A whirlwind 2016 Errandonnee

When MG over at the Chasing Mailboxes blog announced the start of this year’s Errandonnee Challenge, I knew I wanted to join in on the biking and errand running fun! I immediately started to make plans and, after not being able to participate last year, I was super excited to finally complete the challenge.

Of course things are rarely as easy as what we plan. On the first day of the challenge, it started raining. Soon, an atmospheric river settled over Northern California, and flash flood warnings were issued. Then actual flooding started, mudslides happened, and trees toppled over into roads and onto houses. Being a Californian, I already don’t like being out in cold or wet weather, and there was just no way I was going to cycle in the crazy storms that we were having. Though we desperately need the rain, I hoped that it would clear out with enough time for me to complete the challenge. After 7 days, I was sure I was going to miss out on being able to participate in the challenge. Finally, though, after 9 days of rain and with 2 days left in the challenge, the weather finally cleared up. “Two days”, I thought, “can I actually complete all 12 errands in such a short amount of time?” I wasn’t sure, but I was sure going to give it a shot!

Well, a whirlwind 48 hours passed and I’m happy to report that I got in all 12 errands!

On to the nitty gritty!

Bike ridden for all errands: My trusty commuter and general stuff-hauler, a flat-black Trek 7.2 FX. For the challenge, I used a Green Guru Carbon Cooler 22L pannier that I picked up at the REI used gear sale last year for $20. It’s the perfect size for hauling around the stuff I need for work and any purchases I make while on the go.

Total mileage for the challenge: 31.1

Day 1: 3/14/2016

Errandonnee #1: Work or Volunteering

Distance: 6.5 miles

Destination: Bus depot

I rode to the downtown depot to catch the bus to work. This multi-modal commute has been the way I’ve been getting to work during the shorter days of fall and winter, when the 16 mile ride to my workplace is just too far to do in the dark mornings.

Observation: The time change has made it so that this shorter commute into downtown is almost entirely in the dark. I’m looking forward to the longer days of spring and summer when the mornings are light earlier in the day.

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No more rain but still cold and windy on this morning’s commute.

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Parked outside of Salazar Hall. The bike racks are pretty much empty due to spring break.

Errandonnee #2-4 (Wildcard, Arts & Entertainment, Social Call)

Distance: 10.3 miles

Destination: Sebastopol, CA

#2 (Wildcard) – After work, I needed to chip away at the planning for my upcoming John Muir Trail thru-hike before meeting the husband for his weekly billiards league night and an ice cream date, in nearby Sebastopol. I decided that I wanted to do my hiking research over a delicious pint of beer and figured it would be best to centralize these errands, so after work I rode out to Sebastopol, via the lovely Joe Rodota Trail. I took the long way through town, riding through Florence St., a residential street famous for having Patrick Amiot sculptures in many of the front yards. Having had my fix of art gawking, and wanting a reasonably quiet spot to research for my hike, I rode over to one of my very favorite beer spots in Sonoma County, The Garden. This little gem is the taproom of a local co-op, Community Market.

Observation: All of the rain we got has made for some of the most luscious and vibrant greens I’ve seen in a long time. Also, I love that each time I visit The Garden, they almost are almost never offer the same beers.

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Views along the Joe Rodota Trail.

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One of the many Patrick Amiot sculptures on Florence St. in Sebastopol.

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Reading and planning over a pint of Berryessa Brewing Company’s Rye Ryerish.

#3 (Arts & Entertainment) – Leaving The Garden, I made the short ride over to the Sebastopol Plaza to meet the husband at the Old Main Street Saloon, a little hole-in-the-wall bar. I always have a blast watching the team shoot pool. Husband did ok, winning 3 out of the 5 matches he played.

Observation: The Old Main is, unfortunately, not as divey as one would expect. Having a thing for dive bars, I was a bit disappointed.

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#4 (Social Call) – After the match, the husband and I had a late-night ice cream date at our favorite place, Screamin’ Mimi’s, which is conveniently located just across the plaza from the Old Main Street Saloon. I enjoyed a small sundae, which I sometimes think I order just to get the amazing house made maraschino cherry that comes on top of it. The husband enjoyed a scoop of his usual, Mimi’s version of mint-chip.

Observation: The first thing you notice when walking into Mimi’s is the amazing and overwhelming scent of freshly made waffle cones, which the shop makes continuously throughout the day. The scent lingered in my hair after leaving the shop!

