Friday, May 31, 2013

Why aren't the cyclists riding in the bike lane/road shoulder/far right edge?

I often see complaints by a subset of drivers who probably don't ride their bike on city streets that cyclists are often seen riding in the traffic lane when there is road shoulder/bike lane available. So, why don't cyclist always ride in the bike lane/road shoulder/far right edge of the road?
People don't always check their six before opening their traffic side car door...
You can't see this from the car, but 3/4 of this bit of bike lane is covered in broken bits of glass.
These won't do anything to car tires, but road bike tires go flat riding over them. Even the ultra-tough Gatorskins aren't immune to punctures!
Pine cones & other fruits are cute as long as they aren't in the bike's path! Also, when there are big trees lining the street, there tends to be root bumps and cracks right under them in the bike lane/road shoulder.
I added the vertical red bar to make the ickiness of this root bump more visible... Try hitting that thing while going at speed on a bicycle. It can really destroy the wheel (among other things)!
A bit of sand on the road won't cause a car to skid, but these can really cause a bike crash.
We cyclists haven't got a windshield.. Try riding into protruding tree branches at 15 mph. It hurts!
Branches are hard to see, even from a bicycle. This particular limb was at throat level...
You wouldn't drive a car over this, why should a cyclist ride his bike?
With all the broken glasses and radial tires' wire bits on the road, I get punctured most often from goathead thorns...
Some roadside protective ramps have ends that jut out. This one will easily take a shin off a cyclist and send him spilling into the traffic lane.
Every week from the night before to the night of the trash collection day, of course, there are extra obstacles in the bike path/road shoulder.
Also... a lot of time it is safer for a cyclist to ride left-center of the only through traffic lane when entering an intersection if he is behind a tall car so that the cars coming from the opposite side of the road that might be waiting to make a left turn would see him and know not to try to turn right as the tall car in front of the cyclist is going past.

A lot of street corners here have cars parked right up to the intersection. A street-savvy cyclist going straight will also ride more toward the middle of the right-most through lane rather than far to the right so that cars coming out of the side street will be able to see him (drivers tend to just look to the middle of the road for other cars before they make the right turn onto the cross street... and end up hitting a cyclist they should have seen but didn't).

So, the next time you see a cyclist riding in the middle of the traffic lane, please think about what legitimate circumstances that might force him to be riding there (believe me, most cyclists are sane and really dislike riding in traffic, surrounded by cars) rather than to immediately go into the road rage mode and assume all sort of evil motifs on the cyclist's part.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Side Trip: Honey Springs Rd & Mother Grundy Truck Trail

For a while now I've heard rumors about a private castle up in the mountains near Jamul, the rural town on the wild side of San Miguel Mountain. Some internet sleuthing narrowed the location of the castle down to being somewhere off Mother Grundy Truck Trail, the graded dirt road that connects Honey Springs Rd and Deerhorn Valley Rd by way of the Madre Grande Mountain.
Hwy 94 (Campo Rd) at Honey Springs Rd south of Jamul.
Well, Honey Springs Rd is one of my favorite local long hills (it is 7 miles long and averages 5% gradient with a couple of ramps at around 12%), so when I had a day off a couple of weeks ago that coincided with cool and cloudy weather (that part of town is like a convection oven when it gets hotter than 85F or so) I packed 3 spare inner tubes and caught the trolley south to Chula Vista to investigate.

