August 26, 2017

Ladies, Some Naked

There were an uncommon number of women climbing Tunitas Creek today: women in groups, women alone, me and my ride buddy.

Mere photos can't capture the majesty of riding through a redwood forest. I paused a couple of times—not because I needed to, but because I could.

I could stop in the cool shade of the towering trees.

I could stop and listen to ... utter silence. No motorcycles. No cars. Not even the sound of the wind in my ears or the soft whir of my tires on the pavement. Beautiful, blessed silence.

Of course there were motorcycles, and cars, and other cyclists. But mostly, there were none of those.

We rode close enough to the coast to be touched by its chilly foggy breeze.

Naked Ladies (Amaryllis belladonna) were abundant along Purisima Creek Road. The flowers pop months after the plant's foliage has disappeared (inspiration for the name). Last week I learned that, to children, these blooms mean “Back to school!”

On the way up Kings Mountain this morning, I doubted whether I had the stamina to complete our planned route. (Evidently, I did: 44 miles, 4,975 feet of climbing.)

We did trim a few miles by not heading into town with the rest of the group for lunch.

I usually wear a club jersey on a club ride, but that leaves so many fine specimens hanging in my closet.

“Grüße!” called out a passing rider. (Or at least that's what I think he said, in part.) I suppose it's only natural to expect that I, bedecked in a design featuring the Swiss flag, might speak the language.

Another rider in a full Movistar kit told me he has the same jersey, and almost wore it today. Now, that would have been a sight!

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!