Response to “lost art of the group ride”

Last year Peter Wilborn’s article lamenting the current state of group riding was spread about the country through a variety of cycling list groups and facebook postings. I first ran across this article when a fellow club member posted it to the Oakland Yellow Jackets email list and the poster agreed with the article and also bemoaned the current stated of club riding.  I responded with the following letter, which I am reposting here.

Begin quote:

I have several issues with the yellowjackets group riding habits and people who know me will be familiar with my rants.  I like riding in groups and I like the yellowjackets, but I prefer not to paceline with them.  The advanced group vacillates between being aggressively fast pacelining or chatting pacelining.  The aggressively fast version is often hostile and unfriendly game playing, not simply fast.  We would be faster if we were behaving in a more efficient manner.  During the chatting pacelining, people are simply not paying enough attention to the road and other riders and is dangerous for the obvious reasons.  However, if that is what the group wishes to do, then that is what we will do.  I will just ride off the back.

Despite these reservations, I have received a huge amount of support, information, skills from other cyclists and continue to do so.  I do not think that the art of a group ride is lost.  I have learned so much from other people and still do.  I am very thankful for the cyclists, with whom I have been lucky enough to ride.  These people are still around; they didn’t disappear 10 or 20 years ago.

I spent Sunday riding with my friend Jack.  Jack is like the color white; he hits every frequency.  He is constantly irregular.  His speed varies greatly and he often coasts, though at irregular but very frequent intervals.  You try riding 100 miles with him and not become a more attentive cyclist.  Despite these quirks, Jack is a great cyclist.  He has put down about 10,000 miles a year for the past 10 years.  He knows a lot and you can learn a lot from him.  He is friendly and interesting.  The route I rode this weekend is one I would never have known about or done.  He figured out the route and did the reconnaissance.  It was 111 miles of beautiful roads and not a foot of “junk miles”.  We actually had a stream crossing.  Jack wanted to cut out an ugly and slightly dangerous section of road (dangerous due to boat trailer traffic).  He found the site of an old, now missing, bridge and we crossed a stream by foot at that point.  The route was unbelievably pretty and the roads had almost no traffic.  It was one of my favorite rides ever.  I would never have done this route on my own and I am very grateful for knowing Jack and for him inviting me to do this fabulous ride.  I don’t recommend pacelining with Jack, but he has many other redeeming qualities and my world has been broadened by knowing him.

I ride weekly with a gpc group.  Bob is a font of knowledge about rides and routes and riding with him is great.  Mark is my favorite wheel.  He is the most constant and steady wheel I know.  I do whatever Mark tells me to do and that policy hasn’t lead me wrong yet.  He has been helpful to me in both hints on how to be a better cyclist and by demonstration.  He has been very supportive of my cycling and I am grateful to know him.  Michael, my regular partner in crime for during-the-week short rides, has also been very supportive and enthusiastic, introducing me to other groups.   Riding with this group has made me a better cyclist, a faster cyclist, and a happier person.

Despite my complaints about the yellowjackes, I love riding with them.  The group is full of people I like and respect.  Alexis, Chrissie, and James immediately come to mind.  However, I would like to especially thank Charleston, who literally taught me how to be a cyclist.  Other than Jason, my husband, Charleston has been the most supportive of my cycling.  Charleston is also one of the smartest cyclist I know.  He reads traffic well, he picks good lines, and he is constantly paying attention to the situation and environment.   He was very kind to me when I first started cycling and I will always be thankful to him.

lisamc

Group ride: Duros West without Bob, our fearless leader. Alpine Dam. Me, Michael, George, Mark, Sabi

Day one! Touring in Oregon

I had no real business going on a 12 day supported cycling tour in Oregon, but I decided being prepared was overrated and went anyway.  We started in Ashland, cycled a bunch of days, and ended up back in Ashland 12 days later.  I had a great time.

I was the only person with a tent that required staking.  Tents that require staking are stupid.  Actually, the tent was fine for the first 7 days and then it was stupid.  After some point banging stakes into the ground with a hammer just became something I never wanted to do again.  One day, I was unable to stake the tent at all, because the ground was too hard.  I had to get Pete to stake it and then Michael to de-stake it the next day.

Deet is the only mosquito repellant that seems to work.  The instructions on deet tell you to apply only to exposed skin, to avoid your eyes and mouth, and to not apply under clothes.  My only exposed areas were my face, neck and hands. The mosquitos easily avoided those areas and bit me through my clothes.  I had 9 bites on my ass.  The little suckers chased me down as I climbed slowly up to crater lake and bit me repeatedly through my cycling shorts.  I had multiple bites on my legs from sitting around in camp in my long pants.  I had no bites on my exposed areas protected by deet.  I am not sure how to deal with this problem.  I might have to tour next year completely naked, but slathered in deet.

Our first day of cycling was a choice of 2 rides.  We were staying at Ashland for the first day, so both choices ended back at camp.  Both had about a 4500 feet of climbing.  Michael wanted to do the Dead Indian loop.  (The road is called Dead Indian Memorial road, but I do not know why.)  This loop is 47 miles long , contains a 4000 foot climb, and sports pie at mile 33.  I showed up ready to go at Michael’s tent.  He was still in his regular clothes.  His goal for the tour was to be the last person back to camp each day and since he is not the slowest rider on the tour, he worked hard at being the last out of the camp each day and then he stopped each day for a long lunch if he had caught too many other riders.  He looked at me and told me to make myself a sandwich.  “It’s only 47 miles and we are having pie at mile 33; I don’t need a sandwich,” I countered.

