December 31, 2020

2020 Retrospective

Herewith, some signs of the times.

I got my happy smile from a neighbor's weekly update during late summer:

I'm still working from home (week 43), and there is a cadence to my productivity level. I've learned, when it dips, to take some time off. When my colleagues ask what my plans are, I doubt they're surprised to hear: “To be not in front of a computer screen for 8-9 hours per day.” It's that simple.

Of course, I have ridden my bike: something more than 1,376 miles and 68,200 feet of climbing, my lowest stats since I started keeping records in 2005. A more interesting statistic, I think, is that the miles I drove weren't much more than that.

My last haircut was in February; it hasn't been this long since I was a teenager. There were a few months where I could have gotten it trimmed, but I expected that the salons would be shuttered again (true, that). Once it was long enough to tie back, why would I cut it only to grow it out again? One day, on a whim, I put it up in pigtails—unexpectedly to the delight of my colleagues.

Thanks to a semi-regular exercise routine and healthy meals, I've shed about eight pounds. I sleep better when I get some exercise, even if it's just a walk around town. I've come to prefer the side streets—not only are there fewer people to pass, the neighborhoods are more interesting than the main drag.

Some colleagues have moved out of the area, and I'm sad that our paths will rarely (if ever) cross again. Moving to the Bay Area was the right choice, for me; I don't expect to stray far from this place.

I am comfortable living in a region with more diversity, not less; though I was surprised to learn (from our health department's COVID-19 updates) that the majority demographic in our county is Asian.

May we look back to the challenges of 2020 as a low point in our lives, and look forward to more love, kindness, and healing in the years ahead.

December 27, 2020

One More Ride

Overnight showers left the roads slick on Saturday morning, scuttling our plan to ride. But with an errand to run on Sunday, why not climb on the bike?

And once you climb on the bike, why not go for more of a spin?

On my way to Almaden Lake Park, I found myself overtaking an older fellow pedaling a bike with proper fenders—even though I was cruising on the heavy steel bike I normally reserve for commuting. (Running an errand is a commute, of a sort.)


Older fellows still have egos. Perhaps even more so, when they're on ebikes.

Getting chicked hurts, so he just had to pass me. Without spinning the pedals. (Whatever, dude.)

I scoped out an empty bench at the near end of the lake, and regretted not bringing a book to read. That would have been a nice spot to loiter for an hour or two.

But alas, 'twas not to be. With a family stalled at the nearest entrance to the path, by the time I circled my way to the bench it had been claimed. Along with the next nearest bench. Like all the other paths in the South Bay, this one was busy. Thinking I would just head back, I kept going and planned to exit.

But, hmm ... where does that leg of the trail lead? Away from the park, it was empty (and not very scenic, dominated by the span of Highway 85 above).

I followed it to the end, choosing to take the road back. Although it ran alongside the Guadalupe River, it did not connect to the principal section of that trail; instead, there was signage leading to the Highway 87 Bikeway. Ah yes, I have been that way before, and ... will not venture there again.

With rain in the forecast for New Year's Eve, these 24 miles and 540 feet of climbing would like constitute my last outing for the year.

December 19, 2020

Going the Distance

To ride, or not to ride? That was our dilemma.

The county does not want households mixing, even outdoors. Given that my chief ride buddy and I have continued to be abundantly cautious, our decision was: Ride!

We stay more than six feet apart when we're not moving, and we're naturally farther apart when we roll. Riding solo is riskier (in other ways). As a pair, we keep each other in sight.

At the same time, this is not the moment to have an incident on some remote backroad. Without the inspiration of our club's group rides, our outings have tended to be shorter. We were both feeling the need to stretch our legs on a longer ride.

With the chill in the air, I suggested a flat, familiar route to Mountain View. This was the sort of day for an exposed (sunny) route. I expected the trails to be deserted ... and, I was wrong about that. Even at the marshy end of the Stevens Creek Trail, we turned tail when a small family congregated nearby. Too. Many. People.

