rebeccmeister: (Default)
I couldn't go rowing Saturday morning, so [personal profile] scrottie and I decided we wanted to go on a bike ride instead. For a change of pace, I suggested we look into a partial route towards Petaluma, because we eventually want to bike up there to visit the Lagunitas Brewpub. On the local randonneuring list, someone had just posted about navigational logistics in the North Bay, and mentioned good food and drinks at the Mare Island Taproom in Vallejo. Sounded good to me!

On the outbound leg, Google gave us weird directions through Pinole and Hercules, sending us on a strange detour along some small bike paths. Eventually, we reached the Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge:

On the bike path to cross the Sacramento River on the Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge

The last time we rode across this bridge was the Saturday after moving out here, when I wanted to wedge in a 200k permanent to keep working towards an R-12 Award (ride at least 200k a month for 12 months). On that prior ride, we didn't have time to stop and take photos, so it was nice to take a more leisurely pace and observe the Sacramento River Delta.

Here's the view north, towards Vallejo:
View towards the Napa River and Mare Island

That's the mouth of the Napa River, separating Mare Island on the left from the mainland.

The Mare Island Taproom was in the ferry building in Vallejo, so I suppose if we didn't want to ride our bikes there we could have taken the ferry from San Francisco instead.

Our destination: Mare Island Taproom

We opted to bike back.

Here's an interesting-looking business on the south shore of the Sacramento River delta, a restaurant called the Nantucket. It looked busy on a Saturday afternoon, even though the marina right outside looks like it has seen better days.

Marina by the Nantucket

S is curious about the function of the barge-like boat in the center of the photo, which has a huge ramp on its back end.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Today I cut out and stitched up the first prototype "bike spat." Voila:

Bike spats prototyping

Current observations:

Sewing curved flat-felled seams is HARD, as advertised. Here's the toe cap, from the outside:

Bike spats prototyping

Not too bad, right?

Well, from the inside:

Bike spats prototyping

Hahahaha, yeah. It should get the job done, though! No fraying nylon for me.

The upper shaping was even harder to get right than the toe box:

Bike spats prototyping

I feel like these need some additional stitching somehow, to shape them more effectively. But I'm optimistic that they'll accomplish their main goal, of keeping the rain out of my shoes.

Also, my respect for cobblers has just gone up by 287%.

And I think it's been at least a week since the last time I proclaimed my love for my new sewing machine.

Some of the corners I had to stitch through were THICK. So thick that I had to just turn the flywheel by hand and ease the fabric through. I also managed to completely bend a sewing machine needle. I've never done that before. Whoops.


In other bicycling adventures, this morning I rode my bike up to the Household Hazardous Waste facility in Richmond, to find out if they would take the old neon rowing light that stopped working. Riding through Richmond reminded me of riding through Phoenix - neighborhoods with way more character and cultural diversity than we seem to have here in El Cerrito.

When I got there, the HHW drop-off space was a large drive-through building with lots of "Slow!" and "Caution!" signs out in front. There were no other vehicles in sight. As I pedaled towards the entrance, towing my bike trailer, an employee got up from his chair and said, "We don't accept bikes!"

"That's good," I replied, "Because I don't want to get rid of this one anyway!" (zing! I'm usually too slow on the uptake for witty repartee)

As it turns out, I guess they can't have people on bikes or on foot come through/to the facility for liability reasons, but they were kind enough to make a special exception in my case. They accepted all the items I dropped off. It's nice to have that old neon light taken care of, finally. It was a ridiculous item from start to finish.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Yesterday was Bike to Work Day here. The morning felt rushed and hectic because I had to get to the lab by 8 am, but had the conflicting goal of wanting to visit as many different "Energizer Stations" as possible.

Once again, we failed to find the one near the El Cerrito high school. Maybe it was at Ashbury and Fairmount.

The one at the El Cerrito Plaza was hopping, unsurprisingly. I wish there was a way to get El Cerrito to permanently install the bike art archway that gets put up. It's whimsical and fun.

The guy who has a big bunch of foster chickens was at the Marin Ave station again, and he confirmed that yes, he still works at Bikes on Solano. He provided a huge basket full of hard-boiled eggs for the riders.

The one at the North Berkeley BART station was all right, once we found it. The one at UC-Berkeley had someone handing out flowers! That was fun.

