Saturday, April 13, 2013


Work has been rather crazy since I got up to Sunnyvale....(which is good...keeps me out of the stores!) I've worked every day for the first 11 days...then suddenly we ran out of work (rats). So I unexpectedly got the entire weekend off! But that's I have a plan B ready to rock. Today I took the road bike out for what I figured was going to be around a 70 to 80 mile ride.

I left the village of Saratoga just a bit after 8:30am, and it was still chilly. The weather forecast was a high around 72 (not necessarily on the coast tho) so I brought minimal clothes, knowing I was going to be carrying them all day. Shorts and standard short sleeve jersey to start-with, and carrying my arm warmers, thin wind vest and toe warmers. I suited up and got ready to ride in the sun, and it was wonderful! I took off just a hair past 8:30am and it was nice. For about 200 yards that the first batch of trees I quickly changed my mind and put on everything...BRRRR.The initial 7 mile climb up Congress Springs Rd (Hwy 9) was a nice warmup but deep in the trees, so it all stayed cold all the way. After that it's a 6 mile descent to the junction of Hwy 9 and Hwy 236 (Big Basin Redwood State Park). Hwy 9 goes to Santa Cruz, and Hwy 236 does the same thing in a long loop'ish sort of way with tons of climbing. I went straight for the long route thru Big Basin. WHAT an amazing road...narrow, winding, DEEP in the cover of redwoods....just AWESOME! After cruising a big CCW loop I  eventually took a right turn on Jamison Creek Road. A few miles up that and it gets interesting REAL QUICK! As in STEEP!
I crawled up that and took a left on Empire Grade (I've been wanting to ride this road for a few years now). After a bit more climbing I hit the 'summit' of Empire...where I stopped at what I THOUGHT was a firefighting training school to fill a water bottle. There was a guy at the closest building (looked like a galley to me) hosing off the cement, and there was a 2nd faucet right where his hose was connected. I asked him if it was drinkable (yes) and if it was cool for me to fill a bottle...he said no I filled the bottle and poured in a packet of "Home Evil" (my personal recipe for a food replacement drink based on Carbo Rocket Half Evil), had a quick snack and was on my way (note: even though my Home Evil powder is probably all the calories I need, my body seems to want some actual food here and there..maybe it's a mental thing). Farther down Empire grade (heading south) I came to an intersection, and there was someone in the new 2013 Fatty kit (looks like Neopolotin ice cream). The rider was stopped at the intersection, and I shouted out "HEY FATTY!" and got a look. I cruised across the intersection...and it was Noodle McCrae (world famous for the AMAZING video's she's made of her off the charts INSANE 100 Miles of Nowhere rides (see Fattys blog right now...he talks about her some more). She is an animal, and she works for Specialized bicycle company (that must be pretty cool!), and lives down just south of San Jose in Morgan Hill (where the Specialized factory is).

We chatted a bit...turns out she was down in my area a few weeks back doing the Solvang double century (that day was HORRIBLY windy! I remember it as I was on a group ride, and as we were going with the wind passing the double riders coming north, I was feeling sorry for them...they had about 60 to 70 more miles to go in that wind before turning around and catching the tailwind). She's apparently been doing other doubles and would no doubt decimate me on any ride. She's also a very nice you would expect after 'meeting' her via her video's and comments on Fatty's. Funny how everybody over at Fatty's feels like we know each other, even though many of us have never met. I asked her about a few route possibilities (as I was 'winging' it on this ride, with only a vague notion of how to get where I wanted to go). I asked what she thought was best, and she said Ice Cream Grade would be her choice. That seems fitting, as she's wearing a jersey that makes me think of ice Ice Cream Grade (to Bonny Doon Rd, which was my overall  goal for the day) it is. She continued on her way north on Empire Grade...and that was the last I saw of her. (I did ask if she was going to LIVESTRONG Davis this year...she said there was a double she was planning on doing that day....I did happen to mention how AWESOME Davis is with all us Fatty's gathered...just a GRAND weekend!) Don't think I sold her on it tho. She would surely be able to hang w/ Fatty, The Hammer and my brother Greg...(I'm hoping to do that myself this year...we shall see soon enough).

