Thursday, February 23, 2006

Sunday STN ride 2-19-06

On Sunday (2-19-06) I met up with CBXTerry, Twist, Bluepoof, and DredheadV2.0 from Sport-Touring.Net for a quick little ride. Dred was visiting on tour from Chicago, so we HAD to get him out on some of our spectacular Bay Area roads.

We met at a Starbucks in east San Jose where we found some snow-topped "mountains," interesting characters, and a very busy bathroom. While munching on the snacks thoughtfully provided by Bluepoof, we decided that, despite the recent storm, the best route was to head for the Santa Cruz mountains.

With CBXTerry leading, we headed up 101 to Bailey road for the first twisties of the day. Happily, conditions were pretty good with only intermittent wet pavement. The pace was kept relaxed in recognition of Dred's 40k mile old shocks, flatlander origin, and the uncertain road conditions.

We stopped at one of the reservoirs along Uvas Rd for a smoke break (for the cancer-stick lovers) and some socializing (wait, everyone loves that!). I can't resist pretty landscapes, so I'm posting a few of those. Additional pics from Twist and Bluepoof's cameras can be found on the STN thread link above.

At the turnoff to CA-152 Hecker Pass Rd, Twist and I watched in horror as CBXTerry almost dropped his 2-week old Busa while trying to get around a big puddle. I know that I could NOT have pulled off the save he did.

Heading through the redwoods, we starting getting some drizzly rain. Cars stacked up ahead behind a bunch of cruisers. No big deal. We weren't in a hurry. We stopped at a turn-out just past Mt Madonna Inn to take in the view and let the long line of cars get ahead.

Next up was a long drone up CA-1 to get to CA-84. This part of the Pacific Coast Highway isn't particularly great. First there's a bit of congested freeway from Watsonville through Santa Cruz. Once you get past the city, it's a straight 2-lane highway with few legal passing opportunities. I suppose someone who doesn't see the ocean every few weekends would love the scenery, but there are better areas to check out the waves of deep blue.

The run up 84 to Alice's was a highlight of the day for me. I swooped along at the tail of the pack, hardly touching my brakes. The hillsides were green, blue was peeking through the clouds, and the road was empty of traffic.

I had never eaten at Alice's though I'd been by it many times. After carefully perusing the menu, I decided to be original and ordered the BMW burger. Dred got some of their famous garlic fries for the table to share. Mmmm.

After lunch, we split up to head home. Not trusting conditions on 84, Bluepoof and I went up 35 toward CA-9 and Saratoga. We stopped at the vista point on CA-35 to find excellent visibility conditions. You could see for miles: Oakland, bridges, snow capped Mt Hamilton.

Fellow travelers at the vista point had warned Bluepoof of hail falling ahead on 35. We soon found it. It was pretty trippy trying to negotiate a clean line through mud tracks on the road with hail pinging off my helmet and instruments. The side of the road was lined with white. I found myself continuously checking my GPS to see the approaching intersection with CA-9 and lower elevations. No pics of the weather, we were too eager to get out of it. Alas.

Once we got off 35 the conditions improved and it was smooth sailing and a relatively clean road the rest of the way out of the mountains. Twist later reported that 84 into Redwood City had been fine. We *probably* should have taken it. Oh well. A good day for all.

Mileage from the meet point to Saratoga: 136

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Motivation to piss off my kitty

I received a Polar F11 Heart Rate Monitor Watch for my birthday from Tony. It's a really great gift because it's something I might not ever have considered buying for myself, but now that I have it,I absolutely love using it.

Retailing at around $150, it's not just a simple heart beat counter. It measures fitness level and then creates a customized workout program that tells me how long to exercise each week at what heart rate levels. Then when I actually go out to exercise, it lets me continually know whether I am in my exercise heart rate zone, exercise time goal for the session, how many calories burned, and how long I've exercised. It also makes me take a warm up and cool down period before and after exercising. This watch is more powerful than some computers I've owned (in the distant past). I love gadgets.

It's hugely motivating, because I'm constantly getting feedback and know that my exercise is actually accomplishing something. It's also gotten me motivated to exercise longer per session because the shortest amount of time my customized workout program recommends is one hour. I really want to make this watch happy so It'll display a little trophy symbol at the end of each week. Oh, that and tell me that my fitness level has gone up.

I wish Tony's schedule gave him time to be my workout buddy, but he's seldom home in time to take advantage of sunlight after work. Therefore, I've been coercing my 1.5 year old Siamese cat, Callie, to come with. Callie learned how to wear a harness and leash as a kitten, but he's not quite up to 1 hour walks. Therefore I have a frontpack for him to ride in. He gets to walk on leash during the cool down part of my exercise.

Doesn't he look thrilled?

Meanwhile, I received word from one of my readers that comments weren't working in certain browsers. I hope I've fixed that by changing to a more standard template. Please let me know if you encounter any errors.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A couple of good rides & a restaurant review

Watching the national news, it would seem that winter's in full swing. Washington is getting drowned and the northeast is getting buried in snow.

Meanwhile, the bay area is seeing unseasonably warm temperatures. I got out for a few rides this weekend.

Mt Hamilton Rd to the Junction and back

Friday, I joined Tony, Jesse, and a couple of Jesse's friends in a quickie after-work ride over Mt Hamilton to the Junction and back. Jesse's only been riding for 6+ months or so, but he's really pretty good.

His friends had me wondering. Both showed up in jeans, but I can accept that not everyone is as serious about gear as I am. One, who volunteered to lead the group, was certainly fast, but not much of a leader. He disappeared pretty much right away and we only saw him at the regroup points. It was up to Tony (following him) to keep the group together. The other guy had been riding only a few months, and I watched aghast as he crossed the double yellow at almost every hairpin and then tailgated Jesse on those occaisions when he actually managed to catch up to him. I was sweeping as is my preference on most rides. I just backed off from him and enjoyed my own ride, not quite feeling safe to be close.

