Friday, April 29, 2016

7: It's an ill wind that blows nobody good . . .

What is it about this wind?

We were having such a great time, rolling gently down from Paso Robles through the Sans - San Miguel, San Ardo, San Lucas - and then we turned up the road for the last 22 miles (should have taken about two hours, given the pace we were making) and blam! Hit in the face with the headwinds again.
This is what passes for a river in this part of California
Our average speed dropped from about 12.5 mph in the first half of the day (we were feeling so cocky!) to somewhere closer to 8.7 in the last three hours.  Argh!

Don't miss Linda's cafe when in San Miguel
It was a gorgeous day, cool and sunny.  We have been blessed so far to have nice, if windy, weather.  Our breakfast stop was in San Miguel, where Linda has been serving travelers from all over the world for 28 years.  Her tiny restaurant was a highlight of the day. She has plans to move a few blocks down the street, but don't worry - the beautiful blue counters are going with her. So if you go through San Miguel, stop in for a bite.

Also in San Miguel, we stopped for a quick look at the Mission San Miguel.  I'm embarrassed to say that this was my first visit to one of the missions since moving to California 15 years ago.
The church at Mission San Miguel is still used for daily Mass
It was quite a lovely place, and I wish I could have spent a few more minutes in the painted sanctuary. The piano tuner was at work at the front, and I could tell that the acoustics in the church would have made for some great music-making.

We passed more fields along our ride today. I am impressed with the diversity of crops that are grown in the adjacent fields. Hard to be sure from the bike, but I think we passed onions, lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, and others I could not identify.

Folks, here's a plea: do not waste food! OMG it's a lot of work to get vegetables to your plate; don't waste them.

On the way to Santa Barbara the other day, I was so dispirited to look down at the bike computer and see that we were rolling dead flat and only making 6 mph. But today, I actually caught a glimpse when we were descending 2% and the speedometer read 5.7!  Ay yi yi!

Red leaf lettuce destined for your salad bowl

I've included a few shots that give you a sense of the winds in the second half of the day.  Crazy-making stuff.
It blew and blew and blew!

Old Glory

The day's record:  Paso Robles to King City, 59 miles/414 to date.

I love our country's flag, but when you are riding a bike, this is NOT what you want to see!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

6: Strawberry fields forever

This was a day to remember. We had fantastic weather, the anticipated headwinds never really showed up, and the scenery was beautiful.  Mark Friis, if you are reading this, you are going to have to put together a tour through these country roads some day!

We began by rolling through the strawberry fields of Nipomo.  If you are having strawberries from California with your breakfast, odds are they are coming from somewhere near here.
I would love to see the machine that prepares the fields like this!

The fields stretch on, well - forever! At least it seems that way.  Riding by the fields, you can smell their sweet scent.

"Bicycle Bandanna Berry Basket"
We had to stop for some berries at one of the local stands. They were delicious - sweet, with a slight snap and crunch to them.  When we traveled by bike before, we stopped at a fruit stand and I learned that you cannot carry berries in your panniers. So I used my bandanna to make a little sling for them, and they rode along just fine until we got to Pismo Beach, where they made a fine addition to breakfast.

So are we in Texas now?  Pumpjacks and drills?  No, this is just up the road from San Luis Obispo.

And while I know that they are invasive, non-native plants, I have to say that the wild mustard is so beautiful along the roads!

And I take some small comfort knowing that, in a pinch, we could stay alive by eating it.

This was all on the way up to our first named pass - which at 1552 feet hardly qualifies. But it was a long slog to get up it.

Other highlights on this day: the ride off the summit, along through the valley toward Atascadero.  It felt really good to ride along at a good clip after trudging up that climb.  And certainly we were glad to stop a spell at Firestone Walker Brewery, right on the edge of Paso Robles, where we enjoyed our reward!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

5: Getting the groove

Today was a beautiful day on the bike. It was short, and relatively sweet, and all the parts of the bike stayed where they were supposed to, except that I had a few crossword puzzles from the paper rolled up under the bungee, and they slipped out and fell away not far from the end of our day.  (I actually feel worse about the littering than the loss of the puzzles.  Roger would not let me run back to retrieve them.  Ah, well.  With all the trash I have picked up in my life left behind by others, perhaps this is just the cosmos having a little laugh at my expense.)

We began our day with a lovely Danish and coffee in, where else, the Danish capital of America:  Solvang.  Roger thought that perhaps Pete's pastry case would turn out to be the day's highlight.  It did warrant careful consideration before selection.

Our cinnamon rolls were delicious - airy yet filling.  Why can't Redlands have a pastry shop like this?  I thought of my friend Annamae Holzhauser, whose parents used to run the Sweet Shop. Of course - they were Dutch, not Danish, but I understand they had marvelous treats.

