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.

R8: SCR Dart

The Santa Cruz Randonneurs’ Dart event was the highlight of my 2012 riding year. (A Dart is a 200k team event similar to a flèche, but it is shorter, and teams do not ride through the night.) The finish control dinner was held at the Tied House in Mountain View, with great food, beer, and company. It’s a large enough venue that all teams could show up at more or less the same time and all sit down together to eat, drink, and swap stories. To commemorate the occasion, the Dart organizer commissioned this poster from a fellow randonneure who also happens to be a very talented artist. IMG_0445

This year, I would be sure to participate. John had been trying to arrange a way to get several teams together on the same route, yet with slightly different start times, so we could have a big movable party along the way, but we couldn’t get enough people together for it. I thought it was a brilliant idea, one I hope someone uses sometime! But for this year, John assembled just one team, comprised of everyone from last year’s team except Heath–replaced by the creator of the above poster: Alice Stribling!

It was fun to get the chance to ride with all of them. I haven’t been able to ride with Ely or Jim too much, since both have young families. Despite Jim’s pre-ride moaning about his lack of being in shape, I was pretty impressed with how he rode.

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Jim enjoying the coast

The weather was slightly cloudy for most of the morning, though it cleared up later on the climb up Soquel-San Jose Road. We used the same route as last year, Jesse Marsh’s Coastal Cruz permanent.

Me n Capitaine Quelle Heure Est-Il at the Half Moon Bay wayside...

Me n Capitaine Quelle Heure Est-Il at the Half Moon Bay wayside… photo courtesy of Alice

Randonneuring is soo classy

Typically classy randonneur behaviours on display at Arcangeli’s. Visible in front is Alice’s war wound in her recent battle with the train tracks near Townsend Street in SF

As far as city limit sign sprints, I think John took most of them, though I do recall an intense early-morning contest for Daly City between Ely and John. For some bizarre reason, John and Ely arrived at the Pescadero sign before me but did not cross it, so I won that one. That was odd. But then I stole a really good one at Davenport from a completely unsuspecting Jim, and decided to stop and reward myself with a pint of roadside blueberries, being so far ahead and all…

ride to eat to ride to eat to ride...

ride to eat to ride to eat to ride…

There was a very unfortunate bike crash near the city limit sign: a woman had gone over the railroad tracks at the wrong angle, gotten her wheel stuck, and flipped (according to the blueberry vendors); then, unable to find assistance in Davenport, she got back on her bike to go back the way she came and tripped over the tracks a second time. Agghhh we saw her being loaded into an ambulance as we passed (she still seemed conscious), and the guys at the fruit table spilled the whole story to me as they gave me testers of the honey they were selling. Alice had just taken a dive in SF due to some misplaced railroad tracks, so I’m sure it gave her extra shivers.

The weather was even nicer than last year, a bit more sunny but about the same temperature. Typical coastline views made me think that the SCR strategy of placing most of its brevet routes along CA1 is not such a bad idea after all.

Laid back at the Ugly Mug

Laid back at the Ugly Mug

You can't take riding too seriously.

You can’t take riding too seriously… If you do, it could drive you crazy!

After leaving our old haunt The Ugly Mug cafe in Soquel, we began The Climb. This is the longest climb of the route, an elevation gain of about 1600 feet in ten miles. I started off with my team, Jim taking the lead, and Senor Captain dropping back. I just kept riding at my own pace. I caught up with Jim and we agreed to stop and catch our breath at Stetson Road, about seven miles in. Soquel-San Jose Road is shaded through most of the way, but it was a hot day. The rest of our team were nowhere to be seen, but we figured we’d all collect ourselves at the Summit Store.

Climbing pain...elevation gained.

Climbing pain…elevation gained. We heart Summit Store!

