Sunday, October 6, 2013
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Jim and I finished our Pacific Coast border to border ride and Bill would have been right there with us if he had not had his close encounter of the worst kind with the pavement just north of San Francisco. However, Jim, Bill and I were not the only parties on this ride. Others that I am overdue in mentioning are our SAG team, my wife Dennie and her mom Ellie; plus the other riders that we met along the way.
One other thing that Dennie took upon herself was finding brewpubs. One of our sons, Andrew, is a brewmeister, and Dennie considered a lot of this trip to be field trip researching for Andrew. It was not unusual to hit more than one microbrewery (or at least a brewpub) in a day. Dennie was buying pint glasses for son Andrew, and Jim and I would buy a bike jersey if the microbrewery had a nice one. Jim and I also had a goal to get Bill to try a beer, but Bill remained true to his principals and brew never touched his lips. He was waiting for the wine country, but alas, that was not to be. Many have asked, what was your favorite beer and Jim and I both rue the fact that we did not take better brew notes. We both liked the Tricerahops Double IPA brewed by Ninkasi Brewing Company in Oregon, and the Acme IPA by North Coast Brewery in Fort Bragg was excellent, but our favorite beer was what we drank in Leggett, California and neither of us remember what it was, but that story will be told in my next blog post.
Dennie’s SAG partner for this ride was her mom and this trip was a real blessing for her mom. Dennie’s mom had just undergone a full mastectomy on the right side for breast cancer and she had just finished her second round of chemotherapy for lung cancer days before we left for this trip. In fact in the first few days of the trip, I was wondering if she was going to have to go back home because the days following her second chemotherapy sessions were very, very rough. But as the chemicals flushed from her system, she regained her energy and was able to finish her SAG duties and have fun with Dennie. She is a rabid Dallas Cowboys fan (yuck) and Jim is a rabid Green Bay Packers fan and they both go way back, so it was fun to hear them pick at each other over the dinner table after our rides. And her drink of choice is Beranger’s White Zinfandel (another yuck; I actually bought her a T-shirt one time that said, “Friends don’t let friends drink white zinfandel”), and Bill, our wine drinker, always catered to her taste and would try to find her white zin. Fortunately, they were unsuccessful most of the time. All in all, this trip was a real blessing for her, even putting up with her son-in-law was not all that bad. Dennie was able to spend some quality time with her mother, and Ellie saw parts of the Pacific coast states that she had never seen. And rest assured, Dennie is one to make sure you see everything possible that there is to see.
We also were not the only riders on the Pacific Coast route. This was my first attempt at a long distance ride more than a thousand miles long, more than a month long. It turned out to be 1713 miles of pedaling and five weeks on the road. We were doing it the deluxe way though. We were doing what is referred to as a supported credit card ride. We had Dennie and her mom doing SAG and we stayed in a motel, or with friends every night. If you were to see us riding, you would probably think we were a local because we did not have panniers and bags hanging off the front and back of our bikes. Other riders were not doing it the deluxe way we were doing it. They were the riders with the panniers hanging off the front and back of their bikes, or the ones with wagon’s trailing behind their bikes. These were the touring riders. It seems all of the touring riders we talked to were not doing the entire border to border coast trail. Some were going Vancouver to San Francisco, or Seattle to San Diego, or some subset of the Pacific Coast trail. Except for Jamie from the UK, most of these touring riders we quickly passed and did not get to spend time talking to them.
The first touring riders we met was a couple from Los Angeles. He was on extended leave and they were biking from Seattle to Los Angeles. I talked to them in Elma, Washington, the first time. We were checking into a Microtel in Elma and it was raining and they wanted to know the room rates. It seems the room rates were too high for their budget and so they were looking for a place to camp in the rain. They also told me about a Korean couple that they met outside of Seattle. This couple retired in Korea and decided they wanted to bicycle the Pacific coast of the USA. They flew to Seattle, bought bikes and gear and set out. The first day they rode 12 miles. I often wonder how far they actually made it. Next day we stayed two days in Chehalis, Washington, and did minor maintenance and our wash and then set out for Oregon. Heading to Astoria, we passed this couple from Los Angeles again, so they must have spent a successful night somewhere in the rain.
