March 29, 2009

In the Right, Seeing Red

The privilege of turning right on a red light is certainly convenient, but on the whole I'm not sure it's entirely a good thing. Not that anyone is asking my opinion.

To many drivers, it seems to mean "I can turn right whenever I want." Take the woman in the beige sedan for example, who nearly ran me down on Foothill Expressway today. I was turning left, with a green left-turn arrow. Her goal was to turn right, from the opposite side of the road. As far as I can tell, she never noticed the left-turning traffic; she saw no cars approaching on Foothill and turned right on red, directly into my path. Inches from her left front bumper, I held my breath, swerved, and hit the brakes. She continued on her merry, oblivious way. Given her lack of reaction I will bet that she never even saw me, the cyclist in the neon yellow jacket. Had I been driving, our cars would have collided.

Otherwise, it was a pleasant day with a few excursions into the hills. Coming up the second sharp switchback on Lancaster, a woman descending in an SUV smiled and called out "Ow! That hurt!" Moments later, another descending motorist waved enthusiastically. I meandered along to my destination near the top of Ojai, and realized that my legs might not have the strength to propel me up the final steep pitch. Whew! I didn't fall over. Mindful of the "Private Property" sign near the top, I turned around.

It was a day for turning around at unwelcome signs. Being in the neighborhood, I couldn't resist a spin up Cañon Drive, a peaceful country lane adjacent to San Tomas Aquinas Creek. Cañon is a through road, partially maintained by the county - up to a point, which is now prominently marked with a yellow sign. Dare to follow the switchback, and you will find the signage featured above. What lies beyond? Some beautiful homes, with beautiful views, and at least one ugly resident.

A few years ago, cyclists were being accosted when passing through. After studying the California Motor Vehicle Code and chatting with the local sheriff's office, it appeared that the Private Road designation applies to vehicles. Not to pedestrians. Not to cyclists. A "No Trespassing" sign, however, is a different matter. After some cyclists kindly educated said resident, he saw to it that the signage was enhanced. Cycle through, no more.

March 28, 2009

Hill Repeats

One training strategy is to repeat a climb, over and over and over again. I suppose I should try that sometime. What could be more demoralizing than getting progressively slower on each ascent?

My strategy instead is to climb, climb, climb three different hills. My variation of today's club ride amounted to just that: Kings Mountain, Native Son, Starr Hill, and the aptly named Swett. Native Son and Starr Hill are lovely, mellow climbs deep in the redwood forest. Clinging to the side of the canyon, strewn with tree debris, you wonder why these roads exist at all - until you reach the gate at the bottom.
Stop. Keep Out. No Trespassing.
Swett Road connects Starr Hill to Skyline, and the first bit is wicked steep. What were they thinking? Hey, let's make a shortcut right here - might as well go straight up. A homeowner waited politely in his driveway as I suffered, cheering me on:
You're almost there, that's the worst part!
I was grateful for his understanding and encouragement. I had been a little worried about whether I'd be able to get up that nasty little pitch today, having donated a unit of blood a few days ago. Yes, that's right - disgraced pro cyclists have been busted for blood doping (boosting their red blood cell count), and here I am siphoning it away. This depresses my performance, but just might save a life - more than a reasonable trade-off, in my book.

We began and ended our ride in Woodside, where there are more hitching posts than bicycle racks. In fact, I'm not sure there are any bicycle racks. Much to the dismay of some residents, their town is at the crossroads of many popular bike routes. This being a truly lovely spring day, the town was swarming with people bedecked in colorful jerseys. Refueling at Roberts Market. Lunching at the Woodside Bakery. Not just passing through, clogging the roads and startling the horses.

March 21, 2009

A Hard Rain

Raindrops pelting your face at 30+ mph feel like little projectiles. Or was it hail?

Rain, rain, go away; come again another day.

Like Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday when I'm sitting at an office desk. I'm not picky. Really.

Most of today's fun was not spoiled by rain, which came down in earnest just after I had finished loading my gear back into the car and prepared to pull away.

We climbed Old La Honda Road, east and west; not feeling frisky, I settled into a leisurely pace. A friendly racer on a shiny CĂ©rvelo with fancy Zipp wheels encouraged me upward.
Racer: You're almost there!
Slug: No, I'm not. Nice try. Thanks anyway.
Racer: [To the riders just ahead of me] Are you gonna give me guff, too?
Speaking of slugs, I saw a few (squished) banana slugs and dodged a small newt. The car that followed soon afterward may not have treated him so well.

On the other side of the hill, away from the perpetual rain of the redwoods, Indian Paintbrush brightened my day. As did the racer I shamelessly drafted for the last couple of miles back to the start. Enough hard work for the day, I earned that.

March 14, 2009

A Rather Long Day

When you plan to spend three and a half hours of your evening on your feet, deftly threading your way through a dense crowd at a benefit gala while carrying champagne flutes on a silver tray, how should you spend the early part of your day? Surely not ... lying abed!

Various factors conspired to keep me off the bike last weekend, so I was determined to be back in the saddle today. A club ride started early, nearby, and I figured I could complete the ride with enough time to get cleaned up and report for volunteer duty at Denim to Diamonds, an annual fund-raiser for Ronald McDonald House at Stanford.

We climbed up and over the Santa Cruz mountains, through Soquel and Aptos to Corralitos, and then back up and over the mountains to return (54 miles, 4440 feet of climbing). We passed through the edge of the burn area from last year's Summit fire, climbing Eureka Canyon Road alongside Corralitos Creek. This was the first time I have traveled this route during the winter season, and I realized that the creek offers hints about the grade of the road (in case your quads are too powerful to notice). Vigorous splashing sounds = steep. Smooth silent flow = flat. And there are daffodils blooming along Summit Road!

I admit there was a certain charm to the sign that greeted us the last time we visited Highland Way:
THIS ROAD IS CLOSED by the order of the county road commissioner. Barricades blocking the road have been placed by the county. If the barricades are not in place, they were moved illegally. Your use of this road is at your OWN RISK. The county will not be responsible for your property damage, injuries or DEATH.
We were delighted to discover that the repairs have been completed on Highland Way, allowing us to ride (rather than hike) through. One can only wonder how long the road will remain passable, given the rather ominous slide area to the south and other nearby sections where one lane has already migrated downhill. It is, shall we say, a dynamic landscape.

It seems most fitting to close with this photo from last fall, as I prepared to hike through the rubble wearing a Waves to Wine Champagne Club jersey.

[Photo Composition 101: Choose an angle that doesn't make it appear that a sign post is growing out of your subject's head.]