Training Day 5: San Jose to San Francisco

41.66 miles, 2100 calories burned.

I was hoping to get all the way to North San Francisco, so I could say I rode from home to Maggie Mudd’s Ice Cream, but on mile 32 I ran into a serious headwind, and the windchill from the wind and fog turned my face numb and made my wrists hurt. I should have taken more breaks, and I should have brought some kind of warm long-sleeved shirt.

I also pulled a muscle in my neck near the end of the ride, and can’t turn my head all the way to the left because of it. Probably take a few days to recover from that.

Pit Crew La drove south from Maggie Mudd’s to pick me up, and brought me clean clothes and additional water, and loaded the bike on the back of the Accord for me. Then she drove back to Maggie Mudd’s with me, so we could get ice cream! PIT CREW LA IS THE GREATEST.

I rearranged the icons on the iPhone home screen, which made map lookup easier. Once again, the battery drained fast, but not fast enough for me to get worried. I took around ten phone calls on it. Even chatted with my Mom for a while! Also, I passed two restaurants named “Tofu House”. Might be worth checking out. :D

Music I played during the ride:

Chrysanthemum6 of 95:03DownloadEffector7/26/08 5:10 PM
Main Titles14:20John PowellThe Bourne Identity7/26/08 5:14 PM
Ahh D Yaaa223:26The GoatsTricks of the Shade7/26/08 5:18 PM
Giving Up The Ghost5 of 156:31DJ ShadowThe Private Press7/26/08 5:25 PM
Sway Of The Verses56:02Talvin SinghHa7/26/08 5:31 PM
New York City6 of 133:03They Might Be GiantsFactory Showroom7/26/08 5:34 PM
預言者13 of 214:10Yoko KannoArjuna: Into The Another World7/26/08 5:38 PM
Individual 13 of 124:06Jack DangersLoudness Clarifies7/26/08 5:42 PM
PJ Berri Jam6 of 150:36Milk CanMake It Sweet!7/26/08 5:44 PM
Avenue B3 of 118:54FrontsideFrontside7/26/08 5:53 PM
Rough Stream135:32Junya NakanoDew Prism OST D27/26/08 6:02 PM
Inquisition (Extended Mix)27:06Skinny PuppyInquisition (Single)7/26/08 6:09 PM
Break ‘Em Off Some142:45Cypress HillBlack Sunday7/26/08 6:12 PM
As Pure As?4 of 76:43CoilThe Snow EP7/26/08 6:19 PM
Chittagong Hill58:24State of BengalAnokha: Soundz of the Asian Underground7/26/08 6:27 PM
Climb Higher83:56Junya NakanoDew Prism OST D17/26/08 6:31 PM
The Snow6 of 76:43CoilThe Snow EP7/26/08 6:38 PM
Tahat2 of 87:05Aswad7/26/08 6:45 PM
Wearing A Raincoat4 of 163:10They Might Be GiantsThe Spine7/26/08 6:49 PM
Descend The Minaret5 of 91:53Pete Namlook + Burhan ÖçalSultan Orhan: Nerden Geliyorsun (Fixed Alteration)7/26/08 6:50 PM
Dawn in Dense Woodland123:42Junya NakanoDew Prism OST D17/26/08 6:56 PM
D’Avros4 of 233:19Fila BrazilliaDicks7/26/08 7:44 PM
Halo (12”)16:42Severed HeadsStretcher7/26/08 7:51 PM
To The Sea65:45YelloPocket Universe7/26/08 8:00 PM
We Believe25:53MinistryTwitch7/26/08 8:05 PM
Ascend The Minaret3 of 91:22Pete Namlook + Burhan ÖçalSultan Orhan: Nerden Geliyorsun (Fixed Alteration)7/26/08 8:07 PM
Seven Of Dreams23:17Severed HeadsCuisine (with Piscatorial)7/26/08 8:12 PM
Hotel Room14 of 220:52Firesign Theatre1989 Another Christmas Carol/Radiodaze7/26/08 8:24 PM
Glamorama Soap20 of 221:40Firesign Theatre1989 Another Christmas Carol/Radiodaze7/26/08 8:26 PM
Majestic Feeling79:33Solar FieldsBlue Moon Station7/26/08 9:03 PM
Moist17:32GhostfriendOxycanta7/26/08 9:11 PM
Air Song712:21Solar FieldsLeaving Home7/26/08 9:23 PM
Access To The Long Fields2 of 117:40H.U.V.A. NetworkDistances7/26/08 9:35 PM
Magic Tree105:51OmnimotionOxycanta7/26/08 9:44 PM
6.714:23Solar FieldsReflective Frequencies7/26/08 9:49 PM
Rain Geometries3 of 115:54H.U.V.A. NetworkDistances7/26/08 9:55 PM

HeartMath and Felton

This was an amazing ride … Tougher than I thought it was going to be. But worth it.

