400km brevet
San Francisco, 29-30 Mar 2003

While the Davis 400km brevet is the one that will count towards PBP, this is the one I consider my real test - even if Darryl and Todd didn't get approval from RUSA to do the full series as actual qualifiers, being able to do all 4 brevets from San Francisco was what I wanted to begin with, so it was worth doing, in principle.

I knew from the beginning that the 400 is the big one, psychologically speaking - it's the first full night out, and the way we were running it, starting out at 6pm on Saturday, it was straight into darkness. A big challenge in its own right, and more so knowing that the rest of the following day you're going to be riding as well. I tried vainly to take a catnap on saturday in order to keep the sleep off through the night, but that just didn't happen...

So the small group of us (6 total, I beleive) set out a little after 6 (we sat around chatting for about 5-10 minutes after the official start....) and headed for the first checkpoint, Point Reyes Station, out through the now familiar route through Marin and out Sir Francis Drake to the coast. Not much to tell, really, cause by the time we were headed over Camino Alto, it was dark as could be - no moon in sight. Hit the first checkpoint fairly close together, at about 2049 hrs (55 km). Had ice cream and coffee (preemptive strike, as it were) and headed off into the dark again.

The next checkpoint was Petaluma Safeway, familiar from the 300, and the ride was pretty straightforward, out Point Reyes-Petaluma Road, over 2 decent hills, and some nice downhill into Petaluma. Once again, I'm disappointed that the Rouge et Noir cheese factory isn't open at 9pm... And again, not much to talk about, seeing as everything was dark. Time moves faster riding in the dark - you don't have those visual cues to see how fast you're going. Got to Petaluma (86 km) at 2245 hrs. Still pretty much on schedule at this point.

From Petaluma, it was more familiar roads, first Lakeville Hwy (route taken to several Salsa parties back in "the Day", which wasn't really all that long ago...), and then 37 to Petaluma, which I suppose could've been a little nerve-wracking for some, considering that it's a fairly high-traffic highway. IT does have a nice wide shoulder, though, and traffic wasn't too bad at 11 at night, really. About halfway along that stretch, the shoulder narrows a bit, and you get a Jersey barrier on your right, but it's still not bad, especially if, like me, you're used to riding in traffic. Vallejo, well, Vallejo is Vallejo. Got there at 0057 hrs (into Sunday now!), Denny's was closed, so it was the alternate checkpoint at Food 4 Less. Bought an apple cause all they had was bulk food, and crap at that. 130 km at this point, and I didn't stay long.

Now came the big, checkpoint-less stretch up Napa Valley to Jimtown, where i was figuring on arriving somewhere around 6am, if i stuck to my idea of trying to beat 24 hours for the full distance. Things were going pretty smooth, I'd been cruising well the whole way, until I made a crucial error. I let my brain do the navigation instead of my gut, and my brain made me turn off on Hwy 12 headed east instead of waiting until the Silverado Trail split off from 29 & 12... Whoops. got all the way to the I=80 entrance before i figured it out, cause I had this great tailwind the whole way, and boy was I moving! 20km and 50 minutes worth of error later, I was back on track. around 5am, somewhere near St. Helena, the sleep came knocking, but I wouldn't let it in. Found a really bright streetlight and stood under it for a while, and that seemed to do the trick until daylight came along and rendered sleep powerless. around 530ish, the light really started to show, and I'd just about hit Calistoga, where I stopped at Schat's Bakkerij and waited 20 minutes for them to open so I could have more coffee and some pastry. Saw Darryl roll in, but then he disappeared (found out later he'd stopped for a quick nap), but everyone else by this point was well ahead of me. After hanging out for a while (no, no mud bath), I headed north for Jimtown, on roads I hadn't ridden since I toured Napa Valley and the Sonoma Coast back in 1990 or so, while still in college. Around 720 am, about halfway between Calistoga and Jimtown, I see another biker coming the other way, and lo and behold, it turns out to be Joe Falanga, former SF messenger! What a crazy place to run into someone you know... Chatted with him briefly, and then headed on to visions of big breakfasts in Jimtown. Alas, that was not to be - no full breakfasts at the Jimtown Store (checkpoint 4, 226 km, 0750 hrs), so I settled for a cappuchino and a dried cherry scone (still warm from the oven!) from the attractive young frenchwoman working the counter. Neat place, I'll have to stop in again sometime.

After about an hour sitting around there, during which time Darryl showed up refreshed from his nap, I headed out on the short trip to checkpoint 5, the Healdsburg Safeway (235 km, 0906 hrs), and then quickly on to the coast along the same route as the 300 km brevet - it was all familiar territory from here. I was still moving along pretty well, with a little pain in my left ankle & knee, which i haven't really figured out yet. Rode a good bit of that stretch out to Hwy ! with Darryl, who was trying to get me to take the alternate route on Sweetwater Springs Road, which apparently has some nice packed dirt sections and an absolutely brutal climb that Henry Kingman did on the 1999 edition of this brevet (no surprise there, somehow...). I opted not to, but it sounds intriguing enough to do some other time! The ride to the coast along the Russian River isn't ever that bad - there's only one real hill until you get to Hwy 1, and then after the hill up from the river, it's all rolling down the beautiful coast to Bodega Bay (checkpoint 6, 187 km, 1230 hrs).

From Bodega Bay, I pretty much considered myself home free, especially since there wasn't any headwind to speak of, and more of the absolutely gorgeous weather I'd had the entire day (and the night as well - i only put on a longsleeve woolie in Napa at 3am, and had been wearing a sleeveless t-shirt since I'd hit the Russian River) - and I had chowder and oysters calling me at the Marshall Store. Pretty uneventful ride the way down, since there wasn't really anyone else to ride with, and I'd left Darryl behind again somewhere along the way. I always enjoy passing through Tomales, just something about the town I like. Any town that has its own regional history center... Got to the Marshall Store at around 1439, right on schedule for when I arrived there on the 200. 336 km under my belt, and I was still feeling good, if a little sore of leg. I knew from the past 2 brevets that once I got to Marshall, I had about 5 hours to go, counting stops, and that put me arriving in SF before dark, which was my new revised goal. It also meant I had time to have barbequed osters, which is always a good thing.

From Marshall, it was autopilot and time to put the hammer down, as I'd called ahead to Erik Zo in SF, and he'd said he'd ride out to pace me in from San Anselmo or Mill Valley or somewhere along the route, so I had that to look forward to... or at least I would have, if he hadn't gone home and fallen asleep! Sheesh! (It's all right Erik, only fair cause I forgot and stiffed you on the Subhumans ticket...) Got back over the bridge, and into the parking lot at 1853 hours, just under the 25th hour, though if I hadn't taken that one detour out 12, I probably would have cleared 24 hours, which would have been nice. Ah well. As it was, actual ride time was just under 20 hours, and I don't consider that too shabby for a guy on a 3-speed who refuses to "train"...


Calistoga/Jimtown area

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