August 19, 2017

Redwood Rain

I stepped out of the car, just a few miles from home, and was surprised by the chill. [Uh-oh.] I didn't expect to need an extra layer. Micro-climates. I pulled out my arm coolers, which I'd brought for extra sun protection. They would have to do.

Hazy view of Mt. Umunhum and Mt. Thayer from the west, Santa Cruz County, CaliforniaI'd caught a glimpse of thick fog in a sheltered valley on the drive up to the start, and hoped we would stay above it. [Nope.]

By the time we reached Summit Road, the fog was thinning but still blowing sideways from the coast. It looks like steam ... but it's cold. And of course, wet. In the forest next to the road, there were pockets that sounded like steady rain as the condensing fog dripped from the branches of the redwood trees.

“If I ever move away from here, it's the redwoods I'll miss most,” one of our riders remarked. How very fortunate we are, to be cycling through the redwood forest just a few miles from home.

The surface of Highland Way continues to deteriorate, battered by last winter's storms. Slides have reduced it to one lane in a couple of places, and some fresh boulders are perched at the road's edge. This is not a place to linger when there is any likelihood of earth movement.

We made our way up to a high point on Loma Prieta Road. The agricultural fields around Watsonville were just barely visible, if you knew where to look; Monterey Bay and the peninsula were obscured by the marine layer.

Scorched slopes of Loma Prieta, Santa Cruz County, CaliforniaAnd as close as we were to their peaks, we had hazy views of Loma Prieta and Mt. Umunhum. Only then did I realize that there was another layer above the fog, a thin layer of smoke. From where, we wondered, as we looked at the hillside scorched by last summer's Loma Prieta blaze.

37 miles, 3,535 feet of climbing. For an out-and-back route, what goes up must also come down. Translation: That's a lot of climbing over a short distance. I suffered.

August 12, 2017

Velo Vittles

Orange and blue canopies shade the diners, San Jose, California
The main event today was not the climb (up Highway 9); it was lunch.

For a few years, one of our club members has hosted a barbecue to raise funds benefiting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. He captains a team for Waves to Wine each fall.

Waves to Wine was the first charity bike event I supported, back in 2003 (as the stoker on a recumbent tandem). I learned that I could raise funds successfully, earning a “Champagne Club” jersey straight away. I returned on the tandem in 2004 and transitioned to riding solo in 2005.

The event had a friendly, homespun vibe those first three years; the logistics were simple, with two loops based out of Santa Rosa. Big changes came in 2006: complicated logistics, a move away from the fabulous old routes, and disorganized execution. I still support the cause through my friends who do the ride, but switched my riding allegiance to a new charity (Best Buddies).

pep in her 2004 Waves to Wine Champagne Club jersey, where CA 116 meets Highway 1 south of Jenner, California
This year was the first time I attended Craig's barbecue. Of course, I donned my favorite Champagne Club jersey (circa 2004) for the occasion.

I was the first patron to arrive; a bit early for lunch, but cyclists do get hungry. Grills were lined up along the edge of the driveway, and a pair of canopies from the MS Society shaded the tables. I chatted with a mechanic who has volunteered regularly at Good Karma Bikes (alongside our host), as well as friends and neighbors who stopped by. One guy's eyes grew wide when he heard I'd cycled up Highway 9 on my way to lunch. “I've scuba dived, I've dived for abalone ... I've never biked up Highway 9!” [More dangerous than free-diving for abalone? I beg to differ.]

Highway 9 isn't too crazy, even on a summer weekend, if you get an early start. On the way down, a Porsche trailed me patiently enough until it was safe to pass. Seemed fair enough, as we were both traveling in the neighborhood of the speed limit. (Um, roughly.)

One plate of ribs, beans, salad, corn muffin. Plus fresh lemonade. Thus refueled, I pedaled on home. Thirty miles with 2,580 feet of climbing—no map to share, as my GPS took a nap along the way.

August 6, 2017

Feathers and Friends

There was at least one club member who was disappointed to miss last week's outing. And the birds are still there, so ... let's do it again!

Cyclists heading north on the Bay Trail, Sunnyvale, California
Another strong turnout, including a couple of people who rode with us last week. Plus four biking friends who were curious enough to come over from the East Bay.

