2022: Parting Glances, part 2

There were some club rides in 2022 that I found especially enjoyable and I hope we shall do them again this year. And there were a few rides I didn’t get to do last year and that I desperately want to do this year, Allah willing, and I’ll address those in a separate post.

Tony’s 2022 favs, in no particular order.

Stage Road and Coastside. These roads are wellworn and no surprise—they’re beautiful, scenic, and mostly quiet. Who doesn’t love riding down the San Mateo coast along Highway One? If there is no fog or rain, the views of the Pacific are borderline astonishing accompanied by the redolent salt air. And despite being so close to SillyCon Valley, the tiny town of Pescadero and Stage Road are usually untrafficked and quiet allowing you to ride in pastoral serenity undisturbed by the mishegoss just over the hills. And I and many Spokers have ridden it many times. But what made this ride a breakthrough for me last year was that we did it without starting in either Half Moon Bay or Palo Alto, which would have made it a 60-mile day. Instead the Davids’ innovation was to start it in Pescadero making it only a 31-mile loop and without a big climb over the Coast range. I finally understood the meaning of “eat dessert first” and how impatience can be a virtue.

New Speedway Boogie (Patterson and Altamont Passes). The club doesn’t go up Altamont very often. It is infamous more for the daily logjammed commute on Highway 580 than for its beauty. But beautiful it is when you go there at the right time. Hit it in winter or early spring when the as-yet undeveloped hills are intensely green and you’ll experience what it used to be like decades ago when all of the land east of Livermore was pristine: no cars, lonely country roads, and grassland hills with oak trees. In 2022 we went up Patterson and took the California Aqueduct bikeway north to Altamont Pass for the return. Right at the turnaround point there is Valero minimart with—among many other things—coffee, fried chicken, a taqueria, a Subway, and a Wienerschnitzel! And the views at the top of both passes can’t be beat!

Velo Love Ride. I’m an unadulterated proponent of this ride, which until 2022 Roger and I were the only Spokers who had done it. It’s a beautiful winter ride around the Sutter Buttes not too far from the Oroville Dam, a slightly long drive from the Bay Area. Chico Velo offered this supported century at the oddest time of the year, early February when it is likely to be rained out and at the very least would proffer up challenging weather. It’s been on hiatus for a few years but not for us: we go up there every year as long as it isn’t raining. It’s dead-flat for 60 miles with only one small hill. The loop takes in the rice fields, ag land, and many fruit and nut orchards, which often are starting to bloom around Valentine’s Day, the traditional weekend to do this ride. It can be cold and since it’s during the rainy season it can be wet. But the real challenge of the ride can be wind since you’re completely exposed for much of the ride. But other than the start town of Gridley and midway hitting Sutter the ride is completely rural and devoid of traffic. In 2022 David Goldsmith decided to join us and we got to gape at all the flowering orchards this time. Maybe you’ll join us in 2023?

Old La Honda and Tunitas Creek. Also no surprise here since these roads are so well-trodden as to be posterchildren for Northern California riding. But I hadn’t done them in quite a while (because there was a time when I did these roads ALL the time and burned out on them). But this time was special because the Loma Mar Store finally reopened after about a yearslong remodel and it’s now an even better place for a midride stop. Their new restaurant is a welcome change from Arcangeli Store in Pescadero. Loma Mar’s food and coffee are excellent and the new owners are a peach. We also took our time on this ride and turned it into a day-long jaunt! Taking a long—even if unnecessary—break at the Bike Hut just to chat and look at the birds made it a special day. That’s something we don’t often do: stop to take a break just because we could!

SLO Wildflower. This is a century that I have known about for ages. But like many of you I never did it because the drive to the Paso Robles area is long enough to be a deterrent. The San Luis Obispo Bicycling Club also usually mounts this event the same weekend as the Chico Wildflower and/or the Primavera. The latter is a mere hop, skip, and a jump away in Fremont making it the lazy person’s default century and the former was for many years the club spring century must-do with hordes of Spokers driving up to Chico to make it a default getaway weekend. So when David Goldsmith and Roger Sayre suggested this ride I gave it a pass until my husband’s eyes twinkled at the prospect of riding someplace different for a change. When Adrienne, a former member who now lives near Paso, enthusiastically offered to host a barbecue at her place, the deal was signed, sealed, and delivered! It all turned out to be a fabulous weekend with almost 30 Spokers making the trip. The weather cooperated with a beautifully sunny, if chilly, morning. Although I had ridden in this area about 30 years ago, it was a welcome rediscovery as the Wildflower route is amazingly beautiful, quiet, and even had decent pavement! Oak woodland in California in its unspoiled state is charming and inviting during spring. Those who did the full hundred-mile route had to endure some the worst county roads in California for about 15 miles. But those of us who did the 80- or 50-mile route escaped that and had a totally perfect day. That won’t be a problem in 2023 since SLOBC has axed the one hundred mile route due to the disappearance of the wildflowers along the long route due to climage change. Just maybe we’ll go back in 2023?

Alpine Dam. This is another club fav, which in a previous incarnation was called the Evil Stepsisters ride when it was offered annually on the same day as the Cinderella Century, which is for women/girls only. You can climb Tam and descend to Alpine Dam or come from Fairfax to the Dam and then climb up the Seven Sisters to Tam and down. This ride was planned to be done clockwise, which I like less because then one has to descend the Seven Sisters. That descent is almost a straight line down to the Dam so either you go very fast or you ride the brakes. I prefer to climb up through Fairfax, which is less trafficked than Pan Toll, and go up the Seven Sisters. Fortuitously Jeff and Mark decided at the last minute to invert the loop, so we ended up riding it counterclockwise! This is another ride that I had done to death when I lived in SF. But after a twenty-year hiatus revisiting this old ride reminded me of why I used to ride it so often: it’s beautiful and challenging.

Cavedale. This was a discovery for me. I had never done Cavedale before and probably for a good reason: until now it was a wretched, pothole-ridden example of why riding in Sonoma county is a blessing and a curse: the scenery can be so enticing yet the road quality is akin to what one would find in an undeveloped country. It also intersects with Trinity, which often is heavily trafficked. But we fortuitiously chose a day to climb this steep road when it was being repaved to a glassy sheen thanks to none other than PG&E. For most of the climb it was beautiful, fresh asphalt as smooth as can be; the last third hadn’t been reconstructed yet and we got to taste what it had been like for the past 30 years or so. The views of the Sonoma Valley are robust and breathtaking making stops a must even if you don’t have to catch your breath.

