Saturday, November 29, 2014

What A Turkey!

He seems to be thinking about it . . .

Wonder if he managed to make his escape!  Happy Thanksgiving to bikeists everywhere, even you turkeys.  The Bikeist will be back next week with the dramatic conclusion of the SLO to Santa Barbara ride . . .

Thursday, November 20, 2014

From SLO To Oblivion In 100 Miles

Welcome to Part II of my epic (they're all epic aren't they?) journey from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara - nearly completing my quest to bike every mile of  the California coast.  When I last left you, dear readers, I had just rescued an elderly damsel in distress from her precarious perch in a "Youth" Hostel bunkbed.  I was out the door and on my bike and zipping past the Amtrak station mere minutes later, soon reuniting with my old friends, the PCH and the Pacific Coast Bike Route (often, but not always, one in the same).  Of course, on this, particular, quest, my old friends are forever fresh and new since every pedal-stroke introduces me to an as-of-yet never before biked (by me) stretch of pavement.  SLO seemed to be just waking up as I biked through the morning twilight, cars (and bikes) becoming more numerous as the minutes and miles passed and teachers, students, and other locals headed off to classes and jobs.  Didn't they all just wish they could be as free as I was to just spend the day in the saddle?

Before I knew it, SLO was behind me and  I was back along the coast, coming into North Pismo Beach.  Couldn't resist just one more double-shot of espresso as I passed this great little coffee shop overlooking the ocean:

Then it was steady pedaling through the quaint, funky, town that is Pismo followed by a morning traversing farm fields that reminded me a lot of biking through Ventura County -- long flat stretches through coastal farmland.  These stretches had a couple of climbs built in, though -- one a short, but steep climb from the fields back to the coast and a stretch of massive sand dunes.  The 1 then headed back inland and eventually merged with the 135 near the tiny town of Orcutt with faster traffic, but a wide shoulder and an awesome tail-wind.  I was hitting 30 mph without having to kill myself!  Before long, though, it was the only real climb of the day -- two miles of switch-backs through a pass leading to a longer, fast descent to the crummy town of Lompoc -- a series of fast food restaurants seemingly filled with impatient drivers who acted as though they'd never seen a bicycle before.  Really didn't like the vibe here -- filled my water bottles at a McDonalds and pedaled on.

Luckily, the best part of the ride awaited -- 20 miles on Rte 246 through the rolling hills of Central California wine country.  With that great tail-wind still with me, I could imagine the peloton around me as we whizzed past the vineyards on the Tour of California.  Always nice to get to the 60 mile point of an 80 mile ride and feel a surge of power (even if it's the wind providing the power).

Before I knew it, I was at mile 80 and at my destination for the night, Buellton -- home to many of the areas wineries, but, of even more interest to me, two of the most prominent breweries.  Before getting to my hotel for the night, I pulled into Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, which is one of the few breweries north of Oceanside (besides Russian River, of course, and Lagunitas) making beer on a par with San Diego's best.  The Lizard's Mouth is tremendous -- and they also make an incredible saison.  On top of that, their head brewer IS The Dude!

That's right, not A Dude, but THE Dude!  He was moving around too much for me to get a live picture, but he looks just like he does in the above, posed, shot.  Too cool!  Unfortunately, the brewery was a week away from opening its long-awaited kitchen, but it was still a great place to end a long ride -- with a nice beer garden out front and lots of cool hop-heads inside and out.  Plus, it would have been a shame to ruin my appetite before hitting brewery #2 later on.  

Next, it was off to the Comfort Inn, chosen for its proximity to Brewery #2 and the fact it had washers and dryers (crucial to my mode of travel).  After a much needed and deserved shower, I popped the day's bike gear into the wash (to ensure dry clothes to change into at the end of the next day's ride) and headed across a bridge crossing the 101 to the Firestone Brewpub and Tasting Room - an enormous beer hall, with gourmet food and pub grub, reminiscent of the Stone Bistro (minus the gardens) in Escondido.  The carne asada nachos were definitely the thing to get and I had a great evening watching Monday Night Football and discussing the California beer scene (as a whole) with the regulars at the bar.  Heaven.  Must have been my reward for rescuing that little old lady!

Looks like I pretty much spent all my karma in one shot, though, as the next day turned out to be quite the disaster.  I rose before the sun again (as usual) and partook of the waffle-maker at the complimentary lobby breakfast (love those things!).  When light came, I headed back down to the 246 and started biking straight into this view:

Wow, I'm squinting again just looking into the picture -- as were all the drivers coming up behind me -- not good.  I've heard too many stories about cyclists getting nailed by cars during early morning commutes into rising suns that made them invisible.  So, I pulled off and hung in a coffee shop for about an hour, until the sun didn't seem to be directly ahead of those of us traveling east.  No big deal, but not a good sign for what lay ahead . . .

