Sunday, April 18, 2010

Why does it always gotta be an epic?

If I had a nickel for the number of times Aaron and I have asked ourselves that question mid-ride, I'd probably have at least a dollar. But, alas, we managed to insert our unprepared bodies (and minds) into that situation yesterday, on a 50 mile EPIC through northern Sonoma County. Now, don't get me wrong--it was a beautiful ride, through low-traffic, high view back roads, with a crew from Rivendell that couldn't have been better riding partners--but as we were slogging up the last 5 miles on an 18% grade at 6:30pm, maintaining that positive, grateful perspective was a challenge. That said, neither of us are particularly sore this a.m., and we're already talking about going back for seconds. Check out the photos for now, but stay tuned for a video to be posted soon! (Note: This is a loop from a private home, so if one was to drive & park, I would suggest Cazadero or somewhere along Kings Ridge)
Start--mile 4.5, Meyers Grade Road, between Jenner and Fort Ross. Mellow rollers at the top of a ridge. Views of the Pacific, redwoods, and hills to the East. Meyers Grade becomes Fort Ross Rd for a short stint, then Fort Ross turns West toward the coast, and the straight road becomes Seaview. The rollers become more, well, rolling now, longer and steeper. The road changes names one more time (Hauser Bridge) and descends down to what I think is Cazadero Creek, or some other tributary of the Russian River. At this point, the climb begins in earnest, and at the next T, turn right to continue on Kings Ridge Road. Wow. The kind of road cyclists dream about. Almost no traffic, winding between two valleys, with views of Mt. Saint Helena, and quiet farmlands. We paused at the top to take a few photos, and for Vaughn to terrorize some poor cows. Don't be alarmed--they had their revenge in the form of an intimidating "mama" cow who stood her ground and threatened to charge, and, later, a herd that broke out of their pasture and ran along the road for 1/4 mile, forcing us to stop and watch! Kings Ridge eventually decends steeply to Cazadero, in a forest of redwoods. We stopped in Cazadero at the General Store for fuel, then proceeded up the final climb on Fort Ross Road. I'm estimating, but the grade was 10-18% for almost 5 miles, with one short break in the middle. I reminded myself not to pray for a change of my circumstances, but the strength to deal with them (thanks Daya Mata!)--I believe it worked, because somehow, I found some adrenaline in the last mile and sped up (well, probably from 5 mph to 8 mph, for perspective!) to Meyers Grade, where we completed the loop. Total riding time: 4 hours 15 minutes.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Alternative Energy

I'm happy to report that the cycling resilience I've built up over the years paid off today, during what was probably the most windy ride I've ever experienced. I actually had to dismount and push my bike up the trail, the crosswinds were so powerful! I kept reminding myself of the descents on our tour up the California coast, headed into a northeast wind that made my dinky aluminum Klein with 25 lbs. of gear on the back jerk and shimmy--and yet, I didn't crash once. If only I could tap into that historical knowledge (and muscle memory) in other, more critical areas of my life...maybe too much personal detail for a cycling blog, eh?

In any case, I was reminded of a quote I recently read in the much-beloved Mother Jones magazine, in which a not-so-bright GOP representative attempting to discredit various non-foreign-oil/non-fossil fuel-based energy alternatives commented that wind is a finite resource (since when???) and if we run out of wind, won't that make the temperature go up anyway? Ummm...if that's the case, then Mother Nature must have expended all her wind "stores" today, and my next ride across the bridge should be a piece of cake.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Resolutions and Mantras

"Just keep peddling", I repeat to myself climbing up the rocky east face of Mt. Tamalpais, because if I don't, I'm liable to tip over. I'm not really thinking about anything else except the line I'm steering my front wheel on, up the Old Railroad Grade just out of Mill Valley. It's a route I'm familiar with, but after taking more than a few months off from riding at this intensity, I need the reminder that if I stop peddling over the dips, divvies, bumps, rocks, roots, and other debris, I'll lose momentum and fall off the Bleriot. The day was really bucolic (overused word, but not in my blog yet)--mid 60's, sunny with fog and clouds in the valley and at the coast, windy in the way that it sounds like traffic through the trees--and in order to blanch the blues from having to return to work after 2 weeks off, I decided to head out on an epic. Now that we live in the city (SF), the quiet and the wooded smell and the green-ness of Marin is ached for--but only accessible by crossing over the chaos that is the Golden Gate Bridge. I guess I could have picked a better time than Sunday afternoon.

