Deb and I spent three days last week in Catalina. Naturally, we brought the bikes, but not the 'nice' bikes. This is because, the B&B where we were staying, wouldn't think of locking up the bikes IN the room, but on the side of the inn. It was a nice enough place and it would've been tough to get the bikes up the narrow stairs anyways. I brought the hardtail 05' Stumpjumper and Deb dragged her 05' Diamondback Topanga Comp. The DB is a 30 pound-plus pig. It's dirtworthy for sure, but what a heavy beast of a hardtail.
We rolled out of Avalon to start the nearly 50 mile roundtrip ride to the other end of the island. Coming over on the boat, I noticed that Catalina didn't look very flat and that would ring very true on the ensuing epic. Our route was to take the only paved road, north out of Avalon to the airport, then drop down to "Little Harbor". From there, we'd reclimb the ridge and go up and over to "Two Harbors". I had no idea of how tough the ride would be.
The paved road out of Avalon is one steep puppy, but it's middle ringable enough. The fire consumed about a 1/4 of the island and it's mostly concentrated around the Avalon area or the lower south-east part of the island. We climbed through burnt eucualyptus and scrub, that burnt smell, still permeating the air. Up and up, we went through the ashtray forest. A tourist cattle truck passed us by on the winding road and I had to laugh. It was elitist of me, but I felt sorry for their 'nature experience' versus mine. Kind of like the new Hummer commercial, where you see the vehicle going through all kinds of beautiful scenery, but with the windows rolled up. Can't let that new car smell out.
We got to the rolling paved road at the top of the ridge, having climbed four miles, with another six to go, to the airport (ten miles total). What a thrashed paved road it is. There are patches of asphalt, on the patches, which patched some of the older patches, that were patched decades ago. The fire-roads following this 'paved' road, were much smoother. We got to the airport and then headed down the fireroad to Little Harbor. Winding through the hills, we had to stop and snap some pics of the buffalo herd we encountered. They backed off a little ways, but stopped, as they must've known, I wasn't a buffalo molester. We ain't digital yet, so we'll have pics soon enough. Bike parts are killing me.
Totally picturesque road. Six miles of descending and through a very quaint spanish-style ranch, with vineyards. The tourists never see this. We passed through the ranch and soon got to Little Harbor. It looked like something out of 'Blue Lagoon', the tropical love movie of so many years ago. Crystal white waves, sailed through dead-clear blue water to slap the empty beach. A single boat was anchored in the bay. But we weren't stopping there. We passed up the short access road and started the long climb up the ridge.
The ocean breeze stopped somewhere in the folds of the brown hills and the temps picked up. We climbed up the long fireroad, with the occasional car or truck passing us. At one point, we came upon a blocks long cattle pen, that had open gates at either end. A lone buffalo stood in the middle. He was a big un' and old too. The dusty mane and faded fur attested to his long years. He turned his shaggy head to look at us and we stopped and looked back. Then he decided to show off. He must've been pretty tame. He laid down on his side and rolled in the soft dust, kicking up a big cloud of dust. Buffalo legs flailed upwards in the late morning heat and then he staggered to his feet, licking and chewing. The licking and chewing was the real clue, as that's what horses do, when they're content or satisfied with the present company. We snapped a couple of pics and I gave thought to his lonely existence and the years he spend wandering the cloud-shrouded hills of the island.
The long climb continued, but soon enough, we crested the hill and the very small town of 'Two Harbors' appeared in front of us. The big bay held a few dozen boats and there were others parked in adjacent coves. It was a relief to drop down the hill towards the bright blue water. Had only one waterbottle, so we were looking forward to refills with Gatorade from the general store and any serious eats. The beach beckoned and we didn't refuse. Walked the bikes to the sand, and then took off shoes and helmets and wandered out into the clear and cold water. Gawd, did that feel deluxe! Shorts rolled up, thigh deep in the cold water and splashing water over our noggins. Deb and I savored the experience, but now it's time for lunch.
We had a tuna-melt and fries on the patio of the restaurant, sitting next to the bikes, with banana trees and flowers waving in the breeze next to us. The bright sunshine and mellow temps, added to the feeling of content at being off the bikes. After laying out on the beach for a short while, it was time to go. We rolled out of town and started the climb up the ridge.
The descent back to Little Harbor was a long one and I had started to develop a hot-spot in the sole of my right foot. It felt like somebody was holding a zippo lighter to the ball of my foot. Nothing I could do stopped it. Add to that, the fact that I left the Assos chamois cream, or butt-butter in the Focus wagon back in Long Beach. I thought it was a 25 mile round trip, not a 25 mile each-way trip! The behind started getting a little raw. The climb back from Little Harbor was six miles long, with an average grade of 10%! This was a long, steep mutha. Deb was pushing the pedals on the pig she was riding and I had to admire her tenacity to ride such a POS. I was wishing for a full-sus ride myself as the Stumpy came with a rock-hard Specialized BG Rival seat. The butt was getting a cheese grating. The ascent up to the airport was a grueling beyatch and Deb only had to stop once. It was late afternoon as we finally got to the top and made the southward turn on the rough paved road back to town.
The combination of rough paved, hardtail and pizza-slice seat was taking a serious toll on my posterior. We got back to town about 6:30, having spent seven and a half hours on the road. We took about an hour and a half in breaks, so call it 6 hours. I had to go a good deal slower as my bike only weighs 24.2 pounds, versus Deb's DB pig at 30+! I scrubbed a good deal of Catalina off've me in the hot shower back at the room. The wash cloth looked permanently discolored. We went out for sea food on the pier later on. The saddle sores required antibiotics and I'm still feeling them. Plus I had trouble walking around on my right foot, as the hot-spot, still hurt the next two days. Gotta either get new shoe inserts, or maybe replace my well worn Sidi's. T'wasn't no easy ride and I'd qualify the Avalon-Little Harbor-Two Harbors ride as definitely an epic, but well worth the effort. Next time, I'm finding a place that we can park the bikes in the room, because an FS bike would've been worth it, even on the fireroads, with all the braking bumps from the cars. The hardtails, just beat you senseless. On some of the downhill stuff, through the braking bumps, my arm muscles were trying to detach themselves from the bone, they were jiggling so hard.
We're going to go back again later this year and do it all again. I'll post pics when I get the film developed in a couple of weeks. The island is a beautiful place to ride. You've got to have a pass on your bike from the Conservancy to ride anywhere out of town and the sheriff passing us out there in the middle of nowhere, looked and made sure.
Posted by STP a 48 year old Racer riding a 05' Stumpy HT from P'Dale on 06/19/07