July 6, 2021

Joy Ride

A day off, but none of our club rides called out to me. Too early. Too far away. Too much time of shared-use trails.

There was another option, though—to meet up with a popular (former) leader who's been hosting small gatherings, outdoors in local parks, for members who are also vaccinated. Today's little party was nearby, how could I pass up this opportunity? Besides, she said there would be cake! (Coffee cake, as it turned out.)

It also turned out to be a fine day to catch up with other members I haven't seen on rides in quite some time. And even though this was not an actual club ride, everyone pedaled their bikes to (and from) the park. (What did you expect?)

Three of us headed out together, when the party was over, before spinning away in different directions. To the post office, for me, and then a scenic return.

I stopped to snap the photo above, even though I've captured that shot before, because this time the plants floating on the creek were blooming! I cherish these little discoveries; even a familiar place can surprise.

Two birders paused nearby. A Green Heron, they told me, offering to share their binoculars. It was hopeless, for me, to spot the bird in the brush—but I did get a glimpse when it took flight!

One more errand (lunch!) before heading home, 8 miles and 185 feet of climbing.

July 3, 2021

Ham, Again?!

Not too hot. Not too cold. No reason not to climb Mt. Hamilton. Again.

I chatted, for a spell, with a visitor who had traveled down from San Francisco to join our group today for his very first ascent. He was apprehensive about vehicle traffic; I reassured him that there would be little, since the Observatory was still closed to the public. Nevertheless, motorcycle and car club outings are not uncommon. (Today, it would be the former.)

At the top, I stopped one motorist from blocking an access road by parking in an area clearly marked “No Parking.” I pointed him at the small parking area, just ahead.

Technically, there was (limited) access to the Observatory: the back lobby with the vending machine was open, but necessitated a hike up the hillside stairs. A few cyclists went up, two of them carrying their bikes. [Not I.]

38 miles, 4,790 feet of climbing and one of my better times up the mountain, of late (2 hours, 44 minutes), but alas ... no complete GPS track. Evidently I had not recharged my Wahoo, and the battery ran out of juice on the way down. In a curious design choice, the unit resumed recording the track when I got home and started to charge it. It would have been preferable for it to pause the track before shutting down, and allow me to stop it when it powered back up.

Till next time ... Somehow, I think, there will be a next time.

June 26, 2021

Birdsong

On this day, the first stage of this year's Tour de France, of course I was going to go for a bike ride! (After watching the race. Of course.)

The local bicycle coalition had a pop-up station for a few hours this morning, near one end of a new trail segment. They still had some socks left over from last year's (canceled) Bike to Work Day, so of course I would work that into my route. (Socks!)

It was a breezy day, and I decided to saunter along my old commute route to visit the rookery.

It's always nostalgic to pedal that route, starting with a memory of a now-inactive cycling buddy who introduced me to a section of the trail. I remember the elderly guy who would stand at the center of the bridge over the railroad tracks nearly every morning (watching the trains, I supposed). I think of the woman in a saffron-hued sari that I'd often pass on the way home, resting on a bench with her husband. And of course, the Googleplex, as it was and as it is now. (Still closed.)

Each year there seem to be a few more nests of Black-crowned Night-Herons. There were a bunch of hungry egret chicks being fed by an adult. I had been too lazy to tote a proper camera, and of course I regretted that.

When you think of birdsong, you likely don't imagine the sounds that egrets make. They don't trill or warble, peep or cheep, chirp or tweet. No. They don't squawk or caw. If you haven't heard them, you'd never imagine that such beautiful creatures would make such an unpleasant noise. How best to describe it? Choking? Gagging?

The trail had been busier than I like (of course), so I opted to head back on the road. Stopped at a traffic light, I spotted three girls on the opposite side. One was fiddling with her bike, seemingly befuddled.

I guessed correctly: a dropped chain. Easy-peasy. There was a handy twig nearby, sturdy enough to ease the chain into place (no grease on my fingers!) as I pressed the rear derailleur forward to slacken the chain. I lifted the bike, spun the crank to settle the chain on the cog it wanted, and they were good to go. I narrated as I worked, so they might learn how to cope with this problem, but I suspect the fix flashed by too quickly for the grateful girls to absorb it. (Help a fellow cyclist, whenever you can. That's just the way we roll.)

A satisfying (but tiring) 48 miles, with a wee bit of climbing (1,140 feet).

June 19, 2021

One Ticket to Paradise

There are a few iconic cycling routes in the Bay Area, and the Paradise Loop is one I had never managed to do. Until today.

When my cycling buddy invited me to join another friend, I was all in. After a too-hot week, San Francisco's summer fog would bring a welcome chill.

We planned to include a Marin Headlands climb, but scrapped that idea given the strong, gusty winds pushing fog through the Golden Gate. Still, we were grateful to be ... cold.

