Land of Many Uses

3 Jun

In preparation for my upcoming 300K, I decided to do a longer training ride last Saturday. Heading up Little Tujunga Canyon Road,  I faced a moderate  head-wind right from the beginning, but at least it helped keep the heat at bay (I got a late start at 8:30AM). Traffic was sparse and generally courteous, though I was unintentionally buzzed by a motorcyclist who over-cooked a corner trying to keep up with his riding buddies.

It is not uncommon to encounter snakes in the road, as it must seem the ideal place to bask. As you might expect, this doesn’t often work out well for them – I found this one not far from where a human body was discovered less than two months ago:

Coast Patch-nosed?

While the sight made me sad at first, it also made me strangely hungry. Had I not brought along a bento-box filled with onigiri I made the night before, I might have been tempted to fry him up for a quick protein boost.

Along the first climb (Little Tujunga has two before you reach Sand Canyon), there are two establishments that it seems odd to have in such close proximity: the Angeles Shooting Range, and the Wildlife Way Station. I’d love to visit both, though with regard to the former, I imagine biking up through Sylmar with a rifle slung over my shoulder might elicit some unwelcome attention. The wind was the worst at this stage, and I was glad for the guard-rails a couple times as the gusts made it impossible to hold a line.

The aromas of sage were intense, and I was pleased to see a mix of wildflowers all along this ride. Little Tujunga Canyon itself was still swathed in dark green, and plenty of trees are still around to intermingle with the chaparral. I paused mid-way down the descent to share a glimpse:

(click to enlarge)

The second climb looks worse than it is, as an intimidating rocky peak looms high overhead in the distance. It isn’t until the Northern summit of the road that you realize what you’ve been seeing leads to a ranger station 6 miles off the road and you don’t have to climb it. Looking out into Antelope Valley, you can see the desert begin to consume the forest:

(click to enlarge)

The second descent down to Santa Clarita is technical enough to be fun (you can see part of the road in the above photo to the right), but not so much that you have to slow down at all. After passing by a few ranches I went in to and out of In-N-Out to refill my water bottle(s) and grab a small milk-shake.

Sipping that cold chocolate was pleasant after a climb, and kept me distracted from the annoying head-wind and mild but extended up-hill along Soledad Canyon. It took quite some time to find a dumpster so I put the empty cup in a rear jersey pocket while I continued the gradual climb towards Acton.

Passing the turn-off for Agua Dulce, I remembered the “main street” as being a pleasant place to stop (I went that way the first time I went over Little T). As a dust devil careened into my face, I thought maybe I should check out Vasquez Rocks, get lunch and then turn around, but I pressed on instead curious what Acton might have to offer. Along the way, there were a few large camp-sites, a small store, and this hyperbolic road-sign, which is all the more amusing as (outside of an abandoned trailer home amidst a small stand of trees) whatever it is referring to does not appear to exist at all:

...or not?

Unfortunately, Acton has very little to offer a cyclist – in fact, I wasn’t even able to locate water in town. I started checking spigots along Aliso Canyon Road (most of which were abandoned). Finally, at the last house before entering the forest, a kind woman allowed me to fill up from her hose while her cat competed for my attention. The water ran hot for several minutes, streaming over my hand into a thriving succulent.

Aliso was slightly steeper than Soledad, but I was pleased to be out of the wind finally so it didn’t feel as “brutal” as the route was described in the 2008 Tour of California:

The race takes a turn south up the brutal climb of Aliso Canyon to the Angeles Forest a route once used during the 1960’s for the California Road Championships where California cycling legends Bob Tetzlaff, Dave Sharp, Wes Chowen and Stan Ferris split the field in a day long battle fest in over 100 degree temps on the valley floor in Acton. The final climb over the Angeles Forest Highway up towering Millcreek Summit (4,906 feet) will be no less a battle for the favorites to contest the leaders jersey and for the classic climbers to battle for the final mountain crown and winner of the 2008 tour.

A little jerkey got me up Angeles Forest Highway, (which after the station fire looks rather apocalyptic) and then the fun began. A couple rollers and I reached Big Tujunga – a surprisingly extended descent following the river that made most of the day’s climbing worthwhile.

The ride concluded with me drafting a dump-truck, stopping to offer assistance to a motorcyclist who ran out of gas, and finally some of the worst pot-holes I’ve encountered back into the valley… 89 miles in 7 hours, with lots and lots of climbing – a good training ride all in all.

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5 Responses to “Land of Many Uses”

  1. Errin June 3, 2010 at 4:57 AM #

    This looks like a great loop Ryan. I had planned to ride up there on Monday, but I overslept, and was too lazy. I was looking forward to that In-N-Out as a reward too!

    Those potholes weren’t on GlenOaks were they? I rode that on my ride back from Little T and it was a real pain in the {bleep}!

  2. Marcus June 3, 2010 at 5:52 PM #

    Ryan, great ride! I was thinking yesterday as I was driving home from work that I want to ride this loop. A friend of mine does this ride and calls it “Charlie’s Loop of Death”. Epic ride for sure. I will have to join you next time, I am right in that neck of the woods.
    Good luck on the 300k.

    • cyclingasmetaphor June 3, 2010 at 7:09 PM #

      Thanks Marcus, I’ll get in touch next time I go up there (unless I head out on a last minute whim which I sometimes do)…

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Lions and Tigers and Bear Divide « Cycling as Metaphor - September 25, 2010

    […] I started the first “real” climb of the day, up over Little Tujunga (discussed previously). I tried to hold something back knowing I’d have to come back over these twin summits later […]

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