“You’ll be really unhappy, when we all stop to eat our sandwiches and you don’t have one,” he said.  Michael can either talk or get ready to go.  If you stand near him and talk to him, he goes into some time warp, where time means nothing and he just yammers along telling slightly offensive jokes.  Realizing that we would never actually hit the road unless I left him alone, I went off and made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The Dead Indian climb was nice.   I got the tour’s first flat.  Michael saved the day by using his good eye to find the little wire that had caused my slow leak.  Michael has one eye surgically set for up close vision and one eye for far away vision, so he is brilliant at seeing small stuff.

The pie place had pie and a large group of us spent about 2 hours sitting on the cafe’s porch, discussing Marionberries, a past DC mayor, and Michael’s sex life.  I had eggs over easy with toast.  I have never been able to confuse berries with dessert.

We got within a few feet of camp when we decided that we might as well do the second route, too.  The second route was shorter, but climbed Mt. Ashland.  By the time I got to the top of Mt. Ashland, I was out of water, out of food, and out of body warmth.   Michael knew that a dilapidated building contained a sink, so I was able to refill my water.  I realized that I was not actually out of food, but that I had a glorious peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my pocket, so we sat in the cold, ate our sandwiches, and looked at Mt. Shasta in the distance.  Mt. Shasta is rather pretty and this exercise was rather pleasant.

The 17 mile descent was colder than the climb.  Michael knew of a lodge half way down the descent and we stopped there and warmed up with hot tea and coffee.  I was shivering rather uncontrollably by this point and drinking hot tea in a hot room was great.  I hadn’t even noticed this place.  Michael has a nose for food and knows where all detours might be.

All in all, the day was a success.  We got a lot of climbing done in a very pleasant manner.  Michael saved the day by insisting that I make myself a sandwich, finding the wire in my tire, knowing the location of secret garage sinks, and suggesting that we stop at a lodge to get warm.

We were the last people in by about an hour and a half, so Michael made his goal, too.

View of Mt Shasta as we ate our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from atop Mt. Ashland.  Andrea rode part way up Mt. Ashland with us trying to see Mt. Shasta.  She didn’t really want to climb Ashland, but she really wanted to see Shasta.

Welcoming sign outside the lodge where Michael and I warmed ourselves half way down Mt. Ashland.

Dead Indian Loop with out and back up and down Mt. Ashland.

Light housekeeping

I can no longer close my freezer door; the freezer is so badly in need of defrosting. I really am a dreadful housekeeper. The built-up ice is bending the freezer compartment. Some people complain about how non-fast cyclists really shouldn’t have nice or expensive bikes. Someone slower than you or someone with less experience than you shouldn’t have a nicer or more expensive bike than you, or at least that seems to be a common feeling amongst cyclist. “When you start cycling, you should have a humble bike.” I have never really met an overly proud bike, but I think I understand the sentiment. I am never quite sure when you have ridden enough or exactly what speed you have to obtain before you can buy an over-priced or light bike. I think that perhaps we should apply this practice to other arenas. Slow joggers would be required to wear clogs and wouldn’t be allowed to wear running shoes until they can do 8 minute miles. Only people with adequate housekeeping skills would be allowed to buy an apartment and only people whose floors can be eaten off of would be allowed to buy a house. I would be restricted to living in a tent.

still life with bike

Dog park

I prefer hiking, but the dog likes dog parks, too. I have no pretty pictures of the Alameda Dog park, but here is a picture of the wonder poodle with the wildflowers .

I went to the dog park today.  I prefer going hiking with Sacha, the wonder poodle, because I find it less boring than the dog park.  However, the dog likes the dog park.  Today’s trip reminded me of this note I put on Facebook.  From August 26, 2009.  

At least children get older and change. Puppies become dogs in about 2 minutes and then stay dogs and I have been listening to the same inane conversations about dogs for the last 11 years. My dog does the same thing everyday- day in and day out- nothing new. I go to the dog park and I am bored. The dog is happy, delighted even, but I am not a dog and I am bored. However, other people, hereafter known as crazy dog people or CDP, stand around, fascinated, and describe the activities of their dogs- in detail. “How funny: she just ran around the picnic table and stopped.”

At first glance this obsession with one’s own pet might not really seem that notable, but people do this everyday. Not just once, but daily for the entire length of their dogs’ lives and then they get another dog and do it again. “Oh look, they are just standing around and staring at each other. Oh, look, now they are running.” The CDP stand around in groups watching the dogs and give a play-by-play update of all the dog activities “Are you hot Caspar? Look at him just sit and pant. No sitting at the dog park! GO play” Despite the fact that the dogs are actually doing nothing or are, in fact, doing exactly the same thing they did yesterday. “Is that a squirrel? Do you see a squirrel? Is that a squirrel in that tree?” They, then create conversations that they imagine the dogs are having. “He’s saying ‘come on play, play’ and she’s saying ‘I’m hot leave me alone.'” “My dog’s telling your dog that that the other dog is saying that your dog’s mom wears army boots.” Honestly, my husband must have said that sentence at least 1000 times during Thea’s life. Does that sentence even really make sense? (Well actually, in context, that sentence did make sense. In order for you to understand the army boots statement, I would have to give you a blow by blow description of how Thea played, which would be unnecessarily boring and cruel.) “OK now, everyone sniff each others butts.”

