Tandem Starts

I mostly ride our tandem with Jason, my long-suffering husband.  However, he has taken to the water in the past couple of years and does not ride as much.

Jason and I conspired to get Jaz and MarkN to buy a tandem.  Jason simply didn’t understand how they could not already have a tandem.  They were a happily married couple and they both loved cycling, but they didn’t own a tandem.  This combination of facts could not be reconciled in Jason’s mind and Jason walked around muttering to himself that it just didn’t make any sense.  “It just makes no sense. Why don’t they have a tandem?”  After much deliberation, Jason decided that the lack of a tandem in their lives was due to their ignorance regarding tandems.  He told me that I should ride with Mark and he could ride with Jaz.  Mark and Jaz would see the light, buy a tandem, and live happily ever after.  I had already independently decided to ask MarkN to ride with me, not to help Mark understand the joys of tandeming, but because Jason had decided to get all wet.  While Jason’s motives might have been noble, mine were completely selfish.

My tandem is too big for Mark.  Mark refers to it as the tank.  We eventually changed the captain seatpost from a set back  post to  straight post and this change helped, but the bike was still too large.  I was unable to convince Mark to use the “proper method” to start the tandem, but we were fine starting with each of us with one foot one the ground.  Mark kept referring to my “big strong husband” who could more easily hold the tandem up and control it.  Jason laughed himself silly to hear himself referred to as big and strong, but he does outweigh MarkN by 20-30 pounds depending on which way either of them are lying about their weights on any given day.  Mark seemed to be ok with the tandem and perhaps to even like it, but I didn’t really think that he was sold on the idea of actually buying one.

The clincher was, of course, Jaz.  Jaz is an avid cyclist who is limited by knee problems.  She seems to want to be able to go faster, but is hindered by her knee problems and the fact that Mark is male and just generally too fast.  Sticking her on a tandem with her husband seemed a perfect solution.  She could go faster and not get dropped by Mark.  I love riding the tandem, because going faster with no additional effort is so much fun and I figured Jaz would like it, too.  So we stuck her on the back of our purple bike with Jason captaining and we all went around the bears.  At the top of Mama bear, we all stopped and Jaz exclaimed, “the tandem has a lot of momentum going up the hills.”  Jason and I knew we had won.   At the end of the trip, Jaz turned toward Mark and asked, “So what are we going to do about this, Marko?”  Mark didn’t answer and instead gave the uneasy smile of a man who did not want to discuss an important decision in front of an audience.  The audience, however, had no doubt that the bike would be bought.

My friend Michael thought that Mark didn’t really want to buy the tandem.  Michael, as the rest of us do, sees the world though his own lenses and he envisions all men as creatures who make great efforts to spend less time with their wives.  The tandem would be running in the wrong direction.  I, seeing the world through my own lenses, thought Mark would love the tandem.  He could ride with Jaz, not drop her, and still get a hard workout.  Life would be perfect.

When Jason and I bought a tandem, we test-rode a sample tandem just to be certain that we could ride it.  We had a terrible test ride and I screamed a lot.  We, of course, had already decided to buy a tandem, so unless we had actually gotten run over by a trolley during a test ride, we were buying one.  We promptly ordered one, one we had never test-rode and we love it (other than the color).   Mark is someone, who either is good at decisions or thinks that he is, and they test-rode a bunch of tandems, gradually convincing themselves that they were able to form a rational opinion about the different frames.  They chose a steel, banana-yellow bike.

I don’t know for certain if the banana tandem has been a complete success, since I haven’t spoken to Jaz about it, but Mark seems delighted.  I don’t get to tandem with Mark as much, since he is riding the tandem with his wife.  Jason, feeling a little guilty, has been agreeing to more tandem rides with me and we have been having fun with tandeming again.  All-in-all, our conspiracy was successful and I think that the world is a slightly better place.

Climbing Mama bear.

Climbing Mama bear.

after the press

Mark and the purple tank in wine-land

Graffiti in Cazadero


Mirror, mirror on the wall.

I like the punctuation.

Explain yourself: Favorite Roads

Looking west as I climbed Hopland Grade from the west

Looking west as I climbed Hopland Grade from the west

KevinF wrote into the SFRandon list last Friday with the following query and then answered his own question.

What are your favorite stretches of road in the Bay Area and why?

Here are mine:

1. Pinehurst between Skyline and Redwood in the East Bay – I call this stretch ‘My Cathedral.’ Though I enjoy the terrain and the two climbs, I especially treasure the ride beneath the redwood trees going north through the community of Canyon. The hush, the mist, the cool breeze on the hottest days, the sun filtering in long diagonal shafts. Stretches like that are why I bicycle in the first place.

