Saddle Challenge and Project Inform

If you pledge or collect money for Saddle Challenge, your funds go to Project Inform. Project Inform has been our sole beneficiary because in 2003, the second year of Saddle Challenge’s existence, the club decided to support the Ron Wilmot Ride For Project Inform. Although the RWRFPI was a separate event held later in the year, the board apparently felt strongly enough to raise money for it separately rather than just encourage members to participate in the RWRFPI. I’m guessing that since the RWRFPI involved doing laps in GG Park—not unlike AIDS Walk—it was going to be a lot more fun and interesting to ride elsewhere for a month!

Ron Wilmot was a member of Different Spokes in the early ‘80s and ‘90s and eventually died in 1997 but not before raising an insane amount of money for AIDS services through the AIDS Bike-A-Thon and then starting his own ride in 1995 after BAT vanished. Ron’s ride raised over $750,000 for Project Inform from 1995 to 2007. Although Ron was well-connected, he simply announced his event and convinced a lot of his friends and acquaintances to do it. His event—like Saddle Challenge, Bike-A-Thon, and Double Bay Double—was done with very little overhead. Thus the maximum or near-maximum amount of contributions could go directly to Project Inform. It was truly grassroots fundraising done by an one individual who was able to inspire many others.

Project Inform was one of the first AIDS service agencies that popped up in the San Francisco at the early stages of the epidemic, in 1985. Every year the club selected about a dozen beneficiaries out of the many AIDS services to whom riders could forward pledges. PI was at times one of the organizations that we selected. PI differed from other agencies such as the AIDS Foundation, AIDS Emergency Fund, the Stop AIDS Project, and Pets Are Wonderful Support. Instead of focusing primarily on direct care services and support, PI developed as essentially a research and information clearinghouse. Information about AIDS and HIV, medication and treatment, and clinical trials was difficult to access and ignorance and misconceptions were rife. PI formed not only to organize and disburse information to the community but also to medical professionals. Today PI also focuses on Hepatitis C information and treatment.

Note that PI was and is not simply a “neutral” information center providing education. PI has long had a history of advocacy by fighting for streamlined drug approval, representing the HIV/HepC community to the government, and making sure health care is available to all who need it. PI’s role is thus not only educational but in policy advocacy and improving public health. What made PI interesting is that it was truly community based rather than set up on high by a medical or scientific organization and thus under the control of those whom the epidemic hit the hardest.

For more information, please go to the Project Inform website.

If you’d like to support Project Inform, please participate in Saddle Challenge in March! You can sign up at our website.

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Hedging Your Bets [Updated 11/14]

Today I finally received a response to my 10/15/18 email to Carter Choi at San Mateo Dept. of Public Works regarding whether the opening of Crystal Springs Dam Road would be postponed yet again beyond 10/31/18. I’ve put in bold the hedging:

“The County is currently putting in a recreational trail south of the bridge to provide a safe area for pedestrians to walk.  In addition, there is security fencing that needs to be installed in multiple locations within the project site and this security fencing has to be coordinated and approved with the SFPUC.  The current tentative schedule to complete the remaining work for the Parks trail work and the security fencing is the next 2 to 3 weeks pending sub-contractor availability and lead time to procure fencing materials given the current construction climate in the Bay Area.  Once this work is completed the ribbon cutting event for the bridge reopening can be properly scheduled. Thank you for your patience.”

My bet is not before mid-January. Nothing gets done during the holidays and if the  rains will begin, they will delay any real work. And it sounds like there isn’t even a sub lined up for the work let alone the fencing materials being ordered to spec and delivered. Basically he doesn’t have a clue when it will be reopened.

My question is WTF didn’t his office say that on their website in the first place. It’s like they have no idea what is going to happen next and then get surprised by yet another unknown step to getting this road opened. For all we know the security fencing may also need to pass some Homeland Security requirement and California state requirements as well. And it will have to redone because it wasn’t done correctly the first time.

UPDATE: [11/14] Gosh darn, that two to three week postponement turned out not to be true! Now the website lists “December 2018” for the completion. I’ve lost track of the number of times SM DPW has had to backtrack on their finally finalest-of-all-final deadlines. I still think it can’t happen anytime before February 2019.

What Lying Liars Like To Do

Calaveras Road, which has been closed since July 2016, was supposed to reopen on Saturday, November 3. Now the SF Water website says it won’t open before January 1, 2019. The reason? Whatever, it doesn’t matter because they’ve been lining up excuses like bowling pins. They should just say it’s closed indefinitely. But they won’t because people would scream. So they lie and put up a date to placate the public. I would like to say they are unlike other public agencies in their relentless failure to keep to any reasonable timelines. But they’re not: witness Crystal Springs Dam Road (San Mateo County Department of Public Works) and BART.

