Sunday, October 6, 2013

Now for the East Coast

I am now publishing all my blogging at . And right now, October 6, 2013, I am cycling by myself down the Atlantic coast.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

“We aren’t the only cowboys in this rodeo …”

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.
I will start with our precious SAG team.  This ride would not have been possible without my lovely wife’s support accompanied by her mother.  Some of my riding friends who have done SAG duty on some of our longer local rides wanted to know, “Did Dennie stay close to you guys all the time while you were riding, ready to provide assistance? Was your food and extra water in the SAG wagon and did Dennie drive her route close to us to make sure she was immediately available in the event in case we were hungry, or wet, or cold, or hot, or tired”.  And to those questions, I have a succinct answer, “No”.  Before we left Albuquerque and while we were having our pre-trip meetings, Dennie let us know how she was going to SAG. Dennie said, “You guys ride longer distances all the time at home, than what you are going to be riding each day on this trip and you don’t have SAG wagons.  So I don’t think I have to follow along and stop every 15 miles and wait for you.  If the weather is sketchy, I will be close; or if we set something else up the night before during our dinner discussion, I will be where I need to be.  Otherwise, you guys all have cell phones.  We will decide what time we are all rolling into our motel in the afternoon, and I will see you then.  If you need me during the ride, call me”. 
That’s how Dennie rolls.  And actually, it worked out just fine.  We often saw her driving by us while we were riding, and she would honk, but only a few times did we need to have her attend us before we rolled into the motel for the evening.  One time Jim and I wanted to be picked up because it started raining, our health was a bit marginal, we had been riding in the rain for a few days and we did not feel like doing more rain riding.  Another time, we had a 95 mile ride down the Big Sur Coast and we set up where Dennie would meet us with food and water.  And of course, when Bill went down, we had to stop the ride for a few days and haul in to Santa Rosa.  So Dennie’s style of SAG support worked out well for everyone.  It did not tie her down, she could get out of the motel a little later than we did, she and her mom could do their sightseeing and we could do our riding. 
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. 
South of San Francisco, we started running into more touring riders.  Jamie of the UK was one, and he was riding from Seattle to the Mexican border.  We also passed Francoise of France, on his recumbent, just south of Half Moon Bay, California.
We saw another couple of men, father and son perhaps, that were riding San Francisco to San Luis Obispo, and we saw them climbing the hills on the Big Sur coast.  In Santa Barbara, we passed a couple from Switzerland that had decided to cycle the Pacific Coast.  I am not sure where they started from. 

And when we got a couple of days out of San Diego, we passed a group of men cycling from Santa Barbara, California to San Diego.  Later we met them on the San Diego ferry to Coronado and spent more time talking to them.  They were a group from Gilbert, Arizona and they called themselves ‘The Weezers’.  They could have been your classic old guys on nice bikes that you see riding into coffee shops everywhere, but to their credit, they were touring and doing a multi-day trip from Santa Barbara to San Diego.  They were also fully supported by their wives (the Weezerette’s?) and had no panniers.
Other people that we “met” on the road, saving the best for last, were my friends and family that hosted us in their homes.  Joe and I worked for many years together at Intel and he made his beach house available to us in Oregon. I really, really enjoyed spending time catching up with Joe.  And then Theresa and Rod opened up their home to us, also on the Oregon coast.  From their living room window, you could see surfers in close to shore and whales spouting offshore through the trees.  Staying in their home was special.  And then in southern California, my favorite cousin, Margaret, opened up her house and we spend a couple of days visiting before we pedaled south to our border goal.  Friends and family are special and I am blessed to be able count friends and family close.
These were some of the people we met on the road, the other cowboys in this rodeo.  Jim and I spent some time commenting on our trip later and independently we both had the same thought.  We kind of envied the tour riders with their panniers. And now we are both considering doing the Atlantic coast.  But we are considering doing the ride with touring bikes, with panniers and doing the camping routine. I guess I should let Dennie know before we leave.
On my next post, I hope to tell you our highlights, what we would do different, and any other key learning or events.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

"Hard to believe and harder to accept ... the CanMexPac ride is complete"

