Starting the Week Off Right

Rob was generous on putting an extra brevet on the calendar for those who would have Monday, 20 June off in observation of Juneteenth, a new Federal holiday that my employer added to help promote our dedication to DEIA. Luckily Brian and Robert were both available and ready to roll for the Russian River 200k route today. Given the San Rafael start at the Smith Ranch Park & Ride and the guys driving from the South Bay, I asked them to swing by and pick me up on the way. Brian gave me a seemingly unholy hour to pick me up since he likes to get to brevet starts early. Too early. For a 7 a.m. start he was planning on picking me up just before 6 a.m. as the start was about 45 minutes from my place. They were running early and picked me up at 5:40 a.m. though which we then got to the start at about 6:15 a.m., 15 minutes before check-in even started! Now that we’re back to group starts too, we couldn’t start until 7 a.m. either. So some questionable driving decisions were made to get the closest Starbucks as the guys wanted to eat and drink more before the start. I needed some caffeine as I had spent most of the drive curled up in the backseat wondering why did I volunteer to do this on a holiday instead of loafing around the house. Then again, I think about that a lot on brevet days too. We get back to the Start to get ready and say hi to Jasmine, Sandra, and Ioannis who are also signed up for the ride. I think this is the first time I’ve actually met Jasmine in person too after we’ve just kind of orbited around each other in Randoland.

Rob gives us the usual group start speech in this awesome “38 miles per burrito” with a bike t-shirt that I SO WANT. Best thing about the group start is going back to our SFR pre-ride pledge with our right hand raised and say “I insert name here promise to not do anything stupid.” And then we’re off! Peddle out the back of the parking lot and hang left to get to the intersection we make a left to get onto Lucas Valley Road. I haven’t started a ride here since a Monte Rio 200k route that I’d designed in 2020 that I did with Sandra and Brian. The weather is kinda perfect right now as it’s not hot or cold. The small group of us pretty much stick together on this long approach to the climb. I tell Robert and Brian to wait for me at the top since Brian has regained his climbing legs and Robert has always been a strong climber. It’s a nice enjoyable climb that isn’t hard as it’s just kinda long and longer than you ever expect it. All the riders split on the climb after we approached it in one mass. I get to the top and only Robert is waiting for me, which I just take it as at least Robert waited for me. Not that going faster really serves Brian any since he can’t leave at the end without us (or at least he WON’T leave without us). Robert and I descend down the other side of LVR and head through Nicasio. Neither of us can remember what the Control locations were as we only use that as backup in our trackers fail. We stop quickly at the Rancho Nicasio as Robert *thinks* that this is a photo control, but not sure. We keep going and turn onto Pt. Reyes – Petaluma Road. Another climb that I’m always thankful when I get to do it without full sun and heat since it’s lacking shade on the uphill side. Given that I didn’t really pay much attention to the route, I neglect for a minute that we’re turning onto Hicks Valley Road. Robert can’t remember if we’re going over Marshall Wall or Wilson Hill. I recall that we’re riding Chileno Valley Road which means we need to do Wilson Hill to get to the start of Chileno Valley Road. Good short climb that even on my worst days it helps that I can always remember that it’s not that long, has a great view at the top, and is an easy descent. I tell Robert about the time last year that I did an out-and-back of Marshall Wall and Wilson Hill from Forest Hills and was short by about 20 miles on my distance estimate (oops). I stop at the top to take a couple of quick photos.

Top of Wilson Hill

We get to Chileno Valley road which is a lot longer than I remember it. Still no sign of Brian. We turn onto Tomales Petaluma Road and Robert double backs to take a photo of some of the poppies at the side of the road. I peddle on knowing that Robert can easily catch up to my slow butt. We pass by a group of riders who I think may be changing a flat tire or something, but don’t look too closely. We wave to them as we go by and I tell Robert that we need to stop when we turn onto Alexander Road so I can take my vest off. Low and behold that Brian materializes while we’re standing there! He must have been in the group at the side of the road. He’s wearing his new Mason Dixon 1200k jersey which I’m still trying to get used to seeing him for some reason. Reunited in our little threesome, we continue on towards Fallen-Two Rock Road. At this point I’ve totally forgotten the rest of the route to Monte Rio so relying on my Garmin and the guys having a better memory on where we’re going (haha).

There’s a small congregation of randos at the Valley Ford Market. Robert and Brian go to get something to eat inside while I hang out outside. Ioannis is right behind us and also goes into get some food. I grab one of the bars out of my bag which has some white stuff on it which I quickly decide that I’m not in the mood for testing my stomach’s luck. I grab a second bar out of my handlebar bag that looks way more promising that it won’t threaten to kill me. Sandra pulls up and in true Sandra fashion, she has her own food that she quickly snacks on. Some other guys ask what we’re riding, which as usual leaves them dumbfounded, in awe, and/or thinking we’re out of our minds. Today’s no exception as we nonchalantly say that we’re riding like 128 miles or something and it’s really no big deal. Some other randos have extra water they bought so we graciously accept their offer to fill up our bottles. This is a very standard Rando tradition and almost a calling card at our controls of a seemingly random large water bottle sitting outside for others to fill our bottles from. Kind of like the faster cyclists taking care of the slower ones or just that randos take care of other randos. 🙂 Now that we’ve picked up Ioannis, we’re a happy little fivesome now heading north to Monte Rio via Freestone.

We stop in Freestone because of course Brian wanted to get scones or something at the bakery. I’ve never tried anything here, but there’s always a line so I assume it’s got to be good. Some other customers try to be helpful by telling us that the rest of our group went to Occidental for lunch. I thank him even though this isn’t exactly a group ride where we try to stay together the entire time or that the faster guys will be waiting for us. Brian abandons his scone dreams and we head off although we’ve lost Sandra. I thought she had pulled into the parking lot, but she may have kept going. All we know is that we don’t have her and don’t know if she’s ahead of us or behind us. She is infamous for not wanting to wait for us anywhere and saying “I’ll go on ahead as you’ll just catch me anyway.” The joke being that every time she says that is the last time we see her for the rest of a ride! I can’t keep up with the guys and lose them going into Occidental. I look around and don’t see them anywhere so keep peddling. Next stop Monte Rio where they have to be.

Wild Flour Bread in Freestone, which I’ve never tried and always has a long line

I finally see Brian maybe about half a mile ahead of me so am less stressed of not knowing where the guys are or how far ahead of me they are. I’d mentioned the place in Monte Rio right on Main Street that Brian, Sandra, and I stopped at last time that is a possible place for lunch. I’ll never remember that it’s actually called Lightwave Coffee & Kitchen. The guys are waiting for me and I’m extremely disappointed to discover that they’re closed on Mondays!! ARG! I’m hungry too. 😦 Robert suggested the Duncan Mills General Store for lunch which I’m hoping it’s closer rather than farther away. I’d have been fine with the Safeway in Monte Rio as I know that’s about a 2 minute ride East down 116. He wants to do a shortcut on Moscow Road saying that Rob wouldn’t care if we went off route as long as we don’t miss a Control. I beg to differ on Rob’s Rules of Order. There’s a hand-painted sign that Moscow Road is closed up ahead so we decide to not press our luck on that sign being wrong. We head West on 116 with luckily a correction that Duncan Mills is only about 5 miles, not 20 miles, of really easy riding. Robert’s life is spared.

Some Randos are just finishing up lunch at Duncan Mills General Store and offer us their table. Sandra is ready to roll out and we find out that she never stopped in Freestone! And yes we never see her again the rest of the ride as she peddles off West. We go in to grab food and drinks. I make another rare non-vegan choice of an egg salad sandwich on a sourdough roll since there are no vegan options at the deli counter and packaged food isn’t sounding appealing or substantial enough. Two very nice women are slinging sandwiches and it takes us awhile to get our order even though it seems like no one else is there. People materialize out of nowhere to grab their sandwiches though. These kind of general stores are really cute and I always wish I had some reason to go by them more often. Alas, they’re always basically in the middle of nowhere and I’m there on a bike. I don’t know about the other guys, but I feel like I won the lottery when I finally get my sandwich and can’t wait to eat! Robert and Brian decide that they’re only going to eat half of their massive sandwiches. I forgot what Ioannis got, but it could be that he ate it so fast that I didn’t even catch a glimpse of it. Brian and I eat our entire sandwiches rather than take half with us. Robert packs half of his to go while I slather on another layer of sunscreen. I’m wishing Robert luck that he survives eating the rest of his egg salad sandwich after it’s been in his saddlebag for another hour or so on a pretty warm day.

The last time I was at the intersection of 116 and 1 in Jenner was on the 2021 Healdsburg 300k when it was overcast, cold, and windy. Today it’s sunny with enough of a breeze to make it feel quite pleasant! We’re all really digging the spectacular ocean views as we ramble south through Sonoma Coast State Park. I pass Ioannis on one of the curves, which I impress myself with taking it faster than I have in quite some time. I’m generally afraid of curves which one look at the scars on my legs and arms should explain why. I really do not try to hurt myself ever and one never gets comfortable with road rash pain. I apologize to Ioannis each time I pass him on a curve going into a climb as I don’t want to lose my momentum. He can pass me on the climb parts if they’re long enough! At one point I’ve passed Ioannis when Robert comes shooting out of nowhere to fly by both of us. I scream out “CHEATER!”. This part of 1 is a lot of fun since it’s rolling hills that you can maintain a great pace on with unbeatable views. I forgot where it was that we all pulled over as we wanted a photo from that pull out. We start jokeing about wanting a photo of someone else in the group on the very edge of the cliff. We get to Diekmann’s Bay Store in Bodega, another Control, and where Robert said he was going to eat the rest of his sandwich. I’m not sure if or when he ever eats it as I just know that here he went into get something to drink and some chips. I’m a bit distracted by the view and texting Justin an update on where we are with some photos.

The boys riding south on Highway 1

We get back to Valley Ford again which I’m not sure where we’re going from here since I know we’re going to Tomales, but there are 3 different ways we usually get there from here. No stop at the Valley Ford Market this time either. We take Option C which is back down Shoreline Highway. We lose Brian somewhere between Valley Ford and Tomales. A few cars pass us driving a bit erratic and way too close for comfort. I kinda wish Kitty was with us since she has no qualms about yelling at drivers who don’t give the minimum 3′ defined by state law for cars passing cyclists. I look at Route One Bakery and want to burst into tears as they are also closed on Mondays!! Where am I going to get my post-ride cookies now?? How could they be closed today? WTF? ARG! I mean this is the main reason why I bought a handlebar bag so I can haul their cookies home with me! *sigh* I go into the Tomales General Store to get some sparkling water to drink there and still water for my water bottles. Robert’s been on me to adjust my saddle height and gives me his multitool to adjust it. I drop it down a bit since even though my knees haven’t been hurting, my right hamstring has been bothering me on this bike since I rode 85 miles with a slow rear tube leak in last Fall’s Winters 200k ride. We still have no sign of Brian. Robert calls Brian who says that he’s been wrestling with his multitool on the side of the road. We start laughing at images of Brian literally wrestling with his mutltitool and the multitool having him pinned to the ground. Brian finally rolls into Tomales 20 minutes later which I joke that he’s here and we can go now, which he shoots me a look like there’s going to be a shallow grave next to the USPS office there soon. We start talking to a bike tourer who is Canadian, but riding the coast from Seattle to Santa Monica on holiday. We wish him well as he starts heading south. We patiently wait for Brian to be refreshed and ready to roll back to San Rafael. I look up the RWGPS map and communicate that we’re not going through Point Reyes Station to get back as we’re going around Nicasio Reservoir instead and back that way. That also means that our only other place we can stop on the way back will be the Nicasio Market.


Practically in the home stretch now and we pass by our Canadian friend who we chat with for a bit more as we ride along. We stop in Marshall as Brian wants to adjust his saddle again as his saddle is definitely looking too low. Robert still thinks that my saddle needs to be even lower so he gives me his multitool again to lower it more. This seems too low though as now my legs are hurting for other reasons, but I’m too stubborn to pull over and raise my saddle back up again. We resume riding towards Nicasio and pass our Canadian friend again, which I tell him that we’re not doing this on purpose so we can keep passing him. For some reason that last little stretch to Point Reyes Station seems so long even though it’s not. We turn left onto Point Reyes – Petaluma Road as I ask Brian how his smurf bike is. We meander along and around the Nicasio Reservoir as some cars get way too close to us as they’re passing, including one towing a horse trailer.

Robert and Brian at the top of Lucas Valley Road

Safely back on Nicasio Valley Road, I can breathe a little easier knowing that we’ll have less traffic since most cars are heading back towards Petaluma. We’re also on the home stretch since we’ve got just a few miles before we turn back onto Lucas Valley Road. The guys stop at Nicasio Market for a bit of water before the last climb back up and over Lucas Valley Road. I’d been worried about it being really hot for the last climb and happy that the temperature is fairly reasonable. We roll back out one last time to the last climb of the day. I’ve done this climb much more tired and in worse shape than I am now so I’m not worried about it. Robert hangs back a bit to keep me company while Ioannis and Brian charge on ahead. We get to Big Rock at the top where Brian and Ioannis are waiting for us and we take a few photos. This descent is notorious for injuries (and cyclist deaths) since some people will try to do it as fast as they can when it has sharp blind corners. All 4 of us saw that we’re descending this slowly as we want to…live. We all safely get to the bottom and continue the long flat back to the Smith Ranch Park & Ride lot. Brian and Robert get there a few minutes before Ioannis and I get there since we got hung up at a red light. I promptly text Rob that all 4 of us finished. He asks us if Sandra is with us since she hasn’t checked in yet. I tell him that she isn’t and we don’t see her car. I text Sandra asking if she’s checked in with Rob yet since he’s looking for her. She finally replies several minutes later that she just checked in with him as of course she finished earlier than us since she stops less and for less amount of time than we do. Robert, Brian, and I say bye to Ioannis and head towards home. It’s still a bit warm so Robert insists on finding a 7-11 so he can get a slurpee. I find some humor in this that the guys are getting slurpees, which I haven’t had one since I was a kid and no desire now to have something so sweet and artificial tasting. For some reason Robert starts thinking that it’ll be faster and easier to take 580 back, which they have to drop me off in San Bruno which isn’t in the East Bay! Brian says that they can’t since the only way to get me home then is to shoot me out of a cannon from the East Bay. I look at Brian and immediately say “NO!” I know better that if we were cartoons, he’d do that to me an instant. Luckily we aren’t so he safely drops me off at home via his car. Great way to spend a day off from work!

