Friday, August 31, 2012

Velo course: Heights of Angeles Crest Highway...

In my younger days, and when I lived closer, I rode the Angeles Crest Highway (ACH) on many occasions. Normally those rides involved starting at home and riding to the bottom of the Highway (or taking the alternate ascent via Big Tujunga Canyon Road) and climbing up to Mt. Wilson, Newcomb's Ranch or Mt. Waterman. 

in the shadow of a cloud, easy riding leaving town 

Big Pine Lodge (US Forest Service) closed

Now that I live further east though, it is not so easy to get there by riding out the front door. It is, however, a fairly simple thing to do a ride which takes in, what I consider, the most scenic portion of the ACH, and which also happen to be the highest in elevation. Starting from the mountain town of Wrightwood, and riding west as far as Cloudburst Summit / Mt. Waterman, makes for a 55 mile ride and takes you over 7900' Dawson Saddle at the Highway's highest point. On clear days, views to both sides of the road are spectacular. The steep drops into the desert to the north on one side, and the somewhat more gentle slopes and drainages down to the urban areas on the south side of the San Gabriel Mountains on the other. Views south can extend all the way to the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island.

Mt. Baden-Powell

depths of Vincent Gulch

desert-side of the mountains

This is a great ride for any time of the year, other than when there is snow and ice on the roadway. Don't take anything for granted though, water is scarce, temperatures, though much cooler than the desert and valleys far below, can still be quite hot during the summer, small rockslides onto the roadway require almost constant attention, and autumn thunder/electrical storms can be treacherous. Though the ride starts out at just under 6000 feet elevation, and grades never really seem to go above 6% to 8%, the succession of climbs gradually wear into your legs.

first pass over Dawson Saddle - all is good

the rock outcrops kind of match the clouds

the tunnels

As you might expect for a mountain ride the climbs are generally long, and thus so are the descents. Never mind the grades, there is so much room to let 'er run that the 30mph mark comes in no time and 40mph could tick by with little additional thought or effort. Since I was there for reconnaissance and to acquire photos for this post, I never reached any of the higher speeds as I was constantly stopping to take a photo of one view or another. There is a lot to see. Take the numerous rock and snow chutes, particularly those scarring the flanks of Mts. Baden Powell, Burnham, and Throop, for instance. These must be something to see during the spring melt. Glance up some of them and you will see huge boulders, massive trees or the fractured remains of them, New York Mets baseball caps. Anything and everything gets pushed downslope.

Point is enjoy the ride, take as little or as much time as you have. There is something new to see with every turn of the head, or bend in the road. It is also likely that the wind will have something to say about your speed. It can get windy, and there were plenty of times when I let it get to me. The wind and I had a running argument for much of the ride; insults and curses were freely flowing both ways. If it slammed into me while climbing I just ground it out. If it tried to bowl me over while descending I just backed off until it passed. But, it still pissed me off. I am not familiar enough to speak of everyday conditions, and I suspect that the winds may have been a bit worse due to the brewing storm.

the last bit of center line before Cloudburst Summit

contemplating the climb back

that cut on the distant slope is the closed portion of Hwy 39

building and getting darker

I left somewhat later than I would have liked, but still early enough that I had mostly sunny skies until I returned to Vincent Gap. The final climb back up to Grassy Hollow / Inspiration Point from Vincent Gap was were things really began to get interesting. When I arrived at Inspiration Point on the outbound leg there was a great view of Mt. Baldy. Now that view as gone. That dark grey sky, where the bulk of Mt. Baldy should have been if the day were still sunny, was clearly in turmoil. Great booms reverberated from that direction, and in tandem with great flashes striking to the ground. It would have been quite fascinating if I had not been a puny human alone on an aluminum (and carbon) framed bike. Worst was that the conflict up above clearly stretched from Baldy's pate to where I was headed. That did inspire me to take that final climb quicker than would have otherwise been possible. I do know enough not to willingly blunder into an electrical storm, and though I thought of taking shelter on the porch of either the Grassy Hollow Visitor Center or Big Pine Lodge (both closed weekdays by the way), I pushed on still hoping to make it into town without getting wet, or worse.