Ice Cream Grade was nice (all descending), then I turned onto another road briefly (Pine Flat Rd, or something like that) which took me to the world famous Bonny Doon Rd (they've done it in the Tour of Calif a few year Levi rocketed into the lead on this very climb)...only I was going downhill to the coast/Hwy-1. Just before the downhill as I turned onto Bonny Doon there were 2 bikers we chatted a bit and I asked them what they thought...told them my basic plan..they recommend the route I ended up taking all the way home (first go down Bonny Doon to the coast, then turn around and climb right back up (which I wanted to do's the reason I came out this far in the first place). I was at mile 44 at the top of the hill...4 miles down, a bit shorter up as not far before the summit I turned right on Smith Grade. That went downhill thru more redwoods, then climbed back up to Empire grade. I was riding pretty good to this point, but by the time I got back to Empire Grade I felt wiped out. Turned left on Empire and started heading back...but now I was crawling on what were easy rolling climbs (Empire Road follows the ridge North/South).

This funk lasted all the way until I got back to the firefighter training camp, where I was now needing both bottles filled. So I pulled in, and as nobody was outside I helped myself to the faucet. Mixed in my 'home evil' and was just starting to have another snack when a guy in a uniform came walking towards me and said "you know you're on State Prison property, don't you?" Uhm, sir..I wasn't aware of that...all I noticed was the firefighter training camp sign that I passed on my way by a few hours ago heading south...he said that was true, only that it was a prison training camp. I was 'trespassing' on State Property. OOPS! I apologized, told him I had stopped earlier and asked if I could fill my bottle (hope I didn't get that guy in trouble...however looking back he was most likely a prisoner so is already in jail...what more are they gonna do to him?)...and he just asked if I would leave at my earliest convenience...I pocketed my snack and said no problem, sorry, won't happen again, and high-tailed it out of there! I stopped about 100 yards down the road and finished my snack, and lo and behold I noticed the OTHER large signs (all over the place actually, and all over the fenceline too) that all say "Prison, State Prison, No Trespassing", etc etc. I guess I was in oxygen deprivation the first time I came by (after climbing Jamison Creek, I think I mentioned it's STEEP!) and only paid attention to the first sign I saw...funny how you can be SO inattentive after you THINK you know something that you don't notice anything else.

I continued my way down Jamison Creek back to Big Basin briefly, before taking the recommended deviation (ie: Shortcut) on China Grade. It's somewhat flat for the first few miles...but you go across a bridge and BAM! STEEP STEEP STEEP! Funny how my Strava ride report shows it a much milder grades than I was so steep that I had to ride a "paper route" for much of the climb (where you weave back and forth like you're delivering newspapers to both sides of the road...which was quite a challenge considering how NARROW the road was...but I kept grinding away). I'd been climbing for seemingly ages when there was suddenly a group of VW's coming down (it was a SUPER narrow road, reminding me of the roads in Yorkshire England last year). I stopped at the very edge, and the first car stopped and asked me how much farther down it goes. I told him about 2 or 3 miles (had no real idea...I was again in Oxygen deprivation and was just trying to survive the climb). I asked him how much further up, and he laughed...said they'd been on it seemingly ALL DAY! Well...that news didn't make me feel any better. They continued down and I continued to climb up the 'short cut'. Oh...and here I need to tell you that my Garmin GPS Unit was also apparently not fully charged when I left, as it had given me the 'low battery' alert a bit earlier. Uh-Oh. So I quit going back and forth from my map screen to the data screen, and just left it on data (that seems to be the least power drain...the map screen is always reloading as it continually shifts and changes as the road turns). A bit farther on there was a motorcycle stopped...a guy and a girl...I asked the guy how much farther, and also when I finally hit 236 which way to go (I thought I needed to turn right but wasn't sure). He said to go straight across and keep climbing...turning right would take me back towards Santa Cruz (I had told him I needed to get to Saratoga).

