20 May 07
Davis Double Century 2007
Prelude: Friday evening proved to be more hectic than planned. In the afternoon, one of Pica’s coworkers spotted some kittens under a trailer building near where Pica works. They proceeded to try to catch them. By the time Pica left work, three of the four were in captivity, with a live trap set out for the fourth. We returned after dinner to find the fourth kitten in the trap. The kittens went off to the house of Pica’s boss for over the weekend, and happily it looks like all four will find homes. But the episode with the kittens delays our packing for the day by a bit, adding to our usual disorganization.
2 AM. Pica notices that the dome light in Nellie, our Honda Element, is on. It would be seriously bad news if the car doesn’t start, and she goes out to check. It’s okay.
4 AM It’s time to get up. Charlie nudges me awake (it’s breakfast time, silly human) ahead of the alarm. We need to head out early because we are the radio support at the first rest stop.
Crisis. We set out for Rest Stop 1 at 5 AM, powering on the mobile transceiver in Nellie. At 5:15 AM, we hear over the radio a report from the ham operators heading up to Rest Stop 2 which is at Monticello Dam on Lake Berryessa. There is a fire in the canyon, and no traffic being allowed through. Our 750 riders on the road suddenly have no place to go. We know the ride director back at start/finish is now in high decision-making mode, and we await instructions. At 5:32 we are approaching Rest Stop 1, and we get the announcement over the air all riders are to halt at that stop. At the moment we arrive the folks at RS 1 know none of this, and we immediately leap into informing them. A few riders have already passed the rest stop, but not many, and the rest stop soon fills up with impatient and chilly cyclists.
The word comes of the alternative plan, reverse the route. This followed by the adopted variant — turn the ride from a loop into an out-and-back ride, heading north up the Capay Valley, ending up in the hills of Lake County, and then returning the same way. There are massive amounts of logistics to sort out to accomplish this shift, and the riders are still instructed to hold.
An hour later the riders are released, and the rest stop soon clears out. Once everyone is out we change our mission and start driving north as a sag support vehicle.
Tail-end Charlie. Since we were at the rest stop until it closed, all the riders are now in front of us, and it is now our lot to keep track of the final rider. This is rider number 181, who seems particularly geographically challenged, and we have to redirect him twice to get him up to the highway headed up the Capay Valley. He would get lost at least one more time over the course of the ride.
Personal Mishap. We drive up the Capay Valley looking for stray riders, and arrive at the now-relocated Rest Stop 2. Very few riders need a sag at this point, but we see one rider who has enough and decides to ride back to Davis. What’s his rider number? I chase after him on foot, shouting. Then running to the rest stop over uneven but flat ground I somehow lose my balance and fall, but wind up in a quite well-executed roll. (When I was a little kid I took some tumbling classes and practiced those sorts of falls. I must have retained the muscle memory.) I am unhurt except for tweaking my side a bit.
Extremely Bad Karma. We continue to sag northward. Over the radio we hear that a tandem is getting a privately-provided sag further up the course by a black Honda. Private sags are absolutely not allowed on this double century because of the potential for confusion and traffic hazards, and when one of our patrol vehicles catches up with them, they are disqualified.
Nevertheless, they continue to ride from rest stop to rest stop, refueling themselves on the way. Pica later in the afternoon glares at them, says “oh, you’re the renegade tandem couple”.
As it turns out that not only are they having private sag support, only one of them has registered for the ride, thus cheating the bike club out of $120, the per-person entry fee. They get their comeuppance at the very end. Pica recognizes them as they try to get their ride dinner at the finish point, fetches the ride director, who promptly chews them out and boots them out of the building.
[Not] In The Air. Our radio support task is greatly facilitated by having an airplane (“Air One”) flying up about 5000’ serving as an airborne repeater. In the deeper canyons of the ride there is no other way to get a decent radio signal to the sag vehicles. Several of the local hams are pilots and take turns flying. We are headed south towards Davis with a couple of sagged passengers, and drive past the county airport, just after when Air One has set down for refuelling. Pica notices a plane landing funny. She doesn’t see this, but in fact this plane goes off the end of the runway. Nobody is hurt, but flight operations at the airport are halted for 45 minutes, and our airborne repeater is stuck on the ground for that time.
Wedding. We find out that there is another bicycle event going on that is sharing part of the course and even a rest stop. This is the Northern California AIDS Challenge, whose 60 riders have raised $120,000. Since our double century has turned into an out-and-back ride, our old friend Rest Stop 1 is also the penultimate Rest Stop 9. On our second trip out this day we stop there and see a mock wedding party going on at Rest Stop 9, with three guys in white wedding dresses behind a nice-looking cake. This is part of the festivities for the AIDS challenge ride. In fact we run into a friend of ours, Joaquin, at the stop who is riding that ride.
Heartfelt Sag. It 5 PM and we are at Rest Stop 7, 65 miles from the finish. We want to start making our way back to Davis — we are tired and have kitties to feed. The thought is that we can sag in riders further along the course as we head “Davisly” (using the term coined by one of the net control operators). We head south, and are in the Cache Creek canyon area when we get a call from net control asking if we can sag a tandem that is on the other side of Rest Stop 7. It is not the direction we want to be going, but okay. There is no other vehicle that can sag a tandem in the vicinity.
Our Honda Element has two nice tricks — the rear seats can fold up against the walls and the gear shift is mounted on the front panel rather than the floor. Amazingly, this allows one to fit a tandem entirely inside if one takes the front wheel off and slides the front of the bike between the front seats, the fork just touching the front of the interior. One can’t carry the tandem’s passengers that way, but another sag can and would take them.
Several miles west of Rest Stop 7 we spot the tandem, with the other sag already there. It’s the little girl. At the beginning of the day at Rest Stop 1 we were endeared to see a dad captaining a tandem with his seven-year old daughter as the stoker. She was delighted to be on the bike.
But she had gotten tired. By that point they had just finished a metric double century — 200 kilometers. The girl was quite chipper though, and still wanted to finish the ride under their own power, so the plan was to take them to Rest Stop 9 and see how they felt then. The photo at top shows us all on the trunk of Nellie.
We reconvene at Rest Stop 9. Still tired, they stop to grab munchies, and we start sagging them the twenty miles left to Davis. At the first turn, the other sag vehicle honks us over. The girl wants to ride the final mile into the finish line. Well, we can arrange that, and once in Davis, I locate a suitable spot for them, and we stop. They reassemble the tandem, and ride off, arriving at the finish line to considerable applause.
Bird list. Pica contributes the following list of birds seen throughout the day:
black crowned night-heron
Eurasian collared dove