Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Blurring the line between gift and giver

When my son was younger, he seemed perplexed that while he got the whole summer off from school, I still went to work. Wait, what? Did I do that on purpose? I wondered if he thought I just didn't want to stay at home and have fun. "What the heck is up with Tato?" (Years later I now wonder how the prospect and realization of a life with a job with barely three weeks off a year doesn't make him not want to 'grow up', or more to the point secretly scares him silly, but that is a different topic).

A week out from Christmas Day, local schools were holding their last day of classes before the year end holidays and I was in that suspended state of still going to work for several more days before my much shorter holiday began. Our office was undergoing renovation on that Friday, so I was supposed to work from home for the afternoon. In short I view working from home as no treat, so instead, I arranged to take the afternoon off as a community service time (This is the first employer I've had that offers such time off instead of making you take regular vacation, and it is one of several reasons I like this company I work for (I'm in one of those photos in the link, and I'm sure you can guess which one)).

Earlier in the week, there was a request on Grizzly Peak Cyclists email list for club members to go to Verde Elementary School in North Richmond and help out with the dozen or so out of 80 used bikes from the Pleasant Hill Police and Community Center that still needed some work, in particular fixing flat tires. The bikes would later be distributed to 80 lucky students at the school. This seemed the perfect solution to the possibility of a frustrating afternoon trying to work with all the usual tools unavailable, so after exchanging a few email with my fellow club member who posted the request, the visit was set.

Turns out that my club mate is one of the Kindergarten teachers at the school, though I wasn't aware of the link to the school when I responded. Makes sense, but I'm not so sharp a lot of the time. The deal was for me to pick up a couple of inner tubes for smaller wheels and show up at noon at the school. I picked up the tubes on my ride from work over to the school. I live in Richmond, but the school's neighborhood was one I didn't think I had ever been in. (Turns out I had been near there once as the Annie's Annuals nursery on the way to the school and my wife loves that nursery.) I had been advised by someone be careful on my ride over because the area near the school was 'a little shady'. Understanding that this phrase is dependent on perspective, while my own neighborhood isn't a textbook example of prosperous, North Richmond was clearly not doing quite as well. The only discomfort I felt though was in not being familiar with the route, and worrying about missing the turns.

On it's course down from the Richmond Hills, Wildcat Creek is channelized and often disappears from the map as it travels underneath shopping centers, crosses under freeways and other major thoroughfares. The creek has been tamed but not erased by the time it passes by Verde Elementary and a small, humped bridge serves as access to the school. Most vistas present themselves best when clear skies allow for brilliant sunshine, but the school grounds really didn't need that advantage. An expanse of green spread out to the west and disused greenhouses dotted the landscape to the north. I was a few minutes early to meet my contact at the school but the wait was enjoyable as I took in this scene, back dropped by Mt. Tam across the bay, and the blue skies above broken up by cumulus clouds.

My contact arrived and I was introduced as a 'bike expert' to the students I'd be working with. They had a million questions to ask and comments to make: "How many days do you ride?" "Why does your bike only have one gear?", "You are all sweaty!" Even though it's been 30 years since I was a student teacher planning a career in eduction, I remembered that a nine year old hasn't refined the filter between what they think and what they say, and after 53 years, I've worked it out that I'm a person that perspires just thinking about heat, so I didn't mind that observation one bit. I mentally awarded full points for accuracy on the observation, and noted that it was a statement of fact, and not of disgust.

The students that I would work with had been selected by their teachers for the task and it was impossible to miss their excitement at the prospect of getting a bike. Though our goal was to pick a few bikes with flat tires to work on, each student couldn't help having their eyes drawn toward 'their' bike, and yet we were able to cull a few from the herd and roll them outside into the sunshine to work on. It hadn't dawned on me to bring more tools than I normally needed for my commute bike so we had to make do with a pair of channel lock pliers, and choosing between a fourteen inch and six inch crescent wrench. We did have a set of plastic tire levers though so really we had all we needed. By the time that the hour was over, I realized that this really wasn't so much an experience of me giving something, rather I was the recipient. Eight and nine year old attention spans are short, we know this, so it was gratifying to engage in something that really is enjoyable for me but having a bunch of kids I didn't know hanging on my instructions, listening to my advice and really focusing on the task and finally relishing the success of a brand new accomplishment. I've been jaded quite a bit by the 'Holiday' season, and this one hour turned that around and set the stage for the best holiday I've had in years.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chasing the sinking sun

California and nearly every other State ended Daylight Savings Time and reverted to Standard time this past weekend. My first chance to be affected by this change came on my commute home from work on Monday. Most of my route is along Bike Boulevards in Emeryville, or on bike or multi-use paths through Berkeley, then along the Bay Trail all the way up to Richmond. On Monday evening, it struck me that by far, most of the riders I saw that evening after the sun had set, had nothing in the way of lighting. I could not believe that so many people has simply forgotten about the time change. I thought I recalled passing ten riders, two of which had any kind of lighting.

Leaving more or less on time in the morning on Tuesday, I had nearly full daylight for my ride which I really appreciated. On the way home, I left after sunset but still somewhat within civil twilight. A mile or two into the ride and it was dark and all that time, lights were more than just a good idea. Again, I encountered riders with no lights at all, so I began to count them. By the end of my ride, ten out of the fourteen riders I passed had no lighting whatsoever and were riding in complete darkness. Of the four with lights, two had those maddening blinking front lights which strike me as being totally useless for seeing your own way, and less than adequate for letting others know where you are (with the light blinking it is difficult at best to judge the distance to the light source). Two riders had useful lighting. Though my route takes me past several places where homeless people live nearby, and also near locations where immigrants wait in hopes of getting day labor, none of the riders I saw were under privileged, under-employed or someone who had fallen through the social safety net.

Of the ten riders I passed with no lights, the last two were worth remarking upon. One fellow thought it worthwhile to yell at me. It is difficult at best to understand what someone passing you in the opposite direction is saying but it struck me that this guy thought I was doing something wrong. The last guy with no lights felt it very much worth his effort to give the stink-eye to the motorist who had quite properly stopped at a stop sign, quite properly signaled his intention to turn right, and was looking at the traffic from all directions before proceeding. WTF?!

I'm wondering why more people don't plunk the money down for even minimal lights. For < $50 you can buy a descent set of small, light, useful lights at REI. Hell, REI will mail them to you if you can't make it to one of their stores, and no doubt dozens of other retailers would do the same. Planet Bike is not the only company making better than adequate bike lighting either. Check out Cateye too, for example. Great company, great customer service. $50 is half of what my deductible was for a visit to the ER last month (for an issue unrelated to cycling), plus the trip to the store to buy the lights took me far less time than the eight hours I spent waiting for all the various treatment I got for that ER visit. On the other side of the coin, if you are a gadget freak, then where have you been? Run wild here. There are tons of lighting systems out there, some that are so bright they'll melt the bumpers of the car stopped at the stop sign ahead of you.

Unless they are all doing it behind my back, no one has been calling a a doofus or dork, or even a dweeb for having lights on my bike at night, or for carrying them around during the daylight. But then, even if they did call me names, wouldn't this say more about them than me?

So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older,
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

-- Time, from Dark side of the Moon

Monday, October 26, 2009

Countdown to R-12: ten out of twelve down

For my October 200km I was busy on the day of my club's Winters 200km brevet (I worked the ride instead) but with so many local permanents to choose from, I still had lots of options. I chose the route that started the closest to my home, RUSA Permanent #555. I happen to know quite a bit about this route, including it's genesis. Bruce Berg, the permanent owner based the route largely on a club ride with the Grizzly Peak Cyclists, the Berkeley to Davis route. I've liked this route from the first time I ever rode it with friends from the GPC, and I've always felt it had an element of adventure to it. What adds that element is that the route is not an out and back or a loop route. It's a one way route. Return is almost always by Amtrak, which when the group is big lends an opportunity for everyone to get a chance to talk to other riders that they may not have ridden near all day, or when the group is small a chance to compare notes on the day.

What sets the Berkeley to Davis permanent apart from that favorite club ride are two things: overall distance and terrain. In order to reach the minimum 200km distance an out and back leg was created where riders leave Berkeley and head mostly south to Castro Valley, and then work their way back north reaching a total of 50 miles at a point where the more direct route from Berkeley would be maybe total 10 miles. As for terrain, those extra miles are anything but flat. This changes the ride from 90+ miles to 129 miles and the latter version has 6855' of elevation gain, with 4500+ of that coming in the first 50 miles. The GPC club version of the ride is often listed as an early January century and would attract riders who like the distance but maybe have been less active over the previous month or more. After doing this route a second time (first time was in August) I'm convinced this is no mellow club ride, and under the right conditions, it can be a butt kicker.

On Saturday I met Bruce just before 7am at the original Peets on Vine in Berkeley and after scarfing a fudge brownie we rolled off toward Tunnel Avenue and the first climb of the day. The weather the day before had been very mild and with a forecast high near Davis of 79F we were expecting a pleasant day. So far the morning was proving to be just that: very pleasant. While the whole route save for the very last few miles has become very familiar to me, the first miles of this route are even more familiar. This is my cycling 'back yard'. Once reaching the top of Tunnel Road and Skyline, the route more or less follows the crest of the ridge formed by the East Bay Hills. The route alternates between residential sections and Regional Park land and finally descends toward the watershed for the Upper San Leandro reservoir. A somewhat quick stop at the Peets in Castro Valley to acquire proof of passage and we head back north on Redwood Road making our way toward the San Pablo reservoir where we'll turn northeast, aiming for the Zampa Bridge where we cross the Carquinez Strait.

