

kindly waiting for us

After the info control at the junction of CA-16 and CA-49, we had to turn around to the south toward the town of Ione. I had not realized what a great tailwind we had been enjoying until we had to turn around. That was pretty tough! But at that point, we had collected another rider, so we had a group of five of us to work a paceline. Bryan even counted the mile markers, and rang his bell when it was time to switch. This spirit of collectively taking on the headwind made the entire remainder of the ride much more doable, all the way back to Pleasanton. I was so grateful to ride with this group.

We arrived in Ione, where Volunteer J.T. had parked outside a gas station. We decided to make a brief stop just for some snacks and beverages. Unsure of what I wanted but feeling very hungry, I bought a bunch of stuff I did not end up being able to eat in a reasonable amount of time… ah well. While I was chewing, I noticed there were some chickens outside the gas station, pecking around our bikes. We were informed we could buy them if we wanted.

Chickens for sale!

Chickens for sale!

After Ione was Lake Amador, then the Pardee Reservoir, and the Camanche Reservoir–all gorgeous nature reserve lands that went on for miles. I felt pretty good after eating a bite in Ione, but Bryan all of a sudden was on fire! I want to know what was in the food he ate in Ione… Even Metin noted that the pace had taken a significant upswing. It was a lot faster, but strangely doable, and I thought it would be a good thing to knock out some mileage. It actually felt great to know we were all riding so well at this late time on the third day. The terrain reminded me a lot of the driftless region of Wisconsin, and even some areas of eastern Wisconsin with which I was so familiar: lots of rollers, very steep at times but never too long, sweeping golden farmland as far as you could see. More, though completely different, eye-popping beauty.

Before long, we were starting to look for the penultimate control, which was to be at a rural intersection. A little before we expected to see it though, we saw a telltale minivan by the side of a different intersection, with Eric’s van parked nearby.

Incredible Volunteers!

Incredible Volunteers!

This control was run by Julie N and her family. She also had a camp stove and lots of food to choose from. I was still in hammer-mode, and I couldn’t really fathom stopping to eat, so unfortunately even though we had plenty of time, I didn’t eat too much here. I should have considered eating more, because it negatively affected my mood later, but nevertheless I was so honored to meet Julie. All of the volunteers for this ride had long histories with randonneuring and other long distance rides, and Julie is no exception. I guess that is why someone would want to spend an entire weekend hanging out for hours by the roadside, bringing just the right snacks, even on a ride with only 27 starters. It is kind of an amazing experience to receive hospitality from someone who really knows what you need right then. Eric was there, too, and it was also heartwarming to think that he had probably spent every waking moment the entire 75 hours of this brevet making sure we were all ok, driving his camper to various locations where we would be passing by or where a control needed to be.

When we left, we only had about 75 miles left in the whole ride. That is about the distance of a populaire. hardly worth discussing for most of us, but after all the riding we’d done that day and the two preceding, not insignificant. After Julie’s control, we would be moving into suburban Modesto: Manteca, Tracy, then finally Livermore and Pleasanton. I had been anticipating it to be pretty icky, and a lot of it was, but I had anticipated this stretch to be much longer, so I was pleasantly surprised about that. I started to bonk pretty badly somewhere between Eugene and Manteca… we won’t go into that… but we ended up in Manteca thankfully before the In n Out Burger closed. I desperately wanted to sit down, nap for a little bit, and have something to eat. What I ate didn’t sit too well with me, but the nap did me well, and I hung on with the group until we got to Altamont Pass. I think the hardest part about this stretch was riding next to Tom when he pointed far, far off into the distance at the red lights up on Altamont Pass, and said, “Hey, why don’t we ride there?” It just seemed so impossibly far. But we made it, eventually. I dropped back while climbing the pass, but had a peaceful time under the moon and stars and, uh, more wind. Climbing into the wind again?! So much about this day had been squarely beyond belief, so much beauty and placid countryside, thick forests, wide grassy valleys, and even snow and ice! I just didn’t know what to think about all the places I’d ridden, even in the past 24 hours, much less 72. I couldn’t get too upset about the wind, I just put my head down and pedaled through it as best I could.

We finally made it to the finish control at 4:20 am, making a finish time of 71:20. Volunteer Brian had an awesome spread of delicious food laid out for us. I was so hungry at that point, I just gobbled up anything and everything in front of me. I had thought I would be finishing the ride much closer to the control close time of 8 am, which was when BART opened, so without BART being open, I wasn’t sure how to get home. We discussed sharing a cab, but with so many bikes it didn’t seem feasible. I asked the volunteers if I could take a nap in one of the volunteer rooms until 7 or so, and they said it would be ok, so I had a delicious nap for a few hours, and then took BART home.

Epilogue

This was an excellent route for a first 1000k.The pacing made it feel doable, since it was relatively easy to get to each overnight control within a normal sleeping timeframe. The first day was mostly flat and with a tailwind–easy enough for me to get myself into trouble, or so I thought. But in spite of all the climbing on the second day, we still got to the hotel in South Lake Tahoe by 10-ish. The tradeoff came on the last day, which was much longer, since we rode straight through for almost 24 hours. I only took one 10 minute nap at the In n Out in Manteca. It was a tough slog at the end, into a headwind besides. It was helpful to be in a group at that time and rotate through a paceline.

I owe my finishing it completely to my rando compadres Tom H, Bryan C, Steve H, Metin U, and Gavin B, though mostly Tom and Bryan, since we rode all three days together. Having good friends to ride with really made all the difference in this long ride that had a few unpredictable moments. I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the volunteers, home (John G) and away, who all put an extraordinary amount of time and energy into making this brevet a success. I normally don’t like the idea of follow cars or sag wagons, but it was a huge boost, especially on the third day, to see volunteers along the route with water, food, and encouragement. Eric was so wonderful as well, mysteriously appearing at the roadsides from time to time with his cool Westfalia camper, Arthur the dog always within shouting distance. Those unforgettable breakfast sandwiches on the third day… Eric’s ability to respond to conditions as they were happening was brilliant, and gave us the sense we were on a true adventure. Sweetheart John helped in some very tangible ways as well; he gave me the initial idea I could do it, he was there at every overnight control (yes, it was his job to be there anyway), and oh yeah, he loaned me his most precious Wonder Bike (how is it I am dating someone with whom I can swap bikes anyway?? I guess I am just the luckiest girlfriend ever). Some things I need to work on for longer rides: more training in advance, more eating along the way, maybe more ensure, being more organized at controls, especially the overnight ones. Less time faffing around means more time sleeping. Sometimes it can’t be helped, because of fatigue, but I do want to work on that.

