Any ride you can crawl away from.

I have been having more than my fair share of flat tires lately.  It’s not as if I’m actually aiming for the broken glass and nails and such so much as they are hunting me down.  And they must be stealth nails, because I rarely see them.

December 30th – Scheduled my last long ride for 2012.  Started off by asking Google to show me a bicycle route from Brisbane, California to Tiburon and back – a metric century. Why consult with Google Maps, you might ask?  Don’t I already know the way?

Well, yes.  However, the bicycle option for Google Maps has often suggested interesting routes I would not have otherwise considered.

This was not to be the case on this day.  In fact, as I perused the suggested route, I came across item #36: Turn left to stay on the Coastal Trail.  Take the stairs.

Take the stairs? Just what part of bicycle did Google not understand?  A friend suggested that perhaps it thought I was asking for a cyclocross route.  Other than those stairs, Google’s route was the same as I’d’ve taken without inquiry.

On the road by 9:00 because I wanted to get back before dark, everything went according to plan until I sauntered into Sausalito.  Started out on the Mill Valley-Sausalito path and suddenly there was a lot more friction in the road than I liked. Looking down, I could see that the recumbent’s front wheel was in the process of going flat.

Damn.  Another one.

Pulled over and pulled out the fix-it kit, which included both patches and a spare tube.  I decided on the spare because that would be faster.  I could patch the old tube when I got home.

Back on the road — Yes!! Much better!  Cranked the velocity up to about 20 mph to take advantage of the flat path and windless day.  Went about a mile and then …

thump thump thump thump …

Before I could finish the thought, What the hell is that thumping?  POW!

The front tire failed explosively and I went tumbling, as my father would say, “asshole over appetite.”  The asphalt rose to slap me in the face and I blocked it with my right hand.


Whose idea was it to make asphalt out of such rough material?

Sliding several feet on hands and rump, all I could do was grit my teeth.  When the sliding stopped, I waited on all fours like a dog for the first wave of intense pain to pass.  After about three centuries, it did, and I picked myself up off the road.  Other cyclists were starting to gather.

“You okay?” they seemed to ask in unison.

Hmm.  Was I okay?  Quick check for broken bones and bleeding.  Seems I was able to protect all my favorite organs.  “I’m fine.  I think the bike is broken, though.”

Aside from the tire, the rear derailer lever was broken off.  That’s going to be fun.

Having assured them that I wasn’t going to pass out nor bleed to death, the other cyclists went their way, and I pulled out the fix-it kit again.

The new inner tube failed at the valve stem weld.  So now I have to patch the old inner tube, anyway.  Maybe I should write a letter of complaint to the tube manufacturer?  Would it do me any good?  Didn’t seem likely.

I had intended to meet a friend for lunch in Tiburon.  After explaining my delay by cell phone, we changed the lunch to Mill Valley.  Riding there, I discovered I could only change the cassette gears with great difficulty.  Effectively, I was stuck using the three gears available on the chainrings.

I needed to accomplish two things: Expedite the trip home and avoid the slog up the hill from Sausalito to the Golden Gate Bridge.  Fortunately, both of these were attainable by taking the ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco.  From there, it was relatively flat to Brisbane.

Except for one hill.  Third Street to Bayshore, near Candlestick.  I decided on an alternate route going around Candlestick Park, which was longer by a mile or so, but much flatter.

Little did I know that the 49’s had a game that day.  Hey, I’m not a football fan.  I hope they won and all that, but there I was, navigating around the aftergame traffic, police barriers, street vendors, and drunken fans on three gears.

Life is good!


Slogging up Sharp Park Road

So cyclists, you think you’re pretty good on hills? Take a look at this short video. This is during the 2012 Giro di Pacifica, near the top of Sharp Park Road. This is after it flattens out a bit, right after the steepest part of the 1.5 mile route between Highway 1 and Skyline Drive, where it goes from hellish to merely difficult. I have suppressed the audio because it’s mostly the sound of my huffing and puffing, driving the recumbent up the hill, with the GoPro attached to my helmet.

At the 27 second mark I get passed by a young father pulling a toddler in a trailer. I don’t know what happened to mom. She was with them when they started the ride, and she was with them later at the rest stop. #400 isn’t mom, just another rider.

The two guys standing on the right – I thought they stopped to check directions, though it seemed like an odd spot to do so. We were chatting after the ride and they told me, “You didn’t stop on Sharp Park Road, did you? You did the whole thing without stopping.” They had simply spent themselves climbing the grade and had to catch their breath at that point. And they weren’t towing children.

Perhaps not surprisingly, SPR was easier the second time. I’m either getting stronger, or I’m hauling less fat. Fifty-one percent of my Labor Day Goal. Woot!

