Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pigeon Point LIghthouse Tour 2008

Pigeon Point Lighthouse 2008

The forecast was for 70% chance of rain, but since this was my last chance to test my new bike with a fully loaded setup, I decided to go ahead and brave it anyway. In addition, my doctor had given me a new portable CPAP machine to test, and I wanted to see how much carrying that extra 1.75 pounds would slow me down. Mike Samuel, Stephan Ellner were committed to coming along, and Li Moore joined us as a last minute addition. Li's girlfriend, Catherine, would drive over with his stuff later that afternoon. After mounting fenders, computers, and navigation units, we immediately set out towards Moody road. The bike felt heavy, and I didn't quite have the gearing for Moody road, however, so elected to go up Taeffe and Altamont, meeting up with Page Mill road. The weather was overcast but quite sunny in the valley, and there was very little wind. In my 34x34, I had to stand up frequently on the climb, but it felt fine.

Our climbing went quite well, and at the top of West Alpine road, we took a break to eat and put on clothing. This was the test --- with a fully loaded setup, how would this technical descent feel? The answer came quickly --- the bike handled very well indeed! There was not a hint of shimmy whatsoever, and the long reach caliper brakes felt very capable of stopping the bike. At the bottom of West Alpine road we finally saw some wet pavement, and we were chilled, but with sunlight filtering through the Redwood Forest, it was too beautiful for words and we were glad to have agreed to the ride, no matter the weather further ahead.

At the junction with Pescadero Road we paused once more to adjust my front fender --- this was becoming quite irritating, and I was reminded once again why I didn't usually tour with fenders. The climb up Pescadero Road past Sam McDonald County Park was easy, and the descent was just brilliant. Carving corners quickly with a load is what this bike was designed for, and it did it so very well. As we neared the coast, it became quite overcast, but though it threatened rain, we never felt a drop. Li wanted to pet the goat at the goat farm on North Road, so we took that detour for the petting. Stephan bought a souvenir, and we went on to Pescadero where Norm's market provided sustenance in the form of artichoke garlic bread, meat, cheese, as well as supplies for the night's dinner and the morrow's breakfast.

While having lunch, a Western Wheeler rode up. This was Vicki Pelton, whom I knew quite well. We told her we had reservations for Pigeon Point and were intending to show up as early as possible so we could get the hot tub. When she found out that a few of our compatriots had bailed and we had room for her tonight, she accepted the last bunk in the hostel.

Loading up our saddlebags, we rode on up Bean Hollow Road, a lovely twisty little country lane which gave us views of the coast, juxtaposed with a field of flowers. With the wind behind us, we arrived at the hostel at 3:00pm, in time to get us the sunset position in the hot tub!

The next day, after Stephan's excellent dinner the night before (fortified by a second loaf of that artichoke garlic bread) and a quick pancake breakfast, we gave Catherine most of our baggage and proceeded to start riding South. We were quite capable of climbing with our lugguage, but Stephan had an urgent appointment at 3:00pm and we wanted to move light and fast, having already proved that our bikes were more than up to the task of another tour in the mountains. With a 15-20mph wind behind us, we made Santa Cruz in record time, getting there at 10:30 --- too early for lunch, but not too early to get bagels at the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting company. Then it was up Highway 9, with uncharacteristically light traffic, but also with a tail wind, pedaling up the mountain road lightly with not a care in the world. At Felton we turned off and found East Zyante road, a stair step climb up into the Santa Cruz mountains with fairly steep sections.

Once at the junction with summit road, we decided that a quick descent into Los Gatos would save us time. Bear Creek road was a fast descent as usual, and we lucked out on the traffic again, having only one platoon of cars pass us the way only Italian and American drivers would do. On Alma Bridge road, however, we found that the Los Gatos Creek trail was closed, forcing us to find an alternate dirt road which required about 10m of walking. Once into Los Gatos, all we had to do was to fight the headwind home on my usual roads.

We had no mechanicals, and the weather was amazing. The trip was about 172km and about 2300m of climbing (not accurate because changing weather made my barometric altimeter read numbers I don't believe).

Lessons learned: I'm going to have to put a triple on this bike before I go to Europe. Yes, I can carry a CPAP even on tour, but not without help. The GPS 76CSx can only handle routes with 50 waypoints or less, so when constructing routes, I have to be careful how many times I click. When the forecast says rain, be brave and go riding anyway. The ride is worth the effort!
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