SF to Healdsburg/Russian River-SFR 300k Brevet

Saturday, March 10, 2012

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Today is a first for me; first time doing a SFR 300K Brevet and first time riding on a tandem with the infamous Willy! I think it’s going to be a good day! My goals for the day are very simple; take pics for the blog and follow Willy around all day/night. He won’t even know I’m behind him!

This Brevet begins at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge at the Strauss Statue. Check in is at the visitor center parking lot. All riders are required to pass a bike check for proper bike lights and reflective garments.

The Brevet starts off promptly at 6 AM after we all pledge to “not do stupid stuff”.

What a way to start a ride-crossing the iconic Golden Gate Bridge! There are no tourists out here this early in the morning-great for us! The silhouette of the San Francisco skyline comes into view and the Bay waters look very calm with the arrival of daybreak.

Alexander Ave drops us onto Bridgeway as we make our way through the town of Sausalito. As we hop onto the Mill Valley-Sausalito Path, we’re hit with the glorious golden red, yellow hue of the rising sun-what a gorgeous sunrise! Sometimes the expected is so unexpected-it’s fabulous!

The first climb of the day is up Camino Alto, it’s a little over a mile long with an average grade of about 4.5%. You’re at the top when you see Chapman Dr. The twisty descent drops us into Corte Madera to Magnolia Ave.

We meander along the bike route through the towns of Larkspur, Kentfield, Ross, San Anselmo and Fairfax.

The turn onto Sir Francis Drake Blvd from Fairfax takes us to the climb up White’s Hill. It’s a bit over a mile with an average grade of about 5.5% with some sections ranging from 7-9%.

The descent on SFDB takes us pass Woodacre, San Geronimo, Forest Knolls, Lagunitas and through the redwoods. Instead of staying on SFDB to Platform Bridge Rd, we opt to go thru SP Taylor Park. The air seems fresher, it’s much prettier and the pavement is a bit nicer.

The end of the path takes us under and over the Old Platform Bridge to Platform Bridge Rd. The rolling terrain on this quiet 2.4 miles section of road is on smooth pavement with minimal traffic.

We continue on Pt Reyes-Petaluma Rd for the climb up to the Spillway. There is a Secret Control at the top-next to the Nicasio Reservoir. We check in, get our Brevet cards signed and off we go.

The formidable clouds and fog hovering over the reservoir and hillsides creates an intense mood for this portion of the ride.

We stay on Pt Reyes-Petaluma Rd for the mile+ climb up Rocky Hill and make a quick pit stop at the Cheese Factory.

We continue on Pt Reyes-Petaluma and come upon fields of beautiful natural mustard flowers splayed across Hicks Valley-WOW! The vibrant green pastoral hillsides are dotted with grazing cows too!

After you pass Hicks Valley Rd, Pt Reyes-Petaluma Rd becomes Red Hill Rd. The  short steep climb up Red Hill comes with a fabulous descent into the valley. There are old ranches, farm houses and barns along this scenic bucolic stretch of road-grazing cows are everywhere!

There are a few more short climbs before we reach the Petaluma city limit on D St. 

We encounter a lot of traffic riding through the city streets of Petaluma. We reach Control #1 at Petaluma Safeway, mile 49.53 at 9:26 AM. I get a receipt for my 2 Everything bagels and a pint of chocolate milk. I have one bagel and save the other one for later.

The terrain for the next 30 miles is pretty flat. We head north on McDowell Blvd to Old Redwood Highway and take Main St to Penngrove. Main St becomes Pleasant-Hill Rd at Adobe.

The bright yellow mustard flowers are a sharp contrast to the open green fields and meadows. It’s quite the sight! The surrounding landscapes are filled with vineyards, horse ranches, old barns & farms houses plus grazing cow and sheep.

We ride through Santa Rosa and take a bunch of little side streets to get onto Mendocino Ave. There’s a pretty cool shot of the group passing by a mirrored building.

Mendocino Ave changes to Old Redwood Highway at the city limit. The next flat 12 miles takes us pass Esposti Park, some old neighborhoods and the town of Windsor. Old Redwood Highway becomes Healdsburg Ave into the town of Healdsburg.

We reach Control #2 at Healdsburg Safeway, mile 80.43 at 11:49 AM.  I get a receipt for a cup of chicken noodle soup, a small bag of Salt ‘n Pepper chips and a cup of coffee.

We continue on Mill St and ride along Westside Rd for the next 11.7 miles on rolling terrain through the many wineries and vineyards. The fruitless vines are just as spectacular now as they are during the peak season. BEAUTIFUL!

Near the tail end of Westside Rd, we get passed by more than a dozen roving BMW 850’s. On the last hump out of Westside Rd, we get out of the saddle on the tandem and break a spoke. There’s nothing a zip tie can’t fix-we’re back on the road soon enough.

The end of Westside runs into River Rd at Hacienda where we continue to head west for the next 17.5 flat miles. We pass Rio Nido and enter Guerneville at the intersection with Hwy 116. Hwy 116 takes us through the small towns of Guernewood and Monte Rio.

We make a quick pit stop at Duncans Mills before continuing on Hwy 116.