But overall, this ride reminded me of so many things I love about long-distance bike rides. They are a great way for me to get out of my tiny studio and explore the world. There’s so much out there I’ve never seen or considered. I had no idea how much variation there was in the geographical and geological forms in the areas around this route. Experiencing the landscape on a bike is such a great way to do it (and I don’t have a car anyway). Bikes are quiet, and you can see 360 degrees of sky, land, water, whatever Mother Nature presents. It is a truly grounding experience. It was crazy to see how many different types of terrain there could be in a single ride. We were so far away from our homes, all completely human powered. I guess one could see the same terrain on a longer bike tour as well, but that requires taking off much more time from work. It is exhausting to do this kind of distance in the short time we have available as randonneurs, but in the case of this ride, it was also exhilarating for me to discover I could actually accomplish it! I look forward to the next one. If and when that happens, you’ll surely read about it here on mmmmbike!

 

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Los Milagros del Fleche

This year’s NorCal Fleche Velocio was a terrific experience. Lots of the typical ups and downs of any rando ride, a few surprises here and there (mostly pleasant), and beer and delicious breakfast at the finish! We encountered so many milagros along the way: the miracle of spring was evident on the hillsides and in the ditches; rain has returned and the countryside is loving it! It also seemed there were more baby farm animals than last year. Growth, rebirth, and multiplication were everywhere.  We even saw some jackrabbits hopping around (and some, sadly, no longer hopping around), just to give it the true Easter flavor.

I love to visit Madera, our start location, because it is so different from the bay area. It feels like a border town and has many many more Spanish speakers per capita. I miss my old Mexican neighborhood of Chicago, so I feel right at home in Madera.

01MaderaStorefront

One of my favorite storefronts on the strip

It is definitely a working class town where the day starts and ends early. Not too much going on in downtown Madera on a Friday night other than a few souped-up low-riders patrolling the strip. There is a thrift store on the strip that we went to last year, and we had fun checking it out this year too. We ate dinner at Maya, a restaurant we missed last year unfortunately, but was tasty and had great local beer.

Our team all turned in early the night before the ride. I slept fitfully, never stressed, but it took me an uncharacteristically long time to get to sleep, and I woke up numerous times throughout the night. Captain also woke up throughout the night, hearing Teammate Russ coughing more each time… uh oh… We all woke up on time, at which point Russ made the sad announcement that he would not be joining us for the ride. He said he felt feverish, achey, and had a bad cough, and that’s all I needed to wish him a safe trip back home on Amtrak. He obviously felt very bad about it, but he had given it a try by coming out to Madera with us, and unfortunately was only able to continue the ride with us in spirit. Ah well.

We had only started out with four on our team. Now down to three (the minimum required to receive credit), we started out for the Black Bear Diner, our start control. I usually don’t have a big diner breakfast before the start of a brevet, so this was nice. We had plenty of time to eat, fill our water bottles, and take care of other morning business (such as the important task of conveying the news of the loss of one teammate on Instaspam) before saddling up.

Our new route is easier than our old route through Eureka Canyon and San Juan Bautista, still beautiful, and one sweet perk is that we never have been buzzed by impatient or inattentive or hostile drivers. No matter how big the jacked-up 4×4 pickup, they all swerved way over when they passed, and some even waved at us! Two guys driving tractors out in the fields wildly pumped their arms like they were riding a bicycle and shouted “Andale, andale!!” Velocia and I also tried to get some of the semi truck drivers to honk their horns at us, and 3 out of 3 did! Such childish pleasures, but there you go. Hey, it’s Easter (almost), and we were on a bike ride far from home, so we all felt unfettered and fancy-free. This is one of the great things about team rides, especially when the team all know each other well.

And yes, there were occasional semi trucks out there! This is the heart of large-scale farming, the Central Valley of California. If you ever wondered how it is possible that millions of people can be fed by stuff sticking out of the ground periodically, kind of a milagro in itself, you should visit this area. We passed a farm growing grapes for wine production, we passed acres of leafy greens of some kind (broccoli?), almond orchards, fields of oats and winter wheat, and even a gin-producing facility. We also saw a small airfield for crop dusters… thankfully not spraying anything the day we rode through. Just one of the many ways cycling can be good for your health sometimes, sometimes not so much. I do enjoy seeing the hand lettered signs in Marin County saying “Organic Farm No Spray”.

After an easy warmup though the flat, friendly farm roads, we got to Foster’s Freeze for a malty pause before entering Panoche Road. Last year, Panoche was very very hot and sunny, so it was great to have a little ice cream shake before the hot part. Captain almost deleted this stop but I insisted on retaining it. When we got there, we were slightly ahead of schedule, so we got to relax going into our favorite part of the ride.

02LosPhotogs

Los Photogs

03TeamPhoto

Team Photo! V had just been to New Zealand and was sporting her epic suncreen, much needed today!

04PanocheRoad

Panoche Road is greener than last year. Trail conditions were excellent, very few ruts and the dust was not bad

05SanBenitoCty

Captain took the County Limit sign, right at the top of a steep pitch

06StreamCrossing

Stream crossing! We’re feeling Epic!

07Goats

Goats on a farm, many in the shade today

08PanocheInn

(Where) is Panoche? We’d been hungering for this, our lunch spot… I was captivated by this sage message about being self employed.

09PanochePass

My riding companions had both indulged in 2 beers at lunch, so I snuck ahead and pulled through to take Panoche Pass! Yeah!!!!

