Thursday, April 30, 2009

Success (originally drafted 04/07/09)

How successful was this past weekend? Let me count the ways!

Friday afternoon, a wake up and them jump onto the bike to ride down to San Diego. It was a beautiful afternoon, perfect for a solo jaunt down the coast. Arrival at ChIpPy's place was nice in that he and his lovely wife Dale (Yeah, Chip & Dale!) were the hosts with the most. They had a BBQ chicken dinner right off the grill waiting and a cold beer to boot. Their offer of couch space for this wandering bike freak and hospitality was most kind.

After a cup of coffee Saturday morning, I said my good-bye's to ChIpPy and Dale and then pedaled down-valley. Before dropping off of the mesa they live on, an eatery seemed to beckon and produced an inexpensive Machaca breakfast plate that was the goods. Down-valley and close to the convention center that was housing the San Diego Custom Bicycle Show, a stop for more coffee was in order.

Once in the vicinity of the convention center there were signs directing cyclists to the Bicycle Valet parking, which was being provided by the kind folks from the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition. After parking, I ran into the first of many LA area cyclists I know, this particular character being the nefarious Rasta Raj. The day just kept getting better by the minute. I got to talk with a few people who I have wanted to meet and ask questions for quite some time, saw many familiar faces, make some new friends and even have a free beer that was courtesy of Velo Culture Bike Shop. I ran into a friend from the MTB world that I had not ridden with in a couple of years at Sendero Cycles and after catching up a bit he helped direct me to the Velo Cult booth for a beer. That's where I ran into Mark from Long Beach who I had coordinated
a ride back up to Anaheim with in lieu of taking the Amtrak Surfliner. Mark had been there a while and had perused the convention center already, so we looked around a while more, ran into a few more friends, then departed.

Since Mark had been so cool in offering me a ride back up, I asked him if he wanted to stop at Stone to let me buy him a beer and lunch. While there, the infamous Mountain Bike Bill and one of his sons joined us for a quick visit while we were in their neighborhood. If you've not been to Stone and are contemplating going, stop contemplating and GO!

After getting dropped off, the UNC/Villanova game was on and the Tar Heels were victorious, allowing them to advance to the NCAA Basketball Final where they ultimately beat Michigan State. Having lived in NC over nine years collectively, it's hard to not be an ACC Basketball fan.

Sunday, the icing on the cake that was the weekend. Being greeted with a tailwind for the ride over to the Anaheim Train Station was a good sign to get things started. Once on the train, I got to ride up with Dave and Fred who were already on board. Union Station LA, we picked up a couple more riders and moseyed over to Chinatown Station for the Mike Vincent Benefit/Ride. As the crowd grew larger, the meeting of friends old and new grew right along with it. Eventually we all threw our legs over our trusty steeds and pedaled off into the streets of Los Angeles to show solidarity for one of our fallen comrades.

The ride was purely social, as intended. The multitude of ongoing conversations throughout the pack during the ride was phenomenal, with the conversations changing gears, something most of our bicycles were incapable of. A few rally-ups happened, along with a stop to eat at a Whole Foods and/or the farmer's market at The Grove. After the halfway rest and food, other planned stops were eschewed in favor of beelining back to Chinatown Station for the raffle.

The raffle raised a sizable amount of dough for Mike V and it seemed like nobody walked away empty-handed. Some walked away with a ton of swag and others won full BMX bikes. My fortune entailed winning a cap, lip balm (which came in handy after standing there and thinking I needed some), t-shirt, BMX DVDs, and a light set. I'd never won anything in a raffle before, so it was a pleasant surprise.

During the raffle, it was discovered that Kenny and Matt were riding back from Chinatown. Since we had not ridden together in quite some time, it was a no-brainer to just ride with them. After saying good-byes, we headed into the East LA evening. Traffic wasn't too awful and once the light of day left us, the lights won in the raffle came in handy because I hadn't brought any. Kenny and Matt had originally intended to ride to Bolsa Chica for a party, but changed their minds about Downey. After dropping Kenny off in Norwalk, Matt and I would our way over to Anaheim.

The final success of the weekend was awaiting me at my place. After starting up the stairs, I look down at the obnoxious doorslammer's apartment and it was almost empty. The hell that was the worst "neighbor" I'd ever had the displeasure to live adjacent to had become a thing of the past. Yeah, success.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A Mission

A few months ago, Carrie suggested we take a bike ride over to the San Bernardino Asistencia to check it out. She's quite the California Missions buff and has been to quite a few of them. The visitor hours there are not conducive to our schedules, which explains why it took a few months to make it happen. In the interim we did get a chance to pre-ride most of the route, so it was all pretty cut and dry when the day arrived.

There's something about the Inland Empire in Spring that I really like. It seems to have stemmed from Spring Breaks being spent with my maternal grandparents, camping in various places. The smells, blue skies, green hillsides and mild temperatures bring all of that out.

Our starting point was Fairmount Park, which has a paved bike path that connects with the Santa Ana River bike path. A Santa Ana condition was present and the first few miles were spent bucking a somewhat strong headwind. Since the winds were revealing very clear skies and knowing we could enjoy them as a tailwind on the way back made it easier. Being able to see the Cajon Pass most of the way up the river bike path also helped, since it was the source of the wind and the further East we got from it, the easier the going became.

The exit of the bike path brought us onto Waterman Ave and a bit of a break at a convenience store for something to drink. Once on the street again, we had our one kook driver encounter of the day in the form of some tie-guy municipal employee who expressed that we should have license plates on our bicycles to ride on the street. He must have been the local Traffic Engineer. A quick rip under The 10 and over some railroad tracks brought us onto Barton Road, which was a straight shot to the Astencia.

Of course it had to have at least one hill, or it wouldn't have been a real adventure, right? At least the view improved with altitude. Once up on the hill, it was a little rolly for the first few miles and then dropped down again before the Mission. Up a short rise after New Jersey Avenue and we were there.

It's almost surreal to think that in the midst of the modern suburban sprawl there could be something so old and cool. It's almost like the place is hidden in plain view. Once inside the walls, the hustle and bustle seems to disappear, adding more charm. It also helped that we were the only visitors present the whole time we were there. The courtyard wasn't too opulent, but had its points of interest just the same. The cattle ranchos built to support the missions didn't seem to rate as high as the missions themselves. The chapel and adjoining rooms were sparsely furnished, but the period items there had a fantastic mix of Spanish and Native influences. What appeared to have been a bunkhouse was converted into an interpretive center, which helped explain the site's history from inception to present.

Rested up from the first half of the ride, but hungry, our next mission was to find food! Neither of us had been scanning the strip malls on the way in, but we readily found a sandwich shop and stopped for a bite. Mostly downhill with a tailwind after eating is always a good thing. Allowing for a relaxing pace and a few stops to take a few photos also enabled a celebrity encounter. Arrival back at our starting point after a thirty mile jaunt was welcomed equally by both of us.

It was worth the wait.