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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Back In the Saddle

When I used to go backpacking in the high Sierra Nevada of California, carrying a load in a Kelty on my shoulders/hips, and another load on my feet with a pair of old-fashioned heavy leather & vibram boots, there was one thing you really wanted to avoid. Bears, well sure, and marmots could be annoying, but losing elevation when you needed to go higher, that was seriously painful. Depending on your physical conditioning, maybe even demoralizing.

After all, I’d already carried myself and my gear, sweating and swatting and sucking wind and breathing dust, from 3,000′ up here to 10,000′, and the campsite was only another 500′ higher, no problem. Unfortunately, it’s not on this mountain, it’s on the next one over yonder, and the trail goes down 1,000′ feet before ascending to the campsite. So I had to re-do that 1,000′ going in, as well as coming out. Suck. Thank goodness the scenery was beautiful.

The problem of losing elevation affected me recently in the guise of losing conditioning. I was off the bike for the most part of four months due to some medical issues that included a bit of surgery. As any serious cyclist knows, how soon the conditioning vanishes, perhaps even more rapidly at my advanced age. Over the past couple of weeks I have been able to get back in the saddle and start riding again, but oh, it’s painful. All that hard-won ability to go up, go long and go fast, it just abandons you remorselessly.

Not just the lost ability, but also the fact that things hurt now that did not hurt before. The first few times out my elbows were complaining, no longer used to leaning forward on the bars. My sit bones squawked even more and have not stopped. But I need to put up with it to get back where I was. Thank goodness the scenery is beautiful and that I have a lovely gal to ride with.

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Out of the Saddle – Fiddlin’ and Cattle

Founder’s Day in Templeton CA, just a down home Main Street festival with Amber Cross and her Old Time Fiddle & Banjo Show along with her flannel collection,

not to mention lots of historic vehicles,

and an honest-to-goodness cattle drive. Where is Quackser Fortune and his shovel when you really need him?

Two blocks of Main Street were a go-cup zone. My pal Stephen Price and I took advantage of it, but no booze for the alpaca. They are mean drunks.

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Out of the Saddle – Big Sur Jade Festival

For the time being, I remain a non-cyclist due to the physical ailments mentioned in my last post, and the consequent surgical procedure which will keep me off my bike at least through October. Nonetheless, there are plenty of other good times to be had here on the California central coast.

The Big Sur Jade Festival is going on this weekend, with lots of heavy, greenish rocks to be ogled and caressed, as well as fantastic live music being played. I know people in three of the five bands playing today, so with my pal Stephen Price we made the drive over the hill to Cambria and north up the coast past Hearst Castle into Big Sur.

When we arrived at the festival, the Zen Mountain Poets were just starting their set. I have heard ZMP a couple of times before, and have heard some of them play individually at open mikes.

Next up was Robi Duganne with one of his bands, Narrow Bridge. Robi moved back to the central coast from Long Beach recently and I have seen him play numerous times since then. He even played solo last month at the open mike I host in Templeton.

Between music sets I took the opportunity to walk around the festival to check out the jade and some scenery. One of the vendors had some big jade stones from Wyoming with a “rind” on them that has to be cut through to reveal the beautiful green material inside. Looking at the stone with the rind on it, to me it just looks like another stone. I asked the fellow how would you know it is jade if you tripped over it out in the field. He said that if you work with the stones long enough you get a feel for the unique visual characteristics, but in addition, they are really, really heavy, like a chunk of iron. I picked up one of his bigger stones, and yes, they could induce a back spasm.

A band named Rough House played next. I had never heard of them, but I liked their Grateful Dead covers.

Next up was Dulcie Taylor, whom I met earlier this year when she was playing at Wild Horse Winery. I have seen her and her bandmates play several times since then, and Dulcie also played solo last month at my open mike.

Great day of music, weather and a lovely drive!


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