Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pacific Coast Ride to LA Day 4 - Santa Barbara to Altadena

Alright! This is it! One more massive ride living out of a suitcase and I'll be happily back to civilization. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed every day but when you know the end is coming, you fixate on the finish line, right?

So off we go - Santa Barbara to Altadena (a city outside of Los Angeles, near Pasadena, but you have to ride through LA to get there)

One note though - I will admit I felt pretty creaky this morning. Sore and stiff - by the end of yesterday I felt good, but my body's definitely letting me know it's taking a beating. I'm ignoring it.

People say Southern California is all about "car culture", but really all the way from Santa Barbara through Ventura and Oxnard etc, it's all about boats. There must be two boats for every person there were so many boats. And every single one has some sort of punny name or attempt at a joke for a name like "Hey Sailor". Does anyone actually call their boat by those names? "Hey honey, let's take Hey Sailor out for a cruise". Has no panache. You say you want to take the boat out for a cruise, don't you? So what's with the name? Humans are silly.

Gil, I know how important a perfect yard is to you, and I've apparently found the secret sod growing grounds. Oxnard - look 'em up

Amtrak gets a bad rap. Yes, they're late. Get over it. They have huge picture windows in the cars. They have wine and cheese tastings. And they run up and down the coast. Teresa and I have done Oakland to Seattle twice, it was wonderful. I want to do the Southern stretch at some point. This is the Surfliner rolling North, near Malibu.

Hey kids! Let's go the missile park! Yaaayyy! Dad Dad Dad! Can I play on the Bullpup II? Can I? This was a real "Missile Park" (you can play on them!) outside one of the 532 military installations between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.

I'm trying not to whine about it, but if you haven't noticed in the rest of the pics, the sky is a bit...leaden. The first 86 miles of this ride it was so foggy it was basically light rain. Or heavy mist. I don't know but if you live on the coast you probably have 30 names for the fog-to-downpour spectrum, and on a 1 to 30 scale it was maybe 6. 6 means you are wet but you aren't soaked through, and you have water dripping off your helmet and can't wear your glasses. 5 hours of that. So that's lovely Malibu in the distance, mmm, Califonia dreamin' today

I couldn't take any more gray pictures after that so I put my mini-ipad away and put the hammer down to get 'er done. From mile 86 to 100 or so was still gray (but not wet anymore at least) then I crested the hill between LA and some other part of LA and holy crap it was sunny and gorgeous. Like two cups of coffee, a huge mood booster.

It was also LA rush hour and complete grid lock. Now it's "car culture" time. Poor car people, I passed and repassed the same Ferrari up a 10% grade for 10 minutes, and I was on a sidewalk. He probably wished he'd saved the money and gotten a segway instead, his commute would be quicker. I averaged .4 horsepower and beat him over the hill. Come on cyclists, you love that

One final picture - I don't go on crazy adventures without a stuffed toy I picked up on the first crazy adventure I had (camping trip) called "The Happy Dot". It reminds you to be less serious. It's about a foot wide though, so Teresa made me a mini-Happy Dot to keep the tradition alive, and he cleared the way for me on the ride. Sort of like the "evil eye" thing from Asia, but more positive. He did a good job, because I made it in just fine.

Thanks a bunch for all the comments and contact while I was trekking, I had lots of good mind-wandering time but I wasn't lonely with you guys in mind. Also there was always some point during each day where I'd run low on energy or water or a foot would hurt or something, but I could feel the support vibrating with texts in my pocket. That helped a lot - this was supposed to be fun and that helped keep it that way.

So there it is - I really needed an adventure and I got one. Now for a couple days of R-n-R then back to the real world.

Final stats:
4 days
543 miles
29,912 feet of climbing (yes! 1.03 Mt Everests)
31.5 hours riding
17.2mph average (thank god for tailwinds...)
1 ripped tire+tube, 1 punctured tube (not bad)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Pacific Coast Ride to LA Day 3 - Cambria to Santa Barbara

Day 3 of the trek sees me up-and-at-em very early in lovely Cambria. I wasn't sure how fast I could go, so with a 150 or so miles in the plan for the day, I needed to start around 7am to make sure I got to Santa Barbara before the sun went down.