Four and a half hours later, I've solidified my resolutions for 2010. It's been 10 years since graduating from college (omg) and I still don't own a house, have a kid, or feel settled or "mature" in any way--despite the fact that I'm beginning to be addressed as "maam" just as much as "miss" these days. But what I DO have is spectacular--a healthy, honest, humor-filled relationship; a job that makes a difference in the world, goddammit; enough money to blow $100 on a mediocre meal and feel only slightly guilty about it (okay, so maybe that last statement is a bit of a lie--several resolutions deal with saving more money and spending less frivolously)--and the most important resolution resulting from this ride is to be GRATEFUL. It's amazingly easy to get caught up in complaints, wishes, desires, ifs...but while I certainly don't expect to be a zen master by 2011, I do believe I can remind myself to show love, compassion, and gratefulness to myself and others at least once a day. Just keep peddling.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

More Oregon photos, for the fam...

Falling in love with Oregon

Well, it's been a while, and since my (not-so) little brother lit a fire under my ass, I'll finally blog about the glorious Oregon vacation from which I recently returned. It was a cycling dream--big mountain passes, glistening lakes, snowy peaks, mished and mashed with the joyful ease of urban cycling that is Portland (at one point during a ride around a neighborhood in which they carved out a left turn lane specifically for bicycles, Aaron and I turned to each other with a look that could only express appreciation and amazement). One epic ride, a couple of 30 milers, and lots of city-riding combined to make a trip so aligned with our favorite activity, that we're already planning a trip back in September. If you haven't been, GO. Not only does Oregon have great riding, there's also a robust local food movement, refined microbrews and wines, a bustling art scene, and a menagerie of additonal outdoor activities, from hiking to everything the Columbia River Valley has to offer. For further suggestions about where to stay and what to do, call me. My map and Yelp-obsessed self has managed to acquire a pretty solid grasp on Portland neighborhoods, restaurants, shops, etc. as well as what other lovely Oregon cities have to offer!

Ride 1--The 98 mile (and 98 degrees) epic, Ashland, Oregon
It was hot. It was steep. It was exhausting. But sort of ridiculously beautiful, and there's a lot of mountain lakes in which you can cool off, mid-ride. Started in downtown Ashland and headed out Highway 66 toward Klamath. Literally a 10 mile uphill climb once you're out of city limits. Good shoulder, but I would suggest doing in early to beat the heat and the traffic. Just past the Green Springs Mountain Summitt (elevation 4551, where you can pick up the Pacific Crest Trail), turn left into the Hyatt Lake Recreation Area. We made a wrong turn here, but alas the roads were smooth and it was fine. Basically, if you continue straight, you'll go all the way around the lake. If you veer left, you come around the other side and it's a bit shorter. You'll end up on Hyatt Prairie Road. Turn right on Hyatt Prairie Dam Access Road. Turn left on Keno Access Road (not marked, but the road you're on comes to a T, and you can't continue straight). The next road you come to is Dead Indian Memorial Road (cool name, right?). If you go right, you head toward Lake of the Woods and can ride around there, on paved or fire roads. If you go left, you'll head back towards Ashland (and a wicked 12 mile descent). Either way, services are sparse, so fuel up when you're in the Hyatt Lake area. In fact, I would recommend three water bottles on this ride, but I'm a camel. Lots of route additions and subtractions, but the main key is that Green Springs Highway/Route 66 is the way up; Dead Indian Memorial is the way down. I would NOT recommend the reverse.

Ride 2, 3 and 5: Portland Urban Roll
Basically, I don't need to give turn by turn directions for riding in Portland. The city transportation department has taken care of that with their clear, visible, and frequent bike route signs, which not only indicate neighborhoods/points of interest/parks/main roads that you may be trying to get to, but also how many miles and estimated minutes they are away! Incredible, right? Don't miss a ride in Forest Park, along the northern edge of the city, unpaved, wide, and well, forested; the Willamette River trail, running along both the eastern and western sides of the river; and Skyline Boulevard, not dissimilar to Skyline in good ole' Oakland, very popular for riding, and the "gateway" to the Willamette Valley and longer, more farmland riding. Also, any bike shop in Portland carries a wonderful Bike Portland! map with detailed routes for pretty much anywhere in the greater Portland metropolitan area.