Many of our cycling friends have come out to this part of the world to ride one of the centuries offered by the local clubs. So we are familiar with some of these roads, and always enjoy the scenery. It was spectacular today. The rolling hills and grand oaks remind me a bit of the Texas hill country outside Houston.

However, south Texas does not have the vineyards that California does!

They are beautiful - all those neat, ordered soldiers marching in rows and columns up and over the hilltops with such precision. Not a vine, not a leaf, not a tendril appears out of order. How could something so structured be at the root of bacchanalia?

I love the neat rows and columns of grapevines marching up and over the hillsides as far as you can see
We are staying at Santa Maria Pines campground, and it is sweet. Clean restrooms and showers, pool and hot tub, laundry - just $10 a person for hikers and cyclists.  Finally we have set up camp! At last we get a chance to try out all the new stuff and sleep on the ground.
Roger surveys our little home away from home

Tomorrow we will head to Paso Robles, and perhaps drink a little wine.

So good night all. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

4: And all for the want of a horseshoe nail . . .

If you recognize that line in the heading, you'll have some idea where this particular post is going to go. But first things first! Let's begin at the beginning, with a really beautiful ride up the coast (starting early, to beat the expected gale-force winds that plagued us yesterday.)

Today, views of the slightly more "pacific" ocean greeted us along the route.

Avocado tree ghosts
Along the route, I looked up and saw a condor sailing on the wind!  Didn't have binoculars to confirm it, but there were hawks flying nearby, and they were small compared to this bird. Spectacular!  What a great sighting.

It was the back end's turn to flat this time.  However, we reduced our time to repair it by a good 20%.  While these repairs are time-consuming, they do offer us a chance to observe the countryside.  I was pleased to see a ladybug visiting us during our time on the shoulder of the road.  I consider them lovely little tokens of good luck. Maybe this one was jinxed . . .
Gaviota Pass is a classic climb here in Southern California

A nice touch!

Just up the road a bit, it was time to climb the Gaviota Pass. This is usually one of the windiest places in California, but we lucked out with just a bit of a tailwind on the climb.

The scenery in the valley as we descended was beautiful. Lots of our cycling club members come out here to ride some of the centuries offered by the local clubs.  The road on the shoulder was treacherous, though.  Since we were climbing, it wasn't too bad, but at one point Roger caught the front tire in one of these cracks and we tipped over. Luckily we were right by a guard rail and were able to keep the bike from totally going over.

No trip to this region is complete with a stop at Andersens to eat pea soup. At lunch, Roger said, "we are trying to go too far.  I think we just have to realize we are going to average 10 miles an hour.  And we're too heavy." I had also been thinking of things we could do without, figuring that we would jettison some stuff when we reached Dana's. Roger said we'd never make it over the Sierras unless we lost the weight now, so we started naming stuff we could do without.

And then, as luck would have it, the bolt holding the rack (our "horseshoe nail") sheared and we had to stop.  We got a lift back to Solvang, where Roger got a bike shop to drill out the bolt and give us a new one. While he was gone, I went through the packs and found everything I thought we could do without. Roger brought back some of those "if it fits, it ships" boxes and we took 13 pounds off to the Post Office post haste!

My poor baby strapped to the gurney! 

Rick the tow-truck operator and the clerk at the post office both had their role to play in today's drama.

And so here we are, just in Solvang when we thought we would be camping in Santa Maria tonight.  Jeff and Gail, our friends in the San Juan Islands have invited us to stay when we get up there. Based on our plan and predictions, we were worried that we might arrive too soon, as they were not going to be in residence until late May. But I have a feeling that is not going to be a problem!

And, so, sleeping in a hotel room once again, I say, "when life gives you lemons, go find a wine bar!"

A final note:  The wine bars had all closed by the time we headed out for dinner.  Turns out that Solvang is a "roll up the sidewalks at 5:00 pm" kind of place.  But we had an excellent meal and a nice bottle of wine at Cecco.  Highly recommend it.  And so all was well, leading to another of those little life lessons:

g.  there is not much in this world that cannot be improved with a nice bottle of wine.

Monday, April 25, 2016

3: Kathy and Rog and the Blustery Day

Holy tornado!  Well, not tornados, but great gracious the wind did blow today!  We left Fillmore and headed west toward Ventura - Telegraph Road was a nice ride through the avocado and lemon orchards that had me thinking about guacamole!  But it was not long before those ocean breezes began to assert themselves, and by the time we reached Santa Paula we knew that the day would be epic. And it was.