(Author’s note: we successfully finished the CanMexPac ride on October 28.  But I am going to finish the blog and I will be writing in present tense although the events in the post are past tense.  So, once again suspend your knowledge of the events successful conclusion and enjoy the blog).
Two more days of riding and our epic Canada Mexico Pacific border to border ride will be over.  My internalization of the rides completion is tempering my excitement, it is a bittersweet feeling.  But before we ride, we get to spend a day of “rest” with my favorite cousin, Margaret, and her family, well the family that is still home, anyways.  Margaret is hosting us at her house in what is called Newport Coast; a beautiful place with a lovely view of the Laguna Hills and the Pacific Ocean.  Most of this seems lost on Jim though, because he only seems to have eyes for Lola.  Lola is young, blonde, shapely … a Labrador retriever.  Jim is quite the dog lover and Lola is a 3 year old yellow lab that loves to be loved.  She, like labs seem born to do, would fetch, and fetch and fetch all day, if your arm or patience did not give out.  And arms and patience would always give out before Lola would give out. 

Also, as I have said in prior posts, Jim is a car enthusiast and Jim was in for a second pleasant surprise.  My cousin’s husband (does that make him a cousin-in-law?) was one of the founders of American Racing Wheels, and he used to be a sponsored off-road truck racer (Baja 500/1000 and Mint 400) and he still has all kinds of contacts in the industry and in NASCAR.  Jim might be able to realize one of his dreams and get a hot pass to a NASCAR infield during an event.  It was all Greek to me, but I found out what a coveted hot pass is.  Apparently a cold pass is permission to be in the infield before the teams start turning over the engines and a hot pass is permission to be in the NASCAR infield after the engines had started and are running.  It seems a cold pass would be much quieter, but I guess I am the wrong person to assess the value of a NASCAR hot pass. 

In that we were in my old stomping grounds, Dennie and I decided we needed to show Jim a little bit more of the Newport Beach area.  Dennie and I were meeting Dennie’s dad at Fashion Island for lunch, so we drug Jim along.  And then after lunch, we drove back up PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) a bit and drove around on the Balboa peninsula.  At the end of the peninsula, we did the tourist thing, and took the 3 car ferry over to Balboa island, some of the most expensive real estate around for some of the smallest lots you could find.  Then we called it a day, returned back to Margaret’s place, enjoyed a pleasant party that evening with some of their business friends (one charming Italian guy that was in the wheel manufacturing business in Italy, out here on a business trip), and then Jim and I prepared for our ride to Encinitas the following day.
In the morning, we bid our good byes and headed down the coast.  Jim was not able to buy a wagon for his bike, so he was not able to steal Lola and that means there was a good chance that Margaret and I would remain favorite cousins. Whew! We were soon on PCH and heading towards Laguna Beach.  We passed the Date Shack and it did not seem changed in the forty years since I had seen it last or the fifty years since I had seen it first.  The Date Shack was where we would always stop for a date shake after a day on the beach near Laguna Beach.  Pedaling through Laguna Beach reminded me that I was probably one of the few people that actually remembered the Laguna Greeter personally greeting everyone who drove through Laguna Beach in the 50’s and 60’s, before Interstate 5 was built.  South of Laguna Beach was Dana Point.  I used to have a friend that lived on his Erickson 35 sailboat and slipped it in the Dana Point marina.  Dennie and I sailed with him once for a little over a week and sailed the Channel Islands by Oxnard and then back down to Catalina and back to Dana Point.  I could really go off on a tangent and try to relate what it is like sailing into the wind, heeled over with a rail under; very, very exciting, but I will stick to cycling for the time being.  After Dana point, we rode through San Clemente.  At this point, the Pacific bike route leaves Highway 1 and goes through the local neighborhoods with many, many turns.  Fortunately for us, it seems a number of people take the commuter train north from San Diego and get off in San Clemente and then bike back to San Diego.  So we tagged on with a couple of riders and found our way through San Clemente quite easily. 

