Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Info Wanted: A Driver Intentionally Hit and Ran Cyclists in San Diego (Balboa Park)

Looking for:
- Vehicle: Silver Lexus with CA partial tags '6DTG'.
- Driver: White male in his 50-60's.
Below is re-posted with permission. Please contact San Diego Police (incident#12090017542) or Bruce Shank at San Diego Cyclists FB group if you have any information about the case. This guy meant to cause others bodily harms and could have killed someone doing what he did.
San Diego Cyclists. Be on the lookout and share. Hit and run on the Laurel St Bridge in Balboa Park. Silver Lexus CA partial tags 6DTG. Cyclists are ok but let's find this driver. San Diego Police Incident #12090017542.
I was traveling west on the Laurel Street Bridge through Balboa Park. The speed limit on this road is 15mph as the bridge is narrow and runs through the park. I happened to look at my GPS and noticed I was traveling at 17mph. Still, several cars passed illegally on a double yellow line at high rate of speed for a narrow bridge in the park. As I approached a group of slower cyclists I moved further left into the lane taking the full lane as allowed by law to pass them, especially since I was traveling at the posted speed limit. As oncoming traffic began to impede the cars that were illegally passing one driver behind us blew his horn for the short remaining portion of the bridge to the stop sign.

At the stop sign the driver begin yelling at all of us to get our bikes out of the road. I said to him three times while he was yelling that the speed limit is only 15mph and cyclists have the right to use the full lane. The man continued to want to argue. Me and the other cyclists tried to let it go and proceeded through the stop sign. The car also pulled away from the stop sign (I was up front, this happened behind me) and according to many witnesses the car deliberately swerved to clip the cyclists. After he hit the cyclists the driver sped off at a high rate of speed continuing west on Laurel Street and appeared to turn left on 4th Ave.

The driver was a white male in his late 50s to maybe early 60s driving a Silver Lexus with California Plates. Witnesses were only able to get the first few digits of the plate "6DTG"

SDPD officers who took the report said they would turn the incident report over to their traffic division but warned it wouldn't be investigated because the only damage was to the bicycles which is personal property. According to the officers SDPD does not investigate hit & runs that only involve damage to personal property - there has to be personal injury for an investigation. Cyclists had scrapes on their knees and legs and complained about bruises on their arms so the SDPD eventually said that satisfied as personal injury.
I will be following up on this with the SDPD if I do not hear anything back within 5 days. This issue needs to be pressed as these types of motorists need to be pursued and charged to full extent. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Friday ride up Lake Wohlford, Mt Palomar (S6) & Cole Grade: Part 1 of 2

Last Friday I got up at 4:30am to catch the 5:55AM bus up to Escondido to pre-ride the hardest section of the Giro di San Diego gran fondo route next Sunday (had to stop to see to a neighbor's dogs before leaving, hence the early wake up time). Long bus rides to remote cycling routes is the price one has to pay for not having a car, I'm afraid. I'm lucky that there's a bus connecting San Diego to Escondido, though. I wouldn't be able to get up there for less than $10 otherwise!

I had planned on taking off from Del Lago bus station in south Escondido by 7:10AM, though my bus driver was so safe she refused to go faster than 50 mph on the freeway even though the speed limit was 65 or 75... so I didn't get to there until 7:45AM. Thirty five minute didn't seem like much... until a few hours later when the sun started its attempt to melt me into a mushy goo climbing up the big mountain in the heat of noon. At 7:45AM it was still cool enough for me to keep my arms and legs warmers on, though, as I rode up Del Lago Blvd to Beethoven St and spotted the bike path entrance on the north side of the road.

Bike path between Kit Carson Park & Beethoven St in Escondido.
On the left side was Kit Carson Park. Looked much like an ideal start/finish place for rides up in this part of San Diego. There were a few joggers and dog-walkers using the path. Pavement was pretty good, though lots of brush debris that may hide tire-puncturing goat heads.

Bike path along east side of Bear Valley Pkwy
Turning north on Bear Valley Parkway past the San Pasqual turn off (you'd turn right there to go to the Zoo Safari Park) another bike path appeared on the right (east) side of the road. An extremely ill-maintained one this time, though I had to use it since the main road has no shoulder and the cars
were in the hurry to get to work. There was a bit of gentle climbing up the Bear Hills. A good warm up stretch before the turn off to Lake Wohlford Rd.
Bear Valley/Valley Pkwy at Lake Wohlford Rd
The real hills began going ENE on Lake Wohlford Rd, with the narrow road shoulder that were prone to pebbles of various sizes, slid down from the cliffs above. Aside from a couple of semi-trucks that whipped by me in a shower of dust and the dreaded bike-sucking slipstream (I'm never keen on being vacuum-pulled up a hill behind a truck when there are other trucks coming up behind me!), it was a nice 2 miles long ascent on a moderately scenic and pleasantly curvy road. The gradient was pretty consistent at 5-6% until the bridge near the top of the climb.

