Monday, May 29, 2006

Tour de Orange County Bike Paths

You know that the cycling bug has hit when it starts affecting your life in the subtle ways. You're more worried about finding the perfect jersey than the perfect street clothes, the guys at the local bike shop start remembering your name and you stop at one drink while you're out a bar the night before a group ride.

I set the alarm for 6:10 a.m. and I was up, eager to start my day and get ready for my first group ride. I was meeting some members of the Team Estrogen forum and our fearless leader Pam had put together a great ride for us. Our meeting point was in Tustin Ranch at Cedar Grove Park. As I pulled into the parking lot, I was greeted by the smiling faces and waves of Pam, Tracy and Cathy. I knew right away that I was going to like this group of enthusiastic women. As we were getting ready to ride we snapped a few pictures and talked our heads off.

More riders trickled in as time went on and Pam's friend Wayne kindly changed my rear tube which had a slow leak that we noticed as Pam was inflating my tire with her floor pump. As we were all getting ready, the guys from Paramount Racing were getting ready for their ride as well. I thought about joining them on their ride, but I didn't want to embarass any of them with my lightning fast speed, so I opted to stay with the Team Estrogen group ;)

Before long we were off on our journey which Pam had dubbed "Tour de Orange County Bike Paths." We jumped from path to path, starting off on the Mountains to the Sea Trail and then hitting Hick's Haul, Walnut Creek, Quail Hill, Shady Ridge and San Diego Creek Trails before reaching the Dover side of Back Bay.

After a white knuckle descent on the trail running parallel to Dover, we pushed on to Balboa Island with the intention of taking the ferry across to Balboa Peninsula. Plans changed as we got a glimpse of the holiday traffic and the line of cars, pedestrians and people on bikes waiting to cross on this Memorial Day. We backtracked off of the island and headed for the shopping center across the road for some lunch at Java City. I don't frequent Java City very often, but when I do I have to order the Vegetarian Sandwich with three cheeses on wheat. This is quite possibly the yummiest sandwich ever. Yum.

Our bellies full from lunch and feeling much more energetic, we headed across Pacific Coast Highway and through Newport Dunes RV park where we crossed a bridge that was so bumpy that I'm pretty sure that I'm now a victim of something similar to shaken baby syndrome. Leaving the "Ritz of RV parks" we found ourselves in Back Bay. It was absolutely gorgeous out and the views were amazing. One short but tough climb at the very end and we were back on the San Diego Creek Trail heading back to Tustin. The ride back was almost entirely bike path and went by really quickly. About two miles before the end of our ride our fearless leader Pam flatted, but was quickly back on the road with Wayne playing the part of mechanic and changing out her tube.

As we rode back in to Cedar Grove Park I was informed that our ride was 42.5 longest ride yet! My first group ride was a success. Saying goodbye to new friends, we were already plotting our next ride. I am so thankful that I landed with such a nice and friendly group of cyclists. Walking away, I felt like I was a better cyclist after this group ride and I learned so much today. Can't wait for next time!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Just me and the bicyclette...

the kind in the bottle, not to be confused with the one that I ride. The visiting best friend dropped off a bottle of syrah along with her daughter this evening. I believe her words were "you might need to drink this if my daughter is spending the night." I'd like to say that the children are driving me to drink, but alas...all is calm and they are upstairs watching a movie. I really have no excuse for sitting here drinking red wine by myself. I guess I could go out on a limb and say that I'm being proactive...just in case they get all wild and crazy later. I have a head start.

Friday, May 26, 2006


The first camping trip of the year has come and gone. Sadly, it is one of only three destinations for us this season. It's a far cry from the monthly trips that we've grown accustomed to, but what we lack in quantity this year will hopefully be made up for in quality. We get to share these trips with our very special friends from the northwest.

It's been ten months since we said farewell to our best friends as they moved forward on a new journey in their lives and left Huntington Beach to live in Washington. I've missed them more than you can imagine and it's been a very long ten months without them. Despite that, as we pulled into Leo Carrillo State Park on Tuesday and saw their familiar SUV and smiling faces, it was as if we stepped into a time warp and no time had passed at all. The kids picked up right where they left off and the only thing that appeared to be different was that Ticia's baby bump had been replaced with the most yummy, buttery nine month old I had ever seen.

In keeping with tradition, we spent the first day talking about maybe getting up and going to the beach or on a hike. Discussion was as far as we usually get as our good intentions become nothing more than that...good intentions. The camping chairs and conversations usually get the better of us and we vow to actually get up and do something tomorrow. The kids enjoyed the campfire for a short while before we scurry them off to dreamland, eager for my favorite part of the night...sitting with the girls around the campfire. It's like mom's night out without the hassle of finding a babysitter and though the kids are just feet away from us sleeping soundly in their mummy bags, we're able to recharge and relax with adult conversations.

