Monday, December 30, 2013

The End is Nigh!

Those of you tuning in to find out how my Topeak iPhone "Drybag" performed will have to wait -- needs a little more field testing with a variety of apps before I'll be ready to weigh in.

Besides, this is my last post of the year, so I'm obligated by the laws of media to do something gimmicky.  No lists, though -- too many folks out there doing end-of-year lists.  Instead, I'm going with "The Ride of the Year."  By default, it should probably be my journey from the CA/OR border to San Francisco, but you have already heard all about that ride in infinite detail via the epic, neverending Bikeography.  Plus, that was really more a "trek" than a ride.  To be eligible for "ride" of the year, the sojourn must have been completed within the bounds of a weekend or less.

So many rides to choose from, but there is one that stands out for so many reasons -- L.A. to San Juan Capistrano (southern Orange County).  Part of my quest to conquer the entire Pacific Coast from Canada to Mexico, this ride was spawned from a "basic" errand (as so many of the best bike rides are).  My littlest bikeist is actually a genuine "ist" - as in "violinist."  She's been playing since she was just shy of four, and graduates to a new sized violin every couple of years.  As it so happens, one of the very best violin shops anywhere, Robert Cauer Violins, is in West Hollywood.  Normally, we turn our bi-annual violin trip into a mini-vacation, spending the weekend in LA in conjunction with the violin trade-in and purchase.  This year was no different with us taking advantage of a generous military discount at the Beverly Hilton:

 . . . and hitting Universal Studios the morning after.  But what about the errand?!  -- you ask.  Be patient, I'm getting there.  For the first time in many journeys, my little violinist couldn't make up her mind about which violin she wanted.  So, after hours and hours of trying to pick the right one, we decided to bring two back to San Diego, so she could get help from her instructor in making the choice.  Thus, it became necessary for us to get the rejected violin back to Hollywood the following week.  Since nobody in my family was anxious to drive all the way back up the I-5 a second weekend in a row -- I pounced on the perfect solution -- I'd deliver the violin by bike!

This should come as no surprise to anyone.  I did not actually have enough time to complete the whole trip by bike, but with the help of Amtrak, I could get the whole delivery done over a Saturday and Sunday.  I set out early on a September Saturday morning with two violin cases strapped to the back of the newly re-furbished Red Cannondale, do-anything, urban-assault bike.  As I said above, there are many reasons this ride stands out for me.  The fact that it allowed me to incorporate my trusty old Cannondale into a significant portion of my Pacific Coast conquest is one of the biggest.  This ride provided the perfect opportunity to test how she would perform on an extended journey (after so many years relegated to trips for groceries, etc.).

Here's how she looked, geared up (those are surfboard straps securing the cases) early on a Saturday morning as I headed out:

The metamorphosis was not yet complete (new Shimano pedals and Brooks saddle yet to come), but the most important upgrades were in place -- skinnier, Specialized All-Condition Pro tires and "bullhorn" handlebars (didn't even have time to add the Roubaix tape they are now adorned with).  The all-important rack, though, is what made the Cannondale the bike for this job.

The first nervous moment of the trip came early, as I secured the fully loaded bike into a bus rack to get us over the Coronado Bay Bridge to San Diego proper.  I've been doing this for as long as MTS buses have had racks, but was a little worried about the added weight:

No problem, though, as the rack easily held my violin-laden bike.  After getting off at 12th and Imperial Transit Center, I zipped past Petco Park and along the bike path that parallels the Trolley along Harbor Drive to Santa Fe Station to catch the "Surfliner" north to Union Station in LA.  About 2.5 hours later, I was walking my bike through the venerable old lobby:

Not, quite, Grand Central Station, but beautiful nonetheless!

Now, it was time to get serious -- needed to knock out eight miles across the heart of L.A. to get to the violin shop.  Luckily, traffic in downtown LA is pretty light on Saturday mornings, so the (surprisingly hilly) ride was much easier than I anticipated.

Robert, et al, were quite amused with my delivery method, and couldn't recall anybody (even a local) delivering a violin back via bicycle.  We got the transaction done, quickly, and I was then on my way through West Hollywood and Beverly Hills to Santa Monica where I'd start my trek southward along the coast.  Have to admit, though, that I was waylaid, by a burger calling me from this West Hollywood, upscale diner:

The waiter was, probably, the most attractive man I have ever encountered in person, yet I left the restaurant just as hetero as when I walked in --

As I headed along Santa Monica Boulevard to the iconic pier, I had to admit to myself that I was surprised at how easy it was to cross LA on a bike.  This busy thoroughfare had a dedicated bike lane the whole way and the drivers were actually fairly courteous and attentive to this bikeist (of course, the most dangerous drivers were probably still dead asleep recovering from Friday night revelries . . .).  Best of all, though, I came along this unexpected treasure:

YES!  The actual Little League field and complex where they filmed the Bad News Bears -- not only one of the best baseball-themed movies ever filmed, but, IMHO, one of the best movies ever -- period.  I know, I know -- you may think of it as a farcical tale of foul-mouthed adolescents and their alcoholic coach, but I beg you to revisit it,  There is genuine pathos there.  The kids are actually way more REAL than I remembered them, and Matthau was simply brilliant as Buttermaker.  Worst of all, the horrible coaches/parents weren't nearly as bad as the worst I experienced on my way up to playing D-1 ball.  So, it was with great excitement that I briefly abandoned my journey to explore the situs of one of the greatest movies in film history:

I couldn't get out on the field to get a proper vantage-point (since there were authentic little-leaguers actually using the field), but the billboard in the corner has a faux advertisement for "Chico's Bail-Bonds" -- the supposed sponsor of Matthau's "Bears."

