France Cycling Challenge Raises $4,260 For Challenged Athletes Foundation

CFFC Don Fest

With the help of many generous friends, we were able to raise $4,260 for Challenged Athletes Foundation.  This funding will be used to help people with physical challenges pursue an active lifestyle through physical fitness and athletics.  It will help them afford the cost of equipment such as sports wheelchairs, handcycles, mono skis and sports prosthetics, and resources for training and competition expenses.

I would like to thank the following donors that will help so many have their dreams of competition in sports come true.

$1,000 Bob Cutler – C3

$1,000 Arthur Yelsey – MediaSpot

$250 Dev Ganson – Fishbowl

$100 John Svoboda – Svoboda Studios

$100 Linda Ferrara

$100 Rob Taylor – SplickIt

$100 Ivan Matkovic – SpendGo

$100 Eileen Murray

$100 Nancy Kruse – The Kruse Company

$100 Maggie Reyna – Taco Bell

$100 Mary Rosenberg – Global Media Group

$100 Peggy McCormick – MMM Marketing

$100 John Vitro – Vitro

$100 Jamie Carawan – Front Burner Restaurants

$100 Kevin Rice – Hathway

$100 Doug Reifschneider – Firehouse Subs

$50 Karen Zaniker – KZ Marketing

$50 Sloane Perras – The Krystal Company

$50 Marina Segedy – Dextro & Sinistro

$50 Kim Zupfer – KM Food Consulting

$50 Christy Geiling – Rubio’s

$50 Juan George – OLO

$50 Jamie Bucciarelli – Paytronix

$50 Barbara Johnson

$50 Chef Barb Colucci

$50 Rosemary Doody – Pieology

$50 Chad Bailey – Yogurtland

$25 Joan Hansen – Marie Callender’s

$25 Amy Stoddard

$25 Darren Nutt

$25 Patrick Lenow – Dine Equity

$25 Marcella Hackbardt

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The Final Numbers

In many ways, completing this challenge revolved around a lot of numbers to calculate what was ahead of me, how I was going to achieve it, how I was tracking my progress and how I did in the end.  I was always doing a lot of math all the way down to the last day.

Here are the final numbers as calculated since training began in January to the last day of the 8 day ride in France.

Total Ride Numbers


8/3 Alpe d’Huez The Final Day – I Travelled This Far So Let’s Do The “Daily Double+”

Morning in Alpe d”Huez rises.  High atop the ski resort, my hotel room offers me a wake up call like no other.  The Alpes, the glacier and the crisp morning air call to me from the doors I left open all night.

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It is out last day and we are to embark on a right of passage for any cyclist.  Today we ride Alpe d’Huez.  21 hairpin switchbacks over an 8.5 mile climb with an average incline of 8%.  This is not something you just go out and do.  Yes, that really is a photo of the climb below.

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We meet at 8:30am to review the ride.  There are three ways up Alpe d’Huez.  We did one yesterday, we will do the classic switchbacks today but before that we will descend down the third way through the Col de Sarenne route to the base.

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All views are spectacular up here including this one on the way to Col de Sarenne.

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On the way down, it was slow.  Constant stops to take photos

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Another stop to video a herd of sheep being kept in their place by dogs.

Another to capture the Col de Sarenne sign.

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Then, we reached the true point that would take us on a 17 mile descent down this ribbon of fast switchbacks and long declines.

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Even a stop to take a little video of my compadres beginning the descent.

Stefano caught these shots of me just after I started it myself.

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But wait, let’s stop again.  I mean come on.  You have to stop at this one.  Wild flowers, Alpes etc.  If we could have just got this idiot to get out of the picture it would have been perfect.

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Once at the base, those who actually have climbing skills/speed can use this point to time themselves to the top.  A few of the guys were shooting to beat the record of Sheryl Crow she set when she was dating Lance Armstrong which, as legend tells, is an hour and 37 minutes.  Everyone needs a goal.

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My training for this has been Palomar Mountain.  They call it the Alpe d’Huez of Southern California.  Almost as many switchbacks, but not as long, not as steep and not as much altitude.  That helped me get through it though.  I went back to the first episode of the Partridge Family and had Shirley Jones echoing her motherly advice in my mind.  The kids had their first big gig and they froze on stage.  Mom told them to close their eyes and just imagine they were back in the garage at home practicing.  They relaxed and the rest is history.  Some did jail time, some got hooked  on drugs, some did Love Boat episodes, one had a pretty good run in Vegas and quite a few of them were in reality shows gettin’ their B celebrity paycheck while they could.

If they could get past the fear in the thin predictable script, so could I in real life.  So, I just sat back and pretended  I was on back on Palomar going the distance.  I did keep my eyes open though.  It worked and I somehow didn’t slip into singing Partridge Family hits like “I Think I Love You“, or “Doesn’t Somebody Want To Be Wanted” while I was doing it either.  Thank goodness!

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It was a very long and tough climb.  Alpe d’Huez has a sign on each turn that tells you which turn you are on.  It counts it down so that when you get to the one before the finish it is a number one signaling the last turn.  It also tells you how many more kilometers you have to go.  This helps a lot.  They don’t have those on Palomar and I had to learn over time where I was.

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Finally, I arrived at the top with the rest of the group.

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There were bodies everywhere.  Some on the pavement and some hugging.  We rounded everyone up to take a group picture and they were all off to shower and find beer and burgers.

I on the other hand decided that I had come to far to not have a story to tell in the old folks home.  My legs felt good and I had not really gone that many miles yet.  I had done three times the amount of miles yesterday so surely I could go more.  Plus, my promise to raise money for Challenged Athletes Foundation was to climb 10 of the most famous Tour de France mountains and I had not completed Galibier due to weather.  If I did a double on Alpe d’Huez, that would be my make-up mountain.

Hersh and Stefano were good with my plan so I packed up some food on the bike, refilled my water bottles and down the switchbacks I went for another 21.

When I got down to the bottom it was really hot.  Likely near 90.  As I began to climb I took the time to notice the names painted on the road still there from the Tour de France that had rolled through here a few weeks ago.  I was particularly inspired when I saw my daughters name painted on the road.  That gave me a little extra boost and a nice smile.

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As I approached turn 8, Stefano drove past me.  I signaled for him to meet me at turn 7 where there was some shade near a small village across from this church.  I refueled quickly and got back on the bike for the final turns.

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Up higher now it was much cooler which was good.  I cranked out the last turns and as I hit the summit in the middle of town, to my surprise the whole group was there.  They had decided to eat at a restaurant right at the summit and greet me.  They jumped out and ran with me as I completed the double.  I kind of missed the Viking helmet, cape and rainbow wigs that you see on the Tour that the spectators wear, but the gesture was heartfelt for sure.  Great group of people.

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So, yes I can mumble over and over again in the old folks home “Double on Alpe d’Huez, Double on Alpe d’Huez” with full credibility now.

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Proud totals for August 3rd, 2016 include 50 miles, 9,311 feet and twice up Alpe d’Huez through a cumulative 42 hairpin switchbacks.  A memory for a lifetime.

50 8.3

8/3 Ride Preview – Alpe d’Huez Loop With Col de Sarenne

Trek Travel Description – It’s time. The moment you have been waiting for, the classic ascent of Alpe d’Huez, the most revered and famous mountaintop finish in France. With an average grade of 8% and 21 hairpin bends, this lion of a climb will grab and hold all your attention. We’ll descend onto tthe route made famous in the 2013 Tour over the Col du Sarenne to take in the beauty of the mountains, and imagine the pros descending this small and narrow road, before we reach the final climb of the trip, Alpe d’Huez, the ultimate grand finale ride.This climb was first included in the Tour in 1952 and it’s often one of the most exciting points in the race as the pros dance on their pedals to the summit, over an average grade of nearly 8%. Take a photo taken on the summit podium and relax over lunch at the top of this mighty mountain and soak up the reward of the grueling ascent and astounding views. Tonight, gather with your traveling companions and guides to raise a glass to the Tour, the legendary riding that makes it famous, heroes past and present and the incredible cycling of these truly epic climbs!

Day 8 photo

Day 8

8/2 The 13,000 Foot Day – Glandon,Croix de Fer & Pas de la Confession to Alpe d’Huez

After our nice little jaunt to Italy yesterday, it was time to get our serious climb on.  The route today is to leave La Grave, go around Alpe d’Huez, climb up to Col de Croix de Fer, back down to Col du Glandon, and up the back side of Alpe d’Huez via Pas de la Confession to our hotel at the top of the ski resort.

For those who would like to opt out of that grind-a-thon, there were various options to cut the ride much shorter.

The first leg was to descend out of La Grave for around 13 miles.  We suited up with layers and jackets for this one because this descent would happen early in the morning in the mountain air starting at 8:30am.

No further than a few miles into it, the first of many memorable views came into sight.  To the right of my head below, you will see a spectacular waterfall cutting through the mountainside.

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At the bottom of the descent we entered the valley below Alpe d’Huez.  As you can see below, once in the valley the Alpes swallow it up.

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At the end of the valley, we turned right to begin the climb up to Col de Croix de Fer and Col du Glandon.  This climb features mostly a 5% grade, but throws in 13%+ climbs here and there plus it is a steady 18 miles long!  It is a leg breaker that tests your endurance.

The first part of the climb is heavily wooded.  There is little opportunity to do much sightseeing, but you do get glimpses through the trees hinting that more of what we have experience this week is yet to come.  Then, as you emerge from the forest you come upon the opportunity to take a look back at your climb as seen in the photo below.  This is where it just keeps getting better and better.  As you continue up, the mountain is almost pulling you up with the anticipation of what you will see next.

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At this moment, the great expanse of the Lac de Grand Maison appeared before us with the Alpes behind it.  Later I asked the the rest of the group about how cool it was when that lady in the lake held up the sword out of the water, said you could be ruler of all the land and the mountains were singing?  “Oh,” I said.  “You guys didn’t purchase the Excalibur package from Trek Travel?”

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Denis shot this of me in front of the lake with my phone.  It just doesn’t seem real.  It looks like a fake backdrop you would find on a cruise ship or at a theme park.  It isn’t.  This is the French Alpe’s at its finest.

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As Denis and I climbed, we rose above the lake to see the long ribbon of road ahead of us in the photo below.  We were pleased to see a bit of a downhill, but also realized that would be short lived.

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The climb continued to bring us surprises and more special views of the Alpes.

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Again, I learned to look back from time to time and capture some of where we had been to complete the picture of the journey.

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Below, this was another waterfall we passed on the way up.  I think Hagrid from Harry Potter lives in one of those huts down to the left.  Bilbo Baggins is probably his neighbor.  The whole experience was very “Middle Earth” for sure.  I was ready for the guys from Monty Python to skip by knocking coconuts together, singing about Sir Robin, arguing about how much weight a sparrow could carry, asking me what my favorite color was and telling me to bring them a shrubbery or I would not be allowed to pass.

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The road seemed to never end.  We were feeling the 18 mile climb and looking for some resolution of it.

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Finally, we arrived at the summit of Col de la Croix de Fer for the mounting Col summit photo ops.

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Post photo session, we noticed many people sitting up on the rocks above us.  Then we saw it.  360 degree views of the Alpes.  Both of us agreed that if we had the time, and a bottle of wine, spending the time to soak up the views was probably the right way to soak it all in.

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We did not have the time though.  We signed up for one of the biggest climbing cycling tours in the world so that meant we had to go.  We descended down a few kilometers and captured our next Col summit photo at Col du Glandon.

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It was here that I had my daily animal interaction with this sheep friend hanging out next to all the two legged visitors.

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I took the time at Glandon to capture one more photo, and panorama shot, of middle earth.

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Lunch was conveniently just a few hundred feet down from Glandon in an unassuming old building.  It was the only establishment for miles.  Not somewhere I would think would have a memorable culinary experience.  Simple nourishment was all I had as an expectation.

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I was wrong.  Scratch Bolognese was on the menu as we basked in the sun on the patio.

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This was followed up by a scratch made blueberry tarte.  Thick, dense and supported by a crust that surely used most of the butter in this locally dairy rich region.  Cue the eyes rolling back in the head.

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Carbs and sugar were a good thing.  There were two climbs left if you were into it, and I was definitely in.  We enjoyed a long descent back down that ribbon of a road for the duration of the 18 miles.  You would think that coasting for 18 miles would be a complete breather, but it isn’t.  You are constantly adjusting, braking, looking for obstacles and basically not trying to die.  It is actually taxing.  Not as taxing as climbing the other direction, but it adds up.

At the bottom, we began the six mile climb up Pas de la Confession.  Although much shorter that the last climb, it was much steeper starting out at over 7%.  Like the previous climb, it began in the forest.  It also began with fewer friends.  Most of the group had hopped on the bus at the bottom and skipped it.  The majority of this climb I spent with Anna on and off depending on the ability we each had at whatever moment it was.  Sometimes we were pulling each other.  Other times, we sent the other off on their own.

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We were the last group to be on the climb so it was just me and Anna.  Fortunately, we also had our friends in the support van that visited us from time to time to make sure we ok.

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As we rose out of the forest, once again there was the classic French road cut into the side of the mountain with the little stone wall on the outer side.  With that came the first of the views we had been denied by the forest up until that point.

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This time, we would be treated to what I believe to be the most exceptional view yet.  It was another photo take on my phone that doesn’t look real.  But…it is.  I saw it.  I  took it.  I stopped Anna with her head down cranking through the climb to make sure she saw it.  I took a panorama of it.  And…I sat there for a while and looked at it some more.

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A few more kilometers up the road we met our friends in the van again and took our third Col sign photo of the day.  It was quite the accomplishment.  Anna and I were very proud.  Hersh let us know we had another four miles to go.  It would include about six of the Alpe d’Huez switchbacks on the way up to the hotel too.

Anna said she would only do it if I did it.  Of course I was going to do it.  All that riding all day just to quit four miles from the destination.  Opting out at this point is just not in my DNA.

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Off we went.  We were admittedly very drained.  We had a brief descent before the first switchback slapped us in the face.  They are numbered we found out so you can count down to zero where the finish line is.  When we got to zero, we discovered the cruel trick that was played on us.  Our hotel was not at the finish.  We had another three switchbacks to go!  It was a real grind going around those last corners.  We even ran into Brian Sr. with Stefano helping him up the road as he had bonked.  He was slowly eating a Snickers that Stefano had brought back down for him so he could complete the climb which he did.

Ultimately, we made it to the Au Chamois hotel which featured that classic alpine ski lodge look.

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Inside, it was even more comfortable and ski lodge-y.

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The view from my balcony completed the package for sure.

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It had been a big day and I was looking for a big meal.  It was a day that proved very difficult to replace all the calories expended.  Plus, tomorrow is our final day climbing where we will attack the famous 21 switchbacks of Alpe d’Huez.  I was pretty sure there was no amount of food that would be too much to eat tonight considering what we covered today and what was ahead of us tomorrow.