Fellow two-wheeled travellers on Honey Springs Rd.
I took my time riding in on Otay Lakes Rd. The lower lake was catching all sorts of charming light that morning and traffic was so nice and light. By the time I turned onto Honey Springs Rd I was caught by a trio of riders out for their own morning exercise. They weren't sprinting up the hill like many who ride in the area tend to do, though, so I decided to up the pace a bit and try to tag along... and ended up getting nicely towed all the way up to the Mother Grundy Truck Trail turn off.
Mother Grundy TT branching off from Honey Springs Rd just before the S-curves section.
It's always a bit of a rush turning onto a lesser known rural side road that you had a hard time finding information about after hours of internet search! With Mother Grundy (supposedly a corruption of the Spanish name for a prominent local mountain, the Madre Grande), the rush was amplified by the beauty of the road's surrounding. As Mother Grundy TT curves its way up the southwest side of Eagle's Nest (the prominent rocky spiky peak on the south side of Honey Springs Rd) an awesome view opens up on the right side and I could see all the way to Otay Lake even on such a cloudy day.
Looking west toward Otay Lakes from Mother Grundy Truck Trail
Ruts on Mother Grundy TT passing through Climbing Rocks area.
After a few curves the well graded (though featuring ruts of many varieties... some wide and shallow while the others jolty and deep) dirt road passes through a cluster of really nice houses guarded by many leash-less dogs. A few of them spotted me coming and started barking up storm. When four of them came bounding leashlessly onto the road I dismounted and stood behind my bike as I greeted them (the best thing you can do, really, when there's no chance of out-running the dogs going up a 6% grade dirt path on a road bike). They were barking, but their tails were up and wagging and they looked more excited than mad. All very good signs! After some polite sniffing they turned out a posse of really friendly dogs. I remounted the bike and headed on up the road, now gripping the handlebar with really furry cycling gloves as the dogs went running up ahead of me.
My canine escorts on Mother Grundy TT
A rough rocky section of Mother Grundy. Eagle's Nest in background.
I figured they'd accompany me for a hundred yard or so before peeling off to go back home, but it turned out they had a different idea entirely and meant to really go off adventuring with me. From Honey Springs Rd to Via Pamela, Mother Grundy TT is a mostly gentle climb at around 6%. There are two short but steep (14%-ish) ramps, though. The first one luckily on a short stretch of firm but bumpy tarmac, the second on icky loose dirt (rear-wheel skip fest). Most of the road is firm and smooth enough, though there are a few rough and pebbly patches that were pretty hard on my road tires (I'm running on a pair of 700x25mm Continental Gatorskins).
The western terminus of Via Pamela at Mother Grundy TT
Puddles on Mother Grundy TT passing through Winetka Ranch.
After the second steep ramp a dirt trail branched off to the left. There is no street sign for it, but one wooden one for Mother Grundy. I figured that's the west terminus of the Via Pamela. Mother Grundy levels off there and goes past a long fenced in property that seems to be a private animal sanctuary (the locals call it the Winetka Ranch, I think). It last rained in this area 3 days before my ride, but there were still big puddles on the road.
It was so cool I had to put the wind jacket back on, but the dogs couldn't sweat and were overheating. They took to cooling off in the puddles along the way.
This dog went after a rabbit on the other side of the fence, then couldn't find his way out. I had to retrace back to the hole that he went in originally to lead him to it.
By now the oldest of my four canine escorts was getting quite tired and starting to lag behind the group. We were 3 or so miles up the mountain from their home and they still showed no sign of wanting to turn back. I was getting concerned that they would follow me so far up the mountain (I had meant to go on to Deerhorn Valley Rd and all the way to Barrett Lake) that they won't have the strength left to make it home when I finally speed away once I hit the next patch of paved road.
The Laminack Castle overlooking Deerhorn Valley.
Luckily we soon got to the turn off where the castle (my main objective of the day) was. I ventured a little way onto it and snapped a photo of the castle from afar. After all, it's a private house! The next door property is even more interesting, though. It's the Beacon Hill Llama Farm!