HeartMath Route

San Jose to Santa Cruz, via Highway 9. 47 miles, from sea level to 2700 feet to sea level. According to my GPS unit I burned seven thousand calories, but I think that thing must be lying. My Mac tracking software claims a more believable 2400 calories. The truth is probably somewhere between.


Starting out. Photograph by Pit-Crew La.


This is the road I had to climb to get up over the mountain. Highway 9, southwest of Saratoga. It’s in decent shape and only a few parts are scary, but for someone “in training” like me, it is extremely long. If I had a full compliment of gear and more time I would have probably tried to camp halfway up it instead of doing it all at once.

I was passed twice by more in-shape cyclists. Both had lightweight bikes and skin-tight clothing, but I’m sure that with all factors being equal, they’d leave me in the dust. I also saw a lot of cyclists passing the other way. Either they started out early in the morning, or they trucked their bikes to the top (the cheaters!) and were only going down. Most likely they just started earlier.

Passing through Saratoga made me feel slightly nervous that I might run into an ex-girlfriend, but the chances were vanishingly small. I did end up speaking to one person, though: A jogger who was trudging up towards the base of the mountain. I kept pace with him and then said “6.5 miles per hour. Not bad!” He grinned back.


Here’s the Google Earth view of the whole route. You can see how indirect it is, compared to Highway 17.


My lunch stop, about a quarter of the way up the hill. I propped the camera against a rock on the opposite side of the road. The sandwich and chocolate soymilk that La packed for me disappeared instantly. About this time I noticed an increase in joyriding motorcyclists zooming up or down the hill. Many more than I’d seen back in town. I’m not one to judge about the relative safety of travel … I just wish they would install proper goddamn mufflers. The noise they made was deafening.


A couple turnouts further along, I found a phone that must have crapped out on its owner one too many times.

2008-07-19_17-34-21-PICT0015 2008-07-19_17-35-24-PICT0017

A pleasant bridge about halfway up. While stopped for this picture I began to worry about my remaining daylight time.


A couple dozen turns later. You only get this sort of light around sunset. I was not looking forward to a ride through Boulder Creek, Ben Lomond, and Felton (the connective towns along Highway 9 between me and Santa Cruz) in the dark.

About this time a carload of girls (and one embarrassed guy who hid his head under a jacket) stopped and asked me if I knew where Skyline Boulevard was. I replied, “I’ve got a map thing here I can look it up on, but it takes a while to load, so you might want to pull over.” It took less than a minute to locate it on the iPhone map, which I held out for the girl driving the car to inspect. “Thank you!” she said. “Good luck!” I said. “Have a nice ride!” squealed the girl crammed in the middle seat. “Thanks, it’s been good so far!” I replied.

About a mile later I rolled to a turnout and just stood there, breathing hard. My brain began swimming around in my head. I think I might have hyperventilated a bit from all the oxygen. “Is this what they call ‘The Wall’?” I asked myself. “Have I hit the point where I just can’t go any more?”

My mouth wanted salt, so I ate a bunch of Tings (vegan equivalent of Cheetos). That was a mistake, because then I got very thirsty, and I’d run out of water a few turns ago. But I pulled out the tupperware of soup La cooked earlier in the week, and slurped the thinnest layer of liquid off the top of that. It tasted fantastic. Things always taste great after vigorous exercise, and this soup was great already.

I sat still for a long while, propped against a mailbox, breathing and listening to music. I contemplated calling La and asking for a pickup. After almost half an hour, I felt alright again, and decided to keep going.


Finally I made it to the top, just a few turns after I began yelling out loud, “I am so damn tired of hills!!!”


Stopped at the lookout point just west of the 9 – 35 intersection. At this point I’d only gone about 22 miles total. The downhill trip to Boulder Creek heaped another ten miles onto that in half an hour. On the west side of the mountain, the sun hadn’t finished setting, and the light coming through the trees drew reddish stripes across the road.


Somewhere before Boulder Creek I began passing signage for summer camps. The trees got really big and became proper redwoods. The sunlight faded away. The air got cooler and wetter than I’d felt in San Jose for months. I turned my headlamp on.

As I coasted silently down the road I became aware of the smell of the trees. I realized that I’d become so accustomed to the smell of the city that the smell of the forest was novel again. It’s a wet, dusty, earthen smell, with a highlight of mint or menthol, somewhere between the smell of the pine trees up in the mountains and the smell of crushed clay. I breathed huge gulps of it as I descended. Eventually the daylight left entirely, and the forest canopy merged overhead, enclosing the road in a darkness so complete that the columns of trees on either side became the columns of a cave, and I was riding my bike deep into the silent core of the earth.

I suppose that to many people this effect is a little frightening. But it fills me instead with a deep nostalgia for the years I spent growing up here. This vast, dark, space becomes a barrier that blocks out the noise, rush, confusion, and even most of the pollution, of the outside world. Each of the houses set back from the road becomes a tiny universe of warmth, broadcasting squares of yellow light which flicker amongst the trees as you pass. If I was wealthy enough to retire I would probably keep a cabin here. But nowadays I am too interested in travel.

