Monday, December 22, 2014

Old ride - new start

Amber and I rode our favorite night ride from Anaheim to Seal Beach and back last night. Amtrak, Metrolink, and Grayhound have got together to build a new transport hub in Anaheim and it opened a few days ago. We took the opportunity to look around before the ride and I am very impressed.

It's called ARTIC and it's right next to the Santa Ana river trail. It looks gorgeous from the outside and it's very slick inside. They are in the process of building two restaurants inside that look very interesting. Finally an Amtrak station that actually uses it's interior space intelligently. It looks very modern European - like the kind of thing you would find in Italy.

Riders of all my rides next year will be able to see it gloriously illuminated at night as they ride on the bike path. You can see it from a couple of miles away.

We had a lovely, but cool, ride - eating at the Athens West Greek restaurant in Seal Beach.

We're looking forward to doing our Anaheim - Oceanside Amtrak ride as soon as possible

Sunday, December 21, 2014

One bottom bracket later

Those of you who follow my blog (current count = zero) will remember that my last entry was a bit of a cliff hanger. Near the end of my last ride something felt wrong with my bottom bracket - my chainring was wobbly and the bike was making scary cracking sounds. The last time I broke my bottom bracket I ended up in the hospital and buying a new bike. I took the bike to Redlands Cyclery and waited for the news.

As my bike has Campagnola components I assumed the bottom bracket would be at least $200 and that I'd probably be looking at a $250 bill. Two days later I went in to see how my baby was doing. Wouldn't it be great if the repair department of the bike store was set up like a ward in a hospital with visiting hours, a gift shop, etc? Come to think of it, the entire bike store is a gift shop for your bicycle.

Jason, the mechanic, told me there were no complications and installed the new bottom bracket while I waited. I couldn't bear to watch my baby being operated on so I wandered around the gift shop looking for something nice to get her. I noticed that NiteRider now has a two watt tail light that looks identical to the Cygolite. I smell a lawsuit.

Fifteen minutes later my bike was all fixed up and the bill was only $60 - that's pretty impressive. I thanked them and took my baby home to get cleaned up. That last ride went through quite a bit of mud and water.

Friday night I rode my monthly Lucky Greek permanent populaire (100k) and on the way back ticked over 10,000 miles for the year. The bottom bracket worked perfectly. I'll be heading back over to the bike store to give them all a Christmas present.

Tonight Amber and I will be riding to Beachwood BBQ and back.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dodging rain, eating crabs

Amber, Sherry, and I spent three days in Santa Barbara this week and, unfortunately, so did a rain storm.Amber and I planned a bike ride from Santa Barbara to Ventura and back so I could show her the two new bike paths I discovered on the Big Dipper 200k the weekend before.

We had heavy rain all nigh and light rain in the morning - easing up over lunch. We decided to go ahead with the ride even though the roads were very wet and, being from Southern California, we don't have fenders. On the way south I showed Amber the new bike path south of Rincon Point. She loved it. I measured it at 3.5 miles long. That's 3.5 miles of not riding on the shoulder of the 101 freeway.

When we got to Ventura it started to rain. It was exceedingly cold. We grabbed water and headed back north as fast as we could to get out from under the rain-cloud. Three miles later it stopped raining so we ate quickly and kept going. At Rincon Point I showed Amber the second bikepath that Jonathon had showed me which was also cool. Carpenteria Avenue is ripped up all the way through Carpenteria (thanks CalTrans) so we rode on the sidewalk.

About 15 miles from the end of the ride my bike starting making scary cracking noises and there was noticeable movement in my bottom bracket so I eased off to make sure I got home. The last time I broke a bottom bracket I ended up in the hospital.

We got back to Santa Barbara having ridden 55 miles in 3:40 ride time. We were covered in mud but we had had a good ride. We celebrated with a crab dinner at the end of Santa Barbara pier. My bike is now in the bike shop.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Upper Rio Hondo bike path

Amber and I rode from the San Gabriel trail head in Azusa down to Montebello then onto an unfamiliar bike path called the Upper Rio Hondo. This travels eight miles from Montebello to Arcadia giving us an out and back total of 44 miles.

View from trail head
It's not often I give a thumbs down to a bike path but I don't fancy riding the upper Rio Hondo again. The first problem is that it passes near a shooting range called Triple B Clay. The constant noise of gunfire is very disturbing and the complete antithesis of why I ride. Then the route is very urban, just concrete and graffiti, and lastly near the north end there is a series of difficult-to-navigate gates and then the bike path dumps you out onto Live Oak - a very busy and bike unfriendly road.

The only funny thing about the bike path is where a model aircraft park is next to a rifle range. Painted on the outside wall of the rifle range in 10 foot high red letters is "DO NOT FLY OVER RIFLE RANGE". I can well imagine that low flying model aircraft might make too tempting a target for inbred rednecks to resist.

I finally got to eat at Grand Burgers on Grand in Glendora. It's a typical american food restaurant. We had zucchini fries, chicken sandwich, bacon cheeseburger, and chili fries. It got a bit exciting when an 80 year old woman collapsed in front of the soda machine. She looked pretty chipper when they loaded her onto the gurney so I'm sure she's OK. When they finally wheeled her out, you can bet there was a big rush to get soda!

We're going to need more people!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Big Dipper 200k

I rode the PCH Randos Big Dipper 200k yesterday and I had the most fun since my September Night Audax 200k.

It was a big ride (26 riders) for December because we were there to commemorate the life of Mathew O'Neil who was killed while riding the C3R on Foxen Canyon. I got to meet a lot of riders who normally ride at a much higher level than me.

The weather was perfect as we rolled out a little after 6:30am to start the initial 50 mile loop that took us back to the Bott home. Somehow I found myself in the lead group of nine riders including Jim, Shai, and Kerin and I managed to hang in there even as we were whittled down to five, mainly by Jim taking monster pulls in some strong crosswinds. By the time we got to the first control at mile 37 I was starving and ordered a huge burrito. Unfortunately they screwed up my order so by the time my food arrived the lead group had already left.

This is where I met Tim, who had ridden the Dead of Winter double century the day before. I'd never met this guy before and within seconds he had borrowed money off me and eaten half my burrito. That's OK - he did a lot of pulling before the day was up. I also had my first coke from a bottle that I can remember - I swear it tastes better.

I left the control with Tim and Jonathon (both low-profile, no-draught recumbent riders) and another rider whose name I did not catch. Back we went to the Bott home to grab muffins, chocolate milk, and other goodies. I left with pretty much the same group and headed up the coast to Santa Barbara.

I had not ridden the new bike path alongside PCH to the South of Rincon Point and it was an absolute treat. We had the usual headwind but pace-lined our way through it very efficiently. Jonathon was navigating brilliantly and even showed us a bike path through Carpenteria that I had not seen before. Two new bike paths on one ride - how wonderful.

The long climb up to the turn around control at the Lazy Acres market was a drag but the market made up for it. The lead group was leaving just as I got there. I bought about a gallon of apple juice to ward off incipient cramps and stuffed my face because last time I did this ride I bonked ten miles after this control. We waited around quite a long time greeting some of the slower riders and then took off - two bents and three regular bikes.

Now we had a tailwind and made good time back down the coast. For some reason I was feeling strong and picked up the pace a bit. When I looked around there was only Tim and one other guy with me. I had dropped navigator Jon! The other normal bike stopped for a bio-break and I suddenly had to navigate which was a problem because my Garmin had stopped working the night before.

I managed to add a mile in Ventura but otherwise I got Tim and I home in a total of 9:15 hours. Not my best time but my moving average was excellent. After a baked potato, cornbread, soda and a lot more chatting with old friends I reluctantly left for home.

Thanks to everyone, especially to Linda and Larry, Tim and Jonathon.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Ivation Bullet Bluetooth mp3 player

I just bought a new toy for my bike - the Ivation mp3 player. I like to listen to music when riding on my own, but I've never liked earphones for many reasons. First they are illegal, second they make me deaf to cars approaching from behind, third they are uncomfortable.

Sometimes I see people riding beach cruisers with boom boxes strapped to them which is perfectly legal and fun but doesn't really fit with my $7000 custom build Ti Serotta. The Ivation is a bluetooth speaker with a micro SD card slot and mp3 player built in. It's small enough to attach to my handlebars (about the size of a good headlight) and loud enough to hear well.

I took it for a 40 mile test ride last night after work. Although it was inaudible in heavy traffic, once I got onto the bike path it sounded great. I rode for about three hours and kept it on for the drive home so I can confirm the battery lasts for at least four hours. The sound quality is surprisingly good for such a small speaker - certainly good enough to accompany a  run or a ride.

I purchased a 16Gb micro SD card which is more than enough to hold my entire music library. I have a 200k brevet tomorrow so I'll see how long that battery lasts!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Scoping out the Five Rivers 300k brevet

I rode 40 miles on the upper SART again with Sherry on Saturday and spent Sunday scoping out part of the new Five Rivers 300k brevet that I am hosting in February 2015 with Amber.

We started in Azusa at the north end of the San Gabriel bike path. The control in Duarte is perfect and there are no issues accessing it so it stays on the route untouched. Then we followed the route on the San Gabriel, Rio Hondo, and Los Angeles river trails. We had one mile of road and 40 miles of bike path. For some reason we had a slight tailwind and made excellent time to Shoreline village in Long Beach which is the next control on the route.

