Archives for the month of: July, 2012

A week has passed since the La Ruta Loca and I am riding through Polk Gulch to the start of the King Ridge 400. The time is 430am and it is early enough the prostitutes are not lounging on the street corners and groups of drunk people are. I am the last rider to arrive at the start and Max has a few last minute changes for the info controls, so unlike a ‘normal’ randonnee I listen closely to the pre ride talk and even ask a question or two.

Corrections noted we head off into the darkness to climb most of Mount Tam to the Pantoll Ranger Station. There is fog enough the pavement is wet under the trees but it is not as if it were raining like it can be sometimes. At the top of our climb I glance and note the answer to the info control question and roll on through, knowing I will record the answer another 4 hours down the road when we stop in Bodega and get a receipt.

In rolling through the control I leave my usual riding friends behind, Gabe and Bryan, who are using the luxurious toilets that flush. I hope the restrooms have aired out since the La Ruta. After the descent to Stinson and the following ride to the north along Bolinas Lagoon the wind is as calm and placid as the night herons lined up on the telephone wires. Bryan and Gabe catch me on the eucalyptus tree sheltered climb up to Dog town. We chat and compare notes on our physical condition and our ride expectations.

Bryan has done Kings Ridge once previously and is also an ancianno of the Old Cazadero 300k and so knows the most of what we are in for. Gabe speculates that Myers Grade will be hot, and I wonder at the climb of Skaggs Springs and surmise that Kings Ridge will be hot as well as Myers Grade.

We stay together until Marshall or so, and then with the steeper and longer rollers they leave me 5 or 600 feet behind. We group up again once or twice and after Middle Road I lose contact.

Bryan and Gabe ride away chatting while on Middle Road

At Bodega the dude working there ignores me and never says a word while I make my purchase of apple juice and Bryan jokes this is the first time he has had to wait for me at a control.

We leave just as the sun starts to shine for our climb of Joy Road. We climb this road on the other 400k the club puts on, but with this ride the route adds another 400 foot of climbing instead of turning at Bittner Road so we can enjoy Willow Springs Road.

Bryan and Gabe leave me behind pretty quickly, partly because they are both stronger, but also because they don’t have as easy a climbing gear (I have a 30/30) and they can’t slow as much as I. I am shaded and climb steadily with the comforting sound of large caliber gunfire from the nearby gun club all the way to the top. A short descent on increasingly poor pavement and I arrive at the Willow Creek Gate where Bryan and Gabe are waiting for me. We update our cards and begin the rest of the descent. Before I leave the control I decide on a quick potty break and they are gone.

On the long climb up Joy Road I had considered my options for not finishing this ride. The climb up Joy Road is just one of many that I will do if I continue on the route. I really was interested in King Ridge, but there is only one way to get to it and that is going up – and up – all the way back down, and then almost all the way back up – and then up some more – to King Ridge which is not at all flat.

I figure if I do the route to King Ridge then I should just do the entire ride to the end, so King Ridge is out. Doing Myers Grade to Stewarts Point will have me on Hwy 1 a long time during high tourist distracted driving season on the way back. I decide on bailing at the bottom of the climb I just completed. I can be home before dark – I can even sit on the couch in Point Reyes Station for a couple hours!

At Highway 1 Bryan and Gabe are waiting for me again and I sheepishly tell them my decision. They are supportive of course and I give them all of my Ensure and my gels with the caffeine for the night riding. I head toward the smoked salmon guy on the climb to Bodega Bay and they head off for adventure.

I have decided to head home and I am not exhausted, I am not sore and I have plenty of time to the next control, and I even can expect to finish just fine at my current easy going pace – I just don’t feel like doing the ride.  So while DNF usually means ‘did not finish’ for this ride it means ‘did not feel like it’. I suppose I might have completed the ride if it were arranged so that we could with relative ease get to the ‘good stuff’  of Myers Grade through Sweetwater Springs and then the flat-ish way home thereafter, but it isn’t.

Tom Haggerty’s wife (Elaine?) toots her horn as she passes by and for a nice day on hwy 1 there is just steady traffic and nothing too onerous – only two close calls the whole way to Point Reyes Station which is pretty good for a Saturday in July. The fog comes back by Tomales and instead of Fallon and Chileno Valley I decide to stay on Hwy 1 with the traffic and go to the couch in Point Reyes. The fact that Fallon and Chileno are on the return route of the KR400 also helps me decide to take the flatter route.

After two hours on the couch in Point Reyes I head home on strangely quiet roads (everyone watching the Olympics?) and get home at dusk. I call in my DNF and start my dinner preparations after a shower and think about my day and my season to follow.


