The Revolution is the annual fundraising ride for BORP, the Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program. My friend Greg Milano runs the cycling program, which gets people with physical disabilities on bike. They also have a tandem cycling program, and for the past two summers, I’ve volunteered as a tandem pilot for visually impaired and blind riders.
Greg emailed me a couple weeks ago asking if I could volunteer on the 25 mile handcyclist ride for the BORP Revolution Ride. The hand-cyclists ride bikes that are lower to the ground and not very visible to winery hopping drivers. When I googled the location of the ride, I immediately jumped on. The start place of the ride, Trentadue Winder in Geyserville, was exactly 100 miles by bicycle from North Oakland. Biking up the day before the ride seemed like the perfect excuse to do my first century.
Day 1: North Bay Runabout – Richmond BART to Santa Rosa
I didn’t quite make the hundred miles. I got a late start — mainly because I was doing some phone and paperwork to turn my PhD into a Master’s program! Reaching Santa Rosa around 7:30pm, I decided to crash at a motel with Greg and the other Revolution organizers. Took a hot shower, washed my clothes and climbed into a clean bed. I’ll use that bike-camping kit some other ride…
Day 2: North Bay Runabout – Trentadue Winery, Geyserville to St. Helena
I rode 25 miles with Bob, pictured here in his $6000 recumbent handcycle. Bob is a quadriplegic and a retired firefighter. He was a gruff, grouchy man who’s doing the best to keep himself busy and active, in spite and because of a body that doesn’t do everything that it used to do. He’s justifiably proud of his bike. With his ultra-low riding position, he would instantly hit 40 miles an hour on the downhills – way faster than I could ever imagine catching.
Another amazing thing about Bob is that, because he’s a quad, he doesn’t sweat. To keep from overheating, he poured bottle after bottle of water over himself as we rode through the Sonoma wine country. We ended up being pretty good riding partners. I didn’t cut him any slack when he groused about the uphills (the guy races with vets — he’s fine!) and I regaled him with stories of bike touring Iceland.
After eating an incredible after-ride meal — including grilled peaches and figs for dessert — I biked from Trentadue Winery over Hwy 128 to my roommate Sam’s old house in St. Helena. I got to Sam’s place well before dark — surprising given that I had waited until the last possible moment because my catering friends dilly-dallied in bringing out the brownies!
Day 3: North Bay Runabout – St. Helena to Vallejo
This would have been an uneventful ride, except that I made two mistakes:
First, I purchased watermelon at the salad bar of a grocery in Napa for $7.99/lb. Not only did I pay $5 for a cup of watermelon, it tasted as if they had soak the fruit in dish soap. I threw it out, brushed my teeth in the parking lot and left without a complaint — no need to ruin a ride by dealing with customer service!
Second, after crossing the intersection for Hwy 37 on the northern outskirts of Vallejo, I punctured my tire on a huge, square taper nail. I patched it, using two patches because the nail went through both sides of my tube. One patch immediately blew through as I brought the tube up to pressure. I fixed the patch and the other one blew out. I reasoned that because the holes were so large, the patches couldn’t hold too much pressure. After the third patch, I inflated to less than full pressure and continue riding. Ten blocks later, I hit a rail-road crossing and pinch-flatted.
A middle-aged drifter on a gold-spray painted folding bike pointed me towards the nearest bike shop. I clomped from one side of Vallejo to the other, to find the shop was closed Wednesday and Sundays. I clomped to the transit station and rode the 80 bus back to El Cerrito Del Norte BART. I was a bit cheesed at not carrying a spare tube, but happy that public transportation had saved me from being stranded on the other side of the Delta.
I ended up that evening at Adam Shapiro’s bbq, where I ran into the ex-boyfriend. Completely unplanned and unknown to each other, we and our new bike-camping set-ups had nearly crossed paths between St. Helena and Santa Rosa. True to form, he had purchased a new saddle bag, while I tied everything on with bike tubes. He slept out in the nice weather and got rained on in the morning, while I had a bivvy sack but crashed that night in Sam’s sister’s bed.
Meeting him reminded me of a lesson that I’ve learned in two weekends of ultra-light touring: it’s great to ride fast and light and end up at a potluck afterward — to exchange stories after a long day of riding, to eat and to possibly get a roof over your head. Because I’m carrying so little gear, it doesn’t slow me down and I don’t regret at all having carried the gear all weekend without putting it to use. It meant I stayed dry as well!