2014 Cascade Loop, Washington

This past May, Jessica (most people know her as JAC since those are her initials) and I left on a trip to Washington state immediately after finals. She wanted to recreate a trip that she had done many years ago that left her parents’ house in Snohomish, Washington, went up and over the Washing Pass in the Cascade Range, around central Washington, and up and over Stevens Pass on the way back to her parents’ house. She had remembered it being one of the most challenging bicycle trips she had ever been on and wondered whether or not moving to California and cycling year-round would make this trip any easier.

Conditions for this trip would be easier though since her parents offered to SAG for us the first three nights leaving us only the final two days of riding and one night on our own. Her previous ride was fully self-sufficient.

Day 1 Strava Upload

The first day took us from her parents’ front door to a town called Darrington. Because of the devastating mudslide that happened in Oso just a couple of months before our trip, JAC had decided to reroute us off of the main highway and onto a 15 mile gravel section. In true Washington fashion, the day was full of rain and it hardly let up. The gravel section started a little over an hour into our day and the first section was steep, muddy, and slippery. After we got into our groove in the mud and grit, we saw JAC’s parents for the first time in our ride and were happy to be greeted with hot drinks, chips and salsa. This particular day, it was really nice to have support as I don’t remember passing through many towns until we neared our cabin that evening.

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Day two took us up and over the Washington Pass in the Cascade Range. This was one of JAC’s more challenging days in the past, but because of all of the climbing we regularly do in the Oakland/Berkeley hills, we were pleasantly surprised about how gradual the climbing felt. This was the first time in our trip that we saw other cyclist. We even met a man – who had just set out on a journey to ride from the Washington coast to the Midwest – asleep in a ditch by the highway. This stretch of road is along the main transcontinental bicycle route, so we encountered one other couple making their way across the country. A group of five cyclists and JAC’s parents all converged upon a campsite that is just on the eastern side of the summit, where we feasted on teriyaki-chicken-and-bean wraps and shared stories in front of a campfire.

Day 3 Strava Upload

On day three, JAC’s dad Ed – who I discovered is the reason for JAC’s adventurous spirit – joined us for the 10-mile descent into Mazama. He shared with us that in retirement, it’s better to ride smart than hard. I think that’s something I will hold onto until I am a retired guy with a grin from ear to ear. Mazama, by the way, was one of the coolest little mountain towns on our trip. The market in town was a hub for climbers, skiers, and mountain bikers. I would love to make this a destination we stay at longer in the future when there is less road to cover. Most of the rest of the day felt like we were riding through a cowboy movie with all of the lush green pastures and countless river crossings. But all of the giant trucks and RVs made me feel like the cowboys had progressed to enjoy all the luxuries of modern America…maybe a little too much.

Day 4 Strava Upload

Days four and three seem a little blurred in my memory. Both were relatively flat days with a lot of rivers, but this was the day that we said farewell to JAC’s parents until we saw them again in Snohomish. They had treated us so well by spending their days leapfrogging us and providing us with nourishment for our bellies and our spirits. By this point in the trip, we had become accustomed to screaming “ROCKS” at each other every time we saw a diamond-shaped sign with ROCKS printed on it. We didn’t see as many rocks as the signs might have suggested. Also, we were curious if there were any mountain goats as the signs suggested as well. It turns out the mountain goats were just as elusive as the rocks, but we did spot a tribe of them.

Day 5 Strava Upload

On our solo night, we stayed with JAC’s friends Mark and Becky in a Bavarian-themed mountain town called Leavenworth. Every business in this town must adhere to the Bavarian theme, so even the McDonald’s has a funny little variation on its logo to match. We had our proper fill of beer since we in the rhythm of doing that every night after a big day of riding. To be honest, I could ride big and drink beer every day for the rest of my life and I probably would never get tired of it. Mark and Becky were fantastic hosts and it was especially a thrill to see them when it had felt like we were in the middle of Merica for several days. Our final day of riding was so, so sweet. It is always such a great feeling to have many miles behind you and to realize what distances can be traveled by bicycle alone. So many special things happen when you are 100% in the present just pedaling, breathing, eating, and experiencing.

2013 Cycling Year in Review – Spain

I like to profile some of my more memorable rides on this blog, and my summer trip to Spain and France was definitely one of the biggest highlights of my year. I recently became aware of the fact that I had only documented a single ride in 2013 and instead of letting these rides go unremembered, I decided that I would do a few posts as a cycling year in review.

This past July, I met up with a friend of mine from my cycling club, Silas, and we decided to explore the cycling outside of Girona, Spain. I had read various articles over the years profiling Girona as a hub for professional cyclists to live and train during the months surrounding the European cycling calendar. Already having plans to travel to the French Alps for the Tour was a great excuse to take a small excursion to Basque country to see what kind of cycling Spain has to offer.

