Monday, September 23, 2013

Feeling like a child

This Saturday we had our first rain of the season.  And, what was to supposed to be a chance of light rain turned out to be quite a soaking.  As you can imagine, the weekly club ride was cancelled since most people do not ride in the rain.  However, I’m not most people.

I love riding in the rain!!! There are very few things in this world that make me feel more like a kid again then riding in the rain.  To be honest, I originally thought I liked being on the bike in the rain because of its bad-ass factor.  I mean the looks from people as they drive by says it all.  While I really, I mean really, like the bad ass factor I’ve come to the conclusion it’s the child thing I like the most.  Yes, riding in the rain makes me feel young and alive.

As much as I like to ride in the rain I have to admit that it’s almost impossible for me to start a ride if it’s already raining.  I mean there’s also something to be said for sitting on the couch with a fresh cup of coffee and watching it rain as well.  I guess you could say  I prefer to get caught in the rain.  And when I say rain, I don’t mean wind-driven rain that’s coming down sideways.  I also don’t mean a light mist, which I don’t like at all.  No, I’m talking about a good solid rain that’s hard enough that people think you’re crazy but not so bad that it’s flat out dangerous.

These were the conditions Saturday morning.  As I sat on the couch, drinking coffee and reading Facebook posts about what all my cycling friends were doing instead of riding, I listened to it rain.  Finally, around 9:00 a.m. there was a break in the action and I decided it was time to roll.

I literally felt the first drops as I was rolling down my driveway and by the end of the block it was raining.  I could have easily turned around but in my mind the ride had started so I was “caught” in the rain.  It didn’t rain very long, only about 3 minutes. I wasn’t even all that wet.

As I rode along I was thinking that was kind of wimpy and I would have liked something a little more substantial.  I got my wish.  As I was having that thought I looked up the road and you could see the wall of water coming my way.  For the next 10 minutes or so I was riding in a complete downpour.  You can bet I was soaked by the time it was over.

After the heavy rain, we settled into a nice gentle rain that lasted for another hour.  I was in heaven.  Sherry said that when it started raining before I reached the end of the street she was hoping that I would turn around.  But she knew I wouldn’t because I would be smiling from ear to ear like the child of one of our neighbors who had been riding in the rain earlier that morning.  Eventually the weather did clear up and in the end I managed to get in a very nice 35-mile ride.

I know as we head into winter the weather is going to kick my ass more than once.  Saturday’s rain came from the south so it was actually fairly warm.  Soon, we’ll start dealing with cold fronts from Alaska and it will be a different story.  But that’s in the future.  As of right now, it’s child 1 – rain 0.


Monday, September 16, 2013

My Fast Freddie Gran Fondo

Last month I had one of those great adventures that combined many of the things I love most in life.  It involved traveling with Sherry, cycling new roads and plenty of great food and wine.  Who could ask for more?

It all started during the Tour of California when a commercial came on for the Fast Freddie Gran Fondo.  (Freddie Rodriguez is a pro cyclist and the current U. S. champion.)  After seeing the commercial numerous times Sherry asked if I was going ride it.  Well, I hadn’t thought about it but now maybe I should check it out.

ClaremontI discovered the ride is starting at the Claremont Hotel & Spa in Berkeley.  I then discovered that the Claremont is offering some very nice discounts and I shared this with Sherry.  She has always wanted to stay at the Claremont so a few clicks later I’m all registered for the ride and Sherry and I have reservations for a get-away weekend.

The plan was simple.  We took Friday off so we could maximize our short get-away.  We would drive down Friday afternoon and have a nice dinner watching the sun set on the bay.  On Saturday, I would ride 86 miles with over 10,000 feet of climbing while she relaxed at the spa.  Then another great dinner Saturday night followed by a leisurely Sunday morning before driving home.  Yeah, that should work.

Meritage RestaurantIt actually worked perfectly. After checking in to our room we went to Paragon for drinks.  It was then on to the Elmwood Shopping District for a nice walk.  Dinner Friday night, which was excellent, was at Meritage, with its views of San Francisco and the bay.  Finally, it was back to the room where I got the bike ready for Saturday’s adventure.

The weather Saturday morning was beautiful as I got ready.  After one last kiss, I head downstairs for the start of the Fast Freddie Gran Fondo.  Let me tell you right now that my ride was neither fast or gran!  Because of some business travel I wasn’t able to train the way I wanted so I knew 86 miles, with all that climbing, would be tough.  I also realized that I could be hanging out with Sherry at the Claremont so I opted for the 48 mile ride with its published 6,200 feet of climbing instead.

Holy shit was that the right call!!!  When the ride started we roll downhill out of the parking lot for about 50 yards before making a right turn onto a hill that was between 8-15% for the next 2 miles.  When I saw people walking their bikes before we covered the first mile I knew it was going to be a hard day.

FFGFAfter a screaming downhill it was time to climb again.  Then downhill again and back up.  I think you get the picture (or you can look at the profile).  I was either grinding my way up a hill or flying down one with no flat roads in between.  Still, it was a gorgeous route and I really enjoyed my first experience in the East Bay hills.  In the end, it was 48 miles with 5,300 feet of climbing.  As I rolled into the finish I felt pretty good so it was time to continue with the mini-vacation.

We spent the rest of the day shopping, eating, drinking and enjoying our time together.  On Sunday we choose to sleep in, drink cappuccinos in the room and simply relax.  Finally, it was time to pack up and head back home.

This was a great trip and I cannot stress the value of these mini-vacations enough.  They add a sense of adventure without going too far away.  I’m already watching the web site and waiting for the dates of the Fast Freddie Gran Fondo to be posted so we can do it all over again next year.