Friday, July 24, 2015

I'm thinking it's the Peewee kit...

I'm thinking there's a need for creation of more cuzz words other than 'Wanker!'

Monday, July 20, 2015

Mt Laguna by Road Bike...

Unlike Palomar Mountain where one can hop onto a couple of MTS and NCTD buses and be deposited right at the base of the climb, Mt Laguna is much less easy to access via public transportation. From Uptown the only option (aside from riding all the way in, of course) is to take either the Green or Orange Line trolley to El Cajon Transit Center and then catching MTS bus 864 east to either Alpine (last real coffee shop stop) or Viejas Casino (last restroom stop until Pine Valley). The latter deposits you still 10 miles short of the base of the first route (Pine Creek Rd) up Mt Laguna, and 15 miles from the base of the more popular (and gently inclined) Sunrise Highway climb.

A quick stop for coffee & restroom at Janet's Montana Coffee in Alpine, and then I was off heading east on Alpine Blvd and onto the bike-legal stretch shoulder of I-8 for the mountains (I-8 is bike legal between E Willow Rd and Hwy 79/Japatul Valley Rd, but you have to take the scenic viewpoint/rest stop detour and get off at the next exit - in other words, you can't cross an exit ramp). It's a gentle 6% grade climb all the way to Hwy 79 turn off, but the morning was just cool enough for me to keep the hi-viz jacket on. 

Heading east on I-8 at E Willow Rd
A short downhill east on Hwy 79 ensued before the short level off through Descanso Junction and then it's back to four miles of gentle climbing again on Old Hwy 80 to Guatay. Cuyamaca Peak was being a sleepy head and taking its time shedding the cloud blanket as Stonewall Peak next door was already in the clear and looking fairly Alp-ish in the clearer air below.

A view of Cuyamaca Peak (touching the low cloud) and Stonewall Peak (rocky pyramid on right) from Old Hwy 80.
Just as I rolled past antique-looking town of Guatay a little furry thing came wiggling along the fog line. It was a cute little mole! He paused to look at me as I pulled over to get the camera out, before taking off clear across the concrete highway in a very mousy gait. My ride was off to a good wildlife sighting start!

Ever seen a mole out in the open?
After Guatay I enjoyed the couple of downhill miles into the little town of Pine Valley before the day's main dose of climbing began. I'm afraid the only public restroom in Pine Valley is at the community park, and it isn't open until 10:30 a.m. Other than that are the restaurants with 'for customers only' john. So, if you plan on riding thru town earlier than 10 and don't want to have to buy something just to use the restroom, stopping to do the nature break in Alpine is the way to go.

Leaving Pine Valley's little strip mall on Olde Hwy 80 the road immediately pitches up at a rather constant 6% grade to the junction with Sunrise Hwy (S1).

Heading east on Olde Hwy 80 from Guatay to Pine Valley
Found me a little souvenir from a local hawk.
Pine Valley, the last flat bit of riding at the base of Mt Laguna.
By the left (north) turn onto Sunrise Highway I was all warmed up again. The sun emerged onto the clearing sky and there was a lot of view to enjoy while dogging my way up the 9 miles climb to the top (which is just a bit past the fire house). There is nothing steeper than 7 or 8% on this climb. It's just long!

Looking west toward Cuyamaca Peak from Sunrise Hwy.
Here the road levels out a bit.
Just after Kitchen Creek Rd turn off about 4/5 of the way up the climb I veered right onto the serene pine-lined single-lane tarmac Morris Ranch Rd. By the way, Kitchen Creek Rd is only marked on the west side of Sunrise Hwy. There is no sign on Kitchen Creek Rd itself. If you haven't ridden Mt  Laguna, Kitchen Creek is a marvelous cycling back road. Most of it is closed to automobile and has  amazing view with some >12% grade steep ramps in its lower half.

Morris Ranch Rd

The unmarked lane that leads to the SDSU's Mt Laguna Observatory Complex.
Most cyclists ride right by Morris Ranch Rd on their way up or down Mt Laguna without giving the nondescript lane a second thought (or even a first thought, for that matter, most don't even notice the turn off in the first place) since there is no sign pointing to anything interesting off the main highway. I had google-earthed the area before hand, however, and knew there were some goodies hiding less than a mile away.

