Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Day 28: Ventura, CA

This dramatic and challenging ride ended with a dinner to give everyone a final opportunity to share stories and many laughs. Carol, one of our four very competent SAG drivers, reminded us that the end was near when she read this poem a couple of dinners ago:

33 Women out on a trek, let's ride to Ventura, yea, what the heck.
We bonded quickly didn't take long. What won't kill you makes you strong.

Michele was our guide and now is the cook. No question about it, #1 one our book.
Cy hopped on board when Patty jumped ship. She caught on to us ever so quick.
With her Southern drawl and happy tone, with Mic and Cy, we may never go home.

Mary Slade so tall and lean, makes for a real riding machine
She's also great as she has an app that tells me where my next coffee is at.

Chris on our trip added a year, hate to tell you, we all did my dear.

Nancy and Donna pedaled side by side. Spinning along as the miles clicked by.
Though tired as we all are at the end of the ride, they help with the dishes - washed and dried.

Liz and Mike speed demons on land, and their reward . . . unloading the van.

Ann's the rebel, often off route, and some are like lemmings, following suit.

Little Vickie rides like the wind. Gets home in time to help with our din.
Marilyn, pedaling along holds the gait. It works, dinner's never been late.

Nancy, Caroline, and Alberta Jean, pleased to join the greatest SAG team.

We share a roomie for each night, except for Lynda - spare bed's for her bike.
Her roommate has history, has heard it before, "pull out couch or sleep on the floor".

I met Virginia on another tour. Not much taller but faster for sure.

Therese's first day was not as she'd like. A cramp, cut leg, and troublesome bike.
For me as the SAG, she helped pave the way. Flagged down some help, no ferry delay.

Janine's our gal from the North, eh? Shelia's our gal cross the sea.
Strong riders with stories we all like to hear. Knows our history better than we.

Rita, Angie, and Carol with their blog, are certainly better than my handwritten log.
Why not let friends and family from home read their stuff instead of my own.

Peg's a good rider, right on my ass. Tells me to stop so she can pass.
This said with a smile, I'll do as she wishes. She's redeemed herself by helping with dishes.

Lin when practiced stays well rehearsed. And entertains us with song and verse.
A riding buddy mile after mile. Fun to pedal where there's always a smile.

Desitin, shammy butter nothing I fear, could heal the issues of Hoagland's rear.

Debby is a biker that is for sure, just don't put her in the van.
She turns a bit green and then very white, Debbie, my friend, STAY ON THE BIKE.

Lighthouse Sue should be her name. She hasn't missed any house on tour.
At the end of the ride when we tally our totals, she'll have the most for sure.

When Sunnye passes, she really flies by. Could she actually be on a CA high?

The sweeps, Katy, Patty and Kirb, have taken the name I so richly deserve.
They used to be last but I hear the whir as they pedal past me, my title's secure.
Patty however has leapt out of the box, she's pedaling hard trying to find my socks.
All things considered, the don't match my dress, I grant you your wish, they're yours, all the best.

As poet and author one can say as she wishes, never thought I'd enjoy doing the dishes.
You all have been great. We really can boast. Don't need to ever do another Pac Coast.
It's nearing the end, it's been a blast. I've pedaled hard - don't go very fast.
3 little words said with a smile, kept me riding mile after mile.
I hear them so often even in sleep, they just kept repeating week after week.
On your left, on your left - please let it be done, stop pedaling so I can share in your fun.

Tonight Cy, with her sweet Kentucky intonation, added this to the mix:

congratulations to the first ever wt pacific coast tour, an epic adventure, that's for sure.

riding your bikes for 24 days,
through bright sunshine & foggy haze.

pedaling, pedaling over 1600 miles,
grunting & grimacing & beatific smiles.
muscles screaming out in pain,
70,000 feet of elevation you did gain.

i sing out praises, oh yes it's true,
and bow down low to each of you.
shine on & on sweet sister friends,
here's hoping this precious connection, never ends...

