Going Backwards

Post-Tam fix…with all the fixins’

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!

Jersey Barriers

June Jerseylicious!

The June Jersey Ride was not without its problems but no less than three groups managed to meet up at Woodlands Market in Tiburon. Ginny led the regular Jersey Ride from the Castro while Laura led the Short & Sassy version from Mike’s Bikes in Sausalito. Roger H and I decided to escape the withering heat in Contra Costa by riding over from Point Richmond in order to check out yet another variant of what we hope will become the club’s East Bay Tiburon loop .

Laura’s group was completely depleted by the start! Co-leader Greg got injured in a softball game the day before and had to back out. Then Elbert dropped off the ride and instead decided to join the regular Jersey group in SF rather than Sausalito. Tim had pre-ride mechanical issues with his bike so he and Carl had to bail right at the start leaving just Laura to carry the Short & Sassy flag.

Ginny’s group stayed relatively intact except at Peet’s Elbert found out that his brake wasn’t working and had to run off to a shop to get it fixed. Roger and I didn’t lose any of us. At least I think we didn’t.

For our route we were trying out two ‘new’ sections, the northbound ped/bike overpass by 101 in San Rafael, which is currently undergoing a rebuild, and the Bay Trail north of San Quentin. We had actually been on both before but not together on the same ride. The overpass-in-progress is still not completed but it’s most of the way there. Previously this walkway was ridiculously narrow, like just three or four feet wide, and it was impossible for two users to pass. When done it will be about ten feet or more wide. The other section is a hidden piece of the SF Bay Trail along Richardson Bay north of 580 and San Quentin. Jeff Mishler suggested this route last year; when we checked it out then, it was muddy, uneven, and puddled albeit rideable on a road bike. A king tide and wet weather would make it unpleasant if not impassable. So we were curious to see what it might be like when dry.

Although we’ve cycled over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge (RSR) several times this is the first time we’ve seen so many cyclists. Previously we probably saw no more than ten or so other cyclists and that’s been on weekends when you’d expect there to be higher usage. This time there were dozens of cyclists heading both to and from the East Bay. The sunny and hot weather might have had something to do with it because the toll plaza was jammed with cars heading to Marin, probably to go to the beach to escape the heat. The roll to Tiburon was uneventful and as we sailed into Tiburon the cool ocean breeze was a welcome relief. We arrived at Woodlands just before noon and the other Spokers were already there. The goal of the EB Tib loop is to try to arrive at Paradise Drive at the same time as the JR in order to ride together into Tiburon. We almost had it right but missed linking up probably because we had forgotten to lock the car and had to return to our start and head out a second time, a delay that cost us about fifteen minutes.

Having lunch outside Woodlands is usually a winner. Typically it’s comfortable yet occasionally the wind can make it cool enough you want a wind jacket. Today wasn’t that kind of day—it was near perfect. Lunch was the usual haberdashery of topics but mostly about Laura’s recent bike tour in Italy. Inspired by her rental e-bike there she rented one for today. It was like that with Roger years ago; after he test-rode an e-bike, he slapped his credit card on the counter and has never looked back. All his regular bikes—and unfortunately also our tandem—are languishing, heartlessly abandoned due to that hussy Giant he brought back home. Laura’s trip was also a trip down memory lane for us. Having never been in the cycling motherland she was awed by how respectful car drivers were of cyclists. She actually felt relaxed riding in traffic. And of course she was riding in beautiful countryside. Your first cycling trip to Europe is like the first time you have gay sex: you just realize this is where you belong! Or perhaps it’s like crack: you’re ready to sell all your belongings and even your mother in order to move to Italy to get more road! I felt the same way on my first trip. The scales fell off my eyes and I saw that a better life for cyclists is not just possible but a reality. It doesn’t sink in until you actually experience it yourself. Isn’t that like joining a cult?

