Our President David Goldsmith was the originator of this ride as well as L’Alpe de Fromage. “Darth Veeder” takes riders up the ever-popular Veeder Road in Napa. David first led this ride in 2010 as part of a spring training series. This was the second year on tap at our ride calendar. Veeder runs approximatly north-south and can be ridden in either direction. David wisely chose to ride it from the south, which is less steep than doing from the north. It also gives riders the chance to amble peacefully next to Redwood Creek, lending a very pastoral feel to this relatively isolated road. Along Veeder you pass estates and vineyards and then at the top get a fantastic view of the Napa Valley and the nearby mountains. The descent is curvy but not crazy except for the pavement breaks that seem to come out of nowhere. Fortunately traffic is usually sparse. After Veeder is a fun, easy descent on Dry Creek Road. David also started this ride at Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, giving riders a chance to fill up on exquisite pastries both before and after!
David reported: Today was beyond beautiful. To start with, we were surrounded by a ring of snow-capped mountains. In Napa Valley. Unreal. Mt. St. Helena was particularly impressive viewed from Highway 29 while driving up to Yountville. Once we got on our bikes and started climbing the mountain, there was water everywhere. I figured there would be, since it had rained all week. But the flow through the creeks, occasionally spilling over onto the roads we were riding, was massive. Redwood Creek was churning away and Dry Creek was not dry. When we got to the top, there were daffodils blooming among green mountainsides. Just before we left the summit, I turned around and espied Mt. Diablo, probably 50 miles south, huge and blanketed with snow. It looked like one of the Sierras, very impressive.
If you’re a club member, log into the club website and view all the ride pics in the 201102 Darth Veeder photo album!
It’s not quite that easy to reopen, is it? A magical incantation may have worked in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves but it will take something beyond words to get the club to really open up and reveal its treasures. It’s proved that way at other Bay Area cycling clubs as well—being able to reopen for rides has not led to a spate of listings nor of participation. Most members are still eschewing group rides even though they check off just about all the safety boxes: health and safety protocols, outdoor and mostly uncrowded, and constantly moving air. Everybody’s assessement of risk is going to be different and although we’d like to think there is a rational calculus, so much is unknown about COVID spread that the penumbra of uncertainty seems large and hazy. I have read anecdotally that in Florida, which pandemic-wise is a world unto itself, large group rides (e.g. 50+ riders) take place almost every day of the week where riders ride in close quarters unmasked, i.e. conduct rides as if nothing were different today. Actually I still see a few “relatives” of those Florida training rides out here although they aren’t quite as big and more of the riders are carrying face coverings even if they aren’t wearing them. But for the most part Bay Area cyclists seem to be riding by themselves or only with small groups of family or friends.
We restarted our club rides in October and they’ve mostly been led or co-led by our Secretary Jeff Pekrul. They seem small—maybe four to eight participants—but those numbers were pretty typical prepandemic. Of course you can’t have club rides without ride leaders/hosts and since that population has always been small—about fifteen or so members—the limiting factor is going to be the number of hosts that are willing to lead now. Whether it’s because the pandemic has upended personal lives, fear of COVID transmission, or the fact that it’s currently the rainy season and cold, ride leaders aren’t leaping forward to grab the reins, so to speak.
Looking at who’s showing up on our pandemic rides it’s mostly the same people, ie. those who aren’t fearful of congregating with fellow Spokers. Everybody else seems to be hunkered down waiting for the plague to blow over. But with mass vaccination no longer on the horizons and well into view, more Spokers are certain to emerge like Punxsutawney Phil and not be scared by their shadows.
I’ve certainly been pondering this question although it’s mostly theoretical since I’m still recovering from an injury that’s keeping me off the bike: when I’m vaccinated, will I then start leading club rides just like before? Will I then join a club ride? I hate to admit it but there is one thing that is a real turn-off for doing a group ride right now: I can’t stop someplace, sit down, and have a nice lunch midride. Restaurants are currently open only for takeout and it’s cold outside. Eating takeout under those conditions is not a whole lot different than stopping at the Kwik-E-Mart for a snack. Yeah, it’ll get you home but it’s…disappointing.
