Farewell to a friend and Quality Time

A wad of short blonde hair going in 27 different directionsu nearly buried under a pillow was all that could be seen of youngest son, Jake’s this past Sunday at  6:30AM when I went to wake him up. 13 year old boys are not fond of this time in the morning and he fully looked the part of a coma rattled teenager when I rousted him out of dreamland.    We were headed out to Laguna Mountains for a different kind of bike ride.

A few week ago a good friend of mine Cliff Walker made an unscheduled dismount from the ride of life.   I can’t use the word “close” and  “dear” without feeling some sense of guilt.   Cliff had lots of friends who were much more involved with his day-to-day life than I.    Cliff was one of my “MTB Buds”.  One of those friends that you primarily assoicate with while mountain biking.   We have done a couple of road trips and races together as well as many rides and some epics together.   A solid good person you just a joy to be around.

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Jake and I were headed to the Laguna Mountains to join some of Cliffs other friends for a memorial ride.   Twenty-nine riders gathered up to take a spin around Big Laguna Meadow and honor Cliff’s Life.

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The ride was timed to end at about the same time that some of his family and no biking friends could gather up as well to celebrate Cliffs life.   The gathering swelled to over 70 people who sit under the shade of the meadow’s pine trees to share and tell stories about how Cliff had touched each of thier lifes in some way.   Cliff had a very diverse group of friends and the stories about Cliff I had never before really showed just how impressive a life he lived and how he had touched so many people’s life in a positve way.   

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There was more than a couple of stories that included Cliff’s perpencity to be the first person up the hill.   More than a few of us recalled getting up to the top of the hill to find Cliff walking around in circles looking under the various bushes and behind the trees.   Once we questioned Cliff would look at you with this devilish smirk and reply “I dropped a hammer have you seen it?”    It was always good for a laugh and the celebration of his life gathering was no different.   A special thanks goes out to Chip Brent for making the celebration event happen.

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Afterwards, Jake was down for just a father/son ride.    The memorial ride was just along the meadow and he had not down some of the other trails in the area before.   We decided to add Wooded Hills and Los Gatos Ravine into the mix.   A pretty significant event happened on the Wooded Hills climb.  Jake was riding strong and then you decided to see how quick he could go.   I saw him lift the pace and I was having a tough time matching it.   It was not long before kicked up the pace enough more.  

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 I saw the half-sly turn his head to see how far back I was.   That was his moment.  The moment when a Son knows he is beating his Dad something.   Not just something, but his Dad’s thing.   He knew he had me and he was not letting up.    I knew he had me too, I was not going to catch him, the best I could do give a good showing for second place.    I was weird mix of pride in my Son and a relevation that I’m slacking.     Sure I could make excuses and rationalize things like the fact I weigh about 90lbs more than he does and I did a respectable climb after a couple of beers at the celebration but no matter who you slice it my son kicked my ass up that hill.      I got to the top about 45 seconds behind Jake and he was already off the bike with his helmet off and was hoofing and puffing.      After a bunch of praise from me, he looked a me with a very smirky look on his face and calmly said, “Yeah, I dropped a hammer. Did you see it?”

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Lagging at La Costa

So I spent last week working in Southern Japan.   I was hoping to squeak in a bike ride but the rental place was out of mountain bikes.  The weather was pretty freaking rough as well as I don’t think the humidity every dropped below 95%.  I think that even if I would have had a bike I would have had to muster up some serious motivation to get out in the woods when it is 99 degrees out with 99% humidity.   So I took in a bit of traditional and limited sight seeing during this visit.   I will be back for a longer period in the fall so I will get my time on the trails.JA-Sasebo-JUL12-04

Yesterday was my travel day back to the San Deigo.  With the International Date Line in the mix, I did Sunday twice in the course of my 27 hours of planes, trains and automobiles.   I was pretty freaking toast by the time my head hit the pillow yesterday.    I did sleep well last night but was still dragging a bit today.   I decided that a lunchtime ride would help to snap the body back onto my timezone.    I decided to ride Rancho La Costa a few miles away from Casa Del Bill.  I also decided to ride my bike to the trailhead as I could use the extra excercise on the several intervening hills along the way.