2. CA-1 headed south from Goat Rock Beach to Diekmann’s Store. The complete transformation of the experience when I crest the top of the climb from the Russian River and look out over the cliffs and the Pacific with all the isolated rocks off the coast fills me with joy. And it always comes unexpectedly. Then the road swooshes up and down and back and forth just enough to make it a blast and not so much to make it a chore. This is what I think of when I think ‘California Coast.’

3. Mountain House road between CA-128 and US 101 / Hopland. This is the land that time forgot. The trees with the Spanish moss take me back to my childhood in the deep south. A few of the far distant vistas lack any sign of roads, highways, and industry. The views remind me of where I thought fairy tales took place when I was little. It doesn’t take much to imagine there is a castle on the next hill just beyond my view.


Many people responded with their favorite stretches of roads to ride.  I loved people’s responses.  Reading this thread was reading a reminder of all the wonderful places you have been.  Remember that road?  Yeah, I remember riding there.  That was great.

One person listed the 17 mile drive in Carmel and another jokingly chastised that writer for misunderstanding of geography.  I was actually going to reply with the section of highway one from Carmel to the Nacimiento climb as being one of my favorite stretches of road.  I love the bay area for incorporating as part of itself anything that can possible be driven to within a few hours.  When I lived in Baltimore, I never said that my favorite restaurant in the Baltimore area was some joint in Brooklyn.  I rarely ever went places outside the walking distance from my house and now I claim Big Sur as being near.  According to google maps it would take me one minute longer for me to drive to the Nacimiento climb from where I live in Oakland than it would for me to drive downtown New York from my house in Baltimore.  Perspectives change.

Hopland grade is another favorite of mine and I resist listing that for the same reason above.

I did  write in with my list:

1)  Lopes road from Lake Herman to the Gold Market
2 +3)  Highway One from the Russian River mouth to Tides in Bodega and Highway One from the Marshall wall turn off to Mesa Rd in Point Reyes Station.
4)  The stretch of road on Point Reyes-Petaluma Rd and Nicasio Rd from the painted bridge to the Nicasio ball fields.

Lopes road?  You could not use Hopland grade, because it is too far away, so you replace it with Lopes?  GregM didn’t actually use those words, but he did question the inclusion of Lopes road.  “Why does this one make your list, particularly?” he asked.

I had a friend whose girlfriend’s head injury had left her with lessened senses of taste and smell.  He said that she ate mostly by texture.  I think that I might bike by texture sometimes.  I don’t really recall what that stretch of road on Lopes really looks like.  It can be hot and the highway is near.  However, the stretch is an uninterrupted effort of just the right length and then you get a break with air conditioning.  I think that road is slightly downhill, but only slightly, so that all your speed feels like it is a result of your effort.  I feel fast and the road has some slight undulations.  The fight to hang on to a paceline on those undulations is elating.  I like trying to hang on as long as possible to a paceline, going too fast for me.  I get blown off the back, and then I limp in to the Gold Market, where I get air conditioning and an ice cream bar as a treat.

maybe it is just the chocolate covered ice cream.  and the ice cold coke.

The roads following around the Nicasio reservoir are quite beautiful.  Despite, their beauty, I think what I love about this road is the texture.  I like the hill up to the dam from the painted bridge.  It isn’t that steep, but it is steep enough to feel like climbing.  It is short enough that I might be able to maintain a reasonable speed to the top.  I rarely do that.  Its length is just beyond my reach, but I love trying over and over and over again.  Even when I am slow, the slope to that hill feels perfect.  I like the top out at the dam.  It feels fast and hard at the same time.  The shoulder is wide and the pavement smooth.  Our route back to Marinwood has us turn right onto Nicasio Road heading toward Nicasio.  Most people think that this road is flat, but it has a very slight climb and it usually has a following wind that gives you a significant push up this slight hill.  Michael loves this “hill” in a tailwind.  Had I not spent too many Thursdays trying not to get dropped from Michael’s wheel as he barnstorms into Nicasio, I, too, would not have realized the presence of this hill.   I have yet to stay on his wheel, when he is actually trying.  He just pulls away, never slowing.

I don’t think that anyone needs to explain the love of highway one: California coastland in all its glory with exhilarating rollers and the hand of god pushing you down the coast.

Pictures from rides past:

I took 114 pictures.  Really, you should consider yourself lucky, that these are the only ones being shown.

Hopland grade: I took 114 pictures. Really, you should consider yourself lucky, that these are the only ones being shown.

Nicasio Reservior

Nicasio Reservoir

Alexis and Brett: Happy people on Highway One.

Alexis and Brett: Happy people on Highway One.

I have no pictures from Lopes road.

Devil Mountain Double ride report part one: Mines Road

picture with grass and road

The riders were off and after about 30 seconds of riding in the pitch black surrounded by other slightly sketchy double riders, my mood lifted and I became happy again.  I am usually quite happy on these rides.  (unless I am at a rest stop-  Rest stops make me cranky.)

