Archives for the month of: October, 2012

ON YER LEFT!

My meditative reverie has been disturbed by a manic cyclist in a hard working three person pace-line. I admit I was riding a bicycle with fenders and lights and that I was wearing wool and shoes with laces, but I also was toodling along at a reasonable pace and riding in a straight line.

The pace-line trio took a while to get by me and as they slowly came past head down (we were all in the Tomales Wind Tunnel) I offered a bit of advice: ‘Chill, Team Kit’

I suppose I should have more respect for Serious Cyclists, but I often wrestle with this.  I hope they had been working that pace-line for the last several miles and were suffering through their training to win some well known regional title in their age group, because otherwise why bother? They could have been chatting, sharing witticisms and discussing the weather. Such a waste of humanity and bicycles is deeply saddening to me.

Who ever thought that ‘On your left’ was an appropriate thing to say at any time was an asshole and somehow being an asshole became normal practice for US cyclists in general (who’d a thought? Is this a roadie thing?).  Nothing is accomplished by OYL that is not done more effectively with a ‘Good morning’ or a ‘Cool bike!’, unless of course you wish to announce your assholed-ness to your fellow cyclists so that they may avoid you.

If OYL is truly what you wish to say, then please consider ‘Outta My Way!’, ‘Hold your line!’ or ‘Get off the road!’  It will result in fewer people misunderstanding your demands and accidentally moving left instead of right.

PROPER RETORTS

Being witty, unless you have some innate talent is difficult. I am confronted with this problem constantly. Being witty while climbing a big hill and some jerk in a car needs to slow down and harass you through the passenger window is double hard. I have developed an all-use retort for all situations that requires no thought on my part. No matter what is spluttered at me by the motorist (or fellow cyclist), I respond with a ‘Whaaat?’

Think back to your early teens, watching cartoons when your parent asks you to do some chores – what did you say?

‘Whaaat?’

It worked then to irritate the hell out of your parent and it will work now to irritate the hell out of any person that might want to harass you, innocently and effectively.

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The nice thing about living in SF is that everything is here all the time – the bad thing is everybody is here, all the time. After successive weeks and months of bridge and tunnelers and SFO-ers trashing my neighborhood, nearly being run over by busses, cars and cyclists, and sitting next to people on BART trimming their nails I start to hate everyone and everything and it is time to get out of town.

Packing the Ebisu – my two 650 pelicans are stacked behind

Last week I finally got time off to go away and perhaps recover some of my hard won humanity and maturity. I only had a week to think about the itinerary and invite people along and my short list of companions resulted in only one riding buddy and even that for only half the trip. My riding buddy was Juliayn, whom I have known for a few months now. Like me, she has a pelican and is single. The itinerary was based on this in part.

A while back during the first time I had a chance to ride with Juliayn for any period of time I was slathering on the charm thick and creamy and she stopped me cold with an ‘I don’t date cyclists’ warning. I retorted with a ‘that’s ok; I don’t date girls that weigh more than I do’.  She said she weighed 145. I said crap.

Boundaries firmly established we have developed an easygoing goof-off friendship that translates perfectly to bike touring. We agreed to meet at Trouble Coffee late Sunday morning with our destination for the day being the campground at Half Moon Bay.

San Francisco regularly participates in the War on Obesity by renting itself out for events where tens of thousands of chubby individuals gather to shuffle around on closed courses for tens of miles and raise money for destitute event organizers and needy non-profit foundations with high overhead costs. The day I needed to get out of town was the Nike Women’s Waddle-athon and my ride to Trouble Coffee was plagued by purple clad people low on sugar most of whom were wrapped in space blankets for protection against the light mist and fog.

After about 45 minutes of being bumped and stepped on by weary Waddle-athoners Juliayn shows and we can hit the road. We climb through increasingly dense fog and drop down to Sharp Park and get some mixed terrain goodness.

Juliayn Approves.

As soon as we turn off hwy 1 the sun comes out and we head toward Juliayn’s first ascent of the Planet of the Apes.

the usual photo op spot at the top of planet of the apes.

Once off the single track section I pause for Juliayn to catch up and an old fellow stops to chat. He approves of our choice of road and asks where we are going. I tell him of our destination and say it is nice to take the Planet of the Apes but it is a pain to get back onto hwy 1 at the bottom. He tells us to turn left at the bottom instead of heading straight to the highway and we will avoid the traffic for a few more miles. I thank him and head down the hill.

Juliayn on the south side of the planet

Riding side by side Juliayn asks if I noticed that the old guy was a ghost of Velocio – the dude had the same physique and even had three rubber bands holding his stone washed jeans away from the chain just like Velocio does in all of the photos of him in VBQ.

extra bit of the planet of the apes thanks to Velocio’s ghost

Concentrating on finding the left hand turn at the bottom and the bridge Velocio described, I forget the rest of Velocio’s directions and we get lost in a good way riding on sunshine valley road and end up skipping probably two miles of hwy 1 and we stop at El Gran Amigo for some tacitos. I am sad to report I cannot recommend El Gran Amigo to anyone.

