Last Sunday, for the second year in a row, I rode the Grizzly Peak [metric] Century with my daughter Alexa. (Why not the full century? Because I’m trying to promote the metric system in this country.) Read on for a description mainly of the food, but also the jinx—high, low, and otherwise—we got up to.
We met up with my EBVC teammate Craig and his wife Susanne. The weather was perfect. The food was plentiful and yummy. There were cool bandanas but no yellow socks this year. Alexa rode like a boss (especially when she Froomed us on Pinehurst) and covered the entire ~120 kilometers—including almost 2,000 meters of climbing—with her customary flair and panache.
(Wondering what the verb “Froome” means? You’ll have to read the full report.)
Note that I don’t say “long” version. “Long” in the context of anything written carries a distinctly negative connotation. This report is “full” like “full-figured.” But it’s certainly not long—I have just half an hour to write it so you’re practically done already.
Breakfast was the smear of jam Alexa left on a spoon. My breakfast usually consists of my younger daughter’s bread crusts, but she wasn’t home.
I hadn’t ridden with Craig for like six months, even though he’s normally one of my best training buds. That’s because this spring I decided, in lieu of my normal regimen, to ride less and get fat. But I e-mailed Craig the night before and sure enough, he and his wife Susanne were registered for GPC, so we made plans to meet up.
Teenagers take a really long time at everything (except sleeping). So Alexa and I were too late to meet Craig and Susanne. Fortunately, fate was on our side and Craig got a puncture like 20 meters into his ride, giving me the chance to a) sync up with him anyway, and b) further promote the metric system via this report.
Here are the Alberts at the start, along with Susanne’s shadow. Note my lack of arm warmers and leg warmers … that’s how nice the weather was. This marks the first time I have ever rocked fewer biking garments than Craig.
Alexa got a new bike last summer, with a double (albeit compact) crank instead of a triple, so she’s forced to climb a bit faster, regardless of how much energy she ought to be saving. But in fact she climbs much faster, beyond what her gearing demands. At the base of the steep, winding part of Pinehurst, she stunned us all by suddenly yelling, “I am awaited at the gates of Valhalla! Witness me!” and then launching a brutal attack.
Well, okay, I embellished that a bit. (She hasn’t yet seen Mad Max – Fury Road.) What actually happened is that she Froomed us. That is, she was riding so well she accidentally dropped us without even realizing it, like Chris Froome always does. I don’t think she noticed until she got to the top. I had to speed up a bit to keep her in sight so I could stop my lap timer … I’m pretty sure she got a new PR by a large margin. Her pace probably wasn’t very wise, so early in a long ride—particularly since this was only her second road ride of the year—but then, her prefrontal cortex is still under construction. At least she’s not doing truly dangerous stuff like so many teens do, like stealing cars, snorting Drain-O, playing mind-altering video games, and texting 24x7.
At the first rest stop we tucked in to the famous GPC home-baked snacks. In this photo Alexa does her best Vanna White impression, though her expression seems to be saying, “Did you really just give me a second plate of goodies for my very own?” (No, they were mine!)
So that’s poppy seed cake, peanut butter cookies, ginger snaps, pound cake, zucchini bread, oatmeal cookies, and coffee cake. There might have been some other stuff but I ate it too fast to notice. Could there have been a home-baked aspirin loaf? Possibly, if such a thing exists.
Next on the docket was a brisk descent of Wildcat Canyon, a trip through San Pablo, Pinole, etc. and on to the very heart of the ride, which is the oil refinery. Here’s the requisite glamour shot … note how Craig’s head appears to be steaming.
We threaded along the newly restored Planet of the Apes road near Crocket, with a new diversion along an isthmus (?) past the C&H sugar plant, which (according to my handy GPC bandanna) was built in 1906 and processes all the cane grown in Hawaii, which is about 700,000 tons per year. If my math is correct that’s 1.4 trillion pounds, which is particularly scary when you think of how rare sugar is compared to corn syrup these days. Should I talk a bit about beet sugar? Naw, let’s move on. Here’s Alexa rolling past the dueling bridges of the Carquinez Strait.
