Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Blue Shirts on the road

With no brevets scheduled in Seattle, local riders hit the road last week.

During the week, Ken Carter was up on Vancouver Island for the “Eau de Hell” brevet week. Ken completed the 200k, 300k, 400k, and 600k brevets in challenging conditions. Hail, 40mph winds, rain, and more. Congratulations to Ken, who is now PBP qualified. Other SIR riders rode some of the events, including Mitchell Schoenfeld, Jim Trout, Sarah Gallazin, and John Little. Results are online on the BC Randonneurs website.

On Saturday, lots of SIR riders headed south to the Oregon Randonneurs Three Capes 300k. Despite early gray, the day turned spectacular for the riders. By all accounts, a great day on another great OR Randonneurs event. Results and ride reports online.

On Friday, Bob Brudik and I drove down to Davis CA to ride a 400km brevet in the sunshine – average April daily highs are in the 70s and average total monthly rainfall for April is less than an inch. Of course, the forecast called for rain on Saturday. Driving down, there were nothing but blue skies and we hoped for the best. We arrived in Davis around dinner time and spent some time getting our bikes organized for the morning. Normally, I would ride around the parking lot and up and down the nearby streets just to make sure the bike was shifting ok. Prodded by no-gears-Bob, however, I had brought my single speed Bianchi San Jose, so no shifting check was needed. (As Bob observed at the finish of the ride, he "didn’t miss a shift all day"). I should know better, of course, because gears (especially low ones) are my friends, but my San Jose has completed a 200km, a 300km, and a 600km brevet and was itching to do a 400km to become a Super Randonneur bike.

We headed into town for a nice dinner with SIR veteran (and current Bend native) Vince Sikorski, RUSA results processing chief and Santa Cruz RBA Lois Springsteen, former RUSA president Bill Bryant, and local Davis rider Susan. We were assured that (1) the hills weren’t too bad for shiftless riding although our sanity was still in doubt and (2) that the rain would be blamed, not on the Seattle riders coming to visit, but on the fact that UC Davis Picnic Day was scheduled for Saturday. I guess this is one of the largest student-run events in the nation with 50,000 visitors or more.

In the morning, Bob opens the motel room door and announces the happy news that it is not raining. He has concluded that the wet grass and dry sidewalk mean only that the sprinklers are on. Being the "Doubting Thomas" that I am, I take my own stock of the situation. The splashes in the motel pool and the streaks of rain in the lights overhead suggest instead that the dry sidewalk might just be a result of the balcony protecting it. Bob, as it turns out, is a much more accomplished cyclist than weatherman.

As we signed in for the ride, we noticed blank lines all over on the pre-registered rider sign-in sheet. Lots of no-shows. Couldn't be the rain, could it? Nonetheless, a large crowd of randonneurs and randonneuses (over 90 starters) gathered for the pre-ride announcements and headed out into the mist.

Although we managed to hit the only day of rain in Davis in several weeks, it didn’t do much to "dampen" our enjoyment of the ride. We brought wool, fenders, and mudflaps, so we were prepared just fine. One post-ride comment: "the two SIR guys on their single-speeds were the talk of the brevet, and their fenders and mudflaps drew murmurs of appreciation all day long." Although a few locals have heard of fenders, the idea of a mudflap is apparently stuck somewhere in Oregon on its halted way south.

Before the first control, I was already off my bike pushing it up the last nasty pitch of "Wildcat Canyon" toward a patient Bob waiting at the top. This was worrisome, especially as Bob explained how the scary-sounding “Terrible Two” Double Century traversed much of this territory. As it turns out, we used different roads and Wildcat Canyon was the last time all day that I’d have to result to the walking gear. (But it was not, of course, the last time Bob had to wait for me at the top of a climb). The route headed west into the Napa Valley where we were greeted by improving weather and vineyards everywhere. As the ride wound through the wineries of Napa, Alexander, and Dry Creek valleys, my riding companions quickly tired of "oh, I have some of that in my cellar" or "oh, that stuff is wonderful." Meanwhile, the day’s beverages of choice were V-8 juice and Ensure Plus. Yum-yum.

Although the rain started again later in the day, we had a great day. We got to experience a "Davis-style" brevet. Lots of friendly folks on the ride, great support at all the checkpoints, and the friendly comfort of seeing at least three different roving sag vehicles, including one with music - the famous "LeeBikeVan." A particularly warm and friendly control greeted us in the dark late in the ride, with warm soup, solicitous volunteers, heaters, chairs, etc. This was especially welcome after the previous 5 miles of picking through lots of rockfall (some the size of bricks) and a fallen tree (in the other lane, fortuitously).

Sometimes, I think the only reason I do these rides is for the perverse pleasure of having others say "Man, you’re nuts" about some rando exploit or another. Whether because of the 1200km (each way) road trip, because we went all the way to Davis to ride in the rain, because I wasn’t wearing a rain jacket (I had one, but was saving it in case it really got nasty), or because we had single speeds, Bob and I were greeted at the end after almost 20 hours of riding by a "Oh, there are those crazy guys." So, it was worth it!

Sunday we drove home in the sunshine.


Fabien said...

Welcome to the Blog-o-sphere!

jcm said...

You go boys - thanks for representing SIR in the great state of CA. Someday I hope to make a brevet outside of WA....