Black Beauty

Before addressing the post topic, I have some numbers for you:

Three surgical procedures in the past ten months that have taken me out of the saddle. That is two more than in my previous 61 years.
Six weeks out of the saddle due to the most recent surgery, with many Norco and Advil tablets consumed.
Five miles long was my first return ride five days ago, a solo jaunt just to see if I could tolerate the saddle without liberal use of painkillers.
Twenty miles long was my second return ride this past Sunday, a group ride starting and ending at Dark Nectar coffee in Templeton. Objective – to see if the legs could handle more distance and climbing. Thankfully most folks in the group had smart phones to summon Uber in case I had a full physical/mental collapse.
Thirty miles long was my third return ride yesterday, out into the far reaches of west Paso Robles vineyards with The Bailey Group. I must be feeling better since I was able to, while pedaling, have an extended discussion with another rider about the virtues (few) and vices (many) of the major party presidential nominees.
Forty miles long was my ride today, also the fastest pace so far. Gregg Bone designed the route, I joined him along with Ron Chalker and Earl Norcross, mostly trying to suck wheel and hang on to the tail end of the group. Major wimpiness on any climbs bigger than a bump in the pavement.

Here we are ten miles into our ride:

Speaking of pavement, Gregg designed the route for today with the idea of finding and riding some of the nice new asphalt laid down recently here in north SLO County. Ergo, my post title “Black Beauty.” The new pavement, smooth black asphalt, without even a paint stripe upon it yet, is a thing of beauty when you’re rolling on it. Especially so considering that it covers some very nasty jaw-jarring sections of road that I had taken to avoiding as much as possible.

Here we are finding and riding Black Beauty (click any image for a slide show):

A small tangent is in order here. My friend Patrick Brady, one of the founders of, and a principal writer for the Red Kite Prayer blog, once upon a time published an actual paper-hold-in-your-hands magazine called “Asphalt.” The title might have caused some confusion in the construction trades, but it was all about road bike riding.

Unfortunately, that well-written magazine folded after only five issues. I believe a significant problem was the rough emotional road between the two publishers, who were at the time significant-others living together. When their relationship crashed, the magazine was a casualty. If they had been able to find the relationship equivalent of the Black Beauty I was riding today, maybe Asphalt Magazine would still be with us, although
most likely in online form. Quite possibly exactly what Red Kite Prayer is today.

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Father/Daughter Dance

It’s been many a year since I went to a father/daughter dance, but a facsimile of one took place today. I am so grateful that my daughter invited me to come do something with her that I love doing – a bike ride. Specifically, the Tour of Long Beach, which is a benefit ride supporting pediatric cancer research at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital of Long Beach.

Not only that, it’s the longest ride she has ever done, so congratulations to her! The ride was pretty flat, mainly using the bike paths along the Los Angeles River, the San Gabriel River, and along the beach, but still, 30 miles is a dreadful distance if you’ve never done it before. Thankfully, the entry fee included a ticket for a free draft beer or hard cider after the finish line, so that took the edge off of the leg pain. (click on any pic for a slide show)

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MTB Fort Ord & Snake’n’Shake at Pinnacles

Several people recommended mountain biking at the old Fort Ord army base near Monterey, so Christie and I packed up the bikes in my wagon and headed there for a mini-vacation. The area was used for military operations as far back as 1917 and became an official fort in 1940. It was closed in 1994 and currently is being managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Much of the eastern end of the former fort is being used as a park, with many paved roads, unpaved roads, and single track available for biking, hiking and horseback riding, but closed to non-emergency vehicles. We went directly to the parking area on the eastern edge near the intersection of Reservation Road and Cal 68, unpacked the bikes and got on the trails.

No doubt about it, this is a great mountain biking location. Perhaps I am exagerating, but it seems like there are a thousand miles of trail to ride, and the scenery is beautiful throughout. (click on any image to start a slide show)

Just don’t get distracted by the views, you might dump your ride, as I did. Going downhill on a gravel road I went into a turn too hot and laid it down to the left for a 3 point landing on my elbow, shoulder and thigh. My elbow got the worst of it, but at least I was wearing long sleeves to minimize the rash. I also had a plastic case for glasses in a cargo pocket on my left thigh, the case got shattered by the impact.

