Archives for the month of: August, 2012

Sigh – putzing around the house has gotten me to the start of the Old Caz 300 five minutes late. I think I went out the apartment door three times, getting closer to the elevator in ten foot increments before I returned to the apartment for some forgotten thing.

At the start everyone has left but I do get the undivided attention of Rob and Max to get my brevet card for the randonnee. I have Rob’s attention as he hands me the card and asks if I need a baggie, but Max is now distracted. ‘What a pretty bike!’ he says – I politely thank him for noticing and say that yes, this is my new 650b Pelican. I extol the virtues of the 42 demi-ballon tires and how the cush of the ‘hurts’ keeps me smiling and goofing off when those on 23’s and carbon are grimacing and grunting through some serious cycling.

Rob says I can wait a bit and ride with some others, but I thank him and say I will be fine on my own. In truth, riding alone is much easier and relaxing for me and I get plenty of that sort of relaxation on this randonnee.

I have forgotten most of the prelude to Sonoma county, except that Chileno Valley was calm and deserted, and that most of the traffic on the roads were other cyclists.

Turning off Valley Ford Road onto Bloomfield I was surprised to find what a populous place Bloomfield is. There are many houses, ranchitos and monster trucks in Bloomfield. For some reason this road has a lot of traffic on it – people heading off to jobs in Tomales or Point Reyes Station I presume. The surface of this road, like most of the route, is poor and I am glad for the cushion of my big tires. Bloomfield Road has an almost continuous alligator skin surface that has broken the asphalt into irregularly shape blocks that click together as I ride over them. I rather enjoy the sound, which to me is reminiscent of the clicking of Mahjong tiles I hear in the alleys of Chinatown.

At the intersection of Burnside I answer the first of the informational questions and start climbing in earnest. There has already been some climbing in the form of White’s Hill, Hicks Mountain and Wilson Hill but they don’t really count, but Burnside does, I assure you. As I climb Burnside I also climb into the overcast skies and into the clouds. The dense fog spoils the view at the top of Burnside, but the view is available to anyone who cares to look at it on Google Street View. After Burnside I have to climb a bit on Barnett Valley Road, but then it drops in a rough and bumpy fashion to Bodega Highway – once again I am happy for my cushy tires.

Passing the Freestone Bakery I am tempted by the smells of fresh baked goods and a wave from fellow randonneur Ernesto, but memories of long lines and indifferent staff keep me heading up the hill to Occidental to the first receipt control at the Bohemian Market. At the market there are maybe 6 other riders, including Alex Plumb puttering around and eating. I drank my ensure and just bought a little something to top off my water bottle as I only drank half of it on the way out and was ready to go in about 5 minutes or so.

Bassem and his pal almost left with me but the endurance athlete couple showed up and the wife of the team pointed out that Bassem had forgotten his helmet. (I am helmet-blind and did not notice the absence of that item.) Bassem either does not understand women who yell and gesticulate or he is really tired or perhaps he just wanted to irritate the female of the duo. In any case, I hit the road before the issue was resolved and descended down to Guerneville in sunny skies, relaxing and basking in my solitude.

River Road is pretty traffic-y before I turn off onto Old Monte Rio Road. Somehow this road climbs effortlessly about 100 feet above River Road and even has a few nice views through the trees to the river. Turning onto Cherry Street I am shocked and appalled at the jumble of vacation shanties that have somehow survived multiple landslides, summer vacations, and infestations of one sort or another.

I suppose some intrepid dual Ph D candidate will study Cherry Street and develop an oral history of summer vacations and a vacation shack vernacular architecture dissertation and give Cherry Street its proper place in the cultural development of Guerneville.

Kicking the dust of Cherry Street from my cleats I pass onto Old Caz. I thought that things would get even more appalling, but instead I found myself looking for For Sale signs. That flat bit of Old Caz was really attractive and I bet the neighbors don’t even own a gun, a monster truck or a leaf blower. I make the right turn on the cue sheet and begin the climbing, but I keep thinking that I am on the wrong road because the pavement is too nice. I run across a man out for a stroll, but he is hard of hearing and when I ask him if this is Old Caz road, he says ‘Oh yeah! I saw a bunch of cyclists about a half hour ago!’

