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!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pride (and Recumbents)

Nothing deflates a cyclist's ego like being passed by a recumbent. (unless, of course, you ride a recumbent). Lovely Sunday morning Three Bears ride tainted by the insistent pedaling of a gray braided medicine woman pedaling up the grades with relative ease, lounging back in her chair (I'm pretty sure it was leather and had a built-in massager). As we caught up to her at the top of Baby Bear, she casually offered me a Clif Bar (did I appear piqued?), warned of the forthcoming Mama and Papa, and winked! We debated whether she sourced her strength from the asphalt (or earth...a sage?), had a hidden motor, or was just plain bad-ass. Most likely the latter. In any case, she was waaay nicer than racer clowns ridiculing Jay's HUGE rack; the old fart questioning Dave's safety triangle; or the uber-serious weekend warriors who just can't take 2 seconds to return your friendly "good morning!" with even the slightest acknowledgement! But we didn't let it sour our ride--we, like recumbent lady (or the tortoise), just kept going.
Ride Route: Begin Nabolom Bakery in Elmwood (Berkeley, Russel and College). Wind up through campus to Euclid. Short detour at the "magical place" near the Rose Garden. At top of Euclid, quick left on Grizzly Peak, right on Wildcat Canyon into Tilden Park. Stop at Inspiration Point for water, restrooms, and musing. Head down into LaMorinda, and turn left on San Pablo. Ride (into) the wind! Right on Castro Ranch, (convenient store on corner) up and over into Briones. Right onto Alhambra Valley--catch your breath. Right on Bear Valley, three bears--highly recommend overcast days or early in the morning in the heat of summer because there's NO SHADE. Water at Briones staging area. Once over the Bears, you can continue back up Wildcat Canyon back into Tilden, or turn left on San Pablo and go into Orinda for coffee. Just under Hwy 24, turn left into Orinda Village for Peets (be careful, lots of traffic coming on and off ramps). Back onto Camino Alto toward Moraga. Right on Canyon Road, head back toward Oakland Hills. Right on Pinehurst. Sharp left turn, and the grade increases significantly (triple, baby!). At the top, right on Skyline, and take any number of routes back down toward Rockridge/Berkeley. Drink beer and barbeque. Approx. 50 miles, 4 1/2 hours, a whole lotta climbing.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Photos by Blue Jay

Santa Cruz Epic photos

Santa Cruz epic

Okay, first potentially useful blog in that a ride will be posted at the end!

Me, Aaron and Jay headed down to the Santa Cruz mountains on Sunday morning, 45 minutes later than planned due to oversleeping (me), poor preparation (me again) and a missing cat (lulu). Alas, we finally got it together and headed to Kelly's French Bakery for carbohydrates and coffee, the essential fuel behind long rides. On the road by 9:30ish, it was fuh-reezing, but the 15% grades we soon encountered on Empire Grade Road resolved the cold quickly. The slow poke of the group, I settled into my triple and huffed and puffed away. There's nothing more self-depricating than riding with people soooo much faster than you, feeling the need to apologize at every rest stop, and eating seemingly twice as much as everyone else. Oh well, they knew what they signed up for! After dropping down, then climbing back up into Big Basin Redwoods State Park, we stopped for a rest, water and some stretching, during which time I attempted to confront my personal-trainer husband regarding his technique--will I never learn? Out of Big Basin, the trail began, Gazos Creek Road--OMG. Bucolic. Quiet. Peaceful. Misty. Right out of a watercolor, I tell ya. Jay intervaled back and forth, taking the photos posted here (photographer alias: Blue Jay), and building fast twitch muscle fibers in the process. After about 8 miles, we came to the "cross roads"-trail down toward Waddel Beach or continue on Gazos Creek to the road? Thinking Gazos Creek was the less technical option (for both our Rivendell bikes and my peace of mind) we headed that direction. Oh boy. Classic Alicia cycling anxiety moment--very steep, rocky, gravelly, and wet trail/road in front of me, and my legs sieze, my heartrate increases, and panic ensues (all internally, of course--I never wear my fear on my sleeve, or arm warmer). I basically skid sideways down the first 30 feet, and after that doesn't really allay my fear, I try actually steering the bike down the trail. It works, sort of. Where a good cyclist would've been done already, having a hammer gel at the bottom, the mediocre rider is slipping, sliding, skidding, and sometimes rolling down, all the while pushing images of broken ankles and emergency splints out of her head. Anxiety aside, I make it down safely (of course!), and the 25 or so miles back to Santa Cruz along Highway One, with a tailwind (!) is beautiful. Plus I ran into a friend of a friend at Pie Ranch, saw her spotted dog Jackson smoke out a gopher, and admired windsurfers colorful wares at Waddel Beach. The epic ended most appropriately, with an organic IPA at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery and real food (i.e. un-packaged or vitamin enhanced). Overall, the very BEST kind of day--good friends, great riding, a little beer, and a sprinkling of courage.

Route: Start at Swift and Mission in Santa Cruz (bakery, brewery, wine tasting rooms, shops, plenty of parking, restrooms). Right on Western Drive--Up steep hill. through neighborhoods. Left on Empire Grade--approx. 15 miles of occasionally steep uphill. Right on Jamison Creek--Steep down hill. Left on Big Basin Way/236--narrow shoulder, kind of busy, but only on it for 4 miles. Sharp right onto Lodge Road--another steep uphill, takes you into Big Basin Park HQ, snacks, restrooms, water. Turn left into the park (free for bicycles, and another left onto Gazos Creek Road (unmarked--basically looks like a fire trail). Gazos Creek winds through the park, and into San Mateo County. At the gate, you can go left to continue on trails that end at Waddel Beach, or go right to continue down Gazos Creek--very steep, slick, rocky. Not an issue for knobby tires or experienced riders. Eventually becomes fully paved and turns west toward the ocean. Left on Highway One--lovely tailwind, good shoulder, but lots of traffic. When you get into Santa Cruz, veer right onto the bike trail, which takes you directly back to Misson/Swift. Change your clothes and get a beer. Done. Approx. 70 miles, 5 hours.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Well, "mediocre" is relative...

I got the idea for writing this blog while riding last Sunday in the Santa Cruz mountains (see photo behind blog title--you can't tell, but I'm gripping my brakes for dear life). I was thinking about how much riding is a part of my identify, yet I still do not consider myself a "good" cyclist. Why is that? I've ridden from San Francisco to the border of Oregon; around the North Cascades; through rush hour traffic on Market Street in SF with one pedal (yes, that really happened); and ride pretty much every day, at least around the neighborhood. While among the general populace I may be considered an experienced and skilled cyclist, I find that in the world of riding, especially the uber-competitive and race-heavy culture of the Bay Area, I'm still only OK. I've found that this sort of purgatory cycling status (not hyper racer-chick, but also not "sunday morning rider") has made it challenging to find riding friends/partners, explain my cycling-status (Fellow Cyclist:"What are you training for?", Me: "Well, nothing.") and find my rightful place on Tunnel Road. As a reaction, I decided I'd start blogging about riding--nothing exceptional, just accounts of the daily commute; weekend epics; and general cycling-lore from the perspective of a woman rider with no racing ambitions. I also commit to posting a ride each week, that will generally feature lightly traveled, safe roads and trails, and give the turn-by-turn experience of the ride--mostly because I would find this useful myself! Lastly, I'm hoping to find kindred spirits (especially young women) who love to ride, but don't want to compete. So, we'll see how this works, and if it's as self-indulgent as I suspect. Happy riding!