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Date: 3/15/16

Errandonnee #5-8: Work or Volunteering, Store, and Personal Business

Distance: 6.7 miles

#5 (Work or Volunteering): Another commute to the downtown bus depot. I left extra early today because I had several errands to run before catching the bus.

Observation: Good to see several other bike commuters out on the streets today.

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The Humboldt Bike Blvd. is my preferred route on my morning commute.

#6 (Store): I stopped at the Safeway that is on my commute route to purchase a yogurt for breakfast.

Observation: There were a surprising amount of people in the store even though it was a touch before 7 a.m.

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Good bike parking at Safeway! 

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#7 & 8 (Personal Business): I continued along my usual route but made two quick stops before arriving at the bus depot. First, I headed to the Post Office. My FasTrak transponder had recently stopped working so FasTrak sent me a new one. I had to mail the old one back to them so that I would not incur a fee for not returning it. After the post-office, I headed over to the the downtown branch of my bank to make a deposit through the ATM.

Observations: I don’t usually have time to make it to the post office during their retail hours, so I was happy that the downtown branch has a self-service kiosk. My bank is next-door to a frequently visited local brewery, Third St. Aleworks. When I passed by, I noticed that they are celebrating their 20th anniversary with the release of their 20th anniversary ale. I made a mental note to stop in soon to sample their special release.

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Post office. No bike parking nearby but also no people nearby. Felt safe enough to leave the Trek by the door while I mailed my stuff.

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Errandonnee #9-10: Non-store errand

Distance: 1.2 miles

#9 (Non-store errand) – Today, I didn’t have enough time in the morning to throw a lunch together so, when twelve o’clock rolled around, I needed to actually leave my office (a rare occurrence) to obtain food. Since it’s spring break at the University where I work, almost all of the dining venues on campus are closed. The one venue that was open didn’t sound appealing so I headed off campus, just across the street, to a local Korean/sushi joint.

Observation: I got there a bit after noon, expecting the restaurant to be super busy, but was surprised to find that I was the only person there. Must be because the students are gone for the week.

#10 (Non-store errand) – After packing my to-go order in my pannier, I headed across the plaza for a quick stop at a Redbox kiosk to pick up a movie to watch that night. I found several options but settled on Bridge of Spies.

Observation: I don’t usually see many interesting-to-me options in the Redbox, but I was pleasantly surprised to find several movies that I would like to rent. I debated renting more than one movie, but knew that I wouldn’t have time to watch more than the one.

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My to-go lunch order sitting in the top of my pannier, while stopping to rent a movie.

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BBQ chicken and spicy tuna roll combo, enjoyed back in my office.

Errandonnee #11: Personal Care

Distance: 0.5 mile

I had an acupuncture appointment after work and not having enough time to get to my appointment after work via my bike, I rode the bus to downtown Santa Rosa from my office and then biked over to my appointment.

Observation: There is no decent bike parking close to my acupuncturist’s office. I had to walk a block over to lock my bike up.

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Errandonnee #12: You carried WHAT home on a bike?

Distance: 5.9

After my acupuncture appointment, I headed north to pick up some ravioli for that night’s dinner, before heading home. I stopped at Canevari’s Deli, a Sonoma County institution that’s been churning out fresh made ravioli for over 80 years. I picked up an order of cheese ravioli to accompany the chicken I planned to make for dinner.

Observation: Though it was near closing time when I stopped in, there were several customers ahead of me and many things were already sold out. A testament to the deliciousness that Canevari’s serves up.

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Cheese ravioli; ready to cook up at home.

30 Days of Biking – Week 2

With Week 3 of #30daysofbiking almost over, I figured I should do a quick Week 2 update.

I rode 6 out of 7 days last week, total of about 65 miles. It would’ve been 7 out of 7, but we had a totally out of the ordinary lightning and hail storm pass through early in the week. Also a bummer: I started getting sick early this week. I got hit pretty hard with a nasty cold and ended up staying home from work for 2 days. Subsequently, almost no riding this week.

I did do a little better with my picture taking, though I keep forgetting to snap pics of my bike, doh!

Here’s what my Week 2 looked like.

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My usual bike to work route takes me down the Humboldt St. Bike Blvd.

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My town was the adopted home town of Charles Schulz. There are many sculptures of Peanuts characters around the county.

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One of my favorite buildings on my regular bike to work route.

