Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mountain bike bliss

Every time I travel north to Sunnyvale to work, I am AMAZED at how much LAND has been set-aside (purchased actually) for the people. Beautiful land. Here in the Silicon Valley, south Bay area. MILLIONS of people live and work here. Traffic during any commute time is choked to a standstill. Yet I am still discovering new and awesome places to ride, both road and trail...and there are SO FEW people out there, it just blows my mind!

Last week I did an entirely new ride starting with the Saratoga Gap trail. It's all part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail system, which is a huge network of trails that runs all the way up to San Francisco and then around and down the East bay, over 330 total miles I believe. The sections I rode here covered just a bit over 10 miles (and then I returned the same way I had come). I had thought this ride would be an easy day, considering that I drove to the top of Skyline Ridge where I picked up the trail. I was wrong, and for two primary reasons.

Number one: it was HOT. I'm not real good at hot. I can endure it, but as I pedaled my way along the singletrack, the shaded areas under the forest canopy were quite warm (in the mid 80's typically) and in some areas felt like a giant stagnant sauna. But it was still very nice.

The Saratoga Gap trail

But there are areas of the trail that leave the comforting embrace of the forest, and in those areas the sun beat down from on high, and it felt like I might burst into flames at any moment. I kept thinking of the Vin Diesel movie where he and his compatriots are on some prison planet (Inferno I think they called it) where the sunrise brings temps that are literally scorching and burn a person into ash in mere moments.

 The Long Ridge trail (or as I like to call it, the Surface of the SUN trail)

At my turnaround point I had endured temps up to 106, but I miraculously did NOT burst into flame. I was however low on water.

When I started the ride, I had no agenda whatsoever as to how far I planned to ride. I was going to ride however far I felt like and then turn around. For some reason I like nice round numbers, and as I was riding along, each section you begin has signs posting the distance to the next section. My basic math skills showed that I would be reaching Alpine Pond just a bit past 10 miles, and that sounded pretty good to me.

Black Mountain above Stevens Creek (I climbed this last week)

I somehow made it past the hottest part of the ride, and somehow made it to Alpine Pond... and just after that the parking lot for the Russian Ridge Open Space preserve which was my turnaround point.

As I climbed and descended my way back the way I had come, realizing I was low on water, I had to laugh at my idea of an 'easy day'. It turns out riding a ridge trail means that you may not have any enormous climbs, buy you are however either going up or down the entire way. THIS is reason number two of my 'not an easy ride day' (thought I forgot to tell you #2, didn't you?)

 The Sunny Jim Trail

There are just very few flat areas on a ridge. I forgot this point and paid for it. In the 20.5 total miles of my day, I ended up with over 3200' of climbing. That's a lot considering I never had any climbs much over 100'. There are very few places where you get any rest shy of stopping to take pictures (hint hint).

Horseshoe Lake panorama

Even with all my pictures, I was EXHAUSTED when I finally finished and can't remember being OH-SO-HAPPY to make that last bend in the trail and see the car! Here's my polar file for the day...notice the conspicuous absence of ANY large climbs. It was a crushing (yet SUPER FUN) ride!

 My Polar profile for the day

 My ride on Friday was back to my old favorite Purisima Creek Open Space preserve. This is more like my 'usual' type of ride, where there are enormous climbs followed by enormous (and scintillating) downhills. Downhills are the reason we climb. The climb itself is payment, and the descent is the payback. This day I felt spunky and was going for the hat-trick. I consider it the hat-trick when I do all three climbs. I park in the village of Woodside and do the 4.2 mile road-ride climb up Kings Mt Rd (an awesome road ride btw), then turn right on Skyline Rd and .2 miles later I descend on Purisima Creek Trail. 4.5 miles down I hit the Purisima Higgins parking area, and there the climbing begins anew. I go left up the Whittemore Gulch trail which is all singletrack. The bottom mile of that climb consists of three leg-crushing pitches, one after another. After that the climb settles into a nice consistent grade that goes in and out of the canopy.

 This is the Stick I used to break into my car 2 weeks ago after I locked myself out (twice) while parked at the bottom of Kings Mt Rd (the gateway to Purisima Creek Redwoods open space preserve). 
I saved it in case I need it again. However, I tossed it in the middle of a BUNCH of poison oak. I didn't want it to be too easy.

