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San Francisco Randonneur's Coastal 1000
Ride dates: October 5-8, 2017
by Gary Baker

Every Rando season needs to finish with one last ‘ultra’ ride. At least Barry Chase and I think so. With a DNF on the Northwoods Bound 1000 in Sept. the season was not complete, so we had unfinished business to deal with.

The ‘go to’ October 1000 for us in the past has been the Houston, TX 1000, but with the storms and flooding we were open to other possibilities. The S.F. 1000 was the same dates and getting to it and back was ease or so we thought it would be; drive to Eugene, OR (the start location), do the ride, take AMTRAK from the finish location (Petaluma, CA) back to Eugene and drive home. Getting home was not quite as straight forwards as we had anticipated but it worked out just fine (more on this later).

Prior to the ride Ross Nichol and I hooked up to ride a Permanent during which I mentioned the S.F. 1000. He was interested and decided to join the adventure. There was going to be a strong Canadian contingent doing the ride; Barry, Ross and me plus Gary Sparks (a fellow B.C. Randonneurs) and two riders from Calgary.

The weather forecast was for warm/hot daytime temperatures (low 20s to low 30s) with cool evening and nighttime temperatures ( 7-12C). But at the 6AM start it sure felt considerably colder than 7C and heading out of Eugene, on those infamous Creekside bike paths our computers were registering 1-2C. It was COLD!!!!

Barry, Ross and I had agreed to ride together, which worked well as we climbed out of the valley and through the low mountain passes to the coastal town of Florence over what for the most part were excellent roads. At Florence we turned south and immediately picked up the tailwinds that would be our companions for the next 800+km. Wonderful!

We were not loafing, but we were at or near the back of the pack for the first day thanks to several mechanicals. Barry blew a spoke, mid afternoon, which he was able to replace and as evening approached the bracket for his E3 headlight broke (we suspect metal fatigue) sending his light into his front wheel/spokes. We zip tied the light to the frame for safe keeping. Barry uses a very powerful helmet light (as back-up) so we decided to ride onto the first overnight stop at Gold Beach where we picked up our drop bags and had a feed of pizza (supplied by the organizers). Total elevation gain for the day was 2753m, actually a relatively ease day climbing wise.

We were in a bit of a time bind, arriving almost 2hrs later than planned (at 1:30AM) thanks to the mechanicals (I also had a flat). Although the control closed at 4AM we elected to leave at 5:30ish as the next control was 460km to the south in Fort Braggs, which was 110km after the second overnight stop in Garberville, on day # 3. No problem, right?

Day # 2 started with a ‘substantial’ climb which was to set the tone for the entire day. It’s one thing to do 300m climbs at 15+kph another to do them at 8kph. The latter really drains the tank, so to speak. Such climbs were standard fair all day two.

On Day # 2 approximately 100km south of Gold Beach, near Crescent City, Barry was hurting. He had pulled a groin muscle and elected to call it a day. We contacted the organizers to apprise them of Barry’s decision. The sweep/photographer was nearby and returned to collect Barry, or so we thought. More later…. Wishing him well Ross and I continued on. Several hours later there was a friendly beep, it was Barry. He had rented a car and planned to drive to the finish to take the train home with us.

Oh, I’ve be remiss to say that as usual my on bike electronics completely failed me again. I thought I had sorted out the issues I tend to have with my Garmin 800 as I had successfully installed the map tracks for the entire ride. I was ecstatic to be getting turn by turn directions as we headed towards Florence but me exuberance was to be displaced by disgust when at about the 70km point the damn thing quit and never started again. And, to add insult my Sigma computer randomly stopped and started. Sh…..
And things were going to get worse, more later.

South of Crescent City Hwy # 101 hugs the coast and the views are spectacular, but the views didn’t make up for the road conditions… deplorable at best: rough, broken up, etc. I was grateful I was riding on my 700x32mm tires but wished I’d chosen to ride my Cultus with the 650bx38mm. Poor Ross was being shaken to bits on his 25s.

As we approached Eureka darkness set in and the route went off the main highway to meander through non-descript farmlands. This was tough going as there was nary a street sign to be found, making the route sheet next to useless. Ross’ Garmin had maps on it, but not the route. As is so often the case roads would change names for no reason. No GPS route, no functioning computer and a useless route sheet.
Amazingly we didn’t do any ‘bonus’ kms getting through there.