Anytime you're near the coast in California in the summer, you get this huge fog bank in the evening, settling in overnight. It's in full effect this morning - I couldn't even wear my glasses, and cars had their windshield wipers on. I refer to these mornings as "good complexion mornings".

I rolled through Cayucos and stopped to look at this curious carving of a fisherman carrying a mermaid (I mean, for a coffee shop? I don't get it - it's not a seafood restaurant). Turns out I made the trip! You always want to find an "est" - "The biggest ___" or "The tallest ___" on a road trip, right? This, ladies and gentleman, is the most unique picture ever taken. Or, a picture of it anyway. You're welcome

Quick breakfast in cute San Luis Obispo, then more rolling along - maybe half of the day was like this. I'm a Hudson River School fan - I love looking mountains, so this works for me.

Exactly halfway through the ride today, I got a nice reminder of where I was. I love maps, so I loved this wall

I had a tail wind pushing me along nicely on 80 miles of flat stuff until I came up to this

Top of the toughest climb of the day, great vista opens up on to Lompoc, which must have been the world capital of people-getting-around-on-rascals. I was amused

This is the world's crappiest photo of dolphins but come on people, I saw dolphins! In the wild! I don't do that every day.

Ok you Santa Barbara people with your "it's warm in the evening so often that we have permanent sand volleyball courts set up" lifestyle. I hate you! And it's not because I'm really jealous, no...

Would you believe with 15 miles to go, I get the first flat of the trip? And it's not just a flat, the whole tire was cut. Luckily I was a boy scout. This was bootable (cycling term, you non-geeks) but I had a whole spare tire. I was able to pick up a new spare just 5 miles later at a bike shop in Santa Barbara too, sweet.

Now, I'm not proud. As a cyclist I travel to small towns a lot and I've stayed in every dumpy hotel there is. I'll stay in a Motel 6. And the one I stayed at in Monterey was predictable - it worked, but it wasn't really appealing. But holy crap, look at the Santa Barbara Motel 6. I was shocked enough I took a photo. Very nice.

For those curious how the tan is coming along, I'd say it's progressed from "unfashionable" in the cycling sense almost all the way to "hot". If cycling tans made people fast...

A bit more nerdy chatter about how I'm getting through the ride. 150 miles was long, but honestly it felt okay. In fact, I rode steadily enough for the first 140 miles that by the time I got to that point and I was sure I could make it no matter what I started going full throttle just to see what my body could do after 8+ hours of riding. Surprisingly, quite a bit. Not sure what is actually doing it, but here's today:

2x small non-fat latte (gotta watch the girlish figure)
3x 24oz water
2x 20z gatorade
2x 20oz Dr.Pepper
3x clif bar
1x ham-n-cheese croissant (I have a mean addiction to these)
1x old fashioned salt-n-pepper potato chips
2x electrolyte cocktail (tums for calcium, magnesium pill, potassium pill)

2270 calories in all. My power meter says I burnt 4000. My basal metabolism is 1800. So I'm happily not guilty about polishing a whole pizza post-ride.

That's it. So it's a lot of stuff but not outrageous. Whatever worked, I was happy it worked.

One other note for people interested in something like this, here's the nitty-gritty of the routine:

- 7am wake up, snarf something, kit out, sunscreen, roll out
- surprise, you bike all day
- ok, you stop 3-4 times at convenience stores to buy fluids and snacks
- ride into town 6ish, check in
- immediately eat something
- plug in almost completely drained phone
- order food
- get out rest of chargers and laptop etc
- download power meter data, photos
- get food, start eating
- shower, wash kit, use towel trick (roll kit in towel, wring it) to speed dry, hang it
- eat more
- work remotely, believe it or not, livin' the life...
- organize photos and post em
- use google earth and google maps to write down turn-by-turns on post-it for next day
- fill bottles, tape post it with turns on stem, pack
- 11:30pm (it takes that long), zzzz

I thought there would be time to watch some movies I brought on my laptop or read or something, but not at all. Maybe if there were 80 miles or less a day, but not at 120-150/day.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Pacific Coast Ride to LA Day 2 - Marina to Cambria

Alright then, where were we?

