By Robert Leone, Control Station 4
I woke at about 6:45 a.m.on March 18, 2006. It was showery in Pacific Beach, and I knew the brevet riders had already set off from Cardiff, and would probably hit rain showers in progress. By the time I'd showered, dressed, downloaded and printed the starting rider roster Barclay e-mailed and checked the weather again, it was about 8 a.m., with 3/10 cloud cover and drying pavement.
Since I had plenty of time to kill before the official opening time of control #4, I went on a small group ride with the Knickerbikers. I noted on my way to the ride start the low point on the Rose Canyon Bike Path where water commonly pools hosted a puddle only eight feet to 10-feet long. My usual practice is to slow down and ride through, although I know there's a regular path being ridden and jogged into the clear higher ground aside the asphalt at that point.
During the Knickerbikers ride, which included Sorrento Valley, the Torrey Pines State Reserve and Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, the pavement stayed dry, and cloud cover continued a nice, cooling 3/10 to 4/10. Winds were moderate (I'm going to have to memorize that Beaufort scale!). Temperatures were in the knee warmer/tights/long/sleeved jersey/wind shell continuum. I skipped out of the group before lunch, as I wanted to get home and pack up for the control at the McDonald's parking lot.
Equipment: Wile E. Coyote mounting ACME rocket and applying match rubber stamp, small blue ink stamp pad, three ballpoint pens (one of them "glow in the dark"), folding three-legged stool, paper sign for "Control #4" to tape to flat object, phone card (for calling Barclay with news and developments), clip board with route sheet and rider roster, tape, book to read ("Sir Nigel" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), track pump (with pressure gauge and both Schrader and Presta valve holes), garbage bags for rain poncho use, flashlights, packs of AA and AAA batteries and a San Diego County bike route map. Clothing: T-shirt, "wooly-pully" sweater, canvas overshirt, pants, LL Bean rubber boots, wool poncho from Tijuana, Campmor cycling rain poncho, hat. Still was cold and wind-chilled towards the end there.
Big Mistake 1: Didn't bring water. I thought the riders would get what they needed from fountains in Mission Bay Park, the 7-11 nearby or McDonald's. Next time I do this, I'll see about packing some one-gallon bottles or those 2.5-gallon tabletop spigot things.
Big Mistake #2: Setting up on the sidewalk instead of the McDonald's parking lot. There are some people in that area who appear to be engaged in less than wholesome activities, one of whom had me VERY happy that track pump has a steel barrel, not carbon fiber or plastic. On the other hand, the last rider through Control 4 would have missed it altogether if I'd not shouted out to him "Oh, you're not one of our riders" as he went past. I thought no one else would be out riding with a generator hub at 11:30 p.m. on a rainy Saturday night. Setting up inside the McDonald's wasn't workable, as they needed all tables for their dinner rush. Also, McDonald's closed at about 11 p.m., leaving riders with fewer visible marks for the control. Perhaps next time we could use In-and-Out Burgers. Note: I think McDonald's is still making their coffee too hot.
Big Mistake 3: Did I mention not bringing water? I guess it shows my cycling is commute-oriented.
Big Mistake 4: Didn't bring inner tubes. Between the ride reports and requests from riders, it was quite obvious a lot of people had a lot of flats and were keeping on the road by patching.
Big Mistake 5: That phone card — between pay phone charges, FCC this, FTC that and goodness knows what all else, I would have saved at least half its purchase price by using quarters at the McDonald's payphone.
Mistakes I didn't make: Bringing a deck of cards for solitaire and a TV dinner tray. Too much wind, and the H2O would have pooled in the tray.
Weather Notes: We had typical winter storm rain squalls two or three times in Pacific Beach in the 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. time frame. At some points I was shivering.
Points where I felt I could have done better: While reviewing the route sheet, I noticed a few points on the ride north from Control 4 were local-knowledge helpful sorts of things. One was that puddle on the Rose Canyon Bike Path. The other big one I saw was the Old 101/Jimmy Durante Blvd fork just north of Del Mar. Another was an amateur altimetry thing— from Gilman Drive up to end of the Torrey Pines golf course the road is basically shallow to moderate uphill or level, but in the cold and wet the long downhill to Torrey Pines State Beach with the root lifts can get scary and hairy. And it occurred to me some of the riders might be from out of town, and not know this part. If I'd had access to a decent table and some good sized rocks, I'd have spread out that map for an optional briefing before riders set out. As it was, I felt I was doing well enough just getting the cards stamped and times written, asking people if they needed batteries or air (skipped that with some, sorry).
