Saturday, May 26, 2007

Gate - Junction - SG Kiosk - Gate

Another solo ride today, so I got started at 9 instead of 8. It was still cool and breezy when I started but it got warmer and calmer as I climbed.

Right out of the Gate there was a guy ahead of me and I thought he'd make a good rabbit but I passed him a little ways later and never saw him again. Didn't see Dudley - he was probably home by now. Things on the Mountain change quite a bit between 8 and 9.

At the Junction there were quite a few people hanging around - looked like several groups of 4 and 5 each. I didn't have all day to ride but a SG Kiosk and back (just like last week) sounded just right. I started descending slowly, looking for a photo to present itself:

This sign at the entry to Buckeye Group Camp marks the 1 Mile To Junction point on the ascent of South Gate Road. The 2 Mile To Junction point is an unmarked power switchback just beyond the Ranger House past Rock City; hard to describe but easy to remember after you've identified it. It's 3.1 Miles To Junction so I don't have a 3MTJ descriptor.

I turned around at the Kiosk and started right back up. One guy recognized what I was doing and said "Mini-laps, right on!" and there were about 5 guys with Olympic Club jerseys on who had been resting at the Kiosk starting continuing up right ahead of me. I gave them a chance but they seemed to be on a pleasure ride so I came around them pretty fast with a friendly greeting. I was pushing hard through here to check my time splits but at about 2MTJ one guy caught me. I rode his wheel for a little while and then we were on that stretch by the Helicopter Landing and he slowed down so I passed him again. The we kind of rode side by side until he dropped me at the last couple hairpins before Junction. New split time from the Kiosk to the Junction was 15m30s - a minute and a half faster than last week - cool!

Wildlife Encounter: A turkey vulture with a yummy mid-morning snack.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sew-up Failure

The rear tire on my Merckx showed an interesting failure this week. It looks like a big blister that's about ready to burst, and I'm sure if I kept on ridingit, it would have. It appears to be a casing failure under the tread where a bit of tube is forcing the tread out into a bubble.

I had a hard time getting my camera to focus on the bubble instead of on the wall behind but these photos show a pretty good view.

Now this tire had been filled up with Seal & Flate which is a sealant with propellant combination in a can that I put in there to patch up a slow leak (worked pretty well, not perfectly). So since I believe this tire now to be unrepairable I decided to do some investigation on how the sealant works. I'll be cutting up this tire and looking for the spots where the slow leak was patched and take some photos of that, and also the spot where the bubble is to see if I can figure out how that failed. That's all for this blog entry though, watch for updates.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


Solo ride this morning; JB's on vacation back east and Rick was a no show. It was the best weather all week, about 60° but a blustery wind persisted.

Today I used the camera on my new cell phone - a Motorola Razor V3M. Takes pretty good photos but it's a hassle getting them onto the computer; I have to e-mail them to myself at twenty-five cents apiece. Also, Verizon reception is pretty good on the Mountain but not as good as T-Mobile was... T-Mobile reception from my house was virtually nonexistent though so I'm glad I switched.

Just as I started out one guy with red shorts went around me, he looked fast but he didn't get too far ahead so I decided he'd be my rabbit. There was another couple also just starting out but they were riding pretty slowly and I never saw them again. Red shorts guy looked back a couple times and I was about 20 meters back - I thought I could pass him but I didn't want to be the rabbit myself today so I dropped back to about 100 meters. Then I dropped back to about 150 meters, then I lost sight of him altogether.

Wildlife Encounter: more snakes.

Dudley Drive-by: just past Upper Washout.

By the time I got to Clavicle Cracker the wind had died down and the sun was getting stronger. At the Junction there were a few people hanging around but nobody I recognized. Not as many riders as I would have expected given the excellent weather.

I decided to go down the south side and come back up. As soon as I got around that first bend to the right I rode into a thick, cold, wall of fog. Trees were dripping onto the road, the wind was still gusting, and visibility was very low. It was one of those days where the north and south sides of the Mountain were in completely different continents. I decided not to go all the way down and turned around at the Kiosk.

Oddball Sighting: A recumbent tandem trike, two wheels in front, one in back, very low to the ground with a safety flag.

View of Danville through the fog.

