All posts by Michael Ballard

I have been the author and host of the Southern California Regional Rocks and Roads website - http://socalregion.com - since 1995. I study geology and highway history.

San Luis Obispo to Santa Clarita Double Century – May 29, 2011

My first double century ride would go from San Luis Obispo to Santa Clarita. It would be the longest ride I had ever set out to do, breaking my distance record by at least 46 miles. The plan was simple. I would follow the same route as I took in May last year from San Luis Obispo to Ventura, but adding the segment to Santa Clarita.  For those wanting more details of my route, I went the following way:
From San Luis Obispo:
Hwy 227, Price Canyon, Hwy 1, Hwy 135, Hwy 101, “Coast Route” signed bike route from Goleta to Carpinteria, Hwy 101, Hwy 1, Telegraph Rd, Hwy 126, Santa Clara River Trail, Sierra Highway
So, on May 29, I set out from San Luis Obispo at 5:30am, and began the longest ride of my life. The weather was cool at first, and a bit cloudy. Once past Guadalupe, the wet and muddy roadway shoulders I had been dealing with north of town had finally dried up. The winds I had been hoping for also finally materialized south of town. Not only were they consistent in speed, but they were nearly directly behind me – a perfect tailwind. It helped pass the miles and keep me going. I was getting hungry! So, in Los Alamos, I stopped for breakfast at the Twin Oaks Restaurant. I stopped there on my last ride through here, and had a decent and quick breakfast. As I was in full cycling gear (skinsuit, leg and arm warmers, shoe covers), I always seem to get questions about the ride like “Where are you riding from?” – “San Luis Obispo”, “Where are you riding to?” – “Santa Clarita”… yes, a long ways down the road. Still, 150 miles to go! My pace was pretty fast so far, keeping a 20 mph average for the first 50 miles.
After getting back out on the road, I got onto US 101, the first real busy roadway of the trip. Ahh… US 101 in the Central Coast area. It is my favorite section. A very pastoral scene, rolling hills, oaks, cows, and yes… lots of vehicles on the expressway. After topping the summit, I glided down to Buellton. One more hill down, just one major climb ahead. Being a holiday weekend, heavier traffic wasn’t surprising. One thing I did see that caught my eye though was the high number of antique cars heading southbound. I never did see where they were going, but I lost count after at least 20 passed me.
I stopped in Buellton to refill my drinks, and headed on south. Onwards and upwards to the last major climb of the ride, though with many more miles still to go. The last hill, Nojoqui Canyon and Summit, isn’t that much a climb. The summit itself is lower than the one north of Buellton, but not by much. The last part of the climb is steep, but still not bad. After topping this last summit, it would be downhill to Gaviota. Downhill and downwind… not always a good thing. Winds slowly increased in speed as I got closer to the bottom of the grade. This became a problem when I got up to about 35 mph and was getting battered by sudden crosswinds. I slowed down real fast and kept it slower until I got through the area. Crashing at high speed isn’t pleasant at any location or time and I didn’t want to start now. The next 25 or so miles would be very beautiful and fun. It would be my last rural section until after Ventura. I was able to keep a pretty decent pace, tailwinds and my own energy helping greatly.
At Goleta, I finally reached the halfway point. 100 miles! I hit that mark at 11:20am, with a 20.3 mph average, with a 4:51 rolling time. Not bad… my best century ride yet. It didn’t really hit me until after I was eating my lunch in Goleta that I had gone 100 miles and wasn’t really thinking so much about it. Most rides END around that distance, and here I was only in the middle. So, after having a short lunch, it was again onward. I took an easy course through the Goleta, Santa Barbara, and Carpinteria area. I highly recommend following the signed “Coast Route” through town. Most major streets are avoided making the route quite pleasant.
My next big stop was in Ventura, where I met up with a friend of mine. He brought me snacks and drinks to refuel and refill with. It was good talking with him and his partner. He was going on a big ride the next day, and invited me to go. I declined, figuring I’d be a bit tired after today. I wanted to talk for a while longer, but he prodded me to continue. It was true. I still had 50 more miles to go. So, we parted ways and I worked my way out of town. After Ventura, I was greeted with many miles of orange and avocado groves. They smelled wonderful and gave me a bit of a lift when I began to encounter some headwinds. The distance between the towns in the Santa Clara River Valley isn’t big, which made it feel like I was going faster than I was.
 By the time I reached Fillmore, I needed a break. I stopped at a gas station at Hwy 23. I picked a good one, they had Mexican Coke there… just what I was looking for. So, I stepped out, sat in a chair out front, and had my Coke. While I was relaxing, another cyclist showed up, and went into the store. After he came back out with his drink, he walked over my way, and we started talking. “Where are you riding today?”, “Is that a cyclocross bike?” The fun part was when I said where I had been riding today. When I told him I started in San Luis Obispo, his first response was “Where is that?” “Well, it is about 100 miles past Santa Barbara”, I replied. His response was amusing. “So… wait… it is 100 miles PAST Santa Barbara and you rode here, WOW! That is a long ride”. It is the best response I’ve received on a ride yet.
The last miles of the ride were the worst. I encountered steadily stronger headwinds, and was getting much more tired. I wondered at times if I was going to be able to make it. The winds had gone from a nice northwest direction to more a northeast direction. This would not be good, especially the last 10 miles. After fighting these winds for about 15 miles I reached Castaic Junction. One look to the north gave me hope. I saw clouds in the Tejon Pass area. Clouds in the pass mean northwest winds, a tailwind again at last! Crossing the Santa Clarita Valley, the last 10 or so miles of my ride, felt quite different to me. My first long distance ride was doing the same thing, crossing Santa Clarita. As I made my way across town I began to have doubts of the mileage. It was looking like I’d come up short. I hadn’t gone this far to not get 200 miles on the odometer. So, I made a couple of small loops in Canyon Country, and still had to go past my destination just to get the mileage. Still, 200 miles was achieved. I accomplished my goal, and did something that only a couple of years ago I thought was impossible. I also found my upper limit for a one-day ride. That limit looks to be 225 to 250 miles, depending on many variables.
And for my next big ride? So many possibilities, so many places to go. I look forward to the next great adventure. Who knows where it will take me?

