Stokemeter™ warranty department,

Please find enclosed my Stokemeter. It has not registered any stokened-ness this whole blessed randonneuring season. Is something broken? Please advise.

Cheers, RUSA #5067

I did the SF Fort Bragg 600k workers ride last weekend. Thank goodness it is over.

I always forgive and forget how difficult this ride is for me. Last year I learned from my sufferings and was going to ride a cushy 650b bike but that bike broke on the way to the ride and I rode a 700c bike instead. This year I forgot about why I wanted to ride a cushy bike and boy, did I get a reminder! Every bump and expansion joint reminded me from mile 280 to the finish, hidden potholes saying ‘remember this jolt to your wrists?’ expansion joints on bridges poking needles into my feet, and the sun burning my enthusiasm to the ground in a heap of dead ashes.

My stokemeter must have burnt out too, it has not registered much stoking this current brevet season, and I kept putting off packing and checking my bike for the ride and other than clothing choice, I did not think too much about anything. My insouciance paid me back for thinking ‘meh, just another 600k, get on bike, ride’.

Fellow worker’s rider Carlos was feeling much the same and our pre-ride coordination was something like ride together most of the way until daybreak, then see what happens. RBA Rob was also distracted and we needed to remind him to give us our brevet cards and the waiver. This ride was far from everyone’s mind, it seemed.

Day of the ride Carlos and I met at the Golden Gate Bridge at the usual 6am start time and Carlos informs me he did not sleep at all the night before. I am not too concerned because this has become pretty normal for him to not sleep well before a ride, but a 600k is a looong ride. We sort of ride together until the traffic light on the border of San Anselmo and Ross, where I stop at the red light and Carlos with a ‘ha-ha’ rides through the parking lot on the corner and is gone.

I ride alone until I get to Point Reyes Station where I first drink an ensure and then pump up my tires which have felt soft and slow until then. As I pump up the first tire Carlos arrives and asks how long I have been there, implying that I have been there quite some time. I reply just a few minutes and he said he saw a rider ahead of him back in Fairfax (after the red light and parking lot) and thought it was me, and so he chased a phantom me all the way to Point Reyes. I just sort of look at him and wonder why he would work so hard when he did not sleep all night even if it was me instead of a phantom.

Soon we are being pushed by a nice tail wind to Petaluma. The forecast was calling for a breezy day and maybe headwinds, but I cannot get too excited, been there, done that, blah blah blah. Petaluma has been steadily developing regional shopping with regional traffic and so getting to the Safeway and leaving has us in lots of busy shopper traffic.

Shopper traffic stays thick and heavy all the way to Healdsburg, masking much of the beauty of the fields and hills with diesel fumes and roaring tailpipes.

The Healdsburg Safeway is very busy, but there is a good choice of soups so I get a soup, a jarritos, and some bubbly water. The table out front where we parked our bikes and were going to sit at was taken by a young mother, her three year old daughter and her infant son. No problem, there are plenty of tables. During the break I go back and forth between my bike and our table a few times to do some rando things.

The first time I went back to my bike the mom was admonishing her daughter to eat her chicken nuggets and I offered to eat them if she didn’t want them. I have never seen such a feral look on a child! Her mom said ‘Ooh, looks like someone has made an enemy!’ On subsequent trips back to the bike I complement the girl on her progress with eating the chicken nuggets and she turned out to have a very nice smile.

On the way out of town Carlos wants to take Grove Street instead of Healdsburg Avenue, and I get my way and Healdsburg Avenue although next time (if there is a next time) I will take Grove. The pavement is smoother and there are bike lanes, two worthy rewards for a slightly longer route.

The wind is picking up a bit but still it is only a 10-12 mph breeze, so nothing awful, just a little more work. Then I get a flat.

I was just finishing a long pull in the wind and my tire went soft. I yell at El Rey Sordo (King of the Deaf) that I need to stop. I start with the tire fixing duties and Carlos languishes in the shade telling me how slow I am, not offering to check my tire for sharp things or any other flat fixing chores. I slap in a patched tube and pump it up, but it has a removable core and my pump removes the core. Sigh.

Carlos in disgust gives me his pump ‘it is a good pump’ – a friend gave it to him instead of throwing it away – and I squeak in 250 strokes of soft air to get the tire up. My pump only needs 25 strokes and the tire was hard, but good luck keeping the core in. Then the spare tube goes flat in another mile and much snarling and snapping at each other ensues as we limp into Cloverdale and wander around looking for the bike shop.

The bike shop is found and 3 tubes are purchased as well as rim strips (I could find no sharp objects in the tire) and I am ready to leave. The shop owner came out as we finished up and sort of bragged about how good the cycling is in Cloverdale and generously invited us back to town anytime we wanted. I said we would be back around 5am tomorrow because we were riding to Fort Bragg, back to Cloverdale and continuing back to San Francisco. Watching his eyes bug out was very satisfying.