Beacon Hill Llama Farm.
The friendly llamas were well guarded by M. MacDuff, the huge white dog that somehow managed to smile even as he barked. I'm afraid my entourage insisted on protecting me from the long-necked furry llamas, so I couldn't say hello to them properly. By now the oldest dog was limping and looking rather miserable, however, so I decided to scratch the rest of my ride objectives and head back down Mother Grundy so that the dogs would follow me back to their homes.
Heading back down Mother Grundy TT. Lyons Peak on right.
Looking down on Honey Springs Rd just NE of Deerhorn Valley Rd junction from Mother Grundy TT. See Jacob's red barn and the Deerhorn Valley fire station (the only water stop on Honey Springs Rd).
It wasn't exactly a happy decision for me, though. Mother Grundy was rough enough going up, and I was a bit concerned about going down the rough bits of it on my road bike. Luckily I only caught one rear pinched flat on my way down and all the dogs made it home. We were a very slow moving caravan as the oldest dog had the hardest time trying to stay within sight of the rest of us (I was afraid he would have a stroke or something trying to keep pace, so we stopped and waited after every bend).

Perhaps you can spot Otay Lake in the distance?
The view was awesome, though! Anyhow, we got back to their houses, but the dogs kept following me as I head down the s-curves section toward Honey Springs Rd. Luckily I encountered a local lady around a curve and she thought that the dogs were harassing me, so she threw rocks and chased them off as I escaped around a sharp right corner and back to Honey Springs Rd. Whoever you are, thank you! But those dogs were really very friendly!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

May is National Bike Month!

Well, this month is National Bike Month. How are you celebrating? I had been looking for a way to celebrate it, but it was hard going since I'm already on my bike riding around town most days of the week both for commuting and for fun. Then last Friday I took the trash out and found this sturdy blue plastic broom and had an idea; I'd ride just as often as I already do, but once a week I'll strap the broom onto the bike and use it to clear the bike lane/path of debris that could cause punctures or crashes!

So here it is, the Smorgish blue broomcycle.

And the first broomcycle ride last Friday was along to popular 'Cabrillo route' from Liberty Station to Cabrillo National Park.

Catalina Blvd in the naval base area to Cabrillo is always prone to fingers of sand/dirt slides in the bike lane that force cyclists out onto the traffic lane, so that was my main objective, along with the intersections on northbound Catalina (they are always full of gravel debris that fan into the road).

This week I finally got round to that gravel-derby that is the eastern terminus of the Ocean Beach Bike Path. It's adjacent to Sefton Field, the baseball field with its gravel parking area. Cars can be so messy when transitioning from gravel to pavement!

Further west along the OBBP there often are spots of sand on the path, and some nastier (spill-inducing) stuff at the underpasses (sometimes the homeless folks that live there leave some broken glass bottles on the path, and you would often spot them too late because it's dark down there).
I was even well rewarded for my broomcycling effort! The sun came out and the air warmed up, and once I came out of the underpasses the view along the San Diego River was really to sweep for!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Funky ride around Spring Valley, Dictionary Hill, Casa de Oro - Mt Helix

Hrrrmph! I think I've got a sort of stomach flu or something. Been in low-energy mode since Tuesday or so. Was feeling pretty out of sort Wednesday morning and resting wasn't doing anything for it, so I hopped on the bike and thought I'd ride out to the Performance Bicycle in La Mesa and back. I was almost out of degreaser and needed to shop for a replacement chain rings.
Performance Bicycle on La Mesa Blvd in La Mesa
Didn't find the right chain rings, but did pick up a new bottle of degreaser and some more of those little chamois cream tubelets. The weather was supposed to get too hot to ride for the next two days, but just then it wasn't bad yet and I was still lethargic so I thought I'd ride a bit further and go south to explore a bit of Spring Valley and see if I'll perk up after a few more miles. You know, sometimes it takes a good sweating session to kick the bug out of your system.

Southbound Bancroft Dr in Spring Valley.
Bancroft Ranch House Museum.

