Ladies Lunch in Afghanistan

The Ladies Who Lunch ride last Saturday visited Khyber Pass Kebob in Dublin after a leisurely roll down the Contra Costa Canal and Iron Horse trails. This easy meander brought out seven folks including the Den Daddy Derek Liecty, Adrienne Ratner, Roy Schachter, me, and Roger; Derek also brought along two of his friends, Fred and Bryan. As if to underline the relaxed nature of this ride Roy rode his forty-pound bike equipped with a large lock and an unusual noseless saddle, which several curious folks had to try (“Why, you can swivel your hips while pedaling!”) The Iron Horse trail’s north origin actually begins some distance away up near Highway 4, so we started at the Concord BART station because, well, it’s just easier, and because it’s a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Contra Costa Canal trail, which intersects the Iron Horse. Those of you safely ensconced in Babylon probably are not aware that Contra Costa county actually has several canals and quite a few multi-use paths other than the Iron Horse. And, all of them are dead flat (well, almost). Because they crisscross the county locals use them not just for sport but for getting to where they need to go; they’re highly functional.

Chopan Kabob
Chopan Kabob

Saturday was warm and sunny, not unusual for the East Bay, and it brought out the masses: walkers, doggers, joggers, bladers—the usual gamut. As we got closer to Danville the crowd homing in on their popular farmer’s market made slaloming on the trail necessary. We stopped for coffee at the Peet’s nearby, which is the local cyclists’ hangout. Since the Amgen tour was going up Mt. Diablo that day, a huge crowd of local butchy racers and pseudo-racers were gathered to fuel up for the climb, talk smack, and preen before the horrified normal café regulars. Lest we forget, everyday people are generally either amused, bemused, or aghast at all that flab (or conversely, patent anorexia) in Lycra.

We made our escape and continued south to our lunch. And oh, what a lunch it was! Situated in a nondescript strip mall in Dublin, Khyber Pass Kabob is easy to miss and looks like any of the thousands of low-rent ethnic restaurant starving for clientele that populate odd corners of the Bay Area. Unless you live in the Fremont or Milpitas area, Afghani food is rather rare to find (the big exception being Helmand restaurant in San Francisco, which has been around since the 90s). Most of us have to live with the middling stuff purveyed by East West Foods at farmers’ markets and also sold at Costco.  But not today. Khyber Pass is a small, semi-hole-in-the-wall but the food is exceptionally yummy. Although they have quite a few vegetarian dishes, their lamb is really the bomb. The best is their chopan kebob, lamb steaks with a tantalizing rub, served with basmati rice and tomato. I had the quabuli pallow, which is a tender lamb shank in basmati rice with raisins and carrots.

Lamb shank in basmati rice
Quabuli pallow

Along with lunch came a mixed salad and an Afghani pudding, firni, which was interesting. Haagen Dazs will not need to be looking over its shoulder for this threat. We also ordered doogh, a yogurt drink, to share around the table. Seasoned with cucumber and mint, it was refreshing but because it wasn’t sweetened it was more like a thin summer soup than a beverage. Khyber Pass Kebob’s bolani bread was heavenly—I could have eaten a couple of plates of it alone. Theirs is far better than East West’s; in fact, they’re just two different animals. Khyber Pass Kebob spices theirs and can adjust the heat to your preference. Plus, it’s fresh out of the oven.

bolani
Spiced bolani bread

In contrast to a typical Different Spokes mid-ride lunch, which tends to be as hurried as a triathlon transition zone, we stopped for a full hour to relish our food, chat, and relax. After lunch it was less than a mile to Dublin BART—easy on the digestion. Several of us forwent BART and returned on the Iron Horse at a slightly higher clip—Derek at nearly age 81 was clocked at 23 mph—but not too hasty a pace as to have us get a second unintentional serving of our lunchtime repast.