The Devil Mountain Double is a 205 mile ride that does about 20,000 feet of climbing and includes:  Mount Diablo, Morgan Territory, Patterson Pass, Mines Road, the backside of Mount Hamilton, Sierra Road, the stupidly steep pitch up on Calaveras, Palomares, and Norris.  For some reason, Mines does not make the list of climbs when the DMD lists its hardships, but Norris does make the list.  I think Mines a rather difficult stretch of road.  It never really appears that bad, but it is quite a bit of a climb.  Your mind tells you that the slope isn’t much, but your body seems glued to the ground, refusing to climb at any reasonable speed.  The problem is, of course, your perspective.  It is not a mild climb.  It has over 2000 feet of climbing and it goes on for a bit.  Moreover, it is usually hot.  I think I have only done it once when it wasn’t hot.  Snow covered the hills along the road that day and I slipped on some black ice on a climb. It wasn’t hot and I had a particularly good ride that day, until much later on the return, after nightfall, in complete darkness, worried about ice.

In my mind, Mines is the first major climb of the day.  The hardest part of the DMD starts at Mines.  I have done Mines a lot.  I have done Mines exhausted, bonked, overheated, tired, injured and just plain cranky.  I have ridden slowly with MarkN, who had broken his rear derailleur off and was crankier than I think I have ever seen him (which does not really say that much, the man never really seems to be cranky.)  I have learned that Mines is simply doable under all sorts of lousy conditions and if you keep on going, you are likely to finally get to the end and be able to get a coke at The Junction or, if going in the other direction, somewhere in Pleasanton or Livermore.  I was more than able to deal with Mines when I got to it on the day of this double.  The Mines/Del Valle rest stop had no coke and I solved that problem leaving, heading toward the junction under the glaring sun in search of cold soda.

The Mines cut-off looms large in the minds of the denizen in the back of the pack.  I was sort of hoping to not make it.  My average times have slipped recently and I was as likely to miss the cut-off as make it.  However, I didn’t really want to have to do this ride again, so I didn’t really want to miss it.  On the other hand, I could easily head home from the Mines rest stop, catch bart, and have dinner at my favorite restaurant with my friends.  That scenario would be nice, too.  Well, perhaps, I should not kid myself, -nicer might be a better choice of words.  The first part of the DMD is simply lovely.  Diablo, Morgan Territory, and Patterson pass make a beautiful ride.  It is challenging, but in a good sort of way. You are challenged, but failure isn’t particularly likely.  It is hard, but doable and you can go home and have dinner with friends at your favorite restaurant afterwards.  Further, I was completely unwilling to put on any extra burst of speed to make that cut-off.  I actually would have been disappointed if I didn’t make the cut-off, but I didn’t want to go into an energy hole and then have to do the second half of the ride, the harder half, after having gone into an energy deficit on the easier first half.  I left the Mines Rest stop with 8 minutes to spare and all was good.  (Except for the lack of coke.  I had never drank a Mountain Dewopr a Dr. Pepper and was unwilling to have my first encounter with either of these concoctions of chemicals be on the DMD.)

I didn’t realize that the water stop on along Mines road between Del Valle and the Junction was a DMD rest stop.  I thought it was a Mount Hamilton Challenge rest stop.  The Mount Hamilton Challenge was riding in the opposite direction.  I loved seeing all the Mount Hamilton Challenge people.  I saw JimS, Jim and Bonnie, Mick, and I think Barbara McQ.  I probably saw many others, but the ride was about 3 weeks ago and I have forgotten.  Seeing the other riders was great.  They cheered us on and many wore DMD jerseys.  “Yay!!  Go!!” they screamed at me.  It was fantastic.  I felt great. -Except for the heat and climbing part.  Jason and I did the Mt Hamilton Challenge several years ago and I have never gone back and done it, because it was too hard of a ride.

I loved all the cheering and encouragement I got from other people all day.  Not only did the Mount Hamilton people cheer us on, but others did, too.  The Wente race was being held on the same day and we overlapped their course in several places.  The court marshals took one look at me and yelled “DMD That Way!! GO!!!.”  That was great.  A woman riding back from Altamont pass in the opposite direction yelled at me “Good job!” for no reason at all.  That was great, too.  The really fast men on the DMD start an hour later than everyone else and many of them say “good job” as they pass.  And that’s great, too.  “Good job,” I repeated to myself all day long.

Mines was hot.  I was sweltering and was just trying to get through it.

I traded places back and forth a couple of times with Anny Beck along this section.  I rode out of the hotel behind Anny.  Even in the dark, she casts a distinctive profile.  She is very small, rides a very small  beautiful Calfee, and is always in her aerobars.  I don’t think that her regular bars are even wrapped.  She climbed Diablo in her areobars. She told me that it was her 70th double.  She says that she has slowed down a lot since she hit 50 doubles.