Had a good roll down Bancroft Dr into Spring Valley and found the neighborhood more pleasant than expected. Stopped by at the Bancroft Ranch House Museum, but it was closed and there was nobody around except from a posse of chicken. The house used to be owned by Hubert Howe Bancroft who ran a huge olive farm out of it in the late 1890's and early 1900's. There supposedly is a spring on the property that gave the area its name, but it was all fenced up so I couldn't see.
Southbound up Helix St in Spring Valley.
Coronado Bridge & Pt Loma from Helix St in Spring Valley.
Anyhow, I took a left on Lamar and then headed south on the pleasantly curvy Helix St. What a nice bit of thoroughfare! The road climbs pretty gently as it curves its way up the north side of Dictionary Hill, with a few nice vistas of Mt Helix and the surrounding areas at its many curves. On a clear day you can see clear to Pt Loma!

Helix St at Grand Ave on the north side of Dictionary Hill.
I had Google Earthed the area before and wondered about cutting across the hill from the north side of Grand Ave to the southern bit. Eye-balling it as I passed by on Helix St, it looks doable (there's a dirt track across the top of the hill), but quite steep, so I didn't go and check it out. The steep dirt track wouldn't be much trouble for me going up, but coming down the other side of it on road tires and rim brakes could get ugly...
The Apple St monster...
Getting into La Presa I turned east on Jamacha Rd and came face to face with quite a monster... Some hills look worse than they are from the distance, this one just got worse and worse as you neared it! Apparently the average gradient for the whole climb is 17%, with the top pitch blowing up to 30%. Aside from the long sleeves and blue jeans I had on I had never regretted having the heavy U-lock (and all the stuff I bought at the bike shop earlier) in my backpack as much as I did going up that hill!

Granted, the view from the top was pretty good, even for a hazy day. It just took me a while to feel like enjoying anything after having heaved up that gruesome ogre. There were a couple of breaks on the climb that helped somewhat. I freely admit to loitering a bit in really slow circles at the break before the final pitch. I wouldn't have made it up otherwise... That last pitch was both the steepest and the longest... Nothing to be attempted while using SPD pedals/shoes unless you are absolutely sure that you can make it to the top without stopping since there is no way you can clip out of the pedal in time to prevent a crash if you don't.

Well, I was out trying to ride this stomach bug out of my system, but apparently icky super-steep hills really aren't the best prescription for it. By the time I tacked my way down the east side of Apple St (it is a little bit more reasonable than the west side, though I'm afraid going up that hill from any direction on a bicycle is just plain painful) I was bonking a bit. It was now getting quite hot and the gentle climb up Jamacha Rd felt quite more draggy than it ought. It didn't help that I got a bit lost trying to take Calavo St all the way up to Fuerte on the way back. Well.... Calavo dead-ended on me (I think it jumped a few times to the side... I just didn't remember in which direction and chose wrong)... and it really doesn't pay to get lost in this hilly bit of town. Smiley
Del Rio St in Spring Valley.
Luckily after a while I found myself on a street whose name I remembered from the map, though Del Rio St came with some wacky traffic control devices. I don't think the side lane is a bike lane... You shouldn't ride in it anyhow, those icky little islands in the lane are quite nasty. The cars in the main traffic lane can ride over their bumps, but if you hit one of those little islands with your bike in the side lane, you're going down (and a few of them aren't easy to spot even with the white paint).

Anyhow, I made my way back to Avocado Blvd, Fuerte, and then took Grand View back west to Bancroft Dr to pick up La Mesa Blvd west back to town. It was a longer (and hillier) ride than I thought I would do, and it didn't get rid of the stomach flu like I hoped it would. It was still a good ride nonetheless. I got to know a new part of town and got some exercise in before the weather got really hot. And though it was anything but pleasant riding up Apple St, it is now crossed off my 'San Diego bucket list climbs' list...
Maria St at Apple St in Spring Valley.
Zoomed in on the top bit of Maria St.
Alas, I got a glimpse at another monster while I was on Apple St that looked even more evil to cycle up... This is Maria St, the top section of which is supposedly the steepest bit of pavement in town (32% grade)... and the whole thing looked longer (with fewer breaks) than Apple St is! Smiley I think I'll need to build up more climbing muscles for the next time I return to the area...