My first ride with the Yellowjackets was the 40+ mile Arlington Avenue loop.
There were about 100 riders ready to go at Lake Merritt around 8am. I handed in my membership application and check (30 dollar annual fee) and saddled up. Riders went out in three waves, Advanced, Intermediate and Beginner (roughly). I went with the middle group and it was a good choice. We didn’t see the advanced guys again. They must have been hauling ass.
The route heads north, goes about a block past my house and heads up into the Berkeley hills by way of Arlington Avenue which I had ridden early in the week. This time, it seemed tougher. Maybe it was just the pressure of riding with the group and staying at someone else’s pace rather than my own. We rested at the stop where I had turned around on the earlier ride and waited for everyone to catch up and catch their breath.
The sun was coming out, but there was still a chill in the air. I was glad for the sleeves. When the group reformed, we headed down the hill. One word describes the descent: Steepness. I was thankful we didn’t climb up that, but the descent was harrowing. I hit my personal best top speed at 32 MPH on the winding road down to Highway 80. We took a right and headed north to San Pablo and took another break at a gas station at about the 20 mile mark.
That’s where I started talking to David and Maurizio, a couple who are in training for the AIDS Lifecycle. The Lifecycle is a seven day ride from SF to LA. I’d love to do it, but I can’t take the days off. I’m not sure if I could raise the $2500 needed to participate either. That’s more than 10 times what I had to raise for the Tour de Cure. Anyway, perhaps another year.
David had full tattoo sleeves on both arms so I was bit taken aback when he told me was a minister. I was speechless and felt like an idiot. It’s hard for an avowed atheist to talk to a man of the cloth and not feel a little awkward. I told him I was a born-again atheist and he said he was too, which made me like him right away.
The sun was now out in full force. I put my sleeves away and lathered on the sunblock. The group ride sort of broke up at the gas station. Many riders needed a longer break, so David, Maurizio and I hit San Pablo Dam Road together. San Pablo Dam Road is long, mostly uphill street to Orinda, but the climb is very gradual and it’s no problem to make Orinda. There’s a nice bike path on the side which allows you to ride side by side, which is great for chatting.
In Orinda, the road kicks up past Highway 24 and into the hills towards Moraga. Maurizio and David pulled off the road at some nursery to take a break and I continued through the stiff headwind that made me fell like I was riding through molasses. Of course, at this point, 30 miles in, I was starting to feel a little fatigued.
I didn’t bring the route map with me. I figured I’d be riding along with the group and wouldn’t need it. I was right up to point and that point was on the way to Moraga. I was following some riders, but it turned out they weren’t in the Yellowjackets. Then I found myself in a place that looked like the middle of nowhere wtih no other riders around me. I thought I must have gone to far, missed a turn off. I really didn’t know, but I was bummed. I pulled out my phone which has Google Maps on it, but I couldn’t get the map to download. I waited 10 minutes. Right when I was about to turn around and try to find my way over the hills back to Oakland, a slew of club riders swept by me. Such a relief.
Back on the bike, I caught up with this group and followed them to the next rest stop, another gas station, this time in downtown Moraga. I was spent, go I grabbed a Cliff Bar, but that wasn’t enough so I sucked down a Java Monster.
I needed it, because right after lunch, we hit Pinehurt (AKA Painhurst), a 4 mile climb up to the Skyline ridge that would lead us back down to Lake Merriitt. 4 miles uphill at and ever increasing grade is painful. I was sucking wind by the time I got to the top, but I made it. Felt really good. There was a group of about 10 riders, the elite of the intermediate group that gathered at the top for the descent back down to Oakland.
Sheppard Canyon is super steep. The descent is a knee-shaker because it’s full of hairpin turns and the road quality isn’t that great. But there were no accidents, just white knuckles and cramping hands from hammering on the breaks. The Canyon drops down into Montclair where we pick up Park and then Trestle Glenn and then Lake Shore and then once around the lake and then we’re done.
Ride Time 3:20:36
Max Speed 32
Here’s the ride profile (the first climb is Arlington and the one at the end is Pinehurst):
NEXT WEEK: Lake Sonoma