RIP Mocha

Yeah, this blog is supposed to be about cycling, but I had a dog who deserves a post. Mocha came to us in late 2005 from Boxer Rescue LA, and she was already a few years old. Somebody had trained her well enough that she knew peeing was done outside (preferably while standing over a dainty flower), and she was quiet, rarely barking or growling.

Oh, I could induce her to bark, and she had one that was full-throated and scary, but she didn’t use it much. She was great with people, not so much with other dogs. On walks I would keep her away from other dogs because you never knew what might happen. Some dogs she totally ignored, while others she wanted to kill and eat for dinner. I couldn’t figure it out, maybe some sort of olfactory “F-U. No, F-U!” going on between them.

Mocha was a sweet dog and wanted to climb up in your lap, despite being 65 pounds, but she also had her misbehavin’ side. If I was preparing a meal and walked out of the kitchen for some reason, she’d be up on her hind legs with her snout trying to grab food off the counter, too often successfully. If I left a bedroom door open while at work, she’d sleep all day on a bed. She never learned to leave skunks alone, got sprayed three times and I got to breathe the reeking lava fumes while cleaning her.

But I could never be upset with her for too long. Once a week we would walk to Penguin’s Frozen Yogurt and she would wait patiently outside because she knew she would be getting a big spoonful.

Towards the end she still loved her walks at the beach, but it was hard getting up and down the steps and she could barely make it around the block. She suffered the indignities of Cushing’s disease for her last year, which was making her lose hair and pee 2-3 times as much.

When it got to be too much, I had a doctor from Choice Veterinary Care come to us and take care of her. We took her down to the grassy parkway by the street and laid her on a blanket under the palms with a cool ocean breeze blowing. With loving hands on her the vet gave her a shot to put her in doggy dreamland, then when she was unconscious gave her an overdose to put her away.

Mocha was not 100% boxer, and the part they left out turned out to be a positive – no slobber. But she was 100% groovy.

adieu, chienne

adieu, chienne

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Back in October 2011 I led a ride from Banning CA to the mountain village of Idyllwild, described in this post. One of my ride companions later sent me an email thanking me for the ride and giving it a “+1″. Being the old dog that I am, I had no idea what he meant by “+1″, but I figured it must be a good thing.

This past Sunday I led a ride in the western Santa Monica mountains starting at Neptune’s Net restaurant. My bud Mario was driving, and while he is becoming an old dog like me, he possesses substantially more savvy about modern technology and the lingo. I asked him about the “+1″ comment and he confirmed the good nature of it. Apparently it even pre-dates Facebook.

The ride today was +60. Huh? That’s a hell of a lot of good thing. Great weather, great scenery, great riding companions, and to top it off, a birthday cake at the end. I set up the ride today for my birthday, a gnarly big multiple of 10. You can probably figure it out. Then maybe wonder, at that age, I can still ride?

Mario said that some folks on his ride yesterday were talking about coming along, and there were three of them standing there in front of Neptune’s Net waiting for us – Connie, David and Bob. While Mario and I got our gear together, Bridget pulled up to join us, bringing the group to 6. Not very many, but double the group when I led this route back in early 2012. Here we are at the start, in front of Bridget’s properly coloured Land Rover

We headed back toward LA a couple of miles on Pacific Coast Highway until we reached Mulholland Highway, then we headed up up up, like David here

On the way up we encountered some interesting vehicles coasting down, sort of like enclosed go-karts without motors, just gravity providing the propulsion

Once over the top of the mountains we descended to Westlake Village, then headed west on Potrero Road through horse ranches and upscale suburbs, taking the opportunity for some pacelining on the way to Newbury Park. Down the logslide to the farm flats outside of Oxnard, hooked back up with PCH, and back to the start at Neptune’s Net.

In the morning when we rode away from Neptune’s Net, it wasn’t even open yet. But by the time we finished our ride, the place was jam-packed, mostly with moto riders. Check out the pictures below. Many thanks to Bridget and her niece who baked me a scrumptious birthday cake. We couldn’t eat even half of it, but some grizzled old intimidating Harley riders who Bridget was softening up were happy to polish it off.

