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 either 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 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 as we were going up Camino Alto to the bridge. 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 side 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.

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!

Mortification

Folsom Lake – the reality of our current drought

On Easter we decided to head up to Sacramento to do an old Different Spokes ride that is no longer fashionable, the American River Bike Trail (ARBT). Back in the day this was called the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail. The club first went up there courtesy of Derek Liecty and Richard Palmer on May 6, 1984. It was usually offered once a year in the spring or sometimes in the fall. No one in their right mind wanted to be on the American River in the summer as it would so hot one would faint from the heat and humidity. It got San Franciscans out of their comfort zone, ie. away from the Gay Ghetto and summer-long City fog and into the heartland of the Traditional Values Coalition and valley heat. It’s a beautiful paved trail that manages to avoid Sacto’s suburban sprawl and render the appearance that you’re out in the country (except when passing under the overpasses).

The ARBT starts in Discovery Park, which is just to the north of old town Sacramento, and continues for over 32 miles to Beals Point at Folsom Dam and then slightly beyond. The trail parallels the American River, wiggling along its banks amidst numerous river parks small and large. Even though you’re passing through several suburbs—Carmichael, Rancho Cordova, Fair Oaks, and Folsom—you rarely espy the urbanity as the planners have done an excellent job of preserving the river as is. The ARBT is technically a multi-use path but it’s unlike the ones we have in the Bay Area. The paved trail is primarily for cyclists and it has a painted divider for each direction, upriver and downriver. Although pedestrians can and do use the path, they are advised to use the dirt shoulder and walk facing cycling traffic. Skateboarding is banned. In comparison MUPs such as the Iron Horse or Contra Costa Canal Trail are free-for-all zones open to any user and there is no attempt to organize traffic nor limit users other than to the 15 MPH speed limit. Thus the ARBT is actually a great place to ride and better than the adjacent city streets since it has almost no stop signs and very few crossings.

Although it’s often described as ‘dead flat’ the ARBT is not exactly flat as a pancake. There are innumerable small ups and downs that are insidiously wearing. The only climb to speak of is the short ascent from the town of Folsom up to dam level. All in all it’s about 1,100 feet of gain over the length of the trail. As the day progresses the wind changes from usually downstream to what can sometimes be a steady upstream headwind as the Valley heats up and sucks air up the Delta. But there are so many places to stop to rest, get water, find a restroom, and relax on benches or lawns in shade or in sun that temporary relief is literally just at your feet. Although there are no food concessions on the trail itself, you can exit it at various points and search for the nearest fast food or other local restaurant in the suburbs themselves. At Beals Point there is a snack concession stand but its hours are mostly limited to summertime when the crowds throng the lakeshore. So for food it’s best to bring your own and you can enjoy a snack anywhere you like along the trail.

Roger and I last rode the ARBT in 2019 during the time when a long section of the trail at Lake Natoma—about 20 miles up the river—was closed due to a landslide and then a breeding pair of bald eagles established a nest there that had to be left undisturbed. We were forced to ride the south side of the river that year. It had been three years since we’ve ridden the trail and even longer for the closed section.

I was eagerly looking forward to revisiting the ARBT. Although I’ve suffered through some pretty hot versions, I’ve always enjoyed the mesmerizing roll along the river. This year it was slightly on the cool side and that made the entire day a comfortable jaunt. The trail is well used by Sacramento denizens as well as visitors from the Bay Area (e.g. I saw a rider with a Dublin Cyclery jersey). But the trail wasn’t crowded at all perhaps because there is plenty of room, 32 miles worth! Picnickers and daytrippers were out enjoying the sunny day and the smell of grilling meat wafted pleasantly along the trail.

The peculiar thing about the ARBT is that I’ve never been able to go very fast on it. Perhaps it’s because I’m just not ‘very fast’ period. Although I can roll on my local roads at over 17 MPH, I have a really hard time keeping that speed on the ARBT. And it wasn’t just this day—I’ve been doing about 15 MPH on it for years. And this time I felt like I was struggling almost the entire day. We were passed by other cyclists with some regularity. The trail is used not just by the hoi polloi but also by the local racers and faux racers. It is somewhat unsettling to see guys roll by at speed on time trial bikes; technically there is a 15 MPH limit but it’s for show only—laughable really—because of the inordinate number of cyclists rolling by at pace. Nonetheless except at a few critical junctures there is rarely a crowd on the trail.

Many of those passing us were on e-bikes and there were more e-bikes in use than I had ever seen before except perhaps at the Stanford E-Bike Expo. The assortment was really quite astounding—e-cargo bikes with kids, e-bikes with trailers, urban bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes—you name it, they all had batteries. At one point we were passed by a couple and I tried to catch them. 17 MPH…18 MPH…20 MPH…22 MPH and I was gasping. This went on for some time when I came to the realization that they probably had Class 3 e-bikes and unless I was willing to risk my heart exploding I wasn’t going to catch them. Off they flew into the distance. This happened several times: we’d get passed, I’d speed up, I couldn’t catch up or I’d just run out of gas/patience. In any case I just wasn’t feeling it that day. I really felt like the caboose!

At about the 20-mile point you pass the Nimbus fish hatchery. This facility is run by California Fish & Game and raises salmon and trout fingerlings to release into the American River due to the natural run being blocked by the Nimbus hydroelectic dam, which creates Lake Natoma just below Folsom. Here you have to cross the river and climb to the north side before dropping precipitously back to lake level to continue upstream. This section of the trail is beautiful as you glide by the lake and beaches, which are often full of users in warm weather.

Where the trail passes through Folsom is the beginning of the climb up to Beals Point. As we started to climb I could see a well-kitted cyclist suddenly appear behind us. Of course I sped up. Then I stood up and climbed for all I was worth (which wasn’t much). In a vain victory we dropped him on the climb, perhaps a mere hundred foot vertical gain. That nearly killed me. So I crawled into Beals Point for a good rest.