Update July 31: Upon review of the full video, I see that the mom passed me at about the 1/3 mark going up SPR.

Dunsmuir Games

In the 18th Century of the Current Era, Highlander Scots began emigrating to the New World in large numbers.  Many, if not most, were forced to leave in what has become known as the Highland Clearances. One of the results of this diaspora is that there are now more sons and daughters of Scotland in the United States and Canada than in Scotland itself.

As a 21st Century resident of California and descendent of the survivors of the Clearances, I find myself surrounded by people who come from similar histories all over the planet.  Japanese, Chinese, Indians, Germans, French, Jews, Palestinians, Greeks, Russians, Poles, Hungarians, Mexicans, Haitians, Cubans, Iraqi, Native American, Irish, you name it.  They are all my neighbors, and every one of them is a proud Californian.

It has become a part of the California culture, however, to honor the rituals and history of one’s ancestral homeland.  Not a week goes by when we don’t hear about another cultural awareness event taking place somewhere nearby.  You can tour the cultural world just by spending a year in San Francisco.  According to the San Francisco newspaper, there are more than 140 actively spoken languages in the Bay Area (including Esperanto.)  I’m sure it drives the Department of Motor Vehicles nuts.

We traveled to Oakland, California this last weekend, July 11 & 12, to participate in honoring the culture of my own ancestral homeland at the Dunsmuir Scottish Games.  We drank Scottish beer brewed in a local microbrewery, listened to fine Celtic music played by a California band called Banshee in the Kitchen, spoke with members of a clan that seemed particularly enamored of the longbow (be still my heart, though I don’t remember reading that the longbow was of any particular significance in Scottish history), spoke with members of Living History recreationists St. Ita’s of Cill Ide House of Nobles, watched as kilted gentlemen tossed a telephone pole, and a game of  Shinty.  It would seem that Shinty is to field hockey what rugby is to American football.

Now, according to some friends who still live in Scotland, almost nobody there plays this game, and those that do all live in the Highlands.  Did you know that there is an organization of Shinty players that started in Northern California?

What’s the point of all this?  I’m not sure, other than to wonder if I’m not getting a bigger dose of Scottish culture right here in my backyard than I would by traveling to Loch Lomond.  (The one in Scotland, not the one located in Lake County, California.)

The differences between Pacifica and Oak Hills

We currently live in Pacifica, California, which is a small town on the coast.  Before we moved here so that I could take a new job, we lived for 20 years in Oak Hills, California, which is an unincorporated rural area in the Mojave desert.  These two locations could not be more extreme without moving to some place like Antarctica.

In Oak Hills, the weather varied between -5° C in the winter – though snow was uncommon – to 45° C in the summer.  The wind was merciless during the Spring and Autumn, and we were always replacing shingles.  Gusts to 130 kmh were not uncommon.  There was dust EVERYWHERE and the average humidity was about 15%.  Also, we couldn’t go anywhere without getting in the car and driving for at least twenty minutes.  Nothing was close.  Our nearest neighbor was 1/2 km away.  This was good, because we had an archery range in our back yard.  I had to drive 60 km each way to work.

In Pacifica, the weather varies from 15° C in the winter to 25° C in the summer.   The air is always moist and usually cool.  We can walk to the community theatre and grocery store, ride a bike or take a bus to the Big City.  My office is only 15 km away.  The average humidity is about 85% and we get a lot of fog. And by “a lot” it should be pointed out that Pacifica has an annual Fog Festival.

Oak Hills was a great place to raise kids until they became teenagers and got bored.  There was plenty of elbow room, and our children grew up being familiar with agriculture and wildlife.  All our neighbors were politically conservative and went to church, but nobody bothered us for being “the weird neighbors.”  Everybody was friendly, and land was cheap when we bought it.  I very much miss the easy mortgage payments.  We were the only esperantists within 150 km.

I’m sure that Pacifica would have been a good place to raise kids, too.  Though our youngest son would have spent all day and all night surfing.  In Oak Hills, he spent all his time on a skateboard, and now has problems with his knees.  All our neighbors are liberal and are either Buddhists or Wiccans or Universalist Unitarians, or atheists, but nobody bothers us for being the “weird neighbors.” Everybody is friendly and welcomed us when we moved here.  We have found that the best way to meet neighbors in an suburban environment is to take your dog for a walk.  You meet all the other dog walkers.  The problem with this is that I can remember the dogs’ names, but not the humans’.  Instead of a desert, we are surrounded by California redwood forest.  The yard is too small to build my own archery range, but there is a very nice one only 3 km away.   There are about fifty esperantists living in the region.

I don’t like or dislike either location more than the other.  They each have their unique challenges and rewards, but my skin is very thankful that we moved to a cool, moist environment.