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Good Intentions vs Chill Factor

I did almost everything right. Pulled the front wheel off my mountain bike and packed both in the back of my Focus wagon for the drive north, grabbed the tool bag from my road bike, brought a spare mtb tube and didn’t forget my mtb shoes. Set the alarm on my cell phone for 6:30am in order to go out on a 7:00 ride from the Bike Lane Inn in Templeton CA to Santa Rita Road on the west side of town and up the narrow valley beyond the end of the pavement onto the dirt track to the high ridge overlooking Whale Rock Reservoir and the Pacific Ocean.

But there was one forgotten detail that undermined my good intentions. After getting out of bed I cracked open the sliding door in the bedroom to check the outside temperature. It was cold, so I put on two synthetic long sleeve upper body base layers, a Wolverine Sports Club short sleeve jersey and a Sugoi long sleeve windbreaker, with just a pair of road shorts leaving most of my legs bare, and a Headsweats skullcap to help keep my balding scalp warm under the helmet. And then a pair of fingerless gloves, the same type of gloves I’d be wearing if I was riding on a hot day in the Mojave Desert. Totally inadequate for what I was about to try.

Such a small item, but when I rolled down the hill from the B&B to Old County Road, it was apparent how big of a mistake it was not having full-fingered insulated gloves. As I started pedaling out of town, my legs warmed up quickly and were fine, but my fingers were turning icy. By the time I got a mere mile up Santa Rita Road my digits were so cold they hurt. A lot. It felt like the bones had been infused with liquid nitrogen. My legs wanted to keep going but the pain in my hands made me turn around and head back to the B&B, where I wrapped them around a mug of hot coffee for 30 minutes of refills until they felt normal.

A rare defeat of a ride. But I wasn’t in Templeton for a ride, that would have been a bonus. I was in town to sign papers for buying a brand new single family residence on the north side of town, just down the street from where I bought a townhouse last year. After breakfast I strolled around Main Street and took some pictures to capture a bit of local flavor.

Some old, but still rolling, vehicles:

and some old, but still working, buildings:

In a couple of months I’ll be moving here and will add my own flavor to the old, but still functioning, ambiance.

Posted in Central Coast Wine Country, cycling, Travel, Wolverine Sports Club | Leave a comment

Ash Thursday

A quick ping to the web tells me that “for Christians, ashes are a symbol of being sorry for things they have done wrong and want to get rid of forever. It is also a reminder to them that we all come from ashes, and to ashes we all will return.” As a child attending Catholic elementary school, there was a specific day of the year on which ashes were smudged on our foreheads, it was called “Ash Wednesday.”

But it was Thursday morning, a ride morning, sunny with lovely blue skies over the ocean, so I kitted up and headed for Palos Verdes on my road bike to meet some other old guys at Malaga Cove Plaza for a jaunt around the hill. I wasn’t thinking about the multitude of things I have done wrong in my life, things that would weigh me down like hanging sacks of coal on my bike frame. Nor was I thinking about returning to ashes. I’m trying to put that off as long as I can and the biking is integral to the effort. But the ashes chased me down anyway.

By the time I got to Malaga Cove Plaza, the light had changed, like during a partial solar eclipse. I looked up toward the sun and there was a brown/gray cloud moving in from the northeast. Turns out it was a plume of smoke from fires on the slopes of the San Gabriel Mountains near Glendora Mountain Road. The winds from the desert were coming into the LA basin such that the smoke was being blown out to sea directly over Palos Verdes, exactly where I was riding. Here are a couple of pics courtesy of LA Times:

The smoke was up pretty high so we decided to ride anyway, but not hard, try to minimize the smoke inhalation. On the ocean side of Palos Verdes it wasn’t bad, but while coming back on the city side and through south Redondo Beach, the smoke had started to drop to the ground. When I got home I looked in the mirror to see smudges on my face below my sunglasses, and my car was covered in a layer of ash.