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I was meeting Michael (aka YetiRider) that works near the trail system and routinely knocks out a lunchtime loop out there.   I knew I was going to feel a little tired but was quite surprised just how freaking tired I felt about five minutes into the commute to the trailhead.   My body was quite certain it was a little before 2AM its time.   I made it to  Michaels work shortly before his lunch break and we were soon hitting up the last bit of asphalt to get to the trailhead.    I was feeling a bit better in that I did not feel so fatigued by the time we got to the trailhead.

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I climbed alright on the way up but I certainly felt off in the way of not firing on all cylinders.   On the way down I realized my reflexs were more than a little off and I found myself dabbing in spots I would not normally dab in.  It was good to be out on the bike but it was a little disconcerting to be all out of wack.

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The pavement return back to my place drained the rest of my energy so I don’t think I really helped out the jet lag out at all today because after a shower and snack I knapped away the rest of the day.   It was still a good experiment.

Pimping New Kicks

So my MTB shoes have been getting pretty ratty and have enough “extra” ventilation these days that I end up with more dirt on the inside of my shoes than I do on the outside of the outside of the shoes.  I have found that I hold out on my shoes as long as possible just because it always seem to be such a painl to pick out a pair of shoes.   I used to just use the SIDI Dominators as they would last me for several years.   That was until I became more skilled in riding technical terrian and spent more time exploring  “Back 40” type trails.  Those same shoes that were light and comfortable started lasting less than a year.  The toes and outer edges of the shoes were being shredded from brushes with rocks, brush and other chunk. With the price of those shoes I was not willing to spend that kind of money that often for them.  So the search for a comfortable well working shoes that did not kill the bank was in order. 

My awesome girlfriend sprung for the Happy Feet effort with a nice birthday gift certificate to BikeBling.  The number of different shoes available was crazy and I spent at least an hour farting around with all the different model.    I ended up with getting a pair that was felt really comfortable, had a nice stiff sole and looked like it would hold up well.  The shoes is a bit on the flashy side for my taste but I predict it will dull down quite nicely once I get a good dirt patina on it.   I was told that much like wearing a Spongbob Squarepants jersey, (i.e. photo above) if you are going to wear shoes like that you had better bring “IT” on the trail. 

  New Shoes

I’m also going to to try out one of boot protector products out there.  Either KG’s Boot Guard or Tuff Toes.   If I could spend about $20 extra bucks and get a year or two more out of  the shoes that would pretty cool.   That also means I could delay the whole process of getting the clipless pedal cleats all dialed it.  Stay tuned for photos of loud jerseys and shoes in action.

Messing around in the San Jacinto Mountains

This weekend I decided to head out for an overnighter in the San Jacinto Mountains.   There are a lot of great trails around here and we were interested in messing around in some lesser ridden areas.  Bill O’Neil and I met up fairly early in the morning and the temps were already quickly climbing.

We did a bit of driving around on some of the back dirt roads to finalize our game plan and investigate all of the options.    This gate showed much promise so we decided to add this area to the two-wheeled investigation efforts.

With a plan negoiated that included such phrases like “Do you think those thin brown lines are too close together on the map”,  “It sorta flattens out after the first seven miles” and “Just for the record, this segment is your idea”  we started turning the pedals into the dry 90 degree heat.

After what I would consider a rough opening bit of terrain, heat and grade we got up onto a small plateau were thoughts of tasty steaks and carne asada burritos started running through our heads.

This small herd of around 10 or so cattle were following the old ranch road we were taking.   Special note on Trail Etiquette – Bikes yield to horns. 

The old ranch road turned out to be a nice route that we took.  We soon worked our way over to the next segment that turned out to be a bit brutal when combined with the growing heat and pockets of dead air.   My hiking calves got some work in here and there on this segment.

As we neared the top of the ridgeline sadddle we were shooting for we got into some trees and a breeze picked up which made a huge difference.  We were already considered with rationing our water considering how far we had to go still.

Once at the saddle we proceeded along a trail that followed the ridgelines for quite a long way.  There were some great views along this route.

This was most definitely a pretty cool trail.

Cool rock formations on the ridgeline.  The wind was often howling up here which was great for beating the heat but it was enough to blow me off my intended line a time or two.

This was really cool bit of exploring we did but it was certainly no cakewalk with the heat that was out.  By the time we got back down to the truck, we were more interested in our first liquids being water more so that tasty hop and malt goodness.  After a bit of truck-side recovery we were off to the  Paridise Valley Cafe were some excellent baby back ribs with the fixins were chased with a couple of tasty beverages.   After that we found a back corner of the Garner Valley area to set up camp in the dark.  We spent the rest of the evening  recounting the festivities of the day while sampling tasty San Diego area micro-brews.

