Bike Travel Weekend: Denver to Colorado Springs

El Cochinito dropped me off at LAX, and snapped this photo of me. I’m all ready for my big adventure, everything I need for the next five days and four nights is packed in these two panniers, and my bike helmet dangles from one of the straps. A few months in the planning, this trip all started with a search for flights from Los Angeles to Colorado Springs so I could attend my nephew’s wedding. When I saw that the fare to Colorado Springs from L.A. would be at least double the fare to Denver, it was not a complete surprise, and I started to think I would just fly to Denver and rent a car.

All I needed for 4 nights & 5 days was in these panniers.

But wait, why rent a car? Just how far is it from Denver to Colorado Springs? Wouldn’t that be a bikeable distance? Wouldn’t that be fun?! Could I bike it in one day? As soon as I saw that the ride would be around 65-75 miles, depending on where in Denver I started from, I began looking into bike shipping and other logistics.

I checked Bike Flights, and learned that the cheapest option is $41 each way, and I would have to pack and ship my bike off the Friday before Memorial Day weekend in order for it to get to Denver in time. Plus I would need to learn how to pack the bike for shipping and re-assemble it on arrival. And again for the trip back to L.A. And I haven’t done that in over 20 years. I’d rather pay a bike shop to do that for me, but most places charge $65-$90 for that service. Yikes! Multiply that times 4, and, well, that’s ridiculous.

So then I looked into renting a bike. There are shops in Denver that rent bikes, but most are either carbon road bikes that can’t take a rack for carrying panniers, or some kind of city bike that would not be suitable for a 70-ish mile ride. And the rental cost would add up after four days, to $230. Although I’d rather spend the money on a bike rental than a car rental, I’m still not sure I want to spend that much for a bike ride that might not be comfortable when I’m going that distance.

Then I remembered that, as a grad student, Nashbar had been my savior, offering affordable bikes that were great for touring. I decided to see what they had. Holy moly! I found that Nashbar had a woman’s road bike on sale for $419, and a touring bike on sale for $699! I read through the specs and the reviews, and found them encouraging.

The obvious next step was to begin the necessary justifications and rationalization. I go to Denver at least once a year, and always want a bike while I’m there. Last time I had to walk a mile (in the cold & snow!) to get from my brother’s house to the nearest bike share station. I’ve been itching to ride a bike in the Colorado Rockies again, just like in the glory days of my youth. For less than the cost of two multi-day bike rentals, I could own a bike that stays in Colorado. See? That didn’t take long! The rule of n+1 wins again!

I spent several of my evenings on Google Maps and checking Colorado biking web sites to plan my route. I ordered a kindle book on road biking in Colorado. The ride certainly looked doable, with bike trails for a good bit of the way, both heading out of Denver and again into Colorado Springs. There appeared to be this one stretch of about 10 miles in the middle of the ride where I’d have to ride on Highway 105, and I wasn’t sure what that would be like. I searched for blog posts or discussions about biking between Denver and Colorado Springs, and was disappointed to find very little on this. You would think others have done this many times. Is this a bad sign?

I came across one discussion that was not encouraging. Back in 2012, someone had put the question out there about planning to bike from Denver to Colorado Springs and back for a weekend trip. The discussion resulted in the Someone deciding to take Highway 73 into Franktown, and approach it that way. He did the ride, and posted afterward that it was not a good idea. The road was heavily trafficked with trucks and had no adequate shoulder to bike on.

I asked, in the same thread, if anyone had any updates now that several years had passed, as I was planning to follow the route Google Maps suggested, using 105 after Castle Rock and before Palmer Lake. I also found a YouTube video of a motorcyclist riding Highway 105. I could see that it is a pretty ride, and that it is, indeed a road with no shoulder.

I was happy to learn that my son, who lives in Seattle these days, would be making the trip to Colorado for the wedding. El Cochinito had to stay in L.A for graduation at the school where he teaches, and other other adult children couldn’t get away for the trip either. But my son, who bikes all the time to get where he needs to go, is not the type to be interested in a 70-ish mile bike ride, and so it became clear that I would be doing this trip solo. At least I wouldn’t have to worry about something awful happening to him on Highway 105. When you’re a mom, it’s hard not to think that way.

I then checked with my brother, who lives in Denver, to see how he felt about the idea of me keeping a bike in his garage. He was quite receptive to the idea. So that was it: I would be buying a bike, my “Colorado bike”. I contacted Cycleton, the bike shop that is closest to the Denver airport, and also not too far from my sister-in-law’s place, and made arrangements for them to receive and assemble my new bike. Then I called Nashbar and got a helpful consultation on the decision between the woman’s road bike and the touring bike. Of course, the touring bike was a better fit for my needs.

As it turned out, the weekend of my nephew’s wedding just so happens to be official Bike Travel Weekend, a creation of the Adventure Cycling Association. It’s all about encouraging folks to get out and enjoy a weekend adventure by bicycle. Bike packing is a thing, after all, and figuring out how to plan the logistics for such a trip can be understandably intimidating to one who hasn’t yet done it. Adventure Cycling encourages people to share their ride plans on the web site, and help others find rides they can join. I decided to sign up with them (there is a drawing for a free bike, after all), even though I didn’t really want to advertise that I would be a woman biking alone on this trip). And I wasn’t bikepacking to go camping or do something like that, I was just getting myself to a wedding and spending my weekend at a hotel. But, hey, they sent me a sticker!

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My nifty sticker

Because I’d signed up with Adventure Cycling, I started receiving emails encouraging me to make use of their resources to help support my trip planning. They offered “advisors”, folks in a variety of geographical regions who’d volunteered to provide guidance and answer questions for others planning their trips. I saw a woman’s name listed as an advisor in Colorado Springs, so I decided to ask her about my route plan and whether I should consider an alternative to Highway 105. Maybe I should consider passing through Larkspur instead? Debbie wrote back and said she’d ridden that stretch of Highway 105 several years ago and found the drivers to be quite considerate, but offered to check with a friend who might know more about it. She wrote back and confirmed that this was the way to go, and so I stuck with my plan.

A full two months before the trip, I started making my list and thinking through all that I would need to take. I coordinated the timing of the bike purchase with the bike shop that would be receiving and assembling it. I ordered bottle cages, a saddle bag and tool kit for the new bike. I planned my outfits for the five-day trip, making sure I was minimizing the bulk and that it would all fit in my two panniers. Ah, and I remembered that I would need to take with me the special magnets that attach to the rear rack to secure my Thule panniers.

As the trip drew closer, I began to realize that so much of the joy of this trip is in the planning and looking forward to it. What if the actual ride was a let-down? But, no matter what the ride turned out to be, there was no doubt that this would be an adventure. Nothing could take that element away from my trip! I did make sure I kept up my training so that the nearly 70-mile ride, at high altitude, would be within my conditioning level. In fact, the Monday before, Memorial Day, a friend and I rode a century. It was a pretty flat ride, but we had some tough headwinds, and that turned out to be good training! By the time the trip rolled around I had been waking up each morning realizing that I had been bicycling in my dreams!

When my flight landed in Denver, my panniers and I went from the plane to the A train that connects the airport to the city. I had a patent application to file, and was able to use my time on the train to get online and take care of the filing.

Bike racks on the A train that runs from Denver airport to Union Station in downtown
Filing a patent application on the fly!

My son had already arrived earlier in the day, and was with my nephew. They picked me up at the train station nearest to the bike shop, and gave me and my panniers a ride. At the bike shop, my bike was mostly ready, although there was some concern about whether my saddle had arrived (uh-oh! But they found it.), adjustments were made to the saddle height, my bottle cages and saddle bag with tool kit were put in place, the mechanic helped me get the magnets attached to the rear rack (not so easy, as the rack has skinnier rails than my other bike), and at the last minute, I remembered that I needed to purchase a lock. Once all that was sorted out, I was able to put my panniers on and take the new bike for its first test ride!

My newly assembled bike

I had been unsure how it would feel to ride a 30 pound bike with 25 pounds worth of panniers, but it handled just fine and the load did not seem to be a problem. I had to get used to the bar-end shifters and the toe clips, as I’d never used the former before, and it had been 20 years since the last time I rode with toe clips.

More interesting about that first ride was the awareness that I was in my home town of Denver, but in an area that had been completely transformed since “my day”. The bike shop was in Stapleton, a new development where Denver’s airport used to be. From there, I passed through Lowry, another new development that used to an Air Force base. I was able to use bike paths and bike lanes most of the way, and that was nice, although a bit confusing sometimes when following Google Maps’ navigation. I managed to turn a 6.6 mile trip into 7.6 mile one with my missed turns and whatnot.

At one point, I was routed through Fairmount Cemetery, a place I have been to when visiting the mausoleum that holds my grandparents’ ashes. Apparently, I had not been through this part, though, as it was full of interesting old grave stones and a few historic above-ground tombs. I decided to stop and snap a portrait of my new bike, which I had decided to name “Rocky”. I don’t usually name my bikes, but this one seemed like it out to have one, as it was otherwise lacking a bit in personality. The name seemed like the obvious choice, as my hope for this bike is to be able to come back and explore the Colorado Rockies with it in future bike adventures.

Rocky, at Fairmount Cemetery

I spent the evening visiting with family at my sister-in-law’s place, and then got up and left for my big adventure at 8:00 a.m. I told my relatives I expected the 69-mile ride to take me 8 hours. My goal was to arrive at the hotel in Colorado Springs by 4:00, allowing plenty of time to shower and get cleaned up before family gathered for dinner at 5:30.

Fresh and excited, as I start out on the High Line Canal bike path

The ride started out lovely, first on the High Line Canal, and then, well, only about 15 minutes into my ride, I already missed a turn! It was sunny and warm, so I decided to stop and take off the long sleeved shirt I had on over my Nuu-Muu dress and WABA jersey. At this point, I also double-checked the directions to make sure I got back on the correct trail. It was time to cross a bridge and get on the Cherry Creek Bike Path. I love bridges, so I snapped a photo of my bike on the bridge. Thus began a cheerful meandering along the bike path. Google Maps was predicting I would get there by 3:30 p.m. I knew I needed to allow more time than that for pits stops and lunch, but it just seemed like I had gobs of time — all day, in fact — so why not enjoy the experience and take photos whenever I wanted?

One of many bridges I crossed

I marveled at the bike route. I took delight in how long I kept going, still continuing on bike paths. How lucky! How beautiful! And there was a full on rest stop and picnic area at the Arapahoe Trailhead, right along the bike path, so I took the opportunity to use the rest room. It was one of those nice ones, with toilet rooms big enough I could roll my bike right on in. No need to lock it up and worry about my panniers.

I continued on more and more trails, continuing to marvel at the beauty and how nice it was to be able to ride without car traffic like this. I stopped and snapped photos along the way. It was getting warmer still, so about 90 minutes into my ride, I stopped again at one of the many shaded benches along the trail so I could take off another layer.