Usually we carry a lunch with us to eat at the lake. But this time we were set on going to Julian’s Patisserie, which is a couple of miles back down the trail on the outskirts of Folsom. It meant leaving the trail and getting on Folsom-Auburn Road, a wide four-lane arterial with shoulders. The transition from no cars to mo’ cars was unsettling! Peace and quiet were replaced by anxiety and the loud whine of many automobiles adjacent to a sadly perfunctory “bike lane”.

At Julian’s, which has outdoor seating, all the tables were taken and it was closing soon. So we ended up missing out on his pastries and ended up next door at Coffee Republic, which has lots of outdoor tables and hardly a crowd. The sandwiches were fine but nondescript, nothing to write home about.

Back on the trail we took it easier, or at least we tried to. Unfortunately the afternoon headwind had appeared so it was a bit of a slog anyway and it felt like we were merely crawling along. By now the Sunday crowds were in full force, parking lots were full at most of the parks we passed. And who wouldn’t want to be outside on such a pleasant day? Sunny but not hot, a light breeze, and plenty of foliage to assuage the senses.

As has been becoming typical I developed a hamstring cramp and we had to stop. I downed some pickle juice—Pickle Power!—and rested a bit, then headed back even more slowly. I know that if I take it easy (or down a Coke, which alas I did not have) I can make it calm down. A few miles down the path I felt better and we were shortly back at Discovery Park. I can’t say I was beat but I was close to it—it was after all over 64 miles. And my average speed for the day? 15 MPH. Same as it ever was. At least I’m not getting slower quickly.

Into Socks. Are you?

Sock it to me!

Socks for sale
Appetizing young socks for sale
Socks that are fresh and still unspoiled
Socks that are only slightly soiled
Socks for sale
Who will buy?
Who would like to sample our supply?
Who’s prepared to pay the price
For a trip to paradise?
Socks for sale

—Cole Porter

Is your boudoir closet brimming with the latest sexy cycling kit? You know, your Different Spokes matchy-match club jersey and bibshorts and maybe our chic cap? But there’s something missing to make that outfit a perfect “10”—matching cycling socks!

Your wish has been granted and our 40th anniversary gift to ourselves is our new DSSF socks now available at the club store on our website. Want to be en vogue at the next Jersey Ride? You have to have this fine hosiery clad your little piggies! Just $15 plus shipping for the Spokerati, $20 plus shipping for the hoi polloi, er- non-members. Find them at the club website. If you are a member, log in first to get the member discount. Socks should ship sometime in June.

And remember: friends don’t let friends dress badly. Get your BFFs a pair too!

Core Values

Same as it ever was!

On Sunday we had our irregularly offered Apple Blossom ride out of Sebastopol. This year it is part of the Forty & Fab ride series, justifiably so since not only is it an early club ride that had faded from collective memory due to membership attitrion—there aren’t many oldsters still in the club—but because the riding experience and scenery are topnotch. This year it was just three of us, Roger S and me and my husband Roger H. Perhaps it was the ominous weather forecast and lack of sunshine that drove you all away. But to our astonishment (not!) the forecast proved to be completely wrong: we had bright sunshine and perfect temperature for climbing the west Sonoma bergs.

The Apple Blossom is in reality a set of rides done in the early days of the club that all took you from Sebastopol to Occidental and back. They differed in length and plied slightly different rural roads but all the routes were clockwise heading south of Sebastopol and then west while gradually working their way to Occidental. The traditional lunch stop was the Union Hotel in Occidental; for some reason we never ate at Negri’s across the street perhaps because there was no outside dining nor other conveniently safe place to leave our bikes. El Mariachi, Howard’s Station, and Hazel did not exist back then. The other reason probably was due to Mike Reedy, who did not originate the Apple Blossom—it was MJ—but he loved this ride and was responsible for creating one of the routes by shortening the original. (Mike was, uh, heavy and didn’t take kindly to steep hills.) Mike was Italian-American and loved Italian-American cooking, and his choice was always the Union Hotel. When the Apple Blossom was revived for the 30th anniversary, of course I followed tradition and set lunch there. However last year we broke tradition and ate at El Mariachi and discovered that their burritos were excellent. I was actually looking forward to going there again but I got outvoted in favor of the Union Hotel and that turned out to be an excellent decision. But I’m jumping ahead…

Because we knew it was going to be a very cozy group this club ride had a very casual atmosphere. We actually did end up leaving at the scheduled time of 10 AM but that was more by happenstance since I had told Roger S that I wasn’t going to be a martinet about it. Of course it wouldn’t be a Different Spokes ride if something predictably unpredictable happened and that was my ancient Garmin 800, which has been nearly bombproof in over ten years of dependable use, locked up a mere one block from the start necessitating a stop—going uphill, natch—and the revival of some long dormant brain cells on how one reboots a Garmin 800. That done we continued without a hitch for the rest of the day.

A piece of heaven

Riding in west Sonoma is both heavenly and infernal. On a good day like we were having the scenery is an oh-so-good massage for your eyes, ears, and nose. It was sunny, cool but not cold, and clear air made everything shine in brilliant colors and detail. But the road quality varied from “are we dirt yet?” to reasonably smooth tarmac with a distinct emphasis on the former. Because we’re the trendsetters that we are, all of us were on tires of 30mm width or more and that helped to ease the shock of the innumerable potholes, patches, rubble, and other road incongruities that pepper Sonoma country roads like a case of bad acne on a teenager’s face. And it didn’t take long before we were merrily bouncing our way south on the narrow road euphemistically named Pleasant Hill, dodging pavement heaves and sadistically poor asphalt patches whilst playing tag with the cars who all seemed in a hurry, obviously late for church!

