Monday, May 19, 2014

About the whip pole...

Saturday was a challenging ride from West Hollywood to Long Beach, and one of the challenges was constantly mounting or dismounting the bike with the whip pole.  Even with the top part disconnected, the lower part still was several inches above my saddle and I was having to contort my leg to avoid hitting it.  This was especially difficult when I had shaking legs.

Well, I want to leave the whip pole connected to the bike, at least the lower part, but I don't want to have to fight with it all the time, so I have cut off about 15" of the lower part so that it is no longer above the height of my saddle.  I still have plenty of room for the upper part to be flapping noticeably in the breeze behind me.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

1st bike overnight - sort of

Basic setup but also took a trunk bag.
On Saturday, May 17, I set out at 5:00 A.M. with the goal of riding from West Hollywood to Long Beach.  I left that early to #1 be there before a 10:00 gathering of Youtube friends and #2 to avoid traffic on both the PCH and Anaheim boulevards.

It was dark when I left, but I had on 3 tail lights and my headlight, and I noticed within a couple of blocks that my odometer was not working.  There was battery power but it wasn't registering any mileage.  I checked the magnet at some point in the ride but it never registered any mileage.  This was a major bummer to me as I wanted to know how many miles I rode.  Overall I think it was about 40 but I'll have to do it again to be sure.
6:08 A.M. at the Ballona Creek Bridge

The southern bike path begins below the Ballona Creek Bridge
My route went as follows:  La Cienega Blvd south about 5 miles to Venice Blvd.  Right on Venice and get in the bike lane several miles down into Venice and turn left on Lincoln Blvd/PCH.  Rode a few blocks and turned right on Washington Blvd.  Went down a few blocks to Mildred Ave. where the Martin Braude Bike Path picks up, crossed left on Washington to the other side of the street and got onto the bike path.  The path takes you alongside Admiralty Way and eventually crosses the street and winds its way through the marina parking lots. The path stops at Fiji Way and you turn right and take the bike lane around to just past the Coast Guard station to where the bike path picks up again.  After about 70 feet, you come to the Ballona (pronounced BYE-YOH-NAH) Creek/Channel path and you turn right and go down to the bridge.  Crossing the bridge takes one to the beach bike path where the markers read 11.75 miles to the end - the end being at Redondo Beach.  So off I went down the path.

Manhattan Beach Pier

Hermosa Beach Pier
The temperature was in the 60's and it was misting in places.  At the end of the bike path in Redondo Beach (there is a definite end, and you are forced to go left), I went left and turned right onto Harbor Blvd where there was a bike lane.  Part of my goal of getting to Long Beach was to take as make bike friendly streets as possible.  I had been at sea level on the bike path, but now I began to climb out of the area towards an area that was on top of the cliffs.  So up Harbor Blvd. about to Beryl Street and turn left at the Crown Plaza Hotel.  Take the first right on Catalina, catch the bike lane and climb up again.  About 3/4 of a mile later, take a left on Esplanade.  I knew there were a couple of blocks of hills but the reward at the top is breathtaking.  A cliffside bike lane with a fantastic view.  It's a slight downhill.

From the beauty of Esplande, I took a left on Avenue H and connected with the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway or the ONE) after 2 blocks and turned right.  Immediately more hills, and at this point, which was about 7:15 and perhaps 25 or so miles into the journey, I had not taken a true break.  I had only stopped for quick pictures and a swig or two of water.  Although I had made 4 scrambled eggs before leaving and although I wasn't hungry, I hadn't refueled either.  Not one bite.  The exertion and lack of sleep were starting to wear heavily on me, especially with the hills.  And PCH is rolling with hills with its close proximity to Palos Verdes which is nothing BUT hills.  Also, although there is a bike lane marked, the bike lane isn't much wider than the cars parked in it. A little further on it is devoid of cars. Thankfully the traffic was very light and just taking the far right lane wasn't a problem.  In fact, with the whip pole on the bike, traffic was very good at avoiding me the whole time I was on surface streets.  