People were curious about how Roger and I got over to Tiburon so perhaps those San Franciscans who are ‘bridge curious’ will try out the RSR after we get this route perfected. Strangely a long digressive dialog ensued about the bike lane on the RSR—how unpleasant and noisy it can be and the fact that you’re separated from the death machines by just a movable barrier. Although not exactly the same they’re similar to “K” barriers you’ve seen a million times around construction by roadways, those concrete movable low walls. Jeff said they were called “Jersey” barriers, not K barriers. Being from NYC he thought they were so named in order to keep New Jerseyans out of the city. Ginny, who is from New Jersey, thought it was to keep the New Yorkers out! Of course Wikipedia has the history of the name.

Sock Puppets

Today’s rides were the first club ride since the new club socks have been available. FIve of us were sporting them. Don’t forget to order a pair, just a measly $15!

After lunch we ambled back to the Sausalito bike path and parted ways, we going up Camino Alto and they heading back to Sausalito/SF. Our route took us back to Larkspur and through the Cal Park tunnel to San Rafael where we headed to the hidden Bay Trail. There are several ways to get from Larkspur to the west landing and each has its drawbacks. The diversion along the Bay Trail is safer, more pleasant, and scenic but it’s got about a thousand feet of dirt path. Being in the midst of a drought and late spring the trail was dry if a bit uneven but in much better riding condition than before. If the trail is wet, then it’s probably better to take the 580 frontage road despite the at times scary traffic.

We eventually got to the west landing where we had the long climb up the bridge with the usual infernal crosswind from the Golden Gate. The RSR, as someone mentioned at lunch, is not short like the Golden Gate—it’s 5.5 miles long. So whatever you’re dealing with on the RSR you’re going to be dealing with for a long time whether it’s wind, noise, crazy bike traffic, or debris. In contrast the Golden Gate is only 1.7 miles long. The climb to the first tower is about a mile-and-a-half. Its grade is only 2.6% but the crosswind makes if feel much worse, more as if you’re on a 5% grade since you’re using the bigger cogs. And today was one of those days where every effort felt like, well, an effort. The RSR might not be the easiest bridge to take to get to Tiburon but it’s definitely the safer of the two. So that’s no barrier for me!

Ride Recap: Forty & Fab Stinson Beach

At Stinson Beach

Last Sunday we had quite a romp from San Francisco to Stinson Beach and back. About 15 years ago this was a very popular ride for a subset of the club. It dwindled in popularity about as quickly as it flourished and now it’s rarely led. The last time I had ridden to Stinson was probably in the late ‘90s before I moved to the East Bay. I used to ride there, Muir Woods, or to the summit of Mt. Tam almost every week and that all ended when I moved across the Bay. So I was very much looking forward to revisiting an old stomping ground.

This time we rode the so-called ‘standard’ route to Stinson, which is to take Highway One to Stinson and return via Pantoll. The reverse loop is also an enjoyable ride with a long, constant descent from Pantoll down to Stinson for a lunch break. Both of course require cycling on an at-times busy section of Highway One between the turnoff from 101 in Mill Valley up to Panoramic. At that point a big chunk of cars leave in order to go up Mt. Tam or to go to Stinson via Pantoll. Although Stinson is a big draw, particularly when it’s hot and the beach beckons, the bigger draw is Muir Woods, which is on the way to Stinson. This time the traffic wasn’t too bad perhaps because several years ago Muir Woods restricted parking at the park entrance and instituted a shuttle from Sausalito. In fact we were passed by quite a few shuttles. Nonetheless we definitely had a lot of company until we got past Panoramic; we had to abide merely one disgruntled driver—in a Benz, ‘natch—who passed us with a loud roar. Otherwise I found the cars to be well behaved despite the lack of shoulder and the narrowness of the roadway.

I confess the better route would have been to continue into Mill Valley and head up to Panoramic the back way. But that wasn’t how we usually did it back then likely because the traffic wasn’t as dense as it is now.

