October 30, 2013

How Cold?

It was 42F (5.5C) degrees when I left home this morning. I could see my breath, exhaled in great billowing clouds, with the effort to climb the first hills. The most uncomfortable body parts were my fingers, which started to warm up after 4 miles or so. Maybe preheating my gloves would help? Sometimes I miss steam radiators.

Great Egret perched above Stevens Creek
Egrets, herons, and ducks are a common sight near the bay. When they are close to the trail along Stevens Creek, they quickly take flight as people approach.

I rounded a bend and stopped. I was no more than 15 feet away from a Great Egret. The bird was nonplussed. I fished my phone out of my bag. The bird looked away. I felt lucky to capture a single photo. The bird did not move. I dared to draw its attention, hoping for a nice profile. Other cyclists passed. I snapped more photos, stashed the phone and continued on my way. The bird remained still, conserving energy on a chilly morning, watching the creek for breakfast.

“How cold does it have to get for you not to ride in?” asked a co-worker this week.

In the Bay Area, not cold enough.

October 26, 2013

Leaves Are Falling

Dry leaves crunched under my skinny tires. I felt strong enough to add Kincaid to my Mt. Hamilton ascent, and the diversion was well worth it. This should be a staple of fall climbing for the colors alone. No match for New England, but better than I thought possible without traveling to the Sierras.

Fall colors on the hillside, orange, yellow, and green leaves along Kincaid Road.
There were fewer cars than bicycles on Mt. Hamilton today (once the Mini Cooper club buzzed by). Perhaps the valley haze discouraged people from making the trek. Perhaps they were out hunting pumpkins. No complaints from this cyclist.

Two cycling clubs chose this route today. I overheard a conversation about two crashes on the other club's ride last weekend, which bolstered my resolve to avoid their rides. A mile after making the u-turn at the end of Kincaid, I found a lone rider fixing a flat. The rest of their group was long gone. We were five miles from the main road, ten miles from the summit. I was out there alone, too, but that was my choice. My ride partners would not have deserted me. In fact, on the way up a fellow club member had stopped to show me a better way to get my dropped chain back into place—a perfect demonstration of the difference between these two clubs.

I know myself well enough to tackle Kincaid on the way to the summit. On the way down, I would never convince myself to turn off the main road for an extra dozen miles worth of climbing. After finishing Kincaid, there is always the option to turn right and head down the mountain.

I turned left. Five more miles to the top.

The people who shout encouragement crack me up. I have lost track of how many times I have climbed Mt. Hamilton. (Ten and a half times, last year alone.) One of these riders was making his annual trip up the mountain. The story gets better: He lives near the base of the climb and bought the house specifically for the hill.

I stretched out on Jeanne's bench to enjoy my lunch (and the view) in the warm sunshine.

View of tree-studded hills from the summit of Mt. Hamilton.
Fifty-one miles, 6800 feet of climbing. If I lived at the base of this hill, you couldn't keep me off it.

October 23, 2013

Low Ceiling

My saddle is wet before I finish loading up the bike. I can see the tiny pinpoints of moisture in the beam of my headlight. I will climb farther into the base of the marine layer before descending below it.

I remember to watch for the car of a club member who often sees me on her way to work, but my attention naturally shifts to the drivers who can potentially cut me off. One resident retracts into his driveway, clearing the bike lane for me to pass. The neon green jacket, along with the bright headlight and the bright white blinking light on my collar, combine to make me noticeable. [Not to mention the blinking red rear lights, one on my helmet and one on the bike.]

The fog condenses on my glasses and helmet, dripping onto my cheeks. No need to tap into the water bottle this morning; just breathe it in. My brakes squeal on wet rims. With little to see, I make good time to the office. Warmed by an hour and 25 minutes of biking, I overheat the instant I step inside the building—it's that time of year, now.

Bronze California Quail statues near the Mary Avenue bicycle / pedestrian bridge
The fog lingered all day in the valley. On the way home, I can barely see the Diablo Range, but I find a splash of sunshine on the California Quail statues. (Their topknots have long since been lost to vandals.) I pass a black Bentley Continental GT once, and miss catching it a second time by a car length. Bicycle trumps V8 in stop-and-go traffic.

I time my uphill approach to a red light to arrive as it turns green. I draw even with a Prius, wondering why the car is not moving. The passenger window is rolled down. They greet me with “Hi, pep!” and pull away. [Co-workers.]

Motivated to arrive home before the sky is truly dark, I make good time—averaging 12 mph over 20 miles, with 620 feet of climbing. Good time for me, that is, at the end of the day.

October 20, 2013

Fall Food Fest

After donating blood, some recommendations for the first 24 hours include:
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • No strenuous activity or exercise.
  • Do not skip any meals.
That last one is my favorite part.