We follow the Russian River along Hwy 116 to Hwy 1. This is another fantastic stretch of road with splendid views of the river and surrounding landscape. The meadows are oh so green!

The moderate climb up Goat Rock on Hwy 1 has gradient ranges of 7-9%. Once you reach the top, the incredible stunning ocean views along the Sonoma Coastline hits you! This is why we live in California-for its natural beauty and all of this is free for us to enjoy! We just have to get out here. IMPRESSIVE INDEED! The next 10 miles along  the rollers on Hwy 1 is the best part of this route! You gotta love this!

Hwy 1 takes us pass the Children’s Bell Tower Memorial into Bodega Bay-you can smell the fish fry and smile as you pass the brightly colored Candy & Kites store.

We reach Control # 3 at Diekmann’s Bay Store, mile 120.43 at 3:09 PM. I get a receipt for a slice of pepperoni pizza and a small bottle of Coke. This is another first for me-I’ve never had pizza on a ride before and It tasted pretty darn good!

We continue on Hwy 1 for the next 8 miles and head inland to Valley Ford. There are several climbs along the way-they’re not as bad as it looks! The tree lined ridge is the top of the last climb; from there it’s a fast descent into town.

We stay on Hwy 1 for the next 5 miles to Tomales. There are several longish climbs on this portion of the route and we all came to a consensus that we hate this section! When it looks like you’re at the top-the road curves and the climbing continues on-PSYCH! The surrounding landscape is quite beautiful though-pasturelands, open fields and meadows for as far as the eye can see. WOW!

We ride through Tomales and continue to stay on Hwy 1 for the next 8 miles. The ride along the lagoon is always windy-good thing Willy is up front blocking wind for me! This whole area is getting quite cold and foggy now. The rollers and short climbs along Tomales Bay take us pass Nicks Cove towards Marshall.

We reach Control #4 at the Marshall Store, mile 143.23 at 5:09 PM. The clam chowder that has been on Willy’s mind since the start of the ride is gone-all those darn Randos before us got to it first! Improvise-I get a receipt for a chocolate chip cookie.

Forge on-we continue south on Hwy 1 pass Pt Reyes Station to Pt Reyes-Petaluma Rd. The next scenic 8+ miles is a series of fun rollers along Tomales Bay. There is one climb up towards the winery and another one as you pass Mesa Rd. The sun is setting and it’s getting a bit cooler now.

Point Reyes-Petaluma Rd takes us back to Nicasio Valley Rd. The remainder of the ride is a reversal of the first 30+ miles of the route. The climbs out of Nicasio Valley Rd drop us down to San Geronimo for the climb up the back side of White’s Hill.

From Fairfax, we meander thru the bike route into San Anselmo and Larkpsur. From Magnolia St, we opt to take Redwood and climb up Chapman Rd to Camino Alto. It’s a nice little detour away from traffic; everything looks different in the dark-you can see the city lights below. FABULOUS!

We hop onto the Mill Valley-Sausalito Path and return through Sausalito on Bridgeway. The climb up Alexander Ave takes us back across the GGB to the finish control at Storey and Lincoln.

We arrive at the finish at 9:09 PM. My check in time is actually 21:12-time was taken making a porta-potty stop beforehand.

Everyone under the canopy is sitting in front of a heater; it’s gotten very windy and cold here. I eat several handfuls of salty chips and make myself a hot bowl of cup o’noodle soup-best thing I ate all day!

Thanks to Rob and all the SFR volunteers for organizing this brevet. It’s a wonderful route crossing 3 counties; San Francisco, Marin  and Sonoma. How can you beat a ride that has you crossing the Golden Gate Bridge? You get a nice variety of riding on the flats, rollers, decent climbs and fun descents! The route takes you through the majestic redwoods, quiet pastoral country back roads of west Marin to the gorgeous wineries and vineyards of Sonoma. Wait-there’s more; the run along the Sonoma Coastline is the best ever! WOW!

Thanks to Willy for having me on the tandem-it was great fun! I loved the whole ride and the company that came with it. It was a pleasure riding with everyone during different portions of the route.

If you saw me taking your picture, check out the whole Picasa web album-just click on the link at the top of this post.

~100+ riders in attendance with multiple tandems

189 miles with ~+7016/-7032 feet of elevation gain

WEATHER: Cloudy skies with some afternoon sun. Overcast, foggy and windy along the coast. Cool temps-from the mid 40’s in the morning to the mid 50’s throughout the day

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>RIDE & ENJOY YOUR SURROUNDINGS!>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Click here to view the route map and profile

Click here for this 300k Brevet route sheet



  1. Nancy, What a great ride. And you are so correct–we have some very impressive scenery all around us. Carole


  2. Hi Nancy;
    I just viewed your photo slide show of the Healdsburg ride, VERY NICELY DONE !!!!

    Best Regards
    Dale >> (:~)


  3. Nancy, this is one of the ‘coolest’ Ride Chronicles for me! Your pictures and commentary are excellent. I like this because I can recognize portions of the route from previous GPC rides. I am starting to ‘know’ the routes. Keep up the really great job you are doing!
    jim O


  4. We got some inspiration from your route here in outlining our 200 mile ride this past weekend. Thank you!


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