Seven us made the jaunt—my husband Roger, me, Stephen S., Eric, Roger S., Nancy, and Darrell. Our president David was going to come but he woke up with an aching back; Stephen’s husband at the last minute got cold feet—or is that cold wheels?—and decided to do an easier city ride, and a non-member also cancelled due to an injury. It was another cat herding exercise. Instead of everyone meeting at McLaren Lodge it was ‘make your own start’ day. Darrell meet us at Arguello gate, Stephen at Mike’s Bikes in Sausalito. Despite living in Marin Eric parked at the north end of the bridge and rode over to McLaren in order to do the full ride.

The ride through SF and across the bridge was inconsequential although we had plenty of company with an invasion of cyclists heading to Marin for their constitutional Sunday rides. There’s no such thing as riding alone when you go through Sausalito—it’s practically a parade. A sad part of that parade was passing the now-closed A Bicycle Odyssey shop due to Tony Tom’s death last year. Nothing lasts forever but Tony died too young; it brought back memories of when Clay Mankin suddenly died in 2005 leading to the end of his shop City Cycle on Union Street. Both are real losses to the cycling community here.

Whatever charm the climb out of Sausalito has is lost in the chaos of cars. It’s less than two miles to the Panoramic turnoff and averages about 6% so it’s really quite short. But it’s hard to notice the beautiful eucalyptus trees along the road when you’re thinking about that SUV behind you. It’s become a road that you just want to get over—you do it for the destination, not for the trip. The descent to Muir Beach is classic: a winding, curvy road where you can outmaneuver the cars. At this point we were all spread out by the climb and I couldn’t see anyone else from our group. At Muir Beach you start an ugly but short ascent up the coastal cliffs; it’s not long but long enough to have you wondering if you can stay on the gas much longer. For the record it’s about a mile long averaging 10%. Back in the day when the club had an annual Guerneville Weekend, the route up went this way and many dreaded it. That may be why in the ’90s the route got changed to go inland through Nicasio—it may be hotter but it was a lot less climbing. Not having done this climb in well over twenty years, like so many roads I’ve revisited recently after a long absence, it sure seemed steeper than I recall. Eric, Darrell, and Roger H. were somewhere ahead of me and at Lone Tree Creek I finally saw them above me on the road, too far to catch up with.

Finally there’s a fast descent into Stinson to make up for all that hellish climbing. Being a sunny day the crowds were out! We reconvened at the little park across from the market to enjoy the sunshine. Some wandered over to the Parkside Cafe, which was inundated with daytrippers, to get some grub while some of us just noshed on energy bars. Needing a little pep Eric and I wandered over to the espresso stand to get some good Italian coffee. We watched the endless stream of cars heading up Highway One including a Porsche rally complete with burning rubber at the only stop sign in town.

Although the long respite threatened to turn into a day at the beach, I rousted everyone from their torpor to do the final, big climb up to Pantoll. This climb is very different than the steep hills coming over to the beach. First, it’s a continuous four-mile ascent averaging about 7% and with no relief. It requires a different mindset and effort: get into a gear you can use for the entire climb and grind away steadily. The climb out starts in the open but about half-way up you enter the redwoods and it’s not unlike climbing on Tunitas Creek. Darrell took off but eventually Roger and I caught him. Eric, who had stopped to take off his jacket eventually caught up with us and in a mad rush we arrived at Pantoll for another extended recuperation. The parking lot was full and Pantoll was clearly having a lot of visitors. After we regrouped and caught our collective breath, we launched into a prolonged descent back to Sausalito. Darrell fully embraced his death wish and hit the afterburners with Eric not far behind. Roger S. who usually descends like a demon surprisingly took it easy—I was able to keep him in sight! I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that before. We bade Stephen farewell in Sausalito and then dove into the moshpit. It was yet another rush of lemmings to get through town and to the bridge. At the turnoff for Baker tunnel there was a long line of cars trying to get to Rodeo Beach so late in the day. It must be tourist season already!