Tall grasses, trees, and the Rocky Mountains in the distance
Miles of nice bike path
This map shows the full 42-mile bike path linking Denver to Franktown

Eventually, I came to the turn off from the Cherry Creek Trail to take Crowfoot Valley Road, which angles over toward Castle Rock. I was on this road for about six miles, and it seemed to be a slow and gradual incline into a strong headwind. It started out feeling a bit challenging, but I’m the type that is content to just use a low gear and keep at it, knowing I will get there eventually. But it began to feel like a never ending drudgery. I kept at it. I told myself this would not be forever. I looked forward to taking a good lunch break in Castle Rock. I was getting tired, and beginning to feel like I wasn’t making much progress. I kept at it. Finally, I got to my next turn, and soon I could see Castle Rock ahead of me, and a downhill stretch! I was excited again, and looking forward to lunch, and feeling hopeful that, after a good lunch, I’d find some renewed energy for whatever awaited me in the second half of my ride.

The welcome downhill into Castle Rock

Riding into Castle Rock, I enjoyed being routed via an odd mixture of busy high-traffic streets (rode the sidewalk at one point) and pretty, off-road bike paths. I rode through the center of town, ever on the lookout for the right place to stop for lunch. The main street passed quickly, as did an interesting riverfront-ish area, and pretty soon I was worried I’d missed my chance. Soon I was in semi-suburbanish terrain again, but spotted a Dairy Queen that even had an adjacent outdoor play area surrounded by a metal railing. In other words, my perfect lunch stop, complete with bike parking! I suspect my food choices were influenced by how wiped out I was feeling from the long, slow climb into headwinds. I had a cheeseburger and a blizzard (ice cream treat blended with pieces of Heath candy bar).

Pretty bike path ride heading into Castle Rock
My lunch at Dairy Queen, plus crushed ice for my water bottles

I knew the first five miles heading south out of Castle Rock would be on a frontage road that runs alongside Interstate 25, and I had imagined the frontage road would be a relatively calm stretch before heading over to Highway 105, the 10-mile stretch of narrow road with no shoulder. Little did I know, that frontage road is the most insane and unsafe place for a cyclist I can imagine! Traffic along the frontage road was heavy and constant, there was absolutely no shoulder whatsoever, and the cars where flying past much faster than the traffic on the nearby interstate. I was scared and stressed and could not wait for it to be over. I would have walked my bike on the shoulder, but there wasn’t even a place for that. When I finally got to my turnoff for Tomah Road, I pulled off to the side and took a little break, just to collect my senses and breathe a bit.

The next four miles, I was on Tomah Road, which connected me to Highway 105. Tomah Road was better than the frontage road, but still had a lot of traffic, and not much of a shoulder. It also involved about 600 feet of climbing, and, well, I quickly regained the feeling of drudgery that characterized my experience of Crowfoot Valley Road. I felt like I had to stop several times on the way up. I began to fantasize about waving down a pickup truck and asking for a ride. I started to walk my bike on the shoulder, but the shoulder was soft, and it wasn’t working out. Finally, I crossed over to the left shoulder, where my feet were walking on the soft part, and the wheels of my bike were rolling on the edge of the pavement. I could see when cars were coming toward me, and pull farther over onto the shoulder if necessary as they passed. It wasn’t efficient, but it worked to get me to the top of that hill.

Tomah Road

I kept hoping things would be better once I got to Highway 105. As it turned out, Highway 105 was as described: little traffic, courteous drivers, no shoulder, and pretty scenery. I saw other cyclists along this part, although none carrying panniers. Under other circumstances, I think I might have loved this ride. But the rolling hills got old. It seemed like a lot more uphill and rarely any downhill. Looking at an elevation profile of that road suggests that’s exactly right. It was another 1500 or so feet of climbing, and I had to stop a lot. I drank lots of water and my electrolyte drink. I chewed on some Cliff blocks. I kept wishing I felt stronger, but it was just plain slow going. Sometimes I would walk the last part of a hill, never sure which was slower, riding or walking. I couldn’t help but notice the time. I’d told my family I planned to get to the hotel in Colorado Springs by 4 PM. But it was past 4, and I still had at least an hour and a half to go. I texted my son to let him know I was running late. He gave me the details on where we’d be meeting for dinner, a family gathering with the wedding party that had been scheduled for 5:30.

I reached a point where I just didn’t know if I could take another hill. And then there was yet another hill. I stopped in some shade at this point, noticed a little shaking in my legs, and called El Cochinito for moral support. I got his voicemail, but just describing how I was feeling seemed to help in some small way. I got back on the bike and started pedaling again, reminding myself to just focus on the next small stretch of road, and stop worrying about the entire hill or what might lay ahead after this hill. At some point on that climb, I saw a text come in from El Cochinito: “You got this!” I knew he was right. I was miserable, but I was going to make it.

Luckily, that did turn out to be my last climb on Highway 105. I got to Spruce Mountain Road, and soon was getting on to the New Santa Fe Regional Trail. Just when I was nervous about being out of water, there was a park with a rest room and drinking fountain. Phew! And, wow, was that trail ever fun! A beautiful red gravel trail, with gorgeous scenery, and what must have been a slight downhill. I was rolling fast, and my 32 mm tires were just wide enough to handle the gravel. Occasionally, I could feel the tires shift a bit in a looser patch of gravel, but I just kept my focus and my speed, and never took a spill. After all the drudgery that preceded this part, the ride was now exhilarating! I found a new wave of energy. The latter part of the trail was rather rocky. I wasn’t sure I had the right bike for rocks this big, but again, it was kind of exciting, and I was having a blast!

Scenery snapped on the fly while riding the New Santa Fe Regional Trail
Loved the red gravel

The trail was about 6.5 miles, then I had to do the last 6 miles on suburban roads. There were bike lanes for most of it, and some hills here and there. Every time I had to go up hill, it felt pretty tough, but I was close enough to the end, and none of those hills was as bad as what I’d already done that day, so I was able to get through it. I was feeling the thrill of realizing that, for all it’s challenges, I was going to complete this ride!

By the time I got to the hotel, it was already 6:00! I took a quick shower and got a Lyft ride over to the restaurant. My family was relieved to see that I’d made it. I was certainly relieved that it was over! I knew one thing for sure: I was not going to take the same route back to Denver. I wasn’t 100% sure I would even ride back, especially if I couldn’t identify a suitable route that would avoid the I-25 frontage road. I figured I would give myself some time to think about it, and just enjoy the weekend with family.

Friends & family of the groom at this table

Saturday we had time to go visit the Garden of the Gods. We did some hiking, went out to lunch, and then got ready for the big wedding, which was being held Saturday evening at a barn in Peyton, out in the farmlands northeast of Colorado Springs. Originally, I had thought it might be fun to bike to the wedding, but it would have been a two hour ride each way, and not on pleasant roads for cycling. Given how late we stayed at the wedding, and how drunk many of the guests were, I was especially glad I did not take my bike!

With my son at Garden of the Gods
The barn where Michael & Katie tied the knot

Before I could go to sleep Saturday night, however, I just had to study the maps and make my decision about my route for the ride back to Denver on Sunday. I considered just riding on the nice wide shoulder on I-25 until I got to Castle Rock. It would suck to ride alongside freeway traffic for hours, but at least I would have plenty of room. Yet I just couldn’t see doing that. I decided to take Highway 83 north out of Colorado Springs, and then take Russelville Road to Franktown. Highway 83 might be a bit trafficky, but I’d only be on it for 19 miles, and then Russelville Road would be quiet farmland, and once I got to Franktown, the rest of the way would be on the Cherry Creek Trail.

Even though I really should have gone to sleep sooner, I slept well knowing that I had my route figured out. Sunday morning, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with extended family, we said our goodbyes, I gave one of my panniers to my sister-in-law to take in her car, and began my journey.

Highway 83 was definitely more trafficked than Highway 105, but not too bad, and most drivers did pass with care. The good news was that, although the shoulder was narrow, there was a shoulder – always at least 8 inches of pavement to the right of the fog line, and sometimes more. Even better news: there was just one significant hill, shortly after coming out of Colorado Springs, and it seemed I’d climbed it in no time. I stopped near the top for a light snack and to snap a couple photos, and then the fun began. Part of what I liked about taking this route back was that it took me through the Black Forest area.

Bye, bye, Colorado Springs!
The crest of my only significant hill on the trip back to Denver
Climbing is easier with a lighter load & some cool cloud cover

It felt like I was flying downhill almost the whole way to the intersection with Russelville Road, and I was so excited when I saw that sign! It seemed like I got there in no time at all. Russelville Road was peaceful and beautiful. Riding those gentle rolling hills reminded me of cycling the rolling hills around Forest Grove, Oregon, where I’d gone to college and first fell in love with cycling.

So happy to see this sign!

I passed through Franktown in the blink of an eye (I think it consists of one gas station and one cafe), turned onto a gravel road that connected me with the Cherry Creek Trail, and ta da! I was ecstatic, knowing that it would be easy riding on trails the rest of the day.

The gravel road between Franktown and the Cherry Creek Trail

I rolled along with a happy smile on my face, even when I encountered some confusion when the trail crossed a road without clear marking as to where it resumed on the other side. I started to realize I must have missed the trail entrance on the other side of the road, so I stopped to consult Google maps. That was not helpful! I decided instead to just turn back and scan the roadside for the entrance.

Really, Google? I don’t think so!

Not long after rejoining the trail, I came upon another obstacle.

Oops!

Not only was the trail closed, there was no information provided to help me figure out where it resumes. I wandered through the nearby residential neighborhood and found some other access points to the trail, but it was still closed. In fact, it appeared to be a vast construction site. So, I ended up back on Highway 83 for awhile. Although it had lots of high speed traffic, the shoulder was huge, and I felt safe, if not entirely at peace.

Luckily, I was successful on my third attempt to find where the trail resumes. From there on, I had no more problems with routing, and soon was back on the part of the trail I’d ridden the previous Friday. Since I had passed the one diner in Franktown so quickly before realizing that was it, I decided to have a lunch stop at the lovely rest area at the beginning of the bike trail. Since the ride was going so quickly, I was fine dining on a Cliff bar, a banana, and trail mix.

Nice rest stop
This rest stop even had a bike repair stand

With time on my side, I stopped to snap photos whenever the urge hit me. Before I knew it, I was rolling into Denver! Seeing the familiar sights, especially the Rockies framing the cityscape, made me feel so good. It was great to end the ride on such a high note!

A beautiful spot along the trail, in Cottonwood

The next morning, I rode “Rocky” over to my brother’s house, where the bike would stay in his garage until my next trip to Denver. As I rode those six miles, I realized there were beautiful parts of my hometown, not far from places I’d been many times, that I still didn’t know. There is always so much more to discover when you see a city by bicycle.

