I got caught by Starla in my Bike Central T-Shirt on a day I planned to ride...somewhat. Starla was ill, and I had been and had almost recovered. I was going to do the UCSD to Carlsbad Village ride I'd done two weeks before. However after that ride, I fell ill, and, well, didn't ride so much. But, armed with renewed health, and the new Wilco album, supported by the tiny desk concert , I made my way up the coast again. Thanksgiving and Christmas reservations at Joshua Tree loom, so I can no longer submit to depression, and I have to get fit for the 8 mile climb into the park. I guess it's for the best...we'll see what Gram Parsons has to say.
As much as I've tried to make this edition of returning to cycling after injury proceed in as conservative fashion as possible, eventually, I was going to start passing some mileposts. While most of the mileposts are long gone from the Coast Route--except for a couple on the Torrey Pines Grade--my personal ones are starting to add up. Last Friday, while descending the TP Grade, I was calculating the miles I'd ridden that week (instead of paying attention to what I was doing), and I discovered that when I got home, I'd have over 100 miles ridden for the week. After the descent, while smugly snuggling in that warm thought, a rider passed me, but it was not one of the ordinary riders who frequently passes me these days, but rather it was John Howard. While normally my ego would be aflame by being passed by someone 15 years older than me, mine was assuaged by the fact that he is the land speed record holder on a bicycle, so I should expect to, if my bicycle had doors, have them blown off. Anyway, he's lived in the area longer than me, and I recognized him from my previous experiences of him effortlessly riding past me. When am I gonna catch up?
However, the day before yesterday, I had laid all items in preparation, and I whispered to Starla when she stopped by to revel in her post-defense, anti-intellectualist celebration that I was going to ride my entire commute the next day. Sadly, since I told her that, I was obliged to follow through. Fortunately, along with having work clothes and lunch ready, I had prepped my Masi for action.
Despite the fact I hadn't ridden my Masi in almost two years, I headed off on it at 5:40am to points south. I went from completely awkward to somewhat awkward in the first five miles, then moved on from there. It was a fine early morning, and the rolling terrain lead me to La Costa Blvd where I tucked in to my aero bars...and I realized how unfit I was! A quick diversion took me to Piraeus St. (which has a non-traditional intersection with Leucadia Blvd.), then once through a traffic circle, I rode a nostalgic route through the remainder of the "Leu" to Vulcan. From there, then to the coast route, the ride was quick, and would have been uneventful except for my boss catching me in my aero bars by Seaside. Still, despite the Law Enforcement/Special Olympics torch relay, the remainder of the ride to UCSD was uneventful.
Riding home was an exercise in conservation, and a headwind drove the exercise home. Still, with no choice but to gut it out and aero bars for the open stretches, the slog north on the coast route was doable. Turning right and with the wind on Cannon Rd really changed the whole atmosphere. Success was only a few miles away, and after the College Blvd climb, it was only a matter of moments before I was at Bottle Bin:
Would you believe that every can in that bag is now empty???
Yes, it was a good Bike to Work Day. My Nineteenth. Wearing my well preserved 1993 Bike to Work Day T-Shirt, I biked, trained, trained, then biked to work. The fine UCSD assembly awaited me, with lots of riders, vendors, and staffers welcoming me. I chatted with long-time riding companions and got, not only a t-shirt, but a prize, a bold cup of coffee, and a couple of tasty treats. No beers, however, but it's bike to work after all.
Later, Starla of singlespeedsanity fame stopped in, and updated me on her defense, which is May 26th. Afterwards, she departs to Munich to ride to Athens. She'll let you know how many speeds it takes.
Next was Ride Home from Work Day, and the weather and wind was perfect. I had no desire to shoot pictures, so you'll have to take my word for it. Monday rolled around quickly, and I took my truck in for service, then rode the remaining 2/3rds of the way to work. It was an awful, damp headwind I rode into, but the return trip had a reverse of the wind, and I collected my serviced truck in a satisfied way. However, this meant I didn't have my bike at Sorrento Valley, so I rode Tuesday to Oceanside Transit Center and loaded the Heron on the Coaster. I stopped on the way to snap a pic of the latest mural for my bud Katie:
The Heron and I made it to Sorrento Valley, then to work and back. Secured in it's locker, I double-trained, then cycled, home. All bikes were now pre-positioned for the rest of the week, and with plenty of "barley pop" in hand, we'll get through it.
Because of the news that Sunday night, I knew the following Monday morning's ride would be enjoyable. However, I hate to break it to anyone who happened to stop breathing that Sunday and who was now feeding the fishes in some ocean depths, but Monday morning was a spectacularly nice day:
However, the big goal Monday morning was to not forget to stop at Swamis to see the Moai carving. It seems a Torrey Pine was infested with the bark beetle and had to be cut down this January, but the best was made of it. I pulled into the roadside park in the early morning calm, and snapped a few photos:
From there, the Commuter Challenge raged on, and the week continued with bikes, trains, and lockers until Friday. My colleague Doug told me about the guy that used to be on crazyguyonabike.com, but is now fattiredrifter.com , and is now on his way from Beijing to somewhere in Europe. Consequently, Friday's ride didn't seem all that long, but after cresting the climb on College at Tamarack, the descent to Vista Way seemed kinda slow. Plus, there was this odd sound...and when I looked down, the front tire seemed to have a configuration that it really shouldn't.