The next other rider of interest was Veronique from Quebec, Canada. Veronique was tour biking by herself and I was astounded by the amount of gear she had on her bike. How did she get that much gear up a hill? We took a break together and talked some. Her first language was French but her accented English was pleasant to listen to. Her plan was to ride as far as San Francisco and she had started in Vancouver, British Columbia. We bid our adieus and parted. I hope she made her goal.
In Oregon we saw a couple more touring riders. One was Craig and he wanted to ride down to Panama but he did not know Spanish. I think a knowledge of Spanish would be the least of your troubles cycling through Mexico these days, I would not attempt it. He had a plan though. He met a girl the prior day that did know Spanish and she was riding to Guatemala and he was going to try to catch her and ride through Mexico with her. Not much of a plan in my opinion.
We also saw a guy riding a recumbent bike pulling a trailer. He started in Portland and he was heading for central California or however far he made it, in his words. We saw a few more touring riders that we were not able to speak to on the central Oregon coast. On our last full day in Oregon in Gold Beach, we were hit and hammered by a rain storm while we were riding, horizontal rain in our face. At times, we were standing in our pedals just to maintain forward speed on level ground. It was a nasty storm. Fortunately, the next day was a rest day, so while it rained, we did our wash and let nature spend herself out. The next day was sunny and we rode on into California. However, we saw very, very few other touring riders until we got down below San Francisco. The storm seemed to filter out many riders who might have not known the magnitude of what they were undertaking, and perhaps were not as prepared as they needed to be to successfully complete multi-day, long distance ride. Clearly some were out there because we met Jamie and Jackie later, but there were not as many.
Saturday, November 5, 2011
I have at least two more posts to this blog before I complete it. I want to dedicate one of the posts to our SAG team (my wife, Dennie and her mother, Ellie) and to some of the people and other riders we met on the ride. And I want to do another post on ‘Lesson’s Learned’, or what would we do different next time, if we were to do it again, and what mechanical issues did we have, what advice would we give in priority order, and the one question Jim and I continue to get asked, “What was your favorite beer?” But you will have to wait for a future blog for that answer.
I want to thank all of the people that enjoyed this blog. I put some effort into it and I really, really enjoy your appreciative comments that make it so worthwhile. One of my friends asked me, “Marvin, do you have a background in journalism?” I think that was one of my favorite compliments because I am just an engineer, that also likes to write, but never was trained. So, thanks and stand by for at least two more posts.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Four more rides and the CanMexPac epic ride will be completed. Dennie’s brother got us ridiculous low room rates at the LAX Crowne Plaza, so we will be riding from Ventura to LAX on this leg of the ride. As I said in my last post, I spent my junior high and high school years in Santa Monica, so this ride is going to be cruising through my old stomping grounds. Early in the morning we headed out of Ventura, proceeding through Oxnard and down towards Point Mugu. Just before we got to Point Dume, and were passing by the Port Hueneme Naval Station, I glanced over at the aircraft display and thought I saw a familiar figure taking pictures. So I slowed down and yelled, “JAMIE!” The figure paused from taking pictures and looked my way and broke into a big smile. He said, “Stay right where you are and I will come over there.” Andrew was the teacher on sabbatical that was from Reading, England. Jim and I rode with Jamie on the leg from Daly City to Santa Cruz not quite a week earlier. And days later, here we were riding with him again. He had caught up with one of his riding friends also, Jackie, and they were riding south together, or kind of together. Jamie would ride ahead and then wait for Jackie, and then ride miles ahead and stop and wait for her again, and that is how they rode “together”. Jackie was from