As it turns out, I rode a total of 147 miles in Colorado that weekend. Strava didn’t record all of it, but I think the total elevation gain for the round trip was just over 5000 feet. Thank you, Rocky, for a fantastic adventure!

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Errandonnee 2018: Turning Chores Into a Challenge

Transportation is an essential part of how we get things done. Most of the errands we run in our regular daily lives involve short trips. Those trips can often be done more easily by bicycle, and yet, most are not. Sometimes we need a little nudge to help us see how easy it can be.

Enter the Errandonnee: a challenge organized and led by the woman behind Chasing Mailboxes and Coffeeneuring. She’s a randonneur, and loves to meld concepts to create new terms to describe her cycling challenges, which serve to encourage folks to keep biking during the off season. Errandonnee is a fun play on the combination of “errand” and “randonnee”. Like a randonnee, the errandonnee has a set of rules participants are to follow in order to successfully complete the challenge and document their achievements. For this one, participants must complete 12 errands over the course of 12 days, March 20th-31st. The errands must fall within at least 7 of 10 categories, and no one category may be used more than twice. It is permissible to carry out multiple errands in a single day, and there is no minimum mileage per errand. One need only report the total mileage for all 12 errands, and that total must be at least 30 miles. As if all that fun isn’t reward enough, you can even get a patch!

A patch from a prior year’s challenge

This is now my fourth year taking on the challenge. I have found that it is really quite doable, provided I set aside a little time for planning to make sure I hit a sufficient variety of categories. It’s easy to hit the “work” and “store” categories, and I have learned to let my dry cleaning (of which I tend to have very little) pile up so I can take it in as a “non-store” or “personal business” errand. Also easy is “personal care”, as I can always count a recreational ride in that category. Going to an event or meeting a friend for dinner is an easy “social call”. The category that entices and intrigues me, is the “you-carried-WHAT-on-your-bike”. Some errandonneurs have come up with remarkable feats of bicycle transport of sizable loads, and I would love to make my own mark in that category. But, no, I’ve managed nothing more than a giant load of dry cleaning, or several bottles of wine. Perhaps this year I can redeem myself. Then again, perhaps I should just concede this category to one of the cargo bike riders.

Let’s see now, what did I leave out? Other categories are: “arts & entertainment”, “wild card”, and a new one, “peaceful everyday actions”. Yesterday (March 21st) I pulled out my calendar to consider the activities already planned or under consideration, and began making a list of places I’m likely to bike to in the remaining days of March. My list was pretty easy to make. I’d had already taken care of three errands, with two in the “work” category (yesterday’s and today’s commutes), and one run to the “store” on my way home from work yesterday. I think my problem this year is going to be figuring out how to keep it interesting and not too easy.

Here’s my “control card”:

#1: March 20th; Commute to the office (work);

  • Distance: 2.3 miles round trip;
  • Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire;
  • Bloomers: Groovy Tie Dye;
  • Observation: We don’t often get overcast skies here in Los Angeles. I noticed today how much cooler and darker the ride home feels under such skies, even when the temperature is rather warmish.

#2, #3: March 21st; Commute to the office (work); stop at store for groceries (store);

  • Distance: 2.2 miles round trip;
  • Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire;
  • Bloomers: Wick-It Black;
  • Observation: Those ready-to-eat roast chickens available at the grocery store on my way home from the office are wonderful when you need a simple, easy dinner, plus they are easy to carry in a bike basket!

#4, #5: March 23rd: Transport several samples of Bikie Girl Bloomers to my office (personal business); take package to post office for shipment (non-store errand);

  • Distance: 3 miles total;
  • Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire;
  • Bloomers: Blue Bandana;
  • Observation: Although the logistics involved in selecting, organizing, and sending samples out of state, plus coordinating with the recipient, are cumbersome and overwhelming, the excitement of having my Bloomers appear in a Bike Fashion Show (at the Pedal Power Bike Expo in Olympia, Washington) is exciting enough to make it all worthwhile!

#6, #7, #8: March 24th: Ride to downtown Los Angeles to attend the March For Our Lives (peaceful everyday action); stop on return at Whole Foods for groceries (store); bike date with El Cochinito to attend the 20th Anniversary celebration of Peace4Kids at Fais Do Do (arts & entertainment);

  • Distance: 18.8 miles total;
  • Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire;
  • Bloomers: Shimmering Sapphire;
  • Observations: seeing families marching together for safety gives me hope; buying fresh produce makes me want to take better care of myself; and seeing people who give their time to help those in need makes me want to be a better person; I really appreciate it when the authorities close off downtown streets from cars – what a great way to ride through downtown L.A.

#9, #10: March 25th: Bike to start and home from finish of a group training ride (personal care); Attend BUSted Storytelling’s 4th Anniversary show at Stories Books & Cafe (arts & entertainment);

  • Distance: 16.3 miles;
  • Bike: Bianchi Volpe;
  • Bloomers: Crazy Daisy;
  • Observation: pushing myself (and failing) to climb longer and steeper hills than I can (on the 3rd super-climb, I had to walk the last part of the hill) is still an important part of my self-care — it tells me that I really did do my best, and gives me a goal for next time (I’m so impressed with my ride, I took a screenshot of the route as recorded on Strava); biking to Stories later that same day was still possible even though my legs were feeling it!

#11: March 26th: Women on Bikes Culver City coffee meet up (social call); plus a bonus errand, see below;

  • Distance: 12.1 miles round trip;
  • Bike: Bianchi Volpe;
  • Bloomers: Pinka Dot Black;
  • Observation: every time women get together, amazing conversations and connections happen!

#12: March 28th: Camp Coffee with the coffee outside crew in Marina del Rey (social call);

  • Distance: 24.6 miles round trip;
  • Bike: Bianchi Volpe;
  • Bloomers: Dazzling Amethyst;
  • Observation: getting up early and heading out on the bike when it’s still cold and dark may be painful, but the fun of riding on a car-free path (Ballona Creek Bike Path) and socializing over coffee makes it all worthwhile. Must do this more often.

I must give credit to a new bike friend, Audrey, whom I met on the group training ride that was #9. She was eager to meet other members of the local bike community, so I had extra motivation to make #11 and #12 happen. Both of these require a certain commitment to getting up early so I can make it to a meeting that is a half hour or an hour from home. Knowing that someone else was expecting me to show up and make introductions prevented me from making excuses or backing out.

BONUS ERRANDS!

Thanks to my thoughtful advance planning for this year’s errandonnee, I knew that my 12th and final errand would be the March 28th social call to join the folks at Camp Coffee. I’ve been wanting to increase my biking miles this year, and nudging myself to get up early for Camp Coffee is a great way to add a chunk of miles int he middle of my week. So, when a few additional errands presented themselves before that day, I decided to treat them as “bonus errands”. Beside, I just wasn’t ready to be finished so soon. It’s too much fun to just tick each one off the list and stop.

BONUS #1: March 26th: Visit to my local bike shop for adjustments (wild card);

  • Distance: 2.4 miles round trip;
  • Bike: Bianchi Volpe;
  • Bloomers: Pinka Dot Black;
  • Observation: I like maintaining a good relationship with the owner of the shop where I bought my Bianchi last October, and I like maintaining my bike. I’m not so good at the DIY approach with the updated technology since my youth, so I’m happy to have the mechanic make sure it’s done right. After a gentle fall on the group ride the day before, I was concerned that something might be a little off, so I had him check it for me. He said only the rear brake was in need of a little adjustment, but everything else was fine (I’m always nervous if the bike falls to the derailleur side). Since he didn’t charge me for it, I used this as an excuse to buy a spoke light so I’ll be ready for my next nighttime social ride (when all the cool kids light up their bikes).

BONUS #2, #3: March 27th: ATM (personal business), and attending the neighborhood association meeting (wild card);

  • Distance: 2.1 miles total;
  • Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire;
  • Bloomers: Leaping Lady Leopard Print;
  • Observation: It is important to participate in civic discussions when we know there will be NIMBYs and nattering nabobs of negativity trying to shut down any change. The meeting was to discuss a proposed new development immediately adjacent to our lovely historic neighborhood. I don’t like it when developers get waivers to get around all the zoning requirements designed to preserve a neighborhood’s character (as often happens in L.A.), but I also don’t like it when new housing is perpetually blocked by NIMBYs who want it to be done elsewhere. That’s how we end up with urban housing crises. I was happy to learn that, despite all the angry neighbors complaining about the project, the developers have taken a very progressive and “green” approach to their proposal. They are including more set-back, more off-street parking, and fewer units than zoning allows, plus they will include electric car sharing and bike parking, and amenities aimed at attracting families.
  • I couldn’t bring myself to snap a photo of the actual meeting – it ran so long, and I just wanted to get the bleep out of there! My only photographic evidence shows one of the yard signs announcing the meeting that I passed as I was biking over there.

Although I listed this bonus errand under the “wild card” category, it inspired me to propose a new category for next year: “civic engagement”. Attending meetings like this, working for safe streets and bicycle infrastructure would also count. Many of this year’s errandonneurs, including myself, also participated in a public march to voice concerns about civic issues (in this case, gun violence). It seems to me, we could support a separate category for these activities.

So, TA-DA! There it is: another successful errandonnee challenge completed! Total mileage for all errands combined was 40 miles. Even if we subtract the 4.5 miles of “bonus” errands, it still easily meets the 30 mile minimum.

The question for reflection: was that a challenge? Can I call it a challenge if I had so much fun just doing activities I (mostly) would have done any way? I think so, and for two reasons. First, it was still a challenge to plan and organize how I would hit the variety of categories and fit it all in to the 12 days. Second, I know that I biked more miles and did more social activities than I would have without the errandonnee challenge influencing my decisions. I see no reason why that fact that I finished ahead of schedule and had a blast doing it should negate the accomplishment.

Once again, thank you, Mary, for the inspiration! And thank you to the fellow errandonneurs for their inspiring posts shared on Facebook and Instagram. A great way to grow my network of bike friends. I am so excited for my new patch!

Ride on!

Bike Date Weekend in Ojai

This Presidents’ Day weekend, I knocked another item off my bike-it list: El Cochinito and I took our bikes on the train to Ventura, and then rode the Ojai Valley Trail to Ojai. If you have ever had doubts about whether you could do a bike overnight trip, this is the one. Anyone can do this! You will be rewarded with fantastic scenery and a delightfully liberating car-free weekend.

The Ojai Valley Trail is a 16 mile separated bike path that runs all the way from Ventura to Ojai on what was once a railway route. The trail is nearly flat, with a very gradual incline as you head north and east into the Ojai Valley. Ever since I’d heard about this bike path, I knew I had to do it. I was particularly excited to have such a treat so close to home, and a distance that would work for both me on my road bike and El Cochinito on his Pedego electric assist bike (well within the range his battery can handle on a single charge).

