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2010 Tour of California race report

I wrote the following report in 2010:

Wed May 19th. HA! Did Mines on my own. : ) According to common bike club wisdom, one shouldn’t do Mines without at least a couple of companions or, better still, a sag vehicle. Doing it on my own was fun. I have ridden alone in more remote areas and, in reality, Mines rd is full of people riding motorcycles, who in a pinch can be of some use. The Tour of California for Wednesday was: San Jose, Sierra Rd (!), Calavaras, Sunol, Livermore, Mines Road, Del Puerto Rd, Patterson, and Modesto. I decided to take the BART train to Dublin/Pleasanton, ride out Mines Road to the Junction Bar and Grill, eat lunch, watch the race go buzzing by, climb Hamilton and then finally ride through Freemont to the train station and take BART back home. In the end, I did not climb Hamilton, but instead did an out and back on Mines, which is about an 81 mile round trip from BART.

I was somewhat disappointed to not do Hamilton. Climbing Hamilton is so much more impressive than just doing Mines and you get to be on top of the world up there. However, the sky decided to rain on me and I feared worse weather on the mountain, since higher elevations often have worse rain, wind and cold. Further, I wasn’t all that keen on descending Hamilton in the cold and rain. I hadn’t brought a rainjacket, despite the slight chance (20%) of rain, because we have already taken off my fenders and I am of the belief that the removal of fenders prevents further rain for the season.

Mines was gorgeous. Flowers, hills, green grass, bushes, trees, birds, etc, etc.

Flowers on Mines Rd

Really, we all have been to places like that. Pretty pretty pretty and it never gets old.

I used to hate Mines Road. The long slight grade for 25 miles out to the Junction was demoralizing and hot. On and on, that road goes, ever so slightly climbing the entire way. The return is oddly worse. The climb out of the junction is steep and longer than it seems. I now love Mines, for I have learned the secret to Mines rd: Don’t do Del Puerto or Hamilton before climbing back out of the Junction. AHA!! I have never just done Mines before, I have always done it in conjunction with Hamilton or Del Puerto, which is second only to Jamison in my book for annoying climbs. (My book, by the way, does not include Sierra rd.) The climb out of the Junction is fine if you are not already completely exhausted and you haven’t stuffed yourself with a hamburger from the Junction Bar and Grill. I liked Mines road. The climbs are fine.

People were camped out on the side of Mines at the tops of the little climbs and they cheered me as I rode by.

The Junction parking lot was full of Santa Clara Sheriffs, sheriff department cars, sheriff department motorcycles, and department dirt bikes. The dirt bikes were a surprise to me. The locals in the bar were quite offended by the spectacle. They were offended that people they didn’t know were showing up at the Junction, they were offended at men in lycra (“the bar’s turned gay”), and they were offended at the presence of the sheriff’s department. “Today would be a good day to rob a bank. Look at them out there. These hills are full of marijuana fields being grown by Mexicans and the cops are just sitting here.” They blamed Obama for this travesty and spent a lot of time talking about wasting tax payers’ dollars. In general, they seemed to be having themselves a fabulous time complaining as they drank beers at noon on a Wednesday. I, myself, was working only a two day work week that week, and was greatly enjoying myself as I ate my bowl of chili and blazingly eavesdropped on these men’s discussion.

After a while, the men bored of only complaining amongst themselves and so took themselves and their beers out to the parking lot where they sat on the back of a pick-up truck and amicably teased the Sherriff’s department cops in person. The cops seemed pleased by this diversion as I think they were tiring of standing around and looking official and they took the good-natured teasing well. “If I paid taxes, I would be really pissed at the waste of money,” one of the bar guys said and everyone thought this quip quite amusing. When asked straight out why all the sheriffs were there, one cop replied that they were there to protect the cyclists from “you.” “Me?” “Yes,” the cop replied “you.”