It is 6am on Saturday and I am back at the Marina Safeway for another go at the La Ruta Loca! I always have mixed feelings about this mixed terrain ride. It is hard. It can be hot, dusty, windy and demoralizing and then all of a sudden become invigorating and inspiring. There are things I see and places I go I never see otherwise so I keep coming back for the good stuff.

I arrive first, like the last time I did this ride two years ago and within minutes Carlos arrives with Bryan C. in tow. I expected a small group this year for this edition. The previous baby la ruta’s and mixed terrain 101 pre-rides have served to properly sober most people into going to the beach instead of joining us for a full la ruta ride. The other Bryan, Brian K. shows and heads off to park his car. Just before we leave Andrea S. and Henry C. arrive and Carlos hands off the brevet card with the info questions to them.

Carlos is on his usual Habanero mountain bike and Bryan is on his Atlantis with the biggest whitest tires in the world, brand name Full Figured Frank (Fat Frank is just not a nice name for tires). They sort of look like the tires on my old Schwinn Typhoon.

I am on my fourth Box Dog Pelican, a standard 650b in 58 size. The 42 tires are plenty forgiving and grippy off road and quick enough on pavement. The cush of the 42 tires is very welcome as well.

Bryan C. with his Full Figured Frank Tyres and me at Crissy Field
Photo swiped from Carlos without asking

La Ruta controls are mostly info questions because of the limited chance for a receipt halfway down Mount Tam and on top of Bolinas Ridge, but also info controls have no open or closing time which is essential for a ride with this much off road climbing. I have a 44/30 in front and an 11/30 in back. It was adequate.

We collect a Larry at the bridge but later he chooses to stop at the stinkiest porta-pot in Marin at the traffic circle where we get onto Coastal Trail and head down. I warn Larry that he may be overcome by fumes in the porta pot and die a horrible slow death but he ignores me and that was the last time I saw him. Poor Larry shoulda listened.

Climbing up to the traffic circle, already out of the fog
Photo swiped from Carlos without asking

Larry really should have listened because he had not attended any of the pre-rides and got lost. I was relieved to later hear he escaped the porta pot safely.

On the steeper climb up Miwok I could see Carlos and the Bry(i)ans a few minutes and a few hundred feet ahead but I did not feel like closing the gap. They gained even more on the steps of Old Springs and as I neared the Miwok Stable I could see them already climbing out of Tennessee Valley on Coastal, little specks in the distance.

Unconcerned with having no audience for my jokes and stories I just ride my pace and enjoy the day. Having reviewed the brevet card questions, I already knew what to look for at the info controls and I could roll on through without stopping.

I catch up to the group at the Pantoll Ranger Station about 10 minutes in arrears and hang out a few minutes to fill my bottles and drink one of my two ensures I have brought. Much to my dismay whatever makes the porta-pot at the headlands waay stinky had also been visited upon the Ranger Station and lingering was not an option.

We leave together and the three quickly get their 10 minute gap on me. I enjoy my leisurely climb and descent down Rock Springs, roll through the control at five corners and on out Concrete Pipe. Back on pavement I marvel to catch sight of the trio ahead at the Meadow club golf course but I do not catch them until the crest at Magnolia Hill. On the way up I collected someone from Germany and he stays with us until Bolinas Ridge mostly chatting with Bryan about the Tour de France. At Alpine Dam we also collect Gabrielle F. and she climbs with us up to the ridge.

climbing up to Bolinas Ridge, Gabi, Brian, Bryan, and me
Photo swiped from Carlos without asking

The temperatures are finally starting to climb as we climb but under the shade everything is quite pleasant. Bolinas Ridge is dry and fast and even though I let Carlos by on the Loose Scree of Misery section, I pass him back on the Hidden Roots Grasping Sticks section and it is his turn to arrive a few minutes in arrears of the group.

The temperatures drop along with the drop in altitude down to Hwy 1 and once on the brand new pavement I move to the front for about a mile until Bryan takes over. Soon I cannot hold his wheel and I fall off my usual 5 to 10 minutes.

new pavement on hwy 1
Photo swiped from Carlos without asking

It is a bit of a party at Black Mountain Cycles when I arrive with my couch rental fee six pack and two slices of pizza. Cyclo-tourists are scrambling for tubes and advice as we lounge on the couches. Mike is soldiering on through a tough day with lots of poison ivy all over. He got it moving a log off a trail at China Camp.

