The Hoppy Okapi

Occasional posts about hiking and other stuff

L. A. River Ride June 14, 2011

In the first days of June I cleaned up my bike and added some cute frog stickers…

My bike - now with frogs!

then packed it up in the car and drove to LA.

Clouds over Glendale

A River Running through Concrete

On Sunday morning I woke up very early to participate in the LA River Ride, an event presented by the Los Angeles Bike Coalition. The morning started out cool and overcast – perfect for a long ride!

Ride Registration on a Cloudy Morning

I got my wristband and route sheet – there were a lot of turns listed for the 100 mile ride, so I decided the best course of action would be to stick close enough to other riders to follow a group, and hope they knew where they were going so I didn’t have to!

Route Sheet - 100 miles!

That strategy served me well, as we took off on a loop around Griffith Park, then entered the LA River bike path to head south. I tried to soak in the scenery along the bike path as I was riding, and I was happy to see that the river really is more than just a trickle of water in a concrete channel – there was a variety of plant and bird life taking advantage of the water, rock and sandbars formations along the river’s length. I even saw a crane with its wings spread wide, just like in the River Ride logo.

Of course, I almost paid too much attention to the scenery and not enough to the road – a few yards before the first automated photo setup, I unexpectedly hit a big bump in the pavement while my hands were wrapped casually around the bars, and ended up jamming the handlebars between my pinkie and ring fingers on my left hand – ow! I managed to recover in time to smile for the camera, but it hurt for the rest of the day (actually, it still hurts a little bit a week later…) and for a while I was worried that my hand was broken.

A few miles later, the ride entered the streets of Downtown LA, and headed south for a few more miles before joining back up with the bike path near Maywood Park. With a slight downhill in the first half of the course and calm winds, I was able to pedal along easily at 20 MPH for long stretches, and before long I came to the Dills Park pit stop at 31 miles.

Dills Park Pit Stop

After filling up my water bottle and downing a banana, I headed back to the trail toward Long Beach. After leaving the park, I was surprised to see an equestrian park and trail on the east side of the back path – I had no idea something like that existed along the LA River. Of course, I’d never even been on the bike path before, so the whole ride was very new to me, but it was fun to get glimpses of all the communities we passed through along the way. As I got closer to Long Beach I noticed a budding headwind blowing in from the ocean, but before long I had covered those 10 miles and was passing the Catalina Island ferry station on my way to Shoreline Park – 42 miles done!

Shoreline Park, Long Beach

The Long Beach pit stop was party central – riders from both the 100- and 70-mile routes were resting, refueling, and taking in the view before continuing their journeys. I grabbed a cheese-and-cracker snack, filled up my water bottles, refreshed my sunscreen application, and helped another cyclist get a picture of himself with the Queen Mary in the background, then set off on the next segment – a 24 mile loop through Long Beach and Seal Beach and back to Shoreline Park.

The Queen Mary In Long Beach Harbor

I once again found the wheel of a few other riders to follow, and soon found myself enjoying the bike path along the beach, except for a wicked side-wind blowing in from the water, that is. It was mid-to-late morning by then and the beach goers were starting to turn out, but I was still impressed by the orderly sharing of the path, with bikers and pedestrian generally sticking to their designated sections. After a couple miles we turned inland again, taking city streets for a few blocks before turning onto the San Gabriel River bike path – yet another great river-side bike path in L.A, county! I didn’t realize it until I had reached the turn-around and started heading back, but there was a lovely tailwind that eased my way along the river…and then I reached El Dorado park, turned around to ride back toward the ocean, and – Head Wind! No!!!!! I was having a hard time keeping up a 13mph or so pace on the way back, although after a while I was lucky enough to catch the wheel of some riders from the VeloViet cycling club as they passed; I tried to stay in their slipstream, but kept yo-yo-ing off the back and having to face the wind by myself.