Amicable discussions

After a while, about a dozen California Highway Patrol motorcycle cops showed up. They paraded into the parking lot, each one following the other exactly as they made an unnecessary loop around the parking lot. They then all lined up and then back up in unison, like the Rockettes on wheels in Cop uniforms. The beers-at-noon-on-Wednesday guys were stunned and unable to speak for several minutes after this spectacle. The sheriffs were highly amused and pretty soon everyone was in agreement of what a waste of tax-payers’ money THAT was.


CHiPs in line

After a while I took myself off to stand in the street corner to see the action better, if it were ever to appear. Mines road has no cell coverage, so we were all in the dark about where the cyclist were. The cops seemed only slight better informed and kept us updated as they learned more. The people out were all pretty diehard fans and talked happily about all the other Tour of Californias they had seen and where they had stood to see them fly by. One man bragged proudly that he was going to see the stage at big Bear and everyone sighed in envy.

Many of the spectators had seen either the start or Sierra road and then drove like crazy to get over the mountain to this site to see the cyclist one more time.

One man was one of those people obsessed with time and distance. He was very interested in different ways to get places and what the travel time versus the actual number of miles each route would entail. I was with him for about an hour and he spouted out those types of numbers repeatedly. Now since I am a cyclist, this type of discussion is exactly the type of conversation I can get my teeth into and I argued with him amicably about some of the distances, both of us convinced of our own numbers.

One extremely fit looking couple spent the hour waiting bemoaning gleefully that they were neglecting their children. They had taken the past 3 days off from work to see the race and had been leaving their children with neighbors. I was sure that I had seen the man before. They clearly looked like cyclists and were in fact avid cyclists. I kept trying to place him – I knew from somewhere surely. I finally determined that I did not know him. He was one of those men who simply look like a cyclist- very Lance Armstrong looking. -lean thin man, deep lines around his mouth despite not being that old, light brown hair that once was blond, tanned skin- you know the look. Personally I see the look all the time. The woman was deeply tan herself and her hair was fried from too much sun. All in all, they both looked terrific. They had driven over in their car and were wearing civvies, but they brought their bikes just in case a group ride broke out.

This woman did a lot of name-dropping. They were friends with Horner. They had gone to a dinner and got to meet a bunch of the cyclist. “Cavendish was so nice. They all were so nice.” Her discussion reminded me of my friend James who would complain that people should not give more attention or value to people who are famous. He argues that our own friends are actually more valuable to us and we should not idolize people who really mean nothing to us. She was so happy, though, and arguing against such happiness is hard. -Especially hard coming from me, who hung around the junction for 2 hours waiting for a bunch of cyclist I don’t know to go by- simply because they are faster and more famous.


Cops, motorcycles, and support vehicles preceded the riders by about 25 minutes. Eventually an announcer van came by booming out the current race situation. The break had a 5:20 lead and the announcer listed off the teams represented in the break. That announcer was great. I was so happy they did that. We were all clueless otherwise.

The break went by- no pictures- I was cheering too much and then about 5 minutes later the main pack. So, after waiting for 2 hours they went by in a little over 5 minutes and I got rained on. I then rode myself back home. On the way I helped a cyclist with a flat tire who had been dropped by his buddies and he lacked a pump (!?). I got home before dark and, though I got a bit wet, I wasn’t cold. The ride home was lovely. The greens were all muted by the rain. All in all, I was really glad I went and I had a good time.


Mines on the return after some slight drizzle

Total time: 11 hrs

Race time seen: 5 min 30 seconds.

How not to train for Terrible Two

The Terrible Two is a very hilly double century run by the Santa Rosa Cycling Club.  Its main hills are Trinity, Geysers, Skaggs, Rancheria grade, and Fort Ross.  The climbs are double peaked, steep, exposed and hot and the descents are dangerous and scary.  I plan on walking the Rancheria grade next time I do it.  I really have no business signing up for this ride.  I have only a slim chance of making the strict time cut at lunch at mile 110.  However, at the end of last year, I was feeling slightly cocky, riding a little faster than normal, and I decided to give the Terrible Two a try.  I figured that if I had a good day and it was not too hot, I might make the 110 mile cut-off.  I thought my chances to be about 10-20 percent and I decided I might as well try.  If I had a really good day, I might hit the mark and it is a lovely route, beautiful really, if you ignore all the climbing and you do it over a couple of days- instead of one.

