Archives for the month of: November, 2012

OK everyone, raise a hand so you all can pledge your allegiance to me. Hello, heellooOOOoo…

This was not starting well. I had just gotten my receipt for the starting control in downtown Oakland. It is pouring rain and I am trying to get my team’s attention for their pledge of allegiance to the Captain of the Delta Beach Patrol. Jake and Carlos (Carlos is commonly known as El Rey Sordo) are ignoring me completely, Ben is reattaching his front derailler and keeps dropping his tri-y allen, and Andrea is shivering and just sort of looking at me.

Time for the pledge of allegiance team! Team? Yoo Hoo.

Frustrated with my team’s lack of adoration we finally leave because Jake announced we could go to his place of work two blocks away for a potty break. We all enjoyed a final bit of relief before embarking on our 125 mile trip to Davis in the rain and headed out the door. Ben questioned my not putting on my rain jacket, but I explained I never put my jacket on until my pants are wet. Ben harrumphed in agreement and then we stopped a block later so I could put my jacket on.

One of my long term complaints about my Rando Club is that we have never started a randonnee in a torrential downpour. I hope someday to be inspired by the sight of my RBA shouting his pre-ride speech over the thunder of a toad strangler.  I finally get my wish, but it was me shouting and being ignored and that is just not right.

Finally under way, only about 20 minutes down on time to start with, my mind starts churning on where my team can make up the time seamlessly but the only assured idea was about 6 hours down the road and a lot can happen on a stormy day to slow us down.

We ride off into the Oakland Hills on a route that Jake enjoys regularly toward our first stop in Moraga. As is expected, at 7am very few people are out and about and the pouring rain keeps even more people indoors as well.

The route we take is mostly familiar to me and mostly gorgeous.

Oakland Hills

At the first control we chat with a few concerned citizens who are worried about our riding in the rain, but I assure them that the only real danger is the chafing. Chafing? Why yes, I explain that after 6 or 8 hours of continuous rain your skin softens and things chafe that never chafed before and you hope will never chafe again. 6 to 8 hours? Why yes, we don’t expect it to rain the entire 13.5 hours our ride will take. Dumbfounded, the citizen walks away.

Ah well, not everyone has an appreciation for Randonneuring, and I can accept that. We soon leave for the first leg of our 15 mile stretch of bicycle path.

Moraga bike path

We take a slight detour to the Rivendell Rummage Sale, where I say hi to Riv Regulars Kevin, Grant, and Mark, chat with a family friend, and greet fellow Randonneurs, Brian Oei and his crew of regulars, and Manny Acosta. I get some pants, assemble the Patrol and we head off for quiet cycle paths of the Diablo Valley.

The first 15 miles of cycle path ends in another torrential downpour and I give my first serious speech about dangers of the road because we are turning onto a high speed short-cut road that has a long narrow bridge and a long narrow stretch of road with no shoulder that the East Bay Bicycle Coalition describes as a death trap for cyclists.

Sub-Commandante El Rey Sordo takes the point and I bring up the rear because I have the most reflective stuff on my person and on my bicycle. Half-way across the bridge some mom in a giant SUV slows down behind us and blocks traffic for the rest of the bridge and until there is a shoulder – thank you anonymous mom. Our friends and family thank you as well.

Pittsburgh bike path

We load up on soda and plastic coated chocolate donuts at the Chevron control and leave for our next leg of 15 miles of cycle path. Highlights were an at grade stream crossing that was moving swiftly and about 6 inches deep, and the Taco Factory in Antioch. We leave the control, still 20 minutes down on time but the sun is finally shining and I have wrung out my socks, so everything is peachy.

Taco Factory Team Portrait

The next challenge/event is the Antioch Bridge, where unlike most bridges across the delta we share the lane with traffic. The experience turns out to be completely enjoyable, from ringing our bells for the toll booth attendants to the gentle climb up to 135 feet. El Rey Sordo does win the sprint for the Sacramento County line though, and I am handed yet another sprinting defeat. Sigh.

Industrial side of the antioch bridge

agricultural side of the antioch bridge

The contrast between the burbs and malls and factories of the south side of the delta and the open emptiness of the north is refreshing and hopeful. It is even more hopeful because this is where I can make up the 20 minutes by deleting a long-cut I had added to the route which was a perambulation of Sherman Island. It is raining again, so no one objects to the loss of a quiet detour and we stay on the busy highway with a wide shoulder.

hwy 160 time saver

Before long we go around a barrier and access an abandoned portion of highway 160 so we can get on the sidewalk of the highway 12 bridge to Rio Vista. On the abandoned section of highway a large pit bull is very excited to see us, wagging its tail and hopping around in glee. I am tempted to stop and pet it but I want food. Food is beckoning to me across the river.

abandoned hwy 160

The bridge is pretty neat and we get to greet the bridge keeper who is starting his shift.

