Archives for category: serious cycling

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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This year I am going to do another full SR series of volunteer rides just like I did back in 2011. Carlos did that series with me and when he heard I was doing it again he signed up for the same thing. I am doing the volunteer series to help out the club and to toughen me up for a run at the Orr Springs 600. I am not sure why Carlos is doing another volunteer series – I guess he wants to keep an eye on me or something – who knows?

The toughening is starting well, as it rained quite steadily from the climb out of Inverness and all the way to the lighthouse. The rain was aided by a pretty good headwind that only served up stinging rain for a quarter mile or so, which makes me think I need more toughening. But I am getting ahead of myself – back to the start of the ride.

Rob the RBA needed to help out at the first ride of the year, our populaire, and we needed to do our volunteer ride the same day. Since I was going to be there anyway, I decided to volunteer to help check in riders for the populaire. Checking in riders is always fun because you get to see your old friends and run around and look important and make mistakes that makes Rob give you those sad looks – great times!

After sending off the populairists we departed at 815 or so. Carlos needed the late start because he did not sleep well. I guess his dog was howling at the ambulances again and keeping him awake. Rob, Carlos and I stay together until the climb of Camino Alto and then we separate. Rob is in good shape, having reduced himself from a size large to a size medium rain jacket and jersey. I know this not because I help Rob dress in the morning but because he announced the sale of a rain jacket and jersey for that reason on the club google group email list.

I start passing Populairists in Corte Madera and keep on passing them until my turn off onto Bear Valley Road in Olema. On the way I passed lots of friends and got to chat to each for a minute or two.

Carlos caught me and passed me just as the rain started out in Point Reyes National Seashore. Visibility was very poor, but I did get to see some HUGE waves in the mist at South Beach.

P1150236

There is no escaping Carlos, sigh.

Rob stopped to chat with us on his return from the light house near Historic Ranch C, which is just before Historic Ranch B where most of the poop on the road is (you’ll see – and smell it).

Historic Ranch C has the most interesting horses that they breed there. They have large bodies with small heads and skinny legs and mottled black and white coloration (pinto? apaloosa?) – and such teats they have! It was a wonder how some of them could walk their teats were so large. The horses did seem rather placid and I think I could ride one without much effort – I must investigate if they offer rides around Historic Ranch C, that would be a fun date with my girl.

One of those horses at Historic Ranch C - photo swiped from the interwebs without asking

One of those horses at Historic Ranch C – photo swiped from the interwebs without asking

The lighthouse parking lot was packed with tourists enjoying the mist and rain and cold just like me. Carlos wrung out his socks while I left to head back to Point Reyes. There is no control in Point Reyes but I always like to stop at Black Mountain Cycles and say hi to Mike, the owner. This time I wrung out my socks and insoles before I purchased a Floyd t-shirt for my girl.

Just north of Point Reyes Station I see Rob coming back from Marshal and he warns me of a rolled vehicle ahead. I ride past the rolled car as the laughing high school kids roll it upright from the roof it was resting on. The car is near totaled but everyone is in high spirits so it must be that no one was hurt.

The sun is now shining, and the north winds are slowing me greatly as the late start and the rain and headwind has me in the sweet spot for wind, the hour from 2pm to 3pm. I see Carlos leave Marshal just as I arrive – bye Carlos! Marshal has a little bit of chowder left for me and I wolf it down to escape three loud obnoxious drunk people who are watching videos or FB on a phone and hoot and pound on their table, and get out of there.

On the way back it is so pretty! Only two cars buzzed me, an elderly couple in a Cadillac and the drunk people from Marshal in a white mini. Thanks folks.

Boring and typical Tomales Bay with sun and tail wind, sigh.

Boring and typical Tomales Bay with sun and tail wind, sigh.

The rest of the ride is forgettably placid and uneventful, and I get back just before 7pm. Done! Carlos finished an hour before me, and Rob finished an hour before Carlos.