I am starting to prefer discussions about other people’s children. A discussion of some kid’s book report is not actually a conversation I have daily and tomorrow that mom will be discussing something else about her kid. I won’t have to relive the same daily book report conversation for 10 years. Alameda Park is full of CDP, while Piedmont Park is oddly not. I am not sure the reason for this distinction between these groups. Piedmont discussions concern business travel, teacher/child relationships (how’s Caitlin getting along with Mr. Garrigan?) softball (did you sign Jonathon up for the child pitch league yet?), prom dresses (I may have hit my limit on conversations about prom dresses), dating, and alcohol and drug consumption. I like the Piedmont group as parents. They seem a little critical of their children, which, as a bystander, is far more amusing than the usual baby worship. As I stand around watching my dog smell a tree, I have a much better chance being amused by a funny story if standing next to some dad complaining about his 17 year old boy.

However, I have lost all patience with discussions about a child’s supposedly remarkable brilliance. In all cases, I have found that discussions about a dog’s intelligence to be far more interesting and actually more impressive than discussions about some kid’s superior intelligence. Kids are nowhere near as impressive as parents seem to think they are, whereas stories about dogs can (on admittedly rare occasions) be quite amusing and impressive. My favorite smart dog was one who could open a deadbolt. This dog’s intelligence was further enhance by the fact his owner was a moron.

My husband is, in fact, a CDP and thinks I should stop fighting and just join them. Though, he will put his head down and walk away if someone starts talking about training methods or mentions dominance. “NO HUMPING!!”

In general, I sit alone on urine-drenched plastic lawn chairs and plan my escape. My dog has bad recall and doesn’t come when he doesn’t want to come. I used to carry around cut-up pieces of handmade, organic, locally farmed, locally produced and (obviously) expensive salami in a small ziplock bag in order to bribe my dog to leave the park with me. In a stunning flash of brilliance on day, I realized that I was actually insane and replaced the salami with chicken hot dogs, which work just as well. My dog still only leaves when he wants to leave.

I need to figure out how to work my ipod.

Good day, good dog: 2010 Mt Tam ride report

Sacha, the wonder poodle

While looking through old notes on facebook, I found this ride report from 2010.  My mind had let these memories slip for some reason and I am happy for the reminder of that day.   I now remember that I was very happy during this ride and then for several days after the event.  Jean has since died.  

First of all I DNFed the Mt Tam double today, but despite that I had a very good ride. I had been very anxious about the ride for a couple of reasons. The first reason was due to an unfriendly letter that the ride organizer sent out last year, about which I was still annoyed. The second reason was that I was likely not to make the lunch time cut-off or the final cut-off. Time cut time limits make me stressed out and I spend the entire ride obsessing about speed and distance, elapsed time etc if I am close to the time limits. If you are close to the time limits, they recommend starting at 4am to give yourself more time. This approach sounds nice, except for the 2 am wake-up call. I hate getting up at 2 am. My recent average speeds indicated that I was likely to make the time cuts, but my speed varies a lot. Not making the time cut was also quite probable.

Results

1) Everyone in the Marin Cyclists and all the volunteers were very nice and no one acted like I shouldn’t be there.

2) I made the lunch time cut by almost an hour. I was clearly going to make the time cuts and this assurance made for a nicer ride. I had a great ride. I went out hard. I rode faster than I usually can ride and I had a higher than normal average speed for that amount of climbing. Furthermore, I love riding in Marin. I rode much of the ride with Gabrielle, which made the ride very enjoyable and faster.

3) DNF: My knee started hurting around mile 35. I rode well until about mile 90. After mile 90, I stopped being able to stand and I wasn’t able to put much power into my pedal stroke from my right knee. I had a hard time starting the bike and a hard time clipping in. Even on small hills, I needed to drop into my lowest gear. I decided that I would pull out of the ride at the Coleman valley loop cut-off. I really wanted to make the cut-off, just to prove to myself that I did it. I have plans for other rides in this month and I didn’t want my knee to be injured by riding another 75 miles that included both the Marshall Wall and Coleman. I rode the 123 miles faster than I usually ride flatter 200ks. I am happy that I ended the ride on on upnote. I wasn’t injured badly and I had a fast and good ride.

4) 2am wake up call: I set my alarm for 2 am Saturday morning so I could start this silly double at 4 am, an obscenely early time. At around 1 am, our poodle started to bark. Jason lost it. He woke up and severely chastised the dog for barking. I then got angry at Jason for getting angry at the dog. Jason and I then tried unsuccessful to get back to sleep for one last hour. In the background I could here a faint alarm. The alarm wouldn’t have awoken me, but now that I am awake, I find it annoying. “Why would someone have an alarm set for 1 am. (who am I to talk?) If your alarm was set for 1 am, why aren’t you getting up and turning it off. Just ignore the alarm and relax and go back to bed. That alarm sounds familiar.” At this last comment, my brain suddenly clued in. I jumped out of bed and left my apartment to find the hallway filling with smoke from our elderly and completely deaf neighbor’s, Jean’s, apartment. Firefighters were called. After much ado, I finally roused our neighbor’s son, who lives on the first floor. Another neighbor who has keys to Jean’s apartment was awoken first and he came and finally got in to her apartment, which was completely filled with smoke. She had left a pot on the stovetop, turned the burner to high, and had then gone to bed. Since our neighbor, Jean, is almost deaf, she didn’t hear the alarm. I pulled the fire alarm pull for the first floor and the 3rd floor and NEITHER fire pull worked. Unbelievable. Jean is ok. Her bedroom door was closed and unlike the rest of her apartment had not filled with smoke. Our hallways still reeks if the smoke tonight.