After turning off Pleasant Hill the traffic almost disappeared except on Roblar, which is a cut-through from Highway 116 to Valley Ford. This was rural Sonoma, faux farm houses soon giving way to the real thing along with orchards, vineyards, and pastures. Time has not been kind to the Gravenstein apple. Whether its popularity has diminished due to the newer variants such as the Gala, Pink Lady, or Honeycrisp or just because apples in general are less profitable to grow, Gravensteins are vanishing quickly from Sonoma, which used to be their production epicenter. In fact there is still an annual Gravenstein Festival in Sebastopol. We passed a few abandoned orchards, trees hoary from the lack of pruning and overgrown with tall weeds. Places that used to be acre after acre of apple trees are now growing wine grapes no doubt because every bottle of wine made in California can be sold at a nice profit. The switch may be good for the farmers but it’s made it difficult to find Gravensteins in markets. Thirty years ago Gravensteins regularly showed up in Safeway, Co-op, and other NorCal chains. Now, outside of Sonoma you’re lucky to find them at all. Roger S stopped to take a picture of some apple blossoms in an abandoned orchard thinking that we’d likely not see anymore. Fortunately that turned out not to be true.

Leaping lagomorph!

We stopped and dawdled when and wherever we wanted and there was plenty to dawdle over. The views from the tops of the hillocks we surmounted were just pastoral in the best sense of the word—green pastures and hills seemingly undiminished by the drought, Holsteins lounging in the fields munching away. As we tooled along we kept running across metal art placed in front of farms, fanciful rabbits, octupi, centipedes, and tin men! There were also plentiful wildflowers including California poppies whose color just ‘pops’ against the green grasses.

West Sonoma may be farm land but it is not the least flat. Instead it’s rolling hills and depending on which road you take you’ll either confront something reasonable like an 8% grade or something less reasonable like a 12% grade. Today it wasn’t so bad with the worst being less than 10%. Even so it felt more like rockclimbing than climbing. Tempering these climbs were the numerous photo ops and vista breaks we were taking. But the climbing eventually took its toll on my legs and I was getting hungry. Just outside of Occidental we passed by Ratzlaff Farms, one of the few remaining commercial Gravenstein orchards left. It took us nearly three hours to ride from Sebastopol to Occidental, which is just 23 miles away!

“I earned this!”

We dined at the Union Hotel in their outdoor courtyard beneath their blossoming Judas tree or Eastern redbud. We weren’t sure which was correct but those were the two guesses that Plantnet gave us. Incidentally that was another great find of the day: Roger S used the app Plantnet on his phone to identify the many plants we were curious about as we rolled along. No need to have a degree in botany and know how to key out plants—just use the app! Although the Union Hotel constructed a monstrous parklet in front for Pandemic dining, the courtyard has a more cordial atmosphere and today it wasn’t crowded at all. We grabbed a table and looked over their menu. Alas, the Pandemic has led them to drastically reduce their tasty menu down to a mere handful of choices, better I suppose for the kitchen so that they don’t need to prep so much for a small or unpredictable number of meals. We decided to split a pizza and Roger S selected the Garlic Gold, which has a creamy garlic instead of tomato sauce as well as mozzarella, sausage, caramelized onions, and sautéed mushrooms. None of us had ever had their pizza before and it was a revelation. Although predictably American—no wood fired oven here!—it was marvelous with the caramelized onions lending an interesting sweet flavor to such savory toppings. We couldn’t finish the whole thing even though it was only about 12 inches. (Where have I heard that before?)

We spent nearly an hour and a half over lunch. It was a very Italian pranzo: cycle somewhere really chill, sit down and have a proper meal, chat, linger, and finally roust oneself back on the bike for the completion of the ride. The ride back was ten miles and most of it downhill, so delaying our departure wasn’t to avoid a scarf ’n barf session—it was just ‘lunch’, the type which you rarely see on a Different Spokes ride.

Back in the saddle we had but three or four tiny hills to surmount on the generally downhill rush back to Sebastopol. More beautiful rural countryside, more sculpture, few cars. Just outside of town we ran into a large apple orchard in bloom. Nice. And adjacent to it was another abandoned orchard. Sigh. The run into town goes almost immediately from farm land to residential neighborhood. Now that’s a green line!

We were back at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, our start, and it was 3 PM—five hours to cover 33 miles. That was a bike ride to relish: good food, good company, and occasionally good road. It’s still spring up in Sebastopol so if you’re hankering for your country road fix, this is the place to go. If and when you go the apple blossoms may have vanished. But you’ll still be able to enjoy this little piece of cycling heaven.

What’s Old Is New

Wall Eyed

Is there anything really new under the sun? When it comes to cycling, the answer is mostly no; it’s just old ideas given a new spin, peddling what was in fashion so long ago that the new kids on the block think it’s innovation. Wow, fluoro yellow jackets! Um, that was ‘hot’ or ‘dayglo’ yellow in the 1980s. “Gravel bikes”! Yep, they were called road bikes in the 70s, just ridden on dirt trails. Okay, so electronic shifting is kind of a ‘new’ idea, right? Yet it’s the cycling version of automobile paddle shifting…which was invented in 1912. Darn.

Last month the Davids led another training series ride, this time up the Marshall Wall. Actually it was David Go. and Mark because the other David had a scheduling conflict and had to bail. For some reason the Marshall Wall has become an iconic ride in some cycling quarters of the Bay Area. I don’t recall the first time I rode it but I know it was in the early days of the club shortly after I had moved to San Francisco. I have a vague memory of a club ride climbing up the Marshall with Dennis Westler, who later became club president, and probably along with other vintage Spokers such as Bruce Matasci and Abel Galvan both of whom later died of AIDS. I definitely recall doing it on the tandem with Dr. Bob several times in the late 80s/early 90s before he decamped to LA. In any case it’s semi-regularly offered by the club; at sister club GPC that ride also seems to be a near-monthly fixture of their ride calendar. The so-called “Wall” is just a hill like many other hills in the Bay Area so it’s an exaggeration. Probably what makes it mentally daunting is that at the foot of the hill you can see all the way to the top as well as everyone who is ahead of you, sort of like a mini-Mt. Hamilton. For real walls see Mt. Umunhum on the Peninsula or Mix Road, which inobtrusively lies to the west of Pleasants Valley Road in Solano (talk about heaven and hell!)

