August 13, 2022

BBQ, Because

An annual tradition carries on—a barbecue fundraiser supporting a cycling friend's team for the upcoming Waves to Wine ride, benefiting the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Back in the day, that was the first charity ride I'd ever done—as the stoker on a recumbent tandem (in 2003, and again in 2004). I continued on my own bike in 2005 and 2006, but after the routes (and the vibe) changed, I got hooked on riding for Best Buddies. The least I can do now is to support my friends who ride for the cause—here in California, and farther afield (Utah).

Our barbecue host was a very strong and accomplished rider, once upon a time. A time before he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Last month, when someone asked if he was planning to host his fundraiser this year, I heard him reply: “Have they found a cure yet?”

With help from some friends, he was expecting to serve 90 plates today—having taken good advantage of a sale earlier this year to stock up on 36(!) racks of ribs. (There's a tofu option for our vegetarian comrades.)

I donned my favorite “Champagne Club” jersey (circa 2004) and headed out. When I got close, I didn't need to study the route on my bike computer—I could just follow my nose! Ribs, baked beans, salad, cornbread, fresh lemonade (the real deal), iced tea, and camaraderie, in exchange for a donation to the cause.

I cleared out before the hungrier hordes of cyclists rolled in, to catch up with an old friend (over more iced tea) in his well-shaded backyard.

Having biked a mere 18 miles (400 feet of climbing), I might have eaten more than my due—but I did enjoy every. last. bite.

August 6, 2022


First things first: no one got hurt. [More on that later.]

I needed to keep it short today and figured I would just ride alone. But then I thought, why not invite some friends? Good call: Four joined me. Much more fun than riding alone.

There were turkeys. (There are always turkeys.) This brood had settled inside a pen, reluctantly flapping their wings to scale the fence when it was time to leave. The largest one was the last to exit, after repeatedly pacing the perimeter and studying each post. [Yup, they're all about the same height. You can do it!]

On the way up Shannon, I watched a doe dart across the road and kept an eye out for any of her companions. She was joining her fawn, as it turned out. Later we spotted a pack of four young bucks crossing a field.

We were ready to be cautious on Hicks, knowing that it had recently been chip-sealed, but the surface was fine. There were some patches of loose gravel at the edges of the road, in places—which might have contributed to today's bit of excitement.

There was very little traffic. After passing the reservoir, we regrouped at our turn-around point, a small clearing at the bend just before the road kicks up to its merciless 13.7% grade. The sound of spinning tires led someone to ask “Is it hard for vehicles to get up it, too?”

No, but ... first there's a sharp bend, and then surprise! Steep! And maybe there are some deep piles of loose gravel right now.

Maybe the pickup truck took that curve a little too quick, slid a bit and lost traction. However he did it, he was now perpendicular to the road, his back wheels in a ditch. An SUV came along and stopped to help, but this was gonna require a proper tow truck. We had a hard time convincing a couple on their way to Mt. Umunhum that they really truly could not get through, and slowed down a couple of motorcyclists (who could get through). After we'd each walked around the bend to get a clear view of the action, we decided it was time to skedaddle. [Good luck to the other cars we saw, headed in that direction.]

One more climb, followed by a social coffee stop, and I finished my ride after 18 miles and 1,340 feet of climbing.

July 30, 2022

A Circle of Friends

You won't find these particular blackberries, because ... I ate them. [The ripe ones.] A sweet, unexpected treat as we climbed Stevens Canyon.

Some folks choose to ride alone. Some prefer to ride with a buddy. In prime season, there is a supported, organized event nearly every weekend. The Bay Area has several bike clubs—for racing, recreation, or both.

A few friends joined me today, a civilized circle of cyclists. We chatted, we cycled, we looked out for one another and regrouped often. The climbs on the route are popular with the local clubs, so I was surprised that this was the first ascent for one of us, and only the second time for another.

We wrapped up with a coffee stop, surprised to be the only cyclists at a place that's normally teeming with them. The weather was cool, the sky mostly blue, and the friends delightful. A happy 31 miles and 2,040 feet of climbing.

July 25, 2022

Ring Around the Rim

Summer travel plans had put my friends' Monday hiking series on pause, until today. The group united for a relatively short outing to accommodate various afternoon commitments, settling on Alum Rock Park.
One intrepid member, recovering from surgery just a few days ago to repair a shattered shoulder, hiked with her arm in a sling. [Impressive. And not something you'd find me doing.]
The view across the valley showed a thin tail of smoke seeping in beneath our stunning blue sky; there is some hope it will stay aloft in the atmosphere.

My GPS track is a bit wonky; we probably covered somewhere between 5 and 6 miles, with less than 1,000 feet of elevation gain. But that's not the main point.

The main point is the restorative power of being out in the natural world, in the company of friends, enjoying good conversation—and for me, the luxury of just following the leader and not having to think or decide anything. For all of this, I am thankful.

