Tuesday, January 5, 2021

"Bent Wire and Broken Glass"

A repost of my original trip blog as appeared (with some edits): Hogan, Connard. Bent Wire and Broken Glass. crazyguyonabike.com, July 2016.


Me? I only grew two legs . . . but I like my bi-pedalism.

Oh sure, it's not as fast as quadru-pedalism, but on a man-made contraption, such a bicycle, I can almost outrun a chasing dog.

Some might consider a vintage ‘70s ten-speed steel-framed Raleigh Schwinn a real clunker, a Studebaker by modern tour-bike standards, sturdy and built to last a thousand years–looked like it belonged in an Egyptian museum–but it was mine, in good enough working order and I had something to prove to my quads and hams. Weeks in advanced preparation, I coached my body, coxed muscles I'd neglected for years, prepared to give . . . well, maybe 92.5% effort, most of that towards turning the pedals. I've never liked the idea of giving 100% to any physical endeavor–paint me superstitious, as well as lazy–I figure I'll need a little in reserve on which to survive while I'm getting transported to an ER, if need arise. 

Toni, a friend I'd met decades ago–hard to imagine–and our maiden “Lolo Holiday Tour” planner, had forewarned me of the course, which I confirmed by Google Earth. We faced a long slog, with relentless grades at Big Sur . . . not one of my childhood afternoon jaunts, instead, serious as bread mold. 

My fall-back plan? Throw the white flag and hitch a ride in the “sag” wagon, or beg my wife, Janet, to retrieve me.

Ron H, gracious enough to stop at my house on his way to the group rendezvous in San Francisco, had prepared himself to assist me in dissembling my two-wheeled jalopy for crammage into the rental car that he'd picked up that Sunday morning. An experienced hand, Ron had been cross-country at least once, and met Toni and the others last year on such a ride.

The two of us fiddled with various placement combinations of the pieces of my bike and his, unbolted and unscrewed, including the racks we'd use to accommodate the “pannies,” as Ron called them. 

"Pannies," as Ron called them? Too fufu for me . . . the bags, not Ron. I'd just as soon call them bike bags or their actual name, panniers. French, no doubt.

This jaunt wasn't going to be some ramble down the lane. Ron H, Toni, her husband, Wil, and I planned to camp over for one night near Big Sur, so we needed gear. In addition, we'd lose the sag wagon. A righteous haul, bike bags on racks at wheel level, both sides, front and rear, we'd resemble an odd configuration of pumping legs and over-stuffed chipmunk cheeks creeping along the roadside.

But once we'd filled the rental car like fish packers handling sardines, I bid Janet, my wife, goodbye, and Ron and I headed to “the city by the bay.” 


That evening all the signatories on the summer's Lolo Holiday Tour rendezvoused at a hotel in San Francisco near the Marina and Presidio, and then headed to a Mexican restaurant for dinner and socializing, where I acquainted myself with the other victims, and they with me.

Toni, Lolo Holidays Tour Organizer, and husband, Wil at Pre-trip Dinner



                        Toni and Wil had met Patrick, Ron H, and Richard & Karla on a Trans America bike trip the year before. Wil’s brother, Ron Sr, and nephew, Ron Jr, and their respective wives, Sheila and Karla, comprised part of the group, as well as Patrick’s girlfriend, Meagan. Marilyn, Wil’s sister, had also joined. I rounded out the cadre as a long time, almost forgotten, friend of Toni and Wil.

        Stressed, I remained awake all night–my indigestion may have played a small part in that. I worked quietly, so not to disturb the others snoozing in the room we shared, sweat bullets, perused ads in the Yellow Pages for a hardware store, where I could cop a replacement bolt. I'd gotten careless while rebuilding my two-wheeler in the room, and stripped the bolt that secured the saddle. And if I couldn't find an appropriate replacement? I doubted the universal duct-tape solution applied to my particular problem, and didn't want to pursue that option.

        Ron H drove me to a nearby hardware. VoilĂ , first place, a suitable threaded metal rod, along with matching nut, ready to mount my seat to the frame, all for a mere $.89, plus tax, a meager sum in my mind. 

        Our bike warm-up from the hotel, across the Golden Gate Bridge, to dry land in Marin County, provided the initial shakedown, opportunity to work out last minute glitches. So far, so good, no major issues.

        Headed south, we paused midway across the Golden Gate for the view.

Tour Suspects On Golden Gate Bridge


        So, there we were, in perfect weather, bikes at our sides, respectively, when I commemorated the start of our bi-pedal journey down US Highway1 with a spit into the water for good luck, and hoped my legs could get me the 600 miles to my front door in Santa Barbara.

        Would I fold like wet cardboard? Would my quads and hams cramp up like salted snails? Would I go lame with a blown knee? Only one way I'd find out.