Where will the Ladies go next? Stay tuned…

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Weekday Rides Go Coastal

Cycling on the San Mateo coast can be dismally cold when the marine layer is thick and the sun nowhere in sight. Ah, but when the fog fails to roll in and the sun shines brightly it can be pure heaven. That was the case yesterday with our second Different Spokes weekday ride, which went from Half Moon Bay down the coast and then returned on the back roads of San Mateo County. The route was a club favorite: from Half Moon Bay we rolled 22 miles down the coast past beach after beach to Gazos Creek Road. From there we turned inland and took a series of old roads—Cloverdale, Stage Road, Verde, Tunitas Creek, Lobitos Creek, Purissima, and Higgins Canyon. A couple were flattish but most of them were real grunts uphill (and down) albeit not too long to kill the buzz. We had a moderate wind from the northwest that whisked us southward as if we had legs of steel, and since the return leg was slightly inland we didn’t have to suffer the indignity of a withering headwind.

Pescadero Coast
Pescadero view

Riding on a weekday instead of the weekend meant we escaped the typical horde of city folk rushing to the beaches; traffic was agreeably light and the line at Norm’s Market in Pescadero, our lunch stop, was—gasp!—nonexistent. At times it was a hammerfest but mostly it was taking in the exquisite quiet and beauty of rural coastside San Mateo piano. It was 54 miles and 3,800 feet of elevation gain. Stay tuned to the Different Spokes Ride Calendar for the next weekday ride…

Cinderella 2013 Report!

Member Janet Lourenzo was kind enough to pen her experience at this year’s Cinderella Classic. Janet, like literally thousands of other women, took the start line of the 2012 Cinderella only to be driven to abandon the ride after torrential rain and hurricane-like winds made the event a literal wash-out. 2013 was much kinder to her! With no further ado…

Janet and Tony
Janet today, with Tony
Janet 1994
Janet then, 1994 Gay Games (fourth from right)

One year has passed and the Cinderella was scheduled for April this year after the proper drenching of 2012. So, although I was determined to do the whole enchilada, it occurred to me that I hadn’t ridden this many total miles since the Cinderella of 1994!! The last twenty years have not been especially kind to me in a manner that would warrant such an escapade, but I had big plans for this year after buying my first carbon bike. The Princess should at least try to live up to the glittery fabulousness of the chariot, no?

So this year’s Cinderella was merely a warm up act for future (read: harder) events later in the season.  My goal for Cinderella was just to endure the hours, to find out if I could sit (ahem) for that long, and to test if the various body part surgeries could hold up to such repetitive use. My training plan (read: fantasy/dream) was difficult to complete, as we all know the bone-chilling winter we had this year. My longest ride had been a mere 50-something miles, and I remember feeling trashed afterwards! In fact, I confess to being just a mosey-around-Tiburon-sunny-day kinda girl! My twenty-odd-miles lifestyle does NOT equal a metric century video game-style route around tutus and boas!

Resolved to my fate, I met my group of fellow Cinderellas very early that morning secretly wishing I was on the Different Spokes Evil Step Sisters’ lovely jaunt in Marin instead!!! We adjusted our tiaras and headed out under cloudy skies after the obligatory photo posedown!!! The ride itself was thankfully uneventful (no tits up at all) with the exception of a young girl who had a nasty sit-down next to a curb, resulting in a banged-up knee. Speaking of knees, I had on knickers for the cold and the pressure on my bum knee forced me to do a Lycra rollup by lunchtime, but I avoided the fashion police by skipping the next rest stop!

At one point after lunch I felt I was bogging down, especially on one infernal grade. Then like a vision from my past, in a stupid wide brimmed hat there was my coach Ted Fisher (he coached the Different Spokes women for the Gay Games 1994)! I reached the top of Lemon Drop Hill and typical Ted, he yelled at me to keep going. But I stopped anyway and gave him a hug, got my lemon drop and felt much better! Echoing in my head for many miles later was Ted’s voice, “GET ON THAT WHEEL”, “PULL THROUGH”, “GO NOW, NOW, NOWWW”!!!!

