Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fallbrook - Mt Rubidoux - Escondido 256km

It had been too long since I embarked on a proper solo brevet-length exploration ride, so I had a rather ambitious trek planned for what was looking to be a nice and cool Wednesday morning; I would set off at 1 a.m. and ride up the Coast Hwy all the way to Newport Beach and turn inland on the Santa Ana River Trail (SART) all the way to Riverside, where I would rendezvous with a long lost cousin before making a beeline home along the I-215/15 corridor.

Thor didn't think much of my plan; however, and lit up Tuesday night with some pretty terrifying electrical storm that was still streaking up San Diego sky at midnight. Having seen many charred results of lightning strikes in my days in SE Asia and the US Midwest, I was properly dissuaded from hitting the road before I was sure that Thor had worn his hammer out... And so, the route was chopped to about 3/4 the previously planned distance and I got to sleep a few more hours before hopping on the 4:48 a.m. bus to Escondido and then to the Hwy 76/Old Hwy 395 junction in Fallbrook to start the ride there instead. It was still a long ride, though one that's 256 km instead of 250 miles long.

The day's route.
The first mistake on my ride was made before I even left home. I had spent over an hour scouting out the planned route and checking hourly weather forecast for the towns I would be riding through, but of course, the last hour change of plan put paid to all that work. I needed at least a couple of hours of sleep before setting off, and so got a lot less checking done on the improvised new route... and ending up underestimating how cold it was going to be.

As soon as I hit the still drizzly wet road in Fallbrook my ears experienced quite a weather shock and tried their best to separate themselves from the rest of the body. It helped a bit that the first two miles on Old Hwy 395 was a climb, but I still took most of the ascent to Rainbow Gap to properly warm up... That, of course, was followed by the fast and frigid descent into Temecula, by the bottom of which my ears were quite a pair of pain in the noggin. My only consolation was that 80% of all the people hurrying to work in their cars were heading south toward San Diego in the opposite lane of the narrow, curvy Rainbow Valley Rd rather than behind me... so my on-bike shivering was only uncomfortable rather than perilous.

Passing the Rainbow Gap on Old Hwy 395 while salivating over the sight of Lone Oak Rd on the east side of the freeway.
Old Town Temecula... looking less old and dusty as ever!
Heading up Whitewood Rd toward Menifee.
Temecula and Murrieta have really exploded since I last lived in the area in the early 90s! Most of the previously narrow dirt lanes are now wide paved roads lined with new houses and business complexes rather than empty space. There are a lot more people living there, and it seemed they were all out in their cars at rush hour. It now takes quite some ninja riding-in-traffic skills to make it from Pechanga Pkwy thru Hwy 79 to Old Town Front St without ending up a hi-viz roadkill, thanks to the nasty I-15 freeway on-/off-ramp merges. I did think about taking La Paz to Ynez Rd to bypass the freeway business and riding thru Old Town, but it's a hillier route and I had a lot of miles to cover, so I was determined to stick to the flattest route possible at least until I get to Riverside.

Next time, tho... I'll take the hillier detour. Live and learn.

Freshly repaved, but as narrow as it was 20 yrs ago Antelope Rd in Menifee.
Murrieta Rd thru Perris.
Front St becomes Jefferson St in Murrieta, where I turn off at Ivy/Los Alamos and went up a little hill to pick up Whitewood Rd to head north along the 215 corridor. I'd love to stay on Whitewood all the way to Romoland, but part of it is still dirt, so I swung onto Antelope Rd right next to the 215 instead. It was super freshly repaved though without much of a shoulder to speak of until just south of Newport Rd where I turned west across the freeway. That turned out to be another traffically icky stretch due to a very bike-not-friendly construction work. I was very happy to turn north onto Murrieta Rd and endured a couple more hours of very boring flatland riding through Sun City and Perris, the latter of which seems to house either extremely cautious drivers who drives very carefully around you or four-wheeled bullies who will close pass you for no good reason at all.

Staying on the flattest route possible also meant missing most of the by-way towns' goodies. I didn't get any glimpse of Lake Perris, the famous Rock Castle, March Air Field Museum, or La Sierra's Lake Matthews. The only 'excitement' along the way was catching some skydiving action while riding past Skydive Perris, and almost getting to tickle the tummy of the skydiving plane as it barely skimmed the roadside treetops while landing at Perris Valley Airport.
Skydiving in Perris, CA.
Dude really didn't clear the trees by much...
Obviously, this means that future more 'explorative' rides into this region is now mandatory if only to prevent me from going the way of the locked up curious cats. Flatland riding does have an advantage when it comes to speed, tho. I made pretty good time reaching Riverside boundary even with many stops to enjoy the whole lot of nothingness along the way.

