Shameless Self-Promotion (sort of)

Our son, Avery, and his partner-in-crime, Jory, have a new book out: “All My Friends Are Still Dead.” This is a sequel to the smash hit: “All My Friends Are Dead.” You can check out their various offerings, as well as reviews of their work, on

To promote the new book, Avery and Jory are having a contest. To enter, all you have to do is re-blog a page on Tumblr (if you happen to have a blog on Tumblr). If you do so and your name is selected at the end of March, you might snag some sweet merchandise. Up for it? Here is the link:

If you are not lucky enough to be selected as the winning entry, you can still buy shirts and books at the official retail site:

Good luck to one and all!


Riding in the French Alps prior to PBP

Before riding Paris-Brest-Paris in August 2011, I rode for a few days in the French Alps. Since my main focus was on riding PBP, I didn’t want to kill myself on long, arduous rides, so I would drive to the base of some epic climb, ride up, take some photos, and then come back down.

The first day of riding was sort of crazy: I landed in Geneva, rented a car, drove to Bourg d’Oisans, assembled my bike in a picnic area, and then rode L’Alpe d’Huez. Here is a link to the photos of that ride. I rode slowly and enjoyed the great scenery and the idea that I was finally in France! No PR on this climb but that wasn’t the point. Rather, I was being a cyclo-tourist, seeing the sights on my quasi-randoneering bicycle and getting ready for PBP.

After a good night’s sleep at Les Duex Alpes, I drove up the valley to ride the “easy” side of Col du Galibier. Here are some photos of that day of riding. Since the Tour de France had just used this route, the road was still covered with road markings from the fans. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t see any markings cheering me on. However, riding up Galibier and seeing the road markings took me back to 2005, when I pitched a tent on a side street in Valloire and rode up the “hard” side of Galibier (along with about a zillion other people) to stand in the mist and cold to watch Alexander Vinokourov lead the field up and over Galibier on his way to winning Stage 11 of the Tour de France.

The next morning, I awoke to rain but wasn’t worried, since I was driving to Col de  l’Iseran to try to bag my third Col in three days. The weather cleared for most of the drive and for the start of the ride. However, after getting to Val d’Isere, getting dressed, and riding about 30 minutes, the rain started in earnest. I hadn’t brought my rain gear with me on the ride and after getting pretty well soaked and pretty well frozen, I turned back down the hill. Photos of the ride are here. From what I hear, this is a simply amazing ride. Oh well, maybe next year…

After my failure to ride Iseran, I drove to Annecy, a lovely town not far from Geneva. After some great food and sleep, I rode around Lake Annecy and up Col de la Forclaz, which my friends Meg and Craig had said was just a great ride. They were not lying: the ride was really excellent but the payoff was even more terrific: sipping a beer while looking down an 800 meter cliff to Lake Annecy, while watching lunatics on hang-gliders swoop and dive just out of reach. Here are my photos from that day.

Overall, it was a pretty great way to (1) cure jet lag, (2) make sure that my bike was in working order, and (3) get the legs loosened up before PBP.

Presentation about my exploits at the 2011 edition of Paris-Brest-Paris

After a very long hiatus, it is time to start posting again.

Much of my bicycle riding in 2011 was directed toward participating in Paris-Brest-Paris from August 21-25, 2011. PBP is a 1,200 km randonee in France. Riders get up to 90 hours to complete this timed event. For those that use miles instead of kilometers, that is about 750 miles in 90 hours. Another way to look at it is that you only have to average about 8.3 miles per hour to complete the event within the 90 hour time limit. Of course, if you ride at 8.3 miles per hour, you don’t get to sleep for 90 hours. What could be simpler?

Here is a link to a PowerPoint presentation that I gave to a bunch of my friends in early December 2011. They politely sat through the whole thing and only a few dozed off:

Paris, Brest et retour 2011-12-13

Note that the download is a VERY large file, so it will take a while before you see anything happening. You will need MS-PowerPoint to view the presentation (which is a .pps file, for those that care). Also, note that there are some links and embedded video in the presentation. To activate the videos, you may need to hold your pointer over the video and then click the arrow that appears.