        Didn't take long to realize . . . shoulda, woulda, coulda trained harder.

        I inched my way through Daly City on our destination to Half Moon Bay, jockeyed for last position in the pack with Toni.

        “Those two automated traffic speed signs we passed flashed me at 11 and 16 mph,” I bragged to Toni between gasps, “fast enough to get noticed,” then complained about my struggles uphill.

        “Take your time. This is a tour, not a race,” Toni said.

        “Keep reminding me,” I replied.

        I required several rests that first day, but evaded the sag wagon.


        Second day, right out of Half Moon Bay, the two-lane road narrowed as it wound uphill–a forever stretch of pavement in my universe–which nearly exterminated the shoulder on the right and the white line clung to the pavement only by inches. No margin of safety from the rush hour traffic. Couldn't get any farther to the right, without being in a two-foot ditch. Shouldn't get any farther to the left, except to commit suicide. Most drivers yielded a wide berth and a few honked as they passed. I coasted on the downhill, but used my brakes to maintain a safe speed and prevent a meander to the left, and wilder side of the solid white line.


        Strong wind afforded us no relief on our third day on the flatter stretch to Moss Landing. A wind, in a hurry to get somewhere else, anywhere, blew with a fury, had no time to spare. Greeted with blasts of dust lifted from the adjacent crop fields, I squinted to reduce dirt in my eyes, breathed slowly, kept my mouth shut . . . still tasted grit. Persistent, relentless, steady cold wind, with strong gusts on occasion chilled me and turned my peddle-effort into a tedious, unwelcomed chore.

        Several times I considered a stop to don more clothes . . . but I too was in a hurry to get somewhere, anywhere, out of that wind. Glad for a lunch break at Moss Landing, I ate, warmed myself and gathered the will to muster on.


        My confidence increased, my quads and hams learned the routine. I felt more confident I could take one day at a time, maybe one mile at a time, if need be, even one hill or a single curve. On steeper and longer hills, I degenerated to one revolution of the gear at a time, particularly when the road disappeared around a curve and I couldn't gauge when I'd reach the next downhill.

        Our routine of rising somewhat early, although always at a civilized hour, followed by a relatively leisurely pace, proved favorable to me.

        Now and then over the flatter terrain, and on gentle downhills, when two or more of us grouped in a single file, we ped, ped, peddled as fast as we could, like frantic-footed ducklings lined up behind mother. Then on the uphills we spread out again, but not by choice.

        Each day a fresh start–surprised me–I peddled along, clung near the right margin of the roadway, as far and often as possible, and with head bent I looked down, watched that endless solid white line in a hypnotic trance, saw every pebble and stick, scanned my path for any object that could cause a flat tire or spill. Bob and weave, bob and weave, the white line meandered under me to my right and left. I passed an abandoned tennie here, skirted a lone sock there, swerved around nails, broken glass, bent wire, and all forms of discarded trash. I listened for the sounds of approaching vehicles, tried to gauge their distance and speed, as if that would make any difference if one veered towards me. Mincemeat in ten seconds or less, no ifs, ands, or buts, if I'm hit. I considered living and dying a crap shoot . . . possibly a matter of faith, but not something I put a lot of stock in . . . or maybe karma, still a bit of a stretch for me. Wouldn't matter much however I sliced it, getting run over would result in a bad hair day.


        In Monterey, Ron Jr fell while making a slow left uphill turn when his chain broke. Augured into some well-placed dirt, avoided pavement and the path of traffic. No serious injury.

        Ron Sr and Ron Jr, on their recumbent touring bikes, made easy work of the uphills with their twenty-seven gears.

Ron with Recumbent Bike

        Me? My technique of peddling in the standing position improved–a bad deal, if the chain broke–at least, I could compensate for my ten-gear handicap, that way. I dreaded every hill, refused a close study of maps and data. I'd rather not know in advance my expiration date. Those maps deceived us, anyway, made every hill appear like a shear wall, when in fact some were far easier. Seemed to be little rhyme or reason to the deceptions. Except for Toni's comment, “Big Sur has big hills,” said with a straight face, and of which I had no doubt, I figured it better to remain oblivious to the approaching travails.


        I saw the railroad tracks cross the road diagonally, and the day's damp conditions likely meant water coated the steel and created a slip hazard, so I slowed, angled across at 90 degrees after checking for an on-coming train.

        Most of the pack followed somewhere behind me.

        When everyone regrouped down the road, Megan sported a bandage and splint, explained she'd gotten unnerved by an approaching train, skidded on one rail and fell, yet soldiered on with a fractured finger and sprained wrist.


        Several of us bunched up on a gentle downgrade. A steep slope of several hundred feet down to the ocean on our right allowed distant views of the scenic coastal panorama.

