2015 SFR Healdsburg/Russian River 300k (Workers’ Ride) (R3)

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Short version:
Great company – a fine mix of awesomeness and asshattery – along with splendid weather made for a memorable day of cycling.

The rest of the story: (or much more of it anyway)
Ten (! for a workers’ ride, and quite different from last year’s two) of us met up for the vaguely inappropriate start time of 0600. Had a gloriously quiet passage over the bridge. As we climbed up to Conzelman Patrick said, “that was more elevation gain than the entire ride last weekend.” Heh.

First bit of color as we rolled through Sausalito. The lights of the City twinkled across the Bay. I love having it to ourselves. Out the bike path, oh! there’s a roundabout now. Camino Alto, I thought I’d heard they were resurfacing the south side, but it didn’t seem to be the entire roadway. Nice that the worst of the potholes are getting filled in at least.

Regrouped at the stop light at the bottom of the descent, then as folks were chatting and sorting themselves out as we got going again I availed myself of the Larkspur town limits sign. OK, it’s on now. The rest of the wiggle passed quickly with other city limits sprints (my early lead was soon erased) and conversations with various members of the group.

For some folks it was their first time up the new shoulder on White’s Hill. We regrouped near that top, as Jason pointed out it would be nice to roll down the valley together, and it’s difficult if not impossible to bridge up to someone who gets ahead of you on that descent. We got a good train going, and resisted the pull of making the familiar right turn onto Nicasio Valley Road. I was riding sweep, but knew the Forest Knolls sign was coming and started to head toward the front. I figured everyone else knew as well, or saw me coming, so took a total flyer, way too early and got reeled in. Lagunitas was soon after, and no dice for me there either.

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The sprints had split the group a bit, I thought we’d all collected together again going past the Inkwells, but the frisky boys on the front couldn’t help themselves on the swoopy roller coaster through Samuel P. and at some point we realized we were down a few. Well, there was a turn coming up, we’d stop there. It was nice to keep moving, since it was a bit chilly in the shade of the redwoods. It felt good to break out in to the sunshine.

We regrouped at Platform Bridge Road and turned inland toward Petaluma. Climbed up to Nicasio Reservoir, enjoyed seeing it was still spilling. Steffan did a practice run for his secret control duties. As we rolled along by the reservoir, the only clouds/fog we saw all day – a few bits drifted around with the shining sun and made the scene ridiculously picturesque. Any grumblings about being up at the BCOD were totally vanquished.

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Another climb, everyone went their own pace then we regrouped on the other side. As we rolled past the Cheese Factory, someone noticed their signboard saying sandwiches. Too early for a sandwich. I should stop and get some food there someday though. Patrick pointed out the pond (AKA Goosepoop Pond) was like a mirror. Remarking on how still it was actually did not jinx us, we had a very mild day, windwise. (Aside from the hot air from some of the members of the group.)

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The countryside was beautifully green, with splashes of yellow mustard flower starting to emerge. Up again, and regrouped overlooking McEvoy Olive Ranch. Thoroughly enjoyed the descent, and the last bit in to Petaluma seemed to go much faster than it does when I ride it solo. I’m not a big fan of riding through downtown Petaluma, and we were going to go a slightly different way, but then it looked like the drawbridge was up, so we went back to Plan A. I just kept thinking happy thoughts about getting to Safeway.

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Some people hit the sushi already, it still seemed a little early to me. As we were starting to gear up to leave there were a few pieces left, BFK gestured to them and started verbalizing (I think to offer them around) but only sounds came out, no words. C’mon Bryan, use your big boy words. The semi-random conversational noises became one of the running jokes for the day.

Again, the passage up McDowell and Petaluma Hill were greatly eased by the congenial company. I hadn’t seen the new Friedman’s from the street side before, and it looked like there’s a bit of a shopping center with other stores as well. Patrick turned in to the Lagunitas parking lot, but no one took the bait. I always kinda forget there’s a bit of a rise before Santa Rosa, and you get a good view across the plain.