After work, [personal profile] scrottie and I went over to the Berkeley Bike Happy Hour, hosted at Sports Basement. They had a pedal-powered sound system run by Rock the Bike:

Rock the Bike pedal-powered music

Rock the Bike pedal-powered music

We both got in a good workout. The music was fun!
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I dragged [personal profile] scrottie on a bike camping expedition over the weekend, up to Samuel P Taylor State Park. For miscellaneous reasons, we didn't really get underway until around 2 pm, departing from campus, so we wound up catching a 3:30 pm ferry at Jack London Square in Oakland. We then set out from the San Francisco Ferry Building at 4 pm. After dodging tourists through San Francisco, up over the Golden Gate Bridge, and through Sausalito, we headed up and over Camino Alto and finally reached the stage of the ride where we could relax a bit.

We reached the campground at about 6:30 pm and then were finally able to learn how the park manages bike campers. I think it's a good and fair system, and suspect there are similar arrangements for other campgrounds in the region. Basically, they have a single hiker-biker campsite, it's capped at 15 people total, you can only stay one night, and it's first-come, first-served with no reservations. The campground opens at 2 pm each day, so as you can imagine, things were full by the time we arrived. Fortunately, the ranger was incredibly gracious and let us camp in a secret overflow location, so long as we packed up and left by 9 am the next morning.

The secret overflow location wound up being much nicer for my purposes because it put us across the river from the remaining campers, nestled in among some redwoods. There was a wedding reception across the river from us, including what sounded like live swing-jazz music, but even that quieted down before 9 pm.

We got up around 7 am Sunday morning, and were packed up and ready to depart by 9 am, as promised. We first headed over to a fire trail access gate, thinking we'd do a little bit of mountain bike touring. When we reached the gate, we discovered the fire road was a wee bit too steep for fully loaded touring bikes. Just a wee bit. So we parked and locked up and went on a hike instead, to explore Devil's Gulch. It was a peaceful morning and we mostly had the trails to ourselves.

After that, we headed back towards Fairfax to check out the Marin Museum of Bicycling, where I took a bajillionty-eleven pictures, and then we retraced our route back to the Ferry Building/etc.

It was 6:30 pm before I made it back to campus to sort crickets. When I went to swap my sunglasses for my glasses, my poor old, tired glasses snapped at the bridge. Sigh. New ones are now on order.

Photos later in the week. This was already blogged on borrowed time.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Viewing the sunset
Down in the cemetery
Hill-climbing's reward.

(The cemetery is a mercifully peaceful and quiet space. The turkeys were out yesterday, too.)

Sunset View Cemetery, El Cerrito

Sunset View Cemetery, El Cerrito

Sunset View Cemetery, El Cerrito

Sunset View Cemetery, El Cerrito

Sunset View Cemetery, El Cerrito
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Riding up slowly
Makes time for observations
Behold! Citrus arch.

Seen along Cedar St, Berkeley
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
The hilly route home
Is quiet enough that I
Have room for a thought.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
A day or two ago, I went to inspect the couple of spots on the Jolly Roger's rear wheel that had started to crack a few months back. My bike has recently been making more interesting noises than usual. Lo and behold, the cracks had grown to the point where I now worry about a flat tire and the "catastrophic failure" my friend A warned me about for cracked rims.

Lordy, I do not keep the Jolly Roger anywhere close to fastidiously clean.

State of the two worst cracks when I decided to end the wheel experiment:
Jolly Roger rear wheel wear

Jolly Roger rear wheel wear

These two cracks are on opposite sides of the wheel.

I also finally noticed that the tread on the rear tire was totally worn out. Whoops. Compare:
Jolly Roger rear wheel wear

That said - A-plus I would buy these tires again, just in a slightly wider size because it's almost impossible to find tubes for 26 x 1.35" tires. I've been riding on this pair of tires for a couple of years, waiting for them to wear out. I may have had a grand total of one or two flats in that entire time. I thought they had a kevlar liner, but the bike shop owner thinks it's just a high-quality rubber compound. If you ever shop for Schwalbe tires, get the ones with the blue fill, not the green stuff.

So! Time for a trip to the bike shop. I stocked up: spare shifter cables, spare brake pads, some of those Ergon grips, a fresh pair of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires (26 x 1.5"), and a brand-new Stella headlight for [ profile] scrottie.

I can feel the difference from swapping in the new replacement wheel (ordered a couple months ago, just in case).
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
On Sunday morning, [ profile] scrottie and I finally managed to escape for a few hours to go on a bike ride. He'd been pushing for another visit to the Three Bears, but I wanted to do more exploring. So we biked up to Inspiration Point and then took the Nimitz Trail through Tilden and Wildcat Canyon parks.

