Super Soaker Weekend

There’s a long list of reasons to ignore or completely avoid the Super Bowl and 2016 marked the start of a possible Bay Area tradition for like-minded supporters of bikes, outdoors and the #s240 lifestyle. Given that so many sequels are better than the originals (Empire Strikes Back, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 2 Fast 2 Furious, to name a few…), the stoke level was high for the 2017 version.

Yet there’s always a certain anxiety when it comes to planning a social gathering. Did I invite too many people? Did I forget some people? What if rival posse’s show up and people start beefin’? Will there be enough food? Probably (not). What about beer? Oh god, what about people who don’t drink beer?!?! To complicate matters was the rainy weather that had occurred for most of January and the meteorologists/shamans forecasting rain for the weekend of February 4th.

I had once told Manny, it doesn’t count as bailing on your own ride when no one shows up. And given the foreboding clouds on Saturday morning, I was honestly hoping that people would come to their senses and spend a nice weekend indoors. Yet as I waited at the meetup spot at the Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion, my heart sank when I saw riders with nervous smiles roll in completely drenched from the morning showers.



Left with no choice but to actually proceed with the bike camping trip, I was convinced that the group would either: a) have a good time for the rest of the weekend or b) murder me Lord of the Flies style. The benefit of being soaked at the beginning of the ride was that it set relatively low expectations and that things could only go uphill from there, right?



Things did physically go uphill as we climbed up Camino Alto to Fairfax for a small lunch and grocery stop. No sooner had it stopped raining, than someone in the group would declare “looks like the weather will be good!” The typical response from the group was to stare daggers at the person who had jinxed it, as the rain would inevitably return. Being slightly cold and wet made climbing up the infamous White’s Hill slightly more bearable. A group of 20 or so wet humans and a pup made it to the campground without any major incidents. Upon reaching the campground there were many leisure activities to choose from: scouting for the best possible tent locations, chopping wood and starting fires, and enlisting in a contract of indentured servitude were all popular choices.


The great thing about the Madrone Group Site at Samuel P. Taylor is that there is a large amount of space for up to 50 (!!!) campers. Throughout the late afternoon, we had additional stragglers roll into the campground. Some groups had missed the rain showers while others encountered some fierce rains and winds. Each group of riders arrived to a chorus of cheers and invitations to join the campfire. It really surprised me the total amount of people that made the effort to join the campout despite the alternative of staying warm and toasty at home. For the rest of the evening, we oogled each other’s bikes and camping setups, attempted to expand the modular rain shelter with some tarp reinforcements, and finished the evening sharing drink and food.

Spirits were still high the next morning as mediocre espressos were served, tasty treats were made in a cast-iron wafflemaker, and tours of an impeccably decorated vanagon were given. I ended up drinking way too much #coffeeoutside amidst all the conversations and socializing. After more bike geekery and bike swapping, groups began to pack up and say their goodbyes before departing.

A few days before this camping trip, I attended an event where a performer addressed the audience at the end and stressed that “…in times like these, art is especially important.” This quote resonated with me in the days to follow, and this trip reiterated that spending time doing things you enjoy and seeing your friends is especially important in these times. Just some simple words and aspirations but something I continue to hope to do for the rest of 2017 and beyond.


The weeks leading up to the Super Bowl weekend were downright chaotic in the Bay Area and while there was some humor directed at the issues, there also was an uneasy feeling of corporate greediness, inequality and injustice and just bizarro choices in general that permeated daily life.

With all of that said, I’m glad I was able to coordinate with my friends in January and plan an escape from San Francisco for the Super Bowl weekend. Most people joined for a quick S240 to the Madrone Campground at Samuel P. Taylor State Park, and a select few braved an extra night at the campground while fending off raccoons and ravens. There was even time for a quick jaunt to Point Reyes Station for some excellent pastries, a side trip to Black Mountain Cycles (where Jacquie Phelan and Charlie Cunningham were just chillin’ on the couch) and an afternoon hike to Mount Barnabe. All in all, a good weekend and hopefully just one of many camping trips planned for 2016.

