Monday, September 29, 2008

Los Gatos Creek Trail

The Los Gatos Creek Trail up to Lexington Dam is still open. The section across the face of the dam is closed, and there is an alternate route now that parallels the spillway. It is steep and
unpaved. But, you can still get a bike from downtown Los Gatos up to Alma Bridge Road without riding on the freeway.

I can actually ride up and down both of the steep dirt sections on a road bike, but I don't particularly recommend it unless you enjoy that sort of thing.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Closing out the week

We got our feedback forms from Bicycle Adventures yesterday. Without hesitation, I checked off the box "Best Vacation Ever."

The trip ended two weeks ago with a short bike ride from Ferndale to Scotia, then an easy walk ("hike") through Humboldt Redwoods, lunch, and the van ride back to Santa Rosa. Six days, nine guests, two tour guides. A van and a trailer. Hotel Healdsburg, Benbow Inn, Carter House Inn, Victorian Inn. About 170 miles of biking. Much wine. Much champagne. Good food. Great weather. Kakaking and hiking. Big trees. Fun.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What does an 18-percent grade look like?

(photo credit: Deborah)

Percent grade is 100 * (rise / run) = 100 * tan( change in elevation / horizontal distance ).

So, the common question is, is a 100-percent grade 45 degrees from horizontal, or is it vertical? Well, from what I can tell, it's 45 degrees. It also makes me wonder, do all the mileage readings from GPSs read low? Are they measuring actual run, or are they measuring the distance one travels, including the rise?

"The Wall" on the Lost Coast is located at approximately 40° 25' 54.46", -124° 24' 2.71" and supposedly has a grade of 18-percent for the first mile or so. We rode the first third of a mile or so just to try it out.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Victorian Inn, Ferndale

Note the cool van parked out front. Ferndale is a tiny town a dozen miles south of Eureka, and about an 18 mile hilly bike ride from the Lost Coast of California. It is rife with restored Victorian buildings, including the Victorian Inn where we stayed.

I don't recall seeing an elevator. The ceilings are high, and the rooms are decorated differently from one another. We stayed on the second floor. Many of us enjoyed the common parlor are which had tables, board games, coffee and tea, and a computer with internet access. That was also where breakfast was served in the morning.

Curly's is the restaurant/bar downstairs. After hours, you have to go outside the building and re-enter it from an external door in order to get to your room.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Portola Redwoods

3710 feet of climbing in 24 miles: Start at the intersection of Page Mill and Skyline, ride down West Alpine to the bottom. Climb back up to the intersection of Portola State Park Road. Ride down into the park. Ride back up to Skyline. Go home and take a nap.

One would have thought that a week on tour would prepare me for a day ride in the Santa Cruz mountains, but the tour was too cushy and the mountains too hard.

Monday, September 22, 2008

To the Lost Coast

Day 5 of trip, Thursday before last.

The decor in the dining room of Curly's, like the rest of the Victorian Inn, was faithful to the origins of the old (for California) building. We sat waiting for our appetizers to arrive. Gus was mulling over the wine list as usual. Deborah was chatting with Roger and Ann at the other end of the table about the latest news on the hurricane. We were all immersed in the sense of accomplishment after a hard day of riding -- Roger especially, since he rode the extra 18 miles into Ferndale with some serious climbing from the Lost Coast.

Suddenly, as if remembering something important, Brandon looked straight at me and asked, "Hey, how'd you like walking across that bridge today?"

"It was fine," I deadpanned. Then, after a moment for comic effect, I blurted, "Okay, who ratted me out!"

Erin only laughed and told Brandon, "Right after you told us about that bridge, I knew he was going to ride across it. There was no doubt in my mind."

The climb to Panther Gap along Mattole Road rises about 2400 feet in 6.5 miles. At the route briefing that morning, we were told that the van would stop at the bottom, as well as at as many turnoffs along the climb as possible, for folks who didn't want to climb the whole way. More importantly, we were warned about the rough surface on the descent, and about the one-lane bridge at the bottom, just as the road reached the town of Honeydew. The flooring of the bridge was wooden, with just enough space between the planks to swallow a road bike tire, we were told. "Walk your bike across the bridge," Brandon had warned.

