Altamont / Patterson Passes (Saturday – April 7, 2012)

Danimal & Eric posted and led this ride.

SAT APR 7 3.5/T/62 Patterson & Altamont Passes Meet at Dublin-Pleasanton BART 8:45 a.m. for a 9:00 a.m. departure. BART train arrives @ 8:51. Ride will cross the Livermore Valley, climb over Patterson Pass. Stop at the new Mini-Mart past the bottom of Patterson Pass on the other side of I-580 for a well deserved break and then on to the much easier climb back over Altamont Pass to Livermore for an optional break. Ride back to BART using pretty much the same route. There is one fairly steep climb so bring strong legs or low gears or both. It s the rainy season, so a 30% chance of and or imminent chance of rain will cancel the ride. Will post ride status on the GPC list the evening before. Meet in the parking lot on the SOUTH or (Pleasanton Side) of I-580 at the Kiosk close to the station. Co-Leaders: Dan “Danimal” Tonelli & Eric Rydman.

I was curious to see what Patterson Pass was like in the eastbound direction, having only “experienced” it before in the horrendously tough westbound direction, and that was three time (3 different years, all in the early 90s when I was participating in my first organized rides…. more on that later).  In spite of my eagerness, I was harboring a bit of pre-ride anxiety, as winds up there can be scary and our friend Nancy had just crashed bad the week before on the Cinderella Classic Challenge route (along with a few others, including one poor lady who fared much worse and had to be transported directly to ER after riding off the edge of the road over the embankment and down a steep slope of hillside… YIKES!!). But the weather report gave me some optimism as the prediction called for light winds and clear skies, so I was rarin’ to go. There was a conscious effort on my part to keep my head in the right place, as I was partly riding for our fellow GPC friends Nancy (because of her crash) and Jane (at that time newly in hospice in the final stages of her struggle with cancer).

Danimal was organized enough to outline which BART train to come on to meet the ride, and even so, I was one of the first there, also joined by Paul and Virginia, but a few had driven in and several others straggled off our train and also a few on the next one. A good contingent of mostly strong TM-M+ Grizzlies for a T-paced ride… alrighty then!!

The group assembling suddenly grew large (about 20?) which soon exceeded the number of cue sheets that Danimal had printed out (his biggest turnout in over 10 years of leading rides). In keeping with the ride description, we had an initial regroup at a small market in a strip mall w/ gas station, Starbucks, the market/convenience store (which also had a restroom, which was one of the reasons for the stop) although we were only in about mile 3 of the ride. We seemed to linger there at the market for a really long time, then set off again. I was happy to be rolling.

A few miles further and we were soon reaching the first approaches up Patterson Pass… i was thankful for the cool breezes and general lack of hard wind. Brian and Janet had stopped toward the bottom of the climb to assist Lynn with a flat tire, and Eric was behind me and Rich with Kironyo (who it turns out was one of the riders who did not have a route sheet). The summit came pretty quickly. The faster riders were on top, drinking water and putting layers back on for the fast descent down the other side. Again i felt my anxiety rise a bit, as i remembered the steepness of the ascent from the opposite direction and knowing it would be equally steep in the downward direction.  But I was pleasantly surprised at how lovely it really seemed…. Virginia and Paul concurred happily as they breezed passed me on the descent.

then came the switchbacks in the middle, riddled with deep potholes in the corners (many now outlined in orange paint which I understand was put there for the Cinderella… although with the fierceness of the winds and blinding rain on that day, i imagine the markings would have been pretty difficult to see). Even so, my imagination was running wild, and every pothole, every turn, i was outguessing reality in my ignorance “was it this turn? this one? this part/slope? because at that point it was prior to Nancy writing up her report and clarifying what happened (actually, she was writing it up that day, so when I got home, I finally got her first-hand account), but during my ride, i was under the mistaken impression that Nancy was the one who had gone off the road on the Cinderella).  I now know it was the sharply-angled long gravel-sided right turn.

At the bottom, it was just a cruise to our lunch break.  Some variety at the location: Convenience store/7-11 next to the Shell Gas station, a Taqueria, and a Subway sandwich shop.  Most of us gathered at the tables outside the Subway, enjoying conversation and swapping drinks (Jeff O had taken advantage of the 2-for-the-price-of-one deal on a Gatorade in the 7-11, so gifted that to Susan who in turn shared it with me.  Fun watching Gaston do wheelies and one-tire bunny hops in the parking lot while waiting for the group to get goin’.  Always nice to see a skilled and fit rider show what can be done on a bicycle!

We did get going on the Altamont, and pulled a nice fast train along the next stretch… Dale O and I were chattin’ it up the whole way …. in lively discussion of patent law and the boundless beauty of pastoral southeast bay area hills… an opinion with which i concur…. and encourage him to start listing some rides of his own out there and watch how, as with “Field of Dreams” people just start showing up on rides once you list a couple….

The human-bicycle train stopped at the intersection of Altamont Pass and Greenville Road, we all stopped to wait for Eric and Kironyo, because apparently Danimal had realized that Eric and Kironyo were totally MIA or maybe he had received a message there was a mechanical problem (??)….. after waiting a while, we decided to put out a recon party, and some of us went forward, while some, including Danimal and Dale, went the opposite direction to retrace the course in search of Eric and Kironyo.

For those of us who went on, Gaston wanted to nominate me to become de facto “leader” for the remainder of the ride, but for some reason i was feeling shy… at the time I also did not realize that so many people did NOT have cue sheets…. or I would have gladly accepted the challenge, or the honor, as the case may be.

