California Dreamin


Having just returned from California from the Phil Gaimon Cookie Gran Fondo weekend, I need to revisit my planning – for next time, you know.

What went right – what went wrong.

All in all, it was a great trip.

Bike packed in Thule case

In 2019 I am celebrating my 10-year Cancversary and will ride 10 miles (at least) every day. That affected the flights that I could take. If I fly out early it has to be real early so I have time to ride when I arrive. Or I can ride in the morning and travel late – but that one isn’t for me.

Barry and Ernie Rodriguez

I left home by 4:30 a.m. for Washington-Dulles. I parked in the long-term Economy lot and was still at my gate by 5:43 a.m. – two hours before scheduled take-off.

In Terminal B is a Five Guys that served breakfast sandwiches. I had the bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. And it was good.

The flight arrived LAX on-time. My only checked bag was my bike and despite the luggage arriving at Terminal 6, mine was an Oversized bag and arrived in Terminal 4 at the Oversize Baggage.

Building the bike at the hotel

I took the hotel shuttle to the Fairfield Inn and Suites – El Segundo. Arrived by noon. No room was ready but I built my bike in the pool area (only a few funny looks). I jumped on my bike and visited – In-N-Out Burger which was right next door. Then I rode west – towards the ocean.

El Segundo at the beach
Bike path El Segundo

I had texted Robert Hess and he offered to pick me up at the hotel for a ride. I told him I already found the bike path and could ride to meet him. That was better. We met close to Manhattan Beach then rode north towards (but not to) Venice Beach. We found a straight section used for KOMs and both went moderately fast.

Manhattan Beach
Bike Path in Hermosa Beach
Robert and Barry

RIGHT: By taking the hotel shuttle from the airport I avoided one day of car rental charges.

RIGHT: By renting in El Segundo, I avoided the LAX fees on rental cars. In addition, a much higher rate.

I drove to Thousand Oaks where I stayed at the TownePlace Suites by Marriott. I was going to stay at the official hotel of the Fondo, the Hyatt, but the rooms were $60/night more.

TownePlace Suites by Marriott, Thousand Oaks. The pool wasn’t so nice.

I was 10 miles from the venue on Saturday and decided to ride there instead of drive. That also made my decision to choose the 40-mile ride over the 50-mile ride.

The official Cookiemobile

One problem was I was riding directly into a low sun on Thousand Oaks Blvd. Even with two rear lights, I was worried about the traffic seeing me.

The hotel was only about 15 miles from Sunday’s venue so I could not complain. Plus it was very close to an In-N-Out Burger and a Chili’s.

I was initially going to ride in Santa Barbara on Monday but decided to ride again in Manhattan Beach. I did not explore the southern end of the trail before and I could save a day’s rental charge.

RIGHT: By getting the car back before 11 a.m. I would have three days’ rental and not four.

Wildfire on the 101

One problem was there were wildfires including one I went by one Hwy 101. Waze found a better way but that meant hundreds of drivers all used the same side streets. I got in a little late but within tolerance.

Wildfire on the 101

Once packed, their driver took me back over to the Fairfield Suites where I boarded the Fairfield airport shuttle, the one that dropped me there four days earlier. I don’t know if this was cool or not but when I checked out on Friday I asked Scott Trexler at the hotel and he said it would be no problem. Of course, he wasn’t working when I returned.

Near Manhattan Beach

I rode south to Redondo Beach then one last time to In-N-Out Burger. I went back to the car rental location where I had left my luggage. I think they were more bemused than annoyed that I tore down the bike in their office and packed it in the case.

At the airport, I found a restaurant and watched the Steelers-Dolphins on Monday Night Football (Steelers won 27-14). About one hour later I boarded the redeye flight to Dulles.

Watching the Steelers at LAX

Arriving Dulles, I had to figure out where my bike would arrive. It came in on the Oversize Baggage belt. It has come down the regular belt before (ugh) so I have to figure out by airport where it will arrive.

I went back to my car in the Economy lot then to Chick-Fil-A, Ashburn, for breakfast before getting the Trek Pilot out for a ride on the W&OD. I had packed the Domane for California but also brought the Pilot and left it in the car. It was on its side covered by a blanket in the car. Then when arriving back, rather than trying to rebuild my Domane, I could just jump on the Pilot and ride.

