Sunday, March 16, 2014

Loaded mini-tour to the Headlands

Dan recently got a new randoneuring/light touring bike and we headed out to the Marin headlands for its inaugural tour. Our destination: a state park hike-in campground in the Marin headlands, about 20 miles north of home.
Dan heading down our steep street on his new bike. First loaded trip!
We headed our from home and rode across the city to the golden gate bridge. First up-- the plunge down our steep street, a nice test of the brakes on Dan's new bike!
Mandatory stop at the fruit stand to pick up some treats for the trip
We headed across town and over the Golden Gate bridge and through Sausalito, turning off on Tennessee Valley Road, where we made a stop at the excellent fruit stand to stock up on some food for lunch. I had anticipated chilly weather when we planned the trip a few weeks ago, but it was 70 degrees and sunny!
Heading out to Tennessee Valley beach for lunch
We decided to head out to the beach for lunch, then backtrack to the hike/bike in campground. The trail/fire road out the beach had fun rollers, and was largely manageable on the loaded road bike.
Lunch at the beach. I didn't get any good beach photos
Dan jams it up the steep hill climbing out from the beach. I think I walked this one (but I have fewer gears than Dan, which is somewhat ironic
Well, I did have to walk up one of the hills on the climb back out of the beach. Dan cleared the hill!! .
Gear exploded from our panniers once we arrived at the campsite
We arrived at the camp site after a fun ride in on a somewhat lumpy dirt trail. Where did all of that gear come from? After additional snacking, we took a little nap in the tent. We were the only ones at the site and it was very quiet there, all set back in the hills. It felt like we were a million miles away from home in the noisy city.
Incredible full moon rise over our campground
More people arrived, and Dan headed out for a short trail run. Then, we headed out by bike to the nearby town to pick up some water, since the campground was dry and we needed a little more water than we had brought on the bikes on the trip out. We also picked up some coffee for the next morning. After a yummy dinner, we retired to the tent just as the moon was rising. It was full and very very bright! I slept with earplugs (due to presence of large group in the site next to us) but Dan reports that he heard coyotes howling through the night! Super cool! I was actually quite chilly during the night, having brought the wrong sleeping bag, but I did manage to sleep and it was generally a peaceful night
Fog is burning off!
It was pretty foggy when we woke up and I enjoyed my warm coffee, which I had stored in a thermos overnight. Dan went out for another trail run and I read my book some more, then we packed up and headed for home.
Heading back home on the Sausalito bike path
The ride home went very smoothly, and I enjoyed Dan's mellow pace, the result of his hard two hour trail run. We made our way up the climb out of Sausalito, pausing at Fort Baker for a photo, then continuing up the winding climb to the bridge pathway.

Dan and the bikes pose at Fort Baker
And then it was across the Golden Gate bridge -super cold and windy, as it was in a pocket of fog- and through the city and home.
Massive fog on the bridge- it was a chilly and windy ride back across to the city,
What a great weekend! I loved rolling out from home on the bike and riding to our destination and the loaded aspect worked out just fine (my light load-- about 25 pounds- was much easier to handle than the load I carried on this tour). We are already planning our next trip, perhaps to Samuel B Taylor park or the Half Moon Bay area.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

