Category Archives: Cyclocross

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.

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!

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.

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.

Explorations

I like to explore. I always have. I started as a kid by hiking around the hills above my neighborhood. I believe it was doing that, and my curious nature, that got me interested in geology. Now, I say I’ve been interested in it since I was five. Five? Quite young you say? Yet, that far back, I would pick up a rock, and not just think “What a pretty rock!” I’d want to know more about it. How did it get there? why does it look the way it does? The earliest ones I remember were small pieces of rhyolite from the Mint Canyon Formation. They were mostly flow-banded, and sometimes had small quartz crystals within them. In setting out to find their source, I learned much about the local geology. I eventually learned of the Mint Canyon Formation’s age and how it was formed. As it turned out, I would never have found the source, at least locally. The San Andreas Fault had offset the source area for the rhyolite by about 120 miles or so. The rocks came from what are now the Chocolate Mountains east of Indio. So through all that, I got more interested in geology. I look around at rock formations all the time, study them. I go on annual trips to Death Valley just to learn more about geology. As such, it all adds to my want to explore. When I go on bike rides, I always look at the road cuts to see what sort of rock I’m riding through. I look at the overall terrain, and try to piece together how it was formed. The same applies when I go for a drive, go hiking, or even take the train.

There is a line in a song by America – Horse With No Name. I hear it, and am always reminded of Death Valley and the pluvial lakes/rivers that existed in the Basin and Range province. The line “After three days in the desert fun I was looking at a river bed, and the story it told of a river that flowed made me sad to think it was dead” really strikes true with me. I look at the Amargosa River Bed or even the Mojave River Bed, they do tell their stories of when they flowed, and I do think it is sad to see them dry as they are now. I would like to have seen the western US during the Pleistocene. Think of all the lakes, rivers, waterfalls, glaciers, and countless other features that existed then, that no longer do. Death Valley is one of those places, where Lake Manly once existed. With the exception of portage around waterfalls (Fossil Falls among others), a kayak trip from Mono Lake to Death Valley might have been possible. As you can see, my interest in geology goes deep.

So back to explorations, I used to have a mountain bike. I rode it everywhere. I even went on my first bike tour on it in 2001, knobby tires and all. It wasn’t until 2008 that I even got on a road bike, but wasn’t quite impressed. It was too bumpy a ride, too unnerving. It just didn’t sell me on getting one. I still felt I would find something though, as I wanted an easier ride for a bike tour I had planned for August of 2009. In October 2008, I went shopping. I ended up at the Performance Bike in Sorrento Valley. After looking at the bikes, and telling them what my plans were, they pointed me towards this road bike that had wider, somewhat knobby tires. I wasn’t quite sure about it. I wanted a road bike. I was led to believe this was a more robust road bike, capable of handling touring and anything else I might want to do. It certainly looked nice. It took some convincing to get me to buy it. They never told me what the bike was really capable of. I would find that out, in time.

That decision to buy that bicycle has changed my life in ways I didn’t expect. At first, I found I would go much faster than I used to. I seemed to zip around everywhere I went. I was putting the same energy into the bike as I was with the mountain bike, but getting much more out of it. I would go on longer rides, more road rides, than I had before. Eventually, I found I could take the bike off road. At first, dirt roads were all I took. Later, I would take singletrack trails, such as the upper portion of the Noble Canyon Trail or the Big Laguna Trail. With my abilities and confidence growing, I took my explorations to a whole new level. I would no longer look at road conditions or hills along the way. I would plan a route, and take it. If that meant riding a singletrack trail, then the shoulder of a freeway, so be it. I’ve found many non-standard routes for getting around as a result. It has really expanded my idea of freedom, in relation to travel. I feel like I have more freedom to travel as I can take just about any trail or roadway to get me somewhere. On the singletrack trails, I would get looks from the mountain bikers, wondering what I was doing there on a road bike. Nope, not a road bike, a cyclocross bike. The go anywhere bike. I’ve taken mine to Mammoth Mountain, had lots of fun there. The bike does have its limitations, but so do I. If I have to get off and walk it, no problem – even in cyclocross racing there are sections where you have to get off the bike.