When we reached the point where the pavement ran out, we decided to keep going. It was fun but terrifying, given that I had just bumped up the tire pressure in the 1.35" tires on the Jolly Roger, which don't have much traction to begin with. The surface in the picture below is also not my favorite:

Exploring Tilden and Wildcat Canyon

And I'll be honest, I mostly just like rolling along undulating trails, not things that go steeply up or down with lots of blind corners.

Exploring Tilden

For instance, we rode up and over that lump in the background. I use the term "rode" loosely, as I did a healthy amount of walking. On the other hand, [ profile] scrottie seemed to enjoy zooming and bumping and skidding along. And all things considered, at least the terrain out here is softer than the rocks and cacti in Arizona. It was also good to determine that we can come up with an adventure in the 2-hour time range. Maybe in the future we can use this as a starting point for a bike-and-hike expedition.

I overbooked myself for the rest of the day, mostly because I wanted to finish up a painting project at the BPRC, but also needed to pick up a few things at the store, sort crickets, and spend some time catching up with my sister-in-law and nephew and niece.

And now it's Monday, and time for what's looking to be an insanely busy week of circadian trials.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
It hasn't rained here since, what, March or so? Well, the remnants of that tropical typhoon finally landed here this morning. It started to rain with light but steady drops just as we finished breakfast.

My rain-game is way off. I managed to convince myself to change into spandex shorts, but I should have changed out my shirt as well. The Showers Pass jacket kept off most of the water, but not all of it. At least I don't need to look especially presentable today.

I should also double-bag my backpack. Water got through the bottom of the Arkel pannier and lightly soaked the bottom of the backpack. The corner of my journal is ever so slightly damp.

Days like this make me grateful for my rowing habits and the fact that I generally schlep around a ridiculous amount of gear. I have to budget a bit of extra time, but I have the routine down for changing clothes at work. The gear serves its purpose.

The rain brought a LOT of grime to the surface on the roadways.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I have started trying to take the hilly route home as often as I can. Cranking up the hill is somewhat cathartic, plus there are only two traffic lights at the very end instead of the 10 or so along the flat route. It takes me about 20 minutes to go up, and about 5 or 6 minutes to go back down, so the total time is also comparable to the flat route. And it just seemed like a good way to squeeze in a bit more consistent exercise.

Last week I took the hilly route 4 out of 5 days. I'm on track for 4 of 5 days this week, too.

View from the cemetery on the downhill section:
Sunset Cemetery view


Part of the motivation is getting ready in earnest for the head racing season. M and I are arranging things to row together twice a week, on Thursdays and Saturdays, starting this morning. We're going to do a half-marathon race over Labor Day weekend in Petaluma (maybe next year I'll do the full?), then possibly the Tail of the Lake in Seattle in early October, then the Head of the Charles because M is going to be in Boston anyway, then hopefully the Head of the Lake in Seattle again in early November. That's a satisfyingly full docket, although it will be a lot to stay on top of while keeping afloat with experiments and job applications. This morning's workout made it clear that the two of us will be able to keep the boat going at a decent clip over a head racing distance, which is reassuring. There are a lot of things to suss out when rowing with someone new, but I'm continuing to think that rowing with M will help make me a better rower overall, and we're reasonably compatible.

As we got off the water, with respect to regatta plans, J said, "So, some people view races as a stick. Other people view them as a carrot - a reward to aim for. As for me, I like to think of them as a donut."

Having events lined up keeps me motivated to get out and practice consistently, which makes me more emotionally balanced and satisfied in the long run. I continue to be grateful to have such a good gang of rowers to hang out with at the BPRC.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
[ profile] scrottie and I made it back to the home base in CA on Friday, after a solid 11 days of traveling for me. I don't know that I'll do a detailed blow-by-blow chronological recounting of our various adventures, but here are some initial thoughts and memorable moments. Also, a photo album with descriptions under the pictures.

