Category Archives: tour

Transportation as training: riding from SLO to LA in one day

Just showing that it was cold enough to wear gloves!

Last Tuesday evening, as I sat in a coffee shop in San Luis Obispo (SLO) and wrote about my train ride and upcoming bike ride from SLO to LA, I could feel the sickness I had been fighting for days creeping up. I was in denial, but by the time I met up with Mike at the train station I knew it was upon me.  As mentioned, I ate vegan Thai and even though I brought him some, we were still hungry enough for post-dinner burritos. Carb loading? Not that it did any good because at 5am I awoke with a very unhappy stomach. Let’s just say there was no carb loading happening. Yeah. And my throat hurt! When the alarm went off at 6am I didn’t want to go anywhere! Lacy’s sister Taylor awesomely had let us crash on her couches and was up doing work while Mike and I hid under the covers talking about how cold it was out.

Back at my favorite coffee shop by 7am, we discussed Egypt and what to call the pumpkin chocolate chip baked good we were both eating (muffin? cupcake? does it matter?) while time passed.  How’s that saying go? A journey of a thousand miles begins with a questionable baked good and procrastination? Cool.

 

Mike 'Grip it and Rip it' Szerszunowicz stoked on dirt

 

We rolled out of SLO in sub-40 temps, under a clear sky. Mike’s longest ride to date was our 12-hour hangout fest, the OC 200k. He’s signed up for the Death Valley double century at the end of the month and thought a 210-mile ride would be good training. Outside of Oceano (aren’t we at war with them?) we were turned away from the normal route due to construction and instead of back-tracking (I hate back-tracking!!) we cut through a farm, pictured above. Fun.  The area is somewhat familiar to me because I rode SF-LA in Sept and also rode the Solvang double century out here six years ago (Matt Provost on fixed and naked mile!!).

 

Every town should have a mural of its place in the world. I wonder how many miss that the negative space is California!

 

We rolled into Guadalupe, a tiny little town that I love. I must really love it because I took 60% of my photos here and only one afterward. Ha. It’s at this point in the trip we are definitely having fun, but getting nervous about the time. See, we had hoped to leave at 7am. We left at 8am. I thought it would take about 14 hours and it took over 16. Three hours is a big deal because it’s the difference between home at 10pm and home at 1am. The latter ended up not being that bad.

 

Tortilla room in Guadalupe!

 

Most of the time we spent just chatting away about riding, life and some upcoming events we both have. We set tiny goals. A quick break in Lompoc at the Fresh and Easy (free coffee!) and then a meal in Santa Barbara.  In SB we swung by our friend Jim’s new shop, Cranky’s, which may be the first time I have seen FBM bikes next to Colnagos. Then we ate burritos. Then it got colder and we were getting a little worried. It was after 5pm and we were a hundred miles from home. My sickness wasn’t killing me, but it had me feeling colder than usual. Luckily Mike was on it! He took some big pulls and really kept us moving quickly.

 

I think this is the climb out of Lompoc.

 

The sun set and we rolled south. Ventura, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, familiar, but far-from-home places. I’ve ridden out here plenty, including the LA-SB-LA back-to-back ride I did a few summers ago. How does one ride all day? It’s not much different than existing. You are just on your bike and in someways it is comforting because with every passing minute you are closer to your goal. It’s more tangible than many goals in life! It’s not a secret that 9-5 work in an office is scary to me. When I’m asked, what do you think about on these long rides I respond with the same question about what people think about all week at work.

 

'Red? Where the fuck did you get that banana?' RIP, Mitch Hedberg. Chart from the store in Guadalupe.

 

There’s this part of the PCH in Ventura County where you are back on the coast after some inland riding. It’s so beautiful. By now it’s late at night and the pressure to get home has been replaced with a feeling of privilege to be out where we are.  The sky was full of stars, the waves were crashing against the beach and there wasn’t a car on the road to ruin it. Stoked.

The route down the PCH past Mulholland Drive, Leo Carillo, Decker Canyon and other familiar, often-ridden spots is usually accompanied by a southerly wind. Not this night. We had a slight headwind most of the time, but it wasn’t a killer. We just couldn’t stop too long because we’d get cold! Before too long we had turned inland and were on the 15-mile home stretch through urban Los Angeles.  Sasha had just gotten home from Pure Luck and made us burritos which were quickly devoured. I was too cold and tired to shower and fell asleep shivering. Apparently I was also too tired to realize that the window next to my bed was wide open.