I'm riding to LA, basically because I can. More explanation in a previous post.

This morning found me in partly foggy Marina (just North of Monterey), headed South for an "easy" 115 mile jaunt to Cambria. "Easy" because yesterday was 137 miles, and tomorrow is (gulp) 150 miles. So I'm trying to take it easy today and not push too hard so I've got the goods for tomorrow.

I promised a little bit of gear talk today. One of the things I did both for fun and because it gives a great deal of piece of mind to my lovely, very understanding wife, is that I'm carrying a "GPS beacon". The term "beacon" means "locates itself using GPS, then actively strobes its location out somewhere". Which means if you're watching, you can tell I'm still moving, and not 2-dimensional on the road somewhere.

Specifically, I'm using a Motorola i465 (built-in GPS, runs Java ME apps), and the Instamapper GPS tracker app, on a Boost mobile pre-paid SIM card. If you know me, you know I won't spend money if I a) don't have to or b) am not sure it's worth it. The phone is from Target with a 90-day return policy, the app transmits data in a way Boost mobile doesn't charge for, and Instamapper is free. So the GPS beacon is free for 90 days. Ha.

This is a screenshot from my tracking page, shows the track, pardoning lack of cellular signal on the rugged Hwy 1 route.

More tech stuff - Instamapper let's you export the track in KML, the format Google Earth accepts. So this is the same track, but laid out on the beautiful Google Earth canvas. I used to work in a Geology department and I just love Google Earth. Look at that! It's beautiful. All those tectonics, laid out to see. A California treat.

Alright, so let's hit the road!

The very start of my ride. Gorgeous, I'll take two please.

This was on the way out of town. 4 century plants blooming at once - must be some sort of record. Really I took this for Merritt (my late father in law). He had a few of these suckers, and this made me think of him.

First sight-seeing moment of the day was the famed Bixby Bridge. Isn't it beautiful! Ah, California fog. Next.

I tried not to take too many of these. Was like this all day.

People that drive on Hwy 1: newlyweds (I saw lots of "Just Married" on cars), sports cars (Porsche is winning vs Ferrari by numbers), Harleys (always with a girl on back taking photos except *one* where the girl drove and the guy was on back), cars with surfboards, and a caravan of 5 woodie wagons. The woodie wagons were my favorite.


Right about now, 90 miles into this ride, I was thinking, holy crap this is hilly. I've got 8000ft worth of climbing in, is this ever going to flatten out? Luckily I rolled into smooth ranchland right after that, hallelujah. Heck of a profile though.

On the right of the ranch land, the Elephant Seals frolic. Okay, they just lay there, and they smell a bit fishy, but still, very cool and fun to watch.

Just before my stop for the night in Cambria, I passed by Hearst Castle. Let me be clear, I thought it looked cool, and I'm coming back with a motor, but I was *not* tempted to ride up that hill to get a closer look. I was knackered.

That's it. Absolutely huge day tomorrow, bigger ride than I've ever done, so off to bed for me. Thanks for reading and following along! I've been enjoying the comments here and on Facebook. Encouraging to have some connection while solo on the road like this, and I hope you enjoy the photos.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Pacific Coast Ride to LA Day 1 - Oakland to Monterey

"There comes a time in every man's life when he feels that he must ride from San Francisco to LA". Someone on my team wrote that last year, and something about it struck the romantic wanderlust chord in me. It wasn't my time last year, but I did do a lot of reading about what it would take. Just in case, you know.

This year, all of the sudden, it was that time for me. I needed to ride from SF to LA.

People that don't ride their bikes a lot are probably are either rolling their eyes (because it is admittedly a little nutty) or are more impressed than they should be (because it is a huge ride, but it isn't a moon shot or anything. Heck thousands of people do it every year to raise money for AIDS. Okay, they do it on a big supported ride and I'm doing it solo, but still, not out-of-the-question hard.