At the north end of the bridge we said goodbye to Eric and the five of us confronted the last obstacle of the day: getting across the west sidewalk of the bridge alive and in one piece. Initially it was an atypically quiet afternoon with little cycle traffic heading north. The additional chainlink fencing, road furniture, and equipment dumped on the sidewalk doesn’t become a problem until you have to pass someone. On weekends that usually means the afternoon return to SF is a semi-nightmare and today was no different. The plethora of BS handlebar bags (Blazing Saddles) clued us in that tourism is alive and well in SF. The crosswind was challenging and going around the towers was like suddenly being dropped into a wind tunnel requiring everyone to exercise care not only to stay upright and steer straight but also to avoid the scary tourists who had no idea they were going to get a real life experience of the Venturi effect.

As we neared the south footing we were almost home when we were swamped by a literal horde of adolescent cyclists taking over the west sidewalk. There were hundreds of them in a long line four-wide coming down the dirt trail onto the bridge. We were pushed against the chainlink fencing hoping none of them would run into us head-on. Sharing the path wasn’t on their mind as they squirreled pell-mell every whichway. I was certain we were going to have a crash and was screaming out warnings. Darrell couldn’t move forward and got off his bike and lifted it through the crowd. Eventually the three of us made it to the bridge plaza a bit shaken and wondering if Roger S. and Nancy who were further behind were going to escape unscathed. Shortly they arrived intact. None of us had ever experienced anything like this, a tidal wave of oncoming cyclists completely taking over the walkway. Darrell went to talk to a bridge police officer who did absolutely nothing except shrug her shoulders.

The rest of the ride was peaceful but I must confess I was pretty shaken up by the incident. My husband Roger and I, who already don’t like crossing the bridge on weekend afternoons, looked at each other and knew that was probably the last time we’d ever do that again.

Oh My Mines

Hell hath no fury like a downhill scorned

All through the day
Oh my Mines, oh my Mines, oh my Mines
All through the night
Oh my Mines, oh my Mines, oh my Mines

Now they’re frightened of riding it
Everyone’s riding it
Comin’ on strong all the time
—George Harrison

What can you say about a ride that starts off with bulls being castrated? Yeah, that was an ominous beginning.

Most of the club stalwarts were off riding the Wine Country Century. It was just six of us taking the annual hajj up Mines Road ostensibly in search of wildflowers. Or something. It’s just an excuse to ride up one of the strangest roads in the Bay Area. This year I was curious how the area was recovering after the 2020 SCU fire incinerated almost everything near the junction of Mines Road and Del Puerto Canyon Road. Last year we rode up and were greeted by gruesomely burnt trees, first here and there and eventually entire swaths of hillside populated by charred and denuded of vegetation. Now it was another year on and perhaps it was less horrific. I hoped.

Mines Road is a relict of another time. It doesn’t go ‘anywhere’ at least not today. It’s known as the back road to the summit of Mt. Hamilton but back in the 19th century it was a road to a magnesite mine now long abandoned. Being an isolated road it’s a favorite for cyclists in the Livermore area as well as motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts who pretend they are on a closed course racing both up and down.

The start of the club’s Mines Road ride is at the intersection of Mines Road and Del Valle Road. There is a parking area making it a convenient start. My guess is that it became the start not just for convenience but probably also to shorten the distance. If you start at the Livermore library, which is about six miles back in Livermore, not only do you get a public restroom but a nice flat warmup before the start of the incline. But that turns a fifty-mile day into a sixty-miler.

At the start cows unseen on the other side of the road were braying incessantly. Roger S. remarked that it sounded like the bulls were being castrated. Hmm, Rocky Mountain oysters for dinner, dear? I preferred to think they were cheering us on. They were making quite a racket but it sounded more raucous than shrieking to me. Do bulls shriek? And how does Roger know what castrating bulls sound like?

Leaving the bulls to their business we took off and about a half-mile later the climb began ramping up quickly enough that we were rewarded with grand views of the Arroyo Mocho valley. There isn’t anything out here except ranches and a few Silicon Valley homesteads. But luckily it isn’t developed likely because it’s outside the city limits and one has to be self-sufficient for water and septic. Oh, and there is no cell service either. At this time of the year the green is almost gone and replaced by the dusky tan of dried grass. But green is supplied by the oak woodland and scrub brush feathering the hillsides.