Jean’s family cooks her dinner each night, so her son unplugged her stove to prevent a reoccurrence. We have had a number of these types of occurrences, but this was by far the worst incident and the only one for which the fire department was called.

I am stunned by how much effort was needed to wake people at 1 am and I can’t believe that our fire alarm pulls didn’t work at all.

So after all that, I wasn’t all that upset about alarm clock going off at 2. We were already awake. I am really happy that the dog woke us up when Jean’s smoke detector started beeping and I am glad that the apartment building didn’t actually catch on fire and I am happy that our elderly and deaf neighbor is ok. I am particularly happy that her stove has been unplugged.

All in all I am pleased pleased pleased with how the day went.

LADYBUGS!

The decent down the south side of Palomares to Niles Canyon was rather annoying.  I kept being pelted by these really small, but very cute, 20 mph flying and swarming ladybugs.  It was surprisingly painful to be pelted by these cute spotted creatures in the face and I suspect they weren’t that happy about my presence either.  I kept closing my eyes.  “DON’T DO THAT.  You’re wearing sunglasses.”  Then I would bow my head down to avoid the flying cuties.  “DON’T DO THAT EITHER!” the voice in my head would yell.  The cliff on the east side of the road is trying to become one with the creek on the west side of the road and the descent down Palomares is strewn with rocks as erosion takes its course.  Closing my eyes and tucking my head were quite stupid moves, so I slowed down to lessen the little critters’ impacts on my face.  As a result my descent was quite slow, a fact I would not have ever considered, except for my new life on Strava.  I feel like putting in a little notation on that time, “But I was descending through a 5 mile long swarm of ladybugs!”  I was covered in ladybugs by the time I got to Niles canyon, a state that was neither as cute nor as creepy as I would have anticipated.

Strava has a considerable number of deterrents, especially after the death of a local cyclist who died trying to regain his king of the descent time by going down South Park at freeway speeds.  South Park, for those location challenged readers, is a small road through a local parkland.  People hike, picnic, let their kids and dogs run free in this rather pretty park.  It really isn’t a “freeway speed” type of place.  Strava’s allowance of descents in the records is a source of anger for a number of cyclists.  I was somewhat appalled to find that someone has set up a Strava segment on the descent down Tresle Glenn from Park to Lakeshore.  This section of road goes through a highly populated residential area, has about 4-5 stop signs, and it is quite narrow.  Though the road is officially 2 way, it only really has one through lane.  You need to pay attention and yield to oncoming traffic as needed.  It is a completely lousy section to have recorded as a Strava segment.  I felt a bit like complaining, until I actually looked at my speed.  I averaged about 21 mph through that section.  What on earth was I thinking?  I don’t think that you should really go over 20 in that area.  How could I AVERAGE over 20?  I can see now the problem; it’s smack between my ears.  I, not just someone else, need to go slower.  Perhaps this Strava descent segment thing is a good idea.  I had no idea I had been taking it so fast.

Palomares is a 10 mile stretch of road with a peak in the middle, making it a 5 mile climb up and then a 5 mile descent and then, since I usually do this road as an out-and-back, I turn around and do it again.  It was way shorter today than the last time I did it.  I got to the top and thought, “how did this get here?”  I sort of looked around to see if anyone was trying to trick me, but no, I had gotten to the top about 3 miles earlier than usual.  The last time I did this climb it had been about 7 miles, 2 miles longer than usual, so I guess it was just trying to even things up a bit.  Last time, I had ridden with Richard Mc, a faster rider than me.  I took huge pride in having stayed with him, even though I knew he was slowing down to ride with me.  Beggars can’t be choosers and feeling happy with your performance always seems like a more pleasant way to go.  However, today I clearly wasn’t putting in as much of an effort.  My mind wanders.  I can’t really push myself when I am on my own.

I am at my fastest when riding with my friend MarkN.  He is a very supportive cycling buddy.  However, he certainly does not need me; he has personal bests all on his own.  (We know this fact due to his careful analysis of his ride-with-gps data.)  How does he do that?  He tells me that mind-wandering is a sign that you are not working hard enough.  I certainly believe that, but my mind ALWAYS wanders.  What else is it going to do?  That is what minds do best.  It is like they were put on this earth to go places without you.  I was going up Palomares and my mind was constructing emails I have yet to write.

Having been inspired by both Jason and Mark, I bought my own little Garmin device and am now connecting to both ride-with-gps and Strava.  (I am letting the two systems battle it out by seeing which one likes wasting my time more.)  I thought I could channel Mark and become a more focused rider by being able to look at my data, but this doesn’t seem to be panning out.  I get notices like “my current place on this climb is 721st out of 904.”  I am not inspired.  However, I had a good day.  Leimert was super easy, Redwood was easy in both directions, and by the time I had finished with Palomares it had shrunk by another 3 miles.

I love Willow Creek Golf course.  I just love it.  The guy who runs the little “cafe” there now recognizes me or perhaps the fact that I am now in love with him has allowed me to fall into this delusion.  I go there in the winter and he cooks me eggs.  I go in the summer and he gives me cups of ice to fill my camel back.  I buy a candy bar and a glass of coke with ice and think how great my day is going.  The return up Redwood was uneventful, save for a second Ladybug swarm as I climbed to Joaquin.