By the time we've reached Vallejo, all the serious climbing is behind us, and what remains are grades more toward the gentle end of the spectrum. With Vallejo as point A, and Fairfield as point B our route is not the most direct and straight line. The area in between lacks roads and would be a series of canyons to cross. Instead we take the E Ticket ride down Lake Herman Road which culminates with a grand view of Suisun Bay and the Mothball Fleet, and from there we skirt along Interstate 680 with the wetlands that feed into Grizzly Bay on the opposite side of the freeway. The second control on the route is in Cordelia, which largely offers a selection of kwik-marts and fast food outlets. We chose the Burger King for the high calorie to dollar ratio, which comes in handy when riding for 10 hours or more, and because it had seats and tables (something lacking in the kwik-mart). The lunch did not make me feel over full, which often happens on long rides, and I was happy for this.

Even though we had long ago passed a sign announcing the city limits of Fairfield, it was quite a few miles before we were really within the city limits. What we passed before was simply marsh land that was annexed to the city for some unknown reason. The stretch from Cordelia to the outskirts of Vacaville is intermittently rural and suburban, and a good deal of it is cheek-to-jowl with Interstate 80 and as a result, pretty noisy. Pleasants Valley and the turn north bring silence and a rolling terrain with the beginnings of the Vaca Mountains immediately on our left. Bruce had ridden this permanent four weeks before and I had ridden it a bit more than two months before, and for each of us, this time was in milder weather than before. The route takes us across the west, northwest and north edge of Vacaville and quickly we are out in rolling countryside and winds from the north begin to pick up immediately. We no longer have the protection of the Vaca Mountains and our trajectory is more northward than it has been. Our goal was the 3:50pm train if we were having a great day, and the 4:55 train if we were having a good day. Estimating the distance left, the time it would take to cover that distance and the need to acquire receipts before getting train tickets leaves us with little room to play with. The first time I had covered this ground was on the SFR Davis Overnight brevet. On that ride I was trusting to luck that I could eventually catch the lead pack, or at the very least keep their tail lights in view. They had riders among them that knew the route and the area, and I did not. Traveling over that same ground now for the 3rd time this year, I had a lot more confidence in my route finding and it wouldn't be until much later in the day where I would be a little unsure and unfamiliar with the exact turns. The advantage then though would be that if on my own, I could eventually get into Davis with little trouble even if I didn't take the most efficient route. The central valley is extremely flat and Davis and the UC campus there are marked by a tall water tower. Naturally, we did make a wrong turn, heading south instead of north and we added at least two miles to our total that we didn't need to add, and worse, put ourselves about 8-10 more minutes in the hole in trying to make the 4:55 train.

Each of us were now pretty weary and pulling into the wind trying to maintain 17+ mph was draining. With about four miles to go, I began to slump noticeably and for the first time all day I was dangling well of the back of Bruce's rear wheel. I managed to regroup just as we passed under I-80 for the last time, but I could hear what I thought was the train whistle of our departing train. We still pushed on to the train station just in case, but upon arriving there we had it confirmed that we had missed the train by minutes. While we each didn't want to be on a later train, at least we had the opportunity to relax over a dinner that would be much better than what the 'dining car' would serve on Amtrak.

Having completed this ride twice now, it seems to be a 10 hour ride for most of us. We finished in 10 hours, 3 minutes compared to the August time of 10:08. My total mileage for the day once I arrived back home was 139.85 miles. My total climbing including the commute to the start, and back home from the train station was 6900'+.

Just two more to go to the R-12.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Crossing the Two Rock Valley

It's funny about all the things that can crop up to complicate a seemingly simple plan to ride ride at least one 200km a month for twelve consecutive months. My own plan began before I was aware of it, when in June of this year I realized I had a string of six consecutive months with a 200km brevet completed in each month (Jan-SFR 200km, Feb-SRCC 200km, March-SRCC 300km, April-SFR 400km, May-SFR 600km, June-SFR 230km). An ambitious plan A did not get met, and plan B had to be put into effect. August's 200km permanent came off with out much drama, but then September rolled around.

There were grand plans for high mileage for the month of September, and completing the SFR Russian River 200km was plotted for the 2nd weekend of the month. Not one, but two big obstacles arose to put the kibosh on that plan. On what was to be an easy 95 miler with a handful of fellow SFR riders, an oddly placed car stop in the parking lot near the Peets in Petaluma interrupted my ride in a painful way. The result of my forward progress being so rudely halted was two bruised knees, slightly loose front teeth from the face plant on the car stop, and worst of all, a one inch gash on my elbow that really should have gotten five stitches. I could not see the wound on my elbow and only when I reached home five hours later did I see just how bad the cut was. Using crudely fashioned butterfly stitches I did the best I could with treating the cut and dealt with the sore knees and elbow as they slowly healed. Later that same week, I ended up in the ER at Alta Bates with what later was diagnosed as EE when I could not swallow anything for about fourteen hours. (The condition is totally under control medically, but less under control financially however.)

By the time Sept. 12th rolled around, I was in no shape to complete a 125 mile ride and I spent the day and weekend on the sidelines volunteering at the start and finish of the ride and completing all the paperwork the day after. The next two weekends were already booked, the first doing the Knoxville Double Century and the next one being on-call for work. With zero weekends left open in September, the plan was now to take a day off of work and do a permanent. I chose Willy's Jittery Jaunt for the route, starting at the Marina Safeway, then going to Petaluma, then Valley Ford and then south on Highway One to Point Reyes and then returning to the City for the finish. I originally chose Sept. 29th for date just to allow one last day should the unforseeable crop up. The first segment of the plan, the route, did work but the second did not when I needed to push the ride back a day to the 30th when I had to undergo a follow up procedure that required anesthesia which would fog my head for close to 24 hours.

All the roads on this permanent route are familiar to me but I've only done this collection of roads as a single ride once before, in July. Bruce and I took just under 10 hours to complete the route that day, so I was wondering how I might manage on my own. One of the first tricks to manage was getting my first control receipt given that I had no one to watch my bike and no lock with me. Things could have gone very wrong here but they didn't as I ran inside the Marina Safeway, grabbed a banana and got in a checkout line that had a good view of my bike and wasn't far from the door. At 7:30am I was rolling out of the parking lot and headed toward the Golden Gate Bridge. The route from the Bridge through lower Marin is an entirely familiar one. The distance from Sausalito to Fairfax is roughly 15 miles, and covering it out and back will be 30 miles which leaves roughly 95 miles on any 200km and more on any other brevet for all the other distance for the full route, and yet that 30 mile section will fill up two thirds or more of the cue sheet. Despite all the turns, I've done this section so many times that I can cruise through on auto-pilot and it serves as a warm-up section. The ride really begins on White's Hill just outside of Fairfax where first the stores and businesses, then the houses disappear and the road tilts up toward the notch in the hill.

The route from Fairfax to Petaluma is made up by connecting a series of valleys that tend more toward canyons. The terrain then is influenced by the climbs up to the road cuts that make car travel possible between valleys and canyons separated by these ridges. My pace will alternate between grinding up the inclines and screaming down the backsides. The only prolonged stretch that can be called flat is the mile plus segment through Nicasio. I have trouble remembering the times I arrived at each control the last time I did the route, so I have little idea of my progress versus that last circuit when I arrive at the Peets in Petaluma. One thing I know I improve upon is my time while at each control. I'm not a gregarious person when among people I don't know so I strike up no conversations with the mid-morning crowd of regulars, but I listen to snippets of the conversations around me for the short time before I roll off toward Valley Ford. The bulk of Marin County is very hilly terrain, dominated in large part by Mount Tamalpias, and Sonoma county to the north includes some very rugged and remote terrain. Where northern Marin County meets southern Sonoma County the topography settles down a bit and the terrain is described with terms such as rolling and undulating. This interface between the two counties is very much an agricultural area and dairy farms are plentiful. Unlike the route from Fairfax to Petaluma, the leg to Valley Ford has no steep or prolonged climbs, but what it does have often is a pretty consistent wind that blows west to east. In July with company on this leg I could take a rest and follow the draft of my fellow rider, but this day I'm alone. The wind and in fact the whole day's weather seems pretty much the same as on my ride two months before. The frequency of buildings diminishes as Petaluma falls farther behind and Bodega Avenue ends where I take Valley Ford road to the northwest.

The terrain I seek out when riding tends to be rural, and like so many other places in California, this area is dotted with small communities. I often wonder why some towns grew and others didn't and why some towns even exist at all, but I often don't even notice where villages and towns once were. North of the junction of Bodega Avenue and Valley Ford Road is the village of Two Rock, California. There are no city or village limit signs to sprint for as you approach it, and in fact it is hard to distinguish Two Rock as a village from any other small cluster of farm and ranch buildings I'll pass. At one time, Two Rock was much more of a going concern and served the agricultural community located there. No doubt the much larger town of Petaluma to the east draws all the commerce now and the area was probably already in a commercial and community decline when the US Army located a top secret WWII base there, which in later years was transferred to the Coast Guard. These days, Two Rock largely exists as a Wikipedia entry, a name given to a local church, a searchable location on Google Maps, and the name of a USGS topographical map for the area, and it has been longer still since the topographical feature that lends it's name to the village was ever called Dos Piedros.

Along the way toward Valley Ford I cross into the Stemple Creek watershed, marked at first by the roadside sign near the top of a roller. I'll cross Stemple Creek itself only after visiting Valley Ford first, and when I'm southbound on Highway One where Estero de San Antonio directs the largely coastal Highway One away from the coast. Here though, Stemple Creek is actually out of sight to the south and the nearest watercourse is Americano Creek. The control in Valley Ford is the General Store, a location used on several other brevets as a control and a rest stop on numerous club rides. Stepping outside of my usual introverted character, I chat a bit with the staff in the store and when I mention that the wind was against me on my way into town, I'm told that the wind was pretty fierce the day before. Evidence of that was found in the misalignment of the porta johns out back. The General Store staff had to replace those several times the day before as they drifted eastward as a result of the wind. Southbound toward Tomales is a set of rollers much worse than any of the others in that region, and made worse no doubt by the prevailing winds. There is a payoff ahead and once I make the final run down hill into Tomales and complete the windy run down School House Creek, mentally at least I know I can handle the stretch ahead into Point Reyes Station. Partway between Tomales and Point Reyes is the town of Marshall, a favorite spot of mine and the site of the control on several of the San Francisco Randonneur's brevet routes. This day though I pass through Marshall without stopping and think of my visit to the Bovine Bakery in Point Reyes Station. The bakery is a magnet that draws nearly every cyclist that stops in town to it's door step, and there is no surprise that mine is not the only bike parked out front. A group of three riders, oozing sunshine from every pore are on their way back home after a trip to the Avenue of the Giants. I can easily tell this was a memorable trip for them just in the way they say the name of their destination.