We started at the Marinwood Community Center, which has become the de facto start for rides in southern Marin and to Point Reyes. Back in the day—for reasons I don’t entirely understand—we started at the carpool parking area just off the Lucas Valley exit. Marinwood is better: there’s a bathroom and plenty of parking as well although I’m not sure the locals like having scads of out-of-towners gobbling up their parking. Starting early meant layering up for at least for some of us; others were gambling on the day warming up quickly and forswore warmers or comfy, cozy jackets. Lucas Valley has recently been repaved and the shoulders and hairpin improved. But car traffic on this Saturday morning was starting to appear. Growth is a bitch.

You get a few measly miles of warm up before the gradient rockets upward to Big Rock. It was chilly so I was looking forward to the climb to come. Nancy and I were chatting at the back and then we quickly became quiet except for the gasping. The subsequent descent to Nicasio is flanked by redwoods and soon you’re drowning in soothing shade. That calm was pierced all too often by the SUVs and motorcycles screaming past us. The group took a gabby little bathroom break in Nicasio before heading to the Cheese Factory. A little bump rises up between Nicasio and Hicks Road and is what David Go. calls the ‘Alpe du Fromage’. There a friendly driver said hello by leaning on his horn as he passed us at 40+ mph. He clearly wanted to get close and personal by brushing us as he brisked up the road. What a nice guy!

At the Cheese Factory several of us decamped to the tea room to do our business while the rest eyed the many Rapha bros who swirled by on their disc brake, carbonalicious beauties. Was it their chic two-wheeled fashion statements or the shape of their limber thighs that caught our eyes? Question: when everyone is clad in muted Rapha colors and sporting either a Dogma or a Tarmac, how does one stand out? Answer: you don’t because you’ve apishly followed the same trends.

Past the Cheese Factory we left most of the automobile traffic behind and it suddenly got really peaceful on Marshall-Petaluma Road. Pastures were still green despite the dearth of rain. But like a 45-year old supermodel they had that ‘faded beauty’ look that have you thinking, “Ah, still eye-catching but past the pull date”. After rolling on mile after mile of picture-perfect road it suddenly kicked upward and there we were at the foot of the Marshall Wall.

So what is this Marshall Wall and is it really a wall? It’s actually only about a mile and a half long clmbing about 500 vertical feet, which equates to about a 6% average grade. No big deal, right? Except the gradient isn’t constant and by my reckoning there is a 11-12% section in the middle that has you downshifting until you run out of gears. It also is completely exposed with no cover allowing you to see everyone who is ahead of you as well as the distant ridgetop. Being at the very back I had no idea what the guys at the front were doing. But I could tell that everybody else was inchworming their way up the Wall. There wasn’t anyone blitzing up the hill. It was bloody silent. “In space no one can hear you scream.”

And as with the recent Mt. Veeder Road ride I realized that my memory is disappointingly rose-colored. I had never understood why it was called a ‘wall’ before. But on this day it truly felt like I was rockclimbing rather than cycling. How could this be? Wasn’t it just a couple of years ago that I was here? My husband concurred and said it really wasn’t that long ago we had ridden over it. Why did it seem so different than I recalled? Later that day I looked it up: we hadn’t ridden the Marshall Wall since 2015! Seven years older, seven years of fading strength. Like a 45-year old former supermodel. I think I’m past the pull date. As I age I get the lovely experience of riding the same old roads, but my memory and body are so decrepit that it’s like riding a brand ‘new’ road. And it’s always a harder one it seems.

The ascent is followed by a descent to sea level that is also about 6%. But for some reason it has always seemed steeper and faster. The narrowness of the road with its rollercoaster curves provides the illusion that it’s steep. Eons ago I was stoking a tandem on the Marin Century down this hill. The captain, Dr. Bob, who was and is absolutely fearless, had us going so fast I had to shut my eyes and tuck in, sure that we were either going to make it down in record time or die trying. Absolutely none of the other faux racers could hold our wheel as we fell like a rock from heaven. At the bottom Bob proudly announced that we had hit 59 MPH. In space no one can hear you scream.

Once we were on Highway One we all spread out. Nancy and I were again at the back chatting. Perhaps it was the miles but she inexplicably slowed down and I found myself alone. I slowed down to wait for her but she slowed down too and couldn’t or wouldn’t catch up. Not wanting to be in the wind alone, I then sped up to catch those up the road. The trick with riding this section of Highway One is that the road weaves in and out to follow the contours of the Tomales Bay inlets, each one of which is a short descent followed by a short climb as you leave the inlet. If you’re wise to this you can rocket the descents and use your momentum plus a little sprinting get up the following climb. I managed to catch one group on the descent and then use momentum and the draft to be sent flying up the hill. Of course, in order to do this you likely max out your heart rate. I was leapfrogging between the riders and making good time up the road. Well, I managed to do this twice and was within eyeshot of the front of our group when it all came to naught due to leg cramps from the effort. I ended up crawling into Point Reyes Station at a snail’s pace.

The lunch stop was Bovine Bakery, which has delicious pizza. The only change I noticed was that the Pandemic has forced it to do window service only. Otherwise everything seemed the same including the scads of cyclists and other daytrippers lounging in the adjacent yard making their way as quickly as possible to a food coma. More carbon, gravel bikes, and Rapha attire.