14 miles later, I hit the Pier and started following the boardwalk south.  Here was my second big surprise (which continued for miles and miles).  The boardwalk (which separates bikes from pedestrians along separate paths) allows bike riders to traverse, pretty much, the entirety of Los Angeles County right on the beach.  How awesome is that?!  This was some of the best scenery I have ever experienced in the saddle.  Endless stretches of Pacific coastline, the weirdos amassed at Venice Beach, world class volleyball players almost the entire way, and the blue, blue ocean stretching on forever to the west . . .

In case you're wondering, I still have a violin case (vice the two I biked in with), because I needed a full-sized case for the new violin waiting in San Diego.

Surprisingly, with the need to take care of business first, and several pit-stops, I was only able to make about 17 miles southward before the shadows started getting a bit long.  I had hoped to get to Seal Beach in OC, but was pleasantly surprised by my locale as the sun began to set in Redondo Beach in southernmost LA County.  Great pier, great restaurants, lots of happy young people, great vibe!  I found a motel near the beach and partook of a sushi feast (see a pattern hear, loyal readers?) before hitting the hay.

The next morning, I got out early, and was immediately gratified with my decision to stop in Redondo Beach as I had to cross the living hell that is Carson City in order to get to the OC Coast and the type of riding I had been enjoying.  For those of you unfamiliar with this ungodly stretch of sprawl, it is a conflunce of oil refineries (think North Jersey) just south of Los Angeles proper.  The acrid air I breathed in for a good fifteen miles is indescribable.  God help the poor souls who live within the confines of this polluted wasteland:

Once I got past this purgatorial stretch, though, it was miles and miles of wonderful OC beach riding that welcomed me.  The same LA-style boardwalks stretch along the coast, with a brief, although arduous, detour through Laguna Beach, which may be the most bike un-friendly town in all of So-Cal.  Taking the advice of "the bible," I got off the 1 for a good stretch of Laguna Beach, but the parts where I was forced onto the main road offered no bike lane and seriously obnoxious drivers in multi-hundred thousand dollar cars. 

The steep hills through LB definitely enhanced the difficulty, but once I cleared it, there was nothing but smooth sailing to Dana Point and on along a great bike path to San Juan Capistrano and its Amtrak Station. 

60, tough miles on my rigid Cannondale down, after 40+ tough urban miles the day before had me pretty pooped, but, luckily, I still had my wits about me as I lingered on the train platform.

As I was standing there with my bike, I noticed a woman sitting down on the platform (literally on the area painted yellow for caution) with her legs dangling down toward the track. I thought of saying something to her about the wisdom of sitting that way, but figured she would notice when a train was coming and move -- not the case. About ten minutes later, the bells and lights started going off at the crossing, but she just sat there, obliviously smoking. I calmly got her attention and said that she should get up. As she looked at me with a confused expression, I saw the train swooping into the station behind her, triggering my loudest and most commanding: "MOVE NOW!!" She jumped up and back about five seconds before the train crossed where she had been sitting -- partially hanging over the platform. Dude next to me, looked at me and said it was a good thing I said something, otherwise she would have been dead. I'm still not sure the clueless woman has any idea how close she came to the end --

There you have it, folks, indisputable evidence that bikes save lives.  If I had taken the easy way out, and driven back to LA, that lady would likely be dead.  Further, I might have never seen the field where my favorite movie ever was filmed.  My bike saves my life every day, and, I hope, will continue to do so into 2014 and way, way, beyond . . .

Happy Biking to all, and to all a great ride!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Still Bikemas

Nothing to report here today Bikeist fans, except that yours truly was very excited to find this in his stocking yesterday:

Tune in Monday to find out how it performed during what looks to be an epic weekend in the saddle.  Until then, though, I'm going to drink up my last few hours of holiday freedom from work with my little bikeists (or, thanks to Santa, my newly budding skateboardist).

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Bikemas

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all bikeists everywhere!  Whatever you happen to celebrate (or not), may this season be filled with pedaling joy for you and yours.

Of course, when you are The Bikeist himself, every day is Christmas.  Never one to defer joy, when I conceive of something that will enhance my biking experience (that I can afford), I go out and acquire it.  (Ditching the second car and solely bike-commuting  for 19 years definitely helps me to rationalize each and every purchase as a "necessity.")  Some things are best saved for the big day, though, and I simply can't wait for Santa to put one of these under my tree this year:

Thanks to my old mountain biking buddy, Chaz, for bringing this piece of awesomeness to my attention.  Who cares if I have absolutely no use for it in San Diego.  I want it!  You listening Santa?

