Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tour of Vandenberg (South Base)

Saturday was our annual (or so) Tour of Vandenberg. My brother Greg and his friends Paul, Scott and Greg (the mighty Pez) drove up for some fun on our deserted roads on the base. Also attending was Xenia....I've ridden with her a few times. She is a powerhouse on a bike. Last weekend she did another double only took her a little over 14 hours. 14 hours on a bike. I can't fathom that. It would most likely kill me. She does them all the time, and this was one of her fastest (good weather conditions she said).

So...we all meet at the base main gate visitors center, so I can sign everybody in. We get our bikes ready and by around 9am we are off. And once again, we had AMAZING weather! Greg and the guys think I'm lying about all the wind and crappy weather we typically have up it seems every time they show up it's nice. Yesterday was no different. As we rode down the main blvd from the gate, all the flags were hanging straight down. NO WIND whatsoever. THAT is quite rare, even in the morning. Add to that fact that all last week I hadn't seen the sun before noon (usually later) due to the evil marine layer (and said layer re-forming over us by quitting-time, making any after work rides wet, cold and miserable)...all I can say is that it was a day to remember! They think I'm kidding when I tell them I can count the days on one hand we have like that in a year....but it's true.

We set off headed for the far reaches of Southbase, and we were planning on assaulting the evil Tranquillion Peak on our way to the far end of the base. The ride started off with a bang as my brother and his friends seemed to have heard a starters gun fire somewhere off in the distance (I did NOT hear it btw!)....and the race was on. THEY apparently have been hammering the big miles all year and are in quite stellar shape. I seemingly am the Anit-shape riding guy just now. My rides this year have been much less distance. I've only done one century this year.....that was the LiveSTRONG back in July. Other than that the longest ride I've done is my Saturday Tepesquet canyon (61 miles)...but it's been a few months since I've even done that. All the rides I did up in Sunnyvale were much shorter, and I also was riding alone so wasn't necessarily out for any speed records. My recent style of riding doesn't lend well to riding with my them. My only consolation was that the always mighty Pez (also named Greg) had broken his collar bone into THREE pieces in a Mt biking accident earlier in the year, and he has recently come off of a FOUR MONTH recovery (he had copies of his X-rays showing the before and after...looked VERY painful to me!) So his fitness is what he calls 'pathetic' (we'll discuss what HE calls pathetic and what I call pathetic later).

Here we are riding along the coast (about a hundred yards to the right is the Pacific Ocean). To the left is the old Titan IV Space Launch Complex (I worked there for 3 years). The tower at the far left of the picture is currently being deconstructed to make way for a new class of rocket. Also, you can see by this picture MY location in our little peleton of 6...yes....I am the Lanterne Rouge (dead last place). I was the LR for the VAST majority of the day sadly. Up front is my brother Greg (in purple), Paul to his immediate left with Xenia mostly blocking him from sight, Scott in Green to Greg's right, and the mighty Pez in red just in front of me.

Anyhow, it's a flat out BEAUTIFUL day on Vandenberg....sunny, and it's already warm enough that most of us have shed any arm-warmers and such within the first half hour of the ride. Life is good when it's sunny AND not-cold. Also of note is that we pretty much own the roads all over the base on any weekend ride. We can ride 3 or 4 across in a small mob scene whenever we feel like it, and throughout the entire day's ride we will see very few cars. SpaceX  corporation has taken over my old SLC-4 (seen above) and is slowly making it ready for the Falcon 9 rocket, which hopefully will start launching in a few years. Always exciting to have a new player in town! The road shown above rolls and winds along the coast for about 10 miles.

 Here we've begun the climb up towards Tran Peak. That's Scott just ahead of me looping back to see why I stopped...if you click on the picture and get the full size view, you can barely see Xenia all the way up on the turn barely visible in the picture.

 The road to Tran Peak continues it's long and brutal climb towards the sky. The grade on the 'lower' reaches where I'm currently at is just a lowly 10%. It gets worse as you can see.