Long Rides Getting Longer…

It seems I have to redefine what a short ride is for me lately. I’ve been gradually increasing my distance record over the past three years. Sometimes I increase my record by only a few miles, sometimes by a whole lot more.

On May 7, 2011, I took the train to Los Angeles Union Station, and rode home. Downtown Los Angeles and my home in San Diego seem so far apart. They are about 110 miles apart, along the 5. The route I took, which I felt was the easiest and safest route, was 154 miles in length. San Diego may be southeast of Los Angeles but I started my ride heading west. Seems odd to go the opposite way to my destination, but it was the best way. I’ve found a really nice and fast route west from Downtown LA to Mid-City (Vineyard Junction, or for those non-Pacific Electric knowing folk – San Vicente Blvd and Venice Blvd). Past that, the options open up. On that ride, I followed Venice Blvd to Overland Ave, then to the Ballona Creek Trail. It proved to be a good way to bypass a large swath of city in a fast and efficient way. Once at the coast, I took the South Bay Trail down to Redondo Beach. That trail can be quite fun to ride, with all the distractions of the hot surfer boys in their wetsuits to watch!

After Redondo Beach, I followed Palos Verdes Drive North, then around the harbor, and into Long Beach. From Long Beach, I followed the coast the rest of the way down. The ride got more interesting and more tiring through Laguna Beach, with all those rolling hills. Things did look up though, as I found $80 alongside the roadway not long after taking a break just south of Laguna Beach. Sometimes, it does pay to bicycle! It did add a bit of brightness to my day, as the last few miles had been less than fun. Just too much traffic, and too narrow a roadway. Beyond that, there were a few more rolling hills, and San Clemente. At least that town could be avoided, quite nicely too. The signed bike route has sharrows and bike lanes. It can be tougher to follow at the north end, but overall, a good route. Just past San Clemente was San Diego County. So, goodbye Orange County, hello San Diego County!

I kept a good pace most of the route south, stopping in Oceanside for some food. It got dark around Torrey Pines, but most of the ride was over by then. I finally got home right about 8:30pm, tired, a bit sore, but quite happy. It was a long ride, but my next would be even further. I had a 200 mile ride in the works for the end of May.

Big Plans… and changes.

It has been a while since I posted to my blog. I just haven’t had any real big adventures lately. I’ve just been busy with other things. That is changing soon though.

My big August Oregon Coast trip had to be cancelled. Too many problems kept coming up, one of them being cost. So, it will be postponed. I will, however, be going on some “shorter” rides this month. This Saturday, May 7th, I will be embarking on a day ride from downtown Los Angeles to San Diego. The short goal for the ride is Solana Beach. My idea is simple. I go as far south as I can, and see how things are at that point. If I don’t think I can make it up Torrey Pines Grade at mile 140 on a ride, or it is too late by then, I will stop there and take the train home.

This is only a precursor to the longest single day ride yet planned by me. I will be riding from San Luis Obispo to Santa Clarita, a distance of about 200 miles, on May 29th. I already have the route picked out and have ridden the whole thing, just not all at once before. It is the upper limit of what I am willing to ride in a day.

I’ll post more details on the ride as it gets closer.

Redlands and old US 99 – Sunday, March 20, 2011

On Sunday, I went to the Redlands area to drop off a friend. I figured, why not see some old highway in the area and make the trip back more fun? So, after dropping him off, I headed over to Redlands Blvd. This is a section of old US 99 that still retains its concrete paving from the late 1940’s. I never really got any photos of it before, so it was good to see it still there. From Citrus Ave east, the roadway is more of an expressway, with a wide median and limited access.

After Redlands, the next section of old highway would prove a bit more interesting to get to. It was a short section of concrete paving, from the 1920’s most likely, and was located adjacent to the 10 freeway.  I had to actually pull off the freeway shoulder to drive the short section. It was pretty neat, seeing as how this had been realigned so many times since that concrete was poured. I was hoping to return to the freeway by simply driving through. That idea was quickly thwarted when I found a tall curb at the shoulder. I had to back up and get on where I pulled off. So much for trying to be inconspicuous!