I spent the next few days full-on sick, but am so glad this trip happened. I can’t recommend riding the California coast enough! Do it while you can. Before that California super storm comes and obliterates the whole state.

 

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SF to LA bike tour

I like to do a trip on the last weekend of summer before the semester starts. Last year we slayed Mammoth on mountain bikes. This year logistically it worked out to bike tour from SF to LA. I rode this same trip solo a few years ago. Bike touring goes back to 2001. Love it. I think I’m over 10,000 total miles in these 10 (!!) years.

Obligatory pre-ride photo with Jeff. Notice what’s missing: the sun.

The plan was ride fast and most of the day, camp and eat out. Mileage ended up as:

SF-Big Sur 150 miles
Big Sur-Lompac 170 miles
Lompac-Los Angeles 155 miles
I will try every vegan cinnamon bun thing once, even if it’s whole-wheat and doesn’t have icing. This is at the Co-op in Santa Cruz on the way out of town where Water St hits Soquel. I always stop here.

The seatbag I borrowed had a built-in burrito pocket. Very thoughtful. This was the first night. We did the massive descent into Carmel, picked up burritos then raced darkness to the Big Sur campground.

Packing list (all fit in the seatbag and hydration pack)
Thermarest 3/4 mat
Mountain Hardware 35 degree sleeping bag
Mountain Hardware longsleeve wind-proof shirt thing
1 bib
1 jersey
1 vest
1 pair sleeves
1 pants
1 technical t-shirt
1 button-up short sleeve (I’m obsessed with it- prob should have mailed it)
2 pair socks
1 10-inch mini laptop (oops, should have mailed)
1 pair gloves (they were old as shit and I left them in a garbage can in Pismo beach)
1 toolbag with multi-tool, tube, levers, 2 CO2 cartridges
1 pump
1 hydration pack (to carry laptop)
1 coffee mug
1 spork
1 foldable plastic plate


Food I left with

1 lara bar
1 granola mix with brazil nuts, cranberries added
1 bag chocolate-covered espresso beans aka magic beans
20 scoops Maxodextrin- homemade Sustained Energy type stuff
2 bananas

Bike
I rode my ‘race’ bike which is a steel Seven. Shimano parts. Ksyrium rims. The ones with the red spoke, don’t know what they’re called. I think it weighs in at 18 pounds, which I was told is not light. Borrowed giant seatbag.

What a fun trip! Too many tiny stories to share. Jeff is an awesome touring partner! Who else will hang out drinking coffee till 930am when you have a 170-mile day ahead of you?

I’m aching for a long bike tour….

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Mt. Laguna Bicycle Classic

In April I rode the Mt. Laguna Bicycle Classic in East SD County. Back in January I was part of the pre-ride so I was really looking forward to this! It just so happened that the Rosarita-Ensenada party ride was happening the same weekend and my good friend Matthew was heading down there from LA on his fancy Rivendell.
I had to work till 5pm and then I loaded up my two-shoulder messenger bag with my bivy sac, sleeping bag and pad and everything I’d need for the weekend. Made my way to coastal Orange County in time to watch the sun set and was near the SD border by 10pm.

The awesome bike path before the military base or freeway dilemma

Our Swarm! jerseys say ‘Can’t Stop Won’t Stop’ which I took straight from Hip Hop slang as applied to long-distance cycling. Matthew likes to say, ‘Can stop, will stop!’ when riding. I had hustled to do the first 77 miles miles in 5 hours, which is fun in my own way, but the next day we were leisurely. To say the least. I asked if we should stop and get some bars or bananas and he replied, ‘If we get hungry we’ll just find a taco truck.’ Awesome.

Done.

We chilled all through SD County, taking the beach options whenever possible. We arrived at a friend’s house in Ocean Beach, which is the exact stereotype of everything you think about Southern California- in the good way. We had been texting and when I asked about food he said, ‘There’s a liquor store near me that has great vegan food.’ Whaaaaa? Ends up Liticker’s Liquor has a full-on vegan menu with carne asada and seitan burritos. One of each, please.

We ate our tacos on his roof and watched the sun set. California, bro.

My friend Jeff had driven down after work and met up with us and after some dessert from the local co-op we set our alarm for 4am to head out to Pine Valley (Matthew and Craig were riding to the border a few hours later to meet the start of their ride). We had some disagreement over what time to leave. I wanted to sleep as late as possible and get there right as the last wave was ready to go, but Jeff, being older and wiser, suggested we not do that. Okay, okay.
Ends up I was right! We flew out there with no traffic and then sat in the car, in the dark, waiting for it to warm up. Went with the last wave…

 

Jeff killing it. Fourth fastest time of the day.