Lake Wohlford Rd
Lake Wohlford
Lake Wohlford turned up on the right (east) side of the road, looking all cool and majestic, and well visited by hawks and water birds. Alas, the place is now only open on weekends. Beyond the lake were a few restaurants and shops. I didn't stop since I still had plenty of water and the sun was getting hotter all the time.
Watch out for those cow crossings. They're grated irons across the pavement... almost as bad as railroad tracks.
After the lake, I descended into Valley Center and its dairy farm scent. The sun was getting high in the sky and the temperature was on the way up. Turning right onto Valley Center Rd toward Rincon I rolled down the most scary bit of riding for the entire day when the narrow and ill-paved road hugs the hill to the left and drops right down to the valley floor.

Cars and trucks trying to speed past on my left, a huge vertical drop to my right, and the road surface under my tires that looked and felt like it had caught a particularly virulent strand of small pox. The bike bounced around so much that it was all I could do to hang on for dear life. By the time Valley Center Rd finally leveled out my arms and legs felt like they had caught the spell Gilderoy Lockhart used in his attempt to mend Harry’s broken arm in ‘Harry Potter And The Chamber of Secrets,’ – quivery and quite practically boneless.
View of the mountains to the east of Valley Center Rd (S6)
Naturally I didn’t manage to get a photo of that stretch of the road… As it was, my favorite water bottle bounced its way off to Lalaland some way down the grade without me even noticing. I only found out about it when I reached down for a drink to find a whole lot of nothing being held by the down tube bottle holder. Annoyed, I was, though I wasn’t all that concerned since up ahead was the big building that was Harrah’s Casino at Rincon, a gas station and a 7/11 store where I popped in and downed a 6 chocolate donut package and a bottle of Gatorade before re-emerging with a fresh bottle of Sprite to serve as my second ‘water’ bottle (along with using the restroom and re-filling the other water bottle with tap water, of course).

Water stops at Rincon
I wasn’t familiar with the area, so I decided to fill up at the first opportunity I saw… The 7/11 store was well stocked and has a really nice and clean restroom, though food price was a bit steep. Next time I ride in the area I would try the Rincon Market down the road instead. Don’t know if it is better, but at least I’d be supporting local business.
Jilberto's Taco Shop on Hwy 76 just east of Valley Ctr Rd, the traditional start of Mt Paloma climb.
Turning right onto Hwy 76 I spotted Jilberto’s Taco Shop on the left side of the road that usually marks the start of Mt Palomar climb for local cyclists (from this point on the road goes up at 6% grade and doesn’t level out any until a little stretch just before the turn off to South Grade Rd).

It’s 17 miles to the top of the mountain from here. It was also 11AM and the sun was flexing its muscles a bit and I was starting to appreciate every little bit of shades the road side trees threw my way. A mile or so up the road was the turn off to Cupid’s Castle; the daft resort castle that you could actually spot from the road if you looked for it, which I did if only to mark it as the ‘a mile or so back to the Valley Center Rd junction’ landmark for the way down.
Hwy 76 climbs on and on east toward Mt Palomar.
Turns on the road didn’t bring any relief in its gradient. After what seemed like miles a green sign finally appeared on the side of the road marking 2000 ft elevation. At what elevation did I start riding from this morning? I had no idea! I knew that the top of Palomar Mtn was a bit over 5000 ft, though. That meant I had 3000 vertical feet yet to climb. An icky thought when my legs were already starting to feel a bit worn.

Spinning the next-to-easiest gear on up the road as my supposedly sweat-proof sunscreen started to melt into my eyes. The road seemed to be endless! It was supposed to be only 10 or so miles to the junction… but 10 miles on a 6% incline slope tend to dilate time a bit. But just as I started to seriously wondered if I had missed the turn off to South Grade Rd somewhere in my myopic ‘climbing a bit of the road at a time’ mode, the road leveled out (and even dropped a little bit, just enough for a little recovery coasting) and the turn sign turned up on the side of the road.

