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

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

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


Day 27: Mount Hood, OR

Some days ya eat the bear, and some days the bear eats you.

Plan was to motorcycle 400 miles to the foot of Mount Hood, bicycle up, then motorcycle 30 minutes to a cheap(er) motel than those in the area.

First 2 hours were not bad, boring but no traffic and making good time.. until you turn west to head toward Portland.

Relentless, awful wind.. 100s.. if not 1000s of wind mills, so apparently it is awful all the time. My left arm went numb from counter steering to the left for 1.5 hours of this, and then you drop down into the Columbia river gorge.. and this is even worse, by a lot.

Relentless, random buffeting, and heavy tractor trailer traffic. Exhausting and awful – I would never do this route again on a motorcycle.

Thankfully after another hour of this abuse, the Garmin beeped and said hang a left!  yay!

Except it took me down some no where backroad.. and then told me to turn into a NF-xxx road.  NF means “National Forest” which means.. no pavement.

Optimistically I went for it.. and it was okay for a couple miles.. then it hooked a sharp left straight up the mountain, up STEEP loose switchbacks.  Running near slicks, I was roosting up dirt just to get up and around the turns.. I really wanted to turn around after 2 or 3 of them.. but it was so steep and loose I had to keep going for another half a mile before I could turn around.  Going down as about as much fun, although at least I remembered to turn off my ABS before I hit the dirt at the start.

So after arguing with Garmin (GRAGE!) I got back on track, for another hour of the horrible gorge, which, if anything, got even worse while I was lost in the hills.

Finally, I was back on the correct road and another hour took me to the start of the climb.

The climb basically goes up a highway, an EXTREMELY busy highway, with tons of tractor trailer and logging trucks. As far as I can tell, Oregon does not believe in a 3 foot rule.. I am pretty sure they think it is 3 inches.

And the wind was here too, relentless buffeting – a few times I thought I had a flat tire. Going up was bad, going down was really awful.

Luckily it was “only” a 2 hour climb and I was happy to get it done.  I’d say this was the least fun climb (even ignoring the 450 miles of motorcycle tri
bulations) of the trip. Combined together, I am beat!

Tomorrow off to Mount Shasta, the final climb of my trip!

Finally, on the correct highway to Mt Hood

“Start” of the climb

Pretty much the only thing you can see from the highway is Mt Hood!

Turn off to the ski park – plenty of snowboarders going up!

Gettin’ closer!

The top of the pavement – need a ski lift from here!

Going down – some other big mountain in the distance

Zoomed mountain

Day 26: Mount Spokane, WA

Running out of mountains to climb! Today I headed up Mt Spokane, which is probably just out of the top 100, but still pretty notable for the area, with a 4000+ foot ascent. [Strava activity here]

Since I knew this was pretty easy, I decided to just ride to the 15 miles to the start of the climb instead of starting at the base. Especially with all the delicious oxygen at 2000 feet above sea level.

The first 15 miles were through the rolling hills off Spokane wheat country, one thing that I found interesting is there are housing developments scattered within the fields – either these are the richest farmers I’ve ever seen, or these are separate houses that just happen to be within the fields – interesting locale to live in.

Once the sun came up, I turned onto the highway that leads into Mt Spokane park, and eventually the climb starts. I say “eventually” because it is pretty gradual for the first 10 miles or so.. and back in the tree tunnels.

When you turn off into the actual park, the grade kicks up to a more reasonable 6 to 8% and it feels like a real climb.  Unfortunately the last few miles turn into mega-huge switchbacks and it eases off again, which is the reverse of most climbs – usually they’re steeper at the end.

You really only get vistas starting in the last 2 miles, and unfortunately things were pretty hazy – either due to the fires or just high clouds.

Due to the gradual grades, the descent was pretty non-technical and I just cruised back down for some pancakes!

2 more climbs to go – tomorrow I’m going to do the motorcycle-bicycle double on Mt. Hood, since it is also a gradual climb.

Going up there some where, I assume



Pop tart break, turn off to the final couple of miles

At the top!

Nobody at the top.. so shadow selfie

Lookin’ down

At the very very top is a stone building that looks very solid!

View from Vista House – name checks out!

Another shot from Vista House

I am pretty sure I have seen more ski lifts this trip than my entire life combined

Heading down, view from one of the switchbacks

Coming back through the valley with the sun up, wheat forever

Day 23: Big Cottonwood Canyon & Motorcycle Excitement

Late posting today due to aforementioned motorcycle excitement.

But to start with the bicycling – Big Cottonwood is another one of the top 50 climbs in the US, combined with Guardsman from Park City, it’s a pretty stiff climb – I had dreams of adding Little Cottonwood, but after the descent took what felt like forever, and pretty gusty tail (ie, headwind the way up) – I declined.

Once more up Guardsman, combining parts of 2 of the climbs I did last time, and then the long descent down the canyon.. it goes on and on!

Finally, after reaching the bottom, the long drag back up – this is a pretty heavily trafficed route, and seems very popular with cyclists too.

Resting at one of the many switchbacks up Guardsman

Rocketing down the canyon, lots of exciting cliff formations

Getting closer to the bottom

On the way up, the very gradual climb up the canyone

Scenic valley views

The turn off to the OTHER side of Guardsman.. where there’s another 3 miles of 10-15%

View halfway up the other side of Guardsman

So after roughly 4+ hours, I returned back to the hotel and got breakfast.  On my way back, I decided to check on the motorcycle annnnd… flat rear tire.  Totally flat.