But what made all of these rides so pleasurable? It wasn’t just the road quality, the weather, or the scenery—it was the company. Riding with fellow Spokers who enjoy riding in Northern California as much as I do, having idle yet memorable conversations with Spokerati, sharing a midride meal, and building memories of fun days on two wheels. That’s what made these rides my faves for 2022!

Ride Recap: Mt. Hamilton in the Fall

Ed. Ride leader Stephen Shirreffs submitted the following ride recap of our annual Mt. Hamilton in the Fall ride. Looks like it was hella fun!

On November 19 seven hardy but cheery club members gathered at the Berryessa Community Center in San Jose for the club’s annual Mount Hamilton in the Fall ride. Thanks to President David Goldsmith’s efforts four of the participants arrived together by BART and for future reference that mode of transportation went well now that BART is only three miles away. As is pretty usual on this ride, once we got into the climbing we quickly devolved into a few groups but we reconnected at the first rest stop at Joseph D. Grant Park and again at the top where we had a lengthy regroup and refresh. Stephen, in his first stint as a club ride leader (ably assisted by co-leader Roger), enjoyed his annual Starbucks chilled Frappucino from the tuck shop. Eric was meanwhile geeking out at the astronomy tech. We eventually herded the cats back together for a victory photo. A usual the descent was long and magnificent with very little traffic making it all the more enjoyable. The weather was surprisingly warm. But all those layers shed on the way up were still mighty welcome for the long descent in the cool autumn air.

Ride Recap: Cavedale

View of Sonoma Valley

In the compendium of Different Spokes rides there are the usual suspects and the unusual suspects but rarely do we encounter a Bay Area road that we have never visited. However Cavedale is such: as far as I know it has never been offered as a club ride despite sitting glaringly in the middle of the Mayacamas range connecting the Sonoma Valley and the Napa Valley.

Ten years ago for the 30th anniversary Roger and I resurrected the undead and led an ancient Michael John ride from Santa Rosa to Calistoga and back. That got us interested in the various ways one can map a loop between the two valleys. Michael John’s route took in Mark West and Petrified Forest Roads. We checked out Saint Helena Road and tried to make Kortum Canyon Road work only to find that the latter’s midsection is privately owned. Or at least has a big-ass locked gate in the middle of the road, which was never disclosed in AAA maps, Mapquest, nor Google Maps. So we stuck with Michael John’s original route. These roads are in the northern part of said valleys. Towards the south you’re left with Trinity, which has plentiful car traffic since it’s the only way to cross over. Except for Cavedale. Cavedale starts on the Sonoma side, summits the Mayacamas, and drops to intersect Trinity. Because you’re descending Trinity at that point it’s not so bad riding with car traffic downhill at speed.

Not having ridden Cavedale before I looked at Google Streetview, which shows that it’s a little-used, narrow road with several steep hairpins climbing quickly about 2,000 feet. The views of the Sonoma Valley are fantastic but in exchange is execrable Sonoma county pavement that looks that it hasn’t seen a paver in over thirty years. The road patches have patches that have patches! But at least it was paved all the way. Once you’re on Trinity the pavement is good.

Roger and I were joined by Stephanie and Darrell. Lucky for us Darrell is an old-hand at Cavedale and knew all the roads like the back of his hand. He was able to warn us of all the steep sections, where the cave was—it is called “Cavedale” for a reason—and how much more climbing was left. We started in the Sonoma town square early enough that the day tourists hadn’t arrived yet. It was a chilly 50F but we knew we were going to warm up shortly. A quick four-mile jaunt north along busy Highway 12 got us to Cavedale. We were in for a pleasant surprise: it had brand new pavement. This was no slurry seal but actual thick asphalt on a reconstructed road bed. That was good news for Darrell since he was riding his back-up bike that had mere 23mm tires. The rest of us had good sense to bring the fattest tires we had although now it looked like we didn’t need them.

Smooth as glass!

Cavedale is no slouch. You don’t get an easy introduction to the climb, you just start off at 8+% and regularly hit stretches in double digits. But the sun was out and view was great and there was almost no car traffic so we were able to use the entire roadway, especially nice in the sharp hairpins. We were stopping to rest, take pictures, take off jackets.

Taste of the soon-to-be old Cavedale

Alas, the repaving was not entirely finished. About two-thirds of the way up we were on a mixture of old pavement and short sections of ground up roadway, which made for a bumpy ride. However for newbies like us it was good to get a taste of the ”classic” Cavedale knowing that it will soon be history. We won’t miss it! The pavers were parked on the sides of the road so we knew that this was a work in progress. When it’s done Cavedale will be as smooth as glass.

Summit of Cavedale looms

This section of the Mayacamas was burned severely by the Nuns fire in 2017 and it shows: the upper portion of Cavedale is completely exposed having lost any tree cover it once had. Houses that miraculously had survived (or perhaps had been rebuilt subsequently) stood imperiously atop the range no longer concealed by any foliage whatsoever. Burnt trees still stood stick-like against the horizon.

At the top we had to descend carefully in order to avoid the most egregious pavement disorders until we hit Trinity. The fire station at the intersection had water but it was terrible, probably well water, with a sharp metallic tinge. There we began the descent down Trinity towards Napa. The road was in good condition although being unfamiliar with it I rode it carefully never knowing if I’d drop into a pothole since we were now deep in tree cover. Like Cavedale Trinity is steep with sections of about 11 or 12 percent. (It would make an challenging climb and then a fantastic descent down Cavedale once the paving is done.) Eventually Trinity becomes Dry Creek and passes the intersection with Mt. Veeder Road and it all becomes familiar.

After the long, always pleasant descent down Dry Creek we veered east into Napa to get lunch at Fumé. Although practically empty when we arrived, by the time we left it was full of diners enjoying a delicious brunch. For the record the huevos rancheros and the quiche were both excellent. Darrell had a ricotta pancake and Stephanie the butternut squash soup. I’d come back again!

With almost all the climbing now over it was mainly a flat and rolling run back to Sonoma. We headed back to Dry Creek and then by Redwood and Old Sonoma Road to the Carneros viticultural area south of Highway 12. This area south of the highway used to be grazing land. No more: it’s covered with young vineyards, and the few tracts of ranchland are hemmed in by them and probably soon to be converted. The grape leaves were all turning bright red, yellow, and orange making for colorful hillsides. A quick run back into Sonoma and we were done, all 47 miles.

Cave decorated for Halloween

Footnote: I found out that Cavedale was scheduled to be repaved “by the end of October”. Apparently it is behind schedule but they are about two-thirds of the way up to the summit. The revised schedule now shows that repaving is supposed to be completed by November 10. The paving is for the entire length of Cavedale including from the summit down to Trinity. In addition the upper section of Trinity is also being repaved. When it’s completed, it will be time to revisit this route!