SFR Russian River 200k

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Feeling Elkish

An easy way to cop out of doing a 300k is when you can say “been there, done that…just last year, but I haven’t done this 200k route yet!” Most riders were doing the Healdsburg 300k since it’s a PBP qualifying year. Paris-Brest-Paris 1200K is scheduled for 2023 so now a bunch of randos are doing their ACP-sanctioned 200K, 300K, 400K, and 600K qualifying rides this year. The Healdsburg 300k is the first ACP 300k in the area so had a great turnout. The Pierce Point 200k, however, only had about 20 or so riders signed up for it which is low for a 200k! I asked Dan if he wanted to do the 200k with me since my usual rando riding partners were off doing the 300k. This is actually the first brevet we’ve done together and Dan’s longest ride of the year as in part he got a little addicted to Zwift rides. I’ve never tried Zwift, but considering how many cycling friends do it, I’m guessing it’s not exactly a Peloton, Soul Cycle, or average spinning experience (as my friends EJ and Rob always designed their classes like actual rides).

Still having staggered starts, Dan opted to meet up at 7 a.m. to start riding. I get to East Crissy Field first and am trying to stay warm as it’s hella foggy and chilly. You can’t even see the Golden Gate Bridge! I repark my car as I decide that the sand plot right by my first parking job isn’t going to be ideal to stop on later. I don’t recognize any of the other randos around. This is my first rando ride in my new SFR jersey which I’m ridiculously excited about getting to wear! Dan shows up and we quickly get ready and roll out towards the bridge. I wonder why my Garmin is telling me that I’m off course. I had grabbed the route off of the Route Archive on the SFR website since uh, I missed where Rob Hawk, our tireless RBA, included the link to a revised route that starts at Crissy Field and not the GGB where the SFR rides used to start. Dan says it was in one of the 3 emails he sent though. Oh well, not like I don’t know how to get to the GGB from Crissy Field and the rest of the route should be the same.

The GGB is cold, wet, foggy, and windy. I’m glad I have my jacket and arm warmers on! Dan pulls ahead and even though I couldn’t keep up with him on my best days, I’m wondering if I’m going extra slow for some reason. He won’t totally ditch me though and sure enough he’s waiting for me at the other end of the bridge. We finally get a patch of non-fog which I joke that Marin residents signed an ordinance that forbids fog from ever being in Marin County. We descend down into Sausalito which for some reason feels like forever since I’ve been over here (it’s been 6 weeks). We make the usual path towards Corte Madera. Matt, a new rando, catches up to us while climbing Camino Alto. I warn him to not be fooled by Dan’s slow speed up as he’s wicked fast, but going my pace today. Matt pulled over around the top to do something (I forget what) and we lose him at the end of the descent. He seems faster than me so I’m sure we’ll see him again later.

The absence of a lot of randos is quite apparent today as we are hardly seeing any fellow randos. I’m not sure how many started before we did or how many started after us since we started in the middle of the start time window. I’m familiar with the route all the way to the SFD / Pierce Point Rd junction having just done this exact line during January’s Dillon Beach 200k in January. I just hope that it’s not 34F in Inverness again! Luckily it isn’t even though it’s not exactly warm either. I’ll take it though since at least I can still feel my hands. And I’m glad that we aren’t doing a lap around China Camp since it’s just not a particularly inspiring piece of road. I’m not a fan of Paradise Loop either for similar reasons (I imagine those with houses on the Bay side of the road have GREAT views though!). During the Dillon Beach 200k, we saw other randos on the out-and-back portion of SFD after the Bear Valley Road junction. Today we don’t see anyone though! The SFR / Pierce Point Rd junction looks empty compared to 6 weeks ago when that was a turnaround point and a Control on the Dillon Beach 200k route so a lot of randos had stopped there to take their timestamped photos and/or snack and socialize.

Elk in the Tule Elk Preserve!

We quickly come up on the Historic H Ranch which I think is the Pierce Point Ranch at first. I’m disappointed to find out that it isn’t! Dan says we still have 6.4 miles to go to get to the Pierce Point Ranch. This is a fairly crappy road with lose gravel all over it. The scenery is pretty though and wildflowers have sprung up all over the grassy areas. We finally see a couple of cyclists ahead of us on a climb and know they have to be other randos. Matt passes us on his way back towards Point Reyes and we wave at each other. There is a lot of climbing on this road which gives us the idea that this is where most of the climbing on this ride is (partially true and we know the rest of the route profile). We come across a entrance sign to a Tule Elk Preserve which I don’t pay much attention to. Did Dan just say “Elk at 10 o’clock”? After I momentarily forget and then remember what direction that is, I see 12+ elk on the ridge! A few other randos have stopped to take photos of the elk who are all looking at us in return. The tail end of Pierce Point Road gets a bit more narrow and descends to the ranch. Dan and I have caught up to the other randos we saw from far away. He passes them before the descent and I get stuck behind them as they both brake A LOT descending. The road is kinda crappy here and I’m trying my best to control my speed and stay upright as I try to safely get around them. I failed to pay attention to what the photo control was here so decide to rely on my Garmin for my EPOP. I question why so many people drive all the way out here to just go walk .4 miles to a small beach. Dan points out that we just rode 51 miles to get here. Hey, cycling miles don’t really count as “that’s crazy.” We take a moment to look across Tomales Bay at Nick’s Cove and think about how we’re so close, but we need to ride 30 miles to get there. Time’s a-wasting!

I’m already getting hungry and tell Dan that I want to eat in Point Reyes BEFORE heading to the next turnaround at Nick’s Cove in Marshall. We start pedaling out and I’m excited about the prospect of finally trying Bovine Bakery pizza, which will also only be the second time I’ve eaten there. I even brought my new handlebar bag to bring home some baked treats for tomorrow since that vegan ginger peach scone I had there last time was simply awesome! Since we climbed most of the way here, that means we get to descend down this crappy road most of the way back. Between the loose gravel and cracks in the road, I’m so grateful for all of my mountain biking experience! I can’t clearly see the road most of the time as I’m bouncing down it and wishing I had my full suspension mountain bike. Mountain biking also makes me less freaked out on a road bike when I momentarily lose my back wheel’s traction and straight line momentum. Dan isn’t too far behind me, which I don’t know if he was keeping his distance expecting that I’d crash or distracted by wanting to take a photo or something like that.

Pierce Point Ranch

We pull into Point Reyes Station at about 1 p.m. and hope for the best with Bovine Bakery, which I also know is Dan’s preferred lunch stop. Luckily there are only a few people in line so we fall in. I decide that I want a couple of cookies and scone to go along with a rare time of me ordering non-vegan with a slice of veggie pizza (which they nicely have 3 meat-free options at least!). I silently curse whoever took the last vegan scone though one or two people in front of me in line as someone comes out and crosses that off the menu! Dan mocks me as I stuff my cookies into my handlebar bag. We eat our pizza slices at the recently restored picnic table in the grassy area at the corner. We talk with a couple of other randos there whose names I’ve totally forgotten soon after we depart. I’m probably not eating enough, but that’s also on par for my cycling life. It’s a bit warmer, but since we’re about halfway done with the ride and it’s not hot, I opt to keep my arm and leg warmers on. Sorry ridiculous tan lines, you’re going to have to wait longer to exist again. We fill up our water bottles and head off.

Dan isn’t entirely sure where Nick’s Cove is even though he’s passed it countless times. I know exactly where the turnaround is though so I take the lead there along the thousands of short climbs and descents along Shoreline Highway. Matt waves as he flies by us on his way back from Nick’s Cove as he apparently didn’t stop for lunch on his way North. I stop to take a couple of photos at Nick’s Cove and notice that my relatively brand new Suunto 9 Baro is saying its battery is running low. This is supposed to be an endurance watch with at least 25 hours of runtime and I’ve been using it for the last 3 200k rides with no problem and plenty of juice left at the end of those rides. WTF is going on?? I at least have my Garmin Edge that will definitely last with my Anker charger so glad I’m recording with both! We head back to Point Reyes station with a quick water top-off there. My watch gives a 1 hr warning and I switch it to the “3 hours in Endurance mode” (which Endurance mode is supposed to be 100 hours). I speculate that maybe there’s some horrible setting on my watch that happened by accident that’s going to cause it to die in 7 HOURS. I’m praying that it will at least last until the end of the ride, but am disappointed when even in Endurance mode it doesn’t even last half an hour before it totally dies. This watch has been a great improvement over my Suunto 3 Ambit Sport that I’ve had for the last uh, 6 years, but right now I’m missing the old watch since even after 6 years of nearly daily usage, I never had battery issues with it! Okay screw you Suunto 9 Baro as I’ve got my Garmin Edge 510 at least still functioning (which is also a rather old model, but hey, still works!).

Nick’s Cove

We pass through Olema and turn to climb up to Bolinas Ridge. I really like this climb even though it’s usually towards the end of a ride back to SF (and beats dragging my sorry butt up Panoramic Highway). Not too long or steep anywhere and it’s a fun descent down the other side…no matter which direction you go on it. I always think about the Double Dipsea at the Olema side since just south of that junction is where the Double Dipsea starts/ends in Stinson Beach. I was staying at a friend’s house in Forest Knolls when I did the Double Dipsea last year so I drove through this intersection going both ways. We get to the top of Bolinas Ridge and proceed down the too short descent to Tocaloma. We meander along SFD through the redwoods and notice it’s starting to get a little dark from the tree coverage. We come across a couple more randos on their way back to SF. After we exit the redwood tree area around Samuel P. Taylor State Park is when I start whining about where the hell is White Hill. My brain gets really bored between Lagunitas and the top of White Hill every time I ride through here. I also LOVE the descent from White Hill into Fairfax.

Dan gets to the top of White Hill first and we start descending along with a few cars. We’re both going faster than the cars and for some reason the red car right behind Dan starts driving in the shoulder effectively blocking my way around their slow ass. I’m maxing out at 42.4 mph in a 35 mph zone! The car finally gets out of the shoulder and I fly right past them and catch up to Dan, which I also feel WAY safer in front of that car than behind it. I’m also, as always, proud of making the Your Speed signs to say “SLOW DOWN” here. 🙂 We get into Fairfax and then it’s auto-pilot all the way back to the city. I request a quick stop in Ross as I’m actually hungry and need a small snack to quiet my stomach. We also take the opportunity to put jackets back on as it’s undoubtedly going to be chilly heading back across the bridge.

We make our way back to the Mill Valley bike path which I always love at the end of rando rides as it feels like start of the home stretch and the funny thought in my head that pedestrians and other cyclists on the path have no idea the distances we’re finishing up. Dan and I go up and over the Gate and then beat a path back to Crissy Field. I text the DORC that we’ve finished the ride and we get ready to go home. There’s another cyclist standing next to my car who looks at me and asks if I’m Kelley Prebil. WTF? He introduces himself as Brett and says that we have mutual friends, which still confuses me on how he knows who I am by sight. He’s trying to recall who it is that we both know. He finally tells me that his Strava name is Leopold Porkstacker and NOW I know who he is! He had sent me a Strava follow request and I asked my friend Brian who was that. Still not sure how Brett knew what I looked like, but at least that clicked it in my head! We chat a little as he’s quite talkative. I feel bad on one hand as I’m trying to change into regular clothes as I’ve got dinner plans with a friend in the Haight while keeping some modesty (for once!). I continue talking to him for a bit and then excuse myself as I need to change and head out. He’s waiting for the rando whose car I’m parked next to to get back as they had carpooled there together. Brett didn’t do our ride and did a shorter ride so he’s been there for quite some time. I hope his friend gets there soon since the fog is starting to roll back in and it’s getting pretty cold, especially when you’re wearing nothing but lycra! Since I know who Leopold Porkstacker is now, I also accept his follow request on my Strava!

2022 Pierce Point 200k

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Spring in February?

The SFR Del Puerto Canyon 200k is by far the most popular brevet that the SF Randonneurs’ has and usually scheduled for both the Spring and Fall seasons every year. I had done dragged my sorry butt through it in Fall 2019 that I almost bailed on several times in the ride due to being still knackered from the Davis, Dunnigan, and the Delta 300k I’d ridden the week before and the Winters 200k I’d ridden the week before that. This time though I had only ridden the Two Big Tujungas permanent (66 miles / 7200′ climbing) in the San Gabriel Mountains the weekend before so I was good to go for a 200k today. Having the Spring DPC 200k on 19 February 2022 seemed really early though in the year since it’s still winter. I’m hoping that there’s some cool weather in the Del Puerto Canyon though since it’s long and exposed (aka no shade) the entire canyon with a good climb out of it.

I originally arranged to ride DPC with Brian and Robert (Brian’s best friend and “rando husband” since they do so many rando rides together even though Robert lives in Tennessee). Like Fall 2019 though, Ken signed up for it at the last minute and texted me that he wanted to ride it with me. Unlike 2019 though, Ken didn’t try to just surprise me at the start of the ride back when we had mass starts pre-COVID. Now with a start window, if you want to ride with someone, you need to arrange a meet-up time during the start window to check-in and roll out. I somehow feel like I rarely get to ride with Ken so take any opportunity to ride with him. Besides, this gives Robert and Brian some more quality time together. 😛

As always, even though Brian and Robert were going to start later than Ken and me, they’re already there when I arrive. Ken’s early too and ready to roll. I park next to his big red van which I’m wishing I was going to get to curl up and fall asleep in later (like after our DART 200k last September when I got to sleep back there all the way from West Sacto to Fremont). We check-in and Ken goes to find his friend Jacques, a rando from Alaska who is in town and going to ride with us today. We start off with a few other guys that of course know Ken. Everyone knows Ken. As Jacques says, if you’re a cyclist in the Bay Area and don’t know Ken, do you really ride? As with any rando ride, Ken is too busy chatting with the guys he knows that he doesn’t hear me yell his name when my chain pops off. He continues on while Jacques and another rando stop to wait for me to get my chain back on. A quick fix, but Ken is already gone. I also know that Ken will eventually wait for me at some point which is at the top of the Patterson pass climb. Jacques is into wine so we ride chatting about different wineries, varietals, and regions. He just got back from a Paso Robles trip which of course I have to ask if he is familiar with Brecon Estate, my friends Damian and Amanda’s winery where D is the head winemaker also. He knows of them, but not that familiar with their wines.

One of the many orchards we ride past around Tracy and Livermore.

