[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.

Stanford

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.

Bayway

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.