We did! It is truly all downhill from there, so we savored the beautiful downhill stretch of the Old Santa Cruz Highway. Alice, Jim, Ely, and I all took the bike handling skills classes last year, and I still constantly think about putting into practice good cornering and handling techniques. I love how my bike handles descents… like buttercream frosting. mmmm. Not too much later I got to eat some buttercream frosting at Great Bear Coffee in Los Gatos at our penultimate control.

Everybody wave!

Everybody wave!

We.enjoy.riding.bikes.

We.enjoy.riding.bikes.

When it was time to leave Great Bear, we wound our way through the odd Silicon Valley suburbs to the beautiful Mary Avenue Bike Bridge and took some glam shots of ourselves and our bikes.

Setting up the shot

Setting up the shot… the pedals must be in the correct position

Dramatic angles

Dramatic angles

Les Wotnaughts

Les Wotnaughts

We picked up some weird dude on the way to the Tied House

We picked up some weird dude on the way to the Tied House

Another biketastic California day thanks to the Santa Cruz Randonneurs. John and I got wind vests from the SCR group order to remember how happy we are they put on the summer Dart. Next year they’ll be holding the Central Coast 1000k/1200k instead. Will this be my first 1200 or 1000k? Only time and mmmmbike will tell.

Rnaught: Freestone Bread Run

Marvelous day on the bike, out in the country. Very little traffic and the best views north of the bridge I’ve seen so far. The day started out cloudy and wet, but the clouds disappeared as soon as I left Wild Flour Bakery, making for a perfect ride. All the climbing was well rewarded with beautiful views, some so breathtaking I refused to take any pictures. This was a 200k route posted by a fellow randonneur but is not registered with RUSA as a permanent, so I got no credit for doing it. I hope he registers it sometime, so I can use it for my R-12 at some point, but I know I will do it again regardless.

The objective: a loaf of bread from Wild Four Bakery in Freestone

The objective: a loaf of bread from Wild Flour Bakery in Freestone

CA-1

CA-1

CA-1 is foggy. They say that the heavy fog on the coast creates a climate much like being underwater, and looking at the stones and plants at the roadside, it's easy to imagine why.

CA-1 is foggy. They say that the heavy fog on the coast creates a climate much like being underwater, and looking at the stones and plants at the roadside, it’s easy to imagine why.

In Marshall, I take a quick break

In Marshall, I take a quick break

I loves the sheeps

I loves the sheeps

Baaa

Baaa

Cresting Middle Road

Cresting Middle Road

Looking into Sonoma County

Looking into Sonoma County

A couple in Valley Ford tell me I have a nice bike. The big plastic bag in my handlebar bag is full of roadside cherries mmmmmmm

A couple in Valley Ford pull up in a tiny hybrid car and compliment me on my bike. The big plastic bag in my handlebar bag is full of roadside cherries mmmmmmm I eat them all.

Outboard motors and abalone shells, Valley Ford, CA

Outboard motors and abalone shells, Valley Ford, CA

I am here!!! Wild Flour Bakery, Freestone, CA. I get a Gravenstein apple and toasted walnut scone-- the first Gravensteins of the season, the nice counter lady tells me. And of course, I get a loaf of bread to carry home.

I am here!!! Wild Flour Bakery, Freestone, CA. I get a Gravenstein apple and toasted walnut scone– the first Gravensteins of the season, the nice counter lady tells me. And of course, I get a loaf of bread to carry home.

A honeybee thinks my hi-viz jacket might have something for him

A honeybee thinks my hi-viz jacket might have something for him

The clouds have disappeared

The clouds have disappeared

This isn't even the top, but I can see Mount Helena

This isn’t even the top, but I can see Mount Helena

Looking southward

Looking southward

Masonic Hall in Bloomfield

Masonic Hall in Bloomfield

Chileno Valley looking beautiful today

Chileno Valley: cloud-shadows crawl over the dry grasses. The field looks vast and empty, but there are birds, bugs, and bunnies everywhere

Open sky, open land

Open sky, open land

2 cows

2 cows

Wide open expanse

Wide open expanse

First sign of civilization again offers water & restrooms, thank goodness

First sign of civilization again offers water & restrooms, thank goodness

Steeling my nerves for the urban adventure

Steeling my nerves for the urban adventure

Sun's going down on a perfect day on the bike

Sun’s going down on a perfect day on the bike

Breakfast next morning reminds me of fresh air and open spaces

Breakfast next morning reminds me of fresh air and open spaces

SFR Hopland 400k: Snack to win??