The weather was gorgeous when we woke up and we decided that an early hike would be great. Our destination was Charmlee Wilderness Park. Remembering from last year when we had hiked this park that there was a $3 parking fee, I was forced to indulge in a Starbucks VentiCoffeeLightFrappucinoNoWhip in order to break my $10 bill before we headed up the winding Encinal Canyon Road to the park. Armed with Luna bars, raisins, apples and lemon cookies to bribe the reluctant three year old with, we set off. The trail was much more overgrown than it had been last June when we visited and a warning from the the man in the nature center had us cautiously watching for rattlesnakes with every step that we took. We arrived at our destination quickly and were rewarded with an amazing view. We stopped to regroup, eat some snacks and snap some pictures with that gorgeous backdrop. It was getting rather hot at this point and there was no shade in sight, so our break was short and we set off to finish the loop.
This happened to be a milestone hike for my little man. It was the first time ever that he did it all on his own, without me picking him up and having him freeloading for part of the hike. It took much encouragement, praise and bribery (did I mention the lemon cookies?) but he did it and he was so proud of himself. As we neared the end of the hike he looked at me and shouted "I'm a tough boy!!" I agreed, and my arms were thankful that at three and a half, he's finally decided to carry his own weight.

Worn out and hungry from our hike we all headed back to camp to refuel and rest a little before we headed to the beach. We decided on El Matador State Beach which is a few miles south of Leo Carrillo. The excited almost six year old in the family decided that skipping down the very steep dirt path with a huge dropoff was a good idea and I had to break out the "mean mommy" voice in order to reign her back in. Near heart attack behind me, we made it down to the beach and walked south a little bit to find refuge from the wind. I would normally post pictures right about now but my camera stayed safely in the case as we were being pelted by sand being fiercly blown in our direction. The kids didn't seem to mind and played happily in the water and up on the sand. It dawned on me while we were standing there being assaulted by this sand storm that it might have been a better idea to visit the beach in the morning when it was warm and calm, and then hike in the afternoon when it was windy, but you live and learn. We'll remember that next time.

As we were leaving the beach Ticia was headed to the store and I asked her to grab some french bread and red wine. The bread was my attempt to liven up the Campbells Chunky Soup I was planning to feed the kids when we got back to camp. When they arrived back, we were all pleasantly surprised to find that they went all out and bought steaks! The chunky soup went straight back into the food box. We dined on salad, cheese and crackers, fresh fruit, couscous, steak and red wine. It was perfect!

Once the kids were snug in their bags, we met up at the campfire to talk the night away. I'm not sure of the time that we went to bed, but it was late, or early...depending on how you look at it. The morning came too soon and I had the realization that we always choose the night before we leave to stay up really late and indulge in alcoholic beverages, which makes breaking camp so much more painful in the morning. It's always worth it though, and I'm looking forward to the next trip. El Capitan and Big Sur are on the agenda...I can't wait!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Crazy? Maybe...

I think I might be, but that's okay. I've been enjoying my Mother's Day/30th birthday present, a Trek 1000 WSD road bike.

There is so much to learn about road cycling and I landed at a website that has been a tremendous help. Team Estrogen has a great women's cycling/tri forum and everyone there has been so helpful. I've acquired most of the gear that I need for now...I was practically living at the local bike shops for about a week.

Back to Team Estrogen...not only are the women there helpful in answering questions about getting started, they're extremely motivating as well. How motivating, you ask? So motivating that I've signed up to do the an organized ride in August...a mere 12 weeks from today. On Saturday August 19th, I will be riding the Cool Breeze Century up in Ventura. I have some time do decide which route to do, and right now it is between the metric century, which is just over 60 miles and the century, which is 102 miles. My decision will lie in the hills and just how comfortable I get with climbing...actually to be's the descending that I'm more concerned with at the present moment. I know that my comfort level will increase the more that I ride, so I plan to get in some hill training locally, train with the full 102 miles in mind and see where I'm at a couple of weeks before the ride.

So far my longest ride has been 32 miles, which I did on Thursday afternoon. I easily could have kept going, but it was James' only day off and I didn't want to be gone for too long. I was also able to get a 31 mile ride in on Friday morning. My plan had been to do 30 miles on my 30th birthday, but I threw an extra mile in for good measure. Looking at my mileage so far, I'm almost 1/3 of the way to riding a century...looking at it that way makes it seem less daunting. We have some camping plans and my best friend will be visiting for a month, so I won't get a ton of riding in during the next four weeks, but I'll sneak some rides in here and there when I can. Mid-June is when I plan to really step up my mileage and hill training for the Cool Breeze.