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With that in mind Hersh, Stefano, Bill Y and I teamed up to down a virtual barrel of cheese fondue!  Various cheeses melted with white wine ready for our dipping pleasure.  What a pleasure it was indeed.  How often can you eat large amounts of bread and meats all covered in thick melted cheese and not have any guilt?  We powered through it and were even seen scraping the hard, burnt cheese off the bottom at the end.  I will never, ever, ever forget that meal!

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That being said, our neighbors down the table went to another level of melted cheese decadence.  They ordered the La Raclette a l’Ancienne.  A half a wheel (Yes, you read it right….half a wheel.) of Raclette cheese mounted on a special melting rack where you personally scrape the slightly melted cheese off of the flat side of the wheel onto dried meats or boiled potatoes.  You then slide the wheel back under the melting element to soften the cheese wheel for the next person to do the same.  Click on the video below to watch the cheesey goodness that ensues.

Full of melted Alpen dairy we returned to our hotel where the owners dog resembled our similar feelings.  Time to lay down and get a nap.  21 switchbacks at 8:30am await us.

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8/2 totals include 74 miles of riding, 13,191 feet climbed, 1 dense blueberry dessert and a lot of cheese filled cyclists.

74 8.3


Climbing France For CAF $10,000 Fundraising Goal

I am lucky. All my limbs are intact and my health is excellent. Others want to be able to do the things I do, but are challenged by access to funding and aids that will allow their bodies to do and go where their will and minds want to take them.

At my own cost, I will attempt to climb the 10 most famous mountains of the Tour de France in 8 days beginning on July 27th, 2016 to bring awareness and funding support to the Challenged Athletes Foundation and the needs of their clients. This ride is intended to raise at least $10,000 in funds for Challenged Athletes Foundation to make those dreams come true for challenged athletes everywhere. Please click on the donate button below and give what you can.

Join my challenge.

Sincerely, Tim Hackbardt

Don T CAF B

 

8/2 Ride Preview – St. Michel To ADH Via Villard Reculas With Col du Glandon & Croix de Fer

Trek Travel Description – Welcome to another day of thigh burning climbs and rapid descents with the epic Col du Glandon – first featured in the 1947 Tour and showcased again in Stage 19 of 2013. We will shuttle to the base, climbing it from the northern side and taking in 24 kilometers of spectacular beauty to the top. If you have extra legs, continue up the 1.5 miles to the summit of nearby Col de la Croix de Fer. After a satisfying mountain lunch enjoy a lightning fast descent to Lac du Verney, which often hosts the swim of the Alpe d’Huez triathlon. From here you ascend 3700 feet to the top of Alpe d’Huez. Savor the fresh alpine air and dramatic mountain views from your home for the next few nights. As always, your Trek Travel guides will have water and snacks available for you to rest and refuel. Tonight explore the village of Alpe D’Huez for dinner and celebrate the week’s exploits so far.

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Day 7

8/1 La Grave To Italy – Glaciers, Views, Wild Boar Pasta, Italian Driving & A Castle

Morning rolled softly through my window at the Edelweiss hotel in La Grave.  No thunderstorms like the day before.  In fact, it was more of an idyllic Alpes morning.  One where little animated blue birds might come and flutter up by the flower box on my window sill like in an old Disney film.  As the morning sun lit up the mountains outside my window shown below, you could tell it was going to be a beautiful day.

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Following another power breakfast, that beautiful day roared into the valley.  Another amazing view that was difficult to capture in photos greeted us as we walked outside.  The live painting before us placed the Girose Glacier just off of the courtyard in front of the hotel where we met to gear up on our bikes.  At over 11,600 feet, the Girose was a beautiful, intimidating and humbling sight all rolled into one.  This time I made sure to snap the photos below both with people, and without, to give some scale to scene.

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Our route for the day included climbing up to the Col du Lautaret followed by a long descent to the climb up to Col de l’Echelle with the final descent down to a ski resort in Bardonecchia, Italy for lunch.  There we would have the option of a climb back up to Col de l’Echelle and/or the descent from Col du Lautaret back down to La Grave.

Overall, this wasn’t quite a rest day nor was it a big day.  I would call it casual climbing in comparison to everything we had done and what was ahead of us as the days following this were all epic in nature to finish out the trip with a big ending.

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The day would prove to serve up perfect conditions.  Cool in the mountains, warm in the valleys and sunny for the duration.

As we left La Grave behind, climbing up to the Col du Lautaret, I had learned by now to take the time to look back to where I had been to take in the views.  This photo gives a nice long view of the valley and the switchbacks that meandered up to this point in the climb.

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I then took this photo of what was in front of the climb yet to come to complete the 360 perspective with the rising Alpes ahead of me.  The audio of the continual sound of the cowbells from the cows along the route was more difficult to capture, but soothing and a pleasant companion during my grinding of the gears nonetheless.

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Following the summit, we enjoyed a long descent through several villages.  The video below is a good example of what we rode through taken by our guide Hersh.  Just click on the photo below to view the video footage.  I am the one in yellow.

This included Briancon which is the highest city in France at an altitude of 4,350 feet.  The photos you see below are of the Fortifications of Vauban built in the 17th century to defend the region from those pesky Austrians.  Connected, and placed on various sides of the mountains, it is strategically located at the confluence of rivers and one of the few traversable mountain passes from Italy into France or vice versa.

Bill Y and I were most excited at the first two photos as they show the construction of a moat.  Our first ever person viewing of a moat and bridges over it.  Boys like moats.

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Rolling out of Briancon the climbing began again up to Col de l’Echelle.  Winding around more roads cut into the side of the mountains, we made the turn into this high mountain meadow where we saw the final climb ahead of us.

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The majority of the climb was gradual until the very end where it was often 9%+ grade where once again collected another gratuitous Col sign photo op.

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The descent from here into Italy was particularly striking.  It started through an area that was a major camping and hiking area.  Along the route there were campers, picnickers and hikers everywhere as this week was the start of the European holiday period.

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Following the camping area, the final descent began along a tight road carved into the side of the mountain with an exceptionally steep cliff on the other side.  This photo was taken on the way down showing more of the never ending Alpes range into Italy.

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Our guide Stefano, as mentioned before, is from Italy.  He told us that there are no signs to tell you that you have arrived in Italy.  However, you will know it.  All of a sudden, the road will get bumpy and bad.  Then, you will know you are in Italy!  Sure enough, as we rolled into the first village at the bottom of the descent we encountered the worst roads yet.

In no time, we were at the ski resort for lunch.  It was clear the European holiday was on.  The lifts were in full swing taking mountain bikers up to the top for downhill, plenty of people drinking wine and beer without abandon and no lack of Europeans laying in the sun.  Tanning in this region of the world appears not to have gone out of style.

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My lunch choice for the day was Tagliatelle Pasta with a wild boar ragout paired with a malty beverage.  A hearty plate, and brew, for fuel that will last me today and into tomorrow.  Calories at this point need not be counted, but consumed whenever presented the opportunity.

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At the end of the meal Stefano asked me if I would like an espresso.  A real Italian espresso.  “Not one of those horrible French things they call an espresso,” he said.  Well, when in Rome (we were in the former Roman Empire actually) the answer was of course …yes.

There are still times where I am that boy from the sticks and this was one of them.  I had never had espresso before.  I had used it as ingredient in food projects, but I had never actually drank an espresso.  That actually made me happy.  My first espresso would be in Italy.  Might as well kick off a new habit the right way.

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After lunch the food coma set in for most of us even with the espresso.  The plan was a less strenuous trip back as we had two final big days ahead of us.  Some climbed into a van and took a ride all the way back to the hotel ending their day of riding.  A few us hopped back in the Trek Travel support van to take advantage of the offer to enjoy a fun descent from the top of Col du Lautaret back down into La Grave.

This meant hanging with a bunch of guys in a bus driven by a young Italian cyclist.  Italians are not intimated by mountain roads.  They grow up in them.  Thus, we were treated to the classic national sport of flying around tight mountain roads at high speeds where dotted lines dividing traffic are considered suggestions.  We also discovered playing Spanish music at high decibels improved performance as you will experience if you click on the video below.

Back at the top of the Col du Lautaret, the view of the Girose Glacier was once again spectacular from this vantage.

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Upon arrival to the Edelweiss, our Scottish innkeeper had complimentary cold malty beverages awaiting us in the courtyard.  Bill Y and I saw no other option that to accept his kind offerings.

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As it was now day 6, the laundry issue was getting to an extreme case for most.  Fortunately, a few blocks away there was a solution.  For some, it was more extreme.  For others, myself included, we had been doing periodic sink loads along the way at our various hotels.  That morning, before our departure, I had done a critical load of socks in the sink.  However, upon my return, they had not dried.  This required serious attention.  We were leaving tomorrow and putting a large number of wet socks into luggage was obiously a bad plan wating to happen.  I joined Bill Y and Elizabeth at the coin-op laverie and took advantage of the dryer for my portion.

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While waiting for the socks to become dehumidified, I took a short walk around La Grave snapping a few of these photos including a church from way back to who knows when.

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Evening was now upon us and time for dinner.  Even though the evening turned crisp, all of us decided to dine outside in the courtyard to soak in as much of the glacier view as possible before we departed tomorrow.  There are no printed menus at Edelweiss.  The menu changes everyday, so they simply write it on a chalkboard and place it in front of you.

My choices for the evening included a combination of the Endive Salad and Linguine as you could choose a small portion of both as one appetizer.  The roast beef stuffed with wild mushrooms followed next and the sticky dark chocolate cake brought it all home.  All of this was paired with an Italian Barbera wine that I split with Denis.  I must have been terribly hungry.  In review of my photos of the trip, no photos exist of this meal.  I will tell you that it was exceptional especially the sticky chocolate cake.

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Totals for the day include 49 miles, 3,933 feet, 1 fortress, my first espresso fittingly in Italy, 1 wild mountain van ride with an Italian driver and too many incredible views to count.

42 8.17 8.1


Climbing France For CAF $10,000 Fundraising Goal

I am lucky. All my limbs are intact and my health is excellent. Others want to be able to do the things I do, but are challenged by access to funding and aids that will allow their bodies to do and go where their will and minds want to take them.

At my own cost, I will attempt to climb the 10 most famous mountains of the Tour de France in 8 days beginning on July 27th, 2016 to bring awareness and funding support to the Challenged Athletes Foundation and the needs of their clients. This ride is intended to raise at least $10,000 in funds for Challenged Athletes Foundation to make those dreams come true for challenged athletes everywhere. Please click on the donate button below and give what you can.

Join my challenge.

Sincerely, Tim Hackbardt

Don T CAF B

8/1 Ride Preview – La Grave To Bardonecchia Italy With Col du Lautaret & Col de l’Echelle

Trek Travel Description – This morning you begin by cycling one of the Tour’s most famous climbs and descents, the Col du Lautaret and descent to Briançon. Here is where Alberto Contador and Alexander Vinokourov won some of their most heralded Tour stages. Once in Briançon, make your way to the Vallée Névache, with its quiet roads and stunning scenery, and after a short climb over Col de l’Echelle you descend into Bardonecchia, Italy for lunch. Enjoy the superb Italian food and coffee, and a fleeting taste of what makes Italy so magical. Later you have the option to tackle both climbs again, or alternatively opt out for a shuttle back to La Grave. Tonight you are free to explore La Grave to find a great restaurant to refuel before more stunning climbs tomorrow!

Le col du Lautaret

Day 6

7/31 Galibier – Epic Turns Ugly & Sheep Attack

This morning we evacuated the hotel early to get on the road to head to our next climb.  Overnight we had thunderstorms, but now it was sunny which is how it stayed for the first hour and a half of the three hour drive.  Then, it turned cold and rainy as we entered the true region of the French Alpes.  As we progressed towards our destination, it got worse.  Not the kind of weather I was interested in as I am now a “Weather Wimp” after living in California for so many years.

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However, once we arrived at the rendezvous in a parking lot at a Costco like retail big box store, the sun rose and revealed the Alpes in all their glory to us.

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The long ride (The Avid ride) included three climbs today.  Lacets de Montvernier, Col du Telegraphe and the highest elevation of any road in the Alpes at Col du Galibier before a descent into La Grave to our next hotel.  Yes, I was up for the Avid version today and exceptionally excited about each of the climbs.

The first was quite special.  Kind of a novelty climb.  Some call it the most beautiful road in cycling.  The Lacets de Montvernier.  Translated it means “The shoe laces of Montvernier.”  It has 17 switchbacks and rises 908 feet in just 2 miles.  The grade is consistently tough between 8% and 9%.  However, each turn gives you a little break so it doesn’t seem that intense since you get 17 little breaks.

I stopped to take photo of this unique elevator climb.  You can see the switchbacks to the right of my head.  However, I also pulled a photo from the interwebs so you could see a view from above to provide another perspective.  It was an immensely fun little climb that our guide Stefano joined me for.

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As I have described earlier, I am slow compared to most of the others in the group.  Stefano was very nice to hang with me, but I got a kick out of him literally whistling a song and texting on his phone with one hand while riding next to me and waiting for me to complete the ride.  It was nice of the young Italian to tolerate the old man. Italians must have been taught some respect for the elders I guess.

Skipping the Lacets was an option for the group today since the whole ride was long and Galibier, in particular, was exceptionally challenging.  To my surprise, much of the group skipped the Lacets in exchange for a boost down the road.  I think they completely missed out on a legendary experience.  You  come to France to climb the switchbacks, and other than Alpe d’Huez, I just clipped off 17 in just two miles.

Following the Lacets, the next climb was up to Col du Telegraphe.  An average 7.5% grade over a 7 mile distance from where I was.  A shorter climb in comparison to others we had done, but a solid uphill grade and a good warm up for Col du Galibier.

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In comparison to the previous day on Mont Ventoux, this one was as Stefano would say, “A Bump.”  Solid grind, but not crippling or draining.  In addition, it was sunny and cool.  Very refreshing.

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I was feeling good.  Solid riding.  Nice warm up climbs.  Great weather.  And, it was time for lunch at the top of Telegraphe following my altitude sign photo op. You guessed it, Jambon de Fromage sandwich.

When I arrived, the group was there, but once I ordered my sandwich they were leaving. Most of them had received a big boost by skipping the Lacets putting them way ahead of me.  The others were the better riders that were usually way ahead of me.  This made me a distant last.

I noticed that Hersh was a bit nervous. Something I had not seen to that day. I asked him about it and he was worried about the weather.  It can turn at any time in the mountains he explained.  At that moment it was perfect out, but I could see some larger clouds off in the distance.  Knowing he has  been doing this for 12 years, I followed his lead and ate my Jambon de Fromage as fast as I could.