Ride Recap: Fall Social

This year’s Fall Social was back at Phil Bokovoy’s house in a slightly slimmed down version. Somehow the intoxicating allure of grilled turkey enticed just twelve Spokers over to the East Bay despite the weather being near-perfect for a jaunt around the Three Bears and an afternoon spent idly in Phil’s backyard noshing homemade goodies. Due to lack of interest the Rosie the Riveter ride was cancelled. Where were all you Short & Sassy followers? Ah, you were all riding your indoor trainers while watching the 49ers game! Nine of us led by Roger Sayre rode al fresco over the Berkeley hills and into Contra Costa. When you live in wall-to-wall asphalt cities like San Francisco or Berkeley there’s nothing better than to head over to Contra Costa for some inspiring open space. The route of the Three Bears is still protected—for now—from development by copious EBMUD watershed, East Bay Regional parks, and a few ranches and farms. Although it was chilly at the start, traipsing over hill after hill had everyone warmed up quickly. Slathered in sunlight we warmed up in a trice. Other than Roger suffering a flat the ride was uneventful.

Back at Phil’s we had a first: no one brought any chips! Some variety of chips is the common potluck fare at the Different Spokes events but not this year. Jeff brought a delicious homemade shrimp salad instead. Roger S. thought stuffing was the perfect accompaniment to turkey and Tony knew that carbs, fat, cheese, and lots of salt were in order so he made scalloped potatoes. We had a wide assortment of desserts including Roger H’s homemade apple pie with two kinds of apples, poppyseed cake, german chocolate cookies—yum!—and other cookies and sweets I didn’t partake of because I was stuffed. Although he didn’t ride, the Den Daddy made a surprise appearance and broke bread with us all.

Next stop: the Holiday Party!

Fabulous Forty Festivity

First club president and founder Bob Krumm welcomes his acolytes!

I see the boys of summer in their ruin
Lay the gold tithings barren
—Dylan Thomas

You’re likely aware that for the 40th anniversary of the founding of the club, we set aside the weekend of September 17 and 18 for a special ride and an anniversary bash at il Casaro restaurant in the Castro.

The 40th anniversary bash on Sunday September 18 was special and memorable for so many reasons. First, we had several “old farts” from the very earliest days of the club grace us with their attendance, in particular the two surviving founders Bob Krumm and Dave Freling. Although Dave continues to live in the Bay Area, Bob along with his husband came all the way from New Jersey to honor us with his presence and to recount in detail how the club formed. Only three years after helping found the club he relocated to New York and has remained on the East Coast ever since. Of course there were many old farts who couldn’t make it because of scheduling conflicts or just living too far away (Germany!), and some we couldn’t find despite the Internet’s sleuthing tools. And there were a few who just weren’t interested. Second, courtesy of Supervisor Rafael Mandelman the City of San Francisco issued a Certificate of Honor and he came to present it to us despite his busy schedule. In addition the San Francisco AIDS Foundation also took the opportunity to send two representatives to present a congratulatory letter for assisting it in raising funds against AIDS over the entire history of the club. Third, the gathered crowd was able to enjoy a recently uncovered long lost video of the 1988 AIDS Bike-A-Thon featuring a throng of Spokers some of whom were present at the anniversary dinner!

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman presents letter from SF honoring the club

The evening was overshadowed by the prospect of the first serious rain of the season, something nearly inconceivable. A warning was sent out to all registered participants that we may have to move the event indoors and that may have accounted for a number of no-shows. We waited until 3:30 PM to make the final call and decided that holding the dinner outside and then being rained on was worse than just dining indoors, perhaps unnecessarily. Although it wasn’t the end of days, moving the dinner meant we also had to rearrange our plans for the program as well as shoehorn a movie screen and projector into the tightly packed restaurant. By 4 PM there was still no rain, so celebrants were able to enjoy the back patio for some heavy-duty catching up, which for some meant decades! Unfortunately the rain did come and we scurried inside.

Il Casaro was very accommodating and offered us the entire restaurant, allowing us to decorate the inside with club jerseys and t-shirts from the beginning of the club to today. The fare they prepared for us was delicious and copious—various pizzas, pasta, antipasti, salads, and desserts. In fact there was so much leftover when the event was over that the staff kindly prepared doggie bags for everyone.

After dining the program began, the highlight being Bob Krumm’s detailed recollection of how the club came to be in 1982 as an indirect consequence of the Gay Olympics, how the four principal founders met, and how they planned and organized throughout the year before formally opening in November 1982. Bob acknowledged the contribution of many “old farts” throughout his presentation several of whom attended that evening. Although Bob had been interviewed about the founding before he moved to the East Coast in 1985, it was published in the old ChainLetter in an abbreviated form and included some errors. During the program he gave us the “unexpurgated” version! If you weren’t able to attend the event and hear Bob’s presentation, you will be able to read it here on the ChainLetter blog shortly. Stay tuned!

A few tears were shed at the recollections that evening as well as during the Bike-A-Thon video. Nonetheless the overall mood was festive and animated. Although riding together generates its own kind of camaraderie, spending time together off the bike sharing tales, tribulations, and perhaps tawdry gossip creates another. Thanking the gathered “old farts” for a job well done in creating our favorite cycling club and thanking all the leadership over the years for a job well done was the least we could do. Onward to the next forty years!

Ride Recap: Forty & Fab 25-Mile AIDS Bike-A-Thon

Everyone can see we’re together/ As we walk on by/ (And) and we fly just like birds of a feather/ I won’t tell no lie –Bernard Edwards

You’re likely aware that for the 40th anniversary of the founding of the club, we set aside the weekend of September 17 and 18 for a special ride and an anniversary bash at il Casaro restaurant in the Castro.

Although this year we are hosting a Forty & Fab ride every month, September’s was memorable because it was a resurrection of a long-vanished ride, the 25-Mile AIDS Bike-A-Thon route. The first AIDS Bike-A-Thon in 1985 consisted of just one route: San Francisco to Guerneville in one long shot, over 100 miles. When the club decided to do a second Bike-A-Thon for 1986, the organizers knew that the event had to be expanded in order to raise more money since a one-hundred mile route was appealing only to the hardcore. So a second route of 25 miles was added and the hundred mile route became a loop from SF and back. In later iterations a 60-mile route was added to generate even more riders. Of course the 25-mile route was the most popular because even a casual cyclist could survive that if it were flat enough. And it was, being a loop up to the Presidio from the Castro, and then down around Lake Merced and back to the Castro, about as flat a ride in SF as possible while avoiding the car-crowded main streets. The only significant hills were the short, two-block grunt up Arguello to the Presidio and the short hill up to the Palace of the Legion of Honor.

