COC Tour Day 1

Pre-ride to Echo Lake

27.3 miles, 2:12:54 in the saddle, 1947 ft of climbing

Total Miles: 27.

I got into Tahoe around noon yesterday (Saturday). I got some lunch and checked into my motel for the night. I got my bike together and everything is working fine.

Then I met some of the group I’ll be riding with for dinner. A few of us agreed to meet at 7:30 this morning for a ride up to Echo Lake and back. I fueled up at Starbucks before heading over to the motel where our ride will actually start on Monday after a group meeting/introduction tonight. I had to stay at a different hotel last night as the starting motel was booked.

The ride included a nice climb up the old road that is now closed to traffic. It was pretty steep in places but was a nice ride up to beautiful Echo Lake.

Old Road

Tahoe in the Distance

Echo Lake

June 25, 2016

It was a quick ride back down and into South Lake Tahoe where I veered off to my motel for a quick shower and then got checked out before 11 am. I Uber’d a car to carry by bike case and bags the mile over to the start motel. I took off on my bike as the Uber ride was leaving an met it at the motel. I had been worried about how to get my gear over to the motel but the Uber worked great and only cost $8.

The group got together and we got all the introductions and pre-ride briefing after eating pizza for dinner. During the later part of the meeting involving the next (first) day’s route) I got a nose bleed that just wouldn’t stop. Had me very worried because I’ve had some in the past that required medical attention.

But I got to my room and it finally stopped and I think all is well. Nose bleeds are pretty common with the altitude an dry air.

Anyway, I’m exited to actually start the tour tomorrow. The weather is supposed to be sunny for basically the first week of the tour, and pretty hot, with highs in the 90s.

COC Tour Preparations

Well, I’ve been home 3 weeks now; it actually seems longer than that. Anyhoo, as some of you know, we are in the process of selling our house. While I was on the Pacific Coast tour Saree moved most of our household stuff into a storage unit, and got rid of what she didn’t move. Then she got the house on the market and started open houses on the weekends. She’s amazing!

So my job when I got home was to clean out my garage, full of bikes and stuff. Lots of stuff. Actually Saree had already cleaned out some of the stuff, but still there was lots of stuff. Now all my bikes (okay, they’re not all MY bikes) are in a storage unit of their own, along with lots of my stuff. I threw away a lot of stuff, and I gave away some bikes and more stuff. So I’ve been busy.

My Garage in a Storage Unit

I’ve also been thinking about the ride. I do plan to do a post with a review of my equipment. But last week I got an email from the Adventure Cycling Association, who produced the maps I was using on the tour, and also lead guided tours. They listed their guided tours that still have slots available, and one of them was what they call the California-Oregon Cascades Van-Supported tour.

An ACA van-supported tour is a bike tour with a couple of leaders and up to 13 participants who follow a set itinerary, with the participants (and one of the leaders) riding their bikes, but with a van carrying all the gear. The group camps together and take turns performing cooking duties. Most days on this tour are in the 50-60 mile range, comparable to what I did on the Pacific Coast.

So after a quick discussion with my wife, I signed up! The tour leaves South Lake Tahoe on June 27, and arrives in Portland on July 14. We’ll have two rest days, one in Ashland, and one in Bend. The route will take us through Lassen and Crater Lake National Parks. Basically it covers the northern half of the return route from San Diego I had planned on doing. And it finishes about the time I expected to complete my original plan.

I’ve been busy the last week getting my stuff together for the tour. I’ll be using my Ritchey BreakAway Cross bike. This bike was my “retirement” gift. The frame breaks into two sections so it can be packed into a case that you can check on the airlines without extra fees. I’ve made a few trips with it and ridden it in Houston, Seattle, and Wickenburg, AZ.

Since I won’t be needing to carry panniers with all my gear, I can use the Ritchey which is much lighter than the Surly LHT I used for the Pacific Coast. In fact, as pictured below, with the handlebar bag and saddlebag attached, and loaded with the basics (tools, tubes, rain jacket, sunscreen, etc.) it weighs about 30 lbs. That’s less than the Surly weighed with just the bare bike and racks.

