January 31, 2015

Nano Climates

Acacia blossoms along Burchell Road, Gilroy, CaliforniaOn with the insulated knee warmers at home; the air was decidedly brisk.

Off with the knee warmers 20 minutes later, stepping out of the car at the start.

Cruising along in the sunshine after the first climb, I considered peeling off my arm warmers.

Moments later, I passed through a pocket of chilled air. So it goes, in the Bay Area.

Dirt road beyond the pavement on Mt. Madonna Road near Gilroy, California
I was curious about today's climb to the end of the pavement on Mt. Madonna Road, with the usual trepidation of the unfamiliar. [It was fine.]

Had the group not been waiting, I would have ventured up the first section of dirt to the bright sunshine ahead.

Instead I descended, with care. A technical descent, this one, steep and curvy. I had taken special note of one short slick section on the way up. Evidence of road repair suggests a chronic wetness, there.

Returning along Redwood Retreat, my pace slowed as I approached a knot of cyclists stopped off the road. No one I recognized; one guy timidly signaled for my attention. “Where are we?” They were looking for Uvas Road. Hard to imagine that in their group of six or eight, no one had a GPS device at the ready. “Where does this road go?” I set them straight, and encouraged them to check out the rest of Redwood Retreat and Mt. Madonna first.

Oak tree near the summit of Country Drive, Gilroy, California
The rest of the gang now having caught and passed me, I sought an additional challenge. They were headed into town for lunch; I had other plans. Being in the neighborhood, why not check out another unfamiliar climb?

The back side was mostly rural, with a sweeping view of pasture and green hills topped with an impressive oak tree. Dropping down the front side, I passed a cautionary sign for trucks: 15% grade. [Uh oh.] I made my u-turn in the residential section at the bottom; the houses got bigger the higher I climbed. This presented a healthy challenge, though I'd wager it didn't touch 15%. [I'm not complaining, mind you.]

Uvas Reservoir, west of San Martin, California
My route deviated further from the group, as I opted for scenic rolling hills instead of a long slog into the wind along a busy thoroughfare—with the bonus option of my own little picnic at the Uvas Reservoir, and clear views of the familiar summits of both Mt. Hamilton and Mt. Umunhum along the way.

Having seen very little wildlife, I was charmed by a pair of western bluebirds darting along a fence line on Bailey Avenue. They were bluer than blue: Azure? Cerulean? The color of lapis lazuli, and too fast for any chance of a photo.

By the end of the day, I had unzipped my vest to flap in the wind, shed the arm warmers, and slathered on the sunscreen. 62 miles, 3200 feet of climbing—farewell, January!

January 25, 2015

As Luck Would Have It

Guadalupe Reservoir near San Jose, California
The first bit of luck was an impromptu listing for a challenging ride with a local start, leading to our club's annual appreciation luncheon for last year's ride leaders. Of course, it would make more sense to take a flat route after yesterday's long, hilly ride—and that was my original plan. But I don't have enough sense for that.

Tower atop Mt. Umunhum, Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve, near San Jose, California
I stopped at the base of Mt. Umunhum Road to congratulate myself for another successful climb up the west side of Hicks, and that was the second piece of luck. A long, loud stream of motorcycles roared past. They couldn't have been too far behind me. There were so many of them that I was glad not to be on the road at that moment.

Almaden Reservoir near San Jose, California
I had mapped out a slightly longer route to the luncheon, avoiding the direct route along a busy expressway. Among the earliest arrivals, I claimed my raffle ticket and mingled before settling down with my plate near some faces familiar from last fall's rides in the Eastern Sierras. My raffle ticket was number 726. The guy to my left? Number 727. To his left? 728. We didn't ride together, but evidently we arrived sequentially, and then ended up sitting sequentially.

What are the odds?

I was happy with my prize, a water bottle from a local bike shop filled with goodies (patches, patch kit, and various sample packets). That being the most common prize, the ride leaders at our table raised our bottles in a mutual-admiration toast to our prowess. Our sequential trio had led a total of 43 rides in 2014.

