Tuesday, April 24, 2018

California Coasting Staff RIde

We had six riders on the California Coasting staff ride. Foster, Doug, Tim Sullivan, Kerin, Michelle Brougher who flew in from Michigan, and myself.

The Budget Inn is better than you might expect and there are four other hotels in the same block in case you want to upgrade. Michelle and I took the late train up together and arrived in SLO at 8:30. The motel is a straight shot about a mile down Santa Rosa St from the station. We rode our bikes there in less than 5 minutes.

Rolling towards Avila Beach in the pre-dawn

There were quite a few signs telling drivers to give us enough room

We headed out at 5am on quiet roads with temps as low as 42. As we got to the beaches and the sun started to come up some moderate, fog rolled in which was very cool and clammy so we stopped to turn all our flashy lights on. Traffic was light and courteous. My exposed cue sheet was soaked so it's a good thing I wasn't depending on it.

Time to turn all our flashers on

The first problem we had is that the bike path approaching Santa Maria is not paved. That's one of the risks of using bike paths you are not familiar with - Google does not always differentiate between paved and unpaved trails. I have rerouted onto Seaward Drive although there is still an unpaved section. It's perfectly rideable, but it's not fast. Just look for the street running parallel to the bike trail on your right and move over to it at the first opportunity.

Michelle and I caught up with the other riders at the first gas station in the control area and replenished. They took off five minutes before we did and the route through Santa Maria, avoiding the 135, was nice and quiet, After Orcutt it turned into a lovely scenic road and it was a shame to have to leave it and join the 135. Be careful on this left turn as cross traffic is fast.

Headed south out of Santa Maria

The 135 quickly becomes quiet and leads us into lovely Los Alamos. Some of you may remember the turn onto Drum Canyon from here :-)

Then we get onto the 101 for a few miles. This isn't my favorite part of the route but the shoulder is wide, clean, smooth and has a rumble strip so it's not too bad. It takes us to the 154 which is quieter and then onto Los Olivos where we had the most wonderful surprise. Although you can still use any business on Grand Avenue, we found the R country market at 2948 Grand Ave is a wonderful place for a control. We were too early for the BBQ (11am open) but they had a selection of superb sandwiches for us.

R Market in Los Olivos

As we headed West of of Los Olivos a line of about eight vintage cars (Model-A I think) came the other way. I think they had narrower tires that we did. We rode along Ballard Canyon which has a bit of a climb getting out of Los Olivos and that huge sandwich didn't help. We saw two deer as we descended but I was too slow to get a photo. Here's a photo of a deer sign, which is almost the same.

Ballard Canyon

After passing through Buelton we rode up Santa Rosa road which is lovely but has some climbs. There were many other cyclists on Ballard Canyon and Santa Rosa Road as it was a great day to be out on the bike.

One of Santa Rosa's climbs

Santa Rosa is the only section that had a headwind and it freshened as we approached Lompoc to about 15 mph. Santa Rosa road is hillier in this direction but still very scenic. The back way to the control at the Albertson's in Lompoc is far preferable to the usual traffic clogged main roads. The short bike path section has a traffic circle. I have never seen a bike path traffic circle before. It was silly, really.

After the world's messiest egg-salad sandwich, I steeled myself for the climb on Hwy 1 over the Gaviota pass. Even with a 10mph tailwind, it was a grind and the last two miles were hot (78F) and seemed to take forever. Michelle got her first of three flats and I had to stop to nurse a sore knee. The two mile descent to the 101 took seconds as we hit speeds over 40mph. Wheeeeeeee!

Then we turned south on 101 and hit the coast a few minutes later.

Shoulder of the 101 heading towards Goleta
We took a detour through the vista point

We got to the rest stop at the bottom of the 101 and picked up water and a strong tailwind. We were moving well along the 101 when Michelle had her third flat. I was off the front a little so I didn't know. Two drivers slowed down to tell me she was having problems. How nice! She rode up to me on the flat tire and I gave her my spare Gatorskin. I carry a multi-tool on longer rides so I was able to pull the wire out of her tire. That was her last flat - I love Gatorskins.

