When Driving 500 Miles is Worth It: SFR Populaire 2010

Jim, Gino, Myself, Greg. Photo by juicyrai

So… I’ve spent a lot of time on Interstate 5 this year. I don’t drive on it regularly – I probably log more miles passing under it on my bike than driving on top of it during a given week. But my in-laws are in the Bay Area and we’ve always headed up there to visit over the last 17 years – even more so with the kids in tow to see grandparents. Over the last few years, I’ve taken a bike or two for trips north and have made some friends who’ve shown me trails and routes that I wouldn’t have otherwise found.

Earlier this year, the family planned to spend some time in San Francisco in July, and I put the San Francisco Randonneurs 115K Pt. Reyes Populaire firmly on my schedule. So when we pushed our trip back a month, I was still jonesing to do the ride. 70+ miles seems like a short ride to drive 8 hours each way, but I made the quick weekend trip for some lovely scenery, fantastic riding, hanging with some friends, and participating for the second time in an SFR event!

San Francisco Randonneurs includes quite a lot of people who seem to relish the ride instead of rushing through it. The Populaire was designed as something of an “introductory” course for first-time randonneurs, and as another opportunity to ride a nice course with good people for seasoned veterans. I noticed many familiar faces among the veteranos (and a handful of Paris-Brest-Paris jerseys) from the Two Rock/Valley Ford ride I did earlier in the year as RBA Rob Hawks made introductory remarks and administered our pledge to “not do anything stupid.” When he asked a show of hands for first-time rando riders, nearly half the group of about 140 riders seemed to acknowledge their rookie effort. With a lot of commuters, city riders, and at least two children as part of the group, the morning felt quite special. My photos are here.

JimG, Lee, Nathan, Franklyn and I had exchanged emails months ago about doing the ride, but I didn’t confirm as I rushed up north. I parked at the Sports Basement and headed up to the Strauss Statue for the riders meeting. I heard my name from behind and found Jim heading up for the start. Once we got up there, I finally met John, who was checking in “A-L,” Ron, Clayton, and Gino. I found Franklyn, and said hello to William, Gabe, Melissa, Meli (a quick hello), Rob, and some other folks.

We started off on the now-familiar route to Pt. Reyes – over the bridge, through the Marin towns, up White’s Hill, etc. Everyone seemed to be completely enjoying themselves as we had visions of scones and coffee from Bovine Bakery dancing in our heads. I followed Gino onto the dirt section of the Cross-Marin Trail, which I initially didn’t see on the cue sheet. Rob said it was OK to take that route, as the road is in poor condition. We bombed through the dirt, with Gino on his Rock Lobster cross bike (shod in Jack Brown Greens) and Jim on his Kogswell with, I believe, Paselas 32s, and I on my Protovelo with 42mm Hetres. This was big fun, and when we stopped at a bathroom, I met Al, who rode behind us on his vintage Shogun with 23mm tires. He remarked “I followed the wrong group” with a smile, but he bombed through nonetheless.

Rob leading the rider's meeting

Jim & Gabe chatting in Sausalito

We headed down to Olema and to Pt. Reyes Station. This was no “quick control” stop. Every rider, it seemed, sat down, enjoyed coffee, food, lingered, and chatted. It gave a lot of us a chance to check out the 70s-era Rene Herse on the ride. Quite a beautiful machine.

Rene Herse

Franklyn arrived and told the story of how he lost his chain, and needed to remove his chainrings in order to make the repair. He was in good spirits. We followed a tandem down to Nicasio, but I couldn’t hold on for long. This is such a beautiful route – lots to see and enjoy.

Jim, Gino, Franklyn, myself, Al, etc...Following the tandem

JimG along Nicasio Reservior

When we arrived back at Chrissy Field, a picnic awaited, and many of us lingered. There were a lot of fantastic bikes to check out, for sure. Was it worth the drive? Absolutely. I hope to make the Winters 200K in October if I don’t do the PCH 600K on the same day. The Protovelo had Nitto 135 Rando bars & an 8mm stem, which felt fantastic.

William completing the ride on the Ebisu

The Protovelo... happy to be riding it again.

Just to make the trip even more worth it, I took the Rawland up and down Mt. Tamalpias’ East Peak via the Railroad Grade. The climbing was fun, and the ramble down the hill on those fat tires was a gas.

Rawland & redwoods



    • Esteban

      Yea – pretty darn fun day. I’m crossing my fingers that everything works out for Oct. It would be a gas.

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