Ritchey Ti Breakaway Cross

Ritchey Ready to Travel

It’s a tight fit

I outfitted the Ritchey with a Campagnolo Chorus 11 drivetrain (shifters, derailleurs, 34-50 crankset), but with a Shimano Ultegra 11 speed 11-32 cassette. This gives me lower gears than Campagnolo currently offers. With the advent of 11 speed cassettes, Campy and Shimano are essentially interchangeable. The Campy rear derailleur is only rated up to a 29 rear cog, but it handles the 32 just fine. The derailleur has just enough capacity to handle the 12-32 cassette. It’s pretty tight in the big-big combo, and just barely takes up the slack in the small-small gears. All in all I’m real pleased with it.

Campagnolo 11s Rear Derailleur, Shimano 11s 11-32 cassette

I’m using TRP CX8.4 mini V-brakes (rather than cantilever brakes) and am real happy with them. The only down side is that the pads do need to be adjusted pretty close to the rim. But I think the modulation is great with minimal force required.

Oh, and I got big fat Compass Bon Jon Pass tires on it, 35mm of plush fast rolling goodness. And I moved the Brooks saddle from our tandem over to the Ritchey. I don’t have a lot of miles on this Brooks (400 or so), but it is the same model as the one on the Surly that served me well.

For this tour I’m taking my Ortlieb handlebar bag. I don’t like how it looks on the Ritchey, but I can’t imagine touring without a handlebar bag. Once on tour, the handlebar bag contains everything important in your life – your wallet, money, phone, glasses, maps, notebook, sunscreen, spare gloves, food, whatever. You take it with you wherever you go. I carried mine around with me for several days after I got home. So it’s going with me. Between the handlebar bag and the saddle bag, I can carry everything I need to be self sufficient while riding. Although the van carries all our camping gear (tent, sleeping bag, extra clothing, food), we are still expected to take care of ourselves while on the days ride. They aren’t there to provide Sag support.

I do plan to continue to blog about the tour. There will be limited connectivity over much of the route, but I’ll do the best I can.

I fly down Reno tomorrow afternoon, and then take a shuttle to Tahoe on Saturday. I’ll meet the group on Sunday afternoon, and we head out on Monday morning.

Thanks for reading!

PC Tour Epilogue 1

May 31, 2016

San Diego

4.7 miles, 00:23 time in the saddle, 109 ft of climbing

Total Miles: 1473

My goal for today was to secure a bike box, a duffle bag or something to pack my panniers into, and get the bike packed, and update the blog.

I was successful, but with a few bumps. So what follows is a bit of a rant, okay, it is a rant, so please skip if you wish.

I called a local bike shop that was a little over a mile from my hotel, but they didn’t have a suitable box available. Googling a bit I saw that there was a Performance Bike Store not much further away. Performance is a large chain bike store that also does a big Internet business. I have spent a fair amount of money at Performance. I called them and the person answering assured me they had boxes available. I told him I would be there in an hour or so.

I utilized the free hotel shuttle to get about half way to the Performance Store, and then walked the rest. On the way I went by a Target and picked up a duffle, and a Home Depot and got some zip ties, pipe insulation, and packing tape. Then I walked over to the Performance Store. My plan was to use Uber to get back to my motel with the box.

Once in the Performance Store, the service guy told me they had no boxes, but I was welcome to buy a $300 case from them. Uh, no thanks. I explained I had called and been told they had boxes. He questioned whether I had called the right store. I confirmed (on my phone) that I had indeed called the right store, and his response was, well “you didn’t talk to me”. He then said that they MIGHT be getting a shipment in with some bikes in the afternoon, around 3 pm, and it MIGHT contain a mountain bike with a box that would work for me, and I could wait around to see if that happened (this was around 11 in the morning). I explained my situation, he could have cared less. Complete and total asshole. Nevertheless I left my name and number for them to call if they got a box. They didn’t.

I left Performance, found a bench to sit on and googled some more. I contacted Metro Cyclery, which was several miles from my current location and about the same distance from my motel as Performance. They had a box, and would hold it for me. I then Uber’d a SUV and in less than 10 mins I was on my way to Metro Cyclery. These guys were the nicest and most helpful folks. They gave me the box for free. We talked about the ride. I was in and out in a few minutes, and the Uber ride took me back to the motel.

