December 31, 2011

Winding Down

Riding out in style, with a tip of the hat to 2011.

A moderate year for me: more than 167,000 feet climbed, over some 2,260 miles.

More, next year.

December 17, 2011


The first time I saw a bald eagle, it was grounded in a large pen at a zoo. Heartbreaking, but desperately necessary to stave off extinction. Back then, I imagined that I would never see one in flight.

I am pleased to report that the wild lands of San Benito County rarely disappoint—the black wings and white head gliding above me today were unmistakable, and always a thrill.

Climbing Lone Tree, I felt like my bike was laden with lead. [My fellow riders were likely wondering the same, as I struggled so slowly to the summit.] Along the way, a friendly driver in a pick-up truck waved and called out:
You women are motivated!
Determined? Yes. Motivated? Questionable.

The public road ends at a gate, and we were soon joined by the friendly resident dog—a fluffy little white-and-black, camera-shy cutie. Quite comfortable with us, despite being unrewarded with any treats, she trotted along when the last riders took off. She reportedly paced them at 17 mph, hampering their descent as they avoided running her down.

My legs were done. Yet, it seemed a shame to drive all that way to climb just one hill [albeit, a long one]. I headed with the group toward the base of the second climb, knowing that I could opt out for an easy return to the start. When I passed two riders repairing a snapped derailleur cable, I realized I might not be the last straggler to reach the summit if I just kept moving.

Determined? Yes. Motivated? Not so much.

The summit has to be right around that corner.
Okay, the next corner.
The one after that, for sure. Please?

I was never so happy to see the cattle grate that heralds the top of the hill. Fifty-five miles, with a painful 4,965 feet of climbing.

At least it was not 100+ degrees today.

December 10, 2011

Mines at Last

Approaching Robert Livermore Park in the early morning, the temperature outside the car was rapidly plummeting ... 32 ... 30 ... 28 degrees F. It was supposed to warm up to 60F today; I was seriously not prepared for sub-freezing temperatures. And if cycling sounds crazy, what do you think of the people headed for the open-air lap pool in their terrycloth robes?

What would pull me away from a nice warm house at 7:00 a.m.? Rising early enough to catch the full lunar eclipse was merely a bonus. The main event: Morning on Mines. I have enjoyed many four-wheeled excursions along this route; today I would study it at (comparatively) a snail's pace. Somehow I persuaded a friend to join me for the out-and-back journey through this isolated canyon. Well-matched, we were—two women with frozen fingers and sluggish brains.

Defrosted by a five-mile warm-up, we were both cheerful and chatty when we reached the other riders gathered at the starting point. Still, I would not have predicted that I would comfortably shed my jacket later in the day.

Along the way, one wandering calf affirmed the validity of a posted Range Cattle sign. One distinctive "no trespassing" sign warned Danger: Stay Alive By Staying Out. In full view of the road, a group of men included one sighting a rifle up the adjacent hillside. Local traffic passed with generous clearance. A motorcyclist at the Junction café was impressed that we were out there. Their secret? Heated grips. [Hmm ...]

In all, 3,825 feet of climbing over 59 miles. The longest ride I have taken in quite some time, my legs would have you know.

December 3, 2011

Then We Were Five

The first rider dropped out around mile four, at the first hill.With the strong headwind, I am not sure he would have been any less challenged on the flatter section of the route.

As hilly routes go, today's was meant to be mellow. Studying her Garmin to validate her suffering, one rider exclaimed: Fifteen percent! [Really? Not.] Another rider shrugged. Felt more like 10%. [Spot on.] My post-ride data show a steady gradient of 9.8% for slightly more than a quarter of a mile. For an accurate reading on the bike, try an inclinometer.

The second hill claimed rider number two. Riders three and four demurred in favor of a social engagement along the route. A fifth rider had a greater interest in extending her mileage than climbing hills and headed yonder. Our sociable little group of ten had been whittled down to a stalwart core of five.

Oh, what a day it was! Warm enough for a vest and arm warmers (in December!), under an extraordinary sky (a gift of the wind). 35 miles and a mere 1,870 feet of climbing.