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!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Camping and hiking in the redwoods

Camping in the redwoods (in the walk-in part of Butano State Park campground)
We've been trying to shake up our routine, do things we don't ordinarily do, try new things, and generally get out more. To this end, we headed out for a one-night camping trip to Butano State Park near Pescadero CA. 

Magnificent stump, a legacy of redwood logging
We had snagged a reservation in the walk-in part of the campground earlier in the week. It turned out that our site was about 150 feet from the car, so not very much walking in was required! (Other sites in the walk-in area were farther from parking, however).

Amazing bark on a redwood tree stump
The park is quite pleasant and the campsites are in a redwood strand: shaded, peaceful and quiet, with only about half the hike-in sites occupied on the Sunday night that we were there. We rested, took a short hike in the park, and I did a mountain bike ride up a fire road in the park. 

Hiking on the Mill Ox Trail in Butano State Park
Hike: 3.5 mile hike in Butano, 4.5 the next day at Ano Nuevo State Park (elephant seals!). Dan did amazingly well on the hiking, the longest walks he's done since he hurt himself in a bike crash
Mountain bike: a few miles up a fire road (steeper than I had anticipated!)
Eating: goat cheese from Harley goats, and yummies from the bakery in Pescadero
R&R: lots, a well-needed break from our routine. We returned Monday afternoon feeling like we had been away for much longer than 2 days. Yeah!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hiking on Angel Island

Golden Gate Bridge view from Livermore Peak on Angel Island
Yesterday, Dan and I headed out to Angel Island to do some hiking.

Views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge from the Angel Island Ferry
I've lived in the Bay area for quite a while, but my first trip to the Island was just two weeks ago-- by sailboat(!). This time, we took the ferry from San Francisco. No problem at all getting a ticket on the 9:45 ferry even on a tourist-busy summer day.

Hiking through oak forest on the North Ridge trail 
We arrived in Ayala cove and headed up on the North Ridge trail. Our goal: Mt Livermore, the highest point in the Island. The trail starts with a flight of steep steps, but then winds up through oak forests with a gentle grade. Soon, you are rewarded with wonderful views.

View of Ayala Cover from the North Ridge trail on Angel Island

I love oak trees
Tiburon and Mt Tam
San Francisco and Bay Bridge view from the North Ridge trail
After a while, you pop out onto the ridge and here the views become really amazing. 

Gust of fog obscures San Francisco view
The marine layer (i.e., fog) burned off at around 11, but big puffy gusts of fog blew by every now and then over the bay between Angel Island and SF. It was really neat.

Hiking on the Sunset trail on Angel Island
After lunching at the summit (Golden Gate view shown in the top photo), we headed back down on the Sunset trail, which winds gently down the south and west sides of the Island. The photos here were a bit out of focus, but you get the idea. 

Angel Island hike on North Ridge and Sunset Trails
After the hike, we hung out at the Angel Island canteen and had a beer and two extremely small tacos. Then, we lay on the lawn for a while, unable to muster the energy to go to the Immigration Museum as we had planned. Then, onto the ferry and back to SF. What a fun day!

Distance: ~5.8 miles
Elevation: Mt Livermore is ~788 feet
Notes: Angel Island has a ton of visitors, but most appear to stay near Ayala Cove and the visitor facilities (museum, ruins) or on the fireroad. The trails certainly had plenty of hikers, but more like a Marin Headlands level of use rather than the crowds that I had expected. In particular, the Sunset trail was pretty low traffic.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cycling on Martha's Vineyard

My rental bike poses at the West Chop lighthouse
 Dan and I visited Martha's Vineyard a few weeks ago, and in between family visiting, I did some riding on a rental bike.

My bike poses on the bike path along Beach Road

Riding is a popular form of transit on the island and there are quite a few bike paths in the northern part of the island. Because my rental bike was disappointingly klutzy (despite being advertised as a "premium hybrid"), I kept my rides fairly short, but I did manage to put in about 60 miles over a couple of days.

I had a lot of fun tooling around the island and I really recommend riding as a form of local transit.  I saw lots of people riding to and from the beaches each day, including families with small kids!

Bike and hiking path through the woods and fields near the airport
A comment on why I've been renting hybrid bikes on my last few trips (including for 40 + miles of Chicago's Bike the Drive), as opposed to a road bike more like those I ride at home. Generally, I find the hybrid bikes more fit-adjustable than the typical road bike, in terms of my being able to have a comfortable position on the bike. Riding a hybrid with platform pedals also means that I can leave the road shoes and pedals at home. Plus, I feel more comfie locking up a rental hybrid and stopping to shop or get an ice cream :) This works pretty well for casual city type riding.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

More Costa Rica photos

Colorful sunset in San Jose, Costa Rica
My trip to Costa Rica last year was a bit of an unplanned whirlwind. I'd returned from a month in New Zealand, repacked my bags and headed out to Costa Rica for a few days en route to Ecuador. I'd hardly planned and just kind of winged it.

Rolling hills at dusk in the Arenal area
I ended up with far too much transit time and too little explore time. If I did this short trip again, I'd focus on one spot with local exploring. Next time...  I did get in some fun hikes, animal viewing and some much needed chill time by the ocean.
Waterfall hike and swim. Getting there involved a horse ride and hike down a steep ravine, which was fun
I was reviewing my photos from last year's trip, and here are some of my favorite ones from the week.
Road sign. I saw each of these species on my trip

Ocean sunset

Colorful art at my San Jose lodging. It was quirky and I loved it
Tiffany stained glass with local animals and plants