forest and meadow on the mountainsides

things seem more massive up there

one climb to go - looking a little worried at all the crashing and flashing in the sky over that way

view towards Mt. Baldy from Vincent Gap

that distant ridge rising and disappearing into the clouds is Mt. Baldy (from Inspiration Point)

I almost made it too. It was not until the outskirts of town that the first drops hit me. Big drops, but still not so bad. Just enough to cause spray to kick up from my tires and start me on my way to becoming soaked. Once back into town I rode a couple of the short streets in the small town center trying to decide which of the numerous cafes and restaurants to donate to in an attempt of rejuvenate myself. Unfortunately the rain steadily increased, I became more and more wet, and I decided to pack up instead. Bike on the roof rack, I dove through the door and behind the wheel just as the rain turned into a true downpour. On a more pleasant day, I would have certainly spent more time wandering around.

One more thing to consider: An alternative, and I suppose ideal way to do this out-and-back, would be to add the short distance (but much more climbing) and descend from Cloudburst Summit to Newcomb's Ranch. There you can rest and replenish at the cafe before the long grind back. But that's for another time, and probably best done with a group to help the miles pass. Total distance ended up as 54.55 miles with 5763' of elevation gain. Purportedly water can be had near the turn-around at the Buckhorn Campground (not however at the nearby Buckhorn Day Use Area). I did not check, so either confirm with the Forest Service, or better yet, come prepared.

back at the town center

the tiny Wrightwood Cyclery

Michael Vega: Make the Call...

We all know how many people are driving Foothill Blvd at 6:40 on any given evening. Multiple people undoubtedly saw something, and as the poster says, any little bit of information may help bring this driver/criminal to justice.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sun, Wind, Pouring Rain, Lighting and Thunder...

Saw it all during a 55 mile ride between Wrightwood and Cloudburst Summit. You can get it all in just a short time up in the high country.

Those cute little clouds floating over Mt. Baden Powell were rather benevolent-looking at this point, but turned especially malevolent just a couple hours later.

More to come.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rest in Peace, Michael Vega...

Regrettably I, like many, woke up this morning to yet another report of a fatal hit and run involving a bicyclist. As you will know Biking in LA makes a point of recognizing the lives of everyone who is lost to friends and family, and the rest of us on the streets, and trails, of the Southland. Tuesday evening Michael Vega was killed by a hit and run driver on Foothill Blvd near the intersection of Ramona Avenue, in Rancho Cucamonga. I want to express my condolences to Mr. Vega's family and friends. No one should have to die "bleeding in the gutter" as one witness, who tried to comfort Mr. Vega described it, as a result of the uncaring and negligent actions of another.

Almost as troubling is the initial reaction from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. I don't normally like to knock law enforcement, they are only charged with enforcing existing laws, not making them, not prosecuting them. But tied into the process of enforcement is the act of interpretation. When a department spokesperson says "unless the driver is intoxicated, nothing other than having a traffic accident taken is going to come out of this" has to leave me wondering what ever happened to the serve and protect code (granted that is the LAPD motto, but have always believed it should apply to all in the public service sector). 

That is it? A "traffic accident?" And don't get me started on that word, accident, you know how I feel about the long history of misuse with it. I was always under the impression that if you hit someone, or even something, and callously flee the scene, than a crime has been committed. Compound that with the loss of a human life and I would think that there should be some serious charges involved. But apparently, this is no big deal. Just another accident. I keep wondering when our society at large will begin to take this with the gravity it deserves. Honestly, whether riding my bike, walking, or driving my motor vehicle, I do not want an individual with so little regard for the lives of others to be loose on the streets; and certainly not in control of a machine capable of taking another life anywhere, at anytime. Do you?

Update, 12 September, a story from yesterday's Inland Valley Daily Bulletin notes that law enforcement is still requesting the public's help in identifying a suspect in the collision that cost Michael Vega his life. Information can be left annonymously at 909-477-2800.