I timed myself from the Kiosk back to the Junction - it's 3.12 miles and it took me 17m 00s, much nicer going back up than descending in that soup. I need to mark off the 1, 2, and 3 MTJ points on SGR for better split times. Maybe next week.

When I got back to Junction I decided to go up a ways and find a sunny picnic area to rest at - didn't take long, I checked out the first one and it was perfect. I laid down on the table and enjoyed the warmth and peace.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Tonight, Brad made his return to the Mountain after the fateful crash at Wounded Knee a few weeks ago. We rode together from work and he said he would be taking it slowly (even though he had his go-fast bike) and that was OK with me. It was cold when I rode in this morning on Eddy so I had tights and a long sleeve jersey on but now it was getting pretty warm. Adam had forgotten something so he caught up to us at the Traffic Circle, and I don't know where JB was but he wasn't riding.
At the Gate Adam put on some speed and Brad stayed with him and I figured he'd drop back but he never did. I rode the rest of the ride solo. Sure enough, I got pretty warm in my tights but there was a strong wind so it wasn't like riding on a hot day. Somewhere around the Upper Washout I got passed by a rider from the Left Coast cycling team.
Wildlife Encounter: two small snakes sunning themselves.
At the Junction, Brad apologized and said he felt too good to ride slow... that's a good thing when you're recovering from a crash. I met another guy there who wanted to inspect my bike - he was a vintage bike collector and he told me of some really old bikes he had. He said my Merckx would hold its value really well and would even start increasing, but I enjoy riding it too much to sell it or try to keep it in collectable condition. He was an interesting guy who's been riding the Mountain since he was a kid in the '70s.
Here's a photo I found of the south side of the Mountain, taken from a Cessna airplane.
On the way down I suddenly got sprayed in the face like I had gone through a puddle, but there were no puddles. I stopped to inspect, suspecting it was Slime from my front tire and I had a puncture. That was the case but it must have worked really fast because I didn't lose much pressure. Happened a couple more times the rest of the way down but my tire stayed nice and full all the way home. Must be a piece of glass in there that keeps disloding.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


Looked like a real storm outside when I woke up this morning - no rain but lots of wind and it was cold. I went with long sleeves but not leg warmers, it's May for chrissakes.

I got to the Gate just a minute before JB, he had tights on. We knew Rick wasn't coming so we went up. Right away I realized JB didn't feel too well so we didn't do any throwing down.

We saw a guy coming down that we see nearly every week now - he's a middle aged guy with a moustache and rides a hybrid with a very vertical posture. You'd never guess he's very experienced from his riding style, and maybe he's not, but he's descending NGR just about every Saturday morning during our ride up. Sometimes I wonder if he gets a ride up from someone with a car and just does the descent... he must start awfully early. I think he needs a nickname for easy reference in my blog posts... how about "Dudley"?

Dudley Flyby: in the switchbacks above Moss Landing.

It never really got warm, but the wind died down a bit above the Ranches. JB seemed to get slower and slower as we got closer to Junction - then he ran down to the out house... I didn't press him for details but he wasn't interested in going any higher.

So I went up to Junction and then decided to keep on going. Didn't hang around long at the Summit though.

Had to stop at Junction on the way down just to warm up my hands.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Drove to the Gate, got a head start on JB and Adam. Felt a little "off" tonight, kind of spacey like when you take a cold pill. Couldn't find a rhythm and just didn't feel strong but I chugged along at a decent pace anyway.

Nice weather - a little warm, a little breezy, I drank most of my Cytomax before I got to the Bump. Got passed by a guy in Saeco shorts who had a cool tattoo on his calf.

Wildlife Encounter: baby rattler above the Cold Shoulder, about 9" long.

Adam caught me on the finishing stretch and I rode hard to beat JB by about 30 seconds (after start time handicap).

Looks like they got some new flags at the Junction - the old ones were pretty tattered. Bad bugs, no body else to talk to, we headed down after a couple minutes. On the descent JB was ahead of me at the Ranger House and two turkey vultures were circling: one of them swooped down to the road and was headed right toward JB - bit of a heart stopper!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Tour de Cure, Napa Valley

This was my fourth Tour de Cure, and Claudia’s second. Edgardo came up to my house at 7:30 and we all went up in my pick-up. We saw dozens of vehicles with bikes on the highway headed for Napa so the excitement started building early. Weather report said “hot” so we lathered on the SPF 50 in the parking lot.