SO...armed with this knowledge I didn't need to shift to my map screen..and eventually I made it to 236 (Big Basin road) again. I continued straight across..and noticed there was a sign for a Boy Scout camp in the direction I was going. I figured it was on my way...and I continued climbing. Also of note: it was getting colder QUICK! I had already donned all my gear again as the nice part of the day was well past (and I was deep in trees again). The road goes up and up, and suddenly it turned to dirt. But it was NICE dirt..VERY smooth...much better than the crappy old pavement I had been climbing (note to self: China Grade would TRULY SUCK to go down...don't EVER DO THAT). I also figured out why they called it China Grade...I do believe one side of Mt Everest is in China...and it sure felt like I was climbing up to at least Base Camp or something on this road. I expected to see Sherpa's at any moment...and maybe some Yak's. I finally get to the Boy Scout Camp, and lo and behold, it's a dead end. DAMN THAT MAN!! (note: I'll come back to this moment in time later).  I just climbed about 5 extra miles, and now had to go BACK. I risked it and shifted to my map screen on my Garmin...and as I was JUST about where I needed to be (moving my cursor around shifting the view) and died. DAMN DAMN DAMN!! I stuck it in my jersey pocket (to warm it up) and started back downhill. About half way down there was a vehicle coming up...salvation!! I flagged them down, and it was 2 Boy Scout Troop leaders...I told them I was lost (stating the obvious to them..I think there were amused as here is some yahoo on a dirt road in a full on road bike/kit)....and they told me I needed to turn left on 236 (which climbing up was the right that I THOUGHT I needed to make...DOUBLE-DAMN THAT MAN!! (again, I'll return here later). I thanked them and continued on my way...eventually getting to 236.

I pulled my GPS out and stuck it back on the handlebars...and fired it up. Warming it up in ymy pocket helped...I now had SOME battery life left. However I forgot to hit "start" for about 2 more miles here. Also thankfully, it seems that with all the climbing on China Grade to Mt Everest and back had taken me to the high point on Big Basin Rd, so I now mostly zooming downhill now thru winding and DEEPLY shaded (and QUITE COLD) redwoods...I had been on this very road a mere 6 or 7 hours earlier. Oh..also of note: my Garmin has a bunch of data fields that I keep displayed (8 to be precise...I'm a data junkie). One of the fields is "% grade", and another is "total elevation climbed"...2 screens that I really like. Well...before the Bonny Doon downhilll I had noticed the grade field was blank and my total elevation screen was locked at 5670' climbed. Rats...however I figured maybe my Garmin was trying to save me the mental anguish for my return trip of knowing just how much my total climbing was (and just how steep China Grade really was). As I was winding my way back on Big Basin I heard sirens in the background...(seems REAL out of place deep in the redwoods). It got louder and louder..and suddenly just behind me was a Fire Dept paramedic truck HAULING it on the super windy road! I jumped off to the side and stopped, letting him by. Then I continued my ride, and then more sirens were faintly audible in the woods. Closer and closer they came (more than one this time) and I pulled over just in time to let by an ambulance, sheriff, and some other official vehicle swoop by. They were FLYING, and not long after that the sirens went stopped.
Very quickly I came up on a LONG line of stopped cars. Being a bike I cruised up the left lane to the very front. There was a large pickup (with obvious damage to his left front bumper/headlight area) stopped in the left lane (coming uphill) and a large black full dress-type motorcycle lying down in the middle of the swtichback. I was standing there (freezing) wondering what to do when the sheriff came up to the guy in the pickup (about 10' from me) and started asking him about the accident. He (and his son) were coming up the hill, and suddenly in the middle of the switchback there were 2 motorcycles riding side by side, one of them in his lane. He had nowhere to go and the motorcycle hit him and bounced out into the turn and crashed. Obviously people were hurt (I saw the paramedics bringing out the 'backboard' while the man was describing what happened)....I felt bad for everybody involved...but I was truly FREEZING...(and it was about 5:30pm by now...not getting any warmer or lighter in these trees) I backed up my bike about 10 yards, put on my cleat covers, grabbed my bike and went cross country...I could see it was a switchback, and it wasn't very far before I was at the far side of the had a steep section to slide down on my butt to get to the road, and I was again on my way on a now deserted road! Not too much further was the intersection I was dreaming about: hwy 9 and 236. That means I knew exactly where I was, and exactly how far I had left. 13 miles to go...a 6 mile climb back up to Skyline Road, then the 7 mile descent back into Saratoga and my car. 