Rider Style Notes: Most of the brevet ride accounts I've read have been from the likes of Jan Heine and Kent Peterson. It was interesting to see that on the one hand most of the bikes used on this very tough ride didn't match their personal preferences and prejudices. On the other hand, the Lance Armstrong principle holds: It's not about the bike. It's about the riders.
Any bike whose wheels are still rolling after the ride is probably a good bike—and the range of styles came from speed-oriented riders exercising a minimalist approach towards equipment to a rider who, in a concession to the terrain and weather conditions, put street tires and had made other road-worthiness mods to an old rigid-fork welded steel MTB. I've often been leery of seatpost-mounted rear lights, because in the beach- cruiser realm that is PB I often see them mounted below the height of the top of the wheel or fenders, squarely behind a rack loaded with gear or just squarely behind a rack.
With one rider, though, I saw a novel point because with his somewhat long seatpost he could mount a rear LED (one of the big old double AA VistaLites) above the height of the wheel but far below the seatpost- mounted beam supporting his rack trunk. Double bonus to that rider for the rain-cover — I'd not thought of a rain cover for a rear rack trunk before.
Another rider was on a Trek lugged steel 420 sport tourer frame with fenders—he said he'd built it up just that week (making the 300k ride a pretty good shakedown cruise!). Hydration schemes ranged from single water bottle cages to quadruple cages, with some using backpack reservoirs. I think one or two riders had reservoir sipping tubes snaking out of rack trucks or handlebar bags, but further I don't recall. Riders were quite good about depositing drink cups, food wrappers and gel pouches in garbage receptacles.
Almost universally, the water bottles were the larger 22 ounce size, and most were translucent.
In further rider style notes, there were some distinct packs, either arranged teams or ad hoc road alliances. I was especially happy to hear from one rider I knew was from out of town that he'd be following the two locals he'd come in with. Some riders were solo acts. The best comedy came from a pack of five riders who'd charged in, split up to provision and went and bought two San Diego Union Tribunes to stuff down their jackets for insulation. They left some behind for following riders— the heavy, glossy advertising materials and the Auto sections from both papers!
Complaints: One rider voiced his concerns over a "stadium event" that may have impeded progress through Mission Valley past Qualcomm Stadium. Nearly everyone seemed to have had far more flats than expected. One rider and (especially) one support vehicle driver (the only one I saw) expressed some outrage and/or dismay at the complexity of the route sheet. Two or three riders commented it was tough to find the McDonald's after they turned out the lights. A few were unhappy I'd not stocked water.
Things to do differently next time: Bring water. See about setting up some sort of map for the next few miles if not to the next control in a sheet protector (folks want to leave the control FAST — and getting a tricky turn right can save lot of time). See about control-hosting business's operating hours.
Unfortunately for my personal predilections, Lestat's, a decent coffeehouse with 24-hour operation, does not appear to be near most of the already-scouted brevet routes. Perhaps we could compose and provide a list of bike shops within a block or two of the brevet route and include it with the route sheet. I'll remember the water next time, that's for sure! Given the rider's predilections for powered supplement/rehydration/nutrition drinks perhaps controls should also consider small battery-powered hand mixers ("milk frothers"). For those riders it's nice to get some mixing in, especially given the lousy way things dissolve down below 50 degrees F. When in doubt about the weather, print route sheets with a laser printer. I noticed several riders' route sheets (kept in the bags with the brevet control cards) had runny ink from inkjet printing. If the RBA is producing the route sheets, it might be possible (although an additional expense and pesky detail) to print out material on that "Rite-in-the-Rain" paper. There's some out now for copying/laser printing. As a bonus, sections from the route already traveled may make a superior tire boot compared to shims or even the traditional folded currency item (one rider's report commented on continued tube damage done by shims used to boot a wide gash in a tire). This sort of paper is not a good idea for brevet cards, because of the need to cope with a range of pens and variety of ink stamp inks. Also, if I do this again, use a different ink stamp (although at least one rider got a chuckle out of my selection).
As an aside, I should note I've asked rec.bicycles.misc about tire boot material, and two favorites are the spun oleofin fiber known as Tyvek and used in some FedEx and US Postal Service Priority and Express Mail mailers and the sort of iron-on fabric mending patches one sees in the notions section of grocery stores!