It Was 43 Years Ago Today

This past Saturday, November 27, was the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of Harvey Milk and George Moscone. Roger and I led this “ride” for the first time in 2018 and I’ve reposted its blog entry below because I don’t have much else to say about this day in history. But before I do that I’ll briefly recap how this year’s ride went.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to lead this ride again. But at the time there wasn’t another ride listed for the Thanksgiving weekend and I sure as hell wasn’t going to ‘just go on a ride’ without thinking of the date. Roger was enthusiastic about it so I relented. In 2018 it was Roger and I—no one else attended—and I wasn’t expecting it to much different this time. It is Thanksgiving weekend after all when everybody is preoccupied with things more personal. I was badly mistaken as fifteen people showed up. I’m not sure why it sparked an interest this time. But three ALC folks showed up because David Gaus told them about it. Speaking of ALC, I had no idea that it was also starting a training ride at McLaren Lodge at the same date and time. I emailed everyone to meet just to the west. I guess in addition to coopting a lot of LGBT cyclists it’s also taking over our traditional ride start location. Oh well, there is cultural appropriation and then there is…appropriation.

The route was the same as before: out Golden Gate Park to the Great Highway and then south through Westlake Shopping Center to Colma. We stopped at Jose Sarria’s grave as well as George Moscone’s before returning to the Park and then to the SF Columbarium to see Harvey Milk’s niche. Along the way I played docent and recounted what (little) I knew about Jose Sarria, George Moscone, and Harvey Milk. No one else in attendance had been in SF on 11/27/78—I felt like a dinosaur! Afterwards a few of us went to Arguello Market, got some delicious sandwiches, and sat outside at their tables in the marvelous sunshine.

Here is what I wrote in 2018:

For better or for worse having lived through a historic event inclines one to dwell on it or perhaps incorporate it as a seminal touchstone from then on. In November 1978 two such events took place for me: the Jonestown mass suicide and the assassination of Harvey Milk and George Moscone by Dan White. I didn’t personally know anyone who was part of the People’s Temple or Jonestown nor did I ever meet Milk or Moscone in person. But Jim Jones, Harvey Milk, and George Moscone touched many lives in the Bay Area and they definitely were part of the post-60s ethos: radical Christianity of the poor, identity politics, and violence as a reaction to the cultural throes we were experiencing. It was like the end of a dream and left a withering cynicism among some and acted as a call to greater action to others.

40 years is a long time. I think about how Pearl Harbor, undoubtedly a turning point in the lives of the Americans who lived through it or during it, yet to me it was just another distant historic event, on a feeling level no different than the American Revolution or the Civil War—abstractions. So it is with the Milk/Moscone assassinations for many of you.

I had never been to Milk’s memorial at the SF Columbarium nor to Moscone’s grave in Colma. To give you an idea how long it’s has been on my mind, about ten years ago I was thinking of leading a ride to see them. But it just didn’t come together; I was busy chasing high heart rates and had a busy work schedule as well. About a month ago I suddenly realized it was 40 years ago when those events took place. Wow, a lifetime. So I made it happen and on time, which is contrary to my usual MO, i.e. to completely forget about an anniversary until a week later.

Fortunately the Camp Fire smoke ended and the rains did as well. Roger was going to miss the ride for medical reasons but at the last minute threw caution to the wind and came along.

We took BART to the City and rode from Civic Center to McLaren Lodge. I’ve done it many times since moving out of the City, but this time I was noticing the changes along the way. Long time businesses that were there in 1978 were no more. There are now so many more cyclists plying the streets than 40 years ago. Ah, but the old Freewheel Bike Shop is still there on Hayes!

Starting a ride at McLaren Lodge is a real throwback. In the early days of the club it was THE place to start a ride, that position having been usurped by Peet’s in the Castro. I remember meeting Michael John, Bob Humason, Dennis Westler, Abel Galvan, Walter Teague, Ron DeCamp, and many others—some now ghosts—at McLaren to head out on rides. In any case no one else chose to join us for a stroll to the boneyards so off we went to Colma.

Getting to Colma is pretty easy and we decided to take the ‘scenic route: through GG Park to the Great Highway and then down the coast to Westlake Shopping Center, and then cutting through to Hillside Blvd. By now the fog had lifted and it was a beautiful blue sky day, perfect for a visit to the cemeteries. Once in Colma housing and businesses abruptly stop at the city limit and are replaced by miles and miles of green lawns of the various cemeteries. Some of them have their origin in being kicked out of SF, the land being too valuable to leave to the dead. George Moscone is buried in Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery but there are plenty of other well-known figures interred in Colma and why not pay them a visit as well? Our first stop was Woodlawn Memorial Park where Jose Sarria a.k.a. the Widow Norton was laid to rest. You may have heard of Jose Sarria from his drag doppelganger, the Widow Norton, a drag gag take on the famous SF eccentric, Emperor Norton. The latter declared himself the ruler of the US and Mexico in 1859 and was treated deferentially by Barbary Coasters despite being a bona fide bum. The Emperor Norton was interred at Woodlawn and by coincidence the plot directly in front of his was available and that is where the Widow Norton is buried! You may not know that Jose Sarria was much more than his drag persona. Before Harvey he was the first openly homosexual candidate for the SF Board of Supervisors back in 1961. He came in 9th out of over 30 candidates and got 6,000 votes. Sarria also founded an early LGBT rights organizations, the League for Civil Education. He got his taste of discrimination when he was busted for cruising in a tea room and the morals charges prevented him from becoming a public school teacher. He ended up working as a waiter at the infamous Black Cat bar at the edge of North Beach, a gay hangout, that was repeatedly raided by the SF Police because it was then illegal to sell alcohol to homosexuals as well as to “impersonate members of the opposite sex.”