Redlands Blvd, "in town"
Redlands Blvd, “in town”
Divided section of Redlands Blvd, like an expressway.
Divided section of Redlands Blvd, like an expressway.
Some of the concrete visible... seen just to the right of the shoulder.
Some of the concrete visible… seen just to the right of the shoulder.
More paving, both lanes now visible.
More paving, both lanes now visible.

My next stop would be Robert Rd, near Cherry Valley Blvd. This section is threatened with removal or repaving as it is adjacent to a new large housing tract. So far, it is still intact. This nice concrete section dates to about 1928 and is one of the last sections of intact concrete around here. I took many photos here, hoping they wouldn’t be my last. The economic slowdown seems to have helped here, as the housing tract construction has slowed dramatically. At this point, I figured, I’ve gone this far… might as well go to the 60 junction and look around. So, I got back on the freeway, and took the San Timoteo Canyon Road exit. A frontage road heads east here, on the south side of the freeway. A portion of it is old US 99, complete with a 1939 bridge over San Timoteo Creek. Upon closer inspection of the bridge, I found that the eastbound I-10 bridge was also a part of old US 99. It was the original westbound bridge for the expressway, built in 1951. Now traffic is going the wrong way over it, from a historical context. One final stop was to be made, the old US 99 / US 60 / US 70 junction at the edge of Beaumont.

Short section of Roberts Rd that is now a driveway.
Short section of Roberts Rd that is now a driveway.
Roberts Rd, fairly pristine 1920's concrete.
Roberts Rd, fairly pristine 1920’s concrete.
San Timoteo Creek Bridge from 1939
San Timoteo Creek Bridge from 1939
Old westbound bridge from 1950, now eastbound I-10.
Old westbound bridge from 1950, now eastbound I-10.

I’d seen what appeared to be bridge piers and concrete approaches to an old bridge just north of the current SR-60. It turns out, that is exactly what they were. In 1936, the current westbound bridge for SR-60 (old US 60), was built. It replaced an earlier bridge, the one that I had been seeing pieces of. Today was finally my chance to walk around and see the old pieces. I was rather amazed at how much was left, considering how long ago it was all torn out. A fair amount of the eastern approach to the bridge remained, most of it buried under a thin layer of dirt. There wasn’t anything left of the western approach. I also got some photos of the exit sign for the 60 West from the 10 East. The sign was from 1960, and was overlaid with a SR-60 sign. Yes, there is a US 60 shield under there… just hope the overlay panel falls off at some point! After hiking around, it was time to head back. The approaching storm was getting worse, and the winds were picking up. I had a long drive ahead, and didn’t really want to do it in heavy rain. Thankfully, all I had to deal with was heavy winds and dust at times. I finally got to see some sections of old US 99 that I either hadn’t seen before, or weren’t sure were still around. More trips will be made up this way, just not during summer.

1936 Beaumont Overhead, now westbound SR-60
1936 Beaumont Overhead, now westbound SR-60
Remains of the earlier Beaumont Overhead
Remains of the earlier Beaumont Overhead
Some of the old approach still exists, with concrete.
Some of the old approach still exists, with concrete.
The SR-60 shield is on top of a US 60 shield.
The SR-60 shield is on top of a US 60 shield.

Pine Creek Ride – March 6, 2011

It was time for another Mt Laguna ride. I always enjoy them. The first real singletrack trails I took on my cyclocross bike were there. Today, I wouldn’t get the chance to take the trails… too much snow! Alas, more roads for me, but those are still fun. After getting to the parking area behind Majors Café in Pine Valley, I headed out on my ride. The weather was warmer than I expected, but not too bad. The winds were still light, which was also good. I started out taking Old Highway 80, then over to Pine Creek Road – my road to fun. I had originally found this road through a San Diego birding website, when I was researching other roadways in the area. I had no idea what would be in store for me that first time, but I have enjoyed it ever since.

First closure gate on Pine Creek Road.
First closure gate on Pine Creek Road.

The Cleveland National Forest website stated the roadway would be closed. A closed road means no cars to contend with, not that there were ever many anyway. I got to the first gate, which I hadn’t seen closed before. Cool! Now I had the place mostly to myself. I did become a little concerned though… if the first gate was closed, did that mean the creek crossing would be flooded? Well, I found out quick, it was not! So, onward and upward! After the second gate, there is a short climb, and then a drop into a small canyon, lined with trees. Normally, this is a nice thing. Today, it was a little more problematic. The recent snow storm had caused some of the trees to fall, or at least large branches of them. I had to go around two trees; one was quite large and blocked most of the roadway. Still, I made it around and continued on.

Descending into the tree lined canyon... before the steep grade.
Descending into the tree lined canyon… before the steep grade.
View back down, a very nice day for a ride.
View back down, a very nice day for a ride.
Large oak tree branch blocking the road, I went around to the left.
Large oak tree branch blocking the road, I went around to the left.

After this pleasant little canyon, the roadway takes an upward bend. It is really the only way to describe it. The roadway goes from an average grade of maybe 4-6% to 15-20% in a very short time. This is the steepest grade around here… at least by paved roadway. The worst section is near the top, where the gradient keeps at about 17% for about ¼ mile. There is so far only one stretch of roadway in San Diego County that gets my heart and breathing going as fast… and that is the section. As I was climbing this stretch, I passed three others that were walking their mountain bikes up. One had said, “Are you just showing off?” to which I replied “No, it is just easier than walking for me.” I prefer to ride up instead of stopping along the way, when I can. Starting again on such a steep slope can be rather difficult sometimes. Once past the steep part, a small saddle is reached, where there is road junction, a tree, and some shade to rest under. I stopped there to rest a bit. I was breathing hard and had more climbing to go. After drinking a bit of water, talking with the other riders that caught up, and walking around a little, I was ready to move on.