10PanocheRoadPaved

After the descent from Panoche Pass Summit, we enjoyed a seemingly endless (in a good way) stretch of road just like this. Nary a car nor cloud nor climb, not even a cow out here. Rando heaven. If you like that sort of thing.

11Aromas

The lake/swamp near Aromas is totally still, not to mention full… sun is almost gone for the day

12Aromitas

Last picture before the sun goes down, the beautiful valley on Aromitas Road

The ride through the Watsonville area, coastal communities, and up through Aptos (Hi Cousin Lise!) to Santa Cruz was pleasantly quiet, with the stars and the moon to guide us. At Jeffery’s, our Santa Cruz control, we were somewhat expecting or hoping to see a couple other Fleche teams come in, but nada for us. Hmmmm my phone was too low on battery to check if any other teams were posting their status. Last year we saw 3 other teams at Jeffery’s. I guess it was nice that Jeffery’s was quieter this year since I was making a serious attempt at napping, but it didn’t work anyway.

When we leave Santa Cruz, we have about 85 miles, almost all on Highway One, all in the dark, and usually with a light tailwind. Unfortunately for us this year, the weather roll of the dice gave us a strongish headwind and light rain… yes, more rainy riding for me. Sure the wildflowers are nice but can’t it rain some other time, like when I’m inside… and where is that rain jacket I left at home because there was no rain in the forecast? Hm. Well, nothing to do but pedal through it. I did not feel too fatigued, but around 4 to 5 in the morning I sure was feeling sleepy. The sleep demon would not be denied. It was just the three of us on our team, although we did periodically run into members of Rob’s team, who seemed to be suffering from multiple instances and types of mechanical issues. At least it was something happening, and it periodically woke me up from my drowsiness. I remember trying to keep a safe distance from my teammates, since I kept nodding off and was worried I would crash them. I think the wise thing to do at this point might have been to stop and try to ditchnap, although in the rain I’m not sure how that would have worked. As it was, I took advantage of the cushy nature of my sweet sweet Eroica tires that would sort of hop and wake me up when I steered into the fogline. Bizarro coping mechanism perhaps, but I got through it without crashing. Probably somewhat due to my sleepiness and thus lower speed, we didn’t have much time to spend at our penultimate control in Pacifica, which is fine I guess now that the Denny’s is gone and all we have is the cold, cold floor of the Safeway entrance to sleep on. At that point, I woke up and smelled the coffee, and we practically ghost pedaled the way back from there. I will never forget the view of Mount Tam from the southern corner of the Great Highway! It was so misty and all shades of pastel in the reluctant sunrise. We did not have a whole lot of time left on the clock, but at that point I realized the ride was almost over, with a mixture of sadness and anticipation for my pint of beer at the finish. It had been a long 24 hours.

13RandosReward

I never drink on a ride until it’s over… This beer was soooo tasty

14CrepesOnCole

Fellow teams enjoying their breakfast at Crepes on Cole after volunteers take care of our brevet cards and valet park our bikes for us. Volunteers (not pictured) are AWESOME!!!!!

15CrepesOnCole

Happy Easter

Milagros in Mexican culture are little silver or tin tokens used for praying for curing ills of all kinds: you can see some here. One of my teammates had a sort of milagro in her handlebar bag… you can see her randonneur version here. It was definitely a lucky-socks-fueled miracle we finished within the time limit, given the horribly annoying wind and rain in the last stretch on highway 1. Also a miracle I was able to keep my bike upright from 4-5 am when I was so tired and drowsy. Since then I resolved to work on my public napping skills. I’ve always felt like sleeping in public is just not normal, but I guess randonneuring has tested the limits of normal in so many ways, why not one more? I know I’ll have to figure this out somehow as the longest rides of the year still lie ahead… oh–was that a pun? Ha. I need to come up with some good jokes too, to keep me awake in those wee hours of the 400k and 600k… If I come up with any good ones, you may see them here on mmmmbike!

Another R1: Pierce Point 200k

The season opener for SFR brevets this year began with a beautiful and dramatic corkscrew dive by a pelican (white or brown, I couldn’t tell) about 40 feet above the water surface at the waterfront in Sausalito as I passed through early in the morning along with 92 other intrepid randos on January 30, 2016. Whew, that was breathtaking! The Brevet Wildlife Report for this ride is filled with two-, four-, and zero-legged creatures, some seen, some only heard, but the first one (the pelican) was the best! I think it bodes well for this year, let’s hope anyway!

I must admit I was not totally sold on this route based on my experiences last year. Losing the Light House route was traumatic, and adding more mileage to the out-and-back on highway one was not appealing. The traffic on the highway was busy last year to say the least. But I am pretty loyal to my home rando club, the season opener cannot be denied or shied away from, and heck I might as well since it’s time to start another R-12 if I wanna be like Willy N.

Another de-motivating factor popped up the week before the ride: I got a mysterious and painful earache, making me wonder whether doing this ride is quite sensible. But I made my preparations either out of habit or who knows why; you just have to get out there and try your best. I often think about PBP stories I have read in which the rider is 2 days away from the ride they’ve been dreaming of and planning for in some cases for years… and the rider has something go wrong with their bike, or some random slip and fall happens, or a bad case of jet lag leads to catching the flu or something. Although I obviously don’t have as much invested in the garden variety SFR brevet, I do cherish each ride, since you never know when you truly cannot go out there.

And I was well rewarded for my attempts to get out there! The day was gorgeous, the beauty of Point Reyes National Seashore was ravishing, I got to spend a good amount of time riding with friends but also some peaceful time on my own, and because of the two out-and-back legs of the route, I got to wave at all the riders passing by. Just perfect for a season opener! The route is definitely growing on me. Though I still miss going to the Light House, this route has far fewer cattle grates, an advantage which can’t be denied. My earache pretty much disappeared, confirming my belief that randonneuring is the cause and the cure of all my physical challenges.