Finding Sarria’s gravesite took some effort. Woodlawn isn’t on Hillside Blvd. where all the other cemeteries are located, rather it’s down off of Junipero Serra. We eventually found it and the office kindly gave us a map. We had to climb up a steep hillside to get to his plot and we only found it after scurrying around on a very wet lawn for about 20 minutes. But there it was. On his tombstone it says, “United we stand, divided they catch us one by one.” Someone else had recently visited because a fresh flower was on the site.

A quick descent to Junipero Serra and then a slog back up to Hillside took us to our next stop, Hills of Eternity Memorial Park, to look for Wyatt Earp’s and Levi Strauss’s sites. But when we got to the entrance it was chained. What kind of cemetery isn’t open on Sundays?? After looking for a second entrance (there isn’t one) we gave up and headed south to Holy Cross.

Besides George Moscone Holy Cross has a slew of famous people buried there. You could spend the better part of a day hunting for all of the sites. But today we were looking just for Joe DiMaggio, Vince Guaraldi, and Benny Bufano. Holy Cross has two entrances and unfortunately the one I had planned to use was closed. The other entrance was open but I was disoriented because we were now off-route and Holy Cross is a bit of a warren. We rolled right by Joe DiMaggio’s grave but didn’t notice it until we were further along. Oh well, another time. Finding Vince Guaraldi’s was easy. You probably know him as the composer of the music for the Peanuts special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” But he was a very well-regarded jazz pianist and a SF native as well. His grave is very modest and like a good Italian boy he’s buried along with his mother, who long outlived him. He died in 1976 at the early age of 47, a real loss to the jazz community.

After paying our respects we rolled off to our real goal, George Moscone. His site was also fairly easy to find and like Vince Guaraldi’s, a very modest bronze plaque on the ground. You would never know a Mayor of San Francisco was interred there, a nearly anonymous plaque amongst thousands. On this day hardly anyone was visiting cemeteries. Was it the good weather that turned people’s minds to other forms of pleasure and amusement? On his plaque it read, “We miss you, Dad.” If you aren’t old enough or local enough, Moscone is merely a name of a historical figure. But in the 1960s and ‘70s he was a liberal politician aligned with the Burton brothers and their allies who included Willie Brown and Nancy Pelosi. He was an ally of the LGBT community during a time when being an ally was politically costly. He was known for sponsoring legislation for the first school lunch program in California as well as repealing the anti-sodomy laws. When he ran for Mayor in 1975 he beat out a terribly conservative real estate broker, John “Garbage-alotta” Barbagelata, as well as Dianne Feinstein, who to this day has never attended a Gay Freedom Day Parade in our city. (Oh, and by the way do you recall when Diane Feinstein, who succeeded the assassinated George Moscone as Mayor vetoed the domestic partners legislation in SF?) Moscone was a true friend of our community not an expedient supporter trying to catch the LGBT gravy train.

Afterwards we mounted our bikes and rolled by Benny Bufano’s grave, which is topped with one of his iconic sculptures, and headed back to SF to visit Harvey. The ride back was a bit easier because Hillside Blvd. is up on a hill. So we rolled mostly downhill back to Westlake and up Lake Merced. We headed back up 37th into the Park and then up Arguello to the Columbarium. I’m sure almost all of you have never been to this hidden, tucked away site dropped down in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Being on a cul-de-sac it was very easy to miss. The Columbarium is a place where those who’ve passed away can be memorialized. It’s not exactly a mausoleum because some of the dead people honored there actually have no cremains placed there nor is there a corpse. That is the case with Harvey Milk. The Columbarium may appear small but it holds the remains of a LOT of people. Fortunately there is a kiosk in the office that allows you to look up the location. For the record Harvey’s location is in the House of Olympians in the Dionysus room, tier 4, niche 26. The House of Olympians is the side building just to the north of the main capitol. Harvey’s niche is decorated with memorabilia including buttons against the Briggs Initiative, in which he was instrumental in fighting for its defeat, as well as items from the film Gus Van Sant directed about him, Milk. There is also a toy camera there reminding us that Harvey ran a camera shop in the Castro and from which he ran his campaign to become Supervisor.

Afterward we ran into the manager who wanted to be sure we visited the niche of Chet Helms. You remember Chet Helms, don’t you? He was THE hippie: he produced concerts at the Fillmore and the old Avalon ballroom during the ‘60s. Roger didn’t seem interested but I remember Chet Helms!

By now we were starving since we did not stop at Westlake for lunch despite plans. Luckily Velo Rouge Cafe was just a few blocks away. Being a bright, sunny Sunday afternoon I thought it would be packed but it wasn’t. In a way it was a perfect end to an interesting day: the clientele was distinctly Millenial but it looked like a Haight St. cafe from back in the day (minus the love beads and patchouli). Oh, and the huevos rancheros were excellent!

Although those days were very dark and depressing, somehow we managed to move into another era thanks to the steps that people like Harvey Milk and George Moscone made. I didn’t think I’d see in my lifetime. Instead of being treated with thinly veiled contempt (or no veil whatsoever) the LGBT community is treated more like a formidable third rail: fucking with us will have a cost. Instead of getting stomped on we are fighting back. Harvey and Jose told us to fight, and we are.

Effulgence

Norris Canyon is an oft overlooked rural road surrounded by a sea of Alameda county suburbia. How much longer will it last? Set between Castro Valley and the burgeoning city of San Ramon this idyllic island in the East Bay hills surely makes developers go gaga and slobber like wolves eyeing a fawn. For the time being it’s a convenient escape from neverending encroachment and makes a lovely road to visit by bike.

