Apr 23, 2012, 5:35:47 PM4/23/12
to San Francisco Randonneurs
The only thing worse than riding to the start of a SFR randonnee in
full rain gear or with all of your cold weather clothes on is riding
to the start in just a short sleeve jersey and shorts. When it is
pleasant at 5am in SF you know it will be most unpleasant elsewhere if
you leave the coast by more than a couple of miles.
With the newly won popularity of our club the group of 50 riders
seemed rather sparse and made me wonder where everyone else was, but
on the other hand I recognized nearly every face I saw at the start
and it warmed my heart (needlessly as there would be plenty of heat
later) to see almost all my cohorts present to receive a nod or a prod
I am lucky enough to stay with the lead group until the bike path
north of Sausalito and then enjoy some quiet time on my own and wait
for the long procession of people passing me for the rest of the ride.
I do not have the quickest pace but I ride the way Kitty Goursolle
taught me by example and that is to ride your own pace and don’t
linger at the controls. This way I hopscotch with five or six other
riders for the whole ride, they pass me on the road, and I pass them
at the control.
Hicks Mountain and Wilson Hill cause us to bunch up a bit and I get to
ride with my fleche-mates Ian K-B and Gabe Ehlert from here all the
way to Bodega. Chileno Valley is always a treat even with a stiff
headwind but this year the air is calm and the pond is mirror smooth.
At Bodega a customer is paying in pennies, or writing a check or
possibly trying to pass some West Marin $3.00 coins. Whatever it was,
it took about 5 minutes with a line of maybe twenty of us (mostly)
patiently waiting for our stamp with the screaming face on it so we
may move on. I drank my Perrier water before I got to the register.
I did not buy much because nobody wants to carry more than they have
to up Joy Road – at least nobody who has ridden it before. Mentally I
plan my whole 400k around this hill and the rest is cake. A hot dry
dusty cake sprinkled with wonderful scenery and monster trucks, but
cake is cake.
The finest slice is the descent from Occidental to Monte Rio. I love
this descent! Pedaling flat out (just a 44x11) I lead a small group of
riders and one lingering Porsche down the hill until it flattens
enough and I slow and let them by. So much fun! The hill leaves me in
such good spirits I wish today was the 600k but that changes soon
Ian K-B’s Pop is there at the Safeway like always on the 400 and I get
to exchange a few comments before Ian arrives and steals the show.
After purchasing a Gatorade and a six-pack of safeway brand ensure I
sit out on the concrete to mix up my bottles of Gatorade with my
perpetuum and Pocari Sweat powder. Mmmm Pocari Sweat.
I pre-open my safeway ensure now because they have a tough foil seal
under the cap that is hard to open when you are riding (no I have not
tried to yet) and as a bonus the bottles are square instead of round
so I bet I could carry maybe eight or nine of em now.
I head off into the heat and it is all just a blurry haze of beautiful
green hills, bright blue cloudless sky, wildflowers and car loads of
girls in bikinis until I get to Hopland.
Hopland is more Gatorade with new flavor for me Lemon Lime Strawberry.
Very striking, sort of like some of the hard candy I used to eat as a
kid and a slice of the famous pizza. Other than the pizza, the only
other ‘food’ I had was my six pack of ensure for the ride. I
anticipated getting a cooling headwind when I left Hopland, but alas
the wind was hot and did no cooling. I rode without a hat under my
helmet and without my knickers. It felt like I was riding in my
underwear but no one seemed to notice my impropriety.
By Geyserville I hook up with Carlos Duque, my riding buddy from last
year’s all volunteer ride SR series and we end up finishing the ride
together. We are skirting the west side of Santa Rosa by dark and my
old friend from past randonnees the white diesel monster truck slows
to greet us with a cloud of black smoke as the driver accelerates
away. From past experience I know I can easily hold my breath until
the cloud disperses and I also know that this driver at least passes
us at a safe distance and does no other evils.
The lowering temperatures raise all our spirits as we approach
Petaluma. At the end of Stoney Point Road the traffic light holds us
up and Carlos and I remark that Willy Nevin will soon be eating pie
and drinking coffee at the Denny’s on this corner.
Santa Rosa has never made much of a positive impression on me, but
Petaluma always seems to have something about it that makes it not so
bad. This time the nice thing was seeing all of the young couples
passing through the Safeway out enjoying the warm evening.
I kept expecting to need to put on more layers for the trip back to
the bridge but that was never necessary. It was warm enough for bull
frogs to be out – I cannot say I have heard bull frogs on the 400k
Another first for me on this ride, I did not eat any snacks at the
finish control. After greeting Rob Hawks and signing in, I swiped a
ramen and two cookies and dashed home through the bar time crowds and
taxis for a shower and a cushioned chair that is wider than my butt
and reclines to consume my ramen and consider the events of the ride.
The 400 used to be the coldest ride I have ever experienced, and now
it is also the hottest. Despite the extremes of temperature and the
intimidation of Joy Road that this course offers it is also one
randonnee that I will always look forward to because I know that it
will have some new challenge for me to learn from and some old
challenges to master. Thanks Todd T., Rob Hawks and all the