I was never brought up to eat between meals. I know that potato chips, cheetos, doritos, M&Ms, and so on are a major part of most every American’s way of life, but it just was not in the program for my family when I was growing up. My grandmother was a stubborn home cook who eschewed processed food of every type, and was suspicious of the growing tendency of people towards snacking. When I first started doing randonnees, a friend loaned me a book: Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes, which I vaguely remember had a passage encouraging endurance athletes to engage in snacking. Whaaaat?!?! Three regularly-timed square meals seemed like the axis on which the entire world spun. Well, unfortunately for me on the Hopland 400k this year, I discovered that snacking is the axis on which my axels spin, and in the future I will avoid it at my peril. That was one lesson I learned on the ride, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy myself; this route has some amazing scenery unlike the other rides I’ve done, and I got to spend most of the ride quite unexpectedly with my sweetheart– the real bonus. Not least, I successfully completed the only ride goal I had set for myself for this year.

I arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge plaza a few minutes after Rob began his pre-ride talk. I had read the info docs emailed to all riders before the ride, so I didn’t miss too much. I quickly checked in with volunteer Steve H, fresh off the flat-tire-plagued worker’s ride the week before, and decided to spend what I thought would be the last few minutes I would see my sweetheart that day standing next to him. We had decided not to ride together that day. I wanted him to enjoy riding at his own pace, and I wanted to take my first 400k slow. He had stationed himself and his gorgeous black Toei right at the entrance to the bike path over the bridge, so as soon as the RBA called time, he would ride out in front of the crowd. Randonneurs sometimes ride like a pack of lone wolves, and when confronted with a narrow passage and a crowd of us, you can never be quite sure what you’re going to get. Anyway, since I happened to be standing next to John to give him a smooch before the ride started, I ended up at the front of the pack. Somehow I held with the lead group, or maybe the second-to-lead group, all the way to Fairfax.

Dizzying array of reflectivity and tail lights' behinds; green lights ahead!

Dizzying array of reflectivity and tail lights’ behinds; green lights ahead

I got dropped on White’s Hill by Theresa L, my flèche teammate, and others, but I was pretty happy to be starting the brevet so much farther ahead than I am when I employ my usual strategy of letting most of the riders go by before starting out. I had no idea what the day would bring, and had been startled to pass John when I was riding with the fast group in Ross. Some riders advise to keep in mind the phrase “This too shall pass” while going through bad or difficult stretches in a ride. I would modify it slightly: “As ye pass, shall ye too be passed.” So, I had a feeling I would see John again. I knew I would get tired before too long and he would pass me.

We saw each other on Petaluma-Point Reyes Road, on the way to Hicks Mountain. I fell in with John’s cadence for a while, a cadence to which I’m well-accustomed by now. He wanted to take a nature break at the top. While he did, I got some snapshots of the beautiful view.

Misty morning Hicks Mountain

Misty morning Hicks Mountain

Walking back to his bike, he said, “Why don’t we ride together for a while? It might be nice to ride the whole day together–it’s going to get windy, and you can draft me.” So I did. We rode together for the entire remainder of the ride, which was fantastic. He was right; before too long, we began to encounter some massive headwinds. The winds were not as strong as the ones on the fleche outside of Salinas on the way to the Great Artichoke. They were a lot more constant, though, and persisted through the next near-hundred miles.