Still, there wasn't the disheartening rapid innertube decompression accompanied by catastrophic air loss. Instead, the tire just got softer as I descended the hill. Since the bottom of that hill is a busy place and a bad spot to fix a puncture, I thought I'd see if I could get to a quieter place to make a repair. I was able to nurse it onto Vista Way, ironically across the street from the hospital emergency room that I visited last year, and I thought I'd try putting air in the tube and seeing if it would hold long enough. It seemed firm enough to continue on, and much like Johan Vansummeren at Paris-Roubaix this year, I limped on my deflating tire to burritos and beer before home much like how Vansummeren held off the charging Fabian Cancellara. Mine was at a lower speed, of course, but the reward was likely equal.
Since then, the remainder of the Commuter Challenge has gone well. I haven't driven my truck in a month, and I wonder if it will still start. I'll give it a test this weekend, but tomorrow is the finale of the Challenge--Bike to Work Day! While most places hold this high holiday on Thursday, San Diego is sublimely intelligent by holding it on Friday, so that Bike Home from Work Day can be much more relaxed. Oddly enough, California Bicycle Commute Week has coincided with the Tour of California, and it was indeed exciting for me to watch my former Swami's teammate Chris Horner stomp the competition on Sierra Road to take the lead in the race. I'll be sneaking a peak at the time trial tomorrow, and glued to the screen on Saturday to see if he can win this thing. If you've never had the pleasure of riding with Chris Horner, I can tell you that he is the guy vanishing in the distance when you can briefly look up as you ride at your max. He had a long, blonde ponytail when he rode on Swami's, but unlike Sampson, losing his hair only made him stronger.
This Thursday kicked off the Bicycle Commuter Challenge at UCSD, and I dove in to do my part. But previously, I had to negotiate a new, power pop fueled preparation. Vacation over Finals Week and Spring Break had to be taken, but on the days of good weather, I had doctor's appointments at the hospital next to the university where I work. Thus, commutes eerily similar to the ones I do when not on vacation were done. However, leaving the hospital, I could take the long way to the train station, and I could take in an alternate view of the Penasquitos Lagoon.
In fact, on the second day of vacation/doctor's appointments, I took my bike home on the train. I used to do this on a daily basis, and I hated it because bicycle-by-rail culture is not very advanced in North San Diego County. However, on an early afternoon Coaster in March, conditions aren't so bad.
This winter's blend into spring was quite rainy for this here locale, and it seemed to rain every day I had off. When I returned from vacation, I had gotten out of the cycle commuting rhythm I'd established. I took to walking down to the train station from work, because the idea of transporting a bicycle to UCSD by riding it there seemed more and more difficult. However, I got really drunk on a Sunday, and the next day's hangover somehow inspired me to make my long commute. No matter what, no commute will seem that bad, so, of course, the first ride back home involved this vision.
In fact, it was quite a traffic stopper.
So, I had no problem going a little out of my way to pick up a beer or two on the way home. I also planned for the weekend hangover to occur on Sunday, so Monday I was up bright and early to take on the more hilly, but shorter, College Blvd/Cannon Rd variant of my commute. The dawn broke over the Cerro de la Calavera East of College Blvd:
The descent of College ends at a 90 degree right-hand turn, and the road becomes Cannon. A long, flat stretch that crosses El Camino Real ends with a climb, the beginning of which gives a view across the Agua Hedondia Lagoon and its intricate maze of transmission lines from the Encina Power Plant:
The transmission lines used to give me the unsettling feeling of death because they interfered with my wireless heart rate monitor, which I wore when I cared about such things. The little climb does get the heart rate up, but when you see it drop to zero you wonder if you've died and gone to a hell where every road goes up.
The remainder of the commute was pleasant since it didn't involve a hangover, and I resumed my usual complex combination of trains, lockers, and bicycles for commuting the rest of the week. However, in the news was a report of a mysterious mosaic of a surfing Madonna being surreptitiously mounted in Encinitas. Frustratingly, it was mounted on one of the towers of a trestle that my train passes over, so I had to wait for Friday when I would cycle past to see it.
Public art on the coast has been controversial at best. Carlsbad's Split Pavilion is a fine example of that sort of controversy. Hire an outsider to capture the coastal feel, and the results are what you'd expect. A New Yorker put Carlsbad in prison. Later, Cardiff hired a dude from Hemet to sculpt a surfer, but unlike how Michelangelo made David an idealized Palestinian rather than a historically correct one, the Cardiff Kook looks like how I surfed--that is when I wasn't desperately trying to avoid the negative consequences of having a buoyant, spear-shaped object attached to my leg with an elastic band. However, rather than removing the Kook, the unintended humor of his appearance is constantly lampooned.
