Monthly Archives: December 2013

2013 Winter Solstice Ride

Robert Higdon provides us with a second report on the 2013 Winter Solstice Ride. Robert is SIR’s resident graphic designer. You can view his professional portfolio and random musings at Bunnyhawk.

2013 Winter Solstice Ride
By Robert Higdon

Never too late to ride“If I get a flat, I’m going to bag this ride.” So stated Mark Thomas, one of the hardiest randonneurs I know. A man with roughly six zillion kilometers under his belt this year alone. That statement said a lot about the ride we were just starting. It didn’t qualify us for anything. It was overnight. It was cold and very wet.

Somewhere around 30 of us talked ourselves into at least starting the damn thing. We holed up at Peet’s Coffee in Redmond and drank coffee to build up our nerves. It was my first actual (paperwork legitimate) rando ride in nearly two years. After PBP, I decided to take some time off from the sport for a bit… maybe just keep it “200k and under” for a while. Somehow that turned into two years without a single ride over 100k. Regardless, I did need the time to recalibrate. It was damn good to see the old crew again, though. There are so many smiling (delusional?) faces in that crowd.

We got rolling at 8:00pm sharp. My only plan was to stick with Mark Thomas and Joe Platzner and catch up. If I could rope Hahn Rossman in with the slow group, all the better. On the ride through Marymoor Hahn dropped something from his saddlebag and I slowed down with him in hopes of keeping the group together. One turn later, Vinnie had a mechanical that Hahn and I stopped to help fix. It was maybe 45 seconds in total time off the bike. I never saw the “main group” again that night.

Hahn in from a cocktail partyI could have been in much worse company, though. Hahn is a talking machine and we had a lot to catch up on. There’s a lot of gossip to cover, between bike building, cyclocross, and rando culture.

On Mercer Island, Hahn showed me an awesome little gravel side cut to a road that I’ve taken probably a couple hundred times over my short cycling lifetime. Finding new paths is still a simple joy for me. If that ever stops entertaining me, I’ll probably stop riding all together.

We passed by my apartment for the first of two times on this ride. At this point, it was only 30k into the ride. I joked about grabbing a beer quick beer at home. Hahn had just come from a cocktail party. We kept rolling.

My usual commute to work followed—toward Renton. The Cedar River Trail led us to a much-needed manned control with hot cocoa. SIR really knows how to man a control, especially at night. We are coddled up here in Seattle.

Hahn and I hooked on with a couple other randos for the slog back up toward our starting point (but only the half way point) in Redmond. Most of our rides up here are loop circuits, but this one was a loose figure 8. It kept things fairly easy and well lit—great for an overnight ride—but with too many options to bail for my liking. We opted for any and all gravel routes along the way.

Once we finally got to our gas station control in Redmond, one member of our small group was talking about quitting. He had legitimate reasons to, but we egged him on as much as possible anyway. He rode along for the rest of the ride. Suffering loves company.

There is nothing quite like rolling back out into a cold, rainy night after just “warming up” inside a mini-mart. It’s really…character building.

The ride back down Lake Sammamish rolled right on by, but I really started to hit my wall (one of many that night, to be honest) around the East Renton Highlands. I seemed constantly on the verge of being dropped and I had no cue sheet on me. It was a rookie move. I constantly considered my bail out options. Certainly someone would pity me enough to pick me up in the middle of the night in Renton right? Hahn kept nudging me along though, both with words and general company. We finally hit the south end of Lake Washington.

We made a little bathroom stop at Seward Park. I switched out to my (soon to be soaked) third pair of gloves. It was a real test of my current cycling gear. Most of my old clothing is getting a little long in the tooth. My legs were warm with the exception of that part in my legging with the giant hole in it.

As if in a sick joke, the second time we passed my apartment was 160k in to the 200k ride. “Hahn, I’ve got a plan. We both stop at our houses tonight, and I’ll take you out in the morning to pick up your truck. Just imagine a nice hot shower.” He turned to me, “This is the home stretch man.” “I know…I’m…joking.” Passing by my apartment literally hurt my heart.

We eventually hit the Burke Gilman Trail. It was a long slog up and over the northern tip of Lake Washington. He was correct—it was the home stretch—but the ride never seemed to want to end. We passed the occasional super-early morning jogger, seemingly angry at the fact that they were up so early and exercising in the dark with headlamps on. They must have been thinking the exact same thing we were; “What the hell are those cyclists doing out here at this time?” I didn’t know. I still don’t.

Eventually, our beacon of light reached us. I’ve never been so happy to see a Peet’s Coffee open. We finished at 6:00am—the exact moment they opened for the day. The sweet women working the counter let us drip all over their floors and served us bathtub sized cups of mediocre—albeit delicious to me at this point—coffee. I had an awesome croissant with “flour flown in from Paris,” according to the barista. Fancy.

