March 27, 2011

Hello Sunshine

Like flowers popping up after a spring shower, so were the joggers, dog walkers, and cyclists up with the dawn of our first dry day in more than a week.

Our numbers swelled as we made our way along a relatively easy route, intercepted by riders who knew where to find us. Muscles that had gone slack over these past two weeks were [somewhat reluctantly] recruited to carry me uphill.

It was not a day to linger alongside steep, sodden hillsides. For the most part, only the vestiges of slides stained the roads. Most of us chose to portage our bicycles through a thick patch of slippery mud in a low dip of a trail; those who gamely rode through chuckled at our abundant caution.

Gray clouds blanketed the sky by the time we were done, but we were so happy to be outside (dry!) that our post-ride coffee stop lasted longer than the ride itself.

March 12, 2011

Trains, Planes, and Bicycles

All aboard! For a Saturday morning, the bike car was busy (and our party accounted for only four bicycles).

Destination: San Bruno Mountain, on the other side of the tracks.

Conditions: Some haze, no fog. What a view from the top of the hill! The Pacific Ocean, San Francisco, the Bay, Oakland.

One of my favorite segments on this route is cycling along the perimeter access roads for San Francisco International Airport. [Now marked with "Share the Road" and "Bike Route" signs, I might add.] Skirting the far end of the runway, we are guaranteed to enjoy a few jumbo jets taking off at close range.

While picnicking at the beach, I met a woman who wistfully remembered digging clams out of the mud around the bend at Coyote Point, some 40 years ago; a feast for the shore birds, today.

We booked it south along the water's edge before heading west for some gratuitous hill-climbing, passing through the campus of Stanford University to return to the train station—with ample time to savor a treat from the local bakery.

A train ride, urban cycling, a hill climb, an international airport, lunch at the beach, a bayshore bike path, a university of world renown ... all in a day's ride.

March 5, 2011

To the Sea

Well, not quite to the sea. To views of the sea. With only the morning set aside for cycling, there was not enough time for me to bike to the coast and back. [Sierra to the Sea is a popular ride that our club runs every summer.]

After tiring an entirely different set of muscles on skis in the Sierra, I jumped on my bike and headed for a high point in the Santa Cruz mountains. We ascended Mt. Bache Road to reach Loma Prieta and marveled at the wide expanse of agricultural fields below us, stretching all the way to Monterey Bay. The only sound up there was the occasional tumble of small rocks from the crumbling hillside.

The road named Loma Prieta approaches the (inaccessible) peak named Loma Prieta, a few miles from the epicenter of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Evidently Mt. Bache is an alternative name for the same peak, in honor of Alexander Dallas Bache.

I distracted myself from the pain of the climb by attempting to derive a correct pronunciation of Bache, for which I have found little local agreement. Should it rhyme with cache? I am influenced by the securities firm formerly known as Prudential Bache, which I recall involving "a" as in "ate" and "ch" as in "church". Oddly, the original Bache & Co. was named for Jules Bache, who was German, suggesting something more akin to the composer "Bach" with a second syllable for the trailing "e." Alexander, however, was of English descent.

Where does that leave us? Ach, my head aches.

March 4, 2011

From the Sierra

Is it really a penny slot machine if you can't insert an actual penny? I had a penny, I was willing to take a chance with it. Not one of those blinking machines accepted coins.

The casino hotel may have been just across the street (and, the state line) from the ski resort, but the ambiance was a world away. Stateline, Nevada is the closest I have been to Las Vegas.

Neon! Secondhand smoke. Flashing lights! A windowless basement restaurant bedecked with fake trees, fake rocks, fake babbling brooks, and real flat panel screens running a continuous game of keno (cards on every table). A TV set in every bathroom! A vast dinner buffet with exactly one vegetable offering: "steamed" broccoli and cauliflower (drenched in cheese sauce).

One of the challenges of skiing at Heavenly is to stay focused on the task at hand (sliding rapidly downhill on a pair of narrow waxed boards) and not become transfixed by the intense blue depths of Lake Tahoe in the distance.

Another challenge includes deciphering a terrain-challenged trail map (look for the upward arrows that point some of the trails downhill). Or taking a chance that a named trail not shown on the map is precisely the one you have been trying to find. Wait, I get it! You gamble on the slopes as well.

After day one, it was easier to identify the muscles that were not sore. [Hamstrings. Everything else hurt.] Suited and booted, I enjoyed day two without injury, despite being grazed by a careless snowboarder. Two days at Heavenly may comprise my entire ski season. I miss Alta.