Matthew O’Neill memorial 200k, September 5, 2015

We had a great turnout for our 200K covering some of Matthew’s favorite local riding. Everyone wore their Matthew bracelets or t-shirts!

It was a fast start with the entire group staying together until the breakfast stop at the Somis Market. A big thank you to PCH Randos for picking up the breakfast tab for all riders!

Foster gives the pre-ride briefing

Most of the group stayed together almost to the turnaround in Santa Barbara, then lunch spread us out.

Shai and Eric rocked the course and arrived first, immediately followed by Jim Harris and Jonathan Grayson riding his beautiful orange velomobile.

We had two brand new randonneurs riding with us today, Pete Johnston and Morgan Todd and they really enjoyed their first 200K!

Jonathan demonstrateshow he single-handedly loads his beautiful new velomobile

A big thanks to Foster for organizing the ride, and to Linda and Larry Bott for opening their home to host the ride with a fully stocked BBQ at the finish!

Greg and Eric hanging out after the ride


2015 Orange Triple Loop 400K/600K

Once again we got to ride Terry Hutt’s Orange Triple Loop, which he runs as a 400K or a 600K.

Stacy, Michael, Phil and Jonathan at the start

Since we only needed one more ride to complete our Super Randonneur series and qualify for Paris-Brest-Paris, we rode the 400K option which only does the first two loops.

The ride makes extensive use of the great Class 1 bike paths that run along the (seasonal) rivers of Orange and Los Angeles counties. The flat terrain and absence of traffic signals allow riders to make good time in an urban area that would otherwise be very slow.

We had a special treat this year as we started the ride under a total lunar eclipse.

The route followed familiar trails and roads and was wonderfully uneventful. No flats or mechanical problems of any kind – just a pleasant cruise with old and new randonneuring friends. Highlights were stopping for pizza in Beaumont and the great food and company at the control hosted by Ruth and Kevin.

We met Luciano and Iria, two fast riders who were waiting for assistance at the Beaumont control. According to the rules of randonnuering personal support is only allowed at official checkpoints. Luciano had a broken steering tube which would have ended his ride if friends had not driven up from Long Beach with a replacement bike for him.

They both joined our small group (Michael, James, Keith, Stacy and me) for the ride down San Timoteo Canyon and back to the control in Orange.

Thanks to Terry for organizing and hosting this popular brevet. Congratulations to Pete Eade who after several unsuccesful attempts, finished his first 600K at the age of 73. Bravo Pete “Super Randonneur” Eade, and bravo Nick Maytas for riding with and encouraging Pete.

Several other riders have written reports about their experiences on this ride:

2015 Borrego Springs 600K Brevet

“I’ll never do another Willie ride”
-Michael Bratkowski


Willie Hunt designed and hosted this audacious 600K (377mile) ride that made a huge loop from the coast, along the Santa Ana River, up San Timoteo Canyon and through San Gorgonio Pass between Mount San Jacinto and Mount San Gorgonio descending to Palm Springs and down along the Salton Sea before turning eastward to the overnight control in Borrego Springs. From Borrego the route climbed Montezuma’s Grade (aka RAAM’s glass elevator) then gradually descended to Oceanside and back up the coast to the start.

Actually, it didn’t look too bad on paper. “Only” 17,000 of climbing spread out over 600K, with the biggest chunk on the morning of the second day when it should be cool and we’d be fresh after some sleep.

Michael Bratkowski did the pre-ride solo a week earlier and encountered unseasonably high temperatures and brutal headwinds all the way from the 86 turnoff (near Salton Sea, mile 211) to Borrego Springs, prompting his (only half-serious) vow to never ride one of Willie’s routes again.

Michael is a tough, experienced randonneur with rides like the 2014 VanIsle 1200K, the cold and rainy 2013 Gold Rush Randonnee 1200K and Willie’s infamous Vegas-to-LA 600K under his belt. If Michael says it’s hard ride, it must really have been hard. After a few hours rest in Borrego he was ready to continue. Unfortunately the second day was hot and difficult as well and he ended up finishing the ride, but with only 10 minutes to spare.

We were hoping for better luck, but as it turned out, the conditions were pretty much the same on the day of the official ride. Record high temperatures for that date in Riverside, Palm Springs, and other cities on our route. We even got the same headwinds into Borrego.