As for the wildlife of note, I got to see the Tule Elk this year! One perk of the Pierce Point route is that it passes through the Tule Elk refuge. Just scanning over the Wikipedia page for Tule Elk, I felt fortunate to see the healthy populations of this species once thought to be extinct. Another wildlife sighting was less exhilerating but still unusual: a big, fat banana slug in the middle of the shoulder on White’s Hill outbound. I was just amazed that no one had run it over! Haven’t seen one of those in a while, but I guess because of the increase in wet weather, probably something I’ll see more of. Another great wildlife non-sighting was hearing frogs throughout Inverness. They were singing their little guts out! And finally, in addition to the diving pelican on the waterfront in Sausalito, I saw a seal in the water there as well as a lovely Western Grebe, a bird of the loon family native to my birthplace in Wisconsin.

And finally, for some pictures!

The bends

The bends

MOSS

Thick coatings of moss and/or lichens coated everything in sight! It was like someone sprayed green foam all over the trees, ground, concrete

If you lived here, you'd be home now

If you lived here, you’d be home now

Wetlands

Wetlands near Inverness

Marshes

Marshes

Pierce Point Road

Pierce Point Road is steep

Ocean View

Ahhh the ocean!

Top of the climb

The Road Below

Pierce Point Cows

Happy, shaggy cows

Tomales Bay

Tomales Bay

Pierce Point Control

Peace and Serenity (and Lisa’s Cookies!) at Pierce Point Control

Tule Elk

Once thought to be extinct, Tule Elk are now protected on Point Reyes and a handful of other locations in California

The Golden Gate

Passing back through the Golden Gate

2014 Davis Dart: Delta Montagnards Ride Again!

This has been a tough year for the ol’ mmmmbike. Lots of bad karma coming back to me for whatever horrible things I’ve done lately have made me want to wash 2014 down the toilet asap. No time for bike riding and work, work, work is all I get. I’d like to say things are slowly getting back on track now (at least I have time to update my bike blog!) but I don’t want to jinx myself, so let’s just say I feel lucky anytime I can get on my bike for a casual 200K (plus or minus a few special K’s) with some very nice people.

That was exactly what I had in mind for the Davis Dart this year, and it did not disappoint. We did the same route as last year, with the same team mates and the same controls. We even had the same captain, though now he’s calling himself Capitain Jacques Zut-Alors or something… And he came up with a new team name this year: the Delta Montagnards. A perfect expression of the route, since we ride over high climbs and then ride along the delta to Sacramento. And since it seems impossible to be a mountaineer of a delta, we know we don’t have to take ourselves too seriously. Capitain Zutalors promised us a 13.5 hour program teaching us “French for Randonneurs: How to Slowly and Loudly Pronounce English so the French Can Understand You at PBP Next Year”. Well, then at least he might not tell us his UFO story again! (Actually, he was just saving it for the train ride home. Gah!)

One great thing about this ride was that the route started in downtown Oakland, about a ten-minute ride from my new home and WHQ of Book Island Inc.

Broadway, now with bike lanes all the way!

Broadway, now with bike lanes all the way through!

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Brilliant red fall colors near Lake Merritt

 

Moving to Oakland has afforded me many perks: no more junkie-homeless-hooker-mentally ill people hiding from the cops on my block (!), no more construction dust from the continual conversion of all available space to $4000+/month apartments, and the Oakland hills are always in view, with their attendant greenery fair to see. There are five independent book stores within two blocks of my new place, a yarn store, a family ice cream parlour, and a corner two-screen movie theater, not to mention that Montano Velo is now my LBS. Not too shabby! And many randos live nearby, rando-pal and fellow Pelicanist Bryan C. probably closest.

Having lived in the bay area for only five years or so, and most of it in San Francisco, I haven’t explored the beautiful riding opportunities in Oakland and points east. The Delta Montagnards route has more significance for me this year now that I’m living here, so I pay more attention this time as we ride past the Chabot Space & Science Center and through Joaquin Miller Park.

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Views starting to appear on Butters

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Skyline is not too trafficky at this hour

Top of Pinehurst

Top of Pinehurst

We ride eastward, taking Pinehurst. We cross Redwood Creek, Indian Creek, and Moraga Creek. Lots of water-crossing today! Our first control is at the Safeway in Moraga. I take a bathroom break (I don’t need to go that badly, but there are not always chances to use a real bathroom on these rides) and make the unpleasant discovery that I have entered my moon cycle, as some might say…drat. I lose about 20 minutes purchasing some feminine hygiene products and dealing with all that crap, and we finally get on the move again. Then Andrea has to go too, so we meet her at the bike trail head over yonder from the Safeway.

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The whole paintbox

We traverse lots of multi-use paths from here to Black Diamonds, which is really wonderful. Lots of people are out jogging, walking their dogs, and walking with friends and companions. It is chilly, but sunnier than I remember last year. I am wearing all the extra clothes I brought, but wish I had my mittens. No worry, though, for before too long it starts to warm up, and we are climbing.

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It is going to be a beautiful day!

We take the Iron Horse Trail and Ygnacio Valley Road  to get to Black Diamond Mines Regional Park, a member of the East Bay Regional Park System. The oak trees are wiry, the trail surface is in great condition, and I’m feeling pretty ok. Last year the grade of the trail was a surprise and I just walked a bunch of it. This year I rode all of the first part, though now I look at the ridewithgps page and it shows some of the grade is 12-14%?!? Could that be right?? I did ride this part, but I was far behind my teammates, I think. This is such a unique trail and I like it a lot, but I still need to work up to it. It would be great to explore more of the trails in this park, since the part we ride is such a small percentage of the trails here. We have a descent, then some more climbing, some of it also at 13% or so… I have definitely taken off all my extra layers by now… It sure is beautiful up at the top, though, and you can see for many, many miles. It is a clear day with lots of sun and lovely crisp autumn air. The rains from several days ago must have improved the trail, because the surface is much more smooth than last year’s deep ruts. Hardly any other people are here, at least on this side of the hill. After we start descending we encounter a group of smiling, good-natured young hikers.

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Familiar

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Quercuses…or Quercae???

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Andrea is happy in Black Diamonds!

At the trailhead on the other side of the park, we exit and start rolling over the silky smooth blacktop road out of the park. There is a momma goat with an awkward little kid in the middle of the road. We slow down, and an oncoming car sees us and slows down too. We all watch as the the two goats clamber out of the road and back onto the farm.