Rob Hawks (the Regional Brevet Administrator for San Francisco Randonneurs) originally pulled together a presentation that formed the basis for this presentation. Rob appears in a number of photos. Rob and I gave a longer version of this presentation to the Grizzly Peak Cyclists in November 2011.

“Stop! Stop! Stop!”

On January 22, 2011, I needed to go to San Carlos to try on a rain jacket. It was a nice day. Thus, Gail and I decided to take the tandem along and ride Old La Honda Road. During this ride, we had a surprise.

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I don’t really want to spend much time discussing the rain jacket. Randonneurs USA offered to sell its members an RUSA-branded Shower Pass rain jacket at a good discount. There had been some differences of opinion about the sizing of these jackets. The local REI didn’t have one and the San Carlos store did. Ergo, I needed to go to San Carlos (about 50 miles from home) to try on a rain jacket. I tried on both options from RUSA and ordered one (the Elite 2.0). It should arrive any day now. I sure wish that I had had it on the Worker’s ride prior to the San Francisco Randonneurs‘ Russian River 300k. Enough of that…

Since I had to drive over to San Carlos, Gail and I decided to bring along the tandem and get in a ride. Gail is coming off of surgery to repair a torn meniscus, so she is taking things easy. Thus, we decided to do some climbing from Palo Alto, up Old La Honda Road to Skyline Blvd. and then back down. A quick 20 miles. Piece of cake.

Since the roads in the South Bay are a bit of a mystery to me, I suggested parking at Stanford Shopping Center and riding from there. This would be great: we could ride straight up to Old La Honda Road, get done with the climbing, return to the car, and then have a fine meal.

Of course, there was a bit of a problem. I had managed to forget that we need several feet of open space on the starboard side of the Forester to get the tandem off the top of the car. Why? To get the tandem off of the car, the entire quick release mechanism that holds the front fork to the Yakima Sidewinder rack pivots (along with the tandem), which allows one person to take the tandem off the roof. Brilliant design. However, since the tandem swings to the side as the quick release mechanism pivots, you need about 1.5 parking spaces to get the tandem off the roof. So, we had to circle around the lot a bit to find just the right parking spot. This took longer than expected since the place was mobbed with shoppers.

After a bruising December, which was filled with massive rain storms and cold weather, January was unseasonably warm. Today was no exception:  it was in the 70s. However, having lived in the SF Bay Area for most of my life, I knew that warm weather on the east side of the Coastal Range was no guarantee that it would be warm on Skyline Blvd.  Thus, even though almost all other riders were wearing short sleeves, we dutifully packed our jackets and arm warmers into the rack bag.

We headed toward the hills up Sand Hill Road. The ride to Old La Honda Road goes over a couple of hills and has some extended gradual climbs. We puttered along, getting used to riding the tandem again and enjoying the beautiful weather. There were a ton of other riders out that day, doing the same. Life was good.

I had ridden Old La Honda Road earlier in the year as part of the Santa Cruz Randonneurs’ Central Coast 1000k brevet. Thus, I sort of knew what we were in for. The hill isn’t killer steep but it is a good climb to Skyline Blvd. When we finally turned the corner onto Old La Honda Road, the temperature seemed to drop by about 10 degrees and the road kicked up. We thought about donning our jackets but decided to climb a bit and then decide. A good choice.

Old La Honda Road is just plain beautiful. It winds its way up the eastern slope of the Coastal Range through the redwoods. The road surface was perfect until near the top. There was very little traffic. We were in no hurry. Thus, even though neither Gail nor I had been riding much, the climb was a joy. Slow, to be sure, but still great fun.

When we finally reached Skyline Blvd., we made a right and headed down to Sky Londa for a break. I had floated the idea of eating at Alice’s Restaurant in Sky Londa. However, when we finally arrived, it was about 4 pm, sunset was in about an hour, and we didn’t have any lights, so we grabbed a bite to eat from the market and headed down Highway 84.

This was the first time I had ridden eastbound down Highway 84, so I asked an experienced-looking rider about what to expect. “As long as you can keep up with traffic, it is no problem.” In other words, we would likely be flying down the hill.

Off we went. The descent was fine. The traffic was generally well-behaved, the road surface was acceptable, the curves in general were reasonable, and I was able to keep our speed at a reasonable level, so there was no crying or begging from the stoker to slow down. We whipped a hard right onto Portola Road and continued the descent back toward Sand Hill Road.

