Everyone knows we're in the midst of a drought. We want rain. We need rain. Even cyclists are wishing for rain. Finally, we got some. As is so often the case, the first real rain of the season arrived in the last week of September. (Really...it does this every year.) It didn't rain for days and days, but just for a couple of hours on Friday afternoon (September 26). But what the storm lacked in duration it made up for in intensity. An Amazonian downpour, with hail, brilliant fork lightning--lots of it--and the ear-splitting thunder that follows along, seconds behind the flashes. Even a rainbow against a blue-black sky. It was a lavish if fleeting flourish from Mother Nature.
Fortunately, it did not rain on our club ride. That was scheduled for the following morning. But the storm set the tone for the day: it scrubbed six months' worth of dust off the landscape and made everything look fresh again, and even that little splash of water was enough to wake up the sleepy seeds in the meadows and set them to work on their busy task of greening the hills once again. Overnight--literally--the fields had begun to show a hint of green. All in all, that robust cloudburst on Friday afternoon made Saturday morning feel like the perfect time to head out on a bike ride.
And so we did. Rick Sawyer had suggested a basic 60-mile loop from Cotati out to Tomales and down the bay to Point Reyes Station, then back in through Petaluma and the hen house belt, back to Cotati. I picked up on his basic ride and added a few embellishments to plump it up to 68 miles. I put it on the ride list and waited to see if anyone would rise to the bait.
On a nearly perfect morning, there were close to two dozen riders milling around at the park in Cotati. Some were new faces to me. The club is constantly attracting new people, so that every ride is a chance to make new friends. But there were plenty of familiar faces too, and a good many of those familiar faces belonged to riders we normally associate with CD or D-paced rides. In other words, the fastest riders in our club. Seeing as how I had listed the ride at BC (moderate) pace, this looked to be a bit of a problem: the fast guys would take off like scalded cats and blow the ride apart, leaving a straggle of blown riders in their wake.
So I made a little speech before the ride, addressing that potential problem. I even suggested the fast kids start early and leave the rest of us moderate riders to plug along in peace. But no...no one was buying that. So in the end, we began together. And you know what? Every one of those fast riders honored the BC pace: they hung back, riding at 80%, and kept us all together, through the rolling hills around Two Rock and Fallon. We regrouped in Tomales and watered up, then rolled down to Tomales Bay in a tight bunch. The pace was slower than those guys can go and maybe just a hair faster than some of us would go on our own. But it worked...at least for a while.
Eventually, it made better sense to break up into smaller pods to allow the traffic along Hwy 1 to work around us more comfortably. Better for us, better for the drivers. So we let the large rollers along the bay sort us into groups of half a dozen or so, and in those little clusters, we grooved on down the magnificent shoreline to our main rest stop in Point Reyes Station.
The street in front of Bovine Bakery looked like a rest stop at the GranFondo...cyclists from all over the region--up from Marin and East Bay, down from SoCo--all mingling in bike mecca.
On the way back, we split up again, this time for good. Those of us in the moderate cohort took another break at the Cheese Factory, while the faster folks just steamed on by, already smelling the barn.
The later miles--after Petaluma--dragged a little for some of us. We were a bit tired, the pavement on those roads north of town is dreadful, and we were butting into a mild headwind. But we plugged away at it and got 'er done, and at the finish everyone was effusive in their praise of the day: the route, the weather, the good company and cohesive pace lines... As Matt Wilson would have said: it was another best day ever.