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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Back in the Hood

Periodically I travel to Santa Monica for a medical appointment at a UCLA clinic, and most times I bring a bike along to ride with some pals in the South Bay area of LA. This past Sunday I joined the Beach Cities Cycling Club for their 9am start at Redondo Union High School.

I rode with the level 2 group through Torrance and Lomita, then we climbed into Palos Verdes and headed for Point Vicente. There was a fellow named Brent in the group whom I had never met before, very strong rider, looked to be in his 30s. Brent told me that he commutes to work by bike every day up through the Sepulveda Pass to Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley. Que macho, I think, no wonder he is so strong. I used to ride to work from Redondo Beach to El Segundo, right next to LAX, but that is baby stuff compared to what Brent is doing.

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We rode along streets I remember well, being that I have been riding through these areas for 30+ years. In central coast wine country, where I live now, we see new vineyards seemingly every week on our group rides. Likewise, in the South Bay and in Palos Verdes it seems like new construction is popping up everywhere.

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25 x 25

The rooftops were frosty but the sun was shining brightly, so Christie and I kitted up snugly (4 layers) and rolled out to Templeton park to meet some folks for a 9am ride start set up by Bill McBride, one of my fellow SLOBC ride leaders.


Years and years ago, I used to participate religiously in the “holiday” ride out of Manhattan Beach CA. It started at 8am on every major holiday and generally appealed to a younger demographic of riders than my current chronological situation. Also, being that most of the riders came from Manhattan Beach and the surrounding upscale and expensive beach communities, there were many type A folks joining in to duke it out when it reached the transition location where the social portion of the ride changed to a slugfest up a several mile long narrow defile called Mandeville Canyon. Generally there were anywhere from 50-100+ riders participating, depending on the particular holiday.

Today, here in north San Luis Obispo County, most active riders are retirees, and a few years beyond the desire to get up early on a chilly Christmas morning for a bike ride. Personally, I’m still willing and I’m rationalizing by thinking about all the high-calorie meals I am consuming over the course of the holidays.

Only five riders showed – my gal Christie and me, Jarry and his wife Brenda, and the ride leader Bill. He took us from Templeton Park over to the vineyards on the east side of the Salinas River for a roughly 25 mile  loop including an out-and-back on a section of Almond Lane I have never seen. It’s a couple of miles each way and includes a bit of dirt near the end where we turned around. It was mostly smooth, rolling pavement and beautiful views over vineyards to distant hills, as well as an alpaca ranch with at least 30 of the animals milling about in their shaggy warm coats.

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We just took it easy, enjoying the scenery and bright sunshine. When we got back to my place, Christie and I rewarded ourselves with a cup of TJ’s piñon coffee and a slice of homemade apple pie she conjured yesterday. Yumbalicious!


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Just in Time for the Holidays…

…as imagined by Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, etc). Over the past few months, in addition to recovering from some internal surgery that kept me out of the saddle, I’ve had a wound on my forearm that simply would not heal. I cannot even recall how it came about, but it would scab over and stay like that until I absentmindedly and painfully knocked the scab off, then wait for a new scab to start.

Earlier this month I made one of my regular visits to my dermatologist and showed it to him. He scraped out a bit and sent it off for pathology. The report said to come back for surgery to excise even more. I don’t want to use the “c” word, but the subsequent pathology report indicated that they got it all. Here is the result (yes, I shaved my arm in preparation for surgery, and then shaved the other just for balance):

The doc says “no exertion” for several days. I guess that includes leaning on handlebars in a paceline or pulling on them uphill, so I’m out of the saddle again for a bit. I knew there was a good reason why I like long-sleeve jerseys…

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