Jan 24, 2012

The Ride

Rides come in all shapes and sizes. Some are your regular training rides, the kind when you know where the pain will start and where it will end; the ones you start, knowing that the greatest joy will be its end. Others are defined as epic, where each turn is an adventure and you know before you start that at the end you will have accomplished something monumental. And then there are rides that just start and grow into something more than a regular ride by their end. Saturday was just that type of ride.

The most predictable thing about the weather last week was that it was unpredictable. So when I woke up around 7 on Saturday and looked out the window onto dry roads and clear skies of San Francisco, I felt a bit of joy that the ride I called for later in the morning wouldn’t be 90-mile wet slog.

Three of my teammates, Kurt, Kirt and Matt agreed to meet at 9:10 by Kirt’s house, and we drove out to San Rafael for the start of the ride. This would knock out all the junk miles up to Fairfax and avoid dealing with the tourists on Golden Gate Bridge. We loaded up and left the sunny San Francisco, heading northbound into what looked like a big gray cloud. Right as we were crossing the bridge, a comment sounded about leaving sunshine and riding into clouds and I began to feel a little guilty about dragging the guys into what could be a horrible rainstorm.

I didn’t feel any better when we parked at Lucas Valley Road and 101 in a light drizzle. To the west and north, we could see blue skies, but that didn’t resolve the immediate problem of us getting rained on. As we got our bikes out of the van, the rain began to really come down hard and leaving our bikes on the ground to "wash," we huddled inside the van and frantically began looking at radar pictures to determine how long our van-entrapment would last. It looked like the whole system would pass in about 20 minutes, and while it was still raining lightly, we figured we should get going and hit the road.

The first five miles were the most unpleasant, with very strong winds and variable precipitation. Kurt and Kirt got on the nose and pulled pretty much the whole way up to the top of Lucas Valley Road, thus, shielding Matt and me from the winds, but also giving us a good backspray wash from their tires. Personally, considering it was raining anyway, I’d take tire spray in the face over headwind any day. And once I was totally soaked, it didn't really matter where the water was coming from.

By the time we reached the big rock that marks the top of the climb, the sun was shining and the rain was mostly behind us. Turning onto Nicasio Valley Road, we got into a rotating paceline and moved smoothly toward Petaluma. Before long, it was time to make the turn toward Marshall Wall and tackle that already gnarly climb into a headwind.

The next 10 miles after the "wall" proved to be pure joy as we moved down the coast with a tailwind, pushing 25mph at 130 watts or so, on butter-smooth pavement. Once in Point Reyes, there was one thing I had to do – mission: acquire blueberry buttermilk scone at Bovine Bakery. If you’ve never had one, next time you’re in Point Reyes, get it! For $3.50, you get a scone that’s vertically almost the size of your head and is nothing short of delicious.

With full stomachs and wet everything else from the drenching on Lucas Valley, we continued. As we passed the stop sign marking the turn toward Olema, the 66-mile route option was behind us and we were all committed to the full near-90-mile route. Whether everyone else except me knew that, I’m not so sure, but we pressed on.

As we rolled over BoFax, through Alpine Dam, Fairfax and toward the turn on Lucas Valley Road that would be our “10 miles to go” marker, the greatness of this ride began to sink in. I suppose there’s something about sharing the misery of wind and wetness and the joy of sunshine with teammates that creates a sort of a  bond, a memory, a je ne sais quoi that made this particular ride special. 

Regardless of conditions, the route is exceptional, with great views of Marin county and virtually no junk miles. Below is a map if you'd like to have your own adventure. 

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