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.