Bodega Bay, CA, home of The Birds

Chapter the First: Bodega Bay, CA, home of The Birds

Me 'n John at Control 1: the Bodega Country Store

Me, John, and our fashionable sunglasses at Control 1: the Bodega Country Store

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Happy cows near Joy Road

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Yes, it is called Joy Road. Another one of life’s little ironies? Well, I like a climb, so not for me

John valiantly allowed me to draft him nearly the whole duration of the rest of the day, Velocio bless him. I attempted to do my part by speeding up my necessities at controls and, um, laughing at his jokes. I also tried to ride out in front for a while, but I couldn’t keep a constant speed due to an equipment malfunction in my cyclocomputer having something to do with putting fresh batteries in it.

I did pull a little bit of the way through Westside Road, when Willy N. started drafting us.

Lookin good today, Westside!

Lookin good today, Westside!

Willy is one of the most experienced randonneurs I know, and I’ve had many pleasant exchanges with him in regard to the permanents he owns that I ride from time to time, but when he started heckling John about his mudflap and about the fact that he was riding in his shorts liners, I started to feel a bit turned off by that. Oh well. Before long, John started heckling me about the fact that I can’t take pictures backwards with my camera!

nice shot of my hair... a little out of focus

nice shot of my hair… a little out of focus

nice shot of John's handlebar bag

nice shot of John’s handlebar bag

hm, something is a bit off here

hm, something is a bit off here

OK, maybe he was right. No matter, we were not far from the most beautiful part of the ride: CA128 and Mountain House Road. Quiet and lovely.

treees! wheeee

treees! wheeee

A constant climb through moss-laden trees.

mmmmoss

mmmmoss

Shady and sweet. Lots of QT with the BF, listening to his silly jokes, but also riding quietly.

This is JP's favorite part too.

This is JP’s favorite part too.

There’s a fun descent in there, a quick stop in Cloverdale, and I know I am confusing the order of things but eventually at the top of a climb we see Hopland in a valley not too far away. I am greeted in Hopland by a table covered in a cool old handmade rug and full of well-treated spokeshaves!!!

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Oh. hello?

Spokeshaving is my favorite part of bookbinding, and although I do not need another one because mine is perfect, I’ve often pondered collecting spokeshaves for a potential class I could teach on the topic… John calls out to remind me why we are here at the Hopland Valero Gas Station, and I run over to get my slice of delicious pizza. It really was delicious. However, it was only one piece, and liquids were the only other thing I felt like downing. So I had a few kinds of juices with my pizza, and then our time at the Valero was up. I got back on my bike in somewhat of a daze, eager to begin the portion of the ride with the wind, once in our faces, instead at our backs.

And oh yes, that was a sweet, sweet tailwind. We rode with that tailwind down Highway 101, IMG_1554back through Cloverdale, IMG_1558and all the way down to Petaluma and more. What was even better was we picked up another rider on Chalk Hill Road who was so pleasant, we stuck with him all the way back to San Francisco!

Twilight in the vineyards on Chalk Hill Road

Twilight in the vineyards on Chalk Hill Road, we run into Andy from Mendocino County

Thanks Andy for being so fun. Unfortunately, my stomach had completely soured by the time night fell; I was starving, but no food seemed appealing. We even stopped at Denny’s in Petaluma and got hot coffee, milkshakes and fries (now established for me as a power meal) and I still did not feel better. I remember going to the ladies’ room at the Denny’s and catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror and feeling a little frightened. Frightened at how I looked, and frightened that there were still over 40 miles to go! I also remember sitting in the booth and watching the occasional randonneur pass by the Denny’s without stopping, and thinking, “My boyfriend is a genius for having the idea to stop here.” (The control in Petaluma is the Safeway, but at that time of night– 10:00 or so– the Safeway has no deli or soup, and even during daylight hours, no booooths.)