I had only done about 2 miles of rolling hills on PCH and I felt myself starting to bonk.  I pulled into a church parking lot to take an official sit down break and refuel and drink, but at first I felt too shaky to even get off my bike.  I was still also nervous about dismounting and catching my leg on the whip pole again and taking a fall.  Yeah, that happened a few days ago.  I wasn't hurt, just annoyed.  Catching my leg at this point, when my legs were starting to shake, however, would not have been a good thing. I noticed that the front doors of the church were open and that they seemed to be having some sort of garage sale/fund raiser.  When I finally felt confident enough to dismount the bike, I walked it to the front door and asked if I could use the bathroom.  No problem!

Coast Christian Fellowship

The church, Coast Christian Fellowship, was very welcoming to me.  After using the bathroom (and bringing the bike INTO the building), I mentioned to the gal who helped me (whose name I did not get, regrettably) that I was also a sister in the Lord and that I attended Core Church.  She had not heard of Core, but if I'd had enough wits about me to mention that my pastor had been an associate pastor under Greg Laurie at Harvest, she would have surely known.  She prayed over me which I gratefully accepted, I ate one peanut butter cup (which gave me stomach cramps), and I was on my way again... for more hills.  Now, I was starting to feel spent - with the realization that I had 10-15 more miles to go.  Would I ever find flat streets?

Just past the Torrance Airport, the PCH bends, and I was looking for a cross street called Eshelman.  Why get off PCH and not take it directly into Long Beach?  I felt that to take another street, Anaheim, would be less traffic, which proved to be true.  Eshelman showed a bike lane for two blocks at which point I would turn left onto 262nd Street and take that a few blocks until it ended at Anaheim.  Oh, I thought I had planned that well.  However, although there was a bike lane on the very quiet little street, the second half of it was a steep incline, and I could not do it.  Really, my legs were giving out.  So I walked it up, then turned left and got down onto Anaheim.  Finally things started to level out but not before I turned too early onto what I thought was Ahaheim but turned out to be Western... and I found myself going up another steep incline.  So I had to walk up that, turn around and come back down.  Thankfully I only went one block wrong.  I went back down to 262nd street and turned right, then a few blocks later turned right onto Anaheim.

After going under the 110 Freeway, I went 1 block to Mar Vista Street and turned south (right) to G Street, then turned left.  G Street is parallel to Anaheim and very flat and quiet, and I needed a traffic break.  I followed it right to the end where it curves around to the left and puts you back onto Anaheim... and a bike lane!  Now a new kind of "hill" came up - the arched bridges.  There are three of them between where the bike lane picked up and Long Beach, and they come at about 1/2 mile intervals.  I knew I did not have the strength to cycle up them, so I got off the bike each time and walked it to the top, then rode it down the other side.  About the time of the 2nd bridge, my left leg began cramping to the point that I almost couldn't pedal, even going downhill, even just coasting.  This has never happened to me before.  

Walking to the top of the bridge over the 710 and Los Angeles River.  Downtown Long Beach in the distance.
Riding down the backside of the third bridge, you might think I'd be sailing down with glee, but I was shaking with exhaustion and going cautiously.  After a couple of blocks I turned right on Daisy, a nice quiet street, then turned left on 4th Street another quiet street and took it to Atlantic Ave., my approximate destination.  I should mention that I was probably going only about 8 mph at this point. It felt like I was barely moving.

When I arrived at the home of my host at about 9:30, my shirt was completely soaked over the whole back and also the back of my pants in the lower back area.  So I changed, and then my host, Liz, and I walked down to the beach to some little shops and restaurants on Shoreline Drive to meet up with the others.  In all, there were 5 of us.  We ate at a restaurant called the Yard House.  I started to rehydrate with some lemonade.  I hadn't peed since the church, and 3 glasses of lemonade weren't prompting anything either.  And that was on top of the glass of water I consumed immediately upon arriving at Liz's house.  Of course, I was practically falling asleep too.  I ordered onion rings and they came in a stack on a 12" pole with two little containers of ranch dressing.  Eh... bring the ketchup, please!