Getting ready to go, Willie’s garage

The ride started off cool and pleasant from Willie’s house in Foothill ranch. We were glad of the warmth our reflective vests provided on the downhill course to Newport Beach, through the fog we encountered in Irvine.

First Control – C’est Si Bon Bakery

Despite taking it easy, we reached the first control shortly after it opened. A quick snack and we navigated through the road construction in Newport Beach to the Santa Ana River Trail which took us to San Bernardino. Except for a short section through Norco the SART is a paved car-free multi-use trail that follows the Santa Ana River from the beach to the San Bernardino Mountains.

We rode with old rando friends Foster Nagaoka and Linda Bott and new rando friend Doug Church who was riding his first 600K, and completing his first Super-Randonneur series.

Congratulations Doug!

We also rode for a while with ultra-cycling legend John Marino, founder of and competitor in the Race Across America.  You can see the video of the first RAAM, back when it was called the “Great American Bicycle Race” on YouTube. It’s a great account of the first bicycle race across the United States between John Marino, Lon Haldeman, Michael Shermer and John Howard – complete with the original commercials.

This year John, like us, is riding a series of brevets to qualify for Paris-Brest-Paris. John was planning to ride on an all-liquid diet for the ride, but we wanted real food so he rode ahead as the rest of us stopped for lunch.

By the time we started climbing San Timoteo canyon it was starting to get hot. Foster noticed that when reached mile 100, the thermometer on his Garmin showed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. By mile 101, it was reading 101 and by mile 102 it was reading 102. Fortunately the trend stopped there.

Foster repairing a flat while Doug and Linda enjoy the shade

Between Banning and Cabazon the I-10 is the only route, so we rode the freeway shoulder. We exited the freeway for a while where there were frontage roads, then got back on until we reached the 111 which took us to (and through) Palm Springs.

Hwy 111 through Palm Springs. Not wide enough to safely share side-by-side with a passenger car, much less a truck or bus, this is one of the roads on this 600K where taking control of the lane was required.

The trip through Palm Springs was pleasant, and the slight downhill and light tailwind made the riding easy. It was late in the afternoon and we were getting hungry, so we started to keep an eye out for a place to eat. Fast food and convenience stores are de rigueur on randonneuring rides, but since good restaurants were available we thought we could do better. Eventually we decided on the Eureka! restaurant in Indian Wells. Stacy got fish tacos and I got a watermelon salad with arugula and kale.  Real food has an amazing restorative effect, and taking a break from riding helped too.

Riding through La Quinta as the sun sets

Heading south after dinner we entered the agricultural area of Mecca and Thermal. The sun set and we rode south along the eastern shore of the Salton sea. It finally cooled off, with the temperatures dropping to the 70s, a real pleasure.

As we neared the turnoff Hwy 78 that would take us to Borrego Springs we could feel the wind increasing. Unfortunately it was a headwind that made the next 30+ miles slow going. Riding slowly, we did see more wildlife than we might have otherwise even though it was dark. A coyote ran across the road behind us. Tiny pale scorpions ran around crazily as we approached, dazzled by our lights. Sidewinders, about a foot long, lay coiled on the roadway soaking up it’s warmth.

Eventually we got to Borrego for a much appreciated rest. It was already warm and starting to get hot when we started off again a few hours later. The climb up Montezuma’s was beautiful as always, and it was great to speed down the other side once we reached Ranchita. Met up with Foster and Linda again at the biker-bar near Lake Henshaw. Rode at a moderate pace, enjoying the downhill sections and taking it easy on the uphills. We probably were a little too relaxed at it became clear we’d need to speed up to reach the Oceanside control before it closed.

By that time it was cooler, and stepping up the pace felt good. Made the control in time, then cruised up familiar roads to the finish at Willie’s.

Eric Maddison, Doug Church, Foster Nagaoka, Linda Bott and Greg & Stacy Kline at the ride finish (Willie’s house)



2015 Joshua Tree to Las Vegas 300K brevet

“Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run, but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world.”

― Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Willie Hunt has an amazing talent for designing beautiful and audacious routes. This year he created a route from Joshua Tree to Las Vegas following (in reverse) the finish of the old Furnace Creek 508 course. Since the route traveled through such a desolate area, it required quite a bit of work on his part to make sure the riders were supplied and supported at the otherwise barren contrôles along the way. Other than scenery, there’s not much out there. Willie also arranged to shuttle the riders back to Joshua Tree after the ride.

