February 25, 2012

One Lone Leader

Daffodils. Blossoming trees. Has Spring arrived?

The brisk wind reminded us that the proper season is Winter.

When leading rides for the club, I prefer to share the duties with a co-leader. (Having two responsible adults is a good thing.) As fate would have it, I was forced to miss our last ride and my co-leader was forced to miss our next one. [Today.]

Our modest route drew quite a crowd, with a plurality of strong riders. Content to bring up the rear, I looked after one who was new to the club. I hope he was not expecting a flat ride ...

Twenty-one miles, with a bit more climbing than I had guessed (2,695 feet). The ridge line we cruised under a clear blue sky is forecast to see a dusting of snow, a few days hence.

February 18, 2012

In the Misty Morning Fog

With our hearts a-thumpin'; and me, a brown-eyed girl.

On such an overcast day, it takes a leap of faith to leave my warm bed behind. Faith that, if I climb high enough, I will find the sun.

The lower portion of Mt. Hamilton road was as wet as if it had rained. Eyeing the slippery tar snakes, feeling the chill air on the first brief descent ... I questioned my quest. A rainbow sheen of oil coated the downhill lane of one sharp bend. I could only hope that the rest of the group noticed it, too. I was confident that I could avoid it on the return, because I know this road so well.

At 1,875 feet I met the floor of the cloud layer. Happily, it was not as cold or wet as I expected. Many miles later, I would find the ceiling (around 2,300 feet). Inside the cloud, the sound of everything but the birds was dampened and the landscape was transformed.

Approaching the summit ... what, ho! The remnants of Monday's cold storm lingered on the north-facing edges. Sheltered on the observatory's sunny patio, with snow in the shadows, I enjoyed my lunch in quiet solitude.

Quick as a wink, the winds whipped up and I was awestruck as we were enveloped in a turbulent cloud. It was time to make a hasty retreat down the mountain, with teeth a-chattering and fingers a-stiffening.

I reached the Quimby intersection just as a Caltrans driver blocked the road with his truck. Uh oh. I knew there had been an accident yesterday, but they were supposed to retrieve the vehicle this morning. I was not eager to detour onto Quimby. Reluctantly, he allowed me to squirm past.

About a mile later, a vehicle was backing up. [Literally.] Beep, beep, beep ... on twisty Mt. Hamilton Road, an enormous tow truck was comin' round the bend—in reverse. I immediately dismounted and got off the road.

The real action was ahead, and here is where my riding buddy will regret bailing out at mile 5.7 this morning. Look at that equipment! ["No, silly," she would say. "That's not the equipment I'm looking at."] The guys were happy to answer questions, and not upset that a cyclist had slipped through the roadblock.

Some idiot [let me guess, taking that bend too fast] had forced a Caltrans truck off the road—and didn't even stop. [Coward.] The truck tumbled down a steep embankment, overturning a few times, through the trees. Fortunately, a UPS driver did stop. [Hero.] Did I say, steep? As in, pretty much straight down. I can't imagine how he climbed down to help the driver, without ropes.

The guys reported that the driver is okay—pretty sore, with bumps and bruises. Winching had dragged the truck into view, but it was still some 30 feet below the road surface.

Carrying my bike, I tiptoed behind the tow truck, along the very edge of the ravine.

"Have a safe ride," the guys called out.

February 11, 2012

Rainy Day Woman

Chocolate milk, over by the rabbit!
There was a family-friendly athletic festival at the park where we gathered to start our ride today. Momentarily stumped for a meaningful connection between bunnies and milk products, I found the answer quickly [pun intended]: it was a branded rabbit.

Here is my collected wisdom about riding in the rain:
Once you're wet, you're wet.
Profound, huh? What I mean is that it just doesn't matter any more, once you're wet.

We did not set out to ride in the rain. The radar images were clear; the skies were not. The closer we got to the base of our planned climb, the bigger were the drops pelting us. Low clouds bump into hills, rain comes down.

Agreeing that it was a bad idea to climb (or descend) steep, slippery hills, we reluctantly cut our ride short. Twenty miles were sufficient to hone our wet-road-riding skills: Stay clear of the slippery bits (painted road markings, metal grates and utility covers). Cross railroad tracks with extreme care. Brake early, to squeegee the water off your rims before the pads can get a grip. Plan to clean and re-lube your bike.

The best part: peeling off the grimy, clammy layers when you get home and indulging in a long, hot shower.

How many gallons does my hot water heater hold?

Just enough.

February 4, 2012

Bike and Hike

After last weekend, being out on my bike felt like a celebration (with overtones of rebellion). I hope to enjoy a few more weeks before I will necessarily take a break from my routine.

Two friends joined me for a club ride—giving me a sense of having my own private escort. The ride leader was surprised by an unusually high turnout; amidst the chaos, we slipped away to get a lead on the late-starting group.

The main attraction was Regnart Road, a climb that is new to the club. The upper section includes an extended steep pitch (a quarter of a mile at a grade >16%, as it turns out). After repeatedly lifting my front wheel off the pavement, I did the sensible thing: I dismounted and walked it.

The end of the public road offered a new perspective on another popular climb, Montebello Road. Not to mention the gray blotch of the quarry and cement plant that mar the hillside. With that, and the reverberating gunfire from the local rod and gun club, I surely do not envy those hilltop mansions.