A week later, my shoes just finished drying out. Here I am again. Back in the thick of it. What am I doing?

Welcome to the 2014 randonneur season.

1 Comment

Filed under SIR Rides, Winter Solstice Ride

Because the night belongs to Randos…

By Chris Heg

The Winter Solstice night ride is a 4 year old tradition invented by our own Joe Platzner. The rest of the world is slowly catching on.


Mark looks doubtful, Vinnie looks happy, James looks relaxed, and Robert, in pink, looks amused.

This year’s version was very wet – the rain never really stopped all night. Fortunately, it wasn’t too cold. Some of these events have been close to freezing. This time the temperature was in the mid 40’s and slowly rising through the night. Despite being wet through I could maintain a fairly comfortable equilibrium as long as I kept riding. Stopping caused a quick chill. Sort of like being a shark but instead of not being able to breath when you stop moving you just shiver a lot. Great incentive to stay on the bike though!


The start control. I would guess we had about 25 riders at the start.

One flat at 25 miles but otherwise no issues. Good times: riding alone, with old friends, and with new friends, on good trails and empty roads. Sign me up. 🙂

P.S. I have to put a plug in for my Busch&Muller Luxos-U headlight. The best light I’ve ever had by a long shot.


The “Rain Tree”, a decorated tree at Redmond City Hall that we passed near the finish. There was also a megawatt Christmas light display at a little house on Logan Ave. in Renton.


Filed under SIR Rides, Winter Solstice Ride

Black-Spoke The White Knight

SIR’s own Vincent Muoneke rode nine 1, 200s this year. Here are his recollections on the rides. When Vincent is not riding he writes prose and verse about riding at The Spokesong Blog.

Black-Spoke The White Knight
By Vincent Muoneke


With childhood heroes like Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, with biplanes suspended from my ceiling, like Icarus I had a dream to fly, but dreams die first. No rules would keep me grounded while my thoughts could fly away, I was regressing to that childhood at the thought of finally seeing Kitty Hawk. I did not fly into Kitty Hawk, but limped in, not on two wings, nor even two good wheels. Having spotted a cracked rear rim earlier and benefiting from a loaner from ride organizer Tony Goodnight, any sense of redemption was immediately marred by problems with the loaner. Luke “Skywalker” Heller stuck with me, through hope and despair, finding the right spacer for the cogs, after the anxious ride to the control for the exchange. As we headed into the outer banks my senses were ablaze with foreboding,  the wheel was not up to the job. By Kitty Hawk the wheel was so out of true that the tires  rubbed the stays, I had broken a spoke, not even 100k into the loaner wheel.
Strange that 8 has always been my self appointed lucky number, no evidence, but are we not a superstitious bunch?  My eighth Grand Randonee of 2013 would crash in Kitty Hawk. Not if Young Skywalker had any say, he knew of a Bike Shop in Kitty Hawk. Young Wilbur (I have no idea if that is his name) looks at my bike, I look at his wheels. I am pretty nihilistic, I feel pretty powerless. He listens to my flight plans, he discourages me from buying his best wheel available, my best chance is the wheel I have. Yet we need a spoke, after an apologetic gesture that the spoke is not available, he pulls out a black spoke from a potpourri of parts and goes for a fit. No fit, he does not give up he modifies the spoke by cutting off a small piece of the threaded end and trues the wheel. I am now a true non-believer, but still powerless. At the Nags Head, Control Joel Lawrence has set up for us, I try but fail at not being a party pooper.

Why this intensity? it starts back at Port Campbell in Victoria, Australia in November 2012. I had as the Aussies would say “punked out” of the GSR. I termed it The Great Southern Debacle. I knew not in Port Campbell if I could ever fly again, it would not be from lack of trying again and again. Gary Wall had given me a ride to Anglesea and Peter Donnan had picked a good number of us Americans from Anglesea and kept us at his home in Melbourne. Peter and Family, Mark Thomas, Mike Dayton, John “Cap’n” Ende, and Spencer “Roomie” Klaassen, they all lit a candle in that poor heart of mine. I set my eyes on the Wagarratta Wahine but there was a lot to figure out, eek!
Nine Grands in 2013 was not a plan, it was like the falling of dominoes, a chain reaction. I commence the story at Kitty Hawk merely because it was the weakest link.
A frigid 600k in North Carolina with the NC Randonneurs in February is the first test, I bloom the first day but wilt in the wind on the second day, bitter-sweet uncertainty.