Although I’d like to say we leapt up the hill, an accurate description would be more like ‘slogged’. David G. was overgeared for the climb and not warmed up, so he soon dismounted and click-clacked his way up to where the gradient subsided a bit. We all looked at each other and thought, “Fuck it, let’s take it easy today!” So to tackle the lengthy climb we took lots of breaks to inhale the views, the quiet, and gab slanderously about club members not present. Stephen had brought his e-bike and it certainly helped to flatten the climb.

Along the way we were passed by several groups of motos, one of whom decided I was a slalom pole as he brushed past me at 40 mph. We were also passed by a pod of Porsches who took care not to kill us. Then there was the myriad of tiny 50cc two-stroke motorcycles also heading up at a considerably less hectic pace.

Mines Road is strange because it is unlike any other ‘climb’ in the Bay Area in that it can be psychologically frustrating. The climb ‘up’ Mines Road is actually two climbs and two descents before you arrive at the junction with Del Puerto Canyon Road, the usual end point. Although you can continue into San Antonio Valley where the wildflowers bloom in greater numbers, most club rides end at the junction because of the Junction Cafe & Bar. After the first big bump up the hill things settle down for quite a while—you are going uphill but the gradient is so gentle that you think you’re riding on the flats. On this day we were pushed uphill by a vigorous yet worrisome tailwind. Worrisome? Because I knew what it meant for when we turned around. As you climb the Arroyo Mocho the valley narrows and ranches disappear to be replaced by odd dirt driveways and junky homesteads here and there. David G. and I both thought of the same thing: thank god we don’t hear banjo music! (That reference is for the elders out there. Hint: Deliverance.)

Higher up we were riding next to Arroyo Mocho and it was still running. It’s here that the wildflowers started to appear by the roadside—poppies, lupins, Indian paintbrush. That we’ve had a dry year was obvious by the diminished number of flowers. But we’ll take it! Soon the burnt landscape hove into view—charred, barren trees. But the land looked less ‘scraped’ than last year because the brush had popped up providing some green. Nature heals everything eventually. In a few years it’ll appear less damaged even if still a bit barren.

By taking it at a slower pace Mines can be a wonderful ride. Springtime up Mines is the best time to go not just for the greenery but also the isolation so close to the Bay Area. Of course having a tailwind made it extra pedalicious.

We got to the Junction Cafe and it was crowded with bikes—motorbikes. A Ducati club of about twenty or so riders was out for a run and had stopped. Around the other side of the cafe was the gang of 50cc riders. Despite the large number outside, the cafe was strangely empty. In fact hardly anyone other than our group was buying food despite it being lunch time. The Junction is a regular stopping place for the moto crowd. Back in the day it was more rundown and a real dive. The new owners have brightened up the place but the menu is limited to burgers. It seems the moto folk were into chatting rather than noshing. This was definitely not the Harley crowd. No beers, no glasspack mufflers, no cut-off jean jackets. Definitely a more genteel pack of motorcyclists.

While we were outside snacking a couple of cyclists—there weren’t any others—arrived and sat down with us. Both were heading up San Antonio Valley Road to the top. Yikes! There is a hellacious 14% section waiting for them. Better they than I!

After lots of idle, frivilous conversation we got off our duffs and headed out. Before the final ‘descent’ there are two uphill sections after lunch at the Junction. We’d spent such a long time there that we were in no danger of a scarf ’n bart fest. In any case we were taking it easy. The slog back to the top wasn’t too bad. Despite the lack of tree cover it was pleasantly cool and sunny. But we could feel the headwind…

At the top we started the descent but it sure didn’t feel like it. The headwind was about 15-20 MPH and the wind noise was so deafening that I couldn’t understand Roger at all over the radio. As usual the only way we were going to make it to the bottom was to pedal our asses off. There were short sections where the gradient increased and we could actually coast. But they were all too short. It’s demoralizing to climb all that elevation and then get a downhill like this. It’s like having two climbs and no descent at all. Only when you get to about the last three miles does the gradient get steep enough that you have a bona fide downhill.