We get to the top of the Patterson climb where Ken is waiting for us. I take a moment to take my jacket off before the descent. I haven’t been over here in a long time and have forgotten what this looks like! It’s a nice long meandering descent that you definitely need to be careful on since you can get some wicked speed through here equally matched with it taking paramedics awhile to get to you. We continue on through Tracy where Jacques takes a photo of the first Control. Brian and Robert fly by while I’m waiting for Jacques and Ken to be ready to go. We had a lot of blooming orchards around us which is kinda cool, but also still alarming as we’re supposed to still be in Winter! Some randos stop in the old staffed control at the Jimmy’s One Stop parking lot. I see Brian outside and continue on as there’s a burrito waiting for me in Patterson.

Another really tall rando pulls up next to us and starts talking with Ken as they have the same bike frame. Ken is 6’1″ and Phil is considerably taller than him on a bike! His name is Phil and he was on the fateful Miner Road ride 2 weeks ago that fellow rando Ellen Le died on. We find out from him that she was climbing up Miner Road on a blind corner entrance/exit when the car came around the curve, crossed the center divider, and smashed right into her. This infuriates me since the 2 online articles I read about the crash had the driver claiming that both of them were on the wrong side of the road for them. This is complete BS since there is no chance of you “drifting” across the center divider when you’re going uphill on a bike. Average cyclist is probably doing about 4 – 6 mph going up that road as the crash spot is a decent incline. She was separated from the group so no cyclists witnessed her death, but it’s obvious the driver lied to CYA and not take full responsibility for the fact that he was driving recklessly and killed another human being. She was not at fault at all and she didn’t “pop out of nowhere” like a lot of irresponsible drivers claim even trees, fences, parked cars, street lights, poles, etc. do.

Del Puerto Canyon

Probably the only time I ever get excited on seeing a roadside marquee is in Patterson next to the 5 as I know that’s where the usual lunch stop is on this ride. There are a few options which like last time, Baja Fresh is the best option I think given it’s quick and convenient. We have a nice relaxing lunch. I take off my arm/leg warmers and put on sufficient sunscreen. I know the Del Puerto Canyon is coming up next and not really looking forward to it since I suffered a lot on it last time. We lose Phil quickly since I forgot to ensure my saddlebag was sealed nice and tight with it stuffed with my leg/arm warmers now along with everything else that’s usually in there.

We turn right onto Del Puerto Canyon Road in front of a Sherriff car. I joke about how here’s our ride back to our cars. Kind of an odd spot to have a cop car, but as long as I don’t get pulled over, I don’t really care. The Sherriff car heads off towards the 5 right after we turn. We ride through all the little hills in DPC and there are some spots with abundant wildflowers on the hillsides. The rest of the canyon is all green! There aren’t many cars since there’s no reason to drive through here and the only cars we see are only a few miles into the canyon. A small creek runs alongside the road which Ken says is always there. I guess there’s still some thought on putting a dam up that would flood the canyon (therefore eliminating this rando route), but I haven’t heard anything about that idea/plan in quite some time.

Wildflowers in the canyon

Ken starts thinking that we missed the spring water stop which is an important stop to make since that’s the only water in here. Even though I filled up in Patterson and usually channel my inner camel on rides, given the lack of water options, I want to make sure that I have plenty of water on me just in case! There isn’t much from the Fall 2019 DPC that I remember, but I definitely remember what the spring water stop looked like. We come across it finally (81 miles into the ride) with several other randos there and a volunteer helping open/close the spigot so we can fill our bottles. Part of the stream crosses the driveway into the tap area which reminds me of the time I was mountain biking along Bolinas Ridge with my friend Bonnie after some recent rains and every time I hit a puddle I would joke about whether my bike was clean after hitting every muddy puddle.

Bottles filled and back in the saddle, we head onto the steepest part of the climb where we go up 1000′ in only 3.5 miles. The total climb is about 22 miles / 2300′ which is a good amount of mile-climbing ratio in the Bay Area. DPC doesn’t have any shade though which I hope I am never hear on a hot day! My legs are okay with this climb, but I’m noticeably sweating. I’m half Chinese by blood and enjoy my usual lack of ability to sweat profusely. Every time I look down, a bead of sweat falls to the ground. I’m curious on what my Garmin measures for air temp, but every time I touch my Garmin Edge, I leave salty streaks across the screen and can’t read it. I stop twice in the 3.5 miles to wipe my eyes as they’re stinging from the sweat running into them from my forehead.. I definitely do NOT remember this from the last time I rode here! There isn’t much talking among us as we all suffer in silence. Jacques is somewhere ahead of me and Ken is lagging behind for a change.

Spring water stop, the only place in the canyon to get water

I finally get to the top of the climb at The Junction which almost seems like a mirage at first! Rob Hawks, our long suffering Regional Brevet Administrator, is there checking people in that we’ve arrived here. There’s a huge container of spring water that’s almost empty. I down the last of my water in one water bottle and go to refill it. A volunteer offers to hold my bike for me. Jacques helps tilt over the container while I get some of the last precious drips of water. We head off towards Miner Road, a fun road to ride, but a somber feeling on it today as we all know that that is where Ellen was killed.

Ken wants to look for Ellen’s roadside memorial and said we can continue on without him once we get to it. I want to see it and pay my respects also even though I didn’t know her. Not knowing her doesn’t matter to me as she was a fellow cyclist and rando. We make our way over some smaller climbs and then come around the blind corner with the unmistakable memorial just on the other side of the road. Unlike many cycling accident memorials, this does not have a ghost bike (a bike painted white to indicate that a cyclist was killed at that spot while riding). There are numerous flowers and cycling fuel/snacks. Another couple stop while we’re there and throw a bag of Peanut M&M’s. They say that they knew Ellen also (as did Ken of course). Every rando I talked to after the ride said that they also stopped here to pay respects and review the accident site. We all agree that there was NO WAY Ellen was on the wrong side of the road. Tire skid marks show that the car was WAY over the center divider. We regain our composure and continue down Miner Road.

Ellen Le’s roadside memorial where she was killed by a reckless irresponsible motorist

We continue along Miner Road towards Livermore in a loose pack with a handful of other randos. Ken is, of course, out in front a lot of the time after complaining to everyone that he hurt his calf the other day, has his geared bike, and wanted me to “go easy on [him].” We aren’t in a paceline and just riding along chitchatting with whoever is near you. I pass by Kitty at one point which I should have known it was her as she was swearing at almost every car that went past too close or too fast! There was one truck that flew by us that she yelled at. It goes around the curve in front of us and we see a cloud of dirt get kicked up. Kitty and I come around the corner ourselves and see that the only dirt patch was on the inside shoulder which means that the driver had little control going around the corner and went off the road! We had seen several sports cars speeding on the road throughout our time on it. This road doesn’t have a shoulder in either direction making it very dangerous to speed on.

I catch Ken and tell him that I have a hot spot in my right foot and need to stop at the bottom of the descent of this road. Jacques is somewhere up ahead and don’t want to stop until we catch up to him. Ken has hot spots too so also needs to take his shoes off soon. We descend to where Jacques is waiting for us and stop as Kitty & others soldier on. All 3 of us take our shoes off for several minutes. Jacques tries to encourage me to lay down on the road with my feet up to help alleviate the hot spots. I told him the last time I laid down on a ride (DART last September), I was blissfully kind of out of it until I heard Ken barking at me to get my butt up off the grass and back on my bike. Ken assured me that he’ll make sure I get up again this time, but I remain seated upright.

Relieving hotspots roadside

Feet relatively happy again, we continue on for the relative home stretch of the ride. We’re 178 km into the ride with 26 km to go! All the climbing is over with and we’ll hit regular city streets again soon for the meander back to the Dublin/Pleasant BART station finish. More randos join us as we ride through Livermore and Pleasanton. It’s easy flat riding all the way back and we made good time as I usually expect a 200k to take about 10 hours. Today is no exception as we roll into the BART parking lot at 9:59:07 elapsed time when I stop my Suunto watch. I immediately text the DORC (Day of Ride Contact) to let them know that Ken and I finished as I already have Ken’s RUSA number from previous brevets we did together and I checked us both in at the end.

Brian texts me if I finished yet as he and Robert actually finished before us! They didn’t stop for lunch which is how they passed us and Brian was riding faster than he has in several months on purpose. They’re at a nearby In-n-Out which I’m tempted to stop by, but there isn’t really anything I can eat there, I’m leaving for a week of skiing in Truckee the next morning, and more importantly, I want a shower. I’ll grab dinner and hang out with them after the next ride we do together!

SFR DPC 200k Elevation Profile. Patterson Pass is the baby climb on the left. DPC is by far where most of the climbing is!

Spring 2022 SFR DPC 200k

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Hold My Cookies

Originally the 200k brevet on 29 January 2022 was supposed to be the SFR Pierce Point 200k, a route I hadn’t done and wanted to do. However due to permit issues, Rob had to swap it on the schedule with the SFR Dillon Beach 200k that was originally scheduled for March. I realized the change when I went to register for the January Pierce Point 200k and saw “Dillon Beach 200k” on the registration form instead. I did this route last year as a permanent with Ken for our first SFR 200k last year, but I’d already arranged with Brian to ride the SFR 200k on the 29th so Dillon Beach it is.

Brian and I tend to have a tiny struggle with start times since SFR does start time windows. He lives in the South Bay so meeting me at the start window (aka daybreak) isn’t usually on his offering. I always ask for something like just 15 minutes earlier than he was planning on being there. Funny thing is that he usually ends up showing up at that time or earlier. Today he was carpooling with Sourav though so an extra complication on when he could actually get his butt in the car and start driving. However today he got there just before I did. There’s an open spot next to him and he’s got his driver door wide open. I roll my window down and yell “Don’t you hate it when some a-hole leaves their car door open so you can’t park?” He sticks his tongue out at me and closes his door. I check to make sure he’s got plenty of room in his handlebar bag for transporting my cookies back from Tomales Bakery, which I’ve already voluntold him for.

We get ready, quickly check-in and head off to the Golden Gate Bridge. The air is a bit crisp and I’m glad that I’ve got my leg/arm warmers and jacket in addition to my kit. I’m still on my “No Brian Left Behind” mission so make sure I don’t lose him on the familiar route from the bridge to Olema through the usual combination of SFD and backroads. The temperature drops along the Mill Valley bike path which is always expected. We get passed by some of the faster randos on Camino Alto who started later. Nothing too eventful along here and we really ride on auto-pilot through here as we’ve all done this part so many times and those backroads are basically a road cycling superhighway as we all take the same route through there to avoid SFD as much as possible. I’m just glad that this ride doesn’t include the rather boring route through China Camp.

Turnaround point of Pierce Point and SFD after suffering through a 34F patch.

Drop down to Olema from Bolinas Ridge and head West to Inverness which now the temperature has REALLY dropped. Brian says that his Garmin reads 34F and I believe it! My hands are cold and my left thumb is hurting (a lovely permanent side effect from breaking it 3 years ago on okay, yeah, my bike of course). We cross paths with some of the faster guys who have already hit the turnaround point along SFD at Pierce Point and now on their way to Point Reyes and the rest of the route. I see Mike finally who I knew was on this ride, but didn’t see him at the start. We greet each other as we pass like ships and never see each other the rest of the day. I had kind of forgotten exactly what this part of SFD is like except there’s a climb on it somewhere for some distance that I forget. I just remember that the climb wasn’t difficult. Sure enough we hit the climb and it’s a good workout, but nothing that hard. I’m finally getting warm though towards the top and decide that it’s time to take my jacket off. I pull over at the summit to disrobe when Brian just keeps on going. Hey! I hop back in the saddle and peddle to the turnaround. I take a photo of the Pierce Point / SFD street sign and chatting with Kitty a bit while actually having a small snack. I hear Brian a few feet away asking where I am which I’m just like “Really dude? Right in front of you.” Okay there had been about dozen other randos there taking short breaks because we kinda like to socialize also.

Brian and I take off towards Point Reyes and my precious lunch and cookies waiting for me in Tomales. A bunch of randos have stopped in Point Reyes for lunch. Brian had been contemplating stopping at Bovine Bakery, but decides against it. I still regret the one delicious scone I got there once on a ride with my friend Baerbel as now I know what I’m missing with that heavenly bakery. I always pass through here wearing lycra though so just a quick look down motivates me enough to keep pedaling past it. Plus cookies await! We ride past the touristy oyster shucking spots when we see an enthusiastic motorcyclist in the road taking video of us as we ride by and yells “you guys are badasses!” I wonder if he knows who we are or what we’re doing. It’s kinda cool to have a 1 man cheering section regardless!

Tai capturing Brian and me riding by him in Tomales.

I’ve already told Brian and I want to stop for lunch in Tomales before the run out to Dillon Beach as it’s getting close to lunchtime anyway. I head straight for Tomales Deli to put in my usual vegan order (there’s only one vegan option and it’s good so it’s easy for me to order here) and then go claim my cookies. 3 oatmeal cranberry cookies from Tomales Bakery next door, one for now and 2 for tomorrow when I plan on holding down a couch most of the day. I strip my leg/arm warmers off and put on sunblock since it’s getting rather pleasant weather and temperatures now. Hard to imagine that we were just in 34F only 1.5 hours ago! I eat half of a cookie and then remind Brian that the rest of that bag is going into his handlebar bag. I make some witty wisecrack to which Brian manically looks at me and asks if I know how many times he’s wanted to just run me right off of the road. Sweet innocent quiet shy me? How could he! (BTW my swimming friend Gary keeps saying he wants Brian’s contact info as he’ll pay Brian big bucks to run me off the road and I maintain that no one is profiting off of my demise.) I finally get my sandwich as they had originally put the wrong bread on it and being a SF native I’m pretty much a “sourdough roll or nothing” type. Brian’s giving me crap about how this is like 3 riding meals for me which is kinda true given how little I eat on rides (worse is running where I’m almost always in a fasted state for that). Luckily Brian is patient though and always waits for me to finish eating. Knowing him he had some pastry from the bakery that he inhaled before he even signed the receipt for it.

We putter off to Dillon Beach for the turnaround point and the namesake of the ride. I’ve never actually been on Dillon Beach and today is no exception. Actually in the North Bay I’ve only ever been on Stinson Beach because that was the start/end of the Double Dipsea last year (this year I’m bringing my swimsuit to do a proper swim there after that little 14 mile / 4400′ jog). We see some randos coming out of the small store there and chat with a couple of them before heading back to SF. Brian is friends with one of them (I forget her name, sorry!) as we take off so I go my normal pace as she and Brian are busy talking while riding. I’m feeling pretty good even with all this climbing out since I know we’re on our way back and since this part is another out-and-back, I know what’s coming up. I just focus on my leg muscles doing their job well of hauling the rest of me up all these hills.

Brian finally getting to the top of one of the climbs heading towards Dillon Beach.

