Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Ride Along the California Aqueduct

We all know exercise can extend life, maintain sharper brains, and just plainly makes a person feel better every day. One of the best forms of exercise in my opinion, available to everyone is bicycling, since it is easy on the joints and works as a fantastic cardiovascular work out. Another great aspect of turning the peddles is the fantastic places you can visit and the marvelous scenery spinning by on your route.

With this in mind, my friend Paul and I decided to take a day trek from Victorville to Palmdale, approximately 50 miles away. That may not sound very far but when you consider the heat of a Southern California July day, the daily winds, and other factors to be discussed, one can easily understand that 50 miles is a pretty decent workout for a couple of middle-aged men.

Paul and I have been riding for about a year, but normally only have time for 15 to 30 miles per week with our busy schedules. So prior to the 50 mile ride, we spent two weeks moving up our pace and extending our rides, getting used to the heat and winds. These winds can blow in gusts making the bike lean over on its side or give a steady breeze in excess of 15 knots, making the headwind so severe it can slow your pace making every mile grueling and unforgiving.

I ride a Trek Navigator 2.0 which is more of a hybrid off road/street 21 gear comfortable riding bike. I especially like the large padded seat instead of the typical narrow road bike seat which can become rather intrusive after an hour or so of riding. Paul rides a Dawes which is also a hybrid road bike with 27 gears and the narrow seat which I do not like. Paul does not seem to have a problem but may be too proud to whine to his friend that the sharply pointed seat has become more personal than usual.

Anyway, the ride started early in the morning on a windless and warm day which we had not counted on allowing us a rather fast pace to Palmdale. Faster than we had predicted but once nearing our destination, about five miles out,  the winds were howling and the pace slowed and as we hunched over the handlebars swearing like sailors with the only desire for the ride to be over and grabbing a cold libation.

In between the beginning and the ending there were miles upon miles of black ribbon guiding the path toward Palmdale which we enjoyed with each push of the pedal. One thing about riding through deserted landscapes is the wildlife you can spot from the seat of your bike. Dog sized jackrabbits sprinting for cover when we approached, lone coyotes eyeing us from the highlands near the canal, snakes slithering across the asphalt warming up in the sun, and above all the red tail hawks gliding effortlessly in the blue skies of the desert. A camera is a must for a ride like this.

One must remember that the canal roadway is not just a flat piece of road but has hills which can make the calves and thighs scream out loud with exertion and these hills only take about fifteen seconds to conquer but this conquering comes almost every half mile or so but do decrease to about every mile once you get further away from civilization. You have to get off your bike and climb over fences to continue the ride where the Department of Water Resources have installed gates to discourage peddalists but left it open to joggers, fishermen, walkers, and the occasional car thief who dumps a stolen vehicle into the canal for kicks. The fence or gate you have to cross is no real concern and should not discourage anyone from utilizing the canal path for enjoyment.

Some of the hills leading to or from the canal, when you have to portage certain unreachable sections, can lead to speeds of two miles an hour to more than forty miles per hour depending on the direction the hill has you going. I liked the forty miles per hour sections rather than the gut wrenching sweat producing steep inclines where you basically have to 'walk' your bicycle--where you are in the lowest gear and barely moving forward. A real rider would never get off their bike and actually walk beside their ride but instead stands up and pumps very slowly trying to make any distance at all the while wondering why they just do not get off and walk. It is just not done that way.

The ride continued with two friends talking, laughing, gasping for breath, and having one hell of a day. Palmdale came into sight and we nodded with the knowledge that we had made the ride in the heat of the day at a much faster pace than anticipated.

The ever lovely Laureen had agreed to pick us up in the FJ and then we stopped at Casa Ortega for a late lunch in Pinon Hills and toasted each other with a couple of mugs of very cold libations. The ones we had thought about while fighting the head winds which had met us toward the last miles of our ride into that high desert city of Palmdale.

I intentionally wrote little of this trip knowing the video will do the justice which I may not be able to do with words.

Stay tuned for other rides with the boys!