2014 SFR Orr Springs 600k

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Of course when I heard there was going to be an Adventure Series 600k I thought I want to do that! or maybe it’s more the I want to be able to say I’ve done that! Hard to tell which sometimes. Either way, it ended up on my calendar, and I registered for it.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

So then I had to ride it. Which I did. Not just a ROID (Ride Of Inappropriate Distance) but a RROID (Ridiculous Ride of Inappropriate Distance). Totally ridiculous. Tough. Awesome. Good times.

There’s a picture version, if you want to just look through to get the gist of what happened. Although by the time we got to Orr Springs Road it was dark, so there aren’t actually any pictures of the ride’s namesake.

THE LONG WINDED VERSION:

You know it’s no ordinary brevet when the info doc sent out to riders before the event includes this:

Blackberries. Sadly, the blackberries that engulf the roadsides of much of this course are not yet ripe.

oh yeah and this:

Warning. This is a difficult course that will challenge even the strongest riders.
A Garmin 500 recorded as much climbing (~6200m/20300ft) in the first 350Km as in the full Fort Bragg 600K. Total climbing (~9500m/31000ft per Garmin) is on par with many 1200Ks.
The course also has three stretches of dirt, totaling 23 miles. This should probably not be your first 600K (unless you have a strong track record on doubles, running ultra-marathons, etc.).

AND, (but wait there’s more) the creator of the ride, Max, will be at the start control, but will be out of the country when we (hopefully) finish the ride. hmn…. makes one wonder.

I debate about spending the night before closer to the start, since it’s super early, and do end up getting a motel room in Marin. If nothing else, it forces me to have everything ready Thursday, so I can take it with me when I go to work on Friday. Then all I have to do Friday after work is worry about what I’ve possibly forgotten. I mean eat, relax and get to bed early. Which I do, although it’s still light out when I go to bed, and in contrast to the usual motel room full black out creepy sensory deprivation curtains which would be awesome in this case, the ones I have won’t shut fully and the light crack is coming in just where I want to sleep. After some Al Pacino moments I remember I have a hair clip, which does stellar double duty as a curtain sealer.

There’s a few wake-ups during the night of the Is it Time yet? variety but I fall back asleep and then oh yep It’s Time the first of multiple alarms announces. Must figure out the Keurig machine which I’ve never used before to get coffee. Alrighty. I should get some points for that.

Rob’s arranged for parking at Sports Basement again, Sarah and Tony are already there when I arrive, there’s the debate about where, with the construction, we’re actually supposed to be. I think I end up in the same spot I had for the Fort Bragg 600k. Others roll up as I’m getting my bike out and making final preparations, and they park in the same row.

drop bag service

drop bag service

Eventually I’m ready, or as ready as I’m going to get, and so I ride up to the Toll Plaza. There’s a small cluster of riders milling about. The brevet card has an extra fold and panel this time, a first for me. Max has home-baked bread and Nutella. Well, the approval ratings are starting out in the plus column anyway. No where to go but Ukiah. He’s come by bike, and has the trailer for our drop bags. No wonder there was an emphasis in the info doc on small for the drop bag. People joke about him taking them all the way to Ukiah, which it does sound like he’d been considering, but since he has a flight to catch he’ll just be taking them in to the City to someone who will be driving them and then staffing the control.

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0400 is approaching, and Max gives a few last-minute cautions and encouragements. And, for what it’s worth, the fact that it was on this day 100 years ago that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated, which started WW1. On that note, we storm the bridge. Er, head north.

I’d been verging on chilly standing around, so it’s nice to get moving. This is the first time I’ve been on the East side on the outbound leg. Be not alarmed by the loud buzzer at the gate. Light fog, enough to collect and make the bridge deck a little slick. Careful careful careful around the towers. Descend into Sausalito and roll through town at a conversational pace. Patrick catches up. I find out later he’d started to ride off with his drop bag still on his back and went back to drop it off with Max.

There’s a bit of confusion as to whether to take the freeway on-ramp or the bike path, we all end up on the bike path. Wend our way through Tam Junction and on to Highway 1. Maybe it’s the early hour or the knowledge we’ve got many miles ahead of us, but no one really pushes the pace. Nice having company on the climbs, not so much on the descents, although probably just as well I don’t get going too fast, it’s still dark out. I don’t think I’ve ever been on this section of road on my bike in the daytime. Glad we don’t have to contend with traffic though.

Info control in Muir Beach, is it the beak can hold as much as the belly can or more than? Ugh I’ve never been a fan of the climb out of here, but today it goes better. Nice chat with Steffen, who’s riding his second string bike, as his usual Pink Swifty was stolen just a few days before. Rando spirit! He says his cue cards are a little messy since he was transcribing them on BART the night before. (I think. It was still pretty early.)