All the Bike-A-Thon routes were marked with spray painted BAT icons. They lasted for many a year but eventually they all faded away or vanished under new asphalt. Did anyone keep a map of that route? Apparently not, so I had to recall as best I could where the route went. That became the route for the day, a “faux” Bike-A-Thon.

I thought that maybe ten, at most fifteen people would show up. Instead there were over 30, which is highly unusual for a club ride. Donald C. and David Gaus volunteered to help with guiding the cyclists along the route and thank god they did because it was a ride dwarfed only by our annual Pride Ride.

We met at the old Bike-A-Thon “recruitment center”, Hibernia Beach a.k.a. the Bank of America in the Castro. Almost no one knew why I referred to it as “Hibernia Beach”. I feel so old. Sigh. We were a large crowd in brightly colored spandex and polyester. No passersby even deigned a glance at us this being the Castro. After the obligatory ride orientation I gave a little history lesson and off we went. Even though it was windy the sun was bright and thus we had the weather on our side. Of course within seconds we scattered into a long line, with folks at the back getting delayed by one traffic signal after another. We had several regrouping points including the old standard start of many DSSF rides, McLaren Lodge, before Peet’s in the Castro became our regular JR start.

Although these days we get to Golden Gate Park via the Panhandle bike lane, back in the day that didn’t exist. So after the Wiggle we always went up to Page Street before turning west. Page is quiet and furthermore the Freewheel Bicycle Shop, which was owned by Jerry Walker, a club member and former president (or was it vice president? I can’t recall), is on the route. Jerry eventually died of AIDS in the early 90s like so many other members. Up at the Palace we regathered for a group shot and twittered together like the little birds-of-a-feather that we were.

I had routed us down the Great Highway even though I knew this wasn’t the original route. Nowadays the Great Highway is closed to cars and makes a safe cycling route to Lake Merced. But back in the day it was used heavily by cars to head south since it had no stops signs and only one light. We did a clockwise loop around Lake Merced, which is what I recollect, but in fact we may have done it counterclockwise originally. While designing the route I couldn’t recall exactly how we returned. But on the ride when I got to Sloat/Ocean it suddenly came back to me: we crossed Lake Merced Blvd. and headed directly north on Lakeshore. Too late now!

We were all scattered like leaves in the wind and since I was patroling the back end of the group I had no idea where everyone else was but assumed that they were fine and having a grand time. This was after all a social ride rather than a hammerfest.

I rushed back through Golden Gate Park and the Wiggle to Hibernia Beach; there were still a few participants hanging out and chatting. I hadn’t had a chance to talk to many riders being preoccupied by “leading” the ride. My old riding buddy and “old fart” Spoker Dr. Bob Bolan was still there as well as old fart Don Lapin, so I was able to catch up a bit with them before everyone drifted away. I waited for the rest of the group to arrive and they never did, having slipped off before the end to head back to their homes or their cars. So the ride just fizzled out kind of like the way Bike-A-Thon did! Despite the nondescript end I sensed that people had a palpably fun time even if they didn’t know the full history of the AIDS Bike-A-Thon. It’s good to keep the memory of that club accomplishment alive. It was an incredible ten-year effort by so many members and in the end generated $2.3 million dollars of funds for various Bay Area AIDS organizations. Some traditions are worth preserving.

Going Backwards

Roger and I did a two-fer this past weekend: we attended both Saturday’s Alpine Dam Loop ride and Sunday’s Bovine Bakery Loop ride. That’s unusual for us mainly because getting the bikes and ourselves into the van and trucking over to Marin—well, really anywhere—is just a PITA. It’s simpler and less time consuming to ride from the manse. And with gas over $6 per gallon again, it’s also costly. Originally we thought we’d just go on Stephanie’s Sunday ride since it’s easier, plus a pleasant Sunday jaunt at a noodling pace into west Marin just sounded enticing, which is an unreal feeling for me because after many years of being a SF denizen I had become burned out on riding in Marin. I finally must have recovered! But even more appealing was the prospect of gorging on Bovine Bakery’s lovely pizza slices, at least two of them. Despite the Saturday ride fitting our schedule better, that involved going over the Golden Gate Bridge, which we just won’t do anymore on a weekend afternoon. In the end we took David Goldsmith’s suggestion to forego the bridge and just start and end the ride in Sausalito. That not only omits the moshpit on the bridge but also leaves just the best part of the route: around and up Mt. Tam!

On Saturday it was super easy to get to Sausalito by the Richmond-San Rafael bridge. We met the others and promptly found out they had changed plans and were now going to do the loop in the opposite direction, counterclockwise instead of clockwise. That was fine with me because despite the hurt having to climb the Seven Sisters I much prefer that than hurtling down the backside with my brakes melting and my life flashing before my eyes. Saturday’s ride, which was originally going to be a cool ride in Pescadero along the Stage Road, was a replacement due to San Mateo county’s aggressive chipsealing of coastside roads rendering them dangerous for cyclists. Apparently the prospect of thousands of vertical feet up steep climbs daunted many Spokers as it was just six of us—Mark and Jeff, the leaders; along with Eric; newish member Jacob; Roger and me.

After a flat dash through the Marin suburbs up to Fairfax, we stopped for a snack/early brunch at Perry’s before remounting and heading uphill. By now the day was warming up and intent on adding to the challenge of climbing Tam. Fairfax-Bolinas Road is a 7-8% grade and goes in and out of tree cover but mostly out so we were already sweating profusely by the time we reached the golf course. Each regrouping had us huddled under trees pining for any breeze. The entire time Eric raved on and on about how beautiful the scenery was and how lucky we were to live where we can ride in places like this. Hearing his enthusiasm I realized how inured and jaded I had become to the roads I had ridden a billion times. Ah, “beginner’s mind”. He went on to point out the trailheads of dirt rides he had done with Joan and Brian out here and how fantastic the trails were.

My memory was playing tricks on me. From the golf course it’s a net drop to the dam. But it had been many a year since I had ridden to Alpine Dam this direction, probably more than fifteen, and the “descent” to Alpine Dam had a couple of ascents before the pleasure of the final drop; each unexpected ascent was disheartening. At the dam it was cooking. Although Roger and I quickly went to the shade, everyone else was cavorting on the bridge taking selfies like Aussies on a beach. After another languid break we remounted for our encounter with the Seven Sisters. Until now Eric had been blazing each uphill but now Roger decided he wanted to get over it ASAP. So off we went and in trying to follow him I saw heart rates I haven’t seen in years! No pain, no gain. But usually it’s “more pain, no gain” anyway. The road is completely exposed and that probably was the whip that got us to Rock Springs quickly as our legs would allow.