Ladybugs swarming in Redwood park. This picture wasn’t taken on this ride.  It was taken on a hike a few years ago.

Beer, Beef, and Biking: MALT picnic at Black Mountain Ranch

MALT=Marin Agricultural Land Trust  I give money to MALT every month for purely selfish reasons; I love riding the the roads through the farmland of Marin county and I want to do it for a long as I am physically able.  According to its website, “MALT has permanently protected nearly half of the farmland in the country, ” and is working to preserve more.   As a fund raiser, MALT threw a biking/eating event on Black Mountain Ranch.  The biking was good, the food was good, and everyone had a great time.

Route for Beer, Beef, and Biking 55 miles, long version. Ended and started on Black Mountain Ranch on Point Reyes-Petaluma road between Pt Reyes and the painted bridge. Route went counterclockwise.

The ride started at 0845 and was 55 miles long with two significant climbs: Wilson hill and Franklin School.  Franklin School can easily be replaced with Middle if we ran short on time.  MarkN was very concerned about time.  The lunch was being held from 12 to 1400 and he was told that if we missed the 14oo cut, we would miss lunch.  He had also been told that last year they had run out of food and not everyone had gotten lunch.

MarkN had been looking forward to this lunch for weeks and did not want to miss it.  We would have to make any adjustments needed in order to get back in time.  I had a 20 dollar bill in my jersey pocket and felt like I was good.  I could always buy lunch elsewhere.  Mark was having none of that, so we left early at 0830.

MarkN heading into the wind in Chileno Valley

Water Buffalo! Young versions. Way cute.

Water buffalo!

Young water buffalo. Not Bison

I had never seen the water buffalo before.  The Duros West crew mention them a lot.  Mostly they talk about the shock of discovering that Buffalo Mozzarella come from milk from water buffalo and not from regular cows.  MarkN is  not quite sure that he is willing to eat buffalo mozzarella now that he knows.  They then go on to discuss the ranch with the water buffalo and how long it would take to make such an operation viable.  Since no one in this group has any experience or knowledge in this area, this discussion can go on for a while.

The water bufallo are on a farm at the corner of Gericke and Fallon-Two Rock.  I like Gericke road, but you have to watch out not to hit the peacocks hanging out in the road on the descent.  I mostly like Gericke road, because no one knows how to pronounce its name and every ride that includes this road also includes long conversations about its pronunciation possibilities.  We can then have the opprotunity to discuss other pronunciations such as Nicasio, Sobrante, Suison, Tomales, and Linux.

Farmland along Whitaker and Franklin School roads. North of Tomales, west of Highway one, south of Bodega Bay

Whitaker, Middle, and Franklin School are so pretty they verge on the absurd. Sometimes the fields are also teaming with livestock. Today, we saw mostly sheep.

I took a silly number of pictures of this stream, this bridge, and the surrounding hills. I am demonstrating considerable restraint by posting only these photos.

Onto Franklin School Road. I spent much of yesterday’s ride referring to this road as Schoolhouse Road, until MarkN couldn’t stand it anymore and told me the correct name. We are on the bridge featured in the previous picture.

View from Dillon Beach Road and Franklin School Road. Mouth of the Tomales Bay. Dillon beach, Tomales Bay and then Pierce Point.

Touring bike conversion

We got back at 1215, just after the start of the picnic.  Our initial worries regarding the time had been in vain.  The food at the ranch was super yummy.  The owner tried to sell us on the idea of buying a cow, or half a cow, or a quater of a cow.  A quarter of a cow yields about 100 pounds of beef, which would take Jason and I about 4 years to eat, but only if we dramatically increased our beef consumption.  We would also need to buy a freezer.

Jaz got bitten by a horse.  :(

I only yelled 3 times, which is pretty good for a tandem ride.  I am wary of riding the tandem around MarkN.  MarkN and I have ridden the tandem together a couple of times and I am afraid that if I get too angry or scared while riding the tandem with Jason, Mark will stop riding the tandem with me, deciding that I am too much of a pill.  I am not the world’s best stoker.  My husband, who rarely yells back, however, may be one of the world’s best captains.

Society page:

Jason and I rode the tandem.  We rode with MarkN.  Jaz did the shorter route, which went over Marshall Wall and then came down the coast.  MarkS did the long route.

Part 2: Santa Rosa Double Trouble

Continuation of the Santa Rosa Double Trouble ride report

Stores

I love the little stores that make these rides possible.  Every time I am in one, I just want to tell them how happy I am that they are there, selling me junk food and water and providing a bathroom.  I usually resist, except at the Junction, where my normal laconic nature is over run by my relief to be sitting in air conditioning before a plate of food.  “Thank you for being here,” I yell at the woman who works there.  She must think me nuts, but I love these places.   My favorite places in the world for food are:

  • The Junction at the corner of Mines, San Antonio, and Del Puerto roads.
  • Spanish Flat near Lake Beryessa (yummy yummy panini)
  • The Stewart’s Point store
  • Raymond’s bakery in Cazadero (my favorite bakery)
  • The Tomales bakery (yum)
  • The Jimtown store (opens at 0730 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday! best grilled eggplant sandwich I have ever eaten)
  • The Valley Ford store
  • Roberts Store in Woodside (has anything you could want)
  • Steady Eddys cafe in Winters