Minutes before departure from Joshua Tree



Ride support: Willie and Judy


We left the town of Joshua Tree at 06:00 and rode quickly toward the rising sun and the town of 29 Palms, helped by a slight tailwind and a gentle descent.

From 29 Palms we climbed Amboy Road over Sheephole Summit and down towards the “town” of Amboy on old Route 66.

Our friend John from the San Francisco Randonneurs started feeling the effects of the rising temperatures and decided to abandon the ride and join the support crew. At this time of year I don’t think there’s any way to train for this kind of riding in Northern California.

Amboy Road from Sheephole Summit


From Kelso Depot the route diverged from the 508 course and headed northeast through the stunning and remote Mojave National Preserve.


I’ve noticed that every long ride seems to have a surreal experience or two. On this ride we passed a group of Japanese motorcycle riders on Harley Davidsons who were stopped to reconnoiter. Dressed in new leather motorcycle outfits, they were obviously on tour seeing the Western part of the U.S. The driver of their support truck stopped us and explained that they were looking for Route 66. Since we had just come from there, it was easy to point them in the right direction. They gave us a cheer and a round of applause as we pedaled North into the Mojave.

Joshua Tree forest on Morning Star Mine Road


This was the best part of the ride – quiet, remote and scenic. As we climbed the Joshua Trees started to reappear. Nearing Nevada, we could see a huge dust cloud created by an ORV race.

From near the state line, the course took the most direct course of riding on the I-15 itself, which wasn’t too bad as the shoulder was wide and in good condition. The only downsides to riding on the shoulder were the chunks of blown-out retread tires and the curiously large amount of gravel. Fortunately we had a slight headwind from the East that blew the dust from the ORV race away from us. At Jean Nevada the route took the frontage road, South Las Vegas Blvd, which was nice fast downhill all the way to the finish at the south end of town.

Made it to Vegas!


We were able to eat, shower and sleep before driving back to California the next day.

Ready for the shuttle back to California


Thanks to Willie for hosting this great ride, and to Judy and John for the support.

PCH Randos Five River 300K, Saturday February 7th 2015

We rode Terry Hutt’s “Five Rivers 300K”  as our first 300K brevet of the year. The route uses several of the long-distance bike trails in Orange and Los Angeles counties. Although the multi-use trails are no place for fast riding, the flat terrain and lack of stop signs and traffic signals allowed us to make good time while riding at a comfortable conversational pace.


Route Sheet: 2015_Five_Rivers_300k
Route on RideWithGPS

We had perfect weather, missed all of the rain, and had very little wind. A brief headwind refreshed us on the way to Long Beach, and after that, nothing but net (tailwinds) on the ride home. It was really wonderful to ride the entire 300K with six randos. Everyone waited for each other at stops, and flats were quickly repaired.

We arrived at the Long Beach control as the Mardi Gras festival was underway. The parade passed us as we were getting our receipts.

Made some new rando friends. One with a very old RUSA# and one with RUSA# in the post 10,000 era.

James Yuan, the badass in the group with the cool 650B 42mm tire rando bike complete with Schmidt dynohub and Rene Herse cranks. He is hoping to take his wife and 3 year old daughter to PBP this summer. He said he daughter likes to go fast and can be found on the river trail yelling “Go, Daddy, Go!”

Jim Kehr from SD Randos with the lowest RUSA number in 3000s riding his new MOOTS bike.

Alan Tolkoff of PCH Randos picked up his bike in December after a long hiatus, and is thinking about PBP too.

Keith Olsen of SD Randos joined at the turn-around.

More photos in Stacy’s Google+ album.

PCH Randos 2014 Simi to Solana Beach 400K

The wind is blowing, adore the wind.


The “bike path” on the Solana Beach 400K



Getting ready to ride the 2014 PCH Randonneurs 400K the first thing I did was check the weather forecast. 20% chance of rain before noon. Not too bad. I’d always prefer not to ride in the rain, but a few hours of it isn’t the worst thing that could happen – especially if it’s over with early in the ride.

Then I got to the good part: northwest wind 20 mph gusting 30. Hell yeah! Apart from a few miles heading northwest at the start of the ride, our route would take us mostly southeast. Tailwinds almost all the way? This could be good, really good…

Checked the PCH Randos website to see who is signed up. It reads like a who’s who of So. Cal ultracyclists.  Willie Hunt with his “BananaMobile” velo will be there. We were able to visit with Willie at the start, but after that he was off like a rocket and we did not see him again until the finish. Greg and Lisa Jones, ride organisers, are riding a tandem as are Foster and Janeene Nagaoka.