Back at the cars everybody looked whipped. Stephen commented that midway down he was just DONE and he upped the boost from his battery to get to the end. What a strange inversion that you have to use your battery to make it downhill.

And what a way to end this ride: David Go. went off for a natural break and promptly slipped down the gully and threw out his back making for an excruciating drive back home.

And those damn bulls were still braying like their balls were being cut off. Speaking of getting your balls cut off, have you tried riding down Mines Road?

Convergence

This past weekend’s Jersey Ride was a real surprise gathering. Nancy and Ginny led the regular JR from Peet’s and had five compatriots—Maurizio, Stephen S., Roger S., Scott, and Mark. Roger and I decided to eyeball another East Bay Tiburon loop route with the intent of meeting the gang at Woodlands Market for lunch. We met up and had a great lunch together on the deck outside Woodlands. While we were there, semi-old-Spoker Jaime Guerrero showed up. I hadn’t seen Jaime since he came on a club ride I led back in 2014. Or was it at that party at a mutual friend’s house on Mines Road? I can’t recall exactly but Jaime had lapsed and moved onto other activities such as hiking. Jaime was sporting a Sun Microsystems jersey, which despite ithe company’s iconic and important historical role, has become just another forgotten tidbit of Silicon Valley debris about which only the elder technorati would sigh rhapsodically. We chatted just a tad because we were getting ready to leave. Then Eric showed up! He decided to catch the JR after a late start and showed up just as we had finished lunch. Nice surprises all around!

The East Bay Tib loop is a minor project we’ve been working on since last summer trying to find a suitable set of roads from Point Richmond across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and thence to Tiburon. This seems like a trivial undertaking but it’s actually rife with niggling problems. The first is that access to the bridge is not a given anymore. The non-car lane is in reality a limited time experiment although cyclists seem to think it’s a done decision. (It’s most definitely not.) There has been strong pushback from car drivers to take over that third lane for, well, them. In addition the drought has made the Marin Water District revive a plan to put a pipeline across the bridge to bring water to Marin, which heretofore has depended entirely on its reservoir storage system. Guess where that pipe was going to be placed? Right, in the non-car lane. That plan has gone silent and you can be sure there is fierce fighting and politicking taking place in back rooms. Who’s going to win that arm wrestling contest? Nobody knows yet. If Caltrans decides to roll back the bike lane, you can be sure there will be hue and cry from cyclists. But the real question is whether a brouhaha will make any difference. The end result is that an East Bay Tib loop may end up in the history books rather than on our ride calendar due to a shutdown of the bike lane.

Despite the huge question mark over bridge access there is the issue of finding a good way to get from the west landing of the bridge to Paradise Drive and that’s what we’ve been exploring. The long way is to head to Bon Air and then the Corte Madera-Larkspur path. Shorter ways involve taking walkways on 101. Today we checked out the southbound 101 walkway and a cut-through. This walkway is marginally doable being narrow. However it’s much better than the one on northbound 101, which is so narrow that only one person can traverse it at a time. Heaven help you if you’re midway and encounter someone—a ped or a cyclist—heading the opposite direction. One of you has to back out. Back in the day this was rarely an issue because cycling was less popular. But now there is a ton of cycling traffic trying to get around Larkspur Landing.

We eventually got to Paradise without a hitch and had a lovely ride on such a sunny and windless day. We arrived at Woodlands a little after 11:30 AM and the SF group wasn’t to be seen. So we got our lunch and had a table outside all to ourselves. A little after noon they started to arrive apparently having been slowed down by Mark getting a flat. We had our lunch and had a good conversation with Maurizio and Stephen on managed healthcare, avoiding surgery, and how not every doctor got A’s in medical school. That of course led to a discussion of academic cheating in O-chem classes, the gateway class for medical students. Fascinating stuff. Nancy filled us in on her upcoming Montana cycling trip—I wish we were going!

