Luke GJ reports back from his April trip to Mount Baldy and how he became a Powerade connoisseur. Grab a warm beverage, it’s a long one, four thousand words long.

 

Intro

I divided my trip into two parts. Part one was spent doing tourist things with my aunt in San Diego. My itinerary consisted of seeing the USS Midway, Zoo, Sea World and going to Mexico for a day. Basically everything that shows up when you google “Generic Tourist things in San Diego”.

The second part would be cycling in the Greater Los Angeles Area.

 

Day 0: Ontario

From halfway​ up Interstate 15, we could see the snow capped peaks of the Angeles National Park. I was getting a bit nervous of the height of the peaks. Los Angeles, the city, is a small enough area. Los Angeles, the Greater Area is 100km wide. This meant that any hopes of cycling to the Hollywood sign and seeing a Griffith Observatory show would not happen. I had already done “Generic Tourist city trip”.

I was in Ontario city, which was west of San Bernardino. Before going, my Los Angeles knowledge was limited to what I learned playing Grand Theft Auto, Mount Baldy and Blink 182’s latest album.

Steed

I checked into my Motel and picked up the bike from InCycle San Dimas. The bike I got was a Specialized Roubaix with Niki Terpstra’s beloved Future Shock. It had Shimano Ultegra Di2 and Hydraulic Discs. A nice 34-32 low gear was standard on these bikes. My size bike had 170mm cranks, so I could fit my Stages Power Meter without worry.

Quick Bike Review: I hated everything except the Shimano Components. The top tube was too short, riser handlebars too thick, wheels were too heavy and the cutout saddle gave me really bad saddle sores. The saddle sores were likely a result of the laid back position. I didn’t notice any vibration damping from the Elastomer in the seat stays, lower seatpost clamp or the God Awful Future Shock. Di2 and Hyrdo Discs were amazing.

I spent the evening dialing in the setup based on my latest bikefit measurements spreadsheet from Aidan Hammond. I used Shane Miller’s handy trick to get my saddle setback correct. I went for a ride around the block. I was totally Fred-ing it up, shorts and a t-shirt. The area was like The Alamo, but with Car Dealerships rather than Mexicans. I was surround by Mustangs, Chargers and Camaros. The roads didn’t have bike lanes, but they had a wide lane near the sidewalk.

I had a 7Eleven around the corner where I picked up some Powerade. I didn’t have any of my favoured Energy Drink, so the calories and minerals in the Powerade were a fine replacement. My dinner consisted of a Carls Jr “Veggie burger”, which was basically lettuce and onions in a bun. I was spoilt by the Veggie offerings by Chillis and Olive Garden, so this was a let down.

Thanks Carl

I plotted the route on Strava and exported the GPX file to my Garmin. I had forgotten to download the maps onto my Garmin. I didn’t have a Micro SDCard adaptor to do it. I opened the Route on the Strava app on my phone. The phone’s GPS signal and Offline Maps would give me a better view of the roads than my Garmin’s pink line on a plain background.

I was under the impression that my Motel was closer to the foot of Mount Baldy. But 11km at 2% would provide a decent warmup. I slept pretty well considering I was 100 meters from a railway track and under the flight path of the Ontario Airport.

 

Day 1: Mount Baldy

I got up and went to the Motel’s “Continental” Breakfast. Two bowls of Cookie Crisp and a Banana, left me wondering what continent they referenced. I let some people know what route I would be taking. I was on the road by 08:30. The traffic was very quiet for a Thursday, perhaps everyone was already parked on the Freeways.

Wide Roads, No Traffic, Snow Capped Baldy

Today’s ride would be short enough, as it was testing out the conditions and how my pasty skin could handle the sun. I also needed to see how my knee tendons handled the high torque, low cadence of long climbs. Would Luke The Limping Lobster be returning?

My Homeboy Smokey ain's Playing

I got to the foot of Baldy. I met this other bearded rider. He gave me some good advice regarding looking out for the rocks that littered the mountain roads. Further up the road I encountered another pair of riders, who I wanted to chase.

The latter rider was channeling Pre-2016 Nationals Nico Roche, but looked like he was injecting Synthol. He had the Black and Blue Protone, Blue Jawbreakers, Team Sky Jersey and the biggest Triceps I had ever seen, in person. I was eating into this guy’s advantage on the steep 11% parts. Just as I overtook him, the heat and exertion became too much for me.

