Category Archives: scenery

So This is What Winter Is Like

We haven’t had a whole lot of rain, and even when we did, it was just wet, and not really too cold. Recently, we had some cold fronts from Alaska, bringing in cold temps. It did rain, and it brought the snow level, to the point where our local mountains had a dusting of snow at the mountain peaks.

The most iconic ones are Mt. Hamilton and Mt. Diablo. Mt. Hamilton is more local to me, and I heard there was a bit of snow in the mountains, so I had to check it out. It also gave me an opportunity to get in a metric century+, and in hopes to get my endurance up.

It was cold by California standards. Near the top, it was 41 F … now that may seem balmy for everyone else, but it’s a winter feel for California (especially if you aren’t living in the Sierras). I remember the jacket I used for DMD kept me pretty comfortable, so I wore that. I had wool socks, but I have no idea why I didn’t even put on my shoe covers. It would have kept my feet nice and toasty, but fortunately, the combination of wool socks, and toe warmers kept me warm enough. I had my skull cap, which I can lower to cover my ears, and I also had a balaclava, to protect my face against the wind. With this said, I was ready to climb the mountain.

I curiously saw a sign (it looked like a permanent sign) that indicated road closed at Grant Park (which is half way up the climb). I ignored that sign, and continued on up, and at Grant Park, I did see a road closed sign .. Damn. However, the CHP there just told me he won’t stop me from going up, but he warned there was reports of ice near the top, and a few people went down. I guess that’s expected, especially if they are ice conditions up there. I’ll keep my speed down (going uphill), and stay upright (keep the rubber side down). However, since they were stopping cars, who were not locals, this meant we have the road all to ourselves (well, with the exception of a few locals, and Caltrans going up and down with the snow plow). It’s like riding Glendora Mountain Road, Bay Area style!

About 3000 foot level, I saw my first evidence of snow on the road. Eventually, I saw it cover both sides of the road, and it was awesome.

 

It felt like I was inside a refrigerator, but it was cool, not cold. This deserved a stop for some pictures. I was definitely in a winter playground, and it was awesome. It was all natural, not man-made. I just had to take it all in.

The colder weather does have an impact on my climbing. I didn’t have as much energy as I would have, if it was a 70 degree day … my motivation today was just to make it up to the top, no matter how slow, or how much energy I expended doing it. I did see a handful of riders (maybe 5-10) descending the mountain, but I only saw maybe 3 other riders going up. I guess it’s just too cold for the average rider … I’m channeling Rule # 9 … if the weather is inclement, and you are out riding, you are badass! So here I am, badass’ing it up Hamilton.

I finally make it up to the top, and I see more of that white stuff. It is fabulous!

 

There is one California mistake I made … I took off my gloves, and I put them on the ground … the wet ground. After I picked it up, I realized what I had done … wet gloves, descending down … oooh … that’s going to be a cold descent. I went down slowly, just to keep the speed down, and not suffer frost bite on my fingers. I did stop one time, just to warm myself up. After that, I was fine, but it was a cool descent. Luckily, we did have to small climbs on the way down … it was just enough to warm myself up.

New Toy – Micro 4/3 Mirrorless Camera

Ok, maybe you should call me a boy with toys … If anyone knows me well, I like technology, whether it comes to network equipment, bikes, if it’s high tech, I’m into it.  I’ve always like taking photos, so why not have photography as one of those hobbies.  Actually, I did dabble with photography back in high school, and a little bit in college, but that was way back before the digital age.

image

I’ve always liked smaller, compact cameras, and when I looked at DSLR cameras, they were all fairly big.  Then, I started researching about the concept of 4/3 format mirrorless cameras.  The whole concept of the SLR, where you have a mirror that reflects off to the viewfinder, means you need to have physical space to allow this.  Since everything is digital, there is no need for a mirror anymore.  However, the DSLR still is huge.  I then read that with the micro 4/3 format, the size of the sensor (which actually replaces the surface area of the old film) is smaller, as well as the lenses.  When compared to the old lenses of SLR’s, the focal length is actually doubled.  For example, a 25 mm lense would be analogous to a 50 mm SLR lens.  When I read this, it’s a no brainer … smaller camera body, smaller lens, I’m in for it.

I think what pushed me over the edge was the Amazon deal of the day offers on Facebook.  Curse you Amazon … you keep making me spend money … but it’s all good.

Now just because I have this really cool camera, does not mean I take good pictures.  I try, but at least it enhances the chances of a better picture.