Cresting the climb, sound of ocean to our left, bright star (planet?) in the sky to the right over the shoulder of Mt. Tam, the silhouette just barely discernible in the first hints of dawn. So beautiful. Does it get any better than this? Oh another descent! There’s someone stopped taking pictures, first thought is that it’s Patrick, but then he doesn’t catch/pass me so must have been someone else. Turns out he, Tony and Sarah have actually gone ahead of the rest of us and then stop at the facilities in Pt. Reyes Station, but I don’t know that til they catch up to us north of town.

early light along Bolinas Lagoon

early light along Bolinas Lagoon

Bolinas Lagoon is stunning in the early morning light. Daybreak continues, but we’re now into the coastal fog. There’s still a nice group, and we have a brisk but civilized pace line up Highway 1. No one says anything about stopping, so we roll through Pt. Reyes Station.

The fasties catch us, we all roll along together for a while, then the legendary Aron Mason makes his move, zipping by with BFK tucked in behind. And maybe I need another cup of coffee, but it sure looked like he (Aron) was carrying a musette bag! I have the excuse of being on the inside to not try to jump on. Just as well, gotta remember to pace myself on these long rides.

Inexorable logistics being what they are, after a bit Patrick and I do end up at the front, and while he always seems to be happy up there, after a while I’m over it and rotate to the back. We’re in to the section of Highway 1 with more trees, and the fog has collected enough to drop down like rain now and again. One scores a surprisingly loud POINK direct hit to my helmet.

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Highway 1

Chat a bit with Eric M, on his first 600k. He likes a challenge, and whenever I’ve encountered him on other brevets he’s always seemed to be in good spirits. Today is no different. This ride isn’t so hard. We laugh. Yeah let’s talk about it again tomorrow.

Good group and pace, but I need a bio break. Patrick chides me That’s why we stopped in Pt. Reyes Station. YOU stopped, I wasn’t with you guys. Sharing my bagel seems to somewhat mollify him. As does letting him have the Tomales city limits.

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Tomales

Wow, the bakery isn’t open yet. Seems like it should be since we’ve been riding for a while, but that’s what happens when you start before early. As we’re climbing out of Tomales, Patrick notices a low growing yellow flower. Is that butter and eggs? Nope, I’m not sure what it is, but it’s not butter and eggs. I can’t believe it’s not butter and eggs. DOH! I walked right in to that one.

Still foggy, turn toward Valley Ford now, another boat goes by. Patrick is starting to wonder if we’re near a lake but before I can duh him realizes um yeah, that Pacific Ocean thing we were just riding next to is up ahead as well.

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Valley Ford

Angling inland from Valley Ford, and oh is it maybe the fog thinning? Why yes, that is a bit of blue sky. Cue dramatical music! The sun breaks through and we’re treated to a shiny blue sky.

the fog starts to clear

the fog starts to clear

Wild Flour is closed, making that decision for us. There is a waft of delicious scent of the impending goodness others will be enjoying. We forge on to Occidental, encountering a couple other riders along the way and finding most of the group in various stages of Control at the Bohemian Market.

CLOSED

CLOSED

OCCIDENTAL

Fluids and snacks provide the obligatory receipt, and while were stopped, some wardrobe adjustment goes on as well. I find my spare cue sheet for Steffen. Sounds like he writes the route on to index cards, which I imagine makes nice viewable chunks, and probably the act of writing it helps to get the overall idea of it into his head as well. However, the previous night’s transcription while on BART had been suboptimal.

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Folks roll out when they and their ride partner(s) are ready, splitting the group. Fun downhill on Bohemian Highway, with the temptation to just continue along it to cross the River. But the route says right on Main Street, so that’s what we do, debating the possible whys of the choice. It sure feels like we’re headed the opposite direction of where we want to end up, but then we pop out right at the bridge.

crossing the (Russian) River

crossing the (Russian) River

Roll out River Road. There’s a big tree down on the lines. A phone company truck is parked nearby. Uh, I think you found the problem.

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Here’s Austin Creek Road bump bump bump and the totem poles! Catch up with Metin and Roy for a bit, then I need another bio break. And snack.

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wave to Raymond’s

Raymond’s is open, but we ride by. Oh hey, sign says Cazadero Supply has bicycle tubes and tires for sale!

decisions, decisions

decisions, decisions

Onward and upward to the splendor of King Ridge. It’s gone golden since the last time we were here, but still amazingly spectacularly splendiferous. I never get tired of this. And, silly as it is, although I probably already have pictures from the exact same spots, I take more.

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the splendor and glory of King Ridge

So many trees to admire too, although we agree that there’s one Tree that’s the bestest. Oh and here’s a bunch of blackberry bushes. Blue dragonflies zoom and flit about, also seeming to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. See a cyclist going the other direction. Hey you’re going the wrong way!

blackberries

blackberries

The King Ridge Tree

The King Ridge Tree

Descent with an awesome view out to the ocean. What an inconvenient place for that to happen! I always think next time I’m going to stop and take a picture but so far it hasn’t happened.

fire truck parade on King Ridge

fire truck parade on King Ridge

Almost to Tin Barn and a fire department pickup truck coming towards us turns off into a field. A group of motorcyclists behind seems to be paying more attention to it off the road than the fact that there’s other traffic (us) on the road, but they seem to figure it out enough to not run us over.