We had our first flat today.  Not a big deal, but getting the tire off with the packs and fenders is a chore.  I think we figured it took about 30 minutes to repair.  Not too long after that, we had another delay as I needed to stop in at a medical clinic to get a couple of staples removed from my head.  Yes, I have had staples in my head for a week!  I ran into some ductwork in the basement last week, and had to get stitched up, and so we had to find a clinic where they could be removed.  All in all, a relatively painless diversion, but it did eat up another hour of the day.
Kathy stops to have her head examined

Then, some lunch, and we headed up the coast in earnest.  We were on the Pacific Coast route, and facing stiff headwinds.  A short bit south of Carpinteria, you have to get on the 101 for about  half a mile.  At this point, the road crosses a railroad and goes between two hills.  The effect was stunning.  We were knocked off the bike twice.  I climbed off and said, "no way." Roger and I had to pull and push the bike up the hill over that train crossing, and literally at times could not move!  I was hanging onto the guard rail to hold myself upright. Blimey!
You can get some sense of the wind from this shot.
I don't have enough Internet connection to upload the video tonight, but I will try to share later.  It was a riot.  I thought about the hardy pioneers who crossed the mountains pushing and shoving their wagons!

So, once again, a change of plans.  We had hoped to make it to El Capitan campground.  But the combination of the howling winds, and the prospect of setting up a camp in those conditions, swayed us.

We rode through Santa Barbara, always lovely, with drops coming down. Would we get a reply from our last-minute requests of several Warm Showers hosts?  Alas, no.

But we felt like we could make it just a little further down the road, and decided in favor of a little hotel in Goleta.  Turns out they do still leave the light on for you!

Why do we call this one "pacific"?

2: A slight change of plans

Rob and Evelyn, of Palmdale
The toughness of day one, and the soft comfortable bed of our Warm Showers hosts, led to a revision for our second day on the road.  Roger had anticipated that we would go over the mountains toward Santa Maria and stay near Cuyama, which if not NO WHERE is at least within spitting distance of it.  Our hosts recommended instead that we take the Elizabeth Lake Road, and then come down San Francisquito Canyon, and it was indeed a splendid ride. They even rode out to the crossroads with us!

There were some pretty good pitches on the road before we began to descend.  At one point it was reading 11 percent.  That is a tough climb on a fully loaded tandem!
San Francisquito Canyon was beautiful, even as the sky threatened

Mark Friis, if you are reading this, you may want to plan a ride out here some day.  It was splendid! Along the valley road we passed lots of farms - here's a shot of onions as far as the eye can see.

 And then, as we approached civilization again, I was reminded of that Bob Seeger song, "Little Boxes" - and they're "all made out of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same."

We were hoping to connect with another Warm Showers host in Fillmore, a young man who is an organic farmer, but he must have been out in the fields because we never heard from him.

So Best Western it was!  I was okay with that.  Plenty of nights for sleeping on the ground await us.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

1: A most wonderful day

We could not have asked for a more perfect day to ride off into the sunset, as it were.  We actually started from our home around 7:20 am - but it was 7:30 pm when we made it to our hosts' home and were able to call it day.  And yes, we were racing the sunset as we battled the winds into Palmdale.

RWBTC invades McDonald's
Thanks, Mark, for a great send-off!
But let's back up a bit. Neighbors, family and friends came by to wish us well, and dozens of our cycling buddies rode out with us as far as the McDonald's on Hwy 138. What an amazing thing, to have an escort all the way across the valley and up the mountain.  Made me wonder if they were all riding along just to be certain that we really did leave!

Once our friends left, we were on our own for the climb up to Mountain Top. Hwy 138 is under construction.  Miles of K rails with plenty of traffic made for an anxious climb.  And it IS a climb!  Yikes! I was already thinking, "what can I throw out of these packs?"

Mt San Gorgonio in the background as we climb up Hwy 138

Not the best road of the day!
We did not really want to go so far on our first day, but there just aren't that many places to stay along the route.  We had the good fortune to bunk with Rob and Evelyn, the most gracious Warm Showers hosts we are likely to meet. They were all the way in Palmdale, though - so that's where we were headed.  Detours and really crappy roads were our lot, until we hit a really sweet section of the Pearblossom Highway that was all but empty. However, by this time, the headwinds were picking up. I'd say we fought them a good third to half of the 90 miles we rode that day.

We were tired and relieved to finally made our destination.  So, not quite averaging 10 miles an hour, we rode 90 miles in a 12 hour day,  Roger said, "that's the hardest day we're going to have on this tour.  Because I can't do anything any tougher!" Pushing 80 plus pounds up those hills, I'd have to agree.

Friday, April 22, 2016

And a little child shall lead them . . .