Matthew O’Neill was riding his recumbent. Linda Bott, Mel Cutler, Michael Bratkowski, Terry Hutt, Pete Eade, Stacy and I were on standard bikes. All strong riders with years of experience. If Stacy and I were lucky we’ll be able to hang with them. If we’re really lucky everyone will be in the mood for a “social” ride instead of a race to the finish and we could relax and enjoy the tailwinds on what could turn out to be an “easy” 400K (250mile) ride. OK, maybe easy is an exaggeration. No 400K could ever be called easy.

As it turned out the weather gods had some new tricks in store for us.

Lisa Jones checking in Willie Hunt, Janeene Nagaoka and Mel Cutler at the start


The ride started at 0500 at the Simi Valley Train Station. Not only was it not raining, the dark sky was clear and stars and a crescent moon were shining brightly. After a few minutes spent getting route sheets and brevet cards we headed west out of Simi Valley on the kind of bike paths that are great if you know them, but are tricky to navigate if you are just going off the route sheet. Fortunately Greg & Lisa Jones were there to show us the way.

A few hour riding took us through Moorpark, Camarillo and Oxnard to hit the coast just south of Ventura. By now it was looking like we would not get any rain, but there was be plenty of wind. Fortunately most of the riders were still together as we turned Northwest to head directly into it.

The only thing better than following a tandem into a headwind is following two tandems into a headwind. Thanks Foster, Janeene, Greg & Lisa!

While waiting for other riders during a restroom break, Greg Jones displays top randonneuring form paying heed to the adage “during a break, don’t stand if you can sit, don’t sit if you can lie down”


We met some Channel Island Bike Club members on the northbound route and at the turnaround point at Carpinteria.

It was a bit breezy…

Everyone was ready for the tailwind. Rolling south, the miles flew past. The strong winds had torn branches and palm fronds from the trees and they littered the streets and completely blocked the bike lanes in some places. We were making such good time we took an unscheduled stop at a Wendys to fuel up and relax for a bit.

More bike lane debris than usual

We slowed briefly as we headed into the wind rounding point Mugu, but quickly accelerated again as the route turned south again through Malibu to an official stop at the south end of town.

Mile 110, only 140 miles to go.

From here the route took us on the bike paths past Venice, Manhattan and Redondo beaches. This is where the weather gods threw us a curveball.

The wind has cleared the path of the crowds of cyclists, pedestrians, rollerbladers, dog-walkers, etc. that usually pack the path in nice weather. But we quickly fond that the wind had completely covered the path with sand dunes in many places, and our progress slowed to a crawl as we pushed our bikes over the dunes or attempted to ride through them.

No we aren’t lost. This *is* the bike path. Or it was the bike path before strong winds covered it with blown sand.

Eventually, after much cursing and laughing we make it to Palos Verdes. A short steep climb took us to our next control, then onward through San Pedro as the sun began to dip. We reached the shoreline bike path in Long Beach as the sun went down, but this path was mostly free of the “sand traps” that slowed us earlier.

Matthew O’Neill unfazed by the sand.


Donning our reflective gear and turning on our lights we headed south with the last of the tailwind through Seal Beach, Sunset Beach, Huntington and Newport Beach.

We ate dinner at Chronic Tacos in Newport then headed out into the cold, still evening to ride the last 60 miles.

The roads were quiet and only a few rollers remained, but our pace slowed as we all started to tire. The line of riders stretched into smaller groups spread over a mile or so. We re-grouped at a stop in Dana Point.  Matthew, Stacy and I decided to keep moving in an attempt to stay awake instead of lingering at the control.

Past San Onofre we rode the old 101 bike path. After the 5 freeway went in, disused portions of old highway 101 were converted to use as a bike path  Eventually we got to Las Pulgas and rode the shoulder of the 5 freeway south to Oceanside. At night, cyclists are forbidden from riding through Camp Pendleton.

In Oceanside we rejoined Highway 101 (Coast Hwy). From here on 101 was no longer a bike path, but a road open to cars. We finally arrived in Solana Beach in the wee hours of the morning.

We were able to get a few hours sleep in the motel at the finish then had breakfast with our randonneuring friends before we split up for our carpools and train rides back home.