As for my pre-Christmas acquisitions, let's take a look at a few in case you need to pick up a last-minute gift for that special bikeist on your list:

(1)  The Revelate "Viscacha" (Giant) Saddle Bag -

Undoubtedly, you have been ogling the various images I have posted of this beauty hanging from the back of my Secteur.  I found it in an Adventure Cycling catalog loaned to me by my buddy Chris, and can't say enough about what a game-changer it has been.  The impetus to pick it up (via Amazon since I've never seen it carried by a local bike shop), was my Oregon border to San Fran ride this past summer.  Having done some multi-day treks with both backpacks and racks/panniers in the past, I have found both methods to be imperfect.  Even when traveling "light," and even with backpacks designed for cycling, they all take a toll on your arms, shoulders and back.  Plus, they just take away the sense of freedom you want when spending hundreds of miles in the saddle.  Until I found this bag, the only alternative was to throw a heavy rack on the back with panniers hanging off the sides.  While this method provides the upper-body freedom denied by backpacks, it makes the bike handle differently and just feels clunky to me.  While a rack is invaluable for hauling stuff around town, like a backpack, it becomes an impediment when pedaling for days at a time.  The Viscacha eliminates the drawbacks of both methods while providing ample room for all the gear you need (minus tents) for long rides or commuting.  It weighs in at a mere 13 ounces and mounts to your saddle rails and seatpost like the tiny saddle bags we have become accustomed to carrying our keys/wallet/patches/levers/multi-tools in -- NO rack necessary!  It easily expands or contracts by rolling or unrolling the end and had room to spare during my trek this summer as it housed my next day's shorts/shirt/socks, a jacket, a poncho, pump, spare tube, repair kit, multi-tool, first-aid kit, micro-towel, micro-blanket, maps, kindle, thin cable lock, and various charger cords.  This bag is a God-send!  It didn't only immeasurably enhanced my NorCal trek, it has become my every day commuter bag.  My shoulders thank me every night after doing my 23 mile ride home for leaving them perpetually unburdened.  Finally, this light as air bag has solved my personal conundrum regarding what to do with my jacket on long weekend rides.  Sometimes I want to shed it after warming up on cold mornings or just have it for the end of the ride when I'm all sweaty, but the sun is going down.  Having this "trunk" gives  me a place to stow it besides tying it around my waist.  The Viscacha is one of the very best bike innovations since they took the pedals off of the front wheel and attached them to a chain and drive-train instead.  Get one - you will only thank me.

(2) Shimano PD-A530 SPD Dual Platform Bike Pedal -

Speaking of game-changers, these babies were key to the overhaul of my old red Cannondale to the do-everything urban assault bike it is today.  With its fat tires, mountain bike handlebars, platform pedals, old rims, etc., the bike was fine for a short-trip to the store, but not up to serving as a back-up commuter.  New rims, skinnier commuter tires, bullhorn handlebars and a Brooks saddle really jazzed up the old bike, but these pedals epitomize its "do-everything" spirit.  As you can see here, one side isdesigned  for a SPD cleat, while the other is completely flat and flip-flop ready.  So, whether I need the bike to tow my giant 12.5 ft board to Glorietta Bay or fill in for the Secteur as I clip in for my 25 mile commute, these, sleek, pedals are up to the task.  Thanks to my JAG buddy and dedicated ultramarathoning bike-commuter, Dan, for the tip on these fantastic pedals.  As with the Viscacha, it helps to tap into your bikeist network when considering a bike-related purchase -- 

(3) Specialized Tahoe MTB Shoes -

YES, MTB shoes!  This really wasn't a "new" acquisition for the Bikeist, because they replaced the exact same model I had finally worn out after 7 years.  It took a huge gaping hole in the side to get me to abandon my super-comfortable old Tahoes, but, thank God, Specialized still makes them.  I got them when I was bike commuting to USD for my E-Law program and needed bike shoes I could also walk around in all day.  The recessed cleat made them adequate for walking, but the breatheability and suppleness of the rest of the shoe is what got me hooked.  So comfortable.  As a non-racer, I don't need the foot coffins that the spandexed crowd squeeze their feet into.  I want the benefits of clipping in without the discomfort. These do the trick (as long as Specialized keeps on making them!).

Feeling a little guilty now as I realize that this short list doesn't even cover half of my biking purchases this year.  Oh well -- Santa loves bike commuters -- perpetually on the "Good" list -- right, Santa?  Right? . . . . .

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Torrey Pines Madness

Tom:  Hey, Carlos.

Carlos:  What?

Tom:  It's finally over!

Carlos:  What's finally over?

Tom:  How can you ask that?  I've been talking about it for weeks --

Carlos:  Talking about what?

Tom:  The Bikeography, man!  I thought it would never end.  Dude just kept going on and on about all his bikes and stuff --

Carlos:  You mean that stupid bikelist thing?

Tom:  It's "Bikeist," and YES!  He's going to start blogging in real time now that he's laid out his entire biking history.

Carlos:  Oh, like VeloNews -

Tom:  Nothing like that!  It's a blog and is about regular every-day riding, not professional cycling.

Carlos:  I don't get it.  Who'd want to read something like that?


For those of you unfamiliar with Tom and Carlos, they are recurring characters I stole from an entry in the Urban Dictionary who first appeared in my original, substantive, post "Origins."  A hardcore Bikeist follower like Tom wouldn't need this to be explained, but, if you're new to this blog, and don't have a weekend or so to devote to reading the entire, epic "Bikeography," I recommend pulling up (the now legendary) Post #2 to get better acquainted with Tom and Carlos and an idea of what this blog is all about.