All of the sudden, I hear Gail screaming “Stop! Stop! Stop!” It didn’t seem like she had fallen off of the bike and was being dragged down the road by her foot. Had the rack bag flown off? Expecting the worst, I jammed on the brakes and yelled “What the hell is going on?” Gail said “Look! Look! A Historic Marker!”

Sure enough, as I looked in my Take-a-Look, there it was: an official California Historical Marker. It hadn’t even crossed our minds that we might see one of these things on this ride. But, there it was: Historical Marker # 478: Site of San Mateo County’s First Sawmill. We made a totally illegal and dangerous U-turn and headed back up the hill to the Marker to check it out.

According to the Historical Marker, about 300 feet south of the monument, on the banks of the Alambique Creek, stood San Mateo County’s first sawmill, built by Charles Brown in 1847. About the same time, Dennis Martin was building a second mill, also run by waterpower, on San Francisquito Creek. These mills were similar to the famous Sutter’s Mill at Coloma, site of James Marshall’s 1848 gold discovery.

I had to hand it to Gail: she really did have a good eye for these things, since we were riding pretty fast when we passed the Historical Landmark. After some photos, we continued on our way back to Stanford Shopping Center.

Once we got home, we realized that there were a bunch of Historical Landmarks near our route. Looks like we will be heading back over there soon.

A Different Kind of History

As our loyal readers know, this blog was originally conceived to describe Gail and my efforts to visit California’s Historical Landmarks. After getting started, I began to add in pages about my solo bicycle exploits.

This page has nothing to do with any of that. It contains links to material unrelated to historical landmarks or bicycle riding. Instead, it presents a little bit of history from my high school days in Castro Valley.

More than likely, these documents will appeal to a select class of people.  At most, this junk will be of interest to people lucky enough to have attended Castro Valley High School between 1970 and 1975. More probably, they will be of interest to the 10-15 people that were involved in the creation of this material. If you don’t fit in that demographic, then proceed at your own peril.

A little history about the documents is in order. My friend, Ed Conner, has a treasure trove of stuff from our high school years in Castro Valley (1968-1972). How he has managed to hold onto this detritus over time is a mystery to me but I am glad that he did. At a party in 2009 at Stately Conner Mansion in Castro Valley, Ed presented each attendee with a CD that contained some scanned copies of a bit of his collection. The CD included:

1.  Copies of selected editions of The Achaean, which was the CVHS student newspaper:

2.  A document,  CVHS Track Alibi List 1972, that a member of CVHS’s vaunted track and field team might not have performed up to snuff in a meet; and

3.  A document, Spartan Code – 1972, that all CVHS athletes lived by.

I hope that you Spartans (and Spartan wannabes) enjoy this trip down memory lane. Of course, if you have other stuff that you would like to contribute to this collection, please send it to me and I will add it to the archive.

Why Are You Here?

When we started this blog, the purpose was to document Gail and my efforts to visit all of California’s Historical Landmarks. Since that time, I have also used it to chronicle my solo bicycle riding exploits. Some of the readers of this blog may be interested in either topic, some may be interested in both topics, and some may be interested in neither topic but somehow managed to get here by a cruel twist of fate.

I have no statistics on the visitors’ interests in the different topics discussed in this blog. For that reason, I am adding a poll, which will help us tailor the content to the interests of our loyal visitors.

Thanks for the vote. The team at appreciate your input.

My first brevet

January 24, 2010. 5:00 am. Getting ready for my first brevet. If you want to see the photos and skip the text, click here or watch the slideshow below.

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I was supposed to ride my first brevet today, from the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge to the lighthouse on Point Reyes, then to Marshall, and then back to the Golden Gate Bridge. I have never done one of the mysterious events, which seem to have lots of rules for participation. It is pouring rain.

The rain in Richmond was not promising. I had my “normal” bike prepped for the ride (based on the NWS info from two days before). When I heard the rain, it was time to decide whether I wanted to get my normal ride soaked or to ride my “rain” bike. After a bit of mental back and fourth, I opted for the rain bike. Upside: fenders. Downsides: heavier, not a very good seat, double chainring, and I had to transfer stuff from one bike to the other. This put me a little behind schedule. (Since I had never ridden a brevet before, the whole starting protocol seemed a little daunting, so I wanted to have plenty of time to get things right).