I passed PegM along Mines.  I had passed her on the climb up Diablo and I wasn’t particular surprised to have passed her on the Diablo climb.  She is overall a much faster rider than I am, but I am a faster climber than my overall speed would indicate.  I was fully expecting her to pass me on the descent, which she later did and then she was gone and out of sight.  However, I was surprised to have caught her on the climb on Mines.  I guessed that she might have been being affected a bit by the heat.  I know I was.  I was out of water when I passed Peg.  My goal was to go as fast as possible in order to limit my exposure to the heat and to get water as quickly as possible, but without getting too hot by the effort.  I rode a bit with some guy during this section.  I rarely ever ride fast enough to warrant anyone trying to catch my wheel, but this guy rode with me for a little while and I was quite pleased with myself along Mines.

That pleasure was short lived.

At the junction, people with cast-iron stomachs ate pulled pork sandwiches and hamburgers in anticipation of climbing the backside of Mount Hamilton in the blistering heat.  I stood around at the Junction feeling straight-up stupid.  I was tired and overly hot and I had no way out.  I had to either climb out via Mt Hamilton or Mines.  Hamilton was, of course, harder, but I had just done Mines and I certainly did not want to repeat that again.  Moreover, I didn’t want to have to do any of this ride again and I needed to finish it, so I wouldn’t have to do this again next year.  Hamilton seemed the more reasonable choice, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing something important and that I was being a bit stupid.  At least I had plenty of iced coke and a camelback full of cold iced water.  I ate a peanut butter sandwich and then left this oasis, heading out toward San Antonio Valley and Mount Hamilton.


A careful observer might notice that neither of these pictures were taken on the day of the actual event.  The first picture was taken on a training ride I did with Jack a couple of weekends before the DMD.  Jack also did the DMD and is one of the organizers of the event.  The second picture was taken by Jason during a ride with MarkN and me up Diablo.  

How not to taper for a double

First of all, do not take off the Friday before the double.  Taking off that Friday will just leave you relaxed and refreshed for the Double.  It will also leave your co-workers in the lurch and you like them.

Secondly, go ahead and do your usual Thursday ride.  Don’t take it easy.  The ride on Saturday will suck no matter what, so you might as well have a good time on Thursday.

Third, go ahead and ride 10 days in a row, with the 10th day being the Devil Mountain Double.  The double is not more important, just because it impresses other people more than your short little rides up Diablo.

Views from Diablo

Views from Diablo

Pictures from Thursday’s Duros West ride out of Yountville.  The ride goes out by Spanish Flat and Pope Valley.    Ride was on the Thursday before the DMD.

Michael and the Long Horns of Yountville

Michael and the Long Horns of Yountville

We must have seen about 8 Osprey on this ride.  The place was lousy with them.  It was great.

We must have seen about 8 Osprey on this ride. The place was lousy with them.  The day was fantastic.

Lush fields near Pope Valley.  The valley was also full of wildflowers, which are not visible on this scale.

Lush fields near Pope Valley. The valley was also full of wildflowers, which are not visible on this scale.

Bob and MarkN watching a large fluffy fox hiding in the grass.  The fox tried to wait us out, but eventually gave up and walked away.

Bob and MarkN watch a large fluffy fox hiding in the grass. The fox tried to wait us out, but eventually gave up and walked away.  He greatly underestimated the amount of lingering we are willing to do.

Dave drafting the tandem

Dave drafting the tandem

View from the stoker's seat

View from the stoker’s seat

Six Smushed Skunks

I was being driven crazy by a particulalry opinionated women named Barbara who rode in my cycling club.   I wrote to Alexis complaining about her and Alexis responded with a one-sentence email:

OMG, I want to slap her.

While that sentiment isn’t exactly novel, I highly appreciated her one-line letter.  Being exasperated by someone over a club email discussion regarding photographs is silly.  Barbara really was not causing any problems by emailing.  I could easily ignore her, but instead I got mad.  Having someone else share the same exasperation is vindicating.  I felt less silly and the sharing somehow made me less angry.  “See other people think as I do,” I think and somehow I am no longer annoyed.  It was as though the annoyance came from me sitting alone at my computer and feeling like no one else agreed with me.  Would it matter if no one else agreed?  Why was I comforted when someone did?  Humans are strange.

The issue, hashed out angrily on a cycling club email list was about artistic freedom, immorality, personal privacy issues, the human race’s destruction of the natural world, or people’s inability not to click on every link that says click me.  -or it was about pictures of road-kill, depending on your point of view.  Road-Kill Andrew posted links to the club email list for his personal flicker site.  The links were to flicker sets that showed pictures from the previous week’s ride.  Andrew used to race ahead and then stop and take pictures of other riders as they passed.  It was quite nice, all these pictures he gathered.  However, Andrew also liked taking pictures of dead animals that had been killed by cars.  I am not sure why he wanted these pictures, but he did and he uploaded them onto his flicker site.  I managed not to see any pictures of roadkill, while actually seeing many of the pictures of people.  Maybe I would have felt different about this issue had I been surprised by the pictures.

