September 20, 2018

Queen Quien

Without trying, it appears that I paused and took two photos today that I shot the last time I rode this set of hills. They were green, then.

Cluster of trees in a ravine surrounded by dry hills, view from Quien Sabe Road, San Benito County, California
We got our mechanical issues out of the way early. One rider realized that he had a loose cleat just as we approached some workers with tools. Then, having made it up the first little bump, I realized my rear tire had gone flat.

This was remedied with lightning speed by my crew [haha]. One guy had the tire partially off the rim before I pulled the tire levers out of my saddle bag. Another had reinflated the old tube and was searching for the puncture. In the process, I learned why it's helpful to shift the bike onto the small rings front and back, which means that now I will remember that I want “small-small” instead of “big-big,” rather than “it's a combination you wouldn't ride, but ... which one?“

My companions, more capable and experienced riders than I, took good care of me. They'd often ride at my pace to chat, and one would circle back to ride a stretch with me. He even made an animated warning of himself at one shady spot to ensure none of us would get caught out by the broken pavement there.

Rhyolite-streaked golden hills along Quien Sabe Road, San Benito County, California
The second climb of today's route is gradual—but long. And the day was heating up (97°F by the time we were done). I loved the seemingly endless views of the golden hills, but I wasn't loving the seeming interminability of this leg. The reward for that suffering was to turn around and descend for almost five miles. My speed took the guys by surprise. “You're one of those riders who gets stronger late in a ride!” exclaimed one (when he caught up to me after a short ascent slowed me down). “No,” I laughed. “It's downhill.” I don't think he believed me.

After loading my bike into the car after finishing 35 miles and 2,950 feet of climbing, I discovered an abundance of goathead thorns embedded in the soles of my shoes. Evidently that was underfoot where I'd parked, and I'd bet that my tire had picked one up at the start of the ride. Almost certainly.

We were here, on this mid-week ride, to attend the next court hearing in the case against the driver who killed Jon in February.

The last time I rode this set of hills, so did Jon.

We will return. And we will never forget.

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