Up and Up! The road goes up to the right, then left following the ridge.
Up and Up! The road goes up to the right, then left following the ridge.

Getting past this third gate, I’d see the first roadside snow. Mind you, it was small patches, but still. It would be telling of what was to come. As I climbed higher, the winds did increase some, which I had rather expected, the temperature dropped some, and more snow was at the roadside. After the first “summit”, the road rolls a bit more. The first big drop was clear of snow… the second was not. Snow was mostly blocking the road, but it was still manageable. It wouldn’t be until after the first Noble Canyon Trail crossing, getting up into the pines, that the snow would be covering most of the ground beyond the roadway. At the upper Noble Canyon Trail crossings, I came upon the first snow entirely blocking the roadway. It wasn’t too deep, and there were tracks to the left side… so, I tried to ride through. I went through with one foot unclipped, so that I could catch myself if I started to fall. Well, good thing I did. The snow was a bit icy on top, and just about all ice at the bottom. Rather crunchy and tough to ride through. But then… this is cyclocross… gotta carry the bike at some point! The drift here was shallow by comparison to the next, about a half mile away. That drift, was about two feet deep at the most, and was much slower to cross. I began to wonder if it would get worse, but I knew the road did not get much higher and was more exposed now. Only large puddles of water were blocking the road up to the final gate, at Sunrise Highway.

Getting into the pines and the snow.
Getting into the pines and the snow.
Snow cover is getting thicker.
Snow cover is getting thicker.
The road is under this snow... I know it is!
The road is under this snow… I know it is!
I followed the tracks to the left in the dirt. Not too bad, but icy.
I followed the tracks to the left in the dirt. Not too bad, but icy.

I didn’t linger long at the gate, just enough to cross and get riding. Traffic was light and so were the winds! When I got near the upper Noble and Big Laguna trailhead, I saw it was full of cars, some of which had empty bike racks! Well… Being the explorer I am sometimes, I decided to check out the trail. At first, it was a bit muddy, and then snow covered, but still mostly passable. Well, most of the bike tracks that I saw led onto the Noble Canyon Trail, just a couple of them led to the Big Laguna connector. I proceeded further, got just past the first gate, and stopped.  There were no more bike tracks and the trail was now completely covered in snow. Well, I tried. I know my limits. It was back to Sunrise Highway for me.

Nope. Not going down this trail today.
Nope. Not going down this trail today.

After I had returned to Sunrise Highway, I decided I’d still try another alternate route. I’ve done a similar loop in the past, with this much snow, so I knew what to expect. About a mile up the road, I turned off at the Laguna Campground. This is also the lower end of Los Huecos Road, which ends next to the Visitor’s Center. The campground was mostly closed, as it usually is in winter, but it also made for a pleasant ride. I followed the route through the campground to a gate where the road was not plowed, at all. I had no intention of riding this part, I didn’t the last time. So, the bike ride was now a hike, with a bike. Fun! I do enjoy going to the snow, and this time was never really that cold. The hike lasted about ¼ mile, not bad. Well, after this snowbound portion, it was back to road, at first paved, then dirt. Riding over the dirt was felt a bit slower at times but overall wasn’t bad. I passed many people out playing in the snow. This little canyon is one of the better areas for snow play in the Mt Laguna area.

The road is about a foot under the bike.
The road is about a foot under the bike.
Gotta get a shot of the bike in the snow!
Gotta get a shot of the bike in the snow!

I reached the top of the road, and was ready to get some snacks. I stopped at the Mt Laguna Store, a general store located near the top of the mountain. They have a wide selection of stuff. I usually top off my drinks here, and get something else to snack on. So, I got a can of Pepsi, some beef jerky, and sat out on the porch and relaxed for a while. Once I felt refreshed and was done eating, I was ready to head down the mountain. With all the snow, all my alternate routes down would be snowbound, so it would just be a quick ride down Sunrise Highway for me. The ride down was fairly uneventful until I got down to just below the 5000’ level. The high winds, which were predicted, were tossing me around at times, making travel a bit hazardous. I did manage to keep a decent pace at least. The winds weren’t so much a headwind as a crosswind. Once I got back to the car, I noticed there were still lots of other cars still in the parking area, a few with bike racks. Perhaps they made the longer loop, and rode to Julian or something. Another day, I’ll do that, when I can take more dirt trail to do it!

San Juan Capistrano Ride – Saturday, January 30, 2011

I haven’t gone on a long bike ride in a while. I felt I needed to, and really wanted to. A nice ride up the coast would be fun, and allow for a train return. So, I decided to set San Juan Capistrano as my goal. It seemed “easy” enough. The ride would be 70 miles in length and without many large hills.  Originally, I was going to do a more narrative description of the ride. However, as I wore one of my skinsuits, which have no pockets, so I didn’t bring a camera… I’ll just do a shorter summary.