I’m looking forward to the day when we can do a ride, sit down for a delightful meal filled with insouciant and witty conversation, and then after an inspiring postprandial coffee saddle up again for a slow roll back to the manse. Without a mask.
Almost all—but not all—spring century rides have been cancelled or converted into virtual events where you do a ride on your own; some are entertaining postponing their rides to the fall. The latter is risky because the future state of the pandemic is not easy to predict. Will stay-at-home orders and social distancing still be in effect in the Bay Area and will local governing bodies refuse to give out permits for large events? Club or organization volunteers also need to feel safe enough to be willing to staff an event involving a lot of social contact.
The prospect of centuries during the summer is more likely than spring but that still doesn’t mean clubs are fully committing to hosting their rides. Despite problems with vaccine distribution approximately 2.5 million Californians, or about 6% of the state, has received at least one shot, which will provide them with at least partial protection. Those folks will receive their second shot within weeks if not already. It’s also good news that the current approved vaccines are providing some protection against the known variants such as the UK, Brazil, and South African. We can expect vaccinations to accelerate with more FDA approvals and the distribution system to improve with time. Even at the roughly current rate of about 6% per month, by end of June only about 40% of the state will be vaccinated; by end of September about 60% of the state will have been vaccinated, which is getting close to herd immunity. So things are looking good for fall. (But we thought the same last year and were blindsided by a surge in early summer.) The tricky one is summer: will the threat have abated enough that rides can proceed? These clubs and organizations have more time to ponder their future, so we may be pleasantly surprised come June with open events.
To view the current status of spring and early summer centuries, go to an earlier post. I’ll try to keep this post updated as I have the earlier one.
?Saturday, June 26: Giro Bello. No word yet. Saturday July 17: Death Ride. $149. Registration is open. Saturday July 17: Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge. 127, 102, 45 mi and 100k routes. Will either be cancelled or a virtual event. The 2020 CZU fire damaged sections of the routes. ?July: Fall River Challenge. No word yet. In 2020 this century was postponed from 6/14 to 7/18 and actually took place. ?Saturday August 7: Marin Century. The sponsoring club, Marin Cyclists, is not yet hosting rides of any sort and the Marin is not on their club calendar. Unlikely to happen. ?AugustSaturday October 16: Cool Breeze Century. Tentatively scheduled for Saturday October 16, 2021! ?August: Crater Lake Century. 100 or 62 mi. No word yet. ?August: Tour of Napa. No word yet. Sept. 11 & 18: Ride The Rim. 33 mi; reg opens 4/1/21. Sponsored by Crater Lake National Park, Friends of Crater Lake, and the Klamath Visitors Bureau. About two-thirds of the route is car free. September 11: Best Buddies Challenge. 100, 62, 30, 15 mi. Raise $1,550 ($50 reg fee) reg is open. Event is capped at 50% capacity compared to previous iterations.
As you know we continued to offer club rides despite the winter CoViD-19 surge and the December statewide Stay-At-Home order. Some board members had a discussion about this prompted by the news that Western Wheelers ceased club rides in early January when Santa Clara County informed them they could no longer have gatherings. You may be wondering the same thing: how could a club like Different Spokes have continued to host club rides, which involve gathering, when all gatherings supposedly had been banned?
A little history: since last March every local cycling club—that I could think of—either explicitly stopped club rides or emptied their ride calendars (leading me to conclude that despite no announcement they too were not hosting rides). In June San Mateo County got a variance from the State that allowed outdoor gatherings up to 50 people. Suddenly group outdoor recreation was now licit in that county. Western Wheelers quickly reactivated club rides just in San Mateo. When Santa Clara also allowed outdoor group recreation, WW, which is based in there, reopened rides in their home county as well. Thereafter other cycling clubs followed suit in their communities. (Some of those clubs were in counties that hadn’t yet allowed group outdoor recreation but some clubs did it anyway.) Several of the larger clubs in the Bay Area reopened—Fremont Freewheelers, Almaden Cycle Touring Club in San Jose, Grizzly Peak Cyclists in Berkeley, Sunnyvale Saratoga Cycling Club. There were also large cycling clubs that didn’t reopen, including Marin Cyclists, Valley Spokesmen in Dublin, Davis Cycling Club, and Sacramento Wheelmen and have continued to eschew group rides. We decided to reopen.