Snowy egret near the water's edge, San Francisco Bay tidal pond, Mountain View, California
This week, it was windy along the bay. Really windy. Which meant that most of the birds were hunkered down to hunt in coves where the levees offered something of a wind break. There were a couple of snowy egrets close to shore. The wind helped ruffle some feathers, giving us a look at the distinctive plumage that adorns the back of a snowy egret's head.

Red-tailed hawk perched on a fence post behind Moffett Field, Mountain View, California
Behind Moffett Field, this red-tailed hawk wasn't too concerned with us. “Wish I could get a better picture, if only it would turn around,” said one rider. “The bird needs to face into the wind, otherwise think what would happen with its feathers,” I suggested. Just as I'd put the camera away [of course], a brazen seagull swooped down over our heads to harass the hawk, leading to an aerial bird fight. (Just threats, no victim ... today.)

Last week I sensed that people would have preferred to head straight back after lunch, so this week we visited the Garden of Tasty Treats first. That worked out well, people were excited to pose for photos with their favorite droids. And as much fun as that can be, the birds are a tough act to follow.

Black-crowned night-heron perched on a tree branch, Mountain View, California
One of the Black-crowned Night-Herons was out of the nest, perched on a branch for all to admire.

Snowy egrets feeding their nestlings, Mountain View, California
The rookery more than made up for the meager sightings along the Bay. People laughed and rooted for some fledglings that were flapping around, testing their wings and making it a few feet off the ground to a window ledge. Commotion in one nest drew our eyes upward, where we had a clear view of snowy egrets feeding their young. I passed around my binoculars for everyone to get a closer view.

National Audubon Society logo on the back of the designer's bike jersey.
I was explaining how the National Audubon Society came to be, protecting these birds from being hunted to extinction. “Their logo features an egret,” I said. “Mike designed that!” exclaimed one rider, proudly. [Say what?!] We had a bona fide celebrity on our ride. The guy wearing the jersey that was covered with logos (for brands that you would recognize) was the graphic designer who created them!

For me, 52 miles with 1,000 feet of climbing. (For everyone else, 26 miles with 340 feet of climbing.)

Much to like about this route, if I do say so myself!

July 30, 2017

For the Birds

Riders on the trail, Sunnyvale, California
The results are in: my route was a resounding success!

Twelve people joined me for the inaugural ride—including one rider on a folding (!) recumbent. “We'll all stay together,” I promised (wondering how I would keep track of such a large group).

They were a great bunch, though; when one rider flatted, another jumped in immediately to carry out the repair. “I like to do this,” he insisted. The rest of the group chatted away, and one rider pulled out a bag of grapes to share.

Seven Snowy Egrets, two American Avocets, and five unidentified birds, at the edge of San Francisco Bay, Sunnyvale, CaliforniaIn the ponds along the Bay Trail, we saw more egrets (and American Avocets) in one place than most people had ever seen. You'd think they were as common as sparrows.

Haze spoiled the view of the Diablo Range across San Francisco Bay, but the waters reflected a deep blue sky.

Snowy Egret with two chicks in a nest, Mountain View, CaliforniaIt's getting late in the season for the rookery, but we were not disappointed. Two fuzzy chicks were visible in their nest, with their attendant parent; they'd hatched a couple of weeks ago. Everyone was surprised to see these graceful birds nesting in the branches of sycamore trees; with their broad wingspans, it all seems so improbable. One rider remarked that he could stay there for hours, watching them.

Both Snowy and Great Egrets nest here; I explained how they were nearly hunted to extinction (for their fancy feathers—to adorn women's hats).

And then we got really lucky. As if the egrets weren't impressive enough, the Black-crowned Night-Herons were also on their nests. I knew there were two nests, and roughly where they were; but I wasn't confident they were still nesting.

My plan for lunch worked out well: enough choices to satisfy everyone, be it falafel, sushi, or curry.

We wrapped up where we began, near the small apricot orchard that Sunnyvale has preserved (and cultivates).

Apricot trees, Orchard Heritage Park, Sunnyvale, California
For me, a total of 53 miles with 1,080 feet of climbing. For everyone else, about 26 miles with 280 feet of climbing.

One enthusiastic rider exclaimed “I could do this ride every week!”

[Hmm, now there's an idea.] I have a couple of tweaks in mind ... stay tuned.