After riding and dropping the Domane at the bike shop (broken front derailleur), I found myself fighting drowsiness on the 30-mile trip home. That redeye took it out of me but was necessary if I was to ride today. The other option on American was 10:30 a.m. arriving at 6:30 p.m. It would be hard to ride in the morning, tear down the bike, and get to the airport on time. And it arrived too late for an evening ride.

I am comfortable with almost all the decisions I made for this trip. I like the hotel shuttle and the first night near the airport. It worked out renting off-site. And getting back to the hotel. Keep this in mind if I do this one again.

Everyone is Walking


This was Phil’s Cookie Gran Fondo and I had decided to ride the 50-mile “Sugar Cookie” route. I was to meet Anthony Venida and waited at the starting chute with Robert Hess who was riding the family route which departed a little later.

Entrance between two hangers. Start/Finish is on the other side.

I didn’t see Anthony and let everyone roll through ahead of me before starting last. Once on course, I received a text from Anthony that he started with the “Chocolate Chip” route as some of his friends were riding the 80-mile route.

Start/Finish line

I rolled out, although I could not go fast, and the first seven miles were pancake flat. I was chatting with a rider wearing a Mont Ventoux jersey. Although much younger than me, I still had to secretly question his equipment when I saw it looked like his lowest gear was about a 17t cassette. I was running 32t.

“Are you OK?” – “Yes, just getting pictures of peppers”

The climb, which I remembered as a three-mile climb, had a much different profile than I remembered. The first 1/3 mile kicks up and then it appears to level off. It’s still a climb but much more gradual for the next two miles. And then, it whacks you in the face full force.

Cookies everywhere

My friend, with the Ventoux jersey, sat on my wheel and I didn’t mind. As we got to the wall, there were people pushing their bikes. And they were all over the place. The road kicked up – more than 15% (and maybe 20%). I was counting but lost track of the walkers but was over 100.

He had passed me on the climb – until he had to walk too


Part of me wanted to join them. And I wondered what I would have done had this been a normal Sunday ride with nobody watching. But they were watching. And I kept climbing although it was a real effort.

West Protero Road in Lake Sherwood

When I reached the summit, I turned around to look for Mr. Ventoux. He was nowhere to be found. It would have taken a super-human effort to push his gear up that climb. I don’t know when he got off to walk.

FAll horse farms up here – Lake Sherwood

There was a second intermediate climb of two miles which was also considerable. The Fondo made no mention of it, maybe because it wasn’t a timed KOM. It was also on Pretero Road, two miles after the summit of the first climb. At the bottom of the second hill, I stopped and visited the VeloFix mechanic who was finishing up changing a tire for a woman. We mentioned the climb on Pretero Road and he said, “everybody is walking up that hill.”

Mulholland Road

Although there was a rest stop at the base of the last climb, I did not stop because it was a rest stop at the base of a climb. The time off the bike would cause lactic acid to build up and my climbing would be crap. More crap than usual, that is.

Mulholland Road – this is nice!

I continued past and started up the climb of Westlake Blvd. This one was tough with sections of the lower portion pushing 20% grade. About one mile up it gets easier – 10-12% grade.

Westlake is particularly steep at the bottom portion and very windy. As we would discover, owners of fast cars love driving this road on Sunday mornings. It was almost a constant din of revved engines and occasional squealed tires.

Pacific Coast Highway (PCH)

At the top, we transitioned onto Mulholland Highway for a trip to the ocean. The road was closed to vehicles as much reconstruction is going on due to fires one year ago. Not having a big ring available because my front derailleur had failed yesterday meant that I gave up some speed here although it wouldn’t hurt me much. That would come later.

This woman, walking away, had stopped and I borrowed a floor pump from her to change my flat.
This woman had a floor pump which I could use


My recollection of Mulholland before today was that it was downhill the entire way. That is not true. There are some uphill sections even while the road trends downhill. Once on Pacific Coast Highway, I was treated to a delight – a tail wind. It was here that I would really miss my big ring.

Lunch inside an airport hanger
Lunch inside an airport hanger

I was quickly out pedaling my gears. Oh how I needed the big ring to take advantage of the wind. Instead, I was spinning and getting passed by others. And then I flatted. As it happened, I pulled over on the Pacific Coast Highway next to a woman who was running SAG for her family. She had a floor pump which made it easier to change. And asked for my used tube so her husband could repair it. Deal.