My fitness level has greatly improved since I got the bike. I ride now more than I drive. In the past two years since purchasing the bike, I’ve ridden over 10,000 miles. I never figured that would happen. I’ve ridden to work for the past two and a half years. I’ve lost about 30 lbs, gained more muscle in my legs, and am in much better health. All these benefits because I like to go out and explore. The new bicycle has helped me in that quest. I’ve also set higher goals for myself. I plan to ride a double century in 2011. It won’t be an organized one, but one of my own planning. I’ve found the ride I plan myself to be much more fun. My routes aren’t the usual ones, I might even have some dirt trail to ride. Why ride 200 miles in a day? Is it the bragging rights? Is it to prove something? Nope. For me, it is only to expand my ability to go on the rides I like to. If I am able to ride 200 miles in a day, then I can ride any route that I set up for myself. It opens up possibilities for me that I wouldn’t have considered previously. Did I ever think I’d ride from San Luis Obispo to Ventura in a day? Or Monterey to San Simeon in a day? I didn’t think it was possible, until I went on a 151 mile ride from San Luis Obispo to Ventura in May 2010.

While I don’t suggest everyone go out and do what I’ve done, it is something that more are capable than they think. At one point, going around the block was a big deal, then across town, then across the county. Now, I’ve crossed counties and even a state. It just takes a vision and the ambition to go out there and do it. My ultimate goal is to see more out there exploring as I do, learning more about their local environment. So get out there – it is a big planet and has lots to see!

Death Valley 2010 – Titus Canyon Ride – November 26, 2010

Every trip to Death Valley has a big day. Each one is different, with a different focus. This time, it was bicycling Titus Canyon. I’ve heard about this place, seen the photos, and knew some of the geology. There were some logistical problems with seeing the canyon that I had to surmount. It is a one-way road and 28 miles long. I either had to find another person to shuttle me, or ride the whole thing myself. I chose to ride the whole thing. This was also the first time I had allotted a day just to bicycling in Death Valley.

Only 10 more miles of this!
Only 10 more miles of this!

I decided to start the ride about an hour earlier than I had planned to ensure I had enough time to complete the ride before dark. I parked the car near the junction of Scotty’s Castle Road and Mud Canyon Road, and changed into my cycling gear. As it was predicted to be cold, I chose to wear my bib shorts, bib tights, long sleeve jersey, balaclava, shoe covers, and my thickest gloves. I had my new three liter Camelbak pack with me, three bottles of Gatorade, a few Clif bars, and some cookies. I was ready for anything! Well, more or less.

I started the ride at about 8:30am. The ride started off with a climb, that didn’t relent for 13 miles with an average grade of about 6%. The first three miles were in a small canyon, Mud Canyon, which was nice. Having something nearby made it feel like it went faster. After that, and for the next five miles, I was riding up an alluvial fan. A steep one at that! Near the pullout for Death Valley Buttes, a couple had stopped to take photos of the area. Once they saw me, they took a couple photos of me climbing the grade, asked me how I was doing. I told them, I’d know in eight miles and kept on climbing. I stopped, briefly, at the junction with the Beatty Cutoff Road, my only real stop in about four miles. It didn’t last long, as I had more miles to go, more climbing to be done. Now back in a canyon, Boundary Canyon, the climbing got a slight steeper. The scenery was quite nice, the Grapevine Mountains to the north, Funeral Mountains to the south.

So far, things were going well, temperatures were decent, and I was feeling good. As the mile markers went by, I would count down to the top – mile 13, knowing I was getting closer all the time. There were a couple of times I had thought to pull over and rest, but decided to just keep on moving. I was so close to the top! Finally, I saw the summit of Daylight Pass, and pulled off. It was a good place to rest for a few minutes. The longest climb of the ride, 4100’ in 13 miles, was over. It took me about an hour and 45 minutes to climb, a bit faster than I had predicted. It was at this point I decided I would be able to make it through Titus Canyon with enough time.

