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Showing posts from May, 2015

We all try harder as the days run out

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For days the Santa Cruz Mountains were enveloped in a freight train of fog, as apparently thirsty inland winds sucked moisture from the coast. I climbed into it each afternoon, Tuesday through Saturday, in a two-dimensional world where I had to squint to discern the blurry silhouettes of trees from flickering clouds. There was no context or familiarity; vertigo pulled at me as I descended through gray tunnels. I would shiver, even with a puffy coat and mittens, which was such a treat here in California in late May. The cold makes me feel alive.

I had this goal to put some hurt in the legs. Seven moderate to long days, with at least 3,000 feet of climbing each day, on up to 9,000. I felt so strong on Wednesday, chopping a minute off my PR of the mile-long, 800-foot ascent of Indian Creek trail, without even breathing hard. On Thursday I attacked Redwood Gulch on my road bike and imploded in spectacular fashion, heart beating 195 while snot and tears streamed down my neck. Near the end…

Week in motion

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Some weeks seem locked in continuous motion, so much so that I feel the need to go out for a quiet run by myself, just to be still. As I drove through the freeway sprawl of Orange County after a day of mountain biking with Keith and Amber and then working at the Starbucks in Big Bear Lake, I thought about how much of my life I invest in movement. In 2014, I spent upwards of four months away from home. This year, the final tally may be more. Strava has already tracked 15 days' worth of self-propelled motion in the past 4.5 months, and the time investment of movements I don't track — flights and long-distance drives — adds up as well. What is it about movement I so value? I thought about this as I drove up and down the quiet streets of Laguna Niguel, ignoring a confused GPS and trawling the entrances of gated communities to find the one where my sister, brother-in-law, and new niece are house-sitting for an indefinite period of time.

Gated communities are a bewildering concept …

So this is SoCal

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On Friday afternoon, I got in my car and headed south for more than seven hours — through the traffic-clogged corridor of the South Bay, into the dusty fields of the Central Valley, over parched hillsides north of Los Angeles, and through the palm tree boulevards of Pasadena. Darkness set in, and my route climbed up and up this narrow highway called "Rim of the World." A thick fog enveloped the sky, ice slicked the road, and suddenly there were several inches of new snow draped over granite boulders and pine trees. Huh? What is this place?
 My friends from the Canadian Rockies — Keith and Leslie — have been in the state for several weeks. Leslie has been hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and Keith has been vagabonding around southern California, vaguely training for a summer tour on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. His friend Amber was flying out from Montana this weekend, and Keith invited me to join them for a SoCal bikecation. The timing was good, as I'd been mean…

Bikepacking gear considerations

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Here I am near Island Park, Idaho, during the 2009 Tour Divide. I laugh when I see photos of the junk show I hauled around back then. Of course, I laugh at all photos I see of all of my gear set-ups, including my most recent winter tour in Alaska, which was less than two months ago. But this photo has some gems. The aero bars (never used them.) The LED headlight that was connected to a battery pack with eight AAs. Pedal cages. The cheap rain gear that I purchased in a panic in Banff, because until two days before the start, I thought I could get away with a thin softshell pullover. I probably had more than 15 pounds in that backpack alone, as I tended to hoard food and water. I had a 24-ounce aluminum water bottle that I filled every morning, threw in the pack next to my three-liter bladder, hauled around all day, then dumped all the water out and re-filled it in the morning. I don't recall ever actually drinking from that bottle. It was my water insurance policy. Oh, I had an 11…

260-mile getaway

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Despite all of their (understandable) busyness, I finally coaxed Beat and Liehann into a weekend bikepacking trip. My idea was to ride one of the few bike-legal sections through the Santa Lucia Mountains, from the Arroyo Seco Gorge to Cone Peak and back. The route was 60 miles each way through sparsely traveled country, often surrounded by "big W" wilderness, big scenery and tough climbs. I've been to all of these places before, but when I consider all of my favorite aspects of bike touring, I can't think of a better overnight route close to home. There isn't a single compromise mile; it's 100 percent awesome. 
 Since I still have the Tour Divide on my mind, I decided to extend the shakedown trip by leaving home on Friday morning and riding to the trailhead. I packed quite the luxury set-up: Big Agnes Seedhouse 2 tent, brand new Thermarest NeoAir (love), a puffy coat, and a stove. I froze three liters of water to a solid block of ice, and put a large ham san…