Barry Sherry, Phil Gaimon, Anthony Venida

Anthony texted me. Although he had finished 30 minutes (or more) earlier, he had come back to an intersection to ride in with me. Robert met us and we all enjoyed a delicious gourmet cycling lunch.

This is not just your typical cycling lunch. There were chefs from L.A. competing with their dishes. This is the best ever. Superb.

Robert Hess, Barry Sherry, Phil Gaimon, and Anthony Venida


Phil’s Sugar Cookie


Last year I came for the weekend and rode the longer route (Chocolate Chip Cookie) on Saturday. Having done that route, it made sense to try the other route this year, the Sugar Cookie.

The official car of the Cookie Gran Fondo

I stayed at a Homewood Suites in Thousand Oak and mapped out a route to bike to registration. It was 10 miles door-to-door so I would be adding 20 miles to the “40-mile” Sugar Cookie route. I think 55 miles the day before the Gran Fondo would be enough.

Phil Gaimon as Cookie Monster

The temperature was great but there was one issue. I was riding into a low rising sun. At times I had to shield my eyes to see. That was not a problem for me but I also worried that there may be drivers fighting the sun and may not see me on the road. I was nervous.

Barry and Phil’s Mom

Phil Gaimon met me at registration and have me a warm greeting. He made it a point to introduce me to his mother.

Barry and Susan Walters

After Phil’s group rolled out, we had 30 minutes before our group was ready to depart. I heard a voice – that voice – and I recognized it from Seinfeld. It was Susan Walters, who played the girlfriend that Jerry never knew her name – DOLORES! Susan was trying to take a selfie with friends and I offered to take a photo for her. And then I got a selfie (not really, one of her friends took our photo).

Barry and Anthony Venida

Before we rolled out, Anthony Venida, came in with some friends of his. They would be riding tomorrow. But I have known Anthony for six years and it was good to see him again. He also was recovering from a traumatic brain injury earlier in the year. But instead of being found unconscious next to a river, he went all-canyon and went over a cliff. He truly is a lucky young man.

Cookies on the ride

I thought I might ride with Susan’s group but they rolled out about 10 minutes before our official time. I never saw them on the road.

The views…

Once on the road, the route started out similar to what I rode last year. Out a canyon road and then an eight-mile climb up a pretty tough mountain. There is 4600′ of climb in just 37 miles. This is not an easy ride. After the climb, it was a short loop and back to start.

Phil Gaimon and Barry

On my descent, I tried to get in the big ring and get some real speed going. But the bike did not want to shift. My computer told me I was in the big ring but my eyes and my legs told me I wasn’t. I stopped and determined that a piece in the derailleur that lifts the chain had sheared off. I figured, and confirmed this with the VeloFix van, this is not a simple fix but a part replacement would be necessary. But not for this weekend. I would be out of luck for the rest of the weekend.

Frankie Andreu

On my return trip I never could get some good speed going. I was a slow-poke going back.

Frankie Andreu and Barry

Back at the site, we had a great lunch. I also chatted a little bit with Frankie Andreu, who also doubled as Phil’s race announcer.

At the evening Gala

I bought some items at the merchandise tent, left the items (on purpose) and my wallet (not on purpose) to be picked up later this evening at the VIP Gala. There’s a bigger ride tomorrow.

Cap to Cap


The goal: Park in Richmond, take a train to Williamsburg and ride back on the Virginia Capital Trail.

I was thinking Union Station in D.C. with its six-level parking garage. In Richmond, I found nothing other than a mostly vacant lot near the train station which needed a parking app. I drove a few blocks away and found on-street parking. After all, I was riding a bike today so it really didn’t matter how far away I parked.

Richmond Main Train Station

The area where I parked seemed a little sketchy. Next time: I will park at the trailhead at the bottom of Pear St. then bike to the station.

Inside Richmond station

Like so many U.S. train stations, the Richmond Main Station is a treasure. What a beautiful building. It was, however, lacking in signage. I had no idea which track my train was arriving on or how late it would be. It was scheduled at 10:03 a.m. but had not arrived by then.

