Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I've been putting this off for a while, mainly because I have very little positive to say about the experience. Because of the train schedules I had to start my ride at about 11:30 am. That meant that right about the time that I got to the first serious climb it was about 80-85 degrees. I didn't have that much water with me, and the rack I used carried the weight too high, so I had to fight the bike trying to tip when I stood up to climb. My handlebars were a little too low but I figured that I should wait until I couldn't stand it any more and then move them up for some relief. This was about the only piece of strategy that paid off, other than putting my messenger bag on a rack, even if it was a shit rack. My bike has no provisions for a rack so it was my only choice last minute. The tough part of the ride was to Lompoc and pretty much most of the way to Guadalupe, except for the last bit on this boring farm road that I swear I could see both ends of from the middle. By the time I got to SLO it was dark, and it had cooled off, and I was in such a zombie-like state that the only emotion I could muster was relief. I found out where the nearest Mexican food place was and walked there, and stopped off at 7-Eleven to get a Newcastle or two.

This is the start of the "Bike Route" basically the shoulder of the freeway. Every Portlander who complains about cars driving too fast should have to ride this road to get some perspective on what fast is, the speed limit is 65 mph. It was fun to get sucked along by the trucks.

The first 20 miles was leaving Santa Barbara, and it was relatively flat, and I caught a lot of lights, so it was hardly even a warmup. Before I did this ride I would have considered this first leg a substantial ride.

Not sure if you can see it but there is a tunnel that you get to go through with cars about a foot off your shoulder. I turned on my blinky and went for it, thankfully it's a very short tunnel. There is a little "Share the Road" sign at the entrance.

This is where the hell hills start, the first one being the toughest, 8% grade for about 4 miles. There's about 3 or 4 more after this, shorter but as steep. Needless to say I stopped many, many times, and almost collapsed once. More water would have helped. I had some apples and bananas with me, I'm not one for those chemical gels and rubbery Power Bars.

This is the view down the hill from the first time I ran out of steam.

And this is the view up the hill. See where the road turns? That's about halfway.

And the view back down to that turn...

And up to the summit, but that's not really the summit. The downhill after this had me on the brake almost the whole way so I could keep up with my low gearing.

This is the view west from that never-ending farm road. A little past halfway mile-wise, but most of the effort was behind me. From this point on the ride just kinda dragged.

I stopped down the street and regained my composure before riding up to the Hostel. Thankfully the very last bit was downhill.
The folks at the Hostel were super friendly and accommodating. I went and got a burrito and brought back some chips, salsa, and guacamole to share. The Germans thought the mild salsa was spicy. I went to bed fairly early, and passed out before I could finish Newcastle #2. The next morning, after going for a short ride to keep my legs moving, I went and got a box at a bike shop, carrying it back under my arm. I boxed up my bike, and walked a block and a half to the Amtrak Station to check the bike in. The train ride was uneventful, and pleasant despite it being 24 hours long.

I'm glad I'm back in Portland or more accurately Aloha. I'm back with my family in familiar surroundings, ready to give Portland one more try. At least now I know that I was sort of idealizing San Diego, and how good I have it, especially getting around by bike in Portland. I've also gotten perspective on what "difficulty" really is, and what I can accomplish if I keep my cool and just keep going.

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