Post lunch we left for the ‘standard’ (= easiest) route back, ie. no Platform Bridge for us, just head back Point Reyes-Petaluma Road. It didn’t seem like we were rushing back. But the earlier efforts had left me fatigued so I dangled at the back. Of course the cramps came back so I had to slow down. Normally I would then take the opportunity to enjoy the scenery but it was hard with my hamstrings itching to do a fandango every couple of minutes. A slow but steady crawl up Lucas Valley and I was feeling better. On the fast descent back to Marinwood Roger and I took it easy although the repaving and reformed hairpin surely makes it easier to hit approach velocity. Finally what a lunch break couldn’t resolve a little time and wisdom did and I was able to quicken the pace and made it up to the rest of the group just as they pulled into Marinwood.

Probably in a few years I’ll return. I’ll be older, more decrepit—is that possible?—and I’ll have forgetten how difficult the day had been. And then it will seem like a brand new, wretched climb. Unless by then I’m on an e-bike in which case it will be absolutely fabulous.

Dirt Ride Recap: Over The Hills

David Millard, the ride leader for the Feb. 27 Marin Headlands ride, submitted the following ride recap. Enjoy!

Seven of us met at Duboce Park Cafe for the first DSSF dirt ride of 2022. It was warm and sunny—thank goodness!—and the ride through the city was enjoyable as we dropped off pavement whenever we had the chance. In the Presidio Roger led us by the mansion of the Commanding General of the Ninth Coast Artillery District (I looked it up). So much lawn!! Joan peeled off in the Presidio to have a more mellow ride. The rest of us did a quick pedal over the bridge, took off some layers, and began the charge up Hawk Hill, some of us charging faster than others. At the roundabout and the beginning of Coastal trail, several of us aired down our tires for better handling on the dirt roads to come.

The descent down Coastal was as breathtaking as ever. It’s always a struggle to pay attention to the trail with such amazing views. We were stopping pretty frequently to make sure everyone got the turns since there are no street signs and Google maps isn’t perfect in the Headlands. But we loosened up a bit climbing up the Bobcat trail and descending down Marincello to the Tennesee Valley parking lot. When we regrouped we were short one rider. Michaelangelo had pressed on up Old Springs trail and thanks to the wonders of cellular technology we raised him and found out he’d gone ahead.

Old Springs trail is the only single track on this route. We couldn’t enjoy a crazy descent but huffing and puffing up the trail, dodging ruts, and climbing steps is its own form of fun (I guess, maybe?). Regardless the views are great, there were wildflowers, and the old spring is still burbling in spite of the drought.

We caught Michaelangelo (more precisely, he waited for us) at the junction of Old Springs and Miwok and we set off down towards Rodeo Valley. Miwok can be a handful. The grade and the loose stuff on hard pack don’t leave much margin for error. Unfortunately Duncan got a bit crossed up midway down and took a spill. Fortunately he’s tough. He dusted himself off, slapped a couple of bandages on his off-road rash and kept on going to our snack stop at Rodeo Beach.

Rodeo Beach is the only place in the southern headlands (that I know of, at least) where there is fresh water. We took advantage of that and the shelter provided by the little bluffs right by the beach to consume our snacks, supplemented with foraged greenery courtesy of Eric, and to watch the breakers and happy dogs cavorting.

Moderately rested we made reasonably quick work of our return up the valley and Coastal trail. At the roundabout we took a final group picture before each of us headed back to the city (or our car) at our own pace.

Now travel-tour-brochure-style, here’s what people are saying about our ride:
Duncan: “I really enjoyed riding with everyone! It was such friendly group and I had a lot of fun exploring a bunch of dirt trails that were new to me on a gorgeous day.”
Eric: “Beautiful scenery, a good mix of challenging and comfortable terrain, and the bonus of sampling sour oxalis at the beach. Looking forward to the next ride.”
Michaelangelo: “Beautiful ride! We had gorgeous views of canyons and the ocean the whole day. I’m not a very experienced gravel rider, but the trails were well groomed [ed. Except for that nasty rutted section of Miwok.] and were a good match for my bike and skill level.”
Me: “I had a great day, and I’m grateful to everyone who came out and helped make it so much fun!”

—David Millard

Buttes Plug

Boy, it couldn’t have been better than it was last Sunday for the Velo Love ride, a metric century starting in Gridley, CA and going around the anomalous Sutter Buttes. A confluence of incredibly good weather, an early bloom, and a high of 75F was a welcome Valentine. Roger and I have been doing the Velo Love ride for about ten years. Originally this was called the Rice Valley Tandem Rally by Chico Velo, who originated the ride, probably because it’s almost pan-flat and a prime rice growing zone. But at some point they decided a catchier name was the Velo Love Ride since it was usually close to Valentine’s Day.

Scheduling a long ride, in this case a metric century, in February requires chutzpah. The weather is always unpredictable, nay questionable, and winter sloth is hard to shake off especially when it’s very chilly as it is prone to be in the Sacramento Valley. We’ve done this ride when it’s been bone-chilling with dreary, spirit-busting cloud cover and other times when it’s been sunny albeit brisk. However we’ve never done it in rain. Drive 130 miles to spend the day getting soused? That’s positively Seattle-ish! No thanks. In 2017 the rain stopped before the ride and we rode it but turned around at the half-way point when it became clear an upcoming section of road was completely flooded (ahem, rice paddies, darling!) and we’d have to portage the tandem. In 2019 we and Roger S. were planning to go but it rained and we bagged it.

The Velo Love Ride has always been a small event—maybe a couple hundred participants at most—and the unpredictable weather has always been buzzkilling. Chico Velo didn’t put on the event in 2020 because no one in the club wanted to coordinate it. We went up anyway and did it on our own in the worst windstorm I’ve ever ridden in.

This year we struck gold. Climate change apparently means less rain for California and when it comes it’ll be in the form of atmospheric rivers just as we’ve experienced this season. A weird “heat” wave coupled with a month-long dry spell meant not only bone-dry roads but also an early bloom of the almond and plum orchards that surround the Buttes making for a heartwarming flower display. Despite the lack of rain many of the rice paddies—rice being one of the biggest crops in the area—were flooded and filled with birdlife. Coupled with the rich green grass surrounding the Buttes we were visually entertained in a way I can’t remember in all the times we’ve ridden there.