Now that the Bikeography is officially "in the can," it's time to wow you with some hard-hitting, unadulterated bikeism.  I hope you are all ready to have your minds blown!  Ready?  Brace yourselves.  Get this -- there's this hill in La Jolla that bike riders are not allowed to bike down.  Really.  

OK, somebody give Tom some smelling salts.  I know, I know -- shocking beyond belief! (And, yes, I do realize that the battery on my iPhone is dangerously low.)

So, The Bikeist's position on this decision to ban bike riders from going downhill within Torrey Pines State Reserve?  --- AGAINST!

Was there any doubt?  

For those of you unfamiliar with this iconic stretch of asphalt, Torrey Pines grade (inside and outside) is one of the most popular ascents/descents in all of SoCal.  The steeper "inside" hugs the coast inside Torrey Pines State Reserve, while the "outside" lies on Route 101 which parallels the park.  The spandex clad hordes flock to this grade on weekends to do "repeats" (repeated climbs and descents of the hill to help build their climbing "base"), and anyone desiring to explore the North County coast on bike from San Diego must tackle this grade to get to and from the fabled rollers from Torrey Pines to Oceanside.  


I have gone up and down this grade more times than I can count since 2001, and have actually never gone down the route through the park.  I take the inside only when I'm looking for a more challenging climb than the long, but not so steep, 101 route.  However, I can see why many cyclists are incensed by this arbitrary new policy.  If you are someone prone to doing "repeats," and want to do so with minimal interaction with the four wheeled motorized things designed to obliterate bikes and bikeists, the best way to do so on Torrey Pines grade, is to climb up the outside along 101 (headed North), turn right at the top of the hill and head down through the "inside" on the ocean side, and then "repeat" along the 101 sholuder.  A dedicated repeater can do this all day without needing to cross the highway.  With the new diktat, it is impossible to do repeats without pausing to cross high-speed traffic to descend along 101.

See "cyclists,"  I have your back!  This blog is truly for everyone.  But, why should "everyone" give a crap about whether bike riders can go up or down a hill?  Well, because this is blatant fascism, and nobody likes fascists or their related "-ism."  According to this article - - some Ranger at the Reserve unilaterally issued this ban based upon some "close calls" between bike riders and (clueless) pedestrians on the park road.  According to Ranger Clay, based upon these close calls, “It was clear we were going to have a fatality.”  Really . . .

Us bikeists are so unfamiliar with close calls.  If close calls with something that might instantly kill you is just cause for a complete (or partial) ban, then why do we allow automobiles within the park or anywhere for that matter?  What gets in my craw is that, while most would consider curtailment of cars to be unreasonable, a ban on the much less lethal bicycle is taken in stride.  WTH?!  (What the Heck!)  Bikes should be allowed to use any road that an automobile can use.  The real problem at Torrey Pines is not bikes, but clueless pedestrians who saunter in the middle of the paved area frequented by cars and bikes.  Police THEM Ranger Clay!  Bikes should be free to descend that fantastic stretch of pavement free of impediment!  Paint some lines to designate pedestrian and bike/car areas, and all will be good.  This ban is the lazy way out.  Anytime the knee-jerk "solution" is to ban bikes from a bonafide park, we have lost our way.  Bikes and parks (vice cars and parks) go hand in hand!


Tom:  That was awesome.

Carlos:  What was awesome?

Tom:  The Bikeist, dude!  He really stuck it to Ranger Clay!

Carlos:  Whatever . . .

Next up:  Whatever --

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bikeography - The Collage

Just couldn't muster the motivation to do a proper post yesterday after spending the better part of the morning at the mercy of the world's most sadistic dental hygienist, Pam - and - GASP - much of the afternoon in the Bikeist's version of a kryptonite cell:  on line at the DMV (which, of course, I biked to).

So, you will just have to tide yourself over with this fabulous, collector-worthy, collage of all my bikes in their various iterations:

The Bikeist will be back with full force on Thursday once he finally manages to cleanse his system of DMV toxicity . . .

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Post #23: This is the End (of the Neverending Bikeography) (Really)

Day Three:

When we left off, I was sleeping underneath a bar in Phillipsburg, awaiting the biggest climbing day of the trip.  After two days of riding through the Redwoods, it was time to make my way back to the coast, abandoning the 101 for the more remote Route 1 which would hug the coastal cliffs all the way to Marin County.  But, standing between me and the rolling, twisting (freshly paved) Shoreline Highway, were 66 miles and Leggett Hill (the highest point on the Pacific Coast Route) followed immediately by the steeper (but shorter) Rockport Hill.

The ride to Leggett itself involved no small amount of climbing, and one long descent along the four lane 101.  On that, particular, descent - just as I got to about 40 mph, I saw a large bee ahead of me and then felt it thwack off of my face, leaving it's pulsating stinger in my cheek.  I managed to extract the stinger while still whizzing down the hill, but there was no escaping the pain that lingered into the next day.  That bugger really stung!

