Monday, April 26, 2010

Droppin' me like a bad habit... well, not really.

Normally, on any given day, Donna can drop me like a bad habit when it comes to long steady climbs. Today was not one of those days as the heat really took a toll on her. Her husband, the Texas native, has a little bit more of an immunity to it. She got ahead of me briefly while I stopped to take a photo.

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Up, up, up, up and then up a little more

See the bottom of the hill waaaay in the distance? Yes, that is where we started the Rock Store climb. A few weeks ago it was cake. It occurred to me that it was about 20 degrees cooler the last time I rode it.

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How much misery can you cram into one ride?

I was NOT having good luck on today's ride. The plan was to be out the door at 10am and back home (well, actually sitting at Jersey Mike's refueling) by 1pm. The route we mapped out was approximately 50 miles and included the Stage 8 route from the Tour of California. Three miles into the ride I got a flat. We fixed and and agreed that continuing with only one spare tube was a recipe for disaster. Turn around... head to the bike shop and pick up two more tubes.

So we're back on track and already added an extra five miles to our trip. Another 8 miles into the ride I flat again. Fix it. Onward. Another two miles and another flat, this time on the front tire. You've gotta be kidding me. At that point I was ready to call it quits and head home. But no... pushing onward.

Tires are good but then we hit the Rock Store climb and Donna starts looking behind her, wondering if she lost her legs somewhere.

It was so much warmer today than what we've been used to and the heat is taking a toll. Then, around mile 45 I get another flat tire. We're out of tubes at this point, so I take Donna's back wheel, put it on my bike, and ride home to get the car. Half a mile into the last leg I realize my chain doesn't like Donna's cassette and I'm left riding uphill, into a headwind, with essentially only one gear that I can use, and it's almost the hardest gear the bike has to offer.


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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Donna finally got me out on the trail today after a rather lethargic start to the day.

I was feeling less than motivated when I woke up this morning. I barely wanted to get out of bed. With the exception of a short road ride Friday night, it's been a week since I've done any riding and it amazes me how quickly I can drop exercise from my weekly routine.

What little motivation we had, we combined to ultimately get us out on the trail. After about 25 minutes I was ready to call it quits. Fortunately I caught my breath at a vista point and was somehow energized. We still didn't ride any sort of epic but got in a good 2.5 hours of saddle time.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My wife... and another man! Good thing it's Adam Craig.

Catch a guy with his arm around my wife and I might break out the 100 questions. Not the case with Adam Craig - one of our favorite pro mtn bikers who we used to run into on the trails around Bend, Oregon. Adam was signing autographs at the Sea Otter Classic and while it was great to chat for a few minutes, it would have been great to see him race. No racing for Adam that weekend (that I know of). Anyway, he's a super cool guy and rides for, in my opinion, the best bike company out there.... Giant bicycles.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Georgia Gould rocks! Pro mtn bikers should benefit from their efforts more than they do.

We were lucky enough to catch Georgia Gould at the Sea Otter Classic again this year. Donna and I met her for the first time last year at the same event and she couldn't have been more personable. She smoked the Short Track then turned around and won the XC event the next day.

What floors me the most about these pro athletes is how they suffer so much and dedicate their lives to a sport for a very humble salary. Unlike the NFL and NBA athletes who pull in multi-million dollar contracts, these athletes train hard for hours and hours every day, both on and off the bike, then turn around and do their own grocery shopping, cook their own balanced meals, maintain their own equipment (for most of the year) and are pretty much left on their own to produce good results. Wow!

You have to tip your hat to people like this who, no doubt, do it for a genuine love of the sport and not for the name recognition and monster salaries that drive too many athletes.

Much unlike scenarios at other pro sporting events, we were able to approach Georgia immediately after the race and got a few minutes of her time to just chat and congratulate her.

Congrats on two victories in one weekend Georgia!

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Any waterfall is bound to be more beautiful with Donna standing in front of it.

I uploaded a photo yesterday of a waterfall in Big Sur, overlooking the same photo I had taken with Donna in it. Silly me. This image seems much more striking I think.

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Just another snapshot from Monterey. The scuba diving has to be awesome around here.

