Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Single or double?

It's much faster for cars to pass a group of cyclists that is riding two abreast than in a long single file.... And it is safer for the cyclists, too, as doubling up really allows you to control the lane when it is too narrow to allow cars to squeeze past without changing lane (and you are more visible and predictable to drivers, unlike folks at the right edge of the lane who are liable to swerve into the lane/traffic to avoid stuff like broken glass, gravels, pedestrians, etc).

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The White Lightning on a Serene Mountain...

Having ridden through Crest a few times was enough to get me fixated on the tantalizing concrete white lightning etched onto the mountain side that serves as the town's landmark. Then my local adventure cycling guru told me it is called Montana Serena Rd, and is a 'must do' climb for aspiring adventure cyclists, which, of course, put the beast squarely on my hit list.
Montana Serena Rd: 0.9 mile, 12% average grade, max grade 43%.
The Beast, of course, is a 0.9 mile long gated road with the main entrance in the Gibson Highlands just off Rios Canyon Rd from Mountain View/Frances Dr. Being a Smorg comes with a liking for a 'different' approach, though, so off to Google Earth I went to scout out a non-routine way of getting on the ride's objective. As it turned out, there are a few different solutions to getting onto Serena Montana, two of them involving quite a bit of dirt-riding!
Looking back (ENE) down the initial ramp on Bullard Rd.
Most of Bullard Rd is firm and road-bike-able, some patches are loose, tho.
I caught the trolley to El Cajon Transit Center early one weekday morning and had a long warm up climb east on Old Hwy 80 past Flinn Springs toward Chocolate Summit. At the turn off where Old 80 turns into Alpine Blvd, though, I veered south to pick up a little lane between the houses. It's the slightly paved north terminus of Bullard Rd.

The friendly (and quite leashless) pitbull welcoming party.
After the fork, Bullard Rd does some gymnastics...
After an initial steep pitch the pavement abandoned me to my dirt-riding devise. Luckily the slope mellowed out soon after and was mostly firm and road-bike friendly. I had taken care to memorize how the route looks via Google Earth, which proved to be a good move as there is no sign at road junctions! I took the left fork at the first Y-intersection, which was well guarded by a lovely (and leash-free) pitbull and her mate before I was allowed to continue onto the deserted hillside. It was quite nice! There's a nice view of the mountains (El Cajon Mtn, Chocolate Summit, Cuyamaca) looking back north, and the road was completely deserted aside from a few mtb tire tracks and horse prints on the dirt.

At the 2nd Y-intersection I took the right fork and fish-tailed my way up the ladder-step-like zigzag until I came to a cattle gate surrounded by barb wire fence. There was no 'no trespassing' sign aside from a small sticker on the gate asking for it to remain shut to prevent the cattle from escaping into the brown inhospitable valley below. I guess that's because Bullard Rd is designated as the 2nd fire escape route for the Gibson Highlands community on the other side of the hill crest.

Bullard Rd gate.
After the gate...
Above the gate the road is much less road-bike-able; deep ruts and steep gradient made for quite a bit of hike-a-biking. A large house peeked up from the hillside about halfway up the climb, Shortly after that I hefted the bike over another gate and landed on a nice and smooth tarmac lane.
Looking back ENE from the 2nd gate.
The climbing continues on the tarmac Bullard Rd.
It's a lonely road and I didn't see any cow despite of multiple 'Cow in pasture' signs... I did see some nice orchards and a whole lot of solar panels, though. It's good policy to try to be self-sufficient when you live in a mountainous sort of isolation deep in the wild fire zone, I guess!
The scenic curve on the paved top of Bullard Rd.
Bottom of Bullard Rd, top of Montana Serena.
After a 1/4 mile or so I rounded a wide panoramic curve to find myself at the top of the white lightning. I have to admit... looking down the thing was a bit scary! It also doesn't help that the concrete surface is quite bumpy rather than smooth.

The White Lightning looks nice from the distance but is quite bumpy up close!
So... it's a 19-42% grade drop... on a hard and bumpy concrete!
After a very cautious (and slow) first descent I turned around when the concrete gives way to tarmac at the bottom, shifted into the lowest gear I had (30x26), and moaned my way back up the hill. After the first curve there is a clear view for miles and miles on the right side of the road, but I didn't see any of it. I was too busy zig-zagging and trying to not tip over and die of exhaustion.