Tin Barn

Tin Barn

Then the road narrows and there’s several fire engines headed towards us. We stop to let them by. And more come. I do the horn signal and one of them obliges me. And wait, there’s more. I ask the last driver if he’s the end. Nope, more coming. There’s a cow path on the bank parallel to the road, so I start riding on that. After a bit it goes side hill, and I decide I don’t need to wipe out in front of the fire engines. Although I suppose if one is going to take a spill, may as well be right where the first responders are. Hmn, wonder if any of them are single and cute. C’mon now, focus, there’s this bike ride thing you’re on.

Eventually they do seem to all have gone by, and the road widens a bit, so I get back on my bike on the road. Gah! Just as we get to Tin Barn there’s one more. And a couple higher up types with their SUVs are still there chatting. No, it wasn’t a parade for us, they didn’t know we were coming. Training. They don’t seem interested in chatting with civilians so I just thank them for their service and we carry on with getting our info for the info control. For the rest of the ride I’m hyper aware of fire trucks, and the fire truck sign and fire stations and one of us will point them out.

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Ride with Ernesto for a bit. I ask where his Viaje is. At home with a bottom bracket issue. His current bike is not entirely happy either.

Cattle guard lurking in a shady downhill corner, Patrick is additionally distracted by Metin and Roy by the side of the road just past it, Metin fixing a flat. As he hit it pretty hard, Patrick starts to wonder if he’s got a flat of his own. We roll on for a bit, then, yes indeed, it’s a flat. He starts to work on it when I suggest taking advantage of some shade nearby. Oh you’re so full of (pause) good ideas. While he’s fixing I visit another tree. Hey that kinda sounds like he’s banging on something with a rock. Apparently the rim got dinged as well. Not looking like it will be an ongoing reflatting issue, but does interfere with the braking a bit. Oh who needs front brakes? Or brakes at all? In the midst of this, Metin and Roy go by with Et tu, Brutus? from Metin.

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Someone seems to have moved Rancheria further away from where I think it should be, but eventually we get there and hang a left for the Coast. Watch out for the cattle guard on this descent! And part way down there’s a super stretch Escalade limo having difficulty navigating one of the steep sharp turns. There must be a sign not recommending this for RVs and large vehicles. Guess they missed it.

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Highway 1

No stopping at Stewarts Point today, just an immediate right into the headwind. Yay Patrick gets to be happy on the front. We catch Metin and Roy and they jump on. Holy smokes that’s some wind. It gets fiercely gusty on the bridge over the Gualala River. We’re passing in to our fourth county for the day but I don’t want to take my hand off the bar to get a picture.

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GUALALA(LA)(LA LA)

We decide to stop at the Surf Market again. Oooo! There’s a gelato cart in the parking lot. And BBQ! OK, focus. First things first, head upstairs to the bathroom. Fluids for the bottles and a small size water bottle that will fit in my jersey pocket, it’s a long way to Boonville. I had seen some other bikes outside, and Tom is there in the store trying to decide what to get.

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I’d been thinking about a corn dog, but Metin reminds me of the impending climb. Potato salad had also been sounding good, and I stay with that part of the plan, finding some with bacon and bleu cheese oh yummers.

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I have to go by the gelato cart to get to the trash can, and am unable to resist. He’s got four flavors, I taste the Caramel and the Peach and go with the Peach. Yum!

Patrick and I roll out first, it’s busier now that it’s summer, but we manage to get back across the Highway without incident. The hill at the north end of town comes quickly and feels a bit rude without much warmup. I do remember there’s the big metal dinosaurs at the top, and manage to get a snap of some of them.

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ROAR!

And here’s our exit, Pacific Woods. More rudeness. Er, fun climbing. This time, perhaps since I know they are there, the A-frames don’t seem nearly as surprising, interesting or numerous.

Alas the cars are more numerous on Old Stage Road, perhaps now that it’s summer the locals take this as an alternative to the tourist traffic on Highway 1. Most are considerate, although one drops the f-bomb and some other unintelligible ranting and flings a gum wrapper out the window. I wonder what the gum wrapper did to cause such vitriol.

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Not the Fish Rock we are looking for to the left, but that does mean the Fish Rock we want will soon be on the right. We stop for Patrick to futz with his front brake a bit, Tom, Metin and Roy catch up to us then we descend together. Roy takes off up the dirt, the rest of us settle in to our respective climbing paces. It’s not the same hero dirt we had in April, but not unclimable even being on 25mm tires. Too loose to stand much with this tire choice, but I’m not so much the stander anyway, so it all works out. I do have to pay more attention, and when my mind wanders a bit I end up on a bad line and slip out. OK, universe saying time to take a little break.

Seems to be more washboarded than on the previous jaunt. Ha. mini pump track, push down on the back side, you won’t even have to pedal. right.

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Fish Rockin’

Get going again. Ugh this is taking longer than I remember. Or longer than I think it should. Max said something about marking the distances to the three intermediate summits. What the * is he talking about? Breathe. Alternate motivational speakers in my head: Some day this climb is going to end (with apologies to) Lt. Colonel Kilgore and Where does this go? Up. Where to? The top. words of wisdom from Matt Wilson.