We participated in the final two days of RAGBRAI, first from Ottumwa to Washington, then Washington to Muscatine a week from Saturday. We reached Muscatine in the early afternoon, with enough time to watch people wade into the Mississippi River and hoist their bikes over their heads for a victory photograph. Then we had some food and drinks at Contrary Brewing's brewpub while waiting out some of the afternoon heat and sun, pointed our bikes west, and pedaled back to Washington Saturday evening. Sunday evening, we made it back to Princess TinyHouse, parked in Ottumwa, IA. Monday, we drove from Ottumwa to Lincoln, and spent the evening and following morning catching up with my old boss and his family. Tuesday morning, we parked Princess TinyHouse and picked up a rental car, which we drove to Denver to visit with A and meet S. We spent a good part of Wednesday around Denver, then carried on to Fruita overnight. From Fruita, we took I-70 over to Highway 50, the Loneliest Road in America, and crossed mountain passes and desert valleys all the way out to Austin, Nevada, where we soaked in Spencer Hot Springs and flopped out for a nap in the scrub desert. On our last day, we reconnected with I-80 just outside of Reno and made it back to the house by midafternoon Friday.

They call RAGBRAI "Woodstock on Wheels." Overall, I found it to be more pleasant than the Seattle-to-Portland, for multiple reasons. For one thing, certain groups leapfrog along the route to sell foods and beverages to the riders. We appreciated the Iowa Craft Brewing tent in particular, although on a warm afternoon the hand-churned ice cream also hit the spot. For another thing, the distances are gentler on RAGBRAI, so it encourages riders with a broader range of aptitudes. Then there are the friendly people in the small towns, who pull out all the stops.

Originally, we had planned to roadtrip back to California in Princess TinyHouse, but as he thought things over, [ profile] scrottie decided it would probably be best to keep her in the Midwest, where storage is more affordable/less risky and from where he would be in a better position to bring her up to his mother's mechanic in Minneapolis. We considered various different options for the return trip, and eventually settled on renting a car to roadtrip back. That made for a lot of driving on my part, mostly counterbalanced by the fact that we took a different route from when we drove the moving truck out from Nebraska to California.

I don't know if I'll ever take the same route again, along Highway 50, but I'm so very glad that we went that way this time. It evoked some of the sense that I get during visits to Montana, that whole "big sky and wide-open spaces" sensation, and I was also deeply happy to see more of the wild and crazy geology in Utah. If you ever have a chance, I highly recommend the drive along Highway 50.

And now, back to the lab.

Also, the Jolly Roger feels super light and responsive after riding around with a full load for touring for a couple of days. Which is hilarious when you consider that it weighs at least 40 pounds unloaded.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
It feels as though it has been taking a while to sort out good bicycling adventures in this area. On Saturday, we tried out something new. Our friend Ls invited us on an "Easy mountain biking" ride down in Joaquin Miller Park, so we hopped on the BART to Fruitvale, ate a couple of fresh beignets, and toodled our way up the hill to our rendezvous point.

Over the early stages of the ride, it quickly became apparent that something funky was going on with Ls's shifting. One of the tricky parts of sorting out bicycling in a new place with new people is learning different peoples' proclivities, and it seems that Ls had gone with the strategy of "dust off the ol' mountain bike and hop right on!" Fortunately, [ profile] scrottie is well-versed in roadside bike repair. After some inspection and tweaks, he decided that the rear derailleur hanger was probably bent, so we teamed up to straighten it and got things back in line. Crisp shifting is useful for mountain biking.

For the Annals of Roadside Bike Repair

Our approach to the park followed a narrow, winding, wooded road that was peaceful and lovely.

The park itself was a touch more challenging, mostly because none of us were at all familiar with the trail network, so we had to keep on pulling over to check the map and the useless GPS that couldn't figure out where we were among the trees. S had to remind the rest of us to try and keep the trail clear whenever we pulled over. There was also some sort of Mormon LARP group out, blocking the trail in various spots with various sheets and blankets and paper jellyfish. That made the whole experience feel decidedly Berkleyish. We were able to successfully follow the good signage for the Sunset Trail, but missed our intended connection point with the Sequoia Bayview Trail. As usual, I spent a good part of the ride either walking or mildly terrified, but I was in good company, as Ls and Lk did the same. Mountain biking takes practice. The trails were dry and a little loose in spots, and it didn't help that I have 1.35" high-pressure tires on the Jolly Roger. Slippery. Still! We had a few glorious moments of riding through the redwoods, and at the end, popped out at an overlook:

Mountain biking with a view of Oakland

Next time I think I want to look at some options that are closer to home. Joaquin Miller was nice and all, but trekking over on the BART added a bunch of time to the expedition. It looks like there are some options in Tilden, and probably the best way to figure out what's the most fun is to just get out there and try more things out.