July 15, 2017

MacMurray Ranch

I have cycled 100 miles, eleven times, to raise funds for Best Buddies International over the past 10 years. And while the organizers offer a few training rides leading up to the Hearst Castle Challenge, I typically skip those—club rides and bike commutes keep me fit.

Green grapes on the vine, MacMurray Ranch, Healdsburg, California
At the same time, some of those training rides are enticing. Like the opportunity to bike some backroads in the wine country of Sonoma County. It's been years since I've biked up there.

The logistics always discourage me. I'm not up for driving more than two hours in the early morning to reach the starting point. Wine Country hotels are expensive, and fussy about demanding two-night minimum stays.

This year I explored Airbnb. Not only did I find a convenient location, I made some new friends in the process.

Best Buddies banner and my bike at the entrance to the MacMurray Ranch, Healdsburg, California
The ride started and finished on the private grounds of the MacMurray Ranch.

There was just one problem. I came down with (yet another) cold. [What is going on, this year?!] If I had been at home this morning, I would have stayed there—nursing my full-blown cold symptoms in bed.

Blooming allium with grapevines in the background, Mill Creek Vineyards, Healdsburg, California
Riding the longer 40-mile route was out of the question. If I'd had any doubts before I got to the ranch, they evaporated when I caught sight of my fellow riders. Can you say, “hammerfest?” [Yes, I thought you could.] I probably shouldn't be riding at all, but ... here I am. Twenty miles isn't much, really.

I got off to a rocky start. I'd brought my older road bike along, and although I'd carefully leveled the saddle when I reattached it after my recent Five Countries tour, I had not sufficiently tightened the bolts, nor had I given it a test ride. Before we rolled out of the driveway, it shifted and tilted when I hit the first bump. [It would be mile 15 before I finally got it properly clamped.] On the plus side, I'd replaced the speed sensor on that bike (also untested) and it was operating just fine.

Rows of grapevines with hills in the background, Westside Road, Healdsburg, California
With a hot day forecast, I was glad not to push myself hard. We headed straight for the Wohler Bridge, but time lost to the saddle shenanigans cost me the photo stop. I've crossed it many times on a bicycle, back in the days when it was part of the original Waves to Wine ride.

The short route, 21 miles with 540 feet of climbing, was a little taste of rolling Wine Country hills. Back at the ranch, we enjoyed lunch and a speech by a Best Buddies Ambassador. “Only 500 people (worldwide) have been diagnosed with the neurological disorder I have,” he explained. “How lucky am I!” Doctors told his parents he could never ride a bicycle; last year, he did the 30-mile route in the Hearst Castle Challenge. This year he's training for the 60-mile route.

How about you? 15, 30, 60, or 100 miles? You can sign up here.

July 11, 2017

Tour de Moffett Park

Tour de Moffett Park sign, Sunnyvale, CaliforniaYou've heard of the Tour de France, but what about the Tour de Moffett Park? [Uh huh, thought so.]

I made sure I biked to work today, having snagged an entry in the (non-competitive) Tour de Moffett Park.

This was the 14th (!) annual tour, which seems organized to lure people from the various companies in our neighborhood onto their bikes for a mid-day ride. Free lunch! Raffle prizes! What more do you need to know?

Riders queuing to sign in, Tour de Moffett Park, Sunnyvale, California
It was somewhat less than well-organized, with a mere three people set up to sign in some 400 (!) registered riders. As we stepped away with our route sheets, they encouraged people to ride together.

I had chosen the “long” route, of course (11 miles), and changed into my cycling gear for comfort. The rider behind me said “You look like you know what you're doing, I'm gonna follow you!” A second guy tagged along, and I took care to keep them in sight.

Much of the route was familiar from my weekend test ride, so it happened that I did (pretty much) know what I was doing.

I didn't win a prize, but I did score an extra lunch (many riders signed up, fewer actually showed up ... sigh). With ice cream and toppings for dessert, I definitely took in more calories than I burned.

I had plans for that extra lunch: Dinner in the park, on the way home!

Bridge at Vasona Lake County Park, Los Gatos, California
I found a picnic table near the lake, and soon discovered the downside. The beggar squirrel I could fend off; the yellowjackets were intimidating. I dispatched two of them, and the rest buzzed off to find a friendlier food source.