Olema is the next town I pass through, a very small town best known for having once been thought to be the epicenter of the famous 1906 earthquake. Only highly specialized scientific equipment can measure the creep along the fault line while I pass over from the Pacific Plate to the North American Plate and I begin my climb up Bolinas Ridge. The descent down the Ridge is the last of the good pavement for a while and the detour on the bikeway through Samuel Taylor State Park keeps me off the craptastic pavement on Sir Frances Drake boulevard and away from the motorists whose impatience escalates because of that pavement. Lagunitas, then San Geronimo and finally Woodacre form clusters of habititation along the route before the climb up White's hill begins. Westbound the drop from the summit road cut is more or less straight, but east bound it is full of curves. At one time the upper section of roadway had two downhill lanes but those have been re-striped and there is now ample space for cyclists mostly away from the car traffic. Fairfax is busy at this time of day and the slowed pace is welcome for a short bit. I'm back on the leg with constant road name changes and multiple turns and these 15 miles to the Bridge always take longer than I estimate. I arrive at the bridge after the west side bike curfew has ended and most of the bicycling tourists are still on the east side of the bridge, and I relish the nearly empty path.

It is still early enough that rush hour traffic has not yet picked up and the last leg to the Marina Safeway is easily finished. Once again I'm faced with the dilemma of trying to get a receipt while by bike is left unlocked outside, but the risk is minimized by grabbing a chocolate milk in the cooler right at the checkout counter, which saves me from buying a pack of gum I wouldn't eat. Chocolate milk is heaven at this moment. My finish time for the Jittery Jaunt is 8 hours and 45 minutes, and with the ride to BART and then the trip to my house I'll have nearly 140 miles for the day. Just after leaving the Safeway though I run into Willy Nevin at Fort Mason on his way home from work. Pretty symmetrical running into the route owner minutes after finishing his permanent.

The first time did this route I wasn't wowed by it, and normally I don't like to ride long distances totally alone. On long rides I usually start out with riders and finish with others. This ride though turns out to be the longest ride I've ever done completely solo, and I've come to like this route so much that with Willy's permission I've turned this into RUSA brevet route 809 for the San Francisco Randonneurs. I've made one change, somewhat minor, in that the route returns via Nicasio instead of Olema to avoid having riders on the bad pavement in the late afternoon/early evening. We'll run this for the first time in February of 2010.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Too early to plan 2010? Heck no!

In Northern California, we brevet riders are lucky in that we have four 'local' clubs putting on brevets which gives us lots of options. There are no less than 24 brevets on the tentitive calendar, a sortable table can be seen here as well as the static one below:

Tentative 2010 Northern California Brevet Schedule
Club Date Distance Start Location
San Francisco Randonneurs 1-23-2010 200km Golden Gate Bridge
2-6-2010 200km Golden Gate Bridge
2-27-2010 300km Golden Gate Bridge
3-27-2010 400km Golden Gate Bridge
4-3-2010 360km+ Various
4-25-2010 200km San Rafael
5-22-2010 600km Golden Gate Bridge
6-12-2010 230km Rodeo, CA
7-17-2010 115km Golden Gate Bridge
10-09-2010 200km Rodeo, CA
Santa Cruz Randonneurs 6-25-2010 1000km San Jose to Oxnard
7-24-2010 200km Santa Cruz
8-7-2010 200km Santa Cruz
8-21-2010 300km Santa Cruz
9-4-2010 400km Santa Cruz
9-25-2010 600km Santa Cruz
Santa Rosa Cyclists 3-13-2010 200km Healdsburg
4-10-2010 300km Healdsburg
5-8-2010 400km Healdsburg
6-5-2010 600km Healdsburg
Davis Bike Club 3-6-2010 200km Davis
3-20-2010 300km Davis
4-17-2010 400km Davis
4-30-2010 600km Davis

There should be something for just about every rider next year, and there is a possibility that there will be more events to add (think at least a Populaire or two). Interesting aspects to the calendar are: a night time 230km, a populaire, a brand new 1000km, a fall SR series which of course includes a 600km, a Sunday 200km for those that can't make Saturday starts.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Progress report

I began this blog first as a place to record my notes on my attempt on PBP 2007 and going forward as a place to note my progress toward preparation for the 2011 version of Paris, Brest et retour. One milestone on the brevet season would be completing the Super Randonneur series of 200, 300, 400 and 600km brevets. I was able to complete that in late May when I finished the SFR Fort Bragg 600km. Not being the sharpest knife in the drawer, it took me completing the June Davis Nighttime Brevet before I realized I had a string going and another marker of progress was underway: one half of the RUSA R12 award.

HAWKS, Rob | San Francisco Randonneurs | 905030

Cert No. Type Km Date Organizing Club / ACP Code Medal
RUSA-P03830 RUSAP 114 10-03-2009 San Francisco Randonneurs / 905030 n/a
278244 ACPB 200 01-24-2009 San Francisco Randonneurs / 905030 N
279233 ACPB 200 02-28-2009 Santa Rosa Cycling Club / 905048 N
285105 ACPB 200 04-26-2009 San Francisco Randonneurs / 905030 N
287506 ACPB 200 06-13-2009 San Francisco Randonneurs / 905030 N
RUSA-T06954 RUSAT 203 07-25-2009 Jittery Jaunt 200km / 249 n/a
pending RUSAT 203 09-30-2009 Jittery Jaunt 200km / 249 n/a
RUSA-T07045 RUSAT 207 08-15-2009 Berkeley to Davis / 555 n/a
101760 ACPB 300 03-14-2009 Santa Rosa Cycling Club / 905048 N
67678 ACPB 400 04-04-2009 San Francisco Randonneurs / 905030 N
51360 ACPB 600 05-30-2009 San Francisco Randonneurs / 905030 N
Award status: Super Randonneur, RUSA 2624 km

The chart above doesn't tally a September permanent (Willy's Jittery Jaunt), finished with 8 spare hours remaining in September. Heck, I could have nearly dashed off another 200km. I'm planning on also repeating the Berkeley to Davis permanent later this month, then I'll ride the San Francisco Randonneurs' Point Reyes Lighthouse 200km in early November, and probably the Del Puerto Loop, which adds an out and back to one of my favorite Grizzly Peak Cyclists fall rides.

The chart above is also a pretty dry rendering of 2009's cycling events. What it doesn't convey of course is the experience of climbing Highway 128 toward Mountain House road north of Cloverdale in the heat of a Saturday afternoon westbound, and 12 hours later climbing it eastbound into the fog in the early morning, or chasing the taillights of the lead pack in the dark where the Central Valley flatlands transition from the undulations of the Vaca Mountains north of Vacaville. It also can't convey the experience of climbing out of the fog settled in the chilly Nicasio Valley in early April, or the return to the 100F heat on the 2009 version of the Davis Double in May. A chart can't warm you in the same way that sitting around a roaring camp fire in Paul Dimmick park on the return leg of the Fort Bragg 600km, chatting with a handful of your fellow brevet riders can, nor can a tally of miles demonstrate the dual beauty of riding with your son in the Sierra surrounded by granite themed beauty can. We use these charts and photos as triggers for those memories though, and it is a good start.

Early arrival

The Bay Area pretty much has only two seasons, each with plenty of variations, but it's really just the Rainy Season and the rest of the year. The rainy season by most estimations begins on November 1st and depending on who is defining it, runs through the end of January or sometime in April. Today's storm is therefore just a bit early.

Sometime overnight, the rain from this storm began and we can usually tell the nature of the storm by which window the rain splats against. This storm has wind and rain coming from the south-southeast and it seemed pretty mild then given the weather alerts. I got a late start out the door on my commute to work, and riding though my neighborhood the storm didn't seem all that bad. Lots of twigs and leaves on the roadways, but otherwise not much. However, as I made my way south toward Emeryville, the wind and rain began to intensify. My preferred route takes me along the Bay Trail and around the west side of Golden Gate Fields race track on Flemming Point, where the pavement runs right up to the bay shore. Climbing the hill that connects the two parking lots, I got hit full on with the rising wind and I watched with amusement as the rainwater runoff was pushing fairly large sized gravel down hill.

While there were no other cyclists on the trail, I could tell that car traffic on the adjacent Interstate was a bit higher than usual. Crossing the Berkeley Bike Bridge with the wind rising even more, I got to feel the wind as a tail wind, though only briefly, as I rolled down the east ramp into Aquatic Park. The park is in fairly low laying terrain and with major storms the east side multi-use path is often underwater in several places. Flooding like that often causes egrets, great and little, to congregate and loiter on the grassy areas nearer to the train tracks, and I scared a flock into flight as I made my way south toward Shellmound.

My daily route takes me along one of Emeryville's Bicycle Boulevards, mine being the Horton Street boulevard and all the buildings built in the last decade provide shelter from the wind. Upon arriving at work, that is when the winds really picked up and the sound on the metal roof of our saw-toothed building is amplified, making the storm seem more intense. On my ride in I had a warm shower, dry clothes and a bowl of hot oatmeal to look forward to, and for my ride home I look forward to a hefty tailwind.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

2009 Knoxville Fall Classic Double Century

What happens when a bunch of riders who like to go on really long bike rides gets together and decides to host their own events in order to give back to the cycling community? You get the Quack Cyclists, and their annual Devil Mountain Double (DMD) and Knoxville Fall Classic Double Century (Kx) rides, that's what. Plus, not only do you get two local Bay Area doubles in which to participate, you get two high quality local doubles in which to participate, and life, you will say to your self, hardly gets better.

