The Ride - 24O

30-some years ago, I was an avid cyclist. An avid Urban Cyclist and Commuter. Although I rode about 12,000 miles a year, 75-mile distances were pretty much my max for a single-day ride. I could go at a decent pace, but that was my limit. I realize now that some of the issue for me at the time was hydration and fuel.

Now, I'm taking baby steps again as a cyclist, recovering from a minor injury and striving to regain some small measure of fitness.

A couple of months ago Nick emailed me to suggest we go on an overnight camping trip sometime soon. The earliest opportunity we could work out turned out to be the weekend of June 16-17. As I said, I never did extended distance rides of more than about 75 miles, and I've never gone bike camping, so I was looking forward to this as a new adventure. I've read what Grant Peterson has written about his 'S24O' getaways, and we were thinking of that sort of trip for this weekend. Initially, I planned a rugged, mostly off-road route (we took road-bikes for this trip) with just over 7000 feet of elevation gain. The first day, that is! As the time to ride drew closer and my injured knee continued to keep me off the bike, I began to scale my plans back. Finally we settled on a shorter, easier route that varied the terrain and scenery as much as could be managed within an 85-mile Urban/Rural loop.

I wanted to use my old SR road bike (the only geared bike I had at the time) and I thought our route should cover as many different areas of San Diego as we could manage within that range.

Loaded for travel.
Army Surplus pack as Handlebar Bag
I fitted my biggest (40-622) and heaviest tires for the trip.

We tackled the climbing portion of the route first thing on Saturday - 1000 feet elevation gain to Jamul all in one chunk, over about 19km. We had held off our departure until just past noon, intending to arrive at our overnight stop before dark.

Turning south, we began the descent to Otay Lakes over Proctor Valley Road.

Once we had gone a short distance on Proctor Valley Road, it became an unpaved surface, and passed through some relatively wild areas before finishing the descent to Upper Otay Lake. The road surface was unfortunately very rough - wash-board, in fact - from heavy and high-speed vehicular traffic. It's a shame the surface was so abused, because the scenery out there was really pretty nice - very open and uninterrupted. But descending this road was a literal handful, so we had to focus on the road.

Finally reaching smoother terrain, we went from Fire Road to Single track closely tracing the Western shoreline of Upper Otay Lake, then emerging onto wider vehicular road, and stopping for a photo at the dam separating the two lakes.

Nick lead us down to Otay Lakes Road, unfortunately narrow (no bike lane at all!) and frequently traveled by cars, truck, RVs, etc., which we had avoided as much as possible for just those reasons. A short Westerly jog quickly connected us to Wueste Road. This is a fine little bike-friendly road, super smooth (what a nice break) that goes by the old Olympic Training Center and the west shore of Otay Lake.

Back to dirt just north of the Water Treatment Plant, we carefully picked our way down to the floor of a the gorge where Otay River runs (according to the map, anyway). We stayed in the gorge on good dirt roads under the 125 freeway, and eventually struck a paved road just East of Soak City Water Park. Continuing West past Soak City, our route connected us to Palm, then Beyer, and finally Coronado Ave., which we rode all the way to the Pacific Ocean. I'll admit I was pretty beat by this time. In fact, I was riding in survival mode, managing a few sustained efforts interspersed with near exhaustion. Nick was patient and didn't mind my yo-yoing. We backtracked a couple of blocks to a friendly neighborhood dive for a Cerveza and some Mexican food to restore our (my) resolve, then headed North up the Silver Strand, stopping shortly before dusk near Silver Strand State Park.

Although outside the park, there are nice picnic facilities (with decent restrooms and running water) on the East side of the penninsula. Unfortunately, camping isn't permitted at this facility, so we rested a while, watched the sunset and freshened up before pushing on to find a place to sleep.

I was dog-tired. It had been a really long day for me, especially those last few westbound miles before dinner. I'm sure Nick thought he'd need to tow me the last little way, but I managed it - barely - under my own power. Too much couch, not enough bicycle had taken their toll!

We woke in the morning to a curious sunrise - no sooner had the sun cleared the mountains East of Downtown than it started creeping above the blanket of inversion layer covering the bay and West San Diego County, so we only had a few minutes of full-strength sun before the usual coastal morning weather resumed. I enjoyed the show, frankly.

We breakfasted at Clayton's Coffee Shop in Coronado (Huevos Rancheros for me - noticing a pattern?). Clayton's is my favorite place in Coronado - it apparently hasn't been re-decorated since the '40s. No, I don't mean it was MADE to look that way, like, say a Ruby's... I mean it has been there since then, unchanged! Still serves good food, promptly, with a smile, and for a very modest price. Look them up. Drive over the bridge JUST to eat there - it's worth it.