I was very happy to be able to buy water at the Sanel Valley Market before the 18 mile trek over and down Hopland grade in the heat.  Sanel Valley Market, though I am very happy for its presence in the world, will never make it onto my list of favorite places, but the Kelseyville Soda Bay Market may.  I loved this place.  It was really small, but seemed to have a little of everything and it was a hub of activity.  Two people worked there and other people seemed to be coming by mostly to visit.  One rather gregarious, good natured man talked at length to a woman about music, places he has played, places he will play, music he has written, people he has written music with, and what wonderful souls they had.  The woman, though less loquacious, was also quite interested in music and had provided the shop with some of its music memorabilia.  Johnny Lee Hooker had had a large impact on both of their lives.  The loquacious man offered to me, without prompting, the location of the bathroom and told me that I was free to use it.  They questioned me about my ride and told me about the other riders who had gone by earlier.  A woman in the clothing department noted that one of the dresses had fallen on the floor, getting dirty.  The dress definitely needed some dusting off and the woman wanted to know if she could get a discount.  The loquacious man declined to offer a discount, but did go back and help her pick herself out a dress, which at full price was $19.  I would have described the dress as more of a negligee.  It wasn’t transparent, but it was rather short, had strappy sleeves and a very low neckline with an oddly padded bust. However, they called it a dress and the woman thought $19 too good of a deal to pass up for such a nice dress, so she bought it.  I bought water, chocolate milk, and a hard-boiled egg and was about as happy and content as I had been all day.  I love eggs.

The area along Clear Lake was very pretty, but I had a hard time taking pictures. The road had no shoulder and I did not feel safe stopping at many locations. The areas with turnouts and no cars were not necessarily the most photogenic.

Google apparently does not know all

Check out that blank spot between 78-89 on the topography map.

That area couldn’t be that bad, its topography isn’t even noticed by google and google knows everything.  That section was tough.  Up, down, UP, down, UP, down, UP!  On one of the ups, I wasn’t able to down shift gears fast enough (I was slightly distracted by a fast passing car) and I ended making a u-turn and stopping to prevent myself from falling as I bogged down in too tall a gear.  It was pretty, but Soda Bay road and Point Lakeview road were tougher than expected.

Point Lakeview Road

I don’t like 29.  It has a shoulder.  It does not really have much climbing.  It should be fine, but I grew tired of the constant stream and noise of fast moving traffic.

I ran out of water about 12 miles from the end.  I knew I would run out of water, but I could not stand the idea of adding any additional mileage by going a couple of blocks into Middletown to buy water.  I am an idiot and I knew I was being stupid.

Party in Pope Valley

The Santa Rosa cycling club is really like no other club.  They throw ridiculously well supported events for alomst no cost to the participants.  There is no way our entry fee pays for that support.  The Santa Rosa club owns a lot of supplies that they use for their two large organized rides (the Wine Country Century and the Terrible Two), but they also have a lot of gear for the various trips and tours they do.  We were staying at the Pope Valley Farm center, which had a large room for sleeping and a couple of bathrooms.  Bob had set up an outdoor shower in the back.  He had a large overhead light (a street lamp, really) for outdoors lighting, a projection screen for showing a multitude of concert music videos, and a ton of yummy food.  They brought cookers and chafing dishes and everything was just over the top and great.  Anything you could want to drink, they had.  He played music videos  on the screen all night.  Should I say that again?  He explained that he was preparing for Nascar, an explanation that shed no light on the situation, as far as I was concerned.  Isn’t Nascar a series of a type of car racing.  What does that have to do with an outside wifi network, a large projection screen, music videos, an outside stereo system, wine, beer, sodas, yummy abundant food, and a lovely campfire?  I am not sure, but apparently we were practice.

I became very sleepy and was disappointed to feel compelled to leave the party and go to bed.  I missed most of the 600k people.  The 600k people were serious and in a completely different state of mind than us 200k slackers.

I met a bunch of people at the party in Pope Valley, but I have forgotten most everyone’s names.  Everyone was very nice and I had a great time.

Party in Pope Valley.   Brian, Susan, Andreas, Dave, Paul (hidden) Bob

Denis, Tina, Brian, Susan

I like this picture of me; it sums up the weekend. I had a couple of annoying moments, but I was happy every minute of the two days.  Me, Peter, Firouzeh (?)

The next day, using the danger of the Hopland descent as an excuse, I returned a shorter route.  I went over Ink Grade to Calistoga (yummy yummy eggs over-easy) and then up to Pine Flat road.  I climbed Pine Flat to the guardrail and then returned to Santa Rosa.  I love the 7 mile climb to the guardrail on Pine Flat, with its huge vistas in all directions.  After the guardrail, Pine Flat is stupid.

