A Saggy Sunday and More Memory Magic

The 51st Great Western Bicycle Rally has been going on the past few days here in Paso Robles and the surrounding countryside. On Friday I was one of the leaders for the earlybird coffee ride to Coffee Station San Miguel, then on Saturday I was part of the ride leader team for the Salsa ride out to Hog Canyon. Last year I also was on the team, as chronicled here.

On Sunday, instead of riding, I was driving in support of the 100 kilometer and 100 mile “Giro di Paso” routes for the rally (most readers of this blog will know my role today as “SAG” – Support And Gear”). Both routes headed from Paso Robles west to Pacific Coast Highway, south to the town of Cayucos, then back to Paso. Over the span of 7 hours I drove around 150 miles back and forth and ’roundabout, visiting with other volunteers, chatting with riders, and actually helping a few.

Let’s see, I gave directions to a few people, one fellow needed to use my floor pump, and I helped one fellow who broke a spoke. My crowning achievement was to pick up a woman on the steepest section of Old Creek Road who had broken a cleat and was trudging up the pitch pushing her bicycle. I packed her bike onto my rack and drove her to the nearest rest stop where Mike Milby was parked with his Paso Bike Tours trailer, thinking he might have some spare cleats. Alas, no, so I drove her back to the start of the ride in Paso Robles.

Along Willow Creek Road, which was part of the 100 mile route, and which I ride almost once every week, there is an oak tree along the side of the road with a hollowed out trunk section down at ground level. Apparently there is a bee hive up in the trunk and some literary local has placed a small statue of Winnie the Pooh inside the trunk. Check out the picture below and say hi to Winnie and his bee pals.

Several posts back, I commented about how I might be getting older and slower, but my memory still seems to be working OK. Today I had another, similar, memory magic experience that is cycling related. But first, let me set the stage. Back in 2004 I was in the French Alps during the Tour de France on a two week cycling tour. Short story is that I crashed on the third day due to overenthusiastic descending meeting a blind turn strewn with gravel, resulting in a grade 3 Acromium/Clavicular shoulder separation.

Rather than sit around hotel lobbies watching the tour on TV5 for the next 10 days, I cut it short and had the tour company drive me to the airport in Lyon. There, while waiting to check in and awkwardly trying to maneuver my bike box and luggage while wearing an immobilizing cloth/velcro device on my right arm, another Yank offered assistance and we got to talking. Turns out he was from southern California like me, and in the course of the conversation we discovered a mutual friend by name of Rick Rietveld, an artist and surfwear designer, former art honcho at Maui & Sons. Small world, but keep reading.

Back in the present, while rolling up and down on Peachy Canyon Road supporting riders, I decided to mix pleasure with pleasure and pulled in at Nadeau Family Vintners to taste a wee bit of their wine. I know both Robert and Patrice Nadeau, both are cyclists with groups I often join, and expected them to be in the tasting room. Indeed, both were there entertaining another couple, Robert indicating that they are friends of his. I had an instant flash of recognition and pretty much said “July 2004, international airport in Lyon, France.” Yes indeed, it was the very same fellow, and it was absolutely amazing to run into him during a spur-of-the-moment visit to a small wine tasting room along Peachy Canyon Road 11 years later.

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Out of the Saddle – Parkfield Bluegrass Festival

Any erstwhile, or actual geologists, most likely have heard of Parkfield, California. The town bills itself as the “earthquake capitol of the world,” although wikipedia cites it as the “most closely observed earthquake zone in the world.”

Parkfield sits astraddle the San Andreas fault, that infamous crack in the crust that runs through California from the Mexican border to north of San Francisco. The town claims to have 18 residents, but during this past weekend the population jumped by possibly two orders of magnitude. The reason being the 17th annual Parkfield Bluegrass festival, which drew people from all over the west, many of them staying multiple days in their RVs or tents.