The riding did not disappoint. On day one, we took a train about an hour outside of Barcelona where we rode through the Spanish countryside pacelining on the shoulder of rural highways, meandering through small farm roads, and taking several gravel roads in our pursuit of the Mediterranean. We tried to navigate based off of screenshots of routes Silas had found online, and based off of my Strava upload, you can clearly see that we had no idea where we were going most of the day. Nonetheless, the riding was so much fun. Our ride took us to a beach town called Sant Feliu de Guíxols, where we ordered a couple of blended cocktails and gave our feet a soak in the cool Mediterranean.

On day two, we were determined to find some of the climbing that famously surrounds Girona. I had heard stories of professional cyclists using these mountains to train for the Grand Tour events, and Silas and I figured we better test our legs for the French Alps and the week following. We took the train from Barcelona to Girona again and headed in the direction of Salt. Just past Salt, we began to see trails alongside the pavement and many mountain bikers. It felt like a significant contrast to the day before when we only saw the seldom road cyclist racing along the highway shoulders.

Without much planning or any clear idea of where we were headed, Silas and I took a turn off of the main road at what appeared to be a municipal building. The road followed the Riu Ter for a while with a gentle incline and we continued to see more and more cyclists which was very comforting. As we made our way up the river, we began to notice that the climbing that lay ahead would be very substantial. Around one bend, we came upon a group of five Catalan cyclists who were fixing a flat. We offered them help in Spanish, “Ustedes necesitan ayuda?” of which they kindly declined. After the first pitch of the climb, we were atop a several-hundred-foot tall dam and we decided to ride the road that connected the two sides. After that little diversion, we began to leapfrog the group of cyclists we happened upon earlier since some of them were faster and some slower than our pace.

They soon became very friendly with us and began to chat and joke around in Catalan while we tried our best to communicate back in Spanish. From some of what I could vaguely decipher from the words that sounded similar in Spanish and the body gesturing, I had the impression that they thought we were young, strong, and fast. We continued to ride as a pack at that point and the climbing just continued. After roughly 3,500 feet of climbing, the group pulled off at what I can imagine as one of the loneliest restaurants atop a Spanish Col. Silas and I continued up a dirt and gravel road so we could truly see the top, but as it turns out, the restaurant had the best vantage point.

We descended back to the restaurant to be greeted by the same group of boisterous cyclist, now merrily eating regional cuisine and sipping wine from a very peculiar, but elegant looking vessel. They quickly yelled a bunch of greeting in Catalan and waved us over to a couple of empty seats at their table. Then they proceeded to teach us the proper way to drink wine in Catalonia. The vessel had one large opening like the opening of a carafe and another small pointy opening that narrowed to about the size of an eye dropper. Wine was poured from the the smaller opening straight into the mouth and the arm was extended as far as possible. Then everyone cheered.

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2013 Lean Legs and Ham Permanent

Since I started school about a year ago, my mileage has been showing a pattern of dropping off significantly during the semester and rising significantly when on break. I decided I would try to squeeze in some bigger rides in the month of January, and yesterday I went on probably the coldest ride I have ever been on.

It was 28 degrees at 7AM when we set out on our ride. I wore more clothes than I have on any previous ride and almost decided against some of the articles of clothing thinking that I would be too warm on the ride. My feet were numb for the first couple hours of the ride, my hands cold throughout the ride (even with two pairs of gloves), and I had a couple of uncontrollable bouts of shivers.

Yet somehow even with 125 miles of frosty roads and over 11,000 feet of climbing, our band of six randonneurs managed to maintain smiles throughout the day and kept our curses (towards the jerks that thought this ride would be a good idea) to a minimum.

It’s funny the things you will put yourself through in order to forge an epic ride into your memory.

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SCR Dart and Fixed 200k

This month has been pretty exciting in terms of riding with randonneurs. Earlier in the month, I rode the Santa Cruz Randonneurs’ Dart. I did this ride with another team last year and it was a ton of fun. The format forces you to stay together as a team and use the full duration of time (in this case 13.5 hours for 200 kilometers). It’s much more social than other rides and the past two have ended at the Tied House Brewery which in my books is the ultimate way to end a ride.

On the ride, some of my friends had the idea to do a similar route, but on fixed gear bicycles. So we did. I unfortunately didn’t snap any photos on this ride, but the ride was equally awesome although a touch more challenging. To date, it’s the longest fixed gear ride I’ve been on by far.

Santa Cruz Randonneurs Dart: Strava Upload
Fixed 200k: Strava Upload

2012 French Alps

I never thought it would happen to me. Love at first sight is so cliché.