Driving westbound on I-80 toward the start in San Francisco, I got stuck behind a pretty big accident at Golden Gate Fields. Another delay. Still raining. Were the powers-to-be trying to tell me something?

When I finally got across the Bay Bridge, through SF, and to the official parking lot near the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge,  it was nearly full: I got one of the last few spots. Yanked out the bike, the Camelbak with all of my spare clothes, and headed to the starting point. No rain! There were a ton of folks standing around, with Coordinator Rob giving out last-minute instructions. I found the sign-up sheet, got the card, and felt a little more under control. I immediately noticed that my rain gear was nowhere near as elaborate as most of the other riders about to start the brevet (I had a a non-breathable Performance-brand yellow rain jacket with a velcro “zipper” and a vintage ONCE bicycle cap).

Suddenly, it was time to go. I usually don’t try to ride in the rain. I don’t hate it or anything. It just seems like the rain amplifies certain riding-related risks. However, if caught out in the rain, I don’t dive for cover, either. Since the weather speculators were saying that it would be scattered showers, I could live with that risk, so off I went, trailing a long string of riders crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on the sidewalk on the east side (normally, riders stay on the west side but at this hour, there were no pedestrians, so almost everyone used the east side).

I have lived in the SF Bay Area for almost my whole life. I have been a road rider since 1994. However, in all that time, I had never ridden from the Golden Gate Bridge through the little towns in southern Marin County and continued on to Point Reyes. Today would be a first.

After crossing the bridge and descending into Sausalito, I hooked onto the back of a group and soon we were on the bicycle path heading toward Mill Valley. The group was quite diligent about stopping at traffic signals (yes!), so after a little waiting, we got off of the bike path and started the climb up Camino Alto. At this point, the group broke up, with me falling off the back, struggling a bit with my lack of gears. Once over the top, it was a slow descent into Larkspur, given that the road surface was quite wet. At the bottom, I caught on with another group and hung with them through the twists and turns through Larkspur, Ross, San Anselmo, and Fairfax, finally popping out onto Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

As we rode through these sleeping little towns, there was lots of talk about the vigorous enforcement of traffic laws, especially when (1) it was early in the morning, (2) there was almost no traffic, and (3) bicycles were involved. Everyone was still on their best behavior, stopping (or at least slowing down significantly) as we hit traffic signs/lights.

After climbing and descending the hill outside of Fairfax, it started to drizzle, which quickly progressed into full-on rain. I would now see how my cobbled-together rain gear would perform. Pulling on my jacket and cap, I continued past the turn to Nicasio, toward the coast on Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

I had never ridden on Sir Francis Drake through Samuel P. Taylor State Park. I had heard the horror stories about the road surface and was pretty sure that I would opt for the bike path that Rob had discussed at the pre-ride briefing. The surface seemed fine to me, at least until I got past a little market on the north side of the road, where some randonneurs had stopped for a snack, some warm beverage, and a little respite from the rain. As I made the left-hand bend, the road surface changed from smooth to a pot-holed nightmare. Given the rain, I was not riding very fast but the holes in the road slowed me down even more. After hitting my fourth or fifth deep hole, I was CERTAIN that the bike path was in my future. The only question was: where was the thing?

After a few miles of the silliness on SFDB, I saw a rider turn left and head into Samuel P. Taylor Park. Figuring that they probably even knew what they were doing, I followed them and, after weaving around a bit, finally found a restroom, some water, and the bike path.

What a joy it was to ride on this bike path! There was some tree litter on the path but, aside from that, it was smooth and nicely graded. I understand that this bike path was an early example of converting abandoned railroad grade to a bike path. The path followed Lagunitas Creek, gradually descending through the redwoods. Given the recent rains, the creek was gushing. I could see why many ride organizers decide to ride on this bile path when coming back toward Fairfax: no cars, no pot-holes, and a chance to enjoy the scenery.

All good things come to an end, however, and the bike path ended at Platform Bridge Road. After a little maneuvering, I got onto SFDB again and headed over the hill to Olema. Another first for me. The climb wasn’t as hard as I had anticipated and the descent into Olema was a blast.