A bit of nothingness at Ben Clark Training Center in Mead Valley.
Box Springs Mtn, looking pretty inviting from afar.
The rural flatland riding pretty much ended when I turned onto Trautwein Rd and zooming down it into Riverside Proper on Alessandro Blvd and its weird concrete slab bike lane, which I didn't get any picture of simply because I was holding on for dear life - dodging storm tossed piles of palm fronds and other debris next to 50+ mph traffic. Luckily, traffic became much calmer once I made the turn north onto Magnolia Ave and entered the charming Downtown Riverside. It was noon and I had arrived an hour early for my appointment!

Tio's Taco's fabulous Folk Art Garden made of recycled refuse.
The charmingly shaded Mission Inn Ave.
This called for a looky 'round bit of riding and the checking out of Mt Rubidoux, the strikingly barren little granite hill dominating the NW side of town. It is quite a cool hang out.

Mt Rubidoux from the foot of the Buena Vista Bridge off Mission Inn Ave.

The place reminds of Mt Helix, my favorite haunt in La Mesa. Though, unlike Mt Helix, Mt Rubidoux is mostly rocky part with no houses except at its base, and people come from all over the surrounding towns to hike it everyday. You run into a lot of happy people doing laps on this hill even in the middle of the work week.

Don't get carried away photographing. There isn't much between tarmac edge and a lot of vertical tumbling.

It was a cool and cloudy day, so I'm afraid I didn't get the best pictures of the place. But you can still get good ideas out of these, I think. It was a nice first visit, and I look forward to many more in December!

I'm afraid my camera ran out of batteries soon after, which was just as well since the return trip was a mad dash along the I-215 and I-15 corridor. I passed thru Temecula again just after dark, and had a harrowing time cycling up Rainbow Valley Rd with the endless stream of cars speeding down the hill in opposite direction (all I could see was their headlights... and apparently the few cars that were heading the same way I did couldn't see well enough to realize when I was on the edge of the very wide turn out bulbs and the lane to the left of me was clear for them to pass). I got into Fallbrook too late to catch bus 389, and so ended up riding all the way down to Downtown Escondido to catch the 235 home (it was way too cold to hang around for another 1 1/2 hr for the next bus)!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Which spare tubes to get for the road bike?

I've been riding with new riders a lot lately. It's a good thing in many ways, one of which is to remind me to not take certain things - like knowing how to choose the right spare inner tubes to take with me on a ride - for granted. There are lots of good 'how to change tube or repair flats' videos on Youtube, but apparently none of them tells people how to choose the tubes that fit their tires to begin with. So here goes...

There are 3 numbers you are concerned with when you look for a spare road bike tube, and they tend to come in this sort of combination: 700 x 23, 46 mm.

The first number, for a road bike, would tend to be 700 as in 700 mm (or 70 cm). This is the standard road bike wheel size. If you are less than 5'2" tall or so and riding a bike that fits you, though, you might be running a smaller set of wheels, probably a 650 mm, because your bike frame would be too small to run the standard 700 mm wheels without you ending up hitting the front one with your foot when turning the bike. Simply park your wheels next to a full size bike and you should be able to see if your wheels are the same size or smaller.

The second number is the tire width. For road bikes these days it's usually 23 mm, though 25 mm tires are becoming more popular now (this is the tires I'm using, btw). This number can vary a lot, the bigger the number, the bigger the tire, though the width of the tire on your bike is limited by how much clearing you have on your frame and brakes (I wish I can use 28 mm tires, but they are too big to clear my brakes, so I run a set of 25 mm).

Your tires' size is usually printed on the side of the tires... like in the photo above. On the inner tube boxes, this is usually given in a range instead of a single number. If your size is inside the range given (in the photos, the ranges are 20-28 for the Specialized, and 20-25 for the Giant), then you are good to go. If you are stuck in the middle of nowhere and only have a tube that is a bit smaller than the tire (like, a tube with range of 20-25 but your tire size is 28), you can get away with using the smaller tube. It'll just be stretched thinner than usual when inflated, though, and a bit more vulnerable to puncturing.