A few photos of the festivities:

Carol (FL), Debby (OH), Nancy (NC), Chris (NE), Kirby (IL), Ann (NJ)
Debby (OH), Mike (OR)
Sunnye (FL), Cy (KY), Carolyn (CA), Lynda (WA), Sue (OH)
Janine (Canada), Vicky (ME), Marilyn (MI), Virginia (GA), Sheila (Scotland)
Ann (NJ), Carol (PA), Jean (TN), Liz (CO), Mary Slade (MI), Michelle (CO), Donna (NY), Nancy (VT)
Angela (MD), Carol (PA), Peg (WA), Lin ((MN), Therese (MN)
Trip Leaders Michelle (CO) and Cy (KY)
Sheila (Scotland)
A "supportive" walk home:  Nancy (NC), Debby (OH), Chris (NE), Ann (NJ), Sunnye (FL)
Those with the ability to record elevation gain reported a total gain of about 72,000 feet for an average of 3,000 feet per riding day; day after day with none that could honestly be called recovery rides. I didn't complete every mile due to mechanical problems with my bike and a need for additional time off the bike for recovery. Any way you cut it, it was a very challenging and rewarding ride. The scenery was the show and what kept us going. We did have to deal with the elements such as cold and fog and poor road conditions and the like. However, rain, a major concern given our location and the time of year, never was a factor.

Highlights of the ride for me were ferry rides in Puget Sound; crossing the Columbia River; the Oregon Coast towns of Cannon Beach, Newport, and Florence; the Avenue of the Giants through the redwoods; crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, seeing my children in San Francisco; the Monterey to Big Sur ride and both locations; and the elephant seals just north of San Simeon.

Now I return to level Florida where, rather than elevation gain, the main focus is wind intensity and direction. I will have some time to regroup while I wait for my bike to be shipped home. Until the next journey...

Day 28: Lompoc, CA to Ventura, CA

Rest Day

I rode the van to Santa Barbara. I decided to have my bike shipped from a shop there to avoid the rush at the Ventura shop at the end of today's ride. I took a walking tour of the city's historic landmarks. The Santa Barbara Courthouse was built in 1929. Its Spanish-Moorish architecture is striking and the view of the city and surrounding landscape from the tower was excellent.

Several of us took the train from Santa Barbara to Ventura including cyclists who wanted to shorten the 84 mile day. The modes of transportation I have enjoyed on this trip include bicycle, van, car, boat, bus, plane and train.

Katie (WI) and Kirby (IL)
Tonight is the closing banquet. I'll post an entry and some final photos after my flight home tomorrow.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Day 27: Arroyo Grande, CA to Lompoc, CA

35 miles

The goal today was to beat the predicted rain. It was a gloomy day through a non-picturesque agricultural area. So many workers performing backbreaking tasks to put food on our tables. Guadalupe was a slightly charming town along the route. Could have been in the heartland of Mexico. The land here is rich, the kale green, and the mountains brown.

The changing weather pattern brought with it headwinds from the south; yes, the direction we're traveling. Full disclosure requires that we have had precious few headwinds on this journey due to the generally terrific weather we've experienced. But this is not Week 1 with fresh knees and adrenaline flowing. I'm tired and sore and ready to be home after almost five months away. When the sprinkles started and the winds increased just as I was ready to tackle a long and steep climb called Harris Grade Rd.--you don't need a PhD to know that Grade in a road name is not good news--I took advantage of the SAG's fortunate location and bumped the final ten miles.

Michelle and Vicki, chef and sous chef, prepared our final van-cooked meal, Michele's famous pot roast, in drizzle. By the time dinner was served it was a fully-formed rain shower and we had the advantage of inside seating in our hotel lobby. Much of our map meeting involved the logistics of tomorrow's final day. I have made the decision not to ride. I will probably bump up to Santa Barbara and take the train to Ventura. The weather is questionable and I have never been to Santa Barbara, so I would like to see a bit of it.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Day 26: San Simeon, CA to Arroyo Grande, CA

42 miles

Today's planned route was 56 miles of relatively tame terrain, 1764' of elevation gain. The ride was a delight with a brisk tailwind speeding the journey through the seaside towns of Cayucos and Morro Bay.

Mid-morning stop in Morro Bay
Morro Rock
The route turned inland to San Luis Obispo. Just before I arrived in the historic town center my chain got stuck between the chain rings and no amount of tugging by four people made any progress in releasing it. Yet another SAG ride for me to deliver my bike to the trip leader/bike doctor. The bike has had many visits to all sorts of bike doctors this trip. I hope this is the last.