Now these were all taken with some of the pre-canned settings … all I have to start playing around, using raw settings, combined with Lightroom.

You may be wondering, how do I take these pictures, while being on the bike?  Well, it’s amazing how compact this camera can fit in my camelbak!

image

Otherwise, I have my commuter bike, and can fit it in my bag, along with stuffing my change of clothes in the same bag as well.

image

If I don’t ride my commuter bike, then it’s either the camelbak, or a light back pack.

Volleyball and Cycling Do Not Sync

Friday, our department at work had a farewell team outing at City Beach in Fremont.  My boss is moving on, so we all got together to bond together … we spent the majority of it playing volleyball … for 3 hours.  Ugh, that is tiring … well, I didn’t realize how tiring until the next day.

Saturday, my plan was to do the LKHC on Dunne Ave (which goes up to Henry Coe Park), which starts in Morgan Hill.  However, combination of wet roads, and volleyball the night before (and subsequently my body being stiff and aching in the morning), made me skip that climb.  So instead, I drove down to LA.  All along, I was not very nimble, and moving very gingerly.

I was originally going to climb the mountains, do Mt. Baldy, but with the condition I’m in, I really was not in condition to do any climbing.  So I went with my friend Lynn, and the Cyclepaths, for a relaxing, leisure recovery ride (even though I didn’t do a ride previously … but still, recovery from volleyball).

We started from Cerritos, and our destination is Palos Verdes.  It was an excellent day, a few days after a rain storm, and the skies cleared up, leaving us with excellent weather conditions.  It’s good we were going flat … well, compared to what I normally do.

At Palos Verdes, we went to Malaga Cove, which is a popular hangout for cyclists.  We stopped by a new bakery, Yellow Vase, and it’s nestled in a corner, and looked a little like a village in Italy.  Okay, maybe not … but it’s a nice exaggeration.  But look how happy everyone is!

We then headed over to do a loop of the peninsula … no, we did not go up PV East …. I think Lynn made sure of that.  However, we did do a nice little detour, doing a pseudo-cyclocross type route, going through parts of Terranea resort and Trump Golf Course, which used to be the old Marineland.  The legend of Orky and Corky lives on.  I’m still reeling from the fact that Sea World bought Marineland, and they renamed Corky to Shamu …

Anyways, Arnold took us through Terranea resort, where we meandered through obstacles (stairs), where we were doing a cyclo-cross tour of sorts.  We were greeted to such amazing views of the Pacific.

In the 30 years I’ve lived in LA, and the countless number of visits, I’ve never seen the Pacific from this vantage point.  It was totally awesome.  But, as you know, where you go down, you definitely have to come up … muscles are still stiff from volleyball on Friday, so this made my climb interesting … it’s not like climbing Welch Creek, but still had to gut it out.

When we finally got back to the cars, we got 61 miles, and roughly 2200 feet climbing.  Not bad for a recovery ride.  I also think it helped loosen my limbs a little bit.  Still a little stiff, but not as bad as on Saturday.  Next time I do volleyball, I think I’ll only go for one game … it’s now Monday, and I’m still moving gingerly.  I’d had to see how everyone else is moving …. but then again, at 47, my recovery is not what it used to be … I’m the old fart in the group.

Not so Lazy Sunday Stroll through San Francisco

Just to change this up a little bit, the crew, or at least the partial crew, decided to do a little stroll through the streets of San Francisco.  Ok, it’s more than a little stroll.  It’ll be a nice change of pace, with no real sustained climbs, but they will be steep.

We started out from Sports Basement in Crissy Field in San Francisco, and it was a really nice day.  There were no clouds in the sky, and it was almost like a postcard day.  It was still cool enough where we needed arm warmers and a vest, but it wasn’t bone chillingly cold like it was on Saturday.

Right off the bat, we started climbing.  Ugh, this was a bad sign … off the back already, we hardly went a mile into the ride.  Here I am with my triple, while Ramon and Michael are there, touting the benefits of their compact double, all while I am just struggling to pedal.  As I struggle, I say f#$k it … granny gear, and continue on this short climb.  They’re still waiting for me, but hell if I’m going to give up my triple.

The next several miles would be a continual spike up, spike down … pitches were significant, but they were short distances.  The one saving grace here is the climbs are not long or sustained.  I guess if you were strong enough, you could sprint up each of these hills, given enough strength.  Hey, I’m just fortunate enough to ride with these guys!