We leave together, but I stop to reapply sun block and the three are gone again. The air feels like an oven and I tough it out on my own until the Ross/San Anselmo border where Bryan hands me up his leftover red and blue slurpy. An icecream headache from the slurpy was the perfect thing for that moment. I will need to remember that for the next hot ride I am on.

This time I hang with the trio despite my debilitating habit of stopping at stop signs all the way to Ross Commons. I need to stay with them because I have to out-sprint Bryan for the Kentfield City limit sign. Bryan instinctively knows my plans (curses!) and we go about 600 feet out because Bryan knows I can’t sprint for long at all. This time I let Bryan lead me out instead of just sprinting hoping that doing what the pros do will help my weak sprint. In my excitement I go too early but I am committed. I get around Bryan and he only has a single wheel lead on me when I last look at the speed sign flashing 28 and put my head down and push harder. I am almost even with him when he throws for the sign and takes me by a half wheel. I was sprinting for the speed sign another 25 feet down the road. Crap.

Ah well there is always next time. The sprint lost I lose interest in keeping up and once again I don’t see them until after the Paradise loop and Café Acri where I soak up some mango gelato.

The breeze is cool on the way to Mount Tam for the second ascent, but once on the slopes the breeze is blocked and the heat from the baked ground is oppressive. I start pouring water on my head and down my jersey every few minutes to stay comfy.

The trio is waiting for me at West Point Inn and there is a very happy and enthusiastic person there who has done La Ruta in the past (or maybe just pre-rides?) who wants to pamper us with food and wine but we are all unresponsive.

lounging at West Point Inn – there’s my Pelican
Photo swiped from Carlos without asking

The mostly descending finish of the ride is completely spectacular – such views! Panoramic is nice but nothing compared to descending Coastal to Tennessee in the early evening golden light. I continue at a leisurely pace and make the trio wait 25 minutes for me at the finish. They made the time cut off and I did not, just like last time, ah well, there is always next year. Viva La Ruta!

Photo swiped from Carlos without asking

The new Golden Gate Bridge Plaza is pretty ok. When the plaza opened they forgot to put the drinking fountain back. Reading my mind, like any good public agency should, they have put a fountain back in the plaza. It is clearly visible in this image. Thank you public servants.

Ely made me my second set of panniers –

La Ruta Season is tourist season here in SF. The roads fill up with drivers impatient to arrive at some world class tourist destination, eager to pass you in that blind turn wondering why you are on the road ‘in their lane’. Of course, there is no such thing as ‘my lane’ there is only ‘the road’ and the responsibility of everyone to not harm or harass other road users but I am digressing already too early in this post and now I need to get off my own lawn, so to speak.

La Ruta Season is dry dusty trail time, with plenty of daylight so no generator hubs or fenders are necessary to enjoy some time on the bike. Those items don’t really get in the way, but bolinas ridge is filled with fender eating sticks and I have already repaired three sets of honjos messed up by a perfectly flicked stick.

My only fenderless bike at the moment is my 650blue pelican. I have only ridden it twice so far, both on La Ruta pre-rides on mount tam. It is definitely a confidence booster when I can complete the build on a bike and immediately ride it 80 miles off road and not have a single mechanical.

halfway up Coastal from Tennessee Valley, Joshua Bryant’s bicycle in the background – photo from Carlos

Climbing and descending on some of the trails is a challenge, but almost any terrain is worth escaping the summer drivers.

steep, from joshua bryant – descending to muir beach

a bit of pavement and we climb for about 40 minutes on Deer Park.

Henry and myself almost at the top of Deer Park, Photo from Andrea Symons – bike is my 700c pelican, with fenders but no generator

in about another hour from Deer Park, we stop at this spot on Rock Springs before the steep stuff.

Myself, Henry and Jim G somewhere on Rock Springs – photo by Joshua Bryant

We always stop here –

Myself and Andrea, photo by Carlos

After this it gets steep, but soon flattens out into Concrete Pipe Road. From there we can drop down to beer or home, or continue on up to the fender eating sticks of bolinas ridge and go to beer/home another three hours later. In two weeks we will go the long way plus another lap of Mount Tam added for the La Ruta.

La Ruta season makes the best of the crowded road season and toughens me up enough that few other rides or distances are intimidating. Viva La Ruta!



I have been working up several 200k permanent routes that I have yet to submit. I get enthusiastic about choosing my own roads and destinations and then lose interest when it comes to actually submitting it for review and becoming a responsible perm owner. Routes such as ‘the occidental tourist’ the ‘del Puerto double door’ and ‘vision quest’ will probably never get beyond RWGPS. The newest route, ‘the happy doughnut’ is my current obsession.

