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31 October 2012

how to read anybody's mind

Words and pictures regarding one of the finer Full Moon Performances witnessed here along the Central Coast. My features contorted into a ridiculously appropriate grimace/smile which the bracingly chill wind cemented into place. For really real, at one point I became aware that I was drooling through the open grin as I pedaled smooth, even circles down an abandoned HWY1 with the Full Ass Moon high above and the Pacific Ocean of fog immediately below. If I'm not careful, my face may get stuck this way.

Man, did you Suckers blow it. 

We were only 2, leaving COTSRHQ sharply at 7:45. Hammers and tongs to the Rocky Creek Bridge. Pushing. I was nervous we'd miss the closure at 9PM. It was needless anxiety. At 8:30someodd we rolled up to the one lane stoplight and waited our turn. By 8:30alittlemore we were off the bikes with cold Hamms in hand at one of the nastier pullouts/pit toilets at which I've ever had the pleasure to stand around at drink beers on a night time bike ride. We lurked as far from the toilet paper shrine as we could and watched the last minute scrambling to make it past the closure. There were some folks hanging it out there. We listened to the fox up the slope scream at the moon along regular intervals as it climbed.

Once the flashing lighted truck swept, we began to roll with no lights and no cars. I cannot say enough about how nice that is. Moonlit Big Sur all to oneself on a street bike ride. Yeah.

I was overdressed in my rain gear and booties and neoprene gloves and all. It could have been heavy fog the whole way, so I rolled out prepared. Drizzly cold to begin...

 Safe, like Tron chillaxing in this virtual world with a warm road-side Hamms.

 I ended up wearing my rain pants tied around my middle just above my over-loaded pockets. The plasticky bike doesn't support a frame pump well, and I will NOT use CO2 (laaaaaaaaaame and wasteful and what happens when your little waste canisters are all used up and you get another flat?), so it was minipump in the pockets along with all the rest. Loaded. And since I had borrowed L's bolt-on! generator hubbed front wheel, for the full electrick treatment, I had to carry a 15mm box wrench too. I enjoyed both the lighting and the cobbled together fancy electrick jalopyfication.

The Shimano light has a lot of exposed bulbage on top, so I booted it with an old 26" tube. Makes for pleasanter riding not having that shine in your eyes. Plus, it really ties the race bike together.

Esalen was delightful. Back and forth between the very cold and the very hot 50' above the edge of the continent until you are wrung out and content. Tired smiles, 40miles.

Sleep in the dirt by the side of the road? Sounds fine to me.

The long and the short equals this is a must do repeat. The road closure is in effect Sun-Thur until February (Rocky Creek Viaduct Project) , so let's make it happen at least a couple more times, whether the moon is full or not. With the no cars? Tell me something better.

29 October 2012

Solidarity inna Babylon

It is time we check ourselves. Fresh off the road, 1st driving the race van the 40miles down Big Sur to Esalen, and 2nd hitching back with nice people.

I had some time to think (think hard) about hitching technique. Can't be sitting there all slumped and dejected, else folks will assume you are a lazybones.Why should they stop for a serial killer who won't even put in the effort? Stand up straight, put your shoulders back, and extend your arm a ways out. It shows Respect. I like a thumb tilted a little in the direction you are heading. I feel it is inviting. It's cool, we're all friends here.

So. Now we we await the coming Darkness. Roll out is at 7:30PM from COTSRHQ. Sharpish. We gots to get past Rocky Creek before they close the road for the nighttime construction going on there now. The bad news? That fog may or may not be patchy and/or settle. The good news? There's variously stashed Hamms at the 15, 25, and 40mile markers and due to the road closure we will have the whole highway to our ownselves! So, there simply cannot be any losing. It's a gauranteed Good Time.

There are still 3 spots open if any a you people want to do something with your life.

28 October 2012

see if you Qualify

 J and meself rolled around the Ord. Fall is playing peekaboo over here, and today it was both eyes open/Indian Summer and eyes covered/Early Fall by turns. The shoulderest of seasons.

We stopped to refuel the Shrine. J felt it was lacking some Tootsie Pops and some Everlasting GobStoppers. I felt it was lacking some Hamms.

We stopped at the New Stairs and hung around.

J said there were "sure lots of those 'for your safety' signs". There are. I enjoy the wording. Nothing like good old Fear for some controlling the public. I myself am fearful of handicapped people wearing feathers.

