I have been riding with the SFR club for a few years now and I have finally stopped evangelizing about how great riding a randonnee is and stopped trying to get everyone to come on out and give it a try. I don’t even give advice anymore to people who ask for it; all you will get out of me is ‘just figure it out for yourself, everyone is different’ – mainly because I don’t want to be responsible for anyone when it is 2am and 50 miles to go, either because I encouraged them to come out or gave them advice on how to survive and also because the whole rando scene is losing its lustre.

I don’t even want to ride with my girl Juliayn who also rides randonnees. “Ride a randonnee together? Nah – we don’t do that. Our speed on the bike doesn’t match and we both like to do our own thing, so no, we don’t try and ride with each other on randonnee’s.”

This statement is the answer I usually give to the question of our enjoying each other’s company on long rides. We do enjoy being in the vicinity of each other, but we have only ridden together on informal rides or on team rides and truly never have attempted to ride together. This year I did not ride any SFR 200’s and Juliayn did not ride the 300, so we hadn’t really confirmed our notion of not riding together. We both were signed up for the 400, but we had no set plan and that suited us both.

After a quick smooch at the start we separated with me off the front to get off the bridge before the traffic jam. Juliayn rode her own pace too and I don’t see her until the Town of Ross where she passed me in a fast moving group and kept going after a smile and a wave.

Hey! Wait for me!

I was a bit sad to see her go, but I knew it would be a long day. After I got passed by all the people who blow through the stops signs of Marin that I stop at I was on my own until the climb of Hick’s Mountain and I spied Juliayn halfway up the hill. I caught her at the top and she said she got dropped by the group she was with on the previous big hill, White’s Hill, and had been on her own. I suggested she ride with me and as there was a steady headwind she dropped in behind.

Soon after Hick’s Mountain we ascend Wilson Hill where we stop at the top for the view and so I can add a few psi to my tires because I was afraid of a pinch-flat on the poor pavement with my fancy expensive hard to mount and remove Eroica tires. We descend and I am sad for my loss of comfort with the harder tires but the peace of mind makes up for it some. A group of new riders catch us on the flats before Chileno Valley and I call out the left turn onto Chileno to one of the riders ahead of me as he was telegraphing with his body language that he was not going to stay on course.

I pull the three new people and Juliayn most of the way through the strong headwinds of Chileno Valley. One rider tries to help up front but he goes too strongly off the front so I don’t even bother trying to catch his wheel and he hovers 50 feet off the front for a couple miles like happens so often with ‘pacelining’ randonneurs.  Randonneurs tend to know nothing about group riding (or descending – and I am from Indiana!), another reason for my not really wanting any company on a randonnee. At the turn on Chileno that directs us to Bodega Highway we are gifted with a slight tailwind and the other two riders I had been towing pass – one of them rather closely, but instead of my getting upset I just think ‘Wow! That’s the Coast Cycles randonneuse that was just in the latest issue of Bicycle Quarterly! Cool!’

I get to chat with the owner for a little bit and then we separate with the three new ones heading down the road because I lost Juliayn who was bonking a bit. I wait a minute or two for her to catch up and then Juliayn and I ride alone to Bodega to fuel up and get our proof of passage. I see Theresa and give her a peck on the cheek and a ‘Bon Jour’. After about 10 minutes we leave for Joy Road and Juliayn and I agree to group up in Occidental because she has a granny gear and I do not, so I am guaranteed to climb faster unless I walk.

Halfway up Joy Road I hear a volunteer fire department siren and I wonder what it was for because it was not noon. The siren set all the dogs on Joy Road howling, so it kept the siren on my mind for a while.

On the drop to Occidental on Bittner a threesome of strident women cyclists yell at me to slow down because a rider had fallen. I come on several cars stopped, an ambulance and a group of randonneurs. I recognize the Hoags from my volunteer duties and sadly Deb is frozen with pain and wearing a neck brace and Dave is lost in his own inner pain. I suggest to the group of 5 other randonneurs that they are in the way and should move on as Barley F. was clearly in charge of speaking for the Hoags and Theresa was there too and there is very little I could not trust to those two. So I guess the siren was calling help for the Hoags.