Top of Daylight Pass
Top of Daylight Pass

I had been a bit warm climbing, that soon ended as I descended into Amargosa Valley and Nevada. It seemed like temperatures dropped twenty degrees, I was cold! It would be the running theme of the day, hot and cold. Crossing the valley seemed to take a long time. Distances in these valleys can be great, even though it looks close. As I neared the turnoff, I saw a vehicle had pulled over at the junction, and a bunch of bicycles were being unloaded. I assumed they were going to ride Titus Canyon, as they were riding mountain bikes. One of them was taking photos, and took some photos of me as I approached. I waved, and turned left onto Titus Canyon Road. This was the point that my cyclocross bike comes in handy.

I easily transitioned onto the dirt road, and kept on moving. It would be a long dirt road, with more than 3000’ of climbing ahead of me. Parts were rough, others were smooth, overall, having shocks would have been nice but weren’t necessary. Having been cold on the descent, I was again warm on the ascent. The first few miles were on the bajada, and were slow. Once I reached the canyon, things seemed to go quicker. The scenery just kept on getting better too. I stopped many times on this climb, mostly to let cars go by so I wouldn’t have to breathe in the dust kicked up by them. After about 10 miles, the climb got really steep. After, I reached a summit.

Finally! The climbing stopped, for a bit. I knew something wasn’t quite right though. I was at a summit, but not the summit. The photos and the maps showed a switchback and a climb through a red rock area. I hadn’t seen anything like that yet. It was time to get out the map. Yup, I had more to go, and a bit more climbing. The bulk of it was over, but I wasn’t quite sure how much more to go. While I was stopped, someone drove up in a truck. They had said they saw someone a few miles back on a road bike! Now, my bicycle looks like a road bike, but they had commented on how much wider my tires were, so maybe they did see one. Not sure why someone would take such a bike here, even my tires slipped in places. A road tire has no knobs for grip, so they may have had more walking than riding at times.

Heading up the dirt road.
Heading up the dirt road.
The first summit. Note the canyon in the background.
The first summit. Note the canyon in the background.
Looking towards Titanothere Canyon.
Looking towards Titanothere Canyon.
Looking back, after the switchbacks and the 800' drop and climb.
Looking back, after the switchbacks and the 800′ drop and climb.
Still heading up Red Pass, almost there.
Still heading up Red Pass, almost there.
From Red Pass, looking toward Leadfield.
From Red Pass, looking toward Leadfield.
Deeper into the canyon, just gets better.
Deeper into the canyon, just gets better.

So far, still feeling good, a little tired, but not bad. I headed on down the road, and down it went! After about a mile, it descended, steeply. I finally saw the switchbacks in the red rock area, now about 800’ higher than me. The last major climb would end up being the steepest. It went alright though. I stopped once to take some photos, and then went the rest of the way to the top. At long last, the top of Red Pass was at hand. From this point on, the ride was mostly downhill. The first couple of miles were very rocky and fairly steep. The views, however, made up for any of the trouble from the descent. The canyon just got better and better as I went along. Upon reaching the site of Leadfield, it was time for another photo stop.

There was a sign there, and a good landmark to get another bike photo. While I was doing that, a couple on a motorcycle pulled up. It was a dirt bike; I think it could be called a dual sport. They commented on my bicycle, asked how the riding was so far. I told them it was going ok, just a bit bumpy at times. They also seemed to need a better map, only using the standard park map which doesn’t show contours that well. After I took my photos, I continued my journey. The canyon changed directions after about another half mile or so, rather abruptly. It also got really cold, felt like the coldest yet on the ride.

At Leadfield, gotta get the bike in there.
At Leadfield, gotta get the bike in there.
Beautiful downtown Leadfield, or what is left.
Beautiful downtown Leadfield, or what is left.
Finally entering Titus Canyon.
Finally entering Titus Canyon.
After all that, now I'm really entering the canyon, here is the sign!
After all that, now I’m really entering the canyon, here is the sign!
Deeper and more spectacular.
Deeper and more spectacular.
Still descending, stopping to look back every once and a while
Still descending, stopping to look back every once and a while
Can't get enough of canyon shots!
Can’t get enough of canyon shots!
More great geology.
More great geology.
Large fold, one of many visible in this area.
Large fold, one of many visible in this area.