Ocean Boulevard is falling down the bluff but has nice views

After a less than satisfactory meal we continue on hwy 1 for three blocks and turn toward the ocean and pillar point. I spy a perfect stealth campsite and take note for future use until I see a ranger about 50 feet away. He is on the cliff directing some cleanup work because a boat has become stranded at the base of the point.

pillar point

While riding the pillar point trails we come to an intersection not shown on my maps and I ask a passing runner which way to go. She starts to describe the particulars and I interrupt her with a ‘which way is fun?’. She immediately smiles and points us in the right direction for fun.

Pillar Point ‘fun’ path

After Pillar Point we pass the small community of Princeton and end up at surfer beach and continue on the path to our campsite at Half Moon Bay.

house in Princeton

that HMB hiker biker spot

After a chilly evening camping we see the sights and eat a late breakfast at Sam’s Coffee. I highly recommend Sam’s. We head down Main Street and ride on hwy 1 for about a half mile and turn off at the yellow gates of Martins Beach.

The steps down to Martins Beach

I have wanted to turn here ever since I have been riding south and I finally get my chance to ride this two mile trail. It was ok. We saw Ospreys, lots of BushTits (my favorite bird name) and a Black Hawk.

boring and typical view on the Martins Beach trail

After the trail we do the usual boring and typical Stage Road to Archangeli’s for our boring and typical excellent sandwich and a beer. We also stock up on food for dinner and breakfast tomorrow. We head inland on Pescadero toward Portola State Park via Old Haul Road. Using Old Haul saves a ton of climbing.

On the way into Loma Mar the only mishap of the trip occurred. The details are sketchy and truth will probably never be known, partly because Juliayn’s story is the exact opposite of mine. I say she crashed me and she says I crashed myself – but how would she know, her back was turned the whole time! After a quick slam to the pavement I popped right back up, straightened my brake lever and tried to ignore the pain. Ignoring the pain worked and I forgot about the crash until the next day.

the bridge at the entrance to Portola SP

Portola SP is empty and abandoned when we get there. We self register and cruise around to pick a nice camping spot. I gather all the leftover firewood from the other campsites. After the fire and dinner I head to bed first and Juliayn stays up to read by the light of my candle lantern. While reading she is surprised by a baby fox that alights on the bench next to her.

The next day we part ways, Juliayn heading home to receive a brace of Hoosier visitors and I head down to Aptos to stay at my cousin’s garage apartment. The sun is bright and a 20 mph or more tailwind pushes me down the coast.

zipping down the coast at 20+ mph

On the way down I visit Anno Nuevo State Reserve and that organic strawberry farm. I also stop at the Staff of Life in Santa Cruz for some local wine (Soquel Vineyards) and some bree to gift my cousin and my host for the next day. Dinner is a chicken pot pie and a mighty pint at the Ugly Mug.

the view a few blocks from the cousin’s

After a cushy night in a bed listening to the surf I leave for a grueling 5 mile ride to Corralitos and my friend Jake’s parents for apples from the orchard and one of his Mom’s meals.

Jake’s Mom’s meals are not to be missed – ever.

On the way I stop at a bamboo nursery to buy a gift for my friend who will host me next.

bamboo nursery

At Jake’s I wander around until his chores are done and we do a one hour loop in the evening hills. I take all of my bags off and notice I completely tweaked my front mini rack and low riders to one side. I grab the mini rack and bend it mostly back in place. I also inspect my bags and they have very minor abrasions – everything is fine and the bike descends as well as it ever has.

What I had planned for the next day was a ride through San Juan Bautista and up to the top of 2800’ Fremont Peak to camp but the valley was supposed to be 100 degrees, so forget that. Instead we to drive to Big Sur and as I have never been there it seemed like a good idea. Big Sur is big. Big Sur is also pretty crowded.

boring and typical beach at big sur. sigh.

We stop by a building site and I take a picture of the backyard.

Rich dude’s backyard view

The next day after Big Sur, I do a two hour hike  and then ride the bike down to Los Gatos and over to Mountain View to catch the train.

The train ride was pleasant and if a fellow bicycle passenger was older than 40 or balding they inspected my Ebisu, craning their necks to check out some mundane detail that is standard to any of my bikes. The people who chat with me all have the notion I am some sort of cross country tourer, but in fact I have been bike camping maybe five times now. I like it.

Hee hee! Heading home on Highland, yessiree.

On Market Street I run into fellow randonneur Mike on his Colnago and get to chat for a block before parting ways. I have since checked my fork and frame and nothing got out of alignment in that mysterious crash.

There are plenty of good lists of gear for bike camping out there, but a few things that were nice for me were:

Kvas from Cinderella. I added bubbly water to make it last longer.

my Pocari Sweat big bottle and cage.

A wash cloth for a towel.

A candle lantern.

650bx42 tires – so soft, so forgiving, plenty fast. My bike was smooth on the trails while Juliayn with 700×32’s was bouncing around a lot more. The difference was obvious, even without a VBQ scientific test.

Three different hats to switch around with while riding.