I want this route to be a standard go-to for riders wishing to ride a quiet road permanent during high tourist season in the bay, and that means going off road. The way I want to develop the controls is only a receipt control for the start and finish at the happy doughnut at Columbus and Kearney and have all of the other controls informational with no opening or closing times. The happy doughnut is 24hrs and is next door to a micro-brewery.

Route is essentially happy doughnut, railroad grade, ridgecrest, bo-fax, Samuel P, platform bridge, hicks valley, marshall wall, and then back home via Samuel P and the whole familiar Fairfax to the bridge route.

Today I am riding the whole route and I am taking pictures for my controls, which will have about 4-7 random easy questions to answer each. At the last minute I decide to not take the new 650 pelican and reach for the 700c pelican because it has fenders and it is pretty foggy out. I also decide to take only one water bottle and plan to purchase a second one at Black Mountain. Mike has the new purist bottles and the version he has is easily taken apart and cleaned from perpetuum residue.

It is sunny and breezy and the ride to the mill valley path is hot and the only negative thing is almost being squashed by a senior citizen of the ‘I can’t see, hear, turn my head or walk, but thank god I can still drive’ type. The other minor thing of note is a group of riders resplendent with flamboyant lugs and mustachioed bars who did not yield to the old dude with a cane in a crosswalk that I stopped for on Bridgeway.

Threading through the group rides and team kits I split off the mill valley bike path and take the quiet way to rail road grade. The entire climb takes around 40 minutes to the top and is warm and balmy. I thank the resident who provides the mid-climb water stop who was parking alongside the trail when I topped off my bottle, and later at East Peak hikers thanked me for having a bell on my bike.

At East Peak I refill my bottle and drink one of my two ensures I have brought. The climb out from east peak to west peak is slowly cooling and clouding as I near the ocean. Near west peak I spy two cyclists from Quebec that I escorted from San Anselmo to Fairfax last week and greet them with a ‘bon route!’ At the top of west peak I greet the Bolinas private school principle on his serrota, and on the way down to ridgecrest I see randonneur Gabi making her way up to the top. I yell her name, but I was going sort of fast.

Ridgecrest is socked in. The dense fog reduces visibility to around 100 feet and I reach back and turn on my stupid bright 2w blinky. This thing is illegally bright, but the way I have it mounted it points at the ground and will only blind recumbent riders silly enough to want to draft me. My fenders keep myself and my bike dry and my wool is keeping me warm. I ring my bell in greeting to the riders emerging from the fog, and a couple even ring back. At the north end of ridgecrest under the trees the fog turns to rain like it always does on rides like this.

By the time I am on bo-fax the fog is gone and the sun is shining.  I catch up to a couple riding an old Jack Taylor tandem. I greet them with “Is that the Jack Taylor I see in Oakland?” and they both laugh and say yes. The Irvings are on an out and back ride that started In Fairfax and ended at East Peak. This is their first ride in some time. The Irvings are evidently tough and strong. What is better is they are riding my speed and they have not heard any of my stories as we ride along and laugh.

By the time we are in Fairfax we are dry and we are starting to get hot again. I say my goodbyes at the intersection of Center and Bo-fax (one of my controls) and head off to Samuel P. and the traffic of Sir Frances Drake.

For a nice weekend the traffic pleasantly is light. Samuel P. is crowded with campers but is not completely full and the trails are quiet. After Platform Bridge, Petaluma-Point Reyes Road is heavily trafficked but the shoulder is wide and most of the drivers turn off on Nicasio and the climb up hicks mountain is once again quiet.

Passing the Cheese Factory the parking lot is full and when I turn onto Hicks Valley Road the headwinds, the first of the ride, begin. I see two cars and one cyclist the whole time. The cyclist passed me when I was admiring the koi pond at walker ranch, but when I got to the base of the wall at the S/2 ranch (I like to think it means ‘half-essed’ ranch) he is stopped and says he is not going up the wall. Too bad for him.

Dropping down to Hwy 1 and hog island is bumpy and swift and once on Hwy 1 the tail wind increases steadily through the five rollers before the last hill preceding Point Reyes Station.

I miss the closing time of black mountain by a half hour and head straight to the whale of a deli to eat some food outside in the company of a group of Slavic speakers.

Belly full of pizza and ginger pop I make my slow quiet way back to Samuel P Taylor and home. On the Mill Valley path I pause to watch a Kite (the raptor) hover and dive for food in the estuary.

I get home after taking 10.5 hrs to do the 200k. I figure this one is medium hard. Not as difficult as the light house but up there. Someday I will send in the paperwork, but I have some new ideas for another perm I would like to create.