People, upset by the pictures, complained.  Subsequently, due to these complaints, when Andrew sent in further links to his flicker sets, he accompanied the link with a warning regarding the likelihood of viewing a car-smushed creature.

Well, that warning didn’t go over well.  Barbara wrote in to the list saying that the pictures were highly offensive and should not be linked in anyway to the cycling club. Then people responded, defending road-kill Andrew, saying that the photos were artistic expression and he should be allowed to take the pictures and show them.  She responded indignantly that the issue was a moral one, not artistic.  The pictures were immoral and should not be shown.

I was of the opinion, that the site was his personal flicker set and he could have the pictures he wanted on that site.  He hadn’t actually killed the animals to create those pictures.  The animals weren’t less dead if he didn’t take those pictures or more dead now that he had.  Other people argued valiantly for artistic freedom and its importance in a free society.

Are pictures of dead animals art?  I don’t’ know.  I never spoke to Andrew about the pictures and I don’t know why he was taking them.

Are pictures of dead animals immoral?  I don’t know.  It seems wrong to kill an animal just to get a picture you think would have some artistic value.  Our society raises and kills animals all the time for food, clothing, and all variety of body part reasons.  Some of those reasons might seem as trivial as killing an animal for a photograph.  Andrew hadn’t killed the animals.  Our society, in the overtaking of the world and the paving of roads was what killed those creatures.  None of us were less guilty or more guilty than the rest of us for the smushing of those creatures.  Perhaps Andrew was making a comment about our ecological disaster. I don’t know.

Seeing pictures of a dead animal or person is upsetting, but the person or other creature is not less dead or more dead, because the picture is or isn’t taken.  The person would not be less dead if the picture were viewed or not viewed.  Taking a picture of a dead person for entertainment value would strike me as highly disrespectful and, to use Barbara’s word, immoral.

I do a couple of rides a year that go through Rio Vista and one of the reason I like Rio Vista is to be able to go into Foster’s Bighorn and see the taxidermy.  Is finding the stuffed animals interesting wrong?  Is it like child pornography?  The viewing of child pornography is considered wrong because the production of the pornography involved the harming of a child.  You cannot legally kill all those animals in Foster’s Bighorn anymore and the hunting had been done for sport and entertainment.   Foster’s Bighorn post.


Is seeing a picture of someone dead disrespectful?  Are we better to be reminded of deaths than to avoid them?  Is looking at the picture of someone or some animal dead and seeing something interesting wrong?  Does the addition of possible entertainment make the viewing immoral?  I suppose I am not really that annoyed that Barbara sent her incensed email.  The whole episode was more interesting and more worth discussing than I had initially given it credit for.  Is being interested in the subject of pictures of dead animals ok?  Is everything just here to entertain us?

I bike by road-kill regularly.  We have skunk-killing season when the air fills with a gasoline-like smushed skunk smell.  I am currently riding in dead-newt season.  The newts are dying out due to habitat destruction and I feel slightly sad for our planet to see so many of them killed off by cars, too.

Shoes.  picture stolen from the Unites States Holocaust Memorial Museum web site.

This post was written about an incident that took place a couple of years ago.  Andrew stopped sharing links with pictures of dead animals.  I am only reporting my impressions.  I do not really know the opinions of the others involved in this discussion.  Thanks to sonofabike for the title.  

Stage One of the Furnace Creek 508 tandem relay race: Valencia to California city

Willy’s version of stage one, which actually discusses the ride, can be found here on Nancy Yu’s blog.

California City

“California City has been good to me,” explained a man, the local gas station character, to the many people hanging out at the gas station in California City.

California City is about 80 miles from Valencia, a city I had been completely unaware of other than as the name of an orange.  I had never heard of California City either, but the Furnace Creek 508 uses it as a time station and Jason and I hung out in this fine town for about two and a half hours waiting to take the baton from Willy and Deb.

The gas station was a hub of activity, not for the Furnace Creek people, but for the California City folks.  At the edge of the parking lot in the gas station, someone had placed four umbrella-shaded tables.  This area also was slightly shaded by some trees.  This gas station picnic area may have been the only pleasant outside place in California City.  The sun shown brightly in this desert town and while it was hot in the sun it was still tolerably cool in the shade and these tables were full.  I had never thought of a gas station as a place to hang out, but that was what people were doing.

The guy to our right had a dirt bike and was wearing motorbike leathers.  He had a stereo and played his music for all to hear.  At first he played music that I found offensive, but like a disc jockey reading the preferences of the crowd, he soon changed the music to 60s and 70s era rock.  I liked sitting in the shade listening to his music.  He was at the station when we arrived and he did not leave until just before we started our stage, about 2.5 hours later.