However, my training has been totally inadequate and I am now simply finding the idea of training for the Terrible Two just stressful.  I am worried and not happy.  Biking is supposed to be fun.  I am not big on planning.  I don’t really make goals or make plans.  I just go along, doing what I want and sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t.  I believe this will be one of the not-working-out incidents.

Since December, I have had 7 weeks off the bike.  Two of the off-bike weeks were a planned vacation to France and I just got back from this trip.  The other 5 weeks were due to 2 separate bad colds and a very mild back spasm.  Each event was not very significant, but each was a small step backwards, getting a tad slower after each and taking about a week after each illness to get back onto the swing of cycling.  I am just a little slower than I used to be and doing the Terrible Two no longer seems to be an option.  I hate the idea of spending the next 4 weeks training for this ride with the specter of likely failure haunting each pedal stroke, so I am not going to train for it.  I will start it, since I have already paid my dues and Jason says he will ride with me, but I not training for it anymore.  I will do the rides I want to do and maybe it will work out, but more likely, it won’t .

Not in training: Me, by the Seine in Paris

Letters to my mother, part 1, or why I feel justified in never throwing anything away

Sara and me, posing in our commuting costumes before heading home

Stored on my hard drive, I have 48,913 emails from my three different current email accounts.  20,259 of those emails are unread.  I also have a bunch of email saved from two other, now defunct, email accounts.  Jason has suggested that I go through the emails and throw stuff out, but I have resisted following his suggestion because it sounds like work.

This blog is supposed to be about my biking and since I have these emails, I decided to look through old accounts to see if I can find evidence of my first rides.    I started riding by commuting.  My commute was 3 miles in each direction and all technical.  The ride to work contained a difficult to navigate light that was on a hill.  I had to learn to unclip and restart on the hill, usually surrounded by morning commuters in cars.  At first I just walked up the hill, because I could not get restarted in traffic on an incline.  Eventually I got better and was able to do it.  The way home was in heavy traffic through highly congested shopping  areas  that had head-in parking, pedestrians, parking and unparking cars, and complicated traffic lights.  Eventually I got the hang of that, too.  The ride was only three miles.  I certainly did not gain any fitness from the efforts, but I got very good at dealing with traffic and I got over my fear of heading out the door.  I live in a city.  I needed to learn how to deal with cars and this commute taught me that skill.  These commutes lowered the activation energy of heading out the door on a bike and gave me the confidence to cycle regularly.

I was delighted to have found the email I sent my mom about my first commutes.  Apparently I practiced the route a couple of times before attempting it on an actual work day.  Jason went with me for the first week.  I started in August of 2003.  The letter described the amount of time the commute took, it described the hikes I had done with our particularly personable poodle, it described hawks I had seen, and it described an incident at work, an incident about which I had completely forgotten:

I fortunately have a lousy sense of smell. The other week, our morgue ran out of room in the refrigerators and a body was left out for a day. The whole third floor lab area apparently reeked, but I didn t even notice.

Me, dressed as a commuting pirate

Honestly, I do not think that anyone else is interested in this incident or the contents of this letter, but I was quite amused by it and I am delighted to have been able to relive these events.  I might follow Jason’s suggestion of going through my old emails, but I have no intention of throwing anything away.