We hit the second rest stop, ate a bunch more stuff, and let our legs get all stiff so we could have maximum difficulty on the next section of the route: the famous, ruthless McEwen Road, named for pro sprinter Robbie McEwen, who compared this climb to having his spleen crushed in a giant mortar and pestle. (Okay, I made that up … I don’t know where it gets its name.)
Craig and Susanne like to play word games to distract themselves from the pain of this climb, and were gracious enough to include us. The standard game is naming world cities, going sequentially through the alphabet (e.g., Austin, Berlin, Copenhagen, Detroit…), but we decided to mix it up and try something new. Craig suggested profanities based on the alphabet (asshole, bastard, etc.) but I nixed that since I’m supposed to be a parent. We decided on non-profane derogatory statements by alphabet. I started: “Angry is how I feel toward you right now, Craig.” Susanne had B, and of course that’s not very difficult (“bad” being a perfectly obvious choice) but she just couldn’t bring herself to say anything mean to anybody. So this game didn’t last very long, though McEwen seemed to.
This year I didn’t forget to warn Alexa about the Pig Farm climb, though I’m sure she remembered it from last year anyway. It was nice and green. Here we are, having a good laugh, perhaps about how I talk too much and ought to be told to shut up.
Not surprisingly, Mama Bear was a mother. The weather was now officially too hot for Alexa. Plus, her neck was getting sore because she always rides on the hoods. It’s just how she rolls. Seems to work, anyway, and nobody could ever deny that she has better form on (and off) the bike than Chris Froome. Would she complain if she had a mechanical problem and I took that moment to attack? No. She might ask me to fix her bike later, but then that’s what dads are for, at least in traditional patriarchal households.
As we rolled down the hill toward the final fueling station, and I mentioned my intention to stop for water there, Susanne said, “Do not, my friends, become addicted to water. It will take hold of you, and you will resent its absence!” I’m paraphrasing here. For some reason she doesn’t like to stop at that last rest stop, so she rides on ahead and Craig fills a couple bottles, then hammers to catch up. So here are the three of us, with Alexa clearly thinking, “OMG, are we really doing another stupid photo-op?”
We drank a couple ice-cold Juice Squeezes (70% real juice, with the other 30% being, well, whatever makes it the right color and flavor), had some more cookies, and hit out for the final stretch to the finish.
Along San Pablo Dam Road, Alexa seemed a bit frustrated and expressed the teen equivalent of “Are we there yet?” (I can’t remember the wording but the tone was unmistakable). She’s a fine athlete but with the mountain biking she’s been focusing on, her longest ride this year has been around three hours and this was over five hours in, so I can’t blame her. I decided she just needed a bit of encouragement, and I’d planned for this: I whipped out a can of silver spray paint, sprayed it all over her mouth, and declared, “You will ride eternal, shiny and chrome.” Alexa, delighted, cried out , “Am I awaited?”
(All of the above was communicated nonverbally, of course, and there wasn’t actually any paint, though I did remember to bring lip sunblock this year.)
At the finish, Craig and Susanne had saved us a spot at a shady table. Well, at least they didn’t put a jacket or backpack down and tell us those spots were reserved for somebody else. Fortunately that still mainly happens at the movies, though some dickwad did that on Bart during rush hour the other day, causing me to fantasize about holding his face against the electric third rail—but I digress.
The food was excellent, as usual. Barbecued chicken; nude red potatoes; grilled onions, squash, peppers, and eggplant; jeweled rice; plenty of Acme baguette slices. The guy working the bread station was so impressed with Alexa—that is, her rare combination of youth, lack of tattoos, lack of piercings, and willingness to be seen in public with her father—that he invited us to swing by after lunch for some free bread to take home. We got like six baguettes and a sweet batard, which were hard to carry back to the car but then that’s a great problem to have.
All in all, another glorious day of biking. (I wish I could tell you what we had for dinner, but the sad fact is, I just don’t remember. At this rate, next year’s report may be just a paragraph or two!)
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