Monday, September 21, 2009

DART: Diva And Rest of Team

Once upon a time, in a far away land - let's call it France - an idea was struck upon, they called it velocipede. Not long there after young women took up the fancy machine and soon proclaimed themselves "Divas of the Velo". But to ride far and wide these Divas needed a team, and thus was born the DART, or Diva And Rest of Team; DART could have just as easily been called RAWD, or Ride Along With Diva. But since Dart was a tiny arrow, or un petit Fleche in French, and the Fleche was already the rage, and our tale does originate in that far off land, DART it will be.

Today, or last Saturday, I found that little has changed in the past 125ish years. Velos are now called bicycles in most places, with a few refinements like derailleurs, pneumatic tube tires, brakes, but still a velo is a velo, and as for a Diva, well... absolutely no changes there.

Before I get into Saturday's details let me bring the randonneuring neophytes out there up to speed, DARTs have rules, after all they are French:

Article 1
The Dart is a 12-hour event whereby teams of cyclists all ride to a common destination from various starting points. The minimum distance required for the 12-hour period is 180 KM. A Dart is administered by Randonneurs USA (RUSA) and its Regional Brevet Administrators (RBA). It is patterned after the 24-hour Flèches-USA and Arrow team rides.

Article 2
The Dart is a team event; no individual entries are allowed. The start time(s) and finishing destination will be set by each RBA for his or her event.

If more than one team uses the same starting point, then starting times for individual teams shall be spaced at least one hour apart. Choice of routes and starting times is customarily assigned according to the order of receipt of registrations, but the RBA [and Diva] has the discretion to do otherwise if need be.

Article 3
Darts are randonnées, not races. Riders must be civil at all times, they must abide by all applicable traffic laws, and they must follow the directions of all law enforcement personnel. Riders are expected to observe local customs of decorum at all times. [this of course means Diva customs of decorum or face a "Diva slapdown"... Craig?]

and Article 4, and 5, and 6, and so on...

Of course my favorite rule is Article 11 (more on that later).

Our DART course was strategized, slaved over, and charted with the utmost of care using the latest digital MapMyRide technology. In addition, our Diva is an IT person, detailed and analytical. It was perfect, everything would be masterfully calculated and check points found and departed with Swiss-like accuracy; Fabian Cancellara would kill to be on this team. This is what randonneuring is all about!

Saturday morning, as a thick rain ( it hadn't rained in days, nor would it the next!) poured down out of the gloomy dawn, we gathered to pedal north. It was here I remembered my nautical hero (it was pouring after all) Capt. James Cook's family motto - "He left nothing unattempted". Our Diva was like that, and behind her like Cook's ships were the
Endeavor, the Resolution, and Discovery.. oh ya, and the Soloist (Andy on his Cervelo). Our course was clear, Diva led us out. BTW, who brought the map? Diva?

As we laughed jokingly at the rain, Alex mocking asked if this would count for a duathlon? Fortunately (for Diva), the rain was soon just a mist, and then a memory. As we rolled into our first check point at North Plains I flirted with the thought of retiring the rainjacket, but why tempt the cycling rain gods?

Off we rode, along the way Alex and I shared new roads with Diva and our teammates. We also shared the Saturday morning tradition of sprinting for stop sign warning signs, ya know, those yellow ones with the red hexagonal blob. Those are worth one point each, and the winner of the day shouldn't buy any post-ride beers. A fine cycling tradition. We also showed the team some fun "rollers".
About now Andy began to sense I liked hills far more than was healthy, at least for his health.

At 80 km into the ride was our second check, Vernonia, a town that has forfeited more than its fair share of Gatorade and Reeses peanutbutter cups to me as the halfway point of many a century training ride. This time it was randonneuring, screw the GU, this meant real food, so we ducked into the Black Bear Coffee shop - how the heck have I missed this place on those cold February training ride?! We settled in to oatmeal, tea, coffee and bagels. And outside, the sun was starting to shine on our little velos - Diva, this might just work -
This is what randonneuring is all about!

Our real major climb of the journey was just ahead. Dragging our bodies away from the cafe we continued north, winding along the Nehelam River on Hwy 47, really one of the most perfect cycling roads in the state (west from Vernonia that is). The pace was relaxed and Diva an I chatted about her early days on the bike, racing, maturing as a cyclist, what it was like to be a Diva and feel superior to all others (kidding :") and then it was right onto Apiary Rd and the climb over the coast range to the Columbia River.

The climb went well, a nice 4-5% beautifully paved road through the big leaf maple and Douglas fir forest. The kinda place you want to be alone, with your thoughts, and the outdoors. This is where Andy once again defined Cervelo's "Soloist" and preferred to immerse himself quietly and independently in the wilderness experience by dangling strategically off the back; Capt. Cook would have been proud.