Later in the day the wind direction changed so that the smoke was not being blown over me, and the smoke that already was over the coast drifted out to sea. Every coastal resident prefers clean air, but we also know that smog makes for lovely sunsets. All the smoke from the fire made this one pretty interesting:

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New Year’s Day Triple Java

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”
Jimi Hendrix

“Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.”
- Aldous Huxley

It started on the last day of the year. The listening, that is. I listened to my voice from a year ago telling me to relax all day, to not drink too much alcohol tonight, and to get to bed as soon as possible after the bell tolls for 2013. And why would I pay attention? Because last year, on January 1st, I rode early with my buds Mario and Angie, in suffer mode. Not suffer mode as in pushing the pace, but suffer mode as in trying to ride on not enough rest and too much alcohol, with legs and head complaining in earnest.

So on New Year’s Eve 2013, I spent the evening dining and dancing with a glamorous gal in a clingy emerald dress, enjoying the performance of Andy & Renee with their band Hard Rain. We had a wonderful time but both of us kept a tight cork in the wine consumption. We departed the venue shortly after midnight and I was in bed by 1:00am. The restraint paid off. No pain getting up early, no pain riding other than the normal trying-to-go-fast-uphill kind of pain.

Eleven BCCC members joined me at the Catalina Coffee start of the Triple Java ride (click on the picture for a bigger image):

Triple Java ride crew at the start

Triple Java ride crew at the start

Another member joined us along the way and we headed for the radomes high atop Palos Verdes. Scott Sing and I pulled away on the PV Drive East uphill to Marymount College, then Scott rolled away from me up Crest Road to the domes. More listening – I didn’t try to stay with him while contemplating the climb to come up Via Zumaya later in the ride. (click on any picture for bigger images)

We rolled down through some fancy Palos Verdes and San Pedro neighborhoods to our mid-ride stop at “The Corner Store” in San Pedro at 37th and Barbara Street. It’s an old-fashioned corner store and a neighborhood treasure, and has been operational for more decades than me. My San Pedro open mike buddies introduced me to the store, one of them runs an open mike there on the last Sunday afternoon of each month. The store has adapted to our contemporary desires for upscale coffee drinks and pastry, but also serves an assortment of freshly made sandwiches and soups.

Here are some pics from our stop at The Corner Store (click on any picture for bigger images):

We probably spent an hour relaxing there, and as we were about to leave the BCCC riders on the Triple Java Lite ride showed up to consume the remainder of the pastries, here they are:

Triple Java Lite riders

Triple Java Lite riders

From San Pedro we rolled around the south and west sides of Palos Verdes, including additional vertical snacks up Via Zumaya and Via Campesina, then back to Catalina Coffee for even more caloric replenishment. Thanks to everyone who joined me on a fab ride to start the new year!

Posted in Beach Cities Cycling Club, cycling, socializing | 1 Comment

Don’t Lose Your Cork

Most of the people I ride with know the story already, but we all encounter somebody new from time to time. If they are old hands at cycling they probably are familiar with the concept, but once in a while I still get the question “what’s with the cork?”


I first heard the story from hall of fame cyclist, coach and friend, Ted Ernst, founder of one of the cycling clubs I belong to, South Bay Wheelmen. It’s a variation on losing the cork for your bottle of fizzy wine – it’s gonna go flat if you leave it sit for too long without the cork in place (assuming you’re not drinking the entire bottle to celebrate, or perhaps mourn, the performance of your favorite futbol club).

The way Ted tells it is that back in the olden days, before we had fancy bar end plugs with integrated lighting systems, or even just simple plastic plugs (for us low-budget riders), wine corks often were used as bar end plugs. Just trim them down to the appropriate diameter and stuff them in. Your wino chums, or your favorite barkeep, provided an endless supply of them. Here is a photo supplied by Mike Mosig of Beach Cities Cycling Club, who really DOES use champagne corks as bar end plugs:


You might ask, why does one need a bar end plug anyway? Here are two good reasons –

  1. Unplugged handlebar ends are a health hazard, not because they emit any noxious gases, but because you don’t want to fall on one if you happen to crash your bike. It will likely puncture your sweaty corpus and, at the minimum, result in painful medical co-pays.
  2. If you use some sort of wrapping tape on your handlebars, when the tape reaches the end of the bar, what do you do with it? Just cut it off? If you’re using a tape with sticky backing, that might work, but it’s likely going to get un-sticky over time, unravel and start flapping in the breeze. Very shabby and definitely not pro. More likely, you want to leave some extra tape beyond the bar end, tuck the extra into the open end of the bar, then secure it with the plug of your choice, fancy or not.

