Monday, June 21, 2010

Mt Tam and then Mt Tam….

This past Saturday a bunch of us met up at Chrissy Field in the City to ride across the Golden Gate Bridge and up through Marin.

It was cold in the east bay and I assumed it would be the same over there so I packed a bunch of warm clothes. Turns out it was cold and very windy at the beach, but once we had crossed the bridge the weather turned nice.

As a matter of fact, I took off my jacket and then spent the rest of the day either sliding the arm warmers up or down depending on which direction we were headed.

Jerry had a couple of different routes scheduled, but the longest was only 53 miles and 3900ft of climbing. Seeing as the Death Ride is in a few weeks I had emailed Bob to see if he and Leticia were doing something a little longer.

It turns out they were doing Jerry’s ride, but if I was interested Bob would come up with something that had a little more mileage and a little more climbing. Immediately I fired off an email saying yes, I’d love to do that. And immediately after that I realized what I had just done...

Bob is one of the fastest climbers and strongest riders I know. And, in a moment of stupidity, I had just agreed to ride with him...this is not going to end well...

We met up, and along with Bob was his friend Larry and a new rider David who said he had only had his bike a couple of months and my buddy Troy. Ok, so maybe there was hope for me afterall. out David was a total climber and the four of them were waiting for me at the top of every climb. It’s not that I’m not in shape and it’s not that I’m a total slug, it’s just that my climbing pace is much slower than pretty much everyone else that I know. (yeah, I guess I should work on that)

So, after crossing the GG Bridge, we headed through Sausalito and into Marin where we started up Mt Tam. MT Tam is a really pretty climb and although the roads are narrow, the traffic never really seems to be too bad. The weather turned out to be much nicer than I expected and the views all day long were just incredible.

Once we got to the top we headed north and then instead of going east down to Alpine Dam as I thought we would, we headed west down to Stinson Beach. I’d never been to Stinson and it’s really a neat little area. The only down side is I could look up and see the top of the hill where I had been and where I knew I had to climb back to.

Sure enough, we started climbing again. First on Hwy 1 out of Stinson then turning inland along the Panoramic Hwy back up towards Mt Tam. (yeah, starting to feel like I had just been here)

This time after hitting the top and heading back down we did go east towards Alpine Dam. This is a steep, twisting, narrow downhill section that forces you to stay alert and pay attention. Definitely not my strong suit at this point in the day, but all ended well.

Once you cross the dam, you begin your climb out of the valley. This actually went better than I expected and once we were back in Fairfax (and flat ground) I actually felt pretty good.

On the next to the last climb as you come out of Corte Madera we ran into Leticia and the other group. They had done the normal loop and seemed to be having a good time.

There’s one last climb as you come out of Sausalito and while it’s not really that bad, at the end of a long day and directly into a strong headwind pretty much took the last remaining gas out of my tank.

Evidently we had been spared the wind by the terrain we were riding in because once we got out on to the bridge to come back to the City, it was howling. It was blowing so hard that at one point, coming around the towers, I came to complete standstill and almost tipped over...

Eventually though, we got back to the parking lot, enjoyed a nice cold one and headed home. What a great ride. And as for everyone waiting for me at the top of every hill...thanks guys and sorry if I held up the pace.

Monday, June 14, 2010


The tagline on my blog is random thoughts on random stuff and that’s really what this blog has become for me.

Granted, the underlying theme of the blog and, the majority of what I post, are cycling related, but to be honest, I only post about 70% of what I write.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve found that writing is a good way for me to process and even organize some of the stuff that bounces around in my head. Several times, I’ve written about issues I’m concerned or conflicted about, but have only done so to help me figure things out and not to put out for mass consumption.

Today is one of those posts that wasn’t going to be for you, but for’s one more example of random stuff bouncing around in the head of a lunatic that was put down to help me process things. I realized though, after writing it, that I should go ahead and post it since it really is about a celebration.

This past Saturday my youngest graduated from UC Santa Cruz. It was both a joyous and sad time for me. Obviously I’m thrilled that now both of our kids have finished college with a 4 year degree, but at the same time, it means that our kids are growing up and becoming their own people.

As we become parents, the focus of our lives changes. It becomes less about what we want and who we are and more about meeting the needs of our kids and helping them become the people we hope they will be.

In the earliest stages this is exemplified by midnight feedings, diaper changes and sitting and holding them when they cry.
Later, its homework, parent-teacher meetings, dance recitals and soccer practice. Never mind that you’ve worked all day or would rather watch the ballgame on television.
Eventually, its driving tests, SAT tests, college applications, listening to their boyfriend problems or maybe, if you're one of the lucky parents deep theological discussions that start just about the time you want to go to bed...