The DMD is held in mid to late April each year and the Knoxville is held in mid to late September each year, and while the Knoxville is clearly the easier of the two, the Knoxville Double is clearly not easy. I have fallen into the pattern of volunteering each year for the Devil Mountain Double and then riding as a participant in the Knoxville Fall Classic Double Century. This year, I completed my seventh Kx Double and 21st Triple Crown certified double century. My riding companion for the day was finishing his 59th double.

More than any other long ride, the image and impressions set when I first rode the Knoxville in 2002 have stuck with me and continue to shape my expectations for the ride each year. I know going in to the ride that heat will probably be a factor, that I'll see dozens of my riding friends through out the day and that there will be a certain quality to the daylight, especially late in the day on Chiles-Pope Valley Road, that serves as a clue that Autumn is just around the next curve in the road.

My friend Bruce arrived at my house a bit before 4am for the drive up to Peña Adobe, just outside of Vacaville, CA, where the ride starts. Traffic was a non-issue at that hour and our estimate of the drive time was over generous, and as a result we rolled away from the parking lot a full fifteen minutes ahead of schedule (which itself was earlier than any other time I've done the ride, save once). Though we would only find out later, several other friends were leaving at just about the same time. Unlike any ride with a mass start, with no set start time on this ride it's hard to spot other riders you know unless you stumble across them in the dark as you prepare to leave. The darkness would also confuse us as we arrived at, and rode right past, the first turn that would take us around the Lagoon. Lucky for us a SAG vehicle was right behind us and herded us back on the right path. Heading west in the pre-dawn, a noticeable headwind slowed our progress and contributed to breaking up any pace-line that might form among the riders nearby. The early miles on this route would not be picturesque compared to the later terrain, but it is dark and the roads deserted so the riding is just fine. Bruce and I catch up to a pack of half a dozen riders as we turn into a subdivision on our way west through Fairfield. I'm surprised to find the pack larger than I thought when I counted tail-lights from a hundred yards back. I can only speculate that some of the riders can't be bothered by the weight of adequate lights through the full day of riding so they skimp on visibility in the hour before dawn. I've heard a few stories of riders that would bring good lights, and then put them in drop bags at the first rest stop for them to be taken ahead for later use, and then found those lights didn't arrive. I've just settled on getting good lights and keeping them with me all day and the weight has never been an issue.

The first climb of note is Mt. George, on Monticello Road (AKA CA 121). This road climbs up to a ridge top and then skirts the northern side of the approx. 1800' Mt. George, before dropping down into Napa. It's here, every year, on the climb up that the sun begins to rise on my day. On various other versions of the ride, the drop into Napa Valley has brought a variety of weather conditions, from a chilly 39F one year, to dense fog on another. This year, the weather was mild and benign at that point in the day. Bruce and I came across a fellow club member, Dick, wearing his Grizzly Peak Cyclists jersey and Dick hopped on our small pace line and followed our wheel to near the left turn to the first rest stop. At this stop I usually see several riders I know and many of the volunteers are familiar too and this year was no different. Sterling was working the food table and called out a hello, and we ran into Jack who was riding with some other friends that day. I also met Rick and Anna at this stop, riding their 52nd double. At the California Triple Crown awards breakfast the next day they would be added tot he CTC Hall of Fame. I had first met Rick and Anna when the were riding their very first double about seven years before, and had last run into them as they were volunteering for the Susanville Control on the Gold Rush Randonnee. Running into riders who were volunteering and volunteers who were riding this day was pretty much the theme here.

At this early hour traffic in Napa has not yet picked up in spite of it being harvest season for the many vineyards here. That will change in a few hours but by then we will be clear of the climb over Howell Mountain and will have passed through the less traveled back roads that go by the less well known vineyards of Pope Valley. After the tricky descent off of Howell Mountain, the Pope Valley Cross Road gives us a chance to relax and settle into a cadence that is both purposeful and comfortable. The climb up through Pope Canyon is noting at all like the previous climb out of Napa Valley and after cresting a few stair step like climbs we've arrived at the Lake Berryessa rest stop, and here again we meet familiar faces on both sides of the food and water table. We'll see Alfie and Lisa and several others later on at the first rest stop after lunch, but first after topping off here and setting out on the namesake roadway for this ride we have to pass through the lunch stop at Lower Lake and climb Loch Lomond.

Knoxville Road is a road full of vistas, heat, a dozen dry stream crossings, and scents from the warm brush exposed to the sun during the months long dry season, and those scents trigger memories of all the past rides through this remote part of California. There are not so many hunters camped along the roadside this year and later I spotted a sign relaying the prohibition to roadside camping in the preserve we pass through. On the ground, we don't get the clues that maps will later provide and there is no obvious demarcation when we complete the climb through Toll Canyon and begin the climb through Long Canyon. We also won't know as we pass by that the gravel road going off to our left is picturesquely named Devilshead road. I suspect that this knowledge would not have helped us as we hit what is often the hottest portion of the ride, and the charred landscape from a recent fire would not have given us any advantage in completing the climb either. Many times at this very point I could feel the energy draining from my legs and lungs but on this day I feel like I'm holding my own. It is an uncommon thing that I actually drop some riders, catch and pass others and arrive at the water stop more or less mentally intact. As hard as that stretch is, the traverse of Morgan Valley always takes me down a peg or two and while this year Morgan Valley was not easy, it wasn't nearly as hard as other years. A few miles outside of Lower Lake and past Lake County's version of Grizzly Peak I caught up to Tara, a club member and Sean whom I've met on so many double centuries through the years. We form a paceline and I pushed to try to arrive at the Lunch stop before 1pm but miss that goal by three minutes. The lunch stop seems quiet and I wonder if we are late in arriving but Mark, who usually passes me at the Berryessa stop just arrives before Bruce and I depart.

The winter rains over the 2005/2006 winter washed out Big Canyon road which was used by both the Knoxville and the Davis Double Century routes. Big Canyon is a beautiful and quiet link between Middletown and Lower Lake but there are no plans apparently to fix the washout. Where on the DDC the replacement climb up Cobb Mountain comes before lunch, the climb up Cobb from Lower Lake is after lunch on the Knoxville Double, and coupling this with the heat of the day and Loch Lomond is a challenge. Bruce and I began to be passed by several riders as we slowed and stopped for a variety of minor issues we wanted to address before starting the climb. Of the two options, climbing from the Middletown side or the Lower Lake side, the Lower Lake climb up Loch Lomond is by far the easier, but that is not to say it is easy. The lower section includes the steeper parts but joyfully, the incline nearly disappears for the last mile of Loch Lomond before the turn on to CA 175. There is still more climbing to do after that turn and without slowing we ride on toward the summit near Cobb and Hobergs ahead. Tara joins us again along the rollers before the big drop toward Middletown, but we all three get separted on the long descent.

The next rest stop at Detert Reservoir is at mile 130+ where I will meet up again with Alfie, Lisa and several other volunteers. Arriving first, I end up having a pretty long rest and chat with Debra a bit before she leaves. I'm not sure if Tara leaves ahead of us when Bruce and I roll away, but we'll see her later on the course. Years ago the rest stop was at Guenoc Winery and I do miss the air conditioned rest rooms but I didn't miss the climb up to the winery on a dirt and gravel road. Butts Canyon road climbs a bit near the county line but the drop down into Pope Valley is slowed by a rising head wind. My energy level seemed to drop a bit just as we crossed the county line and ebbed further as the road surface worsened. I was looking forward to the long and fast run into the next rest stop as my speed and energy level dropped further. Jack and a friend caught us on Chiles-Pope Valley road and our small group then met up with a few other riders as we finally hit the down hill run. We all spread out again before the rest stop though and came in to the Hennessy rest stop separately. While I had been noticing but managing a slightly queasy stomach all day long, it really hit me here. I had a hot dog as per normal (years ago I was a vegetarian and it was at this rest stop one year where I fell off the veggie wagon and succumbed to the lure of a salty hot dog) and chased it with a soda and some V8, hoping the added saltiness would settle matters. Debra was at this stop when we arrived and she decided to wait for us and ride along rather than alone. The roadway climbs in several places on the early part of this leg and I lagged behind a bit. I decided to add some Endurolytes and some Clif Shot Blocks to the contents of my uneasy stomach, and it turned out to be just the thing. Before we hit the CA 121/128 junction I was feeling better and able to push ahead with a little more verve.

The early morning gains on my usual times to various miles points had completely disappeared, and now I was running a bit behind even my slowest times. Because of the earlier than usual start though, we arrived near the Cardiac climb just after the sun set. I always am just a little concerned about traffic here, as this is where we begin to be on the same side of the road as all the departing boaters leaving Lake Berryessa. As with any cross section, the vast majority of drivers were considerate and a small minority stood in stark contrast to the maturity level that should be required to drive a car or more importantly, a truck. One favor the jerks usually provide is a loud announcement of their presence but alas, one driver felt compelled to honk long and loudly the exact moment before he passed riders. We could hear him honking at riders ahead and out of sight as well and while I reacted by yelling when he passed us in this manner, after a moment or two all that anger passed. Once I spotted the road sign of the truck driving down a wedge of cheese I knew there was a nice long run of mostly down hill riding into the penultimate rest stop at the Pardehsa Store. Debra had gotten ahead and I pushed a bit harder to catch up and we arrived at the rest stop just ahead of Bruce. I had a hankering for chocolate milk for the longest time and this stop afforded me that chance. Forgoing all the food and drink offered by the Quacks out back, I managed to snag the very last bottle in the store, a quart bottle I shared with Bruce. Ah, liquid heaven.

After a fairly short break we all three pushed on for the last 15 miles to the finish. So many times I've ridden this road and so many of them have been in the dark. Though this version of the Knoxville Double would be the longest time for me, this section passed quite quickly. Pleasants Valley Road will have several individual rollers along it's path, but generally the segment of road is higher in the middle miles. We could see a few bike lights behind us though no riders caught or passed us for the last 15 miles. Slowed a little by the slight incline on the first half, we settled into a good pace for the final miles and at last caught a glimpse of headlights on the Interstate off to our left a bit, which is the signal that there is but one mile left on the ride. In spite of the small low spot after the Hennesey rest stop, it was a great day on the bike. The weather never got unbearable, though it tipped into the 90F range. The clear skies for most of the day were great, and of course the company all day long was top notch.