Now normally that’s just annoying. Given I was in a nice, flat, cool enclosed garage.. spending 2 hours to change a tube is not a huge deal.

But in this case, I couldn’t find what made it flat! If there was a nail or screw or something, fine.  But.. no.. nothing. I even doused the whole thing with soapy water, and the only bubbles were coming up around the valve stem.

I don’t like mysterious mechanical things several thousand miles from home, so I phoned around and found a shop about 30 minutes away (on a Monday no less, which is a miracle in itself since most motorcycle shops are closed Mondays.)

So, I pumped the tire back up and determined it was losing about 3 PSI per 30 minutes, enough time to get over there.

They took it apart and….. they were stumped too!

Nothing in the tire, the puncture is on the tread side (not the rim strip.) and nothing.

The only odd thing is the tube does feel a bit squishy where the puncture was. Maybe manufacturing defect?  Or something speared the tire and then left without leaving a trace?

Oh well.  They put in my spare tube, put it back together, and I headed back.

Hopefully it will stay inflated over night.

Day 21: Guardsman Pass & Empire Pass, Park City CO

Guardsman Pass from Midway is in the top 20, and Empire is in the top 50 or so, but I’ve a hard time taking any climb seriously after doing Pike’s Peak!  Combined it was around 6000 feet of ascent. [Strava activity here]

Both of these have sustained sections of 10% or greater – the granny gear finally got serious usage (excepting that top part of Pike’s, which was more oxygen related than grade related.) The lower part of Guardsman is relentless 10-15% for the first several miles, I saw 22% on one switchback. The average grade was deceptive as there were a few VERY short downhill sections.

I didn’t take many photographs, the mosquitos were out again and I have barely recovered from the last round of Colorado mosquitos – at least Colorado mosquitos didn’t seem to have whatever flesh eating bacteria lives in Wyoming mosquitos, they were more normal level of annoying instead of terrifying red welts the size of quarters.

Top of Empire before descending into Midway – all new pavement!

Scenery was a nice change of pace from the desert

Top of Guardsman pass

I’ll be doing parts of this route again on Monday – Empire and the top 2 miles of Guardsman, before descending Big Cottonwood and then climbing back up.

The question is if I will also attempt Little Cottonwood – this is another 4K in-n-out climb at the bottom of Big Cottonwood.  That’ll make for a 10.5K day – I’ve purposefully been keeping the bike legs relatively short to ensure enough recovery time between bicycling & motorcycling – but I have no climb (or even destination yet) planned after Monday, so I might just go empty the tank if I’m feeling good.

Tomorrow is a maintenance day (bike, moto, laundry, etc) so I’ll have time to figure out what I’m doing next!

Day 19: Colorado National Monument

This wasn’t on the big climb list, but on the “scenic optional route” list I had put together if the timing/weather/geography worked out.

It was definitely worth it – really epic scenery and a great route that winds up and over the terrain.

This time the sun was finally in my favor instead of riding directly into the sunrise.

The ride itself was very enjoyable, and I saw more cyclists than cars (at least early morning on a week day.)

Sun rising

Gettin’ closer

Turn off to the Monument loop

One of the dozen switchbacks that levers you up the mountain

Finally, good lighting!

Along the top, you roll around the edge of the plateau before descending again

Where there’s a sign, there’s a photo

After the quasi-summit, the descent is fast and technical – I did not take photos since I felt myself spending too much time staring at the scenery and not paying attention to the switchbacks, so I settled on safely getting back to the valley.

Tomorrow is a long motorcycle day to Park City, UT.  Starting in Park City means I’ll be doing some double climbs (front and backsides) but I decided I’d rather be cooler in Park City than roasting in the valleys.

Day 18: Grand Mesa, CO

Grand Mesa takes you up to one of the largest mesa’s in the US, to nearly 11,000 feet of elevation. [Strava Activity Here]

I wanted to make sure I got back before check-out so I could shower before heading to Grand Junction, so I left before dawn and rolled 2 miles down hill to the official start of the climb.


After the two 14ers (Pike’s & Evans) I was happy that I could just ride my own pace and not worry about going easy for the first half.

The climb is pretty consistent – never too steep and not too boring, and the scenery changes from desert, to alpine, to tundra meadows pretty quickly. The early lighting didn’t lend itself to great pictures, but the views with the desert plateaus and mountains were pretty cool.

Thunderstorm rainbow in the distance

Switchbacks that take you up the side of the mesa

Looking down.. hazy due to thunderstorms

Grade eases up near the top, and mosquitos!

“Falling Rock”

Lakes == mosquito plateau

The worst part was the continued road construction – miles and miles of fresh chip seal turned this into a gravel ride. Luckily the descent is not particularly technical, so I didn’t worry much about it.

3/4 down I got caught up in one way traffic control again, waiting for an escort vehicle. When they finally arrived, they asked if I’d like my bike carried down instead of riding and I was totally fine with that – not due to the risk, but due to all the dirt I’d have to eat following a bunch of cars on gravel!

Made it back to the hotel with plenty of time to shower and pack up, and headed to Grand Junction.. and promptly got stuck in another one-way traffic control.. for 30+ minutes, in 95 degree heat.  This was not pleasant, I felt like my motorcycle gear was filling up with sweat from the bottom up.

Once finally released, I made my way to Grand Junction and stopped at a cafe for a gallon of iced coffee to recover from that huge, 1 hour motorcycle ride!

Tomorrow is a non-climbing day, I’ll be getting up early again to do the Colorado National Monument loop (44 miles, 3400 ascent.)