Here’s a collection of some of the great moments as documented by the Instagrams and flickr’s of the internets (click the photos for the sources, I ain’t taking credit for your photo mastery!):

super bowl weekend bike camping 2016

Boyz on The Hoods #escapefromsportsball

Escape from Stuporbowl Camping trip to Samuel P Taylor

[DNF]lèche Ride Report: Limping up the Peninsula

Two pancakes, eggs over easy, greasy hash browns smothered in ketchup, and even greasier sausage links in pooling maple syrup. Weak cup of lukewarm coffee and fifteen minutes of shut-eye. Rather typical for a 24+ hour rando stop at one of the many Denny’s restaurants scattered throughout the Bay Area. However, a cloud of collective dread hung over this visit in particular. We had given up all hope of finishing within the time limit. Rather than have a few members attempt to speed ahead and finish the ride for RUSA credit, we all agreed to call in the DNF and finish the rest of the journey at our own pace, together as a team. It was four hours until the trains started up, and we had little hope of making it to Crepes on Cole in time to catch any of the remaining teams. We were riding with the sole purpose of returning home, and because we had no other choice.

Unfortunately, this ride report will have limited accompanying photography. In the final hours of any flechè, light is scarce, spirits are low, and the roads and scenery are often in familiar territory because of their proximity to San Francisco. All these factors coalesce to form a truly tedious experience, and all one’s energies are devoted to simply staying awake and turning the pedals. The cameras of previously prolific and exuberant photographers stayed packed and dormant.

Because of my experience commuting with SF2G, I was tasked with navigating the group northward through the Peninsula and back to The City. We left the Campbell Denny’s at 5 AM and pedaled our way through giant, empty roadways, eventually finding Foothill Expressway. Dawn began to break on Foothill. Cars and other cyclists began to appear, offering friendly nods and waves of encouragement. I suspect many of them believed us to be at the very beginning of a leisurely morning spin. Funny how wrong such a notion could be.

My spirits began to lift ever so slightly as we rolled past the Palo Alto foothills, which glowed softly in the morning light. A steady row of walkers and joggers streamed up the concrete path leading to The Dish, a 7-mile loop in the foothills near Stanford, meandering around a huge radiotelescope. “Pilgrims?” asked Ian, nodding in the general direction of the early-risers. “Yes,” I replied, “Worshippers of technology, off to pay respects to their terrible alloyed idols.” Twenty two hours on the bike had clearly addled our brains.


Riding through the sleepy streets of Stanford University, pointing out my old dormitory.

We decided to bail on the ride in Palo Alto, and catch the first Caltrain up to The City. A quick glance at the Caltrain schedule listed the first train as arriving at 7:30 in Palo Alto, so I wound our tired group through Stanford’s sleepy campus and down along Palm Drive to the train station. We rode to the train platform and put our bikes down with a collective sigh of relief. Relief quickly shattered by the realization that we had looked at the Saturday schedule. Sunday trains don’t run until 8:30. Nothing left to do but get back on our bikes and keep riding with a new plan — continue on to Millbrae and pick up BART, which would carry our tired legs the remaining fifteen miles.


My tired brain strained to remember the twists and turns of the SF2G Bayway route, only in reverse. The Peninsula towns ticked past us one-by-one, slowly and painfully. Palo Alto. Menlo Park. Redwood City. “Are we there yet?” San Carlos. Belmont. Foster City. “Surely, it must be just around the corner.” San Mateo. Burlingame. Finally Millbrae. Across the freeway overpass and into the massive Millbrae transit center. Tag our Clipper cards, stack our bikes on the BART car idling on the platform, collapse on the new vinyl seats, and pass out with mouth open and tongue hanging out.

And so our ride reached its weary conclusion. We’d reached dizzying highs and suffered draining lows. But in the end, we were glad to have ridden our route, we were glad to have ridden together, and we were glad to be finished.

[DNF]leche Ride Report: Across the Santa Cruz Mountains

With what little energy we had remaining, we mounted our bikes with higher hopes. Our aspirations of finishing the fleche had waned but was not completely shut out. While our bikes were stacked outside In-n-Out, a group of teenagers mistakenly identified us as a fixed gear group. This boosted our morale quite a bit and with the sprinting strength of Garrett Chow, I even managed to take Castroville’s city limit sign. 