Finally patched up we can get out and get going. The climb out on 128 was warm but not hot, but Carlos thinks it is hot, so he and I argue about which year was hottest, this year or that year, etc. The ups and downs are endless before we get to Boonville, but so pretty.

I refrain from speculating where I am as everything blends together, one two mile climb looking pretty much like any of the 6 or 7 others, with the exception of the moonscape climb that is the only one that is devoid of trees that I know is pretty close to Boonville. To add spice to the ups and downs my front derailer has gotten sticky and I have to push it with my hand so I can get in the little ring to climb. Carlos gave me some oil for it back in Cloverdale, but it is not working.

On the final descent into Boonville the Highway department has a corporation yard along the road where they store boulders and rocks and various aggregates. I note a very large pile of dark stuff that at first I think is soil, but on closer inspection I decide it is asphalt grindings. A lot of asphalt grindings.

Boonville is usually a sleepy place that is nice to stop at for water and what not, but this day the Boonville Beer fest is going on so there is a traffic jam of cars, bikes, and drunk people. I tell Carlos we better go to the next town for food and water but he insists on stopping in the middle of the melee. I tell him the lines will be long but he is stubborn. I linger outside the market and do rando things and he comes out quickly saying the line is too long. I remind him to drink an ensure and we head to Philo, the next town.

The winds pick up a tad and I discover where all the asphalt grindings came from, the stretch of highway between Boonville and Philo. The surface is rough, but not much different than it was pre-grinding (it was pretty awful before), with the addition of a liberal sprinkling of random gravel.

We get to Philo and receive our poor treatment from surly staff. Carlos sits down to eat his food with a look to me that says – ‘do not ask me to move because I won’t’. I patiently wait for food to be eaten and things to be drunk so we can leave. Carlos is steadily getting weaker the closer we get to Fort Bragg.

Despite my flat tire fiddling and Carlos’ being tired we still make it to Mendocino before full dark which is not bad and I am pretty surprised at our progress. Carlos wants to go to McDonalds in Fort Bragg for hot food, but I convince him to go to Safeway so we can get in and get out. At Safeway we putz around for nearly an hour, eating bad Safeway food and gearing up for the cold ride back home.

We leave and Carlos is getting weaker and keeps dropping off the back until somewhere between Novarro and Philo he tells me to just ride my own pace and leave him be.

I lose the sight of his lights pretty quickly and get a little boost at being able to ride my own pace. Deer in the brush crashing about in the darkness helps me keep my pace up with shots of adrenalin.

The sun rises in Healdsburg and I am sick of all my food, too sweet, nothing savory and I want breakfast food badly. There is nothing open in Healdsburg  so I continue on to Guerneville via West Side Road. West Side Road is very bumpy and every bump sends a shot of pain through my feet and hands and keeps me from enjoying the rural beauty of the road. In Guerneville I find a diner (River Inn Grill) that recently started opening at 7am and so I pop in for a big breakfast, and watch for Carlos to pass.

Carlos does not pass and I leave to go to the Safeway to answer the info question on the brevet card and then out and over to Point Reyes Station. The sun has been up for over 2 hours but it has not warmed up the temperatures. The day turns out beautiful and care free and I try to ignore my quickly increasing list of body parts that are chafing and sore and sensitive.

In Point Reyes I get an ice cream sandwich and watch ebb and flow of the line of cyclists outside the bovine bakery. Leaving Point Reyes I collect a group of Aids Lifecycle yahoos who are trained to yell ‘ON YOUR LEFT’ into my ear each time they pass. They stop a lot to fiddle with things so they yelled ‘ON YOUR LEFT’ into my ear a lot. What I yelled back after the fourth time of them passing me is unprintable, even in my blog.

The Golden Gate Bridge was totally packed with wobbly newbies and tourists being blown around by the wind. I had mentally steeled myself for just such an experience but the first dudes to get in my way first rolled right into me without looking causing me to emergency maneuvers, and then they proceeded to panic stop when other newbies were wobbly too much in their vicinity. When they were not panic stopping they were obsessed with their bike computers looking down and moving things and pressing buttons. I zipped around the first chance I got which took a while to show up. I did not say ‘ON YOUR LEFT’.

I survived the ordeal by bridge and wobbly cyclists and finished at 325pm, which makes for a 33:25. Good enough for flat tires and big breakfasts and loss of enthusiasm 100 miles out, and good enough for me.

Positives for this ride is not a single bad moment with a motorist, not one close pass, not one stupid impatient maneuver – good job motorists, keep it up – and uh, um… good job motorists!

Carlos gets a gold star for sticking with it and not expecting me to be overly burdened with his suffering, although it high time he gets a hearing aid. I get tired of repeating myself and am pretty sure he can get a good cheap one online from deal extreme. I might even contribute to the cost.

Good luck to the rest of the club riding next week, should be a nice day (and night) to get out on the bike.

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