The next “community” on our southerly route was Camp Pendleton, and of course this brought back some very strong memories.  I think the last time I was on Camp Pendleton property, I was a government employee wearing my green pickle suit.  Yes, not everyone knows but I was a charter member of Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children, known to many as the USMC. And yes, I am also a Vietnam veteran.  It was very interesting cycling through Camp Pendleton and seeing the hills where I used to run attached to O company, also known as the Running O’s.  I saw where we did weapons training and I biked by the barracks where we were assigned when I was training at the rifle range as a recruit.  It was kind of strange now, more than 40 years later, to be cycling through Camp Pendleton, completely out of uniform in my spandex.  Next was Oceanside and then soon after that we rolled into Encinitas, our last stop before our final leg.  That evening we fueled up at a local brewpub, of course, ready for our last day of riding on our CanMexPac ride. 
The morning dawned bright and clear.  Well, I suppose it dawned bright and clear.  We had a moderate ride so we were not up at dawn, but by the time we were rolling, it was bright and clear.  We cycled the coast through the beach cities north of San Diego; Encinitas, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Solana Beach and Del Mar.  Surfers were out, runners were out; it was your normal sun worshiping crowd in southern California.  It wasn’t too long before we got to our only major climb of the day, Torrey Pines.  I decided to just pedal easy up, I did not feel like pushing myself, but Jim saw three riders in front of us, and we was compelled to attempt to pass them, and he did.  I don’t like to be passed on the flat and Jim does not care.  He has no problem watching someone disappear in front of us. But he does not like to be passed on a hill, whereas I can be content to concede the hill (“I’ll catch you in the flat”).  So Jim got to wait for me at the top of Torrey Pines and then we cycled through the beautiful community of La Jolla. 

La Jolla is a little boutique community just north of San Diego, nice little coves and a bunch of pricey little shops.  We used to go to soccer tournaments for my son Andrew in San Diego, and the tournament always negotiated nice hotel deals for the visiting teams from out of state, and three times we were able to stay in La Jolla, most nice.  After La Jolla, it was on to Mission Beach and then San Diego.  In San Diego, we rode along the bike trail next to harbor looking for the ferry to Coronado.  The tall Coronado Bridge that spans the San Diego harbor is an icon, but pedestrians and cyclists are not permitted on the bridge.  We have to take the ferry to Coronado, which leaves on the hour, every hour.  We got there ten minutes after the hour, so we had fifty minutes to burn.  After some deliberation, we decided how to burn our fifty minutes.  We found a cart selling hot dogs and drinks with tables and umbrellas, and we bought a couple of Gatorades and watched all the tourists walk by.  Then we got on the ferry and headed for Coronado. 

Preceding us on the ferry was a group of cyclists from Gilbert, Arizona who called themselves the Weezer’s.  They had started at Santa Barbara and were cycling to San Diego.  They were the classic Old Guys on Nice Bikes that you find at coffee shops everywhere.  They just could not believe we were coming down from the Canadian border.  Waiting on the Coronado dock for them were the Weezer wives who I promptly named the Weezerette’s.  After a few quick good byes, Jim and I head south down the Coronado strand on a very nice bike path.  Every quarter mile or half mile the bike path would cross a road that entered one of the local naval installations.  At one of these roads, we were stopped for a red light and some guy on his cycle blew right past us on the left almost clipping me while we were stopped.  It got me a bit pissed and we were on a flat, so I thought I would try to catch him.  We were going along at a pretty good clip and Jim said, “I don’t think we need to kill ourselves on the last ten miles of our ride, why don’t we dial it back?”  I saw the sense in this so, I dialed it back.  Jim was also looking for a convenience store to get something to eat but it did not look like we were going to find one.  So, I looked over my shoulder behind me, slowed down and as Jim passed me, I said, “I don’t think we are going to find your store out here.”  But as Jim passed me, and I was looking backwards, I drifted to the right, and drifted right off the bike path and into the sand.  I immediately and instinctively tried to recover and get back on the path, which is impossible when you have a two inch lip to get up over and your front wheel is deep in sand. So, wham! I slammed into the ground and slid along the trail instead.  Damn, I am thinking to myself.  More than 1700 miles on a bike with less than 10 miles to go to the finish and I crash, dang it all!  We did a quick inventory, and except for road rash from my forehead to my ankle (and mostly on my arm and my right hip), I was OK and the bike was OK.  So, we proceeded south, at a bit slower pace. 