I accept his response as a ‘yes, this is Old Caz’ and keep climbing, and climbing. Eventually I get to the gate, answer the info question and begin the descent on the ‘dirt’.

The ‘dirt’ is there, but it is mostly obscured by the loose sharp rocks that range in size from baseballs to golf balls – and it is steep. I find it a challenge to keep my tires in the sweet spot of not going too fast or too slow. Too fast and I run the risk of flying off trail into some sharp objects and too slow I will lose the front and biff on all those sharp rocks. I also see all of the tire tracks of the other cyclists in the ‘dirt’ so I figure I might be on the right trail. I traverse a few barriers thrown up by nature and man and schuss down to smack into the 6×6 timber that is mostly buried across the trail (think “double flat!”) and then the eye opening and (blank) puckering final bit down to Austin creek.

Max’s informational email prior to the randonnee suggested riding on the left down to cross the creek and most of us will clean it. I of course am on the right side and a deep rut is down the middle. Stopping is not an option either, so I sort of smack into the creek aiming left-ish and make it mostly across before I do my foot dab and try and ride across the stream bed of baby-head sized rocks. No luck in riding, so I struggle and stumble toward the bank, try unsuccessfully to ride again and then push my bike up into someone’s front yard and through their front gate and out onto the other side of Old Caz. To start climbing again.

Around two miles of dirt and I am off Old Caz and onto Fort Ross Road. The cue says ‘second right, go up steep climb’. The cue does not mention that the steep climb lasts for about 7 miles. There is some descending  on the 9.2 miles of Fort Ross Road, bumpy descending, but then every little bit you went down you will go right back up again. My fondest memory of Fort Ross Road is the old three legged Chihuahua that was trying to attack me through the gate of the estate he was guarding. The second fondest memory is a neat house with red gables and a nice view out over the valley.

After Fort Ross Road I am expecting a drop to highway one on Meyers Grade but for whatever reason there is more climbing. Some diabolical person placed two 18% downgrade signs before two respectable climbs, but the third sign was the charm and I really do get to descend for a short while down to Highway 1.

Highway 1 was spectacular! I flew down the non-technical descent with a huge grin, distracted by sea stacks and crashing waves. There is also a little bit of a climb to get out of that canyon, but I had the strong impression that nobody wanted to pass me and rather enjoyed driving along at my pace so they could enjoy the view a little longer.

I descend down into Jenner relaxing and riding no handed to stop at the Jenner Sea Store, which is really just a gas station. Two Brians, a Gabe, Vidas and Tom Haggerty are there just getting ready to leave. I pop into the store, get my Costco Calzone, a big Anchor beer, and a gatoraide for my bottles. While the calzone is being microwaved I take my beer out to Bryan and tell him to open it and drink some and that I will be right back – I keep forgetting to add a bottle opener to my kit of tools.

Bryan is confused to see me, but I tell him I started five minutes late and was just goofing off and enjoying myself, well, enjoying myself as much as one might on this ride. I wish them all a bon route and send them off. I eat my calzone in the company of a local who tells stories and jokes. ‘Lance has a new energy bar – you win everything but it costs you all your titles.’

Ernesto arrives while I am swilling beer and chewing my tough calzone that is warm and rubbery on the outside and cool and chewy on the inside. He drinks something healthy and heads off on his own. I too head off after another ten minutes of beer swilling to Willow Creek Road.

Willow Creek Road is where I decided to DNF on the king ridge 400 but I have no bitter memories. I remember greeting a pretty park ranger there last time and I get to enjoy her smiling face again this time too, if only for a moment. The climb up Willow Creek must be a mistake because it is smooth gravel and is really quite easy except for one short 150 foot pitch, but I have been on it before and know I am in the right place.

I zip down Joy Road at speed enjoying how my big tires let me get away with hitting bumps and holes with no consequence and pass through Bodega, where there is some sort of generic ‘festival’ going on. The signs never specified the reason for the fest, but there were a lot of people there.

I enjoy a bit of a tail wind on Hwy 1 and head off for the last big climb of the ride, up Dillon Beach/School house Road. Apparently this is the preferred road for people who live in these parts to tow boat trailers and race around in out of tune hot rods . There are some really cool puffy rock outcrops that you can see as you grind your way up the hill.

