Condors take flight! 2012

How it all started.... Condor!

Condor trips are always hard but the 7th annual Condor proved to be a pain cave dwelling suffer fest!  When we finally rolled into the Santa Barbara airport the crew was beyond cratered.  The route was tough but I know each and every Condor would agree the riding was spectacular.

The journey took us from Rick Hunter's shop in Bonny Doon, CA to Santa Barbara via the coastal mountains.  We zig zagged our way South riding as much dirt as possible.  Did we succeed?  Oh ya!

Day 1:
Bonny Doon, CA to Arroyo Seco Rd/campground.
~ 110 miles.
Info about campground:
Best to leave Santa Cruz loaded for two days as food options are mostly gas station until Cambria.

We woke to drizzle and cold temps.  Everyone suited up in full battle gear and we launched from Hunter Cycles Headquarters into the abyss.  The forecast called for rain but we outran the storm and by Watsonville we were dry.  We wiggled our way using frontage roads, bike path, levy's, and country lanes heading south.  Spirits were high and talk centered on the route ahead.  Will the river crossings tomorrow be flooded?  Will the Carrizo plain be a muddy nightmare?  Will the snow in the Santa Barbara mountains be ridable? Do we have enough coffee..?
The Arroyo Seco Campgrounds are a great spot to spend the night with clean water and even have showers just remember to bring some quarters.  Fred had this crazy delicious group dinner with 12 hardboiled eggs!  No wonder his bike was so freaking heavy at the start.

Barn Side Beauty!

Old farmhouse slated for restoration. 

 You mainly ride thru farmland on the fist day.  This view is from somewhere on River Road heading towards Arroyo Seco Road.

Finally got to use my new stove.  I totally love this thing!  I do most of my hiking in CA, OR, and WA in summer where the various land use agencies have strict fire restrictions against stoves with an open flame such as this.  Consequently I don't cook with wood that often.  The Emberlit UL is light, folds flat and is a joy to use I heartily recommend it.  You can check out the stove at their website here.  I bring a simple Cat Can stove for mornings and when a wood fire is not practical.  Cat Can info here

Day 2:
Arroyo Seco campground to South Coast Ridge Rd.
~ 60 miles w/lots of dirt!
Plenty of water but NO Services today.  Good spring at landslide on Indians Rd.  Sweet lunch spot near by at "top" of climb, check out the rock formations.  If water is high possible sketchy river fording in army base.  Walk bikes if it's deep since the underlying concrete roadway is super slippery. Water up at FS campground before beginning Nacimiento Ferguson Rd climb, prepare for possible dry camp on ridge.

From the campground you immediately start the Indians rd (closed to cars) 20 miles of remote dirt road that takes you into the Los Padreas NF.  After Indians the route rolls thru the Fort Hunter Ligget army base before climbing Nacimiento Ferguson Rd. The army base is practically deserted and relativity flat w/open oak woodland, very nice.  If you keep an eye out there is wildlife to see, a few years ago we saw a young mountain lion on this road.  Once at the top you of Nacimiento Ferguson Rd turn South for more dirt! South Coast Ridge Rd is really cool to ride but it will punish you.  What looks like a few rollers are in fact a endless series of sort intense climbs with bomber descents one after another... for a really long time.  Luckily the scenery is amazing and you are almost assured to see NO CARS even though it is a open road.  We camped somewhere along this road at a primitive FS campground.

Love it!  Just past the Arroyo Seco campground at the start of Indians Rd.

Rick Hunter riding Indians Rd. 

Rick Hunter's new Condor rig (version 2.0 see 1.0 here.).  Rick's bike garnered much praise at the handmade show this year and is truly a amazing piece of handmade bicycle awesomeness.  The bags are these crazy cool custom jobs from a talented women and friend of Rick's up in OR.  You can see her work and read her discussion about building these bags here.   Or... watch a video! Dirt Rag interviews Rick about his new Condor ride here

Jason Bedford of De La Paz Coffee rode his new Hunter 29'er rigged with Porcelain Rocket bags.  PR bags live up to the hype the quality of manufacturing is superb.   