Ride 4: Hood River and Mosier, 35 miles
Having never been to the Columbia River Gorge, I had no idea what to expect. I didn't even really know what a gorge looked like. I was not disappointed. The drive out alone was worth it. A mere 59 miles from Portland, the Gorge has waterfalls, expansive river vistas, and views of Mount Hood to the south and Mount St. Helens (we think?) to the north. Starting in downtown Hood River on Oak Street, we headed east. Turn left on State Street/30, go over 35, and begin a short, steep climb up to the Mark Hatfield Trail. Wow, what an incredible bike trail--basically runs along the edge of the Gorge, with views of the Columbia the whole length. And you even go through a tunnel! At the end of the trail, turn left, and then left again at the bottom of the hill for a quick jaunt on 30. At 10 Speed Coffee (highly recommend you stop in-- very good coffee, very friendly folks), turn right onto Center, and a quick left on 3rd Street. Third sort of becomes State Street, and shortly thereafter you should turn right onto Dry Creek Road. This is not marked, but there is a cherry orchard on the corner. If you start heading up a very steep climb, you missed the turn (you'll come down that later). Dry Creek is a fun road, paved for a while, winding through orchards and vineyards, then becoming well-packed gravel, with well-worth-the-climb views to the right. At the end of the gravel road, turn left on 7 Mile Hill Road/State Street to head back to Mosier, and backtrack. We were told by some bike shop dudes that you could continue on gravel roads basically all the way to Mount Hood, but I would recommend getting a local map (and having the conversation yourself) first.

Overall, we avoided dehydration (mostly), unfriendly drivers, flat tires, and over-doing it, and experienced a great deal of gratefulness for both the physical ability to ride and the financial ability to vacation, as well as each other's companionship and love. Awww... shucks.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

No better way to spend your (birth)day

I can't remember who, but someone recently asked me how I spent my 31st birthday. I had the day off, and maybe they imagined I went to the spa, shopping, or for a fanciful dinner out. I assume they would have approved of some more glamorous activity, because when I said I went for a bicycle ride in Marin, they kind of rolled their eyes in a sort of "figures" gesture. I was a bit taken aback--should I have done something more "relaxing", more typical? Well, little did they know I tried that for the big 3-0 last year, and it was a mediocre (my forte'!) at best. Okay massage, messy mani/pedi, PAINFUL facial, disappointing dinner. Well, this year, I decided to keep it simple--and it was simply marvelous. I don't know how many times in the course of the ride that I exclaimed "this is so incredible! Oh my gosh how beautiful! I'm having such a great time!"--a little cliched, but I fall back on cliches' when I'm at a loss for words (see?!). Afterwards, artisan beer, fries, wings, a few vegetables, more beer--and homemade organic ice cream. It was well beyond my expectations, and a most memorable day.

Route: Start in Fairfax, center of town. Head toward the west on Sir Francis Drake. Just outside of Lagunitas, as you enter Samuel P. Taylor State Park, begin to look on the right for a small wooden bridge that marks the entrance to the Cross Marin Bike Trail. Trail winds through the park along the river, partially unpaved. At the end of the trail, veer right, then left onto Platform Bridge Road. Best views of Elephant Mountain. At the stop sign, turn left on Point Reyes/Petaluma Road. A bit of traffic, not too bad. At the stop, turn left to head down the hill into Point Reyes Station. Bovine Bakery, Toby's, Cowgirl Creamery--a venerable foodie paradise. Take Hwy One south toward Olema. In Olema, turn left back onto Sir Francis Drake and climb to the top of the hill. Look for the Bolinas Ridge Trail entrance on the right. Trail is 11 miles long, at times steep, rocky, muddy, but mostly exhilarating. The views are unparalleled--stop to take lots of photos (the one at the top is in the forested part of the trail, in the Mt. Tam watershed). Trail ends onto Fairfax/Bolinas Road. Turn left for a well-deserved downhill to the resevoir. Go over the bridge, and turn right to climb back up to a mini-pass. Once at the top, it's all downhill to the center of Fairfax--I recommend a beeline toward Iron Springs! 48 miles, 4 1/2 hours.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Car Free Challenge

So I decided to do this crazy car-free challenge thing in June, during which I try to only drive 150 miles the entire month. Given the Oakland travelling-nature of my job, this is going to test my resolve, bigtime (see photo--heels and skirt, not a deterrent! crooked helmet, why I'm only mediocre, and kind of a giant dork). I can't tell you the number of times I've prepared to ride to work the evening before, only to awaken and lose all motivation (and, you know, eco-friendly values)! But so far, so good. I rode 4 days last week, even to a school in a sketch neighborhood, and am ready for more.

The other piece of it is that I'm definitely going to take it seriously, which may result in some conflicts between the hubby and I. Once I set my mind, you can be fairly certain it will not waiver. Hence the riding through the 'hood; carrying a 50 lb. bag of cat-food (no carbs! all natural meats!) on my back; and turning down a great ride today through West Marin because the group was driving there (wait.... was I invited?). Well, I kind of like that I can demonstrate discipline--in diet, in self-care, and in the car-free challenge. Now that it's published for the world (or really, my 1 follower, Johnny, little bro thanks!) to see, I better not disappoint!