For the day, some 48 miles and 1,020 feet of climbing. I threw in a gratuitous hillclimb on the way home ... which might have offset one or two spoons of ice cream (with chocolate sauce and rainbow sprinkles).

July 9, 2017

Test Ride

I have an idea for a (flat) ride, and I've been mulling over the route. Much of it will be on trails. Technically, five trails.

It's more fun to ride with a buddy, so I persuaded a friend to be my test rider. Knowing that a portion of the trail might get pretty rough (it did), I opted to ride my hybrid on this exploratory tour. (I'll  route to avoid that stretch in the future, which is exactly why I wanted to do a test ride.)

Levi's Stadium from the San Tomas Aquino Trail, Santa Clara, California
We'll pass Levi's Stadium.

Great blue heron in flight over San Francisco Bay, Sunnyvale, California
We'll skirt along the marshland at the edge of San Francisco Bay.

Android Sculpture Garden, Google Visitor Center, Mountain View, California
We'll even pay a visit to the Garden of Tasty Treats.

The hybrid's too heavy to load into my car, so I rode to the start (and, back home)—57 miles in all, with 880 feet of climbing. Watch this space; actual ride coming ... soon.

July 8, 2017

Some Like It Hot

We knew the day would warm up; the forecast included warnings about “fire weather:” low humidity, hot air, and gusty winds that would quickly cause any fire to burn hot and fast. When a heat advisory was added to the mix, we missed that news.

Charred fields at Joseph D. Grant County Park, San Jose, California
We were surprised to see the golden fields of Joseph D. Grant County Park charred. We'd also missed that news, of a fire that burned here a couple of weeks ago. The roadway, and some of the brush, was stained pink with the residue of the fire retardant that would have been sprayed by a low-flying tanker.

Charred tree and roadway stained pink with fire retardant, Mt. Hamilton Road, San Jose, California
Some majestic trees have been lost, but the ranch's historic homestead was unscathed. Close call.

We regretted not getting an earlier start; I envied cyclists who were already descending. By the time we reached the park, about halfway to the top, the heat was taking its toll on me. I found myself stopping more and more often, and it was taking longer than usual for my heart rate to recover.

I thought about aborting the climb. (That would have been the sensible choice.) I kept going. I was mystified by cyclists outfitted head to toe in heat-absorbing black gear; I'd planned to wear my Death Ride jersey in solidarity with those doing the 2017 edition today, but nixed that in favor of pure white.

The gusty winds from the northwest materialized, but offered little relief—the air was just too hot. Was the breeze evaporating the sweat from my arms that fast, or was my dry skin a warning of heat exhaustion?

Lick Observatory atop Mt. Hamilton, San Jose, California
When the observatory comes into clear view, you still have a ways to go. And I was, uncharacteristically, nearly out of water. Like virtually all the cyclists we saw that day, I repeatedly aimed for a (rare) patch of shade and stopped to rest.

This was a ride of many firsts. The first time I've seen so few cyclists on the mountain. My slowest ascent, to date (and hopefully, ever). The first time I drained both bottles of water on this climb. The first time I saw streaks of dried salt on my bike shorts. The first time I bought and consumed two full cans of Gatorade at the summit. (Thank you, Lick Observatory, for stocking that.)

The temperature in San Jose today topped out above 100F. I was so glad not to be one of the riders in Markleeville. Thirty-nine miles with 4,670 feet of climbing were more than enough for me.

July 4, 2017

Independence Day

Bicycle saddle decorated with an American Flag and red, white, and blue ribbon, San Jose, California
The morning began celebrating our national holiday with like-minded folks (cyclists, of course) at our club's traditional pancake breakfast. Having learned the hard way last year, I set out earlier to be sure the tables and chairs hadn't already been taken down when I arrived. I'm happy to do my part with that chore, but not when the tear-down starts a full hour before the post-breakfast rides begin.

It wasn't much different this year, with chairs being folded and stacked while people stood patiently in line at the griddle.

My ride buddy and I parted ways at Montebello, which she was determined to climb; I was more keen on the shade of Stevens Canyon and a shorter outing: 38 miles with a manageable 1,765 feet of climbing.

Our route passes the Sunnyvale Rod and Gun Club's property, where members were evidently celebrating their right to bear arms (with like-minded folks). The sound was a prelude to the illegal fireworks that will erupt later tonight.

There were lots of families picnicking in the parks, kids splashing in the creek.