San Diego and had just lost her job, so she headed up to Seattle to bike the coast and then look for another job when she got back home. She was hauling a big bike trailer behind her bike so I could only imagine how she did on the hills. So now Jamie rode with us and when we stopped for pics, or bio breaks or water, he would wait for Jackie to show up. As we rode south from Port Hueneme and around Point Mugu, I was looking for the northernmost beach that I would go to regularly when I was living in Santa Monica, a beach by the name of Zuma Beach. When I went to Zuma, I went there because it was totally deserted, almost primitive; no buildings or residences around at all. On our ride, I was having a difficult time finding that primitive beach as I knew it. Finally, at a stop light we paused and I looked at the map. Much to my disappointment, we were right in the middle of Zuma beach and the reason I could not find it was because now there were beach houses lining about 75% of what used to be Zuma beach and the remaining 25% was parking lots, hot dog stands and rental shops. Oh well, that’s progress, and another “shoulda, woulda, coulda” opportunity; I should have invested in empty, remote beach front property.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
The last time I posted on the blog, Jim and I had just completed a 95 mile ride down the Big Sur coast, and it was beautiful. After a rest day in San Simeon, Jim and I proceeded south down to Pismo Beach. While we were riding to Pismo Beach, Dennie and her mom were touring Hearst Castle, definitely a ‘don’t miss’ place to see. I had taken the tours before, so cycling was a priority to me. Jim was convinced he would not enjoy it, so I did not dissuade him and we proceeded cycling south. The ride was nice, but the coast was foggy and it never lifted. That made for a pleasant ride through Morro Bay, and then over to San Luis Obispo and then down to Pismo Beach, but it was not epic or one of our best rides. It was just a nice ride down the central California coast, but nothing close to Big Sur, or the northern California coast, or the redwoods, or Oregon coast and Washington. It was just another leg we had to complete in order to get to our Mexican border endpoint goal. However, it did turn out to be a much better ride than the following day.
The next day we got up and Jim and I headed towards Lompoc or Buellton. We had reservations at Motel 6 in both destinations. It was the first time we would be staying at a Motel 6 and Jim was not thrilled it was the only location we could find vacancies on a Saturday night. That, in itself, should have been a ‘go back, it’s a trap’ signal. So we started pedaling south and on the way, Jim let me know how unimpressed he was with his last Lompoc experience, so we mapped out Buellton as our destination. Pismo Beach was the last time we cycled next to the ocean for the day. As we were going south, we came to the little city of Guadalupe. In the late 70’s, I used to hang glide and I spent many, many week-ends camping and hang gliding with lots of my buddies in the dunes west and south of the little city of Guadalupe. In the evening, we would head in to Guadalupe for a Mexican dinner at the Guadalajara Café. When Jim and I cycled in to town, the main street was closed off because they were have a little fiesta that day. Jim loved it because all the local brought their cars in and had a little car show at the same time. It seems that Jim was quite the dragster enthusiast years ago in Albuquerque. So, Guadalupe was probably the highlight of the day.
After Guadalupe, the temp started going up, we were no longer on the coast and the ride just became a real drudge. Finally we made it in to Buellton to the wonderful Motel 6. While we were getting something to drink in a convenience store, we asked a lady we saw in the parking lot if she knew the directions to Motel 6. She replied, “Yes, but why would you want to go there?” It turns out she managed a Quality Inn and we did a little parking lot negotiating, and wheeling and dealing. She moved the price down considerably to get us in, but not quite low enough to get us to cancel the Motel 6. In retrospect, we should have closed with her. The Motel 6 sucked. The ride that day sucked (temperatures reached the mid 90’s) and our accommodations sucked. It was not our best day and we were both in agreement, it was not one we want to repeat.