Rio Vista Bridge – it is a draw bridge

We stop at a very nice bakery in Rio Vista that has the best cookies and pretty passable Americano’s. We leave ten minutes down on time, for the ferry two miles down the road.

leaving Rio Vista

The ferry runs every 20 minutes, but it is waiting for us as we approach and as soon as we are aboard it leaves, saving us the 20 minutes I had allotted for the ferry! Double Score! We are now ten minutes up on time and everyone is in high spirits.

Andrea likes the ferry

We pop off the ferry and I insist on a stop for a team portrait. I carefully lay my bike down on the side of the road making sure that my tires don’t touch any of the puncture vine that is rampant in the delta.

Delta team portrait #2

It is such a beautiful moment I am moved to make a speech – ‘Minions behold and weep for this is my Empire and I am Captain of the Delta!’ But nobody weeps; all I get is a Whaaaat? from El Rey Sordo. Crushed – my Empire is crushed before I can even establish dominance.

Ah well, let’s ride our bikes for the sun is shining, the wind is at our backs, and there are no cars for miles. The next 10 miles we see two cars, one on a ferry.

My Delta Empire. sigh.

The next stretch is even quieter and unpaved. I spy an old farmer down at the base of the levee and notice that our shadows should alert him to our presence. Sure enough the first two shadows pass and he turns to see who is passing swiftly in silence. I reassure him with a wave and a ring or two of my bell.

dirt road in my delta empire

Team portrait #3

We are all disappointed to have the pavement return, but at least it is smooth and the cars are still completely absent.

Our next stretch of road looks abandoned and we stop to reconnoiter and decide the abandoned road is the one to take. El Rey Sordo had been complaining the whole ride. Me thinks it is too rainy; Me thinks it is too hilly; Me thinks it is too flat. Now he says, Me thinks it is too pretty.

Too Pretty

It ends up being so pretty we decide to pee on it by taking a potty break and taking yet another team portrait.

team portrait #4 – Victory! – or something.

At Clarksburg we stop at a tackle shop and put on our reflecto gear and head off into the darkness to our 11.5 hour control in Sacramento at the Food Co-op. Near Freeport we hoot on Deb Bank’s dart team who is headed in the opposite direction.

on the freeport road to sacramento

Sacramento is very quiet and relaxed for a big town and the Co-op, unlike Rainbow has friendly staff and excellent food at their deli. Mmm. Moroccan soup and tasty fresh salad. Mmmm.

One more incomplete team photo and we head off on L street toward Davis and our destination. Rain gear comes back on and we arrive five minutes early at Sud Werks. No flats, no hissyfits, and no bad experiences with drivers – a very successful ride.

incomplete unenthusiastic team portrait #5

We get to enjoy a good 45 minutes of socializing with the other 12 teams, and I get to purchase one of the six liters of beer for Bryan whose birthday it was. Happy Birthday Bryan!

sud werks

Most of the team leaves for the train to SF, but I get to spend the night at Jake’s friend’s house that is empty except for the bob-tail cat, Ramona.

The next day we ride to Winters to the bicycle shop that Ben works at and we marvel at a Cycles Ohrt 650b rando bike they are restoring. The bike was made in france but was badged and sold in San Francisco.

After an excellent breakfast we ride on to the train at Suisun City and reach home just a little bit after dark. Sooo nice to get out of town and I am so glad I got to ride in the delta with a tail wind. Thanks Team, you are the best, and thank you Dean of the Davis Bike Club!

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Daylight Saving Time (there is no ‘s’ in saving as there is no time bank) coincides closely with Dia de los Muertos. This is also a time when cyclists get killed by motorists during the evening commute a little more frequently than is normally expected.

Suddenly with the time change people are driving home in the dark and they are slow to change their careless driving habits and also people who have no business driving after dark – those in the ‘I can’t see, turn my head, hear or walk but thank god I can still drive’ club – are caught out unexpectedly by the early darkness.

I know that it is important that everyone continue to drive everywhere as much as possible for as long as possible and crash as much as possible to keep the auto/fuel/repair/insurance/litigation and healthcare industries belching the black smoke of a stimulated economy lest our civilization collapse, but please don’t kill my friends to keep your credit card minimum paid.

Cyclists may want to give the roads an hour or so to clear out of the dangerous types during the evening commute for the next few weeks until the motorists who are going to crash or kill are done with their automobiling for the day.

