November 25, 2017

Tunnel of Leaves

New high-temperature records were set today: 78F in Gilroy, 80F in San Jose. I peeled off the arm warmers early; later, I shed the vest.

Fall colors in a row of trees at a farm, near Morgan Hill, California
It was incongruent to see cars pass with Christmas trees lashed to their rooftops. Too early, and definitely too warm.

We biked the length of Redwood Retreat Road, and although I spied one large redwood at the end, mostly we were shaded by other trees. Fallen leaves littered the roadside—only fallen leaves, a welcome sight after miles of broken glass, trash, and smashed car parts. What if a bottle was worth more than the beer it contained? Imagine a refundable $10 deposit, per bottle. Would that dissuade punks from tossing their empties on the road?

Trees arching from both sides over Redwood Retreat Road, Gilroy, California
And is no one responsible for clearing the debris after a car crash? There was a disturbing spread along Santa Teresa, perhaps from a red truck that met a very violent end. Do they leave the remains as a cautionary tale? We cycled past at least three roadside memorials today.

There were lovely sights, too. Deer, goats, horses, cattle, llamas. Sweeping vistas, fall colors. A barrier closed Mt. Madonna Road shy of the spot where we normally turn around (at the end of the paved road). Inquiring minds want to know ... and so we eased on by. Nothing remarkable about that last stretch; perhaps the unseen unpaved side bore the brunt of last winter's wrath.

Shortly after a pit stop at a local library, one of my ride buddy's tires exploded with a loud “Pffft!” [Uh oh.]

Statue of a woman reading a book to a young boy on her lap in front of the Morgan Hill Library, Morgan Hill, California
A few inches of her front tire had slipped off the rim, exposing a sliver of the tube. [In retrospect, we should have replaced the tube, then and there.] The tire was not losing pressure (or so it seemed). I released enough air to slip the tube back inside the tire, and the tire back on the rim. A CO2 cartridge made for a quick re-inflation and we continued on our way.

The weirdly warm weather also suppressed the headwinds that traditionally plague the return trip. I pulled out ahead, believing that I still had her in sight. [I was wrong about that.]

Saffron yellow ginkgo leaves on green grass, San Jose, California
Back at our starting point, I admired the sunny yellow ginkgo leaves. Today was the day for many of the local specimens to drop their leaves; we had been showered with them as we started riding this morning.

When my ride buddy had not appeared after ten minutes or so, I set out to find her. As I'd feared, the tire had gone flat; luckily, another rider helped get her back on the road. Thus, I rounded out the day with a respectable 63 miles but a measly 2,625 feet of climbing—despite leading us on a scenic diversion along some steep residential roads.

Lesson for the day: Heed the hiss. Swap the tube.

November 22, 2017

Coming Attractions

'Twas the night before ... Thanksgiving?

The weather outside is ... (not) frightful.

Wait, what's going on here?

An unexpected treat on a bonus ride home!

The morning commute traffic has been light all week; the evening commute ... miserable. With most people ducking out early today for the long holiday weekend, I decided a round-trip was feasible. Timed just right, the sky would have some light left by the time I got home. It was weirdly warm today—I enjoyed my lunch outdoors, no jacket needed. And for most of the ride home, no jacket needed.

I slipped into the park, and ... surprise! Of course! Displays need testing, bulbs need replacing, before the gates will open for the first visitors (less than 10 days from now).

How lucky to get a sneak preview, without the crowds. A fine reward for wrapping up a workday with 36 miles and a wee bit of climbing (700 feet).

November 18, 2017

Leaves of Gold

Brrr! Frost on the rooftops, this morning.

To warm up, I chose to park a couple of miles from the spot where we would rendezvous with today's leader. To be honest, the parking lot I chose was also somewhat more convenient for me. And I felt better about leaving my car there; the only litter was a smattering of Cheerios—no broken glass, no beer bottles or cans.

Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) leaves turning yellow, San Felipe Road, San Jose, California
We would be tracing a route similar to a ride I led a few years ago, and pretty much for the same reason: on a cold day, it's prudent to stick to roads that are well-exposed and low.