We never really got off the bikes until we reached the Junction, about 40 miles into the ride. At that point Tony and I spoke up a little (we'd been discussing the newbie over the gmrs radios) asking him how long he'd been riding and gently suggesting that he take it a little more slowly and try to stay between the lines. At this the *leader* spoke up, "Oh, I cross double yellows all the time."

That shut the two of us up. It almost didn't need to be said, but we both agreed over the radios on the way home: "so that's why he was so fast". I still find it astounding that another rider would tell a newbie that it was ok or even cool to use the other lane. Anyway...

Santa Cruz Mountains Loop:

Had a much better time on Saturday. Tony and I met up with Summer, her boyfriend, and Robert (Squidhunter) in Saratoga to do the Santa Cruz Mountains "loop."

It was a great ride, with people who are fast but very safety concious. I had a great time, and the scenery was absolutely beautiful. We had lunch in Davenport at the Whale City Cafe. This is a popular lunch spot for "loop" riders and I recognized many people there including Gary J (author of Sportbiking: the Real World) and Sean (Spurber) who I've sport-toured with. Something about the way he always calls me "BunnyRocket" always makes me smile. I didn't recognize him until we were queueing up to leave the restuarant. My exuberant wave put me a bit behind the rest of my group. I easily caught up at the next turn-off. Awesome day all around.

With such a great start, I didn't think the weekend could get any more interesting. I spent most of Sunday watching the Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics (DVR'd) and reading various motorcycling forums. On a whim, I checked the url for a restaurant that I'd helped do interior design work for and was surprised to see that they had finally updated their website. Excitedly, I convinced Tony to tear himself away from his new computer game to take me out for dinner.

Review: Firehouse Grill & Brewery

I usually don't see the finished results of my architecture work. Most clients don't invite the architect (much less a lowly designer) into their home when the construction is all done and the house is decorated, so it was exciting to be able to walk into the restaurant.

The Firehouse Grill on Murphy Street in Sunnyvale is a collaboration between a couple of our residential design clients. The interior feels very upscale and the prices on the menu ($10-$20 entrees) seem to reflect this feel.

There were a few architectural details inside that disappointed me. They didn't build the interior quite how we had designed it, adding some pretty silly looking (to an architect) details, but that always seems to happen when non-design professionals *think* they know what they want. Oh well.

As for the actual execution of the restaurant, Tony and I agreed that they were lacking a few details. The menu was surprisingly sparse, but at least interesting. It had a variety of tapas appeteizers, salads, carnivore delights, pastas, and wood fired pizzas.

The cold focaccia served with foil wrapped butter (I would have expected oil) and soda fountain lemonade seemed to miss something. Tony got the rotisserie chicken, which he said was nicely cooked, but too salty for his tastes. I enjoyed my smoked mushroom carbonara with linguini, but I expected a little more presentation with both dishes. The waitress was pretty slow for such an empty dining area. (the bar was busier).

I might go back, but mainly to check out their beverages. Firehouse is a brewery and make their own beers on tap. I'm not much for beer, but they also claim to brew some pretty mean in-house root beer and ciders. It might be a nice place to relax with friends on an evening out.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Thoughts on turning 27

I've been putting this off for a few days. (my birthday was Monday, the 6th)

Well, first of all, I'd like to thank those who sent cards and gifts.

Everyone always asks how the day went. Well, it was definitely a highlight of the week. I got off work a few hours early, with enough daylight left to run the BMW up highway 9 to Boulder Creek and back. There were a few wet spots past the hairpin on the backside after 236, but nothing to spoil the fun. There was a good amount of traffic heading into the mountains, but the run back was AWESOME! Didn't see more than a few motorcycles out there, and mostly cruisers.

With darkness setting in, I relaxed at the new Saratoga Starbucks with some coffee while waiting for Tony to get off work. We then went to Planet Granite (local rock climbing gym) to do some climbing.

We planned to go to Willow Street Pizza in Willow Glen for a semi-special dinner, but were both way too pooped when we got home, so we made some quick pasta. I'd had birthday cake from work, so I really didn't miss the calories.

Now for the *thoughts* part:

I guess 27 isn't so bad. It's definitely way closer to 30 than I'd like to be. 26 still felt safe.

I'm the same age my mom was when she had me.

I'm definitely not ready for anything like that. I feel only marginally more mature than I did when I graduated from college.

As far as life experiences, I've made progress on my dreams. Went across the country again. Acquired most of my dream bike. (gotta get it painted green one of these days) I'm doing design work in architecture, not just the dreaded bathrooms that Arch. students talk about.

Goals to still be fulfilled? Well, I'd like a house of my own, a dog, my architecture license (my fault, must get more motivated), and lots more vacation time to spend riding.

I guess I've come pretty far in the last 27 years.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

More on that last ride...

So I finally pulled the gas receipts and odometer log out of my tankbag. The ride turned out to be just under 500 miles. A few minutes work in Excel and I find that I'm getting 40-42 mpg. :(

Hopefully that will improve as the bike continues to break in. Of course, this might be a great excuse to investigate putting an aux fuel tank in the place of my passenger seat (which is pretty much useless baggage to me).

Some pics here, both from CA-58 (which most people agree is in the top 10 roads in CA). Of course, the problem with taking pics on uber-twisty roads is that there are never any acceptably paved turnouts at the best *twisty-vistas*, so you get mainly straight shots. At least the scenery was pretty on that chilly but sunny day.