Last weekend, my wife and I rode a century called "Ride Around the Bear" with 9,300 feet of climbing, from Redlands up to Big Bear Lake, then further up to Onyx Summit. We didn't see any Bears.
This weekend (Sat. June 14), I did a Los Angeles Wheelmen ride (also, bikeforums.net and OCRebels) starting from Duarte (Encanto Park), heading across the foothills, through Pasadena, etc. to La Canada / Flintridge, and eventually, Hwy 2, otherwise known as Angeles Crest.
We crossed the 210 (Foothill Freeway) and headed up, with only the occasional descent. I was riding with the Very Famous Vertical Bob (60+) who knows these mountain roads like the back of his hand, and Lee (scvroadie on bikeforums.net), probably 50+ or close to it.
After a water stop at Red Box (so named because the Forest Service keeps supplies stored in a large red box there), I took off with Cathy (50+), eventually riding away from her and catching up to Dan (60+) and Anny (50+) on their Calfee tandem (see photo to follow). I talked with and rode with them to the next stop, i.e. Newcomb's Ranch, with food, drink, etc. available and a v.popular hangout for the sports motorcycle (not Harley!) crowd.
From Newcomb's Ranch, it's pretty much a dead-end road, with the roads to both Hwy 39. and Hwy 2 heading onwards (to Dawson Saddle) closed to motor traffic a mile or so after the tunnels, i.e. hikers and bicyclists good to go! By this time I was pretty much alone, having been passed by David Wu (Chinese barely 40+) until he decided to wait for his friend Frank (Phillipino, 40+) who was having trouble with the constant climb (about 7,000 feet by this time).
So, I went around the barricade and started down Hwy 39 (closed since earthquakes and land-slides covered part of the roadway, many years ago) alone. I was descending rather slowly, since the pavement was quite broken up, lots of fallen rock bits, etc. so maybe 15 mph approx. I came around one blind corner to find a good sized black bear sitting in the road. Not sure which of us was more surprised!
The bear took one look at me and took off running down the road. I just coasted along, not wanting to get in front of the bear (and not sure how long it had been since the Bear's last meal!). About 50 feet on, the Bear stopped, and looked around. Darned if that human on a bicycle wasn't still chasing! That done, the Bear took off at a much higher speed ("Sure to drop that human now!" he was probably thinking.), no doubt in "Sprint" mode.
Having sprinted seriously for another 50 - 70 feet, the Bear stopped to check on that "Human on a bicycle" and was, no doubt, very concerned that said Human was still (pretty much) keeping up quite well! Being smarter than the average Bear (I suspect), he decided the human would have a much tougher time chasing off-road, and eventually made a hard right turn and bounded over the shoulder, and down the hill into the forest.
Which was fine with me, of course. I certainly didn't want a confrontation with a Bear! The next several miles were an intesting study in the "Disintegration of a Mountain Road When Not Maintained" but fortunately no more wildlife. And in fact, with the rare exception, the next 20 miles were a swooping and curving descent on (thankfully!) much better pavement. When we reached the approx. vicinity of Crystal Lake, the road was quite good indeed!
So lovely ride, overall, much of it on roads I'd never seen before, much less ridden on my bicycle. Final total was 6 Hours, 44 minutes of riding time, 88.9 miles, 8,700 feet of elevation gain with a (pitiful) average speed of 13.1 mph, Max 41.2 mph.
Photos by Shai (Israli, 40+). First photo at Redbox, with me on the left (note OCRR jersey), Cathy in the middle, and Bigjohn (bikeforums.net, 50+) on the right. That's Frank in the background, to the right of Bigjohn.
2nd photo (also by Shai), Dan Crane and Anny Beck on the tandem, and me on my Calfee (their tandem is a Calfee as well).
Rick / OCRR