OK...remember not long ago when I damned that unknown man for his faulty information? this point I did the quick math and realized that without his erroneous data, I would NOT have made 100 miles on today's ride. I would have been about 7 or 8 miles short, and that would have been CATASTROPHIC! It would no longer be a SUPER-CENTURY! So, I hereby Un-Damned the man and humbly apologized over and over, hoping he only had good fortune from here on out (note: he was NOT the motorcycle that was crashed...I would have felt TERRIBLE if it had been, but that wasn't his motorcycle). Maybe he'll win the lotto or something. So now I started the 6 mile climb, and was dreaming about being back at my rental car (note: I had traded my titanic gas-sucking (but REALLY NICE) Ford Expedition on Friday afternoon for a little Chevy Sonic...a small 4 door hatchback...big enough for bikes if I pull the front wheel off, and it should get GREAT mileage....I didn't find out until I was already up here that on THIS particular trip (because it's more than 30 days 33 days) the company isn't paying my gas as they ALWAYS have (and I've been on MANY trips more than 30 days). Well...the Expedition was nice and all...but I've been using about $60 of gas a WEEK (that gets me about 230 miles)....which compared to my amazing Jetta TDI which gets about 800 miles on $60 of diesel is a rather pricey ride.

I climbed pretty strongly up that last 6 miles (as one of my friends calls it: I could smell the barn!)....and suddenly there was Skyline Rd! I was SAVED! I flew down Hwy 9 (turns out it was my 2nd fasted descent down this road ever, and I've done it more than a few times)...I was highly motivated for SURE! Boy was my little red Sonic a sight for sore eyes! But actually I was in far better condition than I expected. I was WAY over my estimated distance it turns Garmin miraculously held out all the way to my car and was right at 96 miles, and that's not counting the miles it was in my pocket, giving me an actual total distance of OVER 100 miles! When I got home I quickly uploaded my Garmin data to Strava, and then clicked on 'corrected elevation' (which uses known maps to calculate your actual climbing, rather than the somewhat accurate barometric elevation sensor data) and the true climbing for my day was 13,088'! Now keep in mind I've NEVER done over 10,000' feet before...and I haven't ridden over 70 miles this season (and only once last year: and that was back in June at LIVESTRONG Davis where I did the century, which was actually only around 93 miles or so with maybe 2000' of climbing). Of note for today: I didn't cramp at ALL! That was a miracle in it's own right...I guess my "Home Evil" is a good brew....I add about an 8th of a tsp of potassium chloride (Nu Salt, a salt substitute from the grocery store) which is the same stuff in bananas that helps prevent cramps. I'm QUITE prone to cramps on longer harder rides...and this was by far the longest/hardest ride I've EVER done.

Also of note: Greg was riding the Mulholland Challenge super-century today down south was a real sufferfest for sure...121 miles and over 12,000' of climbing...I knew he was doing this, and felt in a way that we were suffering together...he had a great time as expected...(I already peeked at HIS Strava upload not long after I put mine in). I hope to go for a long hard (tho not quite so long, nor as hard) mt bike ride tomorrow....but that is obviously up for debate after I wake up and see how my legs feel. I think the week is shaping up for lots more overtime...and next weekend is looking to be all work (subject to change at the last moment obviously). So I need to ride when I can. Overall I'm proud as a peacock at today's ride...I guess all those rides with the club I've been doing (where they go REAL FAST and I hang on for dear life at the back) are really paying off! I did REALLY good today! Looking back I would not have guess I would be capable of this ride, certainly without totally crawling my way for the last half (I think my 'funk' back around mile 57 was my body reacting to what is typically the end of my rides...saying "HEY! Aren't we almost done? When are we gonna stop?" and when it wasn't the end it adapted, quit complaining (eventually), and got used to the idea that I was nowhere near done. Knowing what Greg was going thru also gave me motivation NOT to suck too bad. I had no idea for sure that I was over 10,000' of climbing (but I suspected...I knew it was 'a LOT').