All the bridges on the upper portion of Stevens Canyon Road have been replaced. Not only are the old wooden crossings gone, the new editions seem more deluxe than needed for this secluded dead-end road. The homeowners have some clout, perhaps.

Stone arch with an iron gate and a wooden sign that says "Go Away," Stevens Canyon Road, Cupertino, California
They certainly put out the unwelcome mat: There is no shortage of “No Trespassing” and “Private Road” signs along the way. Or one, simply stated: “Go Away.”

Rather a sharp contrast to the impromptu hospitality of the homeowner in Scotland, a few weeks ago, who invited our entire group into his home to use the bathroom.

Happy Independence Day.

July 1, 2017

And Again

Calaveras was so lovely last week, we decided to pay a return visit. Looks like repairs will be starting this week on the lower section that's closed, so it was definitely the right call to ride it today.

View of Calaveras Reservoir from Felter Road, San Jose, California
This week we added a prelude, the challenging climb up Felter—all the way to the vista point on Sierra Road. At least one of our riders had not been there before. A few hardy souls chose to climb Calaveras before Felter; I prefer to tackle the tougher climb first. (I have climbed Felter last, albeit after the full return climb from Sunol, and it hurt. A lot.)

Herd of shorn alpacas at a ranch along Felter Road, San Jose, California
In addition to the usual turkey vultures and a red-tailed hawk, I spotted a Western Bluebird, and an interesting bird I couldn't identify. Plus a small herd of alpacas.

North end of Calaveras Reservoir near the dam, Alameda County, California
Near the dam, we chatted with a worker exiting the gate. We asked about the closure, about the slide damage blocking the route to Sunol. He said the repairs were done, but the road was closed at the dam by “Homeland Security.” “Drinking water,” he explained. But there has been a reservoir here for more than 100 years,  and the road has passed through this valley for a long time indeed. I expect the closure has more to do with the construction site than with the water below. The project's web site continues to peg the closure on winter storm damage.

As we headed back along the reservoir, a minivan passed us (heading up). What's not to understand about “Road Closed” signs? Not to mention an actual barricade.

Eventually they discovered that they had to return whence they came, passing us again. Frankly, driving a minivan on the curvy ups and downs of Calaveras Road would not be my idea of a fun time.

Wind-drive mobile figure of boy with soccer ball, Cardoza Park, Milpitas, California
Back at the park where we started, a whimsical piece of art caught my eye. Was it new, or was it the effect of the breeze setting it in motion?

A more challenging outing this week: 34 miles with 3,345 feet of climbing. Despite having to share the upper road with two vehicles, it was so worth the trip.

June 28, 2017

All That Jazz

Today was my day to test a cycling route to my new office. I'd studied maps and thought about traffic patterns.

Most of the route would be the same (pleasant). The last few miles ... not so much.

Signs for Sunnyvale Bike Routes 352 and 600, Sunnyvale, California
For this segment, evidently I had chosen well—I was surprised to find myself turning onto Sunnyvale's “Bike Route 600.” [There are a few such signs posted around town, with mysterious route numbers; I have found no information online about these.]

I continued down a quiet residential street, knowing I'd have to make an uncontrolled left turn at the end. I could see more traffic on that throroughfare than I expected; two cars sat, waiting to make the same left turn I wanted. This could be challenging ...

Could be. Wasn't. Cars were backed up by a red light on the cross street; here, I had the advantage. The cars couldn't turn left, because there was no room for them. Bicycle? No problem! I eased right on through to the bike lane.

A pair of bike/ped bridges carried me above 14 lanes of freeways: eight lanes of 101, six lanes of 237. (Both jammed with traffic.) The second bridge deposited me conveniently near the company café that is the highlight of my new commute.

Fresh fruit and chocolate croissant, Sunnyvale, California
Best croissants I've had outside of Europe. The best.

The last mile entails crossing through one of the messiest intersections I have ever seen. In the morning, it's doable. In the evening ... it's terrifying. Drivers weave aggressively as they jockey for position in the correct lane for the desired freeway in the desired direction. It would be safest to load my bike and ride the shuttle home.

VTA light rail train pulling into station, Sunnyvale, California
Light rail, for the win! Direct from my building's parking lot, to the platform, without using any road at all. Roll the bike aboard, disembark a couple of stops later—one block from a road that was part of my former commute route!