Four bags instead of two front panniers. The bike was much more balanced and handled better off road. The bike weighed 65 pounds without water. My rando bikes for longer rides weigh 35 or so when I have all the ensure I want with me.

Going slow and stopping a lot.

Last week I sent off an invitation to a select group of people that I can stand riding bikes with on a regular basis with the hopes that most of them had other plans. I invited them to enjoy an attempt at my ‘happy doughnut’ unofficial 200k permanent that starts in the city and heads up railroad grade and off into the many areas of open space in Marin County. As expected, the few that responded all said they were not showing up, but at the last second Jake responded with a ‘stoked’ email.

The forecast was calling for very warm temperatures so I expected to have to shorten the ride to escape some heat. Initially I wanted to just shorten the ride by taking Pine Mountain straight to San Geronimo, but then I also remembered I wanted to scout a quicker route to the dirt of Mount Tam.

There are two open spaces between Camino Alto and Mill Valley, Blithedale Summit and Camino Alto. I wanted to maybe find out if I could take a different way up and over to Hoo Koo e Koo, a trail I have never ridden.

Meeting up at the GG Bridge I mentioned to Jake my change of plans and he was up for it. After goofing off at the bridge admiring the girls from all over the world and explaining to the interested tourists that our bikes are not ‘old’ that they are ‘classic’ and ‘traditional’. Sometimes if I were able to  grab their elbow before they wandered away I could inform them that anything beyond steel frames and leather saddles is merely a marketing advance to entrap the gullible, and not a functional advance. I would shout to their backs that ‘650b is the one for me!’, as they hurried to their bus or into the gift shop.

Timeless classics of functional beauty leaning on benches made from Steve Potts milled lumber from trees felled in the Presidio. photo from Jake.

Steve Potts milled lumber

At first I thought that all of the attention I was getting was because somehow I became taller, darker and (incredibly) more handsome but I think in all honesty I have to attribute the attention to my Charlie Brown jersey, especially the people who exclaimed ‘Good Grief!’ and the small children pointing and saying ‘Snoopy!’.  I was particularly humbled by the mother of two who pointed me out to her children by saying ‘He even looks like Charlie Brown!’

Forcing our way through the crowds of admirers in Sausalito and Marin City we made our way to the residential streets of Mill Valley that might lead us to Blithedale Ridge Fire Road. The first few streets were basically flat until we got to Highland, which went up at 18% or so for about 400 feet. After that pitch the street leveled off into a more Old Cazadero-like pitch to the top. We stopped and chatted with a person who had just completed Levi’s Grand Fondle the day before and gave us directions ‘just go straight ahead’ to Elinor Fire Road.

Elinor is wooded and flat-ish and is much like the forested portions of Bolinas Ridge – so quiet, so pretty. Elinor gives way to Glen Fire Road where things open up a bit and we started sharing the trail with stout matrons and their stout dogs. Things got a little steeper too. Despite the steep grades Jake and I kept our pace up so as to outdistance the stout matrons discussing the shameful habits of their 14 year old granddaughters when they are around older men.

No sooner than we got out of earshot of one group of five or six matrons we would find ourselves in the midst of another group of grannies with aggressive pugs and shih tzu’s nipping at us. I was worried one of the dogs would collapse chasing me or get caught in my wheel and then a mob of grannies attacking Charlie Brown would be in the headlines of the Marin Independent Journal.

After Glen Fire Road we finally lose the grannies and find Blithedale Ridge. The trail is very wide and rolling and includes maybe three steep pitches that could be rideable if I had knobbies and rocket boost. While Jake and I pushed our bikes through a murder (or is it gaggle?) of matrons that caught us on the final ascent of Blithedale Summit, they nonchalantly interjected “biker” into their discussion of baby clothes and scooched over to one side of the trail so a dude on a 29er could fly past down the hill, hitting the tops of the sharp rocks that we were trying to not fall on.

The matrons passed on to a side trail while we stopped for a photo op.

Good Grief that was a steep one! Photo from Jake.

A few more steep bits and encounters with old dudes talking of leveraging their equity funds and which stocks to dump this October, we made it to the fabled Hoo Koo e Koo trail.

Hoo Koo e Koo is quite nice! It is a little hard to get to so it is much quieter than Rail Road Grade. The general character reminds me more of the Santa Cruz Mountains; say Gazos Creek, rather than Mount Tam.

one of the sunnier bits of Hoo Koo e Koo – Photo from Jake

Once we made it to the end and got to West Point Inn we stopped for a long time and ate the Japanese puffed green bean snack I brought and bought some lemonade. The matrons that frequented the inn today were younger in a pleasantly distracting way than the ones on the fire roads and were discussing interior decorating while swapping babies.

the usual view at west point inn – photo from Jake

After the adventures of the warm trails we made our usual stops at East Peak, the rock circle on Ridgecrest, tested a bit of Pine Mountain (too damn hot), food at Iron Springs, and our last stop at the bike co-op at Yolanda Station.

Fun Day – I want to get back to Elinor and Blithedale, it is a nice change from the usual even with the rough terrain.