I had made a bike reservation so someone should have known that I was boarding with a bike. The baggage car was at the front of the train. There was one boarding area, in the middle, where the conductor checked our tickets.

Richmond Main

I had to enter the middle of the train. When I asked the conductor where I should put my bike he said “anywhere.” I was expecting two hooks per car but found none. One we got rolling he walked it through two cars to the baggage car and hung it on a hook.

The train ride could have been enjoyable The windows were filthy dirty and it seemed the engineer loved blowing that train whistle. Seems to me that there should be better ways in 2019 to warn people of an oncoming train rather than a whistle. I’m not sure I ever heard a train in Switzerland use one.

Dirty windows

With the glare of the sun hitting those windows, it was hard to see any scenery. But mostly it was a forested area from Richmond to Williamsburg.

The seats were much better than the last time I rode a train. Only the constant whistle kept it from being truly enjoyable.

At the Williamsburg station, I had to exit from the middle of the train then walk back up to the front to pick up my bike. Seems the two cyclists would have been better served to exit with their bikes.

Colonial Williamsburg

I had no clue where I was but then – I was in Colonial Williamsburg. I rode the traffic-free streets for a few minutes then found Rte. 5 towards Jamestown.

Arriving at Jamestown Settlement, I met Terry Moran. We would ride together the first 13 miles of the Virginia Capital Trail before he would turn around and go back to his Williamsburg home.

Terry Moran

The trail begins here and is a 51-mile bike trail from Richmond to Jamestown. It is 98% trail with two small portions at Charles City diverted to the street as well as one section of about 1/4 mile near Richmond.

If you love wooden boardwalks this is the trail for you. Every mile it seems you cross one of the bridges. All are in great shape now but wonder if they will hold up in 10-15 years. But enjoy them now. They are great!

Terry rides into the distance

The eastern section is pancake flat. It is situated in the Middle Peninsula section. It is wooded with its share of wooden bridges as it follows Rte 5.

Chickahominy River

At MP 6 (or 7) the trail crosses the Chickahominy River. There is a separate bike lane on either side or the cool kids can ride on the shoulder on the highway.

Crossing the Chickahominy River

Once over the bridge, the trail continues with Charles City being the next landmark. Charles City Courthouse is at MP 21. There are little to no amenities on the trail so grab them when you see them.

Chickahominy River

Terry had turned around at MP 13. He suggested to me that I stop at the Citgo service station at Charles City – for their fried chicken. I came to Haupt’s Country Store and at first, kept going. But then I smelled the chicken and went inside. Chicken by the piece was $2.65 for a breast and roll. It was good but there was no seating area, not even a bench outside.

Haupt’s Country Store

At Charles City, the trail disappeared into the street for a couple hundred yards. I passed Cut’s Courthouse Grille and saw some bicycles parked outside. That is your restaurant option if you want sit-down. At the Citgo Station, I stood next to a trash can.

Did you know this?

After Charles City, I entered the plantation area. Shirley. Berkeley. Sherwood Forest.

Once in Henrico County, the trail went from flat to rolling. The rustle of dried leaves cracked beneath my tires. It was still wooded in many sections and the Fall leaves were covering the trail.

Another bridge – all are in great shape

Fueled by my piece of chicken, I averaged 17 mph from Charles City to Richmond. My time at either end, Williamsburg and Richmond, slowed my average speed as I was site-seeing in Williamsburg and climbing Libby Hill in Richmond.

Four-Mile Creek Park

As I got closer to Richmond the trail became familiar to me. I stopped here in April and had ridden part of this before.

The trail goes under I-295 and is the only place there is considerable road noise.

Mile 51 in Richmond

As I got close to Richmond, I remembered some of this trail from having ridden it four years ago when I volunteered at the UCI World Championships. But some of it was also new to me.

James River, Richmond

Rather than finish the last quarter-mile of the trail, I turned off it to go up Libby Hill and find where I was parked. At Libby Hill, there was a chain across the entrance. After 10-15 seconds of thought, I decided that was for automobiles. There was an opening for a bike and I rode up the famous Libby Hill – as I did three times last month.

