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

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!

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 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!