August 18, 2018

Palomares Pals

Has it really been more than nine years since I've climbed Palomares?

It would be hot today, with the air quality falling as the temperature was rising. We persuaded our leader to alter the route plan: Let's climb Palomares first; later, Kilkare will offer some shade.

Valley view from summit of Palomares Road, Castro Valley, California
The road had been closed last season, or the season before, after heavy rains slid some of the hillside across the pavement.

After dropping down the backside, a rider caught up to me on the exposed stretch that parallels the freeway. “I'm glad we're doing this now, and not at 1 p.m.” he said. That's what all of us had in mind, this morning. That, and also riding through Niles Canyon before the traffic picked up.

Traffic. Stopped. Completely. On Foothill. No shoulder. No room to roll past. I dismounted and walked (more than a quarter of a mile).

Drivers? Sat in their cars.

The day warmed up, it did. 35 miles, 2,360 feet of climbing took more out of me than I expected. Nothing a nice, long nap couldn't fix.

August 17, 2018

Kouign-amann Karma

When you bike to work and find a kouignette waiting on your desk, the day is off to a great start.

Kouignette pastry glistening with sugar crystals
I had never heard of (much less tasted) a kouign-amann before. (Think croissant meets sticky bun.) One of my colleagues completed a rigorous professional pastry-chef curriculum this year as a way to relax (?!) and unwind from the stresses of work. [Yeah, I don't understand, either.] When his final “exam” was judged by local restaurateurs, one offered him a job on the spot. But that wasn't the point ...

Thus, it's not uncommon to find something delectable next to your keyboard in the morning.

My other stroke of good fortune, this week, is that I'm taking care of a friend's cat while she's away. She was in an unexpected bind because her regular cat-sitter had moved out of the area.

Me: Um, I can do it?

Friend: OMG, you don't know how much money you're saving me!

Me: And you will not pay me a dime! Your place is 3.5 miles from my office! I can just bike there, every day!

Smoky sunset viewed from pedestrian/bike bridge over State Highway 101, Sunnyvale, Calfironia
It's still smoky.

Close-up of ginger-colored cat
Kitty and I got along famously. He wandered in late the first night, ate, jumped up to check me out, purred and curled up on my lap to sleep. (Get that laptop out of the way!)

Each morning he'd climb onto my chest as soon as I woke up and nuzzle his purring head under my chin. Within a day, he'd adapted to my schedule.

This all worked wonders to reduce my stress level.

Piece of hazelnut/chocolate rugelach dusted with powdered sugar.
That, and the hazelnut/chocolate rugelach.

August 11, 2018

Creamy Good

Sometimes you need an incentive to spur you to climb on the bike. Club rides are great for that.

This morning I was more enthusiastic about sleeping in than I was about any of the rides listed on the calendar. But I did like the prospect of connecting with my fellow riders at our annual Ice Cream Social, which was scheduled at a friendly, post-lunch hour. And I was hankering for a long-ish ride.

After indulging myself and chatting with friends, I decided to take a different route home. Why not visit the rookery?

Snowy egrets on their nest, Mountain View, California
Many of the youngsters had fledged by the time I last visited, but there were still a few on the nest. As I watched, some crows set up a ruckus and the sky suddenly swirled with a flock of adult egrets. More than a few remain, after all.

Great blue heron on the far bank flanked by yellow-flowering bushes, San Francisco Bay shore, Mountain View, California
One of the resident great blue herons was hunkered down next to a channel along the Bay.

Cormorants on posts and a rail over water, San Francisco Bay shoreline, Diablo Range in the background, Sunnyvale, California
Today there were cormorants lined up, as they will, preening and drying their wings.

Trailside sign for the San Francisco Bay Trail, Sunnyvale, California
The Bay Trail offers options; I chose the straight and not-so-narrow. Reversing the route I usually lead, I was curious to explore a new segment of the San Tomas Aquino Trail.

Trailside sign for San Tomas Aquino/Saratoga Creek Trail, Santa Clara, California
They've extended the two-way, separated trail alongside San Tomas Expressway. But it's not done. And I hadn't studied the map for options before making this fateful decision, knowing that there is a wide shoulder on the expressway and that traffic would be light on a Sunday afternoon.

What I didn't know was that only one southbound lane would be open (road construction), with ... no shoulder. When I reached the end, I glared at barriers blocking access to the as-yet-unopened continuation of the trail. It was already striped! Why the heck wasn't it open?

I pedaled hard. The driver behind me was heroically patient; never honking, never trying to pass me. Maybe he or she was my guardian angel, shielding me from the cars behind. Or maybe they all just understood that even though I was slow, traffic was backed up and we'd all come together at the next traffic light anyway. There was no place for me to pull off (though I did consider veering left and pedaling in the cone zone).

I made it. 51 miles, only 800 feet of climbing.

August 7, 2018

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

It's not a cloudy morning.

It's a smoky morning.

The fires raging through the hills of northern California are hundreds of miles away, but the smoke spreads. The prevailing westerly winds haven't been enough to clear it away.

I did a double-take yesterday morning when I awoke to a red glow on the wall: sunrise. The smoke layer above us colors the light.

Absent warnings about air quality, I biked to (and from) work. My schedule hasn't been bike-commute-friendly this summer. (Not being a “morning person,” anything earlier than a 9:30 a.m. meeting makes the 18-mile trip infeasible.) On some mornings, I do load my trusty steed onto a commuter shuttle—and bike home at the end of the day. One way is better than no way.

Today gave me the usual 36 miles and 1,000 feet of climbing. The sun will come out ... tomorrow.