Ah, the fleche! This is the one event in the SFR randonee calendar that has me still interested, still wanting to put in some big miles.

As stated previously in this blog I am intrigued with developing a name for the team and figuring out the route. This year the name selection was a struggle. Shall we be Je Suis Rob, Oblio’s Antfarm, Quo vadis?, or just plain old Madera log rolleurs? In the end I was urged to select the Madera log rolleurs, and to stop picking on our RBA, Rob Hawks whose team is called Oblio’s dog.

Why Madera log rolleurs? First, madera means ‘wood’ in Spanish and Madera, where we were going to start our ride used to be a log distribution center in the central valley for logging interests in the Sierras, so the name is quite obvious is it not?

Years back I did a bit of camping down toward Pinnacles National Monument and when on the Airline Highway, Highway 25, we passed the town of Pincines and a little road leading to nowhere called Panoche Road.

Madera is a straight-ish shot west across the central valley to Panoche road and just after Interstate 5 the road is dirt for 8 miles! Another 40 or so miles gets us to the Airline Highway. This would give us quiet roads all day, and then familiar if less quiet roads to Santa Cruz and then the usual all night ride up the coast. Fun! All new stuff in the daylight and all familiar stuff in the dark!

My team this year was to be the same as last year with the inclusion of Andrea from my Delta Montagnards dart team. Sadly Andrea could not join us so it was just the four of us who were Super Strong Cousin Russ, Lovely Juliayn, and Experienced Easygoing Sophisticated Theresa – and then there is me, Captain Controle, formerly known as Captain Ne Plus Ultra.

To get to Madera for the start we took Amtrak and we did not have to box our bikes, which was a huge bonus. The trip took all afternoon on Friday, and was very pleasant. I brought beers to share, and Juliayn made sandwiches for us two.

enjoying the train

enjoying the train

In the rush to get to the train Theresa forgot her cycle shorts but a quick search using her phone located the only bike shop in Madera County, just a couple blocks from our hotel. After our arrival in Madera we disembark from the train and head the five miles to town and the bike shop. I lead us straight to the shop after a glance at the map on Theresa’s phone and firmly establish my navigational skills to my team.

only bike shop in the county

only bike shop in the county

The bike shop is full range and full service, and Theresa gets a nice pair of shorts and the shop manager gives us a give of some bicycle food after they learn of our impending adventure – very nice shop, and very nice people. We check into the hotel, and head out to wander the town.

We just bum around a bit looking in resale shops and collecting stares from the locals and the local police, and eat a tasty and inexpensive dinner. Returning to our room we enjoy a good night’s sleep and are greeted in the morning with a power outage and with a beautiful view of the moon eclipse.

Our start controle is the Black Bear Diner and is open an hour before we leave, so we can have a decent breakfast. I have the biscuits and gravy which is a big mistake because my stomach has not liked pork the last few weeks and there is pork sausage in the gravy.

Out the door of the restaurant at 715, a few short delays due to Juliayn calling the hotel looking for her sunglasses and we are off!

Bicycle choices for the team included three pelicans and a single scorpion. My pelican sported 650bx38 tires, Russ’s had big 700×38 (actual 34) slicks, a pass and stowe rack and a huge porteur bag, Juliayn’s was her venerable 700×32 pasela do everything and go everywhere bike and Theresa’s scorpion is her latest project and tourer cycle, sporting 650×42 tyres and a bottle generator.

Empty roads punctuated with considerate drivers and cute little dogs chasing us are our experience for the next four hours. The monster truck drivers all wave to us as they pass.

Theresa's nerves are frazzled as she manuevers through the high stress environment of a fujifilm camera menu

Theresa’s nerves are frazzled as she manuevers through the high stress environment of a fujifilm camera menu

After a quick malted shake at a Fosters Freeze at I5 we are off to the empty dirt road of Panoche punctuated with sandy washouts, complete silence (after that informal shooting range on the side of the road) and a single 500 hundred foot climb that starts gently but tops out at a 20% grade. Juliayn flats on a rock on one of our descents in the dirt, and after that fix we enjoy our water crossing.

water hazard

A few more miles we are at the Panoche Inn and get a sandwich and a beer, and hang out on the porch with the dog.

