Sunday, October 7, 2012

Buddhist Bicycle Pilgrimage 2012 Edition: Day 2

I woke up sunday morning and went to have brunch with the same friends I had dinner with last night. It was a busy weekend at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, a Buddhist campus where I work part of the week. A group of Humboldt State University students were making their semiannual visit; a well-respected community member passed away recently and his family was doing a service on campus that day. And of course, the pilgrims on the Buddhist Bicycle Pilgrimage would arrive later on this day. I decided to ride all the way here on day 1 instead of staying with the group at KOA in Asti so I could help to prepare to greet the pilgrims and make sure their program--including a sit-down meal--would go without a hitch.

First two riders to arrive at CTTB on day 2
I got some colleagues to communicate with the kitchen and the assembly hall to confirm the schedule. Scott, who has driven the gear truck for many years of the pilgrimage showed up first. After he unloaded "modesty attires" from the truck we stood on the curb outside the gate for a while. Heidi, whom I have known since the first edition of the pilgrimage, showed up next as she was assigned to help me set up the meals later. It won't be until slightly past 10AM when the first two riders showed up. 10 minutes later, other riders and some volunteer-driven vehicles began to string in. I helped to get them settle down, and gathered them together. Soon, Rev. Heng Sure, who was giving the talk to the group today, came and led a big group of them to the assembly hall for a short tour and a talk. As more pilgrims came in, I directed them toward the assembly hall to join the group.

Dharma Talk inside the Main Hall
I walked in a little later to the hall to check in. I gently inform Rev. Heng Sure that he had 15 minutes left, then I walked with Heidi to the kitchen and began to transport food to the dining hall. The kitchen/restaurant staff had prepare plenty of very delicious vegetarian food for the group, complete with dessert and organic grape juice made from grapes grown in the vineyards on the ground. Soon the group, finished with the talk, came and enjoyed the meal. I waited for most of them to finish eating, then changed into riding gears, and left for Abhayagiri Monastery.

Bikes at the destination
Even though the temperature was noticeably higher than day 1, a light breeze made it fairly comfortable still. I rode through Ukiah toward the northern edge of the town. The day's last "hill" was on Eastside-Calpella Road connecting Ukiah to Redwood Valley. Before I hit the day's last rest stop at Lion's Park, I caught up with Rachel. We rode the last stretch, most of it under the shade of trees lining Tomki Road to Abhayagiri. Surprisingly, we were among the first to arrive, even though I left Talmage pretty late. After a refreshing shower, I chatted with many fellow pilgrims to compare notes on their experience. I had a great chat with good friend and veteran BBPer (including being the coordinator one year) Eileen how her non-riding participation this year (she coordinated the supply-and-gear cars) turned out to be a great experience. As more and more folks came up, the compound where we were to have the closing ceremony was abuzzed with folks happy that they have completely a wonderful journey.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Buddhist Bicycle Pilgrimage 2012 Edition: Day 1

Checking in the morning at Spirit Rock
Pilgrims Checking in at Spirit Rock
The Buddhist Bicycle Pilgrimage is a Bay Area weekend event that combines cycling and visit to Buddhist centers in the area. Dennis Crean started the event in 2002 and I have participated in it for all 11 times, and 10 times as a rider (though every year I helped out in coordinating some parts of the events). This year I didn't register for the event until a week before, but my participation was never in serious doubt. Lauren Van Ham, who began as a participant in 2007, served as the main coordinator. On Friday night before the weekend, I got my bike ready to go, and arranged for my carpool ride to Spirit Rock Meditation Center in the morning. I got up at 5AM, gathered my stuff, and headed to Spirit Rock.

Julie Wester leading the opening sit and talk
Opening Ceremony
Many folks were already there, putting stuff on the gear truck, dropping off food donation at the barn, and checking in with the folks at the assembly hall. Julie Wester, who was leading a silent retreat for women, opened the weekend with a short talk. After Lauren and Dennis gave some instructions for the weekend, we filed out of the hall to start the ride.

Sukho on Bridgestone
Sukho on his Bridgestone XO-2
A fellow came up to me as I was getting to hop on my bike. Sukho came with two friends from Portland, Oregon to participate in this event. He recognized me because he'd seen pictures of my Specialized Sequoia on the Internet. In fact, he came to know about the BBP through this blog. I was very happy to know that 1) someone actually reads my blog, and 2) that it was able to draw people this event. I wished him a good ride and then got on the road.

Riders at Cheese Factory
folks at Cheese Factory
The day started in Woodacre and inched its way toward lunch in Graton near Sebastopol. I rode with different folks at different time as we went on Nicasio Valley Road and Point Reyes-Petaluma Road to the first rest stop at Cheese Factory. I drafted behind a Santana Tandem for part of the stretch, and chatted with the stoker along the way.

Another santana tandem and a mountain bike
Drafting behind the Tandem
After Cheese Factory, I rode with another couple on a Santana Tandem on Hicks Valley Road and Wilson Hill Road. I caught up with friend and veteran BBPer Leon Sun on Chileno Valley Road. Leon missed the first rest stop, but we weren't far from the second rest stop at this point. We chatted all the way to Tomales-Petaluma Road, and Two Rock Church came up quickly on Spring Hill Road. A dozen of riders were there already.