This is one of the sleds I mentioned. I misspoke. They are built of 4x4s and 2x6s. That's lots of spendy lumber to close off dirt roads and trails we've all been riding without mishap for 12 years. Where has my Safety been all that time?

27 October 2012

fine then

We won't go bikecamping this week (even though it's a full ass moon), we will go bikecamping next week instead. BUT....there will be the much ballyhooed ride down the coast to hit up the hot tubs at Esalen. You know how there's the public access from 1AM to 3AM. Super convenient and all, sure. Worth doing, certainly. Who's in? Monday night, all night.

23 October 2012

you could do wrong

You could do right. In passing the heavily signed and guarded Happy Trails yesterday I noticed crews with chainsaws mowing wides swaths. I'm thinking the horsey folks are chomping at the bits to turn that area into  some sweet sweet strip malls and hotels to service their shitty racetrack. Those trailblocking sign-sleds (built of 4x4 timber?!) are the tip of the iceberg. Goodbye, Fort Ord, you were nice.

This sight behind me, and having ridden from Carmel, I proceeded to proceed across the Ord. At the Caprock (a bar I no longer frequent since it has filled up with plastic benches and lowlifes) I was inspired. I dropped 50, climbed 49, dropped from the altar, climbed Shithouse, dropped GoAt, and snuck out the back. Resupply at the 7-11 (coffee, banana, snickers) and cross 68 for a lap in Toro.

Dropping the oh so mediocre Pipeline MTBers ONLY, I surprised a MTBer who said that my Surly Ogre "actually looks fun." We had a few words about bikes, but given the givens I'm reluctant to stand around and jaw about equipment. You ride what you ride and I'll ride what I ride and as long as we actually ride and not just talk about it, we'll likely have fun. Nuff said.

That said, surprise! I built the Ogre. The Fargo is benched. All parts swapped. The Ogre feels much snappier than the Fargo, but they are both tanks. I did install the Plug, so expect more knowledge as it accumulates. We can stand around and talk.

The King is dead.
Long live the King.

After Toro it was up Toro Rd as it parallels Laureles to drop the Grade into CV to home. Maybe 55miles?

Today saw a fast and furious Mt Charlie aboard the plastic and it was good.

I'm feeling fit, aggressive, and happy. Cheers.

17 October 2012

skill overcomes unfavorable conditions

 This is the big one. The one that matters most.

Day 4, 10% chance of rain. Waking up lakeside from a sound sleep to a morning in flux. After the cloudy display the day before (the 20% day), I was keeping a weather eye. The sun came right up, like it will, and there was a promise of a leisurely day filled with swimming and cliff-jumping (well, it is a rock outcrop with about 8' of vertical but it's not too much of a stretch to call it "cliff" for the sake of hype) and napping and snacking and reading and sitting around.

We had settled on J deciding the order of things on account of it was his birthday. Yes, I dragged him out into the woods on a week long camping trip in which fell his birthday. 8 years old on the day. I was willing to abide with whatever he chose, but kept in the back of my mind the idea that we should really get back up and over to Kelly Lake to sleep or risk biting off a big piece of climbing all in one lump on the last day. He wanted to walk back to the cliff and swim. I was hoping the clouds would blow through. Instead, on this 10% day they settled. More and more fog came billowing down the ridge. Tendrils of Winter unfurled over our Indian Summer. We reached the cliff and checked on the cherry offerings we'd left for whatever creature was visiting (no change) and turned around in short order to break camp. J had decided we would head back to Kelly Lake, which was warm and inviting in his memory.

We packed up, filtered water and rode singletrack. At the fire road it began to spit. As we climbed, the drizzle became apparent, intermittent, and finally consistent. I began to worry. In packing for this trip, I had intentionally left out the tent (20%!) and- here's the kicker- told myself that skipping the rain gear was a legitimate idea because (a) 20% and (2) "if we need rain gear we'll already be so fucked that it won't matter anyway". Yes, really. I look back and marvel. The rotten part is that at some point in my future I will make an equally crazy decision based on whatever blend of immediate convenience and deeply rooted ignorance I happen to be sporting at that time. I can't be taught.

Idiot! It pains me to admit this.