View from the tent when I opened my eyes

The view from my tent when I first opened my eyes.

Aliso and Wood Canyons

Bill O’Neil and I met for a cruise through  Aliso and Wood Canyon Park in Laguna Hills of Orange County today.  My last ride out here was cut short due to a mechnical so today was really my first time seeing the majority of the trails in some number of years.   I found it amazingly depressing how bad some of the trails have been widened with go-arounds that seemed to be at nearly every minor obstacle.   The Cholla trail for example is just a complete mess compared to a handful of years ago.  I wish people could just check their ego and get off and walk the stuff they can’t ride instead of making or taking the go-arounds.   (I know preaching to the choir here) 

 

Here is a shot at the top of the Rock-It trail. Plenty of go-arounds here as well.  This was a mighty fun descent (following the original lines).   Once down Rock-It we worked our way over to Mathis.  My memory of the steepness and length of this climb has been dulled over the years.   It was quite vividly refreshed today as it took quite a bit of gruntage to get my Intense UZZI up this climb.

Once up to the top of Mathis we continued up along the ridge fireroad to “Top of the World”   This was a good place to take a breather and enjoy the views of the Pacifc and Laguna Beach.   From here we went back down to Mathis and picked up the “Car Wreck” trail.

This was my first time on this trail and it was quite a bit of fun.  I managed to not get any pictures taken of the technical bits.  The picture above is just after all of the technical bits along with the namesake remains of an old vehicle.  This trail feeds right into the Oak Grove Trail.   A pretty section of trail.

The next trail we hit up was the Dripping Cave trail.   There were some nice tree lined bits as well as some short grunt working climbing in the direction we were going.

We farted around a bit at the at actual dripping cave

Some of it was just downright photo posing.    It was right about this time we thought we heard the sound of tiny bubbles trying to escape from finely crafted brown glass bottled far off in the distance.    We set out to investigate the sound and found the offending bubbles (in my truck).    Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA and Mission Brewing’s Dark Seas Russian Imperial Stout were tasty accompaniments to post-ride chit-chat.   Another NON-Bad day to be on a bike.

Longest Day of the Year Ride

With Wednesday being the longest daylight day of the year it only seemed right to get out on a bike.   My Wednesdays are normally booked up but this particularly day was open so it was time to hit the trail.

While the temps were nowhere near what they are going to get, they were enough to cause this weather weenie, to suffer on the climb up out of Alpine to the “playgrounds”.  Clearly I have been enjoying plenty of tasty beverages without earning them and the climb was making me pay!    Long climb story short, I sucked on the climb but  I climbed non the less.  

While Steve was up to his usual airborne antics…

I was content just to keep the wheels on the ground and play in the chunk.  

The chunk and rocks were where it was at with me today.   The dirt is definitely in “Summer Mode” which means there are combinations of exceptionally loose dirt combined mega-compacted hard pack that can make for some interesting turns here and there.   It is quite a contrast from the “Hero Dirt” seen out here in the winter time.    There was a bit of relearning to do on some of the trail.   The rocks however are for the most part a know value.  

  

Of course for those that play here all the time it was Perfect Flight Weather.

The “Three Miles of Smiles” descent offered up both adrenaline giggles and a few Oh Crap moments due to some loose bits.   Coming hot out of one corner Steve thought this was a rattler at first but it was a Rosa Boa instead.  These things are pretty cool snakes that are quite docile.   After our feel of Boa fondling we were along our way to the trailhead and onward to Alpine Beer Company for some yummy grub and tasty beverages.   Not a bad use of Summer Solstice in my mind.

Big Laguna Meadow Cruise

The weather was pretty freaking awesome this past weekend out in the east end of San Diego County.     It was a wonderful time to head out to the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area for some playing around on the Big Laguna trail.

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While just a few days away from the offical start of summer, there was plenty of green and patches of wildflowers here and there.

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While riding technical stuff and challenging yourself is always fun and exciting sometimes just getting out on a nice sliver of singlerack in some beautiful countryside good for the soul.  Such was the case of on this day.

Tasty Beer from Alpine Beer Company afterwards does not hurt either!

Arrrgh….Swabbies get yer CPO Jersey

Okay so quite a few of you know I spent a couple hundred moons or so kicking around in US Navy.   Wither you have already joined the ranks of the quitters like myself or you are still the country’s good work at the pointy end of the spear, here is a jersey you members of the Goat Locker might like.   Some active duty folks have put in a good chunk of work with primal to get this custom jersey put together.     