Take home on this. I will NEVER, EVER buy anything from Performance again. I will tell everyone I know about the terrible experience I had with them and encourage them to not do business with them as well. I still can’t believe how completely un-helpful, and frankly rude the guy at Performance was. In retrospect, there was a wall of boxed bikes behind him in the shop. He easily could have offered to pull a bike out of one and let me have the box.

After I got back to my room I realized I couldn’t get the pedals off my bike with my multi-tool. Just not enough leverage. Also, I had forgot to ask about a fork brace, the little plastic do-hickey to protect the fork from being squished. So I rode the couple miles back over to Metro Cylcery and they broke the pedals free for me and gave me the brace and some foam padding to help in packing up the bike. Again we talked about the tour, and bikes, tire’s, etc. Great folks. My only regret is that I did not spend some money at their store. The store seems to specialize in folding bikes (they had a bunch of Bromptons) and city type bikes. The box they gave me was from an Electra Cruiser. I can’t say enough good about these folks.

Okay, rant over. The box turned out to be perfectly sized, or, really, I should say, if it was any smaller it would have been too small. But I got it all in there. The challenge was finding a place for the front rack. Anyway, it is all neatly packed into the box now.

I fit three of the panniers and stuff into the duffel, and I’ll check one of the large panniers (with the sleeping bag and clothes) separately.

I spent the afternoon updating the blog followed up by dinner at a neighborhood bar called Home & Away, that was just a few blocks from my motel. It was Taco Tuesday, so I had tacos – they were delicious.

PC Tour Day 26

May 30, 2016

San Juan Capistrano to San Diego

74.1 miles, 5:33 in the saddle, 2422 ft of climbing

Total Miles: 1469

The motel free breakfast opened at 6:30, and I was there. I enjoyed the waffle, eggs, sausage, etc. I was packed up and out the door about 7:30 for my last day on the road.

First up, was the 3.6 mile ride back down the flood control channel to Dana Point.

Bike Path down the flood control channel

Soon I was in San Clemente and was going to try to follow the circuitous ACA route, but was soon off route and googling a way through. I discovered (okay, Google showed me) a neat dirt bike path that took me through part of town and then back onto the route on Ola Vista and Ave. del Presidente (wasn’t Nixon from San Clemente?).

Dirt trail in San Clemente

San Clemente neighborhood

When Ave. del Presidente ended a bike path started, which was in places a former road, i.e., it was this huge expanse of pavement with nothing but a few bikes, and surfers hiking with their boards to some beach somewhere.
I passed the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant. Lots of security around the plant, but I thought it interesting that the sign near the main entrance did not say anything about Nuclear.

Then I entered San Onofre State Beach. This appeared to be a linear campground. The road went on for miles, with campsites lining the seaward side of the road. I mean miles and miles. Restrooms were spaced regularly along the route. But the ocean was not necessarily near by. It appeared that the ocean was a bit of hike down a bluff.

San Onofre SP, this went on for miles

Glimpses of the ocean

After Onofre, the road ended, well it continued, but as a bike path, onto Camp Pendleton according to the signage (but before the entrance gate). This went on for some miles, and was pleasant riding if not very scenic.

Old road as a bike path

I caught up to Logan just before the Pendleton Gate. He was riding along and chatting with a local guy on a Long Haul Trucker. He thought Logan would have no trouble getting onto the base to ride on through to Oceanside. With security and all, this has been a problem for some, and the alternative is to ride the I-5 shoulder through this section. But the shoulder has recently been closed for construction, meaning if you can’t go through the base you’re in a bit of a pickle. Pendleton’s website has a place to sign up in advance, that is supposedly necessary to get onto base.

Well, the senior marine at the gate appeared to be clueless about things, and the two other marines, who seemed to understand that all we wanted to do was get through the base to Oceanside, we’re obviously concerned about disagreeing with the more senior idiot. They checked our IDs, and let us through, but the idiot said we could not exit at Oceanside. So, I guess he was letting us in to just cycle around and come back? I tried explaining a bit, but eventually we just carried on, and of course had no trouble exiting at Oceanside.