Update, 13 September, from City of Rancho Cucamonga Councilwoman Diane Williams (via Friends of Pacific Electric Trail Facebook page):

SUMMARY: **UPDATE** September 13, 2012
On Wednesday, September 12, 2012, deputies from the Rancho Cucamonga Police Department received We-Tip information regarding the suspect and suspect vehicle involved in the hit and run on August 28th.

Deputies were advised that the driver of the vehicle was Jason Cox and he worked for a local construction company in Chino. Deputies contacted an employee of the construction company, confirmed Jason Cox employment, and conducted an inspection of the vehicle involved.

Deputies made contact with Jason Cox at his residence in Rancho Cucamonga. Cox was subsequently arrested, transported and booked into the West Valley Detention Center for PC 191.5(a) Gross Vehicular Manslaughter while intoxicated and VC 20001 (a) Hit and Run resulting in death or injury. He is being held on $250,000 bail and is cheduled to appear in court on September 17, 2012.

The Rancho Cucamonga Police Department would like to thank the media and the concerned citizens for their assistance throughout this investigation. The media coverage and the information received by concerned citizens led to the successful conclusion of this investigation.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pushed off the Road en la Vuelta...

Just because there hasn't been any mention around here about the Vuelta a Espana does not mean I haven't been paying attention. Indeed there have been some nice fast sprint finishes, as well as some fantastic attacking climbing stages, contested during the first week. At the end of today's stage (don't worry, no spoiler) Sean Kelly and David Harmon were engaged in their back and forth about the lead-out trains - questioning the Orica-Green Edge tactics, noting that Vacansoliel-DCM needed to do something to counter the dominance of the other two Dutch teams, Rabobank and Argos-Shimano, and then, the usual Sky push to control the tempo and protect Chris Froome. 

Well, at the end, say within the final 2km but before the final 1km, a rider pulled off the front and, in the process of being passed up by the charging peloton was basically run off the road. Sean's remark about it was to the effect that sometimes that's the thanks you get. You're up there busting your gut, draining yourself of any ounce of energy you may have left, and when you pull off to the side just before completely imploding, you get run onto the verge for your troubles. Do your duty and take your lumps. No respect. Of course, as authoritative a person as Kelly may be, Harmon was not quite convinced that the King had ever been in such a position during his career. It is a tricky time, the end of a long race; everyone is tired, nerves are worn, your attention becomes limited to the wheel in front of you. If you have been pulling the train along, you just want to finish that task, get off the point and out of the way, before what you have been towing becomes an out-of-your-control runaway. I don't know who it was shown the side door and given a quick exit out, but it seems like they should make a Miller Time commercial in your honor. The Vuelta is warming up and it is going to get hot up ahead.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Entitled to Block...

Marie Antoinette said to "let them eat cake," while this driver seems to be saying "let them [pedestrians] walk on cobbles." Clearly it was more important for this selfish person to block the crosswalk at the top of Mills (Claremont Hills Wilderness Park) than to park a short ways further up the road. Nor is it even the first time I have seen this vehicle parked in such a way. Hopefully the new parking meters will bring parking enforcement up there more often, and weed people like this out. That's what I call blatant disregard.

Monday Blues...

It is nice to have a thoughtful sister-in-law who lives in London and who knows that a blue cycling shirt from the Olympics would be much appreciated.

Not sure how I could work this photo, taken at last weeks Summer End Grand Prix in Ontario, in with the rest of the bunch. But then I got that tee-shirt above and voila, there is the tie-in. Dotsie Bausch, silver medalist, and best known for her proficiency on the track, also happens to be a member (and more) with the SC Velo/Empower Coaching Women's Team. She was at Summer End GP in Ontario a week ago, and hanging out at that cool camper van post-race.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Velo course: Sunland-Mulholland Loop with the Milly's...

