Sunday, October 30, 2011

Palomares Road

The Low-Key Hill climb went up Palomares Road today. I'd never ridden Palomares, so after dropping Dan at the Low-Key start, I headed out to ride the climb in advance of the racers.

(summit of Palomares)

I started on Niles Canyon Road, then made the left onto Palomares. The road winds up through a canyon and feels remote and rural even though it is just a few miles from congested Union City. I toodled along at my all-day enduro pace, plodding through the initial bit of 6-9% grade at the base, then picking up the pace a little as the grade flattened. After hitting the summit, I rolled down the backside of the hill a way, then returned to the top to admire the view -- wide open rolling hills, a little valley, etc.

The descent was fun - the gradual turns and smooth pavement permitted almost unfettered (by braking) descending. As I zoomed down the hill, I was treated to views of the Low-Key crew coming up the hill. I'll definitely be back to do this climb again, hopefully in the context of a longer loop ride once my cycling range increases.

Physically, I continue to feel stronger, and in the last week or so, some "snap" has returned to my legs. I alternate between feeling thrilled at what I've accomplished since my return to the bike in August and feeling kind of down at how far I've sunk since my accident (or, alternatively, how far I have to go to get back to the type of riding I enjoy the most). On the positive side, I have a new motivation to whip myself into shape (top secret plans), and I managed to head to the gym three times last week! Hope to keep this up in the upcoming weeks.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Marin Headlands cycling ramble

After a cycling fail yesterday, I was ready to ride this morning. We're in our summer weather now in the Bay area, and today was a wonderful warm, clear morning. Dan and I headed out to the Marin Headlands for a cycling ramble.

(Golden Gate bridge on clear morning: views of Alcatraz, SF and even Diablo!)

We started with the short climb up McCullough, then right on Conzelman up to the top of Hawk Hill where I snapped this picture. The view was gorgeously clear, but the sun was in our faces so the photo is a bit underwhelming.

I had been looking forward to going down the backside of Hawk Hill (gorgeous descent, really fun), but there was a "road closed to cyclists" sign and dire warnings of gravel in the roads. Dan blithely ignored the signs and headed down the road, but I am more law abiding so I went back the (legal) way I had come. McCullough is freshly paved and it was fun to descend.

(view on McCullough descent)

I rode to the base of the gravel section and rode up a ways and it was really not that bad. Dan reports that the descent itself is fully paved; it is the short portion from the cut-off from Bonita Point that is unpaved.

We headed towards Rodeo Beach to climb Bunker Road. This is paved until a gate, then mostly paved with a few bits of dirt and gravel. Completely managable on a road bike though.

We rode up to the Bunker and enjoyed the wonderful views over the ocean and Rodeo Beach.

(Dan rides out of one of the tunnels in the bunker)

(view over Rodeo Beach. We could see all the way to Montara Mt)

The descent down the coastal trail (bike legal fireroad) is really fun. It's super steep and it feels like you could shoot right off of the trail over the cliff into the sea if you aren't careful. I was very careful, especially since there were hikers with kids and dogs coming up the trail and I didn't want to freak anyone out.

Then, back to McCullough for another lap. Unfortunately, I lost the will to climb about half-way up when Dan passed me going down, and I turned and followed him down to the base. I really need to work on my cycling endurance-- I have about an hour and half of climbing rides in me right now, then I just tank. Probably it would help if I rode more than once or twice a week!

(Dan at the top of Conzelman)

All in all, a nice little ride on a fantastic warm "summer" day.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Vegetarian food in Maui and cheese tasting at Surfing Goat Dairy

Some notes on where we ate and what we liked in Maui. By way of background, I am mostly vegetarian and Dan is mostly vegan.

surfing goat dairy
Mana Foods in Paia: Supermarket-sized health food store. Excellent for market items, but also a great deli counter and salad/prepared food bar. Lots of local options, if one is interested in local cheese, baked goods, produce, etc. Having heard about high food costs on Maui, I was pleasantly surprised that the prices were actually lower than those at our neighborhood Whole Paycheck. We bought a lot of our week's food here: lunch picnic makings, breakfast (since we were up and out around 5-6am most day), deli counter stuff (veggie wrap- A+; smoothies A+) & salad/prepared food bar.

Cafe Mambo in Paia: We ate here twice and it was yummy. This is not a vegetarian restaurant but the vegetarian and vegan menu offerings were fairly extensive. We tried the 7 vegetable stew with cous cous and it was delicious. Sesame and nori tofu fajitas were pretty damn good, mostly due to the delicious tofu which was marinated and rolled in white and black sesame seeds (other components of the fajitas were just OK). Because this tofu dish was so yummy, I actually had a tofu burger on our second visit (ok, I was also motivated by the free beer & burger happy hour offer). I rarely eat fake meat meals, but this was really really good and I scarfed down the "burger". Dan had a soup and salad combo on our second visit, which was fine.