From the crash site I drop the rest of the way down to Occidental, collect Juliayn after waiting ten minutes and we speed to the Guerneville Safeway. I get a six-pack of strawberry ensure and almost get some soup but it is all gone. Juliayn got some soup at least. We were going to leave with Theresa, but Theresa went back in at the last second to wait in the slow line to purchase some batteries and so I decided to leave her behind.

The temperatures were rising and so I took my knickers off just like for last year’s 400 and headed out into the breeze. We catch Willy on one of the climbs and as he drafts me he heckles me about riding in my underwear and makes fun of how small my mud flaps are. I tell him he probably should not tease the guy who he has been drafting for the last half hour but all he offers up is a Whaaaat?

The day has been breezy, but so beautiful! Dry Creek features only half a dozen monster boats on trailers being pulled by monster trucks that pass too close, and soon we find ourselves on Dutcher Creek where a randonneur who instead of using a large backpack or bag, stuffs his jersey pockets to bursting with things. His clothes are plastic and suitable for much cooler temperatures and his odor is of Herculean proportions. The breeze is ineffective and I stop for a nature break and some olfactory relief.

The ride from there to Hopland is uneventfully beautiful, and we luxuriate with restrooms and pizza and chairs with backs for about a half hour before leaving. We get a huge boost from the breeze we had been riding into and zip all the way to chalk hill effortlessly.

We stop to put on reflective gear for a moment and as I put the vest on I realize it is too early for reflective gear because I have been fooled by my sunglasses. The guy on the Coast Cycles passes and circles back to ask if he can ride with us. Of course! The guy’s name turns out to be Andy and we stick together for the rest of the ride. Andy turns out to be an excellent riding companion and fun to talk to.

On the far side of Chalk hill we find a nice spot with a view to enjoy the evening gloam and a nature break. Andy is married and is chill about girls and nature breaks but a few other randonneurs arrive and quickly leave in embarrassment. We leave happy and relieved to enjoy the flatter roads of the ride along with the breezy tail wind. As we approach River Road on Fulton the asshole in the giant white ford diesel pickup arrives right on schedule to try and dust us with his disgusting diesel exhaust. The asshole tries in vain as the breeze blows the cloud right along with him and never touches us – take your own medicine, creep. Die of cancer soon please, thank you.

We zip along to Petaluma fairly effortlessly and I decide that we should not make the ride all business and announce that we will stop at the Denny’s at the end of Stony Point for shakes, fries and coffee. It is soo nice! Why I have never stopped here before I do not know, but I know where I will be next time I do the SFR 400. While we are there for the 30 minute stop I wave at the few riders that pass, but I am not sure any of them see me except Willy, who joins us. Willy always stops here and while I would not copy all of Willy’s habits, I think stopping at Denny’s at mile 200 is a good idea.

The ride the rest of the way is uneventfully enjoyable, but Andy beats me for the sprint to the Kentfield city limit sign. I am completely demoralized and defeated by a sneaky move that I wish I had made myself – just you wait until next time!

At the bridge there is beer! Mike (Teng) Gao left me a large bottle of excellent beer, plus there is a nice selection of other beers I enjoy. I get to tick off one of my goals for this Randonneuring Cycle by trying the shrimp flavored cup of noodles – quite good! Brian K. is volunteering, Jason Pierce is hanging out, and incredibly Alfie is pulling shift number two of volunteering after he also checked riders in for the start of the ride. I did that a couple years ago myself, and I know how difficult that can be. Kimber is there too, letting her husband John enjoy a bit of sleep in the car.

I snuggle with Juliayn (no we don’t stink, we wear wool) for about a half hour in the doublewide chair and then we reluctantly separate to go home. We rode together most of the time the way it should be, without effort and made a new friend Andy. I was not really looking forward to this go-round of the 400, but it ended up being very rewarding with new friends, great generosity from existing friends, and yet another confirmation that Juliayn and I are compatible. Glad I showed up and represented.

Thanks Club, thanks friends, and thank you Juliayn.

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