I made my descent through a couple of villages including one that was clearly a tourist area with hotels catering to the first week of the European holiday period.  It was busy.  Families shopping up and down the street, people backpacking, getting tans on blankets, hiking and as I rolled out of the village the attention turned to this interesting straw sculpture area.  It was literally the perfect sunny weekend day.

I left the straw sculptures and began the climb up to Col du Galibier.  That’s when the weather began a rapid turn.  That darn Hersh knows his weather patterns in the mountains after 12 years of being a guide.  It got dark fast.  It wasn’t raining, but it was dark.

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I could see the switchbacks that began the primary climb up Galibier ahead of me about a half mile and that’s when the rain started.  With the first stream of steady rain drops, I remembered that Hersh said if there was any thunder and lightening he would become a taxi and start pulling people off the road for safety.  Within seconds of that memory flashing in front of me, the thunder and lightening started to do the same booming through the French Alpes.

I was almost to the beginning of the switchback climb, but knew I still had about three or four miles of it to go to the summit.  As I looked up the switchbacks, I could see about two miles of it.  There were no trees and no buildings.  Thus no shelter.  Chancing it up there was probably not a good plan.  I had just passed a small bar in building likely centuries old and could probably find shelter there.  However, I could see a larger ancient dwelling ahead of me that was clearly my last chance at safety.

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I pulled up to the old stone establishment and found it to be the perfect situation.  This was an old brasserie with creaky floors, low ceilings, food and plenty of beer and wine to get me through storm.  I had it made, and I had a good number of Euros with me too.  No reason to panick.  I can just post up here with a stein of fine grog and some soup.

The proprietor came over and nicely told me the perfect place to park my bike and invited me to hang some of my wet stuff on a chair next to one of the tables.  There were no other customers there so the place was mine.

I waited in the doorway watching the switchbacks for the Trek Travel van in case Hersh was driving down it.  I tried to send a text and an email to him, but there was no cell phone service.  No problem.  I have warmth, beer, French food and Euros to pay for it right?  Life is good.

At that moment, the proprietor returned to inform me that they were closing.  I looked at my phone and it was 5:00pm.  The French close their restaurants at 5:00pm which I have now found is a time when I am usually hungry.  They re-open at 7:00pm generally.  I asked him if I could still wait outside the door for my friend after he closed and he confirmed that I could.

Even with the closing, I was just out of the rain huddling against the door.  That was, until the winds shifted with the second thunderstorm that rolled through. Now it was blowing against me.  Episodes of Survivorman started playing through my head.  I had a rain jacket, but my jersey was wet underneath it.  The perfect situation to get hypothermia echoed in my head from listening to many narrations by Les Stroud on Survivorman.  I needed better shelter and dry clothes.  I ran around the other sides of the building looking for better shelter, but couldn’t find anywhere I could still be either found or be able to see Hersh driving the van.

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As ran back to huddle in the doorway to contemplate my options, out of nowhere this huge herd of sheep and goats came around the corner eating there way towards me.  This was quite the sight.  Stranded, middle aged, non-French speaking, cycling guy huddling in the doorway of a remote stone brasserie in a thunderstorm in the Alpes with hundreds of sheep and goats descending upon him eating everything in their path!

I came to the conclusion that I had two more options.  I could coast back down about a 1/4 mile to the other medieval stone place to see what their shelter would offer me, or I could chance it to get all the way back down to the last village that was about 4 miles away.  By this time the livestock had retreated, and the lightening had stopped, so I hopped on my bike and shot down to the next turn of the ages inn.

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Nope, France is France I guess and 5:00pm is 5:00pm.  Must be a union thing or something.  The place was closed.  However, the eaves on this doorway were longer and the roof line was only one story so it was improved doorway huddling.  Plus, I could still monitor the switchbacks for Hersh.

The Hershmobile would be good right now as that short ride made me wetter and colder.  I now started shaking from the cold.  Fortunately, I was distracted from my peril by the ever roaming sheep/goat herd that was now eating their way towards me again.  Just before they got closer, an SUV pulled in.  A woman got out, lifted up the back hatch and out jumped a dog that began to work the sheep.  She was apparently the owner of the livestock and for about 15 minutes I got to watch some fine sheep herding by a real sheep dog. It helped pass the time.

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That’s when the third thunderstorm showed up.  I was really cold now and shaking.  I had made the decision that once this one was over, I would make a break for the village as I could tell I was losing body temperature.  It began to subside and that’s when I saw it.  The Hershmobile was headed my way down the switchbacks.  I rolled my bike out to the road, stuck out my thumb and climbed aboard to find other passengers from my group that had also been rescued at the summit.  In fact, we had to go back up and get a few more that tried to descend on the other side only to find the winds and rain so strong they were literally getting blown over.

As we crested Galibier, it was another amazing sight.  Cold, wet and windy but amazing.  One this cow seemed to enjoy and not be affected in the least bit by the weather.

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The descent down Galibier would have been amazing.  This photo gives you and idea of the views and the road was in perfect shape.

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As we rounded a corner, or two, or four, a glacier came into view which would be the backdrop of the rest of our days in the Alpes.

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We descended into La Grave where we happily entered our hotel L’Edelweiss.

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A charming old hotel owned by a Scot.  This must be the reason why instead of checking in at a lobby, you actually checked in at the bar.

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Hot appetizers were waiting for us as well as a nice warm meal that night.  That is, right after my hour long massage that I had pre-arranged.  A good end to an ugly and potentially bad day.

The totals for the day included 38 miles, a respectable 7,381 feet of climbing, 1 close encounter with a herd of livestock and another Jambon de Fromage sandwich in my belly.

38 7.31

7/31 Ride Preview – St. Michel To La Grave With Col du Telegraphe & Col du Galibier

Trek Travel Description – This morning you’ll rise early and say “à plus” to the lavender fields of Provence to focus on your next destination – the majestic Alps. After a scenic 3.5 hour transfer, you’ll gear up to tackle the next classic climbs, cols de Télégraphe and Galibier. 2011’s Tour de France celebrated the hundredth anniversary of the first crossing of Galibier by the peloton, the Tour’s most visited mountain pass. Take on the route the Pros did in previous years and understand just what makes the double ascent so tough! Challenging and beautiful, this is one of the great rides of the French Alps. After cresting the top of Galibier, you have a beautiful and fast descent to the town of La Grave, and our hotel for the night, Hotel-Edelweiss. This evening you’ll be treated to a cycling-friendly dinner so you can retreat to your bed in time to rest up for tomorrow’s special day.

Day 5 photo

Day 5

7/30 Mont Ventoux – There’s No Joy In Ventouxville

This morning it was already hot.  We decided to start earlier than originally planned to tackle the 14 mile climb up Mont Ventoux.  This is an un-relenting climb.  A slight grade for the first few miles through the vineyards and then brutal and constant for the rest of it through the forest until the barren moonscape appears before you.

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We rolled through the village of Bedoin with our other hundred or so friends that had made the pilgrimage to take on the monster of Provence. Then a left hand turn took us into the foothills and vineyards before we ascended into the forest.

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Once in the forest, the game is on.  Ventoux is an average 7.5% grade with a maximum of 13%.  As we entered, it was hot and humid which didn’t add positively to the experience.  It was at this moment that I noticed a stark difference between riding on Tourmalet vs. Ventoux.  On Tourmalet, it was a party.  A festival of achievement.  On Ventoux, it was a much gloomier atmosphere.  A right of passage that you are forced to do was more of the vibe I was getting.

Like Tourmalet, there was a solid parade or riders checking the box on their Col bucket list.  However, not in a joyful way.  There was little talking and no happy picnicking by spectators.  No invitations to take a break and share some vin.  Just quiet, focused grinding trying to get through it by most.

Then, all of a sudden, the rain came.  It came at good time too.  It cut the humidity down and cooled us all off.  The rain was brief and stopped as I got near the end of the forest.

The painted signs were still on the road from the Tour de France that rolled through here just a few weeks before us.  My favorite was one that said FROOMEPORTE.  However, I was not in the mood to stop and take many photos other than this one below.  I just wanted this one over with.

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It is at this point that you come upon the moonscape free of vegetation, the winds increase and the temperature decreases.

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For those of you who did not watch the Tour de France this year, the pros didn’t make it up here because of the wind.  Just a few weeks before, the winds were 60mph up here so they moved the finish line down the mountain for safety.  Unfortunately, this packed thousands of spectators into a small area and caused this odd crash by the leaders into a motorcycle in front of them that had to stop because spectators were crowding the road.  That resulted in this odd chaotic event where the Tour leader Froome left his damaged bike and started running up the mountain as you can view in this video.

That was the inspiration for this t-shirt that I wore to dinner last night actually.

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Fortunately, the crowds and international media had thinned considerably for me and my next Col sign photo op was at hand.  I was pleased with the outcome, but am not interested in doing that one again.

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What goes up, must come down of course.  As you can see in the photo, down had the opportunity to be smoking fast.  Fortunately, the road was smooth as it was another long 12 mile descent with grades approaching -20%.  I really had to watch my speed as the acceleration was lightening fast on this one.

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At the bottom of the descent was our lunch spot.

Another fantastic meal, but since we didn’t have too many more miles to go I opted for something less caloric today.  Plus, by this point I was noticing that vegetables had been missing in most of the meals and something green would be a nice change from sugar, bread, cheese and meat.  A salmon salad was welcome departure.

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Following lunch, we made an easy ascent up to the Col de la Madeleine before coasting back to the hotel.  On the way, I added more livestock to the tour as I passed a herd of llamas. These fortunately had fencing.  They spit you know.  Don’t want to get spit on by a llama while riding a bike in France.

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Another gratuitous Col sign solo photo op.

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Plus a group photo before the final roll back to our hotel.

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Post shower and nap, we made for the village for commemorative Mont Ventoux jersey shopping and dinner.  The jersey shopping was easy.  Dinner would have been more difficult, but I was hanging close to Josh who had previously lived in Paris for four years.  I’m savvy like that.  He also travels internationally and I could tell he was a foodie. He picked a restaurant that was actually built outside next to the center round-a-bout in the village with the kitchen inside the hotel across the street.  My instincts were right.  Josh had it nailed.

I started with more cheap, really good wine.  A quarter bottle of blanc for 3 Euro.  Then came the first course which was basically a round of brie in a hot, chunky tomato sauce.  Hot, melty, zesty.  Can’t believe I haven’t see this one before in the USA.

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A veal steak followed with some creamy mushrooms, roasted tomato and a pesto polenta cake.

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Why have just one dessert when the menu let’s you have a sample of two?  First up, and best, Panna Cotta with generous amounts of honey surrounding it.

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Dessert #2 a chocolate covered dense mousse on top of a cookie.  A good nights sleep was almost a sure thing at this point which will be critical since next up for tomorrow are multiple climbs featuring the highest altitude of the tour on Col du Galibier.

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Daily numbers include 37 miles and 6,113 brutal feet of climbing that I have no intention of ever doing again.  1 commemorative Mont Ventoux jersey.  1 spectacular dinner thanks to my new foodie friend Josh.

37 7.30

7/30 Ride Preview – Bedoin To Maulecene Via Mount Ventoux

Trek Travel Description – Prepare yourself for epic scenery and legendary riding today! The challenge is the mighty Mont Ventoux, and 13.42 miles of climbing with no flat sections and an average grade of 10% through the middle 6.2 miles before you hit the moonscape. What makes this climb challenging is not just the ride itself, but also the weather. Intense winds or scorching heat can make this climb seem a hundred times more difficult than those found in the Alps. Your day will start early to give you the best opportunity to have a stellar climb. After taking a picture at the top to memorialize achieving this feat, you’ll descend to Malaucène to enjoy a bistro lunch where you can relax and refuel before this afternoon’s spin back to the hotel. This evening you and your travel companions can explore the small village of Bedoin to dine in the bistro of your choice.

Day 4 photo

Day 4

7/29 Sizing Up Ventoux -Journey To Provence & The Alps

Today was a bit of a rest day as we left the Pyrenees and headed to The Alps.  Our goal today was to get on a bus and ultimately end up in Bedoin in the Provence region at the foot of Mont Ventoux which we will climb tomorrow.  Upon our arrival, we will spin through the vineyards and villages in the area with a comfortable ride hopefully discharging some of the lactic acid build up from the massive ride yesterday and get the legs in shape for Ventoux tomorrow.

We departed Saint Lary on a bus large enough that all of us had our own row and then some.  Everyone then proceeded to once again go back to sleep as the purported drive time was 5 hours.

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Along the way, the driver was required to take union breaks.  At the first break, we were introduced to the highway rest stops of France that were quite nice offering a variety of treats, gifts, gas and food.

As we were milling about, I was hypnotically drawn to the well merchandised ice cream freezer displays.  It was 10am and the craving was substantial for some reason.  I then remembered the 77 mile epic ride from yesterday and convinced myself that I had burned enough calories for probably a freezer full of those creamy treats.  Thus, my second breakfast was in front of me.

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What to choose, what to choose?  All-in massive chocolate something?  Cup of something?  Something on a stick?  Something in a cone?

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Searching through the case, and probably touching more of the selection than I should have, I found my cone encased friend.  The Cornetto “Choc ‘N’ Ball”!  Ice cream treats that wear headphones must be pretty good, right?  It’s a sign of rockin’ good quality!  Especially, headphones that don’t appear to be plugged into anything.  That graphic design fact must have slipped by the geniuses in the marketing department while developing the packaging.  As a bonus, the “Choc ‘N’ Ball” was made with  cocoa that was certified by the Rain Forest Alliance though.  It was an environmentally friendly, rockin’, creamy, cone treat!

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Just another opportunity when I enjoyed a moment where I could virtually eat anything and it would burn away the next day or minute.  All the calories and none of the guilt.

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France is certainly famous for their wine as we all know.  They must drink a ton of it.  It was almost solid vineyards for the entire five hour ride.  No wonder a glass, or a bottle, of wine was so inexpensive all over France.  To date, I had a hard time paying more than six dollars for a glass of wine.  Most were about $4.

We finally arrived at the Hotel des Pins in Bedoin.  A chic, off the path, hotel and spa.  Reminding me of something you would find in Sonoma, it had all the makings of a relaxing wine trip.  Complete with a boutique pool and multiple hammocks strung throughout the trees outside my room.

We immediately suited up and took off on our ride around Bedoin.  As we crested a small climb, we rolled past this chateau.

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Just past the chateau, was an exceptional view of Provence.  Vineyards, lovely homes, and a climate similar to California with Mont Ventoux looming in the background.  You can see the moonscape that we were to climb to tomorrow on the right hand side of the mountain.  The rocky peak feature that is truly one of the classics of the Tour de France.

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A quick couple of miles around the area, through the vineyards, the village of Bedoin and it was time for dinner at the hotel.  Again, very Californian around here in my opinion.  Or, was California very French?  Chicken and the egg stuff for sure.

