Randonneurs USA. At the time, it seems like a small commitment - no commitment at all, really - just $20, which gets you a quarterly magazine, an identity number, and a sticker. Soon enough, one has forgotten their name and goes by their number instead. Just call me 7337.
After thorough review of the rules and expectations of being a "rando" rider, one attempts a brevet, or maybe even a permanent (perm for short, if that curls your hair). The difference? I'm still trying to understand. Brevets are on a calendar somewhere and people seem to show up. Permanents are arranged by individual riders, and are not on the official calendar, but may be advertised in other ways.
Both rides include receiving a brevet card, which magically transforms even the most dilapidated middle-of-nowhere tavern (in best cases), or busy gas stations (in less than best cases), into a "control". Each control has a time cut-off, and if you don't make it, not only does that mean you're slow, it means you've been disqualified and can now ride home with your saddlebag between your legs.
So, back to the original question. An R12 is just one of a long offering of Randonneur awards. One earns it by riding a 200k (that's 126 miles American) every month for twelve consecutive months. They must be calendar months. You can't just go crazy and peel off a 200K every 4 weeks, because that may give you 2 in July and 0 in August, which will get you seriously DQ'd. I'm not talking about Dairy Queen here, folks - this is the dreaded disqualified, or DNF (did not finish), although I suppose either of those are better than a DNS (did not start).
On that fated frigid December evening two years ago, rolling into the mini mart signified my final control in my final ride leading to my R12 award. BooYAH! I did it! That evening, Rando 7600 and I attended a post-permanent Christmas party. As the two of us sat across the room from each other inhaling holiday treats, we had a mind meld. We were both living a double life: one as a Rando, one as a normal person who attends Christmas parties.
A few months later, I received my quarterly Randonneurs USA magazine and quickly flipped to the page listing awards. All of those miles and late nights and early mornings has added up to this - my name on a list. I looked with new respect at each and every name there. Some of these people had probably completed their rides on tandems, in snow, on gravel routes or on fixed gears, but there was no indication of who had done which. I only knew from articles within the magazine that Randos did these things.
Some of the names had a number after the R12, indicating how many R12s they'd earned. And there I was! My R12 also had a parenthesis after it: (F). "Fred?" I pondered. No, how could they know. "Fast"? Well, that's just not true. Oh. "Female". There weren't any (M)s indicated. I felt singled out, confused, even upset. I've learned since then that the intent is to encourage other (F)s to attempt their R12. Intention is nine tenths of something.
But that was a lifetime and many kilometers ago, and now I've earned my second R12 (F). This time around, I don't give a Flying (F) what letter they put after my name, I'm just grateful for the accomplishment. The Portland Society, the bikey ladies professional network I belong to, has assisted me in embracing the (F). We now use a hand signal to indicate female, the parenthesis around the (F) curving like a lady does.