At the Rock Springs parking lot was a food truck. Now that’s a new (but smart) one! I was out of water and longingly eyed it with the thought of a Coke. But the crowd of hikers had the same idea and I decided that being a cheap bastard was okay and I’d wait for Bootjack to refill with…plain water. At Bootjack we had another lengthy break even though just the fast downhill remained. I went last because I’ve become cowardly. Even though this is a descent that I’ve literally down hundreds of times and could play a video in my mind of the entire thing, I’ve just decided that it’s not worth it for me to risk skin and bones anymore. So I descend like the old man that I am.

Of course we got caught behind cars, no surprise. That allowed me to catch up. Well, that and the short but punchy uphill by the Mountain Home Inn. We ended up behind a long train of cars on Highway One and before we knew it, we were done. The others headed off to the Junction for pizza and adult refreshment while Roger and I went back to the car at Mike’s Bikes. They were doing a 60-mile day but we were doing only 35. Nice ride and surprisingly chill for a C-pace. But that made for an especially friendly ride. Maybe we should call these ‘Social C’ rides?

The next day was Stephanie’s ride to the Bovine Bakery. Perhaps the Siren call of west Marin has lost its allure for Spokers, as it was just five of us: Stephanie, Nancy, Roger S, and Roger and me. This morning was cooler—what a relief!—so climbing up Lucas Valley was the perfect warm-up. Being Sunday the ongoing road repair of the upper reaches of Lucas Valley was quiet. The new pavement and improvement of the turns is going to make it a really fast descent on the way back. Stephanie decided that instead of doing the usual counterclockwise loop from Pt. Reyes Station, we would instead do it clockwise. That’s actually a wise move because the climb out of Olema to the top is harder and longer than up Sir Francis Drake and down to Olema. Oh well, another day for the Garmin to get completely confused!

Although Stephanie never seems to be anything but totally amped when she’s on her bike, today we actually did have a relaxing ride in West Marin. We took plenty of rest breaks and no one seemed to have had too much adrenaline. Stephanie blazed the descent off of Lucas Valley and kept hammering all the way to Nicasio where there is a very convenient set of porta-potties.

As much as Lucas Valley Road is a great ride, it seems more cyclists are deciding that they prefer to get to west Marin by car so they can start enjoying the open space immediately: the parking lot in Nicasio was full of cars with bike racks. I confess that this development strikes me as antithetical even if I understand why it is happening. When I lived in SF I never drove to Nicasio. In fact even driving to Lucas Valley, which I do now because I live in the East Bay, was 50-50 back then. We would just ride from SF to Pt. Reyes Station and back. Joseph Collins was perhaps the last Spoker to uphold that practice. Perhaps it’s lack of time or the influence of mountain bikes: most mountain bikes today are so ungainly on the road that dirt bikers avoid pavement when possible. Instead of cycling to the trailhead on your mountain bike, one just drives there. To this day I still find it odd to see so many cars parked on Skyline by Redwood and Chabot parks. It’s so close to the ‘burbs you can just ride up the roads to the trailheads. But that’s not the practice anymore.

Cycling past Nicasio reservoir it looked low even though it’s actually at 75% capacity despite the drought. Marin residents must be doing a fantastic job of conserving water. Nonetheless everything in west Marin seemed dry and sere.

After the steep and fast descent to Olema, which Stephanie of course led, she took us the “back way” on Bear Valley Road to Pt. Reyes Station in order to avoid the at-times thick tourist traffic on Highway One. In town we made a beeline for Bovine Bakery only to be greeted by…nothing. Usually it’s a clusterfuck of cyclists and day tourists lined up at the front jittering like junkies waiting for their next fix. But today it was unexpectedly closed. There was the sign: “Today we are closing at 10 AM.” Perhaps it’s hard for them to find employees to work a Sunday. A disgruntled day tourist walked up to the front and started cursing, ranting about how he’d had it with Bovine and their untrustworthy hours. Wow, there’s nothing as uncomfortable as going ‘cold turkey’, is there?

I confess the wind more than went out of my sails: I felt suddenly adrift as if the world made no sense anymore. What was I to do except collapse to the ground in a fetal position and cry? Then Stephanie said, “Oh, let’s just go across the street to the Palace Market and get sandwiches.” Well, you get your fix wherever you can find it! I had never eaten anywhere else in Pt. Reyes Station except Bovine and back in the day, at Ed’s Superette #2, which is now Whale of a Deli at the other end of town. It turns out the sandwiches at the Palace are pretty decent and satisfying, so that was an ugly lemon turned into sweet lemonade! We lingered over lunch sitting at a picnic table next to Bovine. A man sat of the grass playing his acoustic guitar. Shortly another man approached him and engaged him in conversation talking a blue streak. We looked at each other and suddenly our conversation turned to schizophrenia and our experience with those who have it. Are we in Dolores Park? Time to move on!

Back on the road Roger S. proceeded to blitz the downhill to Platform Bridge while the rest of us tried to stay alive. I can’t say I was feeling especially eager and really felt more like taking a nap by the side of the road. At the top of Lucas Valley Stephanie again took off and despite the much improved pavement I was very cautious. In what seemed like just minutes we were back at the start. After the post-ride banter we bade each other farewell. Two days, two great rides. Thanks, ride leaders!

Ride Recap: East Bay Tiburon Loop

This past Saturday Roger and I unveiled a version of East Bay Tiburon Loop that we think Spokers will enjoy in the future as long as they ride it only during the dry season, which these days is almost all the time unfortunately. Thanks to Jeff Mishler for a recommendation to include a section of the Bay Trail in San Rafael, which is partly packed dirt and at bay level. During rain or King tides this section of the Bay Trail is wet but it’s fine the rest of the time. It’s less than 39 miles long starting from Little Louie’s Deli in Point Richmond, which by the way is a great place to get a meal or a cup of coffee with a sweet, and after crossing the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge (RSR) goes around Paradise Drive to downtown Tiburon before returning over Camino Alto and back over the RSR.

This version of the Tiburon loop completely bypasses the Golden Gate Bridge, which on weekends is very congested. For East Bay denizens it’s the perfect way to get to Marin to cycle Paradise Drive. You no longer have to schlep to SF to do this scenic road nor abide traffic into and out of the City.

There are several ways to get to and back from Tiburon from the RSR; Roger and I have been trying them out to find a route that wasn’t dangerous or problematic as well as being scenic.