I had originally planned on using a 7-11 four miles further along as the control but pointed out that there is a potential shortcut. Amber and I ate at the Yardhouse which was really nice. I even drank half a pint of Murphy's Stout which is very unusual for me. After our meal we wandered around Shoreline village and saw many good options for food so I decided to move the control here instead. I think the riders will like it. La Copa Empanadas looked really good and we plan on eating there during a ride at the first opportunity.

Shoreline Village
After Shoreline village we rode along the beach path to the San Gabriel bike trail and rode all the way up it to the end for a total of 84 miles which included maybe four miles of road.

I've submitted my application for the Five Rivers 300k brevet and hope to get it approved soon.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Fantastic Weekend

As Tuesday was a holiday I decided to take Monday off too and make it a four day weekend.

I started with a 30 mile ride on my exercise bike on Friday night, then rode 40 miles with my wife on the upper SART on Saturday. On Sunday I rode the 56 mile Backbay loop with Amber, eating at the wonderful Champagne Bakery for the first time in too long.

On Monday I rode with a lovely couple from Kansas - Mike and Nancy Myers. They've ridden 12,000 sanctioned km so far this year. That's more than two years worth of riding for me!

Mike and Nancy Myers
They had chosen my Lucky Greek 100k permanent populaire to get their California brevet. They have ridden brevets in about 30 states now. After this ride, they were driving up to Las Vegas to do a Nevada ride tomorrow.

We met at the Panera at 6am which meant I had to get up at 5:00am :-( We got started at 6:18 under heavy cloud cover but with no wind and no chance of rain. We reversed the course because I was worried about rush-hour traffic, what with it being a week day. The upper SART was lovely and the recent storms meant there was actually water in the river. I joked with them and told them the river only flowed three days a year, but in California that still counts as a river.

They (especially Nancy) told me about the seven trans-continental rides they had done, and the different bikes they had used trying to settle on one that addressed all their different medical issues. They currently have a stretch limo of a recumbent tandem. Their license plate is [TANDUMB].

Before we knew it we were at the end of the SART and the traffic on Arlington was unpleasantly heavy. We got off after half a mile and onto River road through Norco which was nice and quiet. Traffic on Rincon, Smith and Railroad was heavier than usual, probably because it was a week day.

We got to the Lucky Greek and I decided to make the brevet an out and back to avoid traffic. We got pretty much the same number of miles either way. A gyro and fries later and we headed back. We talked a lot more about the people we had met and the kinds of things that randos like to talk about - how eventually every road reminds you of another road - how 300k rides always seems so hard. We talked about family and how lucky I was to be able to ride with my wife and both daughters in the same weekend.

I learned about slugburgers (seriously) and discussed how lucky we SoCal randos are with so many RBAs putting on so many rides for us.

About ten miles from the end the sun started to come out but it remained a pleasantly cool 65-70F.

It was a very special ride and I am honored to be part of Mike and Nancy's epic adventure.

I finished up my long weekend with a 23 mile ride on the upper SART with my youngest daughter and my wife. In the evening I virtually rode the first 43 miles of a new Utah 200k brevet that I am validating as part of my new duties for RUSA.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Against the Wind

I've been doing a lot of cycling lately, but nothing terribly interesting. The greatest challenge has been to avoid sunstroke.

Yesterday a decent storm blew through the Southland so I decided that would be the perfect day to ride my monthly R12 200k permanent.

It was a dark and stormy night. Seriously it rained and blew all night and even hailed a bit. I got a later than expected start because it was still stormy when I got up so I thought I'd wait a bit, but it didn't subside so I drove to the start and hoped it would clear up a bit.

It turned out that the storm was sitting over the mountain and once I got to the start of the ride it wasn't raining anymore. I started at 9am and, although it was cold and windy, it wasn't actually raining. But I could tell there had been heavy rain because the bike path was covered in mud and dirt and was flooded in quite a few places.

I was very glad I had recently replaced my tires with new Gatorskin 28mm tires that are flat resistant and track really well in mud. We all know that we get more flats during and after rain, but I got none.

After about 13 miles of riding it started to rain - a lot. I tried to shelter under a single-span bridge but the wind blew the rain right through the arch and I couldn't get any relief so I decided to just keep riding.

Q. When is a headwind a blessing?
A. When you are riding in a storm.

I had every reason to assume that I was in a localized storm cell. I could see blue skies ahead and the rain had come on very quickly. Fortunately I had a headwind which meant that I was headed South while the storm was being blown North. Six miles later I was out of the rain. Unfortunately I was soaked through after only a mile of rain. But with the temps in the 60s I never really got cold. I was wearing long lycra pants, a long-sleeved jersey, and a Pearl-Izumi convertible jacket. I also had a thermal layer in my Carradice bag that I didn't ever need, even when the sun went down.

Special effects from sweaty lens

Rincon was closed with gates across it. I assumed it was flooded so I went around the gates to see how bad it was. It didn't look impassable so I gave it a shot. The water was about 6" deep so I got my shoes wet again, but nothing else.

Water across the road at Rincon. It takes more than closed gates to stop a cyclist

By the time I got to the In-n-Out burger at mile 31 I was dry again (almost). But I was already stinky which meant I would be horrible by the end of the ride. I had a double-double and headed out 20 minutes later (they were slow for some reason). You'd think the smell would have given me priority!

It warmed up towards Newport beach and the headwind got fresher - even a bit violent at times. I got to the turnaround at 13:20. During the day there is a wonderful deli run by some Koreans so I had a turkey and ham on toasted ciabatta. Delicious.

Turning North I picked up a wonderful tailwind - a bit gusty but very nice. I just rolled along at 15-16mph having the best time. It was really a wonderful time to be out riding. I had to make an emergency detour to the Amtrak station in Anaheim to attend to the call of nature. Even Green River hill didn't bother me much. The tailwind didn't get me up any faster, but it was easier.

I got to the Lucky Greek at about mile 100 with the sun getting low behind me so I made it as short a stop as possible by ordering fries and soda. I should probably have eaten a little more but I wanted to get onto the last section of bike path before sunset.

The gates were still closed on Rincon but the water was much lower, only about 2" deep at the center of the road. Some asshole had taken the time to push a supermarket trolley around the gates and smash a bunch of bottles all over the road. I managed to thread around them all without getting a flat, but I fantasized about sneaking up to him while he was smashing the bottles and nailing him with my shock baton. That would have been fun!

I got onto the bike path a few minutes before the sun set and rolled along, still with a tailwind, enjoying a stunning sunset. About 5 miles from the end I started to bonk and ate some Belvita cookies I had brought along in my top tube bag. They really did the trick and I felt strong again in just ten minutes. I finished with a total distance of 130 miles in 9:57.

So this was a challenging ride in many ways. There was mud, debris, and flooding. It was cold, windy, and wet. This was my kind of epic!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Salinas - Oxnard 600k brevet

This weekend I supported the PCHRandos Salinas to Oxnard 600k brevet ride. This ride had been organized by Matt O'Neil but when he was killed on the C3R ride Willie, Vickie and I undertook to run it in his name. The ride is a one-way from Salinas down the coast to Oxnard. Most riders left cars at the Oxnard Amtrak station and took the train or got a ride up to Salinas. I transported Kerin and Mike while Willie transported a couple more in his tricked out truck.

We had about 25 riders start at the Howard Johnson in Salinas at 4am Saturday morning. They rode a loop southeast along G17 and G16 and then turned right up Carmel Valley road to the first control at 55 miles and 2400' where I met them with food and water and encouragement. The Salinas valley was cold and foggy that early which caused Elaine some difficulty, but she and Lisa made it up to my control where they inhaled some greek yoghurt and recovered a little.

Then the riders had a lovely downhill most of the way to Carmel at mile 80 where it actually started to get a little warm. So far the ride had mostly been on hilly, but quiet country roads. They turned left onto PCH and rode down one of the most spectacular portions of PCH with amazing views of the Pacific coast. Other that the unusually heavy traffic, the cycling was fantastic. The temperature stayed around 65 and there was a pretty solid tailwind.

I next made contact with the riders at Gorda which boasts the most expensive gasoline in the continental US at $6.00 a gallon. Thank goodness I drive a Prius and only needed two gallons. They also have $13.95 quesadillas which would cost $6 anywhere else. I met an Englishman called Jamie who is currently running from Vancouver, CA to Argentina at the rate of about 30km a day. He's raising money for several charities. He's pushing all his supplies in a regular baby stroller made by Thule. I wish him the best of luck.

I stuck around at Gorda until Pete, Lisa, and Elaine came through - all looking pretty strong. Then Nicole, who was also helping, told me her minivan wouldn't start. Her battery was dead and we couldn't find jumper cables. Gorda is in the middle of nowhere - they don't even have power lines or cell phone coverage. Everyone there was so nice - they called people and hunted around and eventually Terry found some jumper cables for us. My Prius manual says I can't jump other cars but we found some German tourists who helped and we got Nicole's minivan running again.

At this point I realized my cell phone had stopped working. I could take photographs and receive text messages but the screen didn't work and I couldn't make any outgoing calls or reply to the texts. I had to drive to SLO to Vickie's house so I could go online to find out how to reset the phone. Fortunately when I did that everything started working again.

For the rest of the evening I shuttled back and forth from SLO to the last rider and accompanied Elaine and Lisa into SLO about 3am. The control closed at 4am. At this point I had been awake for 24 hours straight, but so had many of the riders. Pete DNFed at SLO after riding 220 tough miles, with severe butt and knee problems. I know there's a 600k in him somewhere.