So, because of my ineptitude, my boys were standing at the top of one ridge looking across a deep valley at the fire road on the other side as it disappeared into fog. I knew that fog would be just as full of precipitation. Several thoughts occurred to me at once. We had no tent. We had no rain gear. We could shelter in the outhouse (ew. I have done this before. It is as bad as you think.) in the hopes the fog would pass. The fog was not going to pass, and we'd be there overnight at least. We were standing about 7 miles and several steep climbs from our car. D could wear his poncho over his cotton hoody (cotton? idiot!). J had a synthetic fleece hoody so he'd be OK if we kept moving, but not if we had to stop. I had a cotton (idiot) shirt and a down jacket (idiot).

I told the boys we were leaving a day early. I told them that we had to get to the van as quickly as possible.

I did NOT tell them that I envisioned abandoning J's bike and some camping gear in the bushes and riding him out hypothermic on the deck of the Big Dummy. I pictured us finishing in the dark.

Man, did I underestimate my sons.

J had one solitary instance on the climb up out of Kelly Lake on Coit Road (which is a bitch) when he started to whimper with each exhale. I am familiar with how that progresses, and it is not long before it breaks into crying. I shut that down and reminded him to breathe, to take it as easy as he possibly could while still riding as much as possible, to not take it too easy on yourself and to ride whenever you could (not just keep walking because that's what you have been doing) To ride whenever you could. To ride whenever you could. After that he was solid.

D just turned it on, quietly kicking ass with no fuss. I tried to balance pushing them with encouraging them. They understood the urgency without being frightened. Which is because they don't know how badly wrong things can go, but is also morale boosting so I'll take it and stay upbeat until- well, hopefully until we pulled it off successfully.

The mileage dropped away. We took zero extended breaks- we stopped to help each other push up some steep pitches and the boys waited in the lees for me to go back down as needed to bring bikes up. And that was it. Movement. At one cold stop, I told J he was a badass. His eyes got big and he asked "What is that? Is it good?" Yes. Yes, it is. He asked me several more times about "what did you call me?" and "what's that word you said?" just so he could have it repeated. I told him what he wanted to hear, my 8 year old little man, but that in the interest of decorum at school we shall say "B.A" and know what we mean by it.

We climbed and then stayed ridge line into that sideways rain until we hit Wasno Road.  Jackson Road brought us, torturously, to Jackson Field. We shot a giddy birthday video there:

Whiteout conditions. After that we dropped Jackson Trail (so sick) and lower down the fog was less and the rain decreased significantly. I was soaked to the skin, so I broke out the down jacket I'd been saving and was happy to do it. It was cold.

The boys were such heroes. They were unfailingly positive, and I flattered myself by thinking about Shackleton. We will read Lansing's "Endurance" aloud for our next bedtime story.

By the time we reached the bottom, my down jacket was a soggy sad sack. The previously held title of Greatest Camping Trip Ever had been re-bestowed in honor of this trip. We got to the race van in broad graylight, with all our gear and digits, covered in mud and Glory. It did not take long at all to pile in and drive straight to Margie's Diner for some onion rings and milk shakes. A hero's reward.

15 October 2012

beyond the parties and cheer

Day 3 started with sunrise. We were observing the fire ban (twig burning stove, yo) and without a mesmerizing campfire bedtime comes pretty early. Morning comes early then, too.

 I allow no electronics in the woods. Phone for camera purposes excepted. Children are better off for it.

Sleeping out with no tent is my preference. Some folks are scared, but we ain't them. With regard to creepy crawlies: we saw 2 tarantulas on the asphalt leg from the p-lot, but it was a nearly bugless trip. 1 tick in total. A handful of flies gathering at cuts or scrapes.

 "Vinegar Weed." We stirred up the witch hazelesque aroma of Trichostema lanceolatum as we walked around visiting the outhouse in the AM. I used it as a hand sanitizer. It is really strong smelling.  

Camping with an outhouse nearby is a big plus in the boys' books. D is especially appreciative.

 After strong black coffee (1st!) and oatmeal (with the dehydrated blueberries and/or strawberries and/or bananas accompanied by a small bag of nuts- you know you love them) the only thing for it was to pack up and get over that Northern ridge to reach Coit Lake.

 After lounging and chillaxing at Kelly Lake the day before, the memory of the ridiculously sloped climbs lent this gentle ascent an easy rhythm. That's a delight.

 20% chance of rain was forecast. I watched the clouds move around with no concern. It was a welcome break from the heat. At the split on top we (all of us) checked the map and headed down the Easternmost approach.