Veg Out in Haiku. This small storefront restaurant is tucked away in a shopping center but worth a visit for the hardcore vegetarian or vegan. The menu is extensive and eclectic-- indian, italian, and wraps are a few examples of the types of cuisine. There was some pretty hard-core vegetarian fare here. For example, I had tofu nuggets (nutritional yeast-breaded fried tofu), which brought back sweet memories of coop dining in college (love this stuff). Dan had an avocado wrap with fresh tofu swapped for the cheese, which was also excellent. We both had smoothies, which were very good. Definitely recommend this place. We'll be back next time we are in Maui.

Fresh Mint Vegetarian restaurant in Paia: this is a small family-run Vietnamese restaurant. We weren't really "wow"'d by the food here, perhaps because we are very spoiled at home by an abundance of excellent Vietnamese restaurants. Or perhaps we chose poorly from the menu. Dan had a green papaya salad & I had lemongrass tofu, and neither dish really stood out to us.

Ono Gelato in Paia: I looked forward to gelato all week, but was not particularly impressed when I finally tried it. The store has a food souvenir section that looked interesting though.

Roadside stands:

Myriad informal roadside fruit stands-- excellent. Prices varied from the super bargain to the mildly extortionary (75 cents for a small passionfruit, for example). Fresh bananas, papayas, avocados, liliakoi-- A+++

Up in Smoke Barbecue-- one of several roadside stands in a little strip as you approach Hana on the Hana highway. I had the fish taco (my one meat "transgression" of the week) and it was just OK-- generous portion, fresh tasting ingredients, but the fish was pretty bland even with the various hotsauces on offer. Smoked breadfruit is on the menu & sounded interesting but wasn't offered when we were there. The proprietor was super friendly!

Coffee place at the same roadside strip-- fantastic fresh coconut-pineapple fruit bread when we returned a few days later on bike.

Noted but not tried: Cafe Romantica in Hana. Actually a renovated bus with an outdoor seating counter, this place had an eclectic array of vegetarian items on the menu. It wasn't open when we stopped by, but we might give it a try next time.

Cheese tasting and goat viewing at Surfing Goat Dairy:

The dairy is in the upcountry on the side of the hill. Cute goats, mountain and ocean views-- what's not to like? My cute goat photos didn't turn out so well -- the best is above; you get the idea.

We took the tour, which was kind of interesting and included feeding a small herd of kids (baby goats eating out of our hands-- cute!!), a tour of the milking facility & high-level description of the cheese making process. The high point of the visit was the cheese tasting-- we tried a variety of different styles of cheese and ended up buying quite a sampling of different styles and flavors of cheese. Our plan was to take much of it home as gifts, but we ended up eating most of it ourselves by the end of the week (sorry!).

What we purchased & devoured:
Fruit Quark-- this was really really good. It has a soft yogurt like texture, but is in fact a creamy suspension of little tiny curds with a fair amount of whey left in the mix. The fruit flavoring was scrumptious but didn't overpower the nice goaty taste. This stuff is pricey but really good.

Aged goat cheese: we got the MacGoat Nut, which is aged with smoked macademia nut shells. Dan loved this; I found the smokey flavor a bit intense.

Fresh goat chevre: "barbecue", which was actually smoked with local tree wood (forget which, sorry!). We both really liked this one. The smoke flavor was more subtle, but really interesting.

Chevre in wax & mango chutney: gave as gifts.

We stopped by the Dairy on a lark and really enjoyed the visit.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Maui cycling: miscellany and more thoughts

Here are a few miscellaneous thoughts and notes from our Maui cycling adventures.

Cycling up Haleakala was one of the big goals for the boyfriend. We stayed in Paia on the north coast of Maui, in part because it's the start of the famed "Ride to the Sun", an annual race from the ocean up to Haleakala Summit. Also, Paia is convenient to hiking and cycling, has a good bike shop & being kind of a hippy town, had an excellent and massive health food store & lots of vegetarian food.

We stayed at the Paia Inn Hotel for much of the week. They let us store our bike boxes in their storage space for the entire week and were low-key about having bikes in the room. Bonus, the Inn is just across the parking lot from Maui Cyclery. We would definitely return to this cycling-friendly hotel. Plus, they have access to a nice beach with fun waves:

Bike shop: Located in Paia, Maui Cyclery was generous with route advice (and lent us a pedal wrench- thanks!). They rent Scott road bikes. Interesting fact: Tyler Farrar's Felt from his record-breaking Haleakala ascent is in the shop. .

Our rides:
Dan: climbed to Haleakala Summit, which is about 37 miles up and 10K feet of climbing. He'll blog about his adventure soon. What an epic ride! Here's his Strava info from the climb. Handy fact: there is a weather number for Haleakala summit- you can call the night before and get the forecast for the next morning.