So, I was intrigued by the idea of someone bypassing all the bureaucratic public art approval process, and just sticking their work on the wall and seeing what happens. I happily didn't space out and ride past Encinitas Blvd, but rather, turned right, and discovered that the mosaic was on the north tower, facing south. I tried a shot from the south side of the boulevard, but it's a both a popular piece and it's on a busy road (as well as it being Friday afternoon commute time).
I walked to the corner, crossed the street, and tried to, from a number of acute angles, better capture the piece.
Up close, one is struck by both the exquisite detail of the work and also by how totally unprotected it is. Whether or not the City of Encinitas allows it to stay is an open question because it will involve a creative solution to an unexpected circumstance. While I'm not optimistic about the chances for such a solution being derived by that body, I still have hope.
Well, tomorrow it's back to work and back to racking up miles for the commuter challenge. Also, I hear there's an Easter Island head being carved out of a stump at Swami's, so I'll try not to space out and pass it without snapping a pic or two.
The week started well. Monday morning's commute saw the dawn edge earlier to my departure, and I found it on the east side of the Buena Vista Lagoon.
Things moved along through the early morning quiet in Carlsbad Village to the coast, and a brief stop at the beach gave me a chance to capture my trusty XO-2 with another scenic background.
In those early morning hours, with auto traffic light but with the frequent company of others running and walking in the calm of the early day, despite the chill, I reaped the reward of my early rise and departure. Further on down the coast route, just past Palomar Airport Road, there's one of my favorite places to survey the coastline, and this is how it looked that last morning of February:
There's this guy who drives a perfect condition, mid-70s Datsun B-210 on the coast route, and he parks it in places tempting for me to photograph. Unfortunately, he's always sitting in the car, so I haven't snapped a pic yet. Next time I see him, however, I'm banging on his window and getting permission. That car takes me way back.
In the meantime, here's a car that parks at the Encinitas Coaster Station nearly every dang day...and in a way that seems to make some sort of statement:
However, at the end of the week, I thought I'd try something different. However, what I did was different, but unintended: I lost my keys. Along with them, I lost my sense of confidence in venturing away from home, and my plans for a weekend ride in the country went astray. Fortunately, my commute, due to its length, forces one to stay in touch with their inner adventurer, and after a week of successfully commuting without losing any additional keys, and a Saturday spent watching a locksmith restore my access to my mailbox (at a princely sum!), I was truly ready for something different.
That something different was to go on a bike ride that didn't involve a train station or a place of employment, nor a bike that had a rack and mudguards. So, on a foggy Sunday, I set out to rediscover some favorite roads. Riding east, away from the coast, one finds that the terrain is quite different.
This descent comes at the end of Gopher Canyon Road, which is a fun ride except that the road has access to the I-15 freeway and many motorists use the road as a warm-up to driving at highway speed. Early Sunday morning is not so bad, however, but this signed descent sharply drops to not only where the road ends in a T at the bottom of the hill, but also where it crosses under I-15. Once one negotiates past the motorists itching to turn left in front of you, and makes the stop at the bottom of the hill, the ride really mellows out. Continuing east, one climbs Circle R Road, one of my favorite climbs, ascending or descending.
A canopy of live oaks is a fine sight, but mostly it's citrus and avocado groves here. Despite the agricultural nature of the groves, it is a relief from the palms and eucalyptus of the coast. Circle R summits, and meets West Lilac Road (which, this time of year, one finds appropriately named), passes Munster Platz (I had no idea they lived here!), then tees with Lilac Road. A minimal climb summits, and the real fun begins.
This descent is broken into three parts, and the first part on Lilac Road sets the tone. A steep drop into a series of left-right switchbacks on irregular pavement with no guardrails gets the party started, sending one down and finally bottoming out at the oak hollow at Keys Creek. Out of the hollow, the road rolls over a rise, then a dip, and then intersects with Couser Canyon Road. Immediately, the road shoots up with a steady and steep pace. It's only about a mile, but the summit has the circumstance that would allow a KOM banner, and the crossing leads to drinking, sunglasses mounted, and arm warmers (if in season) pulled up.
This second part is much like the first, fast right-left turns through citrus and avocado groves, then it empties out into an oak hollow. This hollow has a horse ranch on the right hand side, which is indicated by a life-size statue of a horse in the oaks. This statue does nothing but make the passing rider think that there is a loose horse next to the road, and since horses are startled by cyclists into either stepping into their path, or depositing a slippery, smelly, semi-solid substance onto the road, it's a little alarming to approach at 40mph. Still, once past that, the road is slightly downhill, and one can hammer a big gear through the hollow until a right-hand bend rises up to a left-hand corner which leads to the final third of the descent.
From there, its another winding, guardrail-less descent down to the San Luis Rey River valley. It's a great descent, allowing one to truly ride their bike, but one has to be aware of the avocados that dot the road--guacamole is slippery! The descent ends in an idyllic, pastoral landscape, and the last half mile to hwy 76 allows one to relax, stretch, and prepare for a change in scenery and tempo. I'll leave the description of the next portion to another time, but I did snap this pic...
I always thought that Thornton Wilder was writing about this Bridge of San Luis Rey. Sadly, he wasn't, but I still think there's a little literature in my weekend rides...