Dammit. Still not there. OK, mood check. Reality check. There are people who would love to be out here. Or on their bike somewhere. But can’t be. You are. Turn the pedals with a litany of their names. Breathe. Count. Just keep moving. At least it’s not any hotter. Oh there will be ice cream in Boonville. No you already had ice cream. OK, potatoes. Oh that sounds so good. Well they ain’t coming here to you so keep those cranks turning over.

Patrick has been suspicious that his rear tire was also a casualty of the Tin Barn cattle guard, and decides to stop and fix it. Being stopped helps some with my attitude. Then when we get going again I start a round of Top Five, which helps get me out of my head and pass the time. When it’s my turn I have to balance the talking and breathing thing, Patrick says I sound like I’m trying to keep a stammer under control. He wisely choses to be out of range of the arm of discipline while making this comment.

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yes no snow

Oh finally some descending! Have a stop to look for the snow and give my hands a rest. No snow today. Another stop for the curlicue sign. And back to the uphill thing.

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Bit more downhill, I don’t remember hitting anything in particular, but is it? Yes, the sad sad sound of air escaping from my front tire. Seems like perhaps a valve stem failure, but once I get the tube out maybe not. I can’t seem to find where the puncture is but there doesn’t seem to be anything in the tire, so eventually I let it go and just put a new tube in. We get it pumped up fine and on the way again.

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And the tease pavement and back to dirt and more climbing of course and Views! although that means we’re exposed out in the sun and did I say I’m glad it’s not any hotter? Patrick had strapped the water bottle he got in Gualala onto his rear bag and it’s squeaking like a fiend. Back on pavement, stays pavement now, and through the redwoods, Mailliard Redwoods State Natural Reserve that would be, and on to the Meadow and a WOOHOO descent to 128. The pavement isn’t the greatest, but there is a relatively new smoother strip that I mostly follow. I’m guessing it’s for a phone company cable, if so, thank you Ma Bell I take back one of my rants about you.

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In to the headwind toward Boonville, but Patrick takes the lead, there’s some super smooth pavement (SO appreciated at this point) thank you my tax dollars at work and potato wedges calling my name. The serpentine outcropping, no poppies today and no quail singing I Love You California. I don’t think I even know how that goes anyway.

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BOONVILLE

Group of folks here fulfilling the control and refueling for the next leg. I think we all know there’s a shorter way to Ukiah. We talk about the info control in Comptche, someone says couldn’t you get that off Google Earth?

I go inside for my potato wedges. WHAT???? NO POTATOES? Really? I’ve ridden how many miles and NO POTATO WEDGES?! I (throw myself to the floor and pound my hands and fists and wail and moan (virtually)) make do with potato chips. And Patrick shares his It’s-It.

Everyone else is ready to go before we are, and takes off when they are. We finish eating and bottle filling and get on the road ourselves as the storekeeper tends to the overflowing recycle bin. Hmn, wonder how much of that was from today’s rando crowd.

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The ground up pavement west of Boonville is still ground up. What are they waiting for?

Nice late afternoon light in the Anderson Valley, Patrick remarks on the numerous German names on wineries and whatnot. Funny, all the times I’ve been out this way and never noticed that. Wonder if it reminds them of part of Germany or is just coincidence.

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The apple orchard has overhead sprinklers going on the trees, we get a bit of the mist out on the road. Later hear from BFK that he’d gone and stood underneath them for a while.

bless you

bless you

128 is not super busy, but it’s still nice to make the turn off on to Flynn Creek Road. This is new to both of us, and turns out to be quite pleasant, wending along Flynn Creek and then up through the woods to Comptche. Last bits of sun and a long twilight. Pass the Holmestead. Haha. And someone has painted Male on their post box. Funny they are, out here. Well, what else are you going to do?

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Comptche

Climb. Oh yeah, there’s that. A big hill between here and Ukiah. Twilight is still lingering, and as we go up there’s occasional gaps in the trees that let us see some of the sunset color to the west. We’re not going to be making Ukiah in daylight anyway, so just settle in to a steady pace. Stop to add layers, and a bit further on to capture the last of the sunset.

straight outta Comptche

straight outta Comptche

At some point, I’m not exactly sure when we actually get on to Orr Springs Road, the ride’s namesake. One of those not so much or not obviously a turn and yet the road name changes.

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rando sunset

The pavement also morphs into a moonscape of potholes and patches of fantastically craptastic proportions. Even the potholes have potholes. I alternate between denial and acceptance, trying to find a smooth line amidst it all then giving up and just bumping along, then getting sick of that and so on.

On the plus side, there’s no moon and no ambient civilization light, so the night sky is amazing. Stars and stars and stars. And stars. Light from things that might not even be there anymore. How oddly comforting that is.

Uh oh, black and white critter by the side of the road. Careful, careful. Oh wait, it’s two ducks! One light colored and one dark.