We’re deep into autumn so the sun sits lower in the sky and casts a warm radiance over the landscape and since we’ve been fortunate to receive copious early season rain, grasses are bursting forth regreening the hillsides and displaying an unreal emerald glow in the sunlight. The valley fog finally receded and brought us clear skies and beautiful sun, making it a perfect day to roam the hills on a bike.

Last Sunday nine of us headed out of Orinda to visit Norris Canyon, six from SF, Eric the lone member from Marin, and then Roger and I from the EB. After a short hop to Moraga and a pit stop at the trailhead restroom we headed south on Pinehurst and then Redwood Road on our way to Castro Valley. Pinehurst and Redwood are roads frequented by East Bay cyclists. Surrounded by park land and EBMUD holdings, no development—for now—can take place leaving the Oakland hills relatively undisturbed and natural despite the mishegoss just over the hills. There is traffic but it’s nothing like what you confront in the rest of the suburbs where people live, work, and shop. Other than the occasional car or motorcycle you’re left to your own thoughts, which are mainly about the vagaries of the multiple ups and downs thrilling your thighs.

Everybody quickly spread out or at least it seemed so from my perspective at the rear. Roger H. surprised me by saying he wanted to do this ride because he’d only just started riding again. We were also pretty beat from hauling buckets of concrete the day before. We happily parked ourselves at the back of the group and ‘took it easy’. Roger S. and Carl kept us company and we chatted away about all things inconsequential.

We regrouped at the Redwood Canyon Golf Course after the stunning and fun descent from Chabot Park and then headed over to Castro Valley to cut through to Crow Canyon Road. Crow Canyon is usually a terrible road for cyclists. At one point in its distant past it was like Norris Canyon. But it is less steep and wider and so became the preferred road that got widened. With explosive growth in the San Ramon valley and the bumper-to-bumper traffic on 680 and 580, it’s now the commuter cut-through to get from there to SF and Silicon Valley. Many moons ago when ignorant I rode Crow Canyon during the commute period. Just once—lesson learned. But on a Sunday it’s much less terrorizing and even halfway reasonable. Fortunately it’s not long before you leave it behind and turn onto Norris Canyon. The transformation is quite abrupt: from cars to almost nothing but quiet. The price you pay for this peace is an increased gradient. But at its worst it’s ‘only’ 11%! Norris Canyon is narrow and lined with oaks and pleasantly shaded, which makes for dappled relief on a hot summer day. As you progress uphill it opens up into grassland, which now is iridescent green.

It’s there we finally caught up with David. He was riding very smartly. Not having the big miles in his legs yet he was going steady the entire time, hardly stopping at all, maybe not burning up the pavement but also not lagging. We stopped at the top to take in the view: green pastures, happy cows, serpentine formations. And below in the distance, lotsa houses! Mark, who lives in the City, commented that we live in ‘paradise’ over here in Contra Costa. Yes, there are still smidgens of it left. Perhaps not for much longer as the imperative to grow relentlessly destroys all the open space here filling it with houses and cars.

The descent is fast and straight (uh, not gaily forward in my book!). I waved the group ahead because I wanted to take my time and not worry about crashing. In a trice we’re in San Ramon. What a contrast. Were we really just minutes from all that tranquility?

In Danville the little burb was hopping with Sunday brunch mania; the parklets were packed with diners. Our lunch stop was Henhouse at the north end of town. We lucked out: there was no one there and the picnic tables outside were free for the taking. The choices for lunch in Danville are practically unending. Domenico’s is the usual club go-to stop. But its popularity means crowds—even with outdoor tables—and a long line, and today it was doing very good business; Sultan’s Kebab we ate it the last time we rolled through town; and alas, Homegrown, that Seattle transplant that I enjoyed every time I ate there, including the 2020 Resolution Ride, didn’t survive the Pandemic. Henhouse is a new addition to the Danville scene and the idea is simple: fried chicken sandwiches. You can get other stuff but there’s no point if you’ve got a killer sandwich and it does. Almost everybody got some version of it and the verdict was it was pretty good. Even the veggie version made with deep fried cauliflower got a thumbs up from Carl. I wouldn’t say it was the best fried chicken sandwich I’ve ever had. But it was also only $7 for a huge, juicy breast on a fluffy brioche bun. Such a deal!

Everybody left (over)full. Usually that means end the ride with a scarf ’n barf: hit the gas on Danville Blvd.! But instead we went easy up the road. We took the shorter way back to Orinda involving a short but stupid incline, Hillgrade. Will instead decided to head straight back to BART. Mark and Carl missed the turn to Rossmoor so Roger gave chase and steered them back on route. It’s a short noodle through Lafayette and we were back in quiet ol’ Orinda. A fine fête on two wheels to greet the new greenery.

Ride Recap: Mt. Hamilton in the Fall

Hamiltoneers

Ed. Below is the report of the club’s annual Mt. Hamilton in the Fall ride courtesy of co-leader David Gaus.

My first Mt. Hamilton in the Fall was in 2004. I was nervous: 4,000 feet of climbing over 22 miles was significantly more than in my very first century, the Marin, which I had completed just that summer. But it turned out to be a lovely day and probably on the warm side for late October except a couple of miles from the top I experienced leg cramps for the first time. Fortunately I had stopped to stretch just before the cramp hit. I was able to get to the top, got lots of advice on why I was cramping—not enough to eat, low sodium, dehydrated, probably all three—and then got to enjoy the (mostly) 18-mile descent. I’m not sure what year was the first time I led the ride when Sharon could not, maybe 2007. [Ed. Actually it was 2005.]