We don't generally see many scuba divers heading out to sea, in the murky waters along the Ventura County coast. Things were quite different in Monterey, where you couldn't seem to toss a stone without hitting someone heading into the waters in their scuba gear. If I thought I could tolerate the bizarre sensation of breathing while under water, I'd give it a try the next time I'm in Monterey.

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Oh the pretty flowers of SoCal... cliché, I know, but I'm a sucker for 'em

As much as I don't generally look at photos of flowers, I seem to shoot them quite often. There's just something about how intricate they are when you look at them up close. During our drive through Big Sur we found a number of these flowers on the one bluff.

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Donna is pretty much covered with Poison Oak. Ick!!

Somehere along the trail Donna came into contact with this lovely plant. It's a smart plant. Covered in oils, it shares that oil with your skin. Not knowing you have that oil on your skin, you rub such an area then rub another area, spreading the oil. A day or two later the body really starts to react. Donna now has ut on her arms, legs and stomach and it's driving her crazy. I'm wishing there was something I could do for her. The doc puts her on steroids buy she doesn't like the way she feels on steroids, so she might just tough it out. Meanwhile, after riding the same trails, I don't have so much as a speck of it on me.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The female elephant seals are going through a wardrobe change over the next few months.

Well, ok, the men are too. We were floored to see how man elephant seals were soaking up some sun and resting on the beach. We also noticed a few gutsy squirrels running around right next to them. We drove right by Hearst Castle but given the time of day, decided we didn't have time for another. Besides, I have a difficult time seeing the poverty such people lived in.

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"This Sur is beautiful!" ~ Donna Meese, while driving through Big Sur in coastal California.

Yes, she can have a silly sense of humor, but I still love Donna anyway. Following the comment I offered to pull over and let her out of the car at the nearest convenient spot. She declined the offer.

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Ever seen a $16.50 bacon cheeseburger? Well, you have now.

I figured I could live with paying $13.50 for a burger, then I realized cheese was an extra $1.50 as was bacon. If you're gonna spend $13.50 for a burger, you might as well spend $16.50 and get one that you really want, right? Such a lunch is way out of character for me but it seemed to be the safest thing on the menu. Anyway, they brought the thing out and I couldn't help but be impressed. It tasted even better than it looks!

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Big Sur doesn't exactly offer a plethora of dining choices... but we found the perfect place

Well, 'perfect' might be a bit of a stretch, but perfect in comparison to what I thought we'd find out in the middle of nowhere. They know they can nail you on prices because it's not like you can just walk to the other restaurant around the corner. So on a sunny 72 degree day we sat on a tree-covered deck listening to the river water about 30 years away.

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Waterfalls in Big Sur are in prime season. We don't see many of these near Thousand Oaks.

While driving down Hwy 1, I caught a glimpse of a waterfall not far off the road. We hopped out of the car for a few minutes and hiked a 1/4 mile trail up the these falls. Wow! It took a short bit of bouldering to get to it - not too easy in Crocs - but it was well worth the effort. We've driven through the area at least twice before and never noticed the falls before. Either my eyesight is getting better or we just happened to be driving through at the right time of year.

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Smoochin' in Big Sur proved to be more enjoyable than another day at the Sea Otter Classic

We had every intention of sticking around at the Sea Otter Classic on Sunday to watch the Pro XC events (men's & women's). Nevertheless, given the huge crowds, chaotic parking and not-so-spectator-friendly XC course, we decided to take the day driving through Big Sur, traveling along HWY 1 from Monterey to Morro Bay. The drive was amazing, though given all the curves you have to make sure you don't take your eye off the road for long.

After all the rocky coastline, flowing rivers, crystal clear waters, towering trees, blooming flowers and deep blue skies, I'd still have to say the highlight of the day was Donna's company.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Pro Short track at the Sea Otter Classic rocked this year.

Our favorite event at the Sea Otter Classic is the Pro Short Track. It's a short but brutal race and the cyclists go 'round and 'round in circles, giving spectators numerous opportunities to see their favorite pro MTN bikers. The highlight this year was watching Georgia Gould, Donna's favorite mtn biker, roll across the finish line in first place. I think Donna was her good luck charm. Despite how the video appears, the men and women don't race at the same time. After watching the women we walked to a different part of the course, where we discovered an incredibly difficult section of the course. What really floored us was to notice that the pro men were hammering an uphill muddy slope in their big chainring - we're talking about a trail that I wouldn't clear even if I was in my granny gear. Obviously they're riding at a whole other level that I'll likely never understand.