Hwy 1 from Tomales south is deserted except for what Gabe described to me as a ‘Geriatric Hippy Sex Party’ that was at the place that is alongside the first climb after the Tomales wind tunnel. I do not know how he got that idea (perhaps he was invited?) but the people did look like aged chrystal worshippers and I did see a lot of women with hair dyed red wearing purple.

At Point Reyes Station I greet Rob Hawks and hook up with Gabe and Tom Haggerty for the final push to home. Ernesto is there too, but he hangs out with Rob for a little longer and we leave him behind.

Now it is dark, but the traffic is light, the pavement is new and the wind is at our backs. The last climb out of Muir Beach is about ten times longer than I remember it being, but it is a fairly gentle climb and even in the dark the views are quite nice.

After descending down to Tam Junction Gabe picks up the pace and I start bonking. I reach for my last ensure (of three I carried) and gulp it down as Gabe slows for a turn. Gabe keeps the pace up all the way through Sausalito until the final climb then he starts to bonk as my ensure revives me. Now it is my turn to set the pace and I lead Gabe and Tom to the gate of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Per standard procedure I wait to press the button until Gabe is in view, that way he can ride straight through an open gate without stopping. Bridge crossed we arrive to the happy greetings of Ely, Juliayn and Ken. Beer! Cup of Noodles! Done! We all hang out swaddled in Ely’s son’s Finley’s blankets and gab about the ride for a half hour or so.

I start freezing and head home. Boy I was cold on the way home; I hope the volunteers stayed warm. So I did it! I completed one of Max’s rides; this ride really exemplifies how strong a rider Max is and makes it easy to understand why he has a problem with breaking bicycle frames.

Lots of climbing and descending on rough roads can break riders as well as frames – I am glad I was not broken this time around. Thank you Max and all the volunteers for making it possible for us to ride something epic like the Old Caz 300.

I did not take any pictures but beside googling ‘old cazadero’ for images, you can visit:

http://veloflaneur.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/1146/

http://www.boxdogbikes.com/?s=old+cazadero+300

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Lazing in my bed, I wake up early before the start of the Santa Cruz Dart. I crack an eye open but I don’t want to and check the clock. I have set the alarm for 4am and I want all the sleep I can get.

Crap! 544AM! we START at 6am!

I jump out of bed and start throwing on clothes and bag balm, brush my teeth (some things must be done), make sure I have money and keys and walk out the door only to pop back in for my helmet. Out the door and I begin the ride to the Potrero Hill Safeway. On the way there the traffic lights change from flashing red to normal, so I figure it is 6am. Late! Late, late late. I still can’t bring myself to blow through any traffic lights and I arrive to the jeers of my team, Jim G. Juliayn, Ely and Heath. They rightfully decide to give me grief for my failings and I get my receipt. It says 609am so I do not feel too badly.

Heading out of town I slow us a tad navigating unfamiliar roads, but once we are on Lake Merced Boulevard I get some complements for getting us out of town so quickly and we are even right on schedule.

Serious Cycling! Poseurs stay home.

Once on Skyline we start goofing off and I take some pictures to record the moment and to raise morale a little more I take the team on a short mixed terrain detour on an embankment above the beach at Sharp Park Municipal Golf Course.

Sharp Park path complete with ocean and small sharp rocks

The relaxed joys of the trail are quickly replaced by poor pavement and narrow shoulders leading into Pacifica and the climb of Devil’s Slide. The only bad thing about Devil’s slide is the complete lack of a shoulder. As it is not even 7am traffic is light and we are comfortable in our environment which quickly changes from forest to sheer cliffs high over the ocean. We group up at the Moss Beach porta-pots and head south on wide shoulders and share the road with the increasing traffic.

Last year I organized a team that started in Berkeley and rode three huge hills, Morgan Territory, Mines Road and Mount Hamilton and started and finished in the more auto-centric and congested portions of the east and south bay. I also stayed at my Aunt’s house in Oakland so I could make the Berkeley start. This year not wanting any challenges, I chose the easiest simplest way to the finish venue and that is Jesse Marsh’s Coastal Cruz permanent and hence our team name nous cœur Jesse (we heart Jesse). I also wanted to ride with people that I had not ridden with previously and Jim G. Juliayn, Ely and Heath were luckily available to join me. I have ridden with Jim a bit in the past but it has been a long time so he does not really count.