The restart of group cycling was initially prompted by San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties allowing it. But it really gathered steam when the State switched to the State Plan and the color tier system—ie. the State Blueprint For A Safe Economy—to give guidance to all counties. This was helpful because when each county had no choice but to implement its own pandemic plan, we ended up with a confusing patchwork or regulations. The new tier system meant that counties could just adopt the state rules instead. Some Bay Area counties eventually did exactly that including Alameda and Contra Costa whereas others continued to draft their own more restrictive plans such as Santa Clara and San Francisco.
The import of this has to do with (a) what was considered an allowed gathering in a county, and (b) how governmental bodies viewed cycling clubs. Although never explicitly stated, governmental bodies viewed cycling clubs the same as informal social groups unless they had a business license or non-profit status. Clubs without formal legal status were then subject to general restrictions on gathering. But clubs that had legal non-profit status were treated the same as businesses and hence their gatherings were subject to the regulations in the State Blueprint, which devotes the bulk of its attention to which businesses may operate and how they can operate. In other words for clubs that didn’t have some kind of business or non-profit status, their gatherings were treated no differently rulewise than just a group of friends or neighbors who were hanging out together. It didn’t matter if your club had a professional-looking website and snazzy kit: if you hadn’t bother to file for non-profit status (or perhaps your rides were not sponsored by a local bike for-profit cycling business), your club’s rides were no different than a generic gathering and hence subject to all the regulations—e.g. pod size, limited number, limited number of households, etc. Under the December emergency order their gatherings were purely social gatherings and were banned. You’d be surprised how many cycling clubs were in this situation. There was even one local cycling club that subsequently entertained the idea of becoming a religious organization/church in order to offer rides presumably because they didn’t have business or non-profit status.
In late summer and early fall, counties were allowing some social gathering either by requiring social distancing and face coverings, limiting the maximum number who could gather, requiring closed pods, or other such devices. Businesses were also required to do similar things for their patrons and employees, eg. by limiting the number who could enter an indoor business or work in a space. But the regulations for social gatherings and business gatherings were not necessarily the same with the latter spelled out both in the State Blueprint and in specific county regulations (if the county wasn’t following the State plan).
Last summer when non-profit organizations such as Different Spokes, Grizzly Peak Cyclists, or Western Wheelers looked at the State Blueprint For A Safe Economy for guidance, there was no obvious category for us. At that time the only category that even came close was Outdoor Recreation and RV Parks and we, as well as several of our fellow cycling clubs, ended up following those guidelines in terms of how we conduct our club when we’re in counties that have adopted the State Plan. San Francisco County was one of the counties that wrote its own plan and it has never clearly categorized us. The only business category we seemed to fit in is Gyms and Fitness Clubs; I’ve confirmed this with the SF Department of Public Health. One of the compliance requirements to operate in SF is to create and make available to the public a health and safety plan, which we have done. This is no different than for any other business in this category operating in SF. When the December emergency stay-at-home order was announced, all gathering outside of your immediate household was supposed to cease. But ‘gatherings’ such as outdoor fitness classes were still allowed. Why? Because the rules for business ‘gatherings’ were not the same as for purely social gatherings.
So that puts non-profit organizations such as Different Spokes in an interesting situation: our club rides are, in everyday language, certainly social gatherings. But because we are a non-profit organization, San Francisco’s CoViD-19 health orders allowed us to continue offering our “outdoor fitness classes”. We continued to offer club rides legally. But should we have?