I had to wave bye to him as I rested in the shade of a cliff and sipped my refreshing Lime Powerade. My arms were really hot, I was sweating like crazy from my helmet. What really worried me was the way that my face was getting cold from the blood being pushed to it. I decided to stop chasing this guy. I’m not a doctor, but I know that your face going cold is not a good sign.

After an hour and a half at 70 cadence, I got to the Baldy Village. I wanted to push on towards the Ski Lifts, another three miles (allegedly), but I need a rest and a feed. I went into the rest stop and ordered a plate of Fries and a Coke. It was lovely and dark inside. After the feed, I tried to push on to the Ski-Lifts. I got another bottle of Powerade from the Vending Machine. As soon as I sat back on the bike, I knew I had a saddle sore. Executive Decision Time, I wrapped up to make the descent back to my hotel to get Dinner. After the easiest descent, I was back on the city streets.

The first was an old guy. His legs were shaved and his calves were toned. I was reeling him in the whole way up. I would’ve dispatched him quicker, but I was stopping to take photos. He seemed like a pretty cool dude. He said “Not bad for a 74 year old, eh?” So I started telling him about Tom Wymes.

Baldy Village

I made the discovery that the traffic lights didn’t sense bikes. This made turning left (they drive on the other side) a pain. Delivery Trucks, such as UPS, only make right turns, to avoid these delays. This information would be used in my next route planning.

I walked 3km up to Chilli’s for dinner. I had the the sidewalk to myself as everyone else was driving. They put on the Ireland v Iceland match replay for me. As I knew I was getting a saddle sore, I had the Chocolate Funnel Cake for dessert as it contained Ice Cream. Dr. Luke prescribes Ice Cream for saddle sores. I got a text from AT&T saying that there would be a Storm with High Winds coming soon. I enjoyed the tailwinds on the walk home.

View the Ride on Strava: Mount Baldy up to the Restaurant - 52km 1,200m.

 

Day 2: Glendora Ridge Road to Mount Baldy Ski Lifts

In my slumber, Mike Hall was killed by a car. He was racing the IndiPac, an event that I got wrapped up in. #RideForMike was trending on all Social Media platforms. Today’s ride would contain the climbs of the Tour of California’s Queen Stage. How better to honour a legend of solo unsupported rides.

Spaghetti Road

I woke up and I was not sunburnt, Factor 50 for the win! Perhaps, the sun, heat, impending storm or bright colours got to me, I mistakenly purchased the incorrect Powerade on my walk home the previous evening. I went with the Blue one. I fondly remembered the blue Mr. Freeze from my childhood. I didn’t realise it was the Zero Calorie version. I thought that this was America, where calories were mandatory.

Today’s ride would see your Protagonist take on the Glendora Mountain Road up to Mount Baldy Village. I was going to push on to the Ski-Lifts after my chips. The only problem with this route was that my only stop on the way would be the Village, 57km away.

With a vast quantity of Cookie Crisp digesting in my stomach, I battled to mentally suppress the saddle sore. A belly full of water didn’t help matters. I put away so much water, so I would not be dipping into my blue Powerade supplies early. The 20km ride over to Glendora was nice. I seen a street in San Dimas which looked like a Wild West Thoroughfare. I met a Horse rider too. The light winds, the storm’s death kneel, kept me cool.

The start of this Glendora Mountain Road is like a spagetti road. I later discovered, using my SherLuke Holmes Instagram skills, that there is a popular Time Trial on this road. I encountered some guys doing the downhill skateboarding (like the Alpe D’Huez video). They had a car filming them from behind and bringing them back up the road. All the water I consumed, was now water I needed to expel. I was searching for a nice alcove, but every one had people in RVs in them. I found a nice area where I could take a photo with one hand and “dehydrate” with the other.

No Snowplows Today

The sun wasn’t a problem today, as I had the shade of the mountain. The riders I seen on this ride were miles better than me. This was the first time that I had seen a rider dispatch me in such unequivocal terms since Ronan O’Flynn in Sierra Nevada last year, and he started solo, thirty minutes behind us.

These riders were taking a turn off at 37km. I was alone in these unpopulated hills. The next stop was at 57km. 20km solo doesn’t sound hard, but when you’re doing 10km/h it feels strange. My mind started to wander into all kinds of areas. I started to confuse miles and kilometers, I ended up convincing myself that the village was at 47km. I was down to my last half a bar and 200ml of Powerade (nectar of the Gods). I was really missing those sweet, sweet beautiful Powerade 180kcals. This isolation was a little scary, as the the storm had caused some rocks to loosen. There’s something unnerving about cycling along and hearing rocks falling. As Jimmy Carr says “Falling Rocks signs should read Life’s a Lottery, Be Lucky”. The only friends I made were the little lizards that were basking on the warm road.