It was a tough shlep for me from Petaluma to San Francisco; I felt really bad about dragging behind John and Andy on that climb out of Petaluma. Usually I try to keep my spirits a bit brighter in spite of difficulty on a ride. Some random cop car slowed down next to me on the climb up Red Hill and seemed to want to make small talk about the fact there were bike riders! on the road! at night! what are we doing! and so on. I really did not feel like chatting in any way whatsoever, and thankfully he rode off. I would have to define that as the ride’s low point.

I believe Andy gave me an Ensure at some point just past Nicasio and I started to feel a little better again. There was no making up for lost calories, though, so by the time we finished I was pretty well-cooked. It is hard for me to imagine, knowing my always-inexhaustible appetite, how I could have had no appetite at the finish for any of the food they had there, but there it was: all I consumed was peppermint tea, thank Jehovah they had it. John and I snuggled for a bit in a double-wide camp chair, but eventually had to part ways.

Another long day with a lot of ups and downs… But seriously, this was an important ride for me, another milestone. Last year when I did the 300k after having done two 200k rides, I felt totally whupped, but I have done two more since then, and now I enjoy that distance very much. I was lucky that first time, in that I met a good friend (Jim G) who also gave me an Ensure around Nicasio! The week after the 400k, John and I went on a short bike tour with some friends, and for whatever reason, discovered some great snacks: pretzels, dried pineapple, and dried mango slices doused in chile powder-mmmm! Snacking is ok if it’s not junk food, right? I just hope Grandma Roz is not rolling in her grave right now.

February-March: Preparing for Flèche Norcal 2013

One of the things that attracts me to the eccentric sport of randonneuring is the odd rules governing it. Sometimes brevets seem like part bicycling, part scavenger hunt. Doing paperwork before the ride, then also afterwards, to document a ride and prove that one has completed the ride within established parameters is at best unusual in the world of sport. Timed control points throughout a route, secret controls, and rules about self-sufficiency during a ride are also unique to this particular style of bicycling. Taking this aspect to the extreme is the 24-hour Flèche Vélocio. Understanding the purpose and history of the event helps one understand the rules about routes, timing, and riding as a team. This is another thing that interests me in randonneuring: being a book conservator necessitates a respect for history, and necessitates investigation of how the practices of our forefathers and -mothers carried though the present shape our lives. Carrying on a tradition in bicycling dating back to 1947 makes one feel a part of something that is greater than oneself. The basic idea behind the flèche is that riders grouped together in small teams travel by bicycle on different routes starting from distant points, converging at the same time on a single location. In France, this location is wherever the FFCT designates the annual Easter cycling festival will be, usually somewhere in Provence; here in northern California, there is no cycling festival, so we all converge at Crepes on Cole in San Francisco for Easter brunch.

Last year I had been interested in doing the flèche, but I was too inexperienced. I had done the Russian River 300k in March and suffered through the final 50 miles or so, feeling pretty exhausted when all was ridden and done. The flèche sounded interesting, but I did not know any teams needing riders with whom I would feel well-matched. Twenty-four hours sounded like a long time to spend with a handful of people, and I didn’t want to ride with a team if it didn’t sound quite right. One year and many long rides later, I feel more ready. I am still a little scared. There is a lot of climbing on my team’s route. The forecast is for rain. My team is made of randonneurs with a lot more experience than me, so I hope I can keep up with them! One great thing about our route is that I have ridden many parts of it before, and if I need to bail, I can easily find BART or Caltrain from the first or second control.

Another great thing about the ride this year is my team! I know the captain of my team fairly well by now, I have had only good experiences with the other members so far, and look forward to getting to know everyone better over the course of this twenty-four-hour ride.