The common thread here is that they need us as parents to help them through situations and hopefully to teach them how to resolve issues on their own in the future. And we do it gladly all the while thinking that one of these days they’ll be able to handle these things on their own and we can spend some time focusing our own lives, our own challenges, our own hopes and dreams.

Never though, during the process do we realize that THIS is our life. THIS is why we’re here.
It's not until later when we're sitting in the bleachers watching them walk across a stage and receive their college diploma that it dawns on us.

Only then do we realize that a major chapter of our lives has ended and a new one is beginning, a chapter in which they’re more independent, more self sufficient and less reliant on us for every decision and situation.
And, with this realization, come the insecurities...

Did I spend enough time with them to let them know how important they are?
Did I show them that character is more important than appearance so they can see through the facades people put up?
Did I show them kindness so they might be kind to others?
Did I show them generousity so they would be willing to share with others?
Did I show them the difference between right and wrong so they would be willing to fight against unrighteousness in the world?

There's no doubt they’re still going to make some bad decisions no matter what we tell them. And, I guess for some kids, no matter what you've taught them, they would rather learn the hard way. Hopefully though, we’ve done our jobs correctly and we’ve raised good, kind, decent kids.

The amazing thing about all of this is that we're living proof that just about anyone that is willing to really make the effort can do it. When I look at the kids my wife and I raised, I’m constantly amazed that, even with me as her partner, (a significant handicap I’m sure you’ll agree) we’ve raised and delivered into the world, two smart, kind, well adjusted, people.

So, yes, while the youngest has now graduated and will go out into the world as an adult and we won’t be quite as involved in her day to day life, I’m celebrating the fact that she is an awesome “kid” and like her sister is still willing to hang out with a couple of old people and pretend they’re still listening when we talk...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Taming the Monster....

Well, this past Sunday was the Mendocino Monster. I felt pretty good about this ride up until the day before the event. This was to be the inaugural Mendocino Monster and according to the website, it was billed as 107 miles and approx 8000ft of climbing.

No problem right? I’m ready for that. Of course a couple days before the event, Tracy noticed that although the website said 8000ft of climbing, the GPS graph at the bottom showed 11,500 ft of I was ready for, 11,500 not so much.

I guess what they say is true. Ignorance really is bliss, because this little piece of knowledge took a ride I was excited about and looking forward to and changed it into a ride I was now stressing about and wondering if I could finish.

Tracy, Troy and I headed up to Ukiah Saturday afternoon and, after checking into the resort known as Motel 6, we met up with Bob, Leticia, Bill and Gail at the Ukiah Brewing Company. They had opted to spend the extra cash and upgrade to the 1½ star Super 8 motel instead of where we stayed across the street from the airport.

Normally, I would tell you that I’ve never met a brewpub I didn’t like, and for the most part, that’s still true. But this place may be the first brewpub I’m in no hurry to visit again.
The beer, I had the Pt Arena Pale Ale, was very good and the place itself is a cool old brick building, the server was friendly and helpful, the downfall of this place really is the food. And it’s not even that the food is bad. It’s not. It’s just that the portions are so small that we were talking about hitting up the pizza place afterwards. Luckily Tracy and Troy ordered the 1lb platter of fries so we filled up on those instead.

After dinner we headed back to our resorts and everybody turned in fairly early.
Sunday we awoke at 5:00 and headed for McD’s to fuel up for the big ride. How big it would be we weren’t exactly sure, but figured it was better to plan for the worst. In addition to our sausage mcmuffins, we got to meet some of the local folk. (its interesting the people you meet in the Ukiah McD's at 5:00am)

After breakfast and the sideshow, we all met up again at Mendocino College and after registering and filling out our liability forms (which pretty much said, if you crash, become dismembered, die or get lost and eaten by bigfoot, you can’t sue us) we headed out.

The first couple of miles are nice and easy, but right about mile 2 you begin to climb. And you keep climbing for the next 7 or so miles.

After every uphill is a downhill and this is usually one of the rewards for the effort spent climbing. The problem with this ride is that the roads are so rough, that the downhill portions beat me up almost to the point that I would rather have kept climbing. (almost)

This being their inaugural event, I would have expected some issues or learning experiences on this ride. Unmanned or ill-prepared rest stops, bad road markings, incorrect maps, etc. But we didn’t have any of those issues. This was one of the best supported rides I’ve done. All the rest stops we well stocked (except the last one which ran out of water but that was only about a 10 minute delay from what I understand), everyone was really friendly and seemed glad to have us there, and the food and snack options were great. (how can you beat lox and bagels for breakfast?)

