Out to the Lighthouse

Jay and Aaron enjoying the view

The sun shone. At Pt. Reyes Lightouse. The last time I visited there, I drove out with my wife and we both felt like we were on Mars, but with cows. Howling wind, thick fog, rain, mud, farm animal deposits – we took it to be a remarkably strange place. Years later, a hike out to the Mizen Head Lightouse in County Cork reminded us of the curious wonder that is Pt. Reyes. But climbing up the last pitch up to the lighthouse on the San Francisco Randonneurs Pt. Reyes Lightouse 200k on Saturday brought its own glimmering peculiarity: clear skies, a crisp view of the crashing waves and the blue ocean, and the sun shining down on one’s beaten brow as if it was mid-summer.

Although the conditions out at the point were rare, the esprit de corps of SFR remains constant. I made two SFR events last year: Two Rock/Valley Ford 200K and the summer Popularie. When the 2011 season was scheduled, I made sure the Pt. Reyes route was on my calendar. My brother Tavio and I just made it inside the 150-rider limit and drove 500 miles with a car full of bikes on Thursday. Before the ride, we climbed Mt. Tam, hit the record stores and bookstores on Telegraph in Berkeley, ate quite well at some of my favorite spots, and strategized for the ride. Neither of us had ridden much lately, so we figured this would be a baptism of fire, especially for my brother who was a brevet virgin.

Blues and African records on College Ave.

We arrived at the start around 6:30am, my brother atop his Romulus, and I on the Ebisu. Tavio came as the commuter he is – shorts, messenger bag, no bottle mounts, no socks, a helmet from the 70s. I came ready for my second brevet season – custom bike, Zugster bag, wool, and cycling shoes. We both finished tired and happy, and at the same time. Go figure.

There was a very large group at the start, and I saw many familiar faces and greeted friends – I wish I could ride the whole season with SFR. We took our pledge and were off. The bridge was clear and the glow of the rising sun sharpened the outlines of the buildings in the Financial District.

Crossing the bridge.

Randonneurs heading down into Sausalito.

Franklyn on the path

Brothers rolling along

The course took us up and over Camino Alto (one of my favorite climbs) and through the towns of the Ross Valley, up White’s Hill and down to Olema where you catch Sir Frances Drake. As we dropped into Olema, I caught a glimps of Druids Hall to the left, where we spent New Year’s Eve. I though a lot about my family on this stretch, my kids and my parents and the special time we shared in Olema. And here I was riding with my little brother – pretty good stuff.

Bradley and I, represented by Ebisus in Inverness

Heading toward "No Name Road"

Then onto Bear Valley Road and toward the lighthouse on “No Name Road.” I was feeling great and my brother and I traded places out front. After a long steady downhill, the work started as we rolled on. As we approached the lighthouse, there were a few especially steep pitches. On the last one, I looked back at the top and cheered my brother on. There were plenty or riders at the control. I filled my bottles and waited while my Tavio took an unannounced 20-minute walk to talk shop with park rangers. While waiting, I saw Franklyn come in, and he was doing great. As we left, my front fender began rubbing. After a few stops and adjustments, I finally let some air out of the tire and solved the problem. From this point on, I felt fantastic, climbing out with gusto.

Lots of spectators.

Tavio making it up the last pitch to the lighthouse.

Riding through Pt. Reyes Station, I couldn’t help but stop at Bovine Bakery and partake in a real-food lunch: veggie pizza, soup, and Mexican Coke. We saw Franck coming back from Marshall and he gave us the lay of the land as a preview. Tavio and I were both in good spirits, although tired. We set out to Marshall, which seemed farther than I expected. The rollers felt like work as my brother and I traded places pulling. We arrived to Marshall to the smell of oysters. After punching our cards, we headed back, but this time the rollers were exhilarating. Tavio and I charged hard up and down the hills, usually with a sharp turn at the bottom. This was by far my favorite part of the ride.


Photo by One Happy Cog

From here out, it was rather simple and glorious on Nicasio Valley Road, skirting the reservoir, through forests and towns. I kept Tavio abreast of the climbing: “4 more climbs…3 more…” We made it to the bridge in time to see what was left of a stunningly clear sunset at the Gate. We made the finish in about 11 hours, to applause and familiar faces. Tavio felt good, and I felt fantastic, although we were both beat. The Romulus performed perfectly for my brother, and he testified to his messenger bag feeling fine. He’ll use bottle cages next time, though.

The Ebisu did as it was designed to do – I’ve never had a brevet where the bike was in a rhythm like this. Call it planning or whatever, but I was able to get in a really good place on climbs – especially moderate climbs. The 48/30 was fun to captain, and I was able to anticipate downshifts and upshifts early on. I got some chainsuck early, too, but had it figured out soon enough. It was a nice way to break the bike in.

Long shadows in the late afternoon.

This was a glorious course. Highly recommended, and worth the trip. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to travel up again this spring or summer, but I hope its not too far off.



  1. Chris

    well, at least you did your duty and stopped at the Bovine! I LOVE that place and is a must stop when I get out that way or sometimes that IS the destination…

    Nice pics as always!


  2. Rob Perks

    Looks like a sweet ride, double cool that you were able to ride with your Brother. I am putting this on the calendar for next year. Your reports of completeing these rides gives the rest of us hope.

  3. ron hampel

    That was a nice story, Esteban. I’d really like to do some longer rides on the coast either here, in Oregon, or down in California. Perhaps, some day when I get my own Ebisu!

  4. Susan McGraw

    You guys are awsome!!! What a great ride and thank you for sharing it. I really enjoyed reading all about it. Your narrative was so good I could almost feel the wind at my back and taste the saltly air.

  5. Errin

    Great report Esteban! That’s really cool that you were able to share it with your brother too. I was just telling my wife about your rides up to Pt. Reyes and how I’d like to go up there for one. We have family up there too, so I should plan one soon.

    Thanks for sharing!


  6. Steve Zavestoski

    What a great read. Thanks for sharing. I was on the brevet but cannot really call myself a randonneur (as I rode on a traditional road bike and wore spandex!). You and Tavio rode the lighthouse 200k in true randonneur style. Way to go. Come back for the Russian River 300k. The scenery rivals and perhaps exceeds that of the lighthouse brevet. Lastly, check out a book called “The Rider,” by Tim Krabbe (translated from Dutch by Sam Garrett). The book is the author’s stream-of-consciousness during an amateur bike race. He talks about how some training days he feels he is fighting his bike, while at other times he feels one with the bike. Your mention of being in rhythm with the bike reminded of this. Cheers. –Steve

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