After a pizza dinner brought to me by Juliayn I am planning my volunteer efforts the lighthouse.  I have made a bunch of mud flaps to sell for $5 a pair, and I am going to go through my bike parts and bring things to sell for $5 or $10 each so bring some cash in small bills and pick up a bargain or a story from me at the finish of the Point Reyes Lighthouse 200!

See you then!

I live in San Francisco, a place that many people consider desirable to live in. To visiting friends I usually describe it as a dirty filthy city in a beautiful setting. I suppose it is better than where I have lived in the past but familiarity has caused me to overlook the desirable traits and instead I focus on the dread of living here.  I alternately refer to SF as Shittown or Tweakerville, and California in general as Autopia.

Shittown is pretty obvious moniker for anyone who tries to walk around any of the neighborhoods that have an average household income of less than $250,000 a year. I am a reluctant expert on shit from all forms of low life and irresponsible dog owners that populate this fine city. Tweakerville is also an obvious descriptor for this place to anyone who has attempted to walk or bike around here. Nevada and probably the whole nation fills greyhound busses with their troubled and troubling dross and send them to the streets and parks of SF so they can beg and shit in the streets. During the fabled days of the gold rush miners would give their compatriots a nick name and in that tradition I call most street vagabonds ‘Nevada’ – as in ‘Hey Nevada, don’t shit there; you’ll track it around like last time,’

Autopia is another apt name, where like most other US locales, automobilists blow stop signs, speed like demons, block crosswalks and kill pedestrians with impunity, and then do the same thing when they hop on a bicycle. If these fine US citizens aren’t driving or cycling they are strolling down the middle of the cramped sidewalk blocking my way and tracking around all that shit because they are trying to read a text from one of their friends who is late and is circling for a parking spot. Just please get in line outside the foodie spot and talk loud or something, and stop tracking that crap around. Sheesh.

Perhaps getting out of town will help me think well of others and exercise some mature patience, perhaps not. I probably should have done an informal mixed terrain down the coast toward pescadero, but girlfriend Juliayn needs to work on her R12 and did not want to do any of the available 200’s and wanted to do the Sonomarin 300 perm. This perm is a copy of the Russian River 300 and if you want to do a 300 in a lot of traffic that is the one. It does have a very nice stretch along the coast but the rest is shared with every unemployed monster truck redneck in Sonoma from Petaluma to Monte Rio. Not a good choice for a ‘fun’ ride, although acceptable for putting in some miles so I can qualify for a 1200.  I suggested the Old Caz 300 perm to Juliayn as a worth wile ride.

The Old Caz is tough, but what a ride! Why, this ride is so nice I don’t even mind wearing a helmet. We decided to do this ride on a weekday and start at 5am. We took 20 hours, three more than my usual. Temperatures were much colder during the riding in the dark and I wish I had some gloves.

A weekday ride has us in commute traffic on Point Reyes Petaluma Road, but we are going in the wrong direction for the commute and are spared all the speeders that are absent on a Saturday.

Burnside is totally spectacular, with views of Mounts Tam, Diablo and Saint Helena and the ocean all in one. I saw the same dude in a white car on the side of the road, so I can only guess he lives there.

On Cazadero I stop to wait for Juliayn and take from her a few pounds of liquid refreshment so she can have a little relief from her over-preparation for the ride.  Caz offers up several still unexpected vistas and I cross Austin Creek with the aid of a foot dab.

I take my shoe and sock off to wring it out and watch Juliayn slowly approach the creek, offer a few kibitzing comments and let her do her thing to get across. When we get to the house on the other side of Austin Creek and cross their front yard nothing has changed, nobody home. Fort Ross is punctuated for Juliayn with more hike-a-biking, but we are still moving along just fine. I am sad that the three legged Chihuahua (his name is Fidel) is not present to attack me. Myers Grade is clear and open and we can see the entire coast from the Russian river all the way to Point Reyes, all in miniature, all even more spectacular than normal. I wish I had a nice camera for that moment like Theresa, but Juliayn has simple one and it will have to do in a low res, low fi way. When she shares the pictures I will add them to this post.

