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Monthly Archives: January 2012

My First Century of the Decade

Peer pressure is a powerful thing. My friends are all gung-ho and signed up to ride the Solvang Century so that means I am too. I don’t want to miss out on a girls’ weekend, even if that means 100 miles in the saddle.

Not that I’m a stranger to riding centuries. I don’t know how many I’ve completed since my first, the Tierra Bella Century in 2003. (I’m guessing close to a dozen) Tierra Bella included a bitchy two mile, 10% grade climb up Metcalf Road, a harsh initiation into the often painful, butt-numbing world of century road rides.

At Solvang I’ll be riding with Jill and Cindy C, two hardcore mountain bike friends who are going over to the lycra-clad roadie dark side with brand-spanking-new bikes of the skinny-tired variety. Solvang will be their first century and they’re leading the charge with a weekly training plan. So there I was on Saturday morning, braving the cold to meet the gang for our ride. I wasn’t nearly as excited as Jill. It must have been the new bike.

Not that I’m complaining. I love riding with my girlfriends and road trips and girls’ weekends out. And Solvang is not the hardest century around. Compared to centuries like the Sequoia Century (2007) and Shasta Century (2006), which climbed around 10,000 feet, Solvang’s 4,000 feet should be a walk in the park. Still, I haven’t ridden a century since the Holstein Hundred in 2008, so I’ll need to get my ride-all-day groove back on.

What are your training goals for the spring? What motivates you to get up early and ride in the cold and the wet?

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Posted by on January 17, 2012 in Backroads

 

Yes, Sir. I’m a Military Wife

Because I met my husband after he had retired from the Coast Guard, I’ve never considered myself a military wife. I guess Dick didn’t either since he never bothered registering our marriage with the military. But there are valuable benefits to being a military spouse, so we pedaled across town to Moffett Field to get my first military identification card. In 20 short minutes and after a little playful ribbing from the clerk, it was official.

I proudly showed my newly minted card to the guard at the main gate and we rolled onto the base for a quick tour. Having lived for decades next to Moffett Field, I had only been on base and up close to the imposing Hangar One a few times. Built in the 1930’s to house dirigibles, Hangar One is so massive that folks say clouds form inside. Unfortunately, its shell contains PCBs, asbestos and other harmful substances. Once slated for demolition, they’re tearing off the toxic shell instead while they search for someone to fund the renovation.

Then we stopped in at the commissary to check out the selection and the prices. The commissary system sells groceries at cost with a 5% surcharge to cover operating expenses. The first item I saw was Peet’s coffee: $5.99 for a 12 ounce bag. A 20 oz bag of peeled and cleaned shrimp was $6.79. At those prices, we filled the panniers for $56. When I got home I compared the prices online with Safeway: $85. Wow.

For those military families (both young and old) that struggle to make ends meet, a 35% discount is invaluable. When they closed the commissary at the Presidio ten years ago, it must have been a huge blow to families in San Francisco and Oakland. The commissary at Moffett Field is 40 miles south, and the one at Travis Air Force Base is 60 miles northeast. Too far to be worth the trip.

But the most valuable benefit of being a military spouse is that I’m covered by TRICARE, the military health care program, which means I won’t have to pay $500+ per month for COBRA. I haven’t visited the doctor yet, but I discovered this morning that the co-payment on my allergy drugs went down from $30 to $12. Thank you, Uncle Sam! And thank you, Dick, for your years of service to our country.

What benefits or perks do you get from your job that you value the most?

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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Around Town, Local History

 

Fashion Friday: Gal About Town

Credit union, tailor, shoe repair, computer store and then out to lunch. This gal about town looks sharp and stays comfy in her bright T-shirt, ruffled cardigan, flared leg jeans and heeled booties, while her essentials stay safe in her stylish new bike bag, on Juliett.

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Posted by on January 13, 2012 in Cycle Fashions

 

The Perfect Bike Briefcase

Last October, when I was dressing for success for a meeting with the new CEO, I asked for your opinion: which bag I should choose to replace my unstylish briefcase pannier? The votes came in for the FastRider Black Charm Shopper, which I’d seen in the company’s online catalog, but couldn’t find for sale anywhere. When it wasn’t at the ultimate city bike shop in London, I almost gave up. And then, Eureka! I found it for sale online!

The shipping cost almost as much as the bag, but I had to have it. I ordered it in early December, which meant it didn’t arrive before I lost my job. But I don’t care. It’s lovely and I’m finding it useful for trips around town, like taking my laptop in to the Apple store. I even took it to Las Vegas for a conference and it worked like a charm.