OK...enough on my MOST EPIC RIDE EVER...and on to the babies.

Sweet Pea (our #2 baby) went in for surgery on Friday to remover 3 Mast Cell Tumors from her skin. One was rather large and was on a knee...and I hadn't thought about it...but they remove a pretty decent chunk of skin for even the small ones (I assume they do a 'eyeball' shaped cut so they can pull the skin together...obviously they just can't cut a circle or square). The knee one was the largest, and the surgeon told Jeannie that she stretched the skin as best as possible, but had to make slits in it to stretch it it will take longer to heal (as the skin needs to re-grow in the slit areas). That leg is in a total soft-cast, and poor Sweet Pea is MISERABLE. The other 2 are pretty long 6 to 7"....that's a big cut for a rather small tumor. Jeannie says that PG has been REALLY motherly...when ever Sweet Pea makes a moan or any noise of discomfort, she runs over, sniffs around, licks her face, and then lies down right next to or night. They are best friends (they've been together about 9 years now)....and we always think of PG as "the Biddy" as she treats the other 2 like her subordinates (PG is the alpha though, maybe that's normal). And speaking of PG, she is doing GREAT with 3 legs. The hair is coming back, she has pretty much totally adapted already, and she's even picking up speed now when I take them to the park to run...obviously she's not as fast as before (when she would run side by side with Sydney, not even looking forward but right as Syd from about a foot ahead, taunting her like the Road Runner to Wiley E Coyote or something). But I suspect she will continue to get faster as she gets more comfy w/ the balance and such of one back leg.

So...that's it for this MATT'S MOST EPIC RIDE very sorry to bore you with it...but it meant a lot to me. Hope spring has arrived for you (I see another winter storm moving across the top of the country...boy..somebody should FIRE that groundhog!) very sorry if that hits you....I saw on the news that a couple in Wisconsin turned back on their Christmas lights until spring...NICE! When life gives you lemonades, deal with it!



  1. And today (Sunday) I went out on the Mt bike and SUFFERED thru almost 4 hours and 4500 MORE feet of climbing. Boy were the legs complaining. I mean full on protest, whining, crying, begging...they threw the book at me. But I kept on going as the day was nice and I didn't want to go back to the hotel (nor go hit the stores). I did my first ridge to ridge MTB ride up off of Saratoga Gap...been meaning to try that one day. Most of my climbing was in the granny gear, about as slow as I could climb and still actually be climbing. Saw a bunch of deer and a beautiful male wild turkey (pretty big too). Not many people out there either...crazy that right in the middle of San Jose and San Fran is all this land and SO FEW people using it!

  2. An epic post to report an epic ride. I was asking myself just yesterday that if I could go anywhere and ride my bicycle, where would it be? The Redwoods and Big Sur and Monterey and Santa Cruz immediately came to mind. So, as you can imagine, I really appreciate your post. Thanks Matt.


    1. Hey was MIGHTY NICE riding, for sure (and my first time on most of that route). I have nothing quite like it back home...the redwoods are just SO cool (and I mean that in multiple ways). There are lots more in the area...just need to find them!

  3. Hi Matt great post. You are in my neck of the woods and I have ridden many of those roads, although it has been several years ago. Your descriptions brought back many memories. If you are still around this week I work in Mountain View near Lockheed martin and could bring in my road bike for a ride. Let me know. Dave Thompson

    1. Hi David...I'm working at the Matilda LMSC plant while I'm up here (I come up here every now and then). My only problem is I have no idea what kind of time off I'll be getting on any given day...I only found out I wasn't working the weekend late Fri afternoon. And it's late in the day when I find out yes or no if I'm staying extra hours each day. Not that I don't mind riding my bike (it's my 'plan B') but working all the hours I can when I'm away from home is my goal (I don't get Overtime at home very often). I'm here until May 3rd tho and have both bikes.