Me by the harbor in Long Beach

On the way back through Long Beach I got to check out the cool new bicycling infrastructure they’ve installed recently – bike boxes and sharrows that are visually connected with green paint to form virtual bike lanes in the right-most traffic lane. We have a few new sharrows in San Diego, which I’m very appreciative of, but the ones in Long Beach were fantastic – the green paint helped tie them together, and made it very obvious that bikes had the right to share the roads with car traffic. After a mellow stretch of a more residential section of 2nd Ave, mixing it up with traffic on Shoreline Drive was a little unpleasant, but soon I was turning into Shoreline Park again for another break, with 64 miles done – almost 2/3 finished!

Shoreline Park, part two.

The pit stop was a little less crowded the second time, and the riders were all a little bit more tired, but the pit stop volunteers were still as cheerful and welcoming as before. I grabbed some snacks and water, popped some ibuprofen to keep down the swelling in my not-quite broken hand, stretched out a bit, and started back up the river.

Bike Path, heading north from Shoreline Park

I was still feeling pretty good as I left Shoreline Park for the second time, but by the time I got back to the Dills Park pit stop I was starting to feel the miles. It was right around 75 miles, which matched my previous longest-ever ride distance. My legs were starting to feel just a little tired, and I was definitely getting tired of my saddle (note to self: adjust saddle position or try out other saddles for long rides). Event though Dills Park was only 10 miles from Long Beach, I was very glad for the chance to stop!

LA River, looking south from Dills Park

At the park I overheard some other riders talking about the samples of coconut water and decided to give it a try: I am now officially hooked on chilled coconut water as a refreshing sports drink! Thanks Zico!

LA River Bike path, looking north from Dills Park

After I left the park, I soon passed a group of kids taking a ride on the path with escorts from the LA Sheriff’s department. I’m not sure if that was related to the LA River Ride festivities or just a concurrent event, but it was great to see the kids out learning how to ride on the path. From Dills Park on, I was still had a decent amount of energy, but was getting very uncomfortable from sitting on the bike so long and was basically counting down the miles until each successive pit stop. I stopped briefly at the Maywood Park pit stop, then was soon back onto city streets with less than 20 miles to go! There was still a steady trickle of riders heading back toward Griffith Park, and I once again caught the wheel of the VeloViet team and enjoyed the slipstream for a while.

Happy to be at the finish!

I made a quick stop at Hollenbeck Park, I noticed that the mileage on my bike computer was no longer tracking the route sheet exactly – it had been pretty close through my first stop in Long Beach, but from there the trip computer was showing fewer miles – so either the pit stop mileage was a little off on the route sheets, or my Cateye was going to clock the ride at under 100 miles – oh no! I continued on through the city streets, thankful to see another rider ahead of me make a left turn (probably from Main St to S. Ave 20) where I had missed the route markers and was about to miss the turn and go off course. Shortly thereafter I joined the bike path along the river again – almost done! By this time I was seeing just as many recreational riders on the course as River Ride participants, and I rode along trying to enjoy the sunshine and scenery while willing myself to keep up the pace so I could get off the bike!

After the River Ride

Finally I made the turn off of the River Path and back to Zoo Drive, only to confirm that I was about .1 miles from the finish line and my bike computer was reading 98.2 miles – Arrrrrgh! I was tempted to just trust the route sheet and called it a successful century, but for the sake of my mileage spreadsheet I had to turn right instead of left onto Zoo Drive and bike out another .9 miles to ensure that I would see “100” on my Cateye when I finally turned around and rode back to the finish. The nice part was that I knew exactly how long I had left to go AND I could coast back part of the way. Fittingly, I came through the finishing chute just after the VeloViet guys, so I was able to grab one more mini-draft :)

100 Miles - if the Cateye says so, it must be true.

I was pretty happy to finish with total moving time just under 6.5 hours (total time was about 7.5 hours including pit stops and stop lights), for an average of 15.4 MPH. I was able to sustain my energy pretty well over the whole ride, and my legs were only a little tired since there wasn’t any climbing of note. The LABC did a great job organizing the ride, and the volunteers were all friendly and helpful. Best of all, I got to ride on some fantastic bike paths that I wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to – the route was truly a great showcase for the bike paths and communities along the LA River.