Eventually get to the resort, although there doesn’t seem to be any sign indicating that’s what it is. I guess you’re just supposed to know. Coming all the way out here I suppose you would.

Climbing again, I need a nature break. Which it turns out to be, quite literally, with my lights off the stars reach out and bonk me over the head. Makes it hard to get going again.

Seems like there might be some good views from up here, but not so much to see in the dark. I’ll have to come back some time in daylight.

Patrick has his widget set to tell him the profile ahead, so he tells me what’s coming on the climbs. I think it’s mostly to torture me, but I have gotten sorta used to knowing what’s ahead. This too shall pass.

Indeed the lights of Ukiah appear in the distance. You just never know the things you’ll be glad to see. Big descent gets us to the north end of town. Although it is a bit jarring to return to artificial lights and traffic. Not that Ukiah is crazy busy at just before midnight, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen any cars, so the few that are out seem like a lot. They don’t seem to be expecting to see bicycles either.

UKIAH

There’s a McDonald’s, I can’t remember when the last time I was in a McDonald’s, but all of a sudden it sounds really good. Nope. Closed. As is the next fast food establishment. Oh, Taco Hell is open. Some warm food would hit the spot, but we’ve already agreed to stop at Safeway (it’s before the control, and I know once I get there I won’t want to backtrack) and there are things I want to get for tomorrow, and the thought of two stops just seems overwhelming. So we continue on. Omigosh when did Main Street get so long?

Just when I’m thinking someone’s moved the Safeway, there it is. I’ve been here before, I know the deli is to the right, but for some reason I go left, making a complete circumnavigation of the store before getting to some dinner options. Yeah maybe the brain isn’t 100%. Oh, carrot cake. Juice for tomorrow. Sushi. Oh look there is some warm food. No, I don’t think I need a whole chicken. Everything is starting to look good. Focus. OOO! Cheese wrapped in pepperoni. Let’s see, a yogurt for breffast. Last but not least, beer. Ugh really? IPA, IPA, IPA, some other ridiculous overhopped nonsense, IPA, who drinks all this?! Is there really nothing normal that I don’t have to buy a whole six-pack? Patrick notices there’s a Rogue Chocolate Stout. Ah, yes, thank you very much. That will do. Quite well.

Paper bag. One of the handles on Patrick’s bag breaks before we even leave the store. Alrighty then, guess I won’t be using those, don’t want to drop the beer. Roll up the top and hold on to that. It’s a bit awkward, fortunately it isn’t too far to the Motel 6.

The room is easy to find, Angela and her friend are very welcoming and get us signed in and deal with our cards. Oh they have snacks too! I didn’t even think of that. Some guacamole and chips really hit the spot, and I must be eyeing the soup cups covetously, Angela says they have hot water. Oh yes please, that would be awesome. She also gets our drop bags.

Roy is there, a bit wound up as his bike is broken. His fork failed. Fortunately within walking distance of the control, and not on the monster descent in to town. He also really wants to continue on with the ride. (It turns out that Steffen had decided he’d take a more direct route back to the start, so he lets Roy borrow his bike to finish the actual route.)

Eat, shower, set things out for tomorrow. Er, later today. I swear I packed another headband. Well I guess I’ll just have to use the same old sweaty one. (At least it dries out before I put it back on again. The helmet is still a bit moist.) No really, I know I packed it. Look again. Still no headband. Let it go. (I do find it later when I take something else out at the finish control.)

Debate about departure time. Patrick had done a spreadsheet and somehow had us stopped for 400 minutes in Ukiah. Uh, divide by 60… hmn. Where did that come from? Max has recommended leaving by 2 or 3, 4 am at the latest. Or maybe it was 5 am. Anyway, yeah more sleep would be nice, but I’d hate to not make the time limit because of it.

Which yeah, I’d been thinking it would be fine to just finish the ride, I didn’t really care so much about making the 40 hours, but now that we’re in to it, and it’s seeming quite possible, I do want to. Patrick is for more break time, I’m for less, we compromise on a 0330 roll out.

Asleep as soon as I’m horizontal. Oh crap, already? No, dammit, that was alarm on my phone from yesterday I forgot to turn off. Have to dig in my pack to get it out and shut it off. Schtoopid. OK, back to sleep.

Next alarm is The Alarm. Dress, pack up. Ugh, stomach a bit unsettled, glad I ate a bunch before I went to sleep. The motel very kindly has coffee available, but I just have some coffee candies I brought.

A couple other folks are up and about but not quite ready to roll. We head out. Left. Left. No, not Australian left. Real left.

It’s still dark out, but not too cold. At least that’s what I tell myself as I debate my choice of not putting the jacket on. Once we get rolling though I’m glad I didn’t. I’m also glad Old River Road is flat, letting us tick off some miles with relatively less effort. Wait, who put this hill here? I don’t remember there being hills on this road! Funny how relative things can be.

