SF Cyclotouring

Ride reports and other ramblings from a San Francisco cyclist.


San Francisco Randonneurs 300k Brevet, 2009 Edition

On the Cross-Marin Trail in SP Taylor Park
Distance: 198 miles
Bike: Kogswell 700C P/R
Time: 5:15am - 11pm; event time 16 hours.

A few people have inquired about how the 300k brevet went, so I figure I'd better get off my duff and write up a report about it. All in all, I don't really have that much to say, simply because -- unlike the 2007 edition -- the ride went off without a hitch, with medium temps throughout the day and almost none of the forecast rain. Lack of drama makes for fairly uninteresting reading!

Gabe and Bryan showed up at my place just after 5:15am, as planned. They'd picked up another rider along their way to my house (unfortunately I forget his name), and the four of us made our way from the Mission, up Polk Street, and out through the Presidio to the ride's start at the Golden Gate Bridge. After signing in and picking up our brevet cards, John rolled up as we were waiting for the pre-ride announcements to start. While listening to the speech, I saw Greg and Carlos across the group of assembled riders, but that would be the only time I'd catch sight of those two throughout the day.

6am came and we were off. Gabe, Bryan, John, and I had done a very enjoyable ride a couple of weekends prior to the 300k and we all agreed that, since we seem to work well together, we should try to stick together on this day as well. So the four of us rolled out as a group, and even when Bryan's headlamp loosened up at the north side of Camino Alto, we all stopped and waited while he re-tightened it. We continued, rolling through the many small Marin towns on our way to Fairfax, and then on through Samuel P Taylor Park. Since it was still early and traffic was light, we opted to take the paved road through the first third of the park, instead of turning off over Inkwells Bridge and then taking the dirt road. At the campground, we picked up the Marin Cross-Valley Trail as usual, stopping for a break at one of the several convenient facilities along the paved path.

We left the early-morning quiet of the park, and headed up past the Nicasio Reservoir towards Petaluma. For a short bit, we found ourselves in the company of some of the visiting riders from Seattle Randonneurs -- one of whom had just picked up a beautiful custom Steve Rex randonneuse with a white paint job and contrasting black components -- including a black SON28 hub.

While paused at the "not-so-secret" control along the way to Petaluma, I snapped a few pics of the assembled riders, and we were off again towards the next stop, the Petaluma Safeway. I think I grabbed a donut, a banana, and a chocolate milk there, which I wolfed down and then we were off again. From Petaluma the route levels out into mostly flat secondary roads that wind through small communities -- easy and uneventful riding, really. I think at this control we picked up a fifth member of our merry band, Raj a rider from Reno. He stuck with us throughout the day and took many turns pulling strongly at the front (thanks Raj!).

We arrived at the Healdsburg Safeway, which served as the fourth control, and also since it's the impromptu lunch stop, many riders were assembled out in front of the store. Two years ago I staggered inside and made my way to the restroom, only to look in the mirror there and discover that I was covered with streaks of gritty road/rain-water from head to toe -- a frightful sight. Today was much kinder! I made the same stop, grabbed a sandwich and a drink (new secret weapon: Starbucks Doubleshot Energy + Coffee, whoa it packs a wake-you-up wallop!), and rejoined my friends out front at a table.

We lingered for a while, enjoying our lunch and the day, but then it was time to go. The five of us rolled out, just behind Kitty G, who we'd sync up with again later on. My favorite part of this 300k route comes after Healdsburg, and I was looking forward to it: after winding our way over to the Russian River Valley, we enjoyed some quiet and scenic back-country roads that wind through several vineyards. There are almost no cars on this part of the route, the roads form gentle rollers which keep things interesting, and trees line most of the road forming a nice green canopy overhead. Bryan lost a water-bottle cage screw somewhere along here, and our group splintered a bit as a few of us stopped while Bryan made repairs.

We rejoined our group at the turnoff towards Hwy 1 and the Pacific Coast. Tired now, we lingered next to a farmer's field, munching snacks and chatting. The skies over the coast looked darker and the wind was picking up, and I think nobody was really looking forward to the next part of the ride -- I know I wasn't. In 2007, nasty headwinds pummeled Carlos and I as we made our way down the coast, unabashedly drafting behind Mike B. since we both were beat. I hoped that today wouldn't be a repeat of that scenario...

We remounted and covered the last few miles out to the coast. While it was windy and gray, it wasn't raining, and the winds weren't too bad. We rolled along the coast, enjoying the pounding surf and the scenery of cliffs and random small beaches nestled among them. Soon we were in Bodega, where we stopped at the next control, Diekmann's Bay Store -- this is an odd but good store, as they have almost anything a hungry rando could want, including pizza, deli sandwiches, and fried potatoes and chicken! Of course we stopped here to refuel.

Our next destination was Marshall, home of the Marshall Store and its famous clam chowder. I was growing worried because that place closes at 5:30-6pm, and I didn't think we had enough time to get there from Bodega before then. It's about 23 miles between the two stores, but it always seems to take a long time to get from one to the other. We continued on through Valley Ford and Tomales, and came upon the Marshall Store to find it still open and with other randos inside. I grabbed a small chowder and a Coke, and joined my companions outside eating outside. We finished up just as the sun was setting, and everyone switched on lights as we set out again.

It didn't get truly dark until we turned off Hwy 1 back onto Point Reyes-Petaluma Road. Folks were getting quite tired now and our group fractured a bit as a result. We all regrouped at the top of the hill next to the reservoir. Both John and Gabe had Schmidt Edelux headlamps powered by SON dynamo hubs, and I was truly impressed with how effective those lights were. Riding in front of Gabe, many times I thought he was a car approaching from behind me! And when we were riding as a close group, I left my own headlight on low beam since their pair of lights provided plenty of light. The Edelux lights are pricey, but they are very good indeed!

We passed by Rancho Nicasio and entered the tall trees before the climb up and then the drop down to Sir Francis Drake Blvd. This section is perhaps the darkest point of the entire ride, since the trees overhead block any moonlight and there are no streetlights to speak of. In 2007 I struggled through this section with weak, waterlogged headlights, but I had a much better time of it this year, with my much stronger home-made dual LED headlamp. It started to sprinkle a bit as we worked our way over this hump, but by the time we reached Sir Francis Drake Blvd, the rain stopped.

We slogged over White's Hill and back into Fairfax. I purposely descended White's Hill somewhat slower than I normally do, since it was dark and the roadway was wet. I later learned that another rider crashed on this descent and broke his collarbone, so I'm glad I was extra-cautious! We made our way back through the small Marin towns (San Anselmo, Larkspur, Ross, etc.), making a brief water stop in Larkspur. As we approached the Camino Alto climb, the sprinkles started again, and at one point I actually donned my rain jacket, but of course by the time we were in Sausalito again the rain stopped.

We climbed up out of Sausalito, crossed the bridge, and reached the finish just shy of 16 hours after we started. The five of us finished within a minute of each other, too, so we truly completed the ride as a group, audax-style! It was a great way to spend the day -- thanks to Gabe, Bryan, John, and Raj, along with all the SF Randonneurs volunteers who made the ride possible!


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