Taiwan in February, ready or not! A few hours after my arrival in Taipei I get hit as a pedestrian by a moped walking to the hotel from a soup shop. I am somewhat protected by my carry-on bag which takes the direct hit, my left knee and right shoulder are questionable, I religiously apply heat for the remaining days. I will be riding with my SIR buddies Mark Thomas and Rick Blacker. A bullet train ride and a bus brings us to the Pingtung Province. Amidst pomp and Pageantry from the local officials we kick off at night from “The Bridge” in Dapeng Bay in the South China Sea. It is hot and extremely humid, I am so so nervous. Mark looks at me and says “relax, this is what you do”. I drink two gallons of water as they go through their speeches, I stare at the mountains off in the distance.
The small island of Taiwan has 10,000 24hr convenience stores, they are the secret to any success, sleep and soup. We hit the Mountains in the heat of the following day and it takes its toll. At our first overnight the ride sponsor has a live band going, we are not going to make our planned sleep stop a little further down the road. Mark and Rick try under the circumstances to get a few hours. I stay awake and drink three gallons of dilute Recoverite, wake up the boys and we are off. Night riding had shielded us partly from the crowded islands traffic, after what seems like all night climbing I think we have obtained the admiration and respect of the Taiwanese riders, most succumb to sleep in a 7-11 store, we push on. We arrive in Taipei through a howling wind storm. Lack of sleep is weighing on me but I will not admit it. Traffic is just nuts until we go into the mountains again. Four hours of black nonexistence at the next overnight in the mountains, we start back towards Pingtung. We pass a completely different Taipei at night to find strawberry fields and then more mountains and then more traffic. I will take the mountains any day and it was still waiting for us, but this time with a huge wind and rain storm. The roads are closed for two hours due to fallen trees and branches, but we have already squeezed through. Back at Pingtung  I have to take off my shoes to dismount as I cannot twist to unclip, we know there has been carnage in the finishing numbers. Rick summarizes with the words; “Just because you can, does not mean you should”, but I will miss the duck with noodles.

Texas Stampede had a whole posse of gauchos in blue shirts this year. Dan Driscoll encourages me to join. I feel honored. We all show in Waxahachie Texas, Mayday! here come the cattle drovers, we move em out in one huge herd. Texas is big, Texas is flat, Texas is windy. Dan Driscoll and the Lone Stars, their hearts are as big as Texas. The herd covers the first 100k in just over three hours.  This is insane, the heat is killing me. I feel unworthy of my perennial K-hound status. Day two brings the Hill Country and temperate weather, I go for redeeming myself to myself, gotta quit all this me, myself and I. I find my spot back in the herd. Hiding in the Peloton with Bill Olsen I learn that he plans to pre-ride Endless Mountains, “sign me up” I chimed and then promptly forgot about it. Day three was perhaps a record low temperature in those parts in quite sometime. “Born and bred in the briar patch” I thought to myself, let’s pedal hard for heat. Day four was the big warm up, I am edgy about this and itchy to decaffeinate the ride. A crash splinters the herd and I broke off  and ride em in with the Olsens and Mike Fox. Now! Now! Vinny, life is a marathon not a sprint.


The “Two-Step”  loomed large and ambitious, it was definitely a dance, though not of Texas. Its originator I am sure, was Mark Thomas, though it all seems so blurry now. None of us brothers in arms (Mark, Rick and myself) had completed such a feat before, or so I believe, yet we embraced it like a long lost lover. We would ride from Belgium through Brussels into France, through Paris to the Champagne growing hills and back. Four days later we would start the Trans-Danube 1200k in Hungary. Mark arranged a great logistic through a lot of emails, the lime in the Corona would be the company of Spencer Klaassen, Cap’n Ende and Mike Dayton on the first step. Flying from Seattle and Kansas was easy enough, but the North Carolina boys had weather problems. Fortunately all arrive in time for a drizzly start in Herentals, I always have fenders. We had several flats that caused us to pull up the rear, not that we missed any of the beauty. We ride into Paris with the Brazilians, The Germans; Herr Kaminski and his stoker, Spencer and the NC boys. They have all slept a couple hours more due to our late arrival at the overnight just before Paris, but we will all sleep well on this one. We see Orleans, and on the way to the next overnight, the rain takes out my Edelux. I have a spare light but I fret this “two-step”. Day three was a day spent with my room-mate Spencer. He plays a fixie like a fiddle, he even rode back 13 miles to find his lost passport, no sweat. We rode through the Champagne grapes to dine and sleep just outside Eparnay, that was a good day. On the way back to Herentals we rode with Serge Maraquin and Alain Caron, seems I remember the Randos more than the Eiffel Towers or Moulin Rouges. The Mayor of Herentals and Organizer Jan Geerts has arranged a welcome for us, The Mayor’s secretary is to be our podium girl with two kisses for each rider. All the Americans have gone to our hotel to shower leaving me to collect their medals and their kisses, twelve in all. One day for Laundry and the next day we all fly out, but on laundry day I acquired Serge Maraqiuin’s Edelux, Lord Maraquin said; “let there be light”.