Panoche Inn porch poochie

Panoche Inn porch poochie

Leaving the Inn we climb for about an hour at a gentle grade, are greeted by a nice French woman who gives us fruit, and then we descend a steep grade that flattens a few miles before we join the Airline Highway. The wind had picked up a bit and my bad stomach had weakened me so I was off the back for much of this stretch.

leaving the Inn and out into the afternoon breeze

leaving the Inn and out into the afternoon breeze

Recording the strenuous climb to Panoche Pass

Recording the strenuous climb to Panoche Pass

After a brief stop for relief for the Captain at Paicines we headed north the 5 miles on busy Airline Highway to dinner in Tres Pinos, which is just south of Hollister. Captain is still weak with an unreliable stomach. Captain also spoke in the third person for a while, as in: ‘Captain does not want to close the gap when he is off the back. Captain wants the team to slow down and collect him’ and ‘Captain will be in the john for a while, don’t leave without him’.

dusk falls on Anzar Road, nestled into the San Andreas fault

dusk falls on Anzar Road

Night falls and we continue on to busy Watsonville where traffic is a bit hectic, and then some extra deserted roads until we get to Soquel and the Santa Cruz conurbation.

Our long stop for the day is at Jefferey’s and I would have to say it is at least as good as the usual Denny’s and Santa Cruz Diner, but in a quieter location. Another team had a bike stolen outside the Santa Cruz Diner, which is very sad not to say inconvenient. We Log Rolleurs have always been paranoid and have always locked our bikes up when in Santa Cruz.

Jefferey’s is a bit of a pre-party with the arrival of the Boyz on the Hoodz, good friend Jake (who grew up nearby) and the Madonna Mountain Ghost Hunters. We chat, goof off and exchange the days experiences.

The boyz leave first, then us. We catch every red light in town and the boyz are gone until Davenport. We all stop to chat a bit and then we leave separately, careful to not break any fleche rules. Along the way we also share the road with another team of people who we don’t know who all ride quite separately rather than together.

As the night progresses I feel better and better and my team mates get tired and drowsy – good for me, bad for them.

morale is low just before Pacifica

morale is low just before Pacifica

We miss out on a brief stop in Half Moon Bay because we don’t have time to stop and as soon as we arrive in Pacifica my team crashes out on the cold concrete. Even after the store opens at 5am they opt to sleep a bit more out on the concrete rather than the warmer floor inside. I try to recover a bit of good graces with Juliayn by buying her a present at the store (it worked!).

Stupid Captain that I am, I let my team rest a little too long in Pacifica, but do not realize it until later.

Leaving Pacifica, just after we get onto deserted highway 1 a local cop drives up next to us and asks me to ride in the bike lane. Diplomatic me says ‘Bike lane?! I don seeee any bike lane! Is there a bike lane here I am not seeeeeing?! The dumb cop shines his spot light on a shoulder barely visible because of the sand and garbage that fill it and tells me to ride there. I am sure my body language said ‘hell no!’ but I simply said. ‘Ok, thank yoooou, thank yooou.’ In my best dismissive tone. Luckily he drove off and did not care to engage me further. I know the CVC, apparently he does not.

There is a mean climb out of Pacifica and my team is waiting for me at the top. I get there and tell them to get going as we don’t want to time trial. But of course, as soon as we get to the zoo I realize we better engage in a bit of brisk cycling – a big morale buster, I assure you.

Now my Juliayn is mad at me again and Russ and Theresa are a bit incredulous at the need for the effort at such a late and inconvenient moment. I just assure them that we will make it, trust Captain Controle, and viola! I did it! We did it! We got there exactly on time, and I completed my first randonnee of the year! Woo hoo! Food! Beer! Stories!

Much fun and comradery was enjoyed, tales of adventure and woe. Andrea came to see us with Francisco, and provided all of us Log Rolleurs with soft warm scarves from a recent trip she enjoyed in Nepal – so nice of her to see us in, and she and Francisco even offered us a ride home since it was raining.  In recognition of my efforts to be a good captain, Theresa awarded me a Velocio medal that now resides on my Lamp Shade of Accomplishment.

My team mates are the best! We all work together well and we are even pretty good at bickering for a bit and then forgetting about it, so we can do it again! Fun!

new chatchki for my lampshade/reading light to inspire deep thoughts

new chatchki for my lampshade/reading light to inspire deep thoughts

Such a great time! Can’t wait til next year.