I drove straight to Oxnard and grabbed the room at the Best Western at about 8am, showered, and grabbed an hour of sleep before the first rider - Gary - arrived at 9:20 for a 29:20 total time. This was his first 600k but by no means his first long ride. Other riders came in slowly over the next few hours. By 5pm there was still about half the pack out on the road with three hours left. Nicole was providing SAG while I did the paperwork at the end control.

I've always thought that experienced randonneurs aim to have about an hour to spare on a multi-day ride. This maximizes their sleep time while leaving a good buffer for issues. This group seems to agree because the bulk of them finished around 5pm although Jorge came in with only 15 minutes to spare because of a flat tire only a few miles from the end. Everyone who left SLO finished the ride inside the allotted time and got credit.

Mel Cutler got his Ultra Randonneur award -  he did 10 Super Rando awards in only five years. Way to go Mel. Several riders completed their first 600k. Eric found it easy and Hal found it difficult but everyone gets credit for completing a challenging 600k brevet this weekend.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Anaheim to Oceanside - back by Amtrak

Roughly once a month Amber and I ride from Anaheim Amtrak station to Oceanside and then take the trail back. I feel it's our way of thanking Amtrak for letting us use their parking lot every week to start our ride from. We started at 8am to try to get the climb up Santiago Canyon finished before it gets too warm. Also they stop serving breakfast at Cook's Corner at 11am.

I had decided to ride my Trek 520 cro-moly touring bike. It's quite a bit heavier than the Serotta and has a partially broken in Brooks on it. If I'm going to tour Colorado on it next year, I need to get more miles on it.

The SART is all messed up right now so rather than keep being forced off it we decided to exit at the first construction zone and ride along Riverview all the way. That was a bad idea - it's busy and has no bike lane much of the way. Next time we'll use as much of the bike path as possible. My butt was sending out alarm signals around mile 20. I read Amazon reviews that say Brooks saddles can be ridden without discomfort right out of the box - bullshit. It takes about 1000 miles before you can ride a comfortable century on one in my opinion.

Santiago canyon was busy in a good way - there were huge numbers of cyclists using it. Some we passed, most we didn't. We got to Cook's Corner around 10:30 at mile 29 with most of the day's climbing already done. It' definitely more work riding the Trek what with the extra weigh and fat tires. I ate my whole breakfast burrito which I normally cannot do. Amber had the usual french toast. Lot's of cyclists eating here today.

Pressing on we had a wonderful 20 mile downhill to the coast. Amber wanted to ride the insanely steep Salt Creek trail but I begged off considering the extra effort of climbing on the Trek. Maybe next time. Turning south with the Pacific ocean on our right, the view is sweet.

We have decided to add a coffee stop to the route. We like the Kaylani coffee shop as it's right on the route and they have a great sea salt and caramel iced coffee. It only scores 3-4 stars on different review sites but it works for us.

Now we have cooled down a little and picked up a few calories we continued south along the San Clemente bike route and jump onto more bike path to Camp Pendleton. Big signs saying it will be closed to cyclists next Saturday so we timed our ride well. After Camp Pendleton we were in Ocean side and stopped at Angelo's. I wasn't hungry as we approached but as soon as I got off my bike I got really hungry and ordered a club combo. We had a lot of time to kill so we just hung out there for an hour and then rode a mile to the station where we hung out another hour. 

Great ride but I probably burned off an extra 10% calories on the Trek.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

On Romney Marsh

Some Fogs can stop time. Not the weak, pusillanimous mists that retreat as you advance - I'm talking about honest to God fogs that push up close to you and breath in your face like a drunken bully; the ones that can hide a house or a precipice.

I was cycling along a narrow road on Romney Marsh in the south of England late one night when a thick fog rolled in off the sea. One moment I could see the lights of St Mary's Bay in the near distance and my lights lit up the road far ahead. The next moment I was surrounded by a wall of thick fog and my lights only lit up more fog.

I was at a scenic turnout so I rode in carefully, guided by a weak light over a public restroom. I sat on a low wall with no idea if there was a two foot or two thousand foot drop on the far side. The weak light cast my shadow onto the fog. You shouldn't be able to cast a shadow onto air - it's not natural.

I had a cheese and onion bap in my saddle bag which I took out. For those of you who aren't familiar, a bap is a soft roll. A cheese and onion bap is a bap with butter, a slice of sharp cheddar, and a thin slice of onion. It's not grilled or fried onion - it's as raw as the day it was dug up. "Pungent" describes it well. I had chosen it because it was the absolutely cheapest sandwich they had in the store.

Once the unwrapping stopped, I heard a dismal groan coming from the marsh. It sounded like a trapped animal, crying in pain; or perhaps a lost soul warning against wandering the marsh in the fog. It was a herring gull, resting on top of the restroom. It had probably been attracted by the light and was waiting impatiently for the fog to lift. Perhaps I had startled it, or perhaps it smelled my bap.

The fog was swirling through the air and made patterns around the light. The restroom walls were covered in water drops that ran down, leaving streaks. The fog was condensing on the cold metal frame of my bicycle and dripping onto the ground. It was soaking into the leather and terry-cloth of my gloves and the lycra of my shorts. I was wearing a waterproof vest but the waterlogged air just crept underneath and soaked my cycling jersey.

The water condensing on my helmet dripped down my neck. Everything was cold and wet. It was not pleasant.

So there I sat; bap in hand, onion on breath, cold and wet, illuminated by a fog-haloed light, sharing a moment with a seagull. I have no idea how long we were there. Fog can do that.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hot, hot, hot

It's September and Southern California is experiencing a heatwave. It was 105F in San Bernardino today. Amber and I waited until 6pm to ride from Anaheim Stadium. We rode a modified Back Bay route because I'm planning a new 300k route next year and wanted to scout an unfamiliar section.

We ate at the Flame Broiler in the Westpark Plaza in Irvine. They have everything there (Flame broiler, Pizza Hut, Kabob, Chipotle, Subway, and more) and it's right off the San Diego Creek bike path so it's the perfect place to put a control. I'm a big fan of rice bowls on bike rides. They're warm, filling, salty, and have lots of carbs but not too much fat or protein. I've also read that rice is a better source of carbs because it causes less gas. I felt quite frisky for the second half of the ride.

The other nice surprise was a new three mile stretch of class A bike path called the West Irvine trail that goes from Bryan Ave to Pioneer Ave. This cuts out two awkward left turns and a mile or more of Portola. We will be altering our Back Bay route to include this in future and it will certainly be on the 300k.

Amber and I agree we should add this new 50 mile route to our night ride repertoire.

On the down side I see they've dug up even more of the bike path so the five miles from Katella to Lakeview now has two major detours. CalTrans outdid themselves on the drive back by shutting down two of the three lanes of the 215 North and many of the on and off ramps in the area. All the stop lights were on flash mode and police were everywhere, mainly trying to stop irate motorists from attacking CalTrans workers. Incompetent Bastards.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cycling in Jakarta

Advice on cycling in Java - Don't.

I just finished virtually cycling 30 miles in Jakarta. What a shit hole! It's dirty, crowded, run-down, and generally disgusting. A line of prose came to mind...

Claustrophobic, crowded buildings; painted bright to hide the grime.

The streets are narrow and crowded and filled with swarms of suicidal motorcyclists. The shops and cafes are ramshackle and filthy - I can't imagine eating at any of them and surviving. It reminds me of the worst parts of Tijuana but just goes on for mile after mile without change or any sign of country-side.

I need to find another country to virtually ride in.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Hurricane Norbert, Compression Socks, and Bike Racks

It has been a couple of weeks since my last post - nothing interesting to talk about. This weekend has been fun though.

Hurricane Norbert - a rare Pacific hurricane - is passing along the coast causing heavy rain and flooding in the area. It was my first chance to ride in a bona fide hurricane so how could I pass that up? I met Amber at Anaheim as usual on Sunday evening and we rode to Beachwood BBQ in Seal Beach. There was no rain on the ride (lots in the mountains and Riverside) and the wind was milder than normal. It was in the low 90F when we started and very humid but as weather events go I wasn't impressed. I don't know what all those Floridians make such a fuss about ;-)

Because the weather was a bit iffy the beach path was nice and quiet and the wait for Beachwood BBQ was only 20 minutes so decided to eat there. I had the pulled pork sandwich and blue cheese grits. Amber had the chicken sandwich with the same side. Bloody marvelous. They're doing a line of wild game food now, but it looked like too much food for the middle of a bike ride.

What's the deal with compression socks? I bought a pair on Saturday. Surely they're just a re-marketed manufacturing error.

Customer: These socks are too tight!
Salesman: No, they're compression socks.
Customer: It says they're a medium but I can barely get them on.
Salesman: Costs extra for compression socks.

I'm going back to my old socks.

Some time ago I decided to replace my trunk mounted bike rack with a hitch mounted bike rack because the trunk mount keeps coming lose and  there's too much movement. I had U-Haul install a hitch receiver last month. Because I drive a Prius I'm limited to a 1.25" class I hitch.

I've been scouring to decide which rack I wanted. There's Thule, Yakima, Allen, ProBike, Kuat, and others to chose from. I was going to buy the Yakima but I noticed it has bottle openers built into the rack. ARE YOU KIDDING ME! What kind of bottles do you open with a bottle opener? BEER BOTTLES. That's like selling a car with a driver's side wet bar. Way to combine drinking, driving, and bike riding! I've had too many friends killed by drunk drivers to think this is a good idea. Shame on Yakima.