From Roger:

About 1000 last minute cleanup items.  Kind of like when you are packing up your house to move and you get down to the last half truckload full of stuff that doesn't fit into boxes or is too fragile to move or you can't decide whether to put it out on the curb.  Among our tasks today was a visit to our church-sponsored nursery to show Miss Liz and her charges our bike and gear.  They are going to follow us on a US map posted in their class, but were singularly unimpressed with our ambitious goal.  It seems the concept of distance is not even partially developed in most 4-year olds.  

Anyway we leave tomorrow at 8 from our coffee shop and what does not get done will just have to wait until October.

A couple of the kids get a sense of what it's like on the bike.  
We have been giving some thought to our log format; here is what Roger has come up with:

From - To
Time on bike
High points of our day
Low points of our day (if any)
Health issues and there will be some

Kathy's additions:
Average mph on the day

The children attend chapel several times a week; they have offered to pray for our safe return and we figure that can't hurt!  By the way, they were very taken with the bell, which is also one of my favorite things.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

D Day - 4

Roger is our author for the post below - as well as being our chief publicist and media manager. Through the posts that he's made on Facebook and the emails he has sent to family and friends, the word is getting out.  Boy, the pressure is on! (Kathy)

The stuff for the pack is getting weeded out.  No long sleeve jerseys, ax the water purification system, jettison the big lock in favor of a wire harness that would not stop an 8 year old.  All clothes being pressed into vacuum travel zip locks (halving the space).  Tomorrow, Kathy assures me that she will pack all this shit and we can test drive at Chris's Thursday ride. My creative incompetence seems to have relieved me of any part in the packing.  Kathy being who she is and I being who I am seems to work out some way, as long as I do not attempt in any way to touch anything related to the gear.  When we are on the road, I will be responsible for setting up and tearing down, but can have no role in putting stuff in the packs.  This division of labor somehow works.

With humble gratitude to all the accolades we have gotten for our plan, on the subject of the relative potential for us actually pulling this off, Kathy, being who she is, is the optimist and I am the realist.  10,000 m is very far on a bike.  Over 6 months we propose to haul about 480 lbs of bike riders and gear the equivalent of halfway around the prime meridian, up 60 lineal miles (with the help of our good mechanical friends: the wheel, the inclined plane, the pulley and the lever).  When we did our tour 6 years ago we did 1200 miles in about 18 days which is where we got the projected estimate.  Six years ago I barely qualified for social security.  This trip requires more gear and is being attempted by a 72 year old man and a girl.  Our projection of 60 miles/day could end up being 40 or less, in which case we would be crossing the Rockies during the spring skiing season in 2017.  Also there are road hazards, saddle sores, sickness, disability, and dementia that can upset our plan. Point being that undertaking this journey is not to be confused with actually accomplishing it.

We should have a very much better handle on reality in a week.

Friday, April 15, 2016

T minus one week and counting . . .

It is hard to believe that we are so close to our launch date!  Roger and I have been trying to get everything ready, and lately we arise in the morning and ask each other, "how long have you been lying awake?" Ah, if only we could just turn our brains off when it's time for sleep!

Roger has been creating routes for us - some in the early stages are more structured and will likely prove to be mostly what we do . . . others are so far out on the horizon that he's just asking Google maps to craft a path so we have some rough idea of the number of miles we'll need to cover.  We've purchased a handful of detailed guides from Adventure Cycling, and have the loan of others from friends. We will have a computer with us, so I foresee that we'll stop from time to time to do some research and update our routes for the coming leg of the journey in a coffee shop somewhere. Because surely there will be many coffee shops along the way!

Of particular concern to me in my preparations is getting things squared away with my volunteer duties at Redlands Conservancy. I've been keeping track of member data and contributions for some years, and so I had to figure out how to pass that task along to someone else while I am gone. As part of that job, I worked with several students at the University to fashion a new database that will most certainly work better and give us easier access to information. But the conversion required I clean up my decade-old spreadsheet. Roger has wondered what on Earth I am doing up here for so many hours! At last I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

We have also had to think through how to handle financial dealings while we are away. Roger will keep up with payments and such on our little laptop. This requires that he move our records (Quicken) and install that application on the new computer. (Another reason to hit the coffee shop!)

We are both pretty healthy, but we thought it prudent to get check-ups before heading out.  Roger's taken a statin for a while to moderate his cholesterol - so getting a six month stash of that was a bit of a process as well.  My trigger finger (long finger, left hand) was acting up again, and clearly there was no time for another operation before we left. So I had another injection, and I am now prepared with a script for Naprosyn should the inflammation and swelling return (which I am sure it will!) This particular ailment might not seem all that critical, but I have found in the past that getting up and out of the tent requires that I place my weight on my hands, and when they are inflamed, it's truly difficult to manage.

Ah, what does it take to get away from it all?  Turns out you have to take a fair amount of "it" with you!