I soon after arrived in the tiny town of Leggett (at the base of the hill) where I drained my water bottles, re-filled them, and bought a couple of extra bottles of water, since there were no towns or services in the 30+ miles from Leggett to my destination (a farmhouse in Westport - right on the coast).  Contrary to legend, abandoned bike-frames and spandex-clad skeletons did not line the side of the road.  In fact, after biking so many miles along the four lane 101, it was actually really nice to be on a remote road with almost zero cars.  I think I may have been passed by only two the entire way up.  Also nice was getting the benefit of my training.  My 23 miles around San Diego Bay every night is good for creating a base, but it was the weekend climbs (Palomar and Mt. Soledad in particular) that prepared me for this one.  The climb never approached the grade of Via Capri (North ascent of Soledad), and was not quite as long as climbing Palomar.  Plus, the twisting, forested descent down the other side was worth any amount of climbing -- may have been the most fun I've had on a bike -- glorious!  Less fun, though was having to start climbing again right at the bottom.  Everybody talks about Leggett Hill along the coast, so I was a bit surprised at how hard I had to work immediately after slaying that dragon.  The steep 640 foot climb was less than a third of Leggett, but oh so much more painful.  After I knocked it out, though, the coast magically appeared and it was mostly rollers with a strong tail-wind the rest of the way to Westport:

My destination, Howard Creek Ranch, was a sort of eccentric place outside of the one store town, but right on the ocean:

Day Four:

Independence Day!  I can think of no better way to celebrate independence than through the liberating experience of trekking through America on a bike.  As it so happened, my destination, 79 miles away in Gualala, is noteworthy mostly for the fact that it is one of the only municipalities in California that has banned fireworks!  No worries - the thrill of whizzing along cliffsides and taking in miles and miles of glorious California coastline more than made up for the lack of fireworks -- as did this secluded beach which I hiked to from the  St. Orres Inn:

This is the kind of place you dream about finding on a bike trek -- the kind of hard to reach spot that most miss as they motor on by in cars and campers.  Fireworks - shmireworks.  Plus, the Inn had one of the best restaurants in California (a nice reward for the longest day in the saddle and eating off the shelf of the General Store the night before).

The gorgeous beach and outstanding food also helped me to unwind from my one negative human interaction along the entire 432 miles.  About 6 miles from my destination, I was cruising at about 20 mph on a relatively flat stretch where many cars were parked along the road near a trailhead to the beach.  I try to stay out of the "door zone" but I had fairly steady traffic with me and the parked cars edged out onto the road.  As I approached a beat-up white pick-up, a dude with scraggly bleach-blond hair and a scary, leathery face suddenly flung open the driver side door and screamed at me crazily.  I swerved and narrowly missed running right into the door, coming to a stop about twenty yards in front of the truck where I could hear the psycho laughing maniacally.  I asked if the handicapped placard hanging from the rear view signified a mental vs. physical disability after which he jumped out of the truck and came toward me with his fists balled up.  Dude definitely looked like he had recently spent some time in prison.  So, I started pedaling furiously and shouted back "clearly mentally" as I rode off.  I think he may have been waiting for someone down on the beach because he did not follow.  Those next six miles may have been the fastest I've ever pedaled, though -- just in case he changed his mind.  When I got to the Inn I called the Sheriff to let him know some crazy dude was deliberately trying to door bicyclists.  He said he'd go have a talk with him . . .

Day Five:

61 miles to Valley Ford looked easy on the map after the previous day's 79, but this portion of the ride reminded me the most of Big Sur:  never ending climbs that seemingly reached into the sky, followed by death-defying descents into narrow canyons followed by repeats of the climbs.  Incredibly curvy and fun!  The only drawback was that I was now approaching Sonoma and civilization, so I had a lot more company on the roads.  Interestingly, after miles and miles of gorgeous asphalt, the Sonoma roads were amongst the worst I had traversed along the way.  The traffic eased, though as I left the coast to follow the river to the tiny, quaint, farming town of:

The one hotel in town The Valley Ford Hotel, actually housed a fantastic cajun restaurant with a wonderful courtyard.  Probably the least pretentious corner of Sonoma:

Day Six:

It was hard to believe when I woke up that I'd be crossing the Golden Gate to San Francisco by the end of the day.  I was excited to be back in one of my favorite places, but a little sad to be ending one of the great rides of a lifetime.  When I left at dawn I had the Sonoma country roads to myself --

Even better was when I got to Marin County, which has some of the best bike infrastructure anywhere.  I had crossed the Golden Gate on previous trips to explore this Bikeist's paradise, so it was great to get a chance to cross the entire county on a triumphant Saturday morning -- meeting and chatting with dozens of club riders along the way.  I felt like the Yellow Jersey wearer hitting the Champs-Élysées on the last day of Le Tour with my own supporting peloton. 

Before I knew it, I had crossed Sausalito and was pounding out one final climb to the Golden Gate:

Crossing that bridge on a bike should be on every bikeist's bucket list -- I never get sick of doing it --

I stayed in my favorite place in San Fran - The Marines Memorial Club -- which is one of the best deals for military members anywhere -- nice rooms in a well-kept hotel for under $100 in the heart of San Francisco!  Can't beat it!

Before getting to the club, though, I dropped my bike at the Performance Bike Shop near the ballpark where they were glad to box and mail it back to Holland's in Coronado.

The next day I saw my first game at AT&T Park (great stadium, although I still prefer PETCO) with my JAG buddy Matt, and then it was off to the airport on the BART for a quick flight home to my little bikeists and my long-suffering wife . . .


So, there you have it folks my entire bikeography.  Congratulations to all three of you who have read the entire thing.  When I hit it big you will be so proud of yourselves!  Right mom?

