I seem to have a problem with these Yellowjackets BART rides. Must have something to do with not taking BART. This time, I was five minutes down the road to Union City when I realized I forgot my shoes. What a dumb ass! I really need to post a cycling checklist on my door so I can make sure that I have everything I need before I head out the door.
So I had to turn around, head home and grab the shoes. I hustled down south to Union City, but by the time I got there, not a single rider remained. By the time I geared up, I was way, way behind. Lucky for me there was a good tailwind on the first long stretch and I put in huge turn to catch up. Within a few miles, I passed 3 riders on the side of the road fixing a flat. At 5 and a half miles, I passed our president, Al. Great guy. Not a very fast rider. At 8 miles, I was thick in the middle of the Light riders where I stayed until the rest stop regroup where I joined up with the Advanced riders.
It was actually a nice change of pace for me as I was cruising along at a slow enough pace to chat with another club rider, Leslie, who I hadn’t met before. Normally we’re riding so hard, there isn’t much conversation on the bike. Leslie and I rode together over the Dumbarton Bridge, one of the few bridges in the Bay Area you cross on bike, and into Menlo Park.
It was a beautiful day. We were in cycling heaven in the Peninsula. The sun was shining. The skies were blue. The road was well paved and the bike path was wide. We started to head up Sand Hill Road and there were hundreds of riders coming down the hill. They were everywhere. Awesome!
It was really easy climb up Sand Hill Rd. to Portola Valley where we had a nice long lunch break at Robert’s Market, a place so new they didn’t even have a sign on building. But they did have cheese (and ice cold Gatorade) and we’re nice enough to fill one of my water bottles full of ice. All the talk at the break was about the Tour de France.
Since I didn’t make it last weekend, I decided I needed to tackle Palomares today. I had planned to get going at 6 because I didn’t want the ride to kill my day and I thought it was going to be incredibly hot so best to get the ride out of the way before the heat of the day, but it didn’t work out, and I left at 8, as usual.
I also wasn’t going to do the exact ride because instead of coming from Oakland, I was already on the east side of the hills in Walnut Creek. I’d head down to Pleasanton via Danville and San Ramon and pick up the route there.
It was a seriously overcast morning, which really worked to my advantage. The cloud cover providing shelter from the strength-sapping sun. I headed south on Danville Rd. through Danville where preparations were under way for the 4th of July parade. Lots of people parked by the side of the road even though the parade was more than 90 minutes from the starting. There were floats lined up, a contingent of marines with a Blackhawk and lots and lots bunting and flags. Danville is as close as we get to middle America in the Bay Area. Well, it’s a rich middle America, but almost seemed trapped in the 50s with a few ferraris here and there.
I was cruising. There was a slight headwind, but it was mostly downhill to Pleasanton. I did the 16.36 miles in the first hour. But it was boring. Danville Blvd. and San Ramon Valley Rd. are less than inspiring. But then the route changed dramatically at Foothill Rd, 8.5 miles of winding ribbon down to Sunol.
It was still overcast when I got to Sunol, a nothing whistlestop of a town with a train station and a couple of businesses. I stopped to fuel up and take some pictures.
Saturday’s ride started out great. It really did. We left Lake Merritt around 8:20 heading up into the hills for a 72 mile ride that would take us south all the way to Sunol and back. It was nice and cool. Very foggy around the lake and the hills. Perfect weather for climbing. It was a big group, over 100 riders if I had to guess. But it turned sour so quickly.
About 20 miles into the ride, I was feeling great. The sun was starting to peek out from behind the clouds, but it was still coolish. We were ascending the last part of the climb up Redwood Road before the descent into Castro Valley. Then my back tire started feeling sluggish and looked down. It was flat. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck!!!! After last week’s ride, this was the last thing I needed.
I pulled over resigned my fate. Took the wheel off, got the tube out and started to work on replacing it while riders left me in the dust (literally) by the side of the road. This was the first time I changed a tube on my own and I made a nighmarish hash out of it. I accidentally took the tire off the rim completely. It wasn’t that big of deal, but it just added to the time it took me to get back on the road, which was about 30 minutes.
By the time I was ready to roll again my hands were covered in chain grease and (as I found out) there was only one club rider behind me. I was exhausted from wrestling with the tire and just wanted to get the hell out of there. I continued to climb and caught up with Erin, who I found out, is married to Ray who I met last week in San Jose. She told me that Ray was well behind us, which turned out to be lucky for me.
I rode with Erin up over the summit and on the start of the descent until I realized that I forgot to tighten my back break (big mistake) and had to stop. After I tightened it, I was feverishly trying to catch up to her when I heard something funny from the back tire (never good when you’re going 35+ miles an hour) and then a loud POP! like a gun being a shot – a BLOWOUT!!. A mutherfucking BLOWOUT!
I got to the top of the ride, at the Oakland Mormon Temple, took out my camera to take a shot of the hazy skyline below—there have been fires raging all week since the electrical storms over the weekend started hundreds of wildfires—and I realized I forgot to put the battery back in. I probably shouldn’t have been riding, but other than the haze (and the all the particulants in the air) it was a nice day.
Ride Time 1:57:09
Max Speed 33.8
Average Cadence –
Here’s the route map:
This week’s ride with the Yellowjackets was up in Sonoma, one of the infrequent, “Away” rides. I wasn’t feeling great on Friday night. It was a long week at work. I stayed up way to late and the cats woke me up at 6am. By Friday, i was exhausted. I just wanted to sleep and sleep long. But I wanted to do this ride, so I sucked it up.
The event was a potluck, so not only would I have to get up early, I had to find the time to put together my side dish, feta and cherry tomato salad with basil and parsley. Very simple dish, seasoned only with salt and pepper and a very light dressing of olive oil and champagne vinegar. It’s simple, but time consuming. I got it done before I hit the sack and it’s damn good thing, because like usual, I was running late and barely made the meet up place in time to get a lift to Lake Sonoma.
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.
It’s official. I’m now a Yellowjacket I’ve been wanting to the join the Oakland cycling club for a while, ever since I bought my road bike, but have put it off for many reasons, mostly lethargy and, well, the ski season. The ski season is over, the sun is shinning and I need people to ride with to get me out on the road consistently, so I plunked down my 30 bikes and I’m now a member of the club.
The group is much different than I thought. In my warped mind, cycling is a very homogenous sport, but not with the Yellowjackets. It’s a very diverse group. Young and old, although mostly older than me. Men and women, although mostly men. Black and white. Straight and gay. Skilled and novice.
The group rides at 8am every Saturday with routes designed for all levels. Most of the rides leave from Lake Merritt in Oakland (about 2 miles from my place), but there are also routes that start from BART stations around the Bay Area and some that require a little drive, like next weekend’s roll around Sonoma. Here’s the ride calendar on the club’s impressively up to date website.