I eventually seen my first human for almost two hours. A joyful occasion indeed. This encounter coincided with a short descent to Baldy Village. The peaceful restaurant, of yesterday, was now populated with screaming children. I longed for the isolation of the mountains again. After my fries, I refilled my Powerade bidon.

Littl Ginger Riding Hood

I set about my next task, journeying to the Ski-Lifts. The signs said “Three Miles”. These signs were wrong, it was 4.3 miles, 7km at 9%. I was under severe pressure. Some children on a trampoline cheered me on. I had to stop lots of times. #RideForMike was at the forefront of my thoughts and aims here. I needed to see the top, to accomplish this goal. My skateboarding friends were recording on the hairpins again.

When I got to the top, after an hour and eight minutes, I was shattered. I was applauded by a woman in a car, who offer me some water. I had Powerade, so I was good. At the top there might have been a few embarrassing yells and maybe a Man Tear or two, escaped my eyes. I wrapped up and descended the whole way back down. I needed to overtake my skateboarding amigos, who had now transitioned to a wobbly tricycle.

Ski Lift View

I made a massive mistake by skipping lunch, as I wasn’t full enough the next day. I had a big Burrito for dinner and a Green Juice. This Burrito was twice the size of a Boojum one. What it had in size, it lacked in available Chipotle sauce bottles.

View the Ride on Strava: Glendora Ridge Road to Mount Baldy Ski Lifts #RideForMike - 101km 2,222m

 

Day 3: Reservoirs on the 39

Some days you wake up and know it's going to be a day when things go wrong. I was getting adjusted to the plus-eight hour time difference. So I slept later than I wished, I feared being out in the midday sun. The Continental breakfast only had one bowl of Cookie Crisp, I had to switch to Fruit and Fibre. The next thing to go wrong was my sunscreen ran out. I had to go into 7Eleven half greasy.

I got the correct Powerade. But my skipping of lunch the previous day left me not as full as I would've liked. I had a steady 30km of riding to the foot of the climb. My intended road to descend was a little iffy, as it loosely correlated to the closed road sign I seen on on Glendora in the previous day’s ride.

Hydro Energy

It was 30km to the foot of this day’s climb. I passed the Double Tree Hilton, where I should've stayed, and a bunch of Starbucks. I hadn't yet discovered Dublin’s Leeson st. Starbucks outlet. All the Starbucks store I was passing had enclosed patio areas.

I also seen many groups of Rapha clad cyclists heading toward Mount Baldy’s foot. The only other highlight of the ride out was meeting a rider in the Vegan Athletic Apparel jersey. I had ordered my one, but it hadn't arrived. We talked until the lights turned green. He was lean and tanned, so the jersey suites him better than this biscuit binging Ginger. I neglected to tell him that my Vegan moral compass was experiencing a Bermuda Triangle effect, with my Ice Cream two days earlier and visit to the Zoo and Seaworld. He went straight, I went right.

At the foot of the climb, I noticed that my front wheel was losing pressure slowly. I had one untested tube and two CO2 canisters. I had a 70km ride to complete my route. I choose to expend a CO2 resource. Tyre pressure high, and puncture repair paraphernalia low, I resumed my ascent.

I got into a battle with a Triathlete. Big chainrings, do not make for easy climbing. He was passing me every photo opportunity spot. There were a few photos to take. The nebulous “They”, likely the city planners, had created awesome reservoirs and hydroelectric stations. I seen a guy taking photos of wildlife with a camouflage net covering him and the camera. His efforts to maintain incognito were undone by him parking his silver car ten feet away. Two fire engines passed me, with their sirens ablaze. I wasn’t worried about forest fires, as there wasn’t enough wind to spread the fire towards my path. This Fire Forecast Message was brought to you by Smokey the Bear’s deputy, Plume Potter.

Due to my saddle sores reemerging, I was taking stints riding out of the saddle. Not gonna lie here, the Specialized Roubaix’s Future Shock is absolute garbage. It does nothing to dampen the road, and it makes for terrible riding when standing. Most of the roads out there are laid out in pavement slabs, like the Clontarf seafront. I felt all of their joins.

Unfortunately, I discovered all too late, that the side to side torquing of the bike was causing the tyre to deflate. I had to keep riding no matter what. My inner voices were making escape plans.

