San Diego Day 3 of “Remarkably Bad Idea” trip – Palomar & home

3 day total:
~15 hours motorcycling
~10,000 feet cycling ascent / 7 hours ride time

I’m pretty beat. Today was Palomar and then ~7 hours of motorcycling home. Palomar is #39 out of the top 100 US road climbs. If Nate Harrison is the WORST road conditions possible, Palomar is probably the best. I can see why people like to do long effort training rides on it. It is smooth and fast and not particularly pitchy, and the switchbacks tend to give you a nice break.

Strava activity here.

The lower portion along the highway isn’t super fun – lots of 3″ wide shoulder and curbs, but I left early so it wasn’t so bad. But it IS a busy highway, I took no pictures.

Once you get to the turn off for the park, traffic dies off and it is smooth sailing.

I planned to switch from “Ride as slowly as possible” to “Ride as fast as my knee could handle” – but it turned out there wasn’t much difference, my knee just isn’t happy with any significant power put through it (or standing up.)

That’s okay though because the lights started going out with about a mile to go. Zero power in the engine room. It felt like that last mile went on and on and on. Once I finally got to the top, I had to rest up a bit to have the mental energy for the descent. Was starting to feel kind of ‘sea legs’ with all the time spent on 2 wheels.

The descent is super fun, on a good road bike and familiarity with the curves you could do this with barely touching the brakes. The upper 1/3 is also freshly paved.

I made it safely back to the hotel and packed up the moto-bicycle rig and slogged my way home across LA. That is really miserable with 1000s of big rigs screwing up the air flow plus the usual mountain pass cross winds. To add insult to injury there was a 6+ car pile up 5 miles from my house. So close! By the time I got home I was super super beat. That was a lot for 3 days with so few miles (bicycle & motorcycle) on my body.

Not sure what climbs are next, we’ll see how the knee does!

Halfway up, lookin’ down
Pauma Valley
3/4 up.. more valley and cool clouds
1.2 miles to go.. so much groveling at this point, burned out trees from past fires
Taking a break at the bustling post office before descending

San Diego Day 2 of “Remarkably Bad Idea” trip – Nate Harrison Grade

Nate Harrison is a mixed surface climb that would rank #16 out of the top 100 in the US. Knee is still pretty dodgy and I want to do Palomar tomorrow, so my goal was to ride this as slowly as possible.

Link to Strava Activity

Starts out with some no shoulder highway but I left super early so not too bad. Once you get to the dirt section it’s pretty mixed. Some is not too bad (gravel on hard pack) and other sections are pretty brutal – deep ruts, rocky stretches, sand. I was very glad I did not have to descend the dirt part – it would take a lonnng time. The grade on this climb is also extremely deceptive with a roughly 10-11% average. But much of that is made up of 15-20% pitches mixed with 6 to 8%. And of course the most rutted/rocky sections were the steepest!

The sun was in my eyes on half of the switchbacks, so that made it extra exciting to not ride off the side of the road or into a bike size rut.

Knee was pretty much not happy right away, but didn’t seem to get any worse? So I ignored it. Hopefully it will be okay tomorrow.

I was very happy to see the end of the dirt section, and then a slight climb to get to the descent, which is very fast and no shoulders. Luckily traffic was very light, so no problems. At the bottom is a convenient Taqueria, so I rewarded myself with a breakfast burrito.

The descent was also a preview of the ride up tomorrow, which other than being smooth pavement, looks very similar in profile and length.

Starts out through the orange groves
Start of the dirt part
You can make out the switchbacks up the hill
more more more, knee getting grumpy around here
About halfway up, looking down into the valley
3/4 of the way it turns inland under trees and into the park
End of the pavement.. after 2.5 hours of bumpy dirt, pavement felt super smooth and fast!
After the false summit, you go up another 100 feet to get to the pavement descent.
Preview of tomorrow.. the start of Palomar descent


San Diego Day 1 of “Remarkably Bad Idea” trip

I’m wondering if maybe this was overly ambitious. 8 hours on the motorcycle including dragging across all of Los Angeles being buffeted by winds and big rigs was pretty exhausting. Also, no place had restrooms open until I stormed a Mcdonald’s. Route to the hotel gave me look at Nate Harrison grade and it looks REALLY tough. Given my current riding shape (and body shape) tomorrow will be interesting.


Top 100 US Road Climbs Resumes

After hiatus for being injured, fat, buying/selling houses, COVID, et cetera, I have resumed my not-very-urgent quest to ride the Top 100 road climbs in the USA.

A couple of weeks ago we spent the weekend in Santa Barbara and I took care of Gibraltar Rd (#62) and Refugio Rd (#70)

Gibraltar is pretty boring with a fair number of cars and a lot of close brushes with OHV toting pickup trucks, and Refugio was blasted to heck from the fires and mud slides. Really awful pavement made for a lonnng bumpy descent! But 2 more knocked out. This currently brings me to 26 out of 100 (a list that is somewhat ever changing as new climbs are added that push others down the list.)

Next up I am headed to San Diego to knock out #16 (Nate Harrison Grade) and #39 (Palomar.) Not too many non-snowed in opportunities in January.

