Same route as last year. Same sort of shape I was in around the same time (although I would venture to guess slightly less conditioned, actually). But there was one notable difference in this year's experience: ELEMENTS. We're talkin' rain, wind and cold. And plenty of it. Cow shit on top of all that. I'll explain in a bit.
There was a record turnout for this event. 75 registered riders, and the no-show rate was pretty low despite weather forecast that spelled near certainty of rain all day. Never in the history of the San Francisco Randonneurs have they had this many riders on an event -- let alone a predicted rainy one. Long distance cycling, like many other sub-disciplines, appears to have gained a lot of popularity.
I was happy and less nervous being at the start of this event compared to last year. I knew more of the riders assembled at the start: both veterans and newbies. And Lisa, though unregistered, was along for the ride too (not that there are any supplies to poach on a ride like this anyway).
This ride goes down as the wettest I've ever experienced. More so than even the Mt. Shasta 2003 adventure. About 1.5 hours into the ride, as we were approaching Lagunitas, the predicted rain arrived -- and would continue intermittently for the rest of the day up to the finish. At times, it rained hard. Many times, this was accompanied by strong wind. And in the case of our outbound trip to the Pt. Reyes lighthouse, that wind was in our face.
All in all, it added up to about 115 miles and 9 hours in the cold slop. Rough. But it was absolutely beautiful out there because of the cleansing rain. And the coastal fog makes you realize first hand why places like Inverness were named so, and why the lighthouse on Pt. Reyes is kind of a big deal to people behind the wheel of big ships.
But yes, rain makes riding on Drake Blvd. on the way to the lighthouse a lot more interesting for a number of reasons, not least of which are wet cattle guards and patches of muddy pureé du merde. A seasoned randonneur on this event reported in a post ride email:
Point Reyes offered the "Perfect Storm" of wind, rain, and cow shit. It has been windier, it has been rainier, and it has been shittier, but this was a tough combination of the three.
Given prevailing hypothermia-climate (it never rose above the low 50s), I believe the only thing missing to make the affair a truly Belgian one was cobbled pavé. The cattle guards were apparently a fitting substitute, however, and a real trouble spot for the day. At least five people hit the deck while crossing one particularly nasty set outside Historic A Ranch (I believe).
There were a number of other reported crashes as well, resulting from poor visibility, slippery roads, and whatever else. In a couple of cases, derailleurs were busted forcing their respective victims to ride the rest of the day in improvised single speed.
It must have been the weekend for the skunk Let's Get Jiggy conference. There were a lot of them out there -- live and splattered. And oh the stench -- you could taste it. Lisa and I nearly ran smack into one while riding in the Presidio on the way to the start. A foreshadowing, apparently.
Despite the popularity of wool garments on a ride like this (wool is good shit, but it's funny how randonneur types get really excited about it), I did not wear a stitch of it, and still managed to stay pretty comfortable all day. No amount of waterproof garment and ingenuity would have kept you dry on a day like this, but my 2 year old Showers Pass jacket worked like it should. Remarkably, a pair of $7 Helly Hansen poly/nylon glove liners (with no cycling gloves underneath) kept my hands/fingers comfortable all day, even when soaked. I didn't have any waterproofing devices (designed or improvised) on the feet either -- just a pair of cordura sock-like shoe covers that worked as effectively as the glove liners.
Given the rainy conditions, I pretty much knew by the time we reached the second control in Marshall that we'd be finishing up in the dark. Oh but not just in the dark. Crossing town through Sausalito and on the Golden Gate Bridge, we were greeted by even more rain and some of the most vicious wind I've ever felt there (and I've seen some days). Seemed like a fitting end to an adventurous day: dark, cold, wet, gusty ... with a real longing for endless supplies of hot bath water after. What a way to usher in the year of the dog.