At the end, we sailed back down the hill and back to the BART station. From there, S and I headed in to San Francisco for a bicycling protest ride, where we both got sunburned and came to the conclusion that this region is operating in what we would term the "post-advocacy era." We went on the same ride in Austin several years ago and it was about three times as big, so we were a bit surprised by the smaller turnout in San Francisco, the birthplace of Critical Mass. Basically what we mean by the post-advocacy era is that cycling is sufficiently mainstream that it seems most cyclists just go around doing their own thing instead of clinging to cycling groups and events out of a strong sense of necessity. Obviously there's still a lot of work needed to improve multi-modal transit, but the bicyclists don't seem to feel so strongly compelled to band together and protest about it. This is probably also a product of being in a place where there are a lot of protests and related spectacles happening, so not everybody does everything. Ah well.

Anyway. Bicycling for that event was painfully slow, so after we decided we'd had enough, I still wanted to get in a bit more riding before heading to campus for some work. S suggested stopping somewhere for a refreshing beverage, so we took the BART back across the bay and rode through Oakland to a little brewpub with excellent beer next door to a tasty vegetarian Cajun joint:

Hoi Polloi and Easy Creole

Altogether, a satisfying set of expeditions for a Saturday.
rebeccmeister: (cricket)
Yesterday morning I made it to the lab by 5 am to pull the food out of a cricket box. To respond to [ profile] scrottie's remark of, "That sounds like something that could be easily solved with a timer and small servo motor!" I should note that crickets don't just walk over to their food dish and daintily nibble out of it. They dig around in there and spill food all over the box, so to remove all of the available food, I have to transfer the crickets over to a clean box, preferably without losing half of them because they are pretty squirrelly at Day 5 of adulthood and jump out everywhere. They aren't *quite* as squirrelly as the California species, Gryllus lineaticeps, but still.

I was going to take a 30-minute nap and then go rowing, but that turned into a 2-hour nap on the floor in the lab instead. To keep warm, I put on my wool hat and used some bubble wrap I'd kept from an overpackaged shipment plus a small lap blanket that one of the undergrads keeps here. It felt eerily similar to a brevet nap, aside from the moments where I accidentally popped the bubble wrap.

The last time I made it rowing was last Tuesday, so I'm feeling anxious on that front because that's not enough to stay on top of technique or make improvements. Rowing is getting the short end of the stick while I try to push on this experiment.

Then I got up, ran my cricket procedures, and played a game of Scrabble with my friend S, who was finally able to end my four-game winning streak. Then [ profile] scrottie biked over to the lab with some lunch, and then we set out for a long-overdue bicycling expedition.

What the trip lacked in distance, it made up in climbing; we went out to check out the Three Bears Loop, but only went as far as Mama Bear before it was time to turn around so I could go back to the lab for the late afternoon tasks. Still, it was a great leg-buster and I'm looking forward to completing the full loop on a future date with fewer time constraints. The roads in that region were either low-speed or had good shoulders and not all that much traffic, so I can see why that area is a popular bicycling destination. In the future, though, I'll go back to taking Spruce instead of Euclid to get up the hill to Tilden.

I finally have a copy of the holy grail of bicycling maps for the area: a map produced by the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, which we received by virtue of becoming members on Bike to Work Day. It dispenses with all that nonsense in terms of labeling things as bike lanes or bike paths or bike routes or whatever, and instead just indicates preferred routes for beginner/intermediate cyclists, plus routes for the more gung-ho. It also includes notes about locations where the EBBC has been pushing for bicycling infrastructure development, and provides enough of an overview of the region to make it practical for intermediate-distance expeditions.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I bought a wee fern at Berkeley Horticulture last weekend, and decided that today was the day to transport it to work. It was so pleasingly hipster to cart it in my water bottle cage, so I took a photo of it to be my representative Coffeeshop Bike Ride picture for the week:

Highwire Coffee

The picture is zoomed-out to remind me that there's a Middle Eastern grocery right behind it, and also a cheese shop just down the block.

Highwire Coffee is a local chain that served up artisanal toast and good caffe latte in a bowl but without overboard latte art:

Highwire Coffee

They're close to a branch of the Berkeley Public Library, too. The back patio looked pleasant, based on a quick glance, and unlike Algorithm Coffee, which is right around the corner, they had plenty of individual seating. Better artwork, too.