Not the greatest pavement, but generally not potholed all the way across the lane, and at this early hour there isn’t traffic to worry about so we can take a smooth line, wherever that goes. Not that we always do…. bump! Patrick apologizes for after-the-fact warning. It was small no harm no foul, so no worries. But it is all going in the report!

It turns into a running joke. We say bump after a bump. Bump. What? Oh nothing. Or Bump on some of those roads where how do you decide what is considered a bump? It might be easier to point out the not bumps!

Old River Road also seems to go on for longer than I remember it doing the last time I was on it, but eventually we do come to the roundabout. How many laps? Not even one for me, but knock yourself out. Patrick also sticks to the cue sheet this time.

Bit more on the road then the turn off to Old Toll. Nice having been through this before in daylight. Black and white critter, this time it is a skunk. And here we are on dirt again.

Old Toll Rd

sunrise on Old Toll Rd

Imperceptible fade in to morning as we wend our way up the steady gentle climb. This also is a bit dustier than in April, but doesn’t seem as much different as Fish Rock was to me. As it gets lighter we can see bicycle tire tracks. Patrick counts six. Seems plausible, although I’m a bit skeptical. Felt like we were the last to arrive at Ukiah, which in my head means we’d be the last leaving as well. Well if I were the Bike Whisperer I’d be able to look at the tracks and tell you the type of tire, what PSI they are running and how long ago they passed.

Oh should probably start getting some more calories in the system. Bagel Time! I get a bit overexuberant, it’s a bit dry and there’s that whole breathing thing too and things get a bit crossed up. Jeez, I did not ride all this way to choke to death on a Ukiah Safeway bagel! Manage to get things sorted out. Notes to self: smaller bites, chew.

Here’s the summit! Woot! Info control and a bit of a stop, yeah I guess we have been riding for a while. Finish off the bagel.

Oh my it gets a bit chilly on the descent. Keep moving and soon enough we’re in the sun and pedaling again.

Old Toll Rd

Old Toll Rd

Splendid early morning in Lake County. Or is it County of Lake? Anyway, what’s that, the fifth. And that will be it, close but don’t think we’ll get over into Napa.

beautiful morning in Lake County

beautiful morning in Lake County

Neither of us needs any supplies, so we forego Kelseyville and press on. Stop for wardrobe adjustment, OK I am a little sleepy now, bum a caffeine pill off Patrick.

Bottle Rock Rd

Bottle Rock Rd

It’s seeming like today’s temperatures will be warmer than yesterday, I’m glad we’re getting up Bottle Rock earlier rather than later in the day. The lower sun angle really makes the obsidian outcroppings sparkle. Patrick stops and picks up a piece.

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This time I know it’s not uphill all the way to Cobb, which makes the climb seem to pass a little faster. As does more Top Five discussions. The rippin’ descent into Cobb Mountain puts Max’s approval rating back in the plus column.

As does the descent from Cobb to Middletown. Yeah that puts a smile on my face!

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MIDDLETOWN

Hardester’s for the control. No time for panini today. Oh hey, these Starbucks coffee drinks have 290 calories! Yay! I can use those.

Roll out of Middletown, headed for the last dirt segment. Nice views of Mt. St Helena ahead. Patrick forgoes the single track this time.

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Here’s our exit, Western Mine Road. Why Western? We’re on the east side of the ridge here. Patrick hypothesizes it’s the name of the mine or the mining company. OK, well sure, as far as general area we are in the West.

Western Mine Rd

Western Mine Rd

An initial bit of pavement, oh I’d forgotten there’s some steepies on this. Lush green lawn off to the left, I bet it would feel wonderful to lie down on that. Just a few minutes. Really. Look away look away look away.

Shade feels nice though, and here’s the end of the pavement. Looser and dustier than the last time we came through, but I’m still able to ride it.

Again there’s more traffic than I’m expecting, three or maybe four cars and a dirt bike in the threeish miles to the top, which yeah isn’t heavy, but when you’re thinking it should be more like zero it does seem like a lot. The dust they kick up is a bit of a drag, and one car comes up just as we were getting to a corner I would have preferred to take the wider, more gradual approach on, but I manage to grunt it up the steep inside line. And in between cars it’s quite lovely.

Hey that sounds like a bicycle behind me. It’s BFK! Hey where did you come from? Breakfast burritos in Middletown! Awesome. It’s his first time on this road, and he asks about what’s left. I’m thinking we’re getting close to the top, but don’t want raise any false hopes. Yeah, probably best to say there’s a bunch more steep stuff. Although on second thought yes this is the last little bit.

Patrick is there already, hanging out and chatting with a rider who’s come up the Ida Clayton side from Calistoga. He heads back down and Eric M. arrives up the dirt climb. There’s a bit of debate about whether it’s actually a speed limit, since it’s on a yellow sign. Whatever, just put the damn number on your card.

We’re all feeling a better about the prospects of finishing within the time limit now the last dirt and last big climb are done. At least I am. Gotta stay focused though, keep moving. Wouldn’t hurt to keep some cushion. Yeah, I’d like a cushion. On a sofa. Eric still has his sense of humor.