On a sober note, Patti (WI) had a fall into a concrete barrier resulting in an ambulance trip to the emergency room. She was with other riders at the time who were able to care for her and accompany her to the hospital. She was released from the hospital and will return home, probably tomorrow, for followup care. We were all heartened to see Patti for a few moments at the end of dinner to wish her well.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Day 25: Big Sur, CA to San Simeon, CA

Rest Day

Today I had a self-declared rest day. It is the middle day of a seven-day stretch to the finish line, and the first three days were quite challenging. Today's route called for 66 miles with almost 5000' of climbing of which I originally planned on bumping the first half. The foggy, misty, and chilly conditions argued for a stay in the van. Many seemed to share my thoughts as the van was filled to capacity.

The highlight of the trip was a stop at Point Piedras Blancas just north of San Simeon to view the elephant seals, home to about 17,000 animals. They entertained themselves quite well while doing the same for us.

Below is information from the Friends of the Elephant Seal website:

Elephant seals, Mirounga angustirostris, are true seals, or earless seals, members of the pinniped suborder. What marvelous creatures they are: huge blubbery males with the pendulous noses that give these beasts their name; winsome females whose faces seem to be etched with a permanent smile; and endearing plump babies with big brown eyes.
In the 1880's northern elephant seals were thought to be extinct, harvested by shore whalers and sealers for their blubber. The oil obtained from elephant seals is second in quality only to the sperm whale. A small group of between 20-100 elephant seals that bred on Guadalupe Island, off Baja California, survived the ravages of the seal hunts. Protected first by Mexico and later by the United States, they have steadily expanded their range. Today they are protected from hunting and harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. The total population estimate for northern elephant seals in 2006 is around 170,000.

The breeding season begins in late November when mature bulls begin to arrive and fight to determine dominance. The females start arriving in the middle of December and continue to arrive until the middle of February. The first birth is around Christmas, but most births usually occur during the last two weeks of January. The females remain on the beach for about five weeks from the time they come ashore. Amazingly, the males are on the beach for up to 100 days. The seals are fasting while they are on land, and both males and females lose about 1/3 of their body weight during the breeding season.

Elephant seals form harems, in which the dominant, or alpha, male is surrounded by a group of females. On the periphery of the harem, the beta bulls wait in hopes of an opportunity to mate. They assist the alpha bull in keeping away the less dominant males. Fights between males can be bloody affairs in which the combatants rear up and slam their bodies against each other, slashing with their large canine teeth. However, not all confrontations end in battle. Rearing up on their hindquarters, throwing back their heads, showing off the size of their noses and bellowing threats is enough to intimidate most challengers. When battles do occur, it is rarely to the death.

The rookery is a very noisy place during the breeding season as males bellow threat vocalizations, pups squawk to be fed, and females squabble with each other over prime location and pups. Gargles, grunts, snorts, belches, bleats, whimpers, squeaks, squeals, and the male trumpeting combine to create the elephant seal symphony of sound.

The pups are usually born within 4-5 days of the female's arrival, and weigh between 60-80 pounds. They nurse for 24-28 days on the richest milk in the mammal world. Mating occurs during the last 2-3 days of nursing. The peak of mating activity is around Valentine's Day. Pups are weaned when the mother abruptly departs for sea. The weaned pups, dubbed "weaners," have quadrupled their birthweight and are nice and plump. They will lose about one-third of their weight during the "weaner fast," the 8-10 weeks they remain at the rookery, teaching themselves how to swim, before taking off on their first foraging trip.

While elephant seals are at sea in search of food they dive to incredible depths. Typically they dive between 1000-2000 feet, but the record is over 5000 feet. The average length of dive is 20 minutes, but they can dive for an hour or longer. When they resurface they only spend 2-3 minutes before diving again - and they continue this diving pattern 24 hours a day. Male and female elephant seals are believed to feed on different prey. The female diet is primarily squid and the male diet is more varied, comprised of small sharks, rays and other bottom-dwelling fish. In their search for food the males travel along the continental shelf to the Gulf of Alaska. The females tend to head north and west into more open ocean. Elephant seals make this migration twice a year, also coming back to the rookery to molt in late spring and the summer time. These two migrations total up to eight to twelve thousand miles of travel annually.

Human beings shed hair and skin all the time, but elephant seals go through a catastrophic molt, in which the entire layer of epidermis with the hairs attached is sloughed off in one concentrated time. The reason for this abrupt molt is that while at sea they spend most of their time in cold deep water. As part of the dive process the blood is diverted away from the skin. This helps them conserve energy and avoid losing body heat. By coming up on land to molt the blood can be circulated to the skin so a new layer of epidermis and hair can be grown.

