600km brevet
San Francisco, 26-27 Apr 2003

Same thing goes here as with the 400km - while an unofficial brevet (my run in Davis will count for PBP), this is the ride that counts for my personal feeling of qualification for PBP, so I'm choosing to describe it in these diaries rather than the later Davis rides.

I had originally hoped that the start time would be 12 midnight Friday/Saturday, so that I would be able to get home and get a good night's sleep Sunday night before work on Monday... but then, I had also thought that the route was going to be as the 400, except extending on up to Fort Bragg, and then coming back the same way... as things turned out, the start was at 5 am, and the route was more like the 300 with an extension up to Cloverdale and then on to Fort Bragg and back, and cutting through on Bohemian Highway through Occidental to Tomales rather than out to the coast after Guerneville. No matter.

A 5 am start was no problem. Getting a good night's sleep beforehand, though, was. I just couldn't seem to sleep soundly, and woke up several times during the night before finally waking up at 3 am to shower and eat before heading off to the Golden Gate Bridge for the start. As with the 400 km brevet, there were only a very few of us, which meant that an alreay difficult distance would be made ven more so by the liklihood of having to run it alone, something I was theorhetically prepared for, what with having the highest gear to gears ratio of anyone on the ride...

We started off in the pre-dawn hours, and took the now-familiar route from the bridge out through Marin to Sir Francis Drake, and then on to Hwy 1 and Point Reyes Station, a fairly uneventful first leg, but good light and a nice morning all the same. Arrived at the Bovine Bakery at 0730 (55.2 km), pretty much right on schedule. I can't recommend the Bovine enough for excellent coffee and some of the hugest scones I've ever seen. Really. Huge. They're at 11315 Hwy 1. Go there.

Set out from Pt Reyes Station, still somewhat grouped together, and headed, again on familiar routes, over Pt Reyes - Petaluma Road to, yes, you guessed it, Petaluma. For once, we rode past the Rouge et Noir cheese factory while it was open, which gave me the opportunity to get patches for my Carradice and Zo bags. Was nice to take this route in the sunlit hours for once, cause it's a nice area to ride through. Got to the now-familiar Petaluma Safeway at 0932 (89.1 km), did our business, and headed out fairly promptly.

From there, it was again routing familiar from the 300 km brevet, pretty much straight up Old Redwood Hwy along Hwy 101, through Santa Rosa and on to Healdsburg - all told, nothing terribly exciting, but still great weather. I was feeling good the whole way - we were making good time, and staying on schedule to make Fort Bragg a bit earlier than I had figured, and certainly on track with times from the previous distances. Arrived in Healdsburg at 1212 (140.6 km), hung out for a while, and kept on the move. The hardest portion of the ride, the stretch along Hwy 128 to and from Fort Bragg, was still ahead of us.

Geyserville and Cloverdale pretty much rolled by, and then we were on 128, headed up and up, over our biggest cimb of the whole ride, up to just over 1000 feet - not all that huge a climb, but when it's coming at not even halfway through the longest single ride you've ever done, and you know you're going to have to come back over it to get back home, it seems huge. Made the climb with some walking, still refusing to change my cog to the 23t, stubbornly as always. With shorter climbs like these, as compared to time in the Alps, it just doesn't seem worth it, cause it'll be over soon enough... After cresting just before Yorkville, we were in the Anderson Valley, and well into the land of beautiful vistas.

I hadn't ever ridden this road before, and man was it beautiful... the picture below of some parts really speak for themselves... But the time was passing faster than it seemed - we hit Boonville for some rest and food restocking, and it was already 5 pm, and I was somewhat worried about being on schedule for a 9pm arrival in Fort Bragg - it was starting to look like it might be more like 10... A look at the map made it seem like much of the distance from Boonville to the coast was downhill or at least flat, cause it is mostly river following, and it turned out to be so. I got a flat leaving Boonville, and fixed that quickly enough, and started chasing, time-trial style, through the redwood forest down towards Hwy 1 - was really hauling ass there for a while. Caught up with Kathleen somewhere near the junction, but Rob had blazed ahead towards Fort Bragg.