(End of Part II -- Next:  What lay ahead)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Two Brazilians, A Bunk-Bed, And An Octogenarian

I love just about everything about biking.  I love that I ride every day.  I love riding to work (when I'm not getting hassled by driveists, that is).  I love my long Saturday morning rides.  I love the social rides I do with friends around the bay and the island.  What I absolutely love the most, though, are my multi-day bike adventures.  I never feel more alive than when its me and my bike and hundreds of miles to traverse by ourselves in some place I've never biked before.  Just thinking about the sheer freedom and escape of it gives me an instant sense of giddiness.

Thus, I must have been the happiest man in San Diego two Sundays ago, as I got up early, hopped on my pre-loaded bike, and pedaled off to catch the bus right outside the base to take me over the Coronado Bay Bridge to begin my train trek north to knock out one of the last two segments I need to complete in order to have biked the entire California coast, north to south.  I hopped off the bus and retrieved my bike from the front rack at 12th and Imperial (where the atmosphere seems to take on more and more of a "Mad Max" feel daily), and headed straight for Santa Fe Station where my "smart" phone said I could catch a the Surfliner all the way to San Luis Obispo (SLO).  To my dismay, though, I learned that all tracks between San Diego and Oceanside were down for maintenance.  Some smart phone.

Not too big a problem, though.  For a mere extra $16, Amtrak let me take their bus shuttle from the station to Oceanside, with my bike stowed below.  Crisis averted.  I even had some time to kill before the train, giving me time to check out Bagby Beer Co., the super-cool new place started by the legendary Pizza Port brewer.  With large open-air windows, a courtyard, roof-top seating, awesome food and a tremendous beer selection, it did not disappoint.  Finally, a place to wait for the train in Oceanside where I don't feel like I'm about to get a cue-stick smashed over my head, stabbed, or eaten alive by a pit-bull (or all three).

After a quick lunch, it was a mere 9 hour ride from Oceanside to SLO.  Thank God the train had wi-fi and I had my Kindle!

Got to SLO a little after 8:30 and headed straight to the Hostel that was, conveniently, just a couple of blocks from the Amtrak station.  Great Hostel!  Housed in a beautiful old Victorian. it was clean, well-run, and, best of all, cheap!  Just $16 a bunk, but I paid a little more to have the privacy of my own (extremely small room).

As I was checking in, two young women from Brazil came in right after me.  They had taken the same train up with me (starting in LA where they had just landed that morning).  We all must have been starving, because a mere couple of minutes later, the three of us had stowed our stuff and were heading out the door to go find Higuera and its long stretch of eateries.  We walked together (I sensed that they found some comfort in walking along in a strange country with the only familiar face to them - besides the dude who had checked us in), chatting along the way.  Before we knew it, we had reached my desired destination -- the Firestone Grill, home of a famously succulent tri-tip sandwich.  My new Brazilian friends weren't enticed by the prospect of eating beef sandwiches in a student hang-out, so we bid each other adieu as I hungrily scurried into Firestone to devour one of the most delicious sandwiches I've ever had.  Yum!

After dinner, I walked around downtown a bit (to get out the kinks and kick-start digestion) and loved everything I saw.  I've been through SLO a few times now, and have loved my brief encounters each time.  Next time I MUST stay for a bit and really get to know it.  Then, it was straight to bed, so I could be ready for an early start Monday morning as I set out south to Santa Barbara.

I slept like a rock, rising an hour before sunrise to make sure I could get properly caffeinated before heading out.  So, it was back over to Higuera where I hit Black Horse Espresso and Bakery for a "Keith Richards" (large coffee with two shots of espresso) and a delicious sausage and cheese croissant.  Awesome start to the day.  Twilight was just starting to emerge on my walk back, triggering the wonderful adrenaline triggered butterflies I get at the start of any big ride.  So exciting!  Soon after I got back to my room, though, and as I began to secure my saddle-bag I heard a soft knock on my door.  I answered it immediately, finding one of the Brazilian women I had met the night before outside in her long night-gown.  She had a look of mild concern on her face and asked if I could come upstairs to help a lady who was "stuck."  When I asked what she meant she just waved to me to follow, which I did.  We climbed the stairs to the women's bunk-room where her friend was waiting by the door.  I followed them both into the room where there was a little old lady in the top of one of the bunks with her lower legs dangling over the metal railing designed to keep sleepers from falling out.  Unfortunately, in her case, it prevented her from exiting the bed at all under her own power.  She was smiling, and promptly reported that she was 82 and had no strength left in her legs after two knee replacements.  When I asked how she managed to get up into the top bunk, she said she had climbed the ladder slowly and just fallen into the bed.  I asked how her arms and arm sockets were and she said they were fine.  So, I talked her through the game-plan:  I would lift her (like a baby) by her arm-pits over the railing, and she would then lean forward, put her arms around my neck and let me slowly lower her to the floor.  I then got into place, counted to three and, flat-footed, easily lifted her (wow, was she light) over the railing after which she clutched me as I carefully lowered her while we were chest-to-chest.  Once she was safely, two-feet-on-the-ground, she looked up, smiled, and proclaimed "ooh, that was actually pretty nice!"  The two Brazilians thought that was quite funny, and I began to suspect that this might not have been the first time this little old lady had needed "rescuing" from a bunk-bed.  I then excused myself (after accepting the thanks of all concerned), headed back down stairs, grabbed my bike and headed out the door thrilled that I was starting my trip with such a tremendous surplus of good karma.  Apparently, it was only enough for one, glorious day, though, but more about that in Part II!