201 miles 16 hours, 25(ish) minutes

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fridays shouldn't be like this

The day before the Knoxville Double Century, my riding companion for tomorrow wrote an email to let me know he had been in a collision caused by a driver making an illegal move. It brought to mind a similar experience I had a few years back, which I first wrote about here on the Internet Bridgestone Owners Bunch list. Below is the text from that posting to ibob.

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One less MA 2 rim in the world.

Flush with the promise of the impending weekend, Fridays are supposed to start out better. Stuff like this is more suited to the cliche of dismal Monday mornings. What can I expect though, when Thursday didn't really end on a high note. I got a late start out the door under the fog of the coastal marine layer. On San Pablo Avenue the construction crews were redirecting cars on the other side of the road away from the new layer of pavement being laid down. The outside lane on my side had been done a few days before so that was a small plus. The trip through Albany, then Berkeley, Emeryville and West Oakland was uneventful and all was looking quite typical for my ride to work in Alameda. It was as I rode through the warehouse/Port of Oakland area, where that would change.

The East Bay Bicycle Coalition working with many other groups was instrumental in getting not only bike lanes added to 3rd Street and the rebuilt Mandela Boulevard, but it also got those two streets connected when they hadn't been connected before. My favorite part of that route is seeing the road sign that warns that the old street is 'Not a through street'. Someone expertly altered the 't' in Not into a 'w'. The changes in the streets (as well as the sign) were a great plus for my commute route because I had fewer stops, fewer railroad crossings and for those that remained of the latter, they were graded much better (and therefore more safe for me). So I was enjoying the fruits of the labors of local bicycle advocacy groups, cruising along the bike lane on 3rd when my progress was brought to an abrupt halt by the front bumper of a car. The driver of the car had spotted a parking spot on the opposite side of the road and after seeing no cars ahead or behind, executed a U-turn. The trouble was of course that I was there, right in the trajectory of that U-turn.

I've been hit before and sometimes I can recall every moment of the collision (I'm trying to avoid using the word 'accident'), and sometimes I can't. This time though I do recall each instant. A complete U-turn would involve an arc 180 degrees. The driver had completed between 90 and 150 degrees of the turn when his car hit me. I recall the sound of the grill and bumper hitting my bike, in amongst the sound of him braking, me braking, and then after a split second of silence when I was airborne, followed by the sound of me, my bike and various now loose accessories from my bike hitting the ground. Of those various bits and pieces, I traveled the farthest from point of impact. Well, my pump was underneath me but more of me was further from the point of impact than the pump. It's funny to think of being competitive about some aspect of this crash, but there you have it.

Only in TV shows perhaps would the tough guy bounce right up and show no effects. In my case it hurt enough for me to want to close my eyes and grit my teeth for a bit as I lay on the ground, but that eased. I sort of lost track of what vehicles were where and I thought the car moving right next to me was someone just passing by but it was the driver pulling away slowly. I didn't sit up right away, wanting first to make sure that things like arms, legs and what not were as they should be. Having taken stock, I knew that nothing was broken on my body, nothing was bleeding but I thought the driver had 'fled'. The next order of business was to sit up I guessed, so I did that. That worked well enough so I figured I better collect myself, check out my bike, and well, go back to what I was doing which was going to work. Before I could stand up though, the driver showed up. When I thought he was leaving, he had just pulled his car out of the traffic lane and parked beyond the two tractor trailer rigs that were also parked ahead of the collision. The street at this point is completely wide enough for two wide lanes of traffic, full, legal sized bike lanes, and wide parking at the curb on both sides of the street. I could do with out parking to the right of the bike lanes, but that wasn't going to happen when this bike route was planned.

I don't know if I can say that *most* people these days try to blame someone or something else right away when things have gone wrong, but I do think we see too much of that right now. It wouldn't have surprised me then if the first thing the driver said to me was why didn't *I* stop or swerve or something that indicated that I could have prevented the collision or that bikes shouldn't be there on the road. Maybe that is a sad reflection on me or the world around me that I wouldn't have been surprised.

The first words spoken in a situation like this can often determine the path of the rest of the exchange. I only can see this with any clarity now, later, after time has passed but I feel it was important that what the driver said to me were "Are you ok?", then when I asked him if it was he that had hit me he said "Yes. I very am sorry" and then "It was completely my fault". Even though both would dissipate later, I was angry and in pain as this exchange transpired.

On my ride to work I pass by a spot near a hardware/lumber store in Berkeley near the freeway. A great many immigrant workers gather there hoping to get day jobs with the contractors that come to pick up supplies, or even the home owners stopping by to get the things they need to do yard work at their homes. I wonder as I pass them what a life would be like that would make this present circumstance an improvement over the conditions in the place they had left behind. Until I figure out why I was born to parents that had the means to afford better than adequate housing in communities that had better than adequate services and schools, I have to figure it was probably just luck that I now have a college education, a job with benefits that includes better than adequate medical coverage for me and my family.

The driver that had just hit me with his car was luckier than those others hoping to get day jobs. He didn't have to get up at 4am to walk or ride a bike to get a prime spot on the corner to increase his chances of getting a job for one more day. Neither did I. While the driver that hit me was also a recent immigrant though, he could speak enough English to ask me if I was ok and tell me he was sorry for what he did. In the spectrum of personal transportation, his car was a piece of shit, but it ran and he didn't have to walk miles or ride a bus in the early morning hours. In the unlikely event that a hurricane would aim itself toward the Bay Area, he could get in his crappy car and drive to a safer place and live another day. No hurricanes are headed our way and he had a crappy job at the docks, but next Monday and the day after it was still his job, however crappy it was.

As lucky as the driver that hit me was, he wasn't as lucky as I am. I'm going to be sore in places tomorrow, maybe even a little later today. I'm going to be 49 next month and 48 year old bodies don't fly through the air at 18 mph and hit the ground with out being sore later. But I wasn't seriously hurt at all. Both wheels on my bike were tacoed, most likely bent when I was hit and not from hitting the pavement. I'm sure I'll get grief from some that hear what I did next. I'll never know for sure if I was right about this. After totaling up the damage, realizing it was probably nothing greater than two bent wheels, I figured there was little to be gained by calling the police, involving insurance companies, filing claims. I believed the driver when he expressed remorse, and I also think he was truly scared about this collision. In some European countries traffic fines are assessed according to the financial status of the offender. In this case, I think I can be satisfied with the driver being sorry and probably scared and probably a driver that will pay, if maybe only for a little while, more attention to bicyclists on the road.

Through gritted teeth, I told the driver I believed he was sorry, and told him I was probably unhurt. And I told him I was leaving. What more would it cost me to get a check from some insurance company and what might a ticket at best or loss of insurance do or even undo for this driver. I was still pissed enough that a block down the street I yelled F*&K as loud as I could a few times. I had to vent. My front wheel was an 36 hole MA2 and the rear was a wheel built by Rich at Rivendell and was as close to the bullet proof rear commuter wheel as I had ever found. Now they are junk. I walked a few blocks then realized that I would miss the ferry connection that was now my backup route to work, so I opened the QR on my brakes and in spite of both wheels still rubbing on both sides of the calipers, I rode the last 7 or 8 blocks to the ferry landing.

A lot of things can happen to people, even on Friday morning. Some of those things can be bad things. Me, I'm lucky. I got hit by a car while riding to work.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Announcing the first San Francisco Randonneurs Populair Event, October 3, 2009

The San Francisco Randonneurs will be holding their first Populaire event. Details can be found here

Quite a number of riders don't jump feet first into doing 200km (and longer) rides, but instead build up with a series of shorter rides. The Populaire event is meant to offer a shorter distance ride with all the aspects of a brevet, including brevet cards, controls, mass starts, time limits and the usual reliance on rider self sufficiency for route finding and dealing with pitfalls a rider might face out on the road, such as flat tires and having food and water enough to reach the next control.

As mentioned, this will be SFR's first time holding this event. We expect to learn a lot and use that knowledge for the next time we hold this event in 2010. If you read this and are interested in participating or supporting this event, please send mail to rba@sfrandonneurs.org. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Let's go places and eat things!

One of the bike clubs I belong to, the Grizzly Peak Cyclists, is made up of many riders that simply enjoy food and will plan routes that include, not one, not even just two but sometimes three bakeries. On these rides, I'm reminded of a snippet of a scene from a Three Stooges short subject, called 'False Alarms', where the title of this entry is spoken by one of the characters.

Twenty+ riders attended the TM and M paced versions of the "Santa Cruz Mountains" ride on Sunday, Aug. 23. The route begins at the Park and Ride on Page Mill just off of I-280 with an 8+ mile climb of Page Mill up to Skyline, followed by a twisty descent down Alpine Road. A stop in Pescadero at mile 28 might seem too early on a 100+ mile ride, but the lure of fresh baked artichoke bread at Arcangeli Grocery proves too great to overcome. From Pescadero we rode past Butano State Park on the way to Gazos Creek and Highway One. The next stop is in Davenport at mile 50, where we paused briefly before attempting the climb up Bonny Doon and Ice Cream Grade (the TM route took the coastal route into Santa Cruz). Pescadero and the coast along CA 1 always seem to be living life under the marine layer of fog, but climbing up through the canyon on lower Bonny Doon (a pivotal spot for Levi on this year's Tour of California) the sun always reappears right there on these rides, just in time to add more heat to riders as they clear the trees.