Taking the motorcycle-bicycle rig for this trip since I’m solo.


Owen’s Valley Day 3: Onion Valley

Very brief update since I need to hit the road and head home. This was definitely the coolest of the 3 road climbs. Onion Valley is the hardest climb in California, and #57 in the world. A pretty solid continuous grade to the top (no false summits!) and the terrain is varied and interesting vs. mile long switchbacks and the usual epic scenery.

Since this was my last climb, I was also able to ride it at a more aggressive pace which is good because it was also the COLDEST day. 37F and a stiff breeze coming up the valley – I never took off my windbreaker the whole ascent.


After the cold windy valley, the grades kick up to a continuous 8-9%

Looking back down at the valley

Up at the final 2K ascent

Up at the top, bear boxes and cold.

One of the trail heads at the top

I took a lot more pictures on the way down, because it was so cold my fingers would go numb and I’d start shivering. I’d pause in the sun to warm up a bit and continue on. Winter was definitely in the air!

The expansion cracks were actually better than Horseshoe – most had been filled in and I didn’t see a lot of tire eaters on the way up, so mostly it was just annoying KERTHUNK KERTHUNK KERTHUNK


Owen’s Valley Day 2: Horseshoe Meadows & Whitney Portal

Oof, that was pretty tough – it has been a while since I did a 11,582 ascent day.

Tackling two of the hardest climbs in the country in a single day was a bit ambitious. Horseshoe Meadows is #7 in the US and #69 in the world. Whitney Portal is #14 USA, #122 in the world.


Horseshoe Meadows starts off a few miles south of Lone Pine via Lubkin Canyon – you can also do it the long way from Whitney Portal, but I was going for steepest/shortest.

It starts off with a gradual climb up Lubkin over pretty broken pavement, then you hang a left and do a lonnnng drag to get to the ominous switchbacks.

In general nothing too extreme, but the pavement is pretty rough, above 7000 feet, there’s a lot of broken expansion cracks. 700×32 tires suggested.

There’s a false summit around 8600 feet which is annoying, then you eventually end up in the camp ground areas – not much to see up there other than trees!

Switchbacks in the distance from the start


Lookin’ to the hills from Lubkin

Turn onto Horseshoe Meadows from Lubkin



End of the long drag, left onto the first switchback

Down toward the valley


More switchbacks

Down before the false summit

Right before the false summit

Campground at the top

The descent was pretty crappy coming off Horseshoe – those expansion joints are brutal, some were tire eaters, so I had to go slow. Even down low, the pavement was pretty choppy.

After a quick snack and reapplication of sunscreen, I drove back to the hotel and started off on Whitney Portal.

This is another long drag and then 2 (or 3) huuuge switchbacks. My legs were definitely feelin’ it by the time I hit the first switchback, which, coincidentally, is when the grade kicks up to 10-15%, yech.

Pictures declined significantly, which usually means I’m groveling. I did, eventually, make it to the top.

Good news is the pavement on Whitney Portal is good, so I was able to blast back down the mountain.

Pretty much the view the whole way



Onto the monster switchbacks

Lookin’ down at one of the switchbacks

Nearly there.. campgrounds to the left

Still a lot more mountain!

Ready to hike?!


Owen’s Valley Day 1: Cerro Gordo Ghost Town

Well, been a while since I’ve done a blog post from my android phone on the road.. not even with the motorcycle this time. Only a few days off and I wanted to bring two bikes.

Day 1 is a full dirt climb up to an old mining site, Cerro Gordo. Notably, by FIETS score (16.98 FIETS, Pike’s Peak is 17.8) so this would be a solid Top 10 in the USA if it was paved – it climbs 4600 feet in a little less than 8 miles. It starts about 15 miles south of Lone Pine toward the Panamint Valley and then onto Death Valley.


There’s a whole bunch of interesting history in this area related to the Water Wars where LA diverted their river – it’s still going on to this day over toxic dust clouds caused by the dry lake.

Anyways, it kicks off in Keeler, where a few hardy souls still hang on, and a lone US Post Office outpost.

Turn off from the highway

Looking back down the “easy” part

Once you roll out, it takes you onto a pretty well maintained dirt road (and in fact I passed a grader on the way back down) – the washboard was not too bad on the lower slopes and the first 5 miles is a pretty gradual (heh) 8-10% grade.

After you make this turn, the grade goes up

It kicks up in a few spots, but nothing egregious. At this point I was wondering what the fuss was about and figured it was cake.

Up up up

This is steep

Final kick to the ghost town

Nearly fell over here taking this picture. ha

Then you get to about mile 4.8 and take a small downhill, and the rest is pretty brutal. Solid 15-20%, and I saw upper 20s a few times. The road surface becomes a lot more challenging – much looser and more washboard. I don’t advise trying to stop: You may fall over or may not be able to get going again!

Panamint Valley Side

Summit looking down to Owen’s Valley

The summit gives you a peek over into the Panamint Valley and you can check out the old buildings and random artifacts related to the old mining history. I didn’t hang around for a tour and headed on down.