Food galore awaited us at the hotel room at the end of the ride.  yum

Useless stats

  •  19 600k riders started, 4 DNFs and the rest finished.
  • 12 Double Trouble starters.  8-9DNFs!
  • 1 (Garth) rode the Double Trouble straight through as a 400K.
  • Number of eggs eaten by me: 5
  • Number of pictures taken by me: 114

Day one:

  • distance= 127.3 miles
  • avg moving speed=12.7 mph
  • total time=10:46:46 (yay! beat 11 hours)
  • ride time=09:58:73

Day two:

  • distance=74 miles
  • avg moving speed=11.3 mph
  • total time=7:28
  • ride time=6:30

Society page

I met Barley and Susan Forsman, who are quite famous in these circles.  Omar doing his first brevets, did both 200ks.  He also spent much of the evening test riding Volagis, because the 200k wasn’t quite long enough.  Tina Forsman was also signed up to do the 200ks.   Robert Choi, Susan and Barley’s partner in Volagi cycles, was the first rider into the Pope Valley on the return.  Graham Pollock was the second rider.  I saw Linda Bott and Peg Miller on their way out.  Clyde Butt fought nausea valiantly and beat me in to the finish.  Firouzeh and Susan Noble worked the Pope Valley stop.  Firouzeh and Dave took the short way back from Pope Valley, but stopped at a winery for a picnic and wine tasting and just beat me back in.  Michael McGuire worked the Blue Lake stop. Bob Redmond organized the whole thing, did not sleep, and left his projection screen in Pope Valley.

View from guardrail on Pine Flat Road

Part 1: 2012 Santa Rosa Double Trouble

I was pleased by the sight of about 6 hot air balloons floating above wine country as I rode along Faught a little after 7 am. I was amazed that anyone would get up so early to ride in a balloon.

“My ride was going good until the nausea set in,” Clyde Butt said to no one in particular as we all meandered around the Pope Valley Farm center front yard trying to figure out how to feed ourselves. That sentence is a good synopsis of a lot of long rides.  Clyde had done the first 200 miles in 13 hours, but was eventually overwhelmed by nausea and stuck on the side of the road over a guardrail in the dark.  It was a little after 6 am on Sunday and he was at the mile 230 Pope Valley rest stop preparing to leave.  He had completed the first 200 miles by 7 pm the night before, but after that had had a rough night and a very difficult 30 miles.  He looked pretty good at this point-just a little tired and dazed.

My ride, on the other hand, was going quite well.  A few weeks ago, Bob Redmond, in a bit of a panic at the small number of registered 600k riders, decided to add the Double Trouble rides to the 600k weekend event.  While the 600k people would start at 6 am on Saturday and struggle through 375 miles by Sunday night.  The Double Trouble people, using some of the 600k route, would do 200k on Saturday; sleep and party in Pope Valley, trying not to make fun of the silly 600k riders; and then return to Santa Rosa by retracing our outbound route.  The obvious problem with this scheme is that Pope Valley is only about 35-40 miles away from Santa Rosa.  The next day most of the Double Trouble folks shortened the route for the return.  In order to do a 600k you need to be a little blind to other options like short-cuts and cabs.  The 600k-ers were on a mission and were focused, while also seeming slightly confused.  They seemed completely unaware at how close they actually were to the finish as they headed out back north in the opposite direction to home.

Three of the 600k riders were from Orange county and completely unused to hills.  One of the Orange County guys told me that the first 200k of this ride was the hilliest 200k he had ever done.  When they were told that they were only 35-40 miles from the start, they perked right up.  “You mean I can stay the night here and then just ride 35 miles back in the morning?”  The three DNFed on the spot and settled in to the Pope Valley party.  They had come up to the area with the hope of seeing new beautiful landscape and they certainly had succeeded on that goal.

Route for The Santa Rosa Double Trouble

The first day, I did the prescribed route, which starts in Santa Rosa, goes up Chalk hill, 128, Dutchner Creek, Cloverdale, north on 101, Hopland Grade, along the south side of Clear lake, 29 from Lower lake to Middletown and then Butts Canyon to Pope Valley.  Either you know what these words mean or you don’t. The only thing that matters is that Hopland grade is long and beautiful, that the road along Clear Lake is much harder than expected, and that 29 is annoying (completely expected).

If you ride slowly enough, Chalk Hill Road is easy.

Ride’s beginning

I am such an unsociable crank.  The start for the 200k was at 7 am, which meant I was able to sleep until 0430 and I was able to have breakfast.  Brilliant.  I love later starts.  0430 is almost verging on a perhaps, slightly reasonable time to get up.  It is too early, but it, at least, does not feel like the previous day.  A couple of weeks ago, in order to make the Davis start, I got up at 3 am, but did not have breakfast, since even with a 3 am wake-up call, I still did not have enough time to eat before driving to the start.  (My intestines hate me.  Honestly, they straight up hate me.  Biking wreaks havoc with the digestion system anyway and the earlier starts just ensure that no matter what I plan to eat, I’m screwed from the very start.)  However, Bob Redmond, in a stroke of genius, chose 7 am to start the 200k.

Liz was questioning Bob at the start about with whom she should ride.  Bob, seeing me, said “Let me introduce you to Lisa.”  I, being the crank that I am, answered, “I prefer to ride alone.”  Both Liz and Bob seemed pretty appalled by the answer, but I did want to ride alone.  I wanted to go at my own pace, taking pictures and I was certain that Liz was too fast for me.  At some point, when talking about pace, I told them that I was planning on taking 11 hours, which seemed to relieve me of having any obligation of riding with anyone else, since everyone was planning on a faster 200k than that.  I felt slightly bad for my answer, though, and at the end, Susan Forsman, with her voice dripping with sympathy, queried me about why had I ridden all by myself.  I assured her that I like riding alone, but occasionally I do feel like a freak for doing so.

Red Winery Road

101 Northbound

I like riding south on 101 from Hopland to above Cloverdale.  The pavement is smooth and the shoulder wide.  It is downhill and usually has a tailwind.  It is also gorgeous.  I mean just beautiful.  A lovely river-like thing runs along the west side of the highway and the highway runs within a valley, hills to both sides.  -And you are flying.  Wind at your back, slight down-slope, smooth pavement.  I feel like I belong on a highway, I am going so fast.  Wheeeeeeee!