In Hungary a van took us straight from the airport in Budapest to our lodging in Vezsprem. The ride starts here, the gateway to Lake Balaton, the sea of land locked Hungary.  This is a beautiful tour of the great cities and monuments that speak to the lasting influence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. We feast on Goulash with Paprika of course. and our eyes feast on the natural beauty of this land. On the last day, Mark and Rick are ahead and I spend the day with Jan Erik Jensen. The next day Akos the organizer gives Jan and I a ride into the twin city off Budapest, We find a pension to stay in and he drops us off at Hero Square and we take in the city. Jan flies off the next day and I have a day to kill, some of it is on the internet, where I learn that my “Roomie” Spencer is riding the Big Wild Ride.

Alaska Randonneurs RBA Kevin Turinsky makes it so easy, “you are welcome” he writes, though the ride is now less than four days away, I am scrambled in time anyway with all the flying. With the help of the girls in my office, I find myself flying into Seattle, working one day and on the evening of the same day taking the last flight from SEATAC to Anchorage. At some point in Seattle I found time to swap out the contents of my bike case. I took out the Hampsten Travelissmo (Khaleesi) and packed the Thompson 650B (Wahine) . I get to the hotel in Anchorage in a cab just past midnight, after waiting an hour for a hotel shuttle that never came. I hurriedly put Wahine together only to find that the dynohub powered light does not work, so I break it all down to find where I have created a short in its internal wiring. By the time I fix this it is time to go get breakfast with Spencer, Rod Geisert and Joe Edwards.
I get a late bike inspection, check in my bike in the truck and board the train to Whittier. A picturesque train ride, the train is buzzing with Randonneurs, I am too pumped up to crash out at this point. Bill Olsen informs me that there will be no pre-ride of Endless Mountains, we will have to do the regular ride we decide. At Whittier we pick up the bikes and board a ferry to Valdez, we sail with whales and all kinds off marine wildlife, I crash out on the ferry in a most uncomfortable chair. I am dead to the world. Next day we flesh out the bikes and struggle to bank sleep, midnight we are off with what seems like the who’s who of RUSA. I am riding with Dan Driscoll, Pam Wright, Lois Springsteen, Kitty Goursolle, John Lee Ellis, Debra Banks, Greg Conderacci, Ron Himschoot, Karel Stroethoff, Jim Solanick to name a few of the Randonneurs I know, not already mentioned above. Heading north through a mountain pass in the dark to Delta Junction where there is barely any darkness past twilight. We roam with wildlife moose, bear, wolves and Randos. Next day we continue north to Fairbanks and turn south, from Fairbanks to Nenana is memorable climbing in the heat. As the day cools off we hit a long patch of bad road before Healy, I am glad Wahine is with me, Healy to Talkeetna is by the Denali Park and Mckinley is out. Last day through Wasilla, we are back in Anchorage.

Endless Mountains; “I remember a lot of climbing at night” I said to Mark. But four years ago it was in September, now it is in August with more daylight, this one will also be hotter and more humid. This will be my fourth 1200K in just over a month and my sixth for the year, caution is prevailing over exuberance by now. A pattern is emerging, I will add the first couple of days, to the recovery phase and exploit the training effect in the last two days. I resist any temptation to follow a very strong group in the first two days. Mark flies off with Joel Lawrence and Vinny Sikorski, I barely see them the whole ride. I ride with John “Endless” Pearch and Ian Shopland my SIR roomates also the Olsen brothers and Mike Fox. The last day I spend almost exclusively with Jos Vestergren (the Flying Dutchman). The climbing is unparalleled and endless, the support is awesome as expected of Tom Rosenbauer and his group of Volunteers. Jos leaves the next day to ride to Canada for the Granite Anvil, Bill Olsen will join him, I will pass on this one, I travel to Africa for family matters.

Last Chance was spent totally in the company of Theo Roffe. We mingled with other riders in random fashion, including the very impressive Andrea Matney. Our trip from Boulder to Kensington was uneventful enough, though I could not sleep much at Atwood on the way out. For a brief while in Kensington it got quite hot and humid, and I was glad that for cooling showers as we headed back to Atwood. At this time we ran into Andy Albershardt and Gary “Jens” Sparks. Sleep deprivation was a problem then, not much thought given to the weather. I had better sleep at Atwood on the way back, but still we did not prepare for the storms that lay ahead. By Bird City; another flat had us hiding in a dairy to fix the flat, when we saw Andy and Gary fly by, they were chasing us down. At the Bird City Diner the farmers asked where we were going in the storm, “I hope you have a canoe”, they joked, when they learned we were headed for Colorado. Then it got worse, at Idalia we bought thrift store clothes for reinforcement as 30mph wind gusts drove the rain in our face and sometimes stopped us in our tracks. At Byers we ate and slept a glorious four hours. Gary had skipped this and Andy rode in with us on a modified course through the flood devastation to Boulder, but I digress.