Panniers packed. I’m ready to roll!
El Cochinito and his steed

First, we checked the Amtrak schedule, and made a reservation for the Pacific Surfliner from Los Angeles’ Union Station to Ventura. Amtrak makes it very easy to roll your bike onto the train. There’s a car that has six spaces for securing a bike on the train; all you have to do is reserve a spot for your bike. This influenced our schedule, as some of the trains had already been maxed out for bike reservations. Luckily, even though we were planning our trip on fairly short notice, we had a schedule that worked quite well. We took the 9:11 train on Saturday morning, and a 5:30 train for the return Monday evening. Round trip fare was $43 each.

From our place in Koreatown, we can either take the purple line subway from the Western/Wilshire Station one mile from home, or simply bike the six miles to Union Station. I find it takes about the same amount of time, when you allow for working around the train schedule, so I prefer to just ride my bike downtown. It was brisk, but not too cold.

We got to the designated train platform at the recommended 30 minutes before our train, but I’d say that’s about 10 minutes sooner than necessary. That did give El Cochinito time to grab some breakfast while I waited with our bikes. There was a very nice and helpful Amtrak employee on the platform who cheerfully pointed us to the right spot to wait for the train and be ready to load our bikes on to the appropriate car.

Waiting on the platform at Union Station

Rolling our bikes onto the train was easy (easier than with Metrolink), and the lower level of the bike car has six spots with straps to hold the bikes in place. We found seats on the upper level, just above our bikes. The train stopped at Glendale, Burbank airport, Van Nuys, Chatsworth, Camarillo, and Oxnard on the way to Ventura. The scenery along the route is just what you’d expect for this mix of suburbia and industrial parks. Perhaps not what you imagine for a scenic train ride, but I took pictures anyway.

Velcro straps make it easy to secure one wheel of the bike to the wall in the train’s bike car

Getting off the train at Ventura was also easy, and we had just a short ride to the Ojai Valley Trail bike path, which at this end, is called the Ventura River Trail.

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The Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, pulling out of the Ventura Station

The first portion of the trail is a little less impressive on the scenery side, but features some curious markers along the way. Perhaps next time I do this ride, I will stop at each one (there were several) and pay a little more attention to see if I can pick up on a theme. You can read a little about them on this trail description here.

Some of the semi-industrial scenery along the Ventura River Trail

Making the ride even more fun was the soundtrack provided by El Cochinito, courtesy of the Bose speaker he brought along in his bike basket. We listened to everything from the old crooners to Lady Gaga.

The trail is paved the whole way, transitioning to more natural beauty as you head north into the Ojai Valley

After about 6 miles on the trail, it becomes the Ojai Valley Trail, and the scenery becomes more pleasing. We rode alongside a park, some pretty fencing, over a couple of bridges, past many beautiful trees, and looked out at mountains in the distance. We took a brief detour at Oak View, where we headed into town to get some lunch. We had some perfectly acceptable Mexican food at Casa de Lago, and then returned to the trail to complete our trip into Ojai. Our total mileage from Ventura to Ojai, including the side trip to Oak View, was 19.2 miles, with an elevation gain of 1,022 feet.

Our favorite bridge along the route

Making all of our travel plans just two weeks before the holiday weekend limited our choice of accommodations. I would have liked to try staying at the bike-friendly Ojai Rancho Inn that was recommended in this piece from The Path Less Pedaled, but they were already booked. As it turned out, we did alright with the Topa Vista Inn in Meiners Oaks. Perhaps because it’s not right in the center of town, it was very reasonably priced, plus it turned out to be a charming area in which to stay. We had a beautiful view, some cute amenities close by, and an easy enough ride into town. It was also fun to explore the variety of ways we could route our bike rides from where we were staying each time we rode into Ojai.

The Topa Vista Inn is located at the junction of Highway 33 & Cuyama Road
Posing in front of our room. I kept my wardrobe simple: Nuu-Muu dresses & Bloomers. Easy to carry in my panniers.
Plenty of room for our bikes inside the room

We arrived a little too early for check in, so we rolled on into Ojai, taking a pretty route to Bart’s Books. This bookstore is a must for any visit to Ojai. Bart’s is a delightful outdoor bookstore that’s been around awhile. I was happy to see that the place looked freshly painted and cheery. (You never know when an old beloved bookstore is going to fade away.) A special perk of this bookstore is that they allow you to bring your bike inside. We browsed, got some cold drinks (they do offer refreshments), and sat awhile reading what we’d found.

We rolled back to the Topa Vista to drop off our things and rest a bit before dinner. It was a bit frustrating to pick a place to go out for dinner in Ojai. There are restaurants, of course, but nothing that satisfies what you might expect for a tourist destination. Even the places with the better ratings have mixed reviews, and we weren’t able to make reservations on such short notice. I made us a reservation for Sunday night, and El Cochinito picked a place for our first night.

His choice turned out to be an excellent one. We went to Nest, a casual place where you order from a window and seat yourself on an outdoor patio. This meant not having to worry too much about where we parked our bikes, as we could sort of see them from our table. The atmosphere was pleasant, the vibe relaxed, and the food did not disappoint. Of the various meals we had in Ojai, I think I liked this one best. But maybe that’s because we also got a full carafe of a very drinkable red wine to go with it.

Sunday morning, we ventured out into Meiners Oaks. We stopped for breakfast just a short ride down the street from the Topa Vista Inn at the Farmer and the Cook. This is a cute, folksy market and cafe that offers an impressive selection (for its size) of very good for you foods in the market, and some tasty options for a cooked breakfast. El Cochinito had their huevos rancheros, and I had a classic breakfast of eggs and toast, and an unusual drink whose intriguing name now escapes me. You have to allow a bit of a wait for it, and I can only say that it tasted like it probably had ingredients that were good for me, but I’m not likely to order one again. Next time, I’ll just have coffee!

From there, we continued west to explore Meiners Oaks. We were rewarded with a gorgeous view of the valley. We continued on north-ish from there, and ended up going down into an area that had an avocado orchard at the end of the road. Across the road from the orchard was a yard with an odd variety of items, some of which appeared to have been burned in the recent Thomas Fire. We returned back up that road, then found a way to turn our ride into a loop that took us back to the Topa Vista Inn.

We saw some burnt debris, likely damaged in the recent Thomas Fire
Avocado trees behind the fence

Later, we ventured out again on our bikes, this time heading east-ish and exploring an alternative road we hadn’t yet tried. We worked our way over to Foothills Road, and got a little bit of hill work in, although nothing too challenging. We then found a way to arc back toward downtown.

Exploring Rancho Drive

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After stopping for lunch, we continued our meander. I was curious to see the part of the bike trail that runs alongside downtown, so we headed there. That was nice, but ended soon. From there, we decided to continue east on the main drag (Hwy 150; Ojai Ave). Along the way, we stumbled across a pottery show, so we stopped there. We ended up meeting a woman who had recently sold her business and moved to Ojai. She had bought a house and set up a pottery studio to create a space for local artists to work and show their creations. There were several artists showing their work that day, accompanied by refreshments and live music.

El Cochinito enjoyed extended conversation with Oxnard-based potter Jacqueline Biaggi

From there we went a wee bit further east, then a smidge north into the farmland areas, and looped back on Grand Ave, which took us all the way back into town. We completed the entire “Tour de Ojai” for a total Sunday afternoon ride of 12 miles.

Our 12-mile Sunday afternoon Tour de Ojai

For dinner, we had our reservation at Azu, a funky restaurant that is connected to the Ojai Valley Brewery. The place happens to be at the far end of the same block as Nest, where we’d eaten the night before. Our experience at Azu was, well, consistent with the mixed reviews we’d seen online. Luckily, we enjoy each other’s company and had sufficiently low expectations that it wasn’t too serious a disappointment. It’s a charming enough place, but nothing to get excited about.

By Monday morning, we had run out of the coffee supplied for our room at the Topa Vista, and we were ready to try the coffee shop just across the street. The Coffee Connection is a good find, and I heartily recommend it. After relaxing back in our room for a bit, we started packing up our things, checked out of the Topa Vista, and rode into town for an early lunch. Feeling we had seen all there was to see in Ojai by this time, we started looking into what we might be able to do in Ventura before our 5:26 train back to Los Angeles. We had been thinking of seeing a movie, and saw that there was a 1:10 showing of Black Panther, which had just come out. It occurred to me that, if we left immediately, we just might be able to make that show.

Our last glimpse of the trail as we left downtown Ojai

We hopped on our bikes and began riding the trail back to Ventura. The ride back, with its gradual downhill, was fast and fun! We did not stop to snap photos on this trip. According to Strava, we did this 17-mile ride in one hour and eight minutes.

We managed to get to the theater in Ventura at 1:05 pm, but alas, the 1:10 showing of Black Panther was sold out! We decided to see The Post instead. A good movie, with excellent performances by Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.

Downtown Ventura; note the wind in the palm trees.

We still had some time to spare after the movie, so we wandered down the main drag in Ventura, and browsed a charming bookstore, the Calico Cat Bookshop. That was a treasure. El Cochinito found a book he wanted there, and we got to “bookend” our trip with visits to cool bookstores.

Bundled up for the ride home from Union Station, visibly pleased with our bike adventure!

Having logged each of our rides on Strava, I can tell you that our total mileage for the 3-day weekend was 72.4 miles (total elevation gain 2,567 feet), spread out over more than a dozen small trips.

So fun, so doable. You should try it!

BikieGirl’s Epic New Year’s Donut Ride

The resolution will not be motorized! My new year’s resolution, that is; wherein I resolve to bike more miles this year. I want to do more rides, and I want to do longer rides.

I had so much fun checking out various donut shops during this past Coffeeneuring season, it left me wanting more. There were so many donut shops on that list from the L.A. Times that inspired my donut quest last Fall, and some of them rather far from home. I had particularly wanted to visit The Donut Man, and then realized that it’s in Glendora, a good 32-37 mile bike ride (one way) from my house, depending on the routing. I thought a ride of that distance would be best undertaken on a holiday, when traffic is light, and it’s easy to devote the entire day to riding. And as long as you’re devoting the whole day to riding, why not break up the ride with a couple more stops at other donut shops along the way? And biking for donuts is fun; I could invite my friends and make it a social ride, perhaps a full-fledged EVENT!

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That’s more or less how this idea was born. I imagined knocking several of the remaining donut shops off my list of places to try in one cross-metropolis sweep, starting at Blue Star in Venice, hitting one of the many options in Mid-City, swinging by Donut Friend in Highland Park, and ending at The Donut Man in Glendora. I started planning such a ride for New Year’s Day, a holiday for which I rarely have anything planned anyways. I don’t even like to party on New Year’s Eve, so getting up early for a bike ride the next day would be no problem.