The last year I completed the entire route was 2016. In 2014 I led Ron H on a three-mile detour adventure—don’t ask me why I turned onto Clayton or why I didn’t realize my mistake sooner! By the time we got back up Hwy 130 we were so far behind everyone that when we came upon the riders coming back down, we turned around also. In 2017 I was running out of steam about three miles from the top and a friend and I both turned around. 

With almost two years of very little cycling compared to a normal year and four months of PT for hip pain, I could only offer to drive SAG for the ride. Thankfully Roger S offered to lead the ride with my SAG support offer.

Fuel (but unleaded!)

So early Sunday I was off to Vegan Donut Cafe to get donuts for the riders. My friend David P, who also was not up to attempting the ride—next year, though!—offered to co-pilot and pick up a Peets coffee traveler for the riders also.  The folks at Peets thought he wanted to order the $115 five-gallon “traveler”, and as he said “it would have been enough coffee for me for a month”.

MINI convention

Five riders—Will B, Alan L and his friend Jon, Mark C and Roger—headed out for the long climb to Lick Observatory. It was a gorgeous fall day, in the mid-fifties at the start and very pleasant in the sun. David and I leapfrogged the riders to the top, getting lots of photos along the way. There was a gaggle of MINI Coopers at the Grant Park regroup, having passed us on the way up. The entire Highway 130 seems to have been repaved making for excellent road quality. With the repaving the road was also restriped with a double yellow line making the lanes seem very small from the car. The SCU Lightning Complex fire burned so close to the observatories it must have been terrifying. All the fire hydrants are painted a bright red now. I’m so glad that they were able to stop it when and where they did!

Almost torched!

At the top everyone had a bit of lunch, between the last of the donuts or food or bars they sent up with us in the car, and then layered up for the descent. Will borrowed my sweatshirt for a bit of extra warmth for the first half to Grant Park, as he had only a pair of arm warmers with him. Alan was the first to arrive at the end of Highway 130; his smile after the longest descent he had ever done said it all! Somewhere between Grant Park and the end of Hwy 130, we lost Will. So David and I backtracked to where he had returned the sweatshirt. No sign of him and I kept thinking he must have turned off on Miguelita, the only alternate route that made sense. [Ed. Miguelita cuts off Highway 130 and more directly goes to Alum Rock Park.] Sure enough we got a text from Roger that Will made it back to the start. It was a nice day and hopefully next year I’ll be back for more but on two wheels.

Plus Ça Change

Goes to 11…

Another day, another product announcement. Sigh. Since we live in the best of all possible worlds, new bike products must be unfettered goods (pun intended). But Shimano’s latest announcement, the new “2021”—really 2022 since you won’t be able to get them until later this year—Dura Ace and Ultegra road groups are sorely testing my faith in the ultimate goodness of God (or at least Leibniz). I’m sure lots of cyclists who can afford to buy bikes with either of these groups will be giddy with delight at their effortless shifting and smooth-as-butter disc brakes. However the announcement left me less than pleased due to three developments, two overtly mentioned and the other not so. The first is that these groupsets are electronic only: no more mechanical shifting. Perhaps that makes sense for Dura Ace since it is mainstay of professional road racing. But Ultegra is more of a bread-and-butter group for the rest of us, especially since Dura Ace prices seem to be going up relentlessly. Online pundits are bemoaning this loss and I would too except that in my experience maintaining a Di2 system has been less work. Cable actuated shifting systems aren’t a whole lot of work in this era but e-systems are even less work! And the less time I have to spend fiddling with a shifter, the more time I have to eat bonbons. What I don’t care about Di2 is the price. Mechanical shifting is fine and it’s a lot cheaper: the Ultegra Di2 groupset now costs as much as Dura Ace did just a few years ago.

The second is that Shimano will no longer be developing rim brakes. You will be able to get new 2022 rim brakes but they are the same old brakes with just a different date stamped on them. The writing is clearly on the wall: Shimano thinks there’s no money to be made in better rim brakes. So they’re now on death row with the execution date not yet announced. If you want Shimano rim brakes on some future bike—like in four or five years—they’re not going to have “Dura Ace” or “Ultegra” on them, more likely “Tiagra” or “Sora”. They’ll probably work just fine but they’ll be heavier, look a bit unrefined, and come with Shimano’s best cheap-ass brake pads. Maybe that will be the time to switch to ee brakes. (But the price: ouch!)

I’m not going to bore you with more rim vs. disc brake polemics. I use them both and both function fine. I like disc brakes when I’m riding in the wet—what, you don’t ride in the rain??—and they allow me to run fatter tires. But I also use “medium reach” rim brakes (what are called medium reach these days used to be the standard size back in the day) with bigger tires and they work pretty well although I really can’t run a tire wider than about 35mm. I like rim brakes because they’re about three-quarters of a pound lighter and are way easier to maintain and adjust. That’s important for DIY mechanics and as I get older I’ve not only gotten crustier but also more impatient with bike repairs that take me more than a half-hour to complete, preferably less than 15 minutes. If you always take your bike to a shop, then it doesn’t make much difference except to your wallet. In any case rim brakes are headed the same direction as spoon brakes regardless of how I feel: the boneyard. On the other hand given how expensive Dura Ace has become it’s soon to be out of reach anyway, so having Tiagra rim brakes is probably going to be just fine along with Tiagra everything else.