I get to Tomales and see a momentarily directionally confused new-ish Rando (ugh forgot his name too) who isn’t sure of the route back. I tell him that it’s the same way that we came and he should just ride with us then. Brian rejoins us and starts badgering us to get moving as we can talk while we ride. I finally give in and start peddling. We start heading South out of Tomales and finally cross paths with Linh and Lee Nguyen! Easy to spot them on their tandem and we’ve been wondering why we haven’t seen them all day. I stop every so often so I don’t lose Brian and I notice the other guy is lagging further and further behind. We unfortunately eventually lose our fellow rando. We hit the infamous spot of Nick’s Cove where in 2020 I almost Wild E. Coyote’s myself onto the back of a truck on the uphill after refusing to lose my momentum from the downhill part. Today there’s a truck coming out from the hotel side of the road where I just go “OH F*** NO” and peddle faster to get past it before it blocks the entire road. Brian got trapped on the wrong side of it as I wait for him at the next mini summit.

One of these days I really need to actually go to the actual beach here.

We meander through on our way back to Olema and the climb up and over Bolinas Ridge. Home stretch! I unfortunately do not make the speed signs on White Hill say “SLOW DOWN” again this time. We zip through on autopilot all the way back to the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s dark now and we’re supposed to take the East side according to the can’t-see-wtf-that-is-in-the-dark sign for which side is open for cyclists at that time. I know the sign though and even though it says we’re supposed to be on the East side, I still see cyclists on the West side. I prefer the East side anyway with any wind after the lame not-bike-friendly alterations on the West side. I’m surprised at how many pedestrians are on here still in the dark and have to dodge a few of them, especially those who don’t know their right from their left when you yell out that you’re passing on their left. *sigh*

I decide to take the bike path to get back to Crissy Field instead of the road, which can be a bit bumpy in places. There are two idiots on the bike path with NO LIGHTS and at one point the girl turns her bike 90 degrees to block the entire path while putting her feet down and stopping. This causes me to run off into the dirt and grass while yelling “WHAT THE F*** ARE YOU DOING??” Seriously? You idiots though it was a good idea to go riding in the dark? It’s 90 minutes past sunset so there is no way that these two geniuses were out for a ride earlier and didn’t know it was getting dark. They were full on imbeciles setting up a situation for themselves or someone else to get hurt by their idiocracy. I hope they learned their lesson that it is NOT a romantic idea to go for a bike ride in the dark with no lights even on a bike path since oh gee, other cyclists use it too even in the dark. Where is Darwin when you need him?

Anyway, Brian and I get back to the cars and check-in with the DORC that we finished. I get my cookies from Brian as I’m not forgetting that before I go home! Sourav is happy to see Brian since he finished 2 hours earlier and been patiently waiting in a parking lot. Good day on the bike as always though!

2021 SFR Dillon Beach 200k.

And as it turned out, the super fan did know who we were as we discovered on Facebook the next day. He is a cyclist from the South Bay who knows a lot of randos and knew we were going to be out there that day so he was waiting and looking for us!


Tai’s video of Brian and me riding past him in Tomales!

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No Brian Left Behind!

Rando rides out of Davis are some of the most mentally challenging rides. Not physically hard since the area is relatively flat, but that also means you’re going in straight lines FOREVER sometimes. Growing up and living in the Bay Area, I’m used to being around lots of trees, hills, and water/bay views. Davis is a lot of fields as far as the eye can see BUT I had a different mission on this ride that superseded my preference to ride among the trees. My friend Brian had gone through a bit of a rough 2021 medically (not COVID related) which had left him slower than his usual riding speed and some excess weight that didn’t help with his self-esteem. No-drop club rides were leaving him in the dust which upset me when I heard about it happening multiple times. I’ve been dropped before on a “no-drop” Rapha Club ride thanks to one red light which is the last time I ever rode with them. Actually, that ride was a great one since I ended up meeting my friend Brenda, who was stuck at the light with me on the same ride, and she introduced me to her NorCal Velo group out of Santa Rosa. I’m still friends with a bunch of those guys and ride (and drink and eat) with them when I can. Anyway, I’d told Brian to not worry about the weight since a bunch of poison was pumped inside of him to save his life so give his body time to heal from it. As for his riding speed….hey he’s on a bike and I’m never going to drop him on a ride. So a 200k on 31 January 2021 with a measly 1500′ of climbing? Sure, just to keep Brian company so he wasn’t doing the ride himself. And promises of homemade ginger cookies may have been made too. Luckily (for him), my prior commitment for RIB piloting for the South End Rowing Club‘s NYD Alcatraz fell through therefore I wasn’t busy with that swim’s test swim on the 31st.

Control #2 of the bronze baseball game in the middle of West Capitol Avenue in West Sacto.

Davis rides tend to start at The Marketplace. Easy parking, easy to tell where the other randos are, Dos Coyotes is right there and open when you finish a 200k there right at dinner time. I park right next to Brian which apparently raises some eyebrows as everyone else parked with some distance between cars. I’m spending all day with Brian anyway so what difference does it make if we’re parked next to each other? Plus there are homemade ginger cookies in his car that I need to collect! This morning though it sucked as it was about 37F outside (“real feel” of 33F!). We go through a quick briefing that Deb Banks, the Davis RBA, is unusually absent for. Some people are doing the 100k and the rest of us are doing the 200k. Since it’s New Year’s Eve and cold, there aren’t that many of us. We scamper off towards Sacramento on the usual route parallel to 80. Unlike Rob, the SF RBA, who only makes us do one proof of passage (brevet card, Strava recording, or timestamp photos at Controls), Deb makes us do TWO so Brian and I are going to do Strava and timestamp photos. Luckily some of the controls are well known like the baseball players in the center median on West Capitol Avenue.

Sun! And the only time I was remotely warm on this ride.

Brian and I are taking turns on who gets to break the headwind. One scary moment on a county road (102?) where I accidentally clip Brian’s rear tire. I’m still not sure how I didn’t crash, but it definitely got my heart racing as I struggled to keep my bike upright! I’m not even sure if he knew that happened. We pass through Knight’s Landing which is one of the many small towns here that you would never have heard of if you didn’t drive or ride through it ever. We pick up a few other Randos along the way for some chit chatting along rather mundane roads. There aren’t really any food stops on this route before Winters, which is so close to the end at that point that it’s not worth stopping there for an entire meal. I think we’re on Yolo County Road when Brian asks me to tell him a story to keep him entertained on this ride. I start telling him the story about this one time I gave up my NYE day to come up to Davis and ride in the f’ing cold on a very flat route for some friend against my better judgment. We turn from Yolo County Road onto County Road 99W as I see Brian cut every possible inch of that corner off trying to catch up to us. We’re almost at Dunnigan now. I’m having some knee pain so I want to stop at Dunnigan to raise my saddle up to try to take some pressure off of it. Brian and I stop at the Dunnigan city limit sign while the other guys head into Dunnigan. We meet up with them again as they find the first convenient store there to get some food and/or water. We’re at about the halfway point and I’m still wearing all my layers since it’s still cold out. I haven’t drank any of my water yet (I hardly drink anything when it’s cold) and eat an 88 Acres dark chocolate seed bar.

Small bridge just north of Winters.

We all take off again as the other guys notice that the only other food options in Dunnigan was the Jack in the Box and the Chevron’s convenience store. Yup, not much out here. The other guys start to pull away as we make our way to Winters. I’m still trying to keep Brian within eyesight though or at least not get too far ahead of him. I finally start getting warm enough that I want to take off my jacket and vest. This is the longest I’ve ever worn 3 layers while riding which should say how cold I was! The jacket was my second heaviest weight cycling jacket too. I could have used my heaviest one actually today. Brian and I are meandering our way to Winters when suddenly one of the guys pops up behind us as I had stopped to take a photo of one of the bridges and waterways north of Winters. We learn that his name is Pierre and he’s a SF Rando. Pierre and Brian are busy talking in French and whatever else so I’m free to go a little bit faster and a little farther ahead secure that Brian has good company with him. And I still stop a lot for them to catch up. We’ve had a lot of rain recently so the ground is fairly wet. I try to gingerly find a decent place for a quick bathroom break which is muddy enough that I get all sorts of dirt and small rocks in my cleats. I have some trouble staying clipped in, but no time to deal with this now!

Crossing Lake Solano.

We roll into and through Winters. We have some confusion on the last control location for Lake Solano as the mileage for the control indicates the bridge over the lake whereas there’s also the area actually labeled the lake a bit farther up ahead after you turn onto Putah Creek Road. I take photos of both so have my bases covered. Pierre continues on solo as I take the photo from Putah Creek Road and think this is where I put my jacket back on. I remember from here that it’s just a long flat relatively straight slog back to Davis. We’re not that far away, but it’s getting dark so there’s even less to see than in the daytime. Brian and I can see Pierre’s tail light off in the distance as we keep cranking away to get back to Davis. I’m also already thinking about dinner since I didn’t even really get any lunch. I did manage to finally start my second water bottle though! We watch the setting sun’s red glow on all the orchard trees as they slowly fade into complete darkness. We cross over 80 and shortly make the turn north to meander into Davis. This is always the longest part of the rides here since you’re so close, yet so far! By the time we get back to the Marketplace, it’s like a mirage. Brian asks if I’m going to go the car or Dos Coyotes first. As hungry as I am, I’m throwing my bike in the car and putting on some real clothes first! We quickly do that and then race towards the restaurant. Other randos and our DORC (Day of Ride Contact) are still there so we’re able to enjoy our first real meal in several hours with great camadarie, food, and drink! Coldest 200k I’ve ever done!

Sun starting to set on the way back to Davis

2021 Davis Randonneurs’ Last Chance 200k

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How to Give Rob Hawks A Heart Attack (aka 2021 SFR Winters 200K)

The SFR Winters 200K is one of my absolute favorite 200k rides. During non-pandemic times, this ride includes lunch in the tiny town of Winters, California that most people in the Bay Area have never even heard of despite turnoff signs for it on 80. Starting in Hercules, California right before the Carquinez and Benicia-Martinez Bridges and goes through many of the smaller towns East of there and a flyby of Lake Berryessa before coming back through Vallejo. The lunchtime stop allowed me two years ago to meet Rando friends like Fabrice and Huy who are faster cyclists than me so I’d have never met them otherwise. Rando rides usually provide no rest stops, refueling stations, and especially not lunch or dinner so this was the luxury Rando rides in the old days. Since I barely eat on rides, I can do without the provided food itself though.

This year though because of COVID, there would be no real mass start and no lunch provided. This year the ride was on Saturday, 9 October and luckily a lot cooler than the weekend before when the volunteer ride was held. Sandra and Kitty wanted to start early at 6:30 a.m. as they also live in the East Bay and closer to Hercules. Brian and his BFF / Rando Husband Robert were coming from Cupertino though and wanted a later start at 7 a.m. I asked for a compromise of 6:45 a.m. so we could ride together which luckily Sandra and Kitty agreed to.

Delicious sourdough milk tea bread that Brian made!

I get to the start the Park & Ride lot right off of 80 and park across from Brian’s car. I’d swapped out Black Ruby’s tires last night after finding 3 cracks and 2 holes down to the mesh lining in them. Brian and I had ridden Old La Honda & Alpine Road earlier in the week which I could feel my tires slipping on Alpine Road. At one scary point on that ride I’d ended up across the road as I knew I didn’t have the traction to make the corner. Brian came around asking what I was doing on the far side of the road which I said “Trying to not crash.” I have no idea how I hadn’t blown a tire or crashed after inspecting them afterwards. To make life more interesting, I accidentally picked up some Continental Gator Hardshell tires instead of my usual Continental Grand Prix 5000 tires. The Gators are .1mm thicker and a much stickier rubber. I wasn’t about to go back to the shop though after I’d gotten the rear one on. I love seeing Mike and Chris and the rest of the guys at my shop, but not THAT much. Now the dumb thing was that when swapping the tires, I kept the old rear tube since I didn’t see anything wrong with it at the time. Hold that thought for Moments of Great Stupidity.

Back to Saturday morning where Brian hypnotized me with sourdough milk tea bread he’d made the day before and I’d been wanting to get my small paws on. I said I’d devour some after the ride since I don’t like a lot of food in my stomach while riding. My friend Tom is also there and it seems like the 5 of us can pod together since we’re all about the same speed. I notice at the last minute that my rear tire is flat! I use my Road Morph pump since no one has a floor pump on them. I reason that I must have screwed up filling up this tube somehow last night when I changed tires. Last thing I want to do is change a tube in the dark so I just pump up the tire back to 100 psi and declare that I’m ready to go. Fingers crossed.

Lee taking photos of Brian and me while Linh pedals for both of them

All 5 of us roll out along Willow Avenue to San Pablo Avenue. I start getting paranoid about 9 miles in that my rear tire isn’t holding air. I yell out at Brian to stop so I can check. I do a quick assessment and it *seems* like it’s holding so I try to shove away any insecurities about the rear tire. We continue on across the Benecia-Martinez Bridge and I start having fond members of the DART 200K just a couples of weeks before with Ken, David, and Kitty. Somewhere along (I think) Park Road we unfortunately time arriving there at the same time a cargo train passes across the road. The rails here cross the road TWICE therefore trapping us twice in a short distance. Some other randos carry their bikes over the side to bypass the train, which by the time they do that only saves them a few seconds. At least we’re free now to continue on! We come along Linh and Lee on their tandem along Park Road and comically Lee takes photos of us while Brian and I photograph them while riding. Much of this route north is the same going along Lopez Road for seemingly days. We do the usual route through Fairfield past the Safeway that I will always remember as the halfway / lunch mark for my first 300k (David Randonneurs’ DDD 300K) and turn onto Pleasant Valley Road. Unfortunately we have no Brian. I knew he was behind me and the other guys pulled ahead of me which I could come close to catching, but never quite enough to stay with them. Plus I’m really conscious about how we lost Brian. I must have been a Navy Seal in a past life since I refuse to leave a man or woman behind. I pull over and wait for Brian for 10 minutes with no sight of him behind me. I slowly continue on hoping he’ll catch up to me eventually. I meet up with Robert at the turn onto Putah Creek Road and he immediately asks if I have seen Brian. I haven’t, but I’m also starving and decide we’ll wait in Winters (now only a handful of miles) for him.

