Thursday, April 19, 2007


{words by reed - photos by carey}

{click on images to enlarge}

I am sure that for many bicycle riders/racers out there the idea of business travel must seem like a dream. Imagine having an all expenses paid trip to the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California – what could be better? And honestly, for awhile it is pretty cool to travel to events of all kinds, visit factories in Asia, and meet with various industry people around the country (and slip out for a ride every so often). But somewhere along the way the glamour and novelty wears off and you start to dread each trip – the packing (especially packing your bicycle), the transportation to and from the airport with bags of all sorts, the long plane rides on full planes, the rushing to appointments, the headaches of mixed-up reservations and poor customer service. But every so often something happens that makes all the hassle and challenges seem like a small price to pay to be exactly where you are at exactly that particular moment. This is a story of that type of experience – an “accidental ride!”

No destination or event can make a 6:40am flight seem glamorous. You have to get up very early, for me 3:45am, to be at the airport at 5:40am. It does not seem to matter what time you fly or where you’re going anymore – the lines are long, security checks are a hassle and the planes are always full. {sunrise, take off, reading material, & clouds}

My coworker, Carey, and I arrived in San Jose on time and quickly walked to the baggage claim area (it’s a pretty small airport). I have flown into San Jose quite a bit and have become accustomed to slow baggage arrival, but this time when my bike came out before any of the regular luggage I was pretty sure something was up. The baggage carousel was turning, but no luggage was coming up. I was getting a little impatient, so I stood up on the edge of the carousel and looked down the belt, only to see –yup – my bag stuck crossways on the belt, preventing any luggage from moving. It was going to be one of those days. Then the rental car (a large cargo van for all the bikes) pickup was sloooow! You might think they would have known we were coming, as we did have a reservation and had provided information regarding our flights; but no, the van was blocked in by other cars and we had to wait in the rain for the parking lot attendants to get the van out. I was beginning to feel cursed.

Finally we were on the road to Monterey. On the way we stopped for a burrito at Super Taqueria – muy bueno! The day was beginning to improve. The skies had cleared by the time we arrived in Monterey to pick up the Diamondback Mission bicycles at Joselyn’s Bicycles. (I need to give a special shout-out to Frank and the entire staff at Joselyn’s for their tireless assistance to make Diamondback’s appearance at the 2007 Sea Otter a success – THANKS!) From Joselyn’s we drove out to the Laguna Seca Raceway, the Sea Otter event location, and started setting up tents. The warm sun and fresh sea breeze made the work go by easily and we were all done by 5:00pm. The rest of our crew wasn’t due to arrive until 7:00pm, so we had some time to visit around the bike expo area and catch up with friends and acquaintances. Since this was Carey’s first Sea Otter, it seemed like a good idea to take her around to the various venues to help her get familiar with the site. So we grabbed a couple of Mission 3 bicycles and headed out for a casual ride around Laguna Seca. If this was a movie or television show there would be sound track music, and my choice for this point in the story would be the Gilligan’s Island theme – “a three hour tour…”

After catching up with a few friends and getting the layout of the bike expo down, we headed out to see the dual-slalom and x-country courses. After checking out the dual-slalom course, where our co-worker and friend Mike Hammond would have great success later in the weekend, we discovered a series of small white signs with red arrows that said “cross-country tour.” These signs said “tour;” they did not say “course,” and they did not say “ride,” so we assumed that it was some kind of short “tour” intended for casual riders and families. Why we “assumed” this remains a mystery, although the beverages we had shared with friends in the expo area may have contributed.

It is important to remind you at this time that we had set out for a “casual ride.” We were in street clothes – check out the pictures {click to enlarge}! I had on jeans, tennis shoes, a t-shirt, wool sweater, baseball cap, and leather jacket. Carey had on CLOGS, jeans, and multiple layers including a hooded sweatshirt and beanie! Cue the Gilligan’s Island theme music. What we were on was the Mountain Bike magazine mountain bike tour course that had a short loop of 10 miles, and a longer 20-mile loop. Guess which one we were on! Fortunately Carey and I are pretty fit and regular riders, although this was her first mountain bike ride on a full-suspension bike!

Now, in addition to being in street clothes we had *no helmets*, no water, no food, no tools, and no spare tubes or patch kits. The “tour” course was super fun and was mostly downhill for the first few miles, so by the time we realized we were in over our heads, going back meant climbing, and the terrain convinced us that we only had little further to go before turning around. So on we went – probably not a good decision – and we soon found the single track section! It was an excellent, mostly downhill roller coaster ride – we were whooping and hollering and having the time of our lives. Down and down we went, farther and farther away from the event site, and finally came out of the trees into a valley and right up on a flock of wild turkeys. There must not be any hunting allowed at Laguna Seca because the turkeys, while not happy to see us, did not immediately disappear either.

We were feeling pretty good at this point, but then the climbing started! Pretty soon we were struggling with how to stow extra clothing and it was beginning to sink in that we were in for a pretty long haul. We had not seen anyone out on the course, which was adding to our concerns regarding exactly what we had gotten ourselves into, when we caught up with another rider on the climb. He was in full regalia – Oakley shorts, Fox Racing jersey, pads, Shimano shoes and pedals - and was struggling with the climb. Carey rode right past him and I followed. We exchanged a few pleasantries and rode on. Then there was another downhill section, which we rode cautiously due to our lack of helmets, and the other rider rode right by us with a little kick, and thus a pattern was established that would last for quite a while – we would pass him on the uphill, then he would pass us on the downhill.

Somewhere around what I estimate was mile 14 we began to call the little signs “the red arrows of death,” and our concerns regarding darkness, hunger, thirst, and safety were beginning to take the edge off the “fun.” Finally we came up over the top of a climb (where we took some pictures) and I could see Salinas to the east and the setting sun to the west. Having grown up in the area I was able to estimate that we had about a 5 or 6 mile ride back to Laguna Seca on what looked like a ridge-top trail – wrong again. The trail did follow the ridge line but did not stay on the ridge top. Still by this time we were pretty tired and our clothes were soaking wet. Those last few miles were not as pleasant as they could have been.

I cannot say enough about how well the Diamondback Missions rode. The Missions have six full inches of travel, and are designed as all-mountain bikes – they performed flawlessly on fast descents, on tricky single track, and up steep hills. Remember that Carey was riding in clogs, and she made it up all those climbs without dabbing once – so yes, the Mission is a great ALL-mountain bike. During the entire ride the Missions were never a concern, a tribute both to their design (kudos to Mike Brown) and to their assembly (thanks to Frank and all the guys at Joselyn’s in Monterey).

As the wind began to pick up and the sun set we came across a herd of sheep - yes, a herd of sheep, complete with a shepherd and a dog (the dog was actually letting the shepherd do all the work)! We were seeing more riders, and familiar landmarks were beginning to appear – finally, the end was in sight. As we came over the final climb and started the descent back into the raceway I turned to Carey and said “Well, that was the dumbest, and most fun, thing I have done in a while!” The sun had dipped below the horizon, we had linked up with the rest of our team, and a sushi dinner was calling us – we were in exactly the right place at exactly the right time!

*Diamondback and Raleigh Bicycles do not recommend riding without a helmet at anytime or under any conditions.*


Tim Grahl said...

GREAT story, even the second time around. Good to know even a guy that's been in the bike biz for 40 years can still make dumbass mistakes. Makes me feel better about myself.

Tim Jackson- Masi Guy said...

It was great to meet you and Reed and I hope to see you guys around again.

Keep up the great work with the blogs too- very cool.