Before I digressed we were at Nags Head on the Taste of Carolina, we started in Lumberton and it was mostly wet the first day. We had done the first overnight and we were now headed for Engelhard. I thought; there is not much city form there to Lumberton, perhaps I should quit there, not in the middle of nowhere. Reaching Engelhard it looked pretty much like the middle of  nowhere so I went on with much of the wolf pack (Mark Thomas, Dan Driscoll, Rick Blacker, Greg Courtney, Luke Heller. Thomas Droege, Michael Shmit and Bob Bruce) to a sleep spot eleven miles down the road. Exhausted and exasperated I fell into REM sleep to find Orville Wright Admonishing me to “take this broken wing and learn to fly again, learn to be so free“, then he morphed into Leonard Cohen:
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in”
And that was it, I rode in with  Black-spoke and the wolf pack to Lumberton.

Next was the Sydney to Melbourne Alpine 1200k, the return to the scene of the crime.
“Just gotta learn to live with what you can’t rise above”….. Bruce Springsteen.



Filed under SIR Members

Remembering the 2010 Winter Solstice Ride

Following on Kevin Brightbill’s report on the 2011 Winter Solstice Ride we have Steve Frey’s report on the 2010 edition. This year’s ride starts at 8:00 PM on Saturday the 21st of December. Find out about it on the SIR Web Site. Steve writes a cautionary tale of obsession and bicycling in the Pacific Northwest at The Randonoodler Blog.

Solstice – Waiting for the Eastern Glow
By Steve Frey

This past Saturday night I rode the Seattle Randonneur’s Second Annual Winter Solstice Ride. Yes, I know we missed the actual solstice by three days, but for working stiffs like me doing the ride on Tuesday night would make for a rough day at work on Wednesday. Besides, from the saddle of a bike one long, cold, wet night looks much like any other.

The idea of the solstice ride is to take advantage of the longest night of the year by spending as much of it as possible on a bike. It’s a 200k ride that starts at 8:30pm, so if you ride slow enough you can roll into the finish just as the sun is peaking over the eastern hills. That of course assumes the sun does any peaking at all which it rarely does around the Winter solstice in western Washington. The ride was also billed as a Festivus celebration so it included the traditional Festivus pole, airing of grievances, and feats of strength.


About 25 of my hardy randonneuring buddies showed up at the start at Peet’s Coffee in Redmond. Also at the start was a documentary film maker named Dan McComb. Dan is working on a feature length documentary called Beyond Naked that follows some “ordinary” folks as they prepare to ride in the Fremont Solstice Parade naked bike ride. Somehow Dan heard about our ride and decided to incorporate it into his film. I suppose our solstice ride makes a nice compliment to the annual naked ride in Fremont because of the obvious similarities. For instance, riders in both events probably wish they had more clothes on at times, and in both events many of the people who see the riders probably think they’re totally crazy or maybe just dumb. It’s also possible Dan, desperate for material, just Googled “bikes and solstice” and we were the only thing that came up.

I decided to decorate my bike for the event, so I zip-tied and duct taped some battery powered christmas lights to the frame and the wheels. Though it’s hard to make out the lights, here she is anxious to roll outside Peet’s at the start.

The lights were a big hit, especially once we got away from street lights of the city though the high-speed wobble that comes from duct-taping battery packs to the rims is a little spooky on the high-speed descents. A weight weenie I am not.

0341 Leschi - North Bend - Leschi

The route was a big loop that went from Redmond up to North Bend, then through Issaquah, Maple Valley, Renton and up around the north end of Lake Washington back to Redmond. It was about 38 degrees at the start and the moon and stars were out which was a bad sign. Clear skys mean cold and ice.

Sure enough as soon as we came over Novelty Hill into the Snoqualmie Valley, the temperature dropped and the roads turned very icy. I had ridden the first part of the ride with some of the “fast boys”, but at that point they all decided that while the idea of an all night ride sounded neat in theory, it wasn’t worth risking a broken hip or dislocted shoulder for. So the fast boys all turned around and rode home. I decided to press on, so I slowed down and waited for some other riders to catch up. At least if I crashed and broke my hip there would be someone there to call 911. Not long after I was joined by a group of familiar faces including Greg Cox, Mark Van de Camp, Warb Beebe, Bill Dussler and Michael (whose last name I’ve forgotten).

As we started to climb up out of the valley toward Snoqualmie Falls the wind picked up and the temperature with it. We traded icy roads for vicious head winds which, all things considered, seemed like a reasonable trade. With tempertures back into the upper 30s the riding was almost comfortable for the next few hours.