18 felt like 30

To everyone’s surprise, the wind had died down and there may have even been a slight tailwind. After the 5 hours of headwind hell, an actual pace of 18 miles per hour felt like we were zooming along at 30 miles per hour and casual conversation began to rejuvenate our morale. 

“Thank goodness we’re out of that god forsaken valley” 

“This has been the best and worst ride of my life”

“Do you think the other Flèche teams are as miserable as us?”

But it was too early to feel optimistic. We still had to get 40 miles to Corralitos and 35 miles and 1,700ft of climbing in the Santa Cruz Mountains before finishing with a 50 mile slog through the Peninsula. The ominous quote of “For the night is dark and full of terrors” reminded me that we had not made it through the night.

After a brief extra break at Safeway in Freedom (yes, that’s an actual city’s name), we started our climb over the Santa Cruz mountains. Although Indians Road was by far the best part of the ride, I was most surprised at how pleasant riding up Eureka Canyon Road was at night. The giant redwoods shut out any remaining bits of light now and the ambient babbling of the nearby creek was a welcome change from the howling wind of the Salinas Valley. The high that the group experienced post In-n-Out dinner had faded and I was left alone in my thoughts for the next two hours as I dropped back behind the pack. The road twisted and winded like a good mountain road should, but I was too drained of everything at this point to enjoy a classic road climb. Like making coffee in the morning, I mindlessly made the motions of biking. Pedal, pedal, pedal. I started to become delusional. I thought to myself: 

If I turned into a zombie, I could probably still ride a bike to catch humans. I would be fat zombie. Or, maybe I would be a very fit zombie.

I caught myself falling asleep on a short descent. So, I ate my remaining caffeinated shot blocks and continued on to find the rest of the team waiting up for me.

As I rejoined the group, Ian debriefed me on our status. “We have 60-70 more miles to go, with 5 hours left. We probably won’t make up too much time on the descent, so it’s likely we will have to DNF.”  After a little more discussion, we decided that we would spend some time in the Denny’s in San Jose to rest and officially DNF there. 

Of course, I wasn’t thrilled that we DNF’d but I felt relieved that there was no longer a pressure to hustle back to San Francisco. My body ached now and I was happy to allow more time at Denny’s for bacon, sausage and naps. 

The thrilling descent out of the Santa Cruz mountains expelled the sleepiness from my body. It twisted and turned in pure darkness. It was like the roller coaster, Space Mountain, but with larger consequences for not paying attention. Gabe led us through a shortcut that required us to do about a mile of single track around the reservoir. Even at 3am I was excited to get off the road and onto some dirt. It was hard see around the turns without a headlamp but in the end we all survived. 

The final descent down Los Gatos Creek Trail was 2 miles of dirt fire road that paralleled the river flowing from the dam. The trail was graded perfectly so that you can cruise at about 16-20 miles per hour without pedaling. It was at this moment while we were cruising on a dirt path at 3 in the morning that I remembered why I liked doing these torturous endurance rides. To me, randonneuring is the ultimate test of how much pain I can endure AND still enjoy riding a bike. My saddle pounded my ass with every bump in the trail, my hands blistered from gripping the hoods too tight, and my legs felt as if they were full of lead, and despite all of that, I was grinning from ear to ear.

Nap time

[DNF]lèche Ride Report: Salinas Valley

“The air cleft by our flight beat in our faces, roared, whistled in our ears, tore at us, nipped us cruelly in its anger, tried to tear our heads off our shoulders. We had hardly strength to breathe from the pressure of the wind. It seemed as though the devil himself had caught us in his claws and was dragging us with a roar to hell. Surrounding objects melted into one long furiously racing streak… another moment and it seemed we should perish.”

