Dead F*cking Last: Riding the Gold Rush Randonnée

Leaving Tandem Properties at the start of the 2009 Gold Rush Randonnée. Picture courtesy of Jean Jackman.

Leaving Tandem Properties at the start of the 2009 Gold Rush Randonnée

The Gold Rush Randonnée is a 1200 kilometer (750 mile) bike ride hosted by the Davis Bike Club every four years. I rode the Gold Rush in 2009. Dead Fucking Last (20k words-unpublished) is my account of the ride. Following is the introduction:

The 2009 Gold Rush Randonnée started at 6pm Monday, July 6, 2009 at Tandem Properties in North Davis. I arrived at about 5:40pm. We all left right at 6:00. I was one of the last riders out of the parking lot.

We stayed together as a group for the first mile. A front group took off after we turned west onto Road 27. I was in the second group, well-positioned behind a tandem, rolling easily along in the low-20s.

About three miles out, not long before the turn north on Road 99, I began running through a mental checklist. I’m not sure what triggered that process. Whatever the case, I soon feared that I had left my clear lenses at home. I use prescription lenses, and couldn’t ride at night with sunglasses, so I had to make sure. I pulled over, looked through my bags while rider after rider passed me, and sure enough, they weren’t there. So I turned around and rode for home, which was about three miles back. Once there, I went inside, went right to where I knew the lenses should be, grabbed them, and got back on course.

So, thirty minutes into a 90-hour ride, I was already 20 or 30 minutes behind schedule, riding alone, and running DFL (dead fucking last).

And that’s kind of how the rest of the ride went. Me riding alone and losing time to contingencies I had avoided, ignored, or just not foreseen. All of this despite 10 months of planning, training, packing, and rechecking what I thought was everything necessary.

Being alone, awake, and active for the better part of 82 hours gives one a lot of time to think. I want to summarize the ride, but I also want to get across some of the processes and conclusions and observations I came up with during the ride. Rather than separate the two, I’ll try to combine them here.


Bay Crossings

Sailing on San Francisco Bay

Sailing on San Francisco Bay

For thirteen months I wrote a sailing column for Bay Crossings, a free newspaper for ferry passengers on San Francisco Bay.  My task was to write essays focussing on different aspects of seamanship, a term loosely defined as the “art and skill of boat handling.” Seamanship encompasses the knowledge, judgement, and experience that enables someone to operate a boat safely, and includes things such as the Rules of the Road, interpreting chart markings, understanding navigational lights, and much more.

  • Standing On and Giving Way
  • Running Aground
  • Moving Ahead Blindly
  • Setting Sail . . . or Not
  • Heaving-to
  • Fair Weather
  • Thanks for the View
  • Looking Good Afloat
  • Sacramento Sucks
  • Skill, Intelligence, and Training
  • Boats Are Like Children
  • Reality and Perception
  • Sailing in January