Monday, January 27, 2014

Musing: You can wait. A few extra minutes waiting to accomodate others won't ruin your life...

... And if it does, well, what does that really say about the life you are living?

When I got to college back in the late 1990's the internet was still just a few years from its birth and yours truly still spent most of my study time researching stuff using library index cards and checking out thick textbooks. It took hours to gather enough information to write a decent A-worthy paper.

Do you remember what a real book looks like? Me, too!
I still remember the first time I used the library computer to look up something from the NCBI database. There was no WiFi then, and the connection was slow. You'd click on a link and count off (sometimes more than) a few seconds before the new page would load. But it was still so much faster than sifting through the pile of library index cards to find the right books and then going to fetch the books and combing through them to the pages with the info you wanted. I didn't mind that the pages were taking a while to load. I was just happy that it took me minutes instead of hours to get the info I wanted.

I also used to drive... a lot. I bought my first car in the winter of 1993, and, because of my then job, I drove that thing 30,000 or so miles a year until I went back to college and became half-way normal, so to speak. It was great being able to get somewhere more than 15 miles away and back in hardly any time at all and without breaking a sweat. Before I bought a car I spent two years at a school in Southern California and lived on campus. I was too young to have a car then, so I got everywhere by bicycle.
Yes, it's narrow and steep, but Presidio Dr is still the mildest of all the other roads that lead from Mission Valley to the uptown Mesa. On some of the other roads, many of these guys won't be able to pedal up at all.
Two years of bike-commuting often in 95+ degree heat or in sub-40F cold and sometimes in thick wet fog or nasty stingy rain while hauling grocery and other types of load over rolling hills of varying degrees of steepness is an experience that stays with you a bit. It was relatively easy for me to chill and not get annoyed when I found myself 'stuck' behind a slow tractor (there were a few of them around out in the country) or a cyclist on narrow uphill bits of the many rural highways I drove on. A few extra minutes (if it takes that long... a lot of time you'll be presented with a break in traffic that would allow you to pass in matter of seconds) is a small inconvenience compared to what the tractor driver or the cyclist is going through. I remembered what it was like for a 12 miles commute to take a whole sweaty hour. It's easy to dismiss strangers' validity to justify being annoyed at them, but others' motive for doing something or being somewhere often is a lot less evil than you'd like to think it. Why are those slow cyclists riding up this narrow road and slowing me down? They should be banned from the street if they are too slow to keep up with cars! How selfish for the cyclist to be riding on this road! Even when they are doing the 25 mph speed limit, I could still be going faster if only they aren't in the way!

He's wearing lycra and riding a racing road bike, but he is also only commuting to and from work.
But what if bicycling is their only way of getting to places? And what if they are there because this narrow road is the least terribly steep way of getting up this particular hill, the top of which could be where the cyclist lives or where his workplace is? What if the cyclist can't afford to just up and move from his current house or apartment just to make his commute less hilly? Not everyone has the same choices that you are presented with. Not all cyclists are out on the road just for an exercise or for fun. And not every cyclist that ride in lycra are 'recreational' cyclist either (if you have ever ridden a bike 30+ miles in unpadded jeans, then you would understand why many would weigh down their backpack or paniers with additional clothes just so they can ride in lycra!). If you are willing to risk someone else's life and limbs just so you could get to where you want to go a minute or two faster (or not... if you then run into traffic lights), then who exactly is being selfish?

That someone else is somebody's kid or parent or brother or sister or friend, too. What if one of your daughter is out there riding her bike to get to work right now, what would you like the drivers that encounter her on the street to do? Real life isn't like the movies. If you hit someone, they get really hurt or die. And then what happens to the people that depend on them? All that just to get to drive a little faster? Is that really the kind of person you want to be? Just think about it a bit.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mt Soledad by the steepest route: Country Club Dr

When someone tells you that he has cycled up Mt Soledad without specifying which route he took, he hasn't told you much. La Jolla's little-mound-by-the-sea can be ridden up by many different roads at varying degrees of physical brutality; from the gentle and roomy Soledad Mountain Rd on the southeast side to the relentlessly steep (and trafficky) Via Capri on the north side, but the most monstrous of them all is also one of the least well known; Country Club Drive.
Country Club Dr just past Mar Ave.
The proper climb begins as you head south on Exchange Place south from Torrey Pines Rd in La Jolla and ends with the left turn onto Upper Hillside Dr. The tally is 0.8 mile at 11% average grade (max grade 16% for a couple of patches). 