I have been back now for two weeks and I still can’t get France off of my mind. I’m beginning to feel like a bit of a jerk every time my face lights up and I describe how incredible the cycling was in the French Alps. Mt. Tam seems so vanilla now that I’ve tasted 4,000 foot climbs, glacial runoff more turquoise than turquoise, endless hairpins, and screaming descents.

The guys over at Mission Cycling had planted a seed in my head when they mentioned they were planning to go to France this year. One thing that I have been learning about the MC guys is that they execute: custom jerseys celebrating the town of Venosc, a professional photographer on our Alpe d’Huez day, stage 11 of the Tour de France, and an authentic French dining experience.

I just can’t get it out of my mind. 300 miles and 30,000 feet of climbing and the most memorable week of cycling I have ever experienced. I need to get back to France!

Day 1Strava Upload

Day 2Strava Upload

Day 3Strava Upload

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Day 5Strava Upload

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Day 7Strava Upload

Photos by Vianney Tisseau on Day 3

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Day 3 Photos by Vianney Tisseau

Credit Card Touring: San Francisco to San Luis Obispo

These past few weeks have been incredible. I just returned home from Europe after spending a week in France cycling the Alps and catching a stage of the Tour de France followed by some time spent in Barcelona. What I am about to recall is not the freshest thing in my mind, but it was such an awesome experience it has to be written about.

The weekend prior to embarking on my European adventure, my neighbor Michael and I rode our bicycles from our front doors near Golden Gate Park down to San Luis Obispo over the course of three days. A year prior, he and his wife got married and instead of having a bachelor party he wanted to go on a “mancation.” We had discussed different routes and San Francisco to San Luis Obispo seemed the best fit for our calendars.

The route planning involved looking over a California road map and calculating different distances to resting points in Google Maps. We ran different scenarios and ultimately chose to ride along Highway 1 for a majority of the trip since we didn’t want to miss the stretch of the 1 that runs through Big Sur. We kind of just winged it in terms of navigation, but in retrospect I probably would have liked to have a map from Adventure Cycling since we ran into some hiccups along our course.

Gear:

Since we had a fair amount of distance to cover each day, we wanted to keep gear to a minimum, and we chose to stay at motels which also eliminated the need for camping gear. I was able to fit all of the gear in my handlebar and saddle bag. Michael was able to get everything into a backpack. This is roughly what I brought for three days of riding and one day of travel on AmTrak.

2 Jerseys
3 Bibs
3 Pairs of Cycling Socks
1 Cycling Wind Jacket
1 Wool Base Layer
1 Pair of Arm Warmers
2 Cycling Caps
1 Pair of Mountain Bike Shoes
3 Water Bottles (I have a third water bottle cage.)
1 Frame Pump
1 Set of Allen Wrenches
2 Tubes
1 Patch Kit
3 Pairs of Underwear (I probably could have done with less since I really only slept in them.)
2 T-shirts
1 Pair of Shorts
1 Pair of Flip Flops
Toothbrush, Floss, and Paste
Endurolyte Pills, Gels, and Bars

With all of my gear and filled bottles, my bike ended up weighing in around 38 pounds.

Day 1: San Francisco to Monterey – 125 Miles
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This was our “big” day for the trip. We had decided we were going to make a push to Monterey instead of staying the night in Santa Cruz since every inexpensive option to stay the second night in Big Sur was booked. Staying in Big Sur would have allowed us to create three days of similar distance, but since that was not an option, we had to front load the mileage.

Day one was full of mechanical issues, which seems to be expected when you are aiming to have a bit of an adventure. About a half a mile from home, Michael had to turn around to address a loose cleat and wobbly tire while I chose to add another bottle cage to my bike to bring a third water bottle. Around Half Moon Bay, Michael ran over a staple which was complicate by a valve on the replacement tube snapping in half. I ran over a drill bit near Pescadero that came out through the sidewall of my tire and that too was followed by a second flat just down the road.

The ride from San Francisco to Santa Cruz I have done a few times at this point. The only variation this time was to take Devil’s Slide just south of Pacifica. We decided on taking this path to minimize the amount of climbing, however, the tradeoff is a narrow windy road with very little shoulder and cars that travel near highway speeds. About 10 miles north of Santa Cruz, we passed by Swanton Berry Farm. I have yet to pass Swanton Berry Farm without stopping. Their strawberry shortcake is delicious and their self-service cash register is a reminder that honest people still exist.