Next day we went down to the McDonald’s for a great breakfast (Motel 6 had no microwaves or coffee machines), and Jim and I headed for Ventura, via Santa Barbara. When we got on the 101, for the first time, we saw a sign that said ‘no cyclists’. The day before, I called up the California Highway Patrol dispatcher and she said no cyclists north of Buellton on 101, but because there were no frontage roads south of Buellton on 101, cycling was permitted. I was actually hoping that we were stopped by the CHP because I thought it would make an excellent blog post. But, it turned out the ride from Buellton, down to the coast at Gaviota, was uneventful. When we got to the coast, fog again, and it was foggy or overcast all day. We rode down to Santa Barbara, and through UC Santa Barbara, and down towards Ventura. Just short of Carpinteria, I heard a ‘ping!’ and my bike jerked like it hit something. Jim heard it also and as I looked back to see what I might hit, I could not see anything in the road. About a quarter mile later, I heard a ‘twang, twang, twang’, and I stopped the bike. It turns out I had popped a spoke on my rear wheel somehow, and we were not going to be able to get it fixed due to the fact I was riding Ksyrium SL rims. So, we called up the SAG wagon, and waited.
I noticed a little lady nearby, selling strawberries, huge strawberries, so I bought a little basket to console myself. Fortunately, Jim had foreseen possible worst case situations and we brought a spare rear wheel. After Dennie arrived with the SAG wagon and picked us up, we drove the short distance to Ventura. At the motel, Jim put my bike up on the stand, changed out the rear wheel, did a few rear derailleur adjustments, and I was good to go again.
That evening, we headed to the Anacapa Brewing Company to try some of their finest because we had another great ride the next day. The next day we were going to be riding down to LAX, which meant we were going to be going through Malibu, Santa Monica, Venice and other places that used to be very familiar to me. Years and years ago, I graduated from Santa Monica High School, so we were going to be pedaling through my old stomping grounds.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
I am talking about ninety five miles, not ninety five years. Once again, my fears and apprehensions about the upcoming days route were unfounded. Tuesday, by agreement, we rode very easy from Santa Cruz to Carmel because we knew we had a big ride to do on Wednesday. It was impossible to get reasonable reservations for two rooms on the Big Sur coast, so we were going to do a more than 90 mile route and ride the entire Big Sur coast in one day. The mileage was not my concern. I was concerned about the amount of climbing, and the road condition, the shoulders and the RV’s. Jim thought it was going to be about 5,000 feet of climbing. I looked at the profiles while we were in Santa Cruz and I estimated 10,000 feet of climbing based on prior profiles for other parts of the coast we had already completed. Whatever it was, we knew we wanted to ride easy from Santa Cruz to Carmel, so that is what we did on Tuesday.
Riding out of Santa Cruz through Soquel, Capitola and Aptos, there were a few rollers, but when we rode down into the Watsonville area, we rode through miles and miles of farmlands. The primary crops were artichokes, strawberries and Brussels sprouts. After the farmlands, the route put us on a nice bike path for many miles between sand dunes and what used to be Fort Ord until the bike path ended at Monterey.
Jim and I biked out onto the wharf, because we missed a turn and checked out the wharf business; mostly fishermen, fish, seagulls, pelicans, a few sea lions and a few more tourists. No sea otters, though, but I did see one sea otter in Elkhorn lagoon when we passed Moss Landing. After Monterey, we found our motel in the Carmel River area. Jim and I were ahead of the SAG team, Dennie and her mom, so we went and found a burger place that served beer and we fueled up. It was an easy ride and it should set us up for what I thought was going to be an epic, or maybe even a major ordeal the next day, when we rode the entire Big Sur coast in one 95 mile ride.
Next day we got up early and told Dennie that this was going to be a real SAG day because there was not going to be convenience stores or many places to eat along the coast. We set up a place to meet 50 miles down the road and told her to be there at half past noon. Then Jim and I set out at 8AM, pedaling south. We passed Point Lobos and the coastal areas south of Carmel; very, very nice houses perched on hillsides overlooking private little bays and priceless coastal views. I never saw Clint Eastwood, former mayor of Carmel. Oh well, he did not ‘make my day!’
Continuing to head south we crossed over the bridge to Big Sur that Dustin Hoffman and “Mrs. Robinson” made famous.