As Exchange Pl curves left to become Soledad Ave, veer straight (or slightly right, if you will) onto Country Club Dr and be prepared to shift to lower gear. Sufferingville begins at Mar Ave intersection until the first left curve with maximum grade of around 16%. This stretch of the road is also very narrow, which makes its usual lack of traffic quite a blessing. There are some really nice houses along the road if you can manage to take in their view, though. After the left curve the golf course appears on your right side and the road mellows out for a short stretch. Take your time! This is the only real break in hard climbing you are going to get before the top.
Country Club Dr at the golf course. The only 'rest' stretch on the climb.
Romero Dr switchback.
At Fairway Ln the steep climbing recommences. Stay left on Country Club Dr and then make the next left turn onto Romero Dr. More gorgeous houses, gardens and driveways abound as the road carves itself up the slope in a stylish S. If you are already suffering, take a wide line at the switchback curve before turning left onto the brutally steep and straight ramp that is Brodicaea Dr to allow your legs a mini-break before the 16% grade ramp (don't stop, though. It gets more reasonable toward the top).

If you aren't here to set a new Strava PR or to snag to much coveted KoM, though, take a break at Encelia Dr curve and go check out the gorgeous overlook on the left side. The road dead ends but a paved trail continues a bit down the hill and around a left curve to a water tank. On a clear day the view of La Jolla Village and the shoreline is drop dead gorgeous! I wouldn't ride a road bike down that trail since it's full of broken glasses and other debris, but a little hike into such scenic solitude never hurts anyone!
Encelia Dr trail to water tank.
Encelia Dr up toward Upper Hillside Dr.
If you are trying to snag the much coveted Strava KoM on this leg chewing climb, however, turn right with the road and go straight up Encelia Dr to the left turn up Upper Hillside Dr, the official 'top' of the steepest route up Soledad Mountain... Via Capri Dr included. It is a charming climb lined by houses I could never dream of affording (if you manage to register anything but the pavement in front of you on your way up). Traffic-wise, you'd have to be the most unlucky rider on the planet to have to share the road with more than a handful of cars along the way. That's something that can't be said about Via Capri Dr

Yes, yes, I've gone up Via Capri a few times. It is relentlessly gnarly, but what turns me off about it is having cars speed by on left while dodging parallel-parked cars on the right while trying make snailish progress up the steep slope. Country Club route is a much more serene and personal climb where the handful of cars that might drive by go at 15 mph, with the drivers noticing everything on the road (because, on such a narrow and curvy road, they have to!) and are much more keen on a friendly wave or even a verbal cheer to urge you up the hill.

Turning left from Encelia Dr onto Upper Hillside Dr.
Upper Hillside Dr to Via Casa Alta.
Once you've got to Upper Hillside Dr and the end of the official climb, however, you might just notice that you aren't yet on top of the mountain. The way is barred by a heavy duty fence and gate... If you are nice, quiet and discreet, a nice local may tell you how to get thru the gated complex to the other side where you'll remount the bike, go straight on the few yards remaining of Upper Hillside Dr and make the right turn up the 12-14% long ramp that is Via Casa Alta.

Spectacular view is earned by spectacular pain... or something like that.
The true top of Soledad Mtn. The TV antennae on Via Casa Alta (with a good view of Mission Bay & Pt Loma to boot).
Be sure to look to your left as you head up the cracky cement pavement! For all the pain and suffering you are paying to get up this hill, you might as well reap some scenic rewards along the way. Once you've crested the true top of Soledad Mtn, the view also opens up on the right side just before the television antennae. A good place for a photo op, perhaps?

Via Casa Alta dumps you onto La Jolla Scenic Dr between Via Capri Dr and Soledad Mountain Rd (turn left to go to the cross). There are many ways of descending the mountain, but if you need to go back to Exchange Pl at Torrey Pines Rd (or to La Jolla Village proper) by the least trafficky way without descending down steep, curvy and very cracky roads, I'd suggest hanging a right onto LJ Scenic Dr, then;
-R - Nautilus St
-R - W Muirlands Dr
-R - Fay Ave
-R - Pearls St
-L - High Ave
-R - Virginia Wy
-L - Exchange Pl

If you feel like climbing some more, though, more Mt Soledad back-road routes coming up in a bit! Smiley