Wind Dancers Two Sisters Enduro: August 21, 2004
Whew, an 8am meeting time in Fremont. This was my first Enduro, and I had no idea what to expect. I brought five different AAA maps, a highlighter, and my GPS -- I'd heard humorous horror stories about people ending up way lost on these Enduros, and I didn't trust my direction sense to keep me from winding up in the Bay or halfway to Albuquerque.
By the time we assembled on the starting line, there were nine of us: Bonnie, June, Karen, Elizabeth, Julie, Prue, and myself (the riders), plus Gwen and Kathleen (the ride organizers). Kathleen passed out the ride maps -- our first glimpses of the day's route -- and fielded questions. Gwen began looking over our bikes and writing down our starting mileages.
The rules of the Enduro were simple: Riders would leave the meeting staggered at 5-minute intervals. Once on the road, we had to follow Gwen and Kathleen's written directions to each of five checkpoints (the fifth was actually a restaurant, signalling the end of the ride). At each checkpoint, we were to write down the time and our odometer reading. We were allowed a 10-minute break at each checkpoint, one 30-minute lunch break (whenever we chose), and a 5-minute gas stop (whenever we needed it). After the race, Gwen and Kathleen would compute everyone's time/mileage, with the "winner" being the rider whose time most closely matched their pre-ride time. We won't find out the winner until the Wind Dancers' January awards party.
Given that the route was almost exactly 200 miles long, with almost zero freeway, it was all way too much for me to take in at once. I decided the best thing for me to do was only worry about one checkpoint at a time. While waiting for my start time, I found my Bay Area AAA map and highlighted the route to checkpoint #1. After some Map Origami, I managed to smoosh the map into my tankbag so that I could see the entire route to #1 at once; I also folded up the written directions so that I could see them in the map pouch.
heading towards checkpoint #1
The first twisty road of the day was Calaveras, a wonderful little road through the Sunol Regional Wilderness Area and along the western edge of Calaveras Reservoir. I encountered very little traffic at all, which was good considering that it was my first technical road of the day, and I was still warming up. Calaveras can be narrow at times, and I did have one eager young fellow on an older CBR come at me in the middle of the road around one curve -- that's one way to wake up!
One of my favorite things about riding in the East Bay hills is seeing all the hawks swooping around overhead. I lost count after about ten or so. I know I passed a turkey farm, too, but I can't seem to find any mention of it online.
After Calaveras, I pointed the bike east and headed towards Livermore. The route took me through some of the vineyards in the area: Concannon, Wente, White Crane. Vallecitos Rd (aka Hwy 84), Tesla Rd, Greenville Rd ....I continued northeast towards checkpoint #1.
Next up after the vineyards were the windmills. This is, bar none, my favorite area to ride in the East Bay. Riding through the windmills makes me think I'm in some weird science-fiction landscape -- they're so quiet, and there are so damn many of them. Adding to the excitement of Patterson Pass was a massive bicycle race: hot pink signs at the base of the Pass proclaimed "Caution! 300 bicycles will shortly be riding STRAIGHT TOWARDS YOU!". I felt sort of guilty for riding uphill as the bicyclists were coming down, but I always slowed way down and pulled all the way to the righthand shoulder whenever a group came at me, so I really didn't feel that guilty.
Checkpoint #1 came up fairly shortly after the Pass. When I pulled into the Mountain House parking lot, there were three bikes still there: I'd caught up with all three of the riders who'd left before me. We chatted for a few minutes, jotted down our times and mileages, and the gals who'd gotten there first headed out towards checkpoint #2.
on to checkpoint #2
The first part of the leg was fairly straightforward. I don't think I've been over near Byron before: lots of East Bay farmlands (i.e. rolling hills, scorched brown by the summer sun), cows, and the occasional palm tree. I wanted to stop at one place, to photograph a field of cows lounging in the shade of one lone palm tree, but there wasn't a good shoulder to pull off onto.
Soon, I was heading west on Marsh Creek Road towards Morgan Territory Road. I've done both before, on last March's Women in Sport Touring ride. I was expecting the worst from Morgan Territory, given how annoying I found it in March -- "If the road had been either impossibly narrow or impossibly shitty, I wouldn't really have minded, but the combination was a bit annoying." and "I'd do that second half again in a heartbeat, but it may take Johnny Depp sitting half-naked astride a free Hayabusa up at the top of the hill for me to redo that top half." Now, while I'm still not going to pass up Johnny Depp and a free 'busa, I have to eat a bit of crow and say that five more months of experience made all the difference for me on this road.
First of all, Morgan Territory has now been bumped down to the second worst road I've ridden (pavement-wise); The Lost Coast is worse. For those playing along at home, the top of Page Mill Road is #3, and the Alaska Highway between Beaver Creek (YT) and Tok (AK) is #4. ;)
Another big difference was that there was no oncoming traffic for me this time. That, plus being alone (and therefore being able to completely set my own pace) made Morgan Territory not only tolerable, but fun. I had an absolute ball. The leaves were just barely starting to change colors, leaving green leaves on the trees, yellow ones on the bushes, and bright orange leaves lining the road. Gorgeous!