Ice Cream Grade (how can you not like riding a road with this name)isn't all work but does include some climbing, as does Empire Grade until the long fast run into Santa Cruz. Traffic in Downtown Santa Cruz was heavy as usual at that early afternoon hour, however travel through the town was not hectic. Following a climb up Granite Creek and an all too short downhill, we crossed over CA 17 and arrived at Cafe Carlos finding the TM group, which started an hour ahead of the M paced group, finishing up their lunch. Cafe Carlos was a bit understaffed for 15+ hungry riders at 2:45pm but the one waiter rushed to provide us all with food while cashing out the TM group as they left. Cafe Carlos is not to Mexican food as the Arcangeli is to baked bread, but fresh artichoke bread still warm upon purchase is a very high standard. However, the patio setting at Cafe Carlos was perfect with lots of space for our bikes to be kept in sight as we dug into our meals. Despite the food not being spectacular (NB: I was the first one finished and the portion was not tiny), I'd still be perfectly happy to stop there for lunch on a bike ride any time. Post lunch, we began with a modest climb on our way to Mt. Charlie, with it's driveway sized road width, pothole research and development style pavement and twisty, turny meandering path up the mountain, alternatingly punctuated with steep and less steep sections. On the final stretch along Skyline the M group began to overtake some of the TM group. The run down Page Mill was a blast as always, with the 8 mile descent over in a blink.

112 miles, 10,600' of elevation gain, 10 hours 34 minutes, Food breaks: 2, regroups: 5 or more depending on who is counting.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Riding in a postcard

Many rides are ridden in preparation for some larger event, the date for which is often circled on the calendar in the kitchen. Just as often as those rides that warrant a note written in ink on the calendar, an unplanned or hastily planned ride is the source of just as much enjoyment and sense of accomplishment. I'm lucky in that it is expected that I'll pack a bike when we take our nearly annual camping trip to the Sierra, and this year the bike I brought along was a recently refurbished mid 1980s Scapin. Late in the planning and packing process, my son decided he wanted his bike along too. The car we borrowed had just enough space on the return trip, even though packing was like solving a three dimensional puzzle.

Though we are long overdue to deviate from our traditional three Sierra camping locations, again this year we went to Emerald Bay on Lake Tahoe for several days, with a move mid-trip to Tuolomne Meadows for a short stay, stopping at Grover Hot Springs for a visit to the State Park's heated pools. All three of these locations are on a short list of my favorite places on Earth. If you know how to work it, all three offer some fantastic riding terrain as well.

On the first day at Emerald Bay, my son and I left camp with no fixed destination, at least not one I was aware of, other than a southerly direction. To leave the campground we needed to climb pretty consistently for about a mile to the campground entrance, and from there it's a fun run downhill with Lake Tahoe behind you and Cascade Lake ahead and then a sharp 170 degree turn and some more downhill that takes you toward a series of bicycle paths and signed bicycle routes through South Lake Tahoe toward the busy section of Highway 50. After crossing 50 we ended up in a residential section that was northwest of the airport, which I now knew was where my son wanted to visit. We wandered around in what we thought was the right direction and then asked directions of a local out walking his dogs. After a moment's thought he recalled that there were some trails nearby that would get us toward the airport. While I thought that would take us directly there it turned out to take us only to the east side of the airport property which was fenced off all around, but yet still had open gates. As we rode toward the gates we saw pavement that was not roadway but probably something more than a bike or multi-use path. After about 20 minutes investigation we realized it was an access roadway for airport maintenance vehicles and would not take us anywhere. We followed it north as far as it would go and then spotted a fading trail off to the west that we guessed would take us to a different residential section of South Lake Tahoe, and it did, but not without us having to walk our bikes over some pretty rough trails.

Rolling downhill on CA 89 at 9am on a weekday in the summer is one thing, but climbing back up the switchbacks at noon would be in traffic, but my son did fine. We stopped a few times on the way up but no matter. We had gorgeous views to admire while he caught his breath.

On Tuesday I left camp very early for a much longer and challenging ride than the bike path would provide. Even at that early hour there were other cyclists out on the roads though more would show up as the morning wore on. We've camped at Emerald Bay maybe half a dozen times and many of those trips included a ride between Emerald Bay and Grover Hot Springs in Markleeville on 'moving' day. On this day though my ride would be an out-and-back with the turn-around being the top of Luther Pass. The only way I've ever done this is by taking back roads on the leg between Emerald Bay and Highway 50 at the foot of the climb up to Echo Pass, and then riding CA 89 over the pass. There is no way I could tell someone how to ride that leg without consulting a map but I've never had a map with me when I've done it, trusting to a sense of direction to get me where I was headed. It helps when certain landmarks tower thousands of feet above everything else. On the the short linking stretch of Highway 50 that I rode between the back route and the turn onto CA 89 I passed a road named South Upper Truckee Road, and momentarily wondered where it went. After the right turn onto CA 89, the roadway runs straight for a few miles with a very slight incline. Truckers drive fast along this stretch, gaining momentum that they really hate to lose once the incline increases. In the early hours, there were only the gravel trucks flying by and a mile or so into the real climb, those disappeared too.

Approaching the pass from the north, the grade levels off significantly for the last mile of the climb, so much so that it's hard to say you aren't going downhill already at that point. To the west of the roadway, there is a gorgeous meadow and behind that the mountains that runs to the south toward Carson Pass. I have an older photo of my Scapin propped up against the sign post marking the top of the pass, and with the Scapin newly restored I had to get a new photo. No sooner had I packed up everything pulled from my pockets during the break than other riders began to show up. I chatted a bit with a rider who also turned out to be from the East Bay, and then pushed off down hill back toward Lake Tahoe.

With the turns for the return route pretty fresh in my mind, that section ended quickly and as I approached CA 89 from Fallen Leaf Lake Road I noticed two riders passing by, each looking like dedicated long distance riders. I pushed a bit and caught them before the incline to Cascade Lake began and chatted with them a little to find out where they were headed that day. It seemed pretty apparent to me that they were local riders and I asked them if they got used to the tourist traffic during the summer. We were approaching a section of 89 where there were a number of vista sites, state park land, campgrounds and general tourist destinations so the question of traffic was pretty timely. I was just finishing up my ride and Bob and Christine were just beginning theirs so they were pacing themselves for all the climbing that would occur later on their ride so on the big switchback up to the Eagle Point campground entrance I got ahead of them enough that the idea dawned on me to stop and take a couple photos as they rode by. Once they passed I hopped on my bike and it took a bit to catch back up to them. Even though I passed the entrance to the campground where I started the ride, I wanted to round up my mileage for the day to at least 50 miles (we were going kayaking later so I had to find a way to be happy with just 50 miles. And I was.) so I had decided to ride around Emerald Bay to the D.L. Bliss campground entrance and then return. Traffic picked up quite a bit around the parking areas near Eagle Lake Trailhead and the trail down to Vikingsholm across the road. The 'local' cycling club in the Tahoe region is the Alta Alpina Cycling Club and it sounded as though Bob and Christine were active members of that group. Anyone that has done riding in the area most likely has heard about the annual Tour of the California Alps, which is probably more popularly know as The Death Ride. Alta Alpina was for many years a major part of that ride, and I have many great memories of having done that ride plus they began a new ride this year which a number of my riding friends attended and liked, so Alta Alpina has earned many points with me. It was nice to briefly hook up with local riders, and I came away with a good suggestion for an alternate route up Luther Pass which I am eager to use, hopefully not to far in the future. My destination was back at Eagle Point so once we reached the entrance to D.L. Bliss State Park I turned around, making the circuit around Emerald Bay once more. Just before reaching the entrance to Eagle Point Campground the roadway travels along the crest of a ridge with the Bay on one side and Cascade Lake on the other and the views from here are simply stunning. On a warming, early August morning it was a great place to be on a bike.

On Wednesday morning, we broke camp and drove to Tuolomne Meadows via Markleeville and Grover Hot Springs. The pool at the State Park there is one of my all time favorite places on Earth, so I was looking forward to the stop there. My wife was looking forward to a meal at the Mobil Station in Lee Vining. I'm not kidding about this, and I was looking forward to it as well. This gas station has a huge reputation for the food served at the Whoa Nellie Deli inside the convenience mart on the gas station grounds. Once we finished our meal, we headed up the long climb to Tioga Pass and the entrance to Yosemite Park. The weather was changing fast at this point and everyone walking around near the pass had on jackets, long pants and hats. By the time we reached the campground it was now overcast and overnight the cold front passed through and at 8am we were greeted with what was somewhere between a hail storm and snow showers and temps hovering in the 30s.

All in all a nice but short trip with the good stuff outweighing any of the low points on the trip.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Seven twelfths

RUSA has a distance award that factors in consistency around the calendar called the R12 award. The criteria riders are required to complete is to ride at least one 200km brevet or permanent route each month. Living in Northern California, I can ride year round making only modest changes to address the weather from roughly mid-November through April. That said, the tail end of 2008 was more of a tail-off in terms of riding. Along about mid January I became re-invigorated riding wise, and I even got to ride the SFR Point Reyes Lighthouse 200km I was organizing. With that 200km, I cobbled together a string of months with at least one 200km brevet:

January 24: SFR Point Reyes LightHouse 200km

February 28: Santa Rosa 200km

March 14: Santa Rosa 300km

April 4: SFR Hopland 400km

April 26: SFR Russian River 200km

May 30: SFR Fort Bragg 600km

June 13: SFR Nighttime Davis 200km

A couple times, I was flirting with the end of the month, just sneaking in the brevet before the calendar page turned. For July, my big ride for the year would serve as the 'at least 200km' distance for that month, but plans went awry. I had company on that point with Bruce B. also needing a 200km, even though he had ridden at least 500 miles of the Gold Rush before being stymied by a case of bronchitis that sent him to the ER in Susanville. First though, we both had to recover from our various respiratory ailments, and only got back on the bikes to complete a very short ride in the Berkeley/Oakland Hills on the 19th which left each of us with the kind of sore legs one usually experiences after a ride six times longer.