Jenner and Willow creek are sweet and familiar and things approach a low point with the approaching darkness at Dillon Beach. We are tired and cold.

At Point Reyes we make it before the Palace Market closes, and we get to chat with the owner outside while we were sitting on the bench munching. The owner wanted us to know that she was installing bike racks in front of the store and that the deli has soft serve Strauss Ice Cream.  She also wants to encourage our club to visit her store more than we do. I said we go there all the time anyway, but certainly free beer attracts cyclists. She said she would see what she can do.

From Point Reyes to Five Brooks the temperatures were very cold, but once we ascend a bit out of the big Olema cold pocket everything was pleasant and quiet. All the cars that passed us in the night moved completely into the opposite lane to go by. The locals are good to cyclists; tourists can plunge off the cliffs or smack into the nearest eucalyptus thank you.

Safeway serves up our own finish venue fare, where I purchase shrimp cup-a-noodles for us and Juliayn supplies the chips with her purchase. We repair to my apartment where we swaddle in blankets and eat our noodles, munch chips and sip our beers after a warm shower. I fall asleep in my chair, satisfied.

The Old Caz perm has lightened my negative attitude slightly! I wonder if the King Ridge perm can do even more so? Juliayn, what do you have planned for November’s R12 installment?

La Ruta used to be just for fun. I would show up to the informal start, get my home-made brevet card from Carlos, and go goof off the rest of the day stopping when I felt like it, riding an unsteady pace gawking around with my helmet-less head – Good times.

Now all of that is in the past. La Ruta is sanctioned by RUSA and SFR so now I gotta pay $10 and wear a helmet. Sigh.

It is still the same ride but it is not the same ride. Real changes include only one receipt control instead of two (Point Reyes Station is now an info control) and the need to finish on time to support Carlos in his hard work making this an accepted ride on the SFR and RUSA calendar. I probably could treat the ride as I have in the past and show up without paying $10 and without a helmet, but I know Carlos would say ‘nah!’ to that notion that way he does that makes him look like he is going to bite me.

So I show up to the start at Crissy Beach with a helmet on my head at 6am. Friend JimG is working the start also supporting Carlos’ ride and I see more people than ever at the start of a La Ruta – over 10 riders. Some of the riders are cross-overs from regular randonnees like Barley, Metin, Megan, and Greg, but the rest are unfamiliar to me excepting Carl and Geoff whom I know from Box Dog Bikes.

At the start - I am on the right - photo swiped from Greg without permission

At the start – I am on the right – photo swiped from Greg without permission

Like any Randonnee, cycle of choice varies. Most everyone is on a cross-bike of some sort, but notable exceptions are three Volagi’s (long distance cycle) two Black Mountain Cycles (monstercrossers), and Carl’s full fendered, generator lighted boxer 650b. I rode a fenderless 700c Pelican as my Potts was having some equipment issues. Double sigh.

Carl’s bike is very beautiful and very fendered – I warn Carl that La Ruta is not fender friendly in parts, but Carl is pretty philosophical about losing them and if he needs to replace them it is ok with him. Carl has lots of bikes but I suppose he chose the boxer because La Ruta is a Randonnee.

We head out and while I was on and off the bridge first, I was quickly second to last excepting Metin and unofficially third to last because of Henry showing up late and not getting checked in.

Like previous iterations of La Ruta I take note of the info control question well before the info control, confirm the answer while rolling through the control, and then write the answer many miles down the road when I happen to stop for a moment. The roads and trails are empty all the way to Pantoll. I ride for a short while with one rider or the other, but I am on my own for nearly the whole ride.

On Muir Woods Road I hear some loud knobbies approaching quickly. It is Barley with Megan in tow on their Volagi’s. Barley is on a carbon one, and Megan is on a steel one. Barley pats me on the back and is quickly gone.

