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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Working toward a Century - “Fall” is coming

I’ve signed up for Foxy’s Fall Century in Sonoma – hosted by the Davis Bike Club.  How long have I been riding, and this is my first organized ride, and my first century?  Embarrassing.  Oh well, you have to start somewhere.  I’ve been pushing my Monday afternoon rides a little longer lately to prepare for that ride.


Monday 9/8 I managed 50 miles on the way home.  Started off with the three bears and then looped through Crocket and up McEwen Rd.  Within 3 miles of home the computer showed that 50 was going to be more like 48, so a quick tour of down town Martinez brought the final score to 50.5 miles.  Way too much pain.  I was rather discouraged about the pain and fatigue after just 50 miles – especially the next morning when it took nearly an hour and 25 minutes to return the mere 21 miles to the office. 

Wednesday Vince met me at Briones and we spent about an hour on our mountain bikes chasing cows.  That ride felt much better, but then again, it was only an hour.

The next Monday the ambition was back, and the route ended up being  around 63 miles.  San Pablo Dam Rd. to Papa Bear.  At the bottom of Papa Bear, a right turn on Happy Valley Rd. led to Lafayette, and then across to Walnut Creek and Danville through the valley.  My sights were set on the south gate of Mt. Diablo, which upon arrival was noted to be closed for construction.  Indeed it was, so option B led past the ivory towers of Black Hawk and its aspiring neighbors.  Not exactly the place to be looking for respect from other cyclists, while riding an early 90’s Bridgestone RB2 Road Bike.  (Now in Santa Cruz, I’d have to lock the bike to a policeman to keep it from getting stolen.)  No matter, I went through so fast they likely didn’t even see me.  Wink Wink.  The ride ended well with energy to spare and a renewed hope for success at Foxy’s.

I took several days off the bike – with the exception of Tuesday’s return trip to the office to retrieve the truck.  Chris replied to my email on Thursday agreeing to a Friday afternoon MTB ride in Shell Ridge.  We were supposed to start at 4:30 with me driving to his house, then riding to Shell Ridge from there.  I picked up a full load of material in my truck on the way home, forgetting I needed it to transport the bike.  Unloading the truck, or putting the rack on the Pilot, or just riding the 10 miles over there were the options.  I rode.

ETA 452, was the text message that awakened my Treo after several times around his neighborhood.  5:00 had come and gone before we began our trek.  The cooling afternoon air, and scattered leaves on the path joined increasingly cloudy skies in reminding us that Autumn was a scant 3 days away.  The prematurely gloomy skies were soon obscured by a green oaken canopy of some outlying canyons.   The canyons proved a rough, steep, and humid ride, and we could definitely have chosen an easier way in.

Once higher up in the park, the skies lightened up a little, but ironically splattered us with the first light rain of the summer.  The added daylight encouraged us further into park, contented that we had accomplished the majority of the climbing, and were thus beginning to enjoy the fruits of our labor.  We made most of our decisions thereafter with regard to not spoiling those fruits, and chose trails which we felt would be less difficult, as opposed to most direct.  All this time we have been constantly moving away from the direction of home.  Even the beginnings of our initial descent from the heights of Shell Ridge led us toward the south, with home being north.  I should emphasize that I was not ignorant of the receding daylight, nor was I ignorant of its potential inconvenience.  Cognizant of those facts, we did finally round the proverbial corner and begin the return trip by a somewhat more direct route, utilizing a few roads and paved trails in returning to Chris’s house. 

Throughout the ride we had been discussing politics, religion, family, and a variety of other issues.  Most if not all of the issues discussed found resolution within our discussion, and if acted upon in kind by the powers that be, would likely cause the world’s problems to be greatly resolved.  Some final resolutions were discussed following our arrival at his house as dusk settled toward dark.  Wise though we were in solving the riddles of the ages, our judgment was limited concerning the hazards of cycling in the dark.  Ok, so it was more like my judgment.  He did offer me a light.  I cordially refused, and attacked the twilight with nothing but my youthful eyes.

Frankly, all went rather well.  The majority of the ride home wound along well paved and well defined trails, which follow the many canals that carry water through our valley.  The closest of the trails ends within about 4 miles of my house and I made my way toward this with all speed.  I left this final trail in the pitch black.  I took some cursory precautions at this point, and held to the shoulder and sidewalks, but still pedaled like the Natzgul were at my rear.  I stayed to the left side of the road so that I could monitor the traffic better, though there was very little on the lonely stretch of road that took me on the north side of Hwy 4 from Concord to Martinez.

I had mentioned to my wife, and whispered under my breath many times, that my rides to work in the dark on Tuesday mornings were more likely to be interrupted violently by hazards on the road, than by the hazards driving the roads.  I am fairly visible those mornings with blinking LED light and reflective, jersey, backpack, windbreaker, etc.  However, short of carrying the equivalent of a car battery, and halogen head light, it is very easy to over ride the meager light produced by most bicycle head lights.  This again was the abiding thought forefront in my helmet beset head.  And yet  I charged forward without the benefit of even a small light.  The left shoulder is gravel, but wide and periodically interrupted with driveways.  To these driveways I was wise, as I could see them coming.  The tire ruts were a different story. 

By the time the bike was into the rut, it was already too late.  The rut evidently drifted to the right, and my progress was straight forward.  As the front tire unsuccessfully attempted to ascend the left side of the wheel rut, it was inadvertently drawn to the right.  As the bottom of the bike was led to the right, the top, including the rider was left unsupported over the original course.  In a final act of desperation, I forced the bike up and out of the canyon, which had the effect of slowing the bike to a stall.  I again joined the privileged few that have had the opportunity to bodily fly through the air without the aid of mechanized flying machines.


Evidently I was just outside the beam of the headlights of the oncoming car, or perhaps I successfully recovered with such speed, that they thought I was merely adjusting my saddle, as they drove by.  (This is what I hoped they would think)  More likely, though, they didn’t want to have anything to do with some crazy person stupid enough to ride his bike on the rutted shoulder in the pitch black.

I came away with only a small scrape on my left knee, and a valuable lesson:  …. Um, uh, I can’t remember what the lesson was?  Something like wait a few days before telling your wife about falling off the bike in the dark, unless you just can’t hide the wounds.


  1. Mom again--
    I take it that "century" means 100 miles?? Or is that definitley NOT a brilliant deduction?

    As I was reading along, I somehow had the feeling that this was NOT an uneventful ride, but since I had not gotten any phone calls, I was somewhat reassured. However.... words fail me. Never mind the knee, is the bike all right?? See I have really lost it!


  2. Yeah, a Century is a 100 mile ride.
    Most of them do not end up at exactly 100 miles, but within a few miles of that.