Parkfield Bluegrass Festival

Parkfield Bluegrass Festival

Me, well, I live about 35 miles away from Parkfield, so I just made it a day trip for the final day of the festival, a lovely cruise through the countryside with the top down on my gig ride. And since this is a bicycle-oriented blog, I also scouted the road from San Miguel to Parkfield for ride suitability. Looks promising, so I promise a post for a ride to Parkfield sometime later this year.

At the festival I encountered my pal Diane Harrison, who I met during the course of a hospice training class series last year, and who I continued to pester about coming over with her fiddle to play some songs with me. I also got to talk with Amber Cross, a performer at Parkfield who I have seen performing at a winery near Paso Robles, as well as Stuart Mason, who I saw performing at Castoro Cellars with Tony Furtado. Also got to listen again to Joe Craven, who I heard play at a local house concert with one of his bands by the name of “Mamajowali.” Today he was performing with his 14-year-old daughter Hattie, who has a grown-up voice.

me & Amber Cross

me & Amber Cross

A couple days from now Parkfield will be back to normal, slow paced with an occasional rattle from the long fault.

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Bici Bamboo

Back in the early 70’s I acquired a vinyl LP recording by a two-man band named “Bamboo.” The cover art was the two fellows standing amidst stalks of bamboo while wearing garb that was excessive even for the times. The fabric pattern of the slacks was beyond bold, the bell-bottoms beyond big, the shirtsleeves beyond puffy, the collar points beyond long. Perhaps that was the point – take the style beyond extreme and get it over with, then get back to what mattered, the music.

Bamboo 1969

Bamboo 1969

Today I was getting back to something that mattered, my weekly visit with my hospice client in Morro Bay. Sometimes I drive him here and there in town to take care of things for him, which his how we came upon a couple of bamboo bicycles parked outside of Mike’s Barber Shop. Upon closer examination, they were not really bamboo frames, but standard steel frames with pieces of bamboo tied around the frame sections and strips of bamboo woven between the wheel spokes. Pretty stylish, but a bit extreme. I wonder if they were able to do what matters – carry a rider down the street.

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Dust to Dust

Eroica California day 3

Three hours of sleep, ouch! Why is that alarm going off? OK, willpower… one leg over the edge of the bed, then the next and I’m up. This is just plain wrong being awake so early, but there is stuff to do so get on with it.

By 5am some long route riders started to gather, anxious to have at the course. We got the depart area set up just in time for Wes H to send off the first wave of riders with their lighting systems illuminating the pavement. There was a little photo-drone flying above the riding group as they departed, sounding like a swarm of angry bees and carrying green/red running lights just like any normal sailing or flying vessel.

A young lady who had flown here from Italy arrived with a bike damaged in transit. The left rear dropout was bent and binding the wheel, the rear wheel had been knocked out of true, and the handlebars had been squeezed from the sides and bent inward. All in all, totally unrideable. We took her over to the tent for Wally’s bike shop, where Wally himself was on duty. He sized it up for a few minutes then went at it. Got the dropout straightened, the wheel trued, and used an interesting technique to bring the handlebars back to their correct shape. Looking for an Archimedean lever, Wally pulled a metal leg off of a table and used it to pry them back into shape. I don’t think he learned that method at Barnett’s Bicycle School.

As the dawn approached more groups gathered and were sent off at intervals. Wes asked me to drive three photographers around the medium course using my personal vehicle, a little Ford Focus wagon. When I pulled up with it, they were quite skeptical since Wes had first indicated we’d be able to use a minivan. Typical bait-and-switch. But we made it work, stuffing in their gear and heading out to the first rest stop at Cass Winery.

We stopped along Linne Road to get some shots of riders coming past, and then prepped for moving shots, using a technique of questionable safety that these guys seemed pretty used to. We opened the back hatch of the wagon and attached a strap from it to the roof rack in order to make sure it stayed fully open while driving. Then the video guy sat in the rear storage area with his frame-mounted camera to shoot video of riders behind us while I drove down the bumpy and curvy road. At the same time the other two were hanging out the side windows shooting stills.