Not only does this seem contradictory (but then again many things in the law seem contradictory to us lay folk, who don’t understand how subtle differences are finessed!) but it seems to belie common sense: if you want to stop community spread and you think it’s due to people gathering, then you should stop all gatherings, period. But a critical difference is that the allowed business gatherings are supposedly under the supervision of the business: the fitness club staff (= ride leaders) makes sure that class participants follow appropriate social distancing, masking, etc. There may be no such mandated oversight at informal social gatherings. That seems to be one of the reasons that club rides were and are okay—they’re part of a business practice and supervised according to county or state rules—and not treated like informal social gatherings where anything goes. The concern seems to be that informal social gatherings are major transmission sites because people don’t actually follow best practices for preventing infection. So they have to be squelched. Does that mean that ‘gatherings’ as part of a business operation are therefore safe? No. I’m sure plenty of businesses with ‘no mask, no service’ signs continue to do business with people who don’t or won’t wear a mask. They may not care to enforce the rules for fear of alienating their patrons; have indifferent, ignorant, or fearful staff; or they just need the money. Not too long ago I was in a supermarket where a customer was “blow holing” (had a mask on his face that didn’t cover his nose) and the woman at the bakery counter went about her business to sell him his morning coffee and bagel without ever asking him to cover up properly. At another supermarket I saw a group of employees convening in an aisle and at least two them did not have any masks. (!)
So was our continuing to offer club rides merely self-serving? My normally cynical self leans towards “Of course!” But the leaders of our pandemic rides have been dutiful in enforcing compliance with the club HASP. I had a discussion with the leader of another local club that was grappling with the same issues and we had come to a similar conclusion: people are out riding in groups regardless of the pandemic and many of those groups don’t have masks or other protocols to protect their participants. When people come on our club rides, they’re told exactly what they need to do to ride with us or they have to exit the ride. In that way our club rides are safer than the ad hoc social gatherings we see on two wheels. Think of it as a kind of harm reduction: if you think solo cycling is safe and group cycling unsafe, consider properly supervised group cycling as a lesser evil. Some clubs might be very laissez-faire when it comes to enforcing safety. But if you offer the kind of pandemic rides we do, then it’s hardly evil at all and may in fact be a good as riders internalize safe pandemic riding habits and then consider them “normal”. If the pandemic worsens due to perhaps the new SARS-COV-2 variants, then a real lockdown is surely in our near future—not the ‘lockdown lite’ we keep getting told is a lockdown but something more like what was implemented in Wuhan, Italy, or Spain last spring—and if that is the case then our rides will be shut down for realz. But so will many other businesses that have also been given a pass since the State started reopening last May.
I learned something recently: cyclists are not required to use a ‘protected bike lane’. Maybe you already knew that–I certainly didn’t! But I suspect most of us have little or no understanding of the difference between a bike lane, a bike route, bike path, and a bikeway. To most people those terms are interchangeable but the reality is that they are used under the Vehicle Code and by traffic engineers technically to distinguish related but different entities.
A bikeway is a general term for any path of travel that is designated for bicycle use. So it can be, for example, a lane, a ‘route’, a multi-use path, etc. But sometimes it’s used interchangeably with the term ‘cycle track’, which is generally some kind of protected path of travel for bicycles.
You’ve likely seen the near-ubiquitous signs announcing ‘bike route’. This simply announces that this path of travel—likely a street or highway—is a ‘recommended’ route for cyclists. Who recommended it? You don’t know. What makes a way recommended is totally unclear since bike route signs can be found on streets with cars and trucks travelling at high speed. Also because a street is designated a ‘bike route’ does not require any municipal entity to maintain it such as by obstacle removal or street cleaning (although they might if you complain).
A bike lane is more specific than a bike route in that it is a lane marked by signage or striping set aside for use by bicycles. Sometimes some motor vehicles are allowed to ‘use’ a bike lane such as when making a turn, and even park in it (e.g. police, ambulances, mail trucks, garbage trucks). Usually a bike lane is explicitly indicated with a sign or pavement marking, ‘bike lane’.
A protected bike lane is one that is separated from regular vehicle lanes. The separation can be as simple as an extra-wide, chevroned strip or true physical separation such as bollards, K-barriers, or even parked cars as is the case in Golden Gate Park.