Just as we were ready to depart Roger S. discovered he had a flat. Nonetheless off went the main group while a few of us gave him lots of practical advice and kibbitzing on changing the tube, like “you shoulda gone tubeless, dude” and “don’t pinch that tube with your tire lever!” With the tube replaced, off we went and Roger S. decided to take a look at Belvedere while the rest of us went to Mill Valley. At the bike path we bade adieu to the others since we were going up Camino Alto to the RSR bridge rather than to SF. The bridge at Bon Air has been a hot mess for months with a slow reconstruction. The last time we were there it was closed with only a very narrow walking path open. This time the road was finally open to traffic as well as east multi-use path, which is quite wide. We took the Corte Madera Creek path back to Larkspur Landing. Despite the sunny day, which should have drawn a big crowd, the path was lightly used. At 101 we noticed that the horrible northbound 101 pedestrian overpass was being widened! Hell must have frozen over or maybe it was federal Pandemic money because it has remained resolutely, inanely intact and dangerous for at least 40 years. So we checked it out. It’s decently wide and will be wider when they complete it and remove the storm fencing. In addition they’ve thoughtfullly included some pullouts to make passing even safer. This is a huge improvement; the old path was not just inconvenient but an accident waiting to happen. (I’m sure many have, which is likely why it’s being rebuilt.) We continued through the Cal Hill tunnel and took the frontage road to 580 back to the RSR bridge path. There is almost no shoulder and the traffic on it was moderate; apparently drivers use it as access to San Quentin. Last time we took the Bay Trail instead of the frontage road and encountered muddy boggy conditions-a definite turnoff.

Ultimately the East Bay Tib loop route is still a work in progress. The restoration of the northbound 101 ped overpass is a big help. But getting back to the bridge is either going to mean taking the frontage road, using the weird Sir Francis Drake Blvd. freeway entrance, or taking a mini-gravel adventure on the SF Bay Trail. The latter is a problem in wet weather or around a high tide since it immediately abuts Richardson Bay. Unfortunately there isn’t an obvious ‘best’ choice so far. But maybe there’s a pony in there!

Not Your Mother’s Dirt Ride

Times have changed. Or have they? Yesterday David and Eric led an off-road ride out of Half Moon Bay up Purisima Creek trail to Skyline and back. Purisima is an old logging road originally constructed when redwood cutting was all the rage in the Coast Range back in the 19th century. As such it’s a dirt road. The Santa Cruz mountains are full of them, some of which are still in use such as the Old Haul Road near Big Basin State Park. Purisima is now a ‘trail’ and is a not-too-well-known connector between Skyline near where Kings Mountain and Tunitas Creek join and Highway One. Cycling down is the preferred direction but David and Eric ventured heading up along with Duncan, David L., and Brian.

Once the habitat of a few road cyclists it has been used mostly by mountain bikers. But all-road and ‘gravel’ bikes have made riding on dirt fashionable again and you’ll notice there isn’t a mountain bike in the group. I certainly hope they’ll lead this ride again!

Here is David’s report:

“We had a great time today. The weather was cool and breezy but mostly sunny after the morning shower. The trails were great, not too crowded.  Neither were the roads (except for Hwy 1, natch). 

We saw Michaelangelo on his ALC training ride going the other way on 1.  Crazy coincidence since we were on 1 for all of two minutes. 

No incidents to report except that I got a pinch flat on the last 100 yards of the single track. Everyone but Brian (who had a dog waiting for him at home) patiently waited for me to perform a tube change on my rear wheel, which may be the most finicky rear wheel I’ve ever worked on. 

We had a windswept dinner outside a the Himalayan restaurant at the north end of town. 

We’ll do that ride again for sure.”

Sure beats riding with cars, doesn’t it?

Irresolute

‘Sup, bro?