Just south of Half Moon Bay the first mechanical happens – Ely suffers some muscle cramps smack dab in the middle of his back. Juliayn, ever available for assistance with medical emergencies offers aid and comfort to Ely while the rest of us check our iphones and stuff.

Ely recovers quickly and then moves to the front and rides way too fast but he is too far out in front for me to tell him to slow down so we chase for a few miles. At the top of the second hill after Tunitas Creek Road, Jim is off the front and misses the turn onto Stage Road. Juliayn chases him down the half-mile descent and Ely and Heath and I head down Stage.

We don’t see Juliayn and Jim until the control stop at Pescadero. They doubled back up the hill and got back on course instead of just turning left on 84 and getting back to Stage – teach Jim to go off the front – and sorry about Juliayn. I assumed that Jim would have ended up in Pescadero, but he was not so sure he would have figured it out so it was all for the best.

The stop in Pescadero was a prelude to the finish party at the end of the ride. We had an hour and a half scheduled for this stop and during that time Jeff Brittle, the organizer of the event we were riding showed up with three other riders in tow, and then ten minutes later, Jesse’s team arrived too. We goofed off a little too much and left five minutes late.

Ely stretches his back

Jeff Brittle on left and his fellow Populaire riders

The ride down the coast was pretty ok. Nice weather – 60 degrees and overcast with the sun peeking out.

team morale is high despite the crappy views

The traffic in Santa Cruz was hellish and when the bike lanes stopped so did we at our next hour and a half stop, the Ugly Mug. I could have stayed there the rest of my life, being a ‘Bra’ watching the endless traffic jam outside the window sipping on my Guinness Stout mixed with espresso. It was Juliayn’s birthday the day before so I bought her lunch like a good captain should.

mighty Pint

Happy Birthday Pie

Out the door and up the hill! We climb Soquel/San Jose Road on new pavement and share it with hardly any cars for the next hour or so. At the top we stop at the Summit Market, a place my Fleche team stops at as well. This place is the social hub for the hill people and it is always an interesting place.

A bit more climbing after the market and we can drop down to the land of conspicuous consumption via a sweet winding road and dirt path. At yet another coffee shop, the Great Bear, we spend 45 minutes in about the lowest key place on this jam packed street of high priced people and cars. Juliayn’s brother and fiancée join us and lend a friendly atmosphere, and Jesse’s team (team name Grand Fondle) joins us for a few just before we leave. We need to leave anyway because there is not enough room for two teams-worth of bikes.

The land of conspicuous consumption is equipped with bike lanes and so much space that the traffic seems light even though it isn’t, but I bet a lot of people in this place were watching the Olympics on a large screen somewhere in their large houses instead of driving large cars to large strip malls.

On the bike bridge Heath breaks his chain and we take a break for the ten minutes it takes to fix it and we see Jesse’s team and the Lithuanian team passing by heading to the finish. Sean from Jesse’s team jumps ship and hangs with us for a group photo http://www.flickr.com/photos/26801123@N06/7719025196/in/pool-37716093@N00/

Drat! Serous Cycling causes serious damage sometimes

Jesse was waiting to collect Sean on the far side of the bridge and shadow us until they spy a safeway and they stop for chocolate milk. We get to the finish and like any good Captain I hand the RUSA official (Jeff Brittle) all the team’s brevet cards and receipts correctly filled out and signed and give him a beer.

Then the Santa Cruz Randonneurs gave us dinner! We enjoy another hour and a half of goofing off before the train ride home, and during this time I am able to hand beers to last year’s team mates Bryan and Gabe as they walk in the door. They re-rode my last year’s route and the temperatures were 100 degrees on top of doing all those huge hills. Serious Miles. Big Miles. I also was able to gift Rob and Theresa, the other two riders of the team with their beers. On the train ride home I spent most of the time with Todd, the member of their team who bailed – he looked a lot better than his team mates – who got on the train earlier. We were able to commiserate and I was able to relate my own recent dnf on the king ridge 400.

This ride has twice the fun of a fleche and half the riding – the recipe for a wonderful day on the bike with a group of fun people. Thanks Team! Thanks Jeff Brittle for organizing, and thank you Santa Cruz Randonneurs!