Later this month, on the 25th, SFR will unveil a new 200km route. The start and finish locations, plus the start time work in favor of riders who use BART to attend the rides. The start location is at Fremont BART and from there riders head south and then east to go up and over Mt. Hamilton. After an info control at the summit, the route passes through the San Antonio Valley (which should be stunning at this time of year) toward the next control at the Junction. Riders who have ridden the Del Puerto Canyon 200km will be familiar with the route from this point along Mines Road, through Livermore and on toward Pleasanton. The remainder of the route then heads toward Castro Valley and then heading up Redwood Valley along Redwood Road and Pinehurst on the way to the finish at Rockridge BART.
WOOHOO! New route! I signed up and was quite looking forward to it, even with a tenuous forecast – which fortunately did not come to pass. Besides new route I’d be getting to ride with Eric and his nephew Justin, on Justin’s first brevet. Although it did generally behave on the day-of, the weather had contributed to a landslide that closed lower Mt. Hamilton Road, so there was a re-route and we got to go up Quimby Road.
We encountered many other randos on BART on the way to the start, which was fun to be able to chat some off the bike, and some of the folks I never saw again after we got rolling. Although the sun was out, the temperature sign at the station helpfully proclaimed 44 degrees. I was glad – especially later – that I’d added a layer.
There was a nice turn-out of 50 something riders, and the RBAoA was there to administer the oath. We took a leisurely departure toward the rear of the group, which almost immediately got split by a left-hand turn arrow going red. Tom and BryanC were part of the congenial second bunch, and I got to hear about some of their other recent non-bike adventures. As we rolled through suburbia we collected more riders, ending up with a good sized bunch at an intersection with a discrepancy between GPS and cue sheets of which way to go. A left didn’t really make sense, and then the next turn being a left onto Quimby was reverse of what it should have been. A rider more familiar with the area confirmed that the first turn was actually a right, which then made the left on to Quimby correct.
At that point the climbing portion of the program commenced. Whereas the Mt. Hamilton Road never gets over some less than double digit percent grade since they took materials to build and equip the Observatory up it by horse and wagon, Quimby has no such qualms. Fortunately the view was out, which was a nice distraction, as was seeing other riders on the levels above on the switchbacky bits, and some pleasant conversation with Juliayn.
The guys were stopped at the crest of Quimby, I continued on to the descent to Mt. Hamilton Road and pulled over to adjust layers before continuing the climb. I could see the Observatories in the distance, but knew I would be seeing them for quite a while before I actually reached them. Eric and Justin had gone by while I was stopped, I knew Eric was going in to the Grant Ranch Park to top up on water, for some reason I thought Justin had kept going and hooked up with some of the other riders I’d seen ahead of me, so I got on my way.
After a bit of climbing there was a fellow with a pick-up truck full of a random assortment of not particularly useful looking things parked on the side of the road who was making proclamations about it being time to take a break already. For others, apparently, he offered a smoke break. The hills were amazingly green, and there was lots of flowing water. We were on the early side for wildflowers, but I did see some shooting stars, hounds’ tongue and lupine, and random pumpkins in a field. Also more excellent views both over the Bay Area and to the south. At the top there were bits of frozen water! I enjoyed some solo climbing, then Eric caught up with me, then GregM joined us.
We didn’t go up to the Observatory, but stopped at the water spigot and filled our bottles. I had some of my burrito. There were a few riders there already, others arrived as we waited for Justin – who, it turned out, had also pulled in at the Grant Ranch Park. He’d recently moved back to California from non hill country Texas but still knocked out the climbs. That young and spry thing, I suppose.
I was pretty warm from the climb, but after seeing everyone get suited up for the descent I decided I better do so as well, and was glad I did. Even with full finger gloves I had to stop once and warm up my hands. I saw a couple of spots of ice, and there was a section of road that was coned off that looked fine from the top, but when I went and looked over the side it was seriously undercut. Scary!
I had left a little before Eric and Justin, but they soon caught me. We rolled past The Ranch – I could see the water coming over the dam from the road, and Pop’s daffodils were just starting to bloom. A little further on EricM caught up with us on his monstertruck bike. (big tires) He asked if we were planning to feast at the Junction. Yep.
Alas, when we pulled up to the Junction the gates were closed! We saw some riders at the side of the building, so we went around the gate and up to where they were. Turned out the water line had broken, so there was no cooking since there could be no washing of anything. Fortunately the woman was nice enough to sell us packaged snacks and canned or bottled drinks. I can now check “drinking a Coors” off my list. I was glad I had more burrito – it seemed some riders had really been counting on having a meal there and were rather disappointed. We got our cards stamped, as we were filling out the time someone pointed out that it was almost the closing time for the control. Huh.
We sat and enjoyed the sun, and helped direct other riders as they rolled in. Eventually we got back on the road – Justin had decided he was filling up his fun quotient so we were going to DNC in Livermore so there was no time pressure. In that direction, Mines Road is mostly downhill, although generally you still have to pedal. There were more water crossings than I ever remember before, and the one at the county line in particular was rather deep. Eric pulled us along, we passed a couple other riders along the way but they did not jump on.
Just outside Livermore we picked up Ben, and the four of us found a taqueria. Once he sat down Justin slipped in to the thousand yard stare for a bit, but some Vitamin I and food and drink brought him back. I wanted a hot chocolate with lots of whipped cream, which they didn’t have at the taqueria, but DUH, we were next door to a Peet’s, so I went next door for that. (Sadly my battery had expired so no pictures of the food. With the full fingered gloves I hadn’t actually been getting the camera turned off before I put it in my pocket. Oops.)
From Livermore we still had to get back to a BART station, so there was a bit more riding, and a minor navigational mishap, but we made it to the Dublin/Pleasanton station and were able to get on a train right away! And we were not the only randos taking the DNC route – several others were already there.
I think some of the remainder of the route would also have been new to me, but I didn’t feel like I missed anything by skipping it. What we did was probably the more beautiful/interesting part of the route, and super fun, and Justin’s longest ride to date (with the to/from the BART station on the other end he got a century+) and probably most climbing in a day, and it sounds like it didn’t turn him off from ever doing a brevet again, yay!
Ride date: February 25, 2017