Of course, bicycles can't be on the bridge, so we rode to the Ferry landing (got there a bit early and had to hover a while), and ended up at the 5th avenue landing - a very curious place for a ferry landing - right in there among multi-zillion dollar yachts that were such an ostentatious display of wealth and excess... well, it was simply a-m-a-z-i-n-g.

We kept to the bike path west along Harbor Drive, past the Airport and into Point Loma. Crossing up to Catalina, I decided this was the Achile's Heel of the ride. I must find a better connection to Catalina, Talbot is a WALL. Next time, I'll use Chatsworth, I guess...

We had decided to ride to Cabrillo National Monument. The road out there is really nice, traffic courteous, lots of cyclists around.

Nick was struck by Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery on the South side of the road. Somber.

As the sun broke through, we doubled back at the entrance to Cabrillo National Park, and I was grateful that most of the climbing was now over. Catalina is a fine ride in either direction, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We worked our way carefully through OB, finally crossed to Bacon St., and then up to Robb Field. Nick wanted to check the Skate Park there, because a couple of his buddies were supposed to be there. We lucked out - they hadn't left (barely) yet, and Nick got to say 'hey'.

Back on the bike trail Eastbound to Pacific Highway, then South through Old Town and up Washington Street to University, then through Hillcrest. We were again impressed by the 'Tour de San Diego' nature of the ride. We'd covered a lot of varied terrain, diverse roadway and culture on this route, for sure. And our timing was good, it was just past noon and shady on the patio of Mama Testa. An order of Tres Cochinitos and a Cerveza for me!

After lunch, I had renewed mental resolve, but fatigue had a firm grip on my legs. It was a slow ride the last 10 miles home to La Mesa, but this has been a fun trip. Nick has got me hooked on this - I look forward to more overnight trips this summer.

Lessons learned:
  1. My Brooks B-17 Standard saddle was amazingly comfortable, in spite of my lack of saddle-time over the last few months and the the relatively short time I've owned it (less than 500 miles). Nick had the same saddle on his Surly and has had no complaints in a month of daily commuting.
  2. We over-packed, and my bike doesn't seem to like a bag on the bars (shimmy-shimmy). Next Time I'll pack lighter, and have a rear rack (I don't like the look of them, but ya gotta go with what works, right?).
  3. Nutrition - next time I will gobble down energy-packs more frequently, and I'll be in better condition!
  4. Attitude - My nephew and riding buddy Nick is one of those rare folks with a truly adventuresome spirit. His positive attitude made this trip a joy when it could have gone bad (I was nowhere near ready physically, for this trip). He didn't make me feel like I was slowing us down or a drag on the ride (although I was). He treated me as a peer. Thanks, Nick - you've set the tone for me - I'll be doing more of these rides and I'll fulfill my promise to ride much stronger the next time we do this - maybe up in your neighborhood, next time?



Just updated the "My Bikes" page here, as I've shifted around some components and spruced-up my bikes for the Summer.



Not quite

I'd intended to try to hit a hundred miles over the New Year weekend, but fell a bit short.

The weather here has been incredible - mid 60's to low 80's (depending on whether you're at the beach or inland) every day - just our normal, amazing Southern California winter weather, thank you!

Anyway, I got out late on Saturday, so opted for a short 10-mile blast to the lake and back. Tried to keep it as intense as possible, but the lake was super crowded - definitely not the place for a hot lap. It was already cooling and pre-dusk when I got back, so I decided to try to make it up on Sunday and Monday.

I got out late again Sunday and rode the 25-mile out-and-back to Adams and Park, initially intending to take a turn through downtown or maybe even Ocean Beach. When I got down to around 30th St., I was a little surprised at how much cooler and breezier it was (compared to home). Still, it was pleasant, but I decided to call Park my turnaround point, and resolved to go early and long on Monday.