To be honest, as happy as I was to finally turn onto the S6 (South Grade Rd) up the mountain, I was even happier to see that the Oak Knoll Campground at the base of the road had a store that sold cold drinks! I was hoping for fountain drink (so I could put ice in the bottles), but they only had bottled drinks… But they were cold, and there was even a chest of ice cream bars, too (now you know why it took me so long to complete the loop. I kept stopping to eat!)!
Oak Knoll Campground general store.
Loaded with 2 ½ bottles of drinks (1 ½ bottles of Gatorade and 1 bottle of water) – I would have taken 3 full bottles, but my light backpack was already feeling like the big globe on Atlas’ shoulders – I turned back up South Grade Rd and immediately started suffering. It didn’t help that every few minutes I would hear a motor roar from above and one or a pair of motorcyclists in full body armor would come flying out of the blind curve up ahead.
Here comes another pair of speedy motorbikes roaring down South Grade Rd.
You know how some people can’t stand the sound of paper squeak or metal on metal rubbing? I can’t stand the sound of revving motorcycle engine… especially the unmuffled Japanese-made ones.

I don’t know why they put down a mileage marker every .2 mile instead of every mile, but it was tremendously helpful in getting me up that twisty road of endless aggravation! I kept promising myself that I’d quit and turn around at the next marker… I got to, say, mile 42.4. It’s at the left-turning switchback, so from the up-lane bike lane I got to take the shallowest incline around and the ride wasn’t feeling so bad. Let’s get to the next marker instead. Got to 42.6, feeling like dropping dead, but there was the 3000 ft elevation marker up ahead. Let’s get to that!
This road sign wasn't talking to me...
Now there... why not get to 42.8? 42.8 was at an icky right-turning switchback where the bike lane goes up the steepest line of the turn… but it would be so unseemly to quit just short of completing another mile! No, go to 43 even and then I can turn back! Got to 43… well the gradient must have dropped half a degree since my legs weren’t feeling so dead. Maybe I’ll make it further yet… Mile 43.2 marker; oh gosh, this is awful. I’m not gonna make it! But how unesthetic! Quitting at .2 beyond a mile? Let’s at least get nearly to 43 ½…. You know the story. I actually don't remember where on the road all the markers are, but that was how it went... Had to keep breaking promises to myself the further I went.

By the 3000 ft elevation sign, though, the most aggravating thing about the climb manifested itself… Dive-bombing kamikaze flies that will crash land on your face in their attempt at eating it! It was past noon now (my original 'turn around time') and I had been sweating up a deluge. The evaporated sweat left salt on my face that the flies found irresistible, so they swarmed around my head like a pack of bees after the Pooh bear. I only managed to get rid of most of them by splashing precious drinking water on my face to wash the salt off every so often.
Palomar Artesian Springs on South Grade Rd. All dried up in Sept 2012.
They used to charge 25 cents per gallon, I suppose. None of the faucets are working now. All the levers were removed.
Anyone of you that have heard of the Palomar Artesian Springs a mile or so before the top of the climb can stop counting on it as a source of water refill while climbing this route up the mountain. The levers were removed from all the water faucets. The place still constitute a nice resting spot with its shaded rock wells... I sat there for five minutes or so feeling quite utterly depressed. I didn't know how far I had still to climb and there was now only 2 gulps' worth of water left in my bottles.

(This is getting epic. Part 2 coming up in a bit)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hearting Mt. Helix

Look at this sneaky little guy. Isn’t he cute? I caught him trying to sneak up the front door a while back. He crept up the door so smoothly, carrying his house on his back and generally didn’t make me feel better about myself huffing and puffing me and my bicycle up the local mountain that bears his species' name.

A startled Helix aspersa AKA garden snail, trying to decide if the camera presented sufficient amount of threat to retreat into his shell (and fall off my obviously-not-snail-proof door) to hide from.
This, of course, is a  generic brown garden snail, also known to biologists as Helix aspersa. He came to America from Europe sometime after Columbus, and has since made quite a pest of himself. You can find the garden snail just about everywhere in Southern California (perhaps except in the dry desert east of the mountains), so I'm not sure why the prominent spiky hill that dominates the San Diego neighborhoods of La Mesa and Casa de Oro was named Mt Helix, after the slow-moving slimer. At any rate, the name stuck, and there are more things to love about this petite neighborhood 'mountain' than its resident gastropods. 

Mt Helix Nature Theater
A long while ago (months ago, actually) Ms Tracey Stotz, generously granted me a cyber interview about the Mt Helix Park & Nature Theater (it's a private property that's being kept open to the public), but your procrastinator-in-chief here kept getting busy doing other things and hadn't managed to properly written it up until now, just a week before this year's HeArt of Mt Helix Festival (Saturday September 15th from 5:30-10PM)!