I bought a Thule from Cyclery USA in Riverside. They had a better price than Amazon (after I reminded them of the 20% Thule sale they were having)! Jim installed it for me - nice guy.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Adrenaline Bikes

Rode a warm 50 miles to The Crema with Amber today. I had the Croque Monsieur which was very good, but not as good as the fried egg sandwich.

Afterwards we met up at Adrenaline bikes in Tustin. I have never seen so many bikes in such a small area. They have everything there. The staff are very friendly and knowledgeable. Amber thinks she will probably get her bike there. She's looking at the Lynskey Cooper CMT Ti touring bike with a Shimano Ultegra groupo, wide-clearance carbon fork, and disk brakes. It'll be about $4,500 after tax and the build fee.

That's a lot of money for a bicycle, but then it's a really nice bike which will last as long as she wants it too. She will probably have to replace the forks and the groupo every ten years or so, but the frame should last forever. It will also take a rack, panniers, fenders, and wide tires. The Ti/Carbon combination will be very comfortable on long and rough rides.

You know what I really liked about Adrenaline Bikes? Not pushy. If there's one thing guaranteed to get me running it's the phrase "What will it take for you to buy this today?". I hate that.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Anaheim to Oceanside 80 miles

Amber and I haven't had much luck lately riding the Anaheim to Oceanside ride lately. Last time there had been massive wildfires in Camp Pendleton so they had closed it. We felt it was time to try again.

We started early (for us) at 8:00am but it was already 80F in Anaheim when we started. The climb up Santiago Canyon was harder than usual because of the heat but we got to Cook's Corner a little after 10am where it was 85F. Amber had the French toast and I had a breakfast burrito. When we got cycling again it was 90F and climbed as high as 95 before we got to the coast.

By the time we saw the ocean it was back down to 80F and we picked up a nice tailwind. At San Clemente we stopped at a coffee shop and I had a caramel sea-salt iced coffee. It was fantastic and cooled me down wonderfully. After a leisurely 20 minute break we got going again and the climb up through San Clemente was no problem at all.

The leg through Camp Pendleton took us a mile or so from the ocean and I swear the temp went up 5 degrees until we returned to the coast at Oceanside. We had almost two hours to kill before the train so we enjoyed a slow dinner at Angelo's. I had a cheese quesadilla plate and Amber had a turkey burger. The refried beans were unusual - we think they had garlic in them - but the taste was awesome.

The train turned up on time for once but was so crowded there was standing room only. No problem- I told the conductor - we've been sitting all day.

It's not a tough ride by any means but the heat really drained me. I slept well that night.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

2014 Night Audax 200k

Last night (Aug 9th) was the second edition of the CIBC Night Audax 200k brevet. This year we had ten riders, slightly fewer than last year, which may actually have improved the ride because the group was far more coherent this year. On the other hand more than half the group had experience in Audax riding which may have helped. (Audax is a style of riding where the group rides together, the stronger riders doing more pulling).

We met up at LeBard park in Huntington Beach and I got everyone's paperwork done and handed out a 5-hour energy to each rider. Just as we were about to leave at 7pm Greg, our fearless leader, showed up. He got caught out by the heavy Saturday evening traffic and begged us to wait. Of course we would, he's our RBA. Ten minutes later we got started.

We had a strong tailwind headed inland (by design) and flew the first eight miles to Edna Park at around 20-22 mph where we took a much anticipated nature break.

Much anticipated Nature Break

Ten minutes later we were flying again. It was a challenge at times to hang on but I gritted my teeth and we stayed a compact group all the way to Green River hill. That hill always splits the men from the boys - with the boys up front and the men dragging behind.

We regrouped at the top of the hill and rode the final five miles to the Chevron in Corona where we stopped to refuel. One good thing about this course is there's only one control. The Chevron wasn't a control but everyone got receipts anyway - we're training the staff to give all cyclists receipts! I accidentally got a turkey with pepper jack cheese sandwich. Yuck but I forced it down anyway.

Thirty minutes later we were back on the bikes enjoying the last shreds of the tailwind climbing through Norco and up to the Hidden Valley Nature Reserve. We held about 18 mph still with a slight tailwind and stopped at Anza Narrows park to get water and make our own restrooms as the formal restrooms were locked. Why do they lock restrooms? Don't they know we're going to pee anyway? Ten minutes later we were riding the last 15 miles to the In-n-Out burger in San Bernardino which is the turnaround control. We reached it at 11:25pm - 4:15 elapsed and about 3:25 ride time.

After 100km of hard riding an In-n-Out burger is like a slice of heaven in grease-proof paper. I payed for everyone and was once again amazed that I could feed ten hungry cyclists for only $55. Five minutes later they brought out trays loaded with burgers and fries, sodas and milk shakes. We hung out for about an hour and then hit the road headed back to Huntington Beach slightly slower than we came in.
Chris, Todd, Charlie, David, Amber, and Mel after the burger-fest.
Now the idea of this ride is that we enjoy a tailwind in the first half that miraculously disappears while we are at the turnaround control. This year the plan worked pretty well. We did have a gentle headwind on the way back but it was nothing like as strong as the tailwind had been. Our two international riders, from South Africa and Sweden, did a lot of the pulling on the way back and we maintained a double paceline much of the way. When you're riding at 1am you can use the entire bike path safely.

I lead the group through the twists and turns of Norco and we got to the Arco in Corona at mile 96 without anyone getting lost. I was craving a cheese danish and redbull. Yummy. I also broke out some Perpetuum to avoid bonking the last ten miles like I did last year. Thirty minutes later we took off for the last section of the ride and a couple of miles later David pointed out there were only nine of us. Somehow we had left Chris back at the Arco. We waited and a minute later we saw his lights approaching. Oops - my bad.

Just like last year some of the weaker riders were starting to struggle with the pace and it became more difficult to keep the group together although I feel we did a better job this year. It wasn't long before we were within a couple of miles of the end and we all managed to join up and ride in together at 4:33. Our overall time was 9:23 minutes and our ride time was about seven hours. You may not get to the end of the ride sooner in a group, but you feel stronger when you get there.

Finally I was able to say what I had been thinking for a while. This was as close to a perfect 200k as I remember riding. No flats, no accidents, no mechanicals, no sickness, excellent weather (~65F), cooperative wind, great food, great group, and a full moon all the way. I've had four hours sleep since the ride and I'm already looking forward to next year. I hope everyone else got home safely too.

Thanks to everyone who rode. A ride like this is only as good as the riders. It was a great ride.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Unexpected storm

Most of my riding lately has been survival riding - either at home on the trainer or at night - to try to avoid the very worst of the heat.

Amber and I rode Sunday evening but instead of going to The Crema we decided to ride the other way and eat at the Lucky Greek in Corona. This has the advantage of having a tail wind, not riding through Santa Ana at night, and adding some hills for variety.

We made good time to the Lucky Greek and I was pleased that I rode up Green River hill stronger than usual. As we were eating I noticed heavy, black clouds to the south of us that were clearly dropping rain like giant jellyfish tentacles draped over the land. That was the direction we had to ride.

Sure enough we saw a flash of lightning just as we left the restaurant and ten seconds later we heard thunder. That put the lightning strike about two miles away. A few miles later we stared feeling raindrops which we tried to ignore but pretty soon it was raining so hard it was bouncing up six feet and coming down a second time. IT WAS AWESOME!

I don't mind the rain if it isn't cold and this was like a warm shower. The thunderstorm stayed close for a while, then drifted away. I wasn't worried about being hit by lightning because the roads had buildings or trees on either side which were much taller than us.

Fantastic ride.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Buying a touring bike

Another hot weekend but I was able to get some good rides in. On Saturday I rode The Crema with my wife and youngest daughter. We got lucky with the heat and the temps and had a good ride. I really must try the prosciutto crepe - it looked lovely on Sabrina's plate. We had a strong tailwind on the way back which is always nice, especially when it gets warmer.
On Sunday I rode Back Bay with my eldest daughter. It was much hotter but I really enjoyed the Champagne Bakery which we hadn't been to for a while. Can you believe that on this 60 mile ride the bike paths were closed in four places! The Walnut trail has been closed for five years now. It was supposed to be reopened last January but now  they've delayed it until next November. I honestly don't think they even plan on giving it back.

There was a strong headwind for the last 8 miles and two detours off the bike path. Why is the bike path the go to place when they want to stage construction equipment? Felt like crap by the end of the ride. This is the first ride in years that I didn't overall enjoy. It felt like it was over 90 but it probably wasn't.
When my Serotta was stolen last year I bought a Trek 520 touring bike because I do a lot of touring and randonneuring. I actually rode it on Saturday for the first time in a month and I think the Brooks is finally broken in. I double wrapped the handlebars and it's much more comfortable now.
One of the things I like about the 520 is the ability to add wide tires, rack, fenders etc. There's a lot of riding I'd like to do that's on hard packed dirt or very rough pavement and 23mm tires with a Carradice bag isn't ideal because dirt is difficult to ride on with narrow tires and the roughness puts a lot of stress on the single bolt that holds the Carradice bag to the saddle. I've actually had one snap on the Galloping Goose trail on Vancouver Island.
I've decided that my next vacation (hopefully cycling from Aspen to Denver in CO) will be on my 520 - even though it's heavy and there are insane amounts of climbing.
Amber feels she is coming to the end of the useful life of her Trek TCT carbon bike. It has done very well but she has decided to replace it with a more general purpose bike that can also do some heavier touring and handle off-roading better.
She's really drawn to a Ti Touring bike such as the Lynskey Backroad but it's expensive. On the other hand it should be light, strong, and comfortable. The nice thing is there's a dealer nearby in Orange, about 5 miles from where we start our rides.