I was glad to get off the base. Having worked for the Army on military installations for 15 years I know how anal and ridiculous they can be about things. The idiot at the gate had gone on and on about dangerous roads etc. There was hardly any traffic as we went through, and the roads were fine. Idiot. Sorry, it just irritates the dickens out of me, when they have a website with specific information, and then the man in charge at the gate is clueless about it.

Pendleton is a big installation! We finally exited though and were in Oceanside. We made our way to the Strand, the road/path by the beach. Here, Logan and I parted, this time for the last time. He was taking a break at the beach, while I continued on looking for a place for my second breakfast.

Near Carlsbad

Well, it wasn’t until 43 miles into the day and 11 am that I pulled into a small cafe in Leucadia and enjoyed my breakfast. Only 30 miles to go!

The road I was following eventually became N Torrey Pines Rd that dropped down to beach level and then started up what was a huge climb (it seemed to me). From my phone app it appears to have been 500 ft or so. Anyway, I was sweating buckets again, hoping this was the last big one. I eventually got to the top, where a group of cyclists high-five’d my valiant effort. Thanks guys.

After riding by all kinds of various research institutions (Scripps, Salk, etc.) and skirting the UC San Diego campus I cashed in the climb and dropped into La Jolla. This being Memorial Day, I guess, traffic was inching single file onto Coast Blvd, the beachside road in La Jolla and the ACA route. I decided to skip the traffic and headed down Prospect St. where I found a Starbucks to chill for a bit.

I googled my way across La Jolla and found another (using the bike routing) cool dirt bike trail that got me back to La Jolla Blvd and the ACA route.

La Jolla dirt bike path

Before I knew it I was on the Pacific Beach trail, another congested bike/pedestrian path along the beach running all the way to Mission Beach. I missed my turn onto Mission Bay Dr. and followed the beach all the way to the end, which I then had to backtrack a considerable distance around the Mariner Basin to get to Mission Bay Dr and the ACA route. I was a bit disgusted with myself for missing the turn, but it is actually kind of fun riding and dodging people down the beach paths.

Pacific Beach

At the bridge over the San Diego River, I left the ACA route for good to get to my motel just south of the Old Towne area and close to the airport. This took me up the San Diego River on a lonely, it seemed, San Diego River Pathway east to the Pacific Hwy, where I turned south and eventually onto San Diego Ave where I arrived at my motel at 2:45 pm, the ride done.

It was a bit anti-climatic. I supposed I should have asked the desk clerk to take a picture of me, but as Saree knows, I wasn’t inclined to do so. So here’s the noble Surly, done with the ride.

It was a relief to be done. I’m booked for a return flight to Anchorage on the 2nd. I got laundry going while I showered and then headed to Old Town for a pizza and a beer.

It’s been a great ride. I enjoyed the cycling immensely. I had great weather most of the time. It was never really hot. And I had great tailwinds for the majority of the ride. The uncertainty of where I would lay my head at the end of the day, what food I would need, etc., seemed to weigh on me more than it should. I’m still sorting out how I’ll deal with this on future tours, as I still want to tour again.

I plan a few future posts to talk about how my gear worked and general thoughts on the tour. I hope my posts were enjoyable and at least somewhat informative. I found writing the blog to be work, but therapeutic as well, as I think it helped me see what I had accomplished and reflect on what it meant.

PC Tour Day 25

May 29, 2016

Redondo Beach to Dana Point (San Juan Capistrano)

63.7 miles, 4:56 in the saddle, 1602 ft of climbing

Total Miles: 1394

After a first breakfast at a nearby Starbucks, I packed up in the motel room and rolled the bike out a little before 8. Robbie was in the parking lot getting his bike ready to go while Dayspring waited to see us off. Robbie has a cool steel, lugged bike with friction bar end shifters and a Brooks saddle, and rides in sandals and toe clips. Impeccable taste.

Me and Robbie – Great riding partner

We headed off right on time into the light Sunday morning traffic. Our route took us east across town for 10 miles or so where we turned south on the bike path along the LA River. We had a thoroughly enjoyable ride, chatting, and making good time through the urban streets.