Alas, my understanding of a metric century was that it would be 61-something miles. This error in calculation—the Cinderella is actually 65 miles—was a psychological blow to me at the 62-mile spot, and the final three miles were TORMENT!!! It’s amazing what the mind/body connection can do in such times, but in this case I couldn’t reconfigure my mental state and I unraveled in the final moments. My knee was screaming and I was cursing the organizers for yet another intersection with a long stoplight. Where were those course marshals?? Mileage was the great unknown—well, at least for the last twenty years—and I was mortified that I had to go even one inch further! In the end I did keep to higher cadence and lower gears, mostly out of anger and pain, and rolled in at about five hours, or around a pedestrian 13 mph average. Tiara intact I felt that I earned another Cinderella patch after riding this year on my own versus the previous time, when I was twenty years younger—at 17+ mph average with a women’s race team in a rotating pace line!

Thanks to Monica for the bejeweled tiaras and to all the Prince Charmings, especially Ted, helping out this year! (Ted later mentioned on Facebook that he has been handing out lemon drops for the last 30 years!!) What a perfect reunion!

30th Anniversary kit pics

kitfront

Here’s the short sleeve jersey and bib shorts. I’m relieved the colors turned out more vibrant in real life than as they appeared in the drawings. Primal Wear describes this sizing of this clothing as “club” fit i.e. a little more room than in “race” fit. I usually take a medium in “race” fit type clothes, and I ordered small. The bib shorts seem spot on; the short sleeve jersey is not tight (I wouldn’t have expected it to be so) nor voluminous (what I feared). So, it’s in the middle, i.e. it’s not close-fitting but I don’t expect it to flutter in the wind. Here’s a pic from the side:

kitside

As you can see, the arms aren’t overly loose either–just about right for my skinny arms!

The vest, or gilet, is reassuringly close-fitting, as it should be to avoid fluttering:

gilet

On the other hand, the jacket is, uh, parachute-like even in a small. Fortunately it has a cinch on the right side at chest level that allows you to adjust the fit. Here it is cinched down for my size. I won’t show you what it looks like when it’s open but suffice it to say that if your BMI is anywhere south of about 30, you should be able to get this sucker to fit:

jacket

If you ordered any of the 30th anniversary kit, be sure to fly your colors at the next Jersey ride if not before. Let’s see, there’s the Primavera, Chico Wildflower, the Wine Country, Grizzly Peak…

The Ladies Tour the Pig Farm Looking for Ham

When idly talking with David Goldsmith last year, I half-jokingly remarked that we needed a ride series where we just went somewhere good to eat. Cycling would be the side dish to the main course of, well, the main course. You’d have to take the Way Back machine to remember that we did have Dash ‘N Dine (aka “Dish ‘n Dine”) rides in another era. (Sometimes they turned into Hurry ‘N Hurl rides.) But I was thinking of something more civilized and refined, you know, with an actual lingering lunch stop where we—gasp!—gave our digestion a running start before setting foot on bike again. Hence, this year’s Ladies Who Lunch rides…

After a leg crushing Tierra Bella century the day before, Roger and I were ready for a seriously easy ride. We thought a 30-mile ride from Orinda over Pig Farm and then to Chow in Lafayette would be the perfect post-century recovery ride when we posted it. Joining us were Adrienne and Wendy: Adrienne was still babying a bum knee caused by a crash on the 2011 (!) AIDS LifeCycle ride; Wendy was getting ready for a multi-day self-contained tour down the California coast but had done a hard ride the day before. Laura Petracek, who was also dealing with a knee injury that threatens to derail her 2013 ALC plans, planned to join us at Chow for the return to Orinda. It was looking like it was going to be sweet—we’d all take it easy and have a laidback time. Unfortunately it was either a case of one too many memory neurons biting the dust or of how distant memories seem even rosier as time goes by. But the ride out Castro Ranch Road and up Pig Farm was, um, hard no matter how slowly we went. First there was the nasty, short bump that brings you to the last El Sobrante subdivision before you’re really away from development, and then it was up Pig Farm. Wendy and I were musing as to which was the harder of the two, she arguing that Pig Farm was steeper and I that the nasty bump, albeit shorter in length, was actually steeper. At the top of Pig Farm I would say Wendy won that argument. Further down the road there is another “short”, nasty hill on Reliez Valley Road. I definitely don’t remember it being that bad. But it was. And what day of riding would be complete without at least one flat, of course at the bottom of a steep climb? That misfortune fell on Adrienne. I was ahead with Wendy but Roger had wisely hung back and was able to help Adrienne repump her tire, as it seemed to be just a slow leak. By the time we got to the top we had to ‘top off’ her tire once more before we descended to Lafayette and lunch.