2014 Megamonster Enduro

I love the scenery out on HW25 in Paicines
Another year, another Mega-Monster Enduro. I just love this event with its wonderful scenery and Low-Key vibe.
Miss C and Miss P registered riders at the Paicines General Store
This year, rain threatened until the very last minute, so we drove out from SF leaving at about 5am when we learned the event was on! I was a bit nervous as we drove through rain for about an hour, but the skies cleared when we turned onto HW25 at Hollister, and for the most part, the day was dry.
It was misty at the start, but dry (mostly)
I hung around the start for a while, then decided to proceed with my ride. I wasn't feeling super energetic after a heavy week at work, so I planned to head out and see how I did. If I felt ok, I'd try to do the 100k course. If not so good, I'd turn around early.
Heading out into a stiff headwind on HW25. Super scenic even on an overcast day
Heading out into a stiff headwind on HW25. Super scenic even on an overcast day
The day was pretty warm, but the winds were off, and the normal morning tailwind was a strong headwind. Now, the new NM (me; post-injury) doesn't mind headwinds that much. I just tool along, slower than slow, the absence of speed goals making me not mind the winds as much. That said, I was going SLOW. Like, 7-8 mph in the first 15 miles, which include some gradual hills. I started doing the math, and the full 100k was looking like it would take me too long-- I hadn't really planned to be out on the course that long. But, I decided to continue, just to see how I felt.
Helicopter at the fire station
After the first 13 miles or so, the course turns a bit and the head-cross wind eased. My pace picked up to something like my normal level of slow and I pedaled along, feeling strong. I contemplated heading to the 100k turn-around, but then started to get nervous that the winds would turn. This course normally has a morning tailwind, and afternoon headwind that becomes quite strong after about 2pm. What if the wind turned?
This is my favorite photo of the day
I ended up turning around at about mile 20. The ride back was a fast, furious blast, and I was easily keeping a pace at above 22-25 mph on the flats, and even 15+ mph on the climbs (!!!!). What fun that was, and I rolled into the finish with about 40 miles on the day, feeling strong.
the last riders approaching the finish
The wind did turn in the early afternoon, and the 100 mile riders thus had a heavy head-cross wind for 50 miles in the morning, then finishing with 20 miles or so of head wind in the afternoon. Oooph. I was glad that I'd turned back early to enjoy the tailwind. I'll do the full 100k next year (I promise!)
What an enjoyable day, and congrats to all of the riders who braved the sketchy looking weather forecast to come out and ride!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Headlands hike: Pirates Cove Loop

Dan on the very point of the Marin headlands coastal lookout: big views to the south
We did this hike over the holiday break with out of town guests, and the views did not disappoint! Unusually warm and dry weather meant crystal clear views-- up to Pt Reyes to the north and Montara mountain to the south.

Trail down to Pirates Cove beach
We started at Tennessee Valley, heading up the Coastal Trail, then dropping down to Pirates Cove to hang out at the beach. The trail down to the beach wasn't as sketchy as I remembered, but it is steep at points.

Pirates Cove beach
We continued on the Coastal Trail, pausing at the lookout near the junction with the Coastal Fire Road.

Back on the Coastal Trail, looking back on Pirates Cove

Muir Beach viewed from Coastal Trail lookout. The beach had reopened following closure for some improvements and we saw a lot of people down there enjoying the day

We returned to Tennessee Valley via the Coastal Fire Road to Fox Trail. Once you move away from the coast, the big ocean views are replaced by rolling hill views. A steep(er) descent down Fox Trail takes you back to Tennessee Valley. I've done this loop in the opposite direction several times, but I like this variation more I think. And the initial climb up Coastal is a bit more gradual than the Fox Trail climb.

What a great day! Hike was about 6.8 miles. Trail map is here.
Route: Tennessee Valley parking lot, Tennessee Valley Trail-> Coastal Trail (continue to Pirates Cove)-> Coastal Fire Road -> Fox Trail->Tennessee Valley Trail

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Flattie metric century- riding from San Jose to Gilroy and back

Sunflower field in the Coyote Valley
On Sunday, I had the great pleasure of riding my first metric century since my crash a few years ago. 

nice views up in Santa Teresa park in San Jose
I've been hankering for a flat long ride, and I jumped at the chance to join an informal century/metric ride last Saturday. 

Descending out of Santa Teresa park in San Jose
The ride started in Santa Teresa park in San Jose. Perched atop a big hill, the park has wonderful views in all directions. I rolled out at about 9:30 am, about an hour after the century riders departed. My route heavily overlapped the last 65 miles of the century and I wondered if any of the faster century riders would catch me.

Connecting to the Coyote Creek Trail in San Jose. The creek is quite wide at this point!
After a short ride on suburban boulevards, the route continued onto the Coyote Creek trail. The route wound past suburban houses, through some sort of electric power facility, then turned more rural. It was enjoyable, or would have been if I didn't have a blinding headache. The headache eased when I kept my eyes unfocused, so I rode most of the route this way, which was an interesting experience to say the least. Fortunately, there was hardly anyone else on the trail (and I was going very slowly).