We pulled into Cass Winery where the first rest stop was in full swing and Steve Cass was greeting riders as they turned in. I introduced myself, explained that I was escorting the photographers around the course, and he graciously granted us permission to drive through his property along with the riders in order to get more shots. In the meantime, the Cass staff were handing out tasty chicken wraps and “Cass” labeled water bottles, some with white wine in them! From the Cass front lot the dusty dirt lane began and headed through several plots of vines and then up a steep slot in the hills. Very few riders that we saw could keep pedaling all the way up. As they got closer to the top some tried to mount up and get rolling, I was offering saddle pushes to provide a bit of momentum until they gained traction.

We headed to the next dirt section at Akron Road, followed shortly after by a rest stop at Olea Farm. Freshly deep-fried frites (by a genuine French fellow) with tomato sauces for dipping, sliced baguettes with bowls of herbed olive oil for dipping. Mmmmm…. riders were lingering. Off to the next dirt sections on Moss Lane and Arbor Road, then a stop at Nadeau vintners where the route heads through some private property between Peachy Canyon Road and Adelaida Road.

Moss Lane

Moss Lane

I was looking forward to making the drive through this private land, since we never get to see it. My expectation was some gently rolling dirt lane suitable for a mule-drawn cart, flanked by rows of leafy grape vines and old oak trees. But when we pulled around to the backside of the Nadeau compound and I took a look at the thin and dusty two-track heading into the hills, with dismounted riders trudging up the slope, unh-uh was my thought, we’re turning around here. Robert Nadeau generously offered his off-road quad to photographers so they could get some backcountry shots.

In the meantime riders kept pulling into the Nadeau lot after having completed the stiff climb up Kiler Canyon Road, most of them feeling very parched. Robert told me later that they went through almost 30 gallons of water even though they were not a rest stop. Running out of time, we headed back to the park in Paso Robles so that photographers could get shots of finishers. The post-ride pasta dinner was on with lots of bikes parked out in front of the main tent.

I found the bike with the #1 placard attached to the frame. It was a 95-year-old bike with wooden rims and wooden grip sections on the handlebar ends, brought over by one of the Italians, perhaps Giancarlo Brocci, who started Eroica back in 1997. The frame, fork, stem and handlebars looked like they were fabricated from a recycled World War 1 artillery piece, but one of the Italians showed me that everything was fully functional. The crank spun freely, the wheels were true and spun with little friction. Sweet.

Lots of work leading to lots of fun, see you next year.



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A Vintage Orgasm

Day 2 of Eroica California brought a massive collection of vintage bikes, clothing and gear to Paso Robles. I’ve been working the event all day and have to be back at the event tomorrow morning at 4am, so I’m just too tired to write much other than it’s turning out to be a lot of fun. A large part of what makes it fun is the people, all of whom seem to be in enjoyment mode. That includes the good-natured volunteers helping to put on the event, the Italian visitors from Gaiole, the musicians, the vendors, the mechanics, the media, and all the participants. I’m seeing smiles everywhere.

Here is a collection of cycling jerseys you don’t see every day:

We brought in Nicole Stromsoe and Dorian Michael to play live music in the late morning:

Some of the event staff, judges, mechanics and visitors:

And, of course, vintage bike porn:

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Eroica California Begins

Early morning in the downtown Paso Robles park, tents ready but nobody has arrived yet.

A few days ago we posted the “no parking” signs to warn drivers. Yesterday the tents were set up, tables and chairs were delivered. Today the sound system arrived, as did the night lighting and the port-a-potties. Volunteers set up the dining tables and chairs in the big tent, along with rider registration. At 2:30 we did a quick registration review and opened for business at 3.

Luckily, all entry payments have been done online, so we don’t have to deal with that. Just riders checking in to pick up their numbers, the ride “passport”, a route map, and sign a waiver. I’m hanging around at the reg table to check out the nice vintage bikes rolling up.