It might seem counter-intuitive to head southwest when my destination is southeast, but this solution saves time (and a little distance). Crucially, it spares me from navigating through that traffic engineering nightmare.

Paula West performing at Jazz on the Plazz, Los Gatos, California
On a whim I routed through town, deciding to check out the mid-week summer evening concert. The town plaza was packed with jazz fans, and ... I confirmed that I was not one of them. I listened to a few minutes of Paula West covering Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone. It didn't work, for me. Some notes went up, some notes went down, some notes went up, some notes went down. There was no depth, no emotion, no soul.

Not a fan.

My new commute, well ... it's okay. About 36 miles today, with 1,080 feet of climbing.

June 24, 2017

Carefree, Car Free, Calaveras

Wishing to avoid competing with beach traffic (much of the population of the Bay Area heads west on summer weekends, clogging all roads), we headed east instead. My ride buddy suggested we go for a cruise on Calaveras, and a few like-minded souls joined us for a short trip: a mere 21 miles (1,845 feet of climbing, though).

Curve rounding a dry hill on Calaveras Road, above Milpitas, California
This turned out to be, absolutely, brilliant. Best. Day. Ever. on Calaveras.

Because ... portions of the road are closed. It is, temporarily, a veritable playground for cyclists (and, hikers).

The lower portion, between Piedmont and Downing, was blocked for all vehicles. Climbing that has never been so delightful!

I dreaded The Wall, but it wasn't terrible. A racer encouraged me, as he flew past, without a hint of condescension.  No zigzagging, I was riding straight up ... at about a third of his pace.

Calaveras Reservoir with golden, tree-studded hills, Alameda County, California
The upper portion of the road was closed at the dam, and will be for some time: it is, essentially, a road to nowhere. And especially with the lower closure, there is no reason for any motoring enthusiast to make the trek.

Southern end of Calaveras Reservoir, above Milpitas, California
Ah, if only it could always be so.

June 23, 2017

Sunnyvale Community Services

“I know you just finished leading a volunteer project,” the email message read. “But we have a few that are still leaderless, and we heard you might be willing to help out.”

I'm a softie (and, the folks who run our company's annual volunteer service extravaganza know it).

I browsed the list to see if any would sync with my schedule.

Not that one. Nope, not that one, either.

Assembly line ready for volunteers to pack bags of food, Sunnyvale Community Services, Sunnyvale, CaliforniaI found a winner: Sunnyvale Community Services.

We often hear about the high cost of living in the Bay Area these days, and the challenges faced by low-wage earners, the jobless, senior citizens—but it's not a new problem: SCS has been in operation since 1970. They provide much more than food support for those in need. Caseworkers help folks with all sorts of setbacks—from finding a mechanic to fix a broken car, to emergency financial help to pay the bills. It doesn't take much, when someone is living on the edge, to topple over. SCS is there to catch them before they fall, before the damage is too great (loss of a job for want of a car, loss of an apartment for missing a rent payment).

Some non-profits need brain power; today, SCS just needed more hands.

Our task was to load grocery bags with non-perishables: canned green beans, refried beans, spaghetti sauce, peaches, tuna, plus peanut butter, dry beans, raisins, rice, and quinoa. [Quinoa?!]

Bags of food packed and stacked on pallets, Sunnyvale Community Services, Sunnyvale, CaliforniaWe quickly became a well-tuned machine: some folks fed the assembly line with bags and food (and recycled the cardboard and plastic packaging); others formed the assembly line to pack each bag “just so” (forming a stackable package), while others wheeled the finished products to waiting pallets and stacked them.

Six hundred bags packed and stacked in less than 90 minutes!

June 17, 2017

Plein Air

Tight switchback on Reynolds Road, Los Gatos, CaliforniaSpinning in a studio is really not my style.

The first real heat wave of the summer was upon us, so a short morning ride seemed best.
Reynolds Road is always longer and harder than I remember. The top is just around that bend ... no. It's the next bend ... no. We had a tight group today, and for one rider it was a special trip indeed—especially the descent.

Two months ago, she had crashed here (over the edge, into the ravine) on the way down. The road is twisty, and steep; if you're inattentive, you can pick up more speed than you can manage.