To be honest, even though the day's ride covered some familiar old mashing grounds, I can't say as that I ever did this exact loop before. So, in some ways it was kind of new. As the post title suggests this was another of the weekly Milly's Riders get togethers. The group has been meeting righteously every Sunday since that first ride back in those cooler, early summer days (June 3). Would Milly be proud? I suspect know so. The guys have stuck with the program (more rides, longer rides, harder rides), and after the passing of nearly three months time, seem stronger for it.

the gathering, in Highland Park

looks like a double pace line along Linda Vista but, no, we were just riding two-abreast

along Foothill in La Crescenta. since i had everyone behind me,
it was time for an over-the-shoulder shot

Claudio at the top of Laurel Canyon

Roberto, the day's suffer-fest was his choice, so if it looks like there is some
suffering going on, he brought it on himself

Mason, looking like a Euro-pro with his jersey open (but rocking a cx bike)

Mason's flat on Mulholland

center line shot up on Mulholland

i passed the camera off to Enrique so he could take some shots of the group, me at the back. hey, the glory spot was won, my work was done. nothing but blue skies...

the group overlooking the Valley - moi, Tony, Andrzej, Mason, Roberto, Tom, Claudio (Enrique at the camera, and Waldi pulled off early)

Andrzej's turn to flat


meanwhile, while waiting, Claudio had the best idea - some shade and soft grass

along the River Trail. easy riding now

finally, back to Highland Park, via Figueroa

I am going to confess, right away to feeling brilliant today, not in a smarter kind of way, but rather in "boyo, I'm riding well today." I was gifted the first sprint spot, at Descanso Gardens, by Claudio who, I am convinced, could have flicked around me at any time. Later came the "glory spot" of the day - top of Laurel Canyon. I didn't want to give anyone the opportunity to gift me this one, so I hammered the bottom in the big ring, enough to shed all but Claudio once again. That was alright, he pushed me to higher levels and, though I paid for the effort when things got steep, I had enough in the tank to claim the KOM prize. Everything that came in between was either fun or nerve-wracking, depending on where we were. Going up or down, I have always liked Sunland Blvd and Mulholland, both. The Valley though (Vineland and the flats of Laurel Canyon in particular) well, lets just say that if there is a more  motor-dependent place in the world, I am yet to experience it. I was quickly reminded why, during my years of living out that way, I only rode up Laurel Canyon once. That was enough. Maybe I have just become spoiled by the easy flow out on the county fringe, but I surely do not miss life in the Val.

The Route: Typically the Milly's Riders start out in Highland Park, not far from where Milly lived. A couple quick jogs brings you to Avenue 64 which you want to take nearly all the way up to Colorado Blvd, just a quick transition to Melrose Ave, and then make a right onto Colorado. Watch for signs and transition off Colorado and on to Linda Vista. Take that street all the way along its length, up above the Arroyo Seco and the Rose Bowl. Transition right onto Berkshire when you get to that point and wind around to Chevy Chase where you make a right and then left onto Descanso. Take that up and past the Gardens, over the 210 Fwy, until you reach Foothill and make a left. You will take Foothill all the way through the La Crescenta Valley until the Sunland/Tujunga area. Where Foothill transitions right, you will go straight and onto Sunland which is a nice long, mostly downhill spin, through an area that has always seemed surprisingly rural. Enter the urban area again, keeping to Sunland through a couple jogs. After the final jog, the street becomes Vineland. Just take that street straight south, pass the former Lockheed/Burbank Airport (now Bob Hope), all the way down to Magnolia and turn right, followed by a left onto Laurel Canyon. Take LC all the way up the pass to the junction with Mulholland and go left. Ride up above the Valley on one side and Los Angeles on the other, enjoying the views when you can. At Cahuenga Pass cross the 101 Fwy and go left on Cahuenga, head down to Barham and turn right. Another right on Forest Lawn, and yet another on Zoo Drive brings you into Griffith Park. Pass Travel Town and the picnic lawns, make a left on Victory, and then right at the Los Angeles River Bike Trail. You take this all the way to where it currently ends, exit and go left at Riverside Drive. Head up and over the river and onto N. Figueroa, take that all the way through Highland Park, hang a right at York and then a left on Ave 66, and the finish. 51.29 miles, 2611' of elevation gain.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Armstrong, Sarkozy, what next...