Maybe, just maybe, I burned more calories than I consumed. 27 miles with 2,060 feet of climbing doesn't sound like much. But if you've climbed Hicks Road, you understand.

January 24, 2015

At the Edge

Hillside along Calaveras Road, Santa Clara County, California
Seeking a sunny ride on a winter's day, a trip along Calaveras Road fit the bill.

Of course, I trailed the group; but I powered right up The Wall nonetheless.

The day was so warm I peeled off my knee warmers before we started; a vest and arm warmers were all I needed. [In January?]

Heading north, it was surprisingly windy—the gusts were strong enough to knock me about. Time for more aerodynamics and less sightseeing.

Receding southern end of Calaveras Reservoir, Santa Clara County, California
Near the southern edge of the reservoir I slowed to watch a hawk soar overhead, but there was no sign of the resident bald eagles. A little research revealed that, in recent years, they've moved their nest from atop one of the power transmission towers into nearby oak trees.

The viewing spectacle of the day was a veritable parade of recumbents—two-wheelers and trikes—heading south. One of our riders recognized the group and commented that he's probably been “excommunicated” (for the sin of riding a diamond frame?) since he hadn't seen an announcement for their outing. No small effort there, pedaling those heavy machines uphill.

Mistletoe-studded oak tree near Calaveras Reservoir, Alameda County, California
After lunching in Sunol's local park, we headed back from whence we came. Now, with tailwind!

A solid day, covering some
43 miles with 2,940 feet of climbing.

At the base of the hill, I kept it under the limit—lighting up the electronic sign at 34 mph. Just right.

January 10, 2015

Ramp It Up

Number of miles biked last week: Zero.

Number of miles biked the week before that: Zero.

And the week before that? Zero.

During the first two weeks of December, I managed to bike a whopping 31 miles. [That's just not normal.]

Having been off the bike for three weeks, it would seem prudent to increase my activity level gradually.

Biking to work on Monday felt good.

So did Tuesday.

Lake Vasona just after sunrise.

Why not Wednesday?

Moon reflected in Lake Vasona at sunrise.
Short on sleep, Thursday seemed unlikely. But then, I woke up at the usual time and felt adequately rested.

Friday was fine. A new co-worker was impressed; even more so when he heard how long my trip is. “You look normal,” he said. “Not like one of those emaciated 0%-body-fat types.”

[Chocolate. Dessert. Chocolate desserts.]

Which brings us to Saturday, a sixth consecutive cycling day. The perfect day for a loosely-organized club ride with a late morning start.

The first hill hit me hard. [Payback.] The rest? Not so much.

Chesbro Reservoir near Morgan Hill, California
The sun broke through the clouds, there was enough water in the Chesbro Reservoir for a lone pelican, acorn woodpeckers flitted from tree to utility pole to tree, and a couple of hawks made an appearance.

For the day, 38 miles with 1,720 feet of climbing.

For the week? 3,740 feet of climbing over 148 miles.

Sunday is a day for rest.

January 5, 2015

Back to Work

Map showing eleven traffic accidents during the evening commute near San Jose, CA.
Why bike to work?

My first commute of the year was chilly: 34°F when I rolled out this morning. On dark winter evenings, I close my eyes and escape with a podcast on a commuter shuttle—preferably an episode that will make me laugh and forgive the ridiculous amount of time it takes to get home. Tonight, there were a stunning 11 traffic accidents (and attendant backups) in the local area. Eleven. No mitigating circumstances, like rain or fog. Just the usual: A plague of bad drivers.

Rhinoviruses and rainy weather conspired to keep me off the bike for most of December, but 2014 was nonetheless a record year for commuting by bicycle. It was the year I found fewer and fewer excuses not to bike.

In all, I pedaled about 5,720 miles—over 3,600 miles biking to (and usually, from) the office. More than 300 incidental miles, mostly on my folding bike, traveling to and from the shuttle and between buildings on the campus. The rest? Recreational miles.

Oh, and I climbed up a few hills along the way. (241,000 feet, give or take.)