Rolling by farms in the Gilroy region
I started to feel better at the southern trailhead (where there is water and facilities). I picked up the pace, and headed onward on suburban streets. Soon, the area turned rural and I was pedaling past farming operations, including a garlic field at one point.
Farm stand near Gilroy
The miles flew by, and soon I was in Gilroy at around mile 30 of the route. As an aside, this was my first longer ride using Dan's Garmen 800 in route sheet mode, in which the unit displayed my next turn, counted down the miles, and beeped if I missed the turn. This turned out to be a really nice way to do a new ride-- I could kind of immerse myself in the riding and the views, and the unit would beep if I missed my turn. I really didn't need to pay much attention to the directions, a plus on this route which had a lot of turns.

Hill top grape field on Oak Glen Ave
After a lunch-break in Gilroy (mexican bakery yummies), I rolled out through Gilroy and on into Morgan Hill on flat farm roads. The route headed up into the hills at Sycamore Ave and continued onto Oak Glen Avenue which is really a gem of a road: winding, rolling, great views through a canyon, grape fields, and scenic reservoirs. What's not to like?

Chesbro reservoir
Ok, there was some serious headwind starting in this part of the route, but I'd been forewarned and it really wasn't that bad. Soon after the reservoir, there was a ripping descent back down into the valley, and a return to flat, windy Santa Teresa boulevard, which I took all the way back to the start.

View climbing back up into Santa Teresa park. Nothing like a 500 foot climb at the end of a long ride. SLOW
I ended up riding the entire thing alone: the century riders stopped for a long lunch in Gilroy and I ended up finishing about two hours before any century rider, including Dan who flatted several times (there was a ton of glass on the shoulder, especially near Gilroy and on Santa Teresa).

What a great ride! I felt really good riding and the miles largely flew by. This is a great route for bay area riders who want to try a longer ride with limited climbing. Definitely the flattest 60 miles route I've ridden in the area.

Ride stats:
62 miles
About 1500 feet of climbing (500 from the final climb back into the park-- start at Santa Teresa Blvd to eliminate this climb)
Route map here:
Thanks to Dan for route planning and to Lane for organizing the ride and bar-b-cue!

Sunset and the hills of the Almaden Quicksilver park

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Growing salad in the city

I have a sunny rooftop deck in a sunny SF neighborhood, and a bit of a green thumb, so I tried rooftop gardening this past spring and summer. 

Sugar snap pea did really well

To be clear, this was primarily a salad vegetable garden. I grew lots of lettuces, arugula, cherry tomatoes and herbs, and a few cukes, beans and peppers.

Arugula! This did really well in the spring, but got bitter and bolted once we hit June. I'm going to restart it again now that it's cooled off

I did a mix of plants from seed and seedlings from my friendly neighborhood nursery. Oh, and some heirloom cherry tomato plants from a neighborhood plant project.

Cherry tomatoes did REALLY well on my SF rooftop deck. I had 6 varieties, and had about 20-30 a day through most of July and August

 Why grow produce when you can just buy it in the market (as one of my work colleagues asked)? I found it tremendously satisfying to grow and then eat my salads. I really love super-fresh lettuce. A side benefit- because I didn't want to waste my hand-grown produce, I ate a ton of salad over the summer.

This summer squash plant looks very happy and flowered like crazy, but it really did not work in a pot. I got two decent sized squashs the entire summer, and a ton of extremely small ones. I won't be doing this plant again in a pot
What worked:
lettuce and arugula: grew tremendously well in May through early July. I started with seedling plants from the nursery (arugula, redleaf lettuce) and also started sowing mixed green and arugula crops about every two weeks. I ended up producing enough mixed greens for two yummy salads a day (plus bonus bags that I inflicted on friends). Once it got hot in July, however, the arugula grew bitter and bolted and the lettuces also couldn't handle the heat. I switched the lettuce to a heat tolerant variety (will insert name once I look it up), and ate this through July. I'm about to restart the arugula and lettuce now that it's cooler again

Lettuce and arugula did super well on my SF rooftop deck, at least in the spring and early summer. The lettuces did well at high density as long as I fertilized it weekly
herbs: rosemary, catnip, parsley, thyme, sage, peppermint, dill, & oregano did really well on the deck, so long as it was in the shaded part of the deck or up on the table to protect it from the intense heat radiated from the roof. Basel was a bit of a disappointment-- something was just off, in terms of temperature or pot size. I've managed a few small pots, but only got two batches of pesto the entire summer