It is now time for lunch! We speed out of the park and say, “Till next time, beautiful and difficult trail!,” heading for our lunch stop at the Pho place in Brentwood.

mmmm

mmmm

It is marvelous, just like last year. In fact, the salted lemonade is better and I think I could drink two. I am amazed at Capitain Zut-alors’s ability to find a place like this, truly a golden noodle in a haystack of inedible junk food. But seriously, it is also kind of an art form to cobble together a 200k ride from various pieces and segments one might want to ride on. This ride has some fantastic segments all in need of connectors, something I would not have been able to figure out! We try not to tarry too long as we are already behind schedule. Last year we made up a lot of time on the delta because of its luxurious flatness, but we may not be able to do that this year because as Subcommandante Sordo brought to our attention the week before the ride, our ferry (the Real McCoy II) is out of service! Fortunately, he found us another waterbus, the J-Mack (how do they come up with these names?). Just a couple kilometers further upstream, and we would be back in business.

Last year, riding over the Antioch bridge over the San Joaquin River was pretty scary for me; the walls on the sides of the bridge leave just enough space for a cyclist to ride on the shoulder, but there is a lot of debris in the shoulder (flat tire potential), and traffic moves fast. This year, I was prepared for that, but I was not prepared for the bottle thrown in our path from a passing pickup truck. Not cool! What was also not cool about it was that it was a bottle of Martinelli’s apple cider, one of my favorite kinds! The kind with the bottle shaped like an apple. Oh well. I have never had something thrown at me during a ride, so at least now I can check that off my list.

We had another stupid traffic incident later when another pickup was pulling out into the roadway to prepare for a turn, blocking our path and forcing us to merge into the lane of traffic. Maybe people were pissed that the Real McCoy II was out of service? Really no excuse. We certainly did not experience anything like that last year.

Finally we got to the ferry crossing. The J-Mack was much smaller than the Real McCoy II, and the operator was very nice and smiled at us. I deduced there had been other dart riders on the ferry before us. Being on the ferry made me feel completely released from the stress of being in traffic. The Sacramento River was so lovely, and so green. There were lush grasses and other plants on the riverbanks and the still surface reflected the blue sky. The soft buzzing motor pulled the ferry along its cable, simply going back and forth from one bank to the other, from that bank back. It’s a different pace of life when you depend on a ferry.

Calm and clear

Calm and clear

We disembark from the ferry and are back on our route from last year, which follows the sloughs and channels, levees and islands southwest of Sacramento. It seems more beautiful than last year; the weather this year has been much clearer, and even the suburbs looked better. We are still behind the clock, but not as much as I thought, and Capitain is happy.

Is everybody happy??

Is everybody happy??

The light wanes, and we get to the washboard-y part of the road, surprisingly coming across a car. It’s still quite pretty around the fields where some crops have been cleared, and in others there are still grape vines.

Delta Dusk

Delta Dusk

Around this point, a young hawk kept following us

Around this point, a young hawk kept following us

We arrived in Clarksburg still about 20 minutes behind schedule, and stopped outside the general store there to put our night time reflective vests etc. on and check our lights. We roll past the bikes of another dart team that is dining at a barbecue joint there, but we don’t stop until we get to the Sacramento Food Coop–our last stop.

The Coop is great like last year, but I’m feeling antsy about leaving our bikes outside in the dark, even though we amply locked them. Carlos and John are having some kind of disagreement probably stemming from having done too many Super Volunteer Series together, and I go to the washroom to run some cold water over my face. I’m pretty exhausted in spite of the many flat miles, and am looking forward to our arrival at Sudwerk, the final control. We eat our food and take off, crossing the Sacramento River for the last time that day. It is completely dark by the time we get to the bike path next to I-80, thankfully separated from Interstate traffic by a high concrete barricade and fence. We pass a dude hanging out on the path  which is sort of limited in width; he has a big overloaded grocery cart and is fussing around in the dark with something. John said later he had a green glittery helmet on, but I thought it was just a hat. Later when we were talking to another team at Sudwerk, we found out when they traversed the same path, the guy was on the ground, and one of the team nearly missed running him over! They doubled back to find out why he was on the ground. One person asked him if he needed some help, and he said, “Can you help me get my ex-wife back?”

It was terrific to see everyone at the finish at Sudwerk! The dinner was much nicer this year too. It seemed like most teams’ routes took it easy this year, no epic Davis darts.

The train ride back was great other than the aforementioned telling of the UFO story (which rousted Subcommandante Carlos out of his chair in disbelief that John was really going to tell that story yet again). We did get to talk to Eric L about his recent riding of the new 1000k Shasta Mountains SFR route. John and I had both just read his written account posted to the SFR list, and it’s a real page turner!

Thanks again to my sweetheart for another great day on the bike. I know it must take a lot of planning and expertise to put together the route, and a lot of patience to lead us all around all day! And of course, a big thanks go to the Davis crew for organizing, but my biggest thanks go to Andrea and Francisco for the ride home from the train station at the end of the night. Thanks for the lift!

 

Workers’ Ride: Two Rock/Valley Ford 200k

I had not originally intended to ride this brevet. After two years of R12s, I wanted to break the chain and focus on my first SR series, and ultimately the Santa Cruz 1000k this summer. But since I would be Volunteer Coordinator for this event, and I invited my friends to volunteer, a bunch of us ended up riding together. In the end, I am really glad I did the ride. I had always been a bit scared of workers’ rides–even though I have become a serial volunteer, I never did a workers’ ride. People who work finish controls have often been the more experienced (read: faster) randonneurs. If there’s one thing I do not enjoy on a brevet, it is struggling to keep up, so I generally stay with the brevet and ride my own pace. Lately, there have been some no-drop workers’ rides that have functioned more like a team ride, with everyone staying together regardless of pace. That is how we did this one, lucky me! It was very sweet of Mike T-G to offer to hold back from his usual rapid pace and wait for us on the longer climbs of this route. He brought his camera along and took some great shots of the beautiful landscape along the way. Mike has an awesome bike with a relatively light setup, so when it would start raining, he didn’t have anywhere to put his camera to keep it from getting wet. But no worries: we orchestrated a couple mid-ride camera pass-offs so I could stow it in my handlebar bag for him. Ah, friendonneuring!