It will take more than one trip on Reynolds to vanquish the fright, but she toughed it out. (I sent everyone else down first, because if anyone had an issue, there was no way I'd manage a hill repeat to help.)

Along the way we met five club members—one hiker, the rest on wheels. You'd think we lived in one small town, not a sprawling suburb-opolis packed with millions of people.

Bicycles parked at outdoor art show, Los Gatos, CaliforniaWe finished our ride in a shady park filled with artists displaying their work (fundraising sale). They'd spent time in town over the past week, painting local scenes—some of which had already been snapped up.

Our hungry band of cyclists got lucky: Trader Joe's was supporting the event, handing out plates of cheeses, crackers, and grapes (complimentary!). Then we got even luckier: one very generous rider treated us to cookies and bottles of juice when he returned with his lunch.

18 miles of cycling with 1,730 feet of climbing—in the open air.

June 16, 2017

Last Call

What happens if you build an office park in the middle of a freeway interchange?

We're about to find out.

Although I've worked for the same company for more than a decade now, I've hung my helmet in many different buildings (five, to be exact). Next week, make that six.

This time, my team is being shunted to a satellite campus in a neighboring city. And there are many things I will miss: the views, the green space, the straightforward commute.

Today was my last chance to bike the familiar route. I was a bit of a greyhound this morning, averaging more than 14 mph to arrive in time to get cleaned up before my first meeting (9 a.m.).

Great Egret preparing to land in a treetop, Mountain View, California
I routed myself through the egret rookery, raucous in the early morning. On the way home, I dawdled.

Riparian corridor of Stevens Creek, hills of the Diablo Range in the distance, Stevens Creek Trail, Mountain View, California
Much of the route to our new location will remain the same; overall, it will be a bit shorter. It's the last mile that will be a challenge.

Stay tuned.

June 12, 2017

RAFTing

Our company runs a worldwide community service blitz each June. Originally, it lasted one week; now, it's the whole month. During this time, we can choose from a veritable smorgasbord of projects at local charities—and volunteer our time during the workday.

For the past several years, I've been a project leader. That means a little coordination work—keeping volunteers informed and supplied with the latest t-shirts, capturing some event photos—and (of course) lending a hand.

Volunteers at work, Resource Area for Teachers, Sunnyvale, California
This year I chose to lead a large group of volunteers at Resource Area for Teachers (RAFT). This is a local non-profit that supplies teachers with much-needed supplies at low cost, by upcycling donations from corporations into creative educational kits (as well as offering basic supplies like pens and paper at low cost).

Two packaged kits for Breadboard Circuits, Resource Area for Teachers, Sunnyvale, California
Our group worked on raw materials, as well as assembling and then performing quality control checks on four different kits: Breadboard Circuits, Retractor Car, Design a House, and Simple Telescope. (And our electrical engineers thought they'd get a break from their daily routine!)

RAFT started out in 1994—it's a model that works. I volunteered with them in earlier days (late 90's), and I can attest that they've come a long way since then. They were well-organized and made good use of the time we gave them today.

Cartons of the kits we prepared, stacked on pallets, in front of a sign that reads "RAFT volunteers are inspiring hands-on learning! Thank you", Resource Area for Teachers, Sunnyvale, California
By RAFT's estimates, the handiwork of our 41-person team will serve 22,500 students—not bad for a morning's worth of volunteering!

June 10, 2017

Hills of Gold

From hills of green to hills of gold ... make no mistake about it, we've left the lush terrain of Ireland and the U.K. far behind.

It was exciting to see so much water in the Chesbro Reservoir (at last!).

Today's ride traditionally draws a large crowd; it's a route with options, and it gets scheduled with comforting regularity. My ride buddy proposed the flattest version—just one hillclimb, really—and then over to the Coyote Creek Trail.

I set aside my trail aversion and agreed; it has been a long while since I've biked that trail.

We picked up the trail at its southern terminus. Riding north into the strong winds, perhaps the trail would cut us a break. It certainly couldn't be worse than the headwind we would have battled on the road.

Winter rains had been a bit too much for Coyote Creek; the resulting flood caused millions of dollars worth of damage and displaced many San Jose residents from their homes.

Months later, the aftermath was astonishing. The creek looked more like a lake, and in places it may have settled into a new course.

We covered a respectable distance: 39 miles, with a scant 770 feet of climbing. Biking the trail was, actually, a delight.