We made excellent time on Hollister and Modoc making most of the lights, and stopped at a Jack-in-the Box in Golleta where I had a rice bowl with some nasty teriyaki sauce. I'm pretty sure the dominant flavor isn't supposed to be lighter-fluid. We managed to get to Santa Barbara before the sun set, which was one of our targets.

We got to the Wendy's in Port Hueneme at 11:20, well after they closed so we went across the street to a liquor store. I had a Mexican jam and cream croissant which was jam packed (pun intended) with calories and tasted wonderful. My knee had been painful for 170 miles and I really didn't want to ride up to Greg's house so I split from Michelle on Lewis and went straight back to my car at the Amtrak station. That was the end of my ride.

Michelle and the other 600k riders continued up through Camarillo to Moorpark and the overnight at Greg's home. You will find there is some climbing on Santa Rosa road (not the same one you rode earlier) so be prepared for it. On the plus side, there's a long descent after you leave the overnight back to the coast.

Some of you are planning on renting rooms at the Day's Inn or Motel 6 in Camarillo which is what the staff riders did.

The 600k riders continued south the next day and although we have all ridden the route many times before, we have never seen traffic and crowds around Marina Del Rey and Redondo Beach like we had on Sunday. We never did figure out what the occasion was. Perhaps it was simply the first nice weather for a while. I hope you don't have to deal with crowds like that. It was very frustrating.

All the 600k staff riders finished with Doug rolling in first and Michelle showing up with 40 minutes to spare. I had a chance to eat at the Bad-to-the-Bone BBQ place around the corner. It really is very good.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

SART open night too

Amber and rode the Back Bay 50 mile last night, following part of my Five Rivers 300k ride. I particularly wanted to ride this at night to see if the SART was being locked in the evenings. It is now - we were able to ride between Taft and the Anaheim Artic at 9:30pm. This means the Night Audax ride probably will not have to use the detour.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

SART open again

Last Sunday, Amber and I rode my Anaheim to Oceanside permanent. We rode the SART from the ARTIC inland to Lakeview. The city has created a temporary diversion while they remediate the main path. Other riders I spoke to said the entire SART is open. Amber and I have planned a night ride next weekend to see if they are locking the gates at night.

The weather was perfect as we climbed over Santiago Canyon but unfortunately this meant that Cook's Corner was crowded so we continued riding to some grotty little gas station at mile 40. There's a pizza place just 1/4 mile down the road - we'll try that next time.

Alisal Creek bike trail is always a blast.

Out favorite coffee shop in San Clemente has gone out of business so we went to Ellie's Table and had iced coffee and macaroons. Very nice.

The soldier on guard at Camp Pendleton asked if my camera was recording. I told him "No Recording!". He didn't have a sense of humor.

Because we didn't stop at Cook's Corner we had plenty of time to chat at Angelo's. We split one of their huge Greek salads and still left most of it. Weird because we hadn't eaten much,

Around 4:30 we headed over to the Amtrak station and waited for the train.

When we got back to Anaheim we were hungry so we split clam chowder fries, blackened chicken poorboy, and bread pudding at the Cajun restaurant at the train station. Very good.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Borrego Springs 400k Brevet

Willie Hunt's Borrego Springs 400km and 600km brevets are always a challenge. A lot of the route is along remote, poor quality roads that really test the riders' self-sufficiency and equipment. This year was no exception.

Dark and raining

We started at Willie's house in Lake Forest at 5am in the cool, damp night and headed downhill to the beach. Last year I had not worn enough layers to handle a 25mph descent in 37F temps so this year I wore extra layers and silk glove liners. No complaints this year.

Descending Hwy 133 to the coast

The first info control caught some riders out as they missed the downhill turn and had turn around and climb back up the hill. My rwgps app gave me the cue just in time. We had to write down the number of the house on the corner.

I always hope the house owner isn't awake, paranoid, and armed
We headed north on a quiet PCH to the Shell gas station at Warner. Some of us wanted a hot breakfast so we ate across the road at the Jack-in-the-Box. It was good.

Jack-in-the-Box, best food for 200 miles
Then we headed back south on the beach path to the Santa Ana River Trail (SART) which was unusually quiet so we were able to maintain a good pace. Because it was so early in the day we still had a slight headwind which quickly gave up all sense of direction and just gusted randomly.

