Saturday, October 2, 2010

Buddhist Bicycle Pilgrimage 2010--Day 1

Buddhist Bicycle Pilgrimage (BBP) is a supported cycling event in the Bay Area that starts in Woodacre (near Fairfax) and ends in Redwood Valley (near Ukiah). The event takes participants, or pilgrims, to 4 area Buddhist centers--Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, Sae Tae Win Center in Graton, City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Talmage, and Abhayagiri Monastery in Redwood Valley. The pilgrims ride through the back roads of Marin and Sonoma Counties to get to the KOA Campground in Asti on the first day (~ 84 miles) and then from the campground to Abhyagiri Monastery with a lunch stop at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (~ 56 miles on the second day). Dennis Crean started the event in 2002; living then in Berkeley, Crean, an avid cyclist, wanted to ride to Abhayagiri Monastery where he is a devotee. He announced to his friends and many ended up taking the journey together. He planned the whole event and rode the distance himself. A non-profit organization was later founded to carry on the annual event.

The route has had slight variation through the years. In the first 5 editions, the event traveled to Valley Ford, then follows Bohemian Highway through Freestone and Occidental to Guerneville on the Russian River. Since 2007, BBP added an additional center Sae Tae Win to visit and travels through Graton and Sebastopol before crossing the Russian River and rejoining the previous route on Westside Road. The change of route reduces the total distance on Day 1 from 96 miles to 84 miles.

Another detour took place a couple of times in the earlier editions and then was adopted again in 2010. After lunch on the second day at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, the route goes north on Sanford Ranch Road, then goes uphill on Knob Hill Road before going across the ridge on Watson Road to connect to Vichy Springs Road and rejoins the old route. This 2010 route change avoids bridge retrofitting work taking place on Talmage Road.

I have participated in every edition of the pilgrimage--8 times as a rider, and 1 time as a SAG (support and gear) volunteer when I broke my arm on a training ride before the second edition of the event in 2003. This year I thought about doing something a little different. I wanted to help with meal preparation in the kitchen at the campground and possibly with rider check-in, but I still want to ride the route. So I decided to get up early and start my day from Spirit Rock at 5:15am, 2 hours and 45 minutes earlier than the group. This way I can get to the campground by 1pm and lend my hand in the kitchen.

I was planning on taking my Kogswell P/R, which has a generator wheel and an attached high-brightness LED front light. However, the long front VO Zeplin fender on the Kogswell prevents it from sitting on normal car-roof bike rack that requires removal of front wheel. Since my ride, long time BBP supporter and past coordinator Judi Garland, has one of these roof racks, I decided to take my unfendered Rawland Sogn and use Dinotte battery-powered front light instead. The Sogn is equipped with a Nitto M-12 front rack and a VO Campagne boxy bag, which is large enough for my supplies on this solo, unsupported ride.

I woke up at approximately 3:30AM, packed up 8 energy bars, made a Tofu and an almond-butter-jelly sandwich, filled up my water bottles, and packed them up in the front bag along with a map, a tube of sunscreen, armwarmers, and my camera. I'd dropped my camping gears and change of clothes for the weekend at Judi's the night before. M. woke up and dropped me off at Spirit Rock. She'd have done this with me, except she needed to visit her folks in South Carolina. I checked everything, said goodbye to M., and began rolling at 5:20AM. Volunteers for the event began rolling in just as I was departing. The gear truck for riders' gears was already there. The riders wouldn't begin to arrive for at least another 40 minutes.

The Dinotte light worked exceptionally well--maybe too much so at first. It was mounted on my handlebar, and I am somewhat blinded beyond where the light was illuminating on the ground, even though it was still close to full moon and it was fairly bright outside. After about 30 minutes the battery was slightly weaker and the brightness was less blinding. It was a bit chilly out, especially in the woods in Nicasio. I was wearing two mesh cycling shirt (short sleeves) and a pair of arm-warmers, and had Rivendell's MUSA cycling knickers on. The Sogn ate up the miles effortlessly. I rolled through Nicasio, and turned on Pt-Reyes-Petaluma Road. Marin cheese factory was my first stop after a decent climb. I topped off my bottles, took some pictures, and continued. Hicks Valley Road was the next turn, and leads me to a turn on Wilson Hill Road, the most challenging hill on the route, except for the monster leading to the campground at the end.

I climbed mostly off the saddle to the top. At this point it was getting bright, and I took some time to snap a couple of pictures and made a call to M to tell her I am OK. The downhill on the other side was exhilarating--I put on a pair of worn fatty rumpkins tires (approximately 4000 miles) on the Sogn to replace the new Fatty Rumpkins the day before. (your read that right) These tires are pretty thick and the new ones are pretty loud when they are rolling on pavement. After 4000 miles, they actually become very supple and smoother tires on pavement. On this occasion, they still grip the pavement well on this fast descent. The turn on Chileno Valley Road was next.