Then it occurred to me that some, perhaps many, donut shops might be closed on New Year’s Day. So I figured I’d better make some phone calls. I was relieved to find out that Blue Star Donuts would indeed be opening, albeit at 9:00, on New Year’s morning. After learning that my two most appealing destinations, Donut Friend and Donut Man, would both be closed on New Year’s Day, however, more research was required. Another one on the list was Monarch Donuts in Arcadia, but they close at noon, and according to the LA Times, they can sell out even before noon. That’s too far to ride with any hope of getting there in time, even without the holiday, especially with a group. I still very much wanted to do an epic cross-metropolis donut ride on New Year’s Day, but I would have to be willing to extend my list of potential destinations beyond those listed in the LA Time article.

On further review of the LA Times article, though, I discovered The Donut Hole. It hadn’t caught my eye on the first read, as it is located in La Puente. I really didn’t know where the bleep La Puente is, but it just sounded like it must be really far away. And now, the potential distance is precisely what makes it a worthy contender. It wasn’t just written up for its good donuts, however, the LA Times calls it an “architectural landmark” that was built in 1968. It’s a drive through that passes through two giant fiberglass donuts! Who wouldn’t want to ride their bike through that?! The distance seemed about right: 38 miles from Blue Star in Venice. By this point, I was getting rather excited.

But where to stop on the way? In Mid-City, I had considered SK Donuts, a place so many have raved about, one that was on the LA Times list, and certainly one I’ve been wanting to try. I rode past it one Sunday morning while out for a spin, and noticed a very long line of waiting customers. Also on the list was Trejo’s Coffee & Donuts, recommended for a delightful variety of creative flavors that go beyond mere novelty, and actually taste good. My telephone research led to the news that SK was getting ready to close for remodeling, but Trejo’s would be open on New Year’s Day, so that made the Mid-City choice easy.

Looking at a map of the LA area, it seemed East Los Angeles would be the logical midpoint between Hollywood and La Puente. Yet nothing in East LA had appeared on the LA Times list, giving me pause. Maybe they aren’t into donuts in that part of town? I turned to the google, and read reviews. There were two shops that seemed to have fairly consistent positive reviews, although nothing that stood out as stellar. I jotted down the names and numbers on an old envelope to carry with me so I could call when I had a chance.

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Beloved and yellowed article I saved from a September 2017 issue of the L.A. Times

You see, I had been talking up this plan for an epic donut ride with my various bike friends since November, but now it was getting into the latter part of December, and I was about to leave for an 8 day trip to Cuba, returning late on the 30th. I always meant to set aside some time to get this route sorted out, but there was always something big that I had to deal with first. We had a big family trip to Orlando the week of Thanksgiving, celebrating my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. And any time I’m getting ready to go out of town for a stretch, I have to scramble and make sure all my work is done that has to be done in time for various deadlines for my clients. So the last week before a trip and the first few days after are always busy. Then we were hosting our annual pig roast party on December 9th, featuring an artist friend who comes to visit from New York and help with the party preparations the week before. Plus El Cochinito and I had a wedding anniversary to celebrate on the 10th. Next thing I knew, I was scrambling to get work done before the Cuba trip, which is extra challenging, since I know I won’t be able to get online very readily while I’m there. So that’s how I ended up planning this while on my way to the airport as I was getting ready to head to Cuba, just 10 days before the big ride, eager to post updates to the Facebook event page before I boarded my flight to Havana.

One of the two East LA shops I’d identified was not going to be open on New Year’s, but the other was, so that settled it. I was pleased with the way the route had worked out: we should be able to burn off one donut’s worth of calories (more or less) with the 12+ miles of biking between each shop. And the distance would be no problem with built-in rest stops along the way. I know it’s risky to host a group ride without first testing out the route, but I figured we’d manage if a route adjustment became necessary on the fly.

I was excited to check in with my Facebook event page as soon as I returned from Cuba. We had a nice little group forming. I had shared the event with a variety of cycling groups, because, why not? As it turned out, everyone who had decided to participate was a friend I already knew, so I didn’t have to get nervous about the possibility of someone bringing mysterious expectations or strange vibes into our ride.

I got up bright and early, making sure I had everything I would need as a responsible ride leader: cue sheets, water bottle, empty travel coffee mug that fits into my second bottle cage (because I can never finish a cup of coffee that quickly), sun screen, lights, reflective vest, jacket, leg warmers, power bank, handle bar bag, pannier basket, helmet. I had even loaded a route on my phone in both Google Maps and RideWithGPS, just in case one system worked better than the other. I wanted to be sure I left the house in plenty of time to be the first one to arrive at Blue Star Donuts, and I had an 11 mile ride to get there. This meant leaving the house by 7:45 or so, when it was still quite cold out.

Biking from Koreatown to Venice between 7:45 and 8:45 on New Year’s morning is smooth sailing! I have never seen Venice Boulevard so quiet. None of the usual bikes versus cars battle for the bike lanes to which I have, unfortunately, grown accustomed. I did see a few cars out, and expressed my gratitude with a friendly wave whenever a driver made a point of waiting for me to pass before pulling into the lane from a side street or driveway. There was one driver who was either clueless or heartless in the way he started his car in the parking lane just alongside the bike lane in Mar Vista as I rolled by, began driving slowly in parallel with me but just a ways behind me, and then made a right turn immediately in front of me, cutting me off. I watched in amazement, yelled, “HELLOOO???!!”, and was grateful that I had been able to stop before colliding with his car. If I wasn’t awake before, I certainly was now!

The gods of the traffic lights were good to me, and I made it to Blue Star in plenty good time. I snapped a bike portrait in front of the shop and posted it to Instagram. Soon others began to arrive. I got me a cinnamon donut and some coffee to fill my travel mug. The donut was divine. Blue Star gets major points for presentation; their display case is quite chic. This is a donut shop worthy of a return visit. So many flavors that beg to be tasted!

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We ended up having a nice group of 7 riders. Here’s the official start photo (minus Jennifer, who’d been last to arrive and was probably inside getting her donut when this photo taken):

Ready to roll: Francois, Lynn, Alison, me, Joni (not pictured: Jennifer & Michelle)

We rode up Venice Boulevard all the way to Cochran Ave in MidCity, where we headed north. We zigged and zagged a bit into Hollywood, arriving at the bright pink Trejo’s Coffee & Donuts at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Highland. Word to the wise: Trejo’s does not have a public restroom for customer use. There is a Mobil gas station catty corner from Trejo’s, so several riders headed over there for relief. Trejo’s has a remarkable variety of donut flavors, and I couldn’t resist trying one of the more unusual ones. I bought a bottle of ginger kombucha (that I could only handle a few sips at a time – it lasted me all day and then some) and a margarita donut. It really tasted like a margarita – rather tart, but with a lovely, light donut texture. Glad I tried it, but I would not get it again. There are other flavors to try.

Jennifer flashes a peek at the Pinka Dot Black Bloomers under her jeans, while Alison flashes her nasty woman tee shirt.
Our bikes parked outside Trejo’s; my margarita donut and giant bottle of ginger kombucha wait in my basket pannier.
The full group outside Trejo’s: Lynn, Michelle, Jennifer, Alison and Francois, with Joni & me down in front.

Alison, who had started from her Santa Monica home, decided this was a satisfactory end point for her, and took advantage of the convenience of a bus she could catch right there on Santa Monica Blvd to expedite her trip home. A couple of the others who also aren’t accustomed to longer rides were thinking they would ride at least to the next shop, and I was glad folks had embraced the invitation to join for as much of the ride as they wanted. We said farewell to Alison, and ventured on toward downtown.

From downtown L.A., we took 1st Street over the L.A. River and into East Los Angeles to Sun Donut. Readers tempted to repeat our route are advised that this establishment also lacks a restroom for customer use. We had to travel a significant distance to find a public restroom. Plan accordingly!

Sun Donut is a win for value shoppers. Donuts at this cash-only shop are only 75 cents, and a bottle of water was one dollar. I had a chocolate glazed donut, which was perfectly satisfactory. The woman at the counter was the least friendly server we encountered on this day’s adventure. Not rude; just unamused and disinterested. I bought the bottle of water after she informed me that, no, she could not refill my water bottle for me. I found this donut shop to offer nothing to complain about, and nothing to rave about.

My chocolate glazed donut looked better before I got reckless carrying it in the little sack.

I was excited for the next, and longest, leg of our ride. The trip to La Puente took us along a short stretch of the Rio Hondo Bike Path, and later a few miles along the San Gabriel River Trail. I hadn’t been on these paths before, and it’s nice to be off the streets for a stretch. The longer stretch of bike path also provided an opportunity for Lynn and Francois, our strongest riders, to let loose and go for some speed.

Regrouping as we begin on the San Gabriel River Bike Path

The part after the trail was just as stressful as the river trail was peaceful. We had to ride on Valley Boulevard for two and a half miles, with high-speed traffic alongside us. Where we needed to, we took the full right lane, and sometimes rode on the sidewalk. At least on Valley Boulevard we were able to find a gas station (not the first one we tried, but another across the street) that had a restroom. By this point, all of us were in need of relief! Not too much longer after that pit stop, we made it to The Donut Hole. I have to say, as the place came into view, a wave of euphoria came over me. We had arrived at our target destination!

My moment of triumph!                                                                                                                               (Yes, that’s a Hitchable Flounce Skirt and Hot Pink Zebra Bloomers from Bikie Girl Bloomers.)

The giant donuts encircling the drive through shop are indeed an inviting spectacle. We rolled up the driveway and got in line behind the cars to go through and place our orders. The donut case is as long as the entire left wall of the building as you pass through. They offer a wide selection, from donut holes, to apple fritters, to conventional donuts, to giant flaky pastries. I got a giant flaky cinnamon twist and a cinnamon crumb donut and some chocolate milk! Each was entirely satisfying. The twist was so large, I was able to share it with others and still have plenty for myself.

Better than even the donuts, however, was the friendliness of the couple who served us. They were most welcoming of our group on bicycles as we came through the drive through tunnel. I told the gentleman we’d ridden our bikes all the way from Venice just to try his donuts, and he seemed duly impressed. He was also kind enough to step outside and take a group photo for us. I heartily recommend this place, and consider it well worth riding a bike from one end of Los Angeles County to the other!

Jennifer, Lynn, Joni, Francois, Michelle, and me

By this time, the sunlight was beginning to dim. We donned our jackets and/or reflective wear, and began the 7.3 mile ride north to the Irwindale Gold Line Station. By the time we got there, it was dark. This last leg of our ride brought our total mileage from the start at Blue Star Donuts to 50 miles. A half century donut ride to ring in the new year.

Note Joni’s coordination of the tee shirt with her awesome donut socks.

A special pleasure of this ride with our group was seeing the excitement on the faces of Michelle and Jennifer, both of whom had originally thought they would end their portion of the ride at Sun Donut. Neither had ever biked this far before, and on this day, they rode 50 miles! They did great, and it was fun to see them delight in the realization that they could ride farther than they thought they could.