The stretch between Morgan Territory and Checkpoint #2 was open and swoopy -- I'd done my tight twisties for this section. I took Camino Diablo west and Tassajara Rd south into Dublin, CA. After spending all morning in the rural East Bay hills, crossing Highway 580 and entering Dublin was a bit of a shock. I missed the driveway for Checkpoint #2 (a shopping mall parking lot), and had to ride almost a half-mile before I was able to make a U-turn.
Bonnie was in the parking lot when I arrived right at noon; we decided to use our alloted half-hour break to have lunch together at Subway. June rode up to the Shell gas station just as Bonnie and I were heading towards the restrooms there, so we chatted for a couple of minutes.
back west to the peninsula for checkpoint #3
June, Bonnie, and I all left Checkpoint #2 at the same time, and rode together towards Foothill Blvd, which runs north-south parallel to Highway 680. I was in the lead for a little while, until I noticed that my tankbag was unzipped and had to pull over to remedy that. Bonnie and June stopped to make sure I was OK, and took off when I waved them on. The enduro was nice that way -- there was a nice mix of "everyone for themselves" and "we're all in this together".
The route led me west on Niles Canyon to the Dumbarton Bridge in Fremont. I really like Niles Canyon a lot; it's an interesting road with some nice scenery. Unfortunately, it's always trafficked, so there's the inevitable minivan going 25mph in front of me whenever I ride it, but what can you do?
Officially, I was supposed to take Niles into Fremont, across Mission Blvd, directly to Decoto Rd (which becomes the Dumbarton Bridge). The city of Fremont had other plans: once inside the city, Niles was completely closed to all traffic. Apparently, there was both a dog show and a car show going on in the middle of the street. There were people, cars, motorcyclists, everywhere. People trying to get to Decoto, people trying to find parking, people trying to control various types of dog, people oohing and ahhing over cars. It was, quite simply, a nuthouse.
I spent about 5 minutes trying to get around the street fair before deciding to just screw it and go back to Mission Blvd. I knew I could get to the Dumbarton Bridge from Mission, and it would only force me to miss a couple of miles of the official route.
The Dumbarton was uneventful -- again, I considered taking a photo, but there's really no good place to stop. Once on the peninsula, I kept on Highway 84 into Woodside. I'd bumped into Bonnie again just before Woodside, and I led us to Kings Mountain Road, since I'm familiar with the area and knew where the turn was. Until the enduro, I'd only been on Kings Mountain as far as the Woodside General Store, during last year's AMA Historical Marker scavenger hunt. I really liked Kings Mountain road -- twistier and more narrow than Hwy 84, but not as twisty and narrow as Page Mill. I'll have to remember it for future rides.
A quick jaunt down Hwy 35 (Skyline), and we were at Alice's. Bonnie and I parked in the lot across the street (as I always do), and immediately found Kathleen wandering around. She asked how we were enjoying the ride, and got an earful of "holy shit, this is awesome!" from me. :) I got out the trusty highlighter and AAA map, and marked up the route to the fourth, and final, checkpoint.
taking the long way to checkpoint #4
From Alice's, I headed east on Hwy 84 back down the hill. Naturally, the route made me take my #1 least favorite turn in the entire Bay Area: a tight righthanded U-turn on a steep downward slope, from Hwy 84 onto Portola Road. I was really proud of myself when I stayed in my lane during the turn -- I think it was the first time I didn't go a little bit wide. Whew!
Once at the base of the hill, I jig-jagged a little bit eastward to Page Mill Road (hey, that bike looks familiar...). Back up the hill I went, up to Page Mill and Hwy 35.
From there, it was an easy ride south on Hwy 35 to the checkpoint. While I hung out in the parking lot at 9/35, marking up my map for the final stretch to the meeting place, a thin beared man came up to me, saying "you must be Carolyn -- I recognize your hair!" It turned out to be George, aka "Deacon Blues" on the Motorcycle USA forums. We'd chatted online for a long time, but had never met in person before. :) "I wouldn't have expected you to be up here on a Saturday afternoon with all the squids," George laughed, giving me the perfect opportunity to show off my highlighted map and explain that I was at the fourth and final checkpoint on a 200-mile all-day ride. Sadly, I didn't have time to do much chit-chatting, and we both went off on our separate ways.
the final haul.
I was happy with my descent of Hwy 9. Sometimes I really screw it up and end up going way too slowly, but this time I maintained a good speed throughout and never had to slam on the brakes or otherwise quickly bleed off speed. Yay!
Once at the base of Hwy 9, it was a straight shot on city streets to Goodies. Riding in city traffic again was a bit of a bummer, let me tell you! I found the restaurant without too much trouble (I admit that this was the one and only time I used the GPS on the ride, as my Bay Area AAA map didn't have the restaurant's cross-street). I was the second rider to arrive; June had arrived just a few minutes before me. Over the next hour or so, all but one of the riders streamed in -- one woman got lost in a very unfamiliar place to her, and gave up. :( We ate snacks, traded stories about the day, and commended Gwen and Kathleen on an excellent ride!
All in all, it was a wonderful day and a truly great ride. I'm already looking forward to next year's!