In order to feel prepared for this ride, which will be the longest I have ever done in miles as well as time spent from beginning to end, I have kept up my riding on the weekends to at least 100k each weekend, and some other form of exercise, whether running or yoga, during the week. I have started stretching every morning, too, and started eating more and sleeping more two full weeks before the event, which starts this Saturday at 7 am. Randonneuring has forced me to take much better care of myself– no more skipped meals or lost sleep. I also get my work done much faster now so I can spend more time on my bike. Spending less time at work is a huge benefit as any freelancer or small business owner knows.

In February and March, I rode the Two Rock/ Valley Ford brevet, the Sonomarin 300k permanent, and the Point Reyes Ramble permanent populaire. Two of these rides were spent entirely with a good friend, and 300k was ridden alone. An unintended bonus is that I get to keep a potential 2013 R-12 going, though that’s not my goal for this year.

The Two Rock/ Valley Ford ride was ridden with Alice Stribling, fellow Pelicanist.

Just a coupla Pelicans in Fairfax

Just a coupla Pelicans in Fairfax

Alice is an artist, illustrator, seamstress, and bike lover who has a lot of complicated interests and is constantly pushing her boundaries like me. At the end of last year, she decided to sign on to the AIDS Life Cycle ride from San Francisco to LA. There are a lot of great things about this ride, and a lot of fellow randonneurs participate. I’m sure it will be a great experience for her! As part of her preparation for that, she decided to sign up for the Two Rock/ Valley Ford 200k this past February– her first 200k! She had planned to ride with Jenny Oh Hatfield, but when Jenny didn’t show at the start (she started about 30 minutes late), Alice approached me. “I’m terrified,” she said in a low voice. “Oh! Let’s ride together,” I exclaimed. I usually don’t try to stick with any one person or group throughout a brevet, but I knew if I stuck with Alice, we’d have fun.

Wildflowers and sunshine

Wildflowers and sunshine! Happy day.

After we all pulled out of the Crissy Field parking lot, I watched the majority of riders climb the hill up to the bridge far ahead of us. “Where is everyone going?,” Alice asked. I knew this is a route on which the rando speed demons like to show their colors, and did not feel even the slightest tinge of loss in watching them climb away from us. Just a nice peaceful ride out in the country was what I wanted, and indeed that’s what we got!

Adorable baby farm animals everywhere you look

Adorable baby farm animals everywhere you look

Alice and I got to spend a lot of quality time together talking about our families, our bikes, the food we like to eat on brevets, and other stuff. It’s not often I get to hang out with her, so this ride was a special treat.

Alice makes her own bike food, and she shared some with me. Amazing.

Alice makes her own bike food, and she shared some with me. Sooo tasty.

We finished in good time, and again at the finish was Volunteur Supérieur Monsieur le Capitaineur Jean-Joseph Potiseur. John enjoys checking in riders at the finish control, and was especially cheerful today due to the ample supply of good beverages he brought and the fact that Vélocia was also hanging out at the finish. John and Vélocia gave Alice the congratulations due to her after successfully completing her first 200k, a heroic act not soon to be forgotten.

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Misty and cold in the valley

The month of March came in like a lamb (uh oh!), and though I had to teach bookbinding school on the day of the 300K SFR Russian River brevet, I had to get in a 300k before the flèche (captain says!). So, just like last September, I sent in my paperwork to do the Sonomarin permanent by myself. Unlike last September, it was a tough ride. It seemed like there was more wind somehow.