This year we were joined by David Goldsmith, who was inspired by having driven through the area a few years ago and been taken by the almond blossoms. The initial part of the ride is a straight shot west out of Gridley six miles and then drops directly south five miles to get to the loop around the Buttes. You have the pleasure of traversing these segments again on the return; however the west leg out of Gridley is the Colusa Highway and although devoid of traffic early on a Sunday, is not quite so bike-friendly in the early afternoon when you’re returning. Nonetheless even when “busy” this road makes Marin roads seem like superhighways in comparison. Heading south we picked up the very slight tailwind and started to pass the rice fields. The Gray Lodge Wildlife Area is midway, where we made a pitstop and chatted with the rangers who were hosting a veterans’ hunting event. The prodigious number of birds makes this a popular birding area as well.

A couple of miles southward and you’re on the 38-mile loop around the Sutter Buttes. There are still plenty of rice paddies but it’s orchard country. This year the warm weather seems to have sparked the almonds and plums to bloom a bit earlier than usual so we were treated to an explosion of color. Although we’ve done the Velo Love Ride when the trees were flowering, this was by far the brightest and most prodigious number of trees in bloom we had seen. Against the Sutter Buttes the efflorescence was jaw-droppingly picturesque. We kept looking for the best place for the moneyshot. In places where the trees were incandescent they were so tall that they obscured the Buttes; in other places the orchards were so far from the road that they hardly made a dent in your eyeballs. We managed to find a couple of nice locations to frame the entire landscape, Buttes and orchards both.

All this time we were keeping a rather torrid pace despite our searching for photo ops. On flat ground it’s much easier to keep up your speed even if the pavement is typical country road asphalt bouncing you along. Originally I was imagining we’d be taking our time and moseying. Instead we were pacelining! We rolled into Sutter, the halfway point and lunch stop, and bumped into a small crowd of cyclists also having lunch. They were also out for the Velo Love Ride! However they were doing the short loop by starting at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. That cuts out about sixteen miles and makes for a really pleasant bike ride by omitting the Colusa Highway.

After downing our sandwiches we headed out of town and started the only ascent of the day, a gigantic 300-foot climb. Our total elevation gain for the day would be about 400 feet!

The area south and west of the Buttes is mostly ranchland but there were still large orchards interspersed. The road writhes left and right mostly at 90-degree angles that carve out the different properties. By this time I was getting tired and apparently so was David, who hadn’t done a ride this long in over two years. This was Roger’s and my first metric of the year, the last one being the Pedaling Paths to Independence long ago in February 2020 just before the Pandemic broke. We stopped for a break—butts and hands were getting tired as well—and immediately I got a hamstring cramp. Out came the pickle juice. Although David didn’t have cramps, he decided he’d have some as well so we toasted each other with our little green bottles. After more pictures and gabbing we resaddled and took off. I felt much better but nonetheless I had no shame sitting on Roger’s wheel—I wanted to make sure I made it to the end!

We were slowing down and I probably would have gone even slower if I hadn’t had a wheel to follow. There is a point in a century, even one as spectacular as was this Love Ride when it’s all about gritting out the miles. I could feel myself enter that zone: lots of glances at the cyclometer and counting down the tenths of a mile. Gray Lodge, Colusa Highway, city limit sign, finale. Whew. Just under 61 miles. The rolling average was 15.7 mph. Well, by Different Spokes standards that’s a D-pace so quite a bit faster than the B-to-C I had imagined beforehand. Yet another example of club pace inflation. David opined that it wasn’t really because the route was practically dead flat so a higher speed should be expected.

Although we didn’t have a proper meal during the ride, we went to Los Charros just down the street. Two years ago Roger and I found this place and had a delicious meal after doing an exhausting Velo Love Ride with 20-40 mph headwinds. I had had a taco and enchilada plate and after sucking it down I had contemplated ordering another. But I didn’t. Although not quite so hungry nor worn out this time, I was still looking forward to a satisfying meal. In 2020 the place had been almost deserted. Not this time: the place was hopping despite being 2:30 in the afternoon. Was it people tanking up before the Super Bowl? Doubtful: too early and not enough to-go. From the looks of things, the Pandemic is either over in Gridley or else it’s just going to get its second wind: almost no one was making an effort at social distancing and masks inside were rare except on the staff. Maybe it’s because it’s Trump country. We waited for our takeout and sat on the tailgate of the van to woof down our goodies. David had gotten inspired from my story and ordered the taco and enchilada plate. Roger on a lark ordered a “California” burrito; to keep the order simple I did the same. What made it a California burrito was having a raft of french fries rolled into the tortilla along with everything else. It hit all the right notes: (1) huge, (2) friggin’ stuffed, (3) charred, juicy beef, (4) french fries. OMG it was so delicious! I found religion and I’m now a believer.

After bidding goodbye to David, Roger and I rolled back to the Bay Area in the minivan and unlike almost every other Sunday afternoon on I-80 there was hardly any traffic jam outside of Sacramento. Although sitting an additional fifteen minutes on the freeway would merely have given our guts extra time to digest and enjoy a post-ride feeding frenzy, I was glad to make time getting home this year. All in all it was a twelve-hour day: up at 5:30, home at 5:30. A long day bookended by slightly tedious drives but the middle part was so, so worth it. That was a proper Valentine: a long bike ride and a delicious meal (that I didn’t have to make!)

L‘Shana Haba’ah B’Gridley!

Ride Recap: New Speedway Boogie

A spur of the moment decision to go to Yosemite in January led to the Feb. 6 ride up Altamont Pass. Being disconsolate at the cancellation of our Austria tour and finally getting cabin fever after almost two years of sheltering mostly in place, we jumped in the car and went to Yosemite Valley for a couple of days. On the way out and back we drove I-680 into the valley and we were mesmerized by the emerald green grass on Altamont—no surprise, I guess, given the inordinate rain in December. This is the time to go, I thought, and began mulling over when would be a good time to ride up there. Of course, silly me, I was thinking that the rains would start up soon since we hadn’t had any for almost two weeks. By February the long range forecast was for “sun, sun, sun, ’til her daddy takes the Colnago away”. Well, there’s no time like the present so up went the ride posting.