We took the Gold Line to Union Station, and it was fun to fill the train will all our bikes. We were all glowing as we reveled in the satisfaction of a mission accomplished, and chatting with fellow passengers. From Union Station, Jennifer and Michelle transferred to trains that would get them close to home, and Joni, Lynn, Francois and I biked together from there. Joni had realized that biking the rest of the way home (or perhaps even just to the expo line) would bring her mileage for the day to 61, a personal goal of hers to mark her recent 61st birthday. I believe she ended up exceeding that goal by a few miles.

It only occurred to me much later that all seven of us donut quest riders are over 50 years in age, with several over 60. This kind of fun isn’t just for kids, or rather, it’s for kids of all ages!

We all agreed that this should be an annual tradition.

Epic, indeed.

Bike Date: Hollywood Bowl

My hubby sure knows how to make me happy. Some folks are real good at taking lemons and making lemonade. El Cochinito excels at taking a pitcher of lemonade, and making it into a party!

It all started innocently enough. In July, our friend Angie had offered me a pair of tickets to a performance at the Hollywood Bowl on August 9th. That date just so happens to be my birthday (I suspect she knew that), and no plans had yet been made for how the occasion would be celebrated, so I immediately said, “YES!” to the offer. El Cochinito took it from there.

All dressed up for date night

He let me know that afternoon that I should try to be home by 4 p.m., as we would be heading out early for our pre-Bowl activities. He didn’t give any details, keeping the pre-party a surprise, except to let me know we would be biking to the Hollywood Bowl – something he knew I’ve been wanting to do. I planned ahead, wore my date-night-dress to the office, and rode to work on my road bike instead of the Dutch bike I usually take for commuting and errands. I didn’t know how much of a challenge it might be to bike up to the Hollywood Bowl, but I was quite sure I did not want to try that on the heavy upright 8-speed Gazelle I normally use for commuting.

Am I the follower or the leader here?!

It was a wee bit interesting getting started, as el Cochinito was in charge of the itinerary, but asking me to lead the way on our bikes. Not wanting to reveal our destination, he would tell me things like “ride to the UU church” and then, at some point, tell me, okay, now we need to go up Rampart. And off we went!

Stopping by a fruit cart on a summery evening

We ended up in Los Feliz, which necessitated climbing some hills that were nothing to sneeze at, especially on a hot August afternoon. Finally he announced that we had arrived at our first stop, and we locked our bikes to a railing in a small corner strip mall at Hillhurst & Franklin. Although we didn’t exactly take the most direct route to get here,  we avoided the nasty traffic streets during the late afternoon commute, and what’s an extra mile or so when you’re out having fun, right? I was grateful for the quieter streets, and considered that well worth any extra distance.

Our first stop turned out to be Lou Wine Shop, where we were greeted by Lou himself. He asked us what we were looking for, but then took a good look at my deep red and very sweaty face, and suggested perhaps I would like to start with a cold glass of water – just what I needed! Of course, el Cochinito was appearing all refreshed and sweat-free, having made the ride on his electric-assist Pedego bike. (Harumph!) Lou helped us select a nice bottle to take with us to the Hollywood Bowl. It was apparent that we could learn a lot about wine from Lou, and we both agreed we will have to return for more one day.


El Cochinito had hoped we could partake in one of Lou’s wine tastings, but the timing wasn’t quite right. Being a master at last-minute plan revisions, he quickly found a place nearby to grab some pre-dinner drinks. We toodled over to a nearby establishment, Spitz, that had some refreshments to offer. Hubby had a beer, and I tried my first mango michelada (a beer with mango puree mixed in, and some spice). It was just the ticket after getting all sweaty on the uphill ride.

Mango michelada at Spitz

From there we headed west into Hollywood, for a delicious dinner el Cochinito had booked for us at Cleo’s. It appeared the parking valets at Cleo’s were not accustomed to diners arriving by bike, but they were nice enough about helping us identify a suitable place to park in their garage. The restaurant is elegant, without being over the top – lots of photos and decor celebrating Cleopatra. They have an enticing menu of craft cocktails to choose from, and a delectable selection of food to cover just about any appetite or palate. I had a fancy-schmancy cocktail and some seriously delicious roast lamb with lebaneh and Israeli couscous. I felt like I was getting quite the royal treatment, and it was wonderful.

Dining in style at Cleo’s

We retrieved our bikes and headed up (really UP) to the Bowl. It wasn’t a bad route, and we were able to do some of the first part off of the busiest streets. But one of those cute little streets took a super steep incline for about 1/4 of a block as we made our way from Yucca to Franklin. Even in my lowest gear, and weaving side to side, I found myself beginning to fall over, rather than continue up that nasty little hill. So I stepped off the bike and walked it up that last little bit, where el Cochinito was waiting for me. I had imagined the hill up Highland to the Bowl would be a hearty climb, but it didn’t seem that hard. Not sure if that’s in comparison to the earlier climb, when it was hotter out, or because I was still buzzing from my killer cocktail!

I loved the feeling as the parking guides waved us on in at the Bowl entrance, and breezing past all the poor suckers stuck in their cars. Moments like this help make up for all the times we feel like the bottom of the traffic food chain. We entered the event space, and began the quest for where exactly one goes to park their bike at the Hollywood Bowl. We asked one of the Bowl employees who was guiding folks in, but he had no idea. Luckily, a pair of modest bike racks caught my eye, and we locked up there.

Looks like a bike rack to me!

We found our seats. Angie had done quite nicely by us with these tickets. I’ve never sat so close at the Hollywood Bowl before. Angie stopped by to visit us at a couple of points, and introduced a friend she and her hubby had brought along – they were sitting even closer to the front. The music was a delight. A Latin jazz group led by Pedrito Martinez opened, followed by the lively Angélique Kidjo. And then we heard the popular (VERY popular in Cuba) group Gente de Zona. The wine was great, the music was great, and we were fortunate to be sitting with folks who like to get up and dance!

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Afterward, we found our bikes, put on our lights, I donned my reflective vest, cued up some music on my combination headlight/bluetooth speaker, and off we rode. I loved, absolutely loved, riding down the hill in the crisp evening air. The ride alone was fun, but of course, it was made sweeter knowing that we had bypassed the whole misery of trying to leave the Bowl in a car along with thousands of others.

Would I do this again? YES!

Thanks to el Cochinito for a wonderful night on the town!

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Our full 16.6 mile round trip (with only 795 feet of climbing)

Coffeeneuring 7.0: Bru Coffeebar in Los Feliz

For my final ride, on the final day of the coffeeneuring challenge, I was determined to check out a place in Los Feliz, a rather hip and pleasantly funky neighborhood north of mine that I don’t visit often enough. Los Feliz is also a neighborhood I pass through on a frequent Sunday morning route, when I ride up to Griffith Park. That ride gives me a nice 22-mile or so loop, with my choice of moderate or intense hill climbing (the latter complete with a fantastic view of Los Angeles from the Griffith Observatory) that I can complete in 2-1/2 hours or less. This means I can still make it to church at 11:00, or have time for other activities. But that was not going to happen on this particular Sunday in November 2016. It was wet and drizzly out, and I don’t do Griffith Park when it’s wet.

So, I did my advance work, and I Googled for coffee shops worth checking out in Los Feliz. Despite a distracting array of enticing options from which to choose, I settled on Bru Coffeebar. It wasn’t too tricky to map out my route, and yet, I still didn’t quite do it right on the first try. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. First, I snapped my style shot, so I wouldn’t forget to document the Bloomers of the Day like I forgot last time.

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Keeping it colorful with Red Hot Aqua Dot Bloomers under a Fruit Punch Nuu-Muu dress (and my orange bike socks!)
I rode up Edgemont, one of my favorite bike lane equipped streets. I often take it on my return from Griffith Park, so today I thought it might be fun to try it out on my northbound leg.

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The Edgemont bike lane. Griffith Observatory is the big white building on the hillside.
Sometimes I get my “F” streets messed up, and I guess that’s where I goofed this time. I turned right onto Fountain and headed over to Vermont, expecting to find Bru Coffeebar near the intersection, but no. I rode south on Vermont a bit, and then realized I must’ve jumped the gun when turning off of Edgemont. So, I checked my directions, circled back to Edgement, and continued farther north this time, to Franklin, that other “F” street. Sure enough, that did the trick, and although Bru Coffeebar is easy to miss, thanks to its stealth signage, I finally saw it right in front of my face, and found a place to lock up the bike.

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Bru Coffeebar in Los Feliz. Can you see their sign?
It’s a nice, contemporary space, with high beamed ceiling and a cool-looking loft area. I ordered a ginger latte and some kind of syrupy, croissantish pastry that appealed to my sweet tooth. The presentation was lovely, perfect for Instagram, and both the ginger latte and the sweet pastry were delicious. After filling up, I returned to my bike, and was glad to find the saddle on a bit wet. If you’re going to bike in the rain, this is the kind of light rain you can easily manage.

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Not wanting to return the same way I’d arrived, I decided to try taking Virgil back. Virgil is often one of the suggested streets when using Google Maps in bike mode, but I’ve been skeptical. Sunday morning is always a good time to take a first try at biking on a street that might be too heavily-trafficked an arterial. It turned out to be quite fun, even if a bit more trafficky than I would like at times. Part of the way, I did have a bike lane, and the slight decline made for a fun and fast ride.

I worked my way back to familiar parts of Koreatown, and enjoyed seeing some of my favorite architectural gems along the way.

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The Bullocks Wilshire, one of L.A.’s coolest art deco buildings. Originally a fancy department store, it now houses Southwestern School of Law.
Not a bad way to spend a dreary, drizzly Sunday morning.

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Yeah, I’m gonna share my loop within the loop.
Total mileage: 12.4

Bike: Specialized Dolce Comp

Destination: Bru Coffeebar, Los Feliz, Los Angeles

Beverage: Ginger Latte

Coffeeneuring 5.0: Santa Monica & Sex Ed

What does coffeeneuring have to do with sex ed, you ask? Nothing, unless you decide to bring them together. As a coffeeneur who also has duties as a facilitator of a sexuality program, I knew what I had to do given the short time remaining to complete the 2016 coffeeneuring challenge. A couple of Sundays a month, on a biannual basis, I help facilitate for 8th & 9th graders at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica. The program is called Our Whole Lives, reflecting a recognition that we are sexual beings throughout our entire lifespan. It’s an awesome curriculum that covers far more than anything offered in the school system. We discuss honestly all aspects of sexuality, not just reproduction and safety. We help young people develop their skills for dealing with peer pressure, seeking consent, understanding the wide variety of sexual identities and different ways of expressing and experiencing one’s sexuality, in a context of values and within a trusted community.