Since this was my first attempt at a brevet, I really didn’t have a great plan for eating or drinking. I had filled my bottles in Samuel P. Taylor. However, I couldn’t think of what kinds of resources would be available on the road to the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse (which was the second  controle of the ride). So, when I passed the Pt. Reyes ranger station, I stopped with J.T. and a couple of other riders to try to find water for the next leg. In retrospect, this stop was probably unnecessary, since there are a couple of markets in Inverness. However, between the rain, the lack of sleep, and the newness of the experience, I wasn’t thinking so clearly.

After topping off my bottles and shedding my rain jacket at the ranger station, we headed off toward the next controle. The previous summer, Gail and I had ridden from Terra Linda out to a beach on the northern side of Point Reyes (our destination today was at the southern tip of Point Reyes) so I knew that there would be a fun section of flat roadway along the western edge of Tomales Bay, followed by a real hump of a climb over Inverness Ridge. After that, the route would be all new to me.

The climb up Inverness Ridge was tough, especially with my double chainring and lack of a real granny gear. Also, the sun had popped out, causing me to start pouring sweat as I climbed. At this point, I realized that in my haste to move equipment from one bike to the other, I didn’t have a cycle computer or heart rate monitor. Thus, I knew I was working hard as I climbed but I didn’t know just how hard.

After cresting the top of the hill, I started down the other side. About halfway down to the turnoff toward the lighthouse, I noticed a couple of riders standing on the side of the road. Pulling over, I asked if they needed a hand. One rider pointed to his wheel and grumbled something. He had ripped a spoke out of his wheel. This was NOT good, since his wheel had a relatively low spoke count. Because the spoke was ripped from the wheel, the wheel was really out of true. I took out my Topeak Alien multi-tool and tried to true the wheel as best I could.  In true randonneur form, the rider with the trashed wheel was weighing the possibility of finishing the ride (we were about 40 miles into a 125 mile ride). After a little back-and-forth with his riding buddy, he decided that it would make more sense to return to Inverness, call his spouse, and get a ride home. A good decision.

Getting back on the road, I caught up with Alfie and Lisa, who I had first met while riding the Knoxville Fall Classic staff ride in 2008 and then rode with quite a number of times in 2009 as we all earned our finisher jerseys in the California Stage Race. Alfie and Lisa ride everywhere and are really helpful and friendly. Thus, it was good to hook up with them. I peppered them with questions about  what was coming up over the next 12 miles.

I had an inkling about what was in store. I assumed that there would be great views, rolling hills (some quite steep), cows, and wind. I completely underestimated how much of each there would be. First off: the views are just great. From the top of some of the hills, you could see for miles (especially since the wind and rain had cleared the air). Unfortunately, to GET to the top of some of the rollers was really tough: some of those suckers are STEEP. It didn’t help that I had no granny gear. It also didn’t help that my shorts/knee warmers were pretty soaked (even though the sun was out and they were starting to dry) and I had a wet jacket in my jersey pocket. The road surface was just OK except for a couple of spots where there were either cattle guards or cattle crossings, which were just caked with cow shit. However, those are minor complaints. The riding was fine and we had a stoic audience of cows as we climbed and descended toward our goal, the lighthouse at the southern end of Point Reyes.

It was a long 12 miles but after one last tough climb, we were at the controle. It was well-worth it. Between the clouds, the sunshine, and the rough surf, the views to the north were breathtaking. Also, the volunteers at the controle had water and candy! I was tempted to walk over to the lighthouse but felt that I should keep moving, since I didn’t really know how my body was going to react to riding 125 miles on a bicycle that I had been using for commuting, rather than for long distance riding.

The ride back to Inverness was OK. I rode with Alfie and Lisa for a while until I went over a cattle guard and heard a horrible scraping noise. Slamming on the brakes, I realized that my rear fender was rubbing against my wheel. What was going on? After a little head scratching, I realized that I had lost a mounting band for my fender while going over the cattle guard. Walking back up the road, I found the bugger and put it back on. However, I was not confident that it would hold (ultimately, I had to tighten it up two more times on the ride). Also, after about 60 miles, I realized that my butt was really hurting. The bike I was riding had, at one time, been my main road bike. We had ridden Death Rides, the great cols of France, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. However, in 2007, this bike morphed into a commuting bike when I got my current road bike. As a result, I didn’t pay much attention to the saddle, since almost all of my rides were 10 miles or less. I knew that I was going to be paying for that lack of attention later on in the day today.