The day of the ride was perfect: sunny, absolutely no clouds, and still air albeit chilly. There were seven of us including stalwarts Will, Roger S., and Alan. Alan is new to the club and as I found out also new to cycling. Moving from upstate NY to California apparently meant cycling might just be enjoyable! In any case Alan is a classic case of MAMILs gone wild and he’s grinding out the miles like there’s no tomorrow. Stephanie emerged from her house remodel and other domestic responsibilities to join the ride. In fact I consulted Stephanie while planning the ride because she’s usually the one who’s leading a jaunt up the Altamont hills and I hadn’t ridden up there in two decades or more. Her response was, “oh, any of those roads are great.” A non-Spoker Paul also joined us for his first club ride.

Carpeted with mustard for now, soon to be multimillion dollar homes.

There are only three public roads over Altamont: Patterson Pass Road, Altamont Pass Road, and Tesla/Corral Hollow. We did the first two. But any permutation will do when the hills green up since the roads are primarily used by local traffic while everybody else is either hauling ass or creeping along at five miles per hour on I-680. We went up Patterson to the outskirts of Tracy and then climbed up Altamont to return to Livermore.

Livermore is a city in transition. It’s aspiring to Pleasanton or Danville grandeur but it’s still got farming roots. It already has a sign of greatness: homeless people sleeping in cars at the Livermore library where we parked. With growth pressure breathing down its neck, Livermore is going to be a “big” city in short order. East and north of downtown Livermore is either vineyards or ranch land with a few farms stuck in there for show. Nothing a little rezoning and lots, lots, lots of subdivisions won’t solve… But I digress. We headed east on Tesla Road, which is all wineries and vineyards, and starting climbing at Cross Road, which eventually takes you to Patterson Road where the real fun begins. Cross is a gentle ascent in absolutely deserted grassland. After turning onto Patterson the slope became more severe. It was all so beautiful that I was caught up in the splendor and forget that the grade was creeping up. We started to glimpse wind turbines but today there was no wind to speak of so they were as still as statues. The summit of Patterson was only about eight miles from where we started but the last half-mile was like climbing up a wall. It’s 15-16% just before the pass and that ain’t no momentary blip. Everybody was scrambling for their lowest gear and some were probably wishing for something lower. Suddenly those crazy 46- or 50-tooth rear cogs don’t seem so absurd. Roger H. made it to the top first just in time to snap a shot of Alan who was just behind him.

“All this land be mine!”

Everybody made it up fine and we soaked in the view all the way to Tracy: rolling green hills, wind turbines, and powerlines. The descent was crazy fast and everybody else shot off like rockets whereas I creeped down quite cautiously; the pavement is aging chipseal, there’s no shoulder, and the road winds like a snake. On one left curve there was an ominous “15 MPH!” sign obviously placed there because vehicles and cyclists have occasionally done their best Space-X imitation and launched into space. Other than passing the gigantic PG&E Tesla substation it was all beautiful countryside. The road flattened out as we were now in the valley. Usually you head north to the Mountain House community before heading west. But after crossing I-580 the road becomes full of traffic including a fair number of trucks from all the logistics centers in Tracy for companies like Amazon and Costco. But there is an alternate route, the California Aqueduct Bikeway, that gets you off the road away from traffic. In fact we rolled over the Aqueduct and stopped at a Valero gas station at the intersection. I had suggested that people bring snacks because I didn’t think there were any services on the route. But the Valero proved to be a veritable cornucopia of delectable gas station food. The Valero was doing its best Costco imitation with aisles that had to be the longest I’ve ever seen in a gas station convenience store. The temptation was too great and just about everyone piled in to use the restroom and, uh, stock up. The front window was advertising their “Krispy Krunchy fried chicken”. I was going to buy some but the thought of hurling all that good food on Altamont restrained me. In Roger S.’s case it didn’t and he emerged with a five-piece bag to gnaw on. Next door was a taqueria, which I’ll try the next time, as well as a Subway and a Wienerschnitzel. I’m telling you this oasis has everything you need.

Way better than fighting semis on Mountain House Parkway.

Suitably restocked we turned around and turned onto the Aqueduct Bikeway, which has a gate under which you can carefully roll your bike. Only Will had been on the Bikeway before, long ago when he was training for double centuries. Stephanie, who knows this area like the back of her hand, had never taken it before. The pavement was surprisingly rideable: aging chip seal, slightly bumpy but wide and free of obstacles. The Bikeway rolls about 3-4 miles to Grant Line Road. We stopped in the middle to take in the view and munch on goodies. Roger S. chowed down on his fried chicken. Lucky me, he offered to share a piece. Yum. There isn’t much more goodness than fried chicken when you’re hungry from cycling. The whine of cars on adjacent 580 was the only thing that destroyed the peacefulness.

At Grant Line we headed west and had to put up with traffic just until Altamont Pass Road about a mile away where all of the cars turn onto 580. The climb up Altamont is more gradual and nowhere is as steep as Patterson. Everybody spread out and was rolling at their own pace. The last run-up to Altamont, where you pass over 580, is the only really steep section, about 12% for a half-mile. Alan was waiting for us about midway. Why not the top? “It just looked like a good place to rest!” After we regrouped we took the rest of the climb at a more sociable speed. Once you pop the top the descent to Livermore is sweet: no traffic, only moderately steep so you don’t have to ride the brakes, decent sightlines. Back on the flats it was a pleasant victory stroll back to the library.

I think next time I’m going to do this route in reverse so I can grab that fried chicken later in ride for a real “smack” down!