As we rolled in to town we caught up with an older gentleman rider, It’s like being in the Tour of Belgium again, but I’m 85 years old. He jumped on and rode with us a few blocks.

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Libby got a flat and Jason had to manhandle her rack. The rest of us had a scenic rest stop at the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens. A couple of people had heard his name, but no one really knew who he was or what he did, so we had our learning moment for the day. (With my dad being a gardener, he seems like common knowledge, but that’s the funny thing about common, it isn’t necessarily. He actually brought us up to the Home and Gardens once when we were kids.)

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People were talking about a Pliny (the Younger) stop, but that quickly evaporated when they saw the block long line. Jason made disparaging remarks about Santa Rosa. (Yes, he knows I live there.) Heh, well I could just take my toys and be home in a few minutes. So there. Then he had a Happy Valentine’s Day message for me – LUBE YOUR PULLEYS. IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU HAVE A F-ING BIRD SANCTUARY IN THERE.

We’d stuck together well from Petaluma, but on the north side of Santa Rosa got split up a bit. Rearranged to put those who were flagging a bit right behind BFK and Patrick. Tell them to slow down, if you need to, so we can keep together. And listen to them, boys! Don’t get all chitty chatty and ride off and forget you’ve got folks trying to follow…

There was a construction sign that Old Redwood Highway was closed in Windsor. A few people either didn’t see or didn’t believe it and went to find out for themselves that indeed, the road is closed to through traffic. The detour was well-marked though, and not too far out of our way – just taking the other two legs rather than the hypotenuse of the triangle.

As we rolled toward Healdsburg I had a nice chat with Juliayn about Codex. She’s a bookbinder! Perhaps the only inhabitant of the intersection of randonneuring and book arts on my Venn diagram.

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Approaching Healdsburg there were more road closed signs at the bridge, but this time there was, in fact, a way through for bikes and pedestrians. Only closed to motor vehicles during the construction.

Safeway control #2 – many of the group got sushi, but there were other selections too, and I felt like ice cream, so I got an It’s-It. Well, I actually had to buy a box of 3, but had no trouble finding homes for the other two. We weren’t going to make it to the Marshall Store before it closed, so I bought a card to post to Señor Hawks. I couldn’t believe they didn’t have any Valentine’s Day cards for RBAs of Awesome. Nothing particularly humorous either, mostly “To Wife” or “To Husband” bunch of sappy romantic crap. Well I suppose that could have been funny. Found one that wasn’t too bad, then was actually kind of surprised that no one edited it.

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Relaxed and ate outside in the pleasant sunny day. The Girl Scouts were out selling cookies, Patrick said one of the chaperones gave him the stink eye as he drank his Racer 5.

Denise and Ann left before the rest of the group, which became a pattern for most of the rest of the ride, with Ann in particular wanting to keep moving. It was her first 300k, AND she’s coming back to riding from radiation treatments in the not too distant past. Afterwards she made an offhand comment about some pain, but during the ride there were no indications. Truly amazing. Great upbeat attitude, and she was still smiling at the finish. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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The cruise down Westside was splendid. More beautiful green, glimpses of Mt. St. Helena over the vineyards, relatively new buttery smooth pavement, pleasant sunny skies, and, all things considered, not much traffic. Libby was slowing down a little, Patrick and I hung back and rode with her. She was still moving along well though, so I was surprised as we approached River Road and she said she was going to go left rather than right. She’d decided to call it a day and head to a friend’s in Santa Rosa rather than continuing on with the rest of the ride.

Denise and Ann were still ahead somewhere, but the others were waiting at River Road. We had a consult, discussing Libby’s change of plans, and Steffan had suggested a stop at Stumptown Brewery. Libby rallied to continue on to Stumptown, Steffan, BFK, Jenny and Patrick also stopped there. Jason, Juliayn and I rolled on. We made a brief gas station convenience store stop for cold caffeinated beverages. There was a woman excited to have won $100 on a scratchers ticket. Don’t spend it all in one place. Juliayn noticed an artist set up on the sidewalk across the street. We took a quick spin through the Safeway parking lot just to make sure we weren’t missing Ann and Denise. (When we did catch up with them it turned out they had stopped there, but then realized it wasn’t a control and gotten on the road again.)