Eventually we made it to the coast and headed north on Hwy 1 for a little while before turning back inland on Comptche Ukiah Rd. Surprise, surprise…more climbing….
After some climbing we had the best downhill of the day. The section heading back into Comptche school was the most amazingly smooth, fast, swoopy downhill we had experienced all day. And, of course a great song was on my iPod so I was in heaven as we motored through the redwoods.

We rolled into the rest stop at Comptche school and were once again treated and fed very well by the volunteers. Troy had been dealing with a squeak in his pedal and the mechanic on-site, Dr Sprocket, adjusted and tightened his cleat and lubed his pedals.

As is always the case though, all good things must end and the nice smooth downhill run, ended abruptly after lunch with some of the steepest climbs of the day. For the remainder of the day we would alternate between bad roads and dirt/gravel roads. The funny thing is the site boasted about riding 30 miles on closed private roads and granted, we didn’t see any cars for that section, but I think it’s mainly because a car couldn’t handle it.

Mile 72 or so was the beginning of the end. From there until mile 95 we climbed….and climbed…until eventually 2000ft or so later we came up to the last rest stop. And although they were out of water, they had great snacks and a little ex-up set up where you could get out of the sun. The view from the top, like the rest of the route, was absolutely beautiful!

The downhill, which should have been a reward, turned into a beating. Between the dirt/gravel sections and the paved/potholed sections I think I may have been more tired after the downhill section that I was on the uphill section.

Soon enough though, we rolled back into town and up the hill to the college. One of the really nice things about this ride was that they had opened the locker room for the riders and a nice cool shower felt amazing. This was followed by a fantastic tri-tip BBQ before getting on the road back home.

It turns out that both the website and the GPS graph were wrong. I ended up with 109 miles and 9800ft of climbing and, although the condition of the roads was really bad, the support, the volunteers, the scenery and the climbing will make this a regular on my schedule in years to come.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

It must be Spring Time!

Saturday, being the last weekend before the Mendocino Monster, Tracy and I were looking for a nice long ride with some decent climbing. Since we had limited time, we decided to loop two of our local rides together, the Palomares and the Calaveras Loops.

I started at my house, rode over to his house and we headed out for the Alameda Creek Trail.

Immediately I could tell that something was different. The trail was pretty busy with walkers and cyclists from Union City all the way to Fremont. Yep, first nice weekend of the year...

From there we rode out Niles Canyon, which because it’s so busy is one of my least favorite rides, and out to Palomares Canyon. Palomares is the exact opposite of Niles. If you see more than a couple cars, its rush hour and Saturday was no exception. I think I saw 2 cars and one cyclist. (I’m used to being passed by cars, but even the cyclist went by me like I was in reverse)

Palomares is a nice climb, followed by a great downhill and takes you out to Dublin Canyon Rd which is also a climb followed by a nice fast downhill. Dublin Canyon has quite a bit more traffic but also has a really nice wide bike lane.

From there we turned on to Foothill Rd where Tracy decided to pick up the pace. We hammered from Dublin all the way to Sunol at 20+ mph and when we finally pulled in to the market in Sunol, my legs were pretty well cooked so we decided on lunch and a Gatorade.

Note to Self – no matter how hungry you are, pre-packaged turkey sandwiches from an out of the way market are NEVER a good idea on a ride.

Adequately fueled, we started out on the second leg of our ride. Calaveras is another local, very low traffic, very scenic ride

and it seems like we weren’t the only ones that thought so.
We must have seen at least 50 other riders on Calaveras Rd. Granted, the further out we got, the fewer we saw, but still. A ton of riders were out enjoying one of the first really nice weekends of the year.

By the time we came out the other side of Calaveras at Ed Levin Park, I was feeling pretty spent which surprised me. Last weekend we had done almost 100 miles with double the climbing and I felt good. I’m guessing the pace we were going had everything to do with it as we hadn’t done that many miles or that much climbing.

Of course once you get out of Calaveras there’s the nice long, slightly uphill Mission Bl to deal with...Did I mention it had gotten windy?? And it was blowing north to south?? As in the exact opposite direction we were headed??

Eventually though, Tracy split off for home, I continued another few blocks and thankfully turned west and towards the house...

All in all, 78 miles 4300 ft of climbing...although it felt like more...