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Our dinner was exceptional.  I started my meal with apricot foie gras.  I could have ended the experience right there and been completely happy.

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That would have been a bad decision though as I would have missed this crispy little almond cookie, raspberry sorbet and a decadent chocolate cake with the molten chocolate center.  A good end to the meal to put you night, night before the big day on Ventoux ahead of us tomorrow.

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Riding totals were light of course.  17 miles and just 1,361 feet of climbing.  Although, those first inclines felt quite exaggerated thanks to the previous day in the Pyrenees still aching through the quads.  One can only hope that this little spin worked some of it out before Ventoux puts the legs to the test tomorrow with the legendary unrelenting climb to the top.

17 7.29

7/29 Ride Preview – Bedoin To Blauvac Loop

Trek Travel Description – This morning you’ll rise early, bidding ‘adieu’ to the mountains of the Pyrenees and a day’s transfer to Provence and the home of Le Mont Ventoux. Take some time to rest, relax and watch the scenery change from the Pyrenean mountain landscapes to the vibrant lavender fields of Provence. This afternoon, with Ventoux as your backdrop, you’ll ride through the vineyard covered hillsides from one sleepy village to another. If you’d rather take a day off the bike to linger in one of Provence’s quaint villages or take a dip in the pool, your guides are always there to accommodate. Tonight your home will be the beautiful Hotel des Pins, where you and your traveling companions will be treated to a your first Provençal meal at the hotel’s excellent restaurant.

Day 3 photo

Day 3

7/28 The Tourmalet – My Six Year Quest, Donkeys & Surprising Tour Guest Win

This was the day I have been working towards since watching the Tour de France in my garage in 2010 and setting a goal to one day climb the historic Col du Tourmalet (Click here to read the backstory)  I had waited six years to climb this mountain and today was the day.  There were mixed feelings of excitement, anxiety and confidence all taking turns in my head.

The first decision of the morning was the easiest.  The jersey pick for the climb.  The 2010 Team Radio Shack jersey.  It was my first cycling jersey and what they wore going up the mountain that day I was watching it.

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The next decision was to pound down some substantial breakfast.  There was no oatmeal unfortunately, so I had to improvise.  Instead, I made up a ham sandwich (can’t seem to eat enough ham sandwiches around here) out of some rustic bread, ham, Swiss cheese and sweet cream spread.  There were no other condiments so I had to be creative to get some sort of moisture on the sandwich with the sweet cream.  A banana, yogurt, couple glasses of orange juice and a chocolate filled croissant rounded out what I could put together as a breakfast.

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Next, I dropped my bags downstairs as they would be transported to our hotel in Saint Lary while we are pedaling across the mountains.  Then, it was outside to the bikes to get on the road where it was slightly overcast but ultimately ended up being a perfectly sunny day for the duration.

My goal again is to complete the Avid ride today.  However, it is a beast.  The Col du Tourmalet plus two other mountains after it.  There is an option to bail out before the last climb so I put that down as a “game time decision.”

After 12.5 miles along the valley floor, we reached the base of the Col du Tourmalet.  In the photo below, this was at the first turn of the ascent showing that the climb from here would be 9 miles.  What it doesn’t show is that we will climb 3,700 feet in that period of time with an average grade of 7.5% and max grade of 12.3%.  As you can see below, the first section started at 7% on average.  Noting like slapping you right in the face at the beginning to let you know who’s boss.

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It was a grind from the start, but inspiring on many levels.  The scenery was once again spectacular.  In the photo below, I could also see much of the climb ahead of me.  As this is one of the most famous climbs in France, the road was packed with cyclists attempting to accomplish a similar lifetime goal so there was a bit of a sense of supportive community including family and friends of riders urging everyone on as you continued up the slope.  There were numerous picnickers on the side of the road watching all of us from the comfort of their portable chairs next to their sandwich, cheese and wine stocked fold out tables.  One older gentleman even shouted out to me to stop and join them for a glass of vin!  Tempting, very tempting.

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Once again, there were horses, cows and sheep in the road to complete the mountain festival experience.  This time, I did not stop to take photos though.  I had a goal to achieve and riding to do.  I did stop briefly to take this photo about 75% of the way up though to give some perspective on the climb as you can see in the background much of the winding road and a hint of what was yet to come.

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I was into the final switchbacks now and the classic narrow road with no guard rail appeared.  With each turn, you got another little glimpse of where you might be going.  Fortunately, there were those same signs you saw at the bottom all along the way letting you know how much further you had to go and how steep it would be.

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Finally, I reached the top and saw the famous statue of Octave Lapize who was the first Tour de France rider to ever crest the Col du Tourmalet in 1910.  He is noted for calling the Tour officials “assassins” for including the climb in the race.  I remembered at that moment how long I had been working toward this goal.  I even recently re-posted a facebook post that I had written five years ago stating my goal.  I had finally achieved it today and had my photo taken below Octave as I had dreamed I would six years ago.

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To additionally remember the moment, I also had this photo taken from the summit showing the long valley climb and winding roads that lead me here.

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Now it was time for the descent.  This is an exceptionally dangerous descent.  The pros get up to 70 mph going down during the Tour.  I can tell you now they are nut jobs.  They have a death wish.  My top speed was a lame 36 mph.  The road was not smooth.  There were plenty of opportunities to hit rocks that had fallen off the mountain, pot holes etc.  And, it is long.  About 12 miles of non-stop speed down big declines.  Your arms and finger ache from braking.  Your shoulders take a pounding handling the constant bumps at high speeds.  Heck yes, it is exhilarating!  Both during and after you survive it.

I was ready for lunch and a little break after that.  Of course, what else but a baguette sandwich with ham and cheese.  Jambon de Fromage as I was learning to say better every day.  Lots of water too.  That climb had definitely taken a toll on my water reserves and we had at least one and possibly two more mountains to go.

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Post lunch, it was off to conquer the Col Hourquette d’Ancizan.  A 10 mile climb, but not at such an incline.  Only an average 4.2% with a break or two on the way where there are a few short descents.  After the Tourmalet, I could do 4.2% grades in my sleep.  However, much energy was spent on the Tourmalet and I needed to take this time to eat on the bike to gain energy for the final climb if I wanted to get another Avid ride box checked.

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This climb was very peaceful through lush green grazing lands on mountain hillsides.  It was like you were riding through the set of The Sound of Music and you expected to see Maria twirling along and singing at any moment.  Then, there were more animal encounters.  First, the cows with their loud bells and resting in sun on the road.

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Second, and more unexpected, a heard of donkey’s.  The donkey’s had the road pretty blocked too.  I had to ride up to them and wait.  While I waited, a little one came up to me to get it’s head scratched which I did.  Pretty darn cute.

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Even cuter was the little one that had laid down near the stream to have it’s own personal pet-a-thon with a young girl.  Another surreal moment in my cycling odyssey in France for sure.

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I failed to have the consciousness to take a photo of my young donkey friend who came to visit me for a scratch, but this photo of our guide Stefano shows you he had a similar encounter with them.  Hilarious.

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After I left the donkey kingdom in Sound of MusicLand, I pedaled up and reached the summit of our second mountain of the day.  Col Hourquette d’Ancizan.

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It was decision time.  The van was there and if I was going to go for the third climb, I had to get food from it.  I could tell I was on the lower side of my energy reserves as we were almost eight hours into the ride now.  I made the call to go for it.  I had come all the way to France to ride and ride I would.  My legs felt good and I was pedaling with a solid even pace.  I just needed more energy.  The solution was at hand…sugar.  I packed the food bag I carry on my cross bar full of Cliff Bars and these waffle sandwiches everyone was raving about.  Two thin waffles with gooey caramel in between them made up the sandwich encased in a clear wrapper.  I packed two more of them in my jersey pocket and tossed two pouches of apple sauce into another pocket.

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As I started the descent I began to eat.  Along the way, I rounded a corner and there was the next amazing view of the valley in which the village of Saint Lary awaited my eventual arrival.  Another breathtaking moment in the Pyrenees.

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I consumed about half of the food on the way down the descent in anticipation of the ascent ahead of me up the Pla d’Adet.  Hersh had warned me on top of Hourquette that Pla d’Adet was exceptionally steep with no breaks.  Just constantly up at an average grade of 8% for a little over six miles.  Bottom line, I just pounded sugar and drank as much water as I could before I hit it.

What I did not anticipate was the heat.  I was now at the valley floor to begin the ascent.  It was over 90 degrees and the narrow road winded up against the solid rock wall of the mountain all the way.  Rock that had been in the sun the entire day and was radiating heat.  I was grinding through the steepness, I had enough food in me now but I was going through my water fast.  I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it at that rate as I can get delirious when the dehydration sets in.  I rounded a corner (photo taken at that moment by Hersh below) and to my surprise there was a village, the support van, Hersh, Bill Y and Brian Jr.

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Even better, there was a village fountain flowing cold mountain water.  I downed some water and filled up my bottles. I assured the guys I was going to be able to make it now that I had water and happily learned I was halfway there.  Only three miles to go.  Brian Jr. made the decision to not continue because of the heat and Bill had bailed out earlier an hour ago for the same reason.  However, he had heard that I was going for it so he hopped in the van when Hersh made a quick stop at the hotel before heading up here to watch out for me and also see how Brian Jr. was doing.

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I continued on reinvigorated.  I was even more relieved when I reached the final mile and the signs said that the rest of the way was only going to be a 5% grade.  Alas, there was relief!  Again, on the way up more amazing views.

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And, again on the way up more livestock in the road.  This time it was even more odd looking as the summit was actually a major ski resort.  These horses were meandering in between expensive condos and hotels largely abandoned during these summer months.

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Finally, I reached the summit where Hersh was waiting for me.

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I continued to ride past him as it looked like there was a little more to do to actually say I got to the top.

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When I got to the top I found Brian Sr., Bill Y and Stefano clapping and congratulating me.  Come to find out, only Brian Sr. and I had done all three climbs today.  This was particularly sweet for Brian Sr. as he turned 60 the day before.  Once Hersh joined us, the big surprise came out.  Brian Sr. had ridden in the van for the first 12 miles this morning so that made me the only person our group to do the entire distance. Additionally, he informed us that I was the only one out of all 36 people in the three groups who came on this tour this summer that had done all three mountains from start to finish.  I didn’t do it in record time, but I went the distance.  Cue the Rocky sound bite here.  “All I wanted to do was go the distance Adrian.”

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Needless to day, it was time for large goblets of beer!

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And, another photo op in front of a Col altitude sign for the collection before a wicked descent down that steep mountain road to a nice clean hotel room with a shower.

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As the sun set on that day, I took this photo from my room.  You can see starting in the lower right hand corner the fist portion of the ascent up Pla d’Adet and then how it turns left for a solid grind cut into the side of the mountain.

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My trophy for the day was purchased at the top of the Col du Tourmalet.  A new jersey to commemorate the experience.  Like I could ever forget it.

Totals for the day were 77 miles ridden, 12,918 grueling feet climbed, one cool Col du Tourmalet jersey, untold amounts of sugar/calories consumed and a very happy 52 year old guy.

77 7.28

7/28 Ride Preview – Lourdes To Col du Tourmalet & Col d’Aspin To Saint Lary

Trek Travel Description – Today you confront one of the Pyrenees’ legendary mountain passes: the mighty Col du Tourmalet. Cruise 12.5 miles along the valley floor following the river to Pierrefitte-Nestalas before climbing gently through the Gorges de Luz. With dramatic jagged cliffs above and a lively bubbling stream below, this section of the ride is incredibly picturesque. We’ll ascend Tourmalet from the Barèges side – the same side the pros approached in 2012 – and where Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador confronted each other in the fog in 2010’s deciding mountaintop finish. From here you’ll descend to ride over the Col d’Aspin to the town of Saint Lary-Soulan. Or, if you still have power in your legs, ride one more climb up the Pla d’Adet, which has areas with grades reaching up to 12%.

Day 2 Photo 1

Day 2 Photo 2

Day 2

7/27 The First Climb – The Pyrenees & Animals In The Road

Finally, the climbing begins!  Day one of eight.  We meet early in the morning in the back hotel parking lot to resume fittings, meet the whole group and get the low down on the ride ahead of us.  Below are my new friends for the next week of suffering that for some reason we are paying a company to inflict on us.  From left to right you have guide Hersh, Josh (San Francisco), Denis (New York), Brian Jr.& Brian Sr. (Father and son from Golden, Colorado), David (Maryland/D.C.), Jonathan (Albuquerque), Elizabeth (San Francisco), Bill Y (Washington), Bill U (Austin) and the two days engaged Anna & Roger (San Francisco).

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I still need some adjustments following the trial ride yesterday.  Hersh adjusts my seat height up and fixes a broken hangar in the shifting mechanism so now I should be good to go.

Today, we begin to climb into the Pyrenees which form the natural border between France and Spain.  The name supposedly comes from a mythology story that includes a rather horrible encounter between a drunk Hercules, who is on a quest to steal cattle from Geryon, and the virginal princess Pyrene who is the daughter of Bebryx.  She gives birth to a serpent, runs away into the woods and wild beasts rip her to pieces.  Hercules gets the cattle, sobers up, finds the remains of Pyrene in the woods, yells her name through his grief stricken tears with his Herculean voice and the rest is history.  Gee, he sure seemed like such a much nicer guy and a good singer in the Disney version of his life.

Each day, we have the option of the standard ride, a shorter ride or what is called the Avid Option where you go the distance with added climbs.  Our targets today are Col du Solour and Col d’Aubisque.  My goal is to see if I can complete the Avid version which will include both of those climbs and the return to the hotel.

Just as we get ready to depart, it begins to rain.  I get out my brand new red rain jacket that I had bought a few weeks earlier during a heat wave in San Diego.  Needless to say, it was on sale in July.  This will be a good test day.  It wasn’t raining hard, but kind of a constant hard drizzle.  I also switched out my sunglass lenses to polarized bronze reflex to get a brighter field of vision and some protection from the falling rain drops.

Off we flew out of Catholicland into the surrounding valley that was significantly less populated and immediately rural.  Every few miles, we would go through a small village with those classic tight French streets.  This is what I had been looking forward to and meeting my expectations already.  Riding fast, tight French streets and locals wearing berets waving saying “Bonjour!” as you passed by.

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The further we went, the more rural and agricultural it became.  Below shows a significant farming estate as we approached the beginning of our climb at the foot of the Pyrenees.

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As we climbed, each turn revealed another amazing view.  This photo below is several miles up the climb and if you look very close, you can see the same estate shown above at the bottom of where all the mountainsides come together.

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Even higher into the climb we came along this village of farms utilizing the mountain sides at angles that seemed to defy safety limits for tractors, and other heavy equipment, but they were planting and harvesting on this exceptionally steep acreage.  Another spectacular view.

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By this time, many miles in, Denis and I had sort of teamed up as everyone found others who had a similar ability.  Denis was an exceptionally nice guy, retired from a career at Texaco, and takes trips like this every year at the age of 67.  Very inspirational.