An unusually quiet beach path
Pacelineing behind The Brat.
Alongside the 91 freeway

We continued up the SART to the end, then I decided to stop to refuel at the 76 gas station on Green River Road and somehow lost the group I was with. No matter, we rode the usual route through Norco onto the upper SART, took the detour on Jurupa (the SART reopens this section in late April), and onto San Bernardino for the next control.

More gas station cuisine
At the G&M gas station I noticed a randonneur who I knew was not on the ride, arrive with a group of the 600k riders. He told me he had arranged to meet his friends and ride 30 or so miles with them. This is against the rules and can be grounds for a DQ.

Now we had a long climb up San Timeteo Canyon road to the top of the Banning Pass at 3000'. Last year it was pretty hot and I had to take a shade nap at the Shell gas at the top but this year was perfect so I just grabbed some food and kept going. We picked up a strong tail wind as we rode towards Cabazon. Unfortunately the road (Apache Trail) hasn't been maintained in 50 years and has massive wheel grabbing cracks that I had to bunny hop. It's downhill, and with the tailwind we were coasting at 30mph so I had to be very alert. I spoke to Shai (fixie) after the ride and he pointed out that he can't bunny hop on a fixie. Ow!

Somewhere on this stretch I lost a water bottle. I wish I could have got some video but I didn't want to take my hands off the handlebars even for a second.

Eventually we reached smooth(er) pavement and the wind picked up through the pass so that I was coasting at 35mph and could still feel a strong wind on the backs of my legs.

Coasting through Cabazon
The tailwind and downhill continued onto the shoulder of the 111 to Palm Springs. As the route turns around and heads back West after Salton City, I knew we would pay for all this. I think I made contact here with Wei for a while.

Shoulder of the 111 headed to Palm Springs
We meandered through Palm Springs for a while then ended up on Varner which I remembered from last year because it is possibly the worst stretch of maintained road I've seen for a while (Apache Trail isn't maintained). I was riding with Wei now - we joined up at the prior control, and even though I warned him, I think Varner caught him by surprise. I turn my video on before hitting Varner because only video does it justice.

We got to the info control in Indio in daylight so I knew I was on a better time that last year. All that tailwind had sped me up.

Info control in Indio with Wei
We still seemed to have a tailwind as we got the Arco before the final climb to Borrego Springs. Even though it's not a control, it's essential to stop here because there is nothing but pain and fear for the next 28 miles.

Last stop before the death march
As Wei and I left the Arco we started climbing into a 30-40 mph headwind on very rough road. Some stretches are as steep as 7% and I found myself riding at 3.2 mph so I walked them at 2.8 mph instead which gave my legs and backside some relief. I fact there were 3 sections I walked in the end, mainly because I felt they were too dangerous to ride. The sand was sheeting across the road. I really wish I could have got some video but there was no way I was taking my hands off the handlebars.

Wei went on ahead and as I stopped to eat a packet of GoCubes, I ended up with a group that included Terri and (I think) Charlie. The last 10 miles are slightly downhill and we got some relief from the wind so we rolled into Borrego Springs at 2am at 17 mph.

I got five hours sleep, then we waited nervously for Pete to show up at 26:40. Twenty minutes to spare - no problem. Then we climbed onto the minibus that Willie had rented for us (great idea) and were chauffeured back to the start. Brilliant!

As we were driven home in luxury we passed many of the 600k riders toiling up Montezuma Valley Road. I always wondered why anyone would take a nice flat 400k and ruin it with climbing. I guess it takes all sorts. I take my hat off to them - I couldn't do it.

I completed my Mondail award on this ride. Only took me 15 years!

Monday, March 12, 2018

One man's road closure is another man's bike path

Amber and I rode my Lucky Greek 100k permanent populaire on Sunday. It had rained all Saturday and the storm didn't pass until early Sunday morning. We started at 10am and I decided to ride my Trek 520 as it has 32mm tires and mudguards. There was a lot of standing water and mud on the trail.

When we got to Martha McLean park there was a trail closure sign with a detour. We kept going anyway because I always like to know why I'm risking my life in traffic and found the trail has been dug up and replaced with a plowed field and also fenced off. The closure is all the way along the sewage works - a section we normally try and pass as quickly as possible due to the smell. We didn't want to retrace our route two miles so we picked our bikes up and started walking. That was a mistake. Our shoes became caked with mud and navigating the fence at the far end was difficult and slightly dangerous.