Already zig-zagging not far up from the base... hence the photo angle. Bwahaha.
Half-way up and already ran out of my cursing repertoire... The thing is a beast!
Surviving a hideously steep and rather long climb requires something of a myopic mindset. Your whole world is confined to only a few meters at a time, and you can't look too far up the slope lest the futility of your efforts becomes too apparent and quitting too soundly reasonable. It hurts like hell, but all you can do is to keep hurting just shy of 'too much'. There is no way the pain will go away and you don't want to think of how long you still have to go. It is enough to keep it from getting worse... just for this second. It is a second that has no ending until suddenly it does. You are at the top, with your legs still attached and your head had miraculously failed to explode. Montana Serena Rd had been eliminated from your hit list.... and you don't ever have to climb it anymore.


Heading out of Montana Serena complex. The gate has a metal sensor and opens automatically outward.
Montana Serena Rd from Gibson Highlands Rd.
 There are still plenty of monsters on my local hit list, mind you. But it is quite a comfort to me to know that the next time somebody mentions Montana Serena to me as a 'have you done that yet?', my answer would be; 'Been there, done that, and am cured of the sickness!'

Monday, January 26, 2015

Back-roading my way to Alpine

T'was a clear and cool winter morning... as winter mornings in San Diego often go. The Smorgmobile was pining for the mountains, and Alpine fits the bill just so!

La Cresta Rd climb to Crest.
Many roads we could choose to take up the mountain, but none as pretty as La Cresta, of that I was quite certain...

Up and up the gentle slope we crawled, until a chanced side-exploration called. We had reach Vista de Montemar's purple gate. It was open and I was in no haste...

The view west from Vista de Montemar: Mt Helix & Grossmont on left, Cowles & the Fortunas right center.
Back down Vista de Montemar to La Cresta.
A little climb with more than a little view. It pays to not go straight up scenic hills!

Traffic was light but it was speedy, and Crest itself was looking empty.

Skirting along South Lane Park in Crest.
Alta Pl's magical switchbacks.
We looped the town and its dead ends, and found its many crooks and glens.

But the morning got old and I needed coffee, but up in Crest there's no cafe! So off we went down Mountain View Dr, which turns to Frances as it takes a curvy dive...

Down Mountain View/Frances Dr into Harbison Canyon.
Turning off Harbison Canyon Rd at Galloway Valley Rd.
No coffee on the offer at Canyon Market, so north we went up Harbison Canyon Rd.
Most folks would go on to Arnold Way, but Smorg's head was feeling fuzzy, so we took a long cut the Galloway Valley way.

Taking in the view from Alpine Trail Rd.
A wrong turn or two before we made the clue, and popped up on Alpine's new scenic patch of flues. The roads are new and most plots still un-housed, Alpine Trail is quite a cool hang about!
The second ramp on Alpine Trail Rd.

Riding such a view requires a bit of clout, before too long the engine was throwing me a pout... or two... or three. Steep roads can really wear you out!

Finally a bit of a descent on Alpine Heights Rd.

It's downhill most of the way to turn around, but Janet's coffee scent was on my snout. So I pushed on up the hill on South Grade Rd and turned west toward the roast on old Foss Rd. Janet really knows how to espresso, and a hot mug after the climb makes quite a tango!
                                               Hot coffee animated emoticon
Yes, yes, I know... climbing 3000 ft in just 23 miles for a cup of joe is really only for weirdos...

Thursday, December 25, 2014

2014 In The Rear-View Mirror

Another eventful year on the bike, 2014 has been, though you probably wouldn't know it just reading the blog. I'm afraid when it comes to blogging I've trans-speciated into a sloth rather than a smorg!
The Smorgmobile; before & now
First off, the hardy all aluminum Smorgmobile experienced both Death and Transfiguration this year. The long-suffering steed was loudly neighing its way up steep slopes for months before the culprit crack was found on the inside the stem. Giant provides a life-time warranty for the fork & frame on its new bikes, of course, so a new fork was sent for... but because the 2012 Giant Defy 5 model had gone obsolete they couldn't find a fork that would fit the old frame. And so, this is why you should buy your bike from a bike shop rather than from a Walmart or a Target, Giant sent a new frame as well! All was swell until the parts arrived and we found that the new frame wouldn't fit the old cranks... Bwahaha. It took nearly 3 weeks, but by the time the dust settled my steed had gone from all aluxx to a nicer hybrid of lighter aluxx frame with carbon composite fork... with new cables to boot (since those were what we changed first when trying to diagnosis the creaking). It's almost a whole new bike!