Today’s ride brought out an interesting mixture of folks. David was the only SF person to attend; everyone else was from the East Bay. David and Stephanie are DS stalwarts; Karry Kelley, who was president of Different Spokes in 1986, is back cycling after a long hiatus and graced us with his presence along with his friend Jordan. Finally we had a relative newcomer to the Bay Area, Angela, come along because she wanted to learn about riding in Marin after crossing the RSR. Karry and I go way back to the early days of the club. I believe that he was also the AIDS Bike-A-Thon coordinator in 1989. It’s nice to have another old fart return to the disco dance floor!

The weather today was brisk with a steady wind out of the west the entire day. But the sun came out and we had perfect weather for storming Paradise Drive. The path up and onto the RSR from Point Richmond is literally writ in asphalt—it’s a marked bike path. As you climb up to bridge level there is a series of annoying yet apparently necessary “speed bumps”—18 to be exact. The RSR itself has one former car lane dedicated to peds, cyclists, and other forms of micromobility. Keep in mind the RSR is long, much longer than the Golden Gate at about 5.5 versus 1.7 miles, so you get to enjoy it for an extended period. This time we got to ‘enjoy’ the strong headwind from the coast. The RSR has two humps and once you’re over the second hump it’s a long, steady descent to water level. Despite the headwind it was easy to hit over 20 mph, which in general is not a good thing on a multi-use path. But there were few users on this day–which by the way is also not a good thing as the bike lane is in a trial period only–so zipping along was pretty safe.

For the uninitiated once in Marin it’s a bit confusing where to head. But head west on the frontage road for a short distance and you’ll then see the crosswalk over to the flyover for the I-580 exit to San Quentin on which a multi-use path has been added. After the top you pass the prison entrance and head by the Larkspur Ferry Terminal. You’ll have to take the pedestrian crosswalk to the south side of Sir Francis Drake at the light and ride on the sidewalk until you see on the left a multi-use path heading south along I-101. Don’t take the first one you see as it’s the ramp over Sir Francis Drake Blvd. to the Cal Park Hill tunnel! You will take that on the way back. Take the second left, which comes immediately after the first one. Until recently this path was extremely narrow, so much so that it was impossible for a cyclist to pass if anyone else was on it. It’s now rebuilt and comfortably wide. You’ll then join the Redwood Highway that takes you over to the Corte Madera shopping center. Just before that you pass the Larkspur-Corte Madera path, which is what the Jersey Riders take. So if you time it right you can meet up with them on the second Saturday of the month. We didn’t have any issues navigating from the bridge to Corte Madera. This time we took the bike path adjacent to the Redwood Highway instead of riding on the street although either is fine. The bike path used to be broken down asphalt and quite bumpy but it is now repaired and very smooth.

At this point the route will be familiar to you if you’ve ever done the Tib loop.

When we got to Paradise Drive everybody rode at their own pace. However although we spread out to the point of not being able to see each other at times, at Woodlands Market everybody arrived within about two or three minutes, so it was actuallly a very evenly paced group. We ended up at Woodlands for lunch if only because it was convenient and old habits die hard. Karry used to live in SF decades ago but like me had moved to the East Bay. He remarked that he hadn’t cycled to Tiburon in probably 30 years! Despite having moved to the Bay Area a year ago Angela still hadn’t explored much beyond the East Bay, so getting familiar with Marin was a relief for her. Stephanie doesn’t usually ride into southern Marin preferring to hit to open roads in western Marin. But a two-week layoff from cycling meant she was building back up again, this time to get ready for Foxy Fall in October.

After lunch we headed out of Tiburon and took Camino Alto back to the RSR. Although the shortest way back is just to get back on I-580—yes, bikes are now allowed to ride on the section of 580 from San Quentin to the very next exit, which drops you off at the western foot of the RSR—we did the long but more scenic route through the Cal Park Hill tunnel to get over to the Bay Trail. It’s a diversion that adds about three miles but also adds the enjoyment of the view at water level of San Rafael Bay and the RSR.

Once back at the RSR it was just six miles back to Little Louie’s. Oh, and this time we got a slight tailwind from the westerly rather than the oft sidewind from the wind blowing through the Golden Gate. Good thing too because the climb up the RSR may seem easy slight but it can be taxing with a gnarly headwind.

ALC 2022 Recap

Breaking all records

Stephen Shirreffs rode this year’s AIDS Lifecycle and gives his personal recount below.

Our Fairy Godmother

It felt crazy standing in the AIDS/LifeCycle starting line with my bike at the Cow Palace, ready to ride out for the first time since 2019. There was the usual buzz of anticipation but also a kind of a hush of disbelief that here we are again. Everything felt just the same except of course for all the masking. There was palpable excitement at our having broken all records in fundraising, just shy of $18 million. But that could not explain the swarm of butterflies as we waited to clip in.

It was San Francisco foggy and cool; there was a prediction of a 40% chance of .04” of rain. That did not prepare us for getting soaked to the skin all the way to Rest Stop 2.

Day 1 Rest Stop 2 pouring rain

Between Devil’s Slide and Half Moon Bay it was raining cats and dogs. I think most of my fellow riders were none too pleased but I had to laugh. I always laugh when I ride in the rain. At Pigeon Point the usual bevy of cheerleaders greeted us, dry and unfazed by the threat of rain that never quite made it that far. By the time we reached camp in Santa Cruz, we had all dried out and it was actually pretty warm.

Day 1 The Cheerleaders at Pigeon Point

Day 2 was the usual interminable slog once we got past Salinas. This year’s hot tailwinds were epic; by report they reached 32 mph. The final water stop was an apocalypse of gale force winds whipping sand in our faces. The roadies were hanging onto gear lest it blow off and be forever lost. Alas, Otter Pop Stop was canceled this year with promises that it will return next year.

Day 2 Camp in King City

It got plenty hot on Day 3. A bunch of us Marin Marauders (my team and training group) did Quadbusters twice in memory of our friend Jim Ernst who was killed in a cycling accident four years ago. There is nothing quite as thrilling as riding DOWN Quadbuster knowing what you have signed up for, and I made sure to shout out Jim’s name several times in case he was listening.

Day 3 $100 Burger Club in Bradley

Lots of folks did the $100 burger at Bradley School and the school raised record funds this year. Covid meant we had to sit outside. But the kids were great as usual and we had a blast of a time. We were able to ride through Fort Roberts again and take our pictures astride various ancient tanks with big guns. For the second time Rest Stop 4 was in a park in San Miguel and not at the mission; I have always enjoyed moments of quiet cool reflection in that mission church. By the time we got to Paso Robles it was “only” 96˚.

Day 3 Lorri Jean send off

Day 3 Camp Stage was special. Lorri Jean, the longtime head of the LA LGBT Center, is retiring and there was a moving send-off. Lorri is a larger than life figure whose boundless energy and all-inclusive commitment is the major reason why the LA LGBT Center is one of the largest gay organizations in the world. She was clearly moved by the long, standing ovation and she deserved every bit of the accolades. We will certainly miss her peerless ability to combine wit and meaning from the stage. Irreplaceable.