By far the nicest part of the ride for me was from Fall City to Issaquah on the Issaquah Fall City Rd. The wind had died down and it was warm enough to keep the roads wet instead of icy. Dan and his film crew (of one) drove along and filmed our little group as we rode the winding ups and downs. It sort of made us feel like we were something special.

Halfway through the ride we stopped at a minimart for a bite to eat. It was 1:30am and the ride was going pretty well, considering. But as we pulled out the rain started to fall and within a few minutes it turned to snow. As we rode up May Valley road we were soaked by big fat snowflakes mixed with sleet and rain. Lovely stuff.

The snow and sleet continued for about an hour and a half as we continued on down to Maple Valley where Joe Platzner had kindly parked his RV and was serving up hot cup of noodles, coffee and other snacks. Dan and his film crew were there too and they filmed us gobbling down noodles. Dan asked me some questions about why we do what we do and I gave completely incoherent answers which I’m going to blame on the time (about 3:30am), the cold (about 35 degrees) and on my IQ (low 70s). Hopefully none of that interview makes it past the editing process.

Another shot of my bike in the dark:


From Maple Valley on, the ride was uneventful and pleasant. There wasn’t a lot of talking as we were all ready to get to the end and get out of the cold. Led Zeppelin’s Battle of Evermore was playing in my head (“Oh well, the night is long, the beads of time pass slow/Tired eyes on the sunrise, waiting for the eastern glow”). We timed it right as the sun was indeed starting to show itself as we rolled into the parking lot at Peet’s Coffee. I think it was around 7:00am when we finished.

As with all good randonneuring events, the painful memories of cold, rain, snow, wrong turns and endless hills had almost completely evaporated as I loaded my bike into the car for the drive home. Thanks to Joe P for throwing a heck of a Festivus party!


You can view a trailer of Dan McComb’s documentary on the 2010 Winter Solstice ride here.

Comments Off on Remembering the 2010 Winter Solstice Ride

Filed under SIR Rides, Winter Solstice Ride

Dr. C on the Joys of Volunteering

Paul Johnson’s article on the joys of volunteering appeared in the May 2009 edition of American Randonneur. In it Paul quotes another randonneur who says “but I really volunteer because of some guys named Codfish and Ray who gave me a couple of mochas and a warm truck to sit in at the bottom of White Pass on the 600K last year. I was cold, really cold, …”. That quote was not mine, but it could have been, Paul’s mocha at that same control was a big help in finishing my first 600k. Thank you Paul.

If you are looking for a way to volunteer, Mark Thomas recently posted a list of volunteering opportunities.

Paul Blogs about randonneuring and all sorts of other things at The Dr Codfish Chronicles.

Dr. C on the Joys of Volunteering

By Paul Johnson



Have you ever stopped to ask what the mission of RUSA, or your local Randonneuring club is? This from the RUSA Website: “What is RUSA? Randonneurs USA (RUSA) is a national organization whose goals are to promote randonneuring in the U.S. and provide service to American randonneurs and randonneuses.”

I considered asking how you thought RUSA is doing, but if you are reading this I assume you are a member, so the more appropriate questions is, how are you doing? If you are a member, you are RUSA and it is incumbent upon you to do your part to “promote randonneuring in the U.S. and provide service to American randonneurs and randonneuses.”

Achieving the Goals

Now you might think that paying your annual dues, getting out on your bike and riding brevets, talking it up with your co-workers over the water cooler is enough. By now I’m sure you can see where this is headed. Tact has been described as the art of making your point without skewering someone with it. I’ll be tactful but the point is, you should do more.

Consider that this organization is run exclusively by volunteers. Though the president and board are probably worthy of huge retention bonuses, we’ve all seen recently how that can backfire, so all the high powered execs at RUSA get for their good work is…more work. What do I mean? Well look at our membership statistics, the number of events we put on, the number of kilometers ridden year by year, the number of medals, awards, and other outputs and this can only be seen as more work. In fact, in my short time as a member I have been just amazed at the growth of our sport and our club. My concern is that the number of volunteers has not grown with our sports popularity.

In prepping this article I sent an inquiry around to a few folks to get their thoughts. I asked all the RBAs and a selection of regular, run-of-the-mill members, some of whom are “habitual offenders” and a few who are new to the sport and to volunteering. Here are the questions I asked:

  1. Why do you volunteer?
  2. How does volunteering for randonneuring events differ from your other (if any) volunteering efforts?
  3. Can you relate a memorable event? (keep it short)

What They Said

The responses varied, some were predictable and some were surprising.

One predictable answer I got was that the person just didn’t have time to respond. In my work life I often provide assistance to start up organizations and volunteer groups. There is an old adage that holds true: If you want to get something done, find a busy person. Busy people often have to make decisions about what they can engage in and in this case this person was focused more on doing than on talking about doing. It was a great response.