We came out of the tree line, rounded a corner and were struck with this amazing view of that classic Pyrenees mountain road on a Cliffside and the perfect snow topped jagged peak lightly segregated by a cloud.  Yes, day one was already a 10 on the scenery scale.  All of this looked just like it did in the catalog and in all the helicopter footage I had viewed for the last six years watching the Tour de France.  It was a good day and as a bonus the rain had stopped so we could shed the jackets.

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With the amazing views box already checked, around the next corner came the next classic Tour de France experience….cue the cows in the road.  Sure enough, there they were.  Just hanging out on the road with their melodic cowbells welcoming us.  Here it was day one, halfway into the climb, and already the whole climbing mountains in France thing had been pretty much served up to us.

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But wait, there’s more!  Not just cows, but sheep.  If this were a theme park, they were blowing some of their best effects early.  It wasn’t though.  They were the real thing which reminded me that I needed to watch where I was riding.  Sheep and cow droppings are slippery and could cause a pretty good injury.  I needed to not only miss running into the animals, but also not run into those other obstructions they were leaving behind.  It was turning into kind of a real life video game my kids would play.

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We continued on and I was joined by our guide Hersh who took me up to the Col d’Aubisque which featured an even tighter road and two ancient tunnels dripping water on you from above with no lights.  Finally, at the top, he snapped this photo of me in front of the iconic d’Aubisque bicycles.  A very surreal moment, but cool as it was a very festive atmosphere with families and cyclists everywhere up there.

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This, I hope, will be the first of many photos of me at the summit of the Tour de France classics.  It was definitely a special moment for me to get my first photo taken in front of a Col altitude sign to start my collection.

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Now, it was time for my first Pyrenees descent.  Time to go reasonably fast on a little one lane road with a big mountain on one side and death on the other with no guard rail.  We took it easy and enjoyed the moment on day one.  Needless to say, this is where the trip could end quickly.

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However, just like climbing up and finding an amazing view around every corner, there are also completely different amazing views you didn’t see once you turn around and head down the mountain.  Here’s another valley on the way down d’Aubisque.

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A few miles down, we came to the summit of Col du Solour.  With cow and sheep in the road boxes checked, what could be next?  A herd of random Halflingers in the road of course!  Even more humorous is the third photo below of a bunch of them standing in back of some cars.  A few of the people in those cars wanted to get out, but they couldn’t pull forward or go backwards because those horses had no intention of moving any time soon.  When a Halflinger doesn’t want to move, you aren’t going to move it either.

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We then visited the mountain top bistro for my next Jambon de Fromage sandwich (Ham & cheese).  Hersh also suggested the soup which came in a very appropriate mountain man stainless steel bowl.  That big bowl was like something Rubeus Hagrid from Harry Potter would eat his soup from.  It added to the rainy and overcast “Middle Earth” experience of the day. Normally, I would have also gone for a pewter of brewed grog to complete it but we had a big descent ahead of us back down the mountain.

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Post lunch, it was time for Col sign #2 photo op.  It was a pretty perfect day and I was especially happy my training allowed me to crawl up to Col du Soulor and d’Aubisque reasonably well. Not as well as most of the other thin and seasoned cyclists, but I got there with relative ease in regards to my own abilities.

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I made the long descent back down and road back through the villages into Catholicland for a total of 65 miles, 7,320 feet of climbing and my first two Col photos completing my goal of doing the Avid ride for the day.  Plus, no negative physical encounters with any livestock or their potentially injury threatening droppings.

64 7.27

7/27 Ride Preview – Lourdes To Soulor Loop With Col d’Aubisque

The Trek Travel Description – Your Trek Travel guides will meet you at the Hotel Gallia & Londres (26 Avenue Bernadette Soubirous- BP83 Lourdes) at 8:00 AM for a round of introductions and a bike fit. This morning you’ll appreciate the true grit and sheer determination of the pros as you climb the Col du Soulor, often featured in the Tour de France. It begins with a gentle ascent then soon ratchets up to a severe 9% grade. Take a break for lunch at the summit at a local bistro, or continue on to summit Col d’Aubisque, from where you can enjoy a well-earned sweeping descent and scenic ride all the way back to Lourdes. This evening we’ll meet to discuss the days ahead over cocktails and dinner at a charming restaurant in town.

Day 1 Photo

Day 1

7/26 Tuesday In Lourdes – Jour de la Preparacion

Let us all remember that I am a Europe rookie.  My slightly more European traveled wife gave me one “Must Do”…..Nutella crepe and coffee for breakfast.  Honestly, she may not have included the specific breakfast daypart direction, but that’s what popped into my limited and often overly compartmentalized mind this morning.  I add this note as I noticed the French slather, or include, Nutella with just about anything and eat it at almost any time of day.  The French are wise.

Last night, while I was walking around Lourdes, I was scoping out my potential morning crepe cafe.  The options were beyond plentiful.  Crepes to the French seem to be what cheesesteaks are to people in Philly.  Conveniently, there was a reputable looking establishment outside the front door of the hotel.  Nutella crepe is easy to say in French (same thing) and I stumbled through the coffee order with a little pointing well enough to get the job done.  Sure enough, I could eat those creamy hazelnut spread induced thin pancakes of joy for every meal of the day.

I then took a post crepe  walk to look at more of the city and see if I could get away from the gift shops at Catholicland.  In particular, I had more food on my mind.  The baguette sandwich was my prey.  Near the the epicenter of the holy miracles the restaurants catered to what sells as an easy choice for tourists.  That meant pizza and pasta.  I didnt come to France for no tourist focused crappy pizza and pasta. Here I was in France and all last night I couldn’t find a baguette sandwich anywhere.  Finally, I ran into the perfect place with a nice selection about a mile into my quest.  Yes, this proves a man will walk a mile for a baguette sandwich.  Ham, cheese, tomatoes on a delicious, long, thin crusty bread.  Paired with a bottle of Orangina soda, that promotes it has at least an essence of real orange pulp in it, it was all I imagined it would be.  The morning food hunt was done, and I was happy.  Time to meet up with the group for the first time.

3:00pm in the back parking lot were our guides, and bikes, ready to make sure the bikes fit us for the duration of the next 9 days.  In addition, we had the option of going on a short ride of 37k with 550m of climbing to further dial things in.  We met our guides Stefano (From Italy in the teal tshirt) and Hershy (From Ohio).  Hershy was the veteran.  He has been doing this for Trek Travel for 12 years mostly all over Europe.  He spends 10 months a year here pedaling around before he takes two months off to come back to the states to visit.


All my measurements were sent ahead of time to make sure the bike was set up right.  They also swapped out the standard saddle for my saddle that I brought with me.  I was not interested in breaking in the buns on their saddle when major miles against my derrier lay ahead of me.  One trip around the parking lot revealed to my inner comfort sensors that the seat was too low.  With Stefanos trusty tape measure it was confirmed. We made the adjustment and the bike was ready.

After enough people showed up, and completed their fitting, a small group of us set out on the trial run through the hills around Lourdes.  A few miles into the ride the inner comfort sensors kicked in again and the seat still felt too low.  I could not pull up or through the pedal stroke beccause the seat was so low.  I could feel my hips getting over worked right away.  That discomfort was compounded when we hit the hills and my rear shifter would not drop the chain into the lowest gear.  Thus, i would have to do all the hard climbing in a larger gear to get back to the hotel. On top of all of that, my left clip would barely release my shoe almost causing multiple moments of falling over when we would stop.

Luckily, the route we were riding was lush, beautiful and short so I dwelled less on my bike problems.   We heard our first cowbells from the heards in the fields of the local farms too.  However, the only animal we ran into on the road was an old Labrador who trotted out looking for a pet and a scratch when we stopped next to his farm house.

Upon our return our guides had vanished, so we stored our bikes away for the next day at which time I will definitely require some expert maintenance help from them.

With the shake down ride complete it was time for dinner at the hotel with fellow adventure cyclists Bill (a music composer for entertainment properties like film trailers), Elizabeth (my friend from the airport who has a social work practice and is a professor) and David (an attorney at the SEC in Washington D.C.)

Dishes of note included this stacked cantaloupe with thinly shaved cured ham in the center.


This lovely Bordeaux described as being “supple and elegant.”


And the classic cheese plate.


As dinner closed it was time to get some quality sleep before the next eight days of epic cycling climbs that most (who are even remotely interested) only dream of having the chance to attempt.

Pre ride stats include 23 miles and a nice warm up of 2,485 feet of climbing.

23 7.26

Escondido To Lourdes – The Las Vegas For Catholics

The day started early at 2am. I have been waking up a little earlier all week slowly adapting to the time change before I get there. At 9am, my attractive driver Michelle (wife) began to transport me to LAX where I boarded Air France 065 to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.  Upon arrival, I then boarded Le Bus to take me to another airport in Paris called Orly to take a small plane to Lourdes. At the baggage carousel in Lourdes, I was  quickly identified as a Trek Travel guest by Elizabeth, a fellow guest from  San Francisco who I was able to split cab fare with to the Hotel Gallia & Londres in Lourdes.  There, 20 hours of travel complete!


When I originally booked this trip, the agent at Trek Travel descibed Lourdes as the Las Vegas for Catholics.  Having witnessed many a Catholic whoop it up in Las Vegas over the years, it seemed that they really didn’t need another one.  That one in Nevada seemed to suit them just fine.  However, upon arrival, I now understand what she meant. This is a destination for Catholics and  a very touristy village with endless gift shops with all the Catholic figurines etc you could ever imagine.  

Lourdes is a small market town lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees in south-western France. In 1858 Lourdes rose to prominence in France and abroad due to the apparitions of the Virgin Mary seen by the peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous who was later canonized. Shortly thereafter the city became one of the world’s most important sites of pilgrimage and religious tourism. Today Lourdes hosts around six million visitors every year from all corners of the world. This constant stream of pilgrims and tourists transformed quiet Lourdes into the second most important center of tourism in France, second only to Paris, and the third most important site of international Catholic pilgrimage after Rome and the Holy Land. As of 2011, of French cities only Paris had more hotel capacity.

Priests and nuns are everywhere around this place.  If you have PTSD from Catholic school, this is not the place for you.

The water from a particular spring is a big deal here.  Supposedly, it has healing properties and has performed 10’s of thousands of miracles.  There is a constant flow of people taking people in wheel chairs down to the faucets to drink the water. I literally saw hundreds of people taken to the water today.  Others are filling special souvenir containers  with the water and stll others are filling up plastic containers.  We will be riding here for a few days and lets all hope that I don’don’t need to take a trip down to a faucet.

As for the fort, the Château Fort de Lourdes is a historic castle with lots of ugly history dating back to the Romans kicking out the Muslims, the Catholics kicking out somebody else, the British kicking out the French and the French kicking out the British.It is strategically placed at the entrance to the seven valleys of the Lavedan. 

No riding today.  Just one big long day of travel to Catholicland located directly outside my balcony as you can see in the photos below.  I was even treated to some performance art that featured live statues of Saints right below me.  That my friends is day one.

Final Numbers 3,353-313,207-177,201

I had my last ride on USA soil before the trip today in some brutal hot and dry weather.  95 degrees by the time I rolled up to the house.  After letting my body heal all week, thanks to a four day photo shoot in Los Angeles for a client, I got in a final ride of 59 miles and 7,794 feet.  I did all the hard stuff.  Other than clearly being beaten down by the heat in the last hour, it felt routine and solid.

With this final ride, I added up all the training since January for the following totals before I get on the plane for France tomorrow.

Miles = 3,353

Feet Climbed = 313,207

Calories Burned = 177,201

And…I now I have quite the cycling farmers tan of pride too.

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59 7.23

Joined The 40,000 Ft Club

This was the final week of long rides and long climbs in preparation for the Pyrenees and the Alps.  Next week is what is called the “taper”.  Significantly less miles and climbing to let the body heal by the time I get on the plane a week from today.  I have four days of food photo shoots for a client in LA anyway so I really don’t have a choice.  Getting my miles at a 24 Hour Fitness spin class somewhere in LA is about my only option.

Today’s 94 mile ride, and the corresponding 11,305 feet, brought in a total of 333 miles and 40,020 feet of climbing for the week.  Both metrics being personal records and the climbing metric in particular crushed the previous weekly total by 7,018 feet.  Admittedly, the 40,000 foot number is one I thought I would never achieve when I started this.  Happy to join the club just the same.  Hope they have cool jackets.

94 7.17

Finally..Paleo Pancakes!

Today, I was looking for some good mileage, but not insane climbing.  That will come tomorrow.  Just something long and solid climbing to keep me in the game until tomorrow.  Then, it hit me….I never got those Paleo Pancakes I wanted.

Back on May 30th, I had ridden to Temecula to E.A.T. Marketplace to get some Paleo Pancakes made mostly of mashed bananas (Click here to read May 30th story “60 Miles For Paleo Pancakes – Denied”).  I was told that unfortunately, they only sold them on the weekend.  Well, it’s Saturday today so it seemed like the perfect ride and my nice wife even agreed to meet me there.  Yes, we were successful.  The nice wife also ordered up some Huevos Rancheros with scrambled eggs, turkey chorizo, queso, black been puree, potatoes, crema, avocado and salsa on an organic spinach-flour tortilla.  It was worth the ride.

EAT 7.16

A spectacular breakfast, 60 miles, 5,344 feet all before noon.  Nap noon to 1PM.  A good Saturday.

59 7.16

Final Palomar Ride Before France

Since it’s all about climbing mountains, I decided to do Palomar twice this week.  I was back out at it today and happy to report similar results as experienced on Monday.  More of a routine ride, shifting up, comfortable in the stand-up climbing mode and another swing past the look-out tower which is now permanently part of my route.

7.15 Vew

114 miles on the mountain this week plus over 16,000 feet climbed on her.

57 7.15

Nice Package In The Mail After 67 Miles

Today, I went for a few more miles rather than feet.  There is plenty of climbing ahead of me on Friday, although I worked in some good grades today too.  It is the final week of big miles and big climbs before the taper.

It was going to be 90 degrees inland today so my goal was to get to the coast where it was cooler.  On the way, I did the big grades on Mt. Whitney and Double Peak first and got those out of the way.  Next, out to Carlsbad.  I got a late start and ended up out there around lunch time.  Even though it was a Wednesday, the long line of cars going nowhere and creating a parking lot on PCH clearly defined it is summer vacation time.  Fortunately for me, there was a very wide bike lane and very few bikes out.  I ended up in Solana Beach before long and met with a graphic design agency doing some work for me on a new restaurant concept I have been developing so I even got some work in with the ride.  Then, simply back to the house for a 67 mile spin around the block.  It’s nice I can say that now and have risen to that level.