The Charles Huffer Memorial Sundial at the 21" Buller telescope dome.
Tucked into the east side of the Laguna Mtns at 6100 ft elevation is the four-telescopes complex of Mt Laguna Observatory, operated by the San Diego State University. It's a well wooded facility with a most charming access road that zigs its way up the mild pine-covered slope. If you arrive here by car you'd have to park at the parking lot off Morris Ranch Rd and then take the dirt hiking trail (marked by this cool-looking holed-through stump in the pic below) to the tarmac access road just up the hill.

The hollow stump at the trail head to Laguna Observatory access road.
After spending some time riding around checking out all the observatory buildings (the place was  closed and there was nobody around even at the dormitory) and snapping lots of photos I retraced back to Sunrise Hwy and rode over the crest just beyond the fire house. A water/snack stop at the general store before hitting the road again, heading north in search of more off-the-main-road excitement.

FAA radar dome from the U-curve on Monument Peak Rd.
The fence gate...
The first was the tantalizing FAA radar domes atop Stephenson Peak just north of Desert View campground. The road (Monument Peak Rd) to it is unmarked, which is just as well since it's heavy-duty gated off just after the U-curve. There is some nice desert view to be had from the curve, tho.

Not feeling much trespassing mojo, I turned around and went picking a fight elsewhere instead. Just a bit further north on the S1 is the turn off for the Big Laguna Trail (dirt, bikes-prohibited as it is part of the Pacific Crest Trail) and the service road to Horse Haven Campground.

Lightning Ridge Trail.
Branching off the nicely paved lane of Horse Haven is a cool looking gravel lane leading through the pine trees toward the narrow little hill. A bit of gate-hopping ensued before the Smorgmobile got to experience some gravel-riding fun as the road does a zigzag and climbs its way out of the tree line. I'd love to say that I rode all the way up this lovely gravelly side adventure, but a patch or two of it proved a bit too soft and steep for my 25 mm tires to handle. It is only a half mile climb, but Lightning Ridge Trail is quite a charmer. There were loads of Steller's jays, acorn woodpeckers, Oregon juncos, and rufus-sided towhees populating its slope, and the view on the top is quite worth the bike-handling practice, too! (I see that the Cleveland National Forest page on the trail calls it a 'hike only', but the signs at the trail itself clearly show bicycle and hike).

Water tank on top of Lightning Ridge.
Laguna Meadow and the dry Little Laguna Lake.
Looking north down Sunrise Hwy from Lightning Ridge.
I think the fenced-in geodesic structure at the top is just a water reservoir (with anti-lightning geodesic roof design). The proper top is on the rock cropping on the right side of the trail. The surrounding pine trees looked like burn-survivors... from wild fire or lightning strikes. The sun was out and so were the many winged critters, so I hung around the ridge for a long while to bird watch.

A rufus-sided towhee playing with the pine cones.
Squawky Steller's jay.
Oregon junco.
A pair of watchful western bluebirds.
While down in the town the only jays I'd run into are cute western scrub jays, here above 3000 ft the pine forests are dominated by the Steller's jays, whose endless cackling is only matched by the feisty families of acorn woodpeckers. The cute black-headed Oregon juncos and the colorful spotted (AKA rufus-sided) towhees and western bluebirds, on the other hands are a quiet bunch. Spotted towhees are particularly fun to watch when they forage on the ground, doing a distinctive double-scratching backward hops to clear stuff off their food items.
Either I have really small feet or that's quite a huge pine cone!
A glimpse of the desert from Desert View campground.
I needed to be back in town in the afternoon and it was getting pretty late to linger on the mountain, so I started rolling my way back down Sunrise Hwy, stopping at Desert View campground to use the restroom (the toilet still flushes, but water had been turned off for the sink) and refill my water bottles... and to catch another good glimpse of the desert before enjoying the long and curvy descent down to Pine Valley.

Curiosity got the better of me as I rolled through the village, though, and I veered south on Corte Madera Rd just to see why Google Earth car didn't go south on it past the I-8 underpass (I had been google-earthing it to see if I could get to Los Pinos lookout tower from there). As it turned out, the road is fenced and gated off just a bit south of the underpass when it runs into a private cattle ranch. There is a marked dirt trail leading south from there along the right side of the fence, however.