As far I was concerned, the best thing about last year’s delta ride was the bee sting.  Bob doesn’t do route sheets or maps and his route description was the following:  “Meet at 9 am by the cemetery on Shiloh Rd south of hiway 12 and we will ride out to see if the cranes are still around.”  You try to figure out the route.  I was able to find the church by Google maps and, in case you are wondering, No, you can’t see the cemetery from the road.  Michael had done the route a few times, but he refuses to learn any routes.  I had never even ridden in the area and had never even heard of any towns on the route.  Michael and I were dropped in the first 45 seconds and became desperately lost.  Mark didn’t do the ride at all, because he left his back wheel at home.  He had unfortunately driven us all up to the start, a 1.5 hour drive.  Unfortunately, for me at least, Jack had driven by himself to the start and was thus able to offer us all rides home, allowing Mark to go home.

Mark planned on meeting us in Rio Vista for pastries before driving home and when Michael and I did not ever make it to Rio Vista, he spent a lot of time driving around trying to find us.  However, by that time we had gotten too lost and too off course.  While off route, we passed bee hives and I got stung by a bee.  During our lost phase, Michael and I asked for directions to Rio Vista and were told the most direct route, which would have been fine if we had been in a car.  When we started down highway 12, we had a shoulder, but after a few miles the shoulder completely disappeared and we were suddenly on a narrow divided highway with semis barreling down on us honking and angy at the idiot cyclists.  We had no where to go and would pull off the road into the gravel to allow the trucks to pass and then get back on the road to try again.  It was a disaster and incredibly unpleasant.  Neither Michael and I had our cell phones.  Neither Jack or Bob own cell phones. Mark had his cell phone, but this modern convenience only really allowed him to find out that his wheel was indeed in his shop at home.

My bee stung lip did swell and hurt during the ride, but it wasn’t that bad and was better than other bee stings I have had.  The lip got much worse that night when I was safely at home with a handy supply of Benadryl.  I did end up missing the next day of work due to the bee sting, since the reaction did worsen, but, all in all, the bee sting really wasn’t that bad and it could have been worse.

Bob listed the ride again for this past Thursday and, pitting experience against optimism, I showed up for the ride again, just as unprepared and unaware of the route.  I was able to determine the route back and forth from Rio Vista, since I knew the ride did go to Rio Vista.  The rest of the route remained a mystery.  I wrote to Mark and asked for some hints regarding the route, but he would only promise not to allow me to get lost again and refused me any further guidance.

The ride went well.

  1. I did not get lost.  I did get dropped, but they waited at each turn.
  2. The wind was rather ferocious toward the end as we rode into a dark storm.
  3. The plentiful sheep were newly shorn and the lambs frolicked about and were unbelievably cute.
  4. The sky opened up and poured on us after we were safely in the van.
  5. I used my brand new Garmin for the first time and am now the proud owner of a route sheet for this ride.
  6. We rode on ferries, which were way cool.
  7. Foster’s Bighorn  is a resturant and bar in Rio Vista and was the highlight of the trip.

Michael told me that Foster’s Bighorn Bar had a wall full of trophies, but I was expecting local trophies, trophies from the U.S.  I was not expecting stuffed Cheetahs.  I had never even heard of a Hartebeest, much less knew that many different varieties of Hartebeest exist.  Now I know, for I have seen the stuffed heads.  Bill Foster, a Hayward man, was an avid hunter and a bootlegger.  The bootlegging ran afoul of the law and Bill Foster, with his collection of dead animals, moved to Rio Vista to escape the Hayward authorities.  Pictures and video taken by K.F. and posted with his permission.


Bob’s secret Delta route:

Post 2

This post is being used to see how posts are divided.  The plan for the day is to ride the tandem.  The weather forecast is for sun, but we may have some wind.  We are riding with Alexis.  I had invited Michael, but he needs to be home by 1130 in order to get stuff done before Napoleon arrives to conquer Oakland.  The Paramount is show the silent movie Napoleon.  The movie is an 8 1/2 hour event including two 20 minute intermissions and an hour and 45 minute dinner break.  I think that I would rather be stapled than see that, but Michael is quite excited and the Paramount says the these showings are “The cinema event of a lifetime.”

First Post

Setting up blog.  How large is the actual published image.  I have no ability to visualize the size without some examples.  However, I have nothing to actually say.  The weather is windy.  The rain has lessened.