When we arrived, the men sitting at the table to our left, were watching a movie on a laptop computer.

At one point a young man showed up and started chatting at length to the local gas station character, who had stationed himself at the table closest to the gas station.  This rather in depth conversation concerned the local scene of skydiving.  I am pretty sure that the young man had not planned on talking to the local gas station character, but he seemed happy enough to have this long conversation about wind conditions (very important in skydiving) and hideous ways to die jumping out of a plane.  I was not as happy about this conversation and was pleased when some other characters showed up to distract the local gas station character.  One guy had a new scooter, not the two-wheeled type of scooter, but the three-wheeled type that people use in lieu of a wheelchair.  He seemed pretty happy about it and he showed off his scooter handling skills by spinning the scooter around and maneuvering it around tight corners.

When we had arrived at this station, the local character was having a loud conversation on his phone that was so one-sided that I was not altogether convinced that there was someone else at the other end of the line.  His main concern was his nephew, who he feared might come under the evil influence of some woman.  His main advice reagrding women was that “you’d better be careful; those things have minds of their own.”  I found his view of women as conniving men-catchers slightly annoying.

He, however, seemed to really enjoy the arrival and departure of each of the women who worked at the gas station.  They talked reluctantly to him, seeming to have long ago grown weary of older men who chatted at them slightly teasingly and tried to put them down.

He was still at the station when we started our stage over 2.5 hours later.

The scene reminded me of my local cafe, where people hang out for hours sitting outside at the umbrella-shaded tables.  The biggest difference was that no one at this gas station was crazy or clearly high.  A number of people with mental illnesses hang out at my local coffee shop.  I had never considered that sitting outside at a gas station for hours would be something I would purposely do, though I have done just that at cafes on many occasions.


Jason and I had originally been slated to do stage one, but Deb had wanted to switch her stages.  She had had a rather adventurous trip this past summer, which involved civil unrest and being holed up in a hotel listening to sniper fire.  However, stage one turned out to be rather headwindy and was harder than expected.

Jason lunges to catch a thrown water bottle, Deb yells out her request, Steve hands off a fresh bottle.

We should not have been surprised that the section containing windmill hill might be windy, but it was even windier than usual.

Windmills for as far as we could see. I like that we still call them windmills even though they have no current association with millstones.


Ken. I like this picture.

Ken, for those who do not know him, is referred to as the king.  He is a rather superlative person.  Super nice, super strong, and super fast.  Invincible. He had had a hard Devil Mountain Double this year.  I have never done this double; it scares me.  However, Ken had had a hard ride, which was unusual for him.  He is the king; he never has a hard time.  He conquers all rides, usually on his fixed gear.  He decided to skip his next scheduled ride, the SF 600k, because he was not feeling well and his left arm was having some numbness issues.  He instead went on a shorter ride from his house, went into full cardiac arrest on the ride, and was found by an off-duty ER nurse, who started CPR.  The paramedics shocked him back to life and took him to the hospital.  He eventually had bypass surgery and was released back into the world.  These events all occurred this past spring.  Seeing him back in action at Furnace Creek was great.  Trading places back and forth with Ken and Steve was the best part of the whole race.  This picture makes me happy.

Team Spotted Ass van. Defibrillator on-board. Does this ass make my jersey look big?

Last of the summer wine: end of the duros west season

Riding along Chilies Pope Valley in Wine country. The next weekend was to be the annual Pope Valley Turkey shoot. You don’t get to shoot any turkeys, but I believe that they give out turkeys as prizes for the best shots.

Years ago, my mother would take a week off every year around her birthday and stay at home.  Her main activities were sitting around in her nightgown and robe, watching taped PBS shows, and eating stewed prunes.  The prunes part was a key ingredient to this vacation.  One year, when she went back to work, after her week of debauchery, a friend asked my mom how her vacation had gone and my mom responded, “guess what I did every day.”

“You ate prunes,” responded my mother’s friend, knowing my mother well.

“Yes!” my mom replied, still happy and relaxed after her vacation with the dried plums.

Michael, like my mother, likes well-worn goat paths.  He has figured out what he wants to do with his life and he does just that, over and over again. He has decided that the best ride in the world is the pancake/Nicasio/Marshall wall loop and I tend to agree, so in the winter, when he takes over as leader of the Duros West GPC rides, we do the same route every week and eat at the same restaurant every week, the Pinecone, a fine establishment, whose service reminds me every so slightly of Baltimore.