I'd underestimated the distance and opted for a more direct return at the end. We managed to drag ourselves over 45 miles with 1,020 feet of climbing, and we were both feeling it by the end.

December 5, 2020

How Brown Was My Valley

One of the reasons to join a club is to learn the tried-and-true local bike routes. I sorted through my archives to find the route we'd follow today. It brought back memories of the couple who'd introduced me to this route. They've since relocated out of the area, and I do miss riding with them.

The air quality was poor today, but we would be skirting the outer edge of the smog.

It's been over two years since I rode up Clayton; I was not having a good day. Had the road been repaired, back then? I'm stuck remembering the damaged stretch that kept through traffic diverted. The number of passing vehicles today was a hint that the road had indeed been repaired.

A sad and broken Aermotor towered in a field; the ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains was just barely visible in the distance, above the valley haze.

After climbing 2,180 feet over 23 miles, our legs were feeling it. Our timing had been perfect; the approaching storm front rapidly drew a blanket of gray over our heads as we lingered in the parking lot at the end. Safely distant, my ride buddy and I considred our options for future outings as our county's next (and second) lockdown looms.

To ride, or not to ride? [Stay tuned.]

December 2, 2020

Holiday Fun

As luck would have it, my ride buddy and I had aligned on a day off. We were ready for some holiday cheer.

We toured the local holiday displays as we meandered through suburban neighborhoods. There were inflatable snowmen and sparkling reindeer galore, but I bet that few of us have seen Santa atop an elephant (before now).

There was a smug Grinch peeling a string of lights from a house, and an Abominable Snowman on a mountain bike.

Missing the motivation that draws us to more challenging club rides, we agreed that we should tackle the hilly edition of the route I'd proposed. And so we finished with 35 miles and 1,580 feet of climbing. Not all that hilly, really.

November 29, 2020

For the Schwag

Without a real Bike To Work Day this year, the local organizers had a surplus of goodies to disburse. A month or two ago, they advertised a pop-up location for some giveaways, but my bike route for that day went elsewhere. The light bulb went off when a delighted fellow cyclist later exclaimed “We got socks, from Google!”

What's a company gonna do with all those 2020 Bike To Work Day socks (and neck gaiters) for employees who would not be biking to work on that special day? (Evidently, donate them to the local bicycle coalition.)

When another opportunity presented itself—this time, an incentive for members of the coalition—I renewed my lapsed membership. I had been planning to do that by the end of the year, anyway.

On my way to the socially-distant (masked and outdoor) pick-up site, I found myself on the same route as (you guessed it) some folks I know from our bike club.

We all prepped for the pickup by bringing a slip of paper listing which goodies we wanted, thus reducing waste. Messenger bag? Yes! Yet another canvas musette bag? No thanks.

Another reason to ride—much of it on the same route I would have commuted to (and from) work: 28 miles and 860 feet of climbing.

November 28, 2020

A Reason to Ride

After yesterday's outing, my chief ride buddy needed a break. But, it was such a nice day ...

With a snack in my pocket and no definite plan (other than a trip to the post office), I set out on my bike.

When a passer-by took notice of the little sign affixed to my bike (“This vehicle is smog free”) I braced for a negative reaction. [Such is life in our modern age.] Other than reading it aloud, though, he offered no comment. [Whew.] I've had that placard since ... I was was teenager. [Translation: A long time ago.] Remembering it, and being somewhat of a packrat, I had dug it out a few years ago and mounted it on my commute bike.

I opted for a loop, rather than retracing my path, and considered going out of my way to extend the ride.

But it was such a nice day ... I kept pedaling. To Almaden Lake Park, where I claimed a bench and enjoyed my snack and people-watching (equally).

Biking 20 miles, and climbing 460 feet along the way, was a splendid way to spend a sunny November afternoon.