I was scheduled to teach a session on that Sunday in early November, and I needed to get some coffeeneuring in. I normally enjoy biking the 11-12 miles (depending on my route) to Santa Monica, so why not bike to a coffee shop after the session ends? Santa Monica offers a plentiful selection of fancy coffee shops worth trying. For this one, I decided to try out Philz Coffee on Santa Monica Blvd & 6th Street.

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I loved the cool design of the bike rack right next door to Philz.

Philz offers some outdoor seating, in addition to a large indoor seating area. There was a substantial line, but they have several servers taking orders at the counter, and the line moves quickly.

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Knowing I needed to fuel up for a longer ride home, I got some peanut butter power balls and a yogurt in addition to a refreshing iced gingersnap latte. I strongly recommend the iced gingersnap when you need a combo of spice, creaminess, and potent java on a hot day.

I wanted to take a leisurely route back home by heading a few blocks farther west to the beach. It was a nice day to ride along the beach and then take the Ballona Creek bike path back into the city. This routing added a few extra miles to my ride, but many of those miles were delightfully car-free.

It felt great to be out on my road bike, enjoying some warm weather again. Soon enough, I was back in my own neighborhood. It was such a clear day, you could see the Hollywood sign.

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Total mileage: 30.3

Bike: Specialized Dolce Comp

Destination: Philz Coffee, Santa Monica, California

Beverage: Iced Gingersnap Latte

Errandonnee: My Mad-Dash Exploits

Having so thoroughly enjoyed the Coffeeneuring challenge orchestrated by Chasing Mailboxes last Fall, I could not resist accepting her next challenge, the Errandonnee. With Coffeeneuring, the challenge was to visit seven different coffee shops by bike over seven weeks, staying within some rules and documenting the events accordingly. The schedule for the Errandonnee challenge, however, is a bit more compact: 12 errands in 12 days, hitting at least seven different categories. As luck would have it, I was out of town for the first half of those 12 days (March 4-15). Normally visiting another city would add to the fun, but my schedule for these travel days was packed, and managing any of my tasks during that packed schedule by bicycle just wasn’t practical under the circumstances.

I didn’t worry about the scheduling too much though, in view of two things. First, I was confident I could cram my 12 errands into six days, if need be. Second, Rule No. 12 of the Errandonnee is that you should stop if it stresses you out. I couldn’t let that happen! So here’s how it played out:

Ready to head to the office

 

My Gazelle, parked at the office building

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Errandonnee #1, March 10th: My first day back in town, I rode my bike to work, as I normally do. No biggie. Off to a great start! Category: Work. Miles: 1.2 (one way – the direct route – no time for lollygagging along the scenic route!). Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire. Observation: I really need to fix the left handlebar grip on my Gazelle. It came loose before I left town, and it slides off every time I accelerate, and especially when I go uphill. Bloomers of the day: Tie Dye Pettipants.


 

Groceries secured with nylon bag inside pannier basket

Errandonnee #2, March 10th: Stopped at the grocery store on my way home from the office. Category: Store. Miles: 1.7 (total from office to store to home). Bike: Gazelle. Observation: Packing the eggs at the top of the nylon shopping bag with the handles tied together, and then set inside my Nantucket basket pannier, provides a stable and secure means of transport for my groceries. I always worry about the eggs, but thus far, no casualties.

 

 

 

 


 

Counting on the heat from my flame shorts to keep me dry
I’m not the only one commuting to our building Dutch style

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Errandonee #3, March 11th: Usual commute to work, again taking the shorter route, as I’m still exhausted from my travels and running a bit late getting out of the house in the morning. Category: Work. Miles: 1.2 (2.4 if we count the round trip). Bike: Gazelle. Observation: Gray skies with rain in the forecast for the afternoon has me thinking about whether I will want a jacket for the ride home – or would that make things worse? I’ve got the right helmet, though. The Closca Waterproof Flatcap not only keeps my noggin dry, but the bill helps minimize the raindrops in my face and eyes. Bloomers of the day: Smokin’ Hot Flame Shorts.


 

Thoroughly enjoying breakfast with my sons
A gorgeous day for riding

 

Riding Western style
Noah and Adam with our three bikes locked together around a sign post

 

 

Errandonnee #4, March 12th: Breakfast outing with my sons to Grub (that’s the name of the restaurant) in Hollywood. I raised my boys right: they both use bikes as their primary means of transportation. I was delighted to have them both home at the same time for a Spring Break visit. Category: Social. Miles: 7.6 (round trip). Bike: Gazelle. Observation: Without parking signs, many establishments would have absolutely no place to lock a bike! We locked all three bikes together with one long cable and a U-lock around the no parking sign on the grassy strip between the sidewalk and the street. Bloomers of the day: Blue Bandana.


 

Selfie in front of Griffith Observatory

 

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Red Hot Aqua Dot Bloomers

 

Clear view of the Hollywood sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Errandonnee #5, March 13th: Spiritual recharge ride up to Griffith Observatory. Category: Personal Care. Miles: 23.9. Bike: Specialized Dolce Comp (Roadie). Observations: The golf courses at Griffith Park feature an impressive variety of trees, including oak, eucalyptus, redwood. I doubt many urban golf courses can top the foliage here. First time doing this route after some heavy rains means (1) there is a lot more bright green growth alongside Mt. Hollywood Drive, and (2) there is a lot more dirt and gravel washed across the road, requiring extra care, especially when going downhill in the hiker-heavy zone. Bloomers of the morning: Red Hot Aqua Dot.

 

 

Link to my route:  https://www.strava.com/activities/516304635/embed/b2d8ebc802c8076be056d1581e0095d865a1ffa7

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Looking out over Los Angeles from Griffith Observatory

 

Adam makes it look like he’s having fun.
Noah is a good sport.  

    Errandonnee #6, March 13th: Coffee shop run with my boys to check out Go Get Em Tiger in Larchmont. Category: Social. Miles: 2.9 (one way). Bike: Gazelle. Observations: The new bike corral in Larchmont Village is nice – plenty of room for our three bikes – but the positioning relative to the adjacent angled car parking makes it awkward. I was nervous that the driver of the van parked right next to our bikes might no be able to see our bikes when getting ready to back out of the spot. The sweet latte on the menu at Go Get Em Tiger is indeed sweet – in a good way, as far as I’m concerned. I will be back for some future coffeeneuring. Bloomers of the afternoon: Crazy Daisy.

Locking up at the O.K. bike corral.

My Sweet Latte on the left, Noah’s Curiosity Cola in front, Adam’s straight-up pure coffee in the carafe

 

 

Crazy Daisy Bloomers under my Hitchable Flounce Skirt

 

Errandonnee #7, March 13th: Stop at Rite-Aid for the eggs and milk hubby needs to make flan. Category: Store. Miles: 0.05 (just down the block in Larchmont Village – there’s no minimum distance in the rules!). Bike: Gazelle. Observation: It’s amazing the groceries available at a drug store. We bought sweetened condensed milk, half and half, and a carton of eggs (yes, more eggs – he’s making two flans).



Errandonnee #8, March 13th: Stop to admire one of my favorite architectural gems of historic Los Angeles, the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. Category: Arts & entertainment (or Wild Card if need be). Miles: 2.75. Bike: Gazelle. Observation: Lots of motorists have to wait patiently for their turn to enter the parking lot upon arriving for whatever event is taking place there this afternoon. It’s so fun to zip past them on our bikes.


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Elmer & Marilyn at El Cholo as they passed through town

Errandonnee #9, March 13th: Crazy run-around to figure out where to have dinner with my uncle and aunt, who had just arrived for a stopover on their way from San Antonio, Texas, to Monterey, California. Category: Wild Card (it was a wild ride, and my uncle is a real card). Miles: 1.8 (total). Bike: Gazelle. Observation: During the crazy run-around, I zipped around Koreatown on my Gazelle as quickly as the other two groups did in their cars.

We had initially made arrangements to meet my aunt and uncle at a Japanese restaurant that is just over a mile north of us, but when we called to make a reservation, learned that they would not be able to accommodate both my uncle’s wheelchair and a party of six at the same table. That was disappointing. Then we settled on a place just under a mile east of us: Guelaguetza. Based on the size and lay-out of the restaurant, we thought it would surely be suitable for accommodating my uncle’s wheelchair and our group of six. The restaurant would not allow us to make a reservation on short notice, and then we discovered, after we got there, that the wait was going to be at least 45 minutes. The place was a mad-house, the parking lot completely jammed, and even trying to get through on the street was nearly impossible (for cars, that is). Who knew it could be like that on a Sunday evening?! Noah stood out in the street, near the entrance, to wait for my aunt and uncle to arrive, while my husband and I brainstormed on a back-up plan. Having ridden over on my bike, I’d noticed El Cholo, a Mexican restaurant just a few blocks from our house. Duh! Why didn’t we think of that in the first place? Hubby gave them a call to confirm that they could accommodate the wheelchair and our party of six, and away we went. I was able to ride up alongside my aunt and uncle’s car at a key intersection and give them guidance on where to turn to find the entrance to El Cholo. It worked out perfectly.

Whew! Good thing I was able to get 5 of my trips into one day!


Errandonee #10, March 14th: Bringing 7 bottles of wine home from the office. Category: You Carried WHAT on your bike? Miles: 1.3 (one way). Bike: Gazelle. Observation: I wasn’t sure I could get up the ramp out of the parking structure carrying this much weight, without having to hop off the bike, but I did it! I had 4 bottles in one basket and 3 in the other, along with my computer, my purse, and my lunch bag with my empty food containers. The entire ride, even the hill on St. Andrew’s Place, went more smoothly than expected. I think having the load balanced between the two basket panniers and relatively low on the bike made for a nice, stable ride. Bloomers of the day: Leaping Lady Leopard Shorts.

The ramp emerging from the parking garage

 

 

 

The little hill on St. Andrew’s Place

I think these go well with my wine.


I don’t get the appeal of tagging. Makes me sad.
Errand complete: the proof is in my basket

The dirties in the basket as I show off my bloomers.

 

 

 

Errandonnee #11, March 15th: Drop off dry cleaning. Category: Personal Business / Non-store errand. Miles: 0.4 miles (one way). Bike: Gazelle. Observation: The tagging in Koreatown makes me sad. It is most unfair to our neighborhood business owners. Bloomers of the day: Pinka Dot.


To the mailbox, for the win!

Errandonnee #12, March 15th: Mail a payment to Pam, my graphic artist. Sure, I could’ve paid via PayPal, but that doesn’t involve a bike, so why would I? Category: Non-store errand. Miles: 1 (one way; add 0.3 for the rest of the trip home). Bike: Gazelle. Observation: The traffic light at Olympic Boulevard & St. Andrews Place changes frequently. During the time it took me to stop the bike, get the letter out of my pannier, snap a photo to document my errand, and drop the letter in the mailbox, the light went through almost three cycles!