A few of my escapees...
A few good cycling friends that had put up with my steepie-aholic tendency on our rides had left town for various reasons, unfortunately. We miss ya', Tim & Sue, Colin & Cynthia, Melissa, Lauren, and Jose! Hope the riding is flatter where you are...

I've also made many new friends on bike who have proven themselves more patient than Mother Teresa (you kinda need that to ride with me regularly without going insane). I'm afraid I won't name names or this will turn into something resembling an Oscar acceptance speech, and we really can't have that on this blog! It suffices to say that they are so addicting to ride with that I think I've done fewer solo adventure rides this year than I did group rides. How un-smaughly is that???

The fact that I've been riding with friends a lot rather than just soloing all the time doesn't mean that my local cycling ogres hit list went untouched, however. The meanest ogre on the list (a back way up to Muth Valley from Lakeside) came off on a solo ride, along with things like Montana Serena, Alpine Trails, Arouba Rd, Gomez Creek and Alta Loma Dr... But I was in good company when I went to battle with chain-stretchers like Cuyamaca Lookout Rd, Rios Canyon Rd and the hideousness that is just about all the roads up the south side of Dictionary Hill.

I've also made many bike commuting friends, a few of whom were instrumental in organizing commuter bike trains in Uptown area, and some successfully advocated for two car-free CicloSDias events this year. And then there are Sam Ollinger and the crew at BikeSD who tirelessly lobbied for many new bike infrastructures in town. Thanks a bunch, guys and gals, for making such fabulous differences!

A special mention to a few superb fighters who endlessly inspired me in their battle with health and the bike; Hugo, who went toothless for four months while his dentist messed with his denture (Hugo had fallen off the 5th floor of a building he was constructing in the 80's, see, and he left most of his teeth along with all the tail of his vertebrae at the crash site) and then decided to spend his birthday cycling the Great Western Loop with me... from City Heights! Then there is the Vzrd, twice the survivor of stage 4 malignant melanoma that claimed a lot of her lungs. She was bent on completing the totally sadistic Savage Man Triathlon this year, so we spent many months together beating up on the steepest walls on Dictionary Hill and Mt Helix to prepare for it. Heather B, Carlsbad's resident beast on the bike, had to give up riding (and hard core hiking) for months as her endometriosis took its time getting diagnosed and treated.

There are a few more friends who have been battling injuries on and off, and one who is proving herself tougher than any granite mountain as she helps her husband fight valiantly with adult onset ALS. I have been lucky in that my lupus hasn't been acting up much these last few years, so I've gotten more prone to whining than before. But every time I start to get going about how my right arm is still messed up a year after that last downhill crash, etc, I think of these guys and gals and how much worse they were/are having it, and that instantly puts the whiny inner-smorg back in its place.

I'm so glad I don't have Rocky Ln on my hit list anymore. Whew!
Anyhow, a new year is just around the corner and there is much to look forward to on the cycling front! Here is what remains of my local 'hit list' I hope to lure a few bike buddies to go ride up with:

- Cuyamaca Lookout Rd
- North Peak Rd
- Sherilton Valley Rd
- Morena - Stokes Valley Rd
- Snuz Mountain Rd
- Muth Valley Rd
- Rocky Ln
  Rice Rd (Rattlesnake Mtn)
- Montana Serena
- The Crow's Nest
- Barrett Smith Rd (off Hwy 94 east of Barrett Junction)
- Isla Vista (Jamul)
- Maria St steep block (Dictionary Hill)
- Rainbow Hgts - Rainbow Crest Rd - Mt Olympus Valley Rds (in Rainbow)
- Stewart Crest Rd (north side of Monserate Mtn)
- Red Mountain Hgts Dr (Fallbrook)
- Alta Loma Rd (Jamul)
- Shogo Mtn Rd (De Luz Heights)
- Lyons Peak Rd... is very iffy. Even park rangers can't access that road nowadays.

Happy Holidays everyone!