Just under the wire the day before the time shift the SFR club staged the del Puerto 200, one of my favorite rides. It is flat and boring to start, but that section goes by fast and del Puerto Road is so gorgeous I forget all about the previous half. This ride also starts at a reasonable 8am after a cushy ride on BART.

For this ride I took a 650b bike for the crappy pavement near the San Joaquin River and for the cattle grates on del Puerto. I also took a couple of massive sandwiches because the people that run the Junction Bar that is the control at the end of del Puerto Road are overwhelmed when more than five people order food, let alone the 100 randonneurs that were scheduled to show.

I somehow showed up to the start earlier than most so there was no line to wait in to sign in; I got my card from Masa (who volunteered at the start last year as well) and got out of the way. While waiting for the start I hooted on my friends and offered my unsolicited criticisms (cool bike!) of equipment choice of various riders.

I guess there was a big crowd, but most of the new people did not ride near me, being either faster or slower than I, so I did not meet or speak with many new people while riding. Most of the flat part of the ride out was spent looking at the back of Gabe E’s personally built pelican at around 20-23 mph. The beginning of this ride is always pretty fast, especially after the descent into Corral Hollow. The name of the road is often mispronounced or misread. Think cowboys corralling cows, not that stuff that grows in the ocean.

throwing some horns in the fast bit – photo swiped from masa without asking

At the first stop, Jimmy’s One Stop, I know exactly what I want, get it and my receipt and leave Gabe (and the view of his behind) behind. I was back behind Gabe’s behind after around 10 miles of solitude and pecan orchards. Sigh.

The view was not what I wanted but I did want the high speed tow Gabe gave me through the short section of busy Hwy 33 that we are routed on. After the tow from Gabe I was tired so he dropped me about a mile from the next control in Patterson. For the randonnee this is an open control, unlike the permanent version which makes you go to the 7/11. Gabe went to Subway and since I had two massive 3 pound sandwiches with me I went to Starbucks for a cup of coffee.

I left in less than 5 minutes, so I expected Gabe to catch me somewhere on del Puerto Road since he always likes to linger a bit longer at the controls and today he was definitely much faster on the road.

del Puerto Road is the most beautiful shades of beige after a long summer drying out. The bare bones of the geology is about all that survives out here beside a little bit of green grass along the persistent stream at the bottom and skinny cows with big horns. The road is generally up, but a gentle up from mile 1 all the way to mile 22. When I am with others I like to sprint for each mile marker number on the pavement, but today I am alone and can save myself for the mean climb that starts at mile 22 and lasts for about a half hour and ends at the county line.

About a half-mile before the mean climb there is a sweetwater spring, Adobe Spring, on the side of the road. I always try to get at least a bottle of the spring water and drink it while I peruse the doc bronner soap label-like billboard advertizing the trials and tribulations of offering free spring water to the public before climbing out of the canyon.

There are two sections of the climb where concrete fell out the back of a cement truck to mark an extra steep spot on the hill and I cramp badly on the first one. I freeze mid pedal stroke and wait a minute for the spasms to wear away, stretch my hamstring and then clip out to walk the 50 feet of the steep part. I get back on the bike and climb gently and slowly to the second concrete spill and preemptively clip out and walk that section along with a good minute or two of stretching before I resume riding.

Soon after cresting at the county line, soft pedaling to keep the cramps away I see the pavement marking signaling a yield ahead and turn into the parking lot of the junction. The picnic tables outside are only half full and there is plenty of parking space for my bike. I pull out my 32oz titanium Manly Mug from Rivendell to get some beer to drink from the bar while munching on one of my sandwiches I have been toting around for hours.

There is no line at the bar – Score! I hand my Manly Mug to the bartender and she says ‘that’ll be $2.50’. I warn her that my Manly Mug has a large capacity and she examines it and says ‘ah, that’ll be $5.00’. I tip her $2 and head out to munch, sip and hoot on riders as they arrive for about an hour. The Junction is a nice place to linger.

serenading the group at the junction – photo swiped from carlos without asking

Gabe and Rob arrive in 10 or 15 minutes and leave soon after. I end up leaving in the company of a group of 6 people but I get dropped pretty quickly and ride with Carlos who like myself had been suffering from cramps on the climb.

The ride back is pretty, but somewhat forgettable excepting Carlos taking a picture and then crashing on the side of the road. No biggie, just a 45 second delay in the ride. I end up finishing in 9.5 hours, surprisingly quick for cramping, beer swilling for an hour and then toodling back to the finish – not sure how that happened.

The highlight of the finish was seeing long time rider and volunteer Mark B. He rode the populaire last week and then volunteered to work the finish of this ride. Thanks Mark, welcome back. This was a nice ride. I think I will do it again in April when the wildflowers are out.