HeART of Mt Helix 2012 poster on Mt Helix Dr
Smorg: Can you tell us a bit about Mary Carpenter Yawkey (the park was built and dedicated to her)? 
Tracey Stotz: Mrs. Yawkey loved Mt. Helix. She would hike up for quiet contemplation. Her children (Mary Yawkey White and Cyrus Yawkey) wanted to build the Park in her memory. They added the amphitheater to bring the cultural arts to the people of San Diego.

Smorg: How was the park built? How long did it take? (I see that it was dedicated in 1925, but there's a stone on top-right of the auditorium with the date February 1st 1954 on it)
TS: The Park was built by hand, donkey, wheelbarrow and lots of sweat. It was opened in 1925 and dedicated at that time. We are unsure what the 1954 date is from. We too were mystified and tried to research that date a few years ago. The county ran the park from 1929 - 1999 and they didn't have anything in their historical records about that date. I would love to know!

Smorg: I should disclose outright that I'm not religious, and I hope this question isn't offensive. There is a big cross on top of the park (nothing wrong with that in my book, it's a private property), but the park's mission statement on the website is very religion-neutral. Is the cross something of a heritage (rather than religious) symbol for the park founders?
TS: The cross is actually the memorial that the two children chose to remember their mother. The cross you see is the original one build in the 1920s!

Smorg: I've been up at the park many times now and it is always so clean and well maintained. Do you have any problem with graffiti or other types of vandalism (is being surrounded by private properties keeping graffiti vandals away or is the lack of graffiti the result of the park elves cleaning up storm after hours?)?
TS: We do have graffiti issues but that has gotten better with the increased daily use by our classes (yoga and pilates) and by having an office in the Park which is open 3 mornings a week. People that spray and vandalize don't want to be seen so the more positive activities we have going on the better. We also have an wonderful "elf" volunteer by the name of Larry Kennard who cleans up graffiti on a weekly basis to ensure guests find a clean, safe space.
A few locals watched the partial solar eclipse from the top of Mt Helix earlier this year.
Smorg: What is most special to you about Mt. Helix Park?
TS: The most special part of Mt. Helix Park to me is the history. I am honored to be able to work with our Board of Directors and volunteers to ensure that Mt. Helix Park is here for future generations to enjoy. I get a kick out of sitting in the amphitheater and speculating on who else sat in that same spot in previous years. Did Ed Fletcher sit there to attend an Easter Sunrise service in 1932? In 1949 did someone sit in that exact spot and cry when their child graduated from Grossmont High School? Did some sweet old man sit in that spot in 1925 at the original dedication? I LOVE the connection to the past and being trusted to be a guardian for the future.
A comfy spot on the Yawkey Trail.
Smorg: Since this is a private park that is open to the public, rather than a regular public park, what should visitors know when they visit?
TS: "Private Park" means we get no government funding so we encourage anyone who values the Park to become a "Friend of the Park" and make a donation to help keep things going. The western view from up by the cross is spectacular on a clear day in January. That is a definite "must see." I would also encourage any new visitors to walk the newly constructed "Yawkey Trail". It is a loop in the west side of the Park which can be accessed from the ramp going up to the cross or from the drinking fountain on the north side of the amphitheater. There are benches and overlooks (thanks to some wonderful Eagle Scouts) and soon will be interpretive signage.
Views from Mt Helix's Yawkey Trail.
Smorg: Are the park staff paid or are they all volunteers?
TS: We have 3 part-time paid staff (me - the Executive Director, an office administrator and a wedding/memorials coordinator). The rest of the work is done by volunteers.

Smorg: What can park visitors  do to help keep Mt. Helix park open and maintained?
TS: Become a "Friend of the Park" or attend the Fifth Annual HeART of Mt. Helix, a Sept. 15 food/music/beer/wine event which is a blast. Tickets will go on sale in late June.

Smorg: On a whim, has the park ever appeared on a movie or television series yet? It is such a spectacular site... If I'm a Hollywood movie director I'd probably find some excuse to use it in a film or something)
TS: Not that I know of! We have been featured in Ken Kramer's KPBS show on San Diego but we would be a great back drop for a show!

So... This year's HeART of Mt Helix Festival is on next Saturday September 15th from 5:30-10PM. If you are in town and looking to escape the late afternoon heat to enjoy good music, local arts, and spectacular Mt Helix and its scenery - and all to support a good cause - I say this is a great ticket to buy!