She is also considering a Trek 520 of her own and a Surly Long Haul Trucker. Most people seem to think the two bikes are very comparable which will probably give the Trek the advantage in her mind. We've always had tremendous luck with Trek bikes.
Some of the things Amber is looking forward to are...
  • Relaxed geometry means you can ride hands free to stretch your back out
  • More water bottle cages
  • Better climbing gears
  • Ability to add fenders, racks, and even a kick stand
  • Ability to ride rougher roads without cracking the frame
  • Repairable frame
  • The option of wider tires for off road fun
Some of the things Amber is not looking forward to...
  • Spending money
  • More weight
  • Saying good bye to her beloved Trek TCT

Monday, June 23, 2014

Kayaking the Crema

A hot day today - 83F predicted but it was that hot by 9am so it was probably going to be hotter at 2pm. Amber and I decided to ride to the Crema in Seal Beach but add an hour of kayaking at Sunset Beach on the way.

There wasn't much wind on the way to the coast until we got close to the ocean. Turning North we picked up an unusual tailwind which was lovely. The beach path was predictably crowded so we rode carefully until we were passed by a crazed guy on a mountain bike who was threading through the crowd at a very unsafe 17-19 mph. Amber and I kept pace with him but more cautiously which is more work as you are constantly slowing and accelerating. When we got within a 1/4 mile of the end of the bike path the pedestrians had thinned out to almost nothing so Amber and I blew past him at 27 mph. No response. I think our point was made.

We got to Sunset Beach kayak rentals and they were busy. Lots of eye candy, especially one surgically enhanced woman wearing a thong. Amber and I kayaked for an hour then jumped back on our bikes and headed over to The Crema. There was the usual 45 minute wait so we headed over to the Seal Beach pier and hung out for a while. More eye candy and another thong. Nice! I dread the day when gay men start wearing thongs - or straight ones for that matter.

There is a small bike store going out of business across the street from The Crema so we checked it out. It's always sad to see a local bicycle store going out of business. The guy manning the store was a body builder in cycling gear two sizes too small (to make sure that EVERY muscle was clearly defined!). As I have just finished reading "Seven Deadly Sins: My pursuit of Lance Armstrong" by David Walsh, I found it odd that someone who so obviously abused steroids, HGH, and probably testosterone, would wear cycling gear. There's no race that he could enter and pass the drug test - they wouldn't even need a urine or blood sample.

The Crema was awesome as usual and I got to say hello to Heather. The servings were particularly generous today so Amber and I we pretty full when we climbed back onto the bikes. On the way back on the beach path we saw a cyclist riding with one hand and towing a kayak with the other. Some of the best kayak handling skills I've seen in a while!

The beach path got really crowded before Huntington Beach pier so we jumped over to Atlantic which was much better. After getting onto the SART we got passed by a strong teenager - earphones, no helmet @:-( - that's the emote for exposed brains - so I jumped onto his wheel and he pulled us up to a group of five riders who were riding a very nice paceline. We stayed with them until we were within three miles of the Anaheim stadium and they pulled off. We thanked them profusely.

It was bloody hot at the end of the ride. I'm sure it was more than 83F. We had a great ride and the kayaking made it even better.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Autonomous cars and you

I recently read that while the incidence of teen drunk driving has halved in the past five years, the number of teens (and older drivers) texting while driving has skyrocketed and is now the leading cause of teen death's and injury while driving. I've lost friends to both drunk and distracted drivers and totally believe this to be true.

If you search for "Autonomous cars" in Wikipedia you will find that Google is a leading player in the development of autonomous (or self-driving) cars. They already claim their autonomous cars are safer than human-driven cars as they have racked up a total of 700,000 accident free miles. Both California and Nevada have amended their laws to allow for testing of autonomous cars on public streets and highways. Michigan and Florida are looking into similar changes.

The legislatures of both states are also looking at laws that would help establish liability in the case of accidents involving autonomous cars. One day soon we will be able to buy autonomous cars although they will be expensive at first. Google estimates they add $150,000 worth of equipment to a car to make it autonomous - about half of which is the radar array.

Although autonomous cars might be available within five years it might be fifteen years before I can afford one. But eventually driving your own car may be something only rich eccentrics do. If 99% of all traffic accidents are caused by the 10% of cars being driven by humans, the cost of insuring a human driven car will become more that even the most die-hard individualist can tolerate.

So if your car is doing the driving, you can text and drink as much as you want and I and all my cycling friends can ride safely knowing your car will respect our safety more than you ever did.

My only question is - will they invent self riding bicycles? What would they look like? Would I want one? If I can say I want everyone to drive autonomous cars, do I have the right to say I still want to ride my bicycle?

Monday, June 9, 2014

I broke the streak of bad luck

Amber and I rode the RMCC 400k on the 7th of June in Louisville, CO. My last two brevet attempts failed due to mechanical problems. I have also been having problems with my knee lately so I was a bit worried.

RMCC has an interesting way of running.brevets. You join the club for $25 and you can ride as many brevets as you want. They have a very full calendar so there's a lot of opportunity to rack up the km. If I lived closer I'd join up every year. On the down side - there's no support at all. You get your brevet card at the start of the ride and that's it. Definitely on the unsupported edge of randonneuring.

It's a two day drive to Louisville from Los Angeles so we kept an eye of the weather on the way here. Friday was predicted to have early storms, Saturday was cool but with minimal rain, and Sunday had heavy rain and even tornadoes. Our ride had temps from 55-60, steady wind about 10-15mph from the east, and only 30 minutes of rain.

We started at the ungodly hour of 4am and headed north into the cool night. It was overcast with leaden skies and recently rained upon roads. We were ready for rain but hoped it wouldn't come to that. Fear of jinxing stopped Amber and I making any comments about the weather.

The first real challenge was the climb up Poudre Canyon which was running very high. Even so there were quite a few rafters coming down. We saw a kayak pinned against a rock but there was no-one inside fortunately.

Top of Poudre Canyon

Then we dropped down Poudre and climbed up to Forks. Nice restaurant but a nasty climb alongside a busy road. We turned around dropped back down alongside the same nasty road. Then we headed north to Wellington where we started working our way back to the start of the ride.

About 9pm it started to rain which messed our Garmins up so that we got lost and missed a turn. This only added about three miles but it was three miles we didn't need. The rain only lasted 30 minutes and was actually quite pleasant. This last 100k was the most difficult to navigate because it kept crossing our outbound route which was very confusing. I went into calorie debt and spent the last 50 miles trying to get out but never really succeeding. Part of the problem there was the oddly spaced controls (19 miles then 40 miles, etc).

Around mile 220 we came to the scene of an accident. There must have been six police cars there blocking the road. Normally they would not have allowed us through but we asked very politely and  a police officer escorted us through the accident scene. I've no idea how we would have completed the ride on time otherwise.

We got to the end later than we had hoped because the last 100k took 7 hours instead of the 5 that the others took. Nevertheless I managed to break two bad streaks - major mechanicals and DNFing on the Colorado rides. No flats, no mechanicals, no crashes, minor rain, great temps, minor diversion.

The next day we took it easy to help my bad knee recover. We watched the tornado reports on the television. Thank God we weren't out in that weather.

Monday, May 26, 2014

I don't have to...

I rode the Beachwood BBQ ride with Amber last night starting at 5:00pm at Anaheim Amtrak. This is a great ride especially when you need to beat the heat of the SoCal summer. The only thing I don't like is that we always have a headwind on the way out but only a weak tailwind on the way back. Also, I get nervous with all the homeless people living under the bridges.

On the plus side it's nearly all bike paths or very quiet roads with only about four miles of PCH. As it was a fine Memorial weekend evening the beach path was fairly busy but not as bad as I expected.

When people are behaving recklessly I like to communicate clearly that there are cyclists approaching. Most people appreciate the heads-up, but some take it personally and get offended. I don't care it they're offended as long as I don't hit them.

I saw a depressingly large number of reckless cyclists on the ride. It's no surprise that so many motorists actively dislike cyclists when I see so many behaving like they do. Here's a list of "I don't have to's that I see far to often. Please don't be one of these...

I don't have to ...
    Wear a helmet
    Ride on the right side of the road
    Put my hands on the handlebars
    Use lights or reflectors at night
    Be able to hear what's going on (I get sick of calling 'on your left' to people that have deliberately made themselves deaf with iPods)
    Signal or look before I turn
    Have an elementary understanding of the traffic laws or even common courtesy

I hear "It's a free country" too much. America is not a "free country". Afghanistan is a "free country" ie lawless. Go cycle over there if you want to be unconstrained by laws.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Lucky Greek 100k

I took advantage of a few cool days to ride my Lucky Greek 100k permanent after work last night. It was as windy as always but the perfect temperature. I even had a few sprinkles of rain on the way to Corona and saw some fireworks. On the way back the wind (tail) died down a little screwing me but that's par for the ride. Lots of frogs sitting on the bike path on the way back but I don't think I hit any.