World’s Longest Road Closure: Crystal Springs Dam Road

So, who among you remembers cycling across Crystal Springs Dam Road? If you don’t, it’s no surprise because we are approaching the 8th anniversary of its closing. Yes, Crystal Springs Dam Road has been closed for eight years: it closed on October 21, 2010—can you believe it? Admittedly the reason for the ridiculously prolonged closure is not entirely bogus. The construction of the replacement dam, which sits on the San Andreas Fault, had to be done conservatively. But as with Calaveras Road there is something about major public works projects that almost always causes them to spiral out of control and blow their timelines. The number of times San Mateo County Public Works has had to revise the opening date is embarrassing. I just glanced online and saw one estimate as “2017”. Seriously? We are almost two years later!

The last estimate of reopening was September 2018 but at the last minute it was pushed back to “mid-October”. Their webpage hasn’t been revised since and we are now just past mid-October and there isn’t even an announcement of a date for the “grand reopening ceremony”. In other words, they’ve blown their deadline again and we haven’t a clue as to when they will reopen it. I emailed the Senior Civil Engineer, Carter Choi, a few days ago about a revised estimate and surprise, surprise I haven’t heard a thing (I didn’t hear from him when I asked the same question in August—I guess he’s too busy “working” to answer his email). I just called SM Public Works and their receptionist says “mid-November”. Of course the engineers weren’t available to talk.

So how believable is that “mid-November”? Does shit even get done at public agencies near the holidays??

San Mateo’s repeated bad estimates mirror that of another public agency, BART. The Warm Spring extension was initally projected to open in 2014, five years after groundbreaking. It didn’t open until 2017, three years late. We are now awaiting the opening of the two stations just to the south, Milpitas and Berryessa. Both were scheduled to open in December 2017. Then there were problems integrating the new electrical control system to the old existing system, and that pushed the opening to June of this year, which didn’t happen, and the new opening was set for maybe the end of 2018 but probably more like early 2019. (Didn’t they run into those same system issues with the Warm Springs station? If so, why didn’t they revise their timeline before?) So now they’re three years behind schedule for Berryessa.

Now comes word that equipment was installed in the two stations that was not “compliant” (they were used and not new) and has to be removed, replaced, and then tested again. Now the rough estimate is Milpitas and Berryessa won’t open any earlier than “late 2019”. The Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority has requested a FTA extension with a deadline to begin service of December 31, 2019. Of course they could easily refile for another extension. Earlier this year we were thinking we could use Milpitas BART to get to the start of the Mt. Hamilton in the Fall ride. That is off the table for next year as well.

We have no inkling as to the actual sequence of events that leads to these delays. Why do agencies continue to mouth overly optimistic opening dates? They should know from previous miscalculations that the error is, say, roughly three years and then add that to their public announcements. One wonders if the delays are due to truly unforeseeable circumstances or whether it is really due to mediocre oversight of contractors and/or inept planning.

Will I even be alive when BART opens these stations??

Saddle Challenge Spoken Here!

Every March Different Spokes hosts the Saddle Challenge. Originally a not-so-serious intraclub competition to see who could rack up the most miles in March, it evolved into a fundraiser for Project Inform. I believe Saddle Challenge started in 2002 but I’m not sure who the originator was. It very well may have been Chris Laroussell, who was President at the time. The Ron Wilmot Ride for Project Inform started in the ’90s after Bike-A-Thon folded and it was still held when Saddle Challenge started even though Ron had passed on years beforehand. But like many fundraisers that lose their moving force, the RWRFPI disappeared around 2007, and at that time Saddle Challenge adopted it and added the fundraising component that it has to date.

In any case the goal of Saddle Challenge remains the same: ride as many miles as possible in March in order to kickstart your riding season. We also raise money from self-pledging or by persuading friends, family, or acquaintances to chip in, in order to donate much needed funds to Project Inform. How you pledge is up to you. You can do it per mile, lump sum, or any formula you choose. To participate in Saddle Challenge you do not have to donate to Project Inform, but you do need to register so that we can see all those miles you’re riding! And you’ll be able to see how many miles everyone else is riding too at the DSSF website. Yeah, it seems really dated how this is done—it was designed for the world before Strava became a thing. Wouldn’t it be nice if Strava or some other platform could host little mini-competititions like this!