We spent five minutes knocking the mud off our cleats at the far end and agreed to take the detour on the way back. We found the nice sign that explained the reason for the closure and noticed the trail is expected to be re-opened in April so my Night Audax ride should not be impacted.

A few miles down the road there was another sign saying Rincon was closed with a gate that we walked around. I decided to check that closure out as well. When we got part way down Rincon we saw half the road was flooded so we rode on the other half. As there was no traffic on the road this was pretty sweet. This time, ignoring the road closure paid off. It was like having a deluxe bike path for a mile.

We got to the Lucky Greek hungry so we ate too much (like I need an excuse). By the time we got back to Rincon on the return leg it was open and we had to deal with the usual traffic. We took the detour on Jurupa to get around the trail closure. Jurupa turns out to have a nice bike lane and was almost as pleasant as the trail. If the trail is not open in time for the Night Audax I guess I can live with the detour.

Just before we entered the detour on the way back we encountered two cyclists coming the other way that had just traversed the same trail closure we had. One was covered in mud - apparently he didn't quite have the bike handling skills required to ride a road bike through a plowed field. It was kind of funny but he wouldn't have enjoyed the joke. It's interesting how bloody-minded cyclists can be when you close our bike paths. I don't think the people who make these decisions appreciate how much we value them.

Monday, March 5, 2018

I know lot of crazy people

This weekend past saw the wettest Five Rivers 300k brevet ever. It was so wet there were actually rivers.

I had 36 riders signed up in total. Two rode the staff ride, 22 started the public ride and 20 finished it.

The weather forecast all week had been confident there would be heavy rain the day before the ride and light rain the day of the ride. In addition, Parks and Rec. had issued press releases saying the section of the SART from Taft to Memory Lane would be closed while they dealt with the homeless problem. Glenn Pinson was nice enough to scout out a detour for that 4.5 mile stretch of the route.

The storm scheduled for the day before never really arrived. There were some light showers, but nothing much. After I registered the riders that evening, I drove down to Yorba Linda park and jumped on my bike. My first task was to check the SART access off of Lakeview which had been locked on the day of the staff ride. It was unlocked for me so I didn't have to do anything illegal.

I rode on down to Taft where there was a soft barrier across the SART that I could move to one side. I continued on but noticed a security guard sitting on the SART at Katella. I don't know if he was being paid to stop homeless people returning or to stop legitimate trail users, but I decided to have the riders use the detour.

I returned to Taft, moved the barricade back into place, and rode on the detour. It wasn't too bad, being mostly right turns and with wide traffic lanes most of the way. I really wish Parks and Rec had set up detour signs. The SART is like our 91 freeway and no-one would consider closing the 91 for three months without detour signs. On the way back on the SART to my car I passed a sheriff's car patrolling along the SART. I think I was as surprised to see him as he was me. As I had a massive pair of bolt-cutters on my aerobars, I'm glad he didn't stop me. It could have been awkward.

It finally started raining about 15 minutes before the ride started and my riders endured 30 minutes of moderate rain. After that most of them experienced little more than scattered showers. There was at least one spill from the slick trail and the usual number of flats you expect when the pavement is wet. Alan called me at mile 40 to say he needed to DNF. He seemed to have a stomach problem that left him exhausted. Greg O ran out of energy or at least "joie de la bicyclette" and lyfted himself home later in the day.

Doug rode a 12 hour 300k in his velomobile and caught me in the shower. I seriously was not expecting anyone to complete an R60 in those conditions. Shai came in an hour later on his fixie so I ordered pizza and soda around 7:30. Riders started drifting in a little after eight with tales of flooded underpasses and a locked gate on the Rio Hondo that wasn't there two weeks previously on the staff ride.

I ordered more pizza at 10 and every last bite was gone by midnight. The event officially finished at 02:10 (ten minute credit for the detour) and Mel, Pete, and Keith showed up at 01:44 which was good because I was getting a little worried about them.

Congratulations to all those who completed this ride. It was one to remember. For those of you planning your first PBP next year, this was a great opportunity to test your gear against the kind of weather you will probably have to deal with in France.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Five Rivers 300k staff ride

Amber and I rode the 2018 Five Rivers 300k staff ride yesterday. For some reason we keep doing brevets and permanents the day before a storm comes through. It always messes up the prevailing wind.

