Yes, we made it! Here's the track from:
- Mark's Garmin - http://connect.garmin.com/activity/392738471
- Jim's Garmin - http://connect.garmin.com/activity/392743055
The hardest part was getting out of town. We started a little late, and got caught in a heavy bike and motor traffic. To make matters worse, there was some event at the nearby high school, with parents dropping off their kids. We also managed to hit every red light. Lots of starting and stopping. Very nerve-wracking. Once on the open road, we were able to relax and enjoy the perfect morning weather. It was a little cool, in the high 40s, but we had the slight breeze at our backs and cruised along at an easy 19-20 mph.
It's inevitable on a ride like this that one encounters a large population of average or even "poor" riders, especially after leaving 15 minutes late (Jim's fault - the parking lot was completely full when we arrived because it takes an hour and fifteen minutes to get from Novato to Davis and not just an hour). But we digress..."On your left" resulted in a sharp move to the left by an inexperienced rider; thankfully we had a flat road and a full lane to avoid a collision. Another "On your left" elicited a sultry response from an arrogant rider who refused to move over and occupied the entire lane, forcing us to veer into the oncoming lane. But the most intriguing encounter when passing a cyclist was a guy on a downhill who would not move over. Mark yelled "On your left", but he still did not respond, and we were clipping along at 35MPH plus. But then instincts kicked in from Jim, the stoker, and he yelled at the top of his lungs "On your left" (dammit was implied). Of course, this probably scared the living daylights out of Mark, because when someone yells at that volume by one's right ear lobe, it almost hurts. Lesson learned by Jim...don't try to be a captain while sitting in the stoker seat. From that point on, Jim had to try really hard not to "think" like a Captain...and boy, is that hard! When we came to intersections or were passing other riders, Jim would just look down at his Garmin or the top tube and try not to be a part of the decision making for the bicycle. It's very subtle, but also quite revealing what a stoker must do to really "let go".
The rest of the morning went quite a bit smoother, as the tandem duo rode through the Vacaville "English Hills" area. It was very, very pretty, and the weather was warming up nicely as we encountered our first set of "hills" on the run through Vacaville. Following that section one literally ends up on the Frontage Road beside Interstate 80, and both Mark and Jim remarked that we were almost halfway home back to Novato at this point!
Of course, riding a tandem always gets you comments, and we had just made a run down Air Base Parkway toward Wooden Valley when we got to a stop sign and a guy who had been drafting us for less than a mile said "You guys are really fast on that thing". He stayed with us another mile and then we dropped him on a long downhill stretch. At that point, about 40 miles into the ride, there's a twisty, rolling section. We got our momentum going and blasted through it. Great fun! We rolled into lunch starting to feel a little weary, mostly for lack of eating and not drinking enough water, as the air was really dry that day. But the excellent lunch stop at Wooden Valley school fixed that, and we had "luxury" patio chairs to sit in while we ate lots of potato chips, yummy sandwiches and V-8 juice (gotta keep up that salt intake).
After lunch, the serious climbing began. On each uphill, we got passed by a group of cyclists, then we'd blast by them on the downhill. After passing Moscowite Corners, on the edge of Lake Berryessa, we went up the gentle uphill to reach the aptly named "Tandem Hill". Although not a steep downhill, it has the perfect pitch for pedaling a tandem at 25MPH plus with almost little effort. So again we passed people with almost no effort. At the top of Cardiac Hill, which was the last serious climb of the day, Jim told Captain Mark to "let it go", that we could take all the curves at full speed. Mark said OK, and down we plunged. Mark kept telling himself to relax and focus on getting the right line through each curve. Mark's adrenal gland was at full production. To make things more interesting, some slower riders insisted on riding down the middle of the road. We screamed at them at the top of our lungs - "ON YOUR LEFT!".
On our last ride, Mark's tandem developed a strange noise emanating from the free hub. It sounds kind of like a sea lion with a bad head cold. It only happened when the pedals are at a specific orientation. Mark disassembled and greased the free hub in preparation for this ride, and it seemed to have fixed the problem. About 30 miles in, however, the sea lion was back. It kept getting worse, and by mile 70, he was barking every time we coasted. Fortunately, we didn't have to coast much the last 30 miles. Monday, Mark will call the tandem dealer, Crank2, and the tandem may need a new free hub.
One unique stop on this ride was the corner on Pleasants Valley Road and Putah Creek Road, which was just over a little hill about a mile from the Lake Solano Rest Stop (the last rest stop before the Finish). Jim's Mom and sister Susan were manning the corner marshall duties on that turn all afternoon (it's a pretty tight left-hand turn after bombing down a hill, so it's good to have someone there to slow riders down). So Mark and Jim pulled over to say "hi" to them and Jim delivered two birthday cards to each of them (they are both October birthdays two days apart!). It was fun delivering birthday greetings "by tandem"!
As the afternoon wore on, we realized the climbing took a lot out of both of us. Jim suggested we gear down and spin more on the flat. It was a good suggestion. The temp had risen to the mid 80s, and we now had a slight headwind. We got into a routine. About every 10 minutes, we each took a drink of water, then we'd gear up and take turns standing. We cheered when we reached the Davis city limit sign. At that point it's only a few miles to the finish through the bike-lane laden suburbia of Davis, and it was a very pleasant way to finish this epic ride.
One thing we realized while talking on the way home...very few wheel suckers (only two we could remember, and both of them for a very short duration). And relatively few large groups and pace lines. We both remarked that last year we rode quite a bit with other riders in groups and pace lines, but this year we were solo tandeming almost 95% of the ride.
It was, indeed, a fun ride. Jim is an amazing stoker. And Mark was a consistent and strong Captain. There were times when Mark felt this huge surge of power pushing us along. Our communication and our teamwork is improving - you need a lot of both on a tandem. Mark realized he needs to work on starting and stopping. And Jim learned some valuable lessons about being a stoker that can directly be applied to riding with Linda (much more appreciation of the stoker's mindset). Overall, though, we did great, and it was quite an accomplishment for only have ridden several times together. Now, if Mark can just get rid of that congested sea lion.
Mark Gire and Jim Gloystein