Elephant seals are sexually dimorphic: the males are much larger than the females and only the males develop the long noses and chest shield. Females grow to 9-12 feet and weigh between 900-1800 pounds. Males grow to 14-16 feet long and weigh in at 3000-5000 pounds, or more. Female elephant seals give birth for the first time around 4 years old, though the range is between 2-6 years of age. Females are considered physically mature at age 6 and can live to a maximum of 20 years. Males enter puberty around 4 years of age, at which time the nose starts to grow. The nose is a secondary sexual characteristic, like a man's beard, and can reach the astonishing length of 2 feet. Males reach physical maturity around 9 years old. Prime breeding age is 9-12, and they can live to a maximum of 14 years.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Day 24: Monterey, CA to Big Sur, CA

45 miles

This was one of the more beautiful rides. The weather was just perfect for the setting: a bit of fog and some overcast which created a moody backdrop to the scenic drama. The elevation gain of around 2300' somehow didn't quite do the climbing justice but the GPS doesn't lie. We left Monterey via the bike path and completed its length around the peninsula. I should have mentioned far earlier in the blog that you can enlarge the photo images with a double-click.

Leaving Monterey at sunrise
Soon we entered the 17 Mile Drive through Pebble Beach to Carmel.

With Patti (WI), a frequent riding companion

The Lonely Cypress (sorry, I had to include it)
Carmel Beach

Bixby Creek Bridge, where I'm headed

Point Sur Lighthouse
After a pleasant lunch at the Big Sur River Inn, we settled in cabins at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park where deer and wild turkeys wandered about outside our rooms.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Day 23: Santa Cruz, CA to Monterey, CA

49 miles

The ride today was billed as a 43-mile cruiser. It wasn't terribly difficult but morning traffic out of Santa Cruz, rougher roads, quite warm temperatures, a sometimes brisk headwind, and confusing directions made for a longer day than scheduled. Despite the relatively minor obstacles it was an interesting ride traveling through California's coastal agricultural belt with strawberry and artichoke plants as far as the eye could see growing in incredibly rich-looking loam, as well as scenic vistas.

Strawberry plants


In Moss Landing there were dozens of sea lions sunning themselves and making quite a racket on a concrete pier. Those in the water who wanted in on the sunning action would jump into the fray and displace one or two seals back to the water. 

The vegetation along the side of the roads and bike paths was interesting and colorful. This succulent ground cover is called ice plant. While invasive, it is a recommended plant near forested areas as the water held by the plant is a fire retardant.

The last several miles were on a bike path paralleling Monterey Bay.

Monterey in the distaance

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Day 22: San Francisco, CA to Santa Cruz,CA

57 miles

This was the best day of cycling on this trip--blue sky, good pavement, cycling lanes galore, great scenery, challenging but not overwhelming terrain, and a fully-repaired bicycle that I didn't feel like I was struggling with all day.

The route as designed was 85 miles. A minority of riders did the full day that began with navigation out of San Francisco during rush hour and a climb of about three miles at Mile 22 called Devil's Slide, a narrow, winding road with no shoulder. The van and SAG were packed with "bumpers", including me, from the hotel to Mile 28. There is ongoing construction of a tunnel that will bypass this hill. I met up with a self-contained rider (who carry all clothing, gear, tent, etc) who decided to give the tunnel a try even though it clearly was not open. He eventually was blocked by a fence over which he threw his panniers and somehow got himself and his bike over, after which he was apprehended by a guard. The guard took pity upon him and allowed him to proceed.

Pescadero Lighthouse

Pampas Grass, beautiful and invasive

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

San Francisco, CA

Rest Day

Morning was catch-up time before joining my daughter, Allie, for a walk along the waterfront and a visit to Alcatraz.

We listened to a presentation by a park service guide on the Occupation Of Alcatraz by the Indians of All Tribes that lasted for 19 months from 11/69 to 6/71. It was forcibly ended by the US government. The Occupation had a direct effect on federal Indian policy and established a precedent for Indian activism. Signs of the Occupation are still visible in the background of the building identification placard and on the water tower.

The views of the city from Alcatraz are spectacular.

Andrew joined us for dinner at a favorite restaurant in Chinatown. It was just wonderful to have both kids join me to celebrate my passage through San Francisco.

3/4 of the family.We miss you Dad!