Patrick and I are ready to roll, BFK and Eric take a bit more of a break, but I figure we’ll see them again before the finish. (Good thing I didn’t bet on that!) I know the big descent doesn’t come right away, but today the bumping along the ridge seems to stretch on interminably. Oh there’s the trout farm. Ha, entertaining mental image of a field with rows and rows of fish. Hmn, would the head or tail end be poking up?

view from Ida Clayton Rd.

view from Ida Clayton Rd.

Finally, here we go! Whee! Yes I see you view, no I’m not going to stop. OK fine, just once. GAH! pothole. Happy thoughts happy thoughts. Yay, no sad sad sound of air escaping. Whew. Oh now there’s a Toyota coming up who thinks he’s on a closed course. I’ll just take it easy here, yes I will. Get to the bottom of the hill in one piece, shall we?

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128

128 deja vu. Ha, was that just a week ago? A truck pulling a horse trailer goes by. They give us a fair amount of space as they go past, but the horse decides to empty its bowels at that, of all moments. It doesn’t all stay in the trailer. Really?!

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Chalk Hill

Ah, here’s our exit! Chalk Hill. Keep rolling. Oh hey, that big blue pickup… Bob Redmond! A ways down the road there’s a cooler by a driveway. It’s on a hill so I’m going slow enough to see it says SFR OS600 on the top. I don’t feel like stopping though. Patrick missed the sign, after I tell him we speculate that Bob must have left it. A ways on he wonders if that means there was beer in it. You could go back and check. He doesn’t.

I’m not feeling unalert, but apparently am not be completely sharp, as I’m following I get a bit close and touch wheels. I do manage to correct and not hit the deck. Whew. OK, be extra careful now.

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From Chalk Hill cut across south of Windsor and hook around the airport. Getting a bit toasty. I’m navigating now. Not sure that this would be my first choice of how to get to Sebastopol but I guess it is the most direct. Yikes where are all these people going on River Road? Patrick gets across but I’m a bit behind and not quite sure there’s enough of a gap for me too and so I wait. No need to get smashed flat at this point in the ride.

Seeing other riders here and there. Someone ahead of us. Is it another rando? Patrick is chasing. Not that this is a race. Nope, just some random person, out for a ride.

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Cross the Laguna and left on to High School Road. At the start of the ride Patrick would look back to check on what I was doing at the city and county signs, as well as taking pictures. I wasn’t challenging so at some point he stopped looking. This time he’s got the camera out and I can’t resist making a jump. Even with that I’m still not sure I took it.

Oh if I ever do Terrible Two again remind me to not feel bad at this point. There will have been much less mileage and climbing and I will be almost at the finish. Right. Roll past Analy and on to the Safeway.

SEBASTOPOL

Greg is here! Say hello, all I can understand of his reply is High School Road. He seems on a mission to get going again, and I need to use the facilities so I don’t hang around to try to decode the unintelligible mumblings.

Oh yeah one of those cheese and pepperoni sticks would hit the spot, and even though it’s warm out the chicken noodle soup seems really good. I want a ginger ale too, there’s none cold and the one I do find is bigger than I’m going to drink, but I get it anyway.

We pull up a wall by the cart parking. It’s pretty empty, after we’re there for a bit one of the attendants starts bringing carts back from the parking lot. I think he’d prefer we weren’t there, but he doesn’t say anything so we just finish eating and refill our bottles.

Local knowledge comes in handy to get us out of town, I hear later that others had gotten a bit lost on this section. Mix of apple orchards and vineyards, view back to Mt. St. Helena. Bloomfield Road one of those hardly even notice with fresh legs but today seems like a climb. Yes, there is actually a Bloomfield. Don’t blink though.

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Bloomfield ahoy

Dairy country now. The rudeness of Carmody. Seriously, Max? Try to not think of Wilson Hill with dread. Debate about possible tailwinds to come. Folks are out at Circle S, pedal faster they’re shooting wow that is reeely loud when you don’t have any hearing protection on.

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Oh I’m getting that tailwind feeling! YES!!! We sail down Tomales Petaluma Road and on to Chileno Valley. Oh was that it for the tailwinds for today? And who put this climbing on this road? I’m lagging. Hey maybe eat something? Yeah, that calories thing. And oh right, there is that dog leg and here’s our tailwind again. We see quite a few people riding the other direction, into the wind. Patrick wonders why you’d ever go that way if you didn’t have to. Hmn, yeah. Well maybe it’s the start of their ride. I see a friend from Santa Rosa. Oh they probably went and did Marshall and now they’ve got to get back home.

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Hey! Bob Redmond again. This time on his bike. He’d ridden with some folks over Ida Clayton way after we’d seen him on Chalk Hill, then came out here and been up Wilson Hill with Tony and Sarah, and says he saw two other randos! Patrick gets pretty excited that there’s only four people in front of us, and that it sounds like they’re not far ahead. We have a nice chat, and ride together to Bob’s truck. He’s got water, which is nice, as I’ve been thinking I’ll have to stop somewhere before the bridge, and am not so excited about that. Not that there aren’t plenty of places to get water, I’m just having that feeling of wanting to keep moving and be done with this thing.