A couple of Jack Taylor bikes showed up, made in England decades ago. My daughter, helping us at the reg table, really got a kick out of them. Her name is “Jac Taylor” (formally “Jaclyn”), so we might have to find one for her.

Later in the day we went over to the VIP reception at the Paso Robles Inn, across the street from the park. The Italian contingent from Gaiole, where the original Eroica takes place, was there, along with some local politicians and Hospice SLO managers. We also got to meet Andy Hampsten, former professional racer and guest rider this weekend.

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Tour of Paso 2015

This post could very well be sub-titled, “Adventures of the Spoiled Volunteer.”

And that would be me.

Take a quick peek at the volunteer action for today during the Tour of Paso benefit ride:

Tour of Paso, El Pomar Road

Tour of Paso, El Pomar Road

That’s not me on the bike. I already rode up the pitch, turned around and took the picture. Nice work if you can get it. (more pix below)

Looking back, way, way back, my very first volunteer activity when I was in high school was a complete bust, and I might have decided at that time to avoid it altogether in the future. My younger brother had juvenile diabetes, so I volunteered to help at some event benefiting some organization related to diabetes. We young volunteers stood around in the cold, wet, April drizzle outside of a suburban Detroit McDonald’s restaurant waiting to be given some assignment, and in the end they didn’t actually have anything for us to do. Like I said, bust.

Yet I kept volunteering for things over the years and even more so recently. Maybe it’s a genetic pre-disposition. During the year since I relocated to San Luis Obispo County, in the central coast wine country of California, I have been volunteering like so

  • As a weekly ride leader for the San Luis Obispo Cycling Club, leading rides amongst the viney hills of north county and sometimes out to the ocean. I even get to *design* the routes to go where I personally want to traverse.
  • Worked the check-in desk for the “Real Men Drink Pink” event to benefit the Cancer Support Community in Paso Robles where I got to hang out at Star Farms near San Miguel and meet Casey Biggs the “Paso Wine Man”, and earned the sweetest pink t-shirt I’ve ever had.
  • Worked the cleanup crew at the California Beerfest to benefit the Hospice SLO organization. While you might think this would be a dangerous assignment for an enthusiastic micro-brew consumer, we volunteers were in fact not allowed to consume even a meager tasting vial of golden elixir before or during our shifts. Being that I was working the *last* shift, I felt as if I was hearing the soup nazi say “no beer for you!” Nonetheless, it was a lovely spring day in the meadow next to the Madonna Inn with an abundance of attractive and tipsy gals wandering about to delight the eye.
  • I took a series of training classes in order to serve as a volunteer for Hospice SLO and got an assignment to assist an older gentleman in Morro Bay. While I cannot describe the situation in detail in order to protect the privacy of the client, I can say that the fellow is wonderful to work with and has a fascinating background. Plus, I’m going to Morro Bay, a gorgeous town on the Pacific Ocean where I get to watch the sunset each week when I leave the client.
  • Played a 2 hour musical gig at the rider dinner hosted by Wild Horse Winery the evening before the “Wine & Roses” benefit ride for the Templeton Chamber of Commerce.
  • Today I helped out at the “Tour of Paso” event to benefit the Cancer Support Community in Paso Robles. I served as a “ride marshal”, going along on the 50 mile ride to help guide folks, assist where needed on the route, and socialize a lot while rolling down the scenic two-lanes. The ride started and ended at Niner Winery who also hosted the post-ride meal and presentations, providing a fine selection of wines to go along with the meal.

So let me summarize my volunteer activities – Designing and leading rides in the central coast wine country of California, meeting actors, attractive ladies strolling through verdant meadows, conversations with fascinating personalities, playing my guitar and singing, and more riding through the viney hills followed by bbq sliders and Niner Vineyard wines.

Did I mention that I’m spoiled? Just how can a volunteer be spoiled? You decide (click on any picture to start a slide show):

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