As we went by the sign for Old Cazadero Road Jason gave it the middle finger, then Juliayn (behind him) gave it the thumbs up. I brought up the rear with a good laugh about that. Traffic was heavier here, with lots of people heading out to the Coast. I tried to white noise the sound into running water. think river think river. Just past Cazadero Highway and someone yells at us to “RIDE SINGLE FILE”, which we were. Well, Jason and Juliayn were for sure. I was not directly straight line behind Juliayn, but I was behind her, and we were all to the right of the white line, so I’m not sure what the yelling was about. Why be so hostile? It’s a beautiful day!

Still no sign of Denise and Ann, I started trying to do the rando math word problem, but I didn’t know how long before us they had left, or what anyone’s rate of travel was, so I didn’t get too far in figuring out when we’d see them again. Jumped out and I’m not quite sure, but I think just edged out Jason for Duncans Mills. Took a turn on the front, and a little further down the road started to see another cyclist. Is that them? At first it looked like just one, but as we got closer it was two, and the two we were looking for! We updated them on the latest developments and continued on toward Highway 1.

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The coast was the trifecta of ridiculously splendid weather, 3-day weekend and Valentine’s Day. (Gee honey, let’s go to the beach today! (No one else will have this idea…)) Amazing views, OOO! iris in bloom, lots and lots (and lots) of traffic. I was on the front as we approached Bodega Bay, and figured the cars would preclude a sprint, but there was a small break in traffic just before the sign, which Jason took advantage of. At Diekmann’s, the control in Bodega Bay, I heard someone say it had taken them an hour and a half to drive from Sebastopol.

OH! Corn Dog!!! The man asks if I want regular or jalapeño cheese. Um, just regular, please. I was wondering how he could tell them apart, and apparently not very well, since the one I got did have jalapeño and cheese. Not so much that it seemed like I’d be tasting it the rest of the ride, so I didn’t bother trying to swap it. Juliayn got some pizza, which she said was The Best Pizza, although she did admit she’d never had it without also having ridden a ways before eating it. What is that they say about hunger being the best sauce?

The Brewery Tour caught up with us there and once everyone was fed and watered we were back on the road. I think BFK may have been still hoping we’d make the Marshall store before it closed, but it was heading past 4 o’clock already and the distance to go, yeah… No chowda for you!

As we rolled out Steffan had a great story about a gruff man (dad/uncle/maybe grandpa?) and small boy in the store. The boy had been transfixed by the candy aisle, and asked what they were for. The man said it was for fat kids. There was some salt water taffy at the register, and again they boy wanted to know what they were for. Fish bait was the answer. (Guess he didn’t want to buy him candy? or have an argument about not buying candy?) So, what was the man buying. 2 PBRs and 2 orange sodas. I wonder if the boy asked what those were for. And if he did, what the man said.

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The coastal rollers spread the group out as we headed south. Fortunately much of the traffic turned on to Bodega Highway or stayed on Valley Ford while we continued on Highway 1. Heading into Tomales I had a nice bit of alone time in the beautiful twilight. We regrouped at the store in Tomales and suited up for night riding.

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The final glow of daylight was glinting on a peaceful Tomales Bay as we hit the Coast. Amazing, but not the thing I’d be able to get in a picture. Mind picture. Rolled along in the deepening dark to the control at Marshall.

I had just the right amount of clothes for when I was riding, but once I stopped I could quickly feel myself getting chilled. I debated a bit, then went inside the Post Office. It felt almost obscenely warm, and I hoped I didn’t regret the respite. Once everyone arrived and we’d posted the card to the RBA of Awesome, we were on our way again shortly. It actually wasn’t bad coming out of the warm lobby, and once I was moving again I was fine.