And then we came to the lighthouse on the large rock structure, attached to the coast by a spit of sand, that I consider to be north end of the Big Sur coast. By this time, I was slowing Jim down because I kept saying, “Stopping! Picture!” I spent a lot of summers in this area when I was growing up, so I was thinking of a lot of memories. Dennie and I spent some quality time in this area also, before we started making boys.
We started going inland on Highway 1 and through the community of Big Sur. We stopped in Big Sur to consume a sandwich and I called Dennie. Or more accurately, I attempted to call Dennie unsuccessfully. No cell coverage where we were in Big Sur. This was going to make for an interesting day for the only day that we told Dennie she would have to seriously SAG. Jim and I continued to pedal south; pedaling, climbing, chasing cars going downhill and only interrupted by me saying, “Stopping! Picture!”
We passed a sign that said Hearst Castle 45 miles, so we were half way. About 5 miles later, we were at our 50 mile mark where we were going to meet Dennie and the SAG wagon, but Dennie was not there. I guess I need to cut Dennie some slack though, because we were 30 minutes early. Also, due to cell coverage, I could not raise Dennie on the cell. So we decided to eat what we had, drink what was left and proceed to the next little community of Gorda and hope she would also. We also kept looking north to see if we could see her on the road. As we were finishing up what we had left we thought we could see the van about a couple miles north heading our direction. We kept looking, and sure enough, we could see a van with a Thule pod and Bill’s bike on the top, so the SAG was on the way. I decided to be cute and lay my bike down in the parking lot and prostrate myself on the pavement like I was totally exhausted. Dennie pulled in the parking lot and drove up to me and honked the horn to get me out of the way. I asked, “What!? Weren’t you worried about me?” She replied, “Jim did not look too concerned so why should I be concerned.” Next time I need to get Jim more involved or stop being cute. We still had a very big climb to do so we discussed what we wanted to do next. Did we want to ride most of the way to San Simeon, our destination, and stop and let Dennie portage us in the rest of the way; or did we want to do the entire 95 miles and get in real late and make it a long, long day of cycling. I said, “I have hundreds of people reading my FaceBook and my CanMexPacRide blog and I already told them we were doing 95 miles today and 10,000 feet of climbing. I can’t tell them we only did 75, or whatever?” Jim muttered something that could probably be translated as, “Rookie, don’t ever show your hand and don’t ever do that again.”
So we continued to pedal south to San Simeon for me and our fans. We did have one more major climb, but I just took it at an easy pace, and it was not too bad. We also had road construction that stopped us 3 times. One of the construction stops was very interesting. There was a boulder about the size of two bedrooms or a very large living room, poised about 200 feet up a cliff, over the highway. Traffic was stopped and there was a crew of about 10 climbers up the cliff trying to dislodge the boulder, so it came down on their schedule and not nature’s schedule. We pedaled to the front of the line and we watched 30 minutes while they worked on the boulder. After about 30 minutes, they decided that they HAD to let traffic pass and that it was safe enough to pass. They got a front loader to clear one lane of Highway 1 of all the landslide rocks that had tumbled down while working on the big boulder, and then the flagman told Jim and I to go, and he would release traffic in a few moments. So we pedaled our butts off and continued south.
About this time, the wind started picking up and what was a mild tailwind for most the day, became a strong tailwind. We left the mountainous Big Sur coast and we had about 20 miles to go to San Simeon. With the tailwind, we were doing about 20-22 mph. Up ahead we could see a lot of cars parked and people walking around. As we rode up, we discovered we were at the sea elephant refuge and Dennie, her mom and the SAG wagon were there also. There was probably a “trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, million … billion” sea elephants. I asked Dennie and Jim how many there were and they said, “Make something up”, so that is where that big number came from. I think there were actually 200-300 sea elephants in a stretch of beach a bit less than a mile long. They were making a ruckus, and fighting with each other. Their fights were hilarious. They would push, bite and bark at each other for about 30-45 seconds, and then they would both drop down exhausted, next to each other and neither would move for another five minutes. This was being repeated up and down the beach, between piles of sleeping sea elephants. We were up on a small bluff, probably 20 feet up from the beach, behind a rail, and the sea elephants were about 10-15 yards away. It was a great end, a nice dessert to a long ride.