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Chileno Valley Rd

OK, Wilson Hill. Just put it in a low gear and ride up it. Right. Ugh. Think happy thoughts. Ugh. At least not bad ones. Patrick is counting down to having climbed the equivalent of Mt. Everest. He’s very excited and stops and takes a picture of his magic widget showing the number. If the word whoop-de-f*ing-do hadn’t already been invented… um yeah, that’s pretty cool.

view from Wilson Hill

view from Wilson Hill

Yep, up. To the top. Great views from here. Wow Mt. St. Helena looks small. OK, the info control, past the top, I’m pretty sure I know the answer but slow and stop. Minus points, Max, that really messes up the descent.

Not exactly smelling the barn, but the first whiffs. Hicks Valley, oh we could have stopped at the Cheese Factory. Duh. Yay the Nicasio hill is the easier direction going this way. Eat more, there’s still a ways to go. Returning to so-called civilization. Yeah the more cars on the road thing. Is that a rando ahead? Bumps out of Nicasio over to the golf course, Patrick says he likes these now. What’s changed? Getting stronger. He keeps me posted on our total climbing elevation. Yeah thanks.

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Downhill to Drake, Patrick makes it across, again I’m not quite sure there’s enough of a break for me too and stop and wait. Yes that is Greg ahead of us. Wait, where did he go? I’m thinking maybe a side trip to Woodacre for supplies, then he pops back out on the road in front of us. Must have been a bio break. He warns us his speed has been fluctuating. No worries, it’s been a long ride.

The nicer direction on White’s Hill too. And we catch a break in traffic for the descent. In to the wiggle now, and smelling the barn. I’m never too excited about this last bit, but it’s got to get done. And what can change? Get stronger. Ha. Yeah, what else. My attitude? Right. Dread in advance and then limp up the hills, or take it as it comes and ride it.

OK, push it a little here. Camino Alto, steady steady, still not to the end. Whee downhill oh miss the light. Waiting, waiting finally it turns and we get through and over to the bike path. Yes we’re going to make it, we’re going to make it. Late afternoon Sausalito is mercifully not ridiculously overrun with tourii.

Last climb on Alexander. Let’s finish this thing off. Like you mean it. What are you worried about, that it’s going to hurt? At 380 miles and 30something thousand feet of climbing, really? That seems kinda silly at this stage in the game. Yeah that’s a point. Not sure if it’s a good one or not, but what the heck, the faster I get up this hill, the sooner I’ll be done. So I get on it. I don’t think of it at the time, but my loud breathing apparently made the guys wonder if I might blow a gasket. I should have told them to go on without me if necessary. Greg says something about go ahead for an under 38 hour finish, but he ends up sticking with us.

After all that, it doesn’t. Hurt that is. And it’s not about the time. Who knows what, if any difference to that the extra effort made. And, who even cares? It is, at the end of the day, just a bike ride. But for a few moments all the chatter in my head stops, it’s peaceful and quiet, and the world is distilled down to a complete clarity and purity of NOW. A totally unexpected Gift.

And there’s the bridge and back to reality and don’t crash into any Blazing Saddles or wipe out going around the pillars and curlicue around and under and oh yay there’s the finish. Warm welcome from the volunteers, and wow, yes, we did it! Doesn’t quite seem real but I sign my brevet card and hand it over with the receipts. No Cup Noodles, but the bagel and cream cheese is pretty tasty. And it feels good to sit down. And hang out and welcome the other riders in. Spend just a little more time in the bubble of stupidity of the RandoNation.

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In Gratitude:
Max, for devising this amazingly beautiful, challenging route. See Happy/Horrible. I’m still not sure whether to kiss him or punch him the next time I see him. Rob and Sports Basement for a spot for my car while I was off on this silly bike ride. Angela and her friend for drop bag service and staffing the control at Ukiah. Jenny and Dave and everyone else who helped at the finish. All the other riders for being out there, it helps to know I’m not the only one. And especially to Patrick, for being such a gracious ride buddy.

Big WOOHOOS to: Eric M for completing this as his first 600k! Steffen for setting off on a bike he’d gotten together last-minute after his usual bike was stolen, and then lending the bike to Roy to finish. Roy for amazing timing of fork failure, and finishing the ride on a borrowed bike. Catherine, for being in town from Colorado and wanting to “get some time on the bike” over the weekend before a bunch of meetings. This 600k was what was on the schedule and so she signed up! Despite a late start and some navigational issues she continued on course to Ukiah, but then chose a more direct return on the second day. Roland, for going at it on his recumbent! And really to everyone who was out there.

Even if you aren’t interested in it as a 600k, it’s available as three 200ks if you’re the getting credit type. Or you can choose your own adventure as subset(s) of the route.

If you didn’t get enough, here’s Patrick’s version. And if you’re curious what people rode.

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Ride date: June 28/29, 2014
[Elapsed time to ride report: 23 days]
wpk (words per kilometer): 13.8 (not counting captions)

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