The starting group for each successive randonnee is always reduced as
the mileage increases and the 2012 edition of the traditional SFR 600k
was no different. A tough 400k three weeks earlier and conflicts with
the California triple crown and mother’s day helped to keep the crowd
thin as well.
My usual riding buddies Carlos and Gabe had conflicts with the date of
the ride, Todd Teachout (2nd club member to earn Ultra Randonneur
status!) was doing a triple crown ride, and Willy Nevin (1st club
member to earn Ultra Randonneur status!) presumably was going to
celebrate Mother’s Day appropriately. I too had considered not riding
this edition because of the hour earlier start caused by a
professional bicycle race that shared a portion of our course and
required a road closure. Getting up an hour earlier is a dangerous
amount of beauty sleep to lose for me, but I throw vanity to the wind
and show up for the start.
At the start I found myself talking to nearly everyone and spoke to a
stranger from the north, Chris from Olympia. I pointed out to Chris
all of the people whom I consider to be normal and a good riding
partner and warned him of others who are peculiar and are good riding
partners. Locally famous people Lois Springsteen and her husband Bill
Bryant were pointed out as notables as well as course record holder
Aaron Mason. Chris was saved from my attentions by the arrival of
Bryan Clarkson who has planned to ride with me.
I convinced Bryan to ride with me by sending him my entire ride
strategy sketch which consisted of quick stops on the way out, beer in
Boonville, a longish half-hour stop in Dimmick, a ride through the
night without sleeping and breakfast at Liverpool Lil’s at the finish.
As I offered to buy the beer Bryan was in. Basic milestones for the
ride other than getting beer were returning to Dimmick at dusk and
reaching Occidental at daybreak.
Being a small group of starters we strung out very quickly into ones
and twos, and from what I saw riders only were occasionally in groups
of four or more. More than once Bryan and I were joined by Tom
Haggerty and Chris from Olympia. In Point Reyes Station we stopped at
the Bovine for a cup of coffee and a day-old something. When I asked
for a receipt the owner remarked that I was one of those people going
to Fort Bragg and back. I confirmed her suspicion and thanked her for
her kind treatment of my cousin Russ Fairles last year. She said ‘Oh!
That poor fella slept in the post office for an hour before coming
here!’ I explained that post offices are warm, clean, always open and
usually have a hose bib on the side for water and so they are perfect
hotels for long distance cyclists. She guffawed and wished me luck. I
left by saying ‘See you tomorrow!’
Tom and Chris joined Bryan and I from Hicks Mountain through Petaluma
to Cotati, but I could not hold Tom’s pace so Bryan stayed with me and
let them go. While I was with Tom and Chris I was able to confirm (to
my everlasting joy) that Jan Heine’s last name is pronounced ‘hiney’
as in ‘hiney-ho!’ I can’t say hiney without giggling – I will have to
be careful if I ever meet Mr. Hiney. Oops.
The hour earlier start had the huge benefit of reduced traffic on the
101 corridor from Petaluma to Healdsburg – not a single monster truck!
There was some other fun ride occurring on our route with the
participants of that ride coming our way who all had the strange habit
of smiling and waving to us. We were definitely not in Marin County.
One other benefit to our route and start time is that we get to
Healdsburg before noon and it does not heat up to 90 degree
temperatures until we get to Yorkville. The climb out of Cloverdale
was simply hot and not burning hot. Bonus!
Boonville, with a beerfest underway was too crowded for a beer stop so
I announced a beer purchase in Philo. On the way there the
temperatures almost approached those of the 400, but there was always
a cooling breeze to save us. Nearing Philo two motorcyclists passed
us, one on its rear wheel.
The beer purchase at Philo was almost consumed on the front porch but
I had stupidly asked for permission to drink the beer when I bought
it. The cashier said she would check. I almost had the opener on the
cap when she poked her head out the door and said ‘you can’t drink
We split the beers between our handlebar bags and as we left Tom,
Chris and Joe Monahan joined us with a promise of beers in the
redwoods. The redwoods proved to be pretty far and we stopped at the
first good spot despite it being in full view of passing traffic.
Moments after stopping a fire truck with its siren blaring shoots past
and then an ambulance follows. Bryan sets his beers out on the ground
and goes behind a tree. I am just about to reach for one of the beers
to open it and a state trooper pulls off next to us siren blaring and
lights flashing. How did they know!
I quickly distance myself from the beers that are in plain view and
offer my assistance to the officers who have hopped out of their car.
I am careful to make sure that that the beer is not directly behind me
and start gesticulating to catch their eyes while mentally using my
Gedi Knight trick of ‘there is no beer here, this is not the beer you
want’. The officer says ‘everyone ok here?’ I am quick to affirm our
health and they say something about biker crash hop back in and speed
Man. That was a close one. I hate to lose beer.
We drink our slightly warmed up but still cool beers and speculate on
who could have been hurt and needed assistance. We each decide that it
just could not be someone from our club and hope we are right. Beers
consumed we get 500 feet down the road to the crash site and it turns
out it was the motorcyclists that passed us before Philo that crashed.
