Sunday, December 2, 2007


My randonneering experience began this January in Arizona. I first read about PBP in summer of 2006 and participation quickly became a "might be able to do this" sort of idea. With that in mind I did STP (Seattle to Portland) and RSVP Seattle to Vancouver BC). I choose the STP 2 day option over the double century thinking, as I had never done either, better to walk before run. STP was enjoyable and encouraging even with the knowledge that it's a pretty flat course and has the reputation of being a good "starter" event. RSVP was also a very positive experience. I was faced that fall with PBP scheduled in 10 months with those two events and four weeklong bicycling vacations as my limited resume for multi-day events.
So, I figured I'd better get past ideation as soon as possible. I took the last two weeks of December off from bicycling and flew to Arizona the first weekend of January for my first ride over 110 miles. Thirteen brevets later my PBP notion was realized. By then the Randonneur Syndrome had become a chronic condition as opposed to a self limited illness. It manifested itself post PBP as wanting an R-12 award. There were brevets in very scenic areas nearby in September and October. Then the thought process was: hey- just two more rides. I got off pretty easy for November as that ride was pretty benign by Oregon geography and weather standards.
Which brings us to this year-end's Permanent. Temps in the 30's, rain, snow (admittedly just a few minutes at the risk of letting truth get in the way of a good story) and wind in the 20's with gusts in the 30's.
Morning was cold, dry and not very windy.

I began to allow myself to visualize the whole day being like this. Arriving in Silverton, I took off my rain jacket and was warned by Joanne- "now you've done it". Within 10 minutes of this action- even though I had sheepishly put the jacket back on, it began to snow, albeit briefly. Still eventful for a guy who grew up in Mexico and Southern California to be able to say he had his first bicycle ride in the snow. What followed was a relatively pleasant interlude. Shortly after, we experienced the "significant rollers" that Susan noted in the Permanent description. Then the wind and the rain intensified.
We arrived in Scio with only a hour margin at that control. Scio calls itself the covered bridge capital of the west. The bridges are picturesque, but feeling time constraints and having seen the bridges before in better weather, we did not stop until forced to do so.

A truck had not lowered its boom while going through the Gilkey Bridge, leaving it closed to traffic. Hopefully the company who owns the truck will have insurance to fork over the repair bill. It would be a shame to have it replaced by a concrete structure. With apologies to Linn County, we used the damaged bridge to stay on the route. Using the nearby parallel railroad bridge did not strike anybody as a good idea.
As dusk approached we arrived in Salem. The idea of DNFing began to intrude in increasing force as it got darker, colder, wetter,and windier. John and Joanne made no verbalization of anything other than finishing, so I kept these dark thoughts to meself. We arrived in Wilsonville with the help of a tailwind (at last!) for the final 25 miles. Just for kicks we got to ride on the I-5 shoulder just before the end. John and I have done many rides together and I've never seen him so elated at a finish. He asked which was the hardest 200K I'd done. As you might guess, it was this one. It certainly was the one that took me the longest- 11hr 30 min. The conditions were difficult but evidently doable. The next day, with unrelenting rain and winds in the 30's and gusts to 50's, would have been another story- one I'm exceedingly glad not to narrate.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Wine Country Populaire

The Populaire began painfully enough. The only cure for my Raynaud's when it's that cold is to work hard enough to warm up from the inside, as below 35 degrees or so, no thickness or style of glove keeps my fingers from burning at the start of a ride. My legs did not feel my fingers were compromised enough to justify working past a middling amount, so it took about an hour before my hands felt comfortable. After that, between my core and the ambient temperature improving, so did my disposition.
This was one of the two major wine tasting weekends in Yamhill county. We as cyclotouristes duly participated. Entering Carlton I was with the Seattle contingent, who stopped first at Cana's- an impressive enough spot;

but not what Maggie and Eric had in mind. Their idea was a much less conspicuous establishment just outside of town with a small tasting fee, great wine and appetizers. (link to photos from the ride)
Wine Country Populaire

