Archives for category: whining

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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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?

It is five days since I have finished my fifth SFR 600, it is Buddha’s birthday (have a good one dude) and my ass still hurts some. I had not planned on doing any of the usual SFR randonnees this year. I was only going to do Max’s and Carlos’ mixed terrain rides and maybe the SCR and Davis darts, but I had notions of doing the Gold Rush 1200, so I ended up doing the usual once again so I could qualify for the longer ride. Sigh.

My good friend Jake did me a great favor in inviting me to ride the Santa Rosa HUBH for my 200k, which is a most beautiful ride and one of the best 200k’s I currently know of, is the highlight of this year’s series for me.

The weather forecast for the 600 was looking great, just a little warm in Cloverdale and not at all cold at night, so I could wear the same clothing I did for last year, and pack lightly. For this edition I wanted a little more comfort than my Toei, so I prepped my red 650b Pelican for the ride.

On the way to the start the headlight failed. During the night portion of the fleche in March my front end was making a clicking sound and after the ride there was a lot of condensation in the light (the bike was out in a down pour for about two hours, most of that time I was in a Dennys), so maybe something finally shorted out after riding all night during the fleche with wet internals in the light. It was an edelux, I still have plenty of confidence in that style of light.

I got to the start control, dropped off my drop bag which consisted of a six pack of beer and was able to cheat my way through the bike inspection with the stand light on my broken edelux. I wanted the card so the volunteers would not have to wait around for me to show up late with a new bike  – something they probably would not do regardless. After getting my inspection approval I got my brevet card from volunteer Ely and told him I was going home to change bikes. I saw Gabe and told him the same and left.

I rode the twenty minutes home, swapped back to the Toei, changing the size of the spare tubes I was carrying at the same time, noted the time of 618, and headed back out.

I am a little bummed out to be starting about an hour late, but if I make the first control I should have absolutely no trouble finishing the ride on time. I get to the Palace market in Point Reyes with 45 minutes to spare without any special efforts, so I am going to be fine.

With the late start I will not make my hoped for noon finish time the next day, but all I need to do is inform my girl Juliayn that I will be late and that is all that needs to be done. Juliayn is the day of contact for riders in trouble, so to let her know what is going on I will ask the volunteers at the club comfort station in Philo to let her know the new schedule the next time they talk to her.

I head off to the next control in Petaluma and while it is getting a bit trafficy, everything is uneventful until I get close to 101 in Petaluma. The road is narrow and two 300 pounders in an SUV squeeze their bulk past me in poor fashion so they can get to the red light 100 feet ahead. I am a bit miffed at their lack of consideration and cue up behind them. Light turns green and the driver is rummaging in the footwell. After I yell repeatedly that the light is green (I don’t have a horn) the dumbass gets going to the next red light, but this one has a bike lane and I pass the idiots so I don’t have to look at them anymore.

At the Petaluma Safeway control there are still riders present and putzing around. I get to catch up a bit with Stefan, a long time acquaintance from mixed terrain rides (Stefan is in the middle) and from the HUBH. At this stop I had planned on getting a six pack of safeway brand ensure, but the ensure packaging has changed to tetra-paks and are not reseal-able. I hem and haw for a while and buy a 4-pack of ensure regular, which is reseal-able. I am prepping to leave after chugging one of them and Tim Mason pulls up.

Tim is tons faster than I but is having stomach trouble and is behind because of his lengthy trips to the restroom. I give him a hunk of ginger that I keep for settling my stomach and for anti-inflammatory properties and he proceeds to tow me to the next control, Healdsburg, at about 4mph faster than I usually go. This is HUGE, as it nearly removes my deficit from starting late. Tim did this for me during the 300k this year too, which uses the same route. Tim is a great guy and easy to follow. He also races track and road. Despite his total dominance over me physically I still take two city limit signs from him with my patented ‘car back’ quip and sprint. I figured it would only work once, but just imagine my satisfaction when it worked twice! Oh yeah. I am King, King of my own world. Yeah.

I get to Healdsburg in time to say goodbye to my buddies Carlos, Gabe and Bryan. Nothing looks good to eat, but I do find a six pack of the old safeway ensure in reseal-able containers, chug a couple, and hit the road after greeting Theresa with a peck on the cheek who was goofing off on the ride (the way it should be) visiting her sisters in Petaluma and Santa Rosa along the way.