It gets more and more wild by the hour:

"He also alleged that  former French president Nicolas Sarkozy pulled strings for the rider, who he regarded as a personal friend and from whom he later received a gift of a team bike."

Read more:

From the Library: Rad Rider, Safety Cycler...

The Rad Rider, cycling's very own superhero (since according to the USADA Lance Armstrong cannot fill that role anymore). My son got this at an elementary school bike rodeo, or some such safety event, a number of years ago. Not only does Rad promote bicycle safety, he also vanquishes the evil Hardrive and manages to save the fair Mayor at the same time. Rad.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Lance, Done With It...

I believe it was someone given the nickname the Great Deceiver who said something to the effect, "well, here we go again." The sport of cycling, once again finds itself in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. In a statement released by Lance Armstrong yesterday (read Armstrong's entire statement here.) I see an individual who has come to the realization that no matter what he says there will always be doubters, detractors will always be willing to take their shot. Consider two or more people debating a point; the arguing goes on for minutes, maybe hours, until they realize they are getting nowhere. They agree to disagree, and move on. Now, expand that debate to years, and you have the Armstrong controversy. Yes, I would be ready to move on as well. At this point you believe him, or you don't. There are more important things to devote his time and energies to, and it is time to move on. 

Let the mainstream media focus on Lance and what happens to all those victories and Tour titles. Like Lance, I am going to move on. Why? Because I see bigger issues at stake here. Larger than Lance Armstrong, larger than the Tour de France. Does, or should, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) possess the authority to strip a cyclist of victories acquired outside the Olympic arena. Lets not overlook the fact that the USADA is charged with managing the anti-doping program for U.S. Olympic, Paralympic, Pan-American, ParaPan American sport, and only in those areas. No where do I see it written that the USADA has authority outside those specific areas. I can't imagine cycling's international governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) permitting a nationally based agency the authority to supersede it's own governing right. Yet that appears to be what is taking place.

The USADA, or its international "counterpart", WADA, should exist in a support role, not in an authority role. Their job should be to gather and present evidence of wrong-doing to cycling's national and international governing bodies; it is those latter agencies who should be responsible for determining guilt, or innocence , and setting consequences. Of course for this organization of authority to be effective there needs to exist a confidence in the ability of these organizations to perform their duties, and I am not sure that condition has existed for some time now. What I do feel confident of is that decisions concerning the internal regulation of the sport need to be determined within the sport, not from anywhere, or anyone, outside it.

If anything good comes of this mess, if Travis Tygart and the USADA successfully strip Armstrong of his Tour titles, the resulting chaos (does anyone really believe the move will resolve the drug use controversy, or that it won't open up an entirely new can of worms) will hopefully, and finally, force an examination of the structure and authority of the sport, and bring about a stronger, more coherent organization. Contrary to what some may read in Armstrong's statement, the house is still smoldering, and someone mistook the pail of water for one filled with lighter fluid. The poster shown above says Hope Rides Again. Hope, it is all that is left really - hope for a better future of the sport.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Upcoming: Rider Appreciation Day @ Golden Road...

Sometimes in the process of writing this blog I am presented with a minor quandary. On occasion I may write about my experiences using a certain product, feature a local business or service, and most of the time I derive no benefit from doing so. It is like providing free advertising, and I don't get anything out of it. When whatever it is I happen to write about is cycling related I really don't mind - I figure it is providing a service, spreading the word to others in the cycling community who might be interested. And that has been good enough. 

In the spirit of that thought, Golden Road Brewing in Atwater Village is holding a Rider Appreciation Day on Sunday August 26th. There will be complimentary bike valet, Golden Road and New Belgium beer, and between 11:00 and 1:00 you can kick back with your pint and watch the final stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Free bike bells to the first 100 who show up, and a New Belgium Fat Tire beach cruiser raffle. Best of all, proceeds from the $5.00 raffle ticket price will benefit the Bicycle Kitchen. If you have spare parts around the house or garage, bring them - there will be a collection bin for the BK, and you will receive a raffle ticket for each donated part. Sounds like a fun afternoon.