The third development flew under the radar. Now that Shimano road groups are going 12-speed, it no longer will be making a cassette with anything other than an 11-tooth small cog. With 11-speed you could get a Shimano cassette with a 12-tooth small cog; when Shimano groups were 9-speed, you could even get a 13-tooth cog. Going to 11 only is a move that SRAM made when it started making groupsets: it never offered a cassette with anything other than an 11. At the time I thought that was stupid and I still do. Most of us use whatever cassettes come with the bike, and being stuck with an 11-tooth cog is realistically no more than a minor inconvenience. I had never used a cassette with an 11-tooth cog until I bought a bike with a compact chainset. My previous experience was a 9-speed bike with a compact chainset; it came with a 12-cog and I thought that was plenty. Did you know that a 50×11 is just about the same gear development as a 53×12? It’s plenty big. The only time I used a gear that big was on some descents, and as I get older I’m less inclined to go ridiculously fast downhill. When I was “fast”—yes, that was quite a while ago—my top gear was a 53×13, which is less quite a bit less than a 50×11, and I rarely used it and I would still go downhill at 40+ mph. In other words, you don’t need a 50×11 to go downhill fast. All you need is stupid bravery and knowing how to tuck. So 11- or 12-tooth cogs are like vestigial organs I just don’t need or use. And I suspect that is true for the vast majority of recreational cyclists.

What I do like—and appreciate more and more as I get older and creakier—is having lots of gears in the middle of the cassette, where I ride a lot, rather than tiny cogs that I almost never use. With the new Shimano groups I’m just getting more of the same: cogs I don’t need. Oh well.

Finally, one other change caught me eye, which is the chainrings offered. The “standard” 53×39 chainset is gone replaced by a new 54×40. That is a damn big ring! Who do you know runs a 54-tooth chainring? Only Pro Tour cyclists and some oddball time trialists. Everyday cyclists need a 54 like a hole in the head. FYI a 54×11 is 133 gear-inches. All I can say is: wow. But hold on there just a minute! At some point Shimano is going to have to produce a 12-speed “junior” cassette. Junior racers (under age 18) have gearing capped at no smaller than a 14-tooth cog. It’s easy to imagine a great 12-speed cassette starting at 14 and giving something close to my ideal set of ratios. How about a 14-15-16-17-18-19-20-22-24-27-30-34? This would have a lot of useful gears in the middle, an excellent low gear, and a reasonable top gear of 54×14 = 104 gear-inches. Sign me up!

Hamilton

Not this Hamilton…

No, I’m not talking about Alexander Hamilton or a Tony award winning musical. I’m talking about Laurentine Hamilton, baby, whose name graces Mount Hamilton in the South Bay.

…but this Hamilton!

This coming Sunday club Treasurer Roger Sayre and VP David Gaus are going to lead the charge up the Bay Area’s tallest peak full-bore, no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners….well actually not: it’s going to be a delightful romp at a modest pace with the dynamic duo sweeping you upward. The club’s annual foray up the hill, which we had to cancel last year due to you-know-what, is going to be extra-special this year. David is going to sag the ride…in his car. So you’ll be able to bring along your hair dryer, curlers, and change of wardrobe—at least two!—and David will carry them to the summit for you. And if you want to bring along that picnic basket with the 10-lb. Honey-Baked Ham with all the fixin’s he’ll shove that in the back as well so you can brunch to your heart’s content whilst your eyes lovingly adore the Lick contemplating your (in)significance in the vast universe that said observatory has explored.

Seriously, this ride is a part of DSSF history. The first club ride up Mt. Hamilton was in October 1983, less than a year after the club’s birth, led by then club mover-and-shaker Michael John. MJ was responsible for numerous club rides in the nether regions of the Bay Area as well as several club bike touring trips around the US. He also led club rides up Mt. Tam on the Railroad Grade on full moon nights on his touring bike (!) However he never led Mt. Hamilton again for some reason. (I’ll have to ask him about that…) All was not lost however as Ron Decamp, another early member who happened to live not that far from the start of the ride, loved to go up Mt. Hamilton and led it no less than four times in 1984! Kevin Anderson aka ‘Flo Velcro’ and ‘Rex Flash, Mountain Biker’ led it in 1986. (Kevin actually did bring several wardrobe changes on club rides. He’d use a restroom and emerge in entirely different bike drag!)

Then it sort of lapsed until Sharon Lum came along in 1991. Sharon is also a South Bay denizen and liked to do long rides. So naturally she and Hamilton were a match. Sharon led the ride annually until 2007 when David Gaus took it over. Why does David love this ride? You’ll have to ask him yourself this Sunday. But I’m betting that one of the reasons is that despite the enormous elevation gain—over 5,000 feet in total—that makes it a double-dare-you challenge it’s entirely doable because the average gradient is only about 6%. It is however a bit long at 18 miles to the summit. But then it’s 18 miles mostly downhill afterward! That’s only about 36 miles total. Sure you can do that! Just take your time. Despite the elevation gain (or because of it?) the 2015 edition brought 33 people out of slumber to ride to the top! That was the most people on a club ride until this year’s Pride Ride

Weather on Mt. Hamilton has been unpredictable. Some years it’s been unseasonably warm making for glorious basking at the top…

Warm!

…and other years it’s been extraordinarily chilly leading to huddling in the lobby next to the wall heater.

Becoming *good* friends with the wall heater!

And of course there’s always the chance of rain. Ten years ago Roger and I did the ride and it was in the low 30s at the top. Everybody crowded in the lobby to get some heat. The descent was unbelievably cold even with wind pants, GoreTex jackets, wool caps, and winter gloves. Roger could barely control the tandem it was so cold. And yes, it snows on Mt. Hamilton during the winter! (If you want to peruse the gory details of that ride, go here.)

This Sunday be sure to check the weather forecast before you head out the door. You will want to make sure you have plenty of warm—preferably windproof—clothing for the descent if the forecast looks at all chilly. No reason to hold back because you can always give what you don’t want to wear going up to David. Although the lobby has vending machines for snacks and drinks you will probably want to eat something more substantial like a small sandwich to replenish those calories so pack a lunch. Although Lick Observatory in recent years has sold hot coffee in the gift shop, it may not be open this Sunday. So throw that thermos of hot coffee into your goody bag just in case.

