Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Super Commute Circa 2006

I had this brilliant idea (these things are relative). I'd just toss up a bunch of old photos from Cali and go to bed. Then of course it became a mega-involved-project where I'd be comparing and contrasting my epically (there, I said it again Solo & Rooter. And in reference to a road ride too) huge and beautiful commute in Marin to my current epically frustrating and dismal commute to Newton from Somerville. So I went out and took 1,000 (Actually 999. I'm not kidding, Helmet Hero set on "Picture every three seconds mode all the way to work) photos today. Half of them were useless because the lens was so caked with slush...as we shall see tomorrow. For today we go extremely verbose photo caption style.

Clickety clickety click

In the winter of 2005/2006 I was living in Fairfax, CA, 25 miles north of San Francisco with my friend Pete. I was working at a small, now defunct shop called Road Rage (great name eh?) in SOMA. My commute, four days a week, was a minimum round-trip distance of 50 miles. Not one of those miles could be classified as "junk".

Golf Course on Pine Mountain

The commute could basically be done in three different ways depending on how tough/stupid I was feeling on a given day. Option one was to head straight down the valley through Kentfield and Larkspur. This was the "flat route". Just two major climbs totaling fifteen minutes of sustained climbing, in each direction. Part of it was on The Tour of CA route, can't say that about my current commute.

Alpine Dam

If I was feeling super-tough I would head straight up Pine Mountian on Bolinas-Fairfax Road which leads you up and over Mt. Tamalpais, A.K.A. "Mt. Tam". The start of the first twenty plus minute serious climb was about 45 seconds from our door so to warm up I would do a couple laps around town beforehand. It still hurt for some reason.

I was riding up the thing one day and overtook what looked to be a small, Euro-Pro, a homunculus like Roberto Heras. It was, in fact, a kid. His set up was dialed, all Shimano DA, white booties, shaved legs...actually he probably didn't to shave them because, he was, as he told me, 12 years old. He was cranking up this hill too. As we picked up the pace and passed other groups of riders he told me that he raced. I said "Man, you must kill people!". "No" he said "It's really competitive around here, I maybe get top fifteen...top ten". Twelve years old. Jesus Krispies.

I let the wee bugger go as I stopped to shed a layer of clothing, one of the guys we had passed came up breathless, "Hey, your son is an animal!". "My son? Oh no, he's way too old to be my son, heh!". Wait...he really wasn't. Yikes.

Tam Ridgeline

That's the Pacific to my right. This is a section of the Tam Ridgeline called "The Seven Sisters". (some call them "The Seven Bitches"). It's really the toughest part of the climb; it's windy as hell and the rollers kick up HARD. I once got caught out there in the driving rain, I had to lie down to avoid getting knocked off the ridge by 60 mile per hour winds. Another time I found myself up there in a freak snowstorm wearing nothing but arm warmers and a rain slicker. By the time I got to Pete's house I couldn't shift my gears or operate the door knob. I had grown frozen flippers where my hands should have been.

The Pacific

The super-tough-guy commute took about 2:45 and boasted a huge amount of climbing. The decent into Marin City on Route 1 was incredible. Over 40MPH through the corners, so technical that cars couldn't come close to keeping up. Just had to watch the run off from the eucalyptus trees, that stuff is slicker'n hell.

Paradise Drive

The slightly less nutty commute took me out to Paradise Drive In Tiburon. This was an all big ring stomp down winding, immaculately surfaced roads. Except for the time when a mudslide took a huge chunk of the road out.

This does not happen on my ride through Watertown

The awesome thing about this was that it cut off all but walking and cycling traffic to miles of amazing road. For months. You could ride in the middle of the street, blaring your music, paying no mind to cars. Kind of like heaven.


The storms that did this to the road wreaked havoc on the trails as well. Some of the destruction I witnessed was staggering. Homes and cars turned upside down by the mudslides. That's the thing. I'm sitting here, pining over California riding while the weather is so far from clement here, it's ridiculous. Fact is, March 2006, it rained for 28 days straight in San Francisco and Marin. Not showers. Not sprinkles. Deluge. The reason I only have sunny photos is because I didn't want to ruin my camera taking shots in the rain.

I want to go to there


Bike Path Through Tiburon, good place for sitings of The Man Himself.

Often this path looked like the Autobahn for cyclists

2006 was the first time I got really god damn skinny. 12 hours a week minimum, before you even start trying on the bike a week'll do that to a fat guy. That and basically eating like a Macro-biotic.

San Francisco Bay

The bike path along the bay. I'd be riding all laden with my pack, some days I'd just be dragging. Often I'd get lucky and fall into a group ride and just draft for miles. The wind on this stretch could be brutal. One of my favorite characters I'd run into was a German guy named Rolf who worked at Bicycle Odyssey. He rode a Lemond set up as a fixed gear just like mine. He would chase me up the Camino Alto climb then struggle to follow me through the corners on the way down. I'd never seen someone lay it down on a Fixed gear like that. Totally sick.

Sausalito Ghetto

First view of the city on the way in

Coming back down the hill into this section was probably the closest I have ever come to dying on the bike...

to be continued.


solobreak said...

It may not be ATOC, but in 1990 your current commute was included in the final stage of the Tour d Trump. The race came down 16 from Hopkinton, right through West Newton and Newtonville, then whatever parkway that is that runs into Memorial Drive. It ended with circuits that went over the two bridges. I don't remember who won the stage but I think it was Raul Alcala who won the overall that year.

solobreak said...

Ahh, it was "show some spine" Mike Zanoli, no longer with us. Thank you internet.


Colin R said...

Whoa! I actually remember coming down from Maine with my dad to watch that stage. I was 8!

James said...

If it took you 2:45 to get there how did you get home?

Big Bikes said...

Solo, that race must have been horrible. The only reason to ride where I ride is because you are going to get paid...or getting paid.

Rooter, you were way ahead of me as a cycling fan. I never knew that race passed through Mass.

James, sometimes I would ride home for extra tough guy points (which were easily transferable for tired guy points). Sometimes I'd take the ferry.