One of the simple things in life I like to hear, is the sound of running water. There was an awesome bridge over a wide, shallow, clear stream. Acoustic lapping of its contents supplied by the exposed rocks breaching its surface. Tree covered mountains all around and the sun overhead. It took me back to my childhood with the river that used to run through the park in Tuam. I would’ve like to have stopped and taken a picture, but my tyre was deflating and panic was starting to set in.

To maintain overall forward velocity, I was weaving the front wheel all over the place. The last time I was running pressures this low was PuncesCross in December 2015. Which was my finest hour on a bike. I finally decided to give up the ghost. I found a nice gate. I started with the tyre change. I had a problem though. It was in direct sunlight. My tyre levers went the way of Yuri Geller’s spoons. Bent, bowed and broken my tyre levers reflected my spirit. All hope was gone. How do you get home when you don’t have any taxi numbers?

Alone, not a nice place to get a puncture

“Donal he needs help” came the voice of my saving grace. The girlfriend of a Scottish man, looking like a taller James McAvoy, provided me with his thicker heat resistant tyre levers. As the saying goes, “Celtic Gingers of a feather, flock together”. There was a pebble in the sidewall of the tyre causing the deflation. I use his pump to simultaneously inflate my tyres and spirit. This repair left me with a patch kit and a CO2 shot. They went ahead, as I tidied up. One minute up the road, there was a cyclists cafe. I would’ve been perfectly fine. The bad luck that had stalked my morning had received it’s restraining order from my attorney. Use coupon code “LUKEGJ4” to get a 5% discount on LegalZoom. A wave of relief washed over me.

I pressed on. The road winded around the valley. It reminded my of the middle of the climb to Trevelez on Sinead’s Yoga4Cyclist trip to Sierra Nevada. I could see the cafe and the cyclists below. I could also see the RV camping grounds. After reading Dr. Sleep (Stephen King’s follow on from The Shining), I didn’t want to be anywhere near these sort of folk. Masses of Rapha clad cyclists were endlessly spawning around every bend. I passed my two tyre lever suppliers.

“SherLuke Holmes investigates the Mystery of the Rapha Brigade” became my next side quest. It was a short-lived quest. I got to the top of the hill. It joined onto the Glendora Ridge road that left mental scars yesterday. There was a man at a water stop. The reason for the excessive Rapha clad crew was that there was a Sportive of sorts. The sportive was in aid of Smile Train. It is a charity for children with Cleft Palates, to enable those without financial resources to seek aid to correct the condition. I had to make conversation whilst I refilled my bottles.

I decided to press on to follow my route. My earlier suspicions were correct, the road I wanted to descend was closed. I rode the 5km back the water stand and continued down the Spagetti road that I ascended the previous day. There were three Police cars that came screaming towards me. I conversed with a fellow rider. He didn’t know the reason, I shared my knowledge of the earlier Fire Brigades.

It was an awesome descent. The discs were great. I could only feel the force of the front brake. I was aware of Brake Fade, which can plague the smaller 140mm rotors. I rode along the top of the city, mountains to my left, strip malls to my right. My mental state was elation, tinged with fatigue.

Coffee

I seized my opportunity to sip down a Starbucks. I chained my Roubaix to the patio. I ordered an iced coffee, the second of my recently completed twenty-eight revolutions of the Sun. I sent a picture to my buddy, Andrew, with the drink’s title. Andrew likes Starbucks, but he is old school Italian, believing that Coffee drinks should only have a maximum of two words in their title, and one of those words should be the size of the beverage. He told me to “go away with my Iced Cinnamon Almond Milk Mocha Chocalata ya ya“.

My coffee was interspersed by another customer, ironically or unironically, mocking off Mac from “It’s Alway Sunny in Philadelphia” by walking and performing Karate. LA is famous for its mentally ill population. I had also been greeted by a person in a Statue of Liberty costume. My other interactions with the less savory individuals was limited to two flashers. They left me cursing the ease of removal of sweat pants and my massively wild field of peripheral vision.

Caffeine aided and Karate inspired, I CycloCrossed back onto the bike. At the next few sets of traffic lights, I was petting a dog in a car window. The efforts to keep pace with my new furry friend took their toll. The coffee was not sitting too well in my tummy. I had another burrito and a nap. I finished my day with a Pizza from the Spanish restaurant down the road.

View the Ride on Strava: Reservoirs on the 39. Thanks to the Smile Train Sportive for the water - 106km, 1,500m.

 

Wrap up

I took this picture of Greenland, got home and took six months to publish this report.

Greenland

 

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