Saturday was the day of the San Francisco Randonneurs 400-kilometer brevet. That’s 250 miles in American Distance Units. Far enough that unless you’re very strong and very fast, you face the reality that you’re going to need to sit on your bike all day and a good part of the night to finish. Without going into all the particulars of the ride — the stuff that always lasts in my memory is the landscape, whatever the landscape happens to be — the dominating factor on the ride was the wind. A storm blew through early Friday, and Saturday was dry. But as often happens after a storm passes, the wind along the coast and in the Central Valley blows hard from the north or northwest. Our route included a 60-mile leg that turned out to be more or less straight into a fairly fierce post-storm breeze. It’s hard to describe how implacable a force it turns into when you realize you’ll be facing it for four or five or six hours or more. The best thing that the wind did, though, was encourage riders to group up — riding together offers some protection if you can organize a paceline to share the work of leading the pack. That happened rather spontaneously on Saturday, and I spent most of the ride with four or five other riders. And of course, the best thing about a headwind is that it becomes a tailwind if both you and it persist long enough. At sunset and during twilight on the way back to down the Sacramento Valley, we just bucketed along. Here’s a little report on the day’s chief meteorological feature that I wrote up for my fellow riders:
Poking around some National Weather Service data, I can’t find any data from along our route. But reports from the west-central Sacramento Valley and the foothills just to the west show sustained winds in the high teens to mid 20s (mph) most of the afternoon with gusts in the low to mid 30s. The National Weather Service wind speeds represent a two-minute average ending at the time indicated; the gust speed is the highest speed recorded during the two minutes.
–The recording station at Corning (Olive Capital of the World, 57 miles north of Williams) recorded a 23 mph wind from the northwest gusting to 35 at 1:50 p.m.
–At the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, near Willows (Gateway to Elk Creek, 28 miles north of Williams), wind speeds were recorded at 21 or 22 mph, gusting from 30-32 mph, for every hour between 9:40 a.m. and 2:40 p.m.
–Further east in the Valley, winds were a little less extreme: Marysville (Where Yuba City Looks for Thrift-Store Bargains) had sustained winds up to 18 mph (1:50 p.m.) and gusts up to 28 (at 10:50 a.m. and 1:50 p.m.). Chico (They Have a Peet’s There Now) reported an 18 mph wind at 1:50 p.m. and gusts as high as 31 (2:50 p.m.)
–At Brooks (Gambling Mecca of All Yolo County), sustained wind speeds were lower, in the low to mid teens, but were gusting up to 26 mph.
–Thomes Creek, in the hills west of Orland (Home of the Famous Highway 32 Dog-leg Turn), had the same pattern, but with wind gusts up to 33 mph.