It’s a good thing I decided to throw in an extra errand by mailing the letter/payment on the 15th, as I had miscounted and this was not my 13th or bonus errand — it was my critical twelfth errand I very much needed in order to complete the series! Looking back at my effort to cram twelve errands into six days, I can’t say that I’m terribly proud of my showing. It seemed a bit lame, and I feel like I stretch the rules a wee bit here and there. I am pleased that I managed to pull it off, but the experience leaves me eager to do a better job of it next year. If nothing else, I look forward to coming up with a better submission for the “You carried WHAT on your bike?” category. I would love to devise a plan that makes for an impressive photo. But I did log a total of 45.8 miles (or 47.3 with parentheticals), so I feel good about that.

Post Script: I thought I had until March 31st to submit my Errandonnee report. I’ve been working on it a little each evening, struggling to get it done. I just reviewed the rules and see that I’m a few days late. Will the Chief Errandonneur let me get away with a late submission? Fingers crossed. I want my patch!

The Bikie Girl Half Century Solo Challenge

A favorite ritual of mine on Sunday mornings is to head out early on my road bike, ride a 24-mile loop from my house to Griffith Park. It starts with about 7 miles of city-riding to the park, leads to a lovely loop through the park, which loop includes climbing up a windy road to the Griffith Observatory. Then I get to fly back downhill and home again. It’s a gorgeous ride, gets in about 1700 feet of climbing, takes a little less than 2-1/2 hours, and I can get home and showered with enough time to catch the 11:00 service at First Unitarian Church of L.A. to complete my spiritual nourishment and recharge for the week. As much as I enjoy that ritual, lately I started feeling like I was getting into a rut and limiting myself from doing longer or more challenging rides.

 

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Griffith Observatory

A couple of Sundays ago, I had a reason to ride to Torrance for a visit with extended family. That took me onto the Ballona Creek Bike Path, which feeds in to the bike path that runs south along the beach all the way along the South Bay. In other words, the bulk of my 25-mile ride that day was on bike paths. I’d forgotten how nice it can be to cruise along on a flat path without having to stop at intersections and interact with automobiles.

Then last Sunday, I had a reason to go to Venice. The Rapha Pop Up Shop on Abbott Kinney was hosting a women’s round table and social ride, and a friend was going to be one of the panelists. To get there on time for the 9:00 a.m. event, I headed straight west on the Venice Boulevard bike lane. The social ride (I opted for the “low-key” alternative, as I knew I couldn’t keep up with the serious roadie gals) was a gentle 14-miler, so I took a little bit longer return route when it was time to head home, allowing me to get back on that Ballona Creek Bike Path. That day I got in a total of 37 miles, and that whetted my appetite for adding more distance.

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Rapha LA Women’s Roundtable in front of the Pop Up Shop

The next Sunday, I had an excuse to visit the Unitarian Universalist Church in Santa Monica, and to arrive there between 10-11 a.m. That would allow me to knit a bit with the knitting group I used to hang with each Sunday, catch the 11:00 service, and get in on the final opportunity for bidding on the Dining 4 Dollars events, an annual fundraising tradition that involves bidding on themed dinners and events. I really wanted to try my luck at Lorenzo’s Crawfish Boil.

I decided this was also an opportunity to put together an epic ride. Something that would challenge me on both distance and climbing, since all of my recent rides have been one or the other, and never that much of either. I mapped it out with Google: head up Nichols Canyon (after all, I did that one last Fall – should be doable), descend from Mulholland at Coldwater Canyon, work my way farther west and see if I can handle Mandeville (it’s been 4 years since the last time I climbed that one), and then I would be not too far from Santa Monica. After the service and bidding was done, I could then take the longer way home, along the ocean and then back east toward home via the Ballona Creek Path. The total mileage would be close to 50, a challenge given my current level of conditioning, but not too intimidating or unrealistic.

I figured the first climb was definitely within reach, and if the second was not, well, I could always just turn around and end the climb early, giving me more time with the knitting group. So off I went, leaving the house at 7:15. It was cool and foggy; we don’t usually get such dense fog this far inland. I felt good, and was psyched for the challenge. By the time I was approaching Nichols Canyon to begin climbing, I was rather wet. My glasses were wet with dew, my clothes were damp, and my brake hoods and shift levers were slippery. Even my tissue that I pulled from my pocket to blow my wet nose was damp, just from being in my pocket.

Soon enough, the dampness was no longer distracting me, and must have disappeared somewhere along the climb. It turned out to be a great day for riding, maybe just because I started out early enough that there wasn’t much car traffic on the windy narrow road. I like checking out the variety of interesting-looking homes along the way, and then being awestruck by the scenery once I’m high enough to see out over the Hollywood Hills. By this time it was just plain sunny; no hints remained of my foggy start. Before I knew it, there was the right turn onto Woodrow Wilson, which told me I was beginning the final and steepest part of the climb to Mulholland. I certainly felt maxed out on that last steep part, and grateful for my bike’s lowest gear, and especially grateful for the knowledge that this part of the climb would be short. Otherwise I might have considered giving up.

Once I got to Mulholland, I took a good little break. I needed to catch my breath, chug some water, and snap a photo to memorialize my adventure on Instagram.

Top of Nichols Canyon

The next part, cruising along Mulholland, was better than I had remembered it, in that the road had been repaved, and I didn’t have any scary moments with motorists zipping by too closely. At least not until I crossed Laurel Canyon. Then it was the rough road and hostile/ignorant drivers I remembered. For those reasons, I prefer to limit my time on Mulholland and take the first good option for my descent: Coldwater Canyon. I love this one. The road is in good condition and traffic is fairly light. There is plenty of room for cars to pass me safely, a minimum of cross-streets, and I can really pick up speed without freaking out.

I stopped at the bottom to check google maps and plan the next segment. I felt good enough to continue with my plan to head over to Mandeville, but knew the steep part of that climb would be harder than that last part of Nichols, and I may well not be able to go the whole way. No reason not to see how far I can make it, though, especially since it’s an up-and-back route.

Riding through Beverly Hills is nice: giant mansions and ridiculously manicured lawns to gawk at, plus ostentatiously wide streets. I discovered for my first time that there is a cut through to Santa Monica Boulevard that makes it easy to head over to the west side. You still have to ride the awful part through Century City, with cars swooshing by at freeway speeds and no bike lane. There really needs to be a protected bike lane there, more so than anywhere else I’ve ridden in L.A.

Having made it to Beverly Glen without getting plowed over, I got to ride in bike lanes all the way to Westwood and continuing as I headed north to Ohio. Ohio got me to Federal, which got me to San Vicente. There’s a bike lane there, but this is Brentwood, so cyclists have to be extra vigilant about inattentive drivers, cars stopped in the bike lane, and entitled drivers who think nothing of cutting you off in their hurry to make a right turn.

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Colorful nuu-muu dress & red hot aqua dot bloomers to keep me visible!

As I got close to the turn off to head towards Mandeville, I considered the time, and how I could just go straight on to Santa Monica and be able to join the knitting group for the full hour between services. But,no, I was too close to Mandeville not to at least see how far I could go. I survived the scary 0.3 miles one has to ride on Sunset in order to get to Mandeville, and shortly thereafter pulled over to take off my jacket and refill my main water bottle from my backup bottle. At this point, another rider pulled over, too. Turns out he was about to attempt Mandeville for his first time, and asked me about it. I told him I hadn’t done it in 4 years, but that I remember that just when you think you aren’t going to make it, you can see the top, and that helps you make it up that last super steep bit. We wished each other luck, and got to it.

In general, I did okay. I was able to enjoy the ride, and could feel the climb, but without discomfort or feeling discouraged by my limited conditioning. At least not until I got to the steeper part. I was working hard, breathing hard, and reached a point where I began to wonder if I might be pushing myself a little too hard for my own good. Was I starting to cross that line between embracing a challenge and stupidity? I wasn’t sure. I remembered that you can see the end of the road when you are near the top, and it bothered me that I still could not see that end. Maybe I still had a ways to go. My pulse was pounding. If I’m not ready to make it all the way today, I can just stop and turn around and try again another day. No biggie. Yet maybe that guy who was trying Mandeville for his first time was waiting for me. But I couldn’t base my decision on that. I decided I was struggling just a bit too much and ought to stop and turn around at the shady spot just ahead of me, so I did. But as soon as I stopped, I looked up and there was the top, only a short block ahead of me. I took a minute or two to drink some water and catch my breath, and mustered up a little more oomph to get me up that last grunt! Three gentlemen on bikes were at the top, resting, and I recognized one as my friend from the bottom of the hill. They offered words of encouragement, and before I knew it, I’d made it!

I snapped a selfie for Instagram and to send to my hubby, who knew I hadn’t been sure about my ability to do this climb, and took only a short break before getting rolling again. The descent was sweet, especially with the added glow of accomplishment.

Victory selfie at the top of Mandeville


I didn’t get to the Santa Monica church as early as I’d hoped, but it didn’t matter  much. I had enough time for a cup of coffee and to catch up with a friend before the 11:00 service began. I got some knitting in during the service, and then joined the bidding frenzy and chatted with old friends in the social hall. My mid-ride break ended up being over 2 hours, as it was after 1 pm by the time I got rolling again.

I headed south toward the beach, and enjoyed watching all the sunny Sunday afternoon action along the Santa Monica oceanside before heading into Venice on ultra-hip Abbott Kinney to get over to the bike path into Marina del Rey.

Ocean Park Beach

 By this time, the reality that I hadn’t eaten any lunch was getting to me, yet I didn’t feel like stopping at a restaurant or fast food joint. Hungry as I was, nothing like that sounded very appealing to me. Once I’d started onto the connecting Ballona Creek bike path, I decided to stop at one of the recently added beautiful park-like areas that have been added along the path. I drank a good bit of water and ate my second Kind bar to keep the hunger at bay.

 

Rest stop along Ballona Creek Bike Path

 It was great to zoom along the path without being interrupted by intersections. At the other end, in Culver City, I considered looking for a place to get some lunch, but I really just wanted to finish the trip home. I figured I could just eat something when I got home.

But as I got closer to home, heading east on Venice Boulevard, I saw that Strava showed my mileage was only in the low 40’s. I thought my route was going to be 48 miles, which could easily be nudged up to 50 by altering the last bit home. This bothered me. I’d been out all day and I wanted to claim I’d ridden a half century! I decided to take a left when I got to Country Club Drive, instead of the right turn that would have taken me straight home.  I arced west and north, the way I go when taking the longer, prettier route to work through Hancock Park. As I came back east, though, my miles traveled remained disappointingly short of the target, so I extended my route farther east, and took Harvard south to 11th. This looped me through Koreatown and then back west to home. The final tally (49.3 miles per Strava) was still a wee bit shy of 50, but I decided to just go home already!

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It was still a ride I could be proud of, and getting home after 3 was late enough!