How far would you go to get the perfect bag?

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Posted by on January 11, 2012 in Cycle Fashions, Gear Talk

 

Las Vegas by Bike

For most cities we visit, we rent bikes to get around town. But Las Vegas? Uh, no. With city planners who believe in eight lane arterials everywhere and quarter mile superblocks, Las Vegas is the ultimate car city. So no city bikes for us. And after a walk to the drugstore a block and a half from the hotel that took 20 minutes each way, we resigned ourselves to taking taxis. By far the easiest way to get around Vegas.

To get our bike fix in and to get away from the smoke of the casinos and the ever-present ding-ding-ding of the slot machines, we headed out to the desert. Las Vegas may not be known for the great outdoors, but it really should be. The desert is worth a trip to Vegas, even if you hate gambling, drinking and late nights.

For our first desert trip we rented a Harley from Eagle Riders. Since both Dick and I had driven out to Hoover Dam and Red Rock Canyon on previous trips, we took the advice of their friendly staff and rode the Valley of Fire and Lake Mead loop. I can’t describe the striking landscapes and deep color of the rock formations in this valley. Let’s just say the Valley of Fire is the best kept secret in the southwest. Simply amazing.

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The next day we switched bikes and deserts with a trip to Cottonwood Valley in Red Rock Canyon park. Through Escape Adventures, we took a half day mountain bike tour on rocky, sometimes technical singletrack. Riding the dirt in the desert was a completely new experience. We were both a bit unsure of how to approach the loose, rocky trails on unfamiliar bikes with tires overfilled to prevent pinch flats. But the weather was perfect, the views amazing and we both dodged the rocks well enough to come away without drawing blood.

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Note: I took video during both bike trips, but I was sorry to discover they were much shakier than usual. In the Cottonwood Valley video, the cause was a rocky trail. Maybe I should invest in a chest mount for my GoPro. In the Valley of Fire video, the problem was rough chip-seal pavement and wind bouncing my iPhone around. So I captured some stills from my video and included them in the slideshow.

Las Vegas: love it or hate it? Would you head for the casinos or head for the desert?

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Posted by on January 10, 2012 in Dirt Trails, Travel

 

Fashion Friday: White Wedding

The bride wore a mandarin collared cycling jersey with princess lines by Italian designer Castelli, accented with a touches of gray to coordinate with capri-length cycling knickers by American designer Georgena Terry. Whisper helmet by Catlike and Genius cycling shoes by Sidi.

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Posted by on January 6, 2012 in Cycle Fashions

 

A Wedding to Remember on Mt Hamilton

Six and a half years ago when Dick and I were planning our wedding, I was having trouble getting motivated. The only thing decided was a wedding date of January 1st, which I liked because New Year’s is the perfect day to start something new, like a married life together. Plus we’d always have our anniversary off from work and nothing happens on New Years anyway except football games that we don’t really care about.

Dick wasn’t helping either. Whenever I asked for his opinion about wedding plans, he would say, “Make sure the ceremony isn’t too early in the day, you know I always ride Mt Hamilton on New Year’s.” So the inevitable happened: we ended up with a bike wedding. The plan was to ride up Mt Hamilton with an entourage of friends (and select family in cars), have a simple ceremony, and then ride down on a tandem.

The weather turned out to be wet with dangerously high winds, so we skipped the ride and performed the ceremony at the bottom of the hill at Grant Ranch. It was still very special, even without the ride.

Now we celebrate our anniversary with the ride we couldn’t do on our wedding day. This year the weather was more spring than winter with clear skies, no wind and warm temperatures. I was worried about the 11 mile, 2800′ climb since I’ve been doing more cross-town trips than hills, but I surprised myself. Still, the climb goes on forever, with the observatory on top remaining in view so seemingly close and yet so far away, taunting you.

The best part of a long climb is the long descent, and Mt Hamilton was even better this year due to large sections of fresh pavement. On the top third we had it free and clear until we caught up with a Prius who had too much pride to pull over for a couple of bikes. My hands were hurting from all the braking, but it gave us more time to spot Brian climbing up the hill and call out a quick “Hi Brian, Happy New Year!”

That evening we went out to dinner dressed as we did for the formal dinner that followed our bike wedding. I am grateful that my dress still fit (ditto for Dick and his suit). But mostly, I’m grateful that after six years we still enjoy each other every day and still enjoy celebrating the beginning of our life together as a committed couple.

What traditions do you have to remember and celebrate the big days in your life?

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Posted by on January 4, 2012 in Backroads

 
 
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