Here you see us nearing the 'volcano cone' of Tran Peak itself. The road weaves back and forth on the front and then winds around the cone from left to right on the backside, finally coming up to the very tippy-top just at the trees you can see at the top of the picture. Only about a mile to go from here, but the road up and around the cone holds pretty steady at a 13% grade, with the VERY final 50 yards or so around 18% (just in case you've been slacking thus far).

 The view from the top. Here you are looking north over the top of SLC-3 (the Atlas V complex). All of the land you see in this picture is part of Vandenberg AFB. You can see the marine layer is lying right at the beach just covering just the ocean from view. To the VERY far north in the picture (barely visible if you click on it and get the full size shot) is Pt Sal coming down to the ocean in the mist just right of dead center. Near that spot is where our 'normal' Tour of Vandenberg would go to. But not today thankfully...we are doing an abbreviated version due to time constraints.

Here's a group shot (THANKS Scott!) of our little band of brothers (and Sist'a) at the summit of Tran Peak, or as I now lovingly call it, "the climb if death and humiliation". 
L to R: My brother Greg (or a cyborg, not totally sure...but at this point but I'm leaning towards NOT human), me, Greg (the Pez), Xenia, Paul and Scott. 
 This is the view from the ridgeline looking back up (as we are descending). That's my brother Greg coming up fast behind me (the only time all day I can say I was ahead of him!) You can see the lovely 13% grade road winding up towards the backside of the peak. It's the high point of all of Vandenberg, topping out right at about 2000' up from the coast road.

This is the view from the ridgeline looking down at the road we came up. It doesn't look like much in this picture, but the road just below on the right (going down to that tight left hand turn) is a solid 15% grade. It's a three mile descent to the coast road from here.

And finally, this is my polar profile of the days ride. Just under 50 miles and 4300' of climbing. That's Tran Peak in the middle, towering over all the other climbs of the day. The blue strip at the bottom represents sea-level. We weren't actually QUITE that close to the ocean though, I think my polar was off by about 30 feet or so.

OH...I wanted going to discuss the Pez's sad state of fitness. Well, let me tell you what HIS pathetic is. He rides a standard crankset (53/39) with I think a 25 gear as his bailout on his cassette. For the first time in MY knowledge, he USED his granny ring/bailout gear! Of course, I'm riding a compact crankset (50/34 gearing) with a 28 tooth bailout gear on the back. And for only the 2nd time since I've been climbing this beast, I had to ride a paper-route in the steep parts (a paper-route is where you go side to side in the road, being unable to push straight up). The only other time I did the paper-route thing was the very first time I rode it many years ago, and back then I had the same gearing as the Pez had yesterday. So...even in his sad state of fitness he pushed his standard crank/25-tooth cassette geared geared bike up the climb probably not very far behind my brother Greg and Paul (who raced to the top and finished side by side I hear). Scott, Xenia and I suffered mightily behind them, with me being DEAD last. I suffer HUGELY every time I ride this, but yesterday was a new level of hell on a hill for me. But I made it. Just barely. At the top I laid down on the road in the cool shade (still clipped into my pedal on one side). I was about as dead as I can ever recall being on a bike. And I still had to get home.

After the descent from Tran Peak we continued south for a few miles to Space Launch Complex Six (SLC-6) as everybody needed water. We ended up going inside a building I routinely work in and filled up our bottles from a water-cooler, saving the day. After that our choice was to continue another few miles to the south to Boathouse (the furthest we can go on Southbase), or to head back. We (mostly ME I think) voted to head back. You see, we had a lunch-date with the Jalama Beach Cafe in Lompoc. JBC serves a WICKED GOOD burger, and also has some WICKED GOOD beer on tap. AND it's on the way home for Greg and the gang. So for the entire return ride I was energized thinking about that burger and beer. Also, just knowing we are heading home really helps. Also of note is that we had ZERO flats or mechanicals during the entire day for our group of six. That is a new record for us (I mean Greg)!

