Thursday 29 December 2011


We've traded in California for Portland. In retrospect it feels like dropping fantasy for reality. For every example of plastic surgery in California, there's a plaid shirt in Portland. Shaving is entirely optional, and I'd say the take-up rate on men is 1 in 10.

We did the oldest seafood restaurant in the city, then a 7 days a week live music act brew-their-own-beer bar. It's all hard to explain, but it's a combo of real people, real fun, real prices, no sales tax, and of course, bike capital that make it all go around.

Grunge rock never died, nor did people wearing toques, sweaters, and generally un-pretentious clothing on a Wednesday night. Awesome.

Wednesday 28 December 2011

St. Helena, Calistoga

Today we did a little loop a bit further north.  Started in St. Helena, rode up to Calistoga which starts to feel a bit less wine country (the town anyway) and a bit more rustic/functional rather than just cute and touristy. Headed west on Petrified Forest road, which is busy, then back south on St. Helena Mountain road which is beautiful through a forest, with weird little hillbilly houses in the valley, and vineyards on top.  Bigger climb than we expected, and I'm officially down to only a front brake - need to find a set of pads or just ride flatter stuff till we're home.  Big driving day today up to Oregon to rest our legs.

Tuesday 27 December 2011


Great loop ride around Mt. Veeder followed by fancy dinner.  Can't go wrong when the local club recommends it.  Sante was the dinner spot.  Fun to go through the fancy menu stuff - it's one of those Michelin rated ones where they really want you to get into the whole thing.

Sunday 25 December 2011

San Francisco

Christmas morning!  Time for some San Francisco tourism by bike.

 Grace Cathedral.

 California street.

Japan Town.

The house where "Full House" the TV show was filmed.

Golden Gate State park.

Olga taught me never to pass up a good Conservatory of Flowers opportunity, but it was closed.


Two old ladies doing roller skate dancing lessons.

Speeding bullet had a lot of energy this morning.

Free swing dance lessons.

Presidio near the bridge.

Big hills to get to the bridge.

Nearing the bridge on the bike route.

We're gonna stop by tomorrow for a re-do.  Some guy tried really hard and took 4 pictures, but needed to spend most of the photo real estate on our feet, and wanted to aim down to get those buildings below.  This is the best I could crop!

Bridge beauty without us ruining it.

Downtown SF from the municipal pier.

The littlest reindeer.  Had his belt on backwards though...


Up Greenwich street near Lombard street.  Lombard street has tourist cars lined up for blocks, this is one over.

Down Lombard street.

View up Lombard street.  We ate at a cafe just off the bottom right called Columbus which was delicious.

Coit tower.

Washington Square.

Transamerica Pyramid.

China Town.

Saturday 24 December 2011

Elephant seals

They can weigh more than the SUV!

Hundreds of them grunting on this beach, just shaking their blubber non stop. Maybe 45 mins north of San Luis Obispo.

Idyllic. Wineries and Mountains.

Early morning beauty.

Foxen Canyon Drive

I rode from Solvang toward Santa Maria on Foxen Canyon Drive this morning - keeps the tradition of biking on Christmas alive. It was beautiful, with lots of wild life. Deer, sheep, cows, horses. Vultures, hawks, sparrows, bluebirds, pheasants, cranes. And a bobcat!

Friday 23 December 2011

Happy Valley to Figueroa Mountain Road

Today we did some morning Christmas shopping, had a light breakfast at The Red Viking, then rode over to Happy Valley.

Happy Valley is one of the nicest biking roads I've been on. Rolling, easy, vinyards and ranches, all with the mountains in the background. If someone isn't happy after riding this road, you're in the wrong sport. Eventually the climbing began, and it was about 25km of steep climb to the top. Beautiful vistas and narrow road with no traffic all the way. Figueroa Mountain Road then traverses left along the top of the mountains you can see to the left in the picture. Awesome valley views the whole way. Finally once descending time comes, it's steep, fast and long. Essentially from the top it's over an hour of descending all the way back to Solvang, through Los Olivos. Hot tub to finish off before dinner.

That's a classic loop from Solvang that won't disappoint, provided you can climb and enjoy. 75km all in, but more than a 2h ride for sure with all the vertical.

Thursday 22 December 2011


Cindy's review: "it's just so cute."

That's really it. But also bonus points for dutch pancake places, belgian waffle houses, but mostly all things Danish along Copenhagen street, coffee galore, good restaurants, all surrounded by mountains with roads on them. Lots of cyclists in area.