In 2012 the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition convinced the City to install protected bike lanes in Golden Gate Park as a ‘trial’. (It must have been successful because they were never removed!) There were repeated incidents of drivers parking in the bike lane, which was adjacent to the curb, and not parking in the parking spots that were set away from the curb to protect the bike lane. There were the other adjustment snafus such as passenger doors being blithely kicked open forcing cyclists to move to the right as much as possible, people crossing the bike lane suddenly, and slow users in the bike lane (eg. the rental pedicars from Stow Lake) that obstructed the lane. Most of these issues have probably diminished over the years. But there are still structural issues such as the difficulty/impossibility of passing another slower cyclist when there are cars parked to your left. At the time I asked SF Bike what faster cyclists should do since my reading of the California Vehicle Code was that when a bike lane protected or otherwise was adjacent to the roadway, cyclists who were going slower than the rest of traffic were required to use the bike lane. Of course SF Bike responded that one should just use the regular lane that cars use. Say what? In any case I did try that and on the very first ride I did after that email exchange with SF Bike I was honked and yelled at by a driver ‘get out of the road!’ (By the way, another irritating structural issue is avoiding broken glass strewn in the lane—you can’t swerve right (curb) or left (parked cars) easily, if at all, to avoid it.)
It turns out my reading of the CVC was either incorrect or the law has been amended since then. Cyclists are NOT required to use a protected bike lane. Why? Because, in a bit of oxymoronic nomenclatural confusion a bike lane that is separated by a physical barrier such as parked cars, bollards, etc. is not considered a ‘bike lane’ anymore but a ‘separated bikeway’ and it turns out we may either use the ‘separated bikeway’ or not—it’s our choice.
The section of the CVC that mandates bike lane usage is here. The section of the California Streets and Highways Code that allows us not to use the protected bike lane is here.
If you read the latter, you may be wondering, “how does this paragraph allow us to skip the separated bikeway?” It’s because although we are required to use an adjacent bike lane per the CVC, a separated bikeway is not a bike lane in the eyes of the law, and the CVC paragraph above does not mention ‘separated bikeway’, ‘cycle track’ or ‘Class IV bikeway’, which are the correct terms for a protected bike lane. Interestingly there is a note that SHC 890.4 was amended in 2015, which was well after the GG Park lanes were installed. Whether the 2015 amendment was about differentiating bike lanes from protected bike lanes is unclear. But this semantic sleight-of-hand is our get-out-of-jail card.
However just because the law is technically on our side does not mean that there are no social consequences. I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of drivers don’t know this legal esoterica and when they encounter a slower cyclist (well, actually ANY cyclist) in their lane, they wouldn’t give a shit what the law says anyway, they just want you out of the way! Having a patently obvious alternative lane—the protected bike lane—and seeing cyclists not using it are likely to induce apoplectic rage and lead to diatribes about the massive ‘entitlement’ of cyclists. So it’s not enough just to let us use the regular vehicle lanes; we need driver education concerning cycling law and why some cyclists choose not to use the protected bike lane.
“We had a very nice ride to Pt. Reyes Station this past Saturday. Joan, Donald, Will, Scott and I rode from Corte Madera Town Square Park out to Pt. Reyes Station to sample the amazing baking at Bovine Bakery. It was a beautiful day—and pretty warm for mid-January—with hardly a cloud in the sky. A lot of other cyclists were on the roads enjoying the great weather. There has been barely enough rain in this very dry winter to green the hills just a little.
After lunch we returned via Platform Bridge Road and the paved bike path through Samuel P. Taylor State Park. But instead of taking Sir Francis Drake Blvd. from the park entrance, Joan took us on a section of the unpaved Cross Marin Trail, aka Sir Francis Drake Bikeway, for a mile or two. It was muddy and most of us probably gave our bikes a bath afterwards. Joan apparently does a lot of off-road biking and her mountain bike looks like it’s made of mud. For the route back to Fairfax we took side roads through San Geronimo and Woodacre that were new to many of us and really beautiful. Before ending in Corte Madera we stopped briefly at Low Key Motors in San Anselmo to look at their cool vintage bikes.”