We finally finished our Tour of Southbase around 2:30pm back at the main gate. What a joy to pack the bike into the car and drive to the Jalama Beach Cafe! I was so hungry I think I could eat roadkill! But thankfully I didn't have to. The Jalama burger was as good as I remember, and the Dogfishhead 90 minute IPA beerwas about as good as beer can be!

And so ended another successful Tour of Vandenberg.

Today (Sunday) is work around the house day, and tomorrow (Monday) I fly to Colorado Springs for the week (work related). I fly home on Friday, and then drive BACK up to Sunnyvale the following Monday for 2 more weeks. No rest for the weary.

Have a GREAT week, and a very happy Halloween!


  1. Sounded like fun, even if "hell on a hill"! I hope someday I can be in a way of even attemping such a ride. I willl have to move somewhere where there ARE hills first, I think!

    I remember that marine layer well. One of the few things that I hated about living in Cardiff-by-the-Sea; had to regularly wash the walls with a bleach solution to control mildew! Yet just one-half mile inland, sunny sunny sunny all the time!

    Keep up the reports,Matt! Hope you have good trips, stay safe!

    Hi, Janann!


  2. Hey Rae!

    Matt, I just love love love all of the photos you include in your posts! Those pics from up on top were just wonderful. The way you felt at the top of that climb? Yep, that is the way I feel at the top of my 5-10 minute climb each time ;)

    Can't believe it is really Halloween time already. I suppose that the beautiful extended fall we've had here in the midwest has lulled me into a false sense of September. Had the Halloween parade tonight, so I hauled my bunny rabbit and monkey on down. It was 90 minutes long!! Holy cow! People here are crazy for Halloween - or just want to celebrate before they head indoors for the next 5 months....

    Speaking of Halloween and costumes for the babies - you must check this out
    Came from Twitter. Who knew that there was such a thing?! My favorite is the Ewok - followed by Things 1 & 2 :)

    Speaking of corgis......Saw that Floyd got an 18 month suspended prison term in France. wow. Not sure what that means other than he'd BETTER not be planning any vacations (or NASCAR races) in France. Though I have a hard time picturing the French participating in NASCAR now that I think about it ;)

    Matt, I can't believe that you're heading to CO Springs NOW and were stuck out there during the race. Do you get sent there often? Doing the same types of things there? Well, you might get some biking in if the weather holds - are you taking yours?

    Anyone heard from Cathy about the status of her employment and whether she'll be with the new RSNT super team? Check in with us Cathy!

    Thanks for keeping your fun posts coming, Matt, even when we don't have time to comment all of the time!

  3. Matt. What an awesome opportunity to ride a truly incredible hill. Give some thought to next year, after the Tour de Pink. Invite Team Fatty for a group ride on the base....Is there a limit to how many? It would make a heck of a picture... all that orange and black so close to Halloween.

    If you are looking for riding company when you return to the Bay Area, keep me in mind. Those MTB pictures of your last ride at Saratoga Gap are impressive. Also, that was a newt you saw. Skin oil is toxic to other animals so they have few predators and move oh so slow. Often found out on the trails when it's damp or rainy.

    Ride safe in will ride.


  4. Hey David...I'm not sure it would be allowed if I were to show up with 30 riders. Base security has to take MY ID (I'm retired Navy) and use my info, then get the Drivers license for EACH person I'm bringing on base....and hand-fill in a form for each person...for bringing in 5 people it prob took at least 10 minutes for the documents. It would be really awesome if I would be able to somehow be able to sponsor a base 'century' ride. I considered that a few years ago (during my first year fundraising as part of Team Fatty)...but being a military base, there pretty much was NO way I was going to be able to pull it off.

    I didn't bring a bike to the Springs this trip...only in town Mon eve thru Thurs eve...the storm yesterday left us w/ about 6" of snow and it was QUITE cold the last 2 days. I have brought my mt bike when I've been sent here for multiple weeks...and the riding is GREAT!!!

    Gotta run...dinner time, then pack my stuff and hit the sack...we fly out early tomorrow morning heading home. Be up in Sunnyvale again on Monday (working graveyard shift again). Maybe we can hook up for some kind of a ride.