(End of Part I of SLO to Santa Barbara . . .)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Single Best Thing That Has Ever Happened In The History Of Humankind

I fully intended to tell you all the details of my epic, heroic, journey from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara, but something so awesome, so momentous, so life-affirming happened yesterday that the story of the ride will have to wait.  As a teaser, though, I will reveal only that the first morning of the journey began with two Brazilian girls, a bunk-bed and an octogenarian.  Really.

But yesterday far surpassed that (really) and, perhaps, any experience I may ever again have on a bicycle.  To set the scene (and further enhance the grand irony and poetic justice of yesterday's ride), I recommend you revisit my recent classic post, appropriately entitled "Duh . . ."

Welcome back.  As you will now remember, in that post, I provided a graphic illustration of the correct way for a bikeist to traverse an intersection:

So, just as described in "Duh . . . ,"  I once again left my driveway on base here and headed down the narrow, two lane road to my office.  As usual, I got caught at the light just after "Flag Circle," so I got in line behind the waiting cars and proceeded straight through the intersection as depicted above.  I was last in line, so there were no issues getting through the intersection.  Right after the intersection, the road widens to accommodate two narrow lanes in each direction (which one might think would be good for bikes, since cars now have plenty of room to pass if they wish - even though I'm traveling pretty close to the 25 mph speed limit at this point).  About 50 yards after the intersection, I heard a car approaching from behind, so I glanced over my left shoulder to see that it was alone, with no other cars coming behind it in the left (passing) lane.  Having cleared the intersection, I had moved to the right and hadn't taken the lane, knowing that the car behind could safely pass me leaving plenty of room -- except he didn't.  Rather than change lanes (or at least partially cross the dotted line), the young driver of this rusty, late 80's Mustang, decided to keep all four wheels decidedly in the same lane we were both occupying.  With no particular haste, he passed me within inches of my left elbow and pedal, slowly drifting toward rather than away from me.  I, of course, screamed and gesticulated, but he lingered, without budging.  Once he was clear of me, he started to give a sarcastic wave, when all of a sudden we both heard the short, loud  "BWOOOO!!" of a police car siren right behind us.  I looked back to see two, smiling base police officers with their lights going.  I, happily, pulled aside as they accelerated to pull over my buddy in the Mustang.  I've got to tell you, that, along with my wedding day and the day I became a dad, this may have been the happiest moment I have had in my entire life.  Combined with the adrenaline of the altercation, I was in a state of complete ecstasy.

So, I started pedaling again, and, as I passed the police cruiser, I asked "Did you see all that?"  The DoD cop in the driver's seat nodded his head and said "We're about to have a little talk with your friend there."  Giddy, I pedaled on, seeing that the knucklehead's window was open.  As I passed, I simply said "That's what you get, bro" to the schlumpf at the wheel.  He muttered a defeated, disingenuous "sorry," to which I retorted "no, you're not - you're just sorry you got caught" as I pedaled on with a giant shit-eating grin (the same one I'm sure I'm still sporting a day later) on my face.

I know what you're thinking -- "and then you woke up from your wet dream, Bikeist."  Am I right?  I know this sounds too good to be true, but it is 100% accurate, true, valid, authentic, real, etc.!  Come on, if I was making this up, I would have, at least, come up with something more clever and witty to have shouted in the perpetrator's window as I triumphantly biked by.

Given all the similar situations I have endured over the years, with no such cathartic validation, I'm almost having a hard time believing it myself -- especially on the heels of my recent post complaining about exactly the same sort of stupid driveist behavior.  These sorts of things don't happen in real life, do they?  It reminds me of the scene in "Annie Hall," where Woody Allen's character is trapped on a line having to suffer through the pedantic rambling of a know-it-all who claims to understand the meaning of a film he's explicating.  When Woody's character disagrees with him, the blow-hard recites his academic credentials, after which Woody pulls out (from off-camera) the actual director of the film who sides with Woody and tells the other guy that he doesn't understand his work at all.  Woody then addresses the audience directly through the "fourth wall" and says "If life were only like this . . ."  Well, Woody, sometimes it is!

Epilogue:  When I got to work, I practically floated up the stairs carrying my bike, and anxiously told anybody and everybody within earshot my story.  Knowing me, and my bikeist ways, my co-workers were thrilled for me, but one asked a very good question raising my only regret about the entire incident:  "Did you get a picture?"  Ooh!  What an opportunity I had.  With my iPhone waiting trustily in my bento box on my top tube, I could have so easily stopped and caught a picture of the flashing lights and the stupid look on my tormenters face if I had thought of it.  Despite my glee, though, my instincts had told me to disengage while I was ahead and not do anything to turn the cops against me.  So, perhaps it was better to simply just not mess with perfection.  And perfection it was . . .