The front view

The back view. 

“NAVY”  is printed in nice and big letters on the yellow side panels.  This will allow all your Army buddies to know exactly what happened when you shred past them on those downhills.   (At least if there is a bar at the bottom the hill) 

If you dont know what size you wear in the Primal apparel line check out their handy dandy sizing chart.

You can order these jerseys directly from Primal from now until March 9th.  Orders placed by March 9th will be delivered the week of May 21st.   Like most custom orders, they need to get a minimum order together the make the deal go through without someone taking in in the shorts

Here is the link for the Men’s Jersey and here is the link for Women’s Jersey.

I already have mine on order.  Even if you are not interested pass this along for those that maybe. 

I had to get one as it matches one of my bikes quite nicely.

Good Question – My Travel Case

So I got a question in the email yesterday that I thought the answer would be worth sharing.

Don Maneth wrote:

“…I know you travel with your bike a ton. Which travel case do you use?  Do the airlines accept it as recreational equipment for an additional charge?  Typical fee?”

Well Don,   I have traveled quite a bit with my bike and I would be glad to pass on some of my observations.

The Luggage:

The travel case I have is a Trico Sports Ironcase.  I have been quite happy with the one I have have since 2005.   It was first called into action for a trip to Copper Canyon in Mexico but it has been used for trips to the East Coast, Japan and the Pacific Northwest.   When I first bought mine, I got it as part of group buy deal that run me $200.  These days it retails for around $329.    I will say this about the case.   I have yet to have one of the airline baggage gorillas damage this case or the contents.  

Packing these things are pretty particular and the TSA nearly always want to take a look in the book.  I have gathered this from the numerous times of getting the “We looked in Bag” note from the TSA.  I typically mention  at the counter that the arrangment of the stuff in box is pretty particular and I would like to be prsent for the TSA looksee.   It typically depends on the airport you are at wither they will accomidate the request or not, but I pack the box with the thought of this happening in mind.

Notice that my lightweight short-travel XC bike will fit with the fork still in the headset.     With my longer-legged and slacker geometry bikes (6″ and 7″ travel forks) I have had to remove the fork from the headset.   If you have to do this I highly recommend that you take a piece of string and runn it through the head tube and tie all the bearing/headset bits together.  Also place any spacers back on the steerer tub and screw the headset cap back on to make sure the bits don’t go off an unplanned adventure.

 The Airlines and Luggage Fees:

The only consistent thing about the airlines (particularly United with whom I do most of my flights through) is that they are inconsistent.   You  should however plan on paying the worst case scenerio costs which are steep.  The Ironcase box along weighs 31lbs so unless you have a road bike (and since you are my site, I’m assuming we are mountain bikes) you are going to be over 50lbs.    Being over 50lbs makes your luggage overweight.  Being over 70 lbs puts you in the excess weight catergory.    My Intens Uzzi (7.5 ” travel go do stupid stuff rig) weight in at 34lbs toss in a helmet, shoes, and multi-tool to put thing back together and you break the 70lb threshold.   Here is an old story about getting my Tricocase packed under 50lbs

United currently can  hit you for a Special Item Fee (currently $100) as well as overweight fee ($100 if between 51 and 70lbs, $200 if over 70lbs)  This is for each direction!   So that plush downhill couch could cost you $600 bucks for the trip.  I have only gotten smacked for the special and the over 70lb fee once.   I moved enough stuff around after that to get the box under 70lbs.   I have sometimes gotten as lucky as to have the box  just checked as regular luggage for no special fees whatsoever.    More commonly I have often only got charged the Special Item Fee.   It all depends on the airport, and the person at the counter.  Being nice and cordial, calling them by there name on thier badge, and generally doing the social engineering/Dale Carnigie thing may help to keep you from getting both of you ass checks slapped while the airline has thier way with your wallet.

Alternative  Shipping:

USPS:  Big thing here is you have to get the weight under 70lbs and you can not let the width go beyond 10.5″ (This is part you sandwich down with straps)   $107 each way for a shipment for San Diego to North Carolina and will typically take 8 days.   For you folks that have access to military bases, USPS ships to all the military bases and you can ship through them parcel post on the cheap.   It cost me just $68 to ship my bike to Japan once.  Once, I missed the fine print when it said it could take up to five weeks to get there.  They meant it!.   

