October 26, 2012 § 22 Comments
I got up and had a banana. My mind was teeming with all the things that lay in wait the rest of the day. Then I had two cups of coffee. In each cup of coffee I poured some nonfat milk and a tiny, really tiny, dollop of heavy cream. I rolled out just after 6:00 AM, met up with Bull and rode to the Center of the Known Universe.
We rode the New Pier Ride, which was fast and hard and into the teeth of a howling Santa Ana crosswind. Afterwards I bought more coffee at Peet’s, cut it with some nonfat milk and another dollop of half-and-half, and sat on the bricks in the morning sunshine at CotKU. My mind was a jumble of thoughts and memories and stories and reactions and questions and plans and ideas.
Then I went to the office, showered, had an apple, and worked until eleven. So many problems and angry people and odd ins and outs and procedures and letters and emails and faxes and more angry people and worried people and just people. All of them crammed inside my head, my tiny head.
At eleven I went down to the Coffee Bean and Tea leaf with a new graduate who’s awaiting his bar results. We had coffee. I put half-and-half in mine, feeling like a lawbreaker. A brazen lawbreaker.
The rest of the day force fed my mind with all the things it had in store.
I went back to the office and ate lunch. Lunch consisted of a can of tuna packed in water dumped into a bowl. Atop the tuna I cracked a raw egg and mixed it with the tuna and some pepper. Then I ate it with two tortillas and a baby Fuji apple for dessert.
I worked until five. Then I had a cup of coffee and four peanut M&M’s. They are twelve calories each.
After a full day of work my head was heavy as a big, rough stone that someone had moved with a bulldozer. I left the office just past five-thirty. My head was so heavy and swollen I could barely cinch my helmet strap.
As I pedaled home the wind blew strong in my face, passing Joe’s house, thinking about him and the six-day bike odyssey upon which he and the other Man Tour riders have just embarked. I turned along Esplanade in Redondo Beach. The wind was now at my back, blowing hard. The sun was quickly dropping onto the horizon. The breakers had been whipped up into large, ragged swells by the wind. Despite the poor form, several surfers were out bobbing in the whitecaps, seeking a few seconds of size and intensity.
The straightest way home is up Via del Monte. Left turn.
But I turned right at Malaga Cove and dropped all the way down to the water. Then I did the steep climb up by the little bay and popped out onto PV Drive.
The sun was mostly in the water.
The straightest way home was now PV Drive all the way to Hawthorne. I turned right on Paseo del Mar, went right at the elementary school in Lunada Bay and took the sharp, short, hard little spike up the secret alleyway.
The sun was gone but the afterglow threw out plenty of sunlight as dusk began to settle.
The straightest way home was Hawthorne. I turned right at Calle Entradero and descended back to the water. People walked peacefully with their dogs. One lady in a billowing dress was taking a photo of a landscape that made her happy. I climbed the little wall back up to PV Drive.
Now I was at Hawthorne. The shortest way home was straight. It was vaguely dark, or rather deep dusk. I switched on my tail light and turned right, did a u-turn at the Starbucks, and headed the other direction on PV Drive back towards Lunada Bay.
The wind was in my face. A group of three bikers came whistling down Hawthorne and raced away, their red strobe tail lights taunting me to chase. The light turned green, but I didn’t chase.
I reached Via Zumaya and turned right, flicking on my headlight. I was now bathed in sweat. The thought occurred to me that my entire engine had run from morning to this point on a few hundred calories. I wasn’t really hungry, and my legs felt fresh.
It was now dark. The headlight cut a sharp beam, delineating the pavement. The moon was brilliant.
I glided up the climb, not going hard, but not giving in to gravity, either.
The moonbeams got stronger the higher I got, or maybe they made me higher.
At Coronel Plaza I turned right and merged with another rider. “Hey,” I said.
“Hey,” he said.
I climbed Ridgegate alone, the moonlight clearing everything from my mind except the rhythmic turning of the pedals.
There was nothing left in my mind, nothing at all, except this: “I wonder what’s for dinner?”
That, and a few moonbeams.
May 13, 2012 § 14 Comments
The South Bay produces lots of riders who can absolutely smoke it on the uphills. This is due in part to the excellent climbing available on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Below is my ranking of the ten best climbs. Route descriptions are referenced according to Strava.
1. Forrestal-Ganado-Domes: 3.4 miles, average grade 6.3%. The toughest climb on the peninsula. It begins on Forrestal when you turn off of PV Drive South, connects with Ganado, then takes Crest all the way to the radar domes. If you do “Segment Search” in Strava for “The Big One, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA,” you’ll find it. It’s a solid 20-minute climb. The first part of Forrestal is deceptively steep, and the rest of the climb to Crest is not deceptive at all. It goes up, and up, and up. The wall before Ganado is horrific, and Ganado itself is beyond horrific. This is as close to a pro climb as we have in the South Bay. Long, leg breaking, steep, lung busting, relentless, and ridden rarely because it hurts so much.