Pond with ducks, clear blue sky, and distant hills.
The second point is less clear. No exercise, or no strenuous exercise? How about a (relatively) flat bike ride after 21 hours, at a leisurely pace?

The purpose of said ride was to EAT: our club's annual progressive dinner. Each rider brings a dish; fellow club members transport them to our hosts along the route.

Appetizers at mile 8, salads at mile 19, main course at mile 27, desserts at mile 35.

Although fewer people turned out this year, we did a better job of staying together. Good friends, good food, good conversations, and a spectacular day to meander through some new neighborhoods.

Thanks to my fellow club members for sharing their beautiful backyards with us and volunteering their help with this signature event.

October 17, 2013

Full Moon Rising

Almost full moon rising in the east in a sunset pink sky
Technically, not-quite-full moon rising. The timing would not work out as well on Friday.

It is mighty hard (for me) to get up in the dark and onto the bike. Rooting around for toe covers delayed my morning departure enough to align conveniently with sunrise, without also making me tardy for my first meeting.

It is chilly enough in the morning for a jacket, warm enough in the evening for a short-sleeved jersey. As the end of daylight savings time approaches, darkness closes in before I finish the ride home.

That ride home? Well, just look at that view—and appreciate that the photo doesn't do it justice.

October 12, 2013

No View for You

View of Mt. Tamalpais and fog obscuring the Golden Gate
The top of Sutro Tower poked through the fog layered over San Francisco. The Golden Gate Bridge did not.

We made our way above Oakland and Berkeley, perched on the ridge above the Hayward Fault. The next time that ruptures, I would not want to be here. Fortunately, today was not that day.

Today was a day to ride with friends, to be led along this route by a club member who has more than two decades on me, to make new discoveries.

Summit Reservoir, Berkeley, CA
Our turnaround point was the Summit Reservoir, originally built in the 1890s. The water is not visible, and although the area is completely covered, it was designed with layers and textures to suggest a natural surface—complete with stylized birds taking flight. It will look very different next year, when construction gets underway to replace the reservoir with a large tank.

The highlight of the day was Pinehurst Road, an unfamiliar gem that I look forward to visiting again. In the late afternoon, it was chilly and dark. This is the type of road that often leaves me wondering why it exists; the map shows a route to the neighboring town of Moraga. Pinehurst passes through an eclectic little community, aptly named Canyon, complete with its own Post Office.

A long day, with a healthy dose of climbing: some 4,700 feet over 51 miles.

October 9, 2013

The High Point

Sun rays scattered above the clouds at dawn.
I was uncharacteristically awake early this morning. Early enough to start my wheels rolling some 13 minutes before sunrise.

My timing was fortunate indeed, because a major intersection was still shut down; the utility company that was supposed to wrap up their overnight construction work by 5:00 a.m. did not. Traffic chaos would surely ensue within the next half-hour, with frazzled and impatient motorists forced on a circuitous tour of the neighborhood. The workers were disinclined to let even a bicycle pass through, so I headed for an alternate route.

I kept an eye on the sky as it grew lighter. There were low clouds along the Diablo Range ... I just might have a shot. I raced the rising sun to the high point of my morning commute, a well-placed gratuitous hill, and won.

A serene start to a busy day.

October 6, 2013

Expect the Unexpected

Colorful road cyclist flag along Skyline Road
Checking your bike the day before you plan to ride is a good habit—one that I have mostly followed. It paid off on Saturday, when I discovered my rear tire was completely flat. In the comfort of my backyard, it was not hard to find the thorn I must have picked up late on last week's ride, replace the tube and pump it up.

I parked about a mile from our starting point. And then discovered that my front derailleur would not budge, up or down. I considered my options. With the chain in place on the middle ring, I could climb most of the hills on today's menu and make it to the annual Cider Party. The steepest hill, I could skip.

Having settled on that plan, my front derailleur woke up and operated normally again.

Our next challenge was a call from our (trailing) ride leader. She was ill; could we take over? [Of course!] Of the four remaining cyclists, two were newcomers to the club and two were seasoned ride leaders.

Children at the party wanted to splash in the pool, but shrieked at the sight of a large bee struggling on the surface. When I was their age, I would have shrieked, too. [One morning my mother found me, famously, sleeping on the living room couch—having ceded my bedroom to a buzzing mosquito.] The fat black bee was within reach; I coaxed it into a paper cup and then onto a shrub, its wings too wet for flight. Happy bee, happy children.

And happy me, with my share of fresh-pressed apple cider. Our roundabout route involved a tad more climbing than strictly necessary (some 3,745 feet over 29 miles), not counting another 40 feet on the 7-mile return downhill.

We arrived too late to help with the apple prep this year. A direct route and an earlier start will set that right, next year.