Chileno Valley is a 8-9-mile stretch with many cattle ranches along the way. The cows were just waking up at this point and were already foraging. On several occasions young curious calves galloped along the fences, following a biped on a bicycle. I stopped to apply sunscreen lotion, and several young calves across the street inched toward the fence while I wasn't looking--curious probably. But when I stepped closer, they dispersed quickly, not knowing that I just wanted to say hi, and I am a vegan.

I got to Two Rock Church just as Waves to Wine folks began to set up. This year the BBP shared this stop site with Waves to Wine, another supported cycling event that's a lot bigger. I used the porta-john and got on my way.

The route took me on Valley Ford, then moved toward Sebastopol on quiet country roads lined with vineyards, orchards, and quaint country houses. I stopped at a regional park that had many children playing their saturday soccer matches. The weather was still cool, so I pushed on. I followed the route marker Paul Ries put down several days ago through this stretch of many turns. Soon I was in Graton, where all the other pilgrims would later stop to have lunch and listen to a Dharma talk.

I did not stop by Sae Tae Win and rode straight through Graton. I also wanted to check out this bike path that starts in town and connects to another portion of the West County Bike Trails that is on the route. Sonoma County has some amazing bike trails that really take you places. The trail head was clearly marked, and it started out with a wooden bridge, then a hard packed dirt section ensues. With the Sogn, it was fun to ride unpaved for a while. I followed the trails to Forestville, then proceeded to River Road and Wohler Road toward the russian river.

I stopped at the bridge crossing the river because there was a nice shade, and took out the tofu and almond-butter-jelly sandwiches I made this morning. The bridge is narrow and cars waited for each other to cross first. After "lunch" i marched on, and after the bridge I got onto Westside road, which means I was less than 10 miles away from Healdsburg. Westside road is very scenic and is undulating in nature. I stayed on the big chainring (50t) as I have done most of the day, and tried to time my effort correctly as to leverage the downhill as much as possible. Westside road also is shaded in large stretches, so even though it was close to noon I was not exposed too much to the sun and the heat. I passed through vinegard after vinegard, and 9 miles went away quickly.

I thought about stopping in Healdsburg to get find a cool drink and use the facility, as I would have 17 miles to ride from Healdsburg. I instead opted to stay on course (and turned onto west dry creek road) to get my drinks at the Dry Creek General Store 4 miles down the road. West Dry Creek Road is also a scenic country road but has less rolling hills than Westside Road. Quickly I got to Lambert Bridge Road, which took me to Dry Creek Store.

I have been eating energy bars all day, and chowed down two dry sandwiches that I made myself in the morning. I wasn't particularly hungry, but wanted a cold fizzy drink and to sit down and let my legs rest a little. I grabbed a sparkling lemonade, a iced soy chai in a carton, and a bottle of water from the fridge and paid for them. The fizzy lemonade hit a spot. It tasted like bitter lemon that I was very fond of when I visited London 4 years ago but couldn't find here in the States. The soy chai was ok, but served well as quick calories. I sat there for a while and rested a bit, and got on the road to finish the last stretch for the day.

From Dry Creek Store to the campground is 12 miles. It started with a 4 mile stretch on Dry Creek Road, then gentle climb and descend on Canyon Road, and finally an exposed stretch of 5 miles on Geyserville Road. At close to 1PM the air temperature is getting above 85 degrees, but the pavement wasn't that hot yet. I stopped in a rare shady spot on Geyserville Road to take a breather, then marched one. Finally, Washington School Street showed up and I hung a right, and after a fast downhill, followed by some packed dirt road and a bridge to cross a creek, I am on River Road and ready to climb the monster hill to get to the campground.

The last hill is not quite 1 mile long, but is a switched-back climb that has steep pitches. It seemed to go on forever! I have climbed it many times, but it never gets easy. I got down to 36x32T and ground my way up the hill. Finally the gradient eased out and I rolled downhill into KOA.

I jumped into the kitchen and chopped fruit for two hours, then helped Judi with checking riders in and a few other loose ends. Riders began to trickle in after 4:20PM, 3 hours after I arrived. By that time I have showered and felt comfortable. The evening festivities ensued.

It was a great day of riding. Even though i had to start early, the morning cool weather really helped me stayed fresh most of the way. It's the longest I have ridden since the SFR 115k Populaire in July, and I felt good--didn't cramp up, which is usually my body's indication that I didn't train enough. I would get up next morning and ride another 56 miles. Which I will leave to describe in another entry