We couldn't get a room at the Best Western at short notice, so we had to start at the Motel 6 across the road. It was dark and 46F when we started and rain was predicted for the end of the day so we wore warm clothing and carried more with us.

Motel 6

It dropped down to 39F which made the descent on Green River road a little chilly, but it rose to a comfortable 60F as the sun came up. The reflection of the salmon colored pre-dawn sky on the Santa Ana river made it quite lovely.

Santa Ana trail

There is a soft barrier on the bike path at Taft that can be moved aside if no-one has done so already. Passage through this section is not a problem. About 1/4 of the tents between here and Memory Lane have been removed but the city still has a lot of work to do.

This year I remembered to make the turn towards Atlanta and Amber and I basked in the sunshine as we ate at the Von's control. It's 46 miles to the next control, but try as we might, we couldn't eat enough food to get us all the way there so we carried a little extra in our saddle bags. At this point I realized my bag of Perpetuum had a hole in it and half the powder had infiltrated every crevice of my saddle bag and contents :-(

First receipt control

When we turned inland on the San Gabriel river trail we had a spanking tailwind which was great but we knew it would hurt on the way back. The trail was quite busy and we kept getting stuck behind large groups of cyclists who were riding slightly slower than we wanted to. Maybe that wasn't such a bad thing.

San Gabriel trail

During the climb over the Santa Fe dam my cleat came lose. It came lose last week too and I forgot to fix it. Don't be like me!

View from the top of the Santa Fe dam after I fixed my dam cleat

We got to the Duarte control too soon for pizza so we had to settle for 7-11 cuisine. By now it was a beautiful 75F. Again, despite our best efforts we were unable to eat enough for the next 39 mile stretch to Chronic Tacos especially considering the headwind we would soon be dealing with.

7-11 dining facilities
We picked up a headwind almost immediately on the return towards the coast. It started as a tolerable 10 mph but by the time we got to Long Beach it was 20 mph. I'm really glad I was able to trade pulls with Amber. This is a good stretch to buddy up. We normally get an onshore flow on this stretch of the ride, but today was exceptionally bad.

Rio Hondo bike path, the wind is so strong it's bending the pylons!
Eventually we got to Long Beach and turned south to pick up a well deserved tailwind. We passed through Shoreline village and went straight to Chronic Tacos. Be aware you can either stop anywhere in Shoreline Village or continue about two miles to Belmont pier and use any of the businesses near Ocean and Livingston. We'd been planning this stop for at least an hour. We were hungry and thirsty and decided to have a civilized meal. It was awesome!

Chronic Tacos

Continuing with our tailwind and taco fueled dash southward, we made good time down PCH. The left turn on Dover has a bike-friendly underpass which is currently closed for repair. It looks as if our best bet is to make the left turn onto Dover in traffic. Please be careful.

The tailwind got stronger as we turned inland and we made excellent time to the last receipt control at the Crossroads Center. We decided to go to the Ha Long cafe because Amber was feeling sleepy and wanted one of the excellent coffees. It was starting to get dark by now and the temperature dropped to 60F. I made the mistake of drinking a large jello and crushed ice drink which left me shivering. You'd think I'd know better by now.

Ha Long - great bahn mi, boba, and pad thai.
The navigation over the next few miles is a bit challenging as we jump from bike path to bike path but once we get onto Pioneer it gets easier. The East Irvine trail is always a pleasure, especially as it is so well lit at night.

San Diego Creek trail
The only real problem we had was the right turn from Lakeview onto the Santa Ana river trail at mile 171.3. For some inexplicable reason the gate was locked. Amber and I found a way around, but it wasn't easy and needs two people. I am pretty sure I can get the gate unlocked for us, but if I can't we can continue 1/10th of a mile and make a right on La Palma which will bring us back on course about four miles later with no extra climbing and no extra mileage.

PS. It didn't rain

So to summarize there are three things to take away from this blog post.
1. The bike path is open and the homeless population is reduced but still present
2. The left turn from PCH onto Dover needs to be done with traffic
3. The right turn from Lakeview onto the bike path may be closed, but we can use La Palma instead.

See you soon.