After I parted ways with [ profile] sytharin and L, as I was riding through an intersection, I heard a dismaying "POP!" sound, and, out of the corner of my eye, saw something fly off my bike onto the pavement. The fern's ceramic pot apparently couldn't handle the stress of being squeezed in a water bottle cage and rattled over rough pavement. So much for that twee notion. It's now transplanted into a ceramic mug I haven't been using. I kind of want to start a small fern collection. Or a small succulent collection. Or both?
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Tuesday during the day, I was pretty tired. I haven't been completely successful in subverting [ profile] scrottie into keeping a morning schedule, so we were up later than I'd like Monday night, and then I made myself get up to go rowing on Tuesday morning despite an unhappy twinge in my back (not exacerbated by the rowing, thankfully). Tuesday night, I slept poorly. I couldn't entirely tell what was going on, except that my body didn't feel like it was thermoregulating correctly. Yesterday, I had that sense of malaise that generally precedes illness, so I left work early at 4:30 and went home and napped on the couch until bedtime.

I'm not completely better this morning, but at least my joints aren't aching right now? My improved state meant we were able to participate in Bike to Work Day this morning, hurrah. I don't know precisely why, but it's really important to me to participate.

I didn't take any pictures, but I think plenty of other people did, because of course S rode his tallbike. He even got a couple of the El Cerrito PD guys to try it out at the first Bike to Work station. Bike East Bay handed out these super nice swag bags that *weren't* stuffed full of junk. They had two kinds of energy bars, some tea, a reflective ankle band, and the Bike East Bay newsletter, plus the bags themselves have long straps that make them easy to sling over one's shoulder while riding around town. I became a member of Bike East Bay, finally, and also learned that our regional organization is basically the Albany Strollers and Rollers because El Cerrito doesn't have an organization of its own.

It's pretty amazing to be back in a region where Bike to Work Day is a Big Deal. Lincoln had a touch of hoopla at a single Bike to Work destination. Bryan/College Station had nothing. Tempe always felt like an all-too-brief gathering of the few fierce and hardy commuters. I wish we got to join one of the after parties this evening, but for various reasons we'll probably forgo it.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
It seems fitting, after my prior post, to blog about stuff in a more concrete form. In particular, I've been puzzling over something for the past month or two. When I moved from Lincoln, I got rid of my twin-size bed, which was over 10 years old and starting that gradual decline that spring mattresses experience. Instead, I've been sleeping on a queen-size roll-up futon. The futon doesn't provide quite enough cushion, so I have stuck a foam camp pad underneath it, but I would kind of like something more substantial than that that would promote better airflow. I've actually been vaguely wanting to upgrade to a queen-size bed for several years now. I think I could make things work pretty well if I continue down the futon route, by adding in a pair of tatmi mats and a bedframe. Two advantages of a bedframe would include a headboard and better organization around/under the bed.

But bedframes and tatmi mats aren't especially cheap. For the last couple of months, I've been keeping an eye on how much money I have left over at the end of the month, figuring that if the amount is sufficient, I'll just go for it. For some reason, it has taken me a ridiculously long time to have an alternative epiphany, which is that instead I should save up for these things using the same strategy I've used to save up for other purchases at this order of magnitude. Namely, use my savings account for it. It used to be that any money I put in savings was divided in quarters, one-quarter going towards Sallie Mae student loans, one-quarter to loans from my parents, one-quarter for long-term savings, and one-quarter towards things like the erg or shiny bicycles. I've also used this pool of money to cover moving expenses and big, fancy trips. Now that student loans are all paid off, things are weighted more heavily towards long-term savings, but overall the system still stands as a nice way to incrementally gather funds for larger purchases. Plus, I won't feel so guilty about immediate spending if I am simultaneously saving money.

So, back at it.


This week I have been doing some exploring of the hills in this area. On Wednesday, I biked over to the El Cerrito recycling center to drop off some books and three pairs of blown-out jeans. There are two ways to get to the recycling center. The easy route follows the Ohlone Greenway, then gradually climbs up Schmidt Lane to the lovely little spot where the recycling center is nestled in among the Hillside Natural Area. The other route involved riding towards the El Cerrito pool and then up Moeser Lane (steep) and onto Navelier St (steepish). Those who put in the work are rewarded with a nice view:


The hill of El Cerrito is on the left, and you can barely make it out in the photo (large size), but the Golden Gate Bridge is off in the distance on the right.

I continued my hill-climbing explorations yesterday evening on my way home from work. In the morning, I made it in to campus in time for a 6 am task, but then I couldn't motivate myself to go from campus to the boathouse, because apparently trying to motivate for TWO things early in the morning is too much. So instead it was time to check out Spruce Street, as recommended by [ profile] sytharin, as a good commuting-workout route home.