The Bunch (most of the group, anyway)

        Without the biker cardinal rule warning, “Stopping,” Toni came to an abrupt halt. Ron Jr, close behind, swerved to avert a collision, lost his balance and lurched over the edge. Those of us present watched the few scrub bushes several feet down the steep embankment provide him a slow-motion fall, which prevented his descent into the Pacific Ocean.

        “Are you okay, Ron?” Toni yelled.

        “Just a few scratches,” he said as he untangled himself from brush and bike.

        “I don't know what I would've told your dad, if I'd broke you,” she said.

        Serious injury thwarted.


        Patrick, Megan, Richard and Karla, Ron Sr and Ron Jr, and their wives, and Marilyn ended their tour in Big Sur, as planned, about the half-way point between SF to SB.


        Toni, Wil, Ron H and I rested the following day at Big Sur, walked a little to remind our leg muscles not to pack up shop and go home.

        A rain began that evening.

        I prayed the second part of our journey, sans sag wagon, would be easier than the first.

         The next morning we rose to wet and cold conditions to break camp.


Camp-out at Big Sur


        Anticipating a worst-case scenario if I got soaked, I borrowed a heavy, wool shirt from Wil.  Nothing worse than cold, wet misery of the bone.

        I'd learned the dangers of hypothermia the hard way on my Honda 90 some years ago headed north on a long downhill straightaway from Crater Lake in Oregon. Barely able to keep my 90 on the road, violent shaking forced me to pull over and start a fire.

        Each uphill peddle generated body heat, but on the downhill coasts I shivered in the blast of cold air, so rode my brakes to reduce wind chill. Loose wheel spokes didn't help my cause, either. I feared a face-plant if the front wheel collapsed. At the very least, a bent wheel would generate a big hassle, likely end my trip, so I glanced at both frequently. Hadn't discovered that problem until Big Sur. No place for adjustments, not for miles north, not for miles south. By noon the rain stopped, the sun broke through the clouds, my mood improved.

Author, Wil, Ron and Toni South of Big Sur

        The long uphills seemed eternal and the miles dragged by.     

        Without disappointment the stretch of road before and after the “town,” Gorda, met, even exceeded our dread as a long and grueling climb. Gorda? A gas station, small grocery and restaurant, maybe two houses. Built solely to entice passers-by. 
Author Near Gorda


        South of Gorda, and after long downhills, the terrain began to level and I looked forward to San Simeon with hope.

        We passed Hotel California, aka Hearst Castle, atop the ridge some distance from the beach and road.

        Moonstone Beach came and went, and then Cambria, followed by Harmony.

        I called Jack, a longtime friend, inquired if he'd meet me somewhere along our route through Cayucos, explained I wanted to say to say hi, but he wasn't available.

        We rode to Morro Bay, where Toni understood we were to meet a friend of hers and spend the night. Wrong. Turned out her friend lived in Cayucos.

        Ron H bid farewell to Toni, Wil and I, where he'd arranged for a friend to pick him up.

        The remaining Lolo Holiday Tour contingent, our numbers whittled to three, did the unmentionable, a dreaded backtrack.

        “I'm going to stop and visit my friend, Jack, in Cayucos,” I told Wil and Toni. “Catch up with you at your friend's house later.”


        The next morning Lolo Holiday Tour pulled into San Luis Obispo, stopped at a bike shop for needed repairs, gears adjusted for Toni, spokes tightened for me. Delayed us about three hours, almost a half-day’s ride by our standards, but we got on our way soon enough.

        We purchased lunch supplies in Guadalupe, sideswiped Orcutt, careened towards Vandenberg Air Force Base. Well away from military canines patrolling the outskirts of the air/space base, a quarter-mile off the road and out of conspicuous sight, we declared a cow pasture our campsite and took particular effort, made easier in full moonlight, to elude the inconsiderately placed cow pies.

        Our day's blow-by-blow haul of heavy gear reported and idyllic surroundings described to Janet over the phone, she replied, “Better you than me. I'd rather have a case of diarrhea.”


        After our early morning awakening to several half-ton, cud-chewing bovines engaged in a stare fest, we continued onward, rode through Lompoc, with a short stop for a coffee-pastry fix. My coffee, the way I like it, thicker than chicken bouillon but not chewy, slid down well and reinforced my resolve to complete our final day's ride.

        The road south from Lompoc to Hwy 101 provided challenging extended elevation gains, and in the heat of day proved arduous and draining.

        Near Hwy 101, after we'd crested the uphill grades, we halted for a needed rest and gawked at a marijuana interdiction operation. Easy to deduce from the sheriff's markings on the helicopter ferrying a load of green stalks nestled in cargo net to trucks clustered on a dirt road. We spotted a news van parked nearby . . . but saw no reporters or cameras. Bummer, no one requested an interview with me.