The cobbles on Libby Hill

At the top I needed to find my way to my car. I was on Richmond Hill and the street where I parked, Grace Street, did not continue because of a cliff.

sN. 23rd St is a cobbled street that looks to be 12% grade going down. I decided not to ride down it, afraid of my traction while bouncing on the cobbles. The sidewalk presented a good option and I carefully went down the sidewalk. However, at the bottom, it becomes steps.

Richmond Hill – It’s steep – need steps

It was a 60-mile day. It was a beautiful day. I would recommend this again although I would think I would like to add the Jamestown Ferry as an option and ride on the south side of the James to Rte 156.

Dear Andrew and Staci


I arrived at 2:30 yesterday as walk-in registration for the Sea Gull Century began at 3:00 p.m. I registered and picked up my rider packet. There was a $15 difference between early registration and walk-in. The $15 is essentially insurance should the event be canceled (as it was in 2015). But I think next year I will just register online and avoid check-in (although you still have to appear to go pick up your T-shirt).

Fenwick Island, Delaware

After registration I went to Fenwick Island, Delaware for Fishers Popcorn, a required stop for this trip or I would not be welcomed home. With temperatures in low 70s, it was too nice not to ride. I saw, felt, the wind and knew it was coming from the north. I headed north and it was tough riding. I only rode five miles to Bethany Beach before turning around to enjoy the great tailwind back to Fishers.

The Famous Fisher’s Popcorn


At check-in at the Hampton Inn, a young man told me a big story how his car broke down, he and his wife and child were stranded, and they needed a place to stay. Since I had a room with two queen beds I offered him one of those. He did not accept. The front desk clerks were almost beside themselves that I did this. When the security guard went out to talk to him, they drove off. I may have been born at night but I wasn’t born last night. Hehe.

South Bethany, Delaware


Morning came too soon. Lots of cyclists were in the breakfast room as it opened at 5:00 a.m. I stuck my nose outside. It was 52º but no wind. Arm warmers and a vest would be enough for today.

Leaving the Hampton Inn


It was a few minutes before 7:00 a.m. and before sunrise. Rather than ride on US13 in the dark to get to the start line at Salisbury University, I made my own route. I wouldn’t start at the official start but make up for any distance by riding back to the hotel after the ride. I had studied the map that the event uploaded and knew they would come down Division Street to St. Lukes.

The original course map. It differed from what they actually used.

When I arrived at Division Street, no one was there. No one. I knew I was early but with 5,000 riders on course surely I could not be the first. I wasn’t. I eventually (4 1/2 miles) found the course. They had come down Old Pokomoke Road. I joined the ride there.

Snow Hill, Maryland


At the first rest stop, I saw a course map. The organization had printed out the map, displayed it on the trailer, but there was white tape over the first portion. They drew in a new route. They had changed the route but not on the uploaded PDF map I was following. No worries. It was fun for a while thinking I was first on the course.

Pokomoke River at Snow Hill, Md.


At the first turn where the two routes separate, I was unsure where to go. I studied the map before I left but not that turn. Were we using the white or yellow seagulls? I asked the photographer and he didn’t know. I asked one couple and they thought they were on the 100-mile route. Stay the course! And it was the right choice.

Chincoteague Bay


This was the fourth time I did this ride. What makes each different is the weather and the people you meet or ride with. Today’s difference was the weather. Temperatures weren’t bad, ranging from 52º to 64º. There was very little sunshine. I would wear the arm warmers all day but eventually unzipped the vest. But the wind that wasn’t present at the hotel was present beginning around 8:00 a.m. And it was strong. All-day long.

Two and three years ago I rode with riders from the Blair Cycling Club (Pa.). Last year I met a woman, Sandra, and two of her friends, and we rode together for 60 miles. Today I met nobody until eight miles to go. Here the Assateague Century and Princess Ann Metric routes come back together.

Near Newark (4 miles)


As I turned after the airport, I briefly met a young couple, Andrew and Staci, who were new to cycling and riding their first long event. Staci seemed impressed that I rode 100 miles. I should have ridden with them but had been riding well (18 mph) and wanted to keep up my pace. Staci asked if riding in the wind was easy.

Rest Stop 2 – Newark


If they are reading this, I will tell you what I know. Riding in the wind is hard. Some say it’s harder than climbing because “you can’t see the wind.” But I disagree. Look back six days at the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, which had plenty of climbing. I averaged more than five miles per hour faster today than when climbing over the Shenandoah Mountain near Harrisonburg, Va. on Sunday.