The ride started off fairly nice. The weather was decent, a bit warmer than I had thought it would be. When I passed through UCSD, there was some sort of a protest or rally going on. People with signs… couldn’t really tell. I was busy with my ride. In the Torrey Pines area, there was a golf tournament going on which made for heavier than normal traffic, until Torrey Pines Grade. After that, the ride was much more relaxed. Del Mar and Solana Beach were fairly light, but traffic got heavier again near Cardiff.

Overall, I seemed to be seeing more cyclists on the road than I usually do. Most of them were going southbound. Some were alone, others were in groups. I left all those groups behind though, once I got into Encinitas. I decided to take a different way through town, going to the west instead of staying on 101. It was a good choice. I stayed off of US 101 from Swami’s to within a couple of blocks of La Costa Ave. No traffic, few stops, nice road. It was so much better than the 101. The trouble, Neptune Ave is one-way northbound. So… southbound I still have to take 101. I made it through Carlsbad fairly quickly, which was nice. It tends to get busy on nice days such as this. After the turn towards Pacific St, I stopped for a short break. While there, quite a few more cyclists past me. It was a really busy day. Who could blame them, the weather was great! It was also getting closer to decision time for me – go through the military base or take I-5. I got to the point I had to decide… still wasn’t sure. After a minute, I decided to take I-5. Why not? It had a nice wide shoulder, good paving, and had less steep grades. It worked out nicely. Because of the traffic, I had a fairly steady tailwind pushing me north. I took another short break at the rest stop, had some soda and a candy bar.

Finally heading north again, the tailwind continued to push me along, well, at least help me along. Reaching the Las Pulgas exit was good. I was glad to leave the freeway behind, and now ride the old US 101 expressway. In keeping with my old highway theme, I stayed on the old northbound lanes, instead of the “bike path” which follows the old southbound lanes. Some of the northbound side has a few weeds, and isn’t really the place you’d take a road bike. All the more roadway for me! Getting through the parking lot for San Onofre State Beach was nice and quiet too.  Near the San Onofre Overhead, I noticed that the roadway had new markings. Sharrows had now been painted northbound; a bike lane had been painted southbound. It seems the State had restriped the roadway, allowing more room for bicycles, specifically southbound. It was a great sight to see.

There were less surfers in wetsuits than I had hoped for near Trestles, but there will be more next time I’m sure. After doing a bit of searching beforehand, and riding through last time, I had found a rather nice western bypass of San Clemente. It is well signed and marked on the south end. Once you get to the north end, things change. Signage becomes poor, as do road markings. I still found my way through, always a different route each time. I’ll figure it out eventually! After getting through all that, it was time for some fun along the cliffs. From San Clemente to Dana Point, the roadway has a nice shoulder, with bike lanes. The roadway is usually in good shape, and the winds this time were to my favor. I managed to pass through relatively quickly, keeping a pace somewhere around 20mph most of the way.

At Dana Point, US 101 turns inland. The scenic portion was done, and it was more a city street here. There was, however, one short section of original concrete that I got to ride, right near I-5. Further north, the roadway varies from wide to narrow, bike lane to none. Overall, it still wasn’t bad. I enjoyed the ride into San Juan Capistrano. I reached the train station about 1:45, far earlier than I had anticipated. I finished with an average speed of 18.5 mph, quite fast for me. It was very enjoyable. I would highly recommend the route I took, but would need a better one through the north end of San Clemente.

Mt Laguna Loop Ride – Now with Snow! – Sunday, January 3, 2011

I had wanted to go for a nice bike ride up in the mountains. It had been a while since the last time up there.  About a week before, I had posted on sdbikecommuter.com about the ride, asking if anyone wanted to go along. One did reply, Sigurd, from San Diego. He came over at about 8:30 am and picked me up. The drive out was fairly nice, though seeing ice alongside the freeway was a bit disconcerting.  Still, I wore plenty of warm clothes and was planning for it to be cold.

Arriving in Pine Valley, we parked the car behind Major’s Diner, got our stuff together, and headed out. We started by heading east on Old Highway 80, cold at first, but warmed up after the climb up to Laguna Summit. On the way down the summit, we passed the border checkpoint, which had two nasty speed bumps sitting across the roadway. I managed to bypass them in the dirt, Sigurd rolled right around them.  It was otherwise a nice descent into the valley by Buckman Springs.  We only encountered light winds, so the ride across the valley was pretty good. As Sigurd hadn’t been through here before, I pointed out various things, including Kitchen Creek. Hwy 80 crosses Kitchen Creek a couple of miles west of Kitchen Creek Road. Another short hill later, we finally made the turn onto Kitchen Creek Road. The weather was still good, even with the ice in the shadowed areas. We saw only one car as we made our way up the road, which is about average. After the first hill, we finally descended into the canyon of Kitchen Creek. It had a fair amount of water in it, enough to make the ride up the canyon quite pleasant.

A different day, but a nice view up Kitchen Creek Canyon.
A different day, but a nice view up Kitchen Creek Canyon.

