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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The bridge is pretty neat and we get to greet the bridge keeper who is starting his shift.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It ends up being so pretty we decide to pee on it by taking a potty break and taking yet another team portrait.
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.
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.
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!
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!