Starting out, it is warm and misty

Starting out, it is warm and misty -photo swiped from Mike

cardamommmm knot

cardamommmm knot -photo swiped from Mike

espressooohhh woah

espressooohhh woah -photo swiped from Mike

coffee stop in San Anselmo = best thing about a workers' ride!

coffee stop in San Anselmo = best thing about a workers’ ride! -photo swiped from Mike

funnn! Thanks Mike for the picture

funnn!
Thanks Mike for the pictures!

The Two Rock route is flatter than most of the SFR routes, and much of it traverses well-known territory for SFR regulars. According to the comments on the SFR google group in the week leading up to the brevet, it has become a bit like a populaire in that seasoned riders look for additional ways to make the ride harder, just to make it interesting. One group decided to take an extra detour to Sebastopol in order to visit a gallery show by one of our members. As for me, I was aiming just to practice riding on the roads that make up some of the longer rides later in the season. This route shares sections with the 300k, the 400k, and the 600k, though not necessarily in the same direction. Not to be a total randonnerd, but it is a great feeling when wrapping up a long ride to come to a section you’ve ridden many times before. Fatigue becomes Familiarity… and that means Finish! So even though this ride is not going to count toward my SR series, it will help me with it.

One other perk that happened on this ride was I met a Girl Scout who recognized my Girl Scout pin that I keep on my handlebar bag! That was fun, and the second time that has happened on a ride. She was with her parents in the Petaluma Peet’s Coffee, our first control. I didn’t stop to talk to her for too long since we had to stay on the move, but I am always amazed anyone sees that pin since it’s kind of hidden. I got so much out of being a Girl Scout and am so thrilled to see young gals still interested in it.

Something that got me thinking while riding through the farms of Marin and Sonoma Counties was the signs you see by the roadside stating, “PROTECTED AS FARMLAND FOREVER”. What do they mean, protected by whom and from what, etc. When I got home, I looked into it just a little and found MALT. Lately there has been so much discussion about the cost of living and price of real estate in our lovely little town of San Francisco… Imagine if real estate developers had their way and divided up all the historic family farms of Marin County into gated communities or suburbs like the old proposed Marincello.

MALT_MAP_small_2013_June

Cycling would not be so fun anymore if Marincello were a town and not a trail. We are so fortunate in the bay area to have so much protected land to enjoy, and yet, it doesn’t come purely through luck. Some find the Two Rock route boring, and it’s true that it doesn’t have the challenges other routes have, but it’s still a good day out on the bike. Compared with the endless roving suburbo-power-grid of places like Chicago (where I used to live), it’s really nothing to complain about.

pretty farmland toward Petaluma

pretty farmland toward Petaluma, once again Mike’s picture

windmill

windmill -thanks again Mike for the picture

sheeps near Petaluma

sheeps near Petaluma

more sheep near Valley Ford

more sheep near Valley Ford

Taking a breather in Valley Ford

Taking a breather in Valley Ford…another great phot from Mike

Misty day along CA-1

Misty day along CA-1

We love the Marshall Store

We love the Marshall Store… taken by Ely

Unfortunately we did not all make it to the finish of the route. Ely had to call it quits as we got back toward Sir Francis Drake due to a reaction to some medication he’d been given for a bad case of poison oak. I was pretty worried about him, but we helped him find a way to a bus going back to San Francisco from Lagunitas. While he waited at the little grocery store there, he had some of their homemade beef stew, which he said was “bomber”. I worried about him getting home safely throughout the rest of my ride, but it turned out the bus he took was comfy and direct.

Mike, Jesse, and I continued on toward Fairfax and home. The heavy mist gave way to drizzle, but it never fully rained. The moisture in the air made everything seem more peaceful. I pushed hard to keep up, and only asked once for them to slow down (at least, that’s how I remember it!). We made decent time back to San Francisco where the rain had vanished, and in its place, my boyfriend appeared, eager to meet us for a beer at Rogue. Jesse ditched us, but Mike, John and I had a couple beers and gobbled down some food together. Another brevet in the bag, another rainy ride to make me feel more comfortable with riding in the rain. I almost like it now.

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R11: Delta Beach Patrol

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Twilight on the delta

California’s landscape continues to amaze me. As soon as I think California is one way or another, I see something else that completely turns me upside down. In early November I went to San Diego, and flew over the length of the coastline in the afternoon. I saw the Monterey Peninsula and the Central Coast mountains from the air. Even seeing Los Angeles that way was a total surprise. I began to feel that I could live out the entire remainder of my years never leaving California and yet always seeing new things.

One thing I’d been missing this past fall, though, was the fall colors that other areas of the country enjoy. For whatever reason, we don’t seem to get them too much in San Francisco–maybe due to greater density of coniferous trees? Eucalyptus don’t turn colors either.

Another thing I began to wonder about was whether I would ever see anything flat again. Sure there are valleys here, but mountains still loom within view. Hill, mountain, ridge, rise, peak, roller, cliff, valley, lowland, etc here are like the Sami peoples’ 180 different words for snow/ice. Maybe I was still thinking back to Old Caz, but flat bike riding was becoming a hazy, distant reflection of a memory.

Both of these concerns were answered by our route for the Davis Bike Club Dart 200k team ride. Riding through the deltas of Solano county, we saw beautiful fall colors on the deciduous trees and enjoyed flat flat flat miles across levee roads lining old local waterways. We saw lots of cool old ferries and bridges in use, and we even got to ride on a modern ferry. Many thanks to my cool boyfriend for coming up with a route that provided some balance to my year in randonneuring!