With way more date float than is common, we finally settled on doing Willy's Jittery Jaunt (coffee available at control) on Saturday, July 25th. At 7:05am we caught the BART train to the City and rode from Embarcadero to the Marina Safeway and after getting receipts we rolled out of the lot a few minutes after 8am. Willy's route goes first to Petaluma, then takes Bodega and Valley Ford roads north/northwest out to Valley Ford. We paused quite a while in Valley Ford at the VF Market after dealing with the headwinds in the Two Rock Valley and everywhere else on that 19 mile leg. The ever present headwinds in the Keys Creek canyon were a bit stronger but reaching Tomales Bay heading south on Highway One always brings relief. By some quirk the headwinds blowing north east usually become a tailwind blowing southeast along the bay though this time those winds didn't swing completely around in our favor.

Point Reyes Station was our next control and pausing over snacks from the Bovine Bakery, we chatted with a few cyclists who were passing through. The climb up Bolinas Ridge near Olema was a lot easier than I thought and with a short stop to help a cyclist with a mechanical issue on the bike trail in Samuel Taylor Park, we completed the last long segment going back to San Francisco. We managed to cross the bridge early enough that with a final sprint we arrived at the Safeway just under 10 hours total. For the entire route, we recorded just over 7,000' of climbing, a bit more than the advertised 4,500.

With July now in the books, I need to look for a 200km for August!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What is in the works?

Yes, I admit I'm way behind in posting to this page. A run down of what I 'owe' is not a short list: finish the 2007 PBP write-up, add a write up of the SFR 600km and any missing brevets from the SR series, a Davis Double write up, and summarize my experience on the 2009 GRR. I am at work on all of those, but life intrudes upon writing about life, so there you have it. More soon, I promise.

rob

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Something less than 449km

Oh for three would be one way to look at it. That isn't as accurate or as descriptive as the experience calls for though. Oh for three suggests I came away empty handed for the third time on a 1200km Randonnée and that just isn't so. I came away from the 2009 Gold Rush Randonnée with quite a lot.

July 6th at 6pm on the northern edge of the city of Davis was the date and location for the start of the 2009 Gold Rush Randonnée. By completing the Super Randonneur series this year, I had qualified for the Gold Rush Randonnée, a 1200 km ride in 90 hours or less that traverses the Central Valley and climbs through the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the northeast corner of California at Davis Creek. On July 2nd I left work early, not because I had to go home to prepare for the ride and a week plus away from the office, but instead because I had a full blown cold and felt like crap. I went straight to bed, gulping lots of water and gobbling lots of vitamins, Echinacea, and Sudafed. Friday was a day off of work for the July 4th Holiday but I spent that in bed too. By the end of Friday it seemed a miracle was happening: The cold was fading. Saturday I was up and around, though I was a little sluggish and Sunday I felt I had truly dodged a bullet. By Monday at 1pm I was on the Capitol Corridor train headed for Davis, chatting with Christian, Achim, and Max, all of us eager for our rides to begin. Through this all, I was remarkably calm and still confident, which was a striking difference from 2005 and 2007. In 2005 I had started the Gold Rush but stopped at the first control suffering a splitting headache, an severe upset stomach and a broken rack on my bike. In 2007 my knees eventually objected to 24 hours of cold and rain. This time I was not the least bit nervous, not the least bit intimidated by the goal. I wanted to see a lot more of California and I was fully aware that the ride was not completed by any one of the pedal strokes in the first mile.

The game plan I adopted early on was one of moderation. Don't go out hard and fast. Don't attempt to ride someone else's pace. In 2005, I made the first control in 6 hours, 30 minutes. It seemed then that I spent a lot of the first leg riding too fast, pushing to hard out of fear of being left behind. What I've learned since 2005 was that the fear is unfounded. This year, I made little effort to hang on the back of any pack as we left Davis behind. Less than a mile from the start the last third of the pack was stopped at a stop sign as the rest of the riders rolled on. After traffic cleared I hopped out and started pushing to make contact with the pack ahead. Only a handful of riders went with me and I could also see that I was gaining much faster than I expected. Backing off at that point I could see that a few riders ahead were dangling off the pack. I could almost always count on that happening til night fall so I'd always have a rider in sight ahead.

The outbound course through the Central Valley is not a direct one and is longer than the inbound leg from Oroville back to Davis. Not only did the indirect route provide the extra miles needed to reach the 1200km total, but it also skirted Woodland and kept us on rural roads. Because of this there ended up being three secret controls before we reached Oroville. (Controls are checkpoints on brevets and randonnées where riders acquire proof of passage by way of a stamp at staffed controls, a receipt from a store with a time stamp, or record an answer to a question that can only be acquired by visiting a certain location. A secret control then would be one who's location is a surprise to the rider.) Knowing the course is an advantage that can't be dismissed. Not only did I know the early turns this time, I knew that there was little in the way of topography and in the way of road conditions that I needed to worry about. Setting aside the (needless) worry, I was free to look around more, chat more and in general just enjoy being where I was, riding my bike amidst other riders as the sun set on the day. In 2005, worry about the awful road surface on Cranmore Road, a levee road that I had only heard about but had never seen accounted for using up a certain amount of energy. This time, I was free to direct that energy elsewhere.

With the levee road segment over in much less time than it seemed to take four years back, the route headed toward the water stop at mile 45. I arrived there in the company of several riders, but I made no effort to leave when some of them did, nor wait for the others that took more time. I knew I'd end up riding with someone sooner or later. In my pre-ride bike check I had checked all the bolts holding my fenders on the bike, so it was with no small amount of surprise that I heard a rattle develop on my front fender a mile past the water stop. I was certain that it was the bolt that attached the fender to the front of my front rack, which required removing my front wheel, which would only be accomplished easily by removing my front bag. Addressing a loose bolt took on all the aspects of a weekend plumbing project, save for the multiple trips to the hardware store. Finding that I was wrong about which bolt, reassembling the bike and getting all the gear stowed only took about 10 minutes but also afforded me the opportunity to notice that a beautiful full moon was rising behind me and to the right, a direction I wouldn't have looked if not for the stop. I got out the camera, snapped a few photos and then discovered that the approaching rider was Don, who had ridden several SFR brevets this year.

Hooking up with Don to ride through the night was the best development so far. Though we had ridden several the same brevets but never together, on this ride our respective paces were a comfortable match, as was our thinking of when to stop to refuel and when a stop was over. Don would keep me company for many miles, and when my knowledge of the route switched from actually having ridden it to only having researched it out on Google Maps, Don filled in the gaps gleaned from his having ridden the Davis 600km brevet a few weeks earlier. Don and I each escaped the Gridley Dogs who attacked nearly every rider that passed by that night. Upon reaching the Oroville control at 12:35 (nearly matching the 6:30 ride time from 2005) we heard that we were more fortunate than at least one other rider, who had gotten bitten on the leg. Evading chasing dogs was a skill that I had learned in my younger days riding in Southeastern Michigan. I hadn't had to employ that skill in decades, but appropriately just like riding a bike, I hadn't forgotten how.

Just leaving the parking lot for the Oroville control was getting further than my total progress on the 2005 GRR. Don and I left Oroville after 40 minutes and headed north toward Highway 70 and the first long climb of the Gold Rush up to Jarbo Gap. The traffic consisted entirely of empty logging trucks, which while rushing past us at high speed, did all give us plenty of room as they passed. The west to east climb up to Jarbo Gap is punctuated by a long bridge over the west branch of the Feather River, with three sets of expansion joints. Just after the bridge the roadway climbs yet again as it passes Yankee Hill. East bound, there is relief on the fast downhill after Jarbo Gap, a major impediment to a swift return on the inbound route. Once next to the Feather River itself, the roadway goes up hill but less severely, and progress along this portion of the route is noted by passage of the three tunnels that permit the roadway to be near the river at all. Each tunnel is a bit longer than the previous one. With the canyon walls close in, the only view of the sky was straight above until a meander in the path of the river allowed for a longer glimpse upstream and after four hours of riding since Oroville finally the sky was showing signs of dawn just as the roadbed widened and the Tobin Resort control appeared on the right.

I had been teased with a false story that the Tobin Control was serving chili dogs and it was no small let down to note that the menu was oriented toward breakfast foods. As I ate what I could of a bowl of oatmeal, Christian and Achim arrived. Normally these riders would be way ahead but two flat tires and a complete tire exchange had left them behind nearly all the riders to this point. Don and I left ahead of them as the dawn grew more bright. The incline was seldom steep but always present as we rode further up river. Finally we reached the junction of Highways 70 and 89 and we made our left turn onto CA 89 and the road to Greenville and the Indian Valley. Christian and Achim passed us as Don and I finished up a short rest break and I could tell that Don had the energy to hang on their wheels but he instead dropped back to stay with me on the ride up. Once the route reaches the Indian Valley a right turn would leave you just five miles from Taylorsville where the next control was, but instead we headed left for a tour of the whole valley with a stop in Greenville for the information control. All the riders passing through at this point paused for a rest on the steps out in front of the hardware store, and I managed a two minute sleep before Don decided to push on for Taylorsville. At first, I felt energized by the rest, but quickly that drained away and I dropped way of Don's wheel and slowed to a crawl. I stopped, gulped down some Clif Shot Blocks and pushed on and in a short time I was up to speed again and catching up to Don. The route is largely flat around the perimeter of the valley and all along we had stunning views to distract us.

It was late morning when we reached the Taylorsville control but still time for a second breakfast, one for which I now had a growing appetite, itself a very encouraging sign. In spite of several days of laying around as I nursed my cold before the ride, I did not get additional sleep stored up, and in fact I slept less each night so I went into the ride with a small sleep deficit. I had spotted a back room full of cots at the Grange Hall where the control was and made the decision that I wanted a quick nap. Don's company was great along the way, but my need for a nap precluded riding out with him then. It felt like I had just drifted off when the control worker woke me after my 30 minute limit had passed. Before I left I tried to eat again, but the translated Ukrainian saying 'eyes want, stomach can't' came into play and I left my plate half filled with food. Still, riding away from the control toward Genessee I felt stronger than I had all ride. This was to be my best segment of the ride. Genessee was seven miles down the road from Taylorsville and rumored to have a general store where I had hoed to get a pint of chocolate milk. Once in Genessee I could see that the town was a proverbial wide spot in the road, and the store was closed up tight. I had enough food and liquids with me, so the chocolate milk would only have served as a treat.