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Cycling behind the husband along the backroads of Sonoma County.

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Loving my new bar tape!

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Husband riding next to his second home, the local golf course.

2014 Coffeeneuring Challenge Wrap-Up

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Seven weeks, cycling to seven different coffee spots…

When I first set out to take on the Coffeeneuring Challenge, I didn’t really know what to expect. Would it be difficult? Fun? A chore? I’m happy to report, that though I wasn’t always able to bike under the best circumstances, every ride was enjoyable and something I looked forward to completing every week.

The majority of the places I visited were both interesting and delicious, though there was one spot did leave something to be desired (I’m looking at you Starbucks). All in all, this was a wonderful series of little bike adventures. Though I bike often, almost every day in fact, I’m often in a hurry (commuting to work) or on a long training ride, and this leaves little time to enjoy things like stopping for coffee. Coffeeneuring allowed me to take slower, more relaxed rides than I normally would, and I can say that my life is all the more better for it!

What I rode

More often than not, I rode my Trek 7.2 hybrid bike on the Coffeeneuring rides. This is my everyday, commuting bike, and it’s set up with a rack and a set of panniers which makes transporting things very easy. I prefer not to bike while wearing a backpack, so I tend to ride my Trek whenever I have to carry anything.

There were a few rides, though, where I left the Trek in the garage and instead rode my Fuji Sportiff. This is a new bike for me, having acquired it just a few months ago. I’m still getting the hang of riding a road bike (so different than my Trek!), but it’s super zippy and fun to cruise on.

Where I rode

Coffeeneuring #1: Atlas Coffee Co.
Date: 10/5/14
Distance: 11.2 miles

Coffeeneuring #2: Tin Roof Bakery
Date: 10/11/14
Distance: 4.9 miles

Coffeeneuring #3: Spring Lake Regional Park
Date: 10/18/14
Distance: 25 miles

Coffeeneuring #4: Holy Roast Cafe
Date: 10/24/14
Distance: 5.2 miles

Coffeeneuring #5: Empire Coffee
Date: 11/1/14
Distance: 2.2 miles

Coffeeneuring #6: Peet’s Coffee
Date: 11/9/14
Distance: 8 miles

Coffeeneuring #7: Starbucks Coffee
Date: 11/16/14
Distance: 2 miles

What was my favorite ride? Definitely the Coffeeshop without Walls at Spring Lake Regional Park. You really can’t beat making coffee while sitting on the edge of a lake!

Coffeeneuring #4 – Holy Roast Cafe

Friday, October 24 (employing vacation rule!): Holy Roast Cafe, 490 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa, CA

Ride #4 already! This challenge is going by so quickly!

Earlier in the week, I had planned to cycle to a cafe near the university where I work. Unfortunately between working late, watching the Giants smash game 1 and then crash and burn in game 2 of the World Series, and packing to go out of town this weekend, time got away from me and by Thursday night I realized that I still needed to complete my 4th coffeeneuring ride before I leave for vacation.

Friday morning I left the house around 6am and headed south toward downtown. The morning was dark and the fog became heavy about a mile and a half from the house. A couple of miles later, my trusty NiteRider headlight died. Crap! It was still dark outside and I still had a couple of miles until I reached my destination. I got off the main road and cycled the rest of the way on much less busy residential streets. I was worried that a) cars would not see me and I would get into an accident or b) because my night vision is pretty crappy, I would hit some sort of object in the road and be flung off my bike. Thankfully, I made it to Holy Roast Cafe unscathed. Whew!

The Cafe is in downtown Santa Rosa directly across from the Trek store and in the same building as the county health department offices. There was a bike rack located on the opposite side of the building from the cafe and I locked up my bike, hoping that it wouldn’t get stolen. Downtown Santa Rosa has a bad bike theft problem and the bike rack was in a location where I couldn’t keep an eye on my bike while in the cafe. I kept my fingers crossed that my trusty stead would still be there when I was ready to leave.

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I walked into the warmly lit cafe and found a lovely, relaxed space with ample seating (both tables/chairs and comfy looking couches). The staff was incredibly friendly, and it seems that there are many regulars at this cafe, which the staff all seemed to know by name.

I enjoyed a really solid black bean breakfast burrito and a giant cup of drip coffee.

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The cafe has free wifi and prices were very reasonable.

As I exited, I was relieved to see that my bike was still securely locked up.