101 northbound, however, the route I took Saturday, lacks many of these fine qualities.  I still think the road pretty but I can’t see the river from this side. I have a bit of a headwind and I am going slightly uphill, so I am not suffering from the delusion that I belong there.  Instead, I feel a tad slow.  At one point, due to some stupid drainage issue, the shoulder actually disappeared, forcing me out into the lane of traffic.  I was on the edge of the lane, but I didn’t want to share the lane with traffic doing 70.  This section was short, but I was still passed by cars while riding here.  A little later, still due to the same drainage issue, the shoulder was completely covered with algae-filled standing water.  I was afraid that the algae-covered wet asphalt would be slippery and didn’t want to ride through this section, but I really didn’t want to go back out into the lane of traffic on 101.  I could see a few bike tracks through the algae, but no body imprints, so I figured no one had fallen and I rode through.

On 101, a large electronic sign warned that 175, the road through Hopland grade, would be closed on Mon-Wed, Jun 4-6 for paving.  I noted that this date did not affect us and dismissed the notification as irrelevant.

Reminder not to go too fast on 101

The view was pretty, but the skid marks left by a semi with locked up wheels were a little daunting

Hopland Grade

Thus, the road surface, despite the notification, came as a surprise to me.  175 was chewed up in preparation for the impending paving.  At first, I thought it was not that bad.  I imagined myself on pave and fancied myself in Belgium. After about 1/2 of a mile, I found it very annoying and kept thinking it could stop anytime now.  After about a mile, I was struck (and I mean struck, like struck hard) with the idea that this could go on for a while.  11 miles.  It went on for 11 miles and not just any 11 miles, 11 miles up Hopland grade, so 11 SLOW miles.  It was not really that bad, but I was lucky that I had ridden my very comfortable, bump and pothole-eating, cushioning-steel-forked Rex, instead of my nervous, notice a pea under 40 mattresses, aluminum Cannondale, that drinks expresso every morning to start its day.

The constant bumpiness from the grading done to the pavement made the climbing slow.  My tire tended to slip when I stood, from the lack of traction due to the rough surface.  The sides of the road, in addition to the roughness, had gravel, which made them a little more slick than I liked.  The cars weren’t giving me a lot of room, which I did not understand.  They could certainly see that the road conditions were bad and, even in the plush ride of a car, you can feel the roughness of the road.  Why weren’t they giving me more consideration?  Upon complaining about them at home, Jason pointed out that they were likely unhappy with the road conditions, too, and did not have any consideration left for me.  I felt bad for the motorcyclists; they must have had a rough ride.

I was quite disappointed when the pavement continued to be rough after the county line.

The rough pavement only lasted a little bit beyond the top, but that small patch of the descent was horrible.  I was a few feet into the descent, when I decided that the scenery was pretty and wanted its picture taken.  I love the views along Hopland grade.  I restarted the descent and made it past one corner, before deciding that another picture really needed taking.  The descending really was terrible.  I was having a hard time reaching the brakes, because of how much I wanted to grip the handlebars.  My arms were shaking so much I felt like I could not really see them.  I restarted and made it a few more yards, before being, yet again, overwhelmed by the desire to take a picture.  This stop, my third, was my last for the descent.  The pavement became normal and the rest of the descent was ok.  I am happy for the pictures.

The next day my hands seemed slightly bruised and hurt slightly as I rode, but they weren’t bad.  My right has a slight bruise on the base of the palm, but I have no swelling and no neuropathy.  I have only done one 600k, but my palms were swollen and red on day 2 of that ride and the neuropathy lasted 5 months.  I am wary of possible damage to my hands on these long rides, but the only real damage from this weekend’s ride was a lost bar end plug.  (My friend James can go on at length about the bodily damage caused by missing bar end plugs, so, fearing his wrath, I went to the wonderful Cycle Sports today and replaced the plug.)

Hopland grade. 11 miles of road prepared for repaving.

Looking west as I climbed the west side of Hopland Grade

View north towards Clear lake from just beyond the top of Hopland Grade. I was avoiding the descent by taking pictures.

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

To be continued

“It’s too late, baby”

I love Carole King’s song “It’s too late.”  Jason thinks that my love for music from the 70s is a form of aesthetic developmental delay.  This song reminds me of one of our patients.  She was a very nice woman, who had a number of issues and she provided us with some difficulty from time to time.  However, everyone liked her, she was always nice and pleasant to us, and I am glad to have known her.  One day, a couple of years ago, late in the evening, she came in for chemotherapy after having seen the doctor, but we were unable to start an IV.  A number of nurses each tried a number of times.  She was very patient, but being stuck multiple times with needles is tiring and painful.  Despite the pain of the multiple needle pokes, she really wanted her chemotherapy, the treatment she hoped would save her life.  After many IV start attempts, we simply got too close to closing time and we had run out of veins to attack.  It had gotten too late.  Two of the nurses, Jenny and Diane, spontaneously broke into song, singing Carole King’s “It’s too late, baby.  It’s too late.”  The patient seemed pleased by the singing and it relieved a lot of the tension.  We rescheduled the patient’s treatment for the next day.  She died last year and neither of the nurses work with me anymore, but I love this song.  It reminds me of a very sweet and difficult moment where everyone was at her best and I was glad to have witnessed it.