Todd Wells, another of our favorite riders, took first place in the men's category. Congrats to Todd, yet another seemingly down-to-earth pro cyclist, who is one of our favorites. The only thing I'd like more is if he rode for Giant instead of Specialized - a company I've come to dislike as they've jacked up their prices as they look for ways to pay for all of the marketing pursuits they invest in.

Well I digress. It was yet another great day! Donna's race... some good food... lots of fellow mtn bikers and some great races.

Ryan Leech got a lot of cheers Saturday at the Sea Otter Classic

This guy is amazing to watch. He was at last year's Sea Otter Classic but we missed him somehow. We've seen him in a number of videos but there's no comparison. To put things in perspective... he's ALMOST as good as Donna! Adding to his bike skills is his personality, seemingly very down to earth and few if any ego problems. It's funny how the best guys are the most down to earth and the pro-wanna-be guys are the ones on ego trips.

Race day with Donna at the Sea Otter Classic

Donna finished the day in 17th place out of 27. I think she rocks - she cranked out 20 miles in 2hrs 12min, a MUCH faster average speed than he race last year. Most of all I tip my hat to Donna for entering Cat 2, especially considering this is only her third race. Had she repeated the beginner class again, judging by the times, she would been on top of the podium. Congrats to my sweetie for pushing her comfort level and entering a more competitive field. SHE ROCKS!

Donna is RACING at the 2010 Sea Otter Classic! Wooohooo!

Hangin' with the man, Gary Fisher, at the Sea Otter Classic.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ahhh, the Monterey coast... It doesn't get much better than this. We're only $1.2 million shy of our $1.3 million dream home.

Beautiful scenery puts a big smile on my face. A beach at sunset doesn't hurt either.

Yes, I have an amazingly beautiful wife! Happy moments, spectacular sites... none of them mean as much when she isn't around. Today was a great, relaxing day. It's been ages since we didn't 'do anything.' I forgot how relaxing such a day can be & we vowed to do it more often in the future.

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I never get tired of sunsets at the beach. This might be the only one we catch for a while.

After an early dinner it was off to REI, where we didn't find any of the things we were looking for - that place has really gone downhill over the past five years. On the way back we pulled off HWY 1 just in time to watch the sun dip below the horizon.

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Nap time came early today, despite the fact that I didn't get out of bed until 9am.

We found a great spot along the waterfront this afternoon and as soon as I reclined the seat I realized I might miss tomorrow's race if I didn't set an alarm clock. A little sugar kick picked me up and got me back to the motel room. Donna knew better than to recline the seat in the first place.

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I couldn't talk Donna into going for a swim today. She kept saying something about too big of a drop into shallow water.

She's always got some sort of excuse... oh, and with her race being tomorrow she also said something about an injury less than 24 hours from the XC start.

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Marine life in Monterey is spectacular. This guy has not a penny to his name, nevertheless, ocean-front property.

I think this guy was expecting I had some food for him, like most tourists do. He let me get a lot closer than I expected.

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Why carry an SLR with telephoto lens when you can just place arrows in the frame to establish a focal point?

The last thing I want to carry around on vacation is a big bulky camera with a long lens. Of course earlier today I was wishing I had one with me. We spotted a number of harbor seals beached in Monterey and a few of them had babies with them. Despite the fact that they appeared to be about 1/2 mile away, I couldn't help but grab a snapshot. The mothers and babies were super cute. Yes, I said 'cute' - you got a problem with that, you know where to find me.

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I'm glad Donna is the one racing tomorrow and not me!

Thursday's ride through the Sea Otter XC course was great and the weather couldn't possibly be any better. The forecast is for great weather the whole way through the Sea Otter weekend! There are about four spots on the course that are marked with 'Technical Descent Ahead' and they're not kidding. I took a spill on the one descent (nothing major, just a few scrapes) but Donna came through unscathed. It's the same course she road last year, with an 8-mile section added on that she didn't have to do last year since she was racing in the beginner women's category. The extra 8 miles are a pretty tough 8 miles - lots of tight, tricky sections where it will be hard to get around other riders should the occasion arise. Her real strength seemed to kick in when she hit to dirt road climbs - she turns into a rocket. The technical descent aren't bad in terms of rocks and steep drops, just very deep sand with a few small drops and tree roots mixed in. We haven't ridden in sand since we lived in Oregon and when you don't ride it often, it's tough to get used to. I can't help but seed the irony in the fact that we live so close to the ocean and beaches yet so rarely encounter sand pits on the trail.