After the sea elephants, we continued to get blown in to San Simeon where we will stay two nights and have our rest day. Oh, and I was worried more than necessary. It was not a 95 mile ride; it only turned out to be 94 miles. And we did not have to climb 10,000 feet; we only climbed 6800 feet. And the pavement was very good for most of the ride, with good shoulders, and the drivers and RV's were well behaved, for the most part. Next stop will be Pismo Beach, California.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Monday morning and it was time to ride to Santa Cruz from Daly City. Actually it was past time. For the first time on the trip, somehow I messed up setting my alarm. We planned on rolling out from the motel at about 8AM and at about 8AM I heard this voice outside our door, “Marvin, are you awake?” Crap! I was not awake, I was not dressed for a ride, I had not eaten breakfast, made my sandwiches, filled my water bottles and checked my tires. I had not done any of these things because I was still asleep. Crap! I opened the door and let Jim know that I was going to still be a “few” minutes, and then I started moving fast. I usually give myself 2 hours for my morning routine which also includes packing a few things in the van to assist Dennie. This time Dennie assisted me and we found out we could get me out the door in 40 minutes. That was good to know because that meant I was going to sleep 30 more minutes each day and cut my two hour preparation to an hour and thirty minutes. At 8:40AM, we were cycling down the road. Our route avoided Highway 1 through Daly City and took a lot of back streets instead, up and down hills. Daly City, like San Francisco, is a hilly little city. On one of the hills, I was trailing Jim and I was overtaken by a guy on a touring bike with panniers and bar end shifters, he was wearing water shoes and pedaling on platform pedals. His shorts and T-shirt were billowing and he had a camera over his shoulder. Rather than pass me, he came up alongside and asked me in an English accent, ”Where are you going?” I decided to play it cute and said, “San Diego.” He replied, “Brilliant, so am I!” It seems Jamie, age 31, was a school teacher from Reading, England that was on sabbatical. He wanted to do three things on sabbatical: ride the Trans-Siberian Railway, take a cycling trip and go to South America. He decided that cycling the Pacific coast was in between Russia and South America, so that made the most sense logistically. From Russia, he flew in to Portland, bought his bike and some gear and he was heading south to San Diego where he planned on selling the bike and then continuing on to South America. Isn’t it fantastic when a plan comes together? To stay within his budget he uses an internet service at CouchSurfing.com. Apparently you just check your destination and see who is participating and someone makes their couch/room available for you. After the stay, your host rates you on the site and you rate your host. He said he is meeting a lot of great people this way and keeping costs down. Jamie is also blogging his trip for his students and anyone can check it out at hellomrb.tumblr.com.
The ride was pretty uneventful, about 72 miles and 3700 feet of climbing. There was alternating times of sunshine and then fog, regular California coast weather. At one of our rest stops where we stopped for a meal and a break. I ordered the seaside special: two eggs, hash browns, toast and a slab of salmon.
We met two couples from Switzerland. They flew into San Francisco, rented two Harleys and they were also biking the California coast, although their bikes were a bit bigger than ours. They wanted to know how far we were riding and we replied, “Today or altogether? Today we are riding 70 miles to Santa Cruz and our plan is to ride to San Diego.” They were amazed because they said they found it difficult to ride their Harley’s for 70 miles, and could not conceive of bicycling to San Diego. After our break, we continued on into Santa Cruz and Jamie left us with a comment, “You guys really motor along! I have been riding from Portland and of all the riders I have ridden with, only one other could keep up with me, and he was nineteen years old.” I said, "I'll tell you a secret. See that guy pulling us up the hill. That's the famous Jim McGeezer. He's 69 years old!"