As we gained elevation, we started to see more snow in the shadows. We also found some ice across the roadway just before the gate. We avoided it, but it gave us more to be cautious about for the rest of the ride.  After the gate, the fun part of the road begins. For the next few miles, there would be no cars, just the road and us. The views up the canyon were quite nice, with some small cascades visible along the canyon floor. We also had noticed that we had a slight tailwind, helpful for climbing hills such as this one.  The higher we climbed, the more snow we found. At a few points, snow had completely covered the roadway. It was fun to ride through, with my new fenders I didn’t worry about getting splashed or wet. Temperatures also were dropping, but that was to be expected. They were forecast to be in the 30’s at the top of the mountain. After passing the upper gate, we finally reached the pine forest.  Most of the climbing was behind us now, with only a couple of short climbs ahead to the top. Before reaching Sunrise Highway, we saw many others that had come up to play in the snow. One group had asked us if we were cold, we said no, and were almost too warm! We had climbed up the mountain on our bikes after all.

Cascades down in the canyon.
Cascades down in the canyon.
Sigurd, with his Cannondale.
Sigurd, with his Cannondale.
Up the canyon, more climbing to go.
Up the canyon, more climbing to go.
Nice section of Kitchen Creek Road.
Nice section of Kitchen Creek Road.
Just a bit of snow... more would follow.
Just a bit of snow… more would follow.
Ever higher, we pause to check out the view toward San Diego.
Ever higher, we pause to check out the view toward San Diego.
More snow, still on Kitchen Creek.
More snow, still on Kitchen Creek.
Now covered in snow... no ice here thankfully.
Now covered in snow… no ice here thankfully.
Just rolling along...
Just rolling along…
Shasta in the snow. Not the first time, but the first with the fenders.
Shasta in the snow. Not the first time, but the first with the fenders.

Finally reaching Sunrise Highway, the nice empty roadway we had been riding was replaced with a road with snow piles as a shoulder. It wasn’t too much an issue, traffic was still light. It just made things a bit more interesting at times. The snow looked to be about three to four inches deep around this area. We briefly crested at 6000’ near the Wooded Hill turnoff and then descended into the Mt Laguna community. It was about the coldest I’d felt so far on the ride. Brrr! We made it to the Mt Laguna Store, got some snacks, and took a short break on the porch. Before we had arrived, someone had apparently had some trouble with the snow or ice, as their car was lodged against the stop sign at Los Huecos Road. Their attempts to free the car gave us at least some “entertainment” while we snacked.  Eventually, a few others came along and helped push them along. The stop sign was at least still standing after they left. After we were done, we went over to the visitor’s center next door, which was having some problems. The water in the restrooms had frozen, but the water in the drinking fountain had not. Yes, even in San Diego County, the pipes can freeze. Well, after we took care of what we needed there, it was time to get on the road. A few hundred feet down the road, we turned off to a nice vista point above the Imperial Valley. It looked so warm, and we were so cold. After we got back onto Sunrise Highway, it would be a couple of miles of downhill riding. Now, we had been mostly climbing so far, keeping us warm. Heading downhill was a different story. It felt a whole lot colder now. My feet and hands were feeling quite numb by the end. I stopped at the Noble Canyon trailhead to try to warm up a bit, it helped. As we dropped in elevation, the temperatures were at least rising. The amount of snow had diminished as well. With all the snow and ice we’d seen so far, I was getting a bit nervous about our next road, Pine Creek Road.

Mt Laguna, lots of snow here and close to 6000'.
Mt Laguna, lots of snow here and close to 6000′.

Just about a half mile past the Noble Canyon trailhead, we turned onto Pine Creek Road. So far, the road looked alright. As we went further down, we encountered more mud and more snow. The worst section for both, especially mud, was around the Noble Canyon trail crossings. Still, it wasn’t that bad and we made it through without much trouble. We encountered only a few vehicles on the way down. We made one final stop at the tree above the steepest descent. Sigurd was having some trouble with his brakes, and it was a good place to regroup.  While we were stopped, a truck with a bunch of downhill mountain bikes past us. We’d seen a lot of bike tracks on the Noble Canyon trail, so we assumed they had been riding it. It wasn’t a good idea, as the trail was really muddy, and riding it like that can cause damage to the trail.

Small pool, iced over.
Small pool, iced over.
All wrapped up in my gear, I'm mostly warm.
All wrapped up in my gear, I’m mostly warm.
Down Pine Creek Road.
Down Pine Creek Road.
One of my favorite stops along Pine Creek, view is westerly toward Cuyamaca Peak.
One of my favorite stops along Pine Creek, view is westerly toward Cuyamaca Peak.

After descending the steep part, the road heads into a narrow canyon, which is lined with oak trees. It was very nice and didn’t have the ice problem I thought it would. The ride the rest of the way down was quite pleasant, with no additional roadway problems. After we left the Forest, we turned off of Pine Creek Road, into a residential area on the east side of Pine Valley. Taking this road instead of going to Hwy 80 would save us a bit of riding, and had lighter traffic. After a few miles, we got back to the car. Overall, it was a good ride. We had lots of fun. The ride finished with just shy of 40 miles, about 4500′ of climb, and a 10.5 mph average. Sigurd got to see some new roads and I got another ride around Mt Laguna. There will be more rides up there as it is a fun place to go.