Next up:  Biking in San Diego in 2013.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Post #22: Back to the Future -- Almost The End of the Neverending Bikeography (Part 1 of 2)

The time has nearly come loyal readers -- the day we have all been looking forward to (no - NOT Christmas)!  What I thought might fill a post or two has stretched into a solid two months of blogging -- yet could have been so much longer if I hadn't left so much out.  Stand by for "Bikeography!  The Book" coming to a book store or e-reader near you!  After these next two posts, though, we will shift from my illustrious past to present day and future biking and bike-related happenings/matters in and around San Diego.

Before cranking it up to 88 and activating the flux capacitor to thrust us back to December 2013, though, you must endure (suffer?) one last chapter (in two parts of course) of my bike history.  It, surprise, surprise, starts with acquisition of yet another bike.  As alluded to in my account of biking Big Sur, that trek was the last big road ride for the Bad Boy.  While fantastic for commuting, and most weekend rides - the Bad Boy, with its unforgiving Cannondale aluminum, slightly undersized frame could be quite punishing when stringing several days of long rides together.  My 430 mile trek to Pittsburgh, while glorious, left me with a case of tendinitis that took a month to overcome.  Likewise, the Big Sur trip left me more sore than I should have been for a two day trip.  The Cannondale had nobly served its purpose of adequately serving all purposes:  commuter, road-bike, mountain-bike, beach bike, around-town-bike, etc..  But, after 13 years, and spending more and more time on the road, it was time to specialize and get a bonafide road bike that actually fit me. 

As it so happened, the perfect bike to meet my needs (every day commuting around San Diego Bay, long rides on Saturdays and long treks every summer), and, especially, my modest budget, was a Specialized Secteur.  An aluminum bike with the same, sleek geometry as the legendary Specialized Roubaix, and its super-forgiving carbon fork, the Secteur is a bike designed do take some of the jolts out of long-distance riding.  So, it was off to Holland's in August of 2012 to order the first of the new 2013 models - which came in about 3 weeks later.

The Secteur definitely lived up to its billing.  We ordered it to my size and then did a thorough in-store fitting when it arrived.  When I tested it on a century ride a week later, I had no problem getting back in the saddle the next day (something I never did after going as far on the Bad Boy).  

Now that I had the right bike, it was time to get serious about my quest to bike the entire Pacific Coast.  Step One -- buy this book:

Those who bike the Pacific Coast refer to this as "the bible."  Setting out to do any major chunk of the route from Canada to the U.S. / Mexico border without consulting this book would be, quite simply, irresponsible.  Practically every mile of the coast is described along with road conditions, places to get food/water, distances between towns and campgrounds and hill profiles for every segment.  While I prefer to average 70 miles per day (as opposed to the authors' preferred 40 - 60 miles per day - focused upon camping and campgrounds), it was very easy to convert their segments to mine.   I'll offer only one critique here, though -- I completely disagree with the authors' approach to the San Diego -- which should be the last, triumphant, day for those biking the route north to south.  They direct riders down the embarrassment that is Harbor Drive, blocked from the coast most of the way by industrial sprawl, taking them to the border crossing at San Ysidro (no coast in sight!).  I hereby demand that the authors fix this tragic error by, instead, putting through-bikers on the ferry to Coronado where they can follow shoreline bikeway, under the glorious Coronado Bay Bridge, to the Strand bike path, where they can pedal the last 13 or so miles with water on both sides most of the way, through IB to the very end of the U.S. Pacific coastline.  Now that would be a fitting end to biking the Pacific Coast!

Sorry, but I needed to vent a bit . . .

Step Two:  Buy this map:

Compact enough to keep at the ready in your handlebar or top-tube bag (yet packed full of information) these maps are also indispensable for any long trip along the coast.  They are also great for ideas on alternative ways to traverse the coast as the Adventure Cycling folks (and a certain Bikeist) don't always completely agree with "the bible."  Between these two sources, I have always been able to choose the best route for me.

Step  Three:  Ride

But where and in what direction?  Almost every rider I talked to after doing Big Sur told me that if I loved that ride I really needed to get up to the less-trafficked roads of far Northern California where the scenery and riding closely resembled the conditions of Big Sur.  Having had such good luck with weather by doing Big Sur in July (no fog whatsoever), I aimed for Fourth of July week to tackle Crescent City (adjacent to the Oregon Border) to San Francisco.  Why North to South)?   Because you'd be crazy to do it the other way.  Anyone who bikes the San Diego County coastline knows that the prevailing wind runs North to South.  As it so happens, the same goes for the entire coast.  While this might not make much of a difference to a casual Saturday morning rider, when you are stringing hundreds of miles together, having the wind with you can be the difference between sheer pleasure and absolute torture.  I felt so sorry for the riders I saw slogging north as I whizzed south toward San Francisco -- they clearly hadn't read the "bible."

Living in San Diego, I couldn't exactly just hop on my bike and start pedaling, so logistics were crucial to getting this trek done.  My preferred means of getting me and my bike to far-flung rides is train, since you can usually just walk your bike on, but train was not an option for getting to Crescent City.  Best way to go was to fly in via puddle-jumper, but taking a bike would require dis-assembly and boxing (a big pain and not conducive to getting going right away).  So, instead, I had my local bike shop mail my bike (surprisingly inexpensive)  to a shop in Crescent City where they expertly re-assembled my bike and had it waiting for me right off the plane.   So, after a ten minute taxi ride from the airport I was able to start pedaling south immediately:  sweet!