Sharon always brought freshly baked muffins to the start, something we always looked forward to. Rumor has it that David is going to show up with some special donuts. See you Sunday! To see the ride listing at the club website and to RSVP, go here.

Bear With Us

Kumbaya moment at the FS ride

Despite a late change in plans we had a delightful Fall Social after all. The event was postponed a week due to the bomb cyclone and moved to Orinda just in time for moody fall weather: sun, overcast, sun, overcast, and finally sun. This year’s ad hoc FS put nothing over on Thomas Keller but participants happily made do with rotund burritos from the local Mexicatessen. Alas, you will have to wait another year for the return—hopefully—of freshly grilled turkey.

All told eleven came out for a calm jaunt around the Three Bears. Contra Costa County roadworks has been busy this year laying down a pancake flat sheet of new asphalt along Castro Ranch Road and then finally repairing a washed out section of Alhambra Valley Road. For bonus points they were currently busy repairing the recently collapsed section of Bear Creek Road. From the looks it won’t be long before they’re done too. As is custom Mama proved she’s a tough bitch and Papa made sure we knew who was Daddy. But everyone made it through with minimal cursing. One week after the torrential downpour the East Bay hills were perking up green after a grim brown spring and summer—a sign of hope?

To add extra fun climbing points we went up Wildcat and took Old El Toyonal to the cabin. Once at Orinda Manors we were greeted by hostess-with-the-mostest Roger as well as President David and First Man Chris. Most preferred to order Mex food rather than schlep up some grotty bento concoction. David Gaus and Roger then went down to retrieve the goodies. In the meantime we were all ensconced on the back deck with sunshine gabbing away. After the repast Roger brought out homemade lemon bars made with lemons he had grown. Somehow despite gordito burritos folks made room for them.

Thanks to Chris and David Goldsmith for bringing over the club drinks and to David Gaus and Roger Hoyer for getting the grub, and for David Gaus for leading the ride.

Ride Recap: Danville for Lunch, Oct. 17 [Updated]

A tearoom by any other name

These must be desperate times: seven Spokers from San Francisco broke down and came over to Contra Costa to do a bike ride! I guess the allure of Marin and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge had worn off, and wouldn’t it be a laugh to slum over in the ‘burbs? I was surprised not just by the number but also because there was the threat of rain, and god forbid riding in the rain!

This was a simple ride, one of my ‘go-to’ rides when I just don’t want to think and prefer to log some easy miles: ride out to Moraga and then down the Lafayette-Moraga Regional Trail, which is a rails-to-trails conversion, and then down the Iron Horse Trail, another rails-to-trails, to Danville. Will, Scott, Mark, new members Bud and Alan, as well as President David and Treasurer Roger joined me this time. Although it threatened to rain no one bailed and four even came by BART despite the cruel half-hour wait between trains these days. A few of the guys came in shorts and a jersey—that would have been perfect a week ago—but fall had fallen and without warmers or a jacket it was a brisk start to their day.

It was the usual Tony ride: Tony starts too fast, the group is chatty, Will bombs the downhill, oohs and aahs down the beautiful MUPs. This time no one got lost maybe because the route was simple and maybe because it was old hat for some. We pulled into Danville at the “Caboose” for an unnatural break. A train caboose being repurposed for restrooms struck some as a real novelty whereas for me, old and jaded, it was just part of the scenery I’ve come to ignore, which these days is just about all the scenery since I’m mostly lost in thought when I ride with just a touch of awareness for the mayhem and madness on the streets.

Bladders delightfully appeased we rolled a couple of blocks down to the new Sultan’s Kebab in town and took a gander: awright! no one was using the outside tables! Sultan’s Kebab started in Pleasanton and recently opened outposts in Walnut Creek and Danville. It’s not going to earn any Michelin stars but it’s good Middle Eastern food. And they have vegan and vegetarian choices should you eschew slaughtered animals. We took over two tables and gabbed and gnawed to our hearts’ content. Most got some form of kebab wrap and the verdict was “Yummy!” Being one who enjoys the same old rut I got the usual veg plate, which is an obscene amount of food just perfect for a scarf-and-barf.
Will got a Turkish coffee that had a resplendent aroma; if I hadn’t been stuffed to the gills I would have marched back in and ordered one (or two!) for myself.

Stomachs overly full means only one thing: pedal to the metal up Danville Boulevard! I had a slow roll in mind…until we got passed by three wannabes at Stone Valley Road. So naturallly I had to gun it to catch their wheels. Next thing I know we’re going 23+ mph down the road dodging tree branches and piles of acorns. That was fun even if the rest of the group was a bit peeved. The rest of the way back was done at a modest pace. Alan and Will kept asking me, “Isn’t there a hill on the way back? Is this it?” Honestly the hills from Danville to Orinda are hardly worth mentioning. Except for the short 9% grade up to St. Stephens. Did I mention that I hadn’t been riding much and that I hadn’t done a ride over 30 miles in over two months? So right around the 34-mile point I totally caved and crawled up that hill. I thought I was safe until we turned into the BART parking lot at the end. That incline was just enough to set off leg cramps and I literally came to a stop. Fortunately I only had to hobble a hundred yards to the end. Fun ride, good company, delish food, wasted. Mission accomplished.