Anyway, it was pitch dark by the time I arrived in Felton. A guy behind the counter of a liquor store was kind enough to refill my water bottle. I called La on the phone and gulped water, and once again considered asking for a pickup. I couldn’t remember the distance between Felton and Santa Cruz. I assumed it was all downhill, but I was worried that La and I wouldn’t make it to our movie on time. “Ah well, what the heck, I’ve come this far. I should finish the run.”

Actually I’d misremembered… There was almost a whole mile of uphill climbing between me and Santa Cruz. By the time I arrived at the 7-11 at the end of Ocean street we had only ten minutes to spare. I devoured the chocolate soymilk La brought me, as well as half a bottle of carrot juice and an entire bottle of tea. Then I chomped down half a bag of chips. That set my stomach a little off balance, so a few hours later when we sat down at the Saturn I listened very carefully to what my stomach was telling me, and ordered a big salad with some tahini dressing. That hit the spot.

Next day I was pretty sore, but not unmanageably so. If I ever do this ride again, I’ll start MUCH earlier in the day.

Things I learned on this trip:

  • My bike doesn’t have a good enough gear for hills. Most of the difficulty I had with this ride was because I was pedaling too hard. Perhaps there’s a way to add a really low gear (a “granny gear”) to the drivetrain.
  • Once again, the iPhone really does need a battery pack. At the end of my six+ hour ride it flashed a low battery warning. This shouldn’t surprise me … I used it heavily the entire time.
  • Having a headlight powered by a hub is great for city driving because the only place I tend to stop is at crosswalks, which are usually lit. But out in the country, on a steep hill, the situation gets scary. Between Felton and Santa Cruz I had to pedal up a large hill at night, and though I was tiring, I couldn’t drop below about 3 miles per hour or my headlight would die and leave me in total darkness.
  • People in cars like to ask people on bikes for directions. I was flagged down twice today by lost drivers. One wanted to know where some hostel was. What do I look like, an internet kiosk? Oh wait. I am one.
  • Half a gallon of water for four hours of hills is a fair ratio. Too bad I only had a quarter.

Unofficial Bike Training Day 3

After 30 miles of riding to/from work this week, I finished with a 17 mile ride that was supposed to be a LOT longer, but had route problems. Still, I got to test out the iPhone mount I put on the bike last week, with an actual iPhone. (I borrowed La’s) This is the route I ended up doing:

Starting from home, I rode to the picnic area in Alum Rock Park, to the northeast. A slight uphill grade through town, ending at a hilly section inside the park. I used the iPhone to call La, listen to music, track my route in the maps program, and take pictures.

The Google Earth map of the route looks like this:

The park is pretty scenic, considering it’s in East San Jose, which is a big drab suburban holding tank for overworked engineers. I even took my sunglasses and hat off for a couple of minutes while riding under the canopy.

It features a few bridges that were not built specifically for CARS. (gasp!) People were there … walking over them … ON FEET! (gasp!) And they were talking to each other, and they weren’t even holding cellphones at the time! Shocking.

This is what messed up my route. I was originally planning to ride up this twisty road, far into the hills, past a reservoir, and then along the top of the hills to another road (highway 103, I think) zipping back down into San Jose. Google Maps showed this as perfectly drivable road, but the City of San Jose disagrees with them.

So instead of going up the road, I stopped and ate lunch, then rode along the bike paths for a while.

Somewhere along the ride back, my rear tire ran over something and developed a slow leak. I didn’t realize it had happened until I came into the room the next day and saw the tire was flat. Today La took it to the shop for repair, and for 14 bucks they pulled a huge L-shaped chunk of metal from the inside of the tire, patched the tire, and replaced the tube.

So, what did I learn from this training day?

  • Using the iPhone on the bike-stem mount is pretty easy. The display is actually bright enough to be readable, and the most useful buttons are usually placed at the corners of the device, making them easiest to reach. (The phone, the favorites, ‘locate me’, etc).
  • The battery gets drained FAST if you’re using it all multi-function like this. I really do need the battery pack.
  • Bystanders get really confused if you ride by them while talking into thin air (because your phone mic is clipped to your shirt). The good news: The shirt-clip location is free of wind noise, and my voice is easily heard by the person I’m chatting with. Their voice is also plenty loud and audible through my own headphones. The sound is so good that when La and I go biking together, we’ll probably use our phones like two-way radios.
  • There is almost no good time to receive a call when you’re on a bike. You are almost always too busy riding, listening to traffic, or looking around to bother reading the iphone screen or diverting one hand to the answer button. Luckily it’s easy to listen to messages when you’re stopped somewhere.
  • Just because the route looks open on the map doesn’t mean it’s actually open.
  • Out in the boonies when the phone loses network access, it basically becomes an iPod with a camera. I need an app that will store map data on the phone. It’s not enough to just hope that the data I need is already in the cache.
  • The heavier tires I have on the bike really do slow me down a bit, but it’s worth it. Crappy streets can be pretty rough terrain, and a flat tire sucks.