We rode in a good pack till the first climb picked up and then Jeff and some Cat-1 guy were off. I settled in with a triathlete who I spent most of the time trying to convince that iron-distance is the only way to go (you get your money’s worth!). Paced with a quiet guy from Arizona for awhile who really pushed me on the climbs. the course is three loops, all with the same aid station at the top of Mt Laguna and the same fast, awesome descent. Ran into a friend I had met at the AdventureCORPS Shasta cycling/yoga camp last summer. We rode together for awhile on the insanely steep last climb discussing art, girls, work and making it all fit. He said something that really stood out: ‘Work expands to fit the time allotted.’ That aids my procrastination tendency and I love it.

I pushed on the steep stuff just to keep the pedals turning and passed about a half dozen folks walking. It was that steep! Keep in mind I’m still near the front third…

Post-ride meal included Filipino food again and vegan pizza!


Results and photos are up and worth perusing. Please note the 11 and 13 year old girls that did the same ride. For real. I also met Errin Vasquez, who I had chatted with on the internet previously. Also awesome.

We drove back to Ocean Beach in time for another Organic Athlete vegan potluck and decided to spend the night so I could go to the co-op for the 100th time on this trip. Breakfast!

When I was searching for something funny to link from Rivendell, I searched ‘Cult Bikes’ and it ends up that Robbie Morales, an old BMX friend, has a new company with this name. Here’s a great sampler video!

(maybe I should end all posts with a BMX or Hip Hop video?)

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a great email to receive

subject: your old surly long haul trucker

you'll have to pardon the bad scan, but this is me at the end of my
trip this summer.  after riding santa cruz to los angeles i got super
stoked on touring and flew out to seattle a week and a half later.  24
days after that i was back in santa cruz and then came back to la to
ride to the border to top it off.  your old bike has seen 1902.6
glorious miles of the coast this summer =)

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New Zealand 3-day bike trip

Ever think ‘This is a really bad idea. We shouldn’t do this. There is still time to back out.’? Usually, I would do so. A voice in the back of my head this time (which was slightly mumbled and maybe British) said, ‘Come on, it’s an adventure. What’s the worse that could happen?’. It was boxing day, a strange Kiwi holiday the day after chirstmas, and Matt Pro and I were suppose to leave the next day for a 3-day, 300-mile bike tour from Christchurch to Nelson (a beach town on the northside of the south island). The problem was, we had one road bike, one fixed gear (49×16, mind you) and a broken single-speed mountain bike. No racks. No panniers. Bonnie, one of Matt’s friends I had met, was planning the trip, but we did not know the other two guys. Neither had bike toured, one didn’t really ride bikes. Yeah. We managed to scrape together four panniers and a rack and Matt bought another rack. We decided to take the fixed instead of my broken bike.

(unfinished post!)

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Great Divide: Week 1

The first day was hot and dry; we rode through the remains of a big fire that hit here in the not to distant past. The road quality is poor in that there are big holes, washboards (it is like riding on that strip on the side of the road that is suppose to wake you up if you fall asleep while driving) and dusty/soft sections. We don’t mind much though. This day is unique in that the temperature topped 90 degrees Fahrenheit and we ended in a town. Columbia Falls has a grocery store with a good bit of ‘health food’. We stocked up and headed to a nearby park to eat dinner and scope out camping. Steevo had ridden through Montana on his cross-country trip and had some memory of this town. We relaxed in the park and started to wrap our mind around the next four weeks. Warm weather, grocery stores and parks would not be usual part of this trip.

Riding on the second day we ran into a guy on a mountain bike heading in our direction. He was over 70 and told us stories for a good 45 minutes while we climbed a dirt hill into the Montana wilderness. He carried a 357 magnum and bear spray. ‘One is for humans and one is for bears, but it doesn’t really matter which is which.’ Had lived in Montana for 13 years, but was still a California to everyone here. Claimed he did one of the first iron-distance triathlons in 1979. He turned off at a fork and wished us well with some advice on the upcoming route. Steevo and I would talk about him the rest of the trip.