Today is a rest day for me, as is tomorrow and the entire weekend. I was in no shape to get on a bike this morning but Donna needed to get out and just spin for a little while to loosen up and stay warmed up, so she's out for a one-hour ride right now and I'm sitting at Starbucks sipping on coffee and eating some yogurt with blueberries and strawberries.

I really blew it after yesterday's ride - despite all the 'great' seafood restaurants in Ventura County, I LOVE Long John Silver's, so after running myself into the ground on the ride we went to a LJS/KFC. Donna walked to the table with a single grilled chicken breast (which she pulled the skin off of) and some corn and mashed potatoes. I, on the other hand, had two deep fried fish fillets and three deep fried chicken strips with French fries and coleslaw. Her dedication and will power are absolutely amazing.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

My favorite part of the ride... post-ride chill time.

Donna smoked me on today's ride and start to finish would have easily beat me if we were racing. I managed to get ahead a few times on some technical descents but she always passed me like I was sitting still on the climbs. She, and her legs, are soooo ready for Saturday's race.

A ride just isn't a ride without a photo of the two of us together.

These were by far the best wool jerseys we saw on the trail today.

Donna had a nice, calm, relaxing ride today while I followed 10-30 feet behind...

The Sea Otter XC course offers some sweet diversity, from rocky fire roads to lush, fern covered singletrack

This was one of my favorite sections of the Sea Otter XC course, though the vegetation didn't last for long. For a few brief moments I took a mental trip back to Oregon.

Sometimes running is faster than pedaling... believe it or not.

There's a particularly steep section in the Sea Otter XC course and today we determined that Donna can run it faster than I can pedal it. It's easy to feel like a failure, walking a bike up a hill instead of pedaling it, but after all, racing is more about speed and less about the cool factor. I can almost guarantee that Donna will pass someone on this climb as she runs to the top.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Slow start to today - Monday is our Sunday.

We've both got scratchy throats and Donna's race, which she has trained so hard for, is less than a week away. We're hoping we're not coming down with anything.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

One last look at that golden sun from the singletrack above Newbury Park.

Don't worry trails... I'll be back after a few busy days and a day or two of road riding.

Monday, April 5, 2010

I just discovered the iPhone can play YouTube videos on the tv with the A/V cable kit. Sweeet!!

Sorry ladies... I'm spoken for. What can I say, she diggs me.

We shared another sunset Monday night at Sycamore Canyon.

My new favorite park bench. Of course I say 'new' because I used to have an old favorite park bench.

This awesome bench sits at the top of Sycamore Canyon... By time I hit this spot on a ride I'm usually ready to sit down and have a heart attack.

One day I'll have a view like this from our back patio.

For now I'll settle for having it about two miles from our front patio.

My beautiful wife, soaking up some mountain scenery.

We came better prepared for tonight's susnet hike... coats, and shoes instead of flip-flops.

Puddles are a rarity 'round these here parts.

I couldn't resist but make a mirror reflection photo with a mud puddle that we happened across near sunset.

The late-day sun does a nice job on the tall grasses of Sycamore Canyon.

Overnight rain but a damper on today's mtn bike ride.

So we opted instead for a road ride. Nice and windy! A head-wind, of course. The wind has a way of changing direction every time we made a turn.

Windy weather blew the clouds right outta Ventura County this morning.

This was one of the mre scenic vew from today's road ride.

Ohhhhhh, this is dangerous. In the Apple store, iPad in hand. I'll wait for 3G!

Even then, I don't know how to justify the expense beyond simply the cool factor.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

New, unmarked trails that aren't 'really' trails are the best kind of trails.

We rode a new loop today and discovered a new 'trail.' It was such tight singletrack that you couldn't have walked it even if you wanted to. Of course, why would you want to walk it. This spot is where it finally opened up a bit.

Black-and-white looks better when you're wearing a flourescent-yellow vest...

I was breaking out every cold-weather layer I could find today. I'm a whimp!