We get to Winters and Robert has contact with Brian that he’s only a few miles outside of Winters. Kitty had flown through Winters without stopping. The rest of us stop at El Pueblo for food. Being vegan, I order their veggie burrito with black beans and no sour cream. Sandra calls this a “why bother” burrito. Despite my order, it comes with sour cream, but since I haven’t eaten anything in several hours, I’m not going to wait a minute longer to eat so down it goes with the sour cream. Sandra does her usual “you’ll batch up to me” comedy bit which translates to we’ll never see her again that day. Brian catches up to us and at least Robert and I wait patiently until he finishes his lunch too. My rear tire sadly has 30 psi so a) I know something is wrong and b) I’m praying it’ll hold until the end of this ride since I really do not want to change a flat right now. I pump my tire back up to 100 psi and we saunter on as a threesome.

Highway 128 heading West out of Winters

Robert is faster than both of us and he’s got a business call that he needs to take shortly after we’re reading to roll in Winters so he stays behind. I stop every so often on the climb up to Lake Berryessa for Brian as there is a lot less fun on riding by yourself. I also want to make sure Brian is okay because you really never know what’s going to happen even if you start a ride physically okay. Brian and I make it to Moskowite Corner at the junction of Highways 128 and 121 (again a place only Randos probably know) which is the only manned checkpoint on this ride since there are no services out here 85 miles in. Rob Hawks, our Regional Brevet Administrator, and his dog are here offering food and some snacks. Of course Rob sees Brian without Robert and asks where Robert is since they’re like Bert & Ernie. I decide I can’t take the stress of worrying about my rear tire’s future anymore. Brian patiently waits while I change my tube as I give him crap for not being a gentleman and changing it for me (as I recall when my friend Dan volunteered for staffing a checkpoint on the Fall 2019 DPC 200K and changed my tube for me). I chuck my old tube into Rob’s trash bag and we roll off confident that my tube worries are finally over and I can ride the other 40 miles without stress!

Brian and I continue down Montebello Road (121) and turn onto Wooden Valley Road to Rockville vs Suisan Valley Road. I know Rockville from Rockfill Hill Regional Park, where I left some blood and pride in the Rock Garden trail via my mountain bike after making a wrong turn on it. Brian needs some water so we stop at a the Chevron on Suisan Valley Rd & Rockville Rd where another group of Randos are stopped outside of that we’d seen back at the Moskowite Corner checkpoint. Suddenly I hear a loud BOOM! and to my left is Robert after crudely rolling up and over the curb. I’m just excited that the 3 of us are back together again! We’re in the home stretch now.

Lake Berryessa

We start rolling through Cordelia where all 3 of us are sadly confused on where to go. All of our GPS devices say that we’re off course as we’re trying to cross 80 from Business Center Drive to Lopes Road. In our confusion and chasing our own tails to figure out where we’re supposed to go, we end up on the entrance ramp to 80 West. A van madly honks at us and then Brian’s Apple watch rings. It’s Rob Hawks frantically telling us that we’re going in the wrong direction and actually on an 80W entrance ramp! He must have been the van honking at us as he was driving home from the Moskowite Corner checkpoint. He gives Brian beta to get us back on the right path to safely get across 80 and back on the ride route. Even looking at RWGPS, I can see that it isn’t updated to where the road actually is. We sheepishly thank Rob and finally continue on our way and live to ride another day.

RWGPS track has you somehow levitating over 80 instead of going along Lopes Road. Impossible to figure this out on a small Garmin Edge screen when just says “Off Course”!

We head south and turn onto Lake Herman Road. I bark at Robert to stop as I’ve got hot spots on my feet for a rare time that isn’t during a heat wave (as I had that case once in July when riding in LA during their ridiculous heat wave and I decided to ride 3 100ks in 9 days during that time there). We roll through Vallejo past the Joy of Eating which I’d gone to after riding in Rockville since my friend Dan used to go there with his mom as a Kid (and I can’t recall if she worked there or not? I know he used to know all the staff there). We turn onto Sonoma Boulevard to Carquinez Bridge and our current equilibrium is restored of Robert out front, me in the middle, and Brian doing the sweep. We finish the ride without much fan fare except a few sweet texts from a friend who is on Eastern time and stayed awake until I finished (and past his bedtime). I finally indulge in the sourdough milk tea bread! I still have half of one crammed into my mouth when I muffle a “Sure I’d love to try this for the first time” as I grab another one that gets crammed in also. I’m freaking starving as I haven’t eaten since lunch and it’s now almost 6:30 p.m. Robert asks about dinner and I decline since I won’t be getting home until about 7:30 p.m. as it is nor do I have a change of clothes even. Brian and I figure out that Sandra is already home, showered, and had dinner before we even got to our cars.

I text Rob that I finished and sent him the link to my Strava ride for POP (Proof of Passage). He replies saying to never scare him like that again and I know exactly what he’s talking about. I feel like a kid who just got in trouble with a parent who luckily isn’t yelling at you. I apologize for it and now we know better for the future. I never meant to scare him, but I’m so thankful that he was there to help us out and kept us safe in the long run. He has his faults, but he always had really good intentions. I appreciate the work he does for us as I know it’s not an easy job.

Fish mailbox

I so know my days are numbered in that since once Brian gets the life saving poison out of his system that I’ll be back to chasing him all over Northern California and beyond. I’m just grateful that he’s going through his ordeal now so we have that opportunity in the future. I know we’re a special breed of crazy that will happily stay in the saddle for hours no matter how much it hurts our butts, glutes, quads, calves, backs, necks, etc. so I want to hold my people for as long as I can. No man or woman left behind.

Golden hills outside of Winters along Highway 128

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My First DART!

Campfires *and camp stoves* being banned from the King Ridge area of the Lost Coast made it a relatively easy decision to cancel my Lost Coast backpacking trip from September 25 – 27 right around the time my friend Ken texted me asking if I wanted to join his DART team on 25 September. Like too many of my decisions, I said “Sure. What’s a ‘DART’?” It was a Randonneuring team event that our friend David was leading and organized by the Davis Randonneurs. I didn’t bother reading the rules until well, after the ride. All I knew was that it was a 200k ride, David had requested a 6 a.m. start time, and Ken was giving me a ride back to my car in Fremont. David planned the route from Fremont to Sacramento and I barely skimmed the emails talking about the route or any of the plans. I just knew where to meet and had the route on my Garmin.

I met up with David, Ken, Kitty, and David’s wife Julia at the Fremont BART station, our starting point at o’dark thirty. Julia was going to drive to Sacramento later to meet us at the finish and give David and Kitty a ride home. We waited for Brian C, our 5th team member, for about 10 minutes and then took off. I realize that I forgot one of the golden Rando requirements of reflective vests/ankle bands! I’m praying that Deb, the Davis RBA, doesn’t kill me when she sees me without these at the finish. It’s a little chilly, but I anticipate that it’ll get light and warm up soon. I’d never met Kitty before and while she talks a lot, it’s all very interesting. We stop after awhile to see if anyone can get a hold of Brian C, who was riding to the start in Fremont from his house in Palo Alto since what’s 16 more miles when you’re doing a 200K? No one has heard from Brian or can get a hold of him. Kitty keeps sending text messages to him of where to meet us further along the route.

Kitty leading a random trivia game / conversation during (second) breakfast.

We stop at Clementine’s in San Ramon for breakfast, which at this point I should have read more details of the ride as I really wasn’t hungry yet. We need to burn time though since we can’t leave our last control in Davis until 5:30 p.m. Taking your sweet time on a ride is going to be the biggest challenge today since even though I’m not any kind of racer, I don’t like stopping too much or for too long on rides. Kitty gets approval from the restaurant to leave our bikes in the waiting area by the front door. I don’t think I’ve ever eating inside anywhere during a ride minus the inside tables at the Fairfield Safeway. We order our food (just dry sourdough toast, fruit, and hot tea for me) and Kitty starts doing random trivia questions. She also is trying to get rid of her sunblock bottle so I happily strip my arm/leg warmers off to use some of hers instead of digging mine out of my saddlebag.

After (second) breakfast we start off again with me saying we’ve done 25 miles and have only 100 miles to go! Ken tells me to stop calling out numbers (Note: He kept calling out steepness grades the time I tried Umunum with him a few years ago!). I have little idea of where we’re going and just following them and my Garmin. We’re in Kitty’s backyard too so she knows this entire part of the route which is a lot on bike trails. I decide that I really like Kitty as she starts yelling at people who don’t have their dogs on leashes that it’s illegal. I’ve had too many times of seeing these situations where the dog won’t move out of the way leading to everything including the owner having to physically pick up their large dog to get them out of the path. Overall it’s a pleasant set of bike trails including wandering along the Conta Costa Canal up to Pleasant Hill.

Ken and me in front of the Contra Costa County Finance Building in Martinez.

We get to Martinez at about 10:45 a.m. which is too early for lunch and none of us are hungry either. We decide to wait until we get to Cordelia to find lunch. We come across a couple with a tandem bike looking for their DART Pop team, which we aren’t it. We stop to talk to them though for a bit and wish them luck on their ride. Lin takes a photo with us before we part ways. We continue on across the Benicia-Martinez Bridge, which I haven’t ridden across since the Winters 200k in October 2019. We relatively speed past all the cars stuck in traffic on 680 as we’re on Lopes Road that runs parallel to the freeway.

Kitty knows Cordelia as she’s tried various routes between her house in the East Bay and her mom’s in Sacramento. I’m not enjoying the list of fast food options in Cordelia that are making Denny’s sound great. Luckily we see a place called Two60 Kitchen & Bar right next to Denny’s and it’s open! Their menu has to be better than the other options no matter what it has on it. I’m actually hungry now and order some fresh veggie rolls and crispy brussel sprouts while the other 3 get fried food. I do help Ken with a few french fries just to be polite. So far it’s been a pretty mellow easy ride and we’re already 65 miles in. I reapply more sunblock from Kitty as I do not plan on making friends with melanoma. We make a wrong turn shortly after lunch that would put us heading back to Cordelia. Luckily David and Ken concur with me that we made a wrong turn, we get Kitty to finally turn around also, and start heading in the correct direction.

Everyone else gets fried food while I stuck to my relatively healthy veggie fresh rolls and crispy brussel sprouts.

We do a quick stop at the Fairfield Safeway so David can take a photo of us there since it’s one of the controls even though we don’t need to buy anything. Randonnesia is funny as I have to jog David’s memory that I’ve been there with him before on the Davis, Dunnigan, and the Delta 300k in 2019. The weather is starting to really warm up though which is starting to make me slightly uncomfortable as we make our way to Winters. My Garmin is reading the reflective temperature from the road to be 105F! I don’t care what the air temperature is, that’s the temperature that I’m experiencing in the saddle. I have a hot spot developing in my right foot and need to take a break to take my shoe off. David’s trying to find somewhere that we can sit down by a creek or something. I eventually bark that I don’t need a place to sit down or anything as the ground will do as long as I get my shoe off. We pull over in a tiny patch of shade from a tree as Pleasant Valley Road is a fairly sun exposed. Kitty needs to pee and doesn’t even try to be discreet about it. She just tells us to turn around as she pulls her shorts down and squats by the side of the road. OMG I love her! We stop at a bigger shade area as Ken’s starting to struggle and dropping behind.

Golden hills of California somewhere south of Winters

I’ve never approached Winters from the South so I’ve never seen the bridge on that side of it. I’ve also never seen Rotary Park with the gazebo and public bathrooms, which has a really awesome sunflower mosaic! We take an extended break since we’ve got plenty of time and can’t leave our last control in Davis until 5:30 p.m.. I take my shoes off and lay down on the grass staring at the sky and tree tops. This feels SO NICE. I’m not even paying much attention to what the guys are talking about as I’m off in my own little world. I hear some rude call to get up so we can continue though which pops me out of my daydream. I drag my carcass up and hop back on my bike. We’re going to stop at the Winters Store to get water and ice to refill our bottles. Excellent idea since the ice extends the amount of liquid water we need for all of our bottles. Kitty shoves extra ice down her sports bra and I follow. I squeal when a few ice cubes go straight down across my stomach. I think the guys are kind of jealous that they can’t do something similar, but make jokes about how there are some guys who need to wear sports bras.

Bridge entrance to Winters

We continue onto our last control in Davis, which I can’t recall what it’s like between Winters and Davis except that it’s probably pretty flat. I’m right about the flat part as we’re just plodding along on a very uninteresting stretch of straight country road. The ice has melted so quickly that it didn’t trickle down me first before evaporating. My sports bra is dry by the time we get to Davis too! We go to Dos Coyotes for the last control and find Brian C waiting for us! He had gone by Clementine’s earlier, but figured he missed us since he didn’t see our bikes outside. He got Kitty’s text to wait at Dos Coyotes though. I finally meet the 5th member of our team! Ken tells me a lot of the oddball stories about Brian C as he’s quite an interesting character. I’ve never heard of anyone carrying an entire rotisserie chicken on their bike’s luggage rack or seen anyone ride in thin little aqua shoes. Knowing the guy will also do a double century mixed terrain ride from Palo Alto to Tam and back on top of everything else makes me realize that I’m in the presence of not your average crazy Randonneur. We sit around chatting and David gets a “something small” to nibble on of an entire plate of nachos. It takes 4 of us to finish it. One of the nice things about hanging out here until 5:30 p.m. is that it’ll be cooler when we do the last stretch from Davis to Sacramento!

David and his “something small” nachos from Dos Coyotes.

5:30 p.m. finally comes around and we take off for the home stretch! We get onto 32A and then bike path that runs right next to 80 with no sound barrier. Ken doesn’t like to ride on concrete so insists on riding behind me on the asphalt, which I tease him that he just wants to draft off of me! It’s just the two of us in the front as the other 3 have fallen behind us. We decide to wait for them at the end of the bike path which is also the very edge of Sacramento. The sun is setting, but we can still clearly see where we are without lights. For some reason it’s always surreal to roll back into a major city on a ride after going through so many smaller ones even if it’s the same day. We cross the Tower Bridge and are definitely getting close now. A few more turns and we finish at Café Dantorels, where a bunch of other Randos are outside having dinner. Deb is excited to see us and enthusiastically hugs all of us. I’ve never been so happy to see her too! Funny how a pandemic makes you super excited to see people you haven’t seen in almost 2 years, even if you’re not that close to them. Lin is there too and offers to buy Ken a beer. Ken doesn’t drink and I say that I’ll take his beer! Lin actually went and bought me one! IPA is one of my least favorite beers, but hey, free beer. We order dinner which of course I have to eliminate some wayward french fries from Ken’s onion rings. Brian C is now the second person I’ve seen eat a hamburger with a fork and knife (my maternal grandmother being the first).

Inside of Ken’s Big Red van and the answer to my randoneurring sleep prayers!