Herbs and flowers did well on my SF rooftop deck garden

Cherry tomatoes: This was the big success story. I went a little nuts and ended up with 5 varieties, all selected to work in SF zone 4 growing season. Sungold worked well, and the two plants produced starting in June through about the end of August (with a few stragglers still ripening in now). I also tried heirloom varieties, with the winner being Snow White (amazing production and flavor) and Chadworth's Cherries (enormous! Lots of tomatoes in August and September). I also had two dwarf heirloom cherry tomatos, which had incredible production (they are in the top left of the below photo). I had a ton of tomatos from June through early September. Yum

The plants are a big improvement on the ugly asphalt deck. I mixed in some flowers for variety and to attract pollinators
Peppers- these worked really well in pots and the plants/fruits are attractive. I went a little nutso on these, and ended up with about 100 more jalepeno, habenero and Thai chili peppers than I needed. Next year, I'm going to try small non-hot (or less hot) peppers

Peas- I planted a few sugar snap peas and let them grow up on the wooden deck railing. These were amazingly yummy and productive, but I had to rip the plants out when the local predators (rodents, ugh) detected the plant and came up to eat.

A predator gets into the lettuce
Mixed/Poor success
Dark leafy greens- swiss chard grew OK but only in the cooler months. Kale kind of straggled along, but I think I really needed bigger pots or perhaps more protection from heat/evaporation. Not sure I'll do these again without an earthbox kind of planter

Cucumber- the plant grew enthusiastically, but production was fairly poor (limited by planter size, I am guessing). I harvested one large cuke a week and they were indeed tasty. Not sure I'd do this one again though
summer squash- not worth it. I think a larger pot is required for reasonable production. I did get a ton of squash flowers (but didn't cook or eat any of them)

Flowers on the Thai pepper plant

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cycling out of San Francisco: loaded mini-tour

My pannier-equipped city bike poses on the Golden Gate bridge
I've been thinking about loaded bike touring again. I went on a loaded tour a few years ago in the Canadian Rockies and it was really great. But, since my injury a few year back, I haven't been confident that I could pedal a heavily-loaded bike.

Approaching aquatic park during sunrise
A work-offsite in nearby Marin presented a great opportunity-- I'd pedal my commuter bike with two panniers to the one-night, two-day retreat. How would I do with a light load?

Golden Gate bridge at sunrise, viewed from Fort Mason
I left the house at around 6:30 am, aiming to get to Fort Baker by my 8am conference call. I had two panniers, with about 22.5 pounds of gear (I weighed them when I got home :)  ). Why so heavy? I took along my lead-brick laptop, heavy charger and a heavy lock, along with two days of clothing, toiletries, bike clothes, and shoes. 

My destination: Cavallo Point in Fort Baker
I rolled along the Embarcadero just as dawn broke. The Bay bridge lights twinkled as I rode under the bridge. The traffic was fairly light and I made good time to Fort Mason, where I stopped to take some pictures of the bridge in the pretty dawn light.  In no time at all, I was on the Golden Gate bridge.

Golden Gate bridge viewed from Fort Baker. The glass structure is a viewing stand built for the America's Cup
I took the eastern sidewalk of the bridge for the first time even- not congested at 7:30 am, and I was pleasantly surprised to see a steady stream of riders heading into the city from Marin. I rolled up to Cavallo Point in Fort Baker in Marin in good time for my conference call. What a great commute!

View from the top of Hawk Hill- the morning was clear and gorgeous with hardly any fog!
The next morning, I rode up Hawk Hill with some work colleagues (I left the panniers in my room). It was a glorious clear morning and the ride was a lot of fun.  After a morning of meetings, I loaded up my bike and headed home, back across the bridge and through the Presidio, etc.  

Sunrise viewed from Hawk Hill
How did it go? I think it was a smashing success. The two panniers balanced one another and the bike handled very well, even out of the saddle (I notice some shimmy when I ride with just one pannier when commuting). I really didn't notice the weight or bulk of the panniers and I think this is tremendously encouraging for my prospects on a longer tour! While 22.5 pounds is probably a pretty light load for a camping tour, I think that this will do me just fine on a credit card tour, where I'd stay in hotels and largely eat at restaurants. I may try to do a short tour in the next couple of months. Excited!