The first pandemic Jersey Ride successfully took place today courtesy of Jeff Pekrul and Scott Steffens. The last JR was February, with the March ride cancelled because of rain and then the next day the statewide lockdown started. Sigh. So this was a real “coming out” for the Jersey! Scott and Jeff were accompanied by Ginny, Joan, Maurizio, and Mina. Mina was new to DSSF and this was her first ride; Maurizio was last seen in 2017 and then his bike got stolen! Apparently he’s back on two wheels (and with a big-ass lock probably!) Jeff reports that the JRiders did the usual Tib loop with a stop at Woodlands Market. On the way back they went through Fort Baker in lieu of the trafficky haul up Alexander. Wildlife sightings included a coyote in the Presidio, a sea lion in Sausalito, and two bears in black leathers on Harleys. Although cool and damp after last night’s rain, the air was super fresh and clear allowing stellar views across the Bay. See you in January!
Normally at this time of year we’d be looking at a roster replete with centuries and gran fondo rides for the following year. But the pandemic has thrown these events into question. That shouldn’t be surprising because it takes at least six months of planning to pull off a large public event. Clubs and organizations that cancelled 2020 events and looked forward to 2021 have been concerned and privately tentative as COVID-19 worsened in early fall and some have already hit the eject button in order not to waste club effort and precious funds on another cancelled event.
The news of vaccines on the immediate horizon, which we greet with relief, has probably led to even more decisions to cancel because it does not look like enough people can be vaccinated before summer to make these events viable. Not all events have been cancelled, at least to date. Below is the list of events and their current status. Some events are becoming “virtual”. This usually means that you can ride one of the routes on your own during the specified window of time. Some rides are partially supported. Keep in mind that events that are currently listed as taking place may still be cancelled or postponed.
Saturday Feb 13: Velo Love Ride. 60 or 100 mi. No word on this event but very unlikely to happen. Saturday Feb 20: Tour de Palm Springs. 102, 51, 26, 9 mi; reg open now, $40. This is a virtual event. Saturday Feb. 20: Pedaling Paths to Independence. 65 or 25 mi; $45-40. No word on this event but very unlikely to happen. $25 donation. Now a virtual event; ride a route between 2/27 through 3/7. Saturday, March 6: Blossom Bike Ride. 60, 45 or 20 mi; $50. CANCELLED Saturday Mar. 13: Solvang Century. CANCELLED. Saturday, April 10: Cinderella Classic & Challenge. Limit of 800; $65/40. But registration is not open. CANCELLED but there may be a virtual Cinderella–stay tuned. April 25. Mt. Hamilton Challenge. This ride hasn’t been held the last three years. ?April. Eroica California. No word yet and no date announced. Now rescheduled for Sept. 12. Registration is not open yet. Sunday Apr. 26 Chico Wildflower. $60-40. This ride was calendared but has been removed, which probably means it’s cancelled. It’s now a virtual event from April 26 through May 9. Registration is now open. You can choose one of the traditional century routes or do their (easier) Adventurer ride or their new Scavenger hunt. Saturday, April 17: Mr. Frog’s Wild Ride. 100 & 50k routes. No word yet. The roads near Murphys are incredible. Apr. 18: Bike Around The Buttes. No word yet and no date announced. Sunday April 18: Primavera Century. CANCELLED May 20-23: Sea Otter Classic. reg not open yet; $90-110. Has been postponed to October 7-10, 2021. Saturday Apr. 24: Tierra Bella. CANCELLED Saturday Apr. 24: Wildflower Century. CANCELLED ?Saturday Apr. 24: Devil Mountain Double. No word yet and no update on website as to whether it will be offered in 2021. Saturday May 1: Siskiyou Scenic Bicycle Tour. 103, 90, 68, 38, 21, 8 mi routes. $65-20. Reg is open. Saturday May 1: Wine Country Century. Has been tentatively postponed to October. Sunday May 2: Grizzly Peak Century. Will either be virtual in May or possibly postponed to fall. May 7-9: Campovelo Napa Valley. Also offered weekend of June 4-6. Chef Chris Cosentino’s orgy of food and cycling. Reg and details to follow… ?May: Delta Century. 100, 62, 25 mi routes. $35-55. No word yet on whether they’ll proceed. Saturday May 8: I Care Classic. 