Upon my arrival, there was a package waiting for me at home.  As you know, this ride is raising awareness, and funds, for Challenged Athletes Foundation.  To date, the ride has raised $2,400.  The package was from CAF.  It was a thank you package.  A very nice surprise.  CAF T-shirt (I love t-shirts), water bottle, stickers and a personally written thank you note to me for getting involved in CAF Race For A Reason.  This was very special as it was something I did not expect.

CAF pack

The package was very grounding.  As I have said, I have it easy.  Their clients have the real challenges and anything I can do to help, I’m in.  If a 67 mile 6,542 vertical feet of climbing training ride helps them, it is the least I can do.

67 7.13

Palomar Gear Up!

Very strong ride on Palomar today.  Following my epic ride on Friday, recovery ride on Saturday and rest day on Sunday my legs were not only recovered but stronger.  I found on all four climbs I was able to actually gear up!

In other words, I am usually grinding up the switchbacks in 1st gear because of how steep it is.  Today, there were portions where I could gear up into 2nd and even 3rd at times.

I even threw in the extra climbs to the observatory and the lookout tower for a total of 57 miles and 8,400 feet.  With 16 days to the first climb, this is looking good.

57 7.11

Breaking 300 Miles In A Week

Needless to say, for those following along, this has been a big breakthrough week for me.  With just two weeks to go, it is the time to take it all to the max.  To simulate as close as possible distance and vertical challenges.  Maybe even exceed them.  That’s what I tried to do this week as best that I could with the terrain I have available to me.

As I add it all up this week, it’s all biggest, best and more than I theoretically need on average in the mountains of France.  This week I accomplished 305 miles ridden, 33,000 vertical feet climbed, 26 hours in the saddle riding and almost 14,000 calories burned (I think that number surely has to be higher.)  The only thing I haven’t done at this point is be in the saddle for eight days straight.  I think I will save that record to break when I’m there.

Week 7.9

Breaking 11,000 Feet – Joining The Crazy Guys Club

Today, the Tour de France race climbs the Col d’Aspin and tomorrow they climb the Col du Tourmalet.  On July 28th, I have the option to climb both in one day.  Generally, each day I have the option of smaller, medium and big in the way of a ride routes.  The largest is on the 28th which will include both mountains over 83 miles and climbing 11,000 feet of French terrain in one day.  When I originally committed to the trip, the shorter route seemed achievable for me.  35 miles and 6,500 feet.  “Those crazy guys can go after 83 miles and 11,000 feet,” I said to myself.  Well, today I decided to see if I am now one of those crazy guys.

I laid out a route that pieced together all the mountains and painful grades I could find from around my house in about 20 miles in every direction.  I wanted to make it as hard as I could to simulate the worst of the worst.  A true test as much as I could put together here in Northern San Diego.  The hardest grades of Old Highway 395, the grade up to Hidden Meadows, the double digit killer up to Mt. Whitney, Double Park and twice in a row up San Elijo.  This is not to mention the final ride past Lake Hodges out to Rancho Santa Fe and back home.  It was going to be a long, long day.

In short, a sweaty, slightly sunburn, dirty, 52 year old man who lived on Cliff Bars and energy powder induced water bottles for eight hours rolled up to his house confidently joining Those Crazy Guys club.  Not even a stop for a culinary experience this time.  I was focused on the prize.  93 miles and 11,079 feet climbed even with a grade of over 26% thrown in for fun.  Pretty sure, I’m ready now with two weeks to go.  Ready as I can be because there’s not much more I can ride around here.

93 7.8

Upon my return, my wife was outside to greet me.  Well, she was gardening when I happened to show up actually.  We decided to celebrate.  I wanted steak…really bad.  That’s all I could think about for about the last 20 miles.  Chargrilled steak.  Old school too.  Not some chain place.  Thus, eventually I did get my culinary delight for the day at the Rainbow Oaks Restaurant.

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I got was I was dreaming about.  Big old piece of fat on the side of the rib eye (most chains would trim that off), mashed potatoes and gravy, asparagus the size of a sapling and a fine pint of San Diego’s own Karl Strauss Red Trolley ale.  That’s what I call a recovery meal.

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With that, on the 28th, you can be assured I will be choosing the long route.

Highway To The Danger Zone

Today, I simply set out to get some miles before noon.  I had one meeting and some projects to knock out for clients in the afternoon.  Nothing too crazy, just 60 miles of spinning to loosen up the legs.  No big climbing, just spinning was the goal.  I headed for the coast as that gives the best rolling route around.  I needed some additional miles past my usual turn-around, so I went past downtown Carlsbad and headed for Oceanside.

I have passed this a few times on my rides and posted about it maybe once or twice.  For a movie guy, I still get a kick out of it especially with the fittingly cheesy painting on the front of the house of Maverick and Charlie.  There it was again near the pier in Oceanside.  The “Top Gun” house.

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I swear I could hear Terri Nunn from Berlin singing “Take My Breath Away” as I rode up on this overcast morning. (Hear the song and watch the shameless Top Gun promotional music video by clicking here.  Yes, the house is in the video.)  After watching this video again after many years, my goodness there aren’t enough crackers in the world for all the cheese this film produced.

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It would seem that today’s generation would agree.  Click here for a hilarious film review that appeared in USA Today from a Millennial who watched the film for the first time ever on the 30 anniversary of the release.  It is well worth the read for some quality plot bashing.

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Unfortunately, times have been tough on the old house since the 80’s.  Fear not, this sign was in the front calming the fears that in the near future it will decay into film noir ruins.  Corporate America will be restoring it to it’s former glory supposedly in the near future.  I wonder if they will be able to get Tom Cruise to come out and sing “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” at the grand opening?

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Of course, there is no other way to close a post like this out than to offer you the chance to listen to Danger Zone one more time in your life.  Click here for Kenny Loggins in his prime earning years belting out the cheese!  Enjoy!

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58 7.7

Breaking 8,000 Ft & A Fire Tower Tour On Palomar

Last week I ran into another cyclist on Palomar Mountain.  Well, I didn’t actually run into him thankfully.  He asked me where I had ridden on the mountain that day in a tone that was clearly one of male challenge.  I gave him my route for the day and he said I missed a climb.  I promised him that next time I would work it in which I did today.

The extra route included a loop up to an actual old school fire tower.  One of two on Palomar Mountain.  It was not an easy climb and there was plenty of standing up pedaling.  However, the effort was worth the trip.  After rounding the last corner there it was.  It was like it was straight out of an old Disney movie like Charlie The Lonesome Cougar.  Go ahead Millennials, Google Charlie The Lonesome Cougar.  Other than Talladega Nights, they just don’t make many films anymore with mountain lions hanging out with humans eating pancakes.

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I rode up next to it and starting taking a few photos of the amazing view only to hear a voice from behind say, “Ya wanna see the tower?”  There he was.  The tower guy.  He was inviting me up to see the tower.  Either he is a nice guy, or this is going to end badly like horror film badly.  How often does anyone get the opportunity to see a fire tower I thought to myself?  I’m in the less than 1% club on that one for sure.  Probably less that .01%.  I figured that I made the effort to ride up here so why not.

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Up the steeper than code creaking stairs I went.  There were lots of them which was all I needed after climbing all day.  To my surprise, there were two more tower people at the top when I got up there.  They had uniforms on so they didn’t appear to be prisoners of the tower man.  However, they may be under his mind control after years of being abducted and forced to wear the uniforms.  You just never know in situations like this far up on a mountain in the woods where it is virtually impossible to hear screams of torture.

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It ended up that all was good.  All three were volunteers who also work at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  I learned that the tower had been there since 1948.  Closed for a few years, it started to fall apart until volunteers fixed it up.  However, he said that they got it registered as a historic building which meant that they had to restore it to that level with period furniture, paint colors and more.  Pretty cool that it is still there and is actually being used.  They even have a stove, stove top, fridge and sink so they can pretty much live up there 24/7 if they want to.  And the view was amazing.

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I love these adventures.  And, my new route addition pushed my daily vertical climb to almost 8,500 feet of climbing and 57 total miles.

57 7.5

Ocean To The Mountains 4th

I woke up and thought I would take a ride out to the ocean this morning and see the throngs jockeying for their spot on the beach.  Much to my surprise, it was fairly calm and orderly.  Granted, it was 7:30AM and most of the United States is probably not awake at that hour on the 4th of July.

Well, except for a dedicated group of people staking out their claim to sand and parking spaces in advance of other family/friends joining them later. Case in point is this photo below just a block from downtown Carlsbad.

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And, the surfers.  It was glassy and substantial.  My guess is 4 to 6 footers.  They were taking advantage of it.

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Including this guy with a well restored Twinkie bus parked near a great break.

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As I continued, the runners awoke first and started to fill the North bound bike lane and sidewalk nearest to the beach.  The cyclists were sparse this morning which was fine with me.  Less traffic at my beach on my road.

On my way back I stopped at Leucadia Donuts for a quick carb snack.  Cute little place.  They only took cash.  No donuts for me then.

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With my Pacific Coast Highway ride complete, it was time to get some vertical to complete my goal of sea to mountain ride.  I headed back up to Double Peak Park and ground through the double digit grades of last week.  I have decided this is a once to twice a week encounter now until the plane leaves for France.  It was better this time.  Smooth, less anxiety and confident.  Great view as usual from here too.

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Along with the commitment for once to twice a week up Double Peak Park, is the same commitment for Mt. Whitney that claims the most brutal climb.  Brutal it was.  I can see this will take longer to put in the category of “enjoyment.”

55 miles and 6,254 miles later it was time for “enjoyment” of beer, hot dogs and fireworks.

55 7.4

Joined The 30,000 Foot Club With A Club

I did the math the other day and likely already posted these metrics.  On average, I will ride 48 miles and climb 6,200 feet each day in France.  This week marked a pivotal milestone where I exceeded those numbers each day I went out and rode.

In addition, I set two new personal records in the process.  I rode more miles than I have ever ridden before in a week with a total of 264 miles and I climbed more vertical feet in a week with a total of 33,050.  For the first time I joined the “30,000 Foot Club!”

To do this, I rode 86 miles today and climbed 9,644 feet.  I rode well.  I rode hard.  I rode the hard climbs of 20%+ grades up Mt. Whitney and Double Peak Park.  I stood up and climbed well.  And, I might point out, that I did this the day after I climbed Palomar Mountain attacking the hard grades there and putting in 7,467 feet of climbing for a two consecutive days total of 17,111 feet.

Week 7.3

My 57 mile lunch stop at Café Stoked in San Elijo Hills required a careful meal selection that would fit this moment of joining the “30,000 Foot Club”.

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It didn’t take long.  Sure enough, they had a club on the menu.  A “Killer Club”.  That is actually what they called it.  Turkey, ham, apple wood smoked bacon, Swiss, cheddar ..all the classics punched up with some sort of pesto spread stuff.

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I paired it with what seems to be my go-to brew on my rides, a Cali Creamin from Mother Earth Brew (Served in a Stone Brew pint glass to save on glassware costs obviously.).  They also had a Saison that I passed on.  Upon turning down the Saison, the woman taking my order at the counter gave me a very negative look like I had just made a fatal/non-adventurous/non-culinary move.  I said to the guy in back of her “What’s with the look she gave me?”  He said, “She gives me that look most of the day.”  I looked her up on their website later and she is, ironically, the Guest Services Manager.  I also noticed that she is French.  Again, good training for me.  Get me used to “the look” now, and when I order inappropriately in France it won’t scar me emotionally.  Thank you Geraldine!

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Cow Training On Palomar

One of the things I have noticed watching the Tour de France over the past few years is cows….and sheep….and goats.  Apparently, fencing is optional in France. Often, as the riders come screaming down mountainsides, there are cows, sheep and goats meandering around in the middle of the road.  Apparently, fencing is optional in the Olde World.  Examples of these moments can be seen in the videos below especially to the extreme when a heard of sheep run into the riders.

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This could be a challenge during my week in France.  The first video of the rider mixing it up with the cows is actually on the Col du Tourmalet which one of the mountains I will be climbing.  I was reminded of this riding on Palomar Mountain today.  It is certainly one thing to have to dodge a farm animal.  It is another thing to have to cross the evil cow catchers littered across the grades of Palomar.  Giant steel bars designed to keep the cows where they are supposed to be with gaps between them that will eat thin little bicycle tires at any chance.

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These little guys are a joy when you come screaming around a corner on the descent and forget that it is there.  I have seem some of the really good guys just speed up and literally jump them.  I am not really good.  A slow bounce is my lame technique.

It was another good day to day on my mountain and my stand up climbing technique continues to improve in strength, speed and length.

I met another rider that gave me one more climb to do on Palomar up to the fire look-out tower.  Looking forward to adding that to the ride next week so stay tuned.

48 7.1

BIG-BIG-BIG JUNE

Anyway you slice it, all metrics are new record territory for me.  Publishing because I’m done for the month.  Client work calls.  Can’t go out and play until my chores are done.

June 6.28

All Time Vertical PR Today – Thank You Mr. Taco Mouse!

I worked all day on Sunday and sent lots of work out to clients and vendors trying to buy some time on the road today.  I am now 30 days out and the next three weeks need to be intense before I do a small taper just before the first day of climbing in France.

With my Saturday increase to riding grades of 10+ to 22%+ successful, today I strung together those same big grade climbs with other climbs and hit an all time PR for vertical feet climbed in one day.  Plus, I had some pretty tasty tacos from Mr. Taco in the middle of the ride for some extra fuel.  Salty carnitas and carne asada with some complex carbohydrate beans and rice for good measure.  The classic taco plate of course.  You know you’re going to get some good tacos when the establishment features a mouse holding a gun.  Culinary rodents packing heat says good food.

Without boring everyone with the details let’s just get to it.  84 miles and 9,455 feet climbed.  My previous record was 8,000 feet on a mountain bike a bunch of years ago.  Lovin’ the new road bike breakthrough!  Think I’m gonna feel this one tomorrow though…

84 6.27

Goal Proof via Facbook Memories

This popped up on facebook this morning.  Proof of the original goal setting circa 2012.  30 days from Tuesday, I will be on that mountain!

2012 col goal

20%+ Grade Saturday

Realizing that the mountains in France could easily present some steep climbing grades well beyond what I am riding in San Diego County, I sought out double digit gain on my route today.  There are two mountains above San Marcos that provide such intensity as well as the grades on the way to the Pala valley and back on Old HWY 395.  I decided today to add them all together for one big grab bag of  thigh burning intense double digit grade climbing.  Might as well get it over with now when I can sleep it off in my own bed.

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My first big grade was on the way to the Pala Valley with double digit gain up to 21%.  I do this route almost every week now and starting last week I finally mastered the standing up and peddling part.  This has never been my strength, but today I have improved so much I kept it up for a full half mile.  Insert proud smiley face here.