Barfing will commence shortly…

Flash flood update: I took a ride down the Lafayette-Moraga Regional Trail a couple of days after the Bomb Cyclone hit us, which was the day after we went to Danville for lunch. What a difference ten and a half inches of rain makes! There is a vernal waterfall along the trail that only reappears after we get plenty of rainfall, and I had a feeling that it would bloom fulsome after our recent deluge. For the past two dry winters it’s been an anemic trickle during the infrequent rains. But not now! It adds an otherwordly feel to a very well used MUP, something you might see only in the depths of Big Basin State Park yet it’s in the middle of the ‘burbs.

I need at least 10.5 inches…to get my attention.

Gutter Bunny Part 2, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Roadway

Do you know the difference between a road and a roadway? Yeah, I didn’t think you did. I certainly didn’t pay attention to such esoteric nuances until I learned that I didn’t have to ride in the gutter all the time. I used to ride to the far right of the road almost all the time, squeaking by with just the thinnest shaving of pavement on my right. Partly I was being overly courteous (some of you may say fearful) to motorists and partly because I had a fundamental misunderstanding of traffic law. What does the law say? Let’s take a peek at the California Vehicle Code, specifically Division 11, Chapter 1, Article 4, §21202:
Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations…
The part that we probably all understand is the ‘less than the normal speed of traffic’ ie. if you are going at the “normal speed” then you don’t have to ride on the right—you can ride wherever you want in the lane including the middle. Of course ‘normal speed’ depends on point of view. For a driver the normal speed is going to be whatever speed they want to go—who cares what the posted speed says! But generally if you can keep to the posted speed limit—25, 30, 40, whatever—you’re not committing an infraction by riding in the lane and any motorist who gives you grief over that is just being an impatient ass.
The rest of the verbiage seems crystal clear—ride as close to the right as is practicable, right? Well, maybe not. The part of the above paragraph that most people misunderstand—both motorists and cyclists as well as most police officers—is the word ‘roadway’. It turns out that in traffic law a road or highway and a roadway are not exactly the same thing even though we may use all those terms interchangeably in everyday life. A road or highway is pretty much what you think it means: it’s some kind of path open to the public and used for vehicular travel. So a trail is not a road (not used for vehicular travel) although a fire road (= “double track”) is albeit not paved, as long as it’s open for public use. A street is a road since it’s used for vehicular travel and it’s available for public use. However a roadway is slightly but critically different. The CVC Division 1, §530 defines it as follows:
A “roadway” is that portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel.
In other words the roadway is only a part of a road, the part that is ordinarily used for travel. The roadway thus excludes the shoulder, parking lane, and sidewalk but not a bike lane. The roadway is just the lane(s) of travel, period. If you see a white solid line on the right side of the road, this indicates the right edge of the roadway. (However there isn’t always a white line on the right.) As cyclists we are to ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb OR the edge of the roadway, ie. you need to do one or the other but not necessarily both. You do not need to ride as close as is practicable to the curb as long as you are on the right edge of the roadway. Since the roadway excludes the parking lane and shoulder, you only need to ride on the right side of the rightmost lane. If there is a white line marking the right edge of the roadway, then you ride to the left of the white line, not the right of it. Doing the latter places you in the shoulder of the road, which is not part of the roadway.
Not riding in the parking lane seems common sense to me. Although riding in the parking lane may keep you further away from moving cars, when you have to merge into the normal lane of travel because of a parked car, you are increasing the chance of being hit from behind since following cars are not expecting you to move into “their” lane and thus haven’t moved to the left to give you the minimum three feet of passing room. Yet a Palo Alto police officer, irked that I was “blocking” cars, threatened me with a ticket when I refused to ride in the parking lane of El Camino Real (which has multiple lanes, by the way) when I insisted on staying in the right lane. I moved into the parking lane until he disappeared up the road and then resumed riding in the right lane of the roadway. Of course, I’m not rigid about this. If the parking lane is empty for a long way, I have no qualms about using it for my safety; I just plan to merge into the roadway early enough so that cars have plenty of time to see me. (I also signal my intentions.)
The real problem for cyclists isn’t the law per se but drivers’ ignorance of the law. When we ride on the right side of the roadway, drivers become irked that we’re not riding as far to the right of the road. It’s no surprise that such nuances are lost on the general public. Although this technical difference is alluded to in the DMV Drivers Handbook (p. 77) it is not explained. What is covered in the Handbook is an explanation of the exceptions that allow cyclists not to ride all the way to the right of the roadway such as the presence of obstacles, right-turn only lanes, and when the lane is too narrow for a bicycle and car to travel side-by-side. The difference between the roadway and the road should be laid out in plain English so that drivers (and cyclists and cops) are educated about the legally allowable position for cyclists on roads.
Of course this wouldn’t end punishment passes, verbal abuse, leaning on the horn, or getting sideswiped. But it might reduce the amount of road rage focused directly on us. Despite the best education—and no, the DMV Handbook hardly constitutes sufficient “education”—there will always be a subset of drivers whose attitude can accurately be characterized as auto supremicist: cyclists don’t deserve to be on the road regardless of how the laws are written and if they use the roads, they do so at their own risk since they should have no rights. Oh, and they should always get out of the way of motorists if they want to stay alive. As an example we have a neighbor who confronted us once when we were riding up the steep, narrow road to our house: “Bicyclists shouldn’t be allowed on these roads because they’re too narrow!” (= “You’re blocking our cars!”). At first I was stunned by his attitude—hadn’t he read the law or taken a DMV exam to get his license? Didn’t he know how to pass a cyclist in a car? Should we have expected anything less from such ilk than convenient rationalization of violence or bullying towards cyclists—“he deserved it”, “he was so entitled he thought he could take half the road”?

The task before us—besides survival—is huge: to change the culture around transportation. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the effort to end auto supremicism is certainly going to take longer. But the first step is to stop “moving to the back of the bus”—you have a right to ride on the roadway (pun intended), so exercise your right.