 Purisima Creek, near the bottom of the first descent. 

The climb up Whittemore Gulch, about 2/3rds to the top.

The climb continues

Back under the canopy

The gentle giants of Purisima Creek Redwoods open space preserve

You can see why I love this has everything. And I never seem to get any pictures of the descents for some reason (GRIN!) By the time I get to the bottom of Harkins Ridge it would take surgical procedures to remove my smile. The day ended with over 5000' of climbing over 29 miles. Not a bad days work...I mean fun!

My Polar profile for the hat-trick ride of Purisima Creek (all 3 climbs)
I was PLANNING on doing another ride from my bucket list today (Saturday) being as I have the entire weekend off (as I was leaving work on Thursday morning I was told they didn't need my services over the weekend...meaning I now have Friday/Saturday/Sunday off...reporting back to work Sunday at 10:30pm). HOWEVER, I barely slept last night, something about my body wondering just WHEN normal sleepy-time is gonna be. And I had that nagging scratchy sore-throat all day yesterday...and I was in typical denial that a cold is trying to eek it's way into my system (the, uhm, excuse the pun...COLD hard facts are the cold is already IN your system when you get that sore throat I'm afraid).

I woke up and went to breakfast already feeling BAD. The cold was in. At this point it was minor...just a head-cold...but there was no doubt. My joints ached, I was blowing mounds of goo....yep. A STUPID head-cold. DAMN!! I'm not going to waste an ENTIRE DAY when I don't have to work! And so... I loaded up my road bike and gear anyway and drove to my starting point, full speed ahead, damn the torpedo's and all that. As I pulled into the parking lot atop Skyline Rd (to start a probable 60 or 70 mile day including my target: Bonny Doon Rd outside of Santa Cruz) I realized that I was kidding myself. I felt like crap. My neck hurt. And I hadn't even put a leg over the bike. Full introspection told me that no good can come of I begrudgingly turned around and went back to the hotel. Live to fight another day.

I HOPE to try again for this ride tomorrow, but time will tell how vicious this particular cold is. It was on the Bonny Doon climb that Levi launched his ultimately wining attack in the Tour of California in years past. I want to ride this climb. I WILL ride this climb! Mark my words.


  1. And a HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you Susie...wherever you are!

  2. Thanks so much, Matt! I'm sorry I've been absent so much lately - things have'nt been going so well the past 2 months. But at least I always get a smile on my face when I come here to the IA & read your wonderful posts & all the comments. I haven't worked much on Saturdays since early August so haven't been able to chat here like I used to.

    And Happy Belated Birthday to you! I meant to send bday wishes to you last month (9/9) but time got away from me. :(

    Hopefully, I'll be able to get back here & chat soon - SO much I want to discuss! BTW, I'm so glad you got away from that female manager! If she didn't like YOU then she has to be mentally impaired!

    Your biking write-ups just get better all the time & I'm loving the pics too. And if I had locked myself out of my car with all my stuff inside like you did the other week, I'd probably have started cryin' by the side of the road! You WERE DA MAN! :) :)

    Oh & congrats on Michigan's season so far! After the past few years, you must be thrilled with how things are going. I keep up with the Top 20 teams & watch College Game Day religiously but since Tebow graduated 2 years ago & now even Urban is gone from the Gators, I just haven't found another team to obsess over, so it hasn't been as exciting for me this year. I hope I don't jinx things for you but the way the Buckeyes have been playing this year, it looks likes Big Blue will roll right over them in the Big Game a couple months from now. You & your buddies will be high-fiving yourselves all over the place! :)

    Anybody watching any new TV shows? I like 'Terra Nova' - pretty wild.

    Well, gotta get going. Thanks to everyone who's given me a shout-out the past several weeks. The thought of getting back here & chatting again has helped keep me going the past couple months. Talk to ya'll later. :) :)

  3. Yo Sooz...welcome back! I was pretty sorry that things aren't going well...hopefully they turn around soon.

    I'm ECSTATIC about Michigan's season! Been quite some time since they've seen Five and O! Obviously got some tough games ahead but they are looking as good as I've seen them in a LONG time! I think OSU will have their work cut out this year...and I won't be w/ my bud's in Ohio to cheer them on...we will be in Kona Hawaii. I guess if I have to miss the game, then Hawaii is a good reason!