View from top of Nacimiento Ferguson Rd.  You could bomb down to Hwy 1 and the ocean to camp at Kirk creek FS campground but the South Coast Ridge Rd is way more fun and its dirt!

Day 3:
South Coast Ridge Rd to Paso Robles.
~ 100 miles?  Rick or Cam is this right?
Water at campsite pond, not sure about year round availability.  First food and water is Ragged Point on Hwy 1.  Cambria has all services, food market, bike shop, restaurants, etc.

From our campsite on South Coast Ridge Rd we headed South eventually reaching the INSANE DESCENT on Los Burros Rd to Hwy 1.  You need brakes that operate well and be ready for a serious elevator shaft downhill.  It's fun but phew... it's steep.  Riding down it I was shocked to think that a few years ago we had rode up the same road on an earlier Condor.  What were we thinking!  From the bottom of Los Burros your back on concrete and it's your typical Hwy 1 car fest until Cambria.  We had sun and favorable winds so the ride was nice, a few miles before San Simeon there is a beach where elephant seals hang out.  Stop and check it out you won't regret it.  Once we reached Cambria we turned East and crossed the coastal hills on Santa Rosa Creek Rd.  A favorite for the local road riders  Santa Rosa Creek Rd packs a punch but with the stunning scenery you hardly notice until the end.  The last climb is nearly vertical it's crazy.  Cam got sick so we detoured to Paso Robles for a motel night thinking he might get better and be able to continue.  Sadly that was not the case and we had to leave him in Paso the next morning.  Motel 6 was cheap and easy to get to.  There is a good diner that opens early in Paso Robles called Margie's.  Big plates and lots of fresh coffee for hungry riders.

South Coast Ridge Rd. 

Giving the brakes time to cool down on Los Burros Rd.  Downhill dirt craziness!

Santa Rosa Creek Rd.

Day 4:
Paso Robles to Big Pine Rd.
~ 120 miles.
Prior to entering the Carizzo Plain water up at the school just off 58 on Soda Lake Rd.  Stock up on food in Paso Robles there are no services once you enter the Carrizo Plain until Santa Barbara.   If desperate slight detour on 166 to New Cuyama for gas station fare post CP and prior to entering SB mountains.

The Carrizo Plain is a beautiful and amazing place.  A single dirt road takes you south through this wide open landscape.  Keep an eye out for California Condors they sometimes soar thru the CP.  A short road burn on 166 to 33 post CP gets you back to the Los Padres NF and you leave cars behind on Big Pine Rd.  Plenty of camping and water spots before starting to climb into the mountains proper.

 Wide open on the Carrizo Plain.

Lunch spot overlooking Soda Lake.

Miles and miles of dirt in the Carrizo.

Let me introduce the Condor crew!  Taken w/iPhone in a daze I apologize about the crappy exposure.

DFL dude... Dead Fucking Last!!




The Mighty Rick Hunter!

For some reason my camera had a Cameron Falconer deflector shield deployed.  Here is Cameron riding Indians a few years ago on another equally memorable Condor.

Day 5:
Big Pine Rd to Santa Barbara.
~ 60 miles.
Plenty of water at various spots.  In the spring this is a great ride in summer I think it would be a frying pan of misery.  Big Pines RD is mostly closed to cars, high quality dirt with long descents that are really fun.  Continue on Arryo Burro Rd for your last dirt climb of the trip.  Bomb down El Camino Rd to Painted Cave Rd with the final descent into SB on N San Marcos Rd.  Time for Burritos!

Somewhere on the mornings fist climb looking back towards our campsite deep in the valley.

Uh ohh!  Bikes unrideable d/t horribly sticky mud.  We don't ride again for hours.

Did anyone bring extra chain lube?

Maybe the snow won't be that deep and we can ride it? Ahh ha ha!

In our innocence.  By the top it was 2 feet deep.  Four hours of pushing later...

Once over the top the snow quickly disappeared and the mud was more manageable due to better draining soils.

The beginning of our fist descent.

Much of the route thru the Santa Barbara Mountains is closed to cars.  Sweet!

A seemingly endless amount of downhill makes you forget all the pushing.  Santa Barbara here we come!