Cops should know that bikers are people on Harleys with no muffler and
that cyclists are people on bicycles. Knowing this would save them
At Dimmick I present Roland and Heath with the two unconsumed beers
and leave Chris and Tom behind to enjoy some hospitality. Joe quickly
catches up with us to enjoy the cooler temperatures of the coast.
The coast is enveloped in a dense wall of misting rain but there is a
tailwind to push us on to Fort Bragg. The coast also is the place
where we get to see the other riders returning from Fort Bragg. We
hoot on Aaron Mason at the big swooping switchback just north of
Albion – the only other rider I have seen this far south is Peter
Morrisey whom I met on the first bridge north of 128 which is another
mile south. Peter’s training ride resulted in a 28 hour finish and
Aaron as it turned out did the same time. Other swift riders we see
along the way are (I think) Tim, Bob, Joan and Brian.
My greatest accomplishment of the whole ride was beating Bryan in the
sprint for the Mendocino city limit sign. We both launch at the same
time and my single bike length advantage is only reduced by half! He
complains of being in the wrong gear just as I am thinking ‘cramp!’
but I hold him off! I have absolutely no energy after that effort, but
luckily Bryan and Joe are caught by a traffic light and I can close
the 200 foot gap that developed after my momentous and costly victory.
We enjoy a fairly quick stop at the Safeway where Bryan hogs the
bathroom applying new shorts and cosmetics or something that takes
forever. I skip the line of people hopping and holding it and wash my
face and hands at the sink in the employee break room. Our purchases
consist of more beer to carry to Dimmick and some cookies.
The return is highlighted with greetings to our Randonneuring friends
heading toward Fort Bragg and glimpses of bright blue sky just beyond
the fog and mist. We enjoy sights of the seaside cliffs on the way
back that we never see with the later start, so yet one more advantage
to the 5am start that I grudgingly have to admit to.
We attain my goal of reaching Dimmick in daylight with a bit to spare
and enjoy around 45 minutes of pampering and conversation from Jeff
Brittle, Heath and Roland. They all were so kind to us stinky
Bryan and I are joined by Joe again as we leave Dimmick and he stays
with us until the Yorkville Post Office where he sleeps. We continue
on into the endless nearly undifferentiated bumpy climby totally
silent star filled darkness to Cloverdale.
In Cloverdale we are joined by Masa, Richard, and Joan. Masa heads to
his hotel, and possibly Richard too, Joan needed a bit more time
having just arrived so we leave them all again.
We head off into the darkness to the info control on the other side of
Healdsburg. Then it is West Side Road down to Guerneville. This was
one of the tougher parts of the ride for me because we seemed to be in
a purgatory of endless bumpy climby twisty broken concrete without a
single landmark to judge our progress. I would have called on the
assistance of the Anima Sola to save me
but alas I left my wallet card at home and I probably would have been
dq’ed if anyone ever found out I received assistance from an outside
After a quick stop at the Guerneville Safeway we were approaching the
bohemian highway where the road would be closed for the bicycle race
later. Had I known a Slovak was going to win I might have laid down on
the side of the road to see them pass by in a blur nine hours later so
I could yell ‘Yakshemash’ at him, but you cannot do everything.
The sun rises to an overcast sky just north of Valley Ford slightly
surpassing my goal of sunrise in Occidental and raises a headwind for
the rest of the way back to the bridge. In Point Reyes Station I am
able to once again greet the owner a mere 25 hours later and she
offers to heat up my day old chocolate croissant – she was so nice.
The Holstein Hundred Century is taking place now so the roads are
filled with cyclists and the roadside is punctuated with attractive
girls with flat tires and rest stops with attractive girls ready to
offer refreshments. Focus! Focus, John you are almost home. I do know
I am in Marin County now as the passing cyclists do not waive and
Carlos hoots hello to us in Sausalito as he heads off to scout some
new La Routa trails and is followed by a challenging golden gate
bridge crossing and a maneuver through the detour that one can
actually ride a bike on. We arrive at the finish to greet Juliayn and
Mrs. Walker at 1020am.
Willy Nevin is there to chat as well and Bill Bryant shows up with the
drop bags from Dimmick. After about an hour of lingering Bryan and I
head off to enjoy a breakfast and a beer at Liverpool Lil’s and join
the natives out celebrating Mother’s Day. As we eat the sun comes out
and quickly starts to burn me and I feel sorry for those still out on
the road that have yet one more challenge offered to them before the
This ride I successfully experimented with a Mavic vision reflective
windvest and a poly jersey. I have not ridden a randonee in a poly
jersey or a windvest ever and to have a thin jersey for the Anderson
Valley heat was very helpful and the windvest was very comfortable.
For the night hours I substituted a short sleeve wool tshirt under the
vest for the poly and along with arm warmers and toe covers I was very
The other experiment was an abject failure. An ancienne once mentioned
that Preparation H saved him at PBP so I thought maybe it would save
me as well. I think perhaps Preparation H (I called it sometimes
‘magic elixir’ and sometimes ‘Preparation Haggerty’ at various moments
during the ride) should only be used after pain is felt and not as a
preventative. Bag Balm will have me right as rain soon. I hope.
Thanks once again Club! The challenge of doing the distance and doing
it comfortably and graciously keeps me coming back. I hope I make our
rides better for having participated and represented. I just need to
find the right magic elixir, although so far beer is pretty hard to