The road past Santa Cruz was a bit tricky. We knew that keeping parallel to Highway 1, which was no longer suitable to ride on, would keep us moving in the direction toward Monterey. Meandering through neighborhoods and beach parking lots, we ran into a couple of dead end streets. Eventually we emerged onto a bike lane that ran through the farmlands of Watsonville and further south to the northern edge of Marina where we were forced onto the highway for a short stretch. At this point, the winds had shifted to a headwind and my tired legs and hungry stomach made me long to be done for the day. After not wanting to be on the highway any longer and exiting on a Marina off ramp, we were pleased to find a series of bike paths taking us through Marina, past the CSU Monterey campus, and into Monterey.

Day 2: Monterey to San Simeon – 110 Miles
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We awoke with sore legs and our bare chested Scandinavian neighbor barking some orders to somebody off in the distance. A few issues to tackle first thing in the morning then we were off.

We continued along the series of bike paths in Monterey down to Cannery Row then through Pacific Grove where we would grab breakfast. If there was a theme to our trip, it easily could have been amazing breakfasts. We were not shy when we ordered breakfast sandwiches, sides of pancakes, and extra syrup.

Growing up in Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Carmel Valley when I was in elementary school, this segment of the ride brought me back to my childhood. From Pacific Grove, we turned onto 17 Mile Drive which took us into Pebble Beach and past some of the most famous golf courses in the world. Looking at the golfers and their caddies, we smiled knowing their experiences were great, but that ours would be grand. Passing by an older English gentleman towards the edge of Pebble Beach, we struck up a conversation which led to him leading us through Carmel and to the mouth of Highway 1, which would lead us along some of the most beautiful coastline in America.

The conditions were absolutely beautiful that day. It was a surreal mix of sun and fog which made the dramatic coastline even more so. We rolled into Big Sur just past noon where we would sit down at The Maiden Publick House for a proper English meal. I could have easily sat there all day, sipped on microbrews, and enjoyed the shade of the redwoods, but we still had nearly 80 miles of rolling coastline to reach our next destination, San Simeon.

We got back on our bikes, slightly drunk from all of the calories, and pushed on. I wanted to stop every five minutes or so to snap a photo, but I knew if I did we wouldn’t make our destination before nightfall. We passed through towns every 25 miles just as our new English friend, Bill, had told us we would. We rode into the mist head on and emerged above a sea of fog just to descend right back into it at the next bend. It was dizzying at times to look over the roadside barriers that were knee high to see a sheer cliff that dropped straight into the ocean 600 feet below.

What an amazing day!

Bill warned us of a climb that had five false peaks and after every climb that felt beyond moderate, Michael and I would assure each other that the last one was it. We began what we thought would be our final descent. Descending to only feet above sea level, we arrived at the base of the climb. Bill wasn’t kidding. There were exactly five times when I said, “Fuck. That wasn’t the top?”

The sun began setting behind the ocean cliffs at our backs as we made our way slightly inland to the final stretch of the day. With a stiff tailwind and a mysterious fog straight out of Treasure Island, we formed a paceline and ripped through the final 20 or so miles of the day. The sun had set as we emerged back on the coast with rolling hillsides to our left. The moon lit up the night and off in the distance we could see the lights of Hearst Castle and San Simeon.

Day 3: San Simeon to San Luis Obispo – 45 Miles
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With all of the mileage in the bank, day 3 was all about relaxation. We stopped in Cambria for another big breakfast where I discovered that country potatoes taste better with maple syrup than they do with ketchup. We rolled along Highway 1 in the direction of Los Osos where we planned to make a left turn at some point to go to San Luis Obispo. With time at our disposal, we took every opportunity to roll down gravel roads, dirt paths, beach walkways, and swamp crossings.

Taking the final left at Los Osos, Michael thought it would be a good time to drop the hammer. We would be going “Cancellara” pace for the rest of the way. I tried to suck wheel for as long as possible, but with a 38 pound bicycle it was hard to maintain 27 miles per hour.

As we rolled through San Luis Obispo and took the final turn to our motel, we were greeted with cheers from a group of cyclists having beers at Central Coast Brewing. They poured us fresh pints and made the perfect ending to a perfect tour!

Flickr Gallery

2012 Davis Double Century

I finished the Davis Double this past Saturday for the third time (1st and 2nd)! This time around was pretty challenging since I had only around 700 miles on my bike for the entire year going into this event. I have been attending an evening MBA program and still hold my full time job, so cycling had really been pushed down on the priorities…unfortunately.

It was a bit of an experiment to see if my body really does require a lot of training miles in order to complete a double century. I found that my body, especially my wrists and feet, did not hold up as well as last year and I definitely found it to be a bit of a mental challenge around 160 miles.

This year I had a special treat though. My parents volunteered on the ride and gave me some much needed support on Resurrection Hill at mile 135. Thanks Mom and Dad!!!

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