October 22, 2016

One Handsome Fella

It was a splendid day for what might be my last long ride of the year.

Cattle march in two straight lines on the lower slope of a hill, Gilroy, California
And there was a ride on the calendar that was just right: the fall “graduation ride” for the latest crop of riders who've completed our club's “academy” for new cyclists.

The grads led us out for the first mile or two, before the jackrabbits jumped ahead and dropped us all. My ride buddy and I were caught up in a small group that got stopped at Every. Traffic. Light. (We never saw the front of the pack again.)

The new grads did a fine job of calling out “slowing!” and “stopping!” as needed. They positioned themselves well at traffic lights—leaving the right lane clear for right-turning cars—and pointed out other riders who might [ahem!] need a refresher course.

Our route was a tweak on a familiar one, though not during a familiar season. The green hills of spring were the brown hills of autumn. The air was fragrant with garlic, and the fields filled with red peppers. Cattle, sheep, and goats grazed nearby.

Male tarantula on Cañada Road, Gilroy, California
Another common sight in the foothills this time of year is the tarantula. This fine fellow was walking along Cañada Road on the outskirts of Gilroy.

And how do I know that was a male tarantula? [No, I didn't pick him up to inspect his anatomy. Not that I would know what to look for, in a spider.] I know he's male by his behavior: he's on the prowl for a mate. The females stay in their burrows, patiently awaiting their gentlemen callers.

Flying down the back side of Cañada, I thought I heard the faint sound of a siren through the whoosh of the wind in my ears. [Indeed.] I got to practice decelerating and stopping, safely, four times. Two fire engines carrying paramedics, one patrol car, and one highway patrol SUV came roaring up the hill. Just like a vehicle, a bicycle is required to stop until emergency vehicles pass.

Naturally, we worried that they were racing to help someone from our group; later, we were relieved to confirm that was not the case. There were only minor mishaps today: a rider who failed to unclip and toppled over. [Been there, done that.] A bike fall that bent the rear derailleur hanger. [Done that, too.]

For me, happy to report an uneventful 63 miles with a scant 2,040 feet of climbing. I thought the point of this ride was more to accompany the graduates than to applaud them, but it appeared that most of them would spend the day with their fellow students (and instructors). I hope they enjoyed their big day.

October 2, 2016

Arthritis Bike Classic Pescadero

The plan today was to support a charitable cause by cycling some local roads. [For some definition of local.]

Pescadero is a coastal farming community, and while it doesn't seem far away, it is a 50-mile drive to get there. I invited a bunch of friends and coworkers, hoping some would join me. [A few did.]

I was game for an easy day—the 29-mile ride sounded good to me (mostly due to its later start time). But when a biking buddy said she was up for the 47-mile route, I made the early morning sacrifice. With showers in the forecast, I hoped we'd be done soon enough to stay dry.

I met Ms. J in 2005 on one of the first organized rides I rode solo, the I Care Classic (100k route). As the day wore on, I found myself aligned with the pace of three riders; we chatted at a rest stop and stayed together. The following weekend, at a different charity ride, I ran into the same group again. This time, we exchanged contact information, and soon I was drawn into a circle of East Bay cycling friends. Some cycle less these days, but we stay in touch.

I was excited that Ms. J wanted to join me today, as it's been a while since we shared the road together.

The 47-mile route today combined two shorter loops: the 17- and 29-mile routes. We passed fields and farms, pumpkins on the vine and free-range chickens, before heading up the coast to return to the starting point at Harley Farms (a goat dairy). As we approached the Pigeon Point lighthouse, the clouds parted just enough for the sun to spotlight the tower.

After a rest stop at the farm, we headed out on the second loop—continuing up the coast to Highway 84 and Pescadero Creek Road, heading through the redwoods to climb Haskin's Hill on the way back to the farm.

Biking up Highway 1 afforded some expansive views of the cliffs and beaches along the coast. Where are the photos, you ask? Ha! You know better than to expect me to stop on a ripping downhill! Especially when I need to carry that speed up the other side.

My coworkers had opted for shorter or longer routes, so at best I thought I might see them at the finish, over lunch. The first one caught up to me as I waited for Ms. J at the bottom of Highway 84; having been led astray by some friends, he now found himself doing the 47-mile route and was happy to fall in with us. At the next rest stop, a second coworker materialized and we got a team photo—we couldn't have pulled that off if we'd planned it.

We were splattered with a few raindrops as we headed onto Pescadero Creek Road. Would I now regret having shed my rain jacket after the first loop? After cresting Haskin's Hill, I was surprised to find a slick roadway through Loma Mar—and most grateful that we missed the downpour.

Back at the farm, we were treated to a fine hot lunch ... but alas, no pony cart rides.

In all, 46 miles with a scant 2,260 feet of climbing—a milestone for one of my teammates: the longest ride he's ever done. And ... he's ready to sign up for next year!