Can this really be February?

I spent a little time on the mountain
I spent a little time on the hill
I saw things getting out of hand
I guess they always will.

-Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia

Adios, January. I’ll Miss You!

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!

After a drenching December we unexpectedly got a dry January—somebody turned off the spigot! The club has taken full advantage of our unfortunate dry spell however. We had seven rides this month with six of them on the weekends. That’s pretty good for a month that is usually cold and wet. It may not have been wet but it certainly has been chilly yet that hasn’t deterred Spokers from clogging up the local roads with turnouts we usually see only in the height of summer and early fall: a dozen or so per ride! David Goldsmith’s dream has been to have “mo’ rides, mo’ rides, mo’ rides” and he may be getting his wish. Four years ago he said he wanted a hundred rides per year or about two per week. Call him ambitious (or Ahab). Maybe we’ll get there this year?

Keeping with tradition (a nice way of saying ‘lack of inspiration’) we started the month with the Resolution Ride: up Diablo with a bullet! Ten butch boys checked that one off. The following week’s Jersey Ride had thirteen riders. The Davids had planned a short outing across the Bay Bridge from Oakland the week after but the Tongan tsunami put paid to that escapade. David Goldsmith immediately replaced it with a short jaunt to Nicasio on MLK day that managed to roust five Spokers to join despite it being a ‘flash’ ride. The Davids then led the second in their training series the following Saturday, Jan. 22, around the Three Bears in Orinda. Was it boredom in San Francisco or did somebody not explain that this wasn’t Folsom Street—we had sixteen riders! The next day Roger and I led the first Forty & Fab (maybe that should be “Fab despite Forty” or better yet “Fab because Forty”!) ride around Portola loop that attracted thirteen riders. The one and only Early Bird ride this month garnered four participants before closing out the month with this past weekend’s training series ride around Stage Road and Highway One near Pescadero with nine of us. That’s a total of 70 riders out of club of 112 members!

Will we be so fortunate in February? I hope not—I mean, for the sake of our water supply!

In The Rearview Mirror

Don’t look back!

While 2020 was almost completely forgettable for the club, 2021 proved to be much better even if it was not as good as we had hoped. After the lockdown in March of 2020 Bay Area cycling clubs including Different Spokes went silent for months. Offering social events and even rides, which are a lot safer since they’re outdoors, was contrary to county and state health orders for the first half of 2020. We started offering group rides in the fall of 2020 when outdoor recreation with social distancing and face coverings was allowed in more counties than just San Mateo. When most Bay Area counties decided not to use their own health orders and instead fell in line with the State’s, then it truly became possible to host group rides without having to navigate the differing regulations by county. We ran a couple of experimental rides to see how people behaved and the results were positive. So we went ahead with Jersey Rides, which would not have taken place without Secretary Jeff Pekrul’s willingness to host them; the rest of the board was still not ready to gather with others yet. In the meantime like everybody else we had Zoom meetings to keep Spokers in contact.

2021 began on a positive note with the vaccine roll-out. But it took a lot of time for them to be made available to most in the Bay Area. So there was no Ride Leader Appreciation Dinner, usually in January, and our annual Kick Off meeting, usually in February, had to be on Zoom rather than at Sports Basement. But we kept up a low level of activity, a few rides—mainly the monthly Jersey Ride usually led by Jeff Pekrul—and an online workshop on basics of using RideWithGPS led by David Gaus. By April we started to have more rides mainly because Roger H and I finally started to feel comfortable—more accurately, less anxious—about riding with others and, well, we were gonna do these rides anyway so we might as well invite others along!

In June David Goldsmith and Joan Murphy started leading short, before-work morning weekday rides and they really took off. Who knew that some people liked to get up early to ride their bikes? And they continue to this day! The club held its annual Pride Ride and had a huge turnout due to some savvy marketing on social media and a significant change in format. Somewhere around 54-plus people showed up and they had a choice of two routes including a tour of the pink triangle on Twin Peaks. And the free rainbow donuts from Bob’s didn’t hurt! By July it looked like we were heading back to normal—plenty of club rides as well as the first social event of the Pandemic, the annual club picnic, which also had a great turnout. This year we moved the event out of foggy Golden Gate Park and up to Old Mill Park in sunny Mill Valley. The prospect of sunshine, no shivering, and a balmy clime apparently did the trick. Half the group rode up and the other half rode up too…in their cars. But finally we were able to hang out, eat, and catch up with other Spokers. And Benson’s homemade Japanese cheesecake had me spellbound!

Then the Delta variant really hit and we saw a summer surge in Covid cases. That seemed to cut down on rides whether it was due ride leaders’ fear or participants’ wasn’t clear. It also put a nail in the coffin of a getaway weekend at Pajaro Dunes that we had planned for the second year in a row. But we didn’t have to cancel any of our annual social events other than the Orinda Pool Party, which wasn’t because of Covid but due to personal circumstances. The Fall Social was almost cancelled because of Covid but instead was moved to Orinda from Berkeley and became an all-outdoor event. The big surprise was the Holiday Party—a mainly indoor event—took place thanks to the courage of Jeff Pekrul and his husband Lance, and it also had a big turnout!

Besides the record setting number of Pride participants we had a couple of other accomplishments this year. At President David Goldsmith’s urging Club Express, our website software provider, implemented a new pronouns selection for members and non-binary choice in the member profile panel. Who knew we were cutting edge? Our membership number has gone up to over 110. This may not seem like much and it certainly pales compared to our heydey in the early 90s when we went over 300 due to the popularity of the AIDS Bike-A-Thon. But just a few years ago we were down to about 65 members—that’s an 85% increase!! The board has had an eye on growing our membership but it’s happening at a faster pace than we anticipated. Finally we had two members join the board to assume some vacant positions. Tim Oliver took over membership and Greg Mahusay events coordination. Now, if someone would like to take over the reins of ride coordination, that would a great start for the new year!