Ten of us clambered to the top of Mt. Diablo the day after Earth Day. David had opined to me that he wanted to go up Diablo, something he hadn’t done in several years because he had been dealing with an unremitting injury affecting his riding and which took forever to get an accurate diagnosis of and then recover from. And the Pandemic hit and he like many of us hid out and dedicated himself to allaying Covid anxiety by refining his kitchen skills and then consuming the savory delights thereof. Happy to be back on the bike pain-free he has been steadily increasing his mileage and aspirations. With the SLO Wildflower just around the corner he wanted to cap his recovery by going to the top. “So, do you want to co-lead?” “Um, okay,” I unenthusiastically replied.

I’d like to say I was dealing with an injury or some other malady but I wasn’t: I just wasn’t feeling it. But maybe having to do it would shake me from the spring doldrums or from dark thoughts about dealing with the indignities of becoming old like the hills.

We got lucky: the unseasonablly wet weather relented and we had a clear, sunny day with little wind and a mild 58 degree forecast to go up the mount. Everybody made the start on time except for Will, who missed the BART train by one minute. He texted David he’d go to Dublin BART on the next train instead and climb up South Gate to meet us at the junction. I asked Scott when was the last time he had gone up Diablo. He said it had been at least five years. I mentioned the last hundred yards is the worst part since it’s a narrow ramp with about a 13% grade. Don’t stop in the middle or you’ll have a hell of time restarting.

I led the group through my preferred route via the backwoods of suburban Walnut Creek to North Gate Road. Usually Different Spokes rides just go on Walnut, a dreary arterial, before starting the climb. But my route avoids most of the cars and plus we go through a hidden Eichler gem of a neighborhood to ooo-and-aah over midcentury architecture.

At North Gate everybody headed up at their own pace. Eric and Darryl took off and the rest of us slogged. Despite the beautiful conditions I still wasn’t feeling it and was instead thinking of how nice it would have been to stay home and work in the garden. Some days you have it and some you don’t. There weren’t many cyclists or cars heading up. But there were a few cyclists heading down, suggesting that the early birds had gotten the worm and were done for the day. At the junction Maurizio was looking forward to making himself familiar with the rangers. I had told him that the ranger station there is almost always empty because the rangers are out, um, ranging. When we got there we were promptly greeted by three different rangers. Alas, Maurizio was not impressed. Not butch enough? Maybe today will be the last time he goes up Diablo.

Apparently Eric didn’t stop at the junction and kept heading up. Darryl decided to continue since he was getting cold. To our surprise Will showed up! Spokers came in one after the other and atypically did not leave together but took off as if in a hurry. Was it their resolute nature? I waited for the last to leave as I wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere. Will, Roger S, and I chatted on the way up. We saw Eric and Darryl heading down. Will was uncharacteristically having a difficult day and only later did I find out that he had a knee injury that was making climbing challenging.

We got to the ramp just before the summit. I saw Scott midway up weaving in the road. No cars or other cyclists above me, I had a clear shot so I went for it. I saw Scott put his foot down: game over. Scott walked up the rest of the way. Having taken it easy all the way up I had plenty of oomph left. The key to getting up the ramp is to stay on the gas all the way, and I made it up smoothly (but not easily) not even using my lowest gear. For the record I used the 21-tooth cog. Yes bitches, a 21!

Hey, the summit was actually great—little wind, still sunny, and a 360 degree view of the Bay Area. We could even see the snow-capped Sierras! For extra entertainment a parasailor was circling around the summit catching updraft after updraft as we watched in awe. After more schmoozing cum commiseration we headed back down. I don’t know who was “killing” it on the downhill since I decided to leave last, being such a chickenshit on descents these days. And I still wasn’t feeling it.

We ended up at the latest Spoker lunch spot in Danville, Sultan’s Kebab. Eric and Darryl were more than midway through their lunch plates while the rest of us piled in hungry. We lucked out again: no crowd despite being a Saturday and we took over the outdoor tables. I’m a sucker for their falafel plate while my husband got the lamb shawarma wrap. Their wraps are all huge like the gut bombs they are. Roger couldn’t finish it so I polished it off after sucking up my falafels.

With bellies full and appetites temporarily sated, it was just a stroll back to BART on Danville Blvd. Do I hear Umhunum calling?