We say goodbye to Julia, David, Kitty, and Deb as we head to Ken’s van. OMG he did bring Big Red!!! He had told me before that he couldn’t bring it and I wasn’t looking forward to having to sit upright all the way to Fremont. I’d been dreaming of getting to crawl into the back of Big Red and at least nap after a ride as it’s so comfortable. I squeal when Ken says the doors are unlocked so I can change clothes (and take my laying down position for the ride home). Ken even has a little pillow that his wife gave him for the van. I don’t even care that my legs are sticky from sweat, dirt, and sunblock as I slip my jeans on. We head off to Fremont after we get the bikes loaded up and all 3 of us inside. I happily fall asleep for the entire ride back!

Another rando adventure I’ve been roped into by Ken! Many thanks to him, David, Kitty, and Brian C for a fun day in the saddle!

Fremont to Sacramento

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Getting Back on that 300K Horse

I’d been looking forward to hiking Mt Whitney since I applied for the permit lottery back in February. I was awarded a one day permit for Wednesday, 23 June 2021 which was also a full moon. My friend Dan and I were going to do a midnight start so we could be done by mid/late afternoon and then go crash at my friend Amanda’s in Fresno. Dan had done the hike in a single day 2 years ago and I was comforted in the idea of going with someone experienced with the mountain. The 600 acre Inyo Creek Fire broke out the week before though and all Whitney permits were cancelled as the area was evacuated. Feeling restless, I already knew of another chance to try to kill my legs that week…the San Francisco Randonneurs’ first 300K brevet of the year was scheduled for Saturday, 26 June. I pinged some rando friends to see who was doing it and Ken was signed up for it and confirmed with me that Wednesday (ironically when I should have been on Whitney AND the last day to register for the ride) that he was definitely doing the ride that Saturday. So I quickly registered myself for my second 300K ride and my first 300K in 2 years. The Healdsburg 300K ride has three times as much climbing as the Davis Randonneurs’ Davis, Dunnigan, and the Delta 302K that I’d done in 2019. Quickly looking at the route though, there were no heinous long climbs like Faultline 200K’s Panoramic Highway climb out of Stinson Beach 109 miles into it. Healdsburg is a special place for me too as my really good friend Amanda Grindley and her family used to live there when her husband worked for Kendall Jackson, plus I’ve given my liver a lot of exercises up there for most of my adult life.

When Ken picked me up at 5:15 a.m., I told him that I had been hoping that he’d bail so I’d have an easy way out. I didn’t sleep really well the night before as I had a nightmare about the ride of losing him before the start and not being able to catch back up to him not knowing where he was. Being as this was only my second 300K, I wasn’t totally sure I could do it. I was trying to not think about the 14+ hours this would take. Ken offered to bail and go get breakfast instead, but I grumbled a bit on how I’d regret it later. I love riding with Ken as he’s usually saying that there’s no pressure for me to finish as he doesn’t care either way. “Usually” since during the Fall version of Del Puerto Canyon 200K in 2019, I was begging and whining to quit around 85 miles into it and he wouldn’t let me. However I did have a valid excuse to bail today (and if you’re easily queasy, skip to the next paragraph) as my period started in the middle of the night. Awesome. However I’d have skipped events like my Catalina Channel solo swim and my first 300K along with some other athletic feats if I let my unused reproductive cycle dictate my schedule. Ken said that was one excuse that he couldn’t use to get out of this ride.

This brevet started at the Golden Gate Bridge plaza on the SF side. There were already other randos around waiting for their check-in times since we have assigned staggered check-in times now to minimize contact. The weather is pretty cool and overcast. I’m so glad I brought a jacket! Ken and I checked in and then headed off across the Golden Gate Bridge at about 6:00 a.m.

Healdsburg or Bust!

We went through the usual route across the bridge, through Sausalito, and all the side streets to minimize time on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard that pretty much every cyclist knows and loves. Once in Fairfax it’s time to get back on SFD to go up and over White Hill. I’ll just be glad when we get back to Fairfax on the way back as then I know I’ll be able to finish this ride. Other faster randos catch up and pass me on the climb and then I catch up to them on the downhill. There are a couple of other guys on fixies like Ken and of course they all know each other. Ken chats with them a bit and they eventually pull ahead. Ken and I don’t see them again for the rest of the ride.

We turn onto Platform Bridge Road in Lagunitas, which I’m not sure if I’ve ever ridden on this road to get to Point Reyes-Petaluma Road. I usually go through Olema and Point Reyes Station. I stop at the intersection of Point Reyes-Petaluma Road for the first photo control, which I’m using as a backup in case my Garmin fails me. The climb up this road after the Nicasio Reservoir is usually one of my least favorite climbs since I usually hit in brilliant sun and there’s no tree coverage. It’s really not bad if it’s cool and overcast though! I need to hit this climb up more often in this condition. Also weird climbing this and NOT doing Wilson Hill or Marshall Wall after as we’re going straight to Petaluma. I’ve got this mentally broken down into hopping from Petaluma to Santa Rosa to Headlsburg, which even though that’s only 80 miles in, I’m telling myself that’s the halfway-ish point and we’re really on our way back after there. I’m familiar with most of the route except the parts between Petaluma and Healdsburg.

A few miles outside of Petaluma, I’m pleasantly surprised to see my friend Pat riding the opposite way! I crossed paths with him in Santa Rosa earlier this year, but he didn’t recognize me with a mask. This time he did recognize me! I find it a bit humorous that cycling friends in Santa Rosa never question seeing me riding up around there. I wish I could have stopped and chatted with him, but Ken and I still had a long way to go. We stop at the Safeway in Petaluma as Ken hasn’t had breakfast and I decide to have a snack (avocado spring roll and an energy waffle) too. Randonneuring can sometimes be thought of a Tour of Safeways since we tend to hit them up a lot on rides. I feel like I’ve got a lead brick in my lower abdomen, but I push on telling myself Healdsburg isn’t that much further.

We roll off again and I take a photo of the second photo control, which is a bus stop after Santa Rosa Junior College. I wish these photo controls were of something more interesting than street signs and bus stops. *sigh* I make a mental note to take photos of something more interesting on this ride. An issue though is that I’ve done so much of this route on other rides that I think I have photos of most of the interesting places already. Petaluma Hill Road and Old Redwood Highway from Petaluma to Healdsburg are pretty flat, but I’m enjoying the energy conservation. I also notice it’s getting a bit warmer too. We’re about an hour later than I wanted to be at this point in the ride, but still hoping to get through Healdsburg before it gets too hot. Accuweather predicted a high of 96F there and I want to be nowhere near Healdsburg when that happens.

I ask Ken where he wants to stop for lunch once we get to Healdsburg and he says Safeway (of course!). Mike is there finishing up his lunch outside and watches our bikes for us as we grab our food. The fast rando pod left a couple of partially used gallon water jugs that we use to refill our bottles. This is a standard and very appreciated courtesy among randos! I grab more Safeway veggie sushi and a rare non-vegan choice of an egg salad sandwich (should have just doubled the veggie sushi). One rando left a banana behind also which I happily accept the offering to help boost my potassium. I reapply sunblock as I have no intention of meeting melanoma if I can help it. I always hate having to touch my legs during a ride since the lower parts are always dirty and gritty and just feel gross, but again, it’s better than getting skin cancer. A third photo control is supposed to be by here of some beauty salon thing. I can see it on the map, but can’t find a sign matching the name. I take a photo of that corner’s shops in the parking lot and we head off onto Westside Road.

Westside Road is one of my favorite roads to be on. I really like and belong to some of the wineries on here so usually hit them up when I’m in the area. I also like riding it too as it’s fairly gentle climbs and generously shaded. I pass by Bucher wines/dairy farm and say “hi” to my friends’ Diane and John’s cows who are people watching from their pasture. Wish I could have gone in to say hi to Diane and John, but there’s no time for that! Ken’s somewhere up ahead of me too since I stopped to take a couple of vineyard photos along the road. Catch up to Ken right after I pass Thomas George Estates and tell him about the “on your honor” farm stand and chickens running around Porter Creek Vineyards when I had stopped there years ago. After all, how often do you have to shoo a chicken off of a toilet so you can use it? We pass by the Wohler Road junction which we’re now on a section that I’ve only rode with my friends June and Joe a few times earlier this year as June likes to ride up to the bridge and then head back to Santa Rosa.

Ken riding along Westside Road in Healdsburg.

This time though Ken and I are continuing all the way to the end and turning West onto 116 in Guerneville. I want to stop at the Safeway in Monte Rio to top off on water since I don’t know when the next water opportunity is and I’m starting to get slight hot spots in my feet. The weather is still not blistering hot, but a bit warmer than I like. Ken notices everyone down on the little beaches along the Russian River. My friends Dan and Gina own 1/4 of a house in Monte Rio that I’ve been to a couple of times and wishing that our ride was ending there today. We get to the Monte Rio Safeway and I cry a little about us still having 80+ miles to go as we’re exactly 100 miles into the ride now. Ken says to not think about that and he’s turned the distance display on his device off. I think of how I know a slightly shorter and faster route back from Monte Rio and jealous that I can’t take it today. I begrudgingly get back on my bike and we continue West on 116. The part of 116 west of Monte Rio is completely foreign to me. Ken says that the flags pointing South is a good thing as we should get some tailwind along the coast. I hope he’s right! We meander down 116 West and get back into the overcast skies by the 1 junction. Yes! I managed to escape extreme heat on this ride! Now where the hell are we exactly? Jenner? I know Fort Ross is north of us so we are on part of 1 that I haven’t ridden in almost 6 years as this is part of the Levi’s Gran Fondo’s Gran route. My hazy memory knows there’s nothing bad here and we’re not going up Coleman Valley Road either after. 🙂

I’m enjoying the coastal scenery of all the huge jagged rocks sticking out of the water. Even though it’s overcast and windy, there are still a significant amount of people at the beaches. I need to find a bathroom and we finally come across a rare one in a beach parking lot. The wind has picked up a bit so Ken and I put our jackets back on. I’m a bit disappointed in seeing on all the beach signs that we’re STILL in Sonoma County. I keep praying that the next beach sign will finally say that we’re back in Marin County as at least then I’ll feel like we’re getting somewhere and back in more familiar territory.

Somewhere along Highway 1 between Jenner and Bodega Bay

Ken had forgotten to charge his headlight and only got to charge it a little in the van on his way to the start of the ride. I text my friend Kevin in Ross to see if we can borrow a light from him since we’re passing within a couple of blocks of his house in the way back. We’re in Bodega Bay and it’s about 4 p.m. already. We’ll be cutting it really close to loss of any daylight so I’ll feel better if Ken had a headlight. There’s supposed to be a photo control of taking a picture of the Doghouse Restaurant neon sign, but the restaurant isn’t on 1. Ken stops outside of the market as that was the old control. I see the Doghouse Restaurant is on a parallel street and we’re looking at the back of it. Ken says he’ll wait for me if I want to ride around to take a photo of the sign. I decide not to as my Garmin is holding up on recording and I can always use Ken’s recording if mine craps out. Plus I’m just not that motivated to ride to the other side of the block and back. Onward to Valley Ford, which also means my veggie sandwich in Tomales Bay is near! Valley Ford also means that we’ll be back on roads that I’m very acquainted with. Ken wants us to stick within visual sight of each other in case one of us gets a flat or some mechanical issue. I can tell he’s getting tired too. Combined with my bike’s ability to descend faster than his fixie, I’m ahead of him for the first time on this ride. We roll through Valley Ford and I’m basically counting the seconds to Tomales. I wait at the top of the climb between the two for Ken to catch up. I then make a mad dash for Tomales and straight to the Tomales Deli & Cafe, which I had already researched is open until 7 p.m. 🙂

For all the cows

I dismount to make the horrible discovery that my left calf has cramped up sometime during my descent into Tomales. Crap, I still have some 60 miles to ride too. Ken grabs some baked goodness from the Tomales Bakery as he just wants sugar. I get my sandwich from the deli and thank Ken for letting me take a much needed break. He said that he needed one also. It’s a bit chilly here, but nothing like how cold it was when Dan and I had lunch here in April on our Faultline 200K ride. I’m watching a couple drinking a bottle of rose and wonder how are they not cold? I wouldn’t be sitting out here if I didn’t have to!

We putter on and at least I can’t really feel the pain my calf when I’m on the bike. The usual massive wind gusts hit us going through Keys Creek, but at least I know Point Reyes Station, Olema, and getting back on SFD isn’t that far ahead. I’m thankful that we don’t have to do any of 1 between Olema and Stinson Beach or the climb out of Stinson Beach. I don’t have to worry about the climb out of Olema on SFD as it’s fairly gradual and not that long really. We stop in Point Reyes Station for a last bathroom break and water refill. Kevin texts me back that it’s cool for us to stop by and grab a headlight for Ken! Yah! I tell him that we’re in Point Reyes Station so will be there soon. One mile to Olema and we turn back onto SFD. Ken pulls ahead of me on the climb, but of course I pass him on the descent and my much deserved leg rest. He’s not too far behind me and witnesses my dumb move of not paying attention as I smack right into an overhanging branch in Lagunitas. I guess at least that helped wake me up a bit?

This part of SFD is my least favorite as it’s just a boring slog between Lagunitas and White Hill. The hill cannot come soon enough! It’s a shorter climb from this direction, but that means a longer fun descent into Fairfax. Ken beats me to the top, but I then blast right past him. Unlike during the Laguna Lake 200K, I didn’t quite get the speed monitoring signs to say “SLOW DOWN”, but I’m fairly close at about 38/39 mph. I wait for Ken at the bottom and am just glad to be back in Fairfax. I can basically auto-pilot from here. Ken follows me to Kevin’s house in Ross. Kevin’s left the headlight on his porch, but I rang the doorbell anyway to say hi. We chat for a bit and Kevin asks Ken about the 508 (as Ken usually rides with his 508 jersey and he’s done it a few times both solo and part of a team). We’re burning daylight though we bid Kevin farewell and I’ll return the light to him soon. Kevin’s got other lights of course so he says there’s no rush. I turn my headlight on as we depart towards the Golden Gate Bridge.

Shortly after we leave Kevin’s and turn back onto Shady Lane, I hear a high pitched squeal. Oh of course we run into more people that Ken knows! I forget her name, but the woman is a fellow fixie rider. They ask us what ride we’re doing and Ken tells them that we’re doing the same 300K they’re on. We ride as a foursome to Camino Alto. The other 2 stopped shortly after passing the top and I take off to catch up with Ken. A SUV that is basically riding its brakes all the way down Camino Alto is blocking from catching up to Ken sooner, but luckily he hit the red light and I catch up to him right when it turns green. We’re home free! One bike path and the climb up to the bridge. The West side for bikes closes at 9 p.m. and I declare that we’re going to ride on the East side regardless since I don’t like the dangerous amplified wind on the West side after the retrofitting was done earlier this year.