Now we reached Imperial Beach and our ride's end was the southern city limits of Imperial Beach.  At the beginning of this post I said my emotions were tempered on our last day as we neared our goal.  I was much more excited when we rode over the Golden Gate Bridge with San Francisco across the bay and the Big Sur coast still to go.  Now it was coming to an end. It was, for us, truly epic, and we were about to put our bikes on top of the SAG vehicle and we were not going to ride the next day.  I was suffering Post Epic Ride Letdown Syndrome (PERLS?) and we were not even done with the ride yet. We rode along the border until we could see Dennie and the SAG vehicle  in front of us, and Jim and I clasped hands and we rode in together, the finish of the epic bucket list CanMexPac ride.  Before we put the bikes on top of the van, we took Bill’s bike down and we posed for a picture; three bikes, the two of us and our missing friend Bill.
                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

"Cycling through my old stomping grounds ... greater Santa Monica area"

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. 
After Zuma, we proceeded down through more familiar territory; Malibu, Topanga, Sunset Boulevard and finally Santa Monica.  Those places were pretty developed when I was going to high school, so not much had changed, except everything was smaller than I remembered.  Isn’t that the way it always is when you go back?  One thing that had changed was the cement bike path they added on the beach so we did not have to contend with Pacific Coast Highway traffic once we got into Santa Monica.  It did make me nervous to take curves on slick cement covered with a film of sand, but we both managed to keep the wheels down and the helmets up.  The ride through the Santa Monica beach area was interesting, but uneventful. 
After Santa Monica, we rode through the Venice beach area; also uneventful but always much more interesting.  Venice is a collection of some very, very interesting people; my pictures won’t do it justice though.  After Venice and riding around Marina del Rey, we left the coast and headed over to LAX and the Crowne Plaza. 
The Crowne Plaza was both the nicest place we had stayed during our trip and was most inexpensive place we stayed at during our trip.  Nice combination, huh?  Of course I am not counting staying at friends places in the nicest and most inexpensive combination category.  Staying at friends and family was absolutely the best of times. 
After a nice night at the Crowne, we headed south once again.  As I grew up in southern California, this was all familiar with me.  The route took us inland through Torrance and Lomita and I suggested an alternative.  I told Jim it would be a bit longer but much more interesting if we circled around the Palos Verdes peninsula instead; and there would be a few more rollers if we went the Palos Verdes route.  Jim agreed to take my detour and I think he enjoyed it; I know I enjoyed it.  After the detour, we had to get back to the route and some of the connecting roads took us through what must be the arm pit area of the southern California coast area; the dirty little city of Wilmington that lies between San Pedro and Long Beach.  After Wilmington, we made it in to Long Beach and promptly lost the bike trail in the waterfront area.  After backtracking a few times, we said the heck with the bike trail and we rode the roads again. 
After Long Beach, we rode through the Orange County beaches; Seal Beach, Surfside, Sunset Beach, Bolsa Chica and Huntington Beach.  Huntington Beach was where Dennie dropped her mom off which meant now Dennie would be alone in the SAG wagon.  It also meant Dennie and I would no longer have to share our room on the road with her mother, which also has some benefits (now I will see who is really reading this blog).  After Huntington Beach, we rode the Pacific Coast Highway through Newport Beach and then we had to detour inland to the Laguna Hills area because we were spending the next couple of nights at my favorite cousin’s place.  I don’t think I actually have any cousin’s reading this blog, including my favorite cousin, so I probably won’t offend any family members.  I told Jim I only remember a few rollers and one serious half mile climb to get to my cousins place.  As we were heading up our first hill, Jim glanced up and glanced at some houses that were the highest houses he could see up on the ridges miles ahead and he was glad we were not going to have to climb up to those houses; little did he know.  Also I had only remembered a few rollers, because every time I had done this ride before, I was heading to Dennie’s mom’s house in Huntington Beach and it was a very easy ride.  I guess that was because it was downhill when you go to Huntington Beach. 
The direction we were now cycling had a lot more climbing than I remembered, and Jim was starting to have his doubts about my integrity when it came to me describing rides.  The last climb up to my cousins (to the houses highest on the ridge he had seen earlier) turned out to shatter my remaining ride description integrity when what I said was about a half mile ended up being about a mile and a quarter.  At least when we pulled up to my cousins place, Jim found he was in luxury for a few days and he had a best buddy for the next couple of days, Lola.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Some days are better ... than others"

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 CafĂ©.  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

"Ninety five ... and still alive!"

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

"Cruising in to Santa Cruz ... "

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  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 
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!"

Pacifica, California