 We were looking for that Good Stuff. There is a side-hill singletrack on the South shore of Coit Lake that is worth riding.

 J schooling us about California Everlasting (Pseudognaphalium californicum). It smells so strongly of maple syrup you'd swear someone was hiding in the bushes with pancakes.

We dropped bikes at the good spot and went for a stroll.


We were looking for the good jumping rock, which I'd only ever approached by swimming across.

We found it and the wild Hollyleaf Cherry Tree (Prunus ilicifolia) next to it! Those cherries were _ucking delicious. Very little fruit around a giant pit, but free, ripe, available, and sweet. D got tired of me spitting my pits at him.

I leaped in with a stick and cleared all the duckweed that was clogging up the landing and approach. Then we just jumped off rocks and swam and ate cherries and sat in the sun and stuff.

This took up much of the afternoon. Later we were all busy with reading books lakeside and filtering water and napping.

2 thumbs way up. Coit is miles better than Kelly.

After a well received Indian Dinner (cooking out of spacetech pouches has certain benefits; it's super easy and cleans up easy too) we retired to our patch of ground. Later, I awoke to a Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) unzipping J's pack (not 10' from where we lay) and stealing the bag of peanut butter-filled pretzels therein contained. I did not realize there were snacks in that pack. I got up and hung up the boys' packs with the food bag so we wouldn't lose anymore snacks. After that excitement, I slept soundly, warmly, and comfortably.

14 October 2012

and it comes with a secret hiding place

When you are camped in the middle of the trail (who does that?!?) getting underway has already happened.

 The hill climbing is undertaken. Push.


Push. I love this shot. It really captures the relentlessness.

  Checking the map at every intersection. When there are doubts, get the map out. Making sure that is the Kelly Lake Trail...

 which trail is ridge riding for real.

  All that pushing pays off with interest?

 If you consider dropping and dropping and dropping singletrack in the middle of noplace under cover of oaks a payoff, then:YES.

 We didn't haul those floaties out there for nothing and it ain't nobody here but us chickens.

 There are several acceptable spots for camping at Kelly Lake. We opted for the best one.

Camp Life.

12 October 2012

absolute trust keeps me going in the right direction

 If I disappear you know where to find me...

 The boys and I vanished into the space on the map labelled Henry Coe State Park. I have threatened their participation in riding bikes to "at least" Kelly Lake on more than one occasion. This October Break week-long school's out was when I put their money where my mouth is.

 As per usual, we started after noon (2PM, to be precise, and only an hour after my realistically predicted departure time) so Day 1 was truncated. We got to the park and loaded and on the road by 4:30PM.

For those of you to whom these trail names mean nothing: sorry for you my friend. From the Coyote Creek Entrance we took Spike Jones and parlayed it into Grizzly Gulch (love that word). Friends, that is a fine way to gain some altitude without crushing yourself. It was unknown to me then and known to me now- it is the way to approach Kelly Lake if you're looking to minimize suffering. This is key. If I want the hook to set, I can't have them crying and spitting it out.

 Well, it is Henry Coe.

We had our system in place from the last Coedown. When it became so steep that I required help (and it did) D would drop his bike and push with me to a stopping place, then we'd both head back down and I'd push his bike while he'd push J's.

I was riding the Big Dummy with an unusually lightened load: my down jacket/wool hat/light wool gloves, a 100oz water bladder, 3 full bottles, 5 days of food for the 3 of us, the water filter, the 1st aid kit, a small tiTANIUM wood burning stove, Ti cookware, 3 sleeping bags, 3 lightweight pads, several floaties (for lake fun), my book, and assorted bike repair stuff. Altogether too small a load to justify, which may have you remembering to wonder what I forgot. I forgot the blue tarp, but we had D's poncho. I left out intentionally the tent (20% chance of rain on Wednesday, 10% on Thursday?!) and our rain gear. Color me foreshadowed.

D had his choice of bikes, and he opted for his mountain bike. Panniers containing our 3 pairs of "water shoes", extra straps, his book, a roll of "shit tickets" haHA!, his jacket, some other stuff, and not much else. He had a pack full of 100oz bladder and an extra shirt. On the bike he had a bento box thing full of snacks.