100, 62, 33, 10 mi routes. No update yet on whether this will actually happen. It’s in Santa Clara County, which has been cautious with reopening, so don’t count on it. Saturday May 21: Davis Double. No word. A third party site claims the ride will be on “Saturday May 21” but this is obviously incorrect. (The third Saturday in May is May 15, 2021, not May 21, which is a Friday.) Saturday May 15: Tour delle Vigne. Reg is open; $65. Sunday May 16: Strawberry Fields Forever. Reg is open; $75. Now postponed to May 15, 2022. Saturday May 22: Devils Slide Ride. 100, 64, 40k; $90-45. Reg not open yet. May 28-31: Paso Robles Cycling Festival. Reg is open; adult: $73; camping: $18.50/night Sunday, May 30: Levi’s Gran Fondo. CANCELLED ?June: Supertour. No word on whether Supertour will take place in 2021. Saturday June 12: Gold Country Cycling Challenge. 100, 100k, 42 mi, 10 mi. $45-70; reg open now. Now postponed to Saturday September 11. Sunday June 6: Sequoia Century. 100, 72, 59, 44 mi; $95-45. Reg was supposed to open 1/2/21. WW may cancel this event. Virtual event from June 1 through June 6. Saturday June 19: Mile High 100. Reg is open. Saturday June 19-June 26. Sierra to the Sea. CANCELLED Saturday June 19: Castle Crags Century. 141, 99, 62, 79, 37 mi. No word on this event and website is currently “suspended”. Website is back up and it’s tentatively scheduled for June 19. ?Saturday June 26: Climb to Kaiser. No word on this event.
Here is Jeff’s report on our second “Pandemic” ride.
Running over the same old ground What have we found? The same old fears Wish you were here
The group (Nancy, Joan, Scott, Donald and Jeff) met at McLaren lodge in Golden Gate Park, did a few group stretches, and reviewed the new COVID-19 ride safety protocols. The RWGPS route for the ride had us climbing Twin Peaks after Mt. San Bruno but we decided as a group to instead add the Presidio and drop Twin Peaks. So the route was last weekend’s Bakery Loop with the addition of a climb to the top of Mt. San Bruno. For me the ride down the Great Highway, which is closed to traffic, is a highlight. I love the way the median has many home-decorated signs mostly urging people to vote. After riding along the southern edge of Lake Merced, we rode through the Westlake area of Daly City and made our way to Guadalupe Parkway which is a gentle climb with a broad shoulder for cyclists. We paused briefly at the beginning of Radio Road, which takes you to the top of the mountain where the radio transmitters are. At the top we snapped a couple photos and looked down on the cemeteries in Colma. Someone was shooting off fireworks there in the middle of the day which we all thought was odd. Since it was chilly there we didn’t stay long and instead took another break at the state park facility on Guadalupe Parkway. The steep descent on Carter Avenue was a shortcut to Geneva Avenue, which took us by McLaren Park on our way to Glen Park where we took another short break at the Destination Bakery before returning to Golden Gate Park via the Mission. By then the weather, which started off very cool and misty had become warm and sunny. It was a beautiful day for riding overall. –Jeff Pekrul
The Guerneville Overnighter or Russian River Weekend has been on hiatus for ten years but not because we haven’t tried to restage it. The biggest obstacle to putting on another RRW is suitable lodging if we want to put it on in the traditional way. It’s not that lodging isn’t available—it would be relatively easy to book group accommodations as long as we did it ahead of time and picked a weekend that wasn’t already drawing a crowd eg. Lazy Bear Week. Traditional RRWs have had the following elements: (1) a Friday start for a group to cycle up to Guerneville for a three-day weekend; (2) inexpensive lodging, usually camping, in order make the trip available to the widest number of people, with an option for a room instead; (3) lodging in Guerneville preferably adjacent to the Russian River; (4) a Saturday group-prepared dinner. The two locations we’ve used most often, Fife’s and the Willows/Guerneville Lodge really aren’t suitable anymore. Fife’s is now Dawn Ranch Lodge and no longer has camping. It offers small cabins from $250-600 per night (one bed). The Guerneville Lodge is pretty much the way it has been but with two significant changes. The kitchen is no longer available for guest use so no group cooking can be done there, and now there is no onsite management with a consequence being loud, obnoxious partying in the lawn camping area making a peaceful stay a hit-or-miss thing (unless you want to party on too). At least the Guerneville Lodge still has camping.