The upper descent was definitely sketchy on skinny gravel tires. You don’t want to get too much speed going on the loose wash board, or you may run out of traction. Being solo, I took it easy.

Once onto the lower slopes, I met up with the grading tractor knocking down all the washboard (what luck!) and it was smooth sailing.

As usual in this part of California, epic scenery abounds!


New Rig and What Happened to 2018?

So here we are in September 2019, with hardly any updates. So what happened to 2018? The plan was: Double Century in March, Death Ride in July, then Mauna Kea (the hardest bike climb in the world) in August/September.

2018 reality (the light blue line is “training load” – ie, how fit you are and prepared to go ride up crazy mountains)


In short, the wheels fell off the wagon. I still managed to do Death Ride with the wonky Achilles but it wasn’t super fun: Strava Link


After a bust of 2018, I took some time off and gradually trained back up and lost all the weight I gained being injured, preparing for Mauna Kea in July 2019.

5 days before I left, the natives shut down the road(!) – could have been worse, I was meeting a buddy from the U.K. that flew over to do it.. so I couldn’t complain that much. But I did anyways. I still rode across the whole Big Island and up Mauna Loa, but I can’t help being disappointed. Strava Link


More importantly, here’s the new motorcycle and new 2×2 rack!



2017 – Summary

Obviously severe blog burn-out after my summer trip, but I figured I’d roll up 2017 into one post.

Top 3 Rides of 2017

  1. Wild Rose Canyon, Death Valley
  2. Pike’s Peak, Colorado
  3. Mauna Loa, Hawaii (no blog post on this one but it was ridiculous due to the rain and wind!)

Summer Motorcycle-Bicycle Trip

Spring Death Valley Try-Out Trip


Why motorcycle with a bicycle?

Well, this goes back a bit.  I’ve been motorcycling for a while.  I’ve been bicycling for a while.  ~5 years ago, I spent 4 weeks riding my motorcycle around Canada and Alaska.


As my next 5 year sabbatical approached, I began planning what I thought would be a motorcycle trip down the Continental Divide (from the Canadian border down to Mexico.)

I also started recovering from my latest injury and began bicycling more, culminating in participating in a local hill climb series (shout out to Low Key Hill Climbs!) as well as dropping the latest 30 pounds I gain every time I get injured.

I figured I should use my current cycling form for something, and decided I should at least ride all the top climbs in California this summer.  Which lead to John Summerson’s “Complete Guide to Climbing by Bike” book.


Which lead me to PJAMM cycling’s “Top bike climbs in the United States” web page.  Which lead to pondering how many of the Top 100 climbs I could visit in 4 to 6 weeks of traveling.

Unfortunately for me, I loathe long car road trips.. but I can ride my motorcycle day after day forever, no problem.

A quick Google for “bike racks for motorcycles” turned up the most excellently engineered 2×2 Cycles Rack and a vague sketch of a plan formed in my mind:  I would travel around the western US with my motorcycle AND bicycle.  Motorcycle to the foot of a remote climb, switch to bicycle, ride it, then switch back!  CRAZY!

Crazy enough people said I should blog about my experiences, including my lovely wife.  I don’t do Facebook, my Instagramming is inconsistent, and Strava only covers a small aspect of it.  Plus, I’m capturing my own learnings and actions as I go along.

So, here it is… count-down to (probably) June.  Please leave a comment if you’re interested in any particular aspect of this craziness!

This is, so far, my deeply thought out plan (each balloon or diamond represents a notable climb.)

Route planning via MS Paint!



Day 29: Mount Shasta & Home!

Today was gonna be a long one – I planned to ride up Mount Shasta (#60 in the US, ~4000 ascent) early, and then motorcycle the 300+ miles home in one shot. “Dangerous heat” advisory starting Monday, and the idea of slogging down California during the week day commute period made doing a double seem more appealing.

Rolled out at first light and headed up, got a mile out and realized I forgot my cell phone – oops.  Coasted back to the hotel and started again.

The climb up Mount Shasta was very pleasant and relaxing – no traffic, a pretty consistent 5 to 6% grade. The lower half doesn’t have much scenery, just trees and quiet.

3/4 up things open up a bit and you can see a bit more, and the final 3 miles are entirely closed to traffic (I don’t know if I count as traffic, I didn’t ask) – at the top, the landscape is scoured pretty clean from heavy avalanche/snow I assume.

The closed section was a bit dirty and bumpy, but nothing too bad, and after that the descent is pretty much no brakes to get back to the valley floor.

This was a great final climb for my trip, peaceful and nothing too extreme.  Plus it put me in a good frame of mind to tackle 300 miles of mind numbing interstate, which I did in a one stopper because it was already 97 degrees at 10 AM in Redding.  So that’s all I’ll say about that part of the trip.

I’ll put together a trip summary post in a day or two, but I’d say it was successful!  Epic and awesome and great bicycling!


Heading up

Valley side was hazy, so no great views


Family of rocks crossing the road

Opening up about 3/4 to the top




Shadow selfie, there was nobody around

Was tempted to ride up the trail a bit, but time was pressing