Quepanco Station at Newark, Md.


The key to riding into the wind is to get into a group and draft. Or get lower. Or do both. Generally, I found a group the last three times here. Today, not so much. But one can always “grab a wheel” and jump in a “paceline.” Paceline is mostly a misnomer because on this ride there are mostly wheel suckers. I have yet to see a true rotating paceline like I rode in Indiana in August.

Approaching Verrazano Bridge, Assateague Island


I rode most of the miles solo today. Other times I jumped in with a group for a bit. Fighting the wind is not as hard if you are in a group.

Verranzano Bridge at Assateague Island


My first segment took me to Rest 2. I skipped Rest 1 which is always crowded. I’m usually able to find port-a-johns on route and with temps in the low 60s, I wasn’t depleting my water bottles. Segment 2 took me to the rest stop at Assateague Island.

I can find my own porta-a-johns; this one at Snow Hill


Segment 3 was from Assateague Island to Rest Stop 4. It was here, just after Berlin, that I realized I set a personal record for miles in one year. I was feeling good about that when a group of four went by and I jumped on. One rider pulled for 1-2 miles then dropped back. Another pulled for a while then dropped off. But they stayed upfront. There was no rotation. Finally, I went to the front. And I promptly rode off the front. Damn me.

Rest Stop at Assateague Island


Despite arriving together at Rest Stop 4, we were not a group and I didn’t see them leave or wait for them. They may have all been friends. Or complete strangers. I don’t know. I didn’t see where they went once we stopped. The sign at the stop said 17.3 miles to go and I went solo the rest of the way. It was here, with eight miles to go, that I briefly met Andrew and Staci.

Rest Stop at Assateague

Arriving back at the college is always neat. The route goes under US13 through a pedestrian underpass. Coming out the other side you are at the finish with people congratulating you including the Salisbury University cheerleaders. The event is well supported by the University. The track and field team were the volunteers at Rest 2 (and maybe Rest 4). Apple pie and vanilla ice cream were offered at the end (or cherry pie and chocolate ice cream).

Barry and Cheerleader


I was disappointed today as I saw no horses at Assateague Island. We were at the very northern tip by road which is the Maryland State Park. I talked to a ranger and he explained that they haven’t had a great experience with 5,000 riders in the park as some of them have tried to pet the horses. I almost went into the national park where I knew I would find horses but decided not to.

Sand dunes at Assateague Island


Staci asked me if I rode this before and then stated I probably do these all the time. So Staci, here is the answer.

Pickle Pops – I did not try one


Dear Andrew and Staci,

I used to do century rides all the time. Or I feel like I used to. But I had knee replacement surgery 18 months ago. If that didn’t slow me, I had a memory-loss accident a couple of months later. The only century ride I completed in 2018 was this one. The Alpine Loop Gran Fondo last September I cut short and the Horrible Hundred last November in Florida I also cut short. The latter was because I was with friends who weren’t riding the full 100. I even competed in the World Hillclimb Championships in Santa Barbara and earned the title as Worst Cyclist in the World.

This year we did a planned 95-mile four-country ride in Luxembourg but I was sick so no need to add five miles to call it 100 although some in my group did. In Indiana in August, the Spokes of Hope Century Ride was cut short (65 miles) by thunderstorms. At the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo in Harrisonburg, Va. six days ago, I stopped at 78 miles.

Staci and Andrew


After 18 months of previously completing only one century, it was important enough for me to finish this one – and to finish fast. I began to think I may never finish another one. I felt bad pedaling away from you (Staci and Andrew) when normally I would have ridden and talked for a while. I wasn’t just being a dick. Really, I wasn’t.

Windy at Assateague Island


I was impressed that you both have only been riding for just four months. To increase your mileage to ride a Metric Century is a big accomplishment! I was most impressed with that than anything I saw on this ride.

I hope the two of you keep riding. Cycling is healthy, especially when you avoid crashing. For the minutes or hours you are on the bike you are in a different world. Maybe next year you will want to ride the full Century route. If you do, let me know, and I’ll try to ride it with you. But above all, keep riding, and I wish for you Peace on a Bike. – Barry

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