The days of a Guerneville Overnighter costing about $20 are long gone too. Lodging along the Russian River, like everything else in the greater Bay Area, has experienced disproportionate inflation. $250 per summer weekend night for mediocre accommodations is common and some inns require a three-night stay. Even if we used an inn that did not require a three-night stay, the cost of a GW just for the lodging would be about $350-500 probably split for two people.
Camping has been a longtime option for GW; other than crashing with friends it is the only way to keep a Guerneville weekend inexpensive. Today a camp site runs about $40-50 per night or about $20-40 per person. That’s not bad, being just 100% inflation since 1983. But do Spokers still want to camp for a weekend? The club has aged up and the average income of club members is very likely quite a bit higher than it was in the ‘80s and ‘90s making camping–always the affordable choice–less necessary. If you look at the photos of the 1984 and 1985 Guerneville trips, other than the quaintness of people dressed in t-shirts and running shorts (by today’s standards they would be short shorts rather than just ‘shorts’) and tennis shoes you will notice that the bicycles are quite modest. It is a commonplace today to see bikes on club rides costing well over two grand whereas the average club bike back then was probably less than $300 brand new. Inflation since 1984 can’t account for that big of an increase. It says something demographically about Spokers back then: many members had low-to-moderate incomes simply because the Bay Area was still an affordable area for everyday people. I was a graduate student when I joined Different Spokes and my income was, well, a student income.
Currently in the Guerneville area the camping choices are limited. The bigger options are Guerneville Lodge, Parker Resort, Schoolhouse Canyon, and Johnson’s Beach. The Guerneville Lodge is still open but it’s a different place than it used to be, ie. there isn’t a group kitchen anymore and there is no onsite management, which apparently has made conflicts among visitors not uncommon, mainly noise and rowdiness at night. The Parker Resort is essentially camping only as is the Schoolhouse Canyon, with the latter not allowing groups larger than eight. The Highlands Resort, which the club has used before, does not allow groups bigger than eight. That leaves Johnson’s Beach which has group camping and rooms. The group camping site cost in 2019 was $200 per night for up to 20 people making it the same cost as Fife’s back in the day. However the group camping site is right at the entrance and next to town and the bridge making it a noisier location; it does have electric outlets though for charging your phones. Johnson’s Beach is rather crowded on summer weekends but that’s true for Guerneville in general.
Of the four conditions mentioned above eliminating one or all of them would open more possibilities. We could skip the ride up and back, in which case Guerneville becomes a getaway weekend; however this doesn’t resolve the lodging issue. If Spokers are less interested in camping, then our lodging choices become much wider as we could stay at any inn or owner-rented accommodation near Guerneville. Guerneville isn’t the only place to stay along the Russian River but it’s the most ‘urban’ (but not urbane) and has the most overt LGBT sensibility. But we could stay in Forestville, Monte Rio, or out of the small river towns altogether. Finally we could skip having a group-prepared dinner, which would obviate the need for a kitchen. But the critical one is cost: foregoing camping would mean the average cost per person would be about $250-350 per person for lodging rather than $80-100. Foregoing a kitchen means all the meals have to be eaten out and, again, higher cost.
When the club will be ready to go back is an open question with the pandemic having no predictable end. Next summer? Possibly but unlikely. However Guerneville resorts are currently open with COVID-19 precautions. But when we will have group rides and events again is uncertain. We certainly thought three months ago that this would all have come to an end by mid-summer and it hasn’t. Perhaps in this environment it would be better to stay out of Guerneville and in a more isolated location? If so we are probably talking about a house rental.
Of course the Russian River isn’t the only possibility for a club weekend trip. But finding another beautiful location within 100 miles of San Francisco that we can cycle to makes it a good choice.