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The next double digit challenge came following another typical weekly climb up Twin Oaks Valley Road.  Instead of immediately descending down the other side, I turned right to see my old friend Double Peak Park.  Probably the second hardest/steepest climb around.  A major target for the weekend hardcore cyclist.  I had done this twice before when I first bought my Domane, but wanted to see if there has been improvement in my abilities over the past few months.  Still a darn tough climb, definite huffing and puffing, but the new ability to get out of the saddle and stand up while climbing helped immensely.  Plenty of room for improvement here though.  With a significant stretch between 13% and 22% grade, I will be adding this as a weekly training piece to perfect the stand up climb in double digit Gradeville.

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Following a brief refueling stop on top of Double Peak, I completed the normal descent into San Elijo and turned around to head back up.  Again, a normal route that used to almost kill me and now it is very routine.  I’m not the fastest, but there is no anxiety.  However, at the top as I crested the anxiety mountain lay before me.  Mt. Whitney.  The hardest climb for sure. I have climbed this one many, many times on my mountain bike.  Unfortunately, the Domane does not have those nice comfortable climbing gears.

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Mt. Whitney is a long stand up adventure.  The bottom of the climb immediately starts at 9% and just goes up from there to a maximum of 18%.  The intense part of the Double Peak Park Climb is about a half mile long.  Whereas the Mt. Whitney double digit punishment is 2 miles long with a quarter mile downhill in the middle.  It is a grind on top of a grind.  This one almost broke me.  It almost broke me at the beginning because the transition is immediate to 9%.  There is no warm up.  After the first 300 yards, I was fine.  But those first 300 were brutal.

All in all, very promising, but they need to be part of the weekly fabric now.  With the ability to hammer out 2 miles of double digit grade at a clip, I should be good in France.

Final numbers for the day include 58 miles and 7,257 feet.  Plus, a new PR where I have ridden over 7,000 vertical feet for the last three rides in a row this week!  Feeling like the last two weeks have resulted in solid statistics under my wheels.  The average day in France will be 48 miles and the average amount of climbing will be 6,800 feet.  Looks like I am now in the zone with about 30 days before the ride.  Adding in the steep climbs should seal the deal!

58 6.25

So Cal Alpe d’Huez? Post Worthy Part Deux?

On August 3rd, I will be climbing the famed Alpe d’Huez via my trip with Trek Travel.  That is barring serious injury, fatigue or getting lost in a French winery somewhere along the way in the previous seven days.  It will be the last climb of my tour through the mountains of France.  Today, I was back up on what some people refer to as the So Cal Alpe d’Huez.  Both have 21ish switchbacks and the mountains are similar in elevation.  (Here is a quick article on the comparison) However, the true Alpe d’Huez is much steeper.

For readers of this blog, you know I have been here before.  I will, in fact, be here every week from here on out.  It is the hardest climb in San Diego County and I plan on getting all of it every week until my departure.  Today, my primary goal was to once again offer my friends at Trek Travel a post worthy shot of an epic/unique riding adventure with my new Trek Travel jersey.  They asked for it, so I am giving it to them.  Mr. Content here willing to please the social media gods.

I had to hit this one early.  It is going to be over 90 today in the valley beneath the mountain so I want to get started and make the two main ascents from the East Grade and the South Grade before 11AM.  That means pedaling at 7AM when it was a perfect 61 degrees at Lake Henshaw and head up the East Grade on a perfectly sunny morning.

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As usual at this time of the morning, Lake Henshaw and the surrounding valley was breathtaking.

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At the summit of the first climb was my first photo op.  Mountains, ocean far in the distance and closer in on the right hand side of the shot are some switchbacks for the South Grade road which was the next descent/ascent ahead of me.  A postcard panorama fittingly for cyclists who want to be inspired to push harder and longer to be rewarded with exceptional views like this and a little bit of the road ahead/behind.

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On my ascent of the South Grade, I knew my next photo op destination had to be the Palomar Observatory.  Again, for readers of this blog, you have seen this one before (See previous story by clicking here to learn about the history of Palomar Observatory). However, the uniqueness of the double dome shot definitely has the postworthiness.  Especially for old guys like me who need to know they can do it.  You just can’t get this kind of shot too many places in the world at such a historic site that has had so much impact on science.

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On the way down, I noticed a valley I had never seen before.  I thought I would share this sight as it is rare to be able to see high mountain valleys like this.  Plus, it is another example of what an epic adventure it really is up here.

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Finished with all three climbs, I made my way back to the descent down the East Grade for one last photo op.  Similar to the first, I was going for a classic panorama with switchbacks in the background.  This time, from a slightly different angle.

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However, as I searched for just the right angle, I saw something additionally postworthy.  Not for Trek Travel, but just in general.  Here, high atop Palomar Mountain, I could plainly see the large wildfire near the Mexican border.  This was a great example of how Mother Nature can truly impact our environment.  The fire was likely over 100 miles away from where I was.

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Totals for the end of the day include 1 large wildfire plume, 3 potentially postworthy photos, 49 miles, 7,446 feet of climbing and one spectacular day on the Alpe d’Huez of So Cal.  I can only hope that the ride on the real Alpe d’Huez with Trek Travel on August 3rd goes as well sans a major wildfire.

 

49 6.23

78 Mile Trek Travel Jersey Trial To The Coast

My daughter picked up the mail and brought me a nice package last night.  Trek Travel luggage tags, a Trek Travel cycling jersey and a nice note.  Admittedly, a form note, but exciting just the same.  They know their audience.  “Slip on this new cycling jersey, to go out for a ride and start dreaming of all the great discoveries you’re destined to make on a bike.”  Yes, they know their audience well.  We are adventurers.  I’m in.

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Where to ride, where to ride?  The last two days have been in excess of 100 degrees.  Today, it will drop to 90, but the humidity will rise.  I need to piece together some gain, but not kill my old self.  I decided to clip off 15 miles on old Highway 395 early around 7AM before the heat sets in and then head for the coast on the route I found last Saturday.  I should be able to get over 6,000 feet and over 75 miles with some quick calculations.

Another reason for this route is to provide post-worthy photography of  the new Trek Travel jersey as the note requested.  Some Southern California coastline should be worth a re-tweet or a like at a minimum.

The initial 15 to Nessy Burger and back to Escondido worked great under a veil of clouds blocking the hot sun that punished So Cal over the last few days.  As soon as I hit the Twin Oaks Valley climb over to San Elijo Hills, the temperature dropped even more.  With every mile down Rancho Santa Fe Rd the heat continued to dissipate until I finished the ride down Leucadia to Pacific Coast Highway where it was actually chilly next to the ocean.  Finally, my destination.

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Now, where is our photo op?  Nothing on the way North to Carlsbad.  I was on the wrong side of the road.  Turning around in Carlsbad, it was still cloudy and I didn’t have a clear shot of the ocean with waves.  Too choppy out there.  Another few miles South and there it was.  High on a bluff, lots of waves and lots of beach curving around for miles. Click…

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Granted, not sunny enough.  However, there is only so much I can control.  What I could control was lunch.  After about 50 miles, I was looking for sustaining sustenance.  My target was Solterra Winery.  I figured training for cycling in France should also include wine training too.  I had seen it when I made the turn off of Leucadia.  Wine, lots of seating, a patio…this was it.  However, upon my return it was closed. Or, it was not open yet.  I couldn’t really tell.  It looked all ready to go, but there were clearly construction individuals meandering around in front of it.  Nevertheless, this place ain’t open.

I wandered South and then came back North.  Most of the places were very tourist and clearly not serious in their culinary endeavors.  Then, I saw it.  Modern architecture, elevated patio for viewing and bike storage and tacos.  Yes, tacos.  Perfect.

Upon parking the Trek Domane against two chairs on the patio to save my space, these weren’t just any tacos.  These were expensive organic beach people tacos.  A place where if a Midwesterner walked into it, they would see the prices and walk right back out.  Stupid prices.  Those Midwesterners hadn’t ridden 50+ miles though.  I will pay anything for food at this point, especially if it has a chance of being something reasonably good too.

Welcome to Haggo’s Organic Taco.  I have no idea what their concept is.  Their website shows a photo of Jaques Cousteau.  The menu has a burrito called the Ron Burgandy.  There is also a Veronica Corningstone vegan taco plate from the same film series.  And, there is a Kelly Leak burrito paying homage to the local trouble making, smoking and amazing athlete from the Bad News Bears.  It is a vegetarian burrito, of course, because teenage chain smokers are worried about their animal protein intake for health reasons.

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Obviously, there is an owner that is into film.  Obviously, there is an owner into film that the owner is into and he owns the place so you are forced to be into it too.  And, he has a Cousteau thing.  Again, not sure how this all goes together, but it is clear that this guy owns a restaurant and has decided that he is going to do what he wants.  I have found that this means I get a 50/50 shot at a decent meal because they are focused on serving what they like and screw everyone else.  Probably the same way Kelly Leak would run a restaurant.

The service model followed this direction also.  One cashier.  One food runner to take the orders out to the customers.  Guess what?  The cashier and food runner were one in the same.  When it got time for me to place my order, she bailed and took not one, but three orders out while I stood there.  I will give here this, she was very upfront and hospitable about it.  Kind of like, “Hey, we are all in this together so chill and I will be right back.”  I rolled with it.  Once she returned, I went for the Cousteau Plate.  No idea what the price was (It said Market Price on the menu) or what the fish was.  She offered no clues to me either as to what the local finned fare would be inside my corn tortillas.  Again, I rolled with it.  She seemed so happy that I felt if she wasn’t worried, why should I be?  We were all in it together anyway right?

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Oh, did I mention that this is an organic place?  That means organic beer too. Surprisingly, there were many choices including organic Pale, Lager, Red, Stout and IPA.  I went Lager.  I thought it was kind of interesting that the label showed that it was imported from the U.K. and it was USDA certified organic.  I wonder who the lucky person was to that got to go to the U.K. to inspect the brewery?

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Finally, my cashier/food runner/positive celestial aura/organic taco ambassador brought me the tacos to my PCH patio perch.  Dang good they were.  Big pieces of mango, a nice slaw, quality brown rice and red beans to switch it up from pintos.  Nice work weird film noir restaurant owner dude.  Yes, I did flag her down upon my departure for the road to ask her what the local fish was.  Local halibut she said.

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Returning back to Escondido was just the opposite of my trip to the coast.  Hotter and hotter it got.  Plus humidity.  Luckily, I had organic everything in me to get me home.  Organic local halibut (not sure how that works with all that is in the ocean), organic rice, organic beans, organic corn tortillas and organic beer from the other side of the pond.

In the end….78 miles, 7,669 feet of climbing, one bizarre film based organic taco restaurant place and a social media post photo op.  That was my Tuesday.

78 6.21

When It Gets Hot, Head To The Coast HWY

This will be the last tolerable day before the excessive heat hits Southern California.  The next two days will top 100 degrees which will make longer rides difficult unless you want to ride at night.  I like to sleep at night personally.CAHOT

I decided today to get some recovery riding in with a flatter route and head to the coast where it would be cooler by the ocean.  My quads were tight from the last two epic vertical feet rides on Mt. Palomar (7,000 ft.) and on the mountains close to home (8,000 ft.).  A ride along Pacific Coast Highway with the ocean breeze would be just the thing to end a great week and loosen things up.

Up and over Twin Oaks Valley road into San Elijo and then hang a left to head for the coast.  It was already getting hot at 7AM, but that passed after cresting and the ocean breeze hit me.  The ride out to Leucadia went quicker than I had anticipated.  In no time, I was already to my plotted return right turn on La Costa.  Unfortunately,  I hadn’t seen any ocean or beach yet still.  I was feeling good and I didn’t want to waste this spectacular day by not cruising up and down the beach.  I decided to extend my route and head up to downtown Carlsbad.  Enjoy the life as they say!

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My decision was also joined by at least a hundred or so other riders going in both directions along with another couple hundred runners, walkers, coffee drinking surfer watchers and lots of people getting their beach spot early for the long hot summer day.  It was crazy busy and crazy fun all at the same time.  It was simply fantastic to see people enjoying the sunshine, the beach and generally being outdoors relaxing.

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All shapes and sizes meandered at various speeds and abilities.  Tourists, weekend warriors, serious tri athletes, serious distance runners and I even some of our Challenged Athlete Foundation crew along the way with one long distance runner sporting a running leg and an endurance wheel chair racer flying along Hwy 1.

My return was better than I had anticipated with loose legs and strong peddling.  The heat increased steadily on the way back as did my miles and vertical gain.  To my surprise, I had eclipsed 4,000 feet on this ride and 45 miles.  As I knew that would put me over 200 miles and 22,000 feet for the second week in a row, that called for a celebration.

I decided to make a last minute left a few miles before I returned home on a bet that Lost Abbey Brewing would have a food truck in front of it on a Saturday.  Some quality cold brew and food truck fare would be just the thing on this hot day.  I was well rewarded.

Parked in front of the tasting room roll up door in the light industrial section of San Marcos was the Devlicious food truck.  A food truck dedicated to grilled cheese that has clearly sold their culinary soul for the better.  Having done the food truck/brewery drill before, I ordered food first and brew second.  The choices were tough All-Crabe Cake, Pork Belly Melt, Cubano, Short Rib…I love all my children how could I pick?  With over 200 miles this week, I went all in….Butter Poached Lobster!  Lobster, caramelized onions, tomatoe, jack/cheddar cheese all on sourdough.  Oh yeah!  It will take another 10 minutes though.  Grrr.  Off to order beer then.

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My malted beverage pairing would be French style of course.  The Lost Abbey Avant Garde.  French style Bierde Garde farmhouse ale with an ABV of 7.0.  Not too light and a bit buttery like my sandwich.  Like I would need more butter after the Butter Poached Lobster Grilled Cheese.  (I will insert my restaurant political statement here now.  “Hey restaurants!  If I can get a better meal out of a truck and have better beer to go with it in the back of a an oversized garage, ya’ll need to wake up.  If they can do it, and you can’t, you’ve got a problem.”)  I could have lived there all day.

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8,000 Feet of Road Bike PR – Denied Nourishment In Rancho Santa Fe

Following up on a successful day of over 7,000 vertical feet of climbing on Mt. Palomar two days ago, today I went for big miles and big gain.  I decided to tackle my three local climbs all in one day.

This was day two of the heat wave ramping up.  I decided to tackle the South portion towards Temecula on Old Highway 395 first as this will surely get hot as the day goes on.  This route took me to Highway 76 and my typical rest stop at Nessy Burger (no eating this time) 15 miles away from my start and back past the Welk Resort (Yes, for you non-locals this was originally developed by Lawrence Welk).  On the way back, the heat waves definitely began their rise.  I was looking forward to turning toward the ocean geography.

Next up, Twin Oaks Valley Road up and over to San Elijo Hills.  This climb I have now done over 100 times between my mountain bike and road bike.  It still continues to be a solid challenge.  Today, I enjoyed it more as a nice cool breeze was coming off the ocean providing some relief from the steep grade that at times is in excess of 22%.