How did they know about this place? Last year, Maggie had been adamant that the only way she was going to stop for wine tasting was if they were offering roadside service. Shortly after saying that, sure enough, Carlo&Julian had greeters at curbside. That was the first wine tasting event for one of their friends and Maggie claims that visit turned him into a wine geek.
This pleasant environment became less so in the afternoon when the motortourists invaded Yamhill County- wanting to take in the bucolic countryside in large numbers, in large vehicles and at 60 mph. Giving credit where it's due, they passed giving a wide berth and slowed down if there was oncoming traffic. I'm thankful that this level of traffic occurs only several times a year in Yamhill, Polk and Marion counties but fearful that in time we'll be no different than Napa and Sonoma.
On returning to Forest Grove, I received some static about my late arrival and enjoyed dinner with the SIR and OR group.
The next day, sure enough, it was blue skies and (slightly) warmer temperatures. Geri and I went back to Carlton on Sunday and stopped by C&J to pick up a half case of wine and then Cana's for wine tasting. We then went to McMinnville to pick op our Christmas tree. Part of me was wondering why it wasn't like this on Saturday, but mostly I was grateful for a dry, safe and fun Thanksgiving weekend.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Signing up for a permanent is kinda like a blind date-agree at your own peril. Not like the weekend club rides where you can look at the weather that AM and decide accordingly. Even more flexibility exists when riding on my own. I looked at the weather sites all week hoping for the best. As Saturday came closer I was pondering the likely reality of a long, cold, wet, and windy ride. I asked myself why am I doing this?- what is the big deal about an R12 award?? Usually I save the inner whimpering dialogue for a painful interlude somewhere along the ride, not before even starting. Conflict led to resolve when John and Joanne called to set up a time and place to meet prior to the ride. These two don't need designations/certificates; they just like long rides.

The ride started as I had hoped it wouldn't- temps in the low 40's, headwinds and driving rains. And the hilly portion of the ride was at the start. I told my fellow travelers that if they wanted to know what a large chunk of PBP was like- well, they were experiencing it. We did get a return on our headwind investment on the way back, which greatly improved my spirits.
Past Amity, John remarked that he was worried about us as he was seeing blue patches of sky. That was accompanied by warming temps and flatter terrain. The remainder of the ride was positively benign. Further on, the Fall skies put on an absolute show. Photographers live for conditions such as were present on Saturday, especially in the late afternoon. A few photos to remember a gorgeous afternoon:

Such are the rewards of risky weather, ignoring my inner wimp and having great riding companions.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Halloween in the Castro, 1988 and now

Last week I received an email from Beverly Spicer at Digital Journalist asking if they could use a photo I had posted at back in 2003 for an November issue article on right brain vs left brain perceptual stuff.
I pondered the ramifications of internet data that old attracting attention (paranoid or perceptive?); then decided I should be flattered someone was looking at my photos out there in the WWW and replied “of course you can use it”. I had been thinking about that Halloween last week as it had been in the news that San Francisco was not going to allow the Castro Halloween party in part due to last year’s violence.
That 1988 Halloween was such a great night. I was in my 2nd year of med school and up to my throat in work. Several of my classmates who were Bay area natives insisted that it was a party not to be missed. So what the heck, there I was. That evening remains one of my favorite memories from that era.
In the following days when, as left brain dominant types are prone to do, we were dissecting the event, one of my buds commented that two-three years earlier the Castro was in a state of shock due to the AIDS epidemic. In contrast to the 70's where there was 24 hour activity, the streets were deserted at night. He had noticed, though, that the party atmosphere was returning- as was evident by that evening. Another aspect, that as a habitual outsider/observer I’m keen on perceiving, was the sense of inclusion I felt that night. We were obviously outsiders in that community, but felt welcome. It was crowded, uninhibited, the spectre of the epidemic was there, but there was no violence. Here are the photos from that night.
1988 Halloween Castro
Forward to 2007. AIDS is viewed as a chronic disease, certainly not a death sentence. The Castro is being gentrified, property values are booming, and a street party is not safe anymore. How profoundly sad.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Avant & Apres PBP

One of the best things about PBP is Paris. I should preface this by saying I spent a week in Paris back in 1993; it was enjoyable, but still the least favorite overseas vacation of my single, scuffling days. The highlight of that trip was seeing Jim Morrison's grave; yes- I'm a Doors fan. My sister keeps reminding me of 1973 when my dorm-mates said "them Doors have got to close" in response to 2/3rds of my record collection then being Doors albums. Forward to 2007. With my francophile wife, I truly see what all the fuss is about with this city. It is a city of light (especially at night!) and we found it romantic, magical and photogenic. Geri is already plotting the 2011 trip.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Post PBP