Along the way I caught a whiff of a politicized topic that has been sensationalized in the press of late. “I'm glad I'm not in the workplace now, I'd be afraid I'd get accused of sexual harassment if I gave a lady a pat on the back for doing a good job.” [Sigh.] Actually, probably not. Context matters. But how about using your words instead of your hands? The lady would rather have your support when she's looking for a raise or a promotion.

I did not interject. [I just want to ride my bike.]

Our group of nine splintered after the first two climbs, with some riders eager to tackle a couple of the steeper hills in the neighborhood. [I was not among them.]

View of Mt. Hamilton and the Diablo Range from the summit of Hassler Road, San Jose, California
When two riders opted to follow me, I regretted not having studied the map last night. I had brought a copy of my old route (and managed not to get us lost).

After we finished the third climb, I was conflicted about skipping the fourth. Continue straight to my car? Or backtrack, to climb the road we'd just descended.

Coyote in a field along Hellyer Road, San Jose, California
I gave my companions the choice, still unsure I'd head for the hill if they declined. “Let's do it!” they said. We paused to peel off our jackets and watched a coyote trotting across the field next to us. It changed course once it finally noticed us.

In all, an efficient 2,730 feet of climbing over 29 miles. Somewhere along a descent it appears that I topped out at 42.3 mph, which was perhaps a tad over the posted limit. [A tad.] Perhaps.

November 11, 2017

Sweet Panoche

It seems that there is only one Panoche, and I can attest that it is a special place, indeed. Once the gray gloom burned away, it was possible to shed my jacket and bask in the sunshine.

Hillsides in shadow and light, Panoche Road, San Benito County, California
I get so overwhelmed by the majesty of this place that I often forget to pause for photos. There is too much to take in, and photos don't really do it justice.

Pinnacle rock atop a ridge, Panoche Road, San Benito County, California
You're not far from the rolling hills around Paicines before you enter another dimension—rock formations dating back millions of years.

Brilliant yellow leaves on a sunlit tree in a valley along Panoche Road, San Benito County, California
It also seems that I have typically ridden this route in the spring, and somehow not since 2014.

Horsetail cirrus clouds above Panoche Road, San Benito County, California
East of the summit, the road is still cratered with potholes. I chatted with two women who were riding to Panoche for the first time, assuring them that they could not get lost, nor would they miss the Inn (our turnaround point).

Calystegia purpurata ssp. purpurata, morning glory flowers along Panoche Road, Panoche Valley, California
I was surprised to find native morning glories blooming alongside the road when we reached the Panoche Valley. This late in the year, I didn't expect to see any flowers.

Deeply carved hillsides along Panoche Road, San Benito County, California
This view captivates me every. single. time. The road leads directly toward this formation, ultimately too close for a close-up.

Grapevines and vine-covered hillsides, Panoche Road, Paicines, California
Three years on, the grapevines in Paicines have become well-established.

For the day, a spectacular 55 miles, with a modest 2,795 feet of climbing. Till spring ...

November 5, 2017

(Not) Hicks

Having been off the bike for a month (where does the time go?!), a “flat” ride was enticing. Dangerously unhealthy air quality, travel, and rain had all conspired to erode my fitness. This has been my theme for 2017, and clearly I need to find some indoor substitutes.

Low water level in the Guadalupe Reservoir, Almaden, California
Not today, though; the skies were sunny and the air was brisk. Puffy clouds didn't block much sunshine, but the hills did. The day never really warmed up.

The plan was to follow an easy route to two local reservoirs, Guadalupe and Almaden. We headed first for Guadalupe, which meant cycling along Hicks Road—stopping at the base of the real climb. Two riders split off and rose to the challenge; the rest of us stayed on plan and made a sensible u-turn.

Water trickling into the Guadalupe Reservoir, Almaden, California
The water level is low as we prepare for winter (another rainy one, we hope). Deer were grazing in the fields exposed at the southern end of the reservoir.

We stopped short of reaching Almaden Reservoir, despite taking a more direct route than our leader had mapped out. When one rider's energy was flagging, the group opted to stay together and turn back, finding lunch along the way.

40 miles, 1,440 feet of climbing: Not Hicks, but not flat.