Every year Bike Party does a Bike
The Limits Ride. It's always a hundred miles long. The first year
it more or less followed the county line around Santa Clara
County, which is how the ride got its name. The routes have
changed a bit since then, but it's still a 100 mile ride, the
longest one SJBP has anything to do with. Last year I'd managed to
finish as the sun was going down at the back of the pack. I wanted
to do better than that this year. I'd done many long rides during
the year, so there was a good chance I could.
It was so early when I got on the
train that the camera used it's flash to document the fact I got
the first train to leave Mountain View that morning. By the time I
got to San Jose City Hall for the start there were plenty of
people already milling around.
This was the easy to photograph part
of the group. It wasn't long before we assembled for a group shot.
This was taken by Carlos Babcock
using Lloyd Cha's camera. I downloaded it off facebook and hope
they don't mind my sharing it with you. After he took the picture
using several different cameras Carlos announced that among us was
Sharlene Washington, who had just ridden her bike across the USA
from California to Florida. We all gave her a hand.
Billy Cool told us about how the
first time Sharlene had joined him for a ride to Tiburon she had
felt like giving up when she got to the first hill beyond the
Golden Gate Bridge because "It was too far." Since then she had
lost about eighty pounds and had just crossed the country on a
bicycle. At this point Sharlene spoke up and said "And it wasn't
too far because I made it." Soon after that we filed past Carlos
single file following Sharlene. After that we were on the road.
At first it was easy to stay with
the front group. But as the miles went by it got a bit harder.
Then a red light separated the group that had to stop from the
faster ones. After that it got easier to set my own pace.
I rode by myself for a while. Then the people doing The People's
Century caught up with me. I rode with them until the first
regroup. We got there just as the lead group was leaving so rather
than take a break we followed them again.
By this time we were going up into
the hills that surround the valley like a bowl. The views were
great, the roads were in good condition, and the miles just kept
rolling on by. Coming down the other side of the hill I saw 34
miles per hour on my speedometer. No way am I going to take a
picture at that kind of speed on a road I've ridden maybe three or
four times. It was a beautiful place though.
By this time we were very strung
out. I imagine the lead group were an hour ahead of me, and who
knows what was going on behind us. Probably at least a few had
given up for one reason or another. I was in a state where I was
mostly focused on keeping my legs churning and my bike on the road
near the shoulder. I'd eaten well the day before so I wasn't
hurting for food. The temps were comfortable. The miles past
The southernmost point in the ride
was the turn from Baily onto Santa Teresa. Riding up Santa Teresa
I saw that power plant they'd built a decade or so ago. I remember
the developers promising it wouldn't be "an eyesore". Looking at
the thing, all I can say is "looks like an eyesore to me."
I pulled over at the second regroup
and wolfed down the peanut butter sandwich I'd made the previous
evening. It was so good. Exactly what I needed. Next time I do a
long ride I'm taking a couple of those for sure. After that
regroup I rolled with this crew for a while.
After that I followed Townie Bill
for many miles. His pace was easy for me to follow. There was also
the thing that every time I passed him he turned it up a bit and
passed me again. So okay, I didn't want to turn up the pace that
much, I let him lead. I followed, but not too close.
The wind was brutal going up
Lafayette through the industrial area. It was flat and straight,
and the wind came straight at us. After a while the guy in the
California Republic shirt offered to cut the wind for me. I took
him up on it. I tried to talk to him but he explained "I can't
hear too well." He lead me all the way to the marina at the end of
Hope St. Surprise, surprise! The lead group hadn't left yet. Thank
you California Republic, whatever your name is!
At this point I ate the three boiled
eggs I'd had in my kit since I left Mountain View. They were
something, but the peanut butter sandwich had been a better boost.
It didn't matter much, at this point I was determined to finish. I
had lots of sore spots, but nothing was that bad. I was worried
that the bulge on my front tire would turn into a flat, but so far
it had held up so I was optimistic. I refilled my water bottles at
the tap by the bathroom and hoped for the best. I was almost
euphoric at catching the riders that knew what they were doing.
For sure I was doing much better than last year!
We call this part of the trip
"doing the Piedmont rollers." On the left is unsullied ranch land,
on the right suburbia. The road goes fairly straight, but under it
there is considerable elevation change. Sometimes you're going up,
sometimes you're going down.
Most of the time the view on your
left is bucolic.
My tire blew out not far beyond the
San Jose City Limit, about where Piedmont (or White or whatever
the name was there) crosses Westboro. All there was for shade was
a dead phone booth. The riders ahead of me were far enough ahead
of me that I didn't expect any of them to notice my stumble. I
settled down and examined the damage. It wasn't a puncture, but
rather the tire had gotten old. I can't be that upset, I got
something like 6,000 miles out of it. I used one of my MEND YOUR
FUELISH WAYS stickers to reinforce the inside of the tire and then
put in my spare tube and pumped it up. So far so good.
I rolled by myself for what felt
like an eternity. It couldn't have been far though. My legs felt
miserable. My hands were sore from gripping the handle bars for so
long. I was almost out of water. I'd refilled my reserve tank at
the break, but being thirsty I'd drunk most of it already. There
was still seven miles to go.
These guys caught up with me just
before we got to Tully. After we turned right they explained that
they wanted to wait for a couple of others they were riding with.
I didn't want to wait so I pushed on. The conversation was
invigorating though. I felt better for a while after that.
I could tell I was getting close to
downtown when I started seeing "buffered bike lanes." That's where
they took a whole car lane and broke it into a buffer (the part
with the diagonal stripes) and a generous bike lane separated from
the cars. Such an amazing improvement! Thank you San Jose.
That's me finishing. Lloyd Cha took
the picture at 6:04 PM, according to facebook. I'd taken something
like an hour and a half off last years time.
Henry was watching the bikes when I
got there. We talked while I unraveled from the bike. He had
started an hour or so after the official start. I remember him
passing me on Bailey, down at the bottom of the county, just
before the second regroup. He'd run away after the third regroup
and finished first. Probably all things considered he had the
fastest time of all of us by a lot. He gave me some of his pizza,
which was just what I needed at that point. Thanks Henry!
Inside there was lots of fellowship
and trading stories from the road.
Lloyd had a shirt with lots of space
imagery from Lockheed on it. John mentioned that he had been very
involved with the solid rocket boosters back when he was a big
time manager. Now he's way lower on the food chain.
It was getting chilly when Floyd and
Adam got in. By then a lot of the other finishers had left, and
the rest were leaving. They'd done "the people's century", and had
stories of riding on beautiful bike trails that ran parallel to
the roads the rest of us had taken.
A day or two later Tall Asian Mike
posted this map that shows our route. Not shown is the wind that
made the trip much harder than I was expecting it to be. Still it
was awesome, and I'm glad to say I've gone a hundred miles,
keeping an average pace of 10 MPH, including a flat and everything
else that happened. Feeling proud!
Postscript: Four days later the
bulge was back in my front tire. I went out and got new tires. I
took the above picture after I swapped in the new one. As you can
see, the sticker split about where the stress point was. I'd say I
got about forty miles out of it. More than enough to finish the
ride and do another one, but not the kind of thing anyone can
count on for much more than that.
One wonderful thing about the new
tire is the reflective strip on the sidewall. I feel much safer
just knowing it's there. The packaging promised very good puncture
resistance, so my hopes are high on that!