Tour de Julian 2010: A car camping and bike riding adventure April 10, 2011

Filed under: biking,cycling,outdoors,San Diego — Amanda @ 15:20
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With the Mount Laguna Classic less than a week away, it seems like a good time to recap my first ride up Mount Laguna, the 2010 Tour de Julian last November.

My bike resting at the Mount Laguna sign.

The Tour de Julian took place on the first Saturday in November. To avoid a very early wake-up and acclimatize our sea-level lungs to the slightly higher elevation of the mountains, we drive up the night before for some car-camping at Paso Picacho campground in Cuyamaco Rancho State Park.

This was our first big trip with our new Rav4 with bicycle roof rack, so we were happy to see that the bikes made it to the campground intact:

The bikes ride in style.

Even though we have a tent for our backpacking adventures, we decided to try literal car-camping for this trip – sleeping in the back of the car! It was a little bit more roomy than the tent, and much easier to enter and exit gracefully.

Chuck demonstrates the car-camping setup.

After we settled in to the campsite, we began preparing our pre-ride dinner: barbecue chicken sandwiches and corn-on-the-cobb:

The makings of a delicious dinner.

Tasty BBQ chicken.

And of course, there’s only one proper dessert when cooking over an open fire….S’mores!

Chuck toasts some marshmallows.

Gooey s'more goodness.

Enjoying s'mores and beer by the fire.

Chuck huddles near the firepit for warmth.

The next morning, we woke up bright and early to pack up camp and drive to the ride start location – Menghini Winery outside of Julian.

Getting ready to ride.

The ride started at about 8:30, and we rode through Julian and made our way through the hills south of town. Starting at Engineers Road, 9.2 miles into the ride, was the toughest climb of the whole day.

At the Pine Hill Fire Station, just before the hard part!

At one point I tried to stop on a steep section and took a zero-MPH fall into the scrub alongside the road when I failed to clip out of my pedals in time. I took solace in seeing other riders walking their bikes up the hill, since at least I wasn’t the only one having a tough time on that section! Luckily I reached the top of the hill relatively unscathed, and got to enjoy a twisty descent through the trees on my way to the first rest stop overlooking Lake Cuyamaca (almost back to our campground!).

View from the first rest stop.

After a few more miles, I turned onto Sunrise Highway and started climbing toward the summit of Mount Laguna. The morning was chilly, and the wind was starting to pick up as I got closer to the mountain; shortly after the second rest stop at mile 20, another person caught up with me and then decided to turn around because he didn’t want to continue in the cold. I didn’t think it was THAT bad, so apparently I still have some cold-tolerance despite my nine years in San Diego!

Before long I started seeing some of the faster riders coming back the other way – and I still had eight or so mostly uphill miles before the summit! I kept pedaling away, trying to enjoy the scenery despite the suffering caused by the elevation and attempting the most climbing I’d ever done on my bike in one day. I probably stopped to catch my breath every 15 minutes at some points, and for a while was playing leapfrog with one other rider who was doing the same. I did stop to take pictures of my bike at the important signs:

5000 feet! Only 1000 more to go!

There were some downhill sections that I happily zipped down, although I also dreaded climbing back up those sections on the return. Once or twice the wind picked up as I was climbing on exposed sections of road, and I had to try hard to keep from being swept off the road! About two miles from the summit I met up with Chuck again as he was heading down the mountain, and we stopped for a chat before continuing our rides. I was extremely happy when I finally hit the 6000 ft sign – almost there!

Almost at the top!

Two minutes later I was pulling in to the summit rest stop to refuel for the ride back down the mountain – victory half attained. There were only a few other riders at or on their way to the rest stop by then, most of the slower riders having opted for the 28 mile ride instead of climbing Laguna. I played leap-frog with a few other riders again on the way back down Sunrise Highway, and found that only one or two of the dips was hard enough to really feel like climbing on the way back down. I was disappointed to find out that trying to slice through a strong side-wind at 30MPH is not actually easier than trying to suffer through it at 6MPH – it’s just scarier because you’ll crash harder if you fall.