The results are officially in and I had 10 minutes to spare. I'll take it, even though if you're going to be marginal, might as well have really cut it close. I was grateful for a mechanical-and-accident free PBP. But this and remembering what my mountaineering friends always warn about- the real risks come on the descent- made me wary about riding on returning from France. Sure enough, I had 7 flat tires and 2 crashes in September. One gave me empathy for two friends that had rib fractures this summer- no fractures for me though, just painful breathing for 2 weeks. The next one gave me more gluteal mass than 3 years of cycling had generated before that. The good news is I could think of these two incidents as a good bone density challenge. And the opportunity to buy a new helmet. I'm using my wife's helmet until the latest&greatest comes out.
Common sense inference for so many mishaps is- I'm tired. In response, I've cut down on my mileage. September being about 60% of peak mileage. Diminished motivation from fatigue, fear from negative stimulus and deferred grown-up obligations are also factors in September's figures. But, greed for all the things I love about bicyling, is the yang to the yin. An R12 trinket is the newest excuse for prolonging the brevet season.
Luckily September and October's brevets were in Bend and Bingen. As the season goes on, photo-ops provide additional, needed incentives.
I had no trouble talking my wife into a weekend in Bend. Sunny, mild temperature (a treat for us west of the Cascades folk), great scenery and a pretty benign route prepared by Scott Peterson made for a great brevet. Scott seemed mildly remorsful of having such a reasonable brevet- 3K instead of the 10K climbing option. Hopefully, OR Randonneurs will have more events in the Bend area.
Bend 200K

John Kramer advertised good weather, less climbing, Friday festivities and a Beer festival on Saturday as additional inducements to doing the Bingen Bikefest. Knows which buttons to push, eh? In addition, the Gorge is one of the prettiest places I know of. I also oughta know by now though, that any ride including the Gorge is going to be work, regardless of how it's dressed up by JK.
Bingen Bikenfest
Silly me, I told my wife I'd be back by 16:30. At 17:00 I called her to let her know it would be more like 19:30. That made for 6 trips across the toll bridge for Geri and subsequent wine/dine for atonement.
This still leaves what to do for Nov. and Dec. At this time, I'm very much inclined to local permanents. Given that our esteemed RBA, Susan France, has referred to our little group as a herd of cats, let's see how many of us can agree to a time, date and route.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Claus, Detours Addendum

Follow up on some of my negative feedback
Des Peres Travel. I was looking forward to dry clothes and a blanket at the drop bag site in Loudeac, only to find the contents soaked. I found there were quite a number of folks in similar circumstances. At the airport, one of riders who had experienced this had asked for a refund and advised me to do the same. I had a couple of details go awry (reservations in Paris for one) and was not feeling benevolent towards Claus already. I subsequently found out about his assistance to a severely injured rider- actions totally not part of a travel agent's job description, His inattention to some details becomes than ameliorated by how he responded to Peter Noris' predicament.
Detours- Unfortunately, their bags had something to do with wet clothes, camera and brevet card. The drop off bag developed a several large holes on the bottom; to what extent this was due to handling is certainly debatable and not necessarily due to the bag's quality. As for the front bag, the contents becoming soaked were in the setting of prolonged exposure to heavy rainfall and not using the yellow cover supplied. Live and learn. Otherwise a great product that I'll continue to use with application of water repellant spray and cover when appropriate. Terri at Detours was very gracious in offering exchange of the damaged bag for a new one. Their customer service deserves public acknowledgment and thanks!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