To spur you on we have a robust calendar of club rides during March. Originally the plan was to have a club ride for every Saturday and Sunday in March so that you all could ride with other Spokers. But it hasn’t quite worked out (yet) since Sunday March 18 still doesn’t have a ride even though the day before has two. And it may work out yet! To be continued…

This year we are making our friendly competition a bit more interesting by offering prizes for members who do the most miles on our club rides and for those who donate the most money. Keep in mind you must be a member to be eligible to win a prize. We’ll be giving away a Spurcycle bell, a Bontrager Flare R taillight, a Bontrager Ion 100 R headlight, and the book Road To Valor: A True Story of WWII italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation. And maybe some other mysterious goodies will appear before the end of March—you never know!

The number of miles you ride is counted on the honor system. But for the most miles ridden on club rides in March you will need to make sure you sign the ride waiver at each ride in order to get credit. The miles you earn on those rides is based on the ride listing mileage or its RWGPS route. If you ride extra miles before or after the club ride, they don’t count, alas. However if the club ride goes rogue and officially does extra miles (like the ride leader getting everybody hopelessly lost), they do count as long as the ride leader can confirm what happened.

To register go to the DSSF webpage  and hit the link ‘Saddle Challenge’ on the sidebar and fill in the details.

At the end of March when Saddle Challenge closes, send a check for your donation and/or collected pledges to the Ride Coordinator who will forward them all to Project Inform. Checks should be made out to Project Inform.

Finally, if you have other ideas to make Saddle Challenge even more interesting, share them with me.

2018: Welcome to the Pleasuredome

Pleasuredome

Good riddance to 2017! Last year started with a whimper: after a nice New Year up Mt. Diablo we got tons of incessant rain. In contrast we seem to be heading into a dry winter—bad news for long showers and green gardens but great news for cyclists! Last year was also a quiet year for Different Spokes. Whether it was due simply to constant bad weather in the first third of the year who knows. In any case we have some great changes in store for 2018.

First, we are soon going to able to offer official club dirt rides again. Our insurance has not covered off-road riding but that will change by the beginning of February. After that expect to see mountain bike and mixed terrain rides appear on the ride calendar. Of course those of us who are non-asphalt inclined have been riding where we please. But now we’ll be able to do it officially rather than on the down low. If you’re a mountain biker or just like to ride on unpaved surfaces, you’ll have even more reasons to ride with Different Spokes.

For those of you who like to ride less quickly you’ll be happy to know that Roger and I have a full schedule of Social A rides for 2018, at least one ride a month. We will be taking in some new routes, sights, and naturally fab eating places such as Treasure Island, Angel Island, and dining at Gaumenkitzel (yum!) as well as old favs such as the American River Bike Trail, the Arastradero Preserve, and eating at Sogno di Dolci in St. Helena and Assemble.

Saddle Challenge is coming in March. Need some incentive to get in the miles? You can look forward to Saddle Challenge Mile Eater rides to get you to your mileage goal for the month and kickstart your season. Will they be the usual boring routes like Mt. Tam or Tiburon loop? Well, maybe a couple will be but you also can look forward to some unusual rides such as out to the Spirit Ship on Mare Island and riding on Delta islands! Why ride the same roads over and over?

Last but not least we might actually see the return of the Lake Tahoe Spectacular Weekend this summer. I’ve been receiving moderate interest. If I can get at least ten firm confirmations, then I think it will be a go. Stay tuned.

What else can we look forward to in 2018? Last summer after several months delay we saw the opening of the SMART commuter train in Marin that now allows for extended riding in Marin and Sonoma without getting in a car. BART managed to open the Warm Springs extension in Fremont after an even longer delay. Hopefully that won’t happen again with BART’s Milpitas and Berryessa stations, which are scheduled to open this June. At last we might actually be able to do our Mt. Hamiton in the Fall ride without using a car to get to the start at Berryessa Creek Park! The SF-to-SJ ride has always ended at the Diridon Caltrain station. But for those of us who live in the East Bay and don’t want to take the Caltrain back to SF, the lessened mileage to Berryessa will be much better than to Fremont or Warm Springs. But wait there’s more: BART’s Antioch extension will open this May. Getting to Black Diamond Mines Regional Park for righteous fire road rambling will be easier. Getting to the Delta to enjoy levee roads will be easier too but it will require you to ride your bike over the Antioch Bridge, which is indeed open to bicyclists and even pedestrians. Brannan Island State Park is just across the bridge as well as Rio Vista and beautiful rides such as Ryer Island. Getting across the Antioch is a bit hairy: there is a shoulder but the traffic (including semis) ostensibly is going 55 mph. There is often a numbing crosswind or headwind off the Delta. Nevertheless it is possible to bike it and it’ll be a lot closer than starting from Bay Point.

