November 24, 2012

Short and Sweet

I had planned to join a group for an ambitious hilly ride; I knew I would quickly drift off the back, but the route was familiar and the weather was ideal.

That was the plan, until another ride popped up with the opportunity to ride (and climb) about half as much.

I left the choice to the friend who was planning to join me. We were of the same mind: A shorter ride meant getting half the day back!

We looped our way along the eastern foothills of San Jose, spilling out onto the lower portion of Mt. Hamilton Road. It was such a beautiful day ... should I turn right and head for the summit?

I reminded myself that this was meant to be a short ride. I did not pack a lunch, or even a second water bottle.

I turned left. Shortly after our group began the descent, I was startled to hear a scraping noise behind me. Was someone crashing? Would he slide into me and take me down?

Surveying the scene in my rear view mirror, I was surprised at what I found. First, I saw what appeared to be a motorcycle helmet and tried not to panic. Then I saw that it was worn not by a skidding biker, but by a teenager on a skateboard. I tried not to panic, anew. He was upright, and being shadowed by the car that must have transported him up the hill. I was relieved to pull away from him. I hope never to see him, or his buddies, on this road again.

November 22, 2012

Low-Key Thanksgiving

Mount Hamilton on Thanksgiving Day. It is a tradition.

Thanks, Mother Nature, for such a beautiful, warm day.

Thanks, Lick Observatory, for access to the top of the mountain and your gracious hospitality.

I chose not to charge up the mountain at full speed on my bicycle; instead, I played photographer. I was thankful to avoid the suffering, and 143 cyclists were thankful for my support.

Thanks, Low-Key Hillclimbers, for sharing your energy, enthusiasm, and good will.

November 17, 2012

Rainy Day Rover

Knowing that there would be some familiar faces biking up a local trail, it was the perfect day for a low-key hike. Cross-training, as it were.

Sure, it was raining (more or less; sometimes more than less). Dig out the waterproof boots, pants, jacket.

If you have hiked the Kennedy Trail, you might wonder how it can be such a popular mountain-biking trail. [I certainly wonder that.] There are at least three "walls" on this trail, and I do not understand how a cyclist can maintain enough traction on the rocky, sandy surface to climb them. Just hiking up those segments is enough to elevate my heart rate; hiking down is a test of nerves, balance, and muscle.

To that challenge, add slippery wet leaves, slick wet rocks, and rivulets of runoff crisscrossing the trail. With all that water, the top few inches of the lower (flatter) section of the trail was thick with tire-sucking, boot-sucking mud.

I rather enjoyed hiking in the rain. I was warm, I was dry, I was enjoying the sights. I played roving photographer, much to the delight of the cyclists (and runners) who tackled the hill today. On the way down, a couple of them rode their brakes to match my pace and chat.

I cannot imagine that I would ever bike up the Kennedy Trail. Which reminds me that, not so long ago, I could not imagine biking up Kennedy Road. [Hmm.]

November 11, 2012

Pining for Panoche

I planned my weekend around the chance to ride in one of my favorite places, a stunningly beautiful (but remote) valley.

One reward for rising early was a clear view of Saturn and the rising crescent moon. I headed out the door at 6:40 a.m., right on schedule for the long drive to our starting point in Paicines. The temperature was less than 37F, but I was bundled up and ready.

If only I could say the same for my car. Yes, the car that was inspected two weeks ago when I brought it to the dealership for a minor recall repair and a routine oil change. The car which, most likely, has a battery on the wane. You would think they would have noticed that. And this is why I have spurned their service department for years.

Ride? Denied. I went back into the house to sulk.

Two of the great things about our bike club are the variety and abundance of scheduled rides. I was in luck—I could bike to the start of a ride that would take us to the Veterans Memorial in San Jose (and the pre-holiday parade).

Our small group assembled and started rolling; four and a half miles later, a rider had a flat tire. After a few minutes, it occurred to me that I should check my own tires. If one rider has a flat, the odds are higher that another rider also has a flat.

San Jose, City of Broken Glass. My rear tire was soft. Nearly flat.

As for the memorial, I would characterize it as High Concept. Figures on glass panels [easy target for vandals] cast shadows at certain times of the day [not this morning]. White flags symbolize peace [not surrender?].

No parade for us; our leader could not linger.

I was grateful for the bike ride, but the urban-suburban route was no substitute for the doomed splendor of the Panoche Valley.

November 4, 2012

Peak Peek

What to do on an unseasonably warm November Sunday?

Climb Mt. Hamilton, of course!

[Last week was so ... October.]

I have not been looking forward to these late-season climbs, having descended the mountain more than once with chattering teeth and numb fingers. Not so today, with the high temperature at the summit approaching a balmy 68F.

This seems to be a banner year for acorn production. I thought my trees had gone nuts [so to speak] after being trimmed last fall, but acorns are bountiful on Mt. Hamilton, too. Happy squirrels; less-happy cyclists, who need to dodge slippery acorns as well as the usual loose rock on the roadway.

Conversation helps the climb seem shorter, and I was pleased to be joined by two friends today.

Practice makes the descent seem smoother, and I was pleased to pass two guys on the way down today—even though I am still descending with an abundance of caution.