The third number is the length of the valve stem. As you can see, most road bikes come with the long and spindly Presta valve instead of the usual Schrader valve that is prevalent on car tires. My bike wheel in the photo has the standard size aluminum rim (about 25 mm). I need the valve to be at least 15 mm longer than the rim (or the pump or CO2 nozzle wouldn't fit over the cap when I reinflate), so I need 40 mm or longer stem.

If you use deep rimmed aero wheels like this guy does, you need tube with 60 mm  or longer valve stem.

Mind, I've been able to use tubes with 38 mm stem, but I have to use the stem nut to secure the tube, and it's always harder to keep the pump nozzle from slipping off when reinflating. It also takes longer to change flats since I always have to take out the nut, and is just an extra aggravation that I don't need. So, usually I go with the Giant tube in the 1st photo, with 48 mm stem. Some people use deeper (more aero) rim on their wheels, and they need tube with longer valve stem, like the Specialized tube with 60 mm one.

If you aren't so weight conscious and don't mind a few extra ounces on the bike, I'd recommend using the cheaper (thicker and heavier) inner tubes rather than the more expensive (thinner and lighter) ones simply because they are a bit more flat resistant. And, unless you are a super avid or pro cyclist you probably won't even notice any weight difference anyway.

So, you now know how to choose the right inner tubes for your bike... But do you know how to prep them before going out for a ride? It's pretty easy, and it could make flat-changing a lot more pleasant (if pleasant can be used to describe any such repair!).

Most tubes come unpowdered. Why do we powder our tubes? To make it less sticky, of course! Sticky tubes are uncooperative tubes and like to stick to things, and this can sometimes cause an extra flat when it pulls the rim tape, that rubberly tape that shields the tube from the spoke nipples, out of alignment and exposes the tube to the metal. You can buy pre-powdered tubes, of course, but they typically costs a couple of dollars more. It's way cheaper to prep your own!

Just take the fresh new tube out of the box. Take the valve stem nut out now, if you don't plan on using it. Then powder the whole thing. Re-fold it, with a CO2 cartridge if that's your method of re-inflation. Put the whole thing in a plastic bag and then wrap it up with a rubber band (usually comes with the new tube). Be sure to rubber band the plastic bag rather than the tube. Sometimes, if you rubber band the tube itself and then go a long time before using it, the rubber band works itself into the tube and can actually tear it.

My saddlebag contains: spare tube, 2 CO2 cartridge & nozzle, Swiss Army knife, patch kit, tire irons, multi-tool w chain-breaker, spoke wrench, $1 (for booting?), a dime (to toe-in brakes), valve adapter, extra wrench (in case I run into someone who doesn't use quick release). I also carry another spare tube & emergency kit in my backpack.
Always have at least a spare inner tube with you along with a way of inflating it (either a frame pump or a CO2 system), preferably, though, always have at least 2 spare tubes AND a patch kit... and a valve converter. The latter is a tiny little metal valve attachment that costs only about $2 and will enable you to use gas station air pump. The gas station pumps are made to inflate car tires, however, so you will only be able to put about 60 psi of air in, which is way more than you'll be able to blow in even if you're a huge-lunged opera singer, and should enable you to ride gingerly on until you can get to a bus stop or the nearest bike shop to use a floor pump to properly re-inflate the tire.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Bikeway Alert: Bayshore Bikeway Closure on Thursday Oct 15th

The City of Coronado will perform maintenance work on the Coronado portion of the Bayshore Bikeway on Thursday, October...

Posted by SANDAG - San Diego Association of Governments on Monday, October 12, 2015

Friday, October 2, 2015

Mt Laguna - Monument Peak - Julian - Wynola - Ramona

Quite a few moons ago - before summer's muggy heat came to town and refused to leave - I made a few cycling trips east into the Laguna Mountains in search of new sights and amazing back roads. The last of such trips was quite a successful one that bears some revisiting. It might even become a regular cool-weather Smorg's Western Loop!

Crash site on eastbound I-8 east of Alpine. See the wreck?
The first bit riding east out of town on El Cajon's Main St and then Old Hwy 80 was, I'm afraid, pretty boring, though things picked up a bit as I rode on the shoulder of eastbound I-8 (it's bike legal between E Willow and Hwy 79 simply because there is no alternative paved surface road in between those exit to ride on) east of Alpine. An elderly couple had drove their car off the side of the freeway earlier, and a road crew had parked (and completely blocked) on the shoulder up the hill from the wreck, trying to figure out how to get the banged up car out of its resting place. It made for a photo op... though a rather uncomfortable one since I had to swing into the rightmost freeway travel lane for a bit (traffic was very light, but still... people drive 70+ mph on that stretch!). Besides, the copious width of the freeway shoulder was no longer any comfort after having seen real life evidence of just how far wide of the marked lane a car can (and do, everyday) go.