The Pub at Golden Road is located at 5410 W. San Fernando Road, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Bike racks are available everyday, the complimentary valet will be available between 11:00 and 2:00 the day of the event.

From the Archives: Klondyke Rader...

A little piece of cycling ephemera I found at the city-wide yard sale earlier in the year. Wasn't sure what it was, I thought maybe the lid of a tin or something like that, but it appears as though it is an advertising card for the Klondyke Rader of Paul Bach & Co., Buchholz, Saxony, Germany. There are plenty of these, and similar ones, for sale around the internet; they are worth more for the interest than they are for the money. The card measures 4" wide x 5.5" high, and like many (maybe all) is paper backed so that it could be used as a postcard.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Leading with the Right...

I imagine everyone has a certain way of doing daily things, and by that I mean that those things are done the same way every time you do them. You know, maybe you put your left shoe on first, push your left arm through the shirt sleeve before the right, those sort of things. Routines like these get carried over into our cycling lives too. I have mentioned before how I put the same things in the same jersey pocket each time I ride. I also clip out of the left pedal every time I come to a stop, when I descend with pedals at three and nine o'clock, my right foot is always forward, left back (I guess that makes me a goofy foot descender). When I come to an intersection I look three times - left, right, and left again. The bidon is removed from its cage by the right hand while the left grips the handlebars.

There is another one that I recently realized. Maybe I noticed it in the past and forgot, I don't know. When I rise out of the saddle to attack a short hill, or maybe just to stretch on a longer one, I will always, always, rise with the right foot pushing down and the left pulling up around the back of the pedal stroke. By a fluke, for what ever reason, I did it the opposite the other day. It felt odd and completely unnatural, and it took several more rotations before I could manage to get myself back into sync. At that point I realized that I must never lead with the left. When you think about it, it kind of makes sense; when starting from a stop, my right foot is clipped in, so naturally leads off with the first downward stroke; this must be carried-over when I rise out of the saddle.

right foot over the top annndddd rise. perfect.

I know, this is no stop the world revelation, something akin to the first time you successfully rode no-handed; but at that instant, the thought "whoa, what just happened there?" flashed across my brain like some expensive, and unnecessary, electronic billboard. A routine had been broken, a long line of habitual practice, built up mile upon mile, had been severed. Clearly I must not be cycling's equivalent of a switch-hitter in baseball.

For the most part, humans are creatures of pattern and routine. When we find "a way" that works, we stick with it. That "way" might be reached through trial and error, and thus truly be the best "way". Time trialists who perfect their position on the bike in a wind tunnel are a text book example of this. For most of us, and for most things we do, the "way" is more likely to be a matter of coincidence, or happenstance, and repetition. We first do something a certain way, and that way then becomes reinforced through repetition.

After the little hiccup occurred, two thoughts came to me: First, was this some kind of unique aberration, or have other people experienced it. It is not something you can plan and expect to get the same result. You can't think to lead with the left, rather than the right; the act of planning would negate the sensation of surprise. 

My second thought was: Could a rival use this information to gain an advantage? I have read that the great Fausto Coppi had a vein at the back of this knee that would prominently bulge when he was put under pressure. His rivals would closely watch, and when the vein made its appearance would announce to their teammates, " the vein, the vein". You could count on attacks to immediately follow. There is more than a little bit of difference, of course; watching for a sign which may present itself over several, or more, minutes is one thing. Attempting to time an attack to coincide with a crank rotation taking all of a second or two, is something else entirely, especially in the chaos of the peloton.

I could easily put this all behind me. But. It is always at the back of my mind now, at least when I am riding solo. I approach a hill, ready to rise out of the saddle, right foot first, and now. Okay, very good; everything is right in the world. All it took to throw things out of whack, was to do it differently that one time. Cycling is nearly as much a mental exercise and it is a physical one - but this is one thing I would just as soon forget. Anyone else receive a shock when they unexpectedly do something different?


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