What a time that was! Ramblings and Photos of a 1200K rookie

“So, how did it go?” My reply is that I finished with 5 minutes to spare, according to the control documented time. My watch gave me 7 minutes to spare, but I wasn’t about to quibble. Given the preceding 24 hours, I have never been happier about cutting it so close.
On Thursday early evening, a number of us were held up while a fallen cyclist was being attended to. Further down the road a fellow participant who spoke limited English told me he had heard the cyclist died. Further ahead, about 1-2 hours before the Villanes control, I hear “help- please stop” out of the pitch dark. There’s a German rider crashed in a ditch. He was on his back clipped on and pinned down by his bike. I was too tired to get him out by myself, so I started waving to cars to stop. A group of cyclists from behind were yelling for me to get off the road until they figured out why I was waving for help. A motorist shortly after stopped, helped to unclip the rider and get him out of the ditch. The poor guy got tired of me asking neuro check questions, reiterated that he was OK, that his support vehicle was on its way and that I could leave. I had been drowsy before that; afterwards I was wide awake and wondering what did I get myself into???
The Villanes control was a welcome sight. The floor was comfy and I got about 90 minutes of sleep. Then the real fun began. I could not stay awake on the way to Mortagne au Perche. I stopped several times for blinks as it seemed a longer nap would would put me out of time. Finally I’m lying on the side of the road torn between just going to sleep and using the delays described above as grounds for a time adjustment or going on at a snail’s pace. Neither alternative seemed likely to result in a timely finish. Then I felt myself becoming alert and energized so I pushed on. I made it to Mortagne au Perche with an hour to spare. There was a souvenir site there with a Mortagne wool jersey, but I figured the last thing I needed to be doing was shopping and then dragging that item for another 140 km. I stayed at that control 2+ hours- 2 hours of sleep and the rest ass-dragging behavior.
So, I’m behind schedule again. I now have to average 22 kph to get to Dreux. Not an unreasonable speed, except that the hills at the start of that leg put my pace at 16 kph for the 1st hour. Once again, my prospects for finishing the ride on time appeared dim. But hey, the road flattened out and I found myself doing 35-40 kph. Then I joined forces with an SIR rider who helped me for a while and I arrived at that control with 10 minutes to spare. The last km I started having chest tightness. I went through my checklist, thought it reasonable to judge my symptoms noncardiac in character ( I’m a Family Doc), ate and rested for an hour.
My hope at that point was to finish at a leisurely pace. I met up with the before-mentioned blueshirt (I’m terrible with names, especially when hypoxic) again just outside of Dreux. He warned that portions of the last leg were hilly and advised a faster pace- not what I wanted to hear at that point. I kept on lolly-lagging for a while, chatted with a group who had a 20 minutes later start than me (thus more time to spare) and my inner alarm clock went off again. Time for another cardiac stress test. I arrived at Trappes chest pain free and feeling on schedule for a 89:30 finish. Then the traffic lights began. I commented to a fellow rider that we could say we would have finished on time had it not been for the Trappes/Guyancourt lights. Shortly after, I realized that finishing out of time due to the traffic was not a sarcastic exaggeration but a distinct possibility. In my haste, I overshot the finish line, backtracked and arrived at 16:43 my watch to the control. In that chaos, I missed seeing my wife who had been waiting for me at the finish for 3 hours.
It’s difficult to overstate how much good fortune contributed to my finishing on time. I used Vittoria Open Corsa tires. Not the best choice for bad weather, but I had no flats. Using heavier wheels with a higher spoke count than the Mavic Ksyrium SL I used are the conventional wisdom. I chose whatever speed benefit my wheel/tire combination provided over the added reliability of heavier wheels/tires. I did not feel that I was taking a significant risk as I’ve used 2 sets of Ksyriums over the past 2 years without any problems. Using the Ksyriums forfeited the use of a Schmidt hub in favor of a Dinotte LED light with lithium battery packs. I much prefer the Dinotte’s light pattern in addition to avoiding the watt and weight penalty of the Schmidt setup. These issues may have been marginal, but things wind up being very important at the margin. I got some ribbing for getting a new bike with DT shifters. But, I only had one mishap- missing my granny gear for only part of one stage, which was remedied by a 5 minute stop with one of the control wrenches. I changed front bags shortly before leaving and without testing Detour’s claims for water resistance. As a result my control card booklet was a soppy mess for most of the ride. Quite a bit of moisture gathered on my cameras, but they remained functional. I expected that out of my Leica as I’ve used M models for the past 25 years. I’ve only had the little Ricoh I used for color photos for 2 months and was very pleased with it’s hardiness.
Here’s the link to our PBP photos
PBP 2007

I wish I could have slept more, socialized with more riders, stopped at cafes for real food with good company and taken more photos. I did get to do a little of all the above, but that is not what was special about PBP. The experience of many heightened moments and of transcendence is PBP’s gift. The tradition, magnitude and commitment of time and resources were motivating factors. So much so that I can see doing PBP again but am doubtful about trying other 1200Ks. The other motivating force for me was towards the last part of the ride when I began to visualize meeting my wife at the finish happy and fulfilled. I could not have asked for a more supportive partner and I wanted to give her a happy ending for this. And it was.
PS- Anyone know how I can get a Mortagne au Perche wool jersey?