The relatively nice no-trespassing sign on the Corte Madera Rd gate.
Passed a few bike-touring cyclists heading east on Old Hwy 80.
Wildwood Glen Dr (Old Hwy 80) bridge across the Sweetwater River.
After climbing back up to Guatay and Descanso I thought I'd turn off the 79 at Wildwood Glen Dr instead of the I-8 on-ramp. I had heard some tantalizing comments about this old alignment of the 80 that allows you to bypass the exposed I-8 bridge over the Sweetwater River (it's a nasty cycling stretch when the wind is blowing). It started out as a well-kept two laner lined by a few ranch houses. After about 1/3 mile the concrete road is gated off to automobile, though (the sign post says bikes, horse & hikers are allowed).

Wildwood Spring gate.
The old road is in the process of being reclaimed by nature...
The old Ellis Wayside Rest, well hidden behind graffitied boulders.
After a while all pavement disappeared into a gravelly track.
The pavement disappeared after 3/4 mile or so and the dirt/gravel trail that continues west becomes rougher and rougher. By the time I got to the well graffitied boulders that hides the old Ellis Wayside Rest (Ellis Springs on the map) that used to service the Old Hwy 80, it is just a narrow track that gets moderately spooky where it cuts into the hillside. My sixth sense antennae went into overdrive and I started berating myself for putting me into such an unforgiving location. I was well hidden from the freeway and couldn't move fast on so rough (and gravelly) a trail on my road bike. This being beyond the locked gate of a closed road that only serves a handful of houses, had a hungry mountain lion turned up just then nobody would find my carcass for months! Needless to say, I didn't linger around and plowed on just as fast as the unsuitable-to-terrain bike would allow to get to where I could be (though still unlikely to be) spotted from the freeway again. I've got to admit, the view of the I-8 heading east into the mountains from the trail was pretty spectacular even on such an overcast day!

Looking east down on I-8 from Wildwood Glen trail (which goes thru that little blast channel in the hill on the left).
Well, this is an interesting exit...
Made it to the I-8 shoulder just a couple of curves from E Willow Rd exit!
The final little drop onto the westbound I-8 shoulder is a precarious one. It's all soft sandy stuff at about 18% grade steep, and I was happy that I managed to glissade down without messing up bike or cycling kit. The wheels were well decorated with brushes and twigs by the time I was done, though. It was outrageously fun but not something I'd like to try again in the future.

Here's a little video from the ride.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Road rage v bike rage?

Rant alert... You've been warned!

I've had just about enough to the bs tough-guy trash talk that many of my fellow cyclists like to spew after being (or seeing videos of someone else) harassed/close-passed by some road-raging self-indulging driver. You know, the 'you've better watch it or I'll chase you down and beat the sh*t out of you,' type of schticks.

So... you, 140 lbs worth of flesh and bones wrapped around some flimsy thin metal or carbon tubes you, are going to chase down the obviously mentally unstable person hiding inside two tons of steel cage who had just clearly demonstrated to both of us not a minute ago his/her lack of both self-control and judgment.

Okay, let's say that you do manage to turn yourselves into a clone of Fabian Cancellara and catch up with the automobile-bounded psychopath. Then what? You are going to talk some reason into him and he is going to see the errors of his ways, prostrate himself before you to ask for forgiveness? In front of a new audience that probably wasn't there to witness your original encounter with the driver (you had chased the bully down, away from the original scene of the crime, remember?), and therefore whose testimony could only begin with; 'Well, the car was stopped at the intersection when the angry cyclist approached the driver, ... and it all went downhill from there,'?

This is the USA... stuff like this

and this

and this

, etc, happen.

Stupidity is not contagious. Don't act like it is. You don't look like a hero when you retaliate... you just end up making it harder for the third party judge (or jury) to discern who the bad guy really is. As someone who gets around almost exclusively by bicycle, I also won't be thanking you for helping adding fuel to the road-raging fire of these automobile-operating lunatics that I might end up having to share some narrow roads with after their encounter with you!

So, in case we ever end up cycling together on these roads someday, this is what I want you to understand; if I'm riding with you, then chances are good that I already think you a cool person whose values need no further proving. Please feel neither the need nor the obligation to defend my honor or whatever from any road-raging hit and run felon wannabes.