Erik to bell desk: can we store our bikes in your luggage room?

Bell captain: no, just take them up to your rooms. That's what we tell all the riders here, it's easier. The pros and all those serious guys work on their bikes at night.

Ok. Win-win. And sounds like they know the drill.

I picked a ride off the map at random, and it was excellent. Refugio Road, SE of town. Only issue was we took off 'cross tires and climb was gravel. It was fine though, other riders on it on 'cross bikes. Led us up to Camino Cielo, and although my spanish isn't great, that sounded like a good target. Beautiful.

Bearclaw Poppy cyclocross

Perfect hardpack, fast and fun on 'cross bikes. Some guy fell off on one of the Clavicle Hill descents, but he and his friends watched me go by as his mountain bike lay beside him. Funny.

St. George

Tammy, Cindy and I had a lovely ride up Snow Canyon and to Kayenta for some intense lunch. Good times all around - Tammy's a strong rider and good tour guide, and we got home just as it got dark out. Unfortunately the only picture of all three of us is on a camera we don't have a chip reader for. Nicholson hospitality was top notch for dinner, and next morning we fired up the coffee machine then did a little ride on Bearclaw Poppy trail. Fun stuff; it works well with 'cross bikes.

From there it was a drive west to Solvang for a relatively late arrival.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Alta slopes

Alta has a bit of terrain for everyone. This is the peak we came down after a traversed off screen. But I think with small hikes there's as many steeps between here and Snowbird that one would want, provided you've got rock skis.


A mid mountain lodge with this level of condiment selection gets my vote as grade A.


Just cause Utah is Mormon country doesn't mean everything is squeaky clean.

Monday 19 December 2011

Seeking fresh turns

After some blue groomer warmups, I had a bright idea. Hike up a ridge that other people had bootpacked to get some bowl turns, then traverse over. But this was one of those classic "the girlfriend wouldn't have picked this run on her own" type of runs. But we made it. Too bad the turns were more like wind crust than powder. Great day at Alta, but needs snow. No lines at all. Cafeteria even has free hot chocolate refills, and chili with a bread bowl was cheap.

Jackson Hole lunch

Lake Louise could learn something about lunch service American style... although I'm sure this place can get busy too.

No line. Excellent service. And this is for the table pictured, not some in the back. Priced like it would be in town - $50 got us a roast duck "cobb salad", some fancy pants grilled cheese sandwich with apples and salad, and bowl of the soup of the day. Food was great, not ski cafeteria slop. And all that is before mention of the million dollar view. Saw 3 paragliders take off, and countless little kids start ripping turns town the steep bit right below.

Jackson Hole

I was super excited in the morning to ski Jackson Hole. Car thermometer flirted with -18C, which is below Cindy's temperature range for feet and hands. But once we payed our American sized day parking fee and got lift tickets, the gondola proved the valley was cloud covered with the peaks in the sun, and a temperature inversion to accompany it. Top was like spring skiing - we shed layers and stayed up.

Snow is fine, but the need more. Anything off runs would be hitting rocks and stumps. It's a steep hill overall with lots of veritcal. We tried all the "top left" lifts when looking at a map, but the tram wasn't open. Scenery is just spectacular. No line ups all day at all.


From Helena we drove to Bozeman to visit Carl Strong (and Loretta too!). Beautiful tidy shop in a nice building he owns. Talked bikes, tourism, bike riders and life. Carl has a great wall photo of Tejay van Garderen with a Strong bike - he worked at his shop for years in Bozeman while working his way up the American scene. Visiting the shop and the craftsman was wonderful, it's quite an art to build frames of such excellence.

When we left, he asked if we had lunch plans. None yet... So he recommended stopping in Big Sky at Broken Spoke which is a Texas BBQ place run by a guy named Anderson who rides a couple of Strong frames.

Bozeman to Big Sky is a beautiful drive. We found Broken Spoke, but it looked closed, some dog barked and smashed the door when I peeked in. Hard to explain from the perspective of the building how that worked, but we accidentally went to back. Anderson opened the door, dog was some friendly yellow lab that loved being pet, and we ordered what he described as the two best things on the menu - pulled pork and brisket sandwiches. And man was he right... just too much meat. He told us stories of him and a buddy trying to ride the length of the Mississippi and all the people you meet along the way being extra-interesting. No doubt. Sounded like a lot of catfish too.

Big Sky is beautiful, mountain looked great. Not much snow, and not much population near by made it feel desolate, even before the economic landscape tempering people's desire to spend on lift tickets.

