Grin Like an Idiot

Alan and Mike at the ride start

Alan and Mike at the ride start


Riding down a country road west of Templeton with four new friends, as we passed by the grape rows of Venteux Vineyards I was grinning like an idiot at my good fortune.

I joined the start of the ride at Mike’s house in Templeton, after having heard about his Tuesday morning amble during the Sunday ride. Mike is a retiree from Raytheon, like me, and also like me, he started working there back in the day when it was the privately owned Hughes Aircraft Company (small world department, part 1). I got to Mike’s house at the same time as Alan, a retired lawyer from New York City who happens, JUST HAPPENS to know my friend Alan Geiger, from his days riding in Central Park (small world department, part 2). A few minutes later Gary and Oscar joined us and off we rolled, leading to my grin just a mile down the road.

You might ask, why? The idiot grin, that is. Well, this moment and all the good stuff that has led to being in it. Allow me to enumerate just a few of the reasons – I have been able to live at the beach in Southern California for over 30 years while working at well-paying IT jobs in the aerospace business no more than 8 miles away from home, therefore not having to commute on LA freeways for the entire time. I got to ride my bike for decades in lovely places like Palos Verdes, the Santa Monica Mountains, and various other mountain ranges surrounding LA, with only a few crashes and road rashes. I bought property in Redondo Beach 30 years ago, and it has allowed me, in my retirement, to leverage into multiple properties here in the central coast wine country. And today I am rolling down hilly country lanes under azure skies among beautiful vineyards, wineries, orchards and farm fields.

Over the course of 30 miles, these are the wineries we rode past – Venteux, PasoPort, Hunt, Red Soles, Shale Oak, Chateau Margene, Roxo Port, Oso Libre, HammerSky, Stanger, Thatcher, Whalebone, Halter Ranch, Lone Madrone, Adelaida, Daou, Carina, Villicana, Nicora, Alta Colina – nearly an embarrassment of bottled riches. People fly across oceans to do rides like this in France and Italy, but it’s just down the lane from where I live now. You might grin like an idiot too.

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Rollin’ ’round Redondo

Before moving away from Redondo Beach, where I have lived since 1981, to the California central coast wine country, I took a leisurely mid-week roll around town on my daughter’s townie bike. It’s a very nice lightweight aluminum framed Marin bike with an 18-speed drivetrain. I swapped the original wheels for an old set of narrower and stronger Mavic wheels that I used one summer 10 years ago climbing the cols of the French Pyrenees.

We bought this bike several years ago from Brian at Beach Cities Cycles in Hermosa Beach to replace a mis-appropriated Electra 7-speed cruiser bike. The Electra had a chrome-moly frame and was much heavier anyway.

I rolled north to Veteran’s Park where I found my friend Doug Ball, now retired like me, sitting in his classic VW bus watching the waves. Then over to The Pier to visit with George Freeth and past the local cyclist hangout of Catalina Coffee Cafe.

Then south to Riviera Village where I shop at Trader Joe’s and spend too much money at restaurants. When I first moved here in 1981, Riviera Village was a bit down at the heels with quite a few vacant storefronts, even the TJ spot was empty. From that time it has improved economically every year, dramatically so after TJ’s moved in. No empty storefronts nowadays, but what was my favorite dive bar with pool tables got replaced by a faux brewery/restaurant.

Finally back home along the Esplanade, where I ran into my building manager Jan Larsen out for a ride with his border collie named Tyler. This is a gorgeous and fun place to live, which I say even as I am moving north. But it has also gotten quite expensive with million dollar houses becoming common.

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RIP Mocha

Mocha_01
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. She was my patient audience, sitting quietly while I learned songs on the guitar, never howling in pain as I practiced the vocals. 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. Her hearing was shot and she was getting hyper-sensitive to touch over a lot of her body.

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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+60

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