Hot Hot Hot

Sometimes a lighthouse is just a lighthouse.

Today’s ride down the San Mateo coast to Gazos Creek was exceptionally timely. Temperature in San Francisco, which has had until now a typically dreary summer fogfest, got downright equatorial when it hit a “high” of 84 for this year. Gosh ‘Friscans, that’s practically like Hell! Elsewhere like the East Bay it was in the triple digits and fabulously smokey. Combined with the worst air quality we’ve seen since last summer’s burnin’, churnin’ fire festival it meant the only sensible place to ride was on the Pacific. Everywhere else you were seeing and breathing red.

Seven Spokers were breathing easy along Highway One for the day but they weren’t alone: it looks like everyone else had the same idea including the Oakland Yellowjackets and Grizzly Peak Cyclists, both of which had club rides there. Joining Jeff were Spokers Mark, Scott, Maurizio and Stephen as well as newcomers Eric and Nathaniel. They ran into Stephanie, who was riding with the Grizzlies (ahem, her other club). Rumor has it that she and Jeff are now conspiring to lead a jaunt in Marin next weekend. Stay tuned!

Ride Recap: No Pool Party Ride

Ironically not having the pool party this year turned out to be a good decision. Last year the Pandemic drove a dagger into the annual pool party. But even if Covid had never appeared, the intense smoke from the bewildering number of August wildfires would have cut the legs out from under the beloved event. Forgot about last August fires? Well, there was the CZU (Santa Cruz & San Mateo), SCU (East & South Bay), LNU (Sonoma & Yolo), August Complex (Mendocino), and the Glass Fire (Napa) to name just a few! How soon we forget. This year Roger and I were measuring the risk of having the pool party with the Delta variant spreading madly and had tentatively, halfheartedly decided to hold it the weekend of August 21-22. Then a surgery date opened up just after that weekend killing the idea for good. Rather than hurriedly putting together the event amidst prepping for surgery and recuperation, we decided it was best put it on hiatus for another year. There’s just something about life sending you a clear message.

Instead of the pool party we decided to hold just the ride since that is much easier to pull off when harried and busy. Instead of having the usual hot, hot August day that would have made the pool an alluring oasis, we got a cool day accompanied by a persistant haze from this year’s fires whose smoke we had heretofore avoided. The PM2.5 reading, which suddenly skyrocketed days before, was supposed to drop down by morning. Instead in the morning we were greeted with a reading of about 140, which is almost “Unhealthy”, but was now projected to drop as the day went on. Well, no good deed goes unpunished as they say.

I was expecting cancellations due to the air pollution but everybody showed up including Will, Scott, Stephen, and Roger from SF and Vanessa from Oakland. Only Will showed up in short sleeves while the rest of us were clad in jackets and even knickers—not the usual clothing for this time of year. But all the San Franciscans bemoaned the lack of heat and sunshine expecting a reprieve from the gruesomely gray Mark Twain summer on their side of the Bay. The route was one of the older pool party routes—out to Pinehurst but then heading to Redwood rather than taking on the 14% top of Pinehurst. After climbing up Redwood, which has a more sensible gradient, we turned onto Skyline and climbed up to where it intersected the top of Pinehurst. From there is was pretty much the standard pool party route except for dropping all the way down to San Pablo Dam Road instead of taking the ‘secret’ way down Old El Toyonal due to construction.

Stephen asked me if there had been any recent bikejackings on Skyline. In April there had been several along Skyline and Wildcat where armed robbers would hem in one or two cyclists with a car and take their bike, phone, and valuables. I told him that nothing more has appeared in the local rags about subsequent armed robberies and perhaps the increased police presence had made it too hot to continue stealing bikes. In any case it had put a damper on our forays into the Berkeley hills except when in a group.

This ride could have been called the Tour of the Berkeley Hills Tearooms because it seemed that we stopped at almost all of the restrooms along the way. Was it aging bladders? diuretics? running out of Depends? Looking for lost “friends”? I have no idea. No sooner had the Orinda BART facilities been inspected and deemed pee-worthy when shortly down the road we stopped at the Valle Vista restroom. Then the Sibley restroom. Then the Brazilian Room. Fortunately no one was in a rush so a rather casual attitude towards stops ruled the day.

Vanessa showed up on her Surly, the only non-road “racing” bike, just as she did in Monterey. It’s a great touring bike but a real boat anchor compared to the bikes the rest of us were sporting–carbon fiber gems, titanium jewels. Yet she pedaled that thing with aplomb, able to keep up, proving that having a $14,000 bike may be cool but ultimately is superfluous.

As we climbed up Skyline the fog got crazy thick. At first I thought it was smoke from the fires. But it “clearly” was pea-soup thick fog from the coast, causing eucalyptus trees to shed copious condensation down on the road. Road spray in August! I was sure glad I had on my longsleeve jersey and vest as well as glove liners. You also couldn’t see more than 75 feet beyond your face—you could hear the cars coming but couldn’t see them until they were right upon you. This made the descent down Grizzly a tad interesting. You couldn’t see shit, there were numerous wet spots, two decreasing radius turns, and with traffic—fun times! I was glad to have day lights on the bike.

Turning onto Wildcat we were finally going to be heading back to Contra Costa, which we hoped meant some actual warmth and sunshine, and right around the Brazilian Room the sun came out brilliantly and the haze vanished. We had a fast descent to Orinda. Will and Vanessa headed off to BART while the rest of us went to Geppetto’s for an outdoor lunch and convivial conversation. And by now the PM2.5 had dropped to 40 just as the forecast had predicted. So no pool but a party on two wheels nonetheless if a bit chilly.