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Good start to the day and another nice coffeeneuring adventure.

Total mileage for the day: 5.2 miles. My Strava for this ride is here.

2014 Solstice Microadventure

Sometime last year I read about Alastair Humphreys and his year of Microadventure. I instantly fell in love with the idea of, in the words of Alastair, “an adventure that is close to home, cheap, simple, short, and yet very effective.” Rather than some great big, globe-trotting trip, the Microadventure is a way of challenging yourself to be creative and do something you’ve never done in your own backyard. I’ve been following Alastair’s blog and Facebook page for a while now, and when he issued the Summer Solstice Microadventure Challenge on his Facebook page earlier this month, I knew that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to create an adventure near me. The only “rule” for the adventure? It had to include sleeping out in the wild for at least one night, without a tent! Challenge accepted!

Thinking about potential adventures, my first thought was to take off on my bike and find a nice hill to sleep on. Thinking about this further, though, I realized that I tend to see a lot of the world around me from atop two wheels, and I wanted a little change of pace. Instead, I wanted to craft an adventure that required me to walk to my destination. As luck would have I live just below the foothills of Sonoma County. Perfect!

On the evening of Summer Solstice, the husband and I packed up our gear and headed out the front door. We left the house at around 7:45 p.m. With pack strapped on, we walked through our residential neighborhood toward our destination.

Even though I have walked through my neighborhood countless times, having a big pack on my back definitely made for a different type of walking experience! I received a number of quizzical looks from people who were out watering their plants, walking their dogs, or playing with their kids. I even got one “looks like you missed the trail” greeting from an older dude. I smiled and laughed a bit, too excited to be on this adventure to feel self conscious.

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with packs strapped tight, we made our way through our residential neighborhood.

Turning out of our neighborhood, we were suddenly on one of those quintessential Sonoma County backroads; twisting, narrow, and lined on either side by vineyards. “We really do live in one of the most beautiful places on earth,” exclaimed my husband. As I watched the vineyards bathed in golden sunlight, I couldn’t help but agree with his assessment.

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Vineyards, oaks, and narrow country roads. This is most definitely Sonoma County. We are headed up to the ridge toward the transmission tower in the far back.

A short while later we reached the edge of the foothills and began our climb up to the ridge where we planned to spend the night. The sun was just beginning to set and the light playing off of the golden hills and oaks made for a rather spectacular hike.

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After some steep climbing we reached an overlook area that I thought would make for a nice spot to spend the night. Upon closer inspection, though, we noticed several large ant nests and, not wanting to wake up to searing ant bites, we decided it would be best to climb further up to find a better, less ant-infested spot. After another 15 minutes of climbing, we reached a scenic overlook area with a bench. Perfect! After checking for ants, I dropped my pack and stood at the edge of the ridge to take in the view. Wow! Below us, the cities and towns that dot the valley were busy with traffic and activity. Up here on the ridge, though, there was nothing but the sounds of the oaks and grasses swaying in the breeze, the deer and other animals making their way through the forest, and the birds calling to one another.

It always amazes me how quickly the sounds and sights of the city disappear when you move into a more wild space. Down there, life passes quickly by. In wild spaces, time does funny things. It slows down, expands, becomes meaningless. Moments seem to linger on, become deeper and longer. It really is true, what people say…that nature is sacred; an almost spiritual or religious experience. Whatever it is, it definitely helps to reset my mind and soften my heart.

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Happiness is sitting on a ridge surrounded by oak trees.

I watch the sun set a little bit longer, but realize that it would probably be a good idea to set up camp for the night. Luckily having no tent makes for a really quick camp set-up!

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In no time, the husband and I are sitting, watching the fog roll out from the coast, cans of Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA in hand. We talk and laugh and gaze out onto the fog covered valley. Soon, night falls but the lights of the towns below light up the valley just enough to see the fog stretching out over the vineyards and towns.

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We munch on the random snacks we threw into our packs and suddenly hear something large move through the brush just below us. “What are we supposed to do if we see a mountain lion,” I ask, slight panic rising in my voice. Although this is mountain lion country and sightings are pretty frequent, I’ve never heard of someone being attacked by one in Sonoma County. Although my rational brain knows this, I get a little nervous about the fact that we are cowboy camping. Even though a tent wouldn’t protect you from a large predator like a mountain lion, there’s still something comforting about not being face to face with whatever is outside. My husband says reassuring things and and I pretend to believe him.