I wish they'd pave Viejas Grade Rd!

Some views along Olde Hwy 80 in Descanso & Guatay.
The cool morning clouds started to break up as I made my way through Descanso and Guatay along Olde Hwy 80, making it difficult for me to speed through this area when it's being pretty like this. A few cows were out on the field along with a few plump wild turkeys and a whole lot of chatty acorn woodpeckers. Even a cute little mole was out and about on the highway rather than staying in his subterranean house! (See ride recap video at bottom).

No coasting for a while, I guess...
One of the many Forestry fire engines on Sunrise Hwy that day.
A PCT hiker heading back to the trailhead after having stocked up at Laguna Mtn Lodge.
Of course, all the leisurely sight-seeing riding had to be paid for at some point and the road dutifully pitched up after Pine Valley as I slow slugged my way up the long climb of Sunrise Highway. After a couple of miles of climbing I started getting passed by a long series of green forestry fire trucks, which had me a bit concerned. I had checked to make sure that there wasn't any wild fire out this way before leaving my Uptown pad, but had one erupted in the hours since? There was no smoke column that I could see, though. Then near the road crest all the fire trucks pulled into the Red Tailed Roost (Laguna Mountain Volunteer Association's HQ) parking lot. I guess they were just having an exercise.

Monument Peak Rd has a rough (and flies-infested during summer months) dirt section sandwiched by old tarmac bookends.
Anyhow, the day's main objective was an offshoot from Sunrise Hwy that leads to Monument Peak, a little-cycled (but much-hiked) peak on the escarpment between the Laguna Mountains and Anza Borrego Desert. It houses a bunch of radio antennae, a set of HPWREN weather webcams, and, at 6,271 ft elevation, is the 3rd or 4th tallest peak in San Diego County, depending on whether you count the 6,378 ft tall Cuyapaipe Peak almost next door or not. Cuyapaipe falls within the Cuyapaipe Indians Reservation and is off-limit even to hikers. Since there is no road accessing it, it doesn't count for two-wheeled me.

The BLM marker at the top of Monument Peak.
Looking south toward Stephenson Peak's FAA radar from Monument Peak.
The turn off from Sunrise Hwy is not marked, but I had studied the area map before hand and knew what to look for (if you get to the Big Laguna Trail dirt turn off, you had gone too far). There are a couple of car gates to navigate and a rather rough and rutty dirt section to power through before getting to the narrow old tarmac lane that services both the radio antennae on Monument Peak and the FAA radar on neighboring Stephenson Peak (the latter is quite off-limit, I'm afraid). Once past the lumpy pine-lined straight the road pitches up a bit and the view opens up all around as the final 1/4 mile climb snakes its way to the top. I don't think there's anything steeper than 15% grade on that road, though. It looks worse than it is... And even if it doesn't, the amazing view from the crest of the escarpment is a great painkiller.

I walked around a bit enjoying the scenery before locating the little peak-top BLM marker by the rock cropping between the two sets of radio towers. It was a nice payback for having spent most of the morning climbing!
A group of thru-hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail.
A bit more climbing heading north past Garnet Peak.
It was a bit past noon when I headed down to resupply at the Laguna Mtn Lodge & Trading Post before deciding to take the long way home through Julian. This was still the spring side of summer, so there were still quite a lot of thru hikers making their way north along the Pacific Crest Trail which spends a lot of miles along the east side of the highway. I cheered on a few as I passed, and got to chat with others at various trail accesses. I wonder how many managed to finish their long trek all the way to the Canadian border.

Beautifully well-firred Whispering Pines near Julian.
There was a bit more climbing along Hwy 79 toward Julian before I could enjoy a nice and curvy descent into town. I was still a bit ahead of schedule when I got to the junction with Hwy 78 and decided to veer east to have a look around the Whispering Pines neighborhood and scout out the elusive 'Lutz Castle'. It was a fruitful little detour with lots of view and charming narrow roads of pretty quads-busting gradients. I'm afraid Lutz Castle (a private B&B) isn't much more castle-y than two low and hard to spot turrets, but it fits quite well into the surrounding, which, to me, is a plus.

