Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Oct 8 (Day 281) - Candidate for worst ride of the year

Trying to remember my absolute worst rides of the year 3 jump immediately to mind. The first of these was in Coastal Georgia on February 19. What made this ride very tough was the strong southern headwind into which I had to ride ~80 miles. It was a long day early in the year (91 miles total), and it really took a ton of energy out me. The route was fine, the wind just made it really hard at an early stage of the year. The second ride that certainly finds itself a candidate for worst ride of the year was my exit from New Orleans on April 6. This was the day that I got not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 f@#$%^&ing flat tires! It was a total nightmare. It was so bad I decided to break the law and ride Highway 90 to get through the Atchafalaya Basin as fast as possible. It sucked. I also saw about 4 dead Barred owls that day. June 18 was rough as well. It was a hard ride made harder by some misinformation. I climbed over 6,000 vertical feet that day, by far the most I had tackled at that point in the year. There were also a bunch of logistical problems that arose. The kicker though was the fruitless Gunnison sage-grouse search that really wore me out. There wasn't anything really wrong with this day, it was just really, really exhausting with no grouse payoff. It was really pretty though - unlike today. There ride where it was so cold (and snowing!) that I had to take shelter in the women's hair salon in Delaware was another nightmare. I guess the list of bad rides is longer than I thought.......

Today's ride could ultimately sit atop the awful rides category. First it was very long - 96 miles over 7.5 hours. Second, it was very hot. Much of the ride was done in 90F heat with little or no wind. Third, road conditions were awful. There was no shoulder for much of it, and 7-8 miles of it were on road surface that had been scraped in preparation for repaving. Fourth, the last ~40 miles were on Highway 33. The road is one lane in each direction, and it has a ton of truck traffic from the refineries and oil fields that line it. This road is actually called the Petroleum Highway. Lastly, the refineries looked hideous and smelled foul. Riding through them was not fun. Here is an idea of the scene.

Sweet sand, huh?

It was like this for miles and miles - 
pipes and derricks as far as I could see.

More roadside sweetness!

Today was the first day in a while when I thought "What the hell am I doing? This is a complete waste of time." I am not going to lie, I want to tick this thrasher (and Bell's sparrow, though this is less crucial at this spot) and GTFO of here. I was hoping to take a crack at doing just this late this afternoon, but I just didn't have the energy. I am prepared to spend a few days here if need be, but I really want to get this done ASAP. The next problem is that the ride from here to Ojai and Ventura is going to be very difficult. It looks challenging enough (~80 miles, 6000' of climbing to Ojai, another 20 miles of flat to Ventura) that even if I found the thrasher very early tomorrow morning, I doubt that I would be able to attempt afterwards given how beat up my body is after today's ride. This means another day of sitting in the rather run down town of Taft. I guess I should worry about the bird and the rest of the stuff will fall into place if I can find it. 

Maybe a few new donors could see their way to donate $96 for the 96 miserable miles I rode today. If that's a bit steep even 10 cents per mile would be greatly appreciated! Fundraising has almost completely stalled recently. It would really help my morale to see the needle tick up a bit more than it has in recent weeks. A reminder to donors, please use the BIG GREEN DONATION BOX at the top of the page to make donations. This will ensure that your donation is counted in the total represented in the "By the numbers" section just below it!

And in other news: HOCKEY IS BACK!!! Go Flyers! Go Kings!

Lastly, I hope whoever wins the ALCS beats whoever wins the NLCS. Both NL teams have won the series recently and both AL teams have been so sorry of so long! How can you not love the Royals this year?!?!?


  1. Oh man, you're going over 33 to Ojai? Man, that's a steep climb and no bike lane at all. At least you're doing it on a weekday. But it is more direct than going back to the 101. Hope you get those two birds over there. They've recently been seeing a yellow-green vireo in the Carpinteria area, which, if seen again, would be more logical than coming directly to Ventura since we haven't seen any in the tams here this year. I'm going to hit Laguna tomorrow morning and see if I can scare anything up.

  2. Dorian, I think you've been getting soft with all this coastal California birding recently! You'll need to go through hell and back to see a Le Conte's Thrasher. It comes with the territory! Sounds like you've already made it half way. -Dave

  3. Too bad you didn't take the 58- less traffic and way more scenic. Good luck with the thrasher!

    1. It would have required 2,500 additional feet of climbing and nowhere to reload on water midway.

  4. I used to work at the Bitter Creek NWR refuge, as a Condor Intern, and would sometimes see Le Conte's Thrasher on Klipstein Canyon Rd, just a few miles south of Maricopa. Specifically, I saw them in the first mile or so off the 33, on the left side of the road. Granted, it's been 4 years since I saw them there, and I was only out there in the winter, so I've no idea if the habitat is still suitable (it's private ranch land) or if they are there this time of year, but it might be worth a quick detour, since it's shorter than going all the way out into the Carrizo Plain to find them. Good Luck!

  5. I'm not a new donor, but I'm definitely donating again today. Sounds like you need a lift! I am in awe of what you have done this year.

  6. Ditto to what Catherine said.

  7. Hey Dorian, No doubt about it - California can be hot and dusty. Just ask Tom Joad.
    I have been enjoying your blog the last few months! I've been pretty envious of all the birding you are doing, but maybe not so much in your current dust bowl.

    Good luck with the yellow-green vireo, that would be a real coup. You may have some other chances at the thrasher on the way to the Salton Sea...