On our way home the next day, we stopped to go hiking at Pinnacles National Park near the town of Soledad. Upon entering the park I had the pleasant surprise of learning that my advanced age qualified me for a $10 lifetime entry card, good for entrance to any site managed by

  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Forest Service
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • National Park Service
  • Bureau of Reclamation

It’s good for anybody in the vehicle with me, regardless of their age. What a deal! Finally something good about turning 62.

I’ve lived only 1.5 hours away from Pinnacles for the last 2 years, yet this is the first time I visited the park. What a dope, this place is lovely! Christie and I decided to do the balconies and cave trail. The “balconies” are a  massive rock formation that has some flat ledges up near the top, rather balcony-like, where lots of birds nest. The trail also runs through a cave formed by rock fall, which is extensive enough that you need a flashlight to find your way through it, and you need to be able to scramble up and down rock faces inside of the cave.

Did I say “rock fall?” The map at the visitor center indicated the San Andreas fault runs just a few miles to the east of the park, as well as a couple of smaller faults within the park. And here we are crawling through a rock fall cave in the dark… (click on any image to start a slide show)

In addition to the birds up on the balcony, we saw deer in the meadows, a wild turkey drinking from a stream, and I almost stepped on a rattlesnake. The snake was resting in mottled shade on the edge of the trail, camoflaged in the periphery of my vision. When I stepped near it, the snake retracted to a strike position and rattled its tail a bit. The movement is what I noticed before realizing it was a snake, then I jumped away and told Christie (walking behind me at that moment) to stop and back up. The snake slithered away into the underbrush and we lived to hike another day.

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Out of the Saddle – Miss Christie’s Birthday

She’s an active gal, she is. Nothing against a candlelight dinner at a French bistro, but she’d rather be blasting up any of the many central coast hills on a bike, kayaking at Morro Bay, or jogging her spaniel on a local trail. Which is why, for Miss Christie’s birthday, I arranged a zipline tour at Santa Margarita Ranch.


Miss Christie & the Velobum ready for some downhilling

It was a gorgeous spring morning, and the adventure started with a scenic bus tour on dirt roads through the ranch on the way to the first zipline station. The ranch raises grass-fed cattle, as well as multiple grape varietals for wine production, all on display through the bus windows. Safety comes first, so everybody wears brain buckets on the ziplines, but if it’s your birthday, you get a special model.


my Viking lady

The tour has 5 ziplines and the scenery is beautiful, classic central coast California. Post-tour we walked down the road to Dunbar Brewing for a flight of refreshing hoppy beverages, then off to Sylvester’s for big, sloppy burgers. Trifecta!!!


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(you belong) Among the Wildflowers

With apologies to Robert Frost and Tom Petty, today the Bailey Group opted for the road less traveled and headed out to Shell Creek to pedal among the wildflowers blooming after recent rains. I have not ridden out this way for probably 10+ years, the last time I rode the SLOBC Wildflower Century, back when I was still slogging through my aerospace career in LA.

The fields of color suggest to me that, in the future, SLOBC will need to consider moving up the date of that ride. It’s set for April 23, but the flowers are gorgeous right now. By April 23 they might be gone to seed. Besides the 12 riders in our group, there were many tourists checking the blooms and capturing the views with their cameras, even an artist capturing the views with easel, brushes and paints. (click on any image for a slide show)

What goes along with blooming flowers? That’s right, bees. While standing in a shady spot and enjoying the views, I heard and felt some buzzing near my left rear jersey pocket. Dammit, I’m retired, who’s calling me out here? But then I realized that my cell phone was in my *right* rear jersey pocket, and at that moment I felt a bit of a sting on my posterior. Thank goodness I am not allergic, simply brushing away the offending bug was enough, but it reminded me of some past cycling/stinger encounters.


Thanks to Gregg Bone, Christie Dubach and John Richardson for the photos.

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Not Quite 17 Mile Drive

Miss Christie and I dropped the top on the old Sebring convertible, mounted the bike rack on the rear end and strapped our road bikes to it, then cruised north mostly on US101 to Monterey for a Wed/Thu/Fri mini-vacation. Normally on a Wednesday I would be leading a ride from Paso Robles for the San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club, but my pal Ken Carman volunteered to lead in my place, as long as I picked a route and sent out the notification email.