Two Rock Church
Two Rock Church
After fueling up with some food and topped up my bottles, I got on the road again now heading toward Graton. It was close to 10AM when I left, and I was aiming to get to Sae Tae Win II in Graton before 11:30AM. Valley Ford is a wide road that often serves as a tunnel for wind blowing from the ocean. The relatively smooth pavement and flat profile makes it pleasant to ride even with a slight headwind. A right turn on Roblar gave me some respite from the wind (and the dung smell that came with it). The pavement was much more suspect on Roblar, but the scenery improved significantly on this slightly cloudy sunny morning. I rode mostly solo on this stretch and the following set of turns, zigzagging toward Sebastopol. You get lots of narrow vineyard roads, short stretches on some major county thoroughfares, and even a stretch on the beautiful West County Recreational Trail. On Ragle Road, I passed a beautiful soccer field in a county park where kids were out playing. Just before 11:30, I turned off the trail and entered Graton. I sat up and rolled leisurely to Sae Tae Win II Center for lunch.

Lunch Stop
Sae Tae Win II lunch stop
Lunch was simple and adequate, as many riders rolled in I chatted with folks, some familiar and many new. One of the major concerns for this year's event was the forecast of high temperatures (90's) in Sonoma County on both days. However, the fog lifted late and it was still relatively cool as I got ready to depart after listening to the talk given by a teacher at Sae Tae Win II. I didn't linger too long and wanted to take advantage of the cool weather as much as I could. I departed Sae Tae Win II with a new-comer to the BBP. Rachel found out about the ride on a Internet forum and signed up two weeks ago. As we were leaving, she asked about the route immediately out of the center and since I knew the route by heart, I asked her to tag along.

We chatted and rode north on another stretch of the West County Trail to Forestville, then rolled toward Russian River on River and Wholer Road. We crossed the river and turned east on Westside Road toward Healdsburg. As we chatted I found out that Rachel actually goes to the same Gym (Ironworks) as I do and attends the same spin classes. We stopped on Middleton Farm and rested some, then continued toward Cloverdale. West Dry Creek Road is one of my favorite roads in Sonoma County, and after cross the river on Lambert Bridge, we turned north on Dry Creek Road. It was approximately 2:45 at this point, and it was definitely getting hotter, but still quite bearable even with my long-sleeve base layer.

Shadow Panda on River Road
Shadow Panda on River Road
On Canyon Road toward Geyserville, I began to felt some fatigue. Even though we were less than 10 miles away from the campground, my plan for the day was to go all the way to City of Ten Thousand Buddhas as I wanted extra time in the morning on Sunday to prepare for the arrival of BBP. The water stop on Geyserville Road provided just the rest and refreshment I needed. I grabbed several extra energy bars for the additional distance, and rolled toward the campground with Rachel. We turned off on Washington School Road and crossed the river again. Soon, the bottom of the big hill before KOA Campground loomed before us. I waved Rachel goodbye and wished her a good evening with the group and continued toward Ukiah.

Riding on HWY 101
Riding on HWY 101
Now it was getting pretty warm, and even though I didn't feel hungry, my legs were telling me otherwise. I merged onto Geyser Road from River Road, then found a shady spot on the side of the road to take a rest. I made myself eat 2 energy bars, and drank a good portion of my remaining water. After resting for about 5 minutes, I rode on at a slightly reduced pace to recover some more. I turned right on HWY 101 and began the 9-mile stretch on the highway. The road had been repaved recently and the shoulder was wide pretty much the entire way and I felt pretty safe throughout. Mountains on the west provided much needed respite from the sun and the heat, and the occasional zooming-by of big rigs pulled me along like a vacuum cleaner. I stopped at the Rock Shop for a short rest, and dragged myself to Hopland with basically no water left.

Vineyard on Old River Road
Sunset View on Old River Road
I bought some drinks at a general store in Hopland, rested some, ate some more food, and continued on the last stretch to my destination. Now close to 6, even though the sun is still out, the temperature has begun to dip, especially on shady stretches of Old River Road. Usually I can power through the gentle rollers of this road with gusto, but with 100 miles in my legs I was contented to go at a reduced pace of 13-14 mph. My shadow grew longer and longer as I got closer to Talmage. The scenery of vineyards under the setting sun was extremely picturesque, though I was hesitant to stop too much as I was eager to get to my destination for a much deserved shower and dinner. The gate of City of Ten Thousand Buddhas appeared soon enough, and I rolled in slowly toward my cottage. I later joined some friends for dinner at Ellie's Mut Hut in Ukiah after taking a hot shower. I had a restful sleep all the way to dawn.

Spcialized Sequoia
Sequoia at CTTB

At the end of the day, my tally was 114 miles. I have never missed participating in this event since its inception, and my experience varied from year to year. Some years I wasn't physically ready and suffered some. Some years in extreme heat I dragged myself to the end of the day on both days. In the last couple of years I have been in good shape, and the relatively cool weather helped me to have physically pleasant two days on the bike. But every year I have always felt the great and warm energy from everyone participating in this year's event. This year especially I felt Lauren's great enthusiasm and warm, caring energy permeated the whole event on this first day. It was a beautiful day!