The waitress will come out and ask what we want to eat. We will look slightly offended and ask for menus.  She’ll reply that she thought that we already knew what we wanted.  She’ll divvy out menus, come back several minutes later to take our orders, which are all orders she would have correctly guessed without even talking to us.  I am not quite sure why we all need to have menus in our hands when ordering, but my hands feel naked and exposed if not holding a menu while asking for food.  I always get eggs over easy with toast, having decided long ago that this meal is the best possible meal to eat on a bike ride.  MarkN is ever so slightly less stuck in his ways, so his lunch choice varies occasionally and, if I am lucky, he will order 2 buckwheat pancakes.  Mark is completely unable to eat 2 buckwheat pancakes, so I hover like a vulture and see if I can scavenge some yummy tidbits from his plate.  However, Mark more often than not gets eggs over easy, too.  Michael will likely get banana pancakes (no chance of yummy tidbits from that plate).  Jack, having arrived late after buying bread at the Bovine Bakery, will get the hangtown omelet/steak sandwich, and Bob’s choice varies.  Bob often gets some almost, but not quite, vegetarian lunch.  Repeat again next week until spring.

Bob is the real leader of Duros West and he schedules and plans all the Duros West rides during the regular (non-winter) season.  He chooses interesting locations and changes the routes week to week.  He does use the same routes from year to year, but during the season the routes vary.  In midsummer, we ride a variety of routes in Marin, which the heat of summer does not ever touch.  In the milder spring and fall we go out to Livermore or up to Middletown, King Ridge, Pope valley, or Lake Berryessa, all places well acquainted with the scorching heat of summer, but places well worth visiting in spring or fall.  The schedule runs as though someone gave it some real thought and consideration and we are all better for it.

Bob has decided that this will be the last year he does Duros West and that the rest of us need to step up and lead more of the summer rides.  Michael does not quite believe Bob.  He thinks that Bob will reconsider and do another year.  However, the summer season is now over.  Michael takes over this week as our winter leader and we will be riding the pancake/Nicasio/Marshall wall loop on Thursday.  According to Bob, last Thursday was his last regular Duros West ride as leader. He has been leading these rides for about 12 years.

View as we left Yountville, land of fine dining

Bob, Jack, Dave, and MarkN. Leaving Yountville.

Our ride started in Yountville and  we did a loop along 128 to Lake Berryessa and through Pope Valley.  Mark and I rode my tandem.  Michael did not come, because the drive was too long.  Jack came despite having had a back spasm that week.  Caroline misread the webpage and, when we called her cell phone wondering where she was, she was driving around the Old Nob Hill Market parking lot in Livermore, looking for us.  Dave came, so we were 5.  It had rained that morning and everything was moist and pretty.  The smell of bay leaves inundated the area.  The vines were just starting to turn and the whole ride was beautiful.  We had grilled paninis in Spanish Flat and I believe that these paninis were the best on the planet.  Bob was stung by a wasp during lunch, but seemed happy anyway.

While we were sitting around our lunch table outside, Jack took a large swig of his juice and immediately spit it all out onto the center of our lunch table.  Realizing that an explanation might be needed, he told us that a wasp had been in his drink.  Upon inspection of the rejected liquid, a very wet and pathetic looking wasp was found.  Jack was quite please not to have been stung by the wasp and counted the ride as a success.

As the day wore on and the heat rose, the smell of bay leaves was overtaken by the slightly fetid smell of freshly pressed grapes.

Long horns

View from the dam looking north at Lake Berryessa.  We had just seen an Ospey take off and fly alongside us for a couple of minutes.

Looking back south from the dam

Bob and last view of Lake Berryessa. We were chasing down the Osprey and we succeeded in finding him again and watched him soar.

This loop is lovely tandem territory. MarkN kept wondering why we dropping everyone until he looked at our average speed and realized how fast we had been rather effortlessly going.

Postcard from King City

“Are you ok?” I texted Jason at 1155pm on Saturday night.

“I’m fine,” he politely replied, “How are you?” Netflix had just raised the quality of his life substantially, by suggesting that he watch the British comedy “Black Book.”  Jason had just spent the last couple of hours watching this show, giggling, so was in a very happy and accepting mood when I texted him at the cusp of midnight.

“Earthquake, felt big,” replied I.  I had been asleep in a motel room in King City when the trembler hit and was now anxious and very, very awake. When the quake hit, I thought, “that seems to be going on for a while,” so I walked to the wall next to me to go outside.  It took me a second to realize that the wall did not contain a door, which is good, since a door on that wall would have lead to a quick drop from the second floor to the first.  For some reason this image bothered me, as though in my confusion, I could have found a door in the dark that lead to a 30-foot drop.   I recalled that the door was located on the opposite wall and made my way to the other side of the room. By the time I got to the correct location of the room door, the shaking had stopped.  Worried that the big one had hit the bay area and that our lives may be in ruins, I texted Jason, thinking that if the big one had hit San Francisco or Oakland, I would not get through anyway.