Later in the evening Jada told a story about a gentleman on a previous trip whom she found sitting by the side of the road just past the bridge. "Yeah, I think there's something wrong with the wheel," he told her. She tried spinning it, but the wheels wouldn't budge because they had taco'ed and were jammed against the frame.

"My god," she said, what happened to to your wheel?"

"Ummm. Altercation with the bridge," was his sanguine reply. She put the bike on the van, and he climbed inside. As they continued the drive toward lunch, Jada looked over and blurted out, "My god, what happened to your arm?"

"Ummm. Altercation with the bridge," he nodded.

Of course, they didn't tell us this story until dinner, after we'd already had the time of our lives riding that day. The downhill from Panther Gap was somewhat technical, but not particularly bad for someone who bikes Bay Area hills. It wasn't any worse than descending Page Mill Road from Skyline, for example, or Wildcat Canyon through Tilden Park. Beside, the fat tires I had on my Romulus completely smoothed out the bumps that I didn't jump over. I wasn't out to break any speed records, but I did pass Bruce on the way down.

When I reached that notorious bridge, I saw Gus walking across and I remembered that I was supposed to do the same. But, honestly, I didn't see any cracks that my tire would fit through, and the planks themselves were at least a foot wide, so I just rode down the middle of one. My bike is silent when I'm pedaling, so Gus was a little startled when he got off the bridge and I was right behind him. Bruce came by a little bit later, but he (like everyone else) walked it, so he might have seen me riding across too.

Honeydew consists of a general store and not much else. None of us dared to go inside the store. Brandon had told us earlier in the trip that "this part of California is so remote -- it's practically lawless." He said one time he was there, and he saw an 11-year-old kid sitting out in front of the store casually smoking a joint. He warned us not to stray from the main road.

I didn't notice much about the place. I should have taken some photos. One of the other riders that evening related a story about a conversation she heard that day as she stopped in the shade. Two locals apparently were sitting outside, and one was complaining that her beer bottle had broken. The other one was trying hard to convince her not to drink the beer with the broken glass shards in it. "You get that inside you, it'll mess you up." And the lady with the broken bottle was reluctant to take that advice.

* * *

It was a great, memorable day of riding. For several people in our group, it was the hardest bike ride they'd ever ridden. For me and Erin, it was good fun. I had studied the terrain in Google Earth a few nights earlier, and I told her that the ride was going to be "epic." With most of the climbing behind us by the time we left lunch, Erin said, "I'm not sure I would call this epic. What did you mean when you say a ride is epic?"

"I mean it's long and hard and you'll remember it for the rest of your life."

"Yeah, that's what I would think it means. I don't think this is epic... yet." We had a few more hills after lunch (short but steep). She conceded that if we had faced a headwind when we reached the coast, it might have become an epic ride. But there was no headwind. It was just a great day of biking out to the Lost Coast.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Kayaking in Humboldt Bay

Day 4 of trip, last Wednesday. Layover day, kayaking, laundry, and dinner at Hurricane Kates. Nine-dollar eggs at Restaurant 301.

The Carter House Inns is comprised of several historic Victorian buildings in old town Eureka. We stayed in the largest of these buildings, which is also home to Restaurant 301 on the ground floor. Brandon described Restaurant 301 and Avalon as two of the better restaurants in town for our rest day, when we had to fend for ourselves for lunch and dinner. And by "better" I think he meant "expensive."

The dinner we had at Avalon the previous night really was fantastic; and having the restaurant to ourselves gave it a special air of exclusivity. But seeing as how most of us on the tour thought the trip itself was already pretty expensive, we weren't particularly looking for the most expensive digs in town for our extra meals.