The first part of our ride did include the requisite bay area ridiculously steep climbing, just to make sure we didn’t feel too let down by a perfectly pleasant, flat ride with delightful weather.

bumpy ruts

bumpy ruts

this was not the hard part... though I did walk it anyway

this was not the hard part… though I did walk it anyway

nice view

nice view though

oak trees and good friends

oak trees and good friends

wide view

taking the long view of things

On the (new) Rivet, Andrea is pleased

On the (new) Rivet, Andrea is pleased

This was not the hard part either, though I walked here also... didn't get a good start on it

This was not the hard part either, though I walked here also… didn’t get a good start on it

We love a good doggie

We love a good doggie

Rose Hill Cemetery contains the remains of old coal miners

Rose Hill Cemetery contains the remains of old coal miners

You...!

You…!

This was through the Black Diamond Mine Regional Preserve, part of the East Bay Regional Park District. We passed a few hikers and a couple bikers on the trails there, which were deeply rutted in spots. The combination of the ruts and the pitch of the trail was a bit too much for me, not to mention my lack of prior route study, and so I dismounted for a short stretch. I had slept quite badly the night before–was that the night I got food poisoning from the Yemeni restaurant near John’s place? It might have been… Anyway, after walking a short stretch and topping off that little climb, the serious climbing began. The part after the dirt trail led into a paved trail was particularly memorable. I think we all walked for at least a part of that and got about half an hour behind schedule. The ruts on the trail going downhill felt pretty hard on my true blue bike (as always, with fenders), but it held together well. I wish I had gotten more sleep the night before, or pre-rode this part of our route to get a little practice, because it sure was pretty, and nothing like I had ever ridden on before. I would like to go back and ride it again.

Because of the rules governing randonneuring team rides, we were able to cut our losses and take a short cut out of the Black Diamond trail without losing credit for the ride. On our way out of the park we passed by a goatherd and his dog, and an isolated, very old cemetery from the days when this land was a coal mine. I’m so glad it’s not a coal mine anymore. Let’s say it together: “PUBLIC LANDS RULE.”

food

Yum! photo swiped from bonkifyoudontknowvelocio.wordpress.com without asking

Not too long after Black Diamonds is our lunch control. It is a Vietnamese family restaurant in a strip mall in Brentwood. Nothing fancy, but the ladies inside see us piling up our bikes outside and insist that we bring them into the restaurant while we dine. The food is wonderful. I got “salted lemonade” to drink, a taste explosion I may never experience again, but it was perfect mid-ride. Mmmm, that whole meal was delightful and the people working there were sooo friendly despite the inhospitable suburban drabscape outside. Good captain that he is, John filled all our water bottles while we cleaned up and he and Carlos attended to Andrea’s rear brake which was dragging on her wheel all through Black Diamonds. Yeow.

We passed over the Antioch bridge without incident though it scared the crap out of me to be so close to fast-moving traffic, and then we got to The Flat Section, which was pretty much the rest of the ride to Davis.

Flat! Whuut?

Flat! Whuut?

A Happy cyclist is a non-serious cyclist

A Happy cyclist is a non-serious cyclist

Nice old bridge, Carlos's new Magnic lights in effect

Nice old bridge, Carlos’s new Magnic lights in effect

We really scooted through lots of gorgeous scenic farmland and wineries. I found my second (tail)wind and got accused of being a Serious Cyclist… Andrea and I rode up front to devise a plan for our December R-12 installment, and that allowed Carlos and John to engage in guy-talk at the back for a while. We regroup, and John slyly shares with us that “Carlos doesn’t want us to know, but he is royalty…” I will remember this time as some of the most fun riding I’ve had all year: humming along in perfect weather, enjoying good company who is all happy to be there. What a privilege it is to do these rides; once again I feel like the luckiest person on the planet.

Approaching Sacramento, the roads become more like highways, and we go through a town with a city limit sign that John wins pretty easily. I start to switch on my city-limit-sign radar and notice a giant water tower ahead that says Sacramento. I see the Sac sign up ahead, though it is far. Too far for a lead-out? I have lost these sprints in the past trying to lead John out for too long, but this time I think I have the energy for it. I quietly downshift a bit, but John sniffs my resolve and speeds up. I match his pace and keep my eyes on his front wheel. I pedal harder and don’t let up. I pull ahead just enough to take Sacramento!!! Yessss!

Insert victory song here

Insert victory song here

Sacramento Food Co-Op, we love you!

Sacramento Food Co-Op, we love you!

Captain is happy

Captain is happy

After the food co-op where I had a fantastic turkey sandwich and John had an excellent chicken soup, we rode the short distance to Davis, part of it on the bike path next to the highway: weird, but if you need to go that way by bike, it’s nice to have that there. We saw another team along the way, we stalled a bit at a gas station in order not to arrive early, and finally arrived at Sudwerk. After some brave struggles the nature of which only a randonneur would be able to endure, we got our food and beer. With the rest of the group we hopped on the Amtrak train back to San Francisco, sitting with Angela and Steffan and their team. It was great to hear their stories from a route crafted with the purpose of visiting four swimming holes along the way, with two people who had never randonneur’d before! So cool!

Thank you, Davis Bike Club for sponsoring and spurring our adventures. Thank you team Delta Beach Patrol. And thanks to my sweetheart for the quality miles; I wish many happy returns for us both.

R10: Old Cazadero 300K

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My general goal in doing an R-12 this year was to maintain discipline and keep in shape in order to work up to a full Super Randonneur series (one each of a 200k, 300k, 400k, and 600k, all ACP-sanctioned brevets) in 2014. After riding the 400k this year, I knew that simply riding 200ks each month would not be enough to make me ready for a 600k next year, so I wanted to do something longer this fall. But when John suggested we do the Old Caz 300k permanent, I was not so sure it would be a good idea. Max, the route owner, says of this ride that one should add 30% to one’s average finishing time on the regular SFR 300k in order to get an idea of what to anticipate on Old Caz. That would put me outside the time limit by almost an hour. So, I started jogging again a few weeks before we planned to ride, and established a routine of stretching exercises in the morning. I also took care of groceries, etc. to make sure I had no reason to skip meals like I sometimes do when I’m hard at work. I also did some research on the route to see if I could figure out some goals to set for myself as far as timing for each control (ha! I am pretty naive). In studying the Old Caz route, I compared finishing times (according to the SFR website) among a sample of ten riders who finished the SFR Russian River 300k this year and the Old Cazadero 300k. John P’s results had the least variation: 15%. The greatest variation among finishers was an increase of 40%.