It just so happened that the route I picked used a couple of short sections on the 101 between Paso Robles and San Miguel. As Miss Christie and I were heading up the 101 nearly to San Miguel, we saw a fair-sized group of cyclists stopped on the shoulder fixing a flat. Ha! It was my group! I considered pulling over to gloat about heading to Monterey for a ride, but we settled for waving as we sped by at 60mph.

The weather folks predicted rain for Thursday and Friday in Monterey, so we made sure to get there early enough on Wednesday so that we could ride the famous 17 Mile Drive. We checked in at the Martine Inn B&B in Pacific Grove, kitted up and started pedaling west for Point Pinos, then south to 17 Mile Drive and onward to Carmel. The ride started with mostly sunny skies, but as we got closer to 17 Mile Drive there was fog rolling in off the ocean. As we headed south on 17 Mile Drive the mist just kept getting thicker and wetter so that I was needing wiper blades on my glasses. It got wet enough that we gave it up and turned back.

When we got back around the corner at Point Pinos, the fog cleared and the conditions got much nicer, so we just continued east into Monterey along the water. There is a very nice rails-to-trails bike path that picks up in Pacific Grove at Lover’s Point, heads east into Monterey past Cannery Row, and continues east along the water to, and past, Sand City. We ended up with a nice ride, although not in the direction we had hoped.

Thursday, which was supposed to be wet wet wet, turned out to be a great day for riding on 17 Mile Drive. Too bad we were not riding, but we did take the opportunity to go hiking at Point Lobos State Reserve, on the water south of Carmel, and then lunch at Clint Eastwood’s old hangout, the Hog’s Breath Inn.

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New Tool

I’m all in favor of no-cost or low-cost fun. I always have a batch of DVDs and books checked out from the local library, and I take frequent advantage of the free music performances around town and out at the wineries. Some of the benefits of such practical frugality include saving money for mortgage payments and subsidizing my daughter as she completes her university program, as well as developing an awareness of free or cheap entertainment options in the community.

Not that I have anything against spending money. In fact, sometimes you just need a new tool. That includes new tools to help one better enjoy those no-cost/low-cost activities. Which is how I came to be the owner of a new Giant Defy Advanced 2 adventure bike. Best Bike Zone in Paso Robles started their clearance sale recently, and I’ve been riding more and more on dirt/gravel roads recently. Put those two together and, voila’, I have
a new tool to help me enjoy those strade bianche.

Here I am with Carol Fleury across from the Templeton Feed & Grain at the Sunday morning start of the rides sponsored by BBZ. Carol and her husband Steve own BBZ.


Carol Fleury and the Velobum in Templeton

Today I rode the new bike on one of the lovely routes out among the vineyards east of Templeton. It was all pavement, but I varied my route a bit at the end to include the two-mile-long dirt and gravel stretch called Moss Lane. This stretch is part of the Eroica California route and is well-known to me since I have ridden it on two different straight up road bikes, as well as on a mountain bike, and also use it as a hiking route.

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My take-aways from the shakedown ride:

  • This bike is not going to be as fast on pavement as my titanium Litespeed Vortex, and that’s OK because that is not what I bought it for. It’s going to be much better on dirt and gravel than the Litespeed.
  • The initial setup was pretty close to spot-on, I don’t think I’ll need to tweak anything much, if at all.
  • Nonetheless, some things need to change:
    • I was running too high pressure in the 700×25 tires for Moss Lane, so it was a bit jarring. I’ll be getting some wider tires (it will accept up to 700×32) and run lower pressure.
    • The white bar tape is starting to get grungy after a single ride. Who puts white bar tape on a bike that goes on dirt? Black is the new white.
    • The mostly white saddle is going the same path. It’s comfy enough for me, but did I mention that it’s mostly white?
    • The frame paint scheme is fairly sedate compared to many contemporary bikes – mostly black, less white, with some greenish details. Just barely acceptable to my tastes for spare ornamentation. Even so, I simply don’t care for most of the white expanses or any of the green parts, wishing it was all black to begin with. I believe those places will get painted over before too long and just the white Giant logos will remain on the head and down tubes. Hope that doesn’t void the warranty.
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