I haven't biked through Sausalito or Tiburon in years, and given how popular this route is, I was pleasantly surprised that the locals were friendly (and, patient). One worker in a pickup truck paused to chat at an intersection where I stopped to wait for my biking buddies. There, next to a fire station, I spotted this sign:

Sure enough, tucked in the parking lot was a public bike repair station—the all-in-one model with a pump and a few tethered tools (like the Dero Fixit).

Paradise Beach County Park was worth the descent (and climb back out); a nice spot to enjoy our snacks at the water's edge (despite the June Gloom).

I was surprised to witness a cyclist pulled over by a motorcycle cop around Sausalito. There were a few small groups of us, heading in the same direction. I'm not sure what his infraction was, but his exasperated tone likely earned him a ticket rather than a warning.

We finished with some 28 miles and more than 1,000 feet of climbing, and a vow to return on some fog-free day in the fall.

June 6, 2021

Um, A Hike

We didn't start out to hike on Mt. Umunhum.

But when the Kennedy Trail proved too steep for my hiking buddy today, he suggested we relocate a few miles. Paradoxically, there are less daunting trails to be found on the flanks of Mt. Um.

The Bald Mountain trail offered unfamiliar (to me) perspectives. Like the road I climbed to the summit, just yesterday, by bike. And a sky-high view of the Almaden Reservoir and hills to the east. (I've biked there, too.)

For good measure, we crossed the road to hike some of the Mt. Umunhum trail. We took in the views from the Guadalupe Creek Overlook (though I spied no water) before heading back.

Um, enough is enough!

June 5, 2021

Sittin' on Top of the World

The Cube beckoned.

The Cube, of course, has taunted us for decades. And yet, after we finally got access, I had not cycled to the top.

It was time.

The curious crowds have thinned by now; the novelty has worn off.

Our group headed up the “easier” side; today, I managed to climb that without pausing (or, walking). But the road to the summit ... that could be a different story.

With no marker to memorialize the old White Line of Death, I could not tip my helmet in tribute. I recall there were some steep pitches before we'd reach that point; I managed to climb them.

The pavement is fresh, there are signs warning drivers not to pass cyclists on blind curves, and even a few dedicated spots for us to pull aside. Not needed today, as there were fewer vehicles than cyclists on the road.

One of the strong cyclists in our group rode just ahead, narrating a veritable play-by-play. “From that saddle, you can see the ocean.” (Obscured by the marine layer, today.)

“There's one more steep section after this one, at the top.” [Gulp.]

It's intimidating when you can see the whole stretch looming above you. Or maybe it's worse when you can't see it, and you fear that it will just go on and on ...

I expected that I'd grind to a halt, and walk. But. I didn't!

Victory was mine! At long last, I have vanquished Mt. Umunhum!

Then I nearly passed out. Having not Thought This Through, I had skipped filling a bottle with my electrolyte mix and was ill-prepared for the effort I'd expended. Fortunately, I had stuffed a package of gel blocks in my pocket.

We chatted and explored the views in all directions before heading (cautiously) down.

Back on flat land, I was startled when something dropped onto the road near me. (Fortunately, not on me.) Branches don't go “plop!” when they hit the ground, but ... squirrels do.

Resilient little rodents. Whether they were fighting, or getting friendly, they scampered away.

A brilliant idea came to me as I pedaled toward home: Lunch! Get a proper sandwich; no PB&J for me today. After 41 miles and a 3,660 feet of challenging climbing, I deserved it.

May 31, 2021

A Ride to Remember

I had a hunch where the ride would be headed on this Memorial Day, and I was right. A place last visited, years ago, on Veterans Day (with the same ride leader).

Some leaders prefer not to share their route, in written or electronic form; today's leader is one of those. Some think that approach encourages the group to stick together, but it also means you need to keep the other riders in sight.

And so it was that I came to be lost. (Briefly.) Evidently I had not fully slid my water bottle into its cage, and it popped out shortly after we started down the trail. One rider paused at the point where the group exited the trail, but ... did they continue straight, or make a turn?

We opted to go straight, but around a bend there were no riders waiting for us. Backtracking, we met a rider who'd been dispatched to search for us.

“The escapees have been caught!” he joked as we rejoined the group.

Seems it was a day for water-bottle mishaps: We followed our leader to a supermarket, where she bought a bottle for herself (having left hers in the car, at the start).

We twisted and turned through the deserted streets of downtown San Jose, finding ourselves the only visitors at the Veterans Memorial.

Socializing with a small group afforded the opportunity to learn more about a fellow rider. Recognizing Best Buddies on my jersey, she shared inspiring stories of some of the special-needs students she'd worked with as a speech therapist.

No hills today, but a decent distance: 37 miles, 460 feet of climbing. And memories, shared.