J carried his backpack. In it he had anywhere from 0-4lbs of "crystals", a piece of rope he found, a small water bladder, his jacket, several Captain Underpants books, a swimsuit, a "water shirt", a pencil stub, a hand pump generator-powered flashlight, etc. He had a small handlebar bag containing a random key, a zip-tie, and snacks.

 I figured we were aiming for Kelly Lake in a broad sense. Given our late start, a very broad sense. I am open to amending plans on the fly. It soon became clear we'd have to just ride until dark declared our campsite.

 At the junction of Cullen Trail and Grizzly Gulch I lost what cool I have when D_____ (the older of the boys, at 12) was obviously not paying the least attention to our position on the map. I yelled. The gist of it was/is that were something to happen that disabled me somehow it would fall to him to deal. However that played out, it would fundamentally require he know how to get out of the 2nd largest State Park in California! I made damn sure he payed proper attention to the map after that. Adventures on any scale worthy of the name demand respect and preparation. Full stop.

J______ is eager to please, and he had already been playing along. He could show me where we had been and had a vague idea where we were headed. After the intersection we were all on the same page.

We made it to the flat spot in the trail where Tower Trail drops down to Grizzly Gulch as it grew too dark to continue. Happily, this flat spot was big enough for us to camp, because it was a pretty vertical hillside. Those of y'all who have been in Coe can back me up: those slopes are steeeep.

 [edit: it is pointed out to me by my children that I have frequently scoffed at the idea of camping right along the trail, to say nothing of camping right in the trail- to which I reply: extenuating circumstances, a.k.a. do as I say]

The boys and I had burritos from El Frijolito in Watsonville for dinner our 1st night out. That is becoming a Henry Coe bikepacking tradition with me, and I am happy with it.

 Scary stories centered around terrible things happening to children are a time honored way of passing the time before sleep. Joaquin Murrieta, pirates, headless ghosts, vengeful parents, enslaved children, the eating of same...

05 October 2012

with a difference!

Driving in my auto and stopped at a red light, I hear a pounding, a rumbling, a thumping, a large white pickup. It pulls up behind me. It is a car back, but the rattling low quality hip hop is so loud I can feel it. I am in the right lane waiting to go straight. I am facing Southwest, and it is about an hour and a half before sunset.

There is a Seaside Police cruiser facing me across the intersection. It is in the left turn lane.

I see a guy on a bicycle, on the sidewalk, on the opposite corner. He is waiting for the same light. He intends to cross (in the cross-walk) and continue his salmonish sidewalk commute. He is wearing some kind of major sport jersey type shirt and striped wind pants. He has a backpack. He has a helmet. He is wearing sunglasses.

The sun is at a very low angle. It is extremely bright. All of us are sitting at this intersection less than a mile from the Monterey Bay. For the people facing any kind of West, it is very hard to see.

The light changes to green. I slowly cross the intersection. The cyclist is in the cross walk. The 2 cars behind me are turning right. The first car goes. The large rattly truck lurches out. I hear a deep clunk.  Looking in my rear view, I see the cyclist pick himself and his bike up off the street. The truck accelerates away. The cop is sitting there.

It's preaching to the choir in here, but DANG! Be aware of conditions, people.

03 October 2012

is it possible to escape from your grave?

This a little faster than the version on the Cold Cold World lp (and which I prefer), but there is only so much Blaze Foley on the computer web. He is one of the great ones.

I use my phone as a soundtrack, when/if I listen to music on rides. Sometimes it isn't safe. For example: if one were climbing up a shaded ribbon of potholes stitched together with chip and seal and said "road" were roughly 9' across bordered by a sheer drop and a rock wall, why then being able to hear cars is mandatory. When the windy goodness opens up and the corners are there for the leaning, the railing, slingshots to be taken at the limits of nerve and skill...yesterday Blaze was in my ears.

It was my birfday. I celebrate with bike rides. This bicycle thing, it continues to hold my interest.

Mt Charlie is perhaps my favorite road anywhere. After climbing up from Glenwood, it is good to drop it again on the other side and stop off at Taylor Ranch for some organic D'Anjou pears for $2/lb. Stuff your $ in the honor box and relish a resupply uninhibited by fluorescent lights and slippery floors.

50ish (s)miles?

Keep keepin on.

01 October 2012

on a day like this

Rode to Andrew Molera via Old Coast Rd today. Had a post, and it was all clever but I somehow accidentally erased it and am too bitter to rewrite.


Yes, there was dirt. It was real nice.