Bike rides are piling up faster than I can write about them.
I remember this dilemma from writing: every experience has so many facets. How do you choose the most salient ones, and lavish your energy on them and not the others?
What were those thoughts you were having on your bike?, you ask yourself. They were so vivid, so urgent, so pure.
Yesterday we took a 70-mile ride with the GPC. The first 50 miles were a group ride in Alameda, and the last 20 were the two of us returning home via Redwood, north and west over the hill and back to Berkeley. The ostensible purpose of this adventure, and of last weekend’s long ride, was to see whether I’m ready to really consider something tempting but crazy—to ride in the San Francisco Randonneurs’ Winters 200k next weekend. The distance is almost certainly too long for me. I haven’t ridden 100 miles yet, 70 is a challenge, and 126 would probably be just foolhardy. Yet I am infected with Randonneur-itis, an infection all the more powerful because I don’t fully understand the reasons for it yet. This brevet would be the last of their events I would be able to do until the season starts up again next year. I’m told the course is pretty flat.
Today, my legs are sore. Yesterday, I felt exhausted by the end of the ride. Too exhausted to go home by the steeper, longer route of Pinehurst. I bonked a little in the last segment, and while I want to blame it on Sports Drink Fail (we mixed too much sports drink powder into our water in Castro Valley, resulting in something that tasted like bilge and felt more dehydrating than the opposite), I think a good part of the truth is that I was simply exhausted.
Maybe 70-ish miles is just my upper reach right now. Or maybe, with smarter nutrition and hydration, on an easier course, I’d be amazed what kind of mileage I can make happen. I’m going to think about it for a day or two.
The ride yesterday took us through the Southern Alameda hills, from the Fremont BART station, up a famously aggravating hill called Calaveras, through about 15 miles of beautiful rolling hills to the west of the Calaveras Reservoir, through the tiny town of Sunol, and up a long (but, for whatever reason, satisfying to me that day*) hill called Palomares.
Then our little group—two men and six women, a highly unusual ratio for a group ride in my experience, and very welcome for a change—discovered that the pizza joint where we’d been planning to eat lunch after our 50-mile excursion had closed for good. We found a Mexican restaurant instead, a cavernous place where they let us sit on their patio and keep an eye on our herd of bikes through the wrought-iron fence.
One thing I’m secretly fond of about these rides is the strip malls in which they often start and end up. They remind me of the place where I grew up. To my surprise (in my family, “strip mall” was an epithet, a symbol for everything we were against and did not value), the echo that they offer of home and of childhood is comforting. The Ross Dress For Lesses and the Trader Joes, the chain coffee stores and the occasional ethnic restaurant or cafe trying its best to create something unique in these aseptic spaces. I spent years trotting after my mom in shopping centers like these, dawdling, daydreaming, fondling products, checking myself out in striated plate glass windows. Maybe they make me feel protected and prepared. I know how to interact with a strip mall.