After getting over Inverness Ridge, I zipped along into Inverness, where the market was open. I was pretty hungry (a bad sign…the cardinal rules are to eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty). So, I pulled over and joined a bunch of riders, buying food and drink and just lounging about a bit.

I was kind of surprised by the generally mellow tone of most riders. They were in no particular rush to get going. They acted like they were out on a Sunday ride with some friends, not a 125 mile brevet, for god’s sake! I sort of liked this. The riders didn’t seem as driven as lots of the folks that ride double centuries. “I could get into this,” I thought to myself.

From Inverness, we headed back to Highway 1, where we turned north, rode through Pt. Reyes Station, and then continued on to Marshall. This section of road can be fun, it can be tough, but it is always pretty, since it hugs Tomales Bay with views across the water to Inverness and the ridge. I was feeling OK but started to see riders returning from Marshall not long after I left Pt. Reyes Station, so I knew that I was nowhere near the front of the pack. Nevertheless, I felt like I made pretty good time up Highway 1.

It was good to finally roll into the third contole at the Marshall Store. It had rained off and on from Pt. Reyes Station but not enough to warrant putting on a jacket, so getting inside was going to be nice. Also, people had been talking up the clam chowder at the Marshall Store as something not to be missed.

The store was full of riders. The woman working the cash register knew the drill: take the cash and card from the sweaty rider, sign and stamp the brevet card, give the rider their change, and move onto the next person in line. She was very friendly and tolerant of the stinky riders filling up the place. I got chowder and water. Both were excellent. Some randonneurs opted for beer. I didn’t have the nerve to try that but it sure looked like they were enjoying it.

After a long stop (where I got a chance to get off of my bike seat and onto a chair), it was time to go. There were about 42 miles left and they wouldn’t get done if I didn’t get to it. The ride back toward Pt. Reyes Station was quick and uneventful, which allowed me to enjoy the scenery along the way.

We didn’t return to the start/finish the same way that we came out earlier in the day. Instead, we turned inland on Platform Bridge Road, past the Nicasio Reservoir, through Nicasio, and then ultimately hit Sir Francis Drake Blvd. With the favorable winds, the trip from Pt. Reyes Station to Nicasio just flew by. However, once we hit the climb on Nicasio Valley Road, things slowed down considerably. The climb was tougher than I recalled it being but that was probably due to the higher gearing of my bike. As I rolled into Fairfax, I was feeling pretty good, ready to zip through the little southern Marin towns and get the ride over with.

It didn’t quite work out that way. Since I didn’t have an odometer and since I was unfamiliar with the route, I got a bit lost between San Anselmo and Ross. It wasn’t like I was wandering around in the wilderness or anything; I just took a couple of wrong turns and meandered around for a bit while mentally flogging myself for not bringing an odometer.

I saw a group of riders heading toward Ross and I took a chance to follow them. Sure enough, they were randonneurs, heading for home. Even though they were behind me, it was clear that they were faster riders, so I had to pick up the pace to keep up. Once I got through Ross and into Larkspur, I knew where I was and slowed down, letting my guiding party cruise off.

There are two hills left once you get to Larkspur: the climb over Camino Alto and the climb up to the Golden Gate Bridge south of Sausalito. I was feeling the miles when climbing Camino Alto, so I took it slow and steady. There was plenty of time to finish, so there was no need to hustle. When I got on the bike path from Mill Valley to Sausalito, I noticed that the path was littered with driftwood and other stuff that had washed up on the bike path earlier in the day. Avoiding that, I rode through Sausalito, struggled up to Highway 101, rode across the Golden Gate Bridge, and was done.

What did I learn on this ride?

  • You have to think about things a LOT more on brevets than on double centuries.
  • Keeping fed and hydrated is important, especially on days where the weather changes from rainy to warm and sunny.
  • A good seat is a good thing.
  • Making last minute changes to equipment is a good way to forget something important (e.g., a cycle computer).
  • Knowing the route really, really helps make the riding easier.

Ride Statistics:

Distance:  125 miles

Elapsed Time: 10:54