– Anton Chekhov

I had little idea what was in store for us as we rolled down from Arroyo Seco into the Salinas Valley. I had just enjoyed 5 hours of the best riding of my life, and I was already beginning to plan for the meal I’d soon be enjoying 45 miles up the road in Salinas. Those flat miles should fly by pretty quickly…

Randonneurs, more than most, prepare for changing weather conditions, with fenders, lights and extra layers, but the drastic change from sunny calm on Indians Road to savage headwinds all the way from Greenfield to Salinas came as a shock to my system. The crosswinds first hit us when we entered the valley heading east towards Greenfield, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. I was just looking forward to hydrating and eating something at our first control, a Mexican bakery, but sitting in the control looking out the window I saw flags whipping ominously in the sky. We had intended to make up time in this section after falling behind schedule on Indians Road, but once we hit the road heading north it became clear that that was not going to be the case. A roaring wind was facing us down, straight on, and we were riding into it at about 9 or 10 miles an hour with the rider on the front taking major pulls.


These flat valley roads had barely any cover, save a few farmhouses, and almost no landmarks to chart any kind of progress, and so we slipped into a seemingly endless struggle forward, a kind of primal man-versus-nature drama played out against an invisible, howling enemy. When we made 90 degree turns, we formed ragtag echelons that often disintegrated into every-man-for-himself battles to the next turn, where we’d regroup to face the headwind again. It reminded me of watching pros race through the desert in Tour of Qatar, but in super slow motion.

Headwinds simultaneously bind us together and alienate us from one another. Little conversation is possible in a headwind, unless it’s yelled, and there’s none of the riding side-by-side and joking around that usually helps flat miles pass quickly. Each rider is off in their own little world, facing dark thoughts like, “Why am I here?” “This is pointless.” “This wind is never going to end.” “I think I’m going to bonk soon.” It’s hard to keep morale up when you can barely communicate and everyone is giving their all just to go 10 mph. At the same time, headwinds force us to rely on each other more than at any other time in a ride. Without the team, each one of us would be barely able to progress at all, but as a team, we can forge onward at a decent pace and get plenty of time to rest before the next turn. Though this section would prove to be our eventual downfall in terms of completing the Fleche, I think that it brought us closer together as a team, and for that I’m thankful.


We stopped to rest every 30 minutes or so, sometimes sitting in the dirt or getting water from a gas station. During these stops members of the team seemed to be in a kind of stupefied daze. Indians Road was a distant memory and we were trapped in a dusty, unpleasant valley. At one point some kind farmers offered us a ride, and I’m sure we definitely looked like we needed one.

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By the time we reached the outskirts of Salinas, the wind started to die down and the idea of eating at In-N-Out breathed life into the team. We’d survived and we were going to be rewarded with our first full meal of the ride, almost 11 tough hours of riding in. We banded together for 4.5 hours to face down the wind in the valley, and that’s one of my favorite memories from the flèche.

[DNF]lèche Ride Report: Indians Road and Arroyo Seco

Stokemeter™ warranty department,

Please send five new Stokemeters™ to the below addresses because this ride blew the tops off the current model by multiple orders of magnitude.






I have failed to find appropriate words or phrases to adequately describe my experience of riding Indians Road. For some reason I keep coming back to the term “stoke”, which is bandied about too often and seems such a poor descriptor of emotion and experience, but nevertheless, it’s what I have to work with. I’ve been hearing stories of Indians Road for a good number of years now, ever since my friend Gentle Fred first went on one of the fabled “condor” trips with Cameron Falconer and Rick Hunter. Since then Indians has been on top of my list of roads to ride, but events and logistics have transpired against me being able to put tires to dirt until I was given a season contract with the Boyz fleche team.





photo 2

IMG_6459_2Indians is hands down the best road I have ridden. Seriously. Judging from the unending stream of exclamations of amazement and excitement, I can safely say that this sentiment was mirrored by my teammates as well. What else can be said about Indians Road? As Ian said, “…it is perfectly suited for rando bikes!” An opinion seconded not only by every member of the team, but by a mountain biker which we passed on the way down who exclaimed that he wished he had brought HIS rando bike out instead. This road is bananas because it’s in some of the more remote and inaccessible terrain in Central California. Why would someone build this road in the first place? It’s not like it connects anything that worthwhile (the canyon of Arroyo Seco to Fort Hunter Liggett). There also aren’t any noticeable natural resources in these rugged mountains. It happens to be a poor fire road due to it being crazy narrow in places with sheer drops of seemingly thousands of feet off the edge, as well as being blocked by landslides in numerous places. I mean, the road is abandoned, so it’s obviously not that important to the county, state, or federal infrastructure. It seems that the only reason that this road exists is to give those who ride it amazing views and mind-blowing gratifying experiences.