The 6 miles on Highway 79 back to Julian were tough, mostly because I was tired and ready to be done riding for the day. It was also tricky making it through the town of Julian itself – it was a very nice fall day, and town was overrun with unpredictable tourists in car and on foot…probably the faster people had an easier time getting through before town got super-busy. At least by then I knew I was almost done – just two more miles (including one last short-but-steep hilly bit) to make it through before enjoying apple pie at the end!

Post-ride pie and ice cream.


Admitting I don’t like my mountain bike, and other reflections December 13, 2010

Filed under: #reverb10,biking — Amanda @ 20:46
Tags: ,

Dec 10: Prompt: Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

Hmmmm, this is tough! I actually can’t think of any decisions that were particularly significant or life-changing, so my wisest decision must have been rather pedestrian. I guess I could pick an insignificant but well-made decision and wax poetic about its wisdom, but I’m not really feeling it.

Dec 11: Prompt: 11 Things. What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?

This is another hard one! I feel like I’ve already started top eliminate a lot of unnecessary things in my life, so I’m not sure there are eleven I can list for 2011 right now – more likely circumstances will change during the year and I’ll find that some things can/should be let go as a result. Nonetheless, here are a couple of things I can think of:

1) My mountain bike: I’ve only ridden it three times this year, having switched to my road bike in July 2009, and I can honestly say that my road bike just suits me better. I think the mountain bike fits me poorly, and I never quite find it comfortable to ride. The pedals have very sharp spikes meant to help hold your feet in place, but in practice they just gouge my legs when I lose contact due to a clumsy shift (very clumsy shifting, another strike!). Also, as much as I want to like mountain biking, I never quite do – partially due to an ill-fitting bike, perhaps, but partially because I can never quite abandon my fear of falling on trails. Donating my mountain bike will free up room in my bike stable in case I find the perfect utility/beater/touring/whatever bike that will better complement my road bike to fulfill all my biking needs. More importantly, it will free me from the angst I feel about not loving mountain biking – oops, can’t do it, no bike!

2) A biking mileage goal: This year my goal was 2000 miles, which I easily exceeded once I started bike commuting three times a week during the summer. And then I cruised on by the 3000 mile marker, just as daylight savings was coming to an end and the light started fading. So I’ve decided to push on toward 4000 miles, but since I don’t like bike commuting in the dark very often, it’s much harder to rack up the miles, and so sometimes going for a bike ride feels like an obligation instead of like fun. I think I’ll probably hit 4000 miles before the end of the year, but definitely don’t feel like I need to set annother mileage goal to match or top it in 2011. Instead I’ll continue bike commuting when it’s light enough, and set event goals like the Laguna Challenge and biking up Mt Baldy before the Tour of California stage.

3) My compulsion to do fancy things with our CSA vegetables. I think I need to learn some more simple side dishes so that I can more seamlessly incorporate our CSA into our meals. It’s fun to do grand cooking projects, but very time-consuming to do so much cooking and the resultant cleaning! There are a few things, like Swiss chard, that I have easy go-to dishes for, so I know it can be done.

4) My habit of putting things off until I meet certain conditions – I meant to go to one of the folk-song group meetings this year, but kept putting it off until I practiced guitar more and got better at playing some chords, and then of course I never quite made it. If I can discard this habit in 2011, I think jkumping into the activities even when I don’t feel 100% ready will help me have more new, exciting experiences.

Dec 12: Prompt: Body integration. This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present? I think I might be getting repetitive, but it really is all about the bike! I think body integration happens most when descending, because it blends speed and focus. Going fast downhill requires concentration and balance, and I feel a sense of wonder as I watch the scenery speed by.

Dec 13: Prompt: Action. When it comes to aspirations, its not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step? This one is easy – accordion lessons! I need to email an accordion teacher and set up lessons for early next year so I can officially call myself an accordionist.


Beautiful Descent December 4, 2010

Filed under: #reverb10,biking — Amanda @ 7:40
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The #reverb10 prompt for Dec 3:

December 3 – Moment.

Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

October 3, 2010 – about twenty miles into the Tour de Poway bicycle ride, the descent from Ramona to Escondido along Route 78. The big climb of the morning has been conquered. Encapsulated in fog, I could only see a few riders in front of me as I ascended. Thus spared the mental anguish of seeing the long road climbing ahead, I focused on the pedaling of the moment and ground my way to the top without despair. After watching the sun break through the fog over the more gentle climb of Route 67, I have rolled through Ramona, nostrils singed in proximity to the freshly fertilized fields. Before the ride, I am most anxious about the the unknown descent; on tough hills, the worst case scenario is a slow-speed side flop – if the road gets too steep for me to unclip from my pedals, I will fall to the right while moving less than 2.5 miles an hour – comical if not for the scrapes to knee, elbow, and bike. Unknown descents though, I actively fear – the possibility of flying off the road at 30+ miles an hour after missing a switchback lives vividly in my imagination, though I’ve never really come close. As I descend from Ramona though, the road opens up in front of me, the fog has risen high enough to reveal the classic Southern California boulder-strewn desert landscape, but still filters the sun and tempers the morning light. Early on a Sunday morning, the road is nearly car-free. Most turns are visible well in advance, and my confidence climbs as I let my bike freewheel down into the valley, absorbing the scenery as I roll by – even at the speed of descent, the connection to the landscape is much more visceral compared to simply driving through, encased in steel and glass. A few riders are more cautious, and I zip past them. Even while reveling in the joy of speed, the effort of the descent takes its toll – my eyes tear up from the wind, my hands ache from the effort of tensing on the brake hoods – and I soon catch up with other riders as the road flattens out, and the perfect moment comes to an end with a mini-traffic jam, as a stream of cars catches up and passes. Impatient drivers enraged by the tentative ones, the Sunday ride is momentarily transformed into a weekday commute, the beautiful descent resigned to memory.



One Word to Rule Them All December 1, 2010

Filed under: #reverb10,biking — Amanda @ 21:01
Tags: , ,

Today’s challenge from #reverb10:

December 1 One Word.
Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?

For 2010, that seems pretty easy: bike. So far this year, I’ve ridden my bike over 3500 miles, including about 75 bike-to-work days, the very rainy Little Italy Gran Fondo, the Tour de Poway, and the Tour de Julian. Riding my bike has been a great way to enjoy San Diego’s beautiful weather, learn more about the geography of the city and its neighborhoods and businesses, and avoid the sitting in traffic during my commute! With my bike, I’ve spent more time near the ocean in the past year than in my previous 7 years of living in San Diego; I’ve biked to restaurants and public art murals, and climbed to Cabrillo National Monument as well as Soledad Mountain and Mount Laguna.

My bike resting after a long climb

For 2011, I’m hoping my defining word is Peru! I’m looking forward to my next great traveling adventure, and I currently have my sights set on hiking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu.


Bikes and BBQ May 2, 2010

Grand Prix Racers

Chuck and I ushered in the month of May with bikes! I read about the Barrio Logan Grand Prix a few weeks ago and thought it would be fun to watch, and we had a Groupon for Lil Piggy’s BBQ in Coronado, so we decided to bike to the Grand Prix in the morning, then continue on the Bayshore Bikeway over to Coronado. We checked the race schedule the night before and discovered that the men’s pro race was starting at 1:30 pm, so we decided to head back to the Grand Prix after lunch as well.

We woke up bright and early on Saturday morning, biked south on Harbor Drive for about two miles, and got to the race course shortly after the start of the first race – the riders were already speeding around the corners as we approached closed-off streets.

Chuck stands along the course

Before we got to the race, we weren’t quite sure how the whole thing worked, but we quickly figured out the important parts. The race course was a very curvy .8 miles with two main loops, and each race ran for a set length of time. An announcement was made for the last five laps, and then the real race to the finish began.We walked around the course to a few different vantage points – it was impressive to see the riders flying  through the curves.