What am I thinking?

Basically, one of my closest friends and the best man from my wedding, Stuart Baur almost never takes time off, the 17 years I've known him. Except this year when he emailed me and said "hey, I'm taking 3 weeks off starting late June". So I've got a reason to be there.

I've got a bad habit of blowing up completely and being generally useless in breakaways (just ask...everyone I've been in a break with this season) so I wouldn't mind getting some more riding in to see if I can change that.

I commute to work by bicycle regularly, and go on bike picnics with Teresa, so I've already got all the cyclo-touring gear - just a rack, a briefcase bag that hooks on it, and a backpack that hooks on it.

Plus I've got a pretty telecommute-capable work setup and a ton of vacation myself.

So, what the hell, off I go.

The rest I'll basically tell in pictures, because the leg from Oakland to Monterey was 137 miles, and just cleaning up, eating, getting provisions for tomorrow and making tomorrows route sheet means it's already 11pm and I'm a bit tired for some reason...

This is all you need for a 4-day trip. Well, you need a bike and bags to stuff it in. But this (and my laptop) is all I'm bringing. When you're on a bike you have to travel light and just wash stuff in the sink etc.

If you don't ride a bike a lot, you probably think I look great here. This is me right before setting off, so I'm fully set up. If you do ride a bike, I counted at least 6 specific unfashionable things. Can you find them all?*

This is the route I took - it's oriented facing the coast from the ocean - North is left. The "ACA" (Adventure Cycling Association) Pacific Coast route runs through San Francisco but I live in Oakland. I took the shortest distance path I could work out in order to hook up with the ACA route on Hwy 1 - I met it in Santa Cruz and continued to Monterey from there.

This is the altitude chart (plus some other data) from the ride. My route was definitely not the flat route though - the Peninsula ridge and the Santa Cruz mountains are business time for cyclists.

I didn't take pictures of Oakland, San Leandro, Hayward, Union City etc. but, before I crossed the bay I took this snap of the Fremont wetlands. No one goes there, but it sure is pretty isn't it? Its a park on Marshlands, off Paseo Padre.

I never knew what biking the Dunbarton bridge would be like till I did it. When I mention it is possible I get blank stares sometimes, so I took this picture - this is the bike path on the Dunbarton bridge. 4 feet wide maybe, reasonably clean, big barrier between you and traffic, pretty good view. Bridge is pretty short too. It's a good route

I didn't go to Stanford (I'm a Rice alum) but it is a pretty's in between the Dunbarton bridge and the Peninsula ridge.

Couldn't wait to snap this pic, mainly because it's the top of Skyline road on the Peninsula. It's around 2700 feet in elevation, from sea level, with a very heavy bike. Downhill from here. Neglected to get a picture of my cousin Nellie, but when I hit Santa Cruz I met up with her at a tiki bar for a quick hello before pushing on. Hi Nellie!

This was the last shot I took - my wife love love loves Steinbeck (for good reason) and her eyes lit up when I mentioned Salinas. So I took a snap of the fields there. This is 100% strawberries. You know what it smells like to stand downwind from a whole field of ripe strawberries? Pure goodness.

Ah, safari clothes. Ok, what's worse, my biking get up, or the safari lounge wear? Don't answer. My wife calls pants that can unzip the legs to become shorts "shants" by the way. Wonder why

This is what's on tap for tomorrow - Marina, through Monterey, then along Hwy 1 forever, ending in Cambria

I talked about the "Why" and the "What" today, I'll try to go into some of the specific gear I chose tomorrow in case anyone else is contemplating really long rides. My stuff is working well so far so it could be useful info.

* unfashionable things in ready-to-go photo: race wheels while touring, route sheet taped to stem, the bike has bags on it for crying out loud, hairy legs, carbon bike while touring, my bike tan is pretty pale. Bonus thing - my kit is 4 years out of date. Bonus bonus thing - hard to see - seat has electrical tape holding it together. Being fashionable in cycling is hard!