For the recon party, little did they know, there was no way they were going to run into Eric and Kironyo by backtracking…. for apparently, as reported later by Eric, he had made a mistake and did NOT take the right turn on Midway!  (he only finally realized it waiting for the BART transfer at Bayfair…)

In Eric’s words,

“Kironyo was struggling up Patterson Pass Road, having to walk sections of it and requiring me to give him water with homemade drink mix in it. I got the cue sheet from him at the top of Patterson.”

In post-ride discussions, Brian wrote:

“I do think and say “Oh my gawd”, every time I crest that first summit. I wouldn’t have wanted to picture the look on Kironyo’s face when he saw that.”

well, I for one know exactly the look on Kironyo’s face in the west-bound direction, rounding that last turn to what i call the last “false summit” to suddenly have “Tikal” looming out in the distance and rising STRAIGHT UP!!! Very likely the same look I had on my face the first time I rode it (sometime around 1992???) on the “Hammerhead” loop of one of the American Lung Association rides that helped get me started with this addiction. I was like “oh, HELL no!!”…. And indeed, it is also the ONLY hill I have ever gotten off the bike and walked the last 100 ft… just got psyched out an decided I couldn’t do it.  The following year, I did ride all the way up and felt the biggest sense of accomplishment until that point in my cycling (since starting in 1985). Winds were blowing about 40 knots, it took 2-3 people to help me put my jacket back on (which had acted somewhat like a parachute on the ascent, blousing out, not made as a bicycling jacket, at all).  They had a “Rest Stop” up there at the top, with few slices of orange left and NO water…. aaarghh~~~ and put on a great BBQ by FAZ restaurant at the Pleasanton Sheraton which was also the start/finish location… unfortunately, most of the food had been eaten by the folks doing the shorter loops… the people doing the harder ride got the short end of the stick at the much needed post-ride recovery meal……double-aaarggghhh!! (that is absolutely my biggest pet peeve with organized rides that offer multiple loops, 10-mile “family fun rides” mixed up with 30-mile or 50-mile routes and full centuries, etc.). The ones that do it right are Holstein Hundred and also the Tour of Napa Valley… always food aplenty for all finishers….

As for Eric and Kironyo, they got back using the cue sheet again by turning left on Greenville after descending Patterson Pass (westbound!), and entirely missed Altamont Pass Road.

In that way, they ended up at BART ahead of some of the rest of us, and found Gaston, Rick, and Simon in downtown Livermore, with whom they pacelined down Stanley back to BART, while Paul & Virginia & Rich peeled off to the Safeway/Starbuck’s and Brian, Janet and I meandered around the outskirts of Livermore making our own course from memory based on other rides in the area, mostly.

The cue sheet indicated a left turn onto Holmes, and Brian was questioning whether Holmes existed.  We finally took a LEFT onto First and did not wait til Holmes  (Brian, Janet, me, Paul, Virginia and Rich)…. by that time Gaston, Simon and Rick were totally off the front and out of view…

anyway, as we traveled the few blocks on First Street, all i could think was  that although that would be a good idea if the goal were to grab a meal in old-town Livermore, the detour down a both busy and slow-moving commercial street was not very pleasant. We made a right somewhere past town, and then Virginia, Paul & Rich peeled off from us, and headed to the Starbucks in the Safeway shopping center, before retracing their way back to First Street and then Livermore Road, I presume, finding Holmes and continuing on the cue sheet.

By this time Brian was fairly well convinced that Holmes didn’t exist, but we meandered along, stopped at the next shopping center where I made use of the restroom in Trader Joe’s, and then did a very pleasant but somewhat circular detour along Hwy 84 (Isabel) (both sections) and eventually to Bernal, then Main, etc where we went to the end of town (Livermore) to Del Valle and then followed the cue sheet back to BART. Meanwhile, all those nice little places we were passing along Main Street in downtown Pleasanton were looking pretty appealing… i was still stuck on the delusion that we were all going to try to meet up for a post-ride meal and was simply becoming food obsessed!! Even the dude on the corner of Hopyard and Valley dressed in the silly Li’l Caesar’s or Domino’s Pizza outfit was looking appealing (YUK)…. oh well. I contented myself with my fizzy sports drink and some very medicinal-tasting chews that were a product freebie from last week’s Cinderella.

Once on the platform, just as the train arrived, Virginia and Paul came up and we all boarded the same car together and enjoyed conversation for the ride back to Lake Merritt, where we all got out and they rode home, while I waited the short transfer time for the Richmond train.

In the end, everyone got back to the start/BART safely.  It’s too bad that Kironyo was so challenged by Patterson Pass…. but i think it’s a good challenge and something he can set as a goal…. to just keep riding and get stronger (uh, yeah, and go my route and switch gearing, too? (-:

Anyway, i really enjoyed the ride and everyone’s company. Thanks to Danimal for putting it together, and also to Eric for acting as sweep. Eric had written up a few lessons-learned points, I think might be beneficial to all ride leaders for multiple-leader rides:

– make sure my phone # is on cue sheet
– have you send me cue sheet night before to study route on map
– put your phone # in my cell
– ask you to bring your cell

Good tips!  In fact, i like to put the leaders’ names/numbers in my cell before a ride (and sometimes do that). It was right around the time i was pulling out my cell phone to call Eric (when we were regrouped on the Altamont) when Dan and the other scouts went back to check on the two AWOL riders, Eric and Kironyo. Wish I had pulled it out earlier and just made the call…

For my part, i had a terrific time and i was for sure loving the sunshine after so many weeks of rain and canceled rides!

We are all fortunate that the winds were light yesterday….. there’s a reason they built all those windmill farms in that area.



p.s. – it turns out that Holmes does exist, but the turn to get to it is “First Ave”…. which becomes Holmes.

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