I had been looking forward to seeing the LA River, the vast concrete flood control channel that it is at this point. And it didn’t disappoint. It actually has a bit of water flowing in it right now.

Robbie on the LA River Trail – the concrete riverbed is much bigger than it looks in this picture

The LA River trail dropped us into Long Beach, and we were soon winding around marinas, the Catalina Island ferry dock, and views across the bay of the Queen Mary. Then it was onto some more beach trail before veering inland and back on Hwy 1 to Seal Beach, where we found a local cafe for some breakfast.

Long Beach – The Queen Mary and me

Fueled up, we headed down Hwy 1 to Sunset Beach where we got on the beach trail for 10 miles or so to Huntington Beach. Boy, they like their beaches down here. Robbie and I continued to chat and enjoy the unhurried pace while still making good time.

After Huntington Beach we were back on Hwy 1 the rest of the ride, spending way too much time in the door zone. Traffic was heavy, but most of the time not moving a lot faster than we were. We took the full lane at times and had a few pesky folks honk at us.

Lamborghini – don’t see these much in Alaska

Robbie got a flat in Laguna Beach (I think) which came at a perfect time as I was needing a break. I munched on a Payday while he changed out his tube.

We rolled into Dana Point and decided to get pizza and a beer at a place just a few blocks from Doheny SP, my camp spot for the night. We were finishing up when Dayspring arrived to pick up Robbie. We said our goodbyes and I headed to Doheny. I really enjoyed the ride with Robbie today, and getting to know him.

At the Doheny entrance station, and was informed that they had no sites available, Hiker/Biker or otherwise. I called Logan and found that he was at the “Hiker/Biker” site indicated on the Doheny SB map, and it was just a patch of dirt behind some bathrooms. And no one was there. Logan had cycled into the park off the bike path and hadn’t ridden by the entrance station.

After cycling over to the site and talking with Logan I went back to the entrance station to see if they could do something for us. What they told me is that due to indigents, they no longer had a designated H/B site. They would place H/B’rs in a regular site if they were available, but when full, then they weren’t available. I pulled off to the side and spent 20 minutes or so on my phone trying to get a room with 2 beds that I could share with Logan. I finally booked on Expedia a room at what I thought was a nearby motel. Literally 2 minutes after I made the non-refundable booking the Ranger came over to me and said they could find me spot to camp. I told them I had a room but could my friend camp and they said yes. So Logan was able to camp (legitimately), and apparently even one more biker showed up.

I headed out for my motel, not too disappointed that I wouldn’t have to pitch my tent again, but then realized that my motel was 3.6 miles off route, inland, and of course up hill. Oh well. My Google routing took me up a bike trail along a big flood control channel. The path turned to gravel before I finally got to my motel in San Juan Capistrano. The room was very nice. I microwaved the big can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew that I had bought for dinner in camp. Life is good.

Am I ever going to get to my motel?

I have really enjoyed the cycling part of this tour. The remote highways and dirt roads, the urban streets and beach trails have all been fun. The camping day after day, and worries of where to camp, eat, get food, etc., have been less enjoyable for me. While I don’t mind camping for few days, I decided I really didn’t want to keep doing it for another month and a half. So, I’m looking forward to finishing my ride in San Diego tomorrow. More to follow!

PCS Day 24

May 28, 2016

Sycamore Canyon SP to Redondo Beach

50.1 miles, 3:59 in the saddle, 1270 ft of climbing

Total Miles: 1328

For some reason I didn’t write anything in my paper journal about today. I think I was preoccupied with getting a room lined up somewhere in LA and navigating through the city. When I stopped in Malibu at a McDonalds for a late 2nd breakfast, I spent my time booking a room in Redondo Beach for the night, and apparently didn’t write anything in my journal.

So, three days later when I’m writing this all I have to go on are my pictures and my memories which are now all melded together. And even the pictures don’t always bring back a recollection. For example, I’ve been through so many beach bike/pedestrian paths they all look pretty much the same. When I look at the pictures I have no idea which beach/town it was in. Fortunately the iPhone does record where the picture was taken.

Anyway, my notes say I left camp at 8 am. Before I broke camp I walked down to the beach.