We rode about 450 miles.  The route although tough travels thru amazing terrain mixing dirt and quiet, deserted paved roads for a really really good tour.  Camping spots are plentiful, water is available at regular intervals, and the scenery is all high quality.  If you do it right you could catch the wildflowers in the Carrizo Plain.  Wow!

In Santa Barbara we rented a van (one way) stuffed everything in and drove home.  You could also ride the train back to the bay area.  
We did bring a GPS and have a track of our route.  If your interested just email me and I'll send you the file. 

I rode a geared MTB 29'er with WTB NanoRaptor tires and a funky mix of bikepacking style frame bags and traditional touring gear.  This route lends itself to a bikepacking style of travel the longest distance w/out resupply is 2 days.  My good friend and fellow Condor Cameron Falconer finished building this frame in time for the trip.  He doesn't have much of a web presence preferring word of mouth from satisfied customers for advertising.  He is no upstart PDX kook, Cam has been racing and riding his entire life and works as a metal fabricator.  His frames show attention to detail, quality construction and basassary!  My rig preformed flawlessly under heavy abuse and I look forward to many more adventures in the future riding this frame.  Expect to see much more in the future from Falconer Cycles.  You can find out more about his frame building and metal fabrication here.

The original Condor crew from 2006.  Thank you Rick Hunter and all Condors past and future for the tradition!  From left to right.  Rob "Ginger" Saybolt, Rick Hunter, Woody!, Cameron Falconer, Dylan Snodgrass.

06' Beginning...

And End... Hunter's old shop in Watsonville bike bonanza in background.


Flight info:

Bike Tour 2011 with MJ

Oh it was epic!  Oregon and Washington are a good place to wander around on a bicycle. 

Eight days of cycling nirvana.  We started in Carson, WA rode the GP NF to Mt Rainier NP and then somehow wound up deep in Eastern WA.  Thankfully we crossed the columbia back to Eastern OR got totally sidetracked and eventually wound up in the Mt Hood NF for a pick up at Trillium Lake.  Thank you Beth! 
For some strange reason it never rained, I know... WTF?  We are in OR after all.  We got lost once following a dirty unicorn (MJ's fault) and almost died of dehydration but overall the trip was surprisingly smooth.  Oh ya, warning to all traveling cyclist, NEVER ride your bike between Yakima, WA and Umatilla, OR.  It blows... big time.  Busy roads, dust, trash, and depressingly impoverished towns.  Steer clear of Wampum, OR the dogs are scary.  We got jumped and chased by a pack of vicious miniature dogs.  No shit I almost crashed I was laughing so hard until one latched onto my rear pannier!  I lost a water bottle in that battle, scary place.  For real I think I'll carry bear spray from now on while touring.  To many close encounters with angry junk yard dogs on country lanes has left me emotionally scarred.  On the other hand you MUST ride the Sunrise road in Mt Rainier NP (early am) it is just amazing.  You top out with a fantastic view of the mountain and can hike to a glacier!  
Anyone who knows me knows how much I like to stay in Dufur, OR when riding bikes.  Well forget that because the new hot spot is Fossil, OR.  Coolest town in OR as far as I'm concerned.  Make sure to have breakfast at the Big Timber Diner! 

Bikes kick ass. 

Myself and MJ @ Mt Rainer about to reach the summit of Sunshine Rd.  Sweet!

MJ road this...

I rode this Hunter badassery. 

Before we ran out of food and had to forage in gas stations we feasted on SIN DAWG.

All sorts of legal track!  Coming from CA this is a freak out moment.  OR is awesome.

Gear musings...  Pretty much everything worked well and because we had excellent weather the entire time gear challenges were mimimal.  This is just what I liked/didn't like and NOT a gear review.  Proper gear reviews need to challenge the gear (possibly to failure) and the user needs a serious amount of time with each piece to fully understand the good and the bad.

What stood out amongst the junk I carry.

1. My new (to me) Rick Hunter dirt touring machine.  OMG this rig rocks! Check it out here.

1. MUSA (Made in the USA) shorts made by Rivendell Bicycle Works, link here.  These lack any fancy zippers, colors, padding, etc.  They weigh almost nothing have a seamless crotch, and dry super fast my three requirements in a touring short.  When I jump off the bike to swim in the river I can hop right back on and don't have to worry about a thing.  Somewhat dorky look but they are superb for touring.