Speaking of the stage Tracy Evans, the Ride Director, led off every night and she too has a remarkable ability to combine humor and a pointed message. The riders actually did better this year in terms of safe riding and that made her job easier. Joe Hollendoner, I am sure, will miss being able to play off Lorri but he was his usual ribald self on stage. Tyler TerMeer, the new head of the SF AIDS Foundation, is actually a funny guy and I am quite sure he will soon enough learn how to be funny on stage.

Day 4 Halfway Point, William, James and Stephen

Day 4 is the best day in my book. The halfway point was the usual madhouse but the roadies did a superb job of moving everybody through. That long, long descent down to Highway One is the high point of the ride for me. I make a habit of shouting loudly out to the wind the names of the men I personally lost to the epidemic. Bittersweet, of course, but it felt good to be talking to them again in that magical place.

Day 4 Cinnamon Roll Stop

Somewhere in the early part of Day 4 I got to ride with James, another member of Marin Marauders, and we ended up riding together pretty much all the way to LA. He likes cookies so we stopped at Brown Butter Cookie Company. And of course we had to stop at Old West Cinnamon Rolls in Pismo Beach where the line was blocks long. Fortunately for us somebody had an extra roll they couldn’t manage and gave it to our fellow rider William. So William, James, and I shared a free (timewise) roll.

Day 5 Marin Marauders Red Dress Day

Red Dress Day 5 was a gay-crazy explosion of creativity. Our team had a theme, which made it easy to get into the spirit. Thanks go to Michael Brown who knew how to securely attach a wild wig to a bicycle helmet. Rest Stop 1 is the craziest place because everybody wants to preen and show off and the costumes have yet to be subjected to the wind, sun, and rigors of the road. I stayed a long while taking in the 360 of mad creations. Curiously at the end of the day we had lunch in the old camp spot and camped in the old lunch spot … and that worked out really well. Kinda wonder why they didn’t do that years ago.

That evening brought the first bad COVID news. Three members of our team and a number of other folks tested positive on or around Day 5 evening. Those with whom I have spoken reported that the ALC staff was very effective in helping them make arrangements. Mostly folks rented cars and drove back to SF. In at least one case, ALC forwarded my friend’s bike to the end and ACE shipped it back to SF; I think other folks took their bikes with them. There has been no release of figures of how many infections there were but I personally heard of only four cases albeit all people that I knew.

Those of you who have done the ride will no doubt recollect the epic descent through Gaviota Pass that is the highlight of Day 6. We managed to do it again with no injuries. James and I were cooking down the road and it sped by with nary an incident. The folks at Paradise Pit in Santa Barbara were over the moon that we were back—such a joyous mosh pit. I had, I swear, seven scoops of ice cream, but nobody was counting. Reports are that the dance party at Rest Stop 4 was crowded and lively. I rolled by with a wave and a smile, and got my shower done before the late arrivals. 

Day 6 Candlelight vigil

The candlelight vigil on the beach at Ventura was exceptionally solemn and quiet. The riderless bicycle was not on the beach as in previous years but the crowd spontaneously formed a large circle and people placed their candles in the middle, quietly remembering. We know your names, beloved lost friends, and I am sure that many in that crowd were silently saying those names. Say their names. Say their names as long as you have breath.

Day 7: Git ‘er done!

I never look forward to Day 7. It is the end of the party. It is like a countdown, especially once we get back to the coast after Oxnard. For the second time we were not allowed to have an official stop in the 28 miles of Malibu, thanks to the entitled rich I suppose, so the lunch stop is perilously close to the end. We sat in the dunes together, reveling in each other’s company one more time. And then to the finish line where once you cross … poof … the Love Bubble disappears and it is back to the everyday grind of making your way through the ordinary world.

There was a bizarre tragedy at the end. An experienced rider had a solo accident and died on the spot from his injuries. I have heard a lot of speculation but I have no facts other than that he crashed with a block and half to go and did not make it. We all know this is a sport with dangers and it should remind us to take care at every turn.

The ride is over again, and we are all looking forward to next year. For those of you who were on the ride, congratulations, and I hope to see you again next year. For those of you who did not do the ride this year, hey, how about signing up right now? There is no experience in amateur cycling that tops AIDS/LifeCycle.

Ride Recap: Forty & Fab Peninsula Romp

Saturday’s ride over the Coast Range to Pescadero and back via Tunitas Creek was like a mini-vacation. It was only 51 miles but we took the entire day to enjoy the ride, the scenery, the food, and get a glimpse of the Pescadero Road Race along the way. It was on the cool side the entire day yet sunny, which made the climbing—and there was lots of it—very comfortable. The weather brought out lots of other cyclists as well as sports car enthusiasts out for a spin. It was a great day to be riding or if you were in a car, take out the convertible with the top down.

There were just five of us but the quality made up for the quantity. Nancy was putting the final touches on her conditioning for her big Montana tour. Michaelangelo, whom we don’t often see probably because the vast majority of our rides don’t traverse the South Bay, showed up since the ride was in his stomping ground. Roger S made the trip down from SF. My husband and I completed the group.

These roads are so well-loved by cyclists that it’s not hard to imagine a rut in the roads made by all the cyclists’ tires over the years: up Old La Honda, then down the other side of OLH to La Honda, then up Haskins Hill and down to Pescadero, then up the Stage Road with the pièce de resistance being Tunitas Creek. This loop takes in roads that are less frequented by cars and quite peaceful. Predictably the one stretch on Highway 84 from the OLH turnoff down to the town of La Honda, which cars also use to get to the beach, was a speedfest of tech bros’ shiny and noisy toys. Otherwise we pretty much had the roads to ourselves.

We left the Woodside Town Hall early enough that there was little traffic and had a quiet run out Mountain Home Road to Old La Honda. Rather than the usual time trial up OLH we took it pretty casually. Other than other cyclists we had the redwood shrouded road all to ourselves. What a great place to have a home—peaceful, quiet, and the everpresent smell of redwood! The drop down OLH on the other side of Skyline is narrow and curvy. Fortunately cars prefer to take 84 since it’s much faster. Although it’s now paved, in the not-too-distant past OLH was not. I recall cycling down when it was a packed dirt/gravel road, which made for an, um, exciting ride if you took it at speed. I recall once riding it in the rain and boy, was that a mistake. But it’s still rather narrow and that means you have to watch out for that unexpected car coming up. Except you can’t because the sight lines are generally nonexistent. Prayer is the obvious substitute. This time we encountered just one pickup and he wasn’t going fast. Whew.