July 20, 2022

A Very Big Rock

One of the sites I found, when researching things to do in Morro Bay, mentioned that you'd have to go out of your way not to see sea otters. [True, that.] This one was napping peacefully near the the shoreline, oblivious to curious human admirers.
As we walked toward the big rock, we passed a fluffed-out Great Blue Heron at the water's edge.
Having only seen Morro Rock from a distance, sticking out into the bay, I'd assumed it was surrounded by water. [Wrong.]

A couple of guys were seated comfortably near a large spotting scope trained on the rock. “What have we here?” I asked. “The daddy,” they replied. (A Peregrine Falcon.) My first close look at one (in the wild)! After they described the rock features nearby, I was also able to find the bird with my binoculars (a teeny-tiny image, at such a distance). Birds were flying in all directions—gulls, mostly; but I also spotted a Turkey Vulture with a few awkward vestiges of juvenile plumage.

People. Proofread. Is that too much to ask?
We followed our noses west, along the south side of the rock, until we stumbled through a field of cairns and could go no farther—the Pacific shoreline was out of reach.
We admired the rock from another angle over lunch. The marine layer drifted in and out, wisps sometimes capping the rock, sometimes opening to a bit of blue sky.

Learning that Morro Rock is a volcanic plug begged the question: What happened to the rest of the volcano? Erosion, sure, but where did all that material go? Of course, in another 23 million years, none of this will be here, either.

We decided to explore the estuary (more birds!), following the Marina Peninsula Loop trail. Another explorer confirmed that the green-legged bird I'd seen was a Green Heron (evidently a juvenile). Egrets and Long-billed Curlews were feeding in the mud flats and marshes.
On the trail, a Western Fence Lizard—first time I've seen one with iridescent blue spots (confirming, a male).
To the east, we had a view of dry rolling hills and rugged peaks. A satisfying day exploring new territory, filled with birds, marine mammals, lizards, unusual geologic formations, fog, and sunshine!

July 19, 2022

Sparkling Surf

Although we planned to visit the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve later, I was on my own this morning and decided to do some exploring. I found a trail entrance off Main Street and followed it across a field to ... Highway 1. Not having studied a map online, nor found one at the trailhead, it wasn't clear how to proceed. Walk across the highway?! After turning back, I watched a couple do just that.
Apart from a tangled mass of flowering shrubs in one section and moss-festooned trees on a hillside, this section of the preserve was unremarkable.
I resisted having a piece of pie at lunchtime (not enough exercise today). We found some shade on the patio behind the cafe, and when I glanced up ... what to my wondering eyes did appear?
We were seated beneath an Aermotor. [Of all things!]

After lunch we headed for the coastal section of the Fiscalini Preserve, which we first experienced in misty gray tones.

The sun broke through as we strolled along the Coastal Bluff trail. It must be spectacular when the wildflowers are blooming, given all the bush lupine shrubs we passed. But there were still lovely plants to behold.
Critters, too. [This ground squirrel wasn't striking a pose, but expecting to be fed.]
We extended our adventure by visiting Moonstone Beach. Arriving surfers jogged with their boards to join those already bobbing in the water.

I know nothing about how to surf, but this being California, I have naturally seen my fair share of surfers. And I would say they've all pretty much looked the same. Until I saw this guy.

In a word: Wow. I'd never seen anyone like him, completely at one with his board and the wave. Chill.

Brushing the sand from our shoes, we returned to town. Tomorrow: Morro Bay.

July 18, 2022

The Road Ahead

Today we biked. We headed for Old Creek Road, which I last climbed in 2018. There would be ample opportunity to enjoy the scenery and take photos this time, as we were not hewing to a schedule.
I added a new Aermotor to my collection—this one with Morro Rock barely visible in the background.
We didn't expect to ride into the mist; we left clear skies behind us. There was a storm brewing to the south, and we later heard that there had even been a touch of rain in Morro Bay. (We stayed dry.)
We paused near the waterfront in Cayucos before making our way to Old Creek Road.
The ghost bike was still there, though now hoisted overhead with a bittersweet message (“HOME”) on an arrow pointing to the sky. Looks like it needs a little maintenance, as I imagine the intention was to point the front of the bike upward.
I captured Whale Rock Reservoir from the same vantage point as last time; the Pacific was not visible today, but the bush in the foreground was in bloom.
After the first crest, a sign warned “watch downhill speed.” [So noted.] On a bike, though, it's advisable to keep your eyes on the road, not your bike computer. It was a fast section (my stats suggest a top speed around 37 mph).
There was nothing memorable about the pavement in 2018, but it was creamy fresh now—a joy to ride.

Although my ride buddy recommended it would be fine to descend Santa Rosa Creek Road, I was unconvinced; I have vivid memories of a road in terrible condition (not to mention a steep climb, whichever way you tackle it). And oh, gosh darn, it was actually closed to through traffic today. Let's hope they're repaving it.

We regrouped at the summit on Highway 46, where I took the traditional photo. [Recall that we started our ride essentially at sea level.] The clouds were moving in; we felt lucky for the blue skies we'd enjoyed this morning.

After a quick pit stop at our motel, we hopped back on our bikes for the short trip into town. After completing 40 miles with something short of 3,000 feet of climbing, a slice of olallieberry pie would tide me over nicely until dinner.