Sunday, March 4, 2012

Once more to Pope Valley

It's a springtime ritual, the pilgrimage from Davis to Pope Valley and back along Highway 128. Kim sent out an email last week and I replied. The night before it hit me. 130 miles!

At least it's not an ugly route. 30 miles through the flat farmland of the Central Valley, then the orchards along Putah Creek. Lots of right angles around farm parcels.

Then we climb around Lake Berryessa and turn north through rolling oak chaparral, the classic California landscape. In another 20 miles, Pope Valley has everything: store, school, grange hall, and a place that repairs farm machinery. Machines in all states of repair are on display along the road. We check in and then head back to Davis the same way.

Maybe it's spring but it's very early spring; outside Motel 6 there's an unmistakeable bite to the air. I'm a little underdressed.

Why am I here? Don't know.

At the tent in the parking lot there's Dan! and all the social circuits start clicking. After many miles with him and Ann they've become role models: gracious, accepting, smart, down-to-earth, courageous. He was up past midnight, getting things ready for us.

Kim's been riding plenty! Jim helps un-crust her chain.

More and more riders show up. It's the social hour! JT is here - so is Rob, Paul, Eric, Don, Cheryl and David, Kim, Jim, Ken, Tim... Time accelerates. Dan gathers us all for a few words, then calls the 90-second warning.

Ready or not...

Once we roll, it's good. I can do it. The trick for motivation is getting to that point.

Route 128 is where it all started, my first 200k. It was 1998. Heading west toward the hills and Lake Berryessa, the past keeps catching up. Nostalgia for old friends, old routes, the former me. It's a beautiful sunny, crisp morning. This time the bitter is definitely mixed in with the sweet.

Climbing Cardiac, a rider asks where I live. This seems abrupt, but sometimes on-bike conversations are like that. "Silicon Valley", I say back. Too bad, she says, because we are similar pace and style. She lives in Sacramento. I'm definitely looking for new people to ride with. Hmmm, the train goes to Sac...

It's a day free from TBI, except in Pope Valley itself. We have to memorize a phrase at mile 16.6, then write it down at mile 65. The volunteers just have to give me the words. Then, I look all over for a sweatband that is actually around my neck and everyone laughs.

There's some wind and it's great to take turns pulling with Cynthia. She rides strong and smooth and thank goodness, doesn't stop much. All business, no ego. She's glad I know the turns. How many stairsteps on the backside of Cardiac (4). Which way the wind usually blows on this section. The location of the water hose at the Pardhesa Store (OK that was a lucky guess).

Turns out she's done 8 Ironman triathlons, but is kind of done with running. Eight! Her goal this year is the Davis Double Century. I've done that ride a time or two.

Both our husbands worry while we're out on the road. Both of us are looking for the next goal. My lower back hurts like heck. She's not totally comfortable, either.

It might not be the glory days, but today is OK. It's OK. I collect other people's hard-luck stories:
  • Torn ACL (mostly healed).
  • Arthritis in knees.
  • A bum shoulder after a broken collarbone.
  • Burnout.
  • Congestion, nausea. 
  • Broken derailleur cable (30 miles in one gear).
And as one volunteer tells another at the finish, "men are from Mars and women are from Venus"!
    I know the way to Pope Valley and back. Just need to find the way forward from here...

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