When I left the house this morning, Monday at 9:30, it was just barely cool enough for the sweater I was wearing, but I had a hunch I might need it later, so I was carrying bungee cords in case I had to take it off, but hedging against cooler weather. I was only a block away from the house when I decided to turn back - that bottom bracket clunk was annoying and I decided I didn't want to fret about it on a long ride (more about the clunk in a later post). Too bad, I was really looking forward to riding the Blue bike - it felt so light and lively!
After transferring the water bottle and saddlebag to the single-speed Relic, I was on my way, and planning to do a 100K loop up to Del Mar, over the Hwy 56 bike trail and home - an ambitious ride for an old fart on a single-speed, but I've been riding a bit stronger lately, so I decided to go for it. I could always use public transportation for my bail-out plan, right?
I shed the sweater on the first climb, only 2 miles from home. It was gloriously warm and sunny, and looked like it would be a great ride day. Once I got down into the San Diego River Valley, I was glad I'd opted for the sweater and put it back on after getting to Mission Bay Park. The ride from the bay up the coast was fine, and I even felt pretty strong going up Gilman, chatting with a fellow cyclist, staying in the saddle about 3/4 of the way up, finally dismounting to walk it only up the last 70 yards or so, then re-mounting as soon as it leveled a bit, then up through the UCSD campus and over to Torrey Pines Rd. Coming down Torrey Pines grade, I was almost wishing I'd had something warmer than the sweater, but it proved to be enough once I started pedaling again.

The bike path next to Hwy 56 is really nice - rolling, clean, smooth, and quite scenic in spots. I wanted to take pictures for this post, but didn't want to fuss with digging in the saddlebag to get my phone.

Turning south on Black Mountain Road saw me doing more hike-a-bike, mostly because I was feeling a little gassed and my right knee was getting sore. Once I made it to Mira Mar road, the going was pretty easy, mostly downhill through Kearney Mesa and down to the Stadium. I was dreading the climb up to La Mesa, certain I'd be doing a lot of walking on my (now very tender) knee, so I opted for the bail-out, taking the trolley from the Stadium to within 1-1/2 miles of home.

It was a fine way to start the year, and sets a good benchmark (about 90 miles) for me to surpass. I intend to work up to 100-mile weekends in the spring (on a geared bike), and hopefully 100-mile days shortly after that, and perhaps even 200K brevets before year-end.

Why NOT to wear a helmet

Or at least why NOT to try to convince everyone ELSE to wear one.

Mikael-Colville Anderson feels we live in a culture of fear that scares people away from seeing the bike as a rational and safe means of transportation by relying heavily on promoting helmet usage. He pulls from scientific studies and various polls that reference both the risks and rewards of cycling as well as other activities, such as driving and walking. Ultimately, he feels cycling gets the short end of the stick as an activity that is promoted as far more dangerous than it actually is.

I agree!

Click HERE for the whole story.


Bike Town

Velo Cult, one of the coolest bike shops I've ever seen is leaving San Diego in favor of Portland, Oregon.

Yes, you read it right - the store is changing their city of residence from San Diego to Portland. A pretty radical move, on the face of it. Moreover, they're taking the whole staff (4 employees) with them. (Insert tasteless "kool-aid" joke here...)

In some ways, I sympathise with their decision. The owners are new parents, cycling advocates and social activists; I'm imagine that one reason for the decision could be to assure that their child(ren) is/are raised in the most bike-positive environment possible, and arguably, in the US, that place is (from all reports) Portland.

As a happy "cycling-positive" resident of San Diego, I have been encouraged by the social awareness that Velo Cult seemed to represent. There's a program started by VC that fosters bike commuting by encouraging area retailers to offer discounts to customers that arrive by bike. There's a San Diego Bike Union that fosters cycling for transportation. There are a few neighborhoods in San Diego that seem to be quite bike friendly. And of course our climate is a huge plus.

But San Diego is primarily defined culturally by it's lack of being a 'this-' or 'that-' town. We're a town of transplants, vagabonds, students and generally a feel-good do-little sort of town.

Geographically, we're a large, spread-out suburban sprawl of beaches and canyons navigated by serpentine, narrow roads or high-speed freeways. And San Diego's freeway traffic is becoming legendary - some of the fastest average speeds in the US (subjectively about 85MPH average speed) are found on our freeways. When car drivers leave a freeway where they've been going that fast, their psychological inertia seems to push them to drive 20MPH over the surface street posted limits, too. And the impatient, mean-spirited Los Angeles driving style is migrating south to San Diego as well.

Everyone here seems to drive. Even though we've been upgrading our public transportation, putting in light rail systems all over the county, the main effect of those seems to be enabling our homeless population more mobility. Most of the day sees the 'Trolley' (as it's called) running far below capacity. About the only time it's full is when the Padres are playing a Home game.

I wouldn't want to live anywhere else (although the theoretical idea of an American Copenhagen or Amsterdam is appealing). I understand why a Cycling-centric business would prefer to thrive in a Cycling-centric community.

Sure seems as though their move is going to set San Diego back a few steps on the path to becoming the cycling community I wish we were.

Farewell, Velo Cult. I'll be watching from here, hoping you prosper and flourish in your new home.