Old La Honda is narrow!

The descent to La Honda is wicked fast and since it’s wide open you can really let the bike run. What a blast! All you have to do is ignore the cars passing next to you at 60 MPH. At La Honda the Pescadero Road Race was in full swing and course marshalls were controlling traffic. Since we were heading up Haskins Hill to Pescadero—the same as the racers—we got a bird’s eye view of the action. Alto Velo apparently did a great job getting volunteers to marshal the course and to my surprise there were quite a few spectators. This ain’t no ‘Tour day France’ but I guess the racers have lots of friends and family to cheer them on as the roadside was packed. As we passed the feed zone a gust of wind caught their tent and up in went into the air! We were passed by group after group. One guy’s front derailleur wasn’t working so he was climbing Haskins Hill in the big ring—ouch! It was interesting to watch the racers. Obviously they were making an effort to draft one another even going uphill. Most were pedaling very smoothly despite the incline; these days even racers are using lower gears but spin so much faster they can still go fast. Everybody was using deep section carbon rims for the aero benefits.

We dropped down the other side and had a fast, pleasant run into Loma Mar. Loma Mar is a ‘town’ that’s barely a spot on the map. But it has the Loma Mar Store, a community mainstay. The store has been there for as long as I’ve lived in the Bay Area. But around 2014 or so the store closed for a remodel. It wasn’t until mid-2019 that it finally reopened just in time for the pandemic. It was closed for so long I thought for sure the store was gone for good. In any case it has survived and unlike in the past where it was basically a mini-mart for the little community it now has a kitchen and bakery and prepares really good food. So I planned a “coffee” stop there. No one had heard of the Loma Mar Store despite everybody having ridden to Pescadero many times. We rolled into the inviting store and our short coffee stop turned into a coffee klatch/gabfest. Only Roger S got lunch, a grilled cheese, while the rest wanted to wait until Pescadero. So I ordered a breakfast sandwich to go and settled for a bear claw and big mug of coffee. Pastries and coffees all around. Nancy ended up ordering a sandwich to go as well. We settled into their front deck and watched pod after pod of racers roll by. The sun was out and it was temperately comfortable just sitting sipping coffee outside. Lost in time we didn’t leave until 40 minutes had gone by.

In Pescadero we did the usual stop at Norm’s Market aka Arcangeli Deli. A sunny Saturday at lunch time usually means the deli is packed and it was. But the picnic tables in the back were not. The race now being over a couple of tables were taken by racers recounting their rides. Ah, to be young, fast, and fashionably dressed. Roger had to have their delicious artichoke bread and he got a loaf that had just come out of the oven—hot, steamy, and heavenly! More eating ensued. And by the way my breakfast sandwich—a croissant with a fried egg, cheddar, and bacon—was still warm and the egg yolk was still runny. Perfect! By the time I had also woofed down some artichoke bread I was stuffed. More gabbing ensued. Before we knew it another hour had passed. Nobody was in a hurry to depart but none of was was whipped either, maybe because we were cruising and not for a bruising.

Stage Road is a picture of how it once all was: isolated, pastoral, occasional ranches. It heads north but not at all in a straight line weaving through the fields and has two short but steep ascents to wake you up. The San Gregorio Store, which I hadn’t visited in years, now has a large outdoor dining area and it was doing good business. But we didn’t linger and climbed up the last steep bit to Highway One. Now I was feeling tired! But it was all downhill to the turn off to Tunitas Creek. Michaelangelo went down like a rocket even faster than Roger S, which is no mean feat since Roger not only is fearless but his new bike is seriously aero.

Racing to an inviting bench

What did we do next? Stop at the Bike Hut for another long idyll! The Bike Hut is an oddity: the local farmers just like cyclists so they erected this rest stop that is funded by their immense goodwill and any cyclists’ donations. They also have a portapotty for cyclists to use. With inviting Adirondack chairs and wood benches it’s a great place to cool your jets before the grueling climb up Tunitas. I was ready to take a nap. It was now 3 PM and the sun was lower in the sky. A crow sat on the telephone wire above us the entire time—he was enjoying the afternoon sun as well. How do birds stay upright on wires when the wind is blowing? You would think they would soon be upside down!

Before I let torpor get the best of me I rousted everyone to get going. Michealangelo was still effervescent and ready to jump forward. He set a mean pace and towed me and Roger up the increasing gradient. Tunitas is a long climb. From the Bike Hut it is 8.4 miles to Skyline and ascends about 2,200 feet. Those numbers are a bit deceptive because the gradient isn’t constant. The beginning and the end are easy and the middle section hits a gruesome 11%. It was already a long day and I was moving forward by dint of willpower alone. But it was pleasantly cool while climbing, there was no traffic to speak of, and the redwoods are always so reassuring. About three miles from the top the gradient eases considerably. Literally every time I’ve ridden up Tunitas from the coast I get impatient at this point. It seems you should be at the top—it’s practically flat. You go around each bend and think that Skyline is going to be right there. But it isn’t. For almost three miles. Over and over again. I’m always exasperated by this and today was no different probably because I was hella tired and I was in ‘smelling the barn’ mode.

At the top it took less than a minute for Roger and me to get chilled waiting for the others. The wind was up—it actually had been blowing all day but now was stronger blowing over the top of the Coast Range. The sun was disappearing. We huddled to find shelter from the breeze. Michaelangelo appeared shortly. But Roger S and Nancy were nowhere to be seen. Nancy eventually caught up and told us that Roger had left his phone at the Bike Hut and had to turn around to retrieve it. Hey, bonus miles and climbing! We waited over a half-hour for Roger to catch up. By then Michaelangelo had already departed and said to text him if we needed a car to retrieve Roger S. No need now! Phone safely in hand we all dropped like rocks down Kings Mountain Road.

Kings Mountain is a road better climbed than descended. As a climb it’s probably the second hardest way to get to Skyline (Page Mill is the worst—steep, long, and little shade). But as a descent it requires your full attention especially in late afternoon when the sun is low and it’s dim under the towering redwoods. The fact that it is exceptionally curvy and has multiple hairpins makes for a thrilling rollercoaster ride but also means you better not cross the centerline—when there is a centerline—since sections are substandard width. It didn’t help that we were now thoroughly chilled. It’s a five-mile descent so it took less than fifteen minutes but felt like an eternity. In Woodside it was warm enough that my shivering stopped.

Back at the cars: a 51-mile and 5,500 feet elevation gain day. My kind of day!

Back at the cars Michaelangelo was still there waiting for us. Everybody had a smile on their face! End of ride: 5:08 PM. That was an entire day. We may have been taking our time but it was time worth taking!