        We revitalized ourselves at the Hwy 101 rest stop beyond the Gaviota tunnel.

Near Hwy 101, after we'd crested the uphill grades, we halted for a needed rest and gawked at a marijuana interdiction operation. Easy to deduce from the sheriff's markings on the helicopter ferrying a load of green stalks nestled in cargo net to trucks clustered on a dirt road. We spotted a news van parked nearby . . . but saw no reporters or cameras. Bummer, no one requested an interview with me.

We revitalized ourselves at the Hwy 101 rest stop beyond the Gaviota tunnel.

                                      Toni Follows Wil Along Hwy 101     

        The ride east towards Goleta offered gorgeous views of the ocean to the south while the breeze cooled us and the sun hung in the near cloudless afternoon.         

        Just as the highway narrowed and a sign warned of NO PASSING at the bridge, my inertia challenged by some added drag, a unique sound grabbed my attention, the grind and squeak of a twisting, bending rubber tire made when flat and rolled under a heavy load. No doubt, an innocuous unseen cast-away, part of the detritus spread along the roadway, thrown from a speeding car by a thoughtless individual, created a small hole which sucked the soul out of my rear tube.

        For the first time, I appreciated the intimacy I'd developed with that unique and narrow environment along the right edge of our thoroughfares. Didn't appreciate my situation . . . nor the slob who'd discarded that little hazard. Took me thirty minutes to remove the back wheel and affect a tube change, a considerable chore, and I thanked myself for the second of the two new tubes I'd lugged with me. I rejoined Wil and Toni a half-mile beyond the bridge, where they'd waited.

        “We were wondering what happened,” Toni said as I pulled alongside.

        “Traffic held me up,” I said, but explained the flat and added, “figured I could replace the bad tube in a jiffy. Took me a little longer than expected.”


        We veered off Hwy 101 at Hollister Avenue towards downtown Goleta . . . no, more like crept up the off-ramp from 101, only slightly faster than a sedated tortoise.

        Toni suggested, “We’re getting close. Why don’t you lead the way?”

        We faced some distance still, but I didn't let on. The uphill on Cliff Drive loomed in my mind, a toil I’d faced numerous times in training, where I'd struggled to reach the crest without total physical disintegration, that last huff-n-puff before the short gasp to my driveway. I didn't tell Toni or Wil about that, either. What would that serve?

        My countdown began . . . the last hill, the last straightaway, the last stop light, the last turn, the last pull on the pedal . . . the last dismount . . . and I was there at the bottom of my driveway.

        Off my bike, weak-kneed, my quads and hams screamed. I could barely stand.

        Wil hit the deck, spread-eagled on the concrete, “Ugh.”

                                       Rest? Toni Checks on Wil.

        Toni said, “I didn’t think,” pant, “I would,” gasp, “make it up,” pause, “that last hill,” puff.

        “Yeah, I figured it better not to tell you about it in advance,” I said.

        Janet came out the front door, must have heard our noises. I'd forewarned her of our impending arrival. “Hi,” she said, then laughed at our unnecessary self-imposed exhaustion.


        Our tour mileage had increased each of our eight days apeddling–not so much by prior design but from increased stamina and conditioning, though hard to imagine–sixty-three miles our longest day and fifty miles our average, a genteel engagement by serious bicycler standards.

        And for the first time, I considered myself a righteous bi-ped.


                             A Post-trip Meal with Janet, Toni & Wil

Friday, December 11, 2020

"Lidded Pot"


A lidded pot with floral design. Created in "Half-and-half," a medium-bodied clay, which is somewhat gritty from sand, though light-colored.

Lidded Pot; ceramics; arts & crafts

Monday, November 9, 2020

"Halloween Bowl"

"Halloween Bowl," raku of a light-clay bowl with red and orange glazing, including an undercoat of white with areas of wax resist.

Friday, October 30, 2020

“Celadon Dabble”

“Celadon Dabble” bowl created in light-colored clay with dabbles of “slip” (wet, soft, excess clay from “throwing” the piece) and glazed with Green Celadon (translucent).

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

"Death Mask"

Bisque fired (unglazed) sculpture.  I realized when posting that it looks like a death mask, hence the name.  I'm not sure whose, but I assure you, it's not you.

Monday, September 14, 2020

"Vase of Impression"

 Hints of Claude Monet's impressionist paintings of London and Le Havre.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

“Blue Perfume”

Small jar with a ceramic stopper.  (Stopper pulled for illustration.)
I love the beautiful mottled blues.  Could be used for oil, though makes a great decoration piece.

"Bent Wire and Broken Glass"

A repost of my original trip blog as appeared (with some edits): Hogan, Connard. Bent Wire and Broken Glass . crazyguyonabike.com, July 2016...