She wasn't wrong - that was a good hill climb! The climbing takes a good 20 minutes or so and I was glad to have good gearing on the Jolly Roger. The descent was where things got more interesting. The top of the climb is basically at Summit Reservoir, which is also near the entrance to Tilden Park and some other fun-looking roads for longer rides. From there, I had to pull out my smart-o-phone a couple of times to sort out her suggestions for how to wind my way back over towards the Sunset View Cemetary and home.

I was heading down Beloit Ave, having missed a right turn on Purdue, when I decided I should pull over and check again. As I went to turn right on Trinity Ave, I crossed a tiny trickle of water in a ditch, lost control, and felt the bike skid out from under me. Ka-WHAM I landed on my side. Fortunately I wasn't going too fast, so I just have some gross road rash to show for it all.


It stings, but it scabbed over well and didn't ooze in the way I was worried it would.

And so I was able to get back on the Jolly Roger this morning for our usual weekly expedition to a coffeeshop, this time to Algorithm Coffee in Berkeley:

Algorithm Coffee

Exceedingly hipster-esque, and no official bike parking, but the best latte I've had so far in this area, and delicious pastries to boot.
rebeccmeister: (Iheartcoffee)
This morning, [ profile] sytharin and I visited Fournee Bakery, which is basically at the base of the historic Claremont Hotel and Spa on the border between Berkeley and Oakland. So, a posh neighborhood.

The croissants did not disappoint. My smart-o-phone camera, however, disappointed mightily:

Inside Fournee bakery

RAC had two savory treats, a savory croissant and cheese puff. I tried their almond croissant and also had a Meyer lemon croissant with little almondy bits mixed in. Everything was buttery and flaky and on the crisp side.

Also, here's a thing that I prefer about west coast bakeries over actual French bakeries: way more whole-wheat and sourdough available. This place wasn't selling whole-wheat croissants (I haven't looked for or found any out here), but they had beautiful loaves of whole-wheat bread. Scrumptious.

They were next door to a Pete's Coffee, which presented RAC with a dilemma. She'd forgotten her mug (oh the shame!), but wanted a caffeinated beverage. Pete's had ceramic mugs, but they're owned by Starbucks*. Fournee had this amusing sign posted in the window that says "coffee is available":

Coffee is available

but they did not have any "for here" containers whatsoever.

I didn't ask the bakers whether the drip coffee that they were selling was shade-grown, organic, or fair-trade, but I did think that the bakery wouldn't score high on our father's scale.

Still, 'twas a nice Friday morning treat.

*Edit, based on updated information: Peet's is NOT owned by Starbucks. However, they are still a large chain business.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Okay, first of all, don't get too excited - it's more like Tour of Three Bakeries, With Repeat Visits on the Way Back. Still, a nice concept for a 200k permanent. In case I haven't mentioned this here before (or in a long time), "permanents" are randonneuring routes that can be ridden at any time, with prearrangement with the route owner.

Last spring, I kicked off the pre-Paris-Brest-Paris randonneuring events in April, when I drove out to Nebraska City to ride in the Nebraska Sandhills Randonneurs' 200km brevet. I continued to ride with the Nebraska gang through the spring, completing all of the qualifying rides for Paris-Brest-Paris by mid-May. Once June rolled around, I decided to keep going, so I drove out to Ames, Iowa, and got to meet a number of the Iowa Randonneurs, and also got to see my first ElliptiGo riders. Then, in July, SK helped me put together a gnarly mixed-terrain Overnight 200k that circled around Lincoln. Then there was August and Paris-Brest-Paris itself.

By that point, I'd ridden a brevet every month for five continuous months, and got to thinking about one of the awards offered by Randonneurs USA, the R-12. To earn the R-12, all you have to do is complete one ride per month of a minimum distance of 200km. Well, the Nebraska Sandhills Randonneurs had two more brevets scheduled for the early fall, first a 400k and then a 600k, so why not? For good measure, I also rode a 200km Arrow with the gang. Those events carried me through October. But what to do for November? Eventually things got down to a "last chance" effort. After scrutinizing the various permanent options listed by the San Francisco Randonneurs, I settled on a route called "East Bay to Davis," and [ profile] scrottie joined me for a jaunt out into the California unknown that involved a detour to see Napa Valley and then some crazy climbing through the mountains out to Davis.