Finally, the last of the roads closed by 2017’s storms will open. Calaveras will reopen to weekend use in the near future (before the Primavera Century in April) and by October should be open daily. Skyline Boulevard (Hwy 35) just south of Castle Rock State Park should also reopen this spring. Further south Caltrans hopes to have Highway 1 at Mud Creek open by late summer, which will finally allow David Gaus’s long-delayed Big Sur Adventure to be held.

The Return of the Lake Tahoe Spectacular Weekend?

Long time members will recall that one of the annual events that the club put on was the Lake Tahoe Spectacular Weekend. This two-day event took place during the summer allowing for warm, sunny weather not only to enjoy cycling but also the lake itself. Members drove up Friday or early Saturday and spent two days of cycling in the Lake Tahoe area. We rented an odd house, “the Octagon” and cooked a group dinner Saturday evening.

The earliest versions of the weekend had riders drive half-way around the lake, park the cars, and then cycle back to the rental house; the second day we rode to the cars and then drove back, about 35 miles each way. This quickly evolved to riding around the lake in one day—70 miles—and then doing something else on Sunday, usually riding up Brockway Summit to Truckee and then back on Highway 89. Later when mountain biking became popular, some would instead do the Flume Trail.

The last time this trip was offered was around 2006. What killed the trip was the loss of “the Octagon”: it was taken off the rental market and there was now no easy way to house a large group inexpensively. The Octagon was an otherwise semi-decrepit ski house but it had one exemplary trait: it had a crapload of beds making a weekend at Lake Tahoe immensely affordable. There were four bedrooms that could sleep two couples each, a couple of bunk rooms that could accommodate four or so each, a hallway area with two beds (!), and then an upper seating area where at least a couple of folks could crash. It wasn’t uncommon to have more than 15 people attend; I recall at least one occasion when there were well more than 20.

A few years ago I attempted to rent the Octagon but was unable to get a response from the previous agent. About three years ago I accidently ran across it listed on VRBO. It had changed hands, had undergone a serious remodel and update, and of course was now a lot more expensive! But in its new incarnation it can still handle 12-16 people.

I ran the Tahoe Weekend at least once (and had even written a ‘how to’ document on how to organize the Weekend) but I no longer recall how much it cost back then. I think it was something on the order of $50-$75 per person for the entire weekend. That included two nights at the Octagon, breakfast Saturday and Sunday, a big Saturday dinner, and plenty of snacks.

To rent the Octagon for a weekend in August will now cost about $1,400 rather than $700 (= 2006 cost). On the immediate plus side is the much nicer digs as well as we no longer have to clean the place before we leave (we instead pay a cleaning fee). With a rough estimate of $35 per person for food and 14 participants, the average cost would be about $135 per person for the weekend. A quick perusal of motel costs in the Tahoe City area shows that one night alone would cost about that amount and of course no food would be included.

The room arrangement of the Octagon is such that filling every bed requires that we have exactly the right number of “couples” and singles. If not enough couples, then two people who don’t mind sharing a bed; if too many couples, then some who don’t mind sleeping separately for two nights. If there is ample interest, then we may be able to squeeze more people in to lower the cost but it will involve sleeping in the common areas (either the TV sitting area above the living room) or on the sofas in the living room. If there aren’t enough couples and someone doesn’t want a bedmate, a single supplement would be charged proportional to the house rental.

I would like to see the Lake Tahoe Weekend Spectacular done again and would like to get some feedback on the interest level and cost from members.

Here is my proposal:

Lake Tahoe Weekend Spectacular

August 17-19, 2018

Schedule:

  • Drive up Friday. For those who arrive early enough, go out to a group dinner near Tahoe City.
  • Saturday: ride around Lake Tahoe (70 miles), group dinner at the Octagon. Hang out at the Octagon; those inclined may go gambling, bar hopping, etc. in the evening
  • Sunday: ride to Truckee and return by Highway 89 (35 miles?? I can’t remember). Depart sometime in the afternoon.

Includes food for Saturday and Sunday breakfast, Saturday group dinner, and snacks.

Cost will depend on number of participants. If 10 people, then about $175 per person; if 14, then about $135; if more, then even lower.

If you want to view the Octagon, you can see it here.

I would like to get a reading on the interest for this trip. Would you be interested in participating under the conditions of this proposal? If not, what modifications would better fit your needs? Do you consider the price reasonable and affordable? Is this a good time for you to participate or would a different weekend be better?

Keep in mind that this is a general proposal and it can be modified. If you are interested in helping organize the weekend, let me know. Post your feedback either to the DSSF Yahoo! Group listserv or email me directly at handtalksf@yahoo.com