by Dave Leonard
A brave and nutty bunch of 199 randonneurs rode the Davis 600k in a torrential downpour on the afternoon of Saturday May 3rd to qualify for PBP. We got soaked to the bone just waiting for the 4pm start. Then the rain stopped. The starting pace this time was noticeably slower, because I was able to see the lead pack a full 4 miles into the ride.
Dark clouds provided gentle "misting" to prevent gear from getting dehydrated and deter any plans of pace-lining through the gritty rooster tails of the bike in front. The weather generally cooperated until leaving the second control at 2am (mile 143) as we turned west for the third stiff climb up and out to the Pacific Ocean.
Climbing generated body heat to keep us all toasty, but descending in the hard rain found several of us hypothermic since we were too stupid to install all jackets, rain, pants and balcava before blasting down the mountain. My handlebars were shaking, as I gritted my teeth and tried to think warm thoughts. Completely drenched, I vowed to my partners, Ken Johnson and Denny Burnham, I would knock on the door of the first farmhouse with a light on and beg for shelter.
The first person I saw was a parka-clad woman on the street in the tiny hamlet of Booneville. Asking if there was a clothes dryer in town, she pointed to a laundromat attached to a small country store. The store was open at 6am but the laundromat was not. Chugging hot coffee and deliberately spilling it on my hands and feet, I desperately asked the proprietor, if we could call the owner of the laundry to open early. She shrugged me off, but after we soiled her floors and drank all the hot beverages in her little store, she produced a key and opened the doors to the clothes dryers. I put 16 quarters on the counter and 8-10 riders rotated most all of our clothes into six different dryers. Ken and Denny were their usual patient selves waiting for me. It took about 90 minutes and was well worth it.
We rode off warm and dry for the 28 miles to the turnaround. Being comfortable and stable allowed us to enjoy the spectacular green hillsides as we rode into the redwood forest. Tom and Bonny Davies sloshed in two inches of mud at the control to provide hot instant oatmeal for all takers. I used to wonder what it was like to be the rainmaker. I now know. I am he. All I had to do was stop and remove rain gear, and I could guarantee it would rain again within three minutes.
Getting back was delightful after the rain subsided and the sun seeped through low ominous clouds. Only a scant 143 miles to go. Denny fussed with gear and lubed himself for over an hour, which gave Ken and me time to eat every single waffle as fast as Lynn Hunter could make 'em. They even provided rock-n-roll music, whipped cream and fresh strawberries for toppings. We laid around so long that Anne Lincoln said she was going to get the broom out if we didn't soon leave. This, was not the last time we would wear out our welcome on this ride by lollygagging around.
Sunday afternoon, while climbing Mt. House road, my 14" seat pack fell off and splattered on the pavement with a wet thud. I lashed it to my Camelback and rode 12 miles like the hunchback. Denny waited for me, again, and with an Allen wrench reattached that soggy piece of junk.
It was about this time that Ken, Denny, and I initiated our new policy to create a major rest stop every seven miles whether we needed it or not. We stopped to eat, stopped to change clothes, stopped to chat, stopped to watch clouds, and generally stopped every few miles, just because we could.
One of the better stops was a store in Hopland with ready-made pepperoni pizza. Oh, and then again 18 miles later in Cloverdale to experience the restorative powers of salty McDonalds french fries. Yummy. Paul Guttenberg and Mark Clark caught up with us, (not because they are slow riders like me, but because they had major mechanical problems) in Alexander Valley and provided a much needed counterpoint to the insipid blather of Ken and Denny. The five of us reached Calistoga together and hung around a mini-mart for over an hour. Eventually Paul and Mark tired of our endless nonsense and left without us. Even though Calistoga is only two miles wide, it took us a full 2½ hours to get through it. We did a second stop to collect Dan Brekke at the community center, and then took another full hour to mess with Denny's broken helmet light on the outskirts of town. Strangers walking by us took pity on us and asked if they should "call someone." Ashamed of our lethargy, we slunked out of Calistoga around 10:30pm Sunday.
As we soft-pedaled through the Napa Valley into the deepening darkness, we continually berated, yelled, degraded, verbally abused, and swore at each other, as is our custom, throughout the night. Around midnight we arrived to cheers at the last control. We had a good time laughing with the delightful control crew who work at The Wheelworks in Davis. However it became tiresome watching Denny endlessly lube himself and fuss with stuff. Eventually, I lost it and screamed, "Get on your friggin bike Denny or I'll kill ya!" I meant it. Then I realized I had to make Denny wait while I filled up two empty water bottles for the last set of climbs back over Cardiac hill.
Dan Brekke stayed with us until Pardesha, where we stopped, of course, for another 20 minutes. When an anonymous voice in the night announced they would need a few more stops back to Davis, Dan could not believe his ears. We only had 26 miles left. Eventually he regained his senses, grew tired of our antics and rode off to finish alone.
The final insult to the time clock came with only 17 miles to go. Big Ken Johnson suddenly stopped in the middle of the road; lay in a fetal position with head propped on front wheel, and declared he could go no farther. He was unable to grip the handlebars. I demanded he get back on his bike. "No" he said with the voice of an insolent child, "Can"t make me." Oh, now this was going to be mature conversation. "Get on the bike Ken!" I hollered. "No! You're not the boss of me." This childish behavior went on for some time until I promised him a kick in the slats and a firm choking if he didn't get back on the bike immediately.
I promised Ken that Daryn Dodge had a PBP pass for all who could ride a bike back to Davis within the next few hours. This got the big lug moving. We reclaimed the road and only stopped 5-6 more times before we signed in at the last control at 4:55 am. Monday as the sky began to lighten for the second time on this trip.
We rode together 372 miles for almost 37 hours with no sleep, 15,000 feet of climbing, plenty of rain, tons of whining, and a thousand laughs with true friends to whom you can say anything.
Now, we're all going to Paris