December's ride happened in Arizona, another permanent, the End of Pavement 200k, shortly after Christmas. Finally, in January, I was able to join the San Francisco Randonneurs for the Pierce Point 200k, another leg-buster with some impressive hills and lovely scenery. S came out with me for the Two Rock - Valley Ford 200k in February, and then I was looking to finish the twelve months out on the Russian River 300k.

When we had to bail two-thirds of the way through the 300k two weekends ago, I started to think about and look around for a make-up ride. With a better sense of the local geography as compared to last November, I narrowed the options down to either a repeat of the East Bay to Davis 200k, or something out in the direction of Marin again called the Tour of Five Bakeries. I wasn't feeling especially excited about doing either route as a solo ride, so I sent a message to the San Francisco Randonneurs to see if anyone else would be interested. I received a single enthusiastic reply, from a rider who was up for the Tour of Five Bakeries, so that sealed the deal. R and I made arrangements for an 8 am start, which would hopefully give me enough time to catch the first BART train from El Cerrito and then ride 15 miles from Embarcadero out to Mill Valley.

I was nervous about running late, but wound up reaching the starting point with ten minutes to spare, just as R pulled up. Phew! To top it off, a third rider appeared! She'd made her own arrangements to complete the permanent on her own. It's always nice just to know someone else is out there.

The ride started with a nice loop through some rolling hills out to Tiburon, which was most likely included in the route to bump the mileage up to the correct distance. No harm in that! From there, we rejoined roads that have quickly become familiar. But let me show you the elevation map, to give you some sense of things:

You can see the rolling hills in the beginning, up until somewhere around mile 20. The big spike past all that (mile 25-ish), plus the subsequent spike near mile 40 are two hills that bracket a lovely stretch of road that passes through Samuel P. Taylor State Park. I experience somewhat mixed emotions along this section, however, because that's the area where S and I wound up riding 15 bonus miles during the February 200k. So I enjoy the redwoods and smooth pavement, but also feel a slight twinge of panic.

This time, we didn't have to make any turns, and by shortly after 11 am, we found ourselves among the hordes of cyclists at Point Reyes Station. People were out in full force on their Saturday training rides. Time for bakery stop number one, Bovine Bakery. I devoured a slice of quiche and most of a giant raspberry scone wedge.

Then it was time to wind along Highway 1 and on up for the second stop at Tomales Bakery. I wasn't feeling especially hungry, but got a lemon bar and stuck it in my trunk bag as a snack for later. The Tomales Bakery also appeared to be popular with cyclists, to judge by the crowd outside.

Tomales Bakery

I also discovered that the "NOT A BANK" wifi network that my phone had detected during S's and my impromptu visit to the Continental Inn must have come from the bank-shaped building next door to the Continental Inn, which had a large "NOT A BANK" sign up at the top, about where one might expect to see the name of a bank. Another B&B, apparently.

Not A Bank
The center building, here.

From Tomales, it was time to face that fateful stretch of road again, the section between Valley Ford and Tomales where the state trooper had pulled us over on the 300k because the conditions were too gnarly. In the elevation map, you'll notice five spikes between miles 60 and 80. Those hills. Those are the ones that we struggled up in the dark, in that wild storm, where things got so bad that S had to pause and take a break, panting, halfway up the hill.

They took some work this time, but weren't so bad, really, with sunny skies and only a faint breeze. And at the turnaround point, another bakery!

I was feeling ambivalent about baked goods at this stage, but to my delight, this bakery also sold beautiful loaves of artisanal bread. I picked up a loaf of rosemary-garlic bread because it reminded me of S and his loaf of rosemary bread he won't stop talking about, and of all the other times that he and I have been out on brevets and have picked up amusing food items to haul home.

Then we turned our noses around for the return stretch.

We skipped the Tomales Bakery on the return. It wasn't a control and neither of us wanted more baked goods at that moment. Instead we just carried along until we got all the way back to Point Reyes Station. Somehow, by then found I had a renewed appetite for another baked good, this time a peanut butter bar washed down with a carton of chocolate milk. Refortified, I tackled the first climb on Sir Francis Drake, then the second one, and even that last hilly bit up and over Camino Alto to the end.

Finish at Safeway, Mill Valley
The End

For me, it was a fast 200k, clocking in at 10 hours and 25 minutes, despite the leisurely bakery stops. Hopefully R enjoyed the pace, too, which gave him plenty of time to look around while I huffed and puffed my way up the hills.

Regardless, it was a relief to finish out the R-12 series. What an adventure it has been!


rebeccmeister: (Default)

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