I finally get sleepy and cold enough and we turn in for the night. I’ve slept outside many times, but this was my first time sleeping without a tent. It was a little bit scary and exhilarating. Sleep didn’t come very easily, but after what seemed like hours of listening to critters rustling through the brush, I finally passed out and slept soundly until the sun was already up.

In the morning we lazily packed up camp while I made coffee with our trusty pocket rocket stove.

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the husband, enjoying coffee and the crisp morning air.

After packing up the remaining gear, we set off down the trail. As we descended the ridge we passed two early morning hikers who offered shy smiles when they saw our packs. It was still early when we reached the main road, and there was hardly any traffic on the road.

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Making our way back home.

As we wound through our neighborhood, there were few signs of life. It looked like most people were still in bed on this Sunday morning. Soon, we rounded the corner of our street and just like that, we were back at our house. I looked at the clock; just a little bit before 7:30.

I set out to have a new adventure and along the way I was able to  experience my neighborhood in a completely new way, enjoy great views of the Wine Country valley that I call home, and have amazingly funny, deep, meaningful conversations with the husband. All in a span of about 12 hours. I call that a successful microadventure for sure!

All bikes all the time!

May is National Bike Month and in the spirit of bike month and the fact that it’s now officially cycling weather, I’ve been doing a ton of bike related stuff. Actually, that’s about the only active thing I’ve been doing! Oops, guess I’m a little obsessed at the moment.

At the start of May, I joined the Team Bike Challenge as part of both a team and my company. I’m tracking all of my commuting miles and so far have bike commuted about 140 miles.

In early May, the San Francisco Bay Area celebrated Bike to Work Day. It is a great event that encourages people to try bike commuting. All of the bay area counties participate by setting up energizer stations throughout their counties. The energizer stations handout free breakfast and swag bags, because, hey, who doesn’t love free stuff! Even for a regular bike commuter like me, Bike to Work Day is a fun event and the extra little goodies are a nice way to make the morning commute a little more fun.

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Riding into the Prince Gateway Park

Energizer station hosted by REI and the Bicycle Czar.

Energizer station hosted by REI and the Bicycle Czar.

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Fruit, pancakes, coffee, and Swag bag perk up an otherwise routine morning commute!

Fruit, pancakes, coffee, and Swag bag perk up an otherwise routine morning commute!

My trusty Trek taking a break while I inhale some delicious pancakes.

My trusty Trek taking a break while I inhale some delicious pancakes.

Catching the rising sun on my way to work.

Catching the sun rising over Sonoma Mountain on my ride to work.

Along with my regular bike commuting and fun rides this month I also participated in the Sonoma County Backroads Challenge. I’m going to do a full write-up on the Challenge in the next day or so, but for now I’ll just say that it was definitely a challenge!

So, did you try bike commuting this month or during Bike to Work Day?

Bike to Work Day is coming!

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Source: youcanbikethere.com

May is National Bike Month, and where I live, May 8th is Bike to Work Day. Commuting by bike has become one of my favorite things. It’s a great workout, and riding to work on two-wheels really changes my attitude for the rest of the day. I’ve noticed that I’m much less cranky or sluggish if I ride my bike to work. I’m sure my co-workers are thankful for that!

I know a lot of people think that bike commuting is something they could never do, and many cite reasons ranging from safety (“riding a bike in traffic is really unsafe”) to hygiene (“but, I’ll be all sweaty when I get to work”) to practical considerations (“how do I carry the stuff I need to take with me on a bike?”), as to why they can’t do it. Honestly though, while these are all things that should be considered, they shouldn’t be an excuse to not commute to work by bike. Next week, I’m planning to write a post about my commute and how I deal with all of these issues, so stay tuned!

So, back to Bike to Work Day. I’m super excited to take part in this great event! It’s an awesome opportunity for people to try commuting by bike for the first time, and it makes the commute extra special for those that do it frequently. Many cities put on special events for Bike to Work Day, and in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, Energizer Stations will be set-up along popular cycling routes all of the Bay Area. The stations will feature free coffee/breakfast treats and SWAG bags. And, well, like most everyone, I do love me some free SWAG!

Look for my write-up on Bike to Work Day on Friday, as well as my very late write-up of the Chico Wildflower Century Ride I did back in April.

Until then…have you ever tried commuting by bike? Are you planning to join in on the Bike to Work Day fun this year?