This was just a warm up.  We somehow wound our way back to the cars again.  Nice way to bail, huh?  That would be the calm before the storm, because the bulk of the climbing was now just awaiting us.  Upcoming … Divasadero, which is hella steep, Filbert, short but even steeper, Twin Peaks, which gives us a nice view of the city, and then Dalewood, which is even steep steep steeper!

Now this is Divasadero from a distance.  Just contemplate here … some cars struggle just to get up the hill, and sometimes roll backwards at an intersection … and we are climbing this on our bikes????

This was like a stair step … you climb your way to the first intersection, then it flattens out.  Then, climb some more, and repeat this until you reach all the way to the top.  The problem here is this street has traffic, and with the cars parked on the side of the road, if you are not careful, you could have someone pull out, while you are struggling up this hill … and you’re only going 4-6 mph (at least that’s what I’m doing).  Then when you get up to the top, you look back and are in awe.

Ok, next up is Filbert.  Now this is short but steep.  This part of Filbert is a one way street … one way in the opposite direction of where we are going.  This is about half the distance of Fargo St in LA (the steepest paved road in LA at 33%), but I’m not sure if Filbert is that steep.  My Garmin only posts it as 20%, but I’ve been told it’s a 31% grade.  At least I now know what Fargo St is like.  When I was climbing this, there was a car coming down, so I couldn’t tack this climb.  I eventually lost my leverage, and had to dismount.  I tried in vain to mount back up, and continue climbing, but it was a no go.  Even trying to zig or zag, wouldn’t do.  I could not balance myself on this, so I ended up walking this hill.  I remember thinking, this is so steep, it’s hard walking up the hill, especially in cycling shoes!

Whew, made it up this .. now for an easy hill up twin peaks.  No, seriously, it is easy, compared to Divasadero and Filbert.  You gotta remember the type of hills we’re doing here.

What’s also ironic here is when you look at a glance at the elevation profile, this is the highest peak on the ride, but it’s probably the easiest of the significant hills.  But in the end, the reward is the amazing view at the top, over looking the city.

And now the cream of the crop awaits us … Dalewood.  This is one steep climb … after a while, we were thinking about this ride, and we think this can be categorized as a “Howie Long tough guys” ride.  The last time we did this, it was reported that this was a 26-27% grade, even though my Garmin only registered 20% (probably because I was zig-zagging so much, that the average grade suffered).

This picture doesn’t tell it all, and I didn’t take a picture at the steep part, because I wanted to finish the climb … but I think you get the hint from this teaser:

By the time we got back to the cars, we exceeded our litmus test … 1000 feet per 10 mile.  We ended up with a whopping 36.8 miles, and 4142 feet climbing.  Wow, and I could still walk on Monday after this ride.  I just my fitness is helping me here, not being a vegetable a day after the ride.  It was a nice change of pace, where the emphasis was on climbing, and who cared how many miles we did.  We had a blast!

To see more pics I took on this ride, go to http://spingineer.smugmug.com/Cycling/Streets-of-San-Francisco/10358815_42VFW#716917775_MJ99L

Tioga Pass is open … really it is open

Now why would I have to re-iterate this? Well, you’ll have to go back to our Eastern Sierra road trip. There was an odd late-spring storm, that did a bit of white dusting on the mountains. We checked the Caltrans Road Conditions site, and it mentioned Tioga Pass being closed near Strawberry. We were going to use Sonora Pass (Hwy 108) as an alternative, and before we left Mountain View, we checked the road conditions site, and it didn’t mention Sonora Pass being closed. Well, by the time we got passed Oakdale, the sign says Sonora Pass is closed. What???? Oh, now we’re screwed. Well, we ended up taking a 2 hour detour, only to find out Tioga Pass opened up. I talked to the hotel clerk when we got to Bishop, and she said they opened Tioga Pass around 1:30 PM. That’s about the time we chose our detour!

So on our way home from Eastern Sierra, and after taking a detour through June Lake, we took Tioga Pass back home. This had to be one of the most scenic ways back home.

We drove through Yosemite just at the right time. Just enough to drop some snow, but not heavy enough to prevent driving through this gorgeous part of the country, and of California.



And we haven’t even gotten to the actual entrance to the park. The entrance of Tioga Pass is way up at 9900 foot elevation. I thought the picture of the cabin, with a big snow patch on one side of the building is cool.

… and of course, a shot of one of many meadows …