We continued the serene cruise down the coast, marred only by one yeller from a car. Turned on to Point Reyes Petaluma Road, which seemed surprisingly trafficky. Folks heading in for a night on the town in Petaluma? Who knows.

Oh, maybe to the party in Nicasio! Flashing lights and music blaring from the Druid’s Hall. Never seen that before. Some sort of event, none of us thought to crash it, or go over and ask what it was. We regrouped by the Rancho, and settled in for the final push.

The heart on Nicasio Valley Road was lit up again, which was nice to see. I’d been thinking about how good a cup of coffee would be for the last I don’t know how many miles, both for the caffeine and for something warm. Getting to where the street lights started at the top of White’s Hill helped some with the alertness part of it, but I was still thinking about a cup of coffee.

Then (cue rapture music) OH THANK HEAVEN! The welcoming glow of 7-11 at Oak Manor. The guys had gotten ahead sprinting for Fairfax, but there were others behind me, and we were planning to regroup at the corner by the Coffee Roastery. I couldn’t think of anything there where I knew for sure I’d be able to get a cup of coffee, and I figured even with stopping I wouldn’t hold up the regroup much, if any, so, bird in the hand and all, I pulled in.

The clerk squinted and shielded his eyes. Oops. I’d forgotten to turn my head lamp off. I didn’t want to think about how long the pot of coffee had been marinating, so I cut it with a bit of cocoa. Even without that palatability enhancement it probably would have hit the spot. Warm. Caffeine. Aaah…

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Regrouping in Fairfax ended up being a little more involved, as the guys had (probably gotten sick of standing around in the cold) noticed the pizza place next to the Roastery was still open and ordered the last slices. They (the slices that is) came out just as the last of the group was arriving and we all enjoyed some hot cheesy goodness. Jenny made a jaunt to the 7-11 on BoFax Road (which I’d totally forgotten about) for some cocoa and other energy boosters for people.

The wiggle unfolded, as it does, with folks smelling the barn to different degrees along the way. It feels like you’re almost done, but it always takes longer than you think it’s going to. The best anyone could figure, BFK was one point up in the standings (there’d been ongoing discussions over the course of the day for various systems including formulas based on town population and elevation, number of sprinters, ages of said sprinters, and other factors depending on what would give advantage) on a straight up winning system, but there was one known sign left at the top of Camino Alto. He was still riding really strong, so Jason started trying to figure out ways to distract or otherwise take him out of contention. I got some more alone time out of that, as they took off up the hill to sort it out, but that was fine, since one of the plans had involved me getting pushed in to BFK to knock him over. right.

Whee! Descent (watch out for deer!) Bike path. Sausalito, the good thing about this hour was it being blissfully quiet again. Oh yes, the lights of the City. That’s when it starts to feel more done. Of course it isn’t, but again (looking on the bright side), that time of night you don’t have to go up Conzelman to the west side and dodge the Blazing Saddlers, you get to buzz through and use the east side. We regrouped and let Ann press the button, since it was her first 300k!

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There was hardly any wind, and very light traffic (also an accident in the southbound direction), so it was a very quiet crossing. There’s something really magical about the bridge finish, and this one was particularly sweet.

I’d been debating about doing the ride for various reasons, one of them being that I’m trying to ride new/different routes this year. But of course just because you’ve ridden a particular route doesn’t mean it will ever be the same. This was different that the group stuck together the whole day, which was really neat, and that I was one of the stronger riders, which was a learning experience in many ways. Also, it was really special to be part of Ann’s first 300k, especially in light of all she had been through to be there. Really inspiring. I never cease to be amazed by the people I meet out on their bikes. Best. Valentine. Ever!

more pictures: mine, Jenny’s, Patrick’s

Ride date: February 14, 2015

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One Response to 2015 SFR Healdsburg/Russian River 300k (Workers’ Ride) (R3)

  1. Pingback: 2016 SFR Healdsburg/Russian River 300k (Workers’ Ride) (R15*) | 2m2t

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