As soon as we hit the climb out of Sausalito, I notice that my headlight now is out. WTF? This thing was supposed to be fully charged via the battery indicator. I’m SO glad we got that light from Kevin as now that’s the only light we have aside from streetlights. Ken and I stick together up to the bridge. I always recall how this climb and Camino Alto were big climbs when I first started cycling and now they aren’t a big deal. No matter how tired I am on a ride, I know I can make it up these two with no difficulty. We’re up at the bridge and it’s now completely dark. The East side gates are closed and another cyclist has just activated the North one opening. I thank him as I pass through and proceed to pound my way across the bridge. There are only a few pedestrians who luckily respond to my approach even though I have no headlight. I get to the South gate, which opens as soon as Ken gets there. We stop at the bridge plaza and I text the Day of Ride Contact number that we’ve both finished. We forgot to do that after the Laguna Lake 200K which led to a poking email from Rob Hawks, our Regional Brevet Administrator and that ride’s DORC that several of us hadn’t checked in hours after we’d actually finished. I take the only selfie of us and Ken says it’s his only photo from the ride. I joke that it’s time to sprint to the car. I really have no room to complain about being tired since Ken has had to pedal every single bit of this 300K with the fixie. It’s about 9:15 p.m. which is when I should be rolling into bed, not just rolling up to Ken’s van at the end of a ride. My calf is freakin’ killing me and I’m hobbling around the van to get my bike onto the rack and myself into the passenger seat. I contemplate not showering when I get home and going straight to bed, but I know from experience that I hate waking up in my own bed still covered in street grime, dirt, and sweat.

Finished and so ready to head back to the van!

Ken drops me off at home and I proceed to hobble into my house. A neighbor asks if I need any help as he must have thought I was injured or handicapped. I tell him that I just have a leg cramp and thank him for his offer, but I’m okay. I park my bike, upload my ride off of my Garmin, shower, change into my pajamas, and hobble into bed. It wasn’t the 16-mile / 16-ish hour hike I’d planned for this week, but I found another way to exhaust myself in some 15+ hours. Second 300K done! I still would like to do a few more of these before feeling comfortable enough to try a 400K. I know I can do a 200K without a problem and even though I had jumped to a 300K after only a few 200Ks, mentally the 400K is a bigger jump for me since it will involve ending a ride at about 2 a.m.. I’m not even sure I could stay up that late without riding all day. I do know that I could still ride at the end of both 300Ks I’ve done, but don’t know (yet) how much further I can ride past that point.

The next day Rob points out that we missed the control in Bodega Bay as he’s reviewing my Strava ride as my Electronic Proof of Passage. Oops. I finally figure out what happened as the route alteration to pass in front of the Doghouse Restaurant was in the GPX link he emailed out. I had grabbed the GPX file from the Route Archive which had us going past the market on Highway 1. We still get credit for the ride though so I’m glad we didn’t get our ride disqualified for that!

Happy to report that unlike my first 300K, I recovered faster from this one even though it had almost triple the amount of climbing. My left calf cramp cleared up after a couple of days, some tiger balm, and a Linda Mar swim. I was able to run 10 miles / 1900′ in Purisima Creek Redwoods 3 days later (giving myself permission to hike up any climb I wanted, especially the really steep ones). Maybe I’m in better shape now? Or my body is just better adapted to recovering from the pain I put it through…

Healdsburg 300K Route doesn’t look that bad on paper.

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Return of the Brevet

All brevets were cancelled in March 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic was officially declared leaving many of us without our usual long rides scheduled. I didn’t even do a 100K for a long enough time that my legs felt sore after I finally did one again on my own. I was only doing short 20 – 30 mile rides several times a week, but that’s about it. In Summer 2020 I designed and rode a Monte Rio 200K and Mt Tam 200K with my friends Brian and Sandra. Brian was training for the Great Lakes Mac & Cheese 1200K last summer so Sandra and I were happy to “help” him train. Afterwards our schedules didn’t coordinate well enough for any more long rides, but I managed to get one 100K in every month after that which was better than nothing.

Randonneurs USA announced in February that they were restarting the Permanent program again along with adding in a couple of local brevets as permanents, the Dillon Beach 200K and Faultline 200K. I happily jumped at the chance to do both as Permanents as I’d never done Dillon Beach and Faultline has special meaning to me since that was my first 200K and my first Rando ride as a brevet (and also the hardest one for me to do). I rode Dillon Beach with my friend Ken and Faultline with my friend Dan. I regret that I didn’t write any blog posts about those 4 200Ks I’ve done so far during the pandemic as I like to remember my long rides. Faultline was especially noteworthy since we had a 20F temperature difference during the ride and we were so cold in and around the Tomales portion. I wish I had a photo of Dan during our lunch stop too since he was bundled up in probably every scrap of clothing he had, including 3 pairs of gloves! I had never looked into the Permanent program beforehand, but I was also getting really bored with the usual riding routes. I also did the Cupertino Scrambler 100K Permanent with Brian which wasn’t an interesting route, but I felt compelled to do it since it started in my hometown. Brian was a champ too of driving up to San Mateo just to go ride within 2 miles of his house in Cupertino and back to San Mateo then drive back home to Cupertino! (Actually I never wrote a blog post for the First Chance 200K in January 2020 either as that was an uneventful and boring mostly flat 200K)

Rob Hawks, the San Francisco Randonneurs’ Regional Brevet Administrator happily announced in April 2021 that they had decided how they can safely do brevets again while adhering to pandemic health guidelines. We’d do assigned staggered starts, no receipt controls, and different options for POP (“Proof of Passage” for successful route completion). Normally we had to fill out brevet cards that included the information for what we had to do at each control, whether an Information control (answer a question about something at that location), Open control (obtain receipt from any business in that location), or Manned control (someone’s there to sign your brevet card and has a list with riders’ names and puts times on both your card and the list which get checked afterwards to make sure they match). Now with the pandemic, the options were to either submit your Strava ride link, photos at each control with a timestamp on the image, or submit a digital copy of your brevet card to the Day of Ride Coordinator. Rob suggested doing at least two methods so you have a back-up if you pick at least one digital method (since you know Garmins *never* disappoint you..note sarcasm).

Ready to roll!

Rob seemed to be helping to make up for lost time with scheduling a brevet or populaire every weekend in May and June. I was busy with a technical terrain mountain biking clinic in Chico on the first weekend so had to miss the Lucas Valley 110K. I could make the Laguna Lake 200K on Saturday, 8 May and asked Ken if he’d do it with me. I love riding with Ken and don’t get to do it enough!

Rob assigned Ken and me to be in the first starting time slot at 6:45 a.m. or as Ken said “Rob put the troublemakers first!” Ken picked me up at 5:50 a.m. since he always likes to get to the start early. We got to Crissy Field by 6:25 a.m. and Rob wasn’t even there yet to check us in. We saw other Randos arrive also and were all wondering where Rob was. Rob finally got there at about 6:40 a.m. Ken and I checked in, signed our waivers, told Rob what our proposed POP methods would be for the ride, and we were off! I was using my Garmin Edge as my primary POP with timestamped photos as a back-up (and an excuse to take photos during the ride). Ken had also printed out a brevet card for me to use if I wanted as he’s thoughtful like that. 🙂

Ken’s Fixie!

Ken’s on his fixie again which makes me happy! I did the Dillon Beach 200K Permanent with him on his geared bike as he wasn’t sure if he could ride a 200K. Both of us had been in the same boat on that ride since neither of us had done a long ride in several months. Funny thing is that during Dillon Beach, both of us would have jumped at bailing on the ride if the other wanted to quit at any point during it! We managed to complete it though despite all the wind that day.

Ken and I meander up and over the Golden Gate Bridge and through the usual route to get to China Camp. Since he’s on his fixie, he’s slower than I am on the descents. He calls out that he’s “old and slow” after we meet up after going over Camino Alto (btw he almost always beats me up ever climb, fixie or geared bike). Our first Control has the same Control question as Faultline of how many picnic tables are in that overview area. The photo requirement is of the historical marker at the parking lot entrance. I haven’t drank any water yet so I don’t need to top off my bottles, but use the opportunity to use the bathroom. We run into Phil, another Randonneur that we had done the last part of Faultline with in 2019. We become a little pod of 3 (and we’re all fully vaccinated). I rattle off that now we just need to do Lucas Valley Road, Wilson Hill, Chileno Valley Road, and then the slog to lunch in Tomales. Phil loves Chileno Valley Road, but I haven’t done it in so long that I’ve forgotten what it looks like. Ken and Phil aren’t looking forward to Wilson Hill, but I’m okay with it since I had just done a double of it a handful of weeks ago.

China Camp Historical Marker

I take my arm warmers off before climbing Lucas Valley Road. While descending Lucas Valley Road, I finally notice that Phil has bottom tube shifters! I’m not sure why I never noticed this before on other rides or even today. He’s riding a 1970s Raleigh with 38 mm tires! Really cool. And unbelievable that he’s riding that bike on a 200K.

In Nicasio, Phil is disappointed to find out that the Nicasio Creamery has turned off their water taps as the woman says she’s tired of having to clean them. I think other cyclists are also bummed to find out the hard way too. Phil only has one water bottle for some reason so this is going to be a challenge to make sure he doesn’t run out! We head towards and up Pt Reyes-Petaluma Road where Phil and Ken proceed to leave me behind on the climb. I yell out at Ken that “middle aged and slow” will catch up to him later. They wait for me at the Hicks Valley Road junction just long enough to get there and we make our way to Wilson Hill. I make a comment at the bottom of Wilson Hill that I thought I was going to have to do the whole ride by myself, which makes Ken feel bad about leaving me in his dust so he stays closer to me the rest of the ride. I have a Honey Stinger Gel, which is my first food on this ride.

As Phil and I are waiting for Ken at the bottom of the other side of Wilson Hill, one of the residents asks us if we need directions somewhere. Phil tells them that we’re just waiting for a friend. Ken gets there a few seconds later on his hamster wheel and we turn onto Chileno Valley Road. Here is where we pass by Laguna Lake which is what the route is named after. Laguna Lake is very low and we can only see about a quarter of it while riding past. I get one big bug clipping the left side of my mouth which luckily bounces to the outside! I do not enjoy free protein snacks.

From here my knowledge of the route to Tomales is kind of fuzzy as I didn’t really pay attention when looking at the route. I’m starting to get a hot spot on my right foot and decide that I can wait until we get to Tomales before ripping off my shoes. We’re on Fallen Two Rock Road much longer than I thought we’d be though. Another large flying insect almost lands in my mouth! WTF? I guess it’s good that I don’t really recall how far it is to Middle Road so I’m not counting the tenths of miles to Tomales.

Ken thinking of ditching his fixie for this new ride

We finally get to turn onto Middle Road a very long 5 miles after we’d turn onto Fallen Two Rock Road and quickly reach the next Control. The photo option is a photo of the “farming implement” at the side of the road and the brevet card option is what the KM distance is on the road marker (7.048 KM). Ken’s never been one for boring so he wants a photo of him sitting on top of the old rusty farm equipment. I’m happy as this also means that we’re close to lunch!

A quick descent down Dillon Beach Road and straight to The Deli 2 where I almost always get lunch in Tomales (exception was during the Faultine 200K Permanent with Dan last month when I opted to try the pizza at the bakery next door thinking it was faster than getting a sandwich’s not..and the pizza is *really* heavy). There are other Randos there and of course Ken knows a bunch of them. Ken and I place our usual sandwich orders (tri tip for him and veggie sandwich on sourdough roll with no onions for me) and the deli cashier is extra nice and fills our water bottles for us! I get an oatmeal raisin cranberry cookie from the bakery for a post ride treat and ask Ken to carry it in his mini backpack for me. He says he’s going to charge me half for carrying it. I tell him that if he does that then I’m buying 2 as then I get a full cookie still. 😛 We get our sandwiches and hear someone ask if they can join our table and he’s been fully vaccinated. I look up and it’s Mike Theriault! I used to ride with Mike’s wife years ago and haven’t seen her since then. I didn’t know that Mike was a Randonneur until the Del Puerto Canyon 200K in Fall 2019 that we both did. He had seen my name on the Laguna Lake 200K roster and wanted to say “hi” to me too. Ken and Mike know each other too of course.

Lunchtime over and now we have to go through the misery of Key Creek, which always has very strong wind for some reason. We pedal through with a few “WHOA!”s every time we get pushed around and have to pedal hard to get through it. Tomales no longer has an easy access bathroom option and Ken keeps talking about a place in Marshall that Phil and I have never been able to find. We pass all the oyster and seafood restaurants along Highway 1 en route to Point Reyes Station. I actually like going down Highway 1 from Marshall to PRS as it’s mostly shady with the hilly parts giving you just enough speed to almost make it up all the climbs, but none of them are that long anyway. We pass by Mike who had left Tomales before us as his chain popped off right at the start of the only real climb between Marshall and PRS.

Wisteria on the Olema House

We get to Point Reyes Station and stop by the roadside faucet to refill our water bottles. I’ve got my hot spot again so take my shoes off. Phil needs more to eat and I need to use the bathroom so Ken offers to watch our bikes (and probably socialize with whoever comes by whether or not he knows them). From here I can almost go on auto-pilot all the way back to Crissy Field since I know the route and am happy it doesn’t involve the Panoramic Highway climb. We get to Olema and the last Control. The required photo is of the Olema House sign and the Information Control is how many bike racks there are on the other side. Phil finds the bike racks while I’m busy taking photos of the poppies growing along the side of the highway.

Golden Poppies, the official state flower, growing on the side of the road

In my head I’m thinking that we only have 4 more climbs left in the ride. We climb out of Olema towards Lagunitas on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. My friend Frank has been housesitting a lot at his friend’s gorgeous house in Forest Knolls and I’ve been frequently staying there when he’s been there lately. A bonus of that arrangement has been that I’ve been having a better working memory of the area which also makes a lot of the distances seem shorter as I’ve ridden them more lately. My hot spot is manifesting again and tell Ken that I want to stop in Fairfax to take my shoes off again. We do some gentle coasting to White Hill, which is also a pretty quick climb. I keep thinking that I need to figure out where all the mountain bikers I see around White Hill are going as I may want to try it out with my mountain bike sometime.

