|From Screen Captures|
Reilly Capps, Eva Silverstein and I met at the Bicycle Outfitter at 8:45 this morning ostensibly for a ride up to Big Basin. I say ostensibly because the forecast was for high winds above 1,000 feet, and I wasn't sure I wanted to put up with that more than necessary, since the winds were supposed to get much stronger in the afternoon.
Reilly was on a mountain bike, so he broke off to visit Fremont Older Open Space Preserve, a park I recommended to him for a mountain bike visit since it had some single track and was quite pretty. Looking at how clear the sky was, I suggested to Eva that we choose to ride Skyline first, to maximize chances of seeing all the way to Big Sur. "I bet we'll get to see all the way to Monterey today." Phil Sung met us at the corner of Mt. Eden and Stevens Canyon, but announced that he wasn't feeling very well today.
Stevens Canyon was cold, and we had to push pretty hard to stay warm, but once we turned onto Redwood Gulch it was not bad at all as sunlight filtered down through the trees and the occasional 20% grades made us work hard enough to stay warm. At the top of Redwood Gulch Phil said he had had enough and rode down highway 9, leaving Eva and I to climb it. Highway 9 always feels easy after Redwood Gulch, but the amount of traffic today was annoying, though not as painful as it would be after Thanksgiving, when Christmas tree traffic would make the riding intolerable.
At the top of 9, we made a left and climbed up to the high point at Skyline Blvd near Castle Rock. We stopped at Castle Rock to use the restroom, and then rode on to the summit and took a pause right after that in the sun for an absolutely glorious view of Monterey Bay. We could see everything: water, the Big Basin redwoods, the Ventana mountains, and even the beach at Moss Landing, which was a first for me. In 18 years of cycling the area I had never seen the conditions come together so beautifully! I cursed myself for not bringing a real camera, as my camera phone did nothing but show me a glare filled screen. Given that I had anticipated the weather conditions correctly at the top of Skyline, I had no excuse other than sheer laziness.
The descent down to Bear Creek road was fast, but as forecasted, the wind picked up and I ended up making this the slowest descent I'd had for a while, since the wind blew gustily in no clear pattern. At the Bear Creek road intersection, I suggested to Eva that we changed our route, since Big Basin would be cold and we'd have to descend Highway 9 in even more gusty conditions. Not having ridden Summit Road and Old Santa Cruz Highway before, she was game for it, despite the warning that the return would be on the unpaved Los Gatos Creek trail.
Summit road was a beautiful climb and we once again got a good view of Big Sur's mountains, sans the view of Monterey Bay. We then descended to Old Santa Cruz highway, and worked our way around the East end of Lexington Dam, came down the Los Gatos Creek trail and had lunch in downtown Los Gatos, where we ran into the Western Wheelers D group, which had just returned from riding Hicks. Some complained about how warm Hicks was. The reason I don't always ride with the club (despite enjoying the company) is that the club has a tendency to plan out routes a month in advance without a good understanding of the prevailing weather conditions. When I lead a ride I like to optimize the route to fit the weather, and understandably that does not work with the club structure, so I find it easier just lead my own little rides with good friends.
Since it was windy and warm and we still had energy left over after lunch, Eva and I reversed part of Naomi Bloom's "7 Hills of Saratoga" route on the way back to Foothill Expressway. The final route was 62 miles and nearly 5200' of climbing, a little less than anticipated, but quite OK for the season and how I was feeling. I should have brought a real camera, but sometimes, you just have to be satisfied with NeuroChromes.