I'm glad my sore knee didn't get any worse during the ride. In fact it was less painful at the end than at the beginning. Weird in a good way.

On the way back I noticed how I slow down at night. This is a widely reported phenomenon. You think you're riding at 16mph and you look down and see you're riding at 13mph. One other thing I notice about riding at night that I haven't heard anyone else talk about is the way my perception of time changes. Many times I've thought it was only 1 or 2am only to see the rosy fingers of dawn on the horizon.

There was a package from Peter White on the doorstep last night. I had ordered a crown fork mount for my Lumotec dynamo light and also a fiber spoke.

I mounted the light mount and put the light on it. It's out of the way now and hopefully not interfering with my brake cables. I'll take a little ride today to make sure it's all good.

I took a look at the fiber spoke. This is an emergency spoke that will replace any length spoke (not a penny farthing!) until you can get to a shop. It's a little tricky to use and the instructions are printed too small for me to read without reading glasses so I made sure I understood how to use it if the time comes. I'll be carrying it in my Carradice bag on brevets and on vacation.

Hopefully an easy ride to Hangar 24 in Redlands with Sherry today. Need to head over to RadioShack to pick up a new battery for my bike computer.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The right tools for the job

Yesterday Amber and I planned to ride from Anaheim Amtrak to Solana Beach Amtrak and take the train back. This was to be our pre-Colorado 400k long climbing ride. It was not to be.

We're currently at the tail-end of a heat wave. Most of last week has seen record-breaking high temps here in the Southland and a spate of wildfires in San Diego county. We started early to try to avoid climbing Santiago Canyon in the worst of the heat. Caltrans decided to close the 91 freeway on Saturday morning (defund them!) so it took 20 minutes for me to get the two miles around the closure.

We left Anaheim a little later than I had hoped but I'm not sure it made much difference. It was still over 80 even by 9am. We got to Cook's Corner before 11am which meant we could have breakfast. Amber had their amazing French toast and I had a breakfast burrito. We met some northbound cyclists who told us that Camp Pendleton was closed to cyclists because of the fire. We don't like riding on the shoulder of the I5 even though it is legal, so we decided to catch the train at San Clemente instead.

The ride down the Alisal bike trail was as wonderful as normal and we popped out at the coast just north of Dana point. Heading south we were soon in San Clemente with almost three hours to burn. I was suffering from the heat and the remnants of a cold so I decided we needed to try a coffee shop that I've always wanted to checkout. I think it's called the Kahaluka or something. Anyhow I had a banana smoothie (to ward off incipient cramps) and iced coffee. Very nice.

We ran into Linda Cammell there with some friends. They started in Corona and rode down to San Clemente using almost the same route as us except they don't know where the Alisal Creek bike trail is. I will mail her the GPS file. I notice the Metrolink runs more frequently than Amtrak and has far better bike facilities. I'm going to look into that - especially in light of what happened when we tried to board an earlier train (read on).

There are two stations at San Clemente - one Amtrak and one Metrolink - weird. Thank goodness for smart phones and GPS systems. We had a hilly climb to get to the Amtrak station and on one of the hills my chain broke. It's a brand new chain with maybe 400 miles on it. It looks like the mechanic didn't align the pin correctly and it slipped out of one side of the link.

Three days ago I bought a chain tool. I fixed the chain in about 10 minutes. I haven't broken a chain for years. What are the odds I would break one a few days after buying a chain tool?

We got to the correct train station and waited for the next train. The conductor was a prick and wouldn't let us on because we had reservations for the next train. He had empty spots but still wouldn't let us on. We decided to ride up to San Juan Capistrano which is the next stop and catch our train there. Our GPS systems showed us the way.

San Juan Capistrano is a lovely small town - very much like San Luis Obispo. We waited there, listening to live guitar music from the café next to the station. It was very pleasant. The time for our train came and went - Amber checked the train status on her iPhone. It was running an hour late because an earlier train had broken down. Eventually it showed up and took us back to Anaheim. There were a lot of people on the train headed to Anaheim for the baseball game. I bet they were mad.

So we relied on having the right tools several times during the ride. The broken chain; monitoring a late train; last-minute route changes, all these issues were handle adroitly by having the right tools with us.

Monday, May 12, 2014

I understand

Many years ago, as I bought a truck from Longo Toyota, the salesman seemed more excited than me. "Are you excited about your new truck?", he asked.
"Not really," I replied, "it's just a car."
He seemed crestfallen.

Last year, when I realized my beloved Serotta had been stolen it was almost as if my child had been kidnapped. When I recovered it I was ecstatic. It lives indoors now.

I've owned it over 15 years. I estimate I've ridden about 75,000 miles on it and spent about 6,000 hours riding it. It means far more to me than any car ever could.

This brings me to the closing lines of Mike Carter's excellent book "One man and his bike".

"And finally, I'd like to say thank you to my bicycle. I love you, but not in that weird way that can get you arrested. I'm sure that anybody who loves their bike will understand what I mean"

I understand.

Monday, April 28, 2014

For the lack of 25 cents worth of plastic

This weekend I rode the Simi Valley to Solana Beach 400k brevet for the third time. This is one of my favorite 400k rides but the last two times I rode it I bonked horribly at Rancho Palos Verdes. Last year I also got sick enough in Newport Beach that I barfed into a trash can. I was really hoping to have a better ride this year.

Amber couldn't ride with me because of scheduling conflicts so I decided to ride with Pete Eades instead. I had decided to try Perpetuum again to see if I could keep my energy levels topped up. I used it for a while several years ago but stopped because I didn't think I needed anymore. However as I've grown older I have an increased tendency to bonk so I thought I'd try it again. Pete was also trying a new energy drink for the same reason.

We started at Simi Valley Amtrak station and headed out on a bike path I hadn't known about. It was a great way to start a ride. We headed mainly downhill and made good time until we got Oxnard. The last 20 miles to the beach we started picking up a strong headwind. Unfortunately it was coming from the right too which meant we would still have it as we headed up the coast.

The north bound leg was brutal with 20mph sustained winds gusting to 25. At mile 55 we got to the turn around control and Roger was waiting for us. Pete and I were the last on the road for a couple of reasons. For one reason, Pete is 72. The second reason is that the new energy drink was forcing him to pee every 10-15 miles.

Once we turned around the tailwind was amazing and we held 20mph very easily - barely pedaling. However the wind was still getting stronger and as the route turned it became a cross wind from time to time which was getting pretty dangerous.

Venice beach was very sketchy with sand all over the bike path often to a depth of several inches. I walked the first few sandy stretches but there were so many I started riding over them. It's surprising what you can ride over even with skinny tires. At times the wind was so strong it blew sand into our faces. I had sand in my face, mouth, trail mix, and ears. It stuck to our sun block, our chains, and I even ended up with some iron-rich sand stuck to my computer magnet. We literally rode in a sand storm - might be a first for me.

I didn't bonk in Rancho Palos Verdes which suggests the Perpetuum did its job. I'll be using it on the Colorado 400k in July. Transitioning from Rancho Palos Verdes to Long Beach you have to climb a short, steep hill to get onto the Los Angeles River bike path. It caught me by surprise and I powered up in too-big a gear. Something bent or slipped or stretched under the load and all of a sudden my bike wouldn't stay in gear. I tried adjusting the barrel adjuster for the rear derailleur but nothing helped.

The only way I could get it to stay in one gear was to put it on the big chain-ring and the big sprocket which put a lot of tension on the derailleur and limited my top speed to 15mph. Even then it would slip to a bigger gear on the hills. I effectively had a single speed bike. With my 15mph top speed and Pete's constant pee breaks we weren't making great time but we were rolling along with a comfortable time buffer.

The Long Beach bike path was surprisingly clear of sand. We even wondered if someone had come through after the storm and cleaned it. Passing through Seal Beach I pointed out two of my favorite restaurants to Pete - the Crema and Beachwood BBQ. We took the beach trail through Huntington Beach and it was also clear of sand and pedestrians although there was evidence that a storm had passed through.

We made an impromptu stop at the Jack in the Box in Newport Beach and I was starting to get a bit spacey. We took a little longer at this stop and really filled up the calories which helped enormously. Oddly Pete seemed really chipper at this point which helped me recover. It's nice the way you can feed off each other's energy when you're feeling a little down.

There are quite a few hills in Laguna Beach and on one of them the gears slipped again so I shifted back into the big sprocket and somehow shifted the rear derailleur into the spokes. This destroyed the derailleur, broke two spokes, bent two more, and tacoed the wheel so it rubbed against the frame and I couldn't even push it. My ride was over.

When you bought your bike you may have noticed a plastic disk that sits between the cassette and the wheel. This is designed to stop you from shifting into the spokes. This 25 cent piece of plastic would have saved the ride and also saved me $500 in repairs. When they rebuild my wheel I've asked them to install one. I really don't know why I removed it in the first place.

I called Roger and was amazed when he showed up about 10 minutes later. Apparently he was at home only a few miles away. He drove me down to Solana Beach where I got showered and changed and grabbed some sleep. Pete showed up a little after 6am looking very strong. His energy drink seems to have worked marvels.

We all ate at a marvelous place called the Beachgrass Café. I had a Maple, Bacon, and Cheddar pancake that was seriously the best pancake I have ever eaten. I'm planning on doing this 400k again next year just so I can eat here the next morning. I already know what I want.