We descend down into Fairfax, which I’m quite proud of my descent as I made the Your Speed signs say “SLOW DOWN” as I hit 40 mph on my descent. 🙂 I wait for Ken at the bottom of the hill and he yells “Thank you! Thank you!” as he goes screaming past me into Fairfax. I catch up to him and we make our way through town. Ken doesn’t drink anymore and he didn’t know that Gestalt Haus was in Fairfax, let alone ever been to it. He thought it was in Mill Valley as he knew a lot of people went there after Tam rides. I tell him that we’ll have to arrange a Tam ride from Fairfax sometime and go to Gestalt Haus after so he can finally see it and say he’s been there. We stop at the Quick N Easy Market in San Anselmo for our last water stop. Ken and Phil get ice cream sandwiches. I down a Honey Stinger Gel and black sesame snack bar as otherwise I know I’ll be hungry by the time we get to Mill Valley. We’re enjoying sitting there a bit too much and decide it’s time to start rolling again.

Two more climbs left and both are ones that I used to do on my pre-pandemic regular Wednesday morning rides of Camino Alto and the climb to the Golden Gate Bridge. Both require some work, but they’re not an issue for me at the end of a 200K. The weather prediction was for strong winds on the bridge which is the bigger worry! Rob’s email the night before said to be prepared to walk your bike if you have to across the bridge. During the Faultline 200K Permanent last month, Dan and I were both riding at a noticeable angle across the bridge and I’m hoping to have conditions at least that good today. I think we all go on auto-pilot at this point as the route between Fairfax and Mill Valley is the same for pretty much all cyclists of staying off of Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Once past Camino Alto and Tam High School, we get back onto the bike path.

Always relieved to make it back to the GGB as it’s the top of the very last climb for all rando rides that start/end in SF

I finally notice what the construction outside of Mike’s Bikes of Sausalito was for as there’s now a wide sidewalk around the corner, which I’m guessing was done to help cyclists have an easier time getting into the turn lane to turn onto Bridgeway. A guy behind us at the intersection asks us if we’re on the 200K ride. It takes me a second to realize the guy recognized Phil’s San Francisco Randonneurs jersey and he’s probably a Randonneur also. I think his name was Patrick? He just started randonneuring with his first Rando ride being the Davis, Dunnigan, and the Delta 300K last month. He enjoyed it, but said it was really hot. I told him that’s why I don’t do any Davis Rando rides during the summer, but DDD is great in late October. He’s doing the Uvas Gold 200K the next weekend. He stays with us all the way to the bridge. I tell him the story of how the day I met Ken, he said he was going to get me to do a 300K within a year, which I’d told him “yeah right.” Of course I ended up doing it without him even pushing me that hard about it. I’m not sure where he’s heading, but we bid our farewell to him and say that we’ll probably see him on another Rando ride sooner or later.

Special treat when riding with Ken is that I get to lay down on his carpeted van floor after the ride!

We get across the bridge, which has minimal traffic and manageable wind! A quick descent down to Mason Street towards Crissy Field. Phil and I joke at Sports Basement that we don’t know if we can make it to Crissy Field and want to quit right there…half a mile from the end. 😛 We end our ride at Ken’s van. Given the new brevet process, there’s no table to check-in at afterwards so your official end time is the time your GPS recorded ride ends, your last timestamp photo is taken (this one of the Golden Gate Bridge), or you write down on your brevet card. Phil says it’s pretty anti-climatic to end a Rando ride without the usual staffed check-in and snacks. Phil took BART from Oakland so heads back to BART to go home. I’d almost forgotten about my cookie and inhale it while putting my stuff away. I crawl into Ken’s van and lay down on the carpeted interior which feels like a heavenly cloud while Ken finishes wrapping up his stuff. I finally pick myself up off the back of Ken’s van and into the passenger seat to head home. Even though it’s a “new normal” for brevets, it’s great to have them back again and have the Rando community out there on the roads in an organized fashion! I’ve really missed these so much!

Laguna Lake 200K Route

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10 Years

Ten years ago today was the day that I had my first periacetabular osteotomy or as I call it, a “refurbishing” of my hip joints. A periacetabular osteotomy (aka “Ganz Osteotomy”) was invented by Dr. Reinhold Ganz at the University of Bern, Switzerland in 1984. To fix the dysplasia in a PAO, the pelvis is broken at the hip joint. The broken fragment is rotated to the correct angle and then screwed into place. The fragment then fuses back to the rest of the pelvic bone over several weeks. Correcting the dysplasia relieves the unnatural pressure that the joint was experiencing and stops arthritis from forming. Originally surgeons would just perform hip replacement surgery, which is much less invasive and a much faster recovery time. While a PAO is more complicated and months longer to recover from, it very eloquently preserves the hip joint. There is a video of the procedure linked here, which even though I had the open surgery version, the rest of the procedure is the same.

I spent a total of 16 days in the hospital for both surgeries, which was only a small fraction of what I hoped it would be like. I wanted to cry when I woke up in the recovery room after the first operation as I couldn’t feel anything. My mouth was so dry that I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t even focus enough to read the wall clock after the second surgery for almost an hour. Hospital staff were constantly coming in/out of my room, whether or not I was asleep. The IV bag would go empty and start beeping loudly, which the day nurses wouldn’t get around to changing for what seemed like hours. I got lucky with one of my night nurses who could slip in/out of my room without waking me and kept tabs on how much IV fluid I had left so she could change the bag before the alarm went off. She did the same ninja skills when I had blood transfusions at night. Other nurses had no qualms about flipping the lights on and then leaving the door wide open after so the hallway light flooded my room. Dr. Bellino was in my room at about 6 a.m. every morning to see how I was doing. Stanford’s pain management team was excellent in figuring out the correct combination of medication for me so I would be comfortable and coherent. They were also constantly making sure I still had feeling in my legs (as the incision area comes dangerous close to a nerve that if cut will cause leg numbness). I was on a fixed meal time after the first surgery, which typically didn’t line up with when I was actually hungry (or was having x-rays done during dinnertime). Unfortunately that led to my food being whisked away before I even had a chance to eat it. The solution was to have to hide my meal in the room! At least for the second surgery Stanford switched to “on demand” meals so I could call down and order my food when it was convenient for me. I also ordered extra food for my then-boyfriend since he was with me most of the time (and not like I could finish my meal anyway). A few friends and my parents visited me. My Aunt Julia (one of my grandma’s sisters) didn’t recognize me when she visited. I found out the hard way that I’m allergic to morphine. While there was minimal bleeding during the procedures, my red blood cell count dropped for unknown reasons afterwards requiring double unit transfusions. I spent most of the time just watching TV since I couldn’t concentrate enough to read any of the books I brought. Both discharges were postponed as I managed to wake up with a fever on the originally planned discharge date after both surgeries.

Frontal view of my pelvis.

I wish I had written more back when I had my surgeries, but I was constantly tired. Even 2 months after the surgeries I was falling asleep every few hours. Sleeping became uncomfortable since I was confined to sleeping on my back when I prefer sleeping on my stomach. We stacked pillows underneath me to minimize the bedsores. The blood thinner injections left welts all over my lower belly and hurt to the point of crying. I would wake up in the morning and look at the bedside commode wondering how badly did I have to pee. It would take me 15 minutes to get to the commode and I’d be out of breath and sweating by the time I got to it a mere 5 feet away. I’d drink Diet Coke with my first dose of oxycontin and oxycodone in the morning so the carbonation would help break down the pills faster. Tap water tasted like it had bleach in it so I drank bottled or filtered water only. I threw up constantly, frequently with little warning. The pain meds slowed my metabolism to a crawl so typically I was full after only a handful of bites of food. I lost so much weight that you could see the outline of my ribs and pelvic bone when I was lying down. At one point I didn’t even leave the bedroom for 9 days straight. I couldn’t even get onto my couch in the living room. I couldn’t go anywhere by myself as I was in a wheelchair for 3 months after each surgery and needed someone to push the wheelchair, open doors, and drive me everywhere. I couldn’t do some of the simplest things because I couldn’t twist or bend my torso that far. I was miserable.

I’d do it all over again though as it was also one of the best experiences in my life. I learned how valuable mobility is. Physically I’m happier than I have ever been in my life. People usually attribute my fitness level to “youth” whether or not they know that I’m 43 years old. I’ve spent the last 8.5 years working on it. I didn’t appreciate my portability. I’m in better shape now than I was in my 20s because I have a strong focus on my health and fitness now. I decided back then that I never wanted to take my body’s ability to move for granted again and have worked hard on honoring it. It started with swimming at a local gym where I felt great if I could swim 15 minutes. I stopped making excuses for why I couldn’t exercise. I learned to appreciate my body the hard way, but I’m grateful that I have had the opportunity and many more years to use it. My Great Aunt Marge told me once that one’s “golden years” was when you’re younger and could still move on your own and she was right. When I first started swimming again, I had to dig out an old high school team swimsuit and goggles as it had been about 15 years since I’d really swam in a pool. I started swimming 7 days a week. I still struggle with guilty feelings on “rest days” as part of me feels like I’m just being lazy. I never had any formulated fitness plan, I just fell into my current norm. Like a religion, I want to honor my mobility as often as I can.

Side view of my pelvis.

I don’t do physical activities unless I enjoy them though. It’s like why I work in a career at a company that I love as it doesn’t feel like work. Swimming in the ocean or any time on my bike doesn’t feel like a workout. Maybe that was the problem when I was struggling at the boring gym. I was just asked a few minutes ago by my friend Simon on how long would a 200k bike ride take me and I said about 10 hours. I don’t think about how many hours it’s going to be before I start. I just think that I’m riding that route with my friend Ken that day. Just one little pedal stroke at a time. It’s nurtured my love of being outside and during the pandemic has been the only time that I feel like I’m really alive and part of this world. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to continue going on my swims, rides, and runs outside while successfully avoiding a highly contagious and deadly virus. COVID-19 has been a reason why I’ve still been getting up early to start my trail runs with a headlamp as I know I will be able to do 2/3 – 3/4 of my trail runs without crossing paths with another person. Similar to when I started swimming again in a pool in 2012, the early start times also means I can get a couple of hours in before starting work for the day.

Now when I travel I want to see as much as I can of the natural world on my own power. When I was in Hong Kong a year ago, I hiked all 4 days that I was there, even though my legs were sore. A childhood friend and co-worker are from Hong Kong and neither knew there was any hiking there. There were some steep hikes (5 miles / 3000′) and not so steep, but I loved every minute of it. I was getting to see a side of Hong Kong that most tourists (and locals) don’t ever experience. I then went cycling and hiking in Singapore and onto swimming and running in Thailand. After 19 days I came home feeling more myself than I had felt before I left on holiday. I will probably never be happy with the holiday that just involves laying on a beach doing nothing all day. Being physically active on holiday isn’t about keeping a fitness level at a certain point, but instead of getting to marry physical activities I love with new environmental stimuli. I’m lucky that for running I can really only run on dirt trails (asphalt hurts my hip joints too much) so I have to get a little creative with where I can run when traveling. By default, that puts me on the paths literally less traveled.

Side view of my pelvis.

I get asked a lot on how my hips don’t bother me with all the long distance / endurance cycling and swimming. Those activities really don’t use my hip joints. I remember after reading my friend Catt Tapoli’s Conscious Fitness: Strength Training For The Evolution Of Body, Mind and Spirit book that I was on a stationary bike trying to focus on my hip joints and thank them for allowing me to be able to ride. I realized that I couldn’t feel them. I could feel my quads, glutes, hamstrings, etc. contracting and relaxing, but not the joints. Cycling doesn’t use the joints as they’re just along for the ride (pun intended) while the muscles are doing all the work. Catt was thrilled at my revelation as I understood her whole point on what conscious fitness really means. Neither cycling nor swimming have impact on my hips which is why I can do both of those activities for hours without any negative affect on them. Again, they don’t feel like exercise when I’m outside on a bike or in open water. I’ve laughed to myself some mornings when I’m over an hour into a bike ride and think about how I’d barely noticed that hour whereas an hour feels like forever in a spinning class or pool.

I don’t want to be defined by my hip dysplasia though. I’m not trying to make a career off of it or expect sympathy from people for it. I’m proud of what I went through and where it got me to today. The experience inspired me to re-evaluate how I wanted to live my life for myself. Many people go through surgeries to physically fix themselves, but I’m not sure if it alters their personal life view. I didn’t expect to come out of my surgeries the way that I did, but I’m happy that it was a life changing experience. I went into a whole new world that I didn’t imagine existed. I used to think that health freaks were the stereotypical gym junkies with all the powders and nonsense. I’ve carved out something that works for me every day and keeps me fulfilled. My life feels very natural and like it was waiting for me all this time.

Recently I had my 10 year check-up with Dr. Bellino. There is no sign of any further development of arthritis in my hips and everything looks perfect in the surgical areas. He’s impressed with how physically active I have been. He asked if I’d talk to some of his other patients who are apprehensive about being able to return to a full active lifestyle after a periacetabular osteotomy, which I happily accepted.

Today in honor of the 10 year anniversary of my first PAO, I ran 10 miles in Wunderlich County Park. I regularly do the route, but today’s was special. I spent a lot of the time reflecting on the last 10 years. I chose to run today since of all the activities I do, the 390 pounds of force that running exerts on my hip joints is the one thing that would have been physically impossible for me to do without the surgeries (along with the dirt cushion). Modern medicine and a very talented surgeon are why I can physically run now.

I believe that everything happens for a reason and am grateful every day that I was born with hip dysplasia as I feel like that gave me a second chance of what to make with my life in terms of physical health. The physical health has tied into my mental and emotional health where I feel better overall when I’ve gotten in one of my various outdoor activities. No two swims, rides, hikes, runs, etc. on the same route are ever truly the same. They’re always different experiences and memories. You don’t get that from a gym or staying at home doing a home workout video for the billionth time. It isn’t about just burning calories so my clothes fit better, the reflection in the mirror is more appealing, collecting endorphins, providing anything to myself or anyone else, or so I can eat cake after dinner (which I rarely eat dessert anyway). It’s simply making good on a decision I made during a time in my life when I’d temporarily lost one of the most basic fundamental skills most of us learn when we’re toddlers. There are days that I don’t want to get on the bike and have to talk myself into it, but I also tell myself that I know I’ll feel really good in a couple of hours. I have yet to be wrong.

Dr. Michael Bellino and me at my 10 year check-up in 2021.

“When everything’s taken away from you, you appreciate those little peddle strokes.”
— Paul Gasagoita, former competitive mountain bike champion and spinal cord injury survivor

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