Reason #2 is the point of this post. A bar end plug keeps your handlebar tape from unraveling and looking not pro, and this is where we take it a step into the literary and metaphysical realms. Cyclists who really get into the sport often push themselves to
improve their conditioning and ability to ride farther and faster, and maybe even dabble in bike racing on the club level or more seriously on the USA Cycling level. This all invariably leads to days on which they get pooped out on the training ride or in a race. They UNRAVEL, so to speak. They can’t hang on, they lose their fizz, get shelled and finish well off the pace, probably while looking not pro. Gasping for breath, barely turning the cranks and maybe even cramping on every slight increase in the grade.

So how does the concerned cyclist avoid such a fate? Obviously, you could simply avoid the activities leading to such physical unraveling and only expend your cycling efforts rolling leisurely between pastry shops. If you really feel that competitive urge, you could hire a coach and train more effectively than the competition. Maybe visit the dark side of Tijuana for some PEDs.

Then there is the rabbit’s foot approach, which is what I rely on personally. A good-luck talisman, a voodoo charm, a cork hanging from my tool kit. Yep, that’s the answer to the question posed above, “what’s with the cork?” Granted, it does help to train a bit, eat properly, elevate my legs whenever possible and sleep like a log. But as long as I have a piece of cork somewhere on my bike while riding, I firmly believe it will help me avoid unraveling.



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Gift Ride

Normally on a Wednesday morning I would be slogging repeatedly, in my old-fashioned heavy French leather hiking boots, up the 72 steps from the beach where Avenue C meets the Esplanade, overlooking Santa Monica Bay. I know, it’s a rough tough life, and my bud Mario might be there exhorting me to do just one more lap, and then saying “oh, NOW I mean just one more…” But today, Christmas Day, I slept in and woke leisurely without concern about the beach steps. For today a gift ride was in order, the gift being a suggestion to do the ride.

Carrie, one of my fellow ride leaders for Beach Cities Cycling Club, last weekend expressed a desire to do a Christmas afternoon ride of around 50 miles. Connie, another BCCC member, seconded the motion. I mentioned it to Mario, he liked it too. Louie and Jeanne saw my post for the ride on the club bulletin board and decided to join us.

I adapted a previously designed course of 63 miles by trimming down one end of it, the totally flat end, to bring the route down to around 50 miles, but the total elevation gain remained the same at around 1400′. We began our ride shortly after 1pm in the afternoon, with dry and quite warm weather, starting at Catalina Coffee in Redondo Beach. Here is the crew at the start, except for me taking the picture (click on picture for a larger image):

left to right - Carrie, Connie, David, Mario, Jeanne, Louie

left to right – Carrie, Connie, David, Mario, Jeanne, Louie

Our route took us from Catalina Coffee inland through Torrance, Carson and north Long Beach, to Signal Hill, where we climbed a very steep, but blessedly short, ramp up Burnett Street on the west side of the hill. We took a break on top to enjoy the views out to Catalina Island and down the Orange County coast on this warm and clear winter day. (click on either picture for a larger image and caption)

Here is a really sweet panorama shot courtesy of Mario:

looking south from Signal Hill

looking south from Signal Hill

Next straight south on Temple Street to the beach at Long Beach and along the bike path heading west. Like the song “Silver Bells” goes “children laughing, people passing, meeting smile after smile…”, everybody we saw along the beach seemed pretty happy. And why not? Nearly 80 degrees, sunny and clear, blue water lapping at your feet, what a way to spend Christmas Day.

From the Long Beach bike path we went through the harbor and industrial areas of west Long Beach and Wilmington to San Pedro. South through the San Pedro harbor area to Point Fermin Park for a break. (click on either picture for a larger image and caption)

At Point Fermin Park we realized that the sun was going below the horizon pretty soon. Louie and Jeanne decided to head back north through San Pedro for a shorter route to home, while the rest of us went around the south and west sides of Palos Verdes. We needed to put the pedal to the metal in order to get back to Redondo Beach with any light remaining, so we started some serious pacelining and calorie burning, each of us taking opportunities to lead out. We managed to get back to Catalina Coffee right at twilight with the sun already set, perfect!

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