Now, after going over Red Pass, I thought I was in Titus Canyon. It was all downhill from there, it still was. As it turned out, the previous few miles were in another canyon, as I passed a sign stating “Entering Titus Canyon”.  It also seemed some brave soul drove a sedan this far, so I knew I should be able to make the rest without too much trouble. I was right. After having kept an average speed of no greater than 8 mph, I was easily riding at 15 to nearly 20 mph down this dirt road. I stopped many times down the canyon, to take photos and just enjoy the scenery. I never went so fast I couldn’t enjoy the view, I also didn’t want to lose control. This was definitely not the area to do so. A couple of miles down from the “entrance” to the canyon, I passed a couple of mountain bikers going uphill. They had climbed quite a bit to get to that spot, not sure how far they were going.  The canyon, so far, was wide and deep. I knew the end of the canyon was quite narrow, so it was going to be interesting to see the features created by the water that does flow down this canyon on occasion. The rock I was passing by was very beautiful. It was marine limestone, shale, and sandstone from the Cambrian. It was heavily faulted and folded, which showed in many places.

At the narrows, it gets cold in the shadows.
At the narrows, it gets cold in the shadows.
Megabreccia, Titus Canyon style.
Megabreccia, Titus Canyon style.
A look back, you'd never know such a large canyon exists beyond those cars!
A look back, you’d never know such a large canyon exists beyond those cars!

As I got closer to the bottom of the canyon, the sides got steeper and higher. I was getting to the narrow portion of the canyon. The first section consisted of some megabreccia, which almost looked like graffiti at first. It had been smoothed quite a bit, abraded from the large sediment-rich flows that come this way during a storm. I was glad to see nearly clear skies above, no threat of floods today. I was told the canyon was very narrow at the bottom, to the point that some cars would have trouble making it. While it didn’t quite get that bad, it was far narrower than the upper portions of the canyon would have you think. All that drainage, going to this 15 foot wide canyon. Don’t be here when it rains. Not only was the narrows a sign the canyon was ending, but the number of hikers was also a clue. The lower portion is quite popular to hike in, so it couldn’t be far now. Just another mile or so, the canyon ended. It opened into the northern portion of Death Valley, creating one large alluvial fan. Just around the next bend, I saw all the cars for the hikers. Quite a few, but not all went to Titus Canyon; some went to Falls Canyon, just to the north. From this point, to the paved road, was some of the worst dirt road I had traveled. This section was two-way, and was very much washboard. I had nearly three miles of this until reaching the paved road.

Looking south, down the valley towards Kit Fox Hills (at center).
Looking south, down the valley towards Kit Fox Hills (at center).
There it is, the worst section of dirt road the whole ride.
There it is, the worst section of dirt road the whole ride.

At long last! Pavement! This was the first pavement I had ridden that was nearly flat too. For that matter, some of the first flat riding on the whole trip. I still had another 15 miles to go, but it wouldn’t take long. I kept a rather brisk pace, around 18 to 20 mph most of the way. These miles were at first going by fast, but as I got closer to the end, my energy was fading. I needed to eat, but felt I was close enough to the end that stopping wasn’t going to help. I just slowed down and didn’t push it any more than necessary. There was a slight crossing headwind the whole way down the pavement, but it was never a problem. The last few miles were over rolling hills, never a climb over 50’. About five miles from the end, the couple on the motorcycle passed me one last time, waved. Even gave me a thumbs up! It was cool. After I passed the last mile marker, mile 1, I finally saw the car. My ride was at an end. What a journey! I made it back at about 3:15pm, with 60 miles of riding and 8400’ of climbing. I finished, not too tired, but was definitely done for the day. I ate the rest of my snacks, drank a bit more fluids, and was feeling much better. After about twenty minutes, I packed the bike into the car, and headed back to camp. Dinner would be coming soon, and I’d feast for sure. Another big ride accomplished, another big day in Death Valley.