That night was sketchy. We spotted Peck Lake on the map and thought that would be a good place to camp. Camping on a lake in Montana, sounds great, right? It was creepy in an odd, illogical, difficult-to-explain way. We were in the woods, off of a small dirt trail off of the main dirt trail and it just didn’t feel right. We were tired, so we decided to go to the lake to get some water. Unfortunately for us, it was like a lake surrounded by a Marsh. We didn’t realize this till we both stepped into and sunk in to our ankles! Fatigue and lack of calories will make you crazy. We both leaped, the best we could, out of the mud as we yelled in our excitement. For the trip Lisa from Sweet Pea Bakery had given me some flip flops for the trip, my first pair. I lost one in the swamp and sent the other to be with his counterpart. Thanks anyway, Lisa.
After Steevo climbed out over the lake on a fallen tree and proceeded to clog up the water filter, we decided it was best to move on. Glad we made that decision easily. We camped at Jim’s creek after cooking/eating in the dark (not fun). We also had a ton of trouble trying to hang our food (stupid bears). Steevo even climbed a tree! Eventually, we were off to sleep in our bicy sacs, listening to the sound of running water, to tired to be concerned about bears.

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Great Divide: Getting to the Start

I had asked Jack and Megan to help out with getting my stuff packed because I had to give the final to my class and would not be home till 9pm or so and needed to leave for the airport around 4am. Unfortunately, even after years of knowing me, they were unprepared for the lengths I was going to go to save the $75 excess baggage fee. Most of the night was spent with Budge getting drunk, Megan enjoying the alpha-male contest for her attention from two boys and myself cutting and taping three boxes (always under 62 inches, length plus width plus height!) that would fit a complete bicycle, a bob trailer and all of my gear for the entire trip. With some ingenuity, it worked and southwest was none the wiser.

Roll into Portland with no sleep, but Lisa, Vmaas and myself head over to Laurelthyrst for a great breakfast of pancakes, potatoes and other vegan goodness. We need to leave the next day for Montana and I still have a ton of shopping and other things to take care of. We hit Food Fight!, Whole Foods and the Veloshop (a vegan bike shop run by Molly Cameron) to stock up on food and bike parts and of course to check out the stuff I love here in Portland. Lisa, owner of Sweet Pea Baking, a vegan bakery, donated some treats for our trip and some sugar and oatmeal for our camp breakfasts. A good friend from the East Coast happens to be in Portland to do a BMX photo shoot and we all meet up for dinner. Rob Dolecki and I have managed to meet up all over the country since we are both traveling and it is usually over some excellent food.

At night when I am putting my bike together I can’t find my pedals. I remember that Jack took them off…and he put them down on a table and they never made it into the box. Also find an extra item that Budge slipped into my bivy sac when I wasn’t looking. Very funny.

Off to Montana with Vmaas! It wasn’t that long ago that him and I left Pennsylvania on a snowy day in January of 2001. He was moving to Texas and went with and flew to Central America from there to spend two months in Belize. Was that really almost six years ago? The drive to Montana was uneventful, we mostly ate cookies and muffins and listened to the old-school rap station on satellite radio. We roll into Whitefish and it looks if west-LA was transferred to a rural mountain town. Fancy people with fancy cars and dress playing cowboy in Montana. Cell phone-less Steevo was chillin on a bench talking to some dudes when we found him. Fuck yeah! We find a place to camp and call it a night.

The next day we went into Glacier National Park, did some hiking, sorted out getting to the start of the ride, and just chilled. I went for a swim at dusk in Lake Mcdonald after, with Steevo and Dave’s help, I got my bike running properly. For this trip I got a complete Surly Long Haul Trucker that I’ve only ridden once. It is a touring bike that can fit the 700×42 tires we are running. Most cyclocross bikes can’t run tires that wide. After a camp dinner of canned Indian food, we all get to sleep just after dark.
In the morning we load all of our stuff into the car as Vmaas is kindly driving us up to the Canadian border on mostly unpaved roads. In Lisa’s car. Steevo and I are silent. The roads suck. Is Vmaas pissed? He doesn’t seem to mind and we thank him profusely when we get there. Since our time is limited we are starting at a point not on the route; it is slightly east of the rec’d starting point, but it is still on the border and it is actually closer to the actual Continental Divide. This border crossing is closed, but there is a landing strip and we are not there long before a border agent appears. He’s friendly and he knew about what we were doing. Vmaas hops back into the car and just like that it is only Steevo and I and our bikes. Before he left we did get this photo of Vmaas holding a sign we actually found on the Canadian side of the border.

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