On the road I see Stefan again in the distance since he stopped for a break, but maybe 5 miles later I see him stopped again. He sadly informs me that he forgot something at his last stop and has to go back for it. I reassure him he will see me soon and leave him.

After a short stop in Cloverdale to top off my bottles I head for the strenuous part of the ride, the hills that separate the Cotati plains and the Russian River Valley from Anderson Valley. It is a bit warm as expected, but not bad. I run into a small group of riders along the way, JT, Alex and Jenny. Jenny is wearing shoe covers in the heat and I wonder how squishy her feet must be. We goof off with our greetings and passing and re-passing as we climb and shorten the two mile climb with our banter.

128 is so beautiful. I have to keep looking to either side because there are small vistas of homes and rock outcrops that are not visible from simply looking straight ahead. The road is like this the whole way to the ocean. Stefan catches up again when I stop for a moment. We take turns at the front, him climbing faster, me descending faster, on the way to Boonville.

At Boonville, I end up on my own and I see Tim Mason leaving as I arrive. Tim left a half gallon of water on the table in front of the store and I use it all to top off my bottles and my stomach. After I have claimed all of the free water the people I had seen earlier arrive in a group and look like they will settle in for a while. I know that the club comfort station is not far, so I head off with thoughts of my drop bag beverages in mind.

Before I know it I am there in Philo, and drop down the short side road to the campground where club provided comfort lies in wait. The crew this year anticipated my needs (like all good volunteers and women) and had beer! I did not need a drop bag! Holy Crap the world is ending or something.

I drink one of their beers, add mine to the club supplies and hit the road.

It is a looong way to the ocean, and about a 4.5 hour ride to Fort Bragg. This is substantially different from what we have had in the past, about twice the time and distance in one direction between comfort and Fort Bragg.

At Fort Bragg nothing looks good again, so I chug an Ensure, finish Carlos’ left over macaroni and cheese, and drink a Mexican Coke. Carlos and I leave together and it is really cold out.

After a few miles we stop for a break on one of the climbs and hook up with Bryan, Gabe and our RBA Rob for the rest of the ride back to Philo. Luckily things warm up considerably after the coast and I feel quite warm and cozy.

Arriving once again at the club comfort station I get a beer but nothing looks good again. I decide on the safe bet, the vegetarian soup, eat a bowl and leave while the others are changing clothes. The next stretch is the hardest part of the ride and I do not want to have to wait around for individual potty and food breaks in a group of four. The sky clears and I get to enjoy the horizon to horizon show of stars and the Milky Way.

Every pedal stroke on the many climbs out of the Anderson Valley has me urping up the vegetable soup and I am not happy. I eat some ginger on separate occasions, but with no positive results. As I triumphantly descended at speed down to Cloverdale after all the climbing my vegetable soup wanted out – now. I tried to reason with the soup as I was going 30mph in the dark on a twisty descent, but the vegetable soup was not interested. Rather than spew and crash in the stuff, I slammed on the brakes, clipped out and started the purge. Of course a car drove past at that moment to illuminate my humiliation and weakness.

Purge completed, I rinsed out and headed on my way. I did not stop until Guerneville except to answer the info control near Healdsburg. In Guerneville I am on my own to start with but when I leave I see Bryan who also had the veggie soup. He was lucky enough to only get an upset stomach. Leaving I see Brian K and Jason P waiting for the others in the parking lot and get to chat a bit.

Their group passes me on the road when I take middle road after Valley Ford and they stay on Hwy 1. We overlap at Point Reyes where I show up after them, but realize that I can’t sit down because I will be late to the finish and make Juliayn wait too long. I hit the road for home, and the group I left behind passes me in Nicasio. They will finish about a half hour before me.

In Sausalito I am swarmed by team kit wearing boneheads on carbon and sort of wish I was back in Medocino or anywhere else. It is easy for me to understand why most non-cyclists hate cyclists.

On the Golden Gate Bridge I find myself behind two younger female cyclists who wear street clothes and ride swiftly and competently, restoring some of my confidence in the future of cycling and guiding me to the end of my ride in fashion.

Done! Juliayn! Beer! Torta con heuevos! Yee haw!

I get a smooch and pampering from Juliayn, exchange greetings and tall tales with volunteers Max, Julia and David, and after maybe an hour head home.

This ride is so pretty but also pretty hard. I need to think hard about doing it again.

post script:

Tim Mason earned his Ultra-Randonneur status by completing this randonnee. The Ultra is about the only medal I am interested in achieving, but we will see…