Could be worse… could be raining. Oh. Wait.

It’s not been an easy road bike on the bike after 10 days off, being in vacation with my wife in South Africa. Got back last Wednesday evening, rode the annual Turkey Trot to Pescadero and back via Tunitas with my son Kevin and Karen, one of our Tuesday/Thursday semi-regulars, and, well, it was tough. I was on fumes climbing Tunitas Thursday, with Kevin and Karen finishing many minutes ahead of me, but I made it (as if there was an alternative?). One of the few rides where I really didn’t feel like I could have ridden any further.

Then today… rain? Really? It was just me doing to solo gig; Kevin was on a date with his girlfriend, and nobody else was going to be out there with me on the first real weekend rain ride. The plan was to do the usual Tuesday ride; up Kings, across Skyline to 35, west side 84 to West Old LaHonda and then back down 84. It was a bit of a slog, not unexpectedly, heading up Kings. Meaning, slow. But slow got slowly faster as I rode, and by the time I made it to the top of Kings I was feeling pretty decent. Oh, I should also add that I had a mildly-dragging rear brake the whole way. The story behind that? I discovered when I got the bike ready this morning that both front and rear disc brake pads were shot, the rear ones in particular, which were almost down to the metal backing. After installing new ones, I couldn’t move the pads quite far enough away from the rotor not to scrape. I figured after a few miles in the rain they’d probably wear away enough to not be adding much resistance, although I admittedly haven’t checked since.

OK, just checked, the brake is still dragging a bit. Well, the good news is that I got a better workout than otherwise, right?

It was up on Skyline that I discovered I wasn’t quite ready for my first rain ride. I’d forgotten something. Something important. A cycling cap, under the helmet. Absolutely essential for keeping salty water from coming down into your eyes, as well as keeping the rain off your face while descending. I found myself having to stop every mile or so on the Skyline descent so I could wipe the stinging salty water away from my eyes so I could see again for a while, and decided I’d have to head straight back down 84 instead of doing the West Old LaHonda loop. But, since I didn’t see anybody else out today, I thought, maybe, not such a bad thing.

Well, as I turned off Tripp Road onto Kings, I came across a couple of guys who’d just descended Kings, after having headed out to the coast and back via Tunitas. What I should have done, probably would have done, had Kevin been with me and I hadn’t forgotten my cycling cap. I’ll be better prepared next time!

Almost home… and I’m not going to be flying like an eagle tomorrow on the bike!

It’s a great relief to be typing this on the final flight home, London to SF, sitting comfortably on a 787 with an empty middle seat next to me and decent food, after two Lufthansa flights that featured the classic rubber chicken and, for the longer of the two flights, filled to capacity.

The “day” started Tuesday, leaving for the Cape Town (South Africa) airport about 3pm to catch an 11-hour 6:15pm flight to Frankfurt. Really uncomfortable flight so didn’t sleep much at all. Had to prop my head on my hand, which sat on the arm rest, and of course I’d slip off shortly after falling asleep. And as mentioned, the “food” was terrible. Even by airline standards. Before it got too dark I started watching the latest “Alien” movie, which really wasn’t as suspenseful/scary as I’d expected. Don’t think anything will come close to how I felt

I think this big cat has the right idea!

watching the first one in the series, so many years ago (just looked it up, yikes, 1979!). The layover in Frankfurt was less than two hours, at 5am, so you have a tough time figuring out if you want coffee or just stay in the semi-zombie state for another few hours until after the short flight to London. My memory’s a bit foggy so I assume I didn’t go for the coffee.


London (Heathrow) everything started to get better. The lounge has good food offerings, and, most important, showers! Unlike the showers at CDG (Paris), I’ve never had to wait for one at Heathrow. The final flight home was on the best plane (787) with the best food (still airline food, but much better than any of the other flights), best seats (still in coach but at least it’s E+ with a bit more legroom) and it just feels good knowing we’re heading home.

How many flights on this trip?
Getting there-
SFO-LHR (London)
LHR-JNB (Johannesburg)
JNB-CPT (Cape Town)
Trip to Kruger National Park (mini-Safari)
Heading home-
CPT-FRA (Frankfurt)

That’s not really that bad, just 8 flights total

Guided wine tour
Guided Cape Point & Boulders Penguin visit
Table Mountain & car rental/learning to drive on the wrong side of the road
Long drive to Cape Agulhas with stop on the way to see Betty’s Bay penguins
Fly to Kruger park for Safari and return late next night

Notice there’s no bike riding in there. Not really much time for it. But pretty sure I got just about all the boxes checked on my wife’s list. The original plan didn’t involve the overnight Safari, but Karen made it clear just a few days prior to leaving that she’d be pretty disappointed if she didn’t have a real animal experience. Guess at 61 she doesn’t expect to be getting that from me???!!! I’d actually engineered some downtime into the original itinerary but guess that will have to wait another year or two or three.

Bringing along my super-long “Africa” lens definitely turned out to be a good thing. I was originally going to leave it at home, after hearing from many that you don’t need a really long zoom lens for Kruger because the animals are very close to the road, but temps were in the mid-90s so animals were much less visible than normal. Elephants and Giraffes, sure, they were up close & personal. But Lions, Leopards and Cheetahs, nope, they were not easy to find!