Thanks to everyone for the company - especially Pete. Thanks to Greg for organizing and to Roger for saving my bacon. I'm so glad I didn't get stranded in Laguna Beach with an unpushable bike at 12:30am. That's two brevets in a row that I've had to abandon because of mechanical problems. I really need to break this streak.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Great weekend

On Friday evening after work I rode my Lucky Greek 100k populaire. As usual I had a headwind all the way out (maybe a little stronger than usual) but I still got to the turn around in slightly over two hours at about 7pm.

As I was riding I thought about all the ways this route has improved over the years. First of all the upper SART didn't even exist ten years ago - I would have had to ride out and back on Victoria. We're very lucky to have this 20 mile bike path skirting around all those busy roads - especially as they have become so much more busy since I started riding.

Then there's the fact that Parks and Recreation finally paved the last dirt section of the SART about two years ago. Norco - a notoriously bike unfriendly city -marked a bike lane, sharrows, and a bike route last year - a miracle in itself. Lastly, Rincon - a very rough road, was repaved this spring and a bike lane marked for 2/3 of its silky smooth length. These things add up and we should appreciate them.

Of course, the tailwind coming back after sunset was only half as strong as the headwind was goung out. Even so I had a great ride and a 4:30 total time.

Today Amber and I explored the upper reaches of the San Gabriel bike trail all the way to Azusa. The trail ends abruptly on San Gabriel Canyon road - not a road I want to cycle on. We turned around and headed back to Montecito, then jumped over to the Rio Hondo trail back to Long Beach, and then along the beach trail to PCH and to the cars in Sunset Beach.

We ate at Five Guys burgers - decent burgers but great fries. Total distance was 93 miles. Not bad - a 165 mile weekend. I think I'm going to ride the Simi Valley to Solana Beach 400k next weekend.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Orange Triple Loop 400/600k

Last weekend I hosted the third edition of the Orange County Triple loop. This is a 400 and 600k combination brevet held under the auspices of PCHRandos which is the local chapter of RUSA. This year I had almost an equal number of 400k and 600k riders. Is this a suggestion I need to rethink the last 200k?

It starts at the Motel6 in Orange, which is cheap and well located right next to the Santa Ana bike path. Unfortunately it is also a bad motel and I would never stay here except for this ride. Pete and Charlie lost power in their room and had no air conditioning, hot water, or anything for a day. Also, the shower's water control fell completely out of the wall when Pete went to use it. They got the room refunded but even so...

The prior week had seen a series of small storms come through the Southland but by Saturday the weather was cool and dry, with normal winds. The last of the lows was moving out and being replaced by a high pressure area. We are expected to have high temperatures in the mid-nineties next week so we were lucky to get the ride in between the storms and the heat wave.

Four riders were unable to start so I had about 20 riders start at 5am on Saturday with a tailwind and they flew down the river trail to the (not-so) secret control run by Charlie Lott. The first loop is very fast and fairly easy to navigate so the first riders were back to the Motel6 at mile 100 before my wife and I and Charlie got back from our 30 mile bike ride to Kokomo at 11:15.

Considering we're in the middle of Los Angeles, this is a surprisingly pretty loop especially when the dawn mist is sitting over the wetlands. The Seal Beach 5k run proved to be no hindrance at all as the riders passed through the area before and after the event. Grant had a few extra minutes to enjoy the scenery as he flatted near the start of the ride.

The second loop contains most of the climbing and tends to be warmer as we head inland. The climbing is mainly gentle from Orange to Redlands with about 1000' of elevation increase in 40 miles. Vickie hit a concrete lip on Waterman and blew out her tire. Being a smart cookie she carries a spare so was able to continue. Then the road tilts distinctly up and we climb to almost 3000' with Walnut being the most memorable of the climbs. But the view at the top is lovely.

This is also where it gets warmest and the temperatures reached about 80F. But if you get this far, it's almost all downhill and flat back to the start of the ride at 400k. If you time it right, you can get a tailwind all the way out to the 3000' mark and most of the way back. At mile 200 we have the best control. It's hosted by Ruth Cabre-Chacon and Kevin Foust. Home made food, made by people who understand cyclists' needs, and plenty of it. It's a bit of a maze getting to their house and I did have a rider who got a bit lost but he made it in the end.

After Ruth's house it's a pleasant, residential and rural ride along Victoria Ave and through late-night Corona back to the lower bike trail and thence back to the Motel.  Jonathon got a little lost in Corona and somehow rode a couple of bonus miles but made it back just fine.

Everyone got back from the 400k - some earlier than others. Three of the 600k riders decided to DNF at the 400k mark, mainly because they were not going to be able to get enough sleep to safely continue. One of the problems with the triple loop format is that it makes it too easy to abandon at the 400k mark. But sometimes you should DNF for safety reasons and the triple loop makes it easier to make the right decision too. I don't think any riders made the wrong decision.

The third loop heads down to Oceanside and back. I like to ride through Camp Pendleton Marine Camp but quite a few riders said they preferred the shoulder of I5. All the 600k riders experienced strong headwinds between Oceanside and Dana Point - as expected. Then the route heads inland which takes the edge off the headwind.

I bought some brightly colored garden ornaments and a cheap taillight at Home Depot and placed them at the entrance to a partially obscured bike path near the end of the ride. It's hard enough to see near the end of a 30 mile ride so I was worried my 600k riders would miss it completely. I'm glad to say that everyone found it easily. The last of the 600k riders finished before dark. Everyone is safe and no-one missed the cut-off time.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Preparing for a 600k brevet

I have my annual 600k brevet this weekend and I'm getting a bit nervous. A 600k is right at the edge of my ability and I need a little luck to complete one - or at least a lack of bad luck.

One way you can reduce the chance of bad luck is by making sure all your equipment is in good condition. Because of the flat from hell I recently replaced my rear tire and pump. I've also replaced my rear cassette, chain, and middle chain ring. In addition I have purchased new gloves and a new illuminated vest. Oh - and new CO2 cartridges too.

So instead of just riding the 600k with a bunch of new gear and praying, I went for a test ride last night. Everything works great. I made sure I inflated my new tire with my new pump, I checked that I could shift throughout the entire gear range, I made sure my new gloves fit, and I tried the new vest for fit and function. I even made sure the new CO2 cartridges fit my shiny object.

A section of the route that has been closed for road work for the past few months has just opened. Caltrans repaved the road and it is now silky smooth with a bike lane marked for half its length. I made sure I checked it on the way to the ride.

Even as I type I'm charging up my tail lights. When they're done I'll charge up the headlights, and then my Garmin Edge. I still need to print out the brevet cards and routesheet, double check my hotel reservations, pack a bag, etc etc. Then the following weekend, April 5th,  I'll be hosting the actual ride. I have about 20 people signed up - I'll probably have 30 by the day of the ride.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


I've been rereading Margaret McMillan's excellent book Paris 1919 about Woodrow Wilson, Lloyd George, Clemenceu, and Orlando's attempts to reconstruct a collapsing Europe after the First World War. Wilson's watchword was 'self-determination' by which he meant people should have a say about the kind of government they are ruled by. The problem is that people identify themselves by race, ethnicity, language, religion, history, economics, politics, and a whole host of other things. So what, exactly, denotes a group of people that can form a country?

I identify myself as a cyclist. I wondered if a 100,000 like-minded people got together and persuaded the US government to allocate 1000 sq. miles of the US of A to be a bicycle only zone, what would happen?

For example, where would we want this? Should we chose an area that is already good for cycling like between Solvang and SLO or the area around Eugene, OR? Or should we chose an area that is currently very bad for cycling like most of Florida (see my earlier post about the ten most dangerous cycling cities), and, by excluding cars, make it very good?

There are other considerations. What if you were having a heart-attack and the nearest doctor was either a 5 minute ambulance drive or a 20 minute bike ride away. Which would you chose? Would we have to have bicycle taxies for the sick and infirm? What about bicycle delivery trucks, fire trucks, and farm equipment? Would we make an exception for trains?

It's fun to speculate. I have to say - I think the benefits would far outweigh the drawbacks.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Which top 10 cycling list did San Bernardino/Riverside make recently

Just out of curiosity I recently Googled the best and worst cities in the USA for cycling. As I expected Portland OR and Eugene OR made the top 10 best cities for cycling. I've always loved both those cities. If you ever get a chance to ride in either one I recommend it. I fell in love with Eugene's extensive river park bike trails two years ago. Look at the picture below. It's hard to believe you're in the middle of a large city and that there's over 100km of these trails in total.

I've been blogging about the increase in ghost bikes lately and now I understand the problem. Did you know that San Bernardino/Riverside/Ontario is rated the 5th most dangerous metropolitan area to be a cyclist in the entire USA and the absolute worst in California? I'm just glad I don't live in Florida. Is it all the elderly drivers?

1. Orlando/Kissimmee, Florida
2. Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Florida
3. Jacksonville, Florida
4. Miami/Fort Lauderdale/Pompano, Florida
5. Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario, California
6. Las Vegas/Paradise, Nevada
7. Memphis, Tennessee
8. Phoenix/Mesa/Scottsdale, Arizona
9. Houston/Sugar Land/Baytown, Texas
10. Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington, Texas

Read more:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Flat from Hell

Yesterday I rode my SART 200k starting at 5pm to try to beat the heat. There were mild Santa Ana conditions which reversed the normal wind flow for most of the ride so I got down to the turn around in Newport Beach in slightly over four hours - an excellent time for me.