New Years 2011

While I could write about my staying out at the southeast corner of Colorado Blvd and Lake Ave for almost 24 hours, parts may be boring. So, I’ll be brief. Except three years (1997, 2000, 2006), I’ve gone to the Rose Parade since 1995. The first time was with my dad, and we arrived around 4:30am. We were on the wrong side of the street and didn’t know what we were doing. We now know what to do. I was dropped off at the corner about 11:15am on the 31st, and was the first there at that corner. This year, I held spots for 12 people, 8 showed. That gave us plenty of room, right on the front row. Overall, it was a great experience. I always meet new people there. This time, the people adjacent to me were from Hanford and Las Vegas. I may not be there for the 2012 parade, but I will be there for the 2013 parade, weather permitting. Maybe I’ll see you there?

The corner and part of the group.
The corner and part of the group.
More of the group, front row seats!
More of the group, front row seats!

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10k miles – At Last!

It finally happened. On Saturday, my bicycle officially rolled past 10,000 miles. I wanted to make the ride a fun ride, so I went for a ride up the coast to Oceanside. It was a simple 40 mile ride with decent weather. Overall, it was a fun ride. I hit the 10k mark on Gilman Dr, just north of I-5. Rather nice, an old alignment of US 101, complete with old curbing. Could have been a more scenic spot, but at least it wasn’t AT I-5 as it was looking like it was going to be. All told, about 5,000 miles were just biking around, 4000 were commuting, and 1000 were touring. Not bad for a two year run. I wonder what the next 10,000 will hold?

At 10,000 miles, the main odometer stops reading in tenths.
At 10,000 miles, the main odometer stops reading in tenths.
View from the handlebars, on Gilman Dr.
View from the handlebars, on Gilman Dr.
Gilman Dr, old US 101, just north of I-5.
Gilman Dr, old US 101, just north of I-5.
A big smile for the occasion!
A big smile for the occasion!
Top of Torrey Pines Grade, clear skies ahead.
Top of Torrey Pines Grade, clear skies ahead.
End of the ride in Oceanside. Still all geared up.
End of the ride in Oceanside. Still all geared up.

Central Coast Weekend – Wet, Wild, and Windy – Part 2 – Sunday, December 19, 2010

We decided on another early start for the day, planning to get to Monterey about dawn. We had a long day ahead, with lots of rain forecast. How much rain, we didn’t quite know. Our route was simple at first, taking US 101 to SR-156 over to Hwy 1. We took the old road through Del Monte, which still has old concrete exposed, then continued to Monterey via the freeway. It was still dark by the time we got to the old train station in Monterey, but we got photos anyway. Jake had wanted to test his new camera and see how well it did with longer exposure night shots. If it was just dark, it would have been easier. Winds and increasing rainfall made it much more difficult. Some of the gusts got up to the 30 mph range, quite a lot for a camera on a tripod! We had a couple more stops to make before heading through Big Sur, fuel for the car and ourselves. We managed to take care of both in the same parking lot. After breakfast, we headed out, time for Big Sur.

Old Carmel River Bridge end cap, with date stamp.
Old Carmel River Bridge end cap, with date stamp.

Just as we crossed the Carmel River, I noticed what appeared to be a piece of bridge rail. We turned back around to get a closer view and it turned out to be a lot more. The end cap for the original Carmel River Bridge was preserved here in 1995. That bridge was washed out in March, and rapidly replaced with the current span. The end cap was placed here, along with a plaque, to commemorate the quick replacement of such an important bridge. Among others listed on the plaque, was a local businessman – Clint Eastwood. A couple miles south of the bridge, Big Sur begins. Well, maybe not officially, but for me it does – at the Curves Next 74 Miles sign.

Winds and waves just south of Carmel Highlands.
Winds and waves just south of Carmel Highlands.
Fog and stormy weather along Big Sur.
Fog and stormy weather along Big Sur.
McWay Falls.
McWay Falls.
We could see a long ways south, just not very high. Such a difference from my bicycle tour here in June!
We could see a long ways south, just not very high. Such a difference from my bicycle tour here in June!

Heading south into Big Sur, the weather was quite varied. It stayed pretty decent most of the time on the north end, but wasn’t as kind as we got further south. We stopped at a few bridges to take photos, one of them being the famous Bixby Creek Bridge. After stopping at the Ripplewood Resort to get snacks and take a break, I decided we should try to see Pfeiffer Beach. I hadn’t been there in quite some time and had wanted to visit. Now, being a very rainy day with creeks running high, you’d think heading down a narrow road in a canyon would be a bad idea. Well, it was. Aside from all the debris on the roadway, we were stopped by a creek crossing. It may not have been too deep, but I didn’t want to chance it. So, back up we went. I’ll return again when it isn’t quite as wet. At the top of the big grade after Big Sur, we hit fog. Normally, there would be a nice view of the coast from the top, this time all we saw was the road. After a rather quick descent, we got below the clouds, and could actually see a fair distance down the coast. We stopped again to see McWay Falls, which is always a beautiful sight, even in this weather. It didn’t rain the whole time we were there, but started as we left. At various times, the rain got really heavy, but didn’t bring down the rocks that I had thought it would. After Lucia, we went through a couple of sections of the highway that were being reconstructed. One section, at Rain Rocks and Pitkins Curve, a new bridge and rock shed are being built. That project is expected to be completed in 2012. From there, the highway wasn’t too bad, with the weather ranging from fog to dry. At Ragged Point, we just had to see how expensive fuel was there, and we weren’t let down – $4.799/gallon. Just remember, if you fill up here, it is by choice. Much cheaper stations exist in Monterey and Cambria.  A few miles further, about 74 miles north of the curves sign, the road hits a straightaway. With the Big Sur coast is behind us, the rest should be easy!