However, as I crested the summit past the fire station, my ears seemed to feel an unusual burning sensation.  I ran backwards in my mind during my morning routine where I generously slather on sport level sunscreen and had a vague memory of hitting everywhere but my face and ears.  I had little sleep the night before as our family was literally at the T-Mobile store until midnight working out a new plan and getting new phones.  I did nap in the T-Mobile store on a bench, but obviously that was not enough to provide full cognitive abilities this morning regarding application of sun protection.  Upon my descent into San Elijo, I took a well deserved break at mile 45 to visit the Albertsons and purchase some sunscreen.  Sure enough, the right side of my face was pretty normal, but the left side that had taken the later morning sun was a bright red with the exception of a line that was covered by my sunglasses.  Kind of a Richard Dreyfus Close Encounters of The Third Kind moment.

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With proper skin protection, I was off on the final leg past Lake Hodges and into upscale Rancho Santa Fe.  As this was an all day endeavor, I had planned to stop in Rancho Santa Fe for a culinary time out.  However, I had not planned where as I usually do.  I just figured that this is an incredibly wealthy town with nothing but banks and high wealth investment firms around the town thus they surely have some great restaurants.  I figured wrong.  I found a sandwich place called RSF Sandwich Shop that had gone out of business.  I had remembered a place called Delicias and found that to be out of business too.  I found a coffee place that had no food.  I found a bistro with a chicken salad wrap as the most creative item on the menu which if I am going to lay down $14 it ain’t going to be for no lame chicken salad wrap.  I rode circles around that town and this was about all I could find.  All this money and they are brown bagging it?  Maybe that’s how they got their money by keeping it to themselves?  Or, likely the rent is so high the restaurants can’t make it.  The latter is my guess.

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Total Restaurants In Rancho Santa Fe

 

 

The only other restaurant I found was filled with women lunching at Thyme In The Ranch.  Serious lunching.  It was clear they had ALL prepared for this outing.  Even though they had busy a patio outside, I decided not to sit my sweaty cycling clad person down and smell the place up.  Instead, I looked in my pack under my seat for my emergency Nature Valley Granola Bar.  I saw the wrapper with great anticipation only to find it empty.  It was just the wrapper from my ride two days earlier.  Insert look of depression and a tear down my face here.  I would have to tough it out for the final 15 miles back to my house.

Always a half glass full guy, the day ended well.  A strong breeze pushed me all the way back home to complete 78 miles and a new road bike personal record of 8,000 vertical feet climbed in a single day.  I have done that once on a mountain bike, but only for 50 miles.

78 6.17

7,052 Feet Of Palomar PR

The weather forecast is calling for extreme heat starting on Sunday so I need to get my miles in early.  Even more important, I need to get vertical feet in early as the next few weeks is all about time in the saddle and ramping up vertical feet to truly be ready for long high climbs in the Pyranees and the Alps.  I was ff to Mt. Palomar today naturally.  Last week I came up a little short of 7,000 vertical feet of climbing on Mt. Palomar.  This week, I decided I would not be denied.  I wanted that personal record for my imaginary trophy case.

To get a few more feet, I turned right after the top of the East Grade and went up to the county park.  A simple climb that quickly provides gain.  Nothing special once you get there other than restrooms (very appreciated) and some picnic tables.

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As I had done last week, I descended out of the park and down towards the Palomar Observatory until the climb up to it.  This portion was uneventful and strong, but cold and windy which I had not anticipated.

Back up to the little town at the summit and a brief stop to refuel with a nutrition bar on the precipice of the descent down the South Grade.  As I enjoyed my relatively tasteless rectangle of carbs, I noticed a series of reminders of the dangers of the descent down the South Grade.  In just a few feet ahead of me there were three yellow caution signs that had eluded my attention on the previous rides.  Plenty of bad things to negatively affect my speedy ride down the mountain my 23cm wide tires.

Following surviving the descent, the coming heat wave seemed to have already started here as Mt. Palomar is basically surrounded by desert.  Starting the long, arduous climb, it was plenty hot.  Easily 20 degrees hotter than up at the observatory.  Now I was glad I didn’t dress warmer.  I was also glad I stopped at the Artesian spring on the way down to fill one of my water bottles.  I would easily go through that on the hot ride up in addition to my other water bottle filled with my endurance mix.

In the end, I conquered the heat, the yellow taunting caution signs and accomplished a new PR on Mt. Palomar with 7,052 vertical feet climbed.  It was definitely a draining effort.  I could have used a little more substantial nutrition which is good to know as I look forward to days where 11,000 feet will be ahead of me in a single day in the French Alps.

48 6.15 Palomar

Fast 50

It is a busy day and I need to start off the week with some miles.  I’ve got client work to do and my sister is coming into town this afternoon to visit.  So, up early with the client work and then off on the bike before the sibling arrives.

With that, I decided on a fast 50 miles with only a little vertical included.  I figured that the last few days had plenty of vertical and more flat surfaces could enhance a recovery in the quads.  I went for my South loop through Rancho Santa Fe and back up through 4S Ranch.

50 miles went quick.  No time for culinary exploits on this ride.  Sister arrived and the day was a success.

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76 Miles For An Oyster Poboy + A Personal Best 22,216 For The Weeek

Today I committed to a long ride with lots of vertical gain in my continual effort to step it up in June.  Enough vertical feet that I would be able to set a personal record for most gain in a week of riding for me.  I also committed in advance to a reward for such dedication.  That reward would be a Fried Oyster Poboy from Liberty Kitchen in Temecula.  A menu item that I’m sure is part of the fine tuned diet of every Tour de France professional rider.  Nothing like fried oysters for a long day of climbing mountains.

After 47 miles, on a drizzly overcast day, I rolled into Old Town Temecula just before noon.  It’s a Saturday so the tourists are in full force walking the sidewalks and clogging up the one street through the center of town.  I had never visited Liberty Kitchen before.  I decided that any restauranteur who wanted to open a Cajun style restaurant in a Western themed downtown must have something to prove.  It was worth a chance as was the sweet potatoe pie.  I rolled up onto the sidewalk and was greeted by a very nice hostess who directed me to the patio for seating and convenient tableside bike storage.  So far, so good.

Lib Kit

It took me no time to order as I had already picked through the menu via the magic of the interwebs.  Fried Oyster Poboy, Sweet Potato Pie and a Cali Creamin Vanilla Cream Ale from Mother Earth Brew Co. in Vista.  After a short wait, the glorious Poboy arrived.  It met, and exceeded, my expectations.  Big fried oysters.  Great sauce.  Really great bread.  Batter with just enough salt and some nice heat.  The best Poboy I have ever had.  Happy, happy day in Temecula.  Worth the 47 miles and worth the 30 miles yet to go.

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The best Poboy I have ever had was definitely a good day.  However, the goal for the week was to step it up in miles, frequency of riding and vertical climbing.  Miles for the week 215 my second best week ever (Best week was when I rode my century ride).  Frequency, 4 rides which is in the right direction and met the goal.  Vertical gain, lots.  22,216 vertical feet. A personal record (PR).  Very much on par with 4 days of gain in France from a shear numbers aspect.  I owe it simply to Oyster Poboy Power!

76 6.11

Palomar Mountain Triple Climb

On the second day of riding in France I will need to clip off at least 9,000 vertical feet.  That means I need to start stepping up the climbing with some serious gain.  I decided this morning that I would start ramping it up by visiting my new friend Palomar Mountain.  In my past visits, I simply climbed the East Grade and the switchbacks of the South grade for a total of 5,735 ft. This day, I would add the additional climb up to the historic Palomar Observatory which is truly at the top of the mountain featuring its’ 200″ giant Hale Telescope.  In all, this would total out to be 6,873 vertical feet over 48 miles.  A step in the right direction.

As usual, we would start at Lake Henshaw early in the morning.  The owners of The Roundup BBQ Grill are nice enough to let me park there as long as I park on the side and not near the restaurant.  Once again, I would be the first car in the parking lot this morning at 7:00AM.

The seasons have clearly changed now.  It was actually warm already this morning which was a nice change.  It was also very still.  No wind to be had.  I coasted down the first mile and at my turn on San Diego County S7 I was reminded of the long, and relentless, 14 mile climb ahead to reach my planetary exploration of the stars destination. 14 long miles with a grade of 5%+ with really only one break at mile 11 before you attempt the final climb up to the observatory.

As I said, this morning was completely still.  As I reached mile 1.5 above the lake dam, I took this photo to exemplify how still it was.  The lake was so glassy it almost perfectly reflected the sky above it.  Another amazing moment where I felt truly blessed to be able to have the time, and ability, to make this journey and experience nature like this.

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With an average grade of over 5% on the East Grade over the 14 mile ascent, it is great training for the longer mountain rides in France.  It will teach patience, and stamina, all at the same time.  It reminded me of this all along the way with mile markers placed every o.2 miles apart.  They become something that almost seems like a personal taunt from the mountain at you if you pay attention to them.  Marker after marker reminding you it is a long way to the top.

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However, if you are smart enough to not be seduced by the never ending mile markers looking over your shoulder, you can see amazing views and natural settings that are hard to find anywhere else like this field of Lupins.  This would likely be the last week of their existence as the rainy season has been done for some time now.  If I ride here next week, I doubt that they will survive by then.

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You can also get a little freaked out at times on the mountain.  Remember, when I ride out here during the week I will be passed by less than 10 cars.  It’s quiet up here and it is in the wilderness.  That means wild animals.  Everything from lizards to deer and yes…mountain lions.  Each time I come around this bend I get a little surprised by this home made cut out of a horse peeking out of the trees on the right.  I think it always gets to me because by this point I am huffing and puffing well into the ride and slightly delirious.  Adding to the situation is that it is truthfully a really poor rendition of a horse.  If it looked more like a horse, it might not surprise me.  However, because it doesn’t, my inner self can’t quickly identify what it is and thus jumps to bad thoughts of wolves or mountain lions that want to have a snack by catching middle aged helmeted men traveling along a lonely road alone.

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If you survive the dreaded plywood pony, you will soon experience the incredible views across San Diego County all the way to the ocean.  This day, however, the typical June Gloom is on.  Clear skies where I am in the mountain/desert and marine layer over the coast.  There will be no view to the ocean today.

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Finally, at mile 11 I get the reprieve transitioning onto S6 for the final stage up to the observatory.  A little downhill before the final climb.

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Finally, I arrived at Palomar Observatory.  I couldn’t resist taking this “dual dome” selfie.  Operated by the super geniuses of California Institute of Technology, the big feature is the 200 inch Hale Telescope.  The observatory actually operates every clear night.  In 1928 George Ellery Hale (A founder of Cal Tech) secured a $6 million dollar grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to build the facility including the telescope which was the largest in the world at the time and would be for many years to come.  It truly has been one of the most important observatories since it became operational.

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By the time I returned to the little town area of the mountain, it was getting hot.  I was going through my endurance beverage in my water bottles pretty fast.  I remembered last time I was up here showing the mountain to my wife in my car, she noticed people filling up water jugs in a stone wall alongside the road.  We surmised that there must be some sort of water station there.  I decided to stop and see what I could discover there on my way down the South Grade before turning around to begin the big ascent.

That smart wife of mine was right.  It was an Artesian spring.  The coincidence did not escape me that just a few weeks earlier I was drinking from an Artesian spring next to the river in my home town of Howard City.  Do these things follow me?  I filled my empty water bottle both on the way down and on the way up.  I foresee many trips to this fountain of youth in my future.

The South Grade is very comparable to most of what I will be riding in France actually.  It’s a 7 mile killer grind on the South S6.  7%+ grade on average.  Switchbacks.  And, it was hot.  I realized about half of the way through I had not eaten appropriately the day before and was mildly bonking.  Thanks to my endurance drink, the Artesian spring water and a few pieces of Cliff Bars I made it the top for my casual descent back down the East Grade S7 back to the Roundup BBQ Grill.

6,873 vertical feet later I was proud of my accomplishment, but definitely felt the struggle on this ride.  2,200 feet short of Day 2 in France, it is clear that there is more work ahead of me over the next few weeks.  Unless that fountain of youth water kicks in soon of course.

Pal 6.9 ride

All I Could Be Before 9:30AM

5:00AM.  Second time this week I rose to greet the sun and get a ride in before other commitments would take hold.  Those ads from the Army in the 1980’s play through my head where they say “We do more before 9:00AM than most people do all day” (Click here for YouTube video of Army commercial).  I was in college at the time and I always wondered who the audience was for those ads.  I knew it wasn’t the people in my dorm.  Our goal was to do as little as possible before noon, or possibly the greater portion of the week if we could get away with it.

Be You

Once again, I made my morning pre-ride mash of oatmeal, walnuts, honey and bananas with barely one eye open.  This day was particularly hard to  pry that one eye open as I was working on a presentation for a client until midnight.  5 hours of sleep….”I will feel better when it’s over,” I tell myself.  I will be as happy as that guy in the ad who looks like a young Carl Weathers saying “Good morning!” to his sergeant after he jumped out of a plane with his jeep.

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This time, there was no fog to coat my sunglasses like on Sunday.  Nice ride.  Strong ride.  Same route as on Sunday.  A quick 46 miles and 4,000 vertical feet before meetings with clients, food manufacturers, graphic designers and finishing up that midnight oil presentation for tomorrow morning.  I was right…I did feel better.  Plus, I didn’t have to jump out of a plane with a motorized attack vehicle.  The day was looking bright with that perspective.

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Inspiring Graduation Day Ride

Today was a big day for our family.  An inspiring day.  A day that showed if you put your mind to it, commit and do the hard homework you can make it.

Yes, I rose at 5:00AM to be able to start riding with the sun at 6:00AM after my bowl of oatmeal, honey, walnuts and bananas.  Yes, I started riding in the cold fog that was so thick I had to take off my sunglasses because there was drizzle all over them and I couldn’t see.  Yes, I rode 46 miles.  Yes, I climbed over 4,00 vertical feet before 10:00AM.  This is certainly more than most would do at this time of day on a Sunday.  However, today we would truly celebrate the conclusion of steadfast talent and determination to stay focused on a long  difficult journey.

46 6.5

My wife, who put aside other personal priorities to stay home with our children throughout their grade school years, went back to school and attained her Bachelors of Psychology two years ago from Cal State San Marcos.  Today, she took the final step to finish her Masters in Genetic Counseling from the University of California Irvine School of Medicine by delivering her thesis at a special gathering on campus.

She did this while still being the incredible mother she has been to two daughters since 1994 and while being the most incredible wife a man could ask for since 1990.  She did this with no previous knowledge of metabolics, lots of other intimidating medical terms, biological science and interactions with highly trained physicians in cancer, pre-natal and genetics.  Yes, she did it!

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