February 17, 2013

Unwelcome Mat

The top of the hill on Bernal Road is a great vantage point for views across the valley—Mt. Umunhum and the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west, and Mt. Hamilton and the Diablo Range to the east. Not to mention IBM's Almaden Research Center, tucked against the hillside. It had been our custom to ride as far as the guard house and gate before turning back, but apparently even cyclists are not welcome to traverse that last 400 feet of precious private pavement.

When I woke up this morning, I decidedly felt the effects of yesterday's outing. I convinced myself that I really would feel better if I got back on the bike. Really.

That turned out to be true, with liberal use of low gears on the hill climbs. [Yes, of course, there must be hill climbs.] I added a pair of hills and some distance, for good measure, by riding to (and from) our starting point: thirty-one miles, with a mere 1600 feet of climbing.

Wintry weather will return next week. It is February, after all; the acacia trees are in full flower.

February 16, 2013

Goldilocks and the Three Hills

Today's ride was not too long and not too short, not too steep and not too flat. It was ... just right.

A bunch of other cyclists thought so, too—more than a dozen joined us for three climbs deep in the forest.

First, we climbed through the redwoods along Old Santa Cruz Highway, to the summit of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Once is not enough, so we descended back down to the level of Los Gatos Creek and then climbed back up through the redwoods along Wrights Station Road.

Finally, we circled back to climb through the Aldercroft Heights neighborhood. You guessed it: this involved descending back down to the level of the creek, but not another climb to the summit. (If the water district allowed passage along the old railway bed, we would have a direct route to Wrights Station. It is safe to assume that we will never see this.)

Twenty-three miles, some 2700 feet of climbing. No bears were sighted.

February 9, 2013

Green Acres

Dress warmly to enjoy the rolling green vistas along Calaveras Road; the peak months of the rainy season are cold, and the hills block the low angle of the winter's sun.

Heading east on the lower section of the climb, I thought of Sierra Road's steeper ascent of this slope a few miles to the south. I will need to be in better shape before I tackle that, this season.

The level of the reservoir is lower than I have ever seen it, as the water district works to replace the old dam. Lying along the roadside were some new utility poles, waiting to be erected near the site of this massive construction project.

Our 50 mile route passed through the tiny town of Sunol to explore some new territory, Kilkare Woods. The dead-end road climbs gently along Sinbad Creek, and despite the variety of architectural styles and vintages, there was a strong sense of community there. We passed a noisy flock of turkeys midway up the road, and several (human) families strolling along the upper section.

Returning to Sunol, I was happy to enjoy my lunch at a sunny picnic table in the Sunol Community Park. This little gem is tucked alongside the railroad tracks; until today, I had never even noticed it. At the entrance, a small sculpture sets the mood for an exuberant romp in the park.

I took advantage of a head start on the rest of the group to avoid trailing the pack on our return to San José. Along the way, I was impressed with the behavior of two drivers. An SUV was in a position to overtake me, just as a small oncoming car appeared in the middle of the narrow road. I thrust out my left arm to signal "wait" to the driver behind me; the approaching car froze in place. Moments later, the SUV safely passed me; the driver (a woman) gave me a friendly toot on the horn and waved.

The second courteous driver was a man in a sizable pickup truck who caught up to me on the fast descent of lower Calaveras. With a couple of cars behind him, he allowed me a generous and steady lead, even when he might have pulled out to pass. Perhaps he gave me some respect for traveling close enough to the speed limit and appreciated that he would gain little by passing me?

February 8, 2013

Wrap Party

I never was a tomboy, but I am nonetheless deficient in many traits common to my gender. I seemingly lack the fashionista gene, as well as the one that inspires home decorating. I have never had a pedicure. The notion of pampering myself is alien to me.

Could I relax during a two-day getaway? If I could not join my buddies on the ski slopes, should I just stay home? I suppose I could walk down to the lake, or read a book. I could ... try some spa services. (Seriously?)

Day One: Alone in the swirling hot mist of the steam room, it was hard to breathe, at first. Water condensed on my skin, and every other surface; droplets rained down from the ceiling. It was glorious! My skin was already softer, and this was just the warm-up. I moved on to a full-body treatment, exfoliated head-to-toe with ground grape seeds, slathered with a mixture of aloe and seaweed that felt like molten honey, wrapped up in plastic and layered with blankets. After rinsing off the green goo, the finishing touch was a nice botanical lotion.

Having spent the day doing nothing, more or less, I was ready for bed. Score one for relaxation.

Day Two: My first-ever facial. Call me a skeptic. The descriptions of the procedures always read like a mix of faux science and new-age hocus pocus. My skin was still supple from the steam room. Products were applied, to sting and to soothe. More steam, warm towels, cool towels. The finishing touch? A slick moisturizing lotion.

Facing myself in the mirror, I had to admit it: some all-too-familiar sunspots were, indeed, lighter. Score one for skin care.

Maybe there is something to this pampering stuff, after all.