photo 4





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photo 5Shralping down to the Salinas Valley with Brian, Irving, Ian, and Carlin I realized that Indians Road gave us all an experience that we cannot easily forget or get again. It was a unique and momentous section on an equally unique ride with an amazing group of riders. As Gentle Fred puts it, “It’s god’s country.” Fred’s a physicist, and most likely an atheist so take that for what you will. Steinbeck wrote a short novel, To A God Unknown, set in these mountains. Read it and go ride this road, while keeping Fred’s description in mind when you are out there. Oh, and make sure your stokemeter™ is up to snuff. This road…this road…


[DNF]lèche Ride Report: Prologue

The Northern California Flèche is a yearly event that follows a unique set of rules and allows teams to determine their own routes. Last year’s event proved to be a difficult but rewarding experience for our team, as our route featured a significant portion of mixed terrain riding up Fish Rock Road. This year, we joined 16 other teams in participating in the Northern California Flèche.


Brian did the majority of the route reconnaissance and we got some great recommendations and input from friends (s/o to Jake “the” Mann). Our final route had us starting at a military base (!!!), going through the Los Padres National Forest, winding through Greenfield –> Soledad –> Gonzales –> Salinas and then climbing through the Santa Cruz mountains before arriving in San Jose and taking an urban route back to San Francisco.


The team featured our core group from last year, as no one was lured away by any rival Flèche teams (the bribes of moth eaten wool cycling jerseys were hard to resist). In addition, we were lucky enough to pick up Gabe from the rando free agents list.

01 - Bike Setup

Logistically, our plan was to have Brian and Emily drive the team car (fittingly, a Toyota Corolla) with the bikes and gear from San Francisco to Fort Hunter Liggett. The rest of the team would take Amtrak from Oakland to Paso Robles before getting picked up from team car and heading over to our hotel within Fort Hunter Liggett.

Planning for a true one way Flèche route (rather than a loop starting from San Francisco) often takes extra time and resources, but I believe it is an essential part of the event experience. Most importantly, it allows you an extra day to bond with teammates and goof around. The camaraderie and goodwill built during this extra day are important when in the next twenty-four hours, you may be mentally and physically fragile.


Upon arrival at Fort Hunter Liggett, we checked into our “cowboy rooms” (a.k.a. lodging with shared bathrooms) at the Hacienda Hotel. The Hacienda was formerly known as the Milpitas Ranch House and it housed the workers tending to William Hearst’s farmlands and cattle. The hotel retains many of its period correct details but also throws in modern amenities, like mini fridges and modern televisions. We enjoyed the scenery and had a quick #dinneroutside, before heading over to the hotel bar for a drink (beers on tap = Bud Light and Firestone DBA) and a few games of shuffleboard before retiring for the night.

01 - Ian Wedding

Despite all the planning and preparation that went into this ride (*SPOILER ALERT*), it turns out the rando gods deemed that we would not have a favorable next twenty four hours. The big fat DNF on my brevet report card (oh man, my parents are going to be PISSED) will be difficult to forget, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. I couldn’t have asked for better teammates to ride with through the breathtaking sections as well as the mentally draining and physically exhausting ones.

The rest of the ride report will be split into portions, with each of my teammates taking the task of describing a section of the ride. Join us later for Gabe’s details of the fabled “Indians Road”.

Oh, hi.

This weekend I rounded up a couple of friends and took the train north for a little pre-birthday camping trip. Part weekend escape and part shakedown for a longer summer tour, we took the train up from Los Angeles and ventured out into Ojai (check out The Path Less Pedaled for more info).

We rode during the day and glamped as hard as we could at night. Boxed wine, bourbon, beer and firewood were pedaled into the hills for our comfort and indulgence.   While we could probably use some practice in honing our minimalist ultra-lightweight, back-country survivor skills, we decided on beer and the company of a fire. Our explorations only scratched the surface of the region, but the Ojai Valley and Los Padres National Forest have charmed me. This trip will hopefully be the first of many.