Breakfast Wednesday morning was included in the price of the trip. Restaurant 301 offered a continental breakfast for $7, and hot breakfast for $9. The hot breakfast was some sort of frittata with much meat in it (from the description). We were on our way out to Humboldt Bay for kayaking, though, and that sounded a little on the heavy side. Could we just get scrambled eggs, we asked our server. They were happy to fill that request, but they still charged $9 for the scrambled eggs. And it wasn't a huge portion.

After breakfast we headed out to Humboldt Bay where we received rudimentary instruction in how to paddle a kayak, and we set out for an environmental tour of the bay. The tour guide was named Hawk, and he was a bit of a hippy. I mean, he portrayed the wholesale slaughter of the indigenous people a hundred years ago as practically genocide; and he made it sound like a pollution-spewing wood pulp plant isn't always the ideal neighbor. But he did end the tour on an optimistic note, pointing out that the return of eelgrass to the bay shows that the environment is rebounding.

After kayaking (which wore me out), we were on our own wandering the historic section of Eureka. Erin had printed out  walking tour, which we made a few copies of and shared with others in our group.

Erin and I meandered through the walking tour after lunching at the Lost Coast Brewery. Our adventure included a dollar's worth of candy corn and some excellent coffee. Later in the afternoon we washed our bike clothes in a nearby laundromat. And at 5pm we convened with the rest of our party again because the Carter House Inn had free wine in the lobby again.

On our day off, without any encouragement to do so, the group went out to dinner together. That was pretty nice.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Historic Carter House

We stayed at the Inn across the street. This photo was taken from our room.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Avenue of the Giants

Day 3 of trip, last Tuesday

Day three along Avenue of the Giants was described as the "signature" ride of the 6-day trip. This section of  Highway 254, stretching for nearly 30 miles from just north of Garberville to just south of Scotia, winds along the south fork of the Eel River, through various small towns and amongst giant coast redwoods towering hundreds of feet tall.

The day started with us all meeting downstairs at the Benbow Inn for a group breakfast. I had half of a delicious stack of pancakes. Erin ate the other half, and I had half of her smoked salmon plate.

We rode straight from the Benbow Inn onto Highway 101 up to Garberville, which was just the next exit. We exited there and took a little detour out to Redway, before continuing on 101 for a few more miles up to Avenue of the Giants. We were warned about a hill climbing out of Benbow. Again, this small climb paled in comparison to what awaited us later in the week. Everybody rode the hill. Everybody rode all the hills, in fact. After all, that's what we were there to do.

Erin had visited the area about a year ago on a road trip with her mom. She told me that when driving the route, she looked with envy upon every cyclist she passed. The area was rife with little stores filled with tchotskes and fronted by carved wooden bears. You could pay a dollar to drive (or bike) through a live tree. A couple of people in our group did that.

We all took our time to enjoy the ride (except for Roger, who ended up doing 130 miles that day). It being the middle of the week, and after Labor Day, the road had very little traffic. Lunch was a picnic by the visitor center.

Erin and I left lunch ahead of the rest of the group, who tarried at the visitor center. We rode to and stopped at Founders Grove, a few miles down the road where we were told to visit the Dyerville Giant, a massive fallen redwood. Not wanting to leave our bikes unattended, we rode out the hiking trail. And we discovered that riding a bike through a redwood forest is very very fun. It is also against park rules...

After the hike there was a bit of a headwind, and a few rolling climbs along the Eel River. A little bit of road construction was a minor annoyance for us, but some of the other riders complained of the dust (that we were ahead of). Near the end as the headwind became tiresome, Bruce and Ann passed us, and I jumped on their draft for a few miles. They were going very fast, though, and in the end Erin and I didn't really benefit from it. We dropped off, and arrived at the van just a few minutes behind them.

We all skipped the few miles on 101 into Scotia, opting instead to ride in the van. Roger was waiting for us by the museum in Scotia, as were the photographers from Conde Nast Traveller, who took a few shots of the group.