The Newport Beach Café does not seem to be doing so well. They've reduced their hours and their shelves are largely empty. They no longer sell any sandwiches after the deli closes so I had to search hard for some calories. In the end I settled on a box of oreo cookies which wasn't exactly appetizing. I may have to find an alternative for when I do this ride at night in future. I also drank a can of Monster.

Obviously when I turned around I had a headwind so I where I was riding at 18mph on the way down I was struggling to hold 14mph on the way back. I kept waiting for the Monster and cookies to kick in but they took forever. It was at least 30 minutes before my energy level came back up.

At mile 22 on the return I decided to stop and use the restroom, top up my bottles, and eat an Odwalla bar. Let me describe an Odwalla Strawberry and Pomegranate protein bar to you. Imagine a bear had feasted on strawberries and pomegranates and then taken a huge dump. Someone comes along and press and shapes the crap into a bar and puts it in a wrapper. It tastes slightly of berries but that is about it. Also, it doesn't have the pleasant chewy consistency that I assume bear crap has - this bar has the consistency of drywall. On the plus side it has calories, it does speed me up, and I'll be regular for a month. Normally I like Odwalla but this particular bar won't be gracing my shopping basket again.

Continuing into the headwind I was descending Green River road towards Palisades when my rear tire blew out. I walk the bike to the next street lamp and get my flat gear out. Oops - I'm out of CO2 cartridges, I guess I'll have to use my pump. I put the new tire in and start to pump it up and part of the chuck blows out the back. It must have been damaged when it fell off the bike on the SLO 300k. So now I'm sitting by the side of the road at midnight with no way to inflate my tire. There's no point in calling the wife because she leaves her phone in the living room and we don't have a land line.

I had 30 miles to go and six and a half hours to complete the ride. I decided to finish the ride on the flat rear tire. It's really difficult to ride on a flat tire. It has far more drag (which is probably why we put air in them), it keeps sliding from side to side like it's on ice, and every tiny bump slams your butt (which is another reason we put air in them). After a while I felt comfortable riding at 8-10mph but that was the fastest I could safely ride.

Somehow, on the top half of the SART, the tube folded over on itself, creating a big lump in the tire and making a screeching sound like I was being following by a flock of angry seagulls. It drove me crazy and it couldn't have pleased all those transients sleeping under the bridges. It took me over four hours to complete the final 30 miles (remember I rode over 60 miles in the first four hours of the ride). I ended up with an 11:22 ride time. Not even my slowest 200k!

I'm sure I destroyed the tire treating it like that. I'm going to replace it with a Vittoria Randonneur tire. I need more CO2 cartridges and a new pump too. I hope the wheel is OK.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Too many ghost bikes

After a post I wrote recently about two new ghost bikes that had appeared on some of my favorite bike routes, Vicky Backman suggested that we need a more European approach to car/bike accidents where the car is assumed to be at fault because of the asymmetrical injuries caused by such accidents. That got me to thinking about whether such an approach would ever be accepted in the USA and whether it would even be appropriate.

For one thing, the USA is very car-centric. This isn't really surprising considering how big the country is. But even while gas prices are hyper inflationary and we go to war to ensure gas availability, the idea of replacing gas guzzlers with public transport or bicycles, or even just replacing them with smaller and more efficient cars, is greeted with cries of "Commie Fascist!" (Americans have never claimed to be politically savvy either). Hell, we even divert corn off the tables of starving children into the gas tanks of our SUVs.

Europe has slowly been moving away from individual cars and towards public transport, walking, cycling, etc. The health and cost benefits are clear and there is gathering momentum towards bringing non-motorized forms of transport into the mainstream. I read that in Amsterdam half of all non-commercial trips are made on bicycles. Compare that with Caltrans's attitude towards alternative transport as "a damn nuisance". Maybe in 50 years the USA will be where Europe is now. But I can't imagine a time when they will actually catch up. Protected bike lanes, separate stop lights, Right to Ride - I can only dream!

A few nights ago I was driving home from a meeting of the Inland Empire dot net user group late at night and in the space of five miles I saw four separate cyclists with no helmets, no lights, and no reflective gear. One of them was even riding against traffic on a four lane highway. The only reason I saw him at all is that he passing in front of a reflective sign. Just this morning there was a teenager riding his bike no handed in the middle of the road (literally) with headphones on. I had to pass him on his right. He didn't know I was there - he couldn't hear me. What if he had decided to move to the curb just as I was passing?

My dilemma is that with all these apparently suicidal cyclists on the road, how can we get motorists and law makers to give us the protection we need? As a motorist, I don't want the law to assume I'm at fault if I hit one of these crazy cyclists. And if I'm concerned, how do we persuade the public at large?

Friday, February 28, 2014

P12 Insanity

Every month I ride a 200km+ ride for my R12 award and a 100km+ ride for my P12 award. For various reasons I left it very late in February to ride my 100km ride and had to schedule it for after work on the 28th - the last day of the month.

The weather gods decided to have a laugh at my expense by scheduling a major storm to pass through the Inland Empire on the day of the ride. I decided to try to complete the ride before the storm arrived. I almost managed it.

I got up at 3am and as I drove to the start of the ride the rain was very light. I got coffee, breakfast burrito and a receipt from Jack-In-The-Box and started the ride around 4:15am in light rain.

The storm had reversed the normal wind patterns so I had a strong tailwind all the way to the Lucky Greek at mile 32. Rincon is closed for roadwork but I was able to ride through and walk my bike around the closed gate at the East end. I got to the Lucky Greek a little damp just after 6am with a 17mph average and grabbed fries and raspberry coke. There was almost no traffic on the surface streets but the 91 freeway was already stop-and-go.

While I was in the Lucky Greek the rain started coming down hard. The return trip had hard rain and a strong headwind and took about 3 hours with an average of 11mph. I got back to Panera around 9:30am - frozen and soaked. I was at work by 9:45. That's OK, they owe me a whole day because I worked President's day - not knowing it's a holiday. I grabbed my change of clothing and towel from the car and dried off and changed.

I think I'll sleep well tonight.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Crema for a change

Amber and I rode a nice easy 50 mile ride to The Crema and back. We haven't been there in ages. The weather was great, the food was great, everything was great. On the way back we were passing a group of three when the guy in the middle decided to ride no handed - in the middle of a group no less! He immediately lost control and veered onto the wrong side of the trail just as Amber was passing. We warned him and he had the gall to blame us for not calling out. I explained if I had known he was an asshole I would have called out.

If he had done that as I was passing I would have pushed him off his bike. Some people are jerks no matter what they're driving.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

SLO 300k

On Sunday Amber and I rode Vickie's 300k in San Luis Obispo, hosted by PCHRandos. Last year this was a wild and windy ride - the first time I've ever been blown off the bike. This year the wind whipped up the evening before the ride but the weather forecast for the day of the ride was 20% chance of showers until 10am then warming with winds 10-15 mph.

I woke up the morning of the ride with a sore throat. An unmistakable sign of an impending cold. We all started at Vickie's house at 6am covered with lights and reflective gear and headed up North towards Cuesta College. At some point my pump fell off the bike but I didn't know. When we got to the info control Kitty showed up with my pump. Thanks Kitty.

After the info control we then headed south towards Los Alamos. I was feeling weak from the initial effects of the cold. To try to counteract the cold I stopped at a gas station at mile 27 but the only cold medicine they had was Nyquil. I took some. Bad move.

By Los Alamos I was as weak as a kitten. The climb up Drum Canyon seemed twice as steep and long as last year and the descent wrecked my back, even at a cautious 15mph. Then we turned towards Lompoc up a long hill into a strong headwind. I estimated it was about 20mph. In Lompoc we stopped at the Albertsons and refuelled and I got some Zicam. Then we headed towards Solvang on Santa Rosa road and the 246.

I was still very weak and barely able to hold 12 mph on Santa Rosa. Every climb had me in my granny gear, barely able to turn the pedals at 4-5mph. At Solvang we ate at Nielson's market and then had the long climb up Pinto Almada (or whatever). Eight miles at 5mph even with the strong tailwind. Eventually we got to the top of Foxen Canyon and had a long downhill with a strong tailwind. When we got to some small risers I found I was able to power over them. Yay - Perhaps the Zicam was kicking in. This was Amber's first chance to see her new Schmidt dynamo and Lumotec light working at high speed. That thing is awesome. Coming down Foxen at 35-40mph, the light still shone far enough ahead that she didn't have to constantly brake. We got to Sisquoc in good time but my back was still killing me.

I lay down on a bench and gave Brad, the control mom, a bit of a scare by screaming as I lay down. Part of that was because I forgot I had my glasses in my back pocket and they dug into my very sore back. Brad was great and looked after us as a good control mom should. Just before Amber and I left Ivan showed up so we stayed to talk to him and decided to finish the ride with him. He was visiting from England so we had many things to talk about.

We finished the ride in good shape - even my back felt better. We were slow - I normally finish a 300k in about 16.5 hours but this one took 17.5 hours. The route and weather were far better than last year. This year I brought all my own problems. I would love to swap my road bike for a full-suspension mountain bike between Los Alamos and Lompoc. I don't think it would speed me up at all, but it would be great on the back. Reading the rules, I think this would be OK.

Thanks Vickie - see you at my 600k.