The car-bounded psychopath that had just intentionally close-passed/harassed/laid down the horn on us, I deem the depth of uncool turd not worth any more contact with than necessary. I would like nothing better than to be rid of the troll in as short lapse of time as possible. The sooner it gets out of my sights, the better. I'd be extremely grateful if you would choose to demonstrate your superhero self-control, display your supreme ability to stay cool in the face of lunacy and refrain from giving the troll any slightest bit of reason that its hope for escalation and further opportunity to display its trolly traits may be entertained, so that it will leave us alone to resume our pleasant cycling time together without further aggravation.

And if you want to be even cooler, note the driver's appearance, car color, make, model and license plate number, the location of the harassment and report it to the Close Call Database to make it easier for law enforcement to deal with serial road-ragers. Then you'd be my hero for helping making the roads safer for everyone instead of exacerbating the problem.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

San Diego's Steepest Road Climbs: Magnificent Sub-Milers

Steepest Short Walls
Steepest 1-5 Milers

Long overdue, I'm afraid because it took a while to get out and personally check all the candidate sub-miler badass climbs around town. Anyhow, so far, here are the toughest just-less-than-a-mile-long paved road climbs I've encountered in San Diego County. This shouldn't be read as an exhaustive list, tho. There are loads of amazing climbs out there and I'm sure I haven't explored them all yet. The climbs with * on them take some finessing to get onto, I'm afraid, as they are gated access-controlled roads.

10. Alpine Trail [0.7 mile, avg 7%, max 43%]
Just the top ramp on Alpine Trail.
A back way to Alpine from Harbison Canyon, this extreme rollercoaster takes you through a new housing development between Galloway Valley and Alpine Heights. From west to east, the climb comes in two major ramps with a nice dip in between them that allows for a bit of sling-shotting. It's a bit of a dilemma placing this climb lower than Via Capri and Country Club... I suppose, if you aren't already strong enough to survive > 23% graders for about a city block, then Alpine Trail would be quite harder to climb than Via Capri and Country Club Drs on Mt Soledad. If you can cope with short stretches of extreme gradients, tho, I feel this climb a bit easier simply because it allows you good enough rest to catch your breath and shake some lactate off the legs before the gnarliness resumes.

9. Via Capri Dr (Mt Soledad) [0.8 mile, avg 10%, max ]:
When the locals talk about climbing up the steep side of Mt Soledad, they usually mean Via Capri Dr from Hidden Valley to La Jolla Scenic Dr. It is indeed a very stern test of legs and lungs of the relentlessly uncomfortably steep variety. The worst thing about climbing Via Capri, to me, however, is the traffic. I'm afraid most cars don't struggle up the steep slope as much as we cyclists do, and the fact that there are often cars parallel-parked on the steep ramp between Vie Sienna and Hillside Dr, forcing you onto the only uphill traffic lane sure doesn't help things much.

8. Country Club-Romero-Brodicaea-Encelia Drs (Mt Soledad) [0.8 mile, avg 11%]
But, really, the hardest climb on Mt Soledad is actually the lesser known and traveled Country Club route. At about the same length, this route is a full percent grade steeper than Via Capri Dr. It is lesser known, I think, because it dead ends for cars at the private gate to Upper Hillside Dr from Encelia Dr. This makes for much sparser traffic... and sort of makes climbing it feels a bit easier than Via Capri since you can actually paperboy (zigzag) up the ramps in next to no-traffic condition. The steepest bit of this climb actually comes in the middle of the first block of Country Club Dr at about 18%, then there is a short break after the left turn along the golf course before the gradient kicks up again to Romero Dr and doesn't drop again until the top of Encelia Dr, 1/2 mile later.

View from La Jolla Reservoir off Encelia Dr.
If you aren't fixated on getting to the top without ever stopping, though, I'd suggest veering left at the corner of Brodicaea and Encelia Drs and going down the little drop to the car gate with a magnificent view of La Jolla Shores. If you don't mind a bit of firm dirt riding or hike-a-biking, the little dirt trail leading left over the knoll from the car gate is worth some exploration, too. It is only about 40 yds long and takes you to perhaps the best panoramic view point in La Jolla.