One of the RBA’s, for a club that puts on a LOT of brevets down south said point blank that if more people volunteered to help out, they could put on even more events. I think that is probably true everywhere. Though your club may put on enough events for you, imagine what it would be like if you had a choice of several different events in different locations on a given weekend in the summer. Sound over the top? Well, let the idea roll around in your noggin and then go back to the RUSA mission and ask yourself how more opportunities might help promote randonneuring (remember… the goal?) It may seem preposterous now but I imagine that just 10 years ago the founders of RUSA might not have believed that there would over 2,300 members in 2009.

How To Get Started

The most obvious thing you can do for your club is to volunteer to help out on a brevet. I recently read a ride report that gushed with gratitude for the help that volunteers offered at a control on a particularly challenging brevet. It’s true that we value self sufficiency but who hasn’t rolled into a control at one time or another and been absolutely thankful for a person who takes the bike and hands you a hot (or cold) beverage, a cup-O-noodles, an ice cold soda, and maybe a beat up lawn chair (or a warm pick up cab) to relax and recover in for a few minutes? If you’ve taken advantage of this kindness you know exactly what I am talking about, and if you haven’t, believe me, it is really wonderful to see that such a little gesture can be so warmly received.

If your idea of randonneuring is just showing up at the start, riding the brevet, and turning your card in, you need to rethink your relationship to the sport. You may take exception to that notion but here is an undeniable fact: If it were not for volunteers, you wouldn’t have any events to show up for!

I like doing this myself. I have noticed, and others I interviewed mentioned that you get a look at every rider: you get to see how the fast fish get it done (I never see these people after the start otherwise) you can see how the mid-packers get around the course and your personal assistance can encourage a newbie, or even an old hand at the back of the pack to soldier on, at least to the next control when they might otherwise have handed in their brevet card.

You will also be taking a little of the pressure off those I refer to as “habitual offenders.” Every club has a small cadre of folks who show up year in and year out to volunteer at events. It’s really not fair for you to just show up to ride and assume that someone else will always take care of the logistics.

Make it Fun

Volunteering to run a control also offers an opportunity to put your own personal stamp on the event. I once ran a nighttime control on a late season 1000K brevet. The riders had just descended off Elk pass in the first snow of the fall; they were really cold when they got into our stop. Mrs. C and I had set up a cozy little nest in a campground, and I’d built a big bonfire. The Coleman camp stove was steaming away with coffee and clam chowder. We had lounge chairs, cuppa noodles, sandwiches, chips and cookies: the whole nine yards. The few riders on the event were thrilled to have the warmth. It was a real kick for my wife and me.

The Dog Ate My Homework

There are a lot of reasons not to volunteer. Most are based on a lack of information. “I’ve never done it before,” “I don’t have time,” “I don’t know enough to put on a brevet.” The list goes on. First, just realize that no one was born knowing it all. There was a time when you had never ridden a brevet before, right? Shoot, believe it or not, there was a time when you didn’t even know how to ride a bicycle. Where would you be if your folks had let the “I don’t know how” defense stand? Now you’re a super rando (sorry, no cape awarded) or at least you know how to ride a brevet. If you’ve ridden even one brevet you already know about 90 percent of what you need to volunteer. The other 10 percent is just details.

You will not be expected to jump off the cliff all alone. I guarantee that if you let someone know that you are willing to help out you will be supported to your own personal level of comfort. Once you’ve staffed a control, you will know almost everything there is to know to do it again alone. From there it is a quick slide down the slippery slope to organizing your own brevet. One more brevet organizer means one less event that the “regulars” have to gear up for. And you gain instant cred: You’ll be one of the “old hands!”

You’ll be on the short list for a ridiculously huge retention bonus when the stimulus package arrives. Again, you’ll have all the help and guidance needed to assure that you don’t fumble the ball.

Probably the best reason I can give you to try this is captured in this surprise answer I got from one of the people I queried. Really, I’m not making this up:

“But I really volunteer because of some guys named Codfish and Ray who gave me a couple of mochas and a warm truck to sit in at the bottom of White Pass on the 600K last year. I was cold, really cold, and I was having thoughts that I might actually be in danger. But there in the distance was a SIR sign with a little blinky light. It was a big deal, and it helped me finish that ride. When I thanked you later for your help, I think you said something like, ‘think about supporting some event too.’ That, my friend was a ‘teachable moment.’”

This was totally unexpected and I would like to say when I read it the moment came rocketing back into my memory. The truth is Ray and I stuffed a number of guys in that truck to warm them up and Joe was just one of the shivering faces with blue lips poking out under a helmet that needed a few moments to get the circulation back in the fingers and toes to get ready to take on Cayuse pass and the home stretch.