Notice the "Closed" sign?  The owner, Tom (a legend for Pacific Coast through-riders) came in on a Sunday just to give me my bike!  Try tat in a big city bike shop!  Thanks, again, Tom!

Being able to get in the saddle immediately on a Sunday afternoon, allowed me to knock out one of the most dreaded portions of the Pacific Coast Route - the climb out of Crescent City.  I only needed to cover about 25 miles to get to the historic inn I had booked on the Klamath River, but it required a long climb along a four lane highway with little or no shoulder for several stretches.  Lucky for me, Sunday afternoon traffic was light, so I actually had a pleasant ride, getting out the kinks from the flight as I climbed past the Redwoods which lined both sides of the highway.  When I arrived at the Requa Inn, there was a salmon dinner waiting for me and a rocking chair on the porch overlooking the mighty Klamath, where I saw an eagle swoop down and snare his own salmon dinner . . .

Day one:

Remember this little guy?  

He and his family were the only ones to greet me as I headed out early (to beat traffic, as usual) the next morning.  Goal was the college town of Arcata, home of Humboldt State - where the students and hordes of homeless residents dominating the historic town square are virtually indistinguishable.  Besides the fact that I generally enjoy college towns, I always try to use them as overnight spots thanks to the easy access to laundry, food, and cheap lodging.  The Hotel Arcata, right on "The Plaza" fit the bill perfectly.

The 58 miles from Klamath to Arcata took me down the Redwood Highway past some of the largest and oldest organisms on the planet:

The only way to stand in the presence of these behemoths is in awe -- if you have never seen the Redwoods I highly recommend that you stop whatever you are doing at this moment and head directly to Northern California (the only place they exist except for a few groves that stretch just into southern Oregon).  Any other course of action risks the possibility that you might die without having seen them in person - which would be a damn shame.

I love the unexpected finds along the way as well.  This is the oldest movie theater in the United States - right around the corner from the Hotel Arcata and where I watched "Man of Steel" after sushi for dinner (always seem to find sushi after the first day of my big rides):

 Day Two:

This was the ride I had been looking forward to for months and years -- 76 miles through the heart of Redwood country, and through the complete Avenue of the Giants.  

It did not disappoint:

 Luckily, traffic was extremely light on this Tuesday morning, so my ride was even more glorious than I might have expected.  I stopped frequently to wander some of the groves, so it wasn't until mid afternoon, when I arrived at the Riverwood Inn, an authentic roadhouse with a bar, jukebox, stage and dance floor on the main level and cheap rooms right underneath.  I ate my chili at the bar with real live lumber-jacks and some other interesting locals -- including a counselor at the prison camp that's operated nearby right in the middle of Redwood National Forest.  He said that it was a working camp and that the setting did wonders for the prisoners sent there (who had to have spotless records at their previous facilities).  

We'll pause here as this is already the longest post in Bikeist history and we still have three days of biking left -- including the dreaded Leggett Hill the morning after sleeping in the roadhouse.  Get your rest loyal readers because there is some serious climbing ahead . . .

Up Next:  Truly the end of the Bikeography -- I really mean it this time --

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Post #21: Bikeography Part XV -- Pacific Coast Bikeist

After two splendid years in Hawaii, it was off to Afghanistan (previously addressed in this bikeography), where I was extremely bike deprived, but witnessed a culture where bikes were ubiquitous.  Here's a link to an excellent story about a brave group of young female Afghan bikeists who are using bikes as a means of empowerment:

After Afghanistan, though, it was back to my beloved San Diego, my commute around the bay, and the endless possibilities for long weekend and holiday rides.  Can't tell you how joyful it was for me to get back on the Coronado Ferry and be warmly greeted by the same gaggle of loyal commuters I had sat with four years earlier.  It was great to see my old friends, and to have my freedom of movement back.  I moved about Afghanistan quite a bit, but always in full body armor, and in armored or up-armored vehicles -- never, ever, on a bike.  Being able to just hop on a bike in shorts, shirt, and helmet was more liberating than ever!

My dreams whilst fantasizing about biking from my hooch in Afghanistan almost always focused upon whizzing along the Pacific Coast (as I do now every night and Saturday morning).  Once I returned, though, and had done the coast from Oceanside back to San Diego several, wonderful, times, I felt compelled to expand those horizons.  What about the rest of the coast?  What would it be like to ride through the Avenue of Giants or the remote parts of the Northern California coastline?  I had biked other parts of the state (in and around San Francisco, Monterey, and Santa Barbara), but, as with the C&O and GAP trails, I had always wanted to cover the whole span of California's coast.

My quest started in earnest last summer (2012) when the Navy sent me to Monterey for a 10 day course at the Naval Postgraduate School.  I brought the family along so they could enjoy some time in one of our favorite places, but before the course ended, they left me with just my bike to get home to San Diego.  I didn't have time to bike the whole way back, but knew I could knock out the most spectacular stretch of California coastline (and, perhaps, best ride anywhere) in a weekend.  So, at 0500 the morning after the course ended, I hopped on the Bad Boy (its last major road trek) and headed due south through Big Sur -- 140 miles of remote, twisting, climbing, rolling, and precipitously falling coastline.  