Genessee Valley follows the path of Indian Creek, rising from around 3400' feet in Taylorsville to about 3800' where RattleSnake Ravine empties into Genessee Valley and the outbound climb begins in ernest. The route continues to follow Indian Creek as it rises 1000' on it's way up to the earthen dam where the waters of Antelope Lake are impounded. I began to catch up to riders along this stretch, passing a few that had stopped in the shade at roadside, and a few others that were chatting as they climbed. Just as I reached the Dam, two riders caught up to me, one passing and the other dropping back a little. The more direct route to where we would eventually go would have taken us across the dam and in a slighty straighter line toward the highest point on the Gold Rush route, but instead of the south side of the lake, the route took us around the northside to the Boulder Creek work area. This control was pretty quiet when I arrived. The riders there seemed ready to rest and just chat, with no one rushing off to resume the ride. I took the opportunity to stretch out, half in the sunshine, half in shade while I ate a bananna, chips and a soda. After a fairly long layover, I pushed off to resume the climb. Boulder Creek is at roughly 5000' and the top of the GRR would be about another 1000' of climbing. To reach that point, the climbing was not hearly as steep, but in hindsight I might have preferred it if it was. Once the highest spot on the GRR is reached, the roadway flirts with the 6000' elevation mark over and over again. This really seemed to take my mental energy away, and my physical strength seemed to follow right along. I had imagined an immediate and fast descent from the high point, but was instead teased by repeated 200' drops followed by 195' climbs and then, in a huge rush, the roadway dives downward and in nearly a blink, I was rolling into Janesville at 4000'

Riding in what seemed like slow motion, I followed the Janesville cutoff and partway along I ran across a somewhat shabby convenience store where several fellow Gold Rush riders had stopped. At last I had my chocolate milk, lounging in the shade outside, just thinking about reaching Susanville for a proper rest. Not exactly the last one to leave, I did finally roll off to finish the leg. I passed Jeff from Washington, but could not pass the next rider. Jeff tailed off the back a bit while we finally reached the turn onto US 395. The route sheet suggested we look for Johnstonville Road where there would be some helicopters, but we were confused by a similarly named dead end street near an airport hanger. Lacking the reliable GRR route markers on the pavement, we pushed on and finally found our turn where sure enough there were helicopters out in the open. It had been some time since we rode in city terrain, but Susanville traffic was mild and at last we rolled up to the National Guard Armory where the control was located. It was about 5:45pm, nearly 24 hours since we had left Davis, and I was taken aback by only having ridden 254 miles.

In order of priority, I ate a pile of spaghetti, showered and changed, and then headed for a cot for a 90 minute sleep. While stripping down for my shower, I was startled to note how entirely covered with salt my wool t-shirt had become, and signs of the same were found on my riding shorts, which also had some blood from where some chaffing had occurred. No doubt the extra salt deposited on my clothing had encouraged the chaffing. No need to worry about that though as what was done was done, so packing up I left to find a cot. Normally a difficult task to accomplish, sleep came easily and in a blink it seemed my foot was being shaken gently and I was told it was time to get up. In the Armory, I could feel a breeze blowing through and knew it had cooled off quite a bit outside as the day approached the golden hour. Given that data point, I decided on putting on a vest, a second layer of leg warmers and given that my butt was already tender, a second layer of riding shorts.

The route away from the Armory and out of town avoids any major streets for as long as possible and traffic therefore was even lighter than before. North of town the route heads toward Antelope Mountain via a run lengthwise along an escarpment that cuts across your line of sight as you leave town. Still a mile or two away from the serious portion of the climb I decided to stop. My clothing felt too constricting and uncomfortable. I had worn this exact set of clothing on the SFR 600km and it felt wonderful. Then though, I hadn't felt so beaten and worn out. I had to admit it. I had zero stamina, and I was laboring to make even slight progress. I took off a layer of riding shorts which helped a little, and resumed the early part of the climb. Though I could not see it from down below, the climb started at just over 4000' and beyond the notch climbed up to 5400' before leveling off for a period. I had only gotten up a third of the way, maybe 600' of the 1400' of the climb and I was at a crawl. First came thinking about stopping, then came stopping. It didn't help that two riders appeared from below looking like they were climbing effortlessly while I was putting everything I had into just making progress. As they passed the asked me if I was ok and I told them I was turning back. Checking traffic up and down hill, I crossed the road and pointed downhill. What took me half an hour to cover outbound was re-covered in what seemed like five minutes heading back, as I passed riders headed up hill in groups of two or three.

Instead of heading directly back to the control, I felt I needed to eat, and eat something off of the control menu so I headed for the fast food corridor on Susanville's main street and I ended up at a Burger King. The restaurant was essentially empty and at first I thought it was that way because it was closed but once I checked the door I found it unlocked. What ensued was a somewhat strange encounter where the staff didn't seem to notice me standing there at the counter dressed in helmet, reflective gear and cycling clothing. After quite some time the manager came out to take my order, and then promptly forgot it until she later asked if I had been helped. I had to remind her that there was more to the order when she finally gave me my food. A friend later remarked that it gave me a small taste of being homeless and invisible. I was happy enough to sit down to eat, even if I was being ignored by everyone there, as standing up waiting I would experience waves of dizziness. Though the overly salty nature of the food was appealing, I really didn't linger long and soon I was making my way back to the control where I planned to grab a cot and attempt to sleep.

Once back at the Armory, I was bleary eyed enough to not really notice who was there and who wasn't, though I knew I wasn't alone. Tom's wife, working that control and other points on the route realized I probably needed suggestions on what to do next at any given point and got me a cot in a warmer side room where it was also both darker and quieter. I slept like a rock for over 7 hours and woke up around 6:30 am when the pain from a sore throat would let me sleep no longer. I browsed a little at the food table and when asked what I planned to do I offered to stay and help out which was welcomed when it was realized that some of the staffing was thin and riders might show up earlier than expected. Though the rush came much, much later than we were first let to believe, there was still enough to do through the day and during slow moments I sat and watched Le Tour on the the satellite TV one of the volunteers had temporarily moved from their house. That was great! Also through the day I got to re-acquaint myself with a tandem riding couple local to Susanville whom I had first meet a number of years ago when they were riding their very first double century at Davis. Now, they've completed 50 of them. I also got to meet and chat with just a whole bunch of really nice and generous people. It was a day really well spent, and didn't end for me until around 1:30am. Sleep was not so luxurious that night and I only slept about 2 hours total. It was a lot busier over night and a lot noisier. I had some friends working the Alturus control and after calling them I had arranged for a ride all the way home from Susanville, and they arrived around 4am to pick me up. Dan, a Gold Rush finisher in 2005, and his wife made space in their crowded car for me and we left Susanville for the climb up Janesville Grade as the sun rose.

We passed quite a few riders climbing the grade, just reaching the top as my friend Jack arrived there. I passed along news to him of our friend Bruce who had to go to the ER overnight as his ride was stopped short due to bronchitis. It's hard to pick 'the prettiest spot' on the ride, but I'd have to say that the section from Antelope Lake down to Taylorsville is a contender. Passing more riders, we approached the next control after Boulder Creek as the route flattened out a bit and rolled into Indian Valley, following Indian Creek. Just before the edge of town we passed Chris, a rider I had first met on the plane flying to Paris in 2007. As we passed, I thought I could sense that Chris was almost going to flag us down, but I never saw the thumbs down sign so I remained silent and we pulled into the Taylorsville Grange Hall parking to stretch our legs and grab a more proper breakfast. As we got out of the car, Chris rolled up and asked if we knew where the town welder was located, as his frame had cracked under the stress of climbing Janesville Grade. Chris' bike was toast, and I was really doubtful that a welder who probably specialized in repair of farm equipment and snowplows could do the more delicate job of tack welding a cracked bottom bracket. Chris, being just a bit taller than me, rode a slightly bigger bike but not so much bigger that raising the saddle less than an inch wouldn't address almost completely. After some quick measurements, and some nearly quick swapping of pedals, seat and seatpost, we had Chris riding up and down through town testing out the fit on my bike, and then off he went.

On our drive down to the Feather River Valley we rolled into the Tobin Resort where the next control was. We only needed to stop long enough for me to run in and leave a spare tube with the check-in staff so Chris would have the right size tube if misfortune visited him. In a matter of 10 or 20 minutes, we would pass riders that would eventually finish the Gold Rush more than two to three hours apart. The climb on Jarbo Gap, the last climb on the ride will do that, as will the heat that sometimes affects the riders in the Central Valley. With my bike now out on the course, I was being dropped in Davis at the finish instead of at home. Having about 10 hours to wait for Chris to arrive, I pitched in however I could at the finish, making calls, checkingin riders, making sandwiches and cleaning up. In the end, I stayed overnight waiting for the baggage truck to arrive so I could get Bruce's gear and bring it home when Willy dropped me off on his way to Pacifica. Chris did in fact finish, maybe 45 minutes later than he had planned originally. Given that we could not raise the bars to the level of his saddle height, he did have a little discomfort leaning forward more than he is used to, but otherwise I understand my bike did a pretty good job getting Chris to the finish.

I had high expectations a week before the Gold Rush. I had been riding well, and had found a level of confidence that I usually fall short of preparing for other rides. When the cold hit me, I scaled those high hopes back. I still thought I could finish but that's not what happened. I signed up for the ride with the intention of seeing much more of California, and on that count I succeeded. There is more to see, and more for me to accomplish. This will certainly not be my last attempt at a 1200km randonnee. I'm expecting to see many of you in Paris in two years.

Many thanks to Don Bennett for the additional photos of the inside of Tobin Control, the train in the Feather River, and Indian Creek in Genessee Valley. See a whole bunch more photos and video taken by Don on the GRR here.

Here is a better photo of the crack in bottom bracket on Chris' bike. This photo was taken by John Hess, who worked at the Taylorsville control, and elsewhere on the GRR.