At the top of Deer Park I run into Barley again and thank him for taking care of the Hoags on the 400k. The Hoags had a front flat on their tandem on a descent and crashed and Barley abandoned the ride to get them to a hospital. After leaving Barley at the info control I catch Ernesto and we chat for a moment or two. Ernesto asks how I am doing. ‘Muchas quejas’ is the reply, along with ‘Por favor, reduzca la velocidad’. Ernesto laughed but kept going when I stopped at the restrooms at the Pantol Ranger Station. I top off my bottles and scoot.

I am alone on Rock Springs (where I marveled at the incredible views that are always there) and all the way to Five Corners where Carl and Geoff are resting. Carl is removing his rear fender that failed on the way down mount tam.

alone on rock springs - photo swiped from Metin without asking

alone on rock springs – photo swiped from Metin without asking

I don’t stop other than to say howdy, finish up Concrete Pipe road and start up bo-fax to Bolinas ridge. Bolinas ridge is a little damp, but no muddier than I have seen in the past. I was wearing a white world champion jersey and I counted maybe three small specks of mud when I washed it the next day.

the start of bolinas ridge - that is Metin's bike - photo swiped from Metin without asking

the start of bolinas ridge – that is Metin’s bike – photo swiped from Metin without asking

I alternately claim to have won the jersey in the headless recumbent trike world championship criterium (before the miraculous transplant surgery) or that I won it in the LGBT world road championships (I got a boob job because I could only garner sponsorship as a transgender) that I nearly lost because of an ‘equipment’ malfunction. Please ask me about the details (of either intrepid exploit) next time you see me and have some time to spare.

I felt really weak and jittery after descending Randall trail but I decided to see how I recovered by riding on Hwy 1. I rode through the spring loaded gate on the left that everyone fails to notice (others on the ride carried their bike through the hiker chicane in the fence) and I felt fine within 100 feet. I felt good enough that  a few miles later I rode through Point Reyes without stopping.

I did not stop until Sameul P Taylor, and then only for a minute or two, again to top off my bottles.

Carlos and Ernesto passed me as I was leaving, and Barley and Megan passed me again near San Geronimo. I pick up Greg in Fairfax but he drops me as I stop a little more completely than he at stop signs. Later on Paradise Greg shows up behind me so he can draft me a bit (knee problems) as he got lost – Greg used to be the route master for the club…

As I am almost leaving Café Acri in Tiburon I spy Carlos leaving. A mile or two later on the bike path to Blithedale Barley, Megan and Greg pass me. Ernesto catches me at the base of Camino Alto, but stops in Mill Valley for gelato that he never gets because the line is too long.

At West Point Inn I see Barley and Megan again and schuss down to Miwok, Coyote, Tennessee Valley, and climb most of Marincello before Barley and Greg pass me again. Megan settles down and rides with me for a while. We group up again at the top of Coastal Trail (where I saw Jake! Jake was doing a shake-down run on his setup for a bikepacking expedition to Colorado) and more or less finish together. Carlos finished an half-hour before, and the first finisher was something like an hour before Carlos.

Juliayn hands me a beer from my own stash, as beer was not to be offered officially (RUSA rules?) and Rob H. serves up warm potato soup. Ernesto arrives, and soon after come Geoff and Carl, and Metin and Henry, all of us within the 13.5 hour limit comfortably.

Beer! Juliayn and I frame the finishers and finish crew - photo swiped from Greg without asking

Beer! Juliayn and I frame the finishers and finish crew – photo swiped from Greg without asking

Such a beautiful ride! All of the hard work is amply repaid with quiet trails and views few ever experience despite 7 million souls being within a couple of miles. Carl has been in the bay area just a few weeks – such an introduction to the neighborhood! This ride has even rekindled some of my affection for this place too, thank you Carlos and everyone else.