Windy out to the coast

Windy out to the coast

I had heard from the riders doing the brevet the day before that there was a lot of wind, and it was no different when I did the ride– I just didn’t have anybody to draft! Or pull, for that matter. In any case, by the time I reached Camino Alto for the home stretch, I was feeling flattened. It had been a long day with a lot of ups and downs. It was getting towards my “moon cycle”, as my yoga teacher calls it, and the mood swings that day had resembled a swinging sledgehammer on a long, thin, fraying string. I do bring my mobile telephone with me on these rides, but I switch it on airplane mode to avoid running out the battery, so when my sweetheart called me to let me know he’d be coming to meet me at the finish location, I was none the wiser. So when I was riding along the dark bike path in the Marina and heard his bell ring out and heard my name being called, I thought, “Hallelujah!!!” Wow. What a pleasant surprise! He figured out when I would be there based on what I told him my projected finish time would be, and showed up to meet me with beer and hamantaschen pastry! He seemed to think my finishing a 300k by myself was a big deal, but I thought him showing up at the finish to meet me was Most Awesome. In any case, I got my receipt from the Safeway, and we went back to his place, where he had a steaming dish of halupke waiting for me. Is there such a thing as rando-princess treatment? I now believe there is… I’m also quite glad I broke my “no dating cyclists” rule! Only a randonneur really knows what a randonneur wants at the end of a brevet.

My last ride for the month (prior to the flèche) was a 125k permanent with Jesse Marsh. Jesse is one of the first randonneurs I rode with last year, and he’s a pretty smart and fun guy to ride with. First of all, he stops at ALL stop signs. That wins big points with me, even though I’m not always as good about that as I should be. Secondly, he likes to talk about rando problem-solving, a favorite topic of mine as a person new to the sport. Making adjustments to food consumption, sleep patterns, training schedules and the like can make a huge difference to me in whether a brevet feels good or not, and they are simple, common-sense things to change that don’t require buying anything. And sharing ideas is always fun for me. So we spent a lot of the ride chatting about what works for us and what doesn’t. Awesome! Jesse, a two-time SR Series and R-12 finisher, told me this year he wants to do a P-12! P-12s are like R-12s, only half the distance each time. I think that’s a really cool idea, one that wouldn’t have occurred to me. But there are a lot of really nice Populaire-length routes out there, so why not try some of them? Spending less time on the road is a good way to keep up with your riding yet still have time for family and other obligations. Doing a full Super Randonneur series is a pretty serious time commitment, as I am learning, and it’s not something everyone can necessarily do every year. But a P-12 is certainly within reach, and I’m sure it helps one avoid burning out. So I applaud him on that one.

sutro Pelican

Dang I love my Pelican!!

Last weekend I did a little in-town jaunt up to Twin Peaks for some reps up and down, just to make sure my bike was in good working order before the flèche. I had cleaned my bike and completely cleaned my chain, so I wanted to make sure the chain was not dropping or slipping, and that the brakes would be in good shape. Everything seemed fine, and I felt great on the bike. When I got home, I laid out all the clothes and nonperishable food I wanted to bring with me, and made careful selections about what I could bring based on how things fit in my bag. I am very excited for this next chapter in my randonneuring experience. Now that a few days have passed since the weekend, I am nervous about the rain in the forecast, but I know I made the right decisions about what to bring with me: two extra pairs of gloves, wool cap, packable wool base layer, warm rain jacket, lots of reflecto stuff for riding at night, etc etc. We’ll see how it all works out. Then, two weeks later is the 400k, my sole goal for 2013. I’m sure I will learn a lot on the flèche that will help me on that ride.

I end this post with a picture taken at the start of the very first Flèche Vélocio. There were only three machines on that ride (one a tandem), the minimum size team. In spite of the rain which has already started to lightly come down, the riders all look radiant: the sincere love affair French people have with bicycling is so tangible in this photo. This is still true: even when I meet French people these days in my work, français who do not ride very often, their eyes glaze over a bit when I mention my bike, commuting by bike, any aspect of bicycling. It’s remarkable in its difference from what you get from fellow Americans about cycling: terror, dread, pity… The picture also shows something special about randonneuring that I treasure: there is no gender separation here. Women and men ride the same events together. One of the original goals of the Flèche Vélocio was to create a route that would test the boundaries of how far a person could possibly travel by bike in 24 hours. The minimum is 360 kilometers, but the original goal of the team pictured was closer to 500, according to some reports: the distance from Paris to Lyon. The ride I will be doing this weekend is not quite as ambitious… peut-être.

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