Reverse of the brevet version, that would be, so anti-clockwise. This version was on my radar last year, but hadn’t fit in my schedule, so when the opportunity came up I jumped at it even though I probably wasn’t quite prepared.
So there I was, at 21:30, at the Marina Safeway, along with EricW, BFK, Gabe, instigator Froste and last-minute addition of adventure mastermind Max (or would that be the Maxtermind of Adventure?). The usual rollout over the Bridge had a different feel knowing we were riding into the night rather than an impending sunrise. An almost full moon playing in the clouds was a beautiful sight.
I’d been just on the edge of chilly, and wishing I’d remembered the toe covers, but once we got moving it was actually a pretty pleasant riding temperature. The wiggle through southern Marin unfolded uneventfully. Full, foot down stop in Fairfax. Oh was that for the cop? (on the other side of the intersection) No, BFK is just a conscientious cyclist. And actually, there’d been a car that wanted to make a left turn.
Over White’s Hill and out the San Geronimo Valley. Max decided to return home – it sounded like he’d started out with a sleep deficit, plus it was his younger daughter’s birthday over the weekend – and continued on Drake to take Highway 1 back to the City when we turned toward Nicasio at the golf course. We pretty much had the roads to ourselves, Eric went ahead a bit and shut off his light to ride under the moonlight. The rest of the group turned in at the Cheese Factory to top off bottles, which he soon realized and doubled back to join us. Oh yeah, we’re stopping at the Cheese Factory.
Wilson Hill, Chileno Valley, over to Valley Ford. Too late for Wild Flour. Or was it too early? Quiet in Occidental and Graton. left… Left. LEFT! Nice knowing the roads for the middle of the night navigation. I couldn’t stop thinking about a big mocha with lots of whipped cream. Wait, what if Starbucks isn’t open? Gabe said he’d write them a bad Yelp review.
Eastside Road, it was still dark out, but there was work going on in the vineyards. Wow, Healdsburg already? Still dark, and earlier than I’d thought it would be. Starbucks was going to be getting that bad review… There were people inside the fast food place, but it wasn’t actually going to be open for hours so over to the Safeway. Ugh. Nothing warm at the deli. Maybe something at the bakery? The woman said the bagels were just baked, but they’d already cooled off. I got one anyway, and a little tub of cream cheese that I didn’t notice was low-fat until I opened it. Oh well. BFK got a sandwich that the deli person said she should have thrown out, but still charged him full price for. Nice.
Being off the bike I started to feel a little chilled, and noticed the effort of the night’s ride. And that was the easy part… I fully disclaimered that I was not going to be getting any faster since we’d be getting on to the climby bits, and I did not expect anyone to wait for me. They all very kindly said they weren’t planning on going fast and it shouldn’t be a problem. OK, well everyone’s “not fast” is a bit different, but I’d said what I needed to and was able to let it go for the rest of the ride.
I needed to get moving again, and everyone else got going too. For the first few minutes I wished I’d put on more clothes, but then the blood got moving and I was OK. There were the very faintest indications of day break coming as we headed down Westside Road, and a faint rosy flush as we climbed Sweetwater.
The guys were stopped at the top, in the middle of the road. Gabe was taking a picture of his bike, someone asked if he wanted to be in the picture. Sure. He laid down next to it. Apparently that looked good, someone else lay down, then – if you can’t beat ’em… ended up with all five of us on our backs, contemplating the sky. Max would not approve of this.
I asked BFK about the color of his new (custom) bike, he explained. Froste piped up with, “Nice Bianchi, dude.” Was it too early for Quote of the Day?
The sunrise progressed as we descended Sweetwater. I was glad we would have daylight when we hit the dirt. Well, first there was the climb up Old Cazadero, at my pace it was definitively light by the time I got there. We regrouped at the gate, some of the guys rode the hill line around it.
No one limboed the next gate, while we were stopped to go under Gabe took a look around at the view, “This is pretty much winning at life.” Indeed. New front-runner for Quote of the Day! Down the rest of the hill, across the creek and up the other side.
Back on pavement, and at the Intersection of Adventure chose King Ridge Road. This IS the King Ridge 400k, after all… A short ways along, before the climb really started in earnest, we had a bonus secret control! Randopals Jon, Angela, Dan and Ross had a weekend rental and were doing some rides of their own, including a plan to ride up to the ridge later to watch the Tour of California. That wasn’t for a while though, and in the mean time they had HOT COFFEE! and chocolate croissants, and fresh cooked BACON! Super awesome.