7. Coronado Hills Dr (San Marcos) [.6 mile, avg 12%, max grade 25%]:

It is almost inhumane how steadily steep this main route up Mt Whitney in San Marcos is! It's a well paved thing with two wide lanes and hardly any traffic at all after all the Mt Whitney residents had gone to work during the week. Once the road kicks up it doesn't drop below 10% again until 'the top'.

Looking north down Coronado Hills Dr.
Of course, by the time you get there, you might as well turn right onto Washingtonia and climb a bit more (2 or 3 short steep ramps with level off or dips in between) to the radio tower at the top. The steep ramp from the 5-way intersection is quite holey, though (unless it has very recently been repaved), and might be even gnarlier to descent than to climb.

6. Black Gold Rd (La Jolla Farms) [.4 mile, avg 14%, max grade 23%]:

The paved access road to Black's Beach from La Jolla Farms is perhaps the best kept secret local climbs in the city! It is car-gated at the top, though sometimes service vehicles and some key-holding local residents would drive down to the beach there. For us cyclists, most of the time getting on this beautiful beast involves tossing the bike over the gate and walking through the tight peds access way through the gate.

After the road starts to drop the view starts to open up and this climb can look very intimidating, with the switchbacks mid-section looking quite steeper than it actually is. Have no fear, the worst of the climb is actually at the very bottom where the narrow lane branches around a triangular island and the tarmac becomes well dusted with sand. From that spot down to the benches overlooking the beach the grade average is around 18% with maximum of 23% (yes, you'll have to mount the bike and start climbing on a 17% grade slope... Oh, the price we pay for a glimpse of the city's only nude beach!).

From the bottom of Black Gold Rd.
You may notice a lot of skid marks on the road surface as you muscle your way back up. Because this road is mostly car-free, steep, well paved and curvy, it is a favorite road-surfing spot for the local skatboarders. So... keep a look out for those when you hear strange rumbling approaching from above!

6. *Montana Serena Rd (Crest) [0.9 mile, avg 12%, max grade 43%]:

Getting on Montana Serena Rd may be a bit of a problem as it is in a private housing complex off from Rios Canyon Rd from Mountain View Dr between Crest proper and Harbison Canyon. Once you get on it, though, it is a conquest worth all the sufferings it inflicts!

The mellow tarmac bottom of Montana Serena through the relatively new housing development turns into a bumpy white concrete monster as soon as the road turns right around the row of palm trees. From then on it is put-your-head-down-and-don't-look-far-ahead do or die sort of climbing until the concrete surface turns into tarmac again about .7 mile later.

Gnarly climb for spectacular view = good trade off?
There is a lot of view to see from this road, but chances are that you won't notice any of it on the way up. It is that nastily unrelentless and steep. And to make it worse, there is no bombing on the descent either. The concrete is rutted and so bumpy that if you hit a bump wrong at >10 mph you will be in for quite a lot of hurt. Besides... why would you go fast down this thing when there is so much view to see?

5. *Buds Ln - Double R Rd (off Old Coach Rd in Poway [0.7 mile, avg 14%, max 27%].
I'm afraid I can't tell you much about this one since I haven't managed to get on it yet. :) It hides behind a heavy duty gate off from Deer Valley Estates just below Ramona Reservoir.

Buds Ln - Double R Rd as espied from Old Coach Tr
It sure looks super gnarly from a distance, though. I think you'd have to know someone who lives on Buds Ln to get inside the gate... Either that or wait until one of the new houses in the complex is doing an open house.

4. Lake San Marcos Towers Trail N [0.5 mile, avg 15%, max 30%]:
Known to the local steepie-hunters as the Lake San Marcos 21% (dunno why that percentage, but there it is), this is the paved narrow access road from the north side to the radio towers overlooking Lake San Marcos on the western spire of Cerro de los Posas Mountain, and it is a feat of suffering with a very disappointing view at the top!

I'm afraid the trail head at the bottom is unmarked and looks just like a private drive way. It's basically the narrow lane next to #1520 La Plaza Rd, and it leads you through some nice fenced in avocado orchards before being nearly completely blocked with a giant car gate with about a million padlocks on it where you will have to toss the bike over and somehow squeeze through the narrow opening on the left side... and find yourself restarting on about a 14% grade slope. I know, I know, San Diego steepies are such pills sometimes!
Final ramp to the Lake San Marcos radio tower.
The pavement is quite good and just wide enough for some paperboy-ing, and if you can, you must take in as much view as possible on the way up since the top of the road only has enough flat space for the radio tower complex and nothing else... and the complex lies between the top of the road and the drop to the lake. So... there is no view whatsoever at the very top, unless you want to roll back halfway down the steepest ramp of the climb for it, which may be okay if you just want to out-n-back this thing. But if you want to traverse from the tower along the Ridgeline Trail to Double Peak, then this would be quite a lot of aggravation!