The take-home message is that these efforts not only help riders go along their way, but they very likely inspire others to do the same. The need to “pay it forward” is strong in our community and your effort will make a difference in ways you can’t really imagine.

Keep in mind, Paul Revere is not remembered for what he did 9 to 5, but for his volunteer efforts, and look what a difference he made in the world, (Revere Ware notwithstanding).

Comments Off on Dr. C on the Joys of Volunteering

Filed under Rando How-Tos

Remembering the 2011 Winter Solstice Ride

In anticipation of Joe Platzner’s 5th Annual Winter Solstice Ride here is Kevin Brightbill’s report on the 2011 edition. This year’s ride starts at 8:00 PM on Saturday the 21st of December. Find out about it on the SIR Web Site. Kevin’s report originally appeared on his blog,

Darkness and cold
By Kevin Brightbill

Or: Seattle International Randonneurs’ Winter Solstice 200K.
But I like my title more.

Unfortunately, the boreal forces of late December were none too kind to my crappy (but feisty) little point-and-shoot ride companion, so this recap will be short on images and long on text. Because sometimes you don’t want to watch A New Hope, you’d prefer to read some crappy novelization about the inner workings of the Mos Eisley cantina. Right?

Anyway, the setting for this little jaunt is, of course, its main allure. To my surprise, SIR was able to snag about 40 pre-registered riders; and, even better, most if not all of them were at that IHOP parking lot in Issaquah shortly before seven p.m. on a December Wednesday night.

The first few miles of the day — sorry, night — moved along briskly. I knocked my shifters down into a way-too-easy gear, willing to sacrifice ideal pedaling efficiency in exchange for the benefit of pumping blood into my legs at a quicker pace. Thanks to a small wardrobe of clothing I wore on my person and a relatively tepid 35-degree starting temperature, I actually started to overheat; I thought of taking off a poly/wool midlayer, but at that point I was slowly being dropped by most SIR folks and I did not want to completely lose sight of those comforting tail lights.

I rolled along Lake Sammamish Parkway for a good while, and at a “T” in the road I saw a rare brevet sight: a young female randonneuse. Anne from [some part of the greater Seattle area whose name I forget], who works for a recycling company and is an experienced cyclotouriste and had crossed paths with SIR by chance in Eastern Washington earlier this year (I believe her quotation was “a small army of riders with reflective sashes”). After a little researching, she picked the Solstice ride as her first brevet.

We teamed up, got very slightly lost, pulled into a Shell station, reversed our course, then cut into Marymoor Park. Anne and I chatted through a few miles of multi-use path, but apparently the topic of brevet formatting never came up; when I pulled over at the first info control, she zoomed onward without a word, and I would not see her again that night. So it goes.

Not entirely sure if I was then solely in possession of the lantern rouge honor, I left the info control at a brisk pace and cut through the small town of Woodinville. Gentle rolling hills took me through god-knows-where (my sense of Seattle geography is terrible), and I was briefly excited at the idea of taking a turn onto Spaghetti Street, only to be disappointed when the sign actually read “Springhetti”.

I saw some fellow randonneurs at the Snohomish 7-11 and was grateful for a little bit of social interaction. However, the small pack of four or five which had arrived before me was held up by one rider’s flat tire; I grabbed a donut and chugged some slushy Powerade, then decided to ride off alone and let them catch up rather than linger outside with the temperature now in the high 20s.

The next four-ish hours were almost comically simple: 20 miles north on the Centennial bike trail into Arlington, a control stop at a Safeway, then a u-turn and 20 miles south back into Snohomish. Perhaps in a daytime, warm-weather ride that stretch of a ride would be boring; that night, however, it was welcomingly simple.

And sure enough, the 7-11 party did catch up to me maybe five miles after the convenience store; and, at just the right time, as I was starting to physically and mentally tire of those cold (by then, 25 degrees) and solitary miles. Companionship and a little bit of a slipstream made the rest of the stretch into Arlington a relative breeze, even as my little computer dropped down two more degrees to its night’s low of 23. The Centennial path glistened dangerously with little crystals, but our pack made it out of and back into Snohomish without incident.

Our return route took us southeast out of Snohomish, towards Monroe and later Carnation. The “23” digits in front of me refused to move in either direction, and I kept up with the pack at a steady fifteen-ish miles per hour. My body remained mostly happy, though; as icicles accumulated in my beard, and frost gathered on every forward-facing surface of my bicycle, only my toes were complaining about the temperature.

The small pack was pulled apart by the ride’s only notable climb, heading due west out of Fall City to get back into Issaquah. Eight of us finished with times between 11:15 and 11:35, and mediocre but delightfully warm IHOP breakfast fare was our reward.

Comments Off on Remembering the 2011 Winter Solstice Ride

Filed under SIR Rides, Winter Solstice Ride