The next several hundred miles south were Targahee forest, which must be a native word for "high horsepower snowmobile". I should have stopped to take a picture - every gas station had half a dozen sleds filling up, with 6 more ripping around. The ones in fields had big dirt piles covered with snow for jumps. Seemed like a couple hundred mile stretch where you could go motel to motel and just tour via sled.

We made our way south by sunset and approached the Tetons from the west. Beautiful.

Checked in to lovely little cabins, then walked to a Mexican restaurant for dinner. Can't beat that.


Border asked if we (I) was moving "back" to US, I said we just don't pack light, have a few activities in mind for holidays. Asked if I was going to work here, said my goal was to get away from work for the holidays, but my blackberry probably wouldn't let it happen till next week. Asked if I was a pro bike racer coming down for a race - too bad I wasn't. But probably wouldn't be driving that car if I was. So for whatever reason, a bunch of work questions were the theme this time.

We ate dinner in Great Falls at Applebees, actually a nice one on the river. Montana football game on tv had everyone riled up, quite the deal in the place when any points scored. We ordered from the "low cal" section of the menu, girl did a double take and asked again what I ordered, said "I haven't heard anyone order from there since I've been here". Mine was a shrimp with asian style ginger sauce and all kinds of veggies on rice. Entirely tasty normal size meal (menu said they were guaranteed at 550 cal). Cindy's was chicken with portabello mushrooms. Comical how that reinforced the big meal stereotype on our first sit down meal in country.

Slept in Helena. Called in advance for hotel, guy said don't bother with reservations, they've got lots of space. I guess so far that confirms that road tripping in the western US during a "depression" shouldn't pose too many logistical challenges. Beautiful new one downtown (best western, like, surprisingly beautiful) in a downtown redevelopment of theatre, shops, walking streets, etc. to make a pedestrian friendly cute district. I asked they guy where to park, he motioned for right across the street in a lot. Any security concerns? Here, never. Nice town, seems to be doing right things to keep itself as a nice place.

Next morning we made some hotel home made waffles and headed out. Morning staff was friendly. Went to a coffee place where everyone was beaming with energy and seemed happy. Then stopped at a gas station, and I accidentally pulled up wrong side of car to pump. I backed up and slid over to the other side. Car was as empty as I've ever had. Other pumps were full serve. Kid came out, then what I'd guess was his brother and his dad. They hand wiped all the windows and lights. One checked all tires' pressure. One vacuumed the floor mats. They were upbeat, friendly and helpful. I went in to pay, and the station had model cars along the walls from 50's to present. Locally authored books about Black Hills settlers, bandits, animals, etc. Christmas ornaments ship shape. Their shop looked like a model shop - tidy, well arranged, full for vintage motor oil and gasoline ads on the walls. Probably the most memorable gas station experience I've had.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Saturday 10 December 2011

Christmas 2011

Fortunately I'm employed by a group that knows how to throw a party. I hear every year about stuffy, dreaded, golf and country club type Christmas parties with anyone having more than 2 drinks being talked about at the office for the next week as a lush. We're not so much like that. This year's theme was Mad Men. Everyone looked great... and let it rip. We had some DJ from LA which I guess is cool, but I'm guessing he doesn't do many white people office parties. I missed by about a decade on the outfit, but considering last night at 7:45 I had no costume, and by 8:45 we left town, it did me well. I'm disappointed I couldn't find my white belt to match the shoes. Regardless, even Mad Men had to go casual after work sometimes...

Lake Louise

Nicest room I've had at the hotel is proof random assignment occasionally works out, beautiful day skiing, and work at night in a cruddy business center before the party.

Saturday 3 December 2011

Ridge of Death

Craig, Kate, Thomas and I did about six and a half hours of fun today, but it spanned about 8:45-5:45 - proving once again that I need lights when riding with Craig.

Cadence out to the singletrack along the river which was great, then the ridge of death by the reservoir (see Craig and Kate in the photo, and the telephone poles - that ridge is a long way down), then to Cochrane. My bb undid itself so I had the opportunity to walk more. Bike Bros fixed that before our lunch stop.

We were going to do the Cochrane Ranch single track then head home on TWP 262, but we were lured to Big Hill Springs through the valley by prime conditions. After fixing Kate's fender it was spin home time. Big storm came through right at end and pelted us with snow in the dark, but it wasn't too cold.

So fun to be out, and felt good too.