A glimpse of the Anza Borrego Desert from the top of Volcan View Dr.
Twisty Canyon Dr and a glimpse of the Lutz Castle B&B.
All the climbing made me hungry, though, so I headed into Julian proper in search of some high-calories cycling fuel. I didn't have to do much looking... That charming little old mining town was overflowing with pies and tarts of many types of apple and berries!

Julian is heaven for the hungry...
Being properly weighed down by the sweets I slow slug out of Julian's pie-belly factories up the less-traveled lanes of Farmer Rd instead of the more frequented Hwy 78. It's a beautiful country lane with awesome view of the local fields and ranches... and the tantalizing Volcan Mountain and its radio antennae/fire lookout tower. There used to be a set of HPWREN cameras there, but it went off-line after a lightning strike during the storm of October 2013 and has not been replaced.

Farmer Rd leading out of Julian.
Volcan Mtn radio antennae.
Farmer Rd at Wynola Rd, where the fun begins!
Taking Farmer Rd instead of Hwy 79 added a few extra miles to the ride, but it was totally worth it just to turn left (west) at Menghini Winery and descent the uninterrupted and endlessly curvy Wynola Rd into Wynola Junction. It's one of the most awesome downhill runs in the county along with Montezuma Grade and Palomar South Grade Rds (with the caveat that there is quite more traffic on both of the latter than there usually is on Wynola Rd). So, naturally, I didn't get any photo of the Wynola twisties... It was too much fun to stop for a shot or two!

Luckily... there are some nice Youtube clips to give you some ideas. Mind you, I do think the lady driving this car was going a bit faster than she should. Fellow cyclists should also note how invisible we two-wheelers would be under those tree shades. If you plan on riding there, wear bright color jersey, use front and rear flashing lights, and control the lane until you see that the driver approaching from behind does see you before turning out when you find a safe spot. It doesn't do to make yourselves invisible by riding in the shadowed edge of the lane where drivers wouldn't see you until the last seconds... That's when they'd get themselves into the 'either head on collision or force the cyclist off the road' situation. Make no mistake, they always choose the latter rather than the former!

Wynola Junction itself is just a small collection of country stores and eateries. I headed west on Hwy 78 and swung off the sharp right turn on the descent into Santa Ysabel to visit the little memorial to the Inaja Fire of 1956 where 11 firefighters died during a flash over. The tragedy resulted int the enactment of the 10 Standard Firefighting Orders that is still in use today.

Wynola Junction.
Inaja Fire Memorial off Hwy 78 in Santa Ysabel.
The view SW from Inaja Memorial.
I'm afraid riding on the 78 west of Santa Ysabel is never much fun. Drivers go too fast and the road shoulder way too narrow (when one exists, that is). So, like most that have had to cycle between Ramona and Santa Ysabel many times, I couldn't duck into the much more sparsely trafficked Old Julian Highway fast enough. Besides, the OJH runs along the open back field of Camel Oasis Dairy and the are always a few of the hump backs out grazing the field during the day. I already have too many photos of these cool critters, but I can't seem to ever stop myself from taking more every time I pass by!

Camels in the field off Old Julian Highway.
Enjoying the low traffic Old Julian Highway before returning to the main drag in Ramona.
Yup, I'm afraid the low-traffic riding goes away once you get into Ramona proper as the only roads west and south of it are busy high-speed highways (well, Highland Valley Rd and a secret series of private lanes aren't as busy, but the former involves more climbing and drops you off further north in Rancho Bernardo. And the private lanes are, you know, private and still drop you off on busy Espola Rd where more climbing is needed to get back toward I-15 bike paths). I decided that the least painful of all the sub-optimal options was to take Hwy 67 to Scripps Poway Pkwy. It wasn't bad... but all those road safety reminder signs along that high-speed road really are there for a reason, and as careful a rider as I am, I have no illusion that luck is not a big part of surviving riding that thing a lot. When a driver does something stupid on that road, there really isn't much you on the bicycle can do to save yourselves. There isn't room to maneuver, and the driving speed is always too excessive. That's how it goes, I'm afraid.

After the draggy climb to the base of Mt Woodson, it's downhill most of the way back to Poway!
I'm not writing anything about the rest of the ride home 'cause it's a relatively boring and non-exotic city riding slug and this post is getting way too long already. I did make a little video of the ride, though. It was one of this year's better solo centuries. Here it is!

Ride safely and have fun!