One of the gals drove Liz and I back to her place, and it wasn't long before I had to excuse myself for a nap.  I probably only slept 15-20 minutes, but it sure did help!  And finally I was hydrated enough to pee again!  That may not seem like the most pleasant thing to read about, but it's important to know how your body responds when you are dehydrated.  It wasn't for lack of water on the bike that I was dehydrated.  I probably had close to a gallon of water.  I was a little sparing with it, however, because I was nervous about having a place to pee if I needed to.  The church came in very handy, but what if I couldn't find another place?  So that was in my mind.  Then there were the unexpected amounts of hills causing a lot of extra unplanned exertion.  

Liz's son made us individual shepherd's pie for dinner, and then Liz and I relaxed and chatted until about 10:00 at which point it was time for me to go to bed.  Liz was my unofficial Warm Showers host and put me up in her office which had a fold out sofa bed.  I went to sleep with an open window and a fan blowing on me, and I woke up about 5:00.  I tried to force myself back to sleep and partially succeeded, but I finally rolled out of bed at 7:30.  My stiffness from the day before was pretty much gone, but I was still feeling the effects of lack of sleep and dehydration.  We had a wonderful breakfast of omelette, artisan bread toast and watermellon.  As Liz and her hubby were off to a Tai Chi class at 9:00, that's when I also departed.

I had originally thought I would ride home today, but after yesterday's exertion and the need to still recover from the lack of sleep, I decided affirmatively to take the MetroLink train from Long Beach to downtown Los Angeles, then change trains and get off in Hollywood and ride the three miles home from there.  The total cost to get to Hollywood was only $5.

In Long Beach on the MetroLink Blue Line.
I am such a dunce when it comes to taking the train.  To me the ticketing and which is the right train is confusing.  So I have to look like a moron and just ask, "Is this the train that goes to downtown LA?"  Then when I changed trains, I had to ask, "Is this the train going to Hollywood?"  Really, I just don't get it, but I got to Hollywood!

After arriving in Hollywood, I rode the 3 miles back to home, arriving about 11:30 A.M.  I was still feeling shaky and weak and found my confidence a little wavering.  A couple days of recovery and I'll be over that!

And strangely, as soon as I arrived in Hollywood, the odometer began working again.  Arrghhh.

So although I am still processing my journey, here's what I would for certain do differently next time.

1.  Get more sleep before the trip.
2.  Take a break every 10 miles to drink at least 8 ounces and to eat a bite of something.  I didn't take Gatorade or Powerade.  I did have some electrolyte water, but it was in the panniers, not the water bottles.  Wrong place!
3.  Don't forget to take reading glasses.

Things I did right:  not trying to force my body to do things I knew it couldn't - like going up the steep inclines or bridges.  There is nothing shameful about having to get off and walk at some points.It gives your legs a little rest to walk as well.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I have a touring bike!

My bike is finally framed out the way I want it for touring, thanks again to I. Martin Cycles for their help in putting it together for me (and at no charge - but I did pay for the parts!).  The things they did on this last  bit of work was to add fenders, install the Surly front rack, and to put on the foam grips.  This is their second bit of sponsorship of me, and I am so very grateful for their support.  Ryan said it was a very strong bike.  I will take it back in later during the summer to have it looked at for getting the cogs replaced, the chain replaced and whatever else they think needs replacing, because these parts are 15 years old and need to be replaced before I hit the road.  Greg Valenzuela of  also suggested they should look at the rear rim.  Definitely don't want that cracking on me, and the rims are also 15 years old.

So the bike is part Surly, part Bontrager, and the main frame is Gary Fisher which I think was bought out by Trek.

Right now we are in a heat bubble of weather in Los Angeles.  Today I forgot to load my water bottles on the bike.  So I had to grab some bottled water from work to make it home without the dry hot air choking me.

I'm planning a bike overnight on Saturday by riding down to Long Beach.  It will be interesting and challenging. Although it's only about 36-40 miles, and although I've ridden that far and more before, I've never ridden that far in one direction.  Whether I ride it back the next day or take the train to DTLA, I don't know.  I am sort of thinking I will ride just to do it and push myself.  Wish I had a GoPro camera to capture the journey.