The last bits up the Coast towards our sleep destination for the night were as we expected - hilly and seemingly longer than they actually were. Started into some of the surprisingly minimal night riding of this brevet, much nicer with new bulbs in the lamps. Made good time, though, with the promise of beds egging us on. I had brought a sleeping bag and bivy, anticipating the possibility of camping, but weather threatening (we'd gotten some sprinkles coming through Anderson Valley) and the fact that Rob was set to take the hit of a full room by himself made the hotel option win out. Got to Fort Bragg Safeway at 2101 (292.8 km), stocked up on breakfast foods and snacks, and headed for the hotel, where we met Rob. He'd eaten already, but we decided to head out for dinner, ending up at about the only place still open, the Tradewinds, which wasn't anything special. Wolfed down a roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes, and headed back. Rob convinced us to sleep later than we had originally planned, waking up at 3am to head out again (I'd originally planned to only get 3 hours of sleep - in hindsight, I should have stuck by that, and also not gone out to eat - that was at least 2 hours of wasted time that would've come in handy later on).

Sunday brought another, even earlier morning, and departure from the hotel at 0320. Rob stayed behind to get another hour of sleep, and we knew he'd have no trouble catching us. The ride back down Hwy 1 wasn't all that bad, and the ride up 128 to Navarro, despite being a slight uphill grade, went by in a flash. I was disappointed to not find an open cafe in Philo, but that was life. It was still 6 am. Made it to Boonville, and ran into Darryl at a cafe there, and had a nice full breakfast before heading out again. The toughest bit was ahead of us now - I think the climb in 128 is much more difficult headed west than it is headed east - there's steeper sections (8% at most) and it's more drawn-out.

But you have to go up to come down, and so we did. And the downhill into Cloverdale was worth it, I suppose - some great twisty road, and not a car in sight on the descent. That's always nice. All the same, I didn't envy the few riders ahead of us, who checked into a hotel in Cloverdale, and had to ride back over 128 that night while we were arriving in Fort Bragg. Urgh. We went quick through Cloverdale, and on down to Healdsburg, where Rob caught us soon after we arrived at 1150 (445 km). This was a relief, cause we then had just barely over 9 hours to get back to SF, and on the 300, over a slightly longer route, it had taken 11 hours... This didn't bode well.

But Rob took the helm, and pulled us to Guerneville in just under 2 hours, which is what needed to happen. It was head down all the way, pounding the gears, so I don't really remember much of it. I don't usually like to ride this way, but this time, it needed to be done if we wanted to make the 2100 deadline in SF. Guerneville came and went at 1338 (474 km).

From there, we had a bit more riding down River Rd to Bohemian Hwy, and then some gradual climbing to Occidental. I had planned to stop in on a friend's parents, who I hadn't seen in almost 10 years, but it was not to be - there simply wasn't the timet o spare. Bohemian Hwy continued on To Bodega Hwy, and then to Valley Ford - Freestone Rd, and then Hwy 1, at last. That made it seem like we were really on our way home, only a few more real climbs left... But it had started raining gradually a way outside Occidental, and was getting stronger. Once again, I wasn't able to stop in Tomales to visit the bakery there that I'm told is quite good, and we hammered on towards Marshall, which we hit at 1630 (528.4 km)

Marshall meant a quick bowl of delicious clam chowder, but no oysters, cause again, well, no time. we had to roll, and roll fast. I knew that if we got to Marshall by 1700, we were probably in the clear, but cutting it close is still cutting it close, especially when not making the deadline means you have to ride another 600 km brevet... We raced through Pt Reyes - Petalume Rd, on to Nicasio, over that hill, down to Sir Francis. We lost Kathleen somewhere past the crest, and Rob and I drafted in on Sir Francis, skipping the more pleasant but circuitous bike route we'd usually take. Fairfax fell behind us, then we went over Corte Madera, the final real climb, which was a good feeling, knowing that the only real uphill left was the climb up to teh Golden Gate from Sausalito. From there it was the bike path, Sausalito, and over the indy GG bridge, to find Rob's wife Brigit and some other friends there to greet and congratulate our soaking wet bodies with champagne and cookies. 2135 hours, not quite skin of our teeth close, but closer than I would have liked. But the bottom line is, 39 hours and 35 minutes and 600 km later, we had completed the last of the 4 brevets we needed to ride to qualify for PBP.

Now it's just a matter of getting the brevet cards back, getting our applications and fees in on time (can't forget to get that physical exam!) and buy a ticket to France...


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