Over the top we regrouped and continued in on Apiary (no bees were sighted). Near the junction of Old Rainier Rd and Hwy 30 above the Columbia River we refined the course and chose to descend 30 onto the Longview Bridge (also known as the Lewis & Clark Bridge - but then we start to mix our explorers and things could get messy). Of course Diva finally decides to take charge and flies downhill with all her team in tow. Little did we know that she wasn't pulling, but actually gunning for the Washington State sign posted in the bridge rafters - after which she claimed was worth a million points. Well, I know this will come as shock, but after a thorough investigation into the French Randonneuring archives I found little ditty, Code IV, Artcile 21a, which states, "The Societe du Randonneur has determined, in the United States of America only, due to the proliferation of state boundaries and numerous avenues of crossing, State signs and State Welcome signs are hereby declassified and may only be credited as 500,000 points. With this determination set, it thus leaves the sole remaining one million point sign to be the rare "Fire Truck" sign." (More on that later.)

One warning about the bridge, it has no bike lane, instead Washington/Oregon DOTs have graciously painted a fog-line down the outside of the traffic lane with about 3 feet of room in which logging trucks can pile their spare bark and wood. This is where randonneuring and cyclocross merge. And this of course is where you would think teammates Resolution (Alex) and Endeavor (Craig) would rise to their calling, instead Diva drops'em, bolting forward like Cavendish coming off of Renshaw's wheel on the Champs-Élysées
claiming the one million points (Diva, please see clarification above) for the state sign.

Into Longview we flew off the bridge deck, and into our finishing state, although the line awaited 70 plus kilometers away. More importantly it was hours away before we could finish at the pub. Ah yes, Article 1:
The Dart is a 12-hour event. Ergh. Well, time to get to know lovely Longview and invoke our hero's motto - nothing unattempted. Somewhere in this town was rumored a giant squirrel statue and better yet the "Nutty Narrow's Bridge"; first it was lunch, after all, it was only 30 miles since breakfast.

Without the aid of a map this was now a time for Discovery (me) to follow my nose and find us the "best food in the world", well at least according to one local. In search of that best food we navigated down a variety of streets always on the lookout for the squirrel and the Nutty Narrows. After a back alley detour to see the world's largest personal garbage cans, each like some prehistoric container-creature large enough to engulf a velo and rider in one raising of the lid gulp, we did stumble upon the world's largest chainsaw carved squirrel holding a nut (yes Craig, I agree the guy should stick to chainsaw bears). I was stunned! I have live so close to this monument of human endeavor (that wasn't a slight Capt. Cook) and never ventured to see it - once again, this is what randonneuring is all about!

Diva finally released us from detention in Longview and after numerous caffeine refreshments we and our bladders headed further north to Castle Rock. Now we were on familiar turf, maps, who needs maps? This is SW Washington ride territory - lovely rolling country roads, barns, fields, forests, camel, and check point #5 in Boistfort... yes, I said camel. Just 30 km to go, the team was smelling the barn (actually we could smell barns all around us) and the beer. Just one more little bump in the road, up and over Curtis Hill.

Ah yes, that brings us back to my favorite rule, Artcile 11. Our Diva was careful to pass us through all check points at the designated time, and to enforce requisite lolygagging when critical.

So with careful planning and adherence to our mapped course we flew down off of Curtis Hill Road, clocking 60kph, a swift right onto Hwy 6, through the if-you-blink-you-miss-it town of Adna, our gaze focused eastward towards the evening lights of the finish line. Our team was turning the pedals over, 35kph we flew, I knew we were close passing junk shops and liqueur stores, once again it was civilization, and then finally Chehalis... Wahooo!!! We made it, twenty minutes to spare!! Victory!! Who the heck needs a map when we have Diva.
This is what randonneuring is all about!

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIT!! Chehalis???? Nooooooo.... we're suppose to be in CENTRALIA - yikes!

How much time do we have? Only twenty minutes!!

Quick, what does Article 11 say:

Article 11
For a Dart team ride to be certified by RUSA, and any regional team awards to be earned:

  • At least 3 team members must have ridden the same distance and arrive at the finish together.
  • At least 25 KM must have been ridden between the end of the 10th hour and the end of the 12th hour of the ride.
With the 12th hour nipping at rear blinkies and having no map, a quick check with the nearest local, with a pick-up truck of course (usually we try and avoid those at all cost), found there was a fast way there, sorta. Just go over the railroad tracks, left, then right, then.... ah hell, channel Capt. Cook, just ride north and follow your navigational instincts! This is what randonneuring is all about!

With the alpinglow fading over distant Curtis Hill and our Diva's randonneur reputation riding on it, we rocketed down some street, past a corn mashing factory, over more railroad tracks, past a few derelict shopping malls, and over an overpass into downtown Centralia. WE DID IT - but wait! Diva, where is the finish line, ya know the pub? The one on the map?

As we strolled down main street, searching for the finish line, under brightening warmth of neon, there was Jenn, then Sally & Amy, our support teams, and the Olympia Club, with TWO MINUTES to spare Team Diva (actually Team Bicycling had made it, all four of us and her royal Diva-ness!!
This is what randonneuring is all about! No map and cutting it to the wire!

Thanks Ann, for a brilliant day out. This DART was everything cycling should be. :"))

PS - and the map? In case you were wondering, there really was one:
View Interactive Map on

Photo slide show of Diva And Rest of Team (WARNING: Diva claims to not want her picture taken)

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