Me: I tested my legs (feeble and aged, as noted before) and just headed up the hill from Paia on Baldwin Avenue, through Makewao continuing on Olinda. Baldwin is pretty, passes through sugar cane fields, past a historic church, and has views like this for the first couple of miles:

It winds up with a gentle grade (4-5%) to the town of Makewao, known for its cowboy stores and art galleries. There are markets here for snacks or drinks. Crossing the intersection, I continued on Olinda Road, which starts with a steep little couple of blocks, then mellows to a sustained 6-7% for a mile or so. At a T intersection (go right for Halekala), the road steepened a lot-- sustained 9%, which reasonable segments of around 12%. I ran out of steam after about a mile of this, but still made it up 2400 vertical feet of climbing in about 12 miles of climbing. This ride can be done as a loop, which Dan did later in the week. Here's his strava info. A "nice little climb", as the guys at the bike shop characterized it.

Hana Highway: I said a bit about this last time. We started our ride from Kenai because that's where we happened to stay.

This worked out well for minimizing auto traffic, as we were ahead of the day trippers to Hana (in our direction), and traffic in the opposite direction was limited, mostly folks driving to work by appearances. The ride started with an about 1100 foot climb, with a fairly moderate grade (avg about 5%, occasional steeper bits, but nothing crazy), then continued to be either up or down. It was a ton of fun! Dan also did a side climb down a single lane road to the town of Nahiku and reports that it's scenic and a nice side ride-- adds about 700 vertical feet of climbing to the day. Here's Dan's strava file.

(Dan at one of the bridges)

We also rode on the Kalekeli highway, which I described last time.

Off-camber single lane road cut into the cliff:

(I love the creative sign annotation. Saw a lot of this on Maui)

Views like this a bit further along the road:

I did a fairly short out and back, then hung out by the beach waiting for Dan to get back from his longer ride. Next time, I'll shoot to ride the entire loop around West Maui-- about 65 miles.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Maui hiking and cycling fun

(My bike poses by a waterfall on the highway to Hana)

We've been back from Maui for a week and I am still basking in the glow of a fantastic trip. We packed in a ton of activity into 8 short days, but to sum it all up (more details may later be added), we hiked or rode each day. Here are some highlights.

Cycling on the Hana highway:  This was a fantastic ride. As Dan put it, "Hana Highway is an absolutely drop-dead gorgeous road. There's no prettier road anywhere: a series of one-lane bridges, spectacular waterfalls, and sheer drops. Due to the constrictions, cars go slowly, and while it's slightly nerve-racking by car, ironically it's virtually care-free by bike due to the slowness of the vehicles".

[Warning: mushy emotional paragraph follows. Skip to go directly to pictures]
This was such a fun ride-- hilly, crazy roads, tropical rain (intermittant, then steamy roads as the sun baked the moisture away), smells of flowers and guavas, curvy descents-- and I was happy to be able to ride again (no matter how slowly :) ). I thought about all of the people who helped me along the (slow) road to recovery from my injuries: Dan, my family & friends, health care/PT folks (Dr Fred, DePrato, Greg at SMI, the folks at Pilates, many others). I am so grateful for all of the help and support. I also thought about how much I've missed riding, especially this type of riding: exploration of new roads in new places. Anyhow, without getting unduly sappy, this was really a milestone ride. I had a huge grin on my face the entire time!

We also did some amazing hiking and other activites. Here's an assortment of photos from the rest of the trip:

Sunrise at Haleakala summit:

Followed by a hike into the crater on the sliding sands trail:

View of crater from lower down:

The views were clear and we could see all the way down the slopes to the ocean:

(Dan checking email at 9000 feet)

Then, onto Hana via the highway to Hana. We hiked on the lava trails at Waianapanapa State Park in Hana:

(Black sand beach (left) at the start of our hike at Waianapanapa State Park)

Hiking on lava was hard! Very shifty, hot and pointy!

After staying overnight in one of the cabons in the State Park (economical but very basic-- plastic sheets on the beds and I got about 90 mosquito bites during the night), we headed onto Haleakala National Park on the backside of the volcano and did the hike to the "seven sacred pools" (actually more like 14). Here's a representative pool:

We clambered around rocks near some of the pools and scrambled up a small hill (clinging to tree roots) to view a pool in a cave:

This was the reward at the end of the hike-- a 400 foot waterfall. Amazing even with reduced flow at this time of year:

We also enjoyed the west side of the island, and hiked and cycled on the Kahaheli highway

Hiking into the west Maui mountains on the amazing Waihe'e ridge trail: a short grunt of a climb, but well worth it for the amazing views on the ridge:

View to the west- rippling hills and the ocean:

View to the east -- Haleakala volcano and north Maui coast:

We also rode on the Kahaheli highway, another doozy of a road with long single lane portions (two-way traffic!). Another fantastic ride, much recommended.

What a great week. We look forward to returning.