Men's Cat 5 race

Lining up for the Masters Race

We stayed for the first three races in the morning, the men’s category five, masters, and category four races. I thought it was funny that the music changed from Chariots of Fire-style inspirational music during the Cat 5 race to Oldies for the Masters start, even though the guys in the Masters race were probably too young to remember most of the Oldies from their original release. I also liked how the winners of the races were each given a bag of tortillas in addition to their trophies – where else but Barrio Logan does that happen?

After the Cat 4 race we cast a wistful glance toward La Dona, a tempting Mexican restaurant right near the race course, then rejoined the Bayshore Bikeway and made our way to Coronado. The ride is a mostly flat 20 miles, and the biggest challenge was the wind – with the bay on one side and the ocean on the other, there’s no natural wind break, and it felt like we were battling a headwind pretty much the whole way to Coronado. We reached the Ferry Landing shops and made our way to Lil Piggy BBQ for some pulled pork sandwiches. I was impressed by the beer selection and the tenderness of the pulled pork, and intrigued by their array of sauces – a standard sweet sauce, a spicy BBQ sauce with bold red chile flavor, and , and a honey-mustard style sauce. I think we’ll definitely be repeat customers!


After lunch we bought our tickets for the ferry back to downtown San Diego – biking the 20 miles back along the bay wouldn’t be much fun after a big BBQ lunch! I took in the view while we waited for the ferry:

Waiting for the ferry

Coronado Bridge from the ferry landing

Ships at North Island Naval Station

After the ferry ride (I didn’t get TOO seasick, although I felt a little woozy while we were waiting at the dock), we retraced our early morning path to the races. We got back in time to watch a few of the kids’ rides – only a one or two half-laps each, but it looked like they were having fun! The crowd had grown since the early morning hours, and there were a good number of people on hand to watch the Pro/Cat1/2 race.

The announcer's stand

Lining up for the Pro race

They were fast! This was the longest race, at 75 minutes, and there were several lead changes and breakaways and chases, including a big breakaway that just barely got caught right at the finish line – it was pretty amazing to see all that happen as the race unfolded over the successive laps of the course. I also had fun playing with the multi-shot mode on my camera, both at high ISO to capture the riders in more detail, and then at low ISO to get a blurred image effect:

Close to the Action!

High-speed racers, low-speed ISO

We had a lot of fun at the race! I think Chuck wants to get in on the local racing action after watching the Grand Prix. I think it might be fun too, but I’d need to upgrade both my speed and bike handling skills – otherwise I’d go crashing into the hay bales!


Let the Training Begin… August 15, 2009

Filed under: biking,Century Training,cycling — Amanda @ 21:17
Tags: , ,

It’s been a very cycling-centric year for Chuck and me – in February we watched the final stage of the Tour of California on the cold heights of Palomar Mountain; in May I participated in Bike-To-Work day, and started a habit of bike commuting once or twice a week; in July, we spent our evenings following the drama of the Tour de France, and I bought my new road bike. In two weeks, we continue the trend by participating in the Bike The Bay ride, over the Coronado Bridge and around the San Diego Bayshore Bikeway trail.

And to truly turn 2009 into our year of cycling, I’ve signed us up for a Centurty Ride (yep, century = 100 miles) on December 27th. We’ll be riding the Borrego Springs Century out in the eastern San Diego county desert. The December weather there should be pretty nice for riding, and I’ve picked an “easy” century for us to start out on – there’s about 2300 feet of total elevation gain on the ride, but the largest single climb is only about 500 feet elevation gain, something we’ve already surpassed in training. (Well, once anyway. That was last week’s ride to Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, but we couldn’t go into the park because they were having a private ceremony. Good hill-training though!)

So far our longest single ride has been about 26 miles, and I’ve been riding 50-60 miles a week. We’ll start ramping up the mileage in late September after our vacation, with a pre-Century peak of 75 or 80 miles about two weeks before the big ride and at least 800 miles of total riding before then. Yippee!

Might as well end with another picture of the bike that’s going to get me through all those miles:

My Ruby basking in the sunlight

My Ruby basking in the sunlight



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