2. Anchovy-Friendship Park-Domes: 4.0 miles, 7% (est). This would be harder than Forrestal except that after you complete the climb above Friendship Park there is a substantial respite before you hit Crest and climb to the domes. Otherwise, it’s an absolute killer. It starts off as an 8.2% wall, climbs for half a mile, then finishes at 11.6% for another five hundred yards before briefly leveling out. You enter the park’s parking lot, pedal to the back, lift your bike over the barricade, and continue up the paved road for another .5 mile, averaging a solid 15% along the steepest part. Then you get another breather from Calle Aventura to PV East until you turn right on Crest and grind the final 1.6 miles at 5.3% to the radar domes.
3. The Switchbacks: The Strava segment is called “RPV Switchbacks.” This is the gold standard climb in the South Bay. 1.9 miles, 5.1%, and a mere 508 feet of climbing, it’s hardly a tough or challenging climb. You can big ring it or spin it…as you wish. However, if you want to crack the top three times, get ready to leave something on the road. This is the most popular climb in the South Bay; everyone’s done it, it’s drilled every single week on the Donut Ride, and although there are many harder climbs, there’s none that’s tougher if you’re out hunting a legit Strava KOM. Which I know you’re not. But just in case…
4. Calle de Suenos-Crest-Whitley Collins: 3.3 miles, 4.5% (est.) this is a harder, more interesting, and less common route than Hawthorne-Crest, which I’ve left off the list because it’s so ugly, boring, and such a wretched slog compared to Calle de Suenos. Hawthorne is slightly longer and slightly steeper, but this is my list. Sorry. The section on Crest after crossing Hawthorne is not steep but kind of a grind. The kicker is the back side of Whitley-Collins, which rips up at 7.8% and is gnarliest at the end…as it should be.
5. Paseo de la Playa-Via del Monte-Granvira Altamira-Whitley Collins: This is an amalgamation of several climbs, beginning at Paseo de la Playa in RAT Beach, connecting with Palos Verdes Drive Boulevard, doglegging through Malaga Cove to the Strava segment called Via del Monte Full, straight across Hawthorne to Ridgegate, right on Highridge, and then finishing with the front side of Whitley-Collins and its .2 miles at 9.9%. The entire climb is like a billion miles long, has one traffic signal and four hundred stop signs. You’ll have to decide for yourself what to do about them. This is a killer climb to do early in the morning, shortly after or just before the PV cops park their dummy patrol car with the blacked-out windows somewhere on Via del Monte. This climb has everything. Steep sections, 180-degree turn, flat spots, false flats, slight and brief downhill, long grinds…and it finishes with a leg-breaker. As it should.
6. Eastvale-Sunnyridge: This is a little-ridden extremely noxious climb that will completely crush you. It’s only about a mile long, but averages a solid 9%. The key is to bear right when Eastvale meets Sunnyridge. From there it kicks up and up and up. Take care descending Sunnyridge. It’s a residential street. This is certainly one of the nastiest climbs on the hill, and gets bypassed for that very reason. You pick it up on PV Drive North just past Crenshaw.
7. Crenshaw-Crest-Whitley Collins: In the spirit of miserable, dangerous, grinding, unpleasant rides with nothing to recommend them except length and dreadfulness, I bring you Crenshaw. If you begin it at PCH, it’s about 4 miles at 7%. The traffic is dense and fast and dangerous on the lower slope. The traffic is not as dense, but faster after you cross PV Drive North. However, the width of the lane makes it relatively safe. Relatively. After the light at Silver Spur, the road jacks up considerably and really sucks. You get a brief respite on Crest, and then pounded in the face with a brick when you hit the final .3 miles on Whitley-Collins. This climb is so miserable and awful that you’ll never, ever do it more than once.
8. Reservoir-Homes & Domes: This is the climb up Palos Verdes Drive East to Miraleste, down Miraleste, and up through the neighborhood back to PV Drive East, then up to the radar domes. It’s a terrible, dangerous climb up from the reservoir due to the traffic, narrow lanes, angry drivers on their way to church, and bad pavement. The climb is neither challenging nor particularly scenic. The Better Homes Section up Via Colinita is about .7 miles, fairly steep, pretty, but not otherwise notable. So why do this climb? Because it’s a standard.
9. Zumaya-Coronel: This is actually the name of the Strava segment; it’s 2.9 miles at 4.4%. It has a couple of steep sections and only two brief sections where you can catch your breath before it kicks up again. It includes the sweeping uphill grind on Coronel and finishes at a nice little grassy park. It’s often included at the end of the Donut Ride for those who haven’t left everything on the Glass Church sprint and The Rollers.
10. You tell me.