February 21, 2015

Keepin' Score

Metrics are everywhere. Take, for example, a simple wooden sign nailed to a utility pole at a curve along today's route:
The paint looked fresh. Odds are that the pole's count merited the latest update.

Bare trees in an orchard carpeted with blooming yellow oxalis along Eureka Canyon Road above Corralitos, CA
One rider in our group was proud to show me his bare handlebar: no bike computer, no stats. Others compete to climb more hills or cover more distance than their peers. The rider at the top of our club's leaderboard for 2014 biked more than 10,000 miles and climbed over 836,000 feet—just on club rides. He often commutes by bike, as well.

Creek flowing along Eureka Canyon Road above Corralitos, CA
We had a preview of summer at the coast today—cold and fog. Not that I'm complaining: I'm out here riding my bike through the redwood forest, while friends and family on the other coast suffer temperatures in the single digits and more snow than they'd like.

Creeks were flowing and the traffic was light.

58 miles, 4,860 feet of climbing. The fun factor is harder to measure.

February 16, 2015

One Cool Cat

You can be sure you're in Woodside when you get the traditional Woodside Welcome:
Go home and ride your bike in your own neighborhood!
A lady of the manor rolled down her window to shout at one of the women in our group, as if we were teenaged delinquents rampaging through town.

You should have replied “This is my neighborhood,” I suggested wryly.

We were climbing the steep section of a wide residential street, impeding no one on this sunny holiday. [Technically, we were in Portola Valley, but the animus is the same.]

Ferns sprouting on a moss-covered tree trunk alongside a creek, Alpine Road, Portola Valley, CA
We had already biked up (and down) Alpine. The group had traveled at a fast clip, intent as they were to reach the end of the road. Whereas I tend to meander, looking about. And, well, I have this knack for noticing things.

What I will remember most about this ride were the pawprints I spotted on the upper stretch of Alpine Road, which climbs gently alongside a creek. Still damp, in a line, claws retracted. The cat must have climbed up from the banks and then ... where? I considered stopping to snap a photo, but the prints had to be fairly fresh. Was the puma watching me? Wiser to keep moving and catch up with the group, ahead.

Enjoy the simple things: An invigorating ride with friends on a glorious day off (24 miles, 1,960 feet of climbing). Savor a sweet indulgence: A post-ride Linzer cookie from the Woodside Bakery. Embrace beauty.

Money doesn't buy happiness.

February 14, 2015

On Being Excessive

Stand of redwoods near the store in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California
My thoughts wandered as I passed the towering redwoods on today's ride. The age of the trees, the age of the planet, the age of the universe, the age of the cyclist having these thoughts.

On a recent visit to the local library, I spied a copy of Half the Road on a rack and checked it out. A documentary I had meant to watch, then forgotten.

Not being a runner, I didn't know the story of K. V. Switzer, the first woman to register successfully and run the Boston Marathon. There were shots of the race manager physically accosting her, trying to pull off her race numbers—women were not allowed to run more than 800 meters, much less a marathon. In 1967. I remember 1967.

Our group was heading for a 65-mile ride with some 6,800 feet of climbing, and that was more than I wanted: more distance, more climbing. I hatched an alternate plan that would shave off some distance and elevation. My ride partner, working to rebuild endurance after a hiatus off the bike, trusted me.

pep and her bicycle standing inside a hollowed-out, burned redwood tree, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, CaliforniaThe film also told the story of an angry letter from the chauvinistic UCI to the organizer of the Women's Challenge bicycle race, refusing to sanction the event because it included excessive climbing. Excessive stage distances. Excessive number of stages. Excessive duration of event. Women weren't allowed to climb that many feet, cycle those distances, ride that many days. In 1990. In 1990, 1967 was 23 years ago.

To say that I had miscalculated our alternate route would be ... an understatement. It was how far from the park's headquarters to Boulder Creek? [Uh-oh.] And I'd thought we'd climb just a couple of miles back to the intersection that had led us to the park. [It was nearly eight miles.]

The film was inspiring with stories of strong, determined women. And here we were: not racing, but headstrong and determined to finish. “Where's my chauffeur?” joked my ride buddy. “Send the limo!”

My ill-conceived route entailed 64 miles with 6,180 feet of climbing. I got home in time to return the DVD to the library. By bike.