2. Top tube bag made by Porcelain Rocket.  It's the Bento Box for the "hardcore." The bag provides a spot to put your snacks, camera, etc within easy reach.  No more fiddling around in the black hole of your handle bag bag or grabbing a sweaty half eaten Cliff Bar out of your back pocket.  I borrowed the bag from Daniel but ordered one for myself when I got home.  Awesome!

3. Therm a Rest Neo Air sleeping pad.  2 1/2" of fabulous sleeping comfort.  This is a somewhat flimsy, and expensive pice of gear you need to baby.  Is that a good thing?  No... but it is extremely light and super comfortable for summer excursions.  I like it because it's WAY more comfortable than my old Therm a Rest Z Lite and I prefer the horizontal baffles of the NeoAir to the vertical baffles of many air mattress.

4. Ortlieb Panniers.  This is a no brainer as Orlieb dominates the world of bicycle touring and for a good reason.  Ortlieb's give you a no nonsense, bullet proof, and dependable way to carry your equipment.  Mine have stood up to many years of abuse, are easy to patch (dogs, racoons, crashing) and keep things dry with a minimum of care.  Keep the fancy leather/waxed cotton hobbit bags for Sat morning cafe rides, Ortlieb bags deliver.  Ortlieb company website here.

5. The Obama stimulus plan.  We spent the entire trip in remote parts of OR and WA usually traveling and camping in USFS areas.  Both MJ and I were surprised to find new signs sans bullet holes, new chip seal on roads, new picnic tables, bathrooms, and many other general improvements to existing infrastructure.  From a tourist point of view things have been cleaned up! Thank you American taxpayer, dudes who did the work, and Obama stimulus plan.

What sucked.

1. Montebell UL Super Stretch #3.  The bag is constructed well, seems tough enough, and is super comfortable.  But... sadly is under filled and therefore runs cold.  So what?  Just wear long underwear and be happy that you are comfortable.  That's what I thought until I actually used this bag.  It is unacceptable to have so many cold spots where there in no down to insulate you.  I tried all the usual tricks to adjust the down but nothing worked.  The simple fact is that with just a few more ounces of down this could be the best in it's class.  Without those few ounces this bag just doesn't cut it.  Oh well. I'm currently exploring if a repair shop will overfill the bag.  So far all have said no because of the bags unique construction that makes it stretchy also makes it almost impossible to mess with.  We'll see...

2. Assholes in cars.  Nothing new to bike travelers and thankfully we didn't have to many problems.  I'm not sure why driving a car makes people impatient homicidal maniacs hellbent on destroying the peace but it does.  This tour just reinforced my hatred of busy roads and traffic.  I'll be taking a serious look at bike packing as a alternative to more traditional cycle touring.  In case you don't know what bike packing is check this out. 

3.  Freezer Bag Cooking.  Eating out of plastic bags... I'm over it.  In the future you will only see me choking down an FBC meal if I'm doing some kind of psycho endurance race.

This years theme was Pirates. It was funny out on the road now I don't get it?

My friend and touring partner Mike Johnson.  Even though he hangs on Grant Peterson's every word I love this guy.  Oh ya... the Umatilla NF has some crazy dirt roads perfect for touring.

Bromance W/Mt St. Helens in the background.  The descent to and from this vista is insane!

MJ found this spacey shrine to Bigfoot in some dudes front yard.  I love it. 

Our first nights campsite at Mt Adams. 

We started early to avoid the car traffic and the rewards were amazing.  A quiet road climb up to this site and then coffee and a hike.  

Just have to say it again... This stuff is legal in OR.  Good times. 

Parting shot.  Kicking it old school w/boozer back in the day.  DFL for life!

OR and WA are full of quiet roads both paved and dirt that offer a bicycle tourer many choices.  People are generally friendly in the small mountain towns and there are TONS of FS campgrounds.  Stoked to start planning your own trip to the backroads of OR and WA?  I found theses blogs useful. 

1. The great Alex Whetmore a legend in OR.

2. Dirt, fatbikes, dirt, fatbikes...