UPS:  For this type of box, you will be paying for billable weight (96 lbs) versus the actual wieght. $170 each way for a shipment from San Diego to North Carolina and will typically take four for days.  This is a fairly good way to ship, but you should call ahead to the local UPS store you are going to go through first as some stores and less educated on thier polices than others and may balk at the case. 

Don’t use bike luggage:   A carboard box and bubble wrap weighs a lot less than 31lbs.   This could get your package down under 50lbs to reduce your airline luggage fees but it could also make your bike more likely to get damaged enroute.  Particurly if bike gets handling by this gal or this luggage chimp.   If you are going to go the cardboard box route, I would suggest talking to your local bike shop and have them set aside one of thier boxes after thier next incoming shipment.  

 The Renting Equation:

Sometimes bringing your own bike is the obvious choice, for a whole slew of reasons.   However often times I have to weigh my options when it come to the cost.   Some of the things I think about when it come to renting are: How long am I going to be at my destination; How often do I expect to ride;  What kind of riding am I looking to do (what kind of bike do I think I’m going to need); what are the cost of the rental offering at my destination. 

Rental Costs:   In most places you are going to be paying a premium for a a full-suspension bike that is not of the department store genre.    $50-90 a day is not uncommon.    Hardtails are cheaper but you are most likely looking at  $25-30 bucks a day. Now for you folks who have access/priviledges on military bases the Outdoor Recreation Centers typically have hardtails for rent at the best rates you will find anywhere.    You also need to factor in the time required to go get the bike and return it.   So if you want to grab and afterwork ride, you really need to rent it the day before and you may not be able to get back to shop prior to closing.  You may have to rent a bike for two days just to get in a full day of riding particularly if you want to go someplace that takes a bit of driving.    

Riding Style/Required Bike:   A lot of my travel biking is work related these days.   When I am on “The Man’s Dime” I typically ride more more within my abilities.   I would feel pretty bad if I jacked myself up out on the trail that impacted by ability to do my job.  So with that it mind maybe a hardtail is all I need and then maybe I will just rent a full-suspension bike for just a day or two if I want to go do some more aggressive type riding.

Here are a few of examples:   

#1.  A couple of years ago I was going to be in the Seattle area during the summer for six weeks.   With the long days I expected to be able to get in at least one ride during the week after work and one a ride on Sundays.  I was also contemplating a run up to Whistler for a couple of days should the job go well and were ahead of schedule near the end.   So at least 12 outing and maybe some downhill fun bonus days.     $50/day rental x 12 days = $600 bucks.   Okay I’m taking the bike. 

#2  I had a four week trip to Japan coming up.    I was mostly going to be riding the local trails on the Muria Pennisula where the Yokosuka naval base where I was going to be working.    Once again I was planning on two bike rides a week, but know that it was nearing the raing season that might not happen.   Additionally, there was some talk with some folks I know there of a potential trip to the Fujimi Panaorama Downhill MTB Park.   I could rent a hardtail on the base for $130 for a month (killer deal) and it runs about $100 to rent a full blown downhill bike and the protective gear for the day Fujimi.   $230 was a no-brainer I left my bike at home.

Closing:

Just get on a bike when you are somplace out of your normal haunt.  It is good times for sure.  Airfare luggage fees and short length trips make it really tough to justify the cost.   Then again luggage is typically a reimbursable buisness expesnse 😉

La Costa Stroll

Rancho La Costa Preserve is really close to Casa Del Bill so it is often on the menu you when I only have time for a quick fix of dirt.    Despite its close proximity it had been sometime since I last rode out here.  It seems like Elfin Forest, Lake Calvera or Daley Ranch had been getting more play as of late.

Some nice new trail markers can be found throughout the trail system.

Strolling up the switchbacks trail

Flag at the top.    There was some drama a couple months ago as the flag up here (which was put up with permission of the land manger) kept getting stolen by some unpatriotic Jack Ass.  It is awesome that we live in a country where even the idiots are free to express thier views in any manner they are willing to accept the consequences for.    Too bad the Jack Ass was also a monumental coward as I’m quite certain the general public would have expressed themselves in a manner that he would not enjoyed.  I’m thinking getting your ass whooped with a flag pole is adequeate consequence.   

Dumbassness aside the trails were in fairly good shape and fun as always.    Vista Del Mar Trail goodness above.