We made it to Garberville at 4:20AM. Doing the time calculations we were fighting the clock. Not good as the final 340kms had 4474m of climbing. There wasn’t going to be much sleep. We decided it would be best to get going as quickly as possible and take power naps during the day if need be. After a quick meal, a 45min sleep, and a liquid breakfast we were on the road before 6AM.

We made good time to Fort Braggs (the control) where we enjoyed a real meal. But all was not well, my front derailleurs was not shifting properly. Fort Braggs has a ‘classy’ bike store but the owner/mechanic proved to be an officious character. In the end we left the store sans repairs. I elected to use the small chain ring knowing the amount of climbing that lay ahead of us, this meant I spun out at about 30kph.

The real climbing was still about 100km to the south so there was an opportunity to make up some time on the flatter roads before the Jenner Hills. Ross had taken the lead but was only doing about 25kph; a painfully slow speed considering the strength of the tailwind. I didn’t push him as I thought he was bagged. He later told me he was holding the speed down thinking I didn’t have the gears to go much faster. We both had it wrong! This went on for multiply hours, until I finally asked if he was able to ‘up the pace’.

Yes he could, he took off (35+kph) and I indeed was having trouble following his wheel. We worked out a plan. He would push on the flats, I’d try and hang on with the intent of catching him on the next hill as I was the faster climber. This strategy worked wonderfully.

As we pushed towards the big climbs, fatigue was setting in. A 20minute power nap amongst the Redwoods was in order and did the trick, perked us both up.

The climbs north of Jenner were brutal as were the descents (even with disk brakes). At Jenner we turned eastward away from the coast. There we only one or two minor hills over the next 70kms to the finish. It was late, it was dark, it was cold. The one remaining control was at a 24hr Safeway, surrounded by far too many dodgy characters for our liking. They all seemed to have beater bikes and looked at our machines with malice intent. Ross and I had been commenting that this route required some form of rider tracking system or the presence of ‘sweeps’ when to our surprise two plain clothed randonneurs introduced themselves and said they had been looking for us. Sweeps, search party; they were a welcome sight. They kindly watched our bikes and suggested we grab a short power nap in their warm car. Offer accepted. The last 50km to Petaluma went by quickly, we finished at 6:20AM (72hrs 20mins). My slowest ever 1000! There was a large, welcoming party with FOOD…wonderful.

We left the celebration about 7:30 AM to find Barry who had cold beer waiting for us, which by the way we were too exhausted to drink. We carried it the 100kms in our panniers to the train station and all the way home. Yes, we declared it at the border. It was used to toast our advantage and safe arrival home.

As for the 100km ride from Petaluma to the AMTRAK station in Martinez, even dead tired what a wonderful way to end a brevet. We wandered through kms. of vineyards in Napa Valley, rode into the village, drank beer and lunched at a very nice Mex restaurant. The skies were blue, blue and crystal clear (no smoke) although as we got closer to the Bay we could see the smoke from a fire to the west. Our route leaving Napa towards the train station was not as it should have been weak route following) and we ended up riding across the Bay on the Hwy # 80 bridge into to Crockett, not the Hwy # 680 bridge directly into Martinez. This could have been a disaster had we not been directed to a cycle ‘only’ route (Corquinez Scenic Rd.) through a nature reserve that deposited us 15kms later about 300 metres from the train station in Martinez. At the station we met Gary Sparks who had managed to take an AMTRAK bus from Pentaluma to Martinez. When I checked I was told they did not take bikes, I guess one bike was OK. We offered him a ride home from Eugene but he decided to take a train to the airport and fly home. As we had a few hours before the train departed we walked downtown and found one of the coolest American style ‘bars’ we had ever stumbled upon. A dog sitting on a stool at the bar enjoying a meal was priceless.

We were not aware of the fire wrought destruction that was to devastate Sonoma and Napa Counties starting that evening, where we had just ridden, until we got home. Unbelievable!

Where to next year?

Go to: Event page (on SF Randonneurs web site)
Go to: Results
(on SF Randonneurs web site)
Go to: Photos
(on photographer Debroah Ford's web site)


October 18, 2017