Eventually I had to tear myself away. That hill wasn’t going to climb itself. The others could have stayed longer and caught up with me, but they decided to roll out too. After getting back on the road I realized I’d been so distracted by the snacks I forgot to top up my water bottles, but it was cool out and I didn’t feel like going back. (It turned out fine, I made it to the next stop at Stewarts Point without a problem. At least not in the hydration department.)
In fact, we got rained on up on the ridge. A group of racer-y types – including Levi Leipheimer, I found out later – went by on some sort of “ride the stage before the Pros” jaunt. They had a sag van which stopped so they could put on their rain jackets and get snacks and what not. Alternate universe.
We continued past Tin Barn and the high security temple to Rancheria. Made the left turn on Skaggs for the not-all-downhill to the coast. All sorts of yumminess was partaken of at the store at Stewarts Point. And Froste changed to the dry socks he’d been smart enough to bring. I couldn’t decide whether to be impressed or jealous. From there, a short stretch south on Highway 1 and then back inland and uphill on Kruse Ranch Road. Actually mostly nicer as a climb than a descent, since it’s unpaved and bumpy. There were still some rhododendrons in bloom as well! Bonus!
The other three had gotten ahead, when Eric and I got to the top we (along with a couple in a combustotron) were stopped by a CHP officer. DOH! I hadn’t even thought that our route would be re-intersecting the ToC’s. BOO. We almost talked the officer in to letting us ride on – yes, we’ll get out of the way when the race comes through – but he hardlined. (Hmn, wonder what he would have done if we’d ridden on anyway.) There was also a race affiliated person, and he seemed to think it wouldn’t be long before everything came past anyway.
So, we waited. And waited. Not that it was a bad place to be stopped, but I would rather have been riding my bike. Finally, a bunch of cars came by. Some riders. More cars. More riders. We were on a downhill turn, with not much visibility either direction, so the riders zipped by. Not that I would have known who any of them were anyway, but it did not do anything to convince me that bike racing is a spectator sport. Eventually the last rider passed, followed by a long train of support and emergency services vehicles. The amount of associated vehicle traffic really surprised and kinda disturbed me. But finally it finished too, the CHP officer declared the road open, and we proceeded on our merry way.
Well, it was good to be riding, but HOLYCRAPWTF??? there was trash left all over. Empty bottles, wrappers. Yuck yuck yuck. Really? Sure, it’s a race, but when did that become OK to just throw stuff on the road and leave it? As if that wasn’t enough, a race affiliated vehicle buzzed us (driving way too fast on narrow road – no, it’s not closed anymore, there are other users) – NOT in a hurry to pick up any of the trash, no, to pick up the signs at a feed zone. Where, they stopped in the middle of the road and opened both doors – pretty much blocking the road – while they got out and picked up the signs. After they roared off we did not encounter any more race traffic or stopages, although the trail of detritus continued for as long as we were on the same course. Disgusting. One of the things I love about cycling is that it can be so many different things to so many different people, but that crap makes ME have anti-bike feelings. NOT. COOL. (Still gets me riled, even the months later it now is.)
Fortunately, going this direction Meyers Grade was a descent, which always puts a smile on my face. A bit more swoopy descent on Highway 1, then the rollers to Jenner, where I’m always glad to arrive bee-stingless. From there, the lovely arboreal climb of Willow Creek Road, and preferred direction descent of Joy Road. Bryan started down Coleman Valley Road at the intersection but I yelled before he got too far. I thought you knew where you were going! So did I was his reply.
We took another meal break in Bodega. OMGTHESOUPS. More coastal rollers. Snacks in Point Reyes Station. Everyone else who had gone had gotten back from the bathroom, we were started to wonder if Eric had fallen in, when he appeared with a big grin. Glad I won’t be carrying THAT back over Mt. Tam.
Load lightened, he took a big pull as we headed south. The early evening light was beautiful. We pretty much stuck together to Stinson Beach, then there was the last big climb up Panoramic – which might have been a first for me – if not first then it had been a long time since I’d done it so it all felt new – or maybe that was all the miles and climbing already on my legs. Bryan and Froste were still feeling frisky, and Bryan was starting to have some concern about making the last BART train back to the East Bay, so they zipped ahead. The last bit of sunset over Bolinas Lagoon was absolutely spectacular. Yes, this is pretty much winning at life.
Thanks to Froste, Bryan, Gabe and EricW for being such an awesome riding crew. And extra special thanks to Angela, Jon, Dan and Ross for the super-DEluxe secret control. All y’all ROCK!!!
Ride date: May 20-21, 2016