At Chow Lafayette the perfect weather had the usual suburban hordes spilling out to the al fresco dining. But we were able to bag a table anyway through serendipitous timing. I’ll cut to the chase: Wendy had their perfect Cobb salad, Laura the organic spinach salad, and Roger a bowl of their delicious minestrone. Only Adrienne and I—both of us adore Chow—had no restraint, she having the Thai style noodles while I ventured their organic veggie burger, which I had never tried before. It was one of the best veggie burgers—and lord knows how dull veggie burgers can be—I had ever had. It came on a crisp, toasted Acme bun with sliced avocado, tomato, and lettuce. The crowning glory was the tzatziki sauce, a truly inspired idea. Oh yeah, also it comes with their fabulously crisp, thin French fries. (recommended by none other than our David Sexton)—I could eat an entire gigantic bowl of them if they would offer it (they don’t, thank god).

Into this melismatic food moment came the survivors of David Goldsmith’s Morgan Territory ride. David had thought the Ladies were going to lunch at Chow Danville and had wanted to get the two groups to dine together until I corrected him that we were dining in Lafayette. I guess he decided to join us anyway! Alas, they arrived just as we were polishing off the last bits on our plates, and so they were left to dine disconsolately all by themselves without the joyful mealtime banter of the Ladies to entertain them.

Once suitably refreshed by our food and dishy conversation we oh-so-slowly made our way back to Orinda BART. If you’d like to join the Ladies, be sure to watch the Different Spokes ride calendar. Rumor has it that the next luncheon adventure will be a visit to merry ol’ Afghanistan…

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever…

This year’s first weekday ride got off to a great start on Tuesday, April 9. After a blustery, wet weekend that had us wondering whether we might be rained out, we had brilliantly clear skies devoid of smog and overcast—perfect! Eight folks participated including Ron Hirsch, David Sexton, Sal Tavormina, Roger Hoyer, along with three non-members, Dale, Jiro, and Elliott. Andrew Lee was going to join us but a saddle sore due to a new saddle derailed his participation; Howard Neckel got the start time wrong and showed up late. Next time, guys!

We rode from McLaren Lodge in Golden Gate Park, the old Different Spokes Decide ‘N Ride start point down to Pacifica for lunch at the Upper Crust Deli with a return up Sharp Park Boulevard and through the nether regions of Daly City. The weekend winds had dumped sand on the Great Highway, which a few of us tried to surf only to abandon for the safety of the multi-use path. Otherwise, our ride was uneventful. The views of the Pacific were stunning on such a clear day. We avoided most of Skyline and Highway One by taking side roads and an occasional bike path, which made it a much nicer day rather than fretting constantly about the traffic on those high speed roads. The return was a butt buster climb up to Fassler Boulevard and then another up Sharp Park.

The ride was about 40 miles with a tad less than 3,000 feet of altitude gain. Everyone seemed to have a good time, but then again any day on a bike is better than a day at work, right?

If you have weekdays free and would like to join us, be sure to watch the Different Spokes ride calendar for future offerings.

Ride With Different Spokes During the Week!

Playing hooky

Have you ever looked at the Different Spokes ride calendar and wished there was a ride posted on a Tuesday, a Wednesday, or just any weekday? Maybe you have a weekday free because you have a non-standard work schedule, are between jobs, or are “of an age”, or maybe you just want to play hooky from work. True, during the summer when the days are long we have a few after work rides squeezed in before sunset. But what about an honest to goodness ride during the day, maybe even including lunch?

On Tuesday, April 9 your wish will be granted. Join fellow Spokers with a 39-mile lunch ride to the Upper Crust Deli in Pacifica! For details go to the ride calendar.

If you can’t make this particular ride but would like to come on other weekday “work” rides, be sure to contact Tony to let him know when you’re free and the type of ride you’d like to do.