Sycamore Canyon Campsite

Point Mugu State Park

The route was on Hwy 1 all the way to and through Malibu. Malibu is apparently about 27 miles long, with houses lining the space between the highway and the beach or bluff, and on the upland hills. Fancy houses. Seemed to go on forever.

Fancy Houses Downhill

Looking down the coast towards Santa Monica

Fancy Houses Uphill

Once into Santa Monica the route was almost entirely on beachfront bike/pedestrian paths. Interesting, and kind of fun riding, but not fast by any means.

Santa Monica Beach Bike/Pedestrian Path

Canal into the Marina Del Rey

Another selfie, because I know some folks (well, my mother anyway) like to see pictures of me

I was happy to pull into my motel about 2:30 pm. I contacted my niece, Dayspring, who lives in the LA area, and learned that my sister Peggy and her husband Doug were in town as well. So we made arrangements to meet (well, by that I mean they drove across town to meet me) for dinner.

I got my laundry done and then had an enjoyable dinner with Peggy, Doug, Dayspring, and her husband Robbie, who I had not actually met before.

And, we made plans for Robbie to meet me in the morning and complete the day’s ride to Dana Point with me.

And one other final announcement. I’m going to end the ride in San Diego, for a variety of reasons. I guess I should rename it the PC Tour, as I won’t be doing the Sierras, at least not right now. I’ll give more thoughts on this decision in following posts.

PCS Day 23

May 27, 2016

Refugio SP to Sycamore Canyon SP

81.2 miles, 5:50 in the saddle, 1798 ft of climbing

Total Miles: 1278

Today’s ride was supposed to be about 60 miles. But Logan, who was ahead of me after my stop in Santa Barbara for breakfast, called and discovered that McGrath SB is closed. I should have known myself, as the errata sheet with the ACA map indicated that the Hiker/Biker sites were closed.

Refugio Campsite in the early morning

Anyway, the only real choice was to continue on to Sycamore Canyon SP that had Hiker/Biker sites and showers, it would just make it an 80 mile day. With my long day yesterday I was not real excited about another one but it is what it is.

The ride into Santa Barbara involved more Hwy 1 in freeway configuration. While not quiet, or scenic, you actually make good time on roads like this, with a wide shoulder and easy grades.

Hwy 101 Freeway

So soon enough I was making my way through UC Santa Barbara on nice bike paths. I took the scenic route and wound all around campus before getting on more bike paths into Santa Barbara.

UC Santa Barbara

I eventually ran into Logan and we continued on to the beach where I saw a Sambos, so I pulled off and had breakfast. I had to wait a bit to get a seat outside where I could watch my bike. Apparently Sambos is pretty popular. The food was okay, nothing special.

Santa Barbara

It was 11:30 when I left Sambos and headed down access roads along Hwy 101, avoiding the freeway. A little before Carpinteria I got the call from Logan. And then as soon as I got going I had my first flat (rear wheel) of the trip. It was a small, rusty T-headed tack. I found a bit of lawn in the shade on the side of the road to change out the tube and was back on the road, starting to feel anxious about all the miles still left. I thought it was interesting that probably half a dozen cyclists passed me while I was changing the tube, and none said anything to me.

Leaving Carpinteria there is a long section of bike path adjacent to Hwy 101 that was pretty cool.

Bike Path along freeway

Eventually I ran into Logan again in Ventura. We rode together until I found a Subway, where I had a sandwich. I was feeling low on energy, and had that hungry-feeling-but-nothing-tastes-good thing going.

I felt a little better after getting food. The rest of the ride through Port Hueneme is not much to talk about. I stopped at small Food Market and got supplies for the evenings meal.

NAS Point Mugu

I was happy to pull into Sycamore Canyon a little after 5 pm. Nestled in trees and out of the wind, the H/B site was sort of overgrown with dry grass. But the showers were great and the dry grass made a nice place for the tents.

A gentleman talked with me for awhile about the ride and bikes. He later brought Logan and me hot bowls of chowder from Neptune’s Net, an apparently iconic restaurant nearby.

Good, if long day. When it’s all said and done it’s nice to have the extra miles done!