Check-in was a breeze thanks to all the great volunteers. Claudia was an unregistered rider but they gave her a T-shirt and meal ticket anyway. First we got a lecture about obeying traffic rules and the guy said it was illegal to ride across the railroad tracks and a CHP officer there would give us a $300 fine if we didn’t get off and walk across… ridiculous misinformation like that annoys me but I decided not to argue with him. They started us off in waves of a couple dozen riders at a time but the first few miles were pretty much an unbroken line of bikes so we didn’t bother trying to pass too many of them.

There was a strong headwind as we headed north up the Saint Helena Highway and it was a little discouraging but I explained to Claudia that when we turned around on the other side we would be going really fast. Our two-headed bike is the greatest, but it doesn’t maneuver as well as a single so I generally avoided passing people when there were other bikes or traffic near us. Claudia got frustrated with the sometimes slow pace though and shouted instructions to increase our speed.

Edgardo was still with us when we turned east at Rutherford. It was a cross wind in there but partially sheltered because of all the trees. At one winding section we had a bit of a tail wind and a down hill at the same time and we got up some good speed; Edgardo said Claudia’s little cheeks were flapping from the wind drag.

We saw quite a few other folks with our corporate team jerseys including one remarkable guy from our Sacramento office who has Friedreich’s Ataxia and recently rode his tricycle recumbent across the country. Kyle's Story There was also a tandem couple with jerseys that said “Guide Dogs for the Blind” and I later realized the woman stoker was herself seeing impared. And something I’ve very rarely ever seen – a hand cycle being ridden by a guy who apparently did not have the use of his legs. There were frequent SAG vehicles that drove the course looking for people to help, and a couple of them were the official Jelly Belly cars.

At mile 13 we had our rest stop with drinks and snacks; the nut cups and oranges went really well together and they had lots of other good things too. There were hundreds of riders crammed into a pretty small area though so there weren’t many places to sit. People had parked their bikes by leaning them against grape vines or fences or trees but the wind was blowing them over. Claudia and I hung around for a long time but Edgardo took off on his own.

Now going south on the Silverado Trail we had some excellent tail wind and we hit our top speed of 33 mph. We passed dozens of riders and had lots of fun during this stretch but since we were going so fast, it didn’t last too long before we had to turn west onto Oak Knoll Avenue. It was nice and quiet back there and that’s where the Photo Crazy guy took this photo of us.

Then it was back north on the frontage road; the headwind was even stronger now though. Claudia admitted to being a little tired on this stretch but we could see the Veteran’s Home buildings on the hill from three miles away so we could gauge our effort accordingly and we finished with a feeling of accomplishment and relief.

Distance: 26.3 miles
Avg Speed: 13.1 mph
Max Speed: 33.0 mph

The Tour de Cure is a remarkable event. The amount of effort that goes into putting this ride on is astounding. My thanks go to all those who volunteered or helped organize it and to all of my sponsors for honoring me with your donations.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Gate-Junction-Hole in the Fence

JB and I almost had the whole Mountain to ourselves today. There are a half-dozen centuries in the Bay Area this weekend so most of the roadies were out doing one of those I guess. Rick’s doing Grizzly Peak tomorrow.

JB described to me his training plan was to do three intervals on every ride. When we got to the Bump he took off and went hard for about one minute and then slowed down to recover. I caught up with him a while later and then at the Upper Ranch he did it again, and again I caught up during his recovery. At Chainbuster he went for Number 3 but this time I stayed on his wheel. He tried to stretch out his interval phase long enough to shake me but wound up just destroying himself and handing me an easy win with about a 50 meter sprint.

Whenever I don't get a photo during my ride, I look for one in one of the photo sharing websites like Picasa. This is a watercolor by Robin Purcell called "Crimson Diablo". If you buy it or another one in her gallery, tell her I sent you.

We agreed to do the Hole and then we went through the golf course and those back streets of Walnut Creek that I can never remember the names of – I never take the lead back there because I’d miss a turn for sure.

There was some kind of “Walk for the Library” event happening on the Canal Trail, I don’t know what that was all about but those people weren’t used to sharing the trail with bike riders.