3. Camino del Aguilar (Starvation Mountain near Escondido) [.7 mile, avg grade 15%, max grade 24.2%]:

While most sensible cyclists ride up to Ramona from Escondido via
the splendid curvy climb of Highland Valley Road (HVR), the steepie-addicted ones are partial to the (not very) short cut over Starvation Mountain that branches off from it just east of Bandy Canyon Rd instead. Camino del Aguila is a paved private road that technically ends at the dirt connection to Eagle Crest Rd just a wedge shot from the top of the mountain, though on bicycle there are a few ways you could take downhill from the top.

Anyhow, the first part of the Aguila involves going over a steep ridge by the winery and avocado farms. Road surface is quite pothole infested and there are a few sharp speed bumps to be mindful off as you descend to the ravine. From the bottom of the ravine, though, the road kicks straight up and becomes distinctly hostile to normal legs and lungs functions. I'm afraid the next turn on the road won't bring you any relief no matter how much you wish it would, not until you get to the lone level-off with a low stone wall by a ranch house nearly a mile later!

Of course, the only traffic on this road are local residents, and there aren't many of them, so you probably won't run into any car at all (though if you do, tread carefully because the driver is probably having as much trouble staying on the road as you do... the thing wasn't quite engineered right and doesn't bank quite the right way at its many steep switchbacks).

At the top, you could either take the dirt road onto Eagle Crest Rd that'd drop you off on HVR just west of Sky Valley Dr (this involves going around a couple of gates and quite a bit of trespassing), or you could hike-the-bike up the steep dirt ramp leading off to the left to pick up the top bit of Starvation Mountain Rd. I'm afraid we can't get to the very top of the mountain since the big house on the top had gated it, but turning left will take you down Starvation Mountain Rd back to HVR about a mile further up than when you turned off it to climb the Aguila.

2. The Crow's Nest Lane (Harbison Canyon) [.4 mile, avg grade 18%, max grade 33.3%]:

The shortest on this list, and it's sitting at #2! No kidding! I'm sure many have glimpsed at this monster as they descend Mountain View/Frances Rd into Harbison Canyon, though not many have gone up it since the base of it isn't quite on the main road. As you can see from the gradient profile pic above... it is a mad road!

As there are only 2 occupied houses on The Crow's Nest, the likelihood of sharing the gnarly climb/descent with a car is quite slim. The road is pretty well paved, though it does have liberal amount of sandy debris on the surface (probably doesn't get swept often... or at all!), and there are a couple of really ill-placed sharp speed bumps right on the steepest bit of the climb that gave me quite a fright when I spontaneously wheelied upon hitting them (the 2nd one even came with a rear wheel skid due to a loose layer of sand). So... please make sure your brakes are in excellent order before attempting this thing because you will have to come down it. And, as much as I enjoy going downhill, descending the Crow's Nest Lane was like a pleasure cruise that caught the flu virus 500 miles off-shore with no other ship in sight. I was happy to be alive when I got to the bottom... after having snailed my way down at less than 8 mph!

1. **Rocky Lane (Muth Valley) [.7 mile, avg 17%, max grade 44.8%]:
Talk about a barricaded road... It takes quite a bit of acrobatic just to get onto Rocky Ln at all! And once you are on it, you sort of wonder what madness had come upon you and how in the world are you going to get back out! Have an equally crazy buddy with you or tell someone where you'll be before attempting ('cause if you run into a mountain lion while dragging your bike up this thing, you're toasted and probably won't be found within a month). Also, as hideous as cycling down Wildcat Canyon Rd is, considering its traffic, it still is probably safer than descending Rocky Lane. I don't think I would even attempt it if I have disc brakes... So there you go.

Honorable mentions: Rainbow Glen from the west (Fallbrook), Rice Rd (Rattlesnake Mtn in Santee), Gomez Creek Rd (Rainbow - Pala).