Elephant seals lounging. Some moving, most just laying about.
Elephant seals lounging. Some moving, most just laying about.
Some prefer to lay in the stream.
Some prefer to lay in the stream.
Very small pup, about two feet or so in length.
Very small pup, about two feet or so in length.
This was on the bike rack. Nice!
This was on the bike rack. Nice!

Near San Simeon, we stopped to see the elephant seals. It may have been raining rather steadily, but it was still worth the stop. At the south end, there was a new pup, very small compared to the adults lounging about.  I didn’t stop here in June on my bike trip. I was enjoying the tailwind too much. This time, it would have been a headwind, plus the rain. Continuing south, I noticed that all the creeks we passed over were flooding. It would be a sign of things to come, which we would find out soon enough. In Cambria, we looked for an old Auto Club parking sign, but to no avail, it wasn’t there. We did get some good cinnamon rolls at Lynn’s however.  We took the old highway through Cayucos, trying to follow more of old Hwy 1 when possible. At Morro Bay, we decided to skip the old road, but take another route around via Los Osos. Here we would encounter our first major flooding. The creek that runs into Morro Bay here, Chorro Creek was nearly up to the bridge. Just to the south of the bridge, it was lapping against the roadway. Yikes! Just a bit more and even this road would be underwater. Still, we kept on going, taking Turri Road instead of Los Osos Valley Road, which is a much more scenic alternative. I took the same route on my tour in June.  Jake certainly enjoyed it, comparing various spots to Colorado and even Norway.

Underpass just north of Guadalupe, where the SP Coast Line passes over Hwy 1.
Underpass just north of Guadalupe, where the SP Coast Line passes over Hwy 1.
Closer view, note the car under the bridge.
Closer view, note the car under the bridge.
UP Track Inspection Car, sorry about the blurry photo.
UP Track Inspection Car, sorry about the blurry photo.

South of San Luis Obispo, we left the freeway for a while, or so was the plan. Ontario Road, old US 101 north of Avila Beach, was closed at San Luis Obispo Creek. The whole valley floor was underwater, much to the chagrin of the cows we saw standing in a flooded field.  So, back onto the freeway we went. Even that bridge had only a few feet before it too would get inundated. After we crossed the creek on 101, we got back onto the old highway. The roadway to Avila Beach was also closed, and we could tell why. Half of the roadway was underwater here. We could only imagine how it was further down.  Things seemed to be ok as we headed south, but that would soon change. Just south of Pismo Beach on Hwy 1, we were greeted with another closure. This one was passable, barely. Most of the cars ahead were going through, so we did too. Not the best idea, but we could see how deep it was at least. The adjacent campgrounds were well underwater here. After heading a bit further south, we found another closure. This time, we’d have to detour. I knew some of the ways through Grover Beach, where this closure was located, but needed help. For the first time in a long time, I called the Caltrans Highway Information number (800-427-7623). They listed five closures for Hwy 1, five! None of them for Big Sur much to my surprise, all of them in this area. So, with that knowledge, we found our way back to Hwy 1, and to yet another detour. The grade past Halcyon Road was closed, so we took El Campo Road around the closure, back again to Hwy 1. The next known closure was just a few miles ahead, at the railroad underpass. We went over to see how bad the flooding was, and found a car with water up to the top of the doors underneath. I guess the detour was just too long for them to take! From there, we headed south to Guadalupe, where we spotted a Union Pacific Track Inspection car. I hadn’t seen one before, so it was neat to find. The next closure was south of 166, so we headed east toward Santa Maria, taking some other roads bypassing most of town. At Hwy 135, we headed south, rejoining Hwy 1 for a bit south of Orcutt. Jake hadn’t taken the old Harris Grade before, so we took that instead of the main road. It was a bit steeper and rockier than the current Hwy 1, and for the first time in a while, we were on the hill side of the roadway. So, now we had to deal with rocks on the road. Not many, thankfully. Light traffic on the grade also helped.

At Lompoc, we continued south on Hwy 1, through fairly steady rain, but no more flooding. The trip south from Gaviota on Hwy 101 was also uneventful, with the exception of the ever increasing traffic and the larger potholes developing through Goleta. Overall, the trip was a success, except for the flooding, road closures, and heavy rain. I was glad to get back home, and it was good timing that we did when we did. I checked the Caltrans and CHP site for more information, found that a few of the roads we had taken were now closed. Floodwaters did indeed rise above the roadway around Morro Bay, and Hwy 1 had yet more closures. Still, what a trip! I enjoy a bit of adversity on a journey such as this. Taking those detours allowed for greater knowledge of the area and to see different areas. Some of the roads weren’t ones I had any plans to take, but now know where they go, and if they would be useful to me in the future. Each trip is different. Perhaps the next time, the roads won’t be so flooded.