Old Caz is a challenging route by all accounts. There are several grinding climbs, and yet, the rewards are great: lots of natural beauty, and country roads empty of traffic. There are some dirt sections, rough pavement, and even a stream crossing. I have read numerous discussions on the SFR list about the appropriate tire size, gear etc for a ride of this nature, but I stuck to the usual plain old 700C Pelican with the same 32mm Panaracer Pasela tires I always ride. Mr. Potis rode his old standby red custom 650B Pelican.

Chileno Valley was still in the morning... We had perfectly clear weather the entire day: no clouds to obscure each and every beautiful view available

Chileno Valley was still in the morning… We had perfectly clear weather the entire day: no clouds to obscure each and every beautiful view available. Unfortunately, there was little time to stop and take lots of pictures; we needed to stay on the move to finish within the time limit.

I haven’t yet figured out what exactly makes one route more difficult than another. Some routes have similar amounts of elevation gain, but one seems much harder than another. There are several blog entries with ride reports on Old Caz, and most of them scared me into keeping up my training routine. Of course, the one that echoed through the vast caverns of my vacant mind as I rode Old Caz was this. For the most succinct and accurate description of the Old Caz route, I look to the route owner himself, here.  Most SFR brevets and permanents will have at least one or two mean climbs over a 200k, and most of the standard brevet routes try to keep us away from trafficky highways as much as possible. But Old Caz is part of the SFR Adventure Series: a group of brevets that have more strenuous routes, go to more remote places, and (wait for it…) No Safeway Controls!!!!!

I always thought the Adventure Series would be something nice to do after finishing PBP a few times. As exciting as PBP is, I’m sure there’s a certain segment of the randonneuring population that needs a new horizon. In fact, there are brave and noble randonneurs in my area who have accomplished multiple 1200ks in one year, and continue to ride afterwards, too. I have not even attempted a 600k, so what am I thinking in trying any of the Adventure Series rides? Just blind ambition, I guess. It was also very nice that John invited me to join him, and that he believed I would be able to complete the ride. I trained as hard as I could in the short time available to prove him right.

Any time I ride a route that is unfamiliar to me, it’s a bit of a gamble. I worry about getting lost, but more importantly, it’s difficult to pace oneself when you don’t know what to expect. Difficult sections are made easier for me by knowing when they’ll be over. I can eat extra food and know it will digest before a tough climb if I give myself at least 20-30 minutes. If I run out of energy in the middle of a climb, I usually just give myself indigestion by eating in the middle of it. I prepared as much as I thought possible for this one, and then, I had to resign myself to the adventure.

To pace myself, I printed out the elevation profile in addition to the cue sheet

To pace myself, I printed out the elevation profile in addition to the cue sheet

I thought it would be a great idea to carry extra water along in a platypus bladder like I use when camping, but the sealant loosened while inside my handlebar bag and turned John’s lovely Alps bag on loan to me into a little swimming pool for all my stuff. In case you ever doubt the waterproofing of plain cotton canvas duck, I’m here to tell you it holds water, yes it does. In feeling that I was packing too much stuff, I left my wool mittens at home, a decision I regretted deeply later on.

But a lot of things went right on this ride, long, slow slog that it was. Most of the controls for the Adventure Series routes are info controls–you have to answer a question about an intersection or a street sign to prove you didn’t take a shortcut. Info controls, hallelujah, are not timed, so you have a bit more leeway in your pacing. Receipt controls are timed. Jenner is a receipt control on this route which happens to follow the two main climbs: Fort Ross and Old Caz. I had been pretty sure throughout those two climbs that we wouldn’t make the Jenner control in time, but tried to keep the pace constant anyway. When we arrived in Jenner well before close, I was shocked. The next timed control was Point Reyes Station, another control I was pretty sure would cause a DNF for us, but we made that one too. I don’t think John has ever ridden this route so slowly; in the end, we finished the ride with 45 minutes still on the clock. I am currently the record-holder for the slowest finisher on this course at twenty hours and one minute. John and I kept joking throughout the ride that if we DNF’ed, I would have to do the Jittery Jaunt permanent to fulfill the October installment of my R-12… so, at least there was no Jittery Jaunt for me.

Doing this ride in October meant there would be less daylight for us while riding. Some of the later hours were the most memorable for me, such as riding around Bolinas Lagoon in the dark, and the climb out of Stinson Beach. The only sound was the surf hitting the shore, so incredibly peaceful. Motorists at that hour were more likely to be locals and gave us a wide berth on the road. Riding our usual rando bikes meant we had our nice, bright lights and of course we always wear good reflective gear.

In the final analysis, I am so glad to have done this ride, and so grateful for a patient and generous riding companion like Mr. P. When my Platypus broke open, he offered to carry a couple of my things to take some weight off during the Old Caz climb, and although we rode more at my pace than his, he never complained. I think I have finally convinced him that he is a much stronger rider than I, a point I’ve been arguing for some time now unsuccessfully, so I’m glad we’ve put that to rest.

Thank you, my friend, for a long and beautiful day on the bike

Thank you, my friend, for a long and beautiful day on the bike

I am also grateful to Max, the creator of the Adventure Series rides. To some he is a sadist, to some an evil genius; to me he just seems like a guy with an extraordinary aptitude for endurance sports who wants to enjoy greener pastures than those of the typical (though also, it must be said, not too shabby) SFR routes. To enjoy the beautiful, sweeping views, you must work for them. Being at the top of Fort Ross and looking over the coast toward Jenner and Point Reyes Seashore was like being in an airplane. Only at the top, looking down over the coastline, did I realize what I had just been doing for the past few hours.  It’s a very tangible feeling of accomplishment. At that point I also realized there is no way to fully prepare for an experience like that; you can only do the ride, and hopefully keep doing rides like it. So… ’til next time, Old Caz.