Luckily, I had done some hill training in the weeks leading up to this ride, as the first 100 miles were as up and down as anything I have ever biked. The ascents looked as though they reached up to the clouds from the narrow Redwood filled Canyons, but oh those descents on the other side!  Leaving early was the key to my enjoyment, as I got lots of miles in before encountering many cars at all.  For most stretches, it felt like I had Route 1 all to myself.

As fate would have it, at precisely the 70 mile mid-way point, was a Yurt campground, perched high on the cliffs hanging over the Pacific.  I called ahead to see if they might have a yurt for me.  The woman who answered the phone was apologetic when she said the only thing left was their treehouse.  If I was at all cool, I may have feigned disappointment, but I could not hold back the instant exclamation of "Awesome!"


How cool is that?!

This place (Treebones Resort) also had an awesome sushi bar and provided a free bottle of wine to anyone crazy enough to arrive in the middle of nowhere on a bike!  Score!

Here is the sunset as viewed through the window of my treehouse, as it swayed in the wind and I listened to the vocalizations of elephant seals over the waves crashing way, way, below:

I was back out on the road, though, at sunrise the next morning, to tackle the last few big climbs before descending back to beach-level and cranking all the way to San Luis Obsipo.  Luckily, I made great time with a tail-wind on the flats, and managed to catch the last Amtrak Surfliner south by a whopping five minutes.  

It was a tired, but satisfied Bikeist who gazed out the train window as we headed through LA, already planning the rest of my reconquest of California -- including the City of Angels itself!


Next up:  Back to the Future:  The End of the Neverending Bikeography! 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Post #20: Bikeography Part XIV -- Aloha Bikeist

This is Fredric:

Fredric is from Sweden and came all the way to San Diego just to ride with the Bikeist (fresh off his awesome Hawaiian vacation).  Like all Scandinavians, he is large and possesses super-human strength.  Here he is pictured lifting my do-everything urban assault bike like Godzilla tossing around a Datsun.  Me and my anti-cyclist buddy, Mark, took him on a tour around Coronado, down the Strand to IB for a massive breakfast burrito (that he swallowed whole), and back into the constant Northerly head-wind that I think he managed to reverse just through his sheer momentum.  Most impressively, he actually managed to make my old Cannondale go fast.  My helmet is off to you my Swedish Bikeist friend and an open invitation is offered to all of my loyal world-wide readers to come ride the urban assault bike and be featured right here in this blog!

 My last post (from Kailua Beach on Oahu) provides an excellent segue to the next installment in the epic, neverending, Bikeography as the next stop of my Navy adventure brought me to Pearl Harbor for a wonderful two years.  While Hawaii was every bit the paradise I expected (and knew from previous visits) it to be, it wasn't, exactly a paradise for those of us on bikes.  Don't get me wrong -- there were some great rides to be had (with the Tantalus loop and the ride from Schofield Barracks to Kaena Point and back being my favorites), but the cycling infrastructure was severely lacking.  Bike routes were few and poorly marked, bike lanes were random and would suddenly disappear in high traffic areas, leaving cyclists to fend for themselves, and, quite frankly, what could be one of the crown jewels of Oahu, the Pearl Harbor Bike Path, is a disgrace.  

Sure, I had been spoiled after riding the well-maintained Mount Vernon Trail every day for two years, but, in every way that path was great, the Pearl Harbor path was awful.  As I had in DC, I picked my neighborhood based upon its proximity to a major bike path.  With just a two mile commute, the short stretch I used every morning was convenient and safely kept me off of the Kam Highway.  However, the miles of trail that stretched westward from Aiea to the leeward part of the island was full of pot-holes, roots, poorly patched pavement, broken glass, homeless encampments and more feral cats than you could possibly imagine. 

My friend Ken had good stories about some of the sketchy encounters he had with folks mis-using the path, and, as a major player in the Oahu fitness culture, has railed against the condition of the trail (which he uses every day) for years.  Why his complaints have fallen on deaf ears is beyond me.  Hawaii's bikeists deserve better.

Enough negativity, though -- so un-Hawaiian.  More typical of my Oahu experience was the Aloha spirit shown to me by a local farmer at the end of a challenging day on the Bad Boy.  I had parked at Schofield Barracks to do the aforementioned out-and-back to Kaena point (about 50 miles), but ran into difficulty when I decided to take a backroad back up the hill to Schofield. The road went through a beautiful, tree-lined area, but was harrowing due to its twisting climb and the horrible rumble-strip, hemispheric buttons that lined the right side of the road making it impossible to use the narrow shoulder.  I might have just powered up the hill, but suffered two flats on the climb (thanks to thorns) and then had to fight a slow leak after I used my last patch.  I was able to go about a mile at a time before needing to pull the hand-pump out again until I just gave up and started pushing the bike.  After pushing for about a mile I came upon the farmer mending a gate to a sugar cane field.  I asked him how much further it was to Schofield and he said it was about five miles.  After I thanked him and started walking on, he called to his wife who was sitting in their pick-up truck that had a generator hitched to it.  She started the truck, he un-hitched the generator, and they both insisted that I climb in the back with my bike.  After I climbed in, the farmer opened the cooler in the bed and tossed me a cold Keystone.  I have to admit that, beer snobbery aside, that beer, consumed while whizzing past sugar cane fields above the North Shore in the bed of a local pick-up, was probably the tastiest I have ever had . . .