We stayed at the Carter House Inn in Eureka's historic Old Town district that night. Carter House serves free wine to its guests in the lobby from 5 to 6pm every evening. Erin said she liked the red wine there, which Gus told us was Vieille Ferme, available from Trader Joe's.

Dinner was at Avalon, a fancy restaurant walking distance from the hotel. Avalon was actually closed that week, but we somehow got special treatment in the banquet room.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Benbow Inn

Day 2 of trip, last Monday.

After breakfast at the Hotel Healdsburg Monday, we rode straight out of town and headed north through Sonoma County's famous Dry Creek Valley, home to famous vineyards such as Ferrari-Carano, where we stopped for more wine tasting. There was an optional climb up to Lake Sonoma which Erin and I tried. I was dropped early in the climb by Brandon and Roger, but I made it as far as the bridge overlook. Lake Sonoma is often the lunch stop for the Wine Country Century, but the view of the lake isn't part of the route, so this was the first time I'd seen it.

There was a short climb over Dutcher Creek road that we were warned about, but it was pretty mild (especially when compared with things to come later in the week). We crossed the Russian River a couple more times before arriving in Cloverdale for lunch in the park. Jada had prepared a wonderful meal, and there was ice-cold beer in the cooler. Roger had taken a detour, so he arrived a little later. We jumped back into the van for the trip up to Benbow, where we checked in to the historic Benbow Inn. Before dinner, there was time for another short ride, about eight miles, along Benbow Drive. It was four miles out and back, with a scenic bridge at the end of that. We stopped to take pictures, and as we were about to head back, we spotted Roger out for
a run.

Dinner at the inn was great, as usual. There was champagne waiting for us in our room that evening. The Benbow Inn is old enough that none of our wall warts would stay plugged into the electrical outlets. There are no elevators in the building either, but there is wireless

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hop Kiln Winery

First day of vacation, last Sunday.

We left Berkeley a little after sunrise and drove up to Santa Rosa, where the tour group was waiting to meet us at the Santa Rosa airport. Brandon, the tour leader, called on my cell phone a little before 9am, when we were supposed to meet them. Erin and I had detoured through the Burger King drive-through in Rohnert Park, since we hadn't had time for breakfast, and she was worried about getting sufficient calories before lunch.

After leaving the car in long-term parking, we loaded our stuff onto the van and headed for Duncans Mills where the tour officially started. As Brandon put my Romulus on the roof of the van, he asked how long I'd had the bike. I told him it was a 2003 model. He was surprised that it was so new. "So, they built it to look old?" Apparently, he hadn't seen a Rivendell before. I gave him a test ride when we got to Duncans Mills.

The first leg of the ride was from Duncans Mill to Hop Kiln Winery, with most of the riding along River Road and Westside Road. I was already familiar with much of this terrain, having ridden it for many years on the annual Wine Country Century. It is rolling hills through vineyards and along the Russian River.

Erin and I were surprised to find ourselves at Hop Kiln well ahead of the rest of the group. After about 10 minutes, the van pulled up, but the other riders had apparently stopped at either Korbel, or one of the other wineries for more wine tasting. We went in to the tasting room and sampled about half a dozen wines while Brandon set up lunch outside. By the time we were done, the others had arrived.

After lunch it was a short seven miles into Healdsburg. Again, Erin and I were ahead of the other riders, who had gone on to a few other wineries after Hop Kiln. It was early afternoon and I wanted my coffee, so we stopped in a cafe for a while before checking in to the Hotel Healdsburg. I was pleased that there was an indoor bike rack under the stairs.

We swam in the pool for a while, and lay out in the sun. Dinner was at Ravenous. There was a bottle of champagne in our room waiting for us that evening.

Friday, September 05, 2008


Spenger's Fresh Fish Grotto, Berkeley, California.

Thursday, September 04, 2008



Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Not my cat

im in ur yard

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Weather forecast

Looks like a warming trend this week in Garberville, peaking at 90 degrees Friday and dropping slightly on Saturday. Forecast doesn't go out any further than that.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Stevens Creek Trail

End of August 2008.