I was relieved that Jason quickly and happily responded.  Alexis was trying to get information on her iThingy, but the USGS site was not showing any earthquakes at all, so we were happy to hear from Jason and learn that our loved ones and our lives still stood sound.

The earthquake turned out to be local to us.  It was a 5.3 magnitude quake on the San Andreas fault about 17 miles from King City.  King City was the closest town to the earthquake.  There was no damage or injuries.

I was on an overnight biking trip with a group of about 45 or so and I think that everyone was awakened by the shaking.  Many people called home, worried as I was.  Michael’s response was slightly different.  He thought that it might be the big one, too, but he was pleased and content.  He was happy to be out of town, safe, comfortable, and warm with his beloved bike in King City, far away from any possible destruction in his hometown.

Furnace Creek 508 2012 ride report: Stage two, the easiest stage

Nancy Yu also has a write up of stage two on her blog.

Closely following Jason. Stage two Furnace Creek 508. California City to Trona, city of bike paths.

Jason and I rode stage two and five on our Furnace Creek tandem relay race. These stages are considered the easiest stages and are often given to the rookies on a relay team.  Nancy and Tim were initially assigned these stages, but Tim is so outrageously strong that we simply had to give them Townes, so he would have something to sink his teeth into, even if he had only been on a tandem 3 times before our “race.”


We had a tailwind the entire 72 miles on this stage. Actually we had a bit of a sidewind/downhill at first, but let’s just call it a tailwind.  The stage was ridden faster than the riders.  Riding with a tailwind is lovely.  We had no business riding that stage that fast and we were pleased by our performance, even if we knew it was wind driven. I spend far more time riding into a headwind than I will ever spend riding with a tailwind, so I might as well bask in its glory.

The problem with a tailwind in the desert is eventually you will climb and you will be hot.  Tailwinds are hard on hot climbs.  Neither Jason nor I are good in the heat.  We both insisted on wearing camelbacks, even with a support vehicle, because we wanted iced water available at all times and camelbacks are very good at keeping water cool.  Despite the camelback Jason and I faded fast on the gentle climb on our stage.  Our heart rates plummeted when we hit the climb; we were just suffering from the effects of the heat.  Jason’s heart rate hovered around 125.    Eventually, Jason ran out of water, so we stopped to get more iced water in our camelbacks.  Stopping was so lovely.  We knew we had a tailwind, but we had no idea that the wind would be so pleasant.  On the bike, the air was still, with the wind matching our speed, but when we stopped the breeze seemed cool and Jason and I felt better instantly.  We were able to cool down quickly and then restart.  We felt much better after our little break and were able to put out a more reasonable effort with higher heart rates.  We had just overheated and the break made all the difference.

Bike shadows

We stopped in Randsburg to use the porta-johns.  Luckily we arrived right before a bunch of confused and road-dazed tourists .  They seemed to be having difficulty understanding that other people were using the port-johns, too, and, in general, seemed flummoxed by the whole porta-john system.   A helpful man stood by and tried to explain the situation to them.  Since the situation did not seem to warrant explaining, he was having difficulty figuring out exactly why they were confused and what exactly needed clarification.  When we left they still seemed flummoxed, but we had places to go, so off we went to Trona.

We were required to have a follow car from 6pm until 7am and, since we reached Trona in complete darkness, Jason and I did the last section of our stage with a follow car.  I had been worried about riding with a follow car.  I was worried that its presence would bother me.  I feared I would be overly aware of having an audience and feel nervous.  The car did not bother me at all.  I might have been working a little harder, because I knew it was there, but it never made me anxious.

At one point the car pulled up while we were starting a slight climb to ask if we needed anything.  Jason was distracted by the car, so he backed off pedaling and he did not downshift.  I think that Steve was the one asking us if we were ok and Jason was sort of answering and I forgot how to say the words “downshift” and became very annoyed.  “Something is wrong,” I yelled and then I finally came out with the word downshift.  Poor Steve thought I was angry with them, when I was mostly frustrated at myself for not being able to remember the word “downshift.”  I felt bad for Steve.  I just needed a lower gear and Jason was distracted and not shifting or pedaling as hard.

We arrived in Trona and Nancy and Tim were waiting on the side of the road astride his tandem, ready to leave.  They were not able to leave until the follow car went with them, so they had to wait.  Willy was in no hurry.  He was hyped up and chatting and Jason was not exactly hyped up, but he seemed willing to talk.  Tim and Nancy meanwhile, stood on the side of the road waiting.  I eventually told Jason to stop talking back to Willy, so that he would get in the follow car and go.

My legs straight up hurt after this stage.  We had put out a good steady effort and the wind had been very inspirational.  We had felt good and strong because of the wind and the downhill start and we felt even more inspired to throw down more effort on the road.  We had a good ride and we were both pleased.

Stage 2 profile. Stolen form AdventureCORP site.