Sunday, March 22, 2009

PT. REYES LIGHTHOUSE (Or How I Lost 75% of My Group)

(March 21, 2009) 83 miles, 5500' rollers w/ Ward and Tom and starting with three x as many people I lost. (Some ride leader), 16 avg. *138 rating*

In a fit of insanity I signed up for Devil Mountain Double, which is one of the 3 hardest double in California (18,600'.) I figured that I want to do it one more time (finished in 2006) and its going to get harder and harder each year. It is less than a month away. Funny how signing up for this is great motivation to strictly diet to drop some weight. Also need to put in some mile so a significant chance of rain doesn't curtail a ride.

The ride out to Pt. Reyes Lighthouse takes us East to West from the populated side of Marin County through small redwood groves and small towns to a series of significant rollers past historic oceanfront cattle ranch's to the tiny Pt. Reyes Lighthouse, jutting out on a piece of land 300 stairs below. In the summer it is almost always windswept and foggy, while in the winter it is sunny and much more comfortable. It also attract scores of people this time of year as it is one of the best places to see California Gray Whales migrating. For cyclists this time of year is great as the park service closes that last 6-8 miles of narrow rolling road to the lighthouse to cars (putting people on shuttle buses) , so we can navigate through the cattle guards and slow rollers in isolation.

This is one of the three rides I volunteer to lead each year, which almost anyone can do. As it is an out and back folks can cut it short by turning around at Pt. Reyes Station, a town well short of the lighthouse with a great bakery (2nd best in California.) Or, near the end some of us long distance crazies add the 10 mile out and back over an attention getting climb to The Cheese Factory, which gets us over the 90 mile mark. Last year the turnout was huge.

But under a threatening weather report (20-40% chance of heavy rain predicted all week, albeit to come in anywhere from early afternoon to evening) only a handful of folks showed up, and most chose to turn around at Inverness, the town after Pt. Reyes Station, making it @50 mile ride, and not tempt fate by riding in the afternoon. Professor Dave is shooting for the "Triple Crown" this year, so next week he has to do Solvang (one of the recumbent friendly doubles) so he turned not as much afraid of the weather as to taper. Of course maybe folks turned around early after I threatened to sing "I Was Dancing In A Lesbian Bar," a Jonathan Richman song that has been stuck in my head all week. And after last weeks imitation of Lindsay Buckinghams's high pitched whining in "Go Your Own Way", who could blame anyone. In any event, Ward and I were the only people to carry on after Inverness, though Domo Tom (our first guy to mile 80 on all Doubles) was "up the road" for most of the morning. In any event I lost 63% of my group--75% when Ward and I arrived at the lighthouse first after Tom took the same wrong turn he took two years ago.

Most of the way out I got to relive the start of the Mt. Tam Double, which is now my favorite ride/ race. On Lucas Valley Road Chris was surprised by the patch of redwoods we rode through--always nice to see someone new to the ride react to something we take for granted. Then past Nicasio and the flat run in that ends with some minor hills. Some cyclists out but not the massive amount usually seen. Under dark gray skies with the usual breeze (albeit very cool today) coming in from the West, Tom was down the road (no doubt looking for the person he claims stole his bar end plugs at Pt. Reyes Station years ago--while everyone else weighed in that they just fell out) while everyone else stayed together. At Pt. Reyes Station had the great Whole Wheat Vegan Scone, with the sidewalk littered with cyclists. One recumbent legend (at least Dave knew who he was) pulled in on a recumbent tandem while Dave had to almost apologize that he was on a regular bike.

By Inverness the sky had not gotten any lighter and that move to turn around snowballed. Only Ward and I carried on--surprised that no one else had gone on. Well Tom had gone on but he rides in his own zone, which at the start of any ride is very fast, and he was way ahead of us. After Invermess starts a long and pesky hill (not serious but very notable, which drops you down to 'Historic Cattle Ranch M" which starts the Pt. Reyes Seashore (a few miles down the road is "Historic Cattle Ranch G," then it is counted down to "A" with one historic ranch every few rolling miles.) To our pleasant surprise, the cross wind was a mild 5mph and more importantly the sun was out with mostly blue skies.

Serious rollers start once your in the Pt Reyes headlands in the final run to the lighthouse. The return trip is much faster, and though it is uphill back to Big Rock, there is usually a friendly tailwind. (Charts and graphs courtesy of Ward Industries.)

Lots of tourists with cameras with huge lenses at the lighthouse and lots of whales in the water. (I had a great travel FILM camera but I've been brainwashed and kept looking for the LED screen. ) Ward and I may have been the most nonplussed people there every time someone yelled out "there's one" and everyone scrambled to see a shadow in the water with a tail occasionally emerging. (I wanted to see them jump through flaming hoops like at Sea World.) Who we didn't see was Tom, who had gone up the road ahead of us, and there was no way to go further that didn't involve a kayak.

My Cousin Vinnie wnts to ask all the folks that turned around--"and what is that yellow thing up in the sky called, don't be shy-shout out the answer if you know it." In the summer half the time you can't see the lighhouse from the bluff due to the rolling fog, today was sweet..

Sun disappeared behind some clouds and it quickly cooled off--just when Ward/I ready to go Tom pulls in, he made the same wrong turn he made 2 years ago and had pulled into the shuttle bus parking area. Or maybe he was looking for the person who stole his barend plugs. We soon set back--on the return DOWNhill rollers predominate so much faster ride. I stopped to take some pictures of cows on the road and Tom sped off down the road. Ward slowed to wait for me and we had a nice fast out of the Pt. Reyes headlands, our pace quickened by the sky that suddenly looked threatening.

With Ward and Tom looking North. Thanks for Dave for the photo editing help, which wouldnt have been needed if he had taken the photo instead of turning around to taper for the 2012 English Professors Convention. *Congrats to Dave for completing the Solvang Double*

Close to Inverness it started to sprinkle, enough to pull over and put on a rain jacket but non enough where I soon regretted having a rain jacket on. By Pt. Reyes Station the sky had already cleared and Tom was having a banquet in front of the Bovine Bakery.

On the way back Ward and I kept the pace high, threatening sky again an incentive, while Tom was now paying for his earlier hammering--but that was cool having him slot into 3rd wheel. We cut out the 8-10 mile side trip to the Cheese Factory which necessitated a long climb--we had gambled enough this day. The run into Nicasio was disappointing; usually there is a tail wind but today just a crosswind that seemed to pick up. Still dry through Nicasion. Ah, there goes the customary tailwind through the redwoods back towards big rock. Some more heavy mist and the usual gang of cyclists were missing.

Went quickly up the Big Rock climb with Ward close on my heels--incentive being that Tom and Ward are two of the best bike handlers around and didn't want to get dropped on the downhill. Counted out 11-12-13 for every turn in the road, memorized for the final homestretch on the Mt. Tam Double last year. Off the downhill--about 3-4 miles to go and we regroup into a 3 man paceline while the clouds regroup and open up on us--significant rain on this stretch. We must have been riding hard, usually I'm a cold wimp and it was only in the 50's, but never wanted to stop for the rain jacket. Luckily we timed all the lights perfectly and only had to stop before Highway 101--where I got a quick reminder that wet rims don't stop all that well.

Good day of riding, weather could have been better but it also could have been a lot worse--a lot worse.

Postscript--the weather subject predominated emails from folks who didn't come out or turned around early, bunch of pessimists:

B- "I would like to know if you guys got wet out there at the light house...or on the way back?"
Dr.D- "Are you boys dry? Hope you made it safely back to the cars without getting wet."
YJ-"...we thought of you guys freezing your asses off at point reyes"

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