Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The second day

For my first week in California, my only goal is to settle in as best I can. Despite these lukewarm ambitions, I had a surprisingly productive and fantastic first Tuesday in the Golden State. I spent the morning sorting through my belongings and managed to organize most everything, including my Parcel Post boxes. Then I worked for a bit on an article, made some lunch, and decided my afternoon reward for all of that encouraging progress should be a mountain bike ride.

Beat has a fancy coffee machine that he uses to make tasty and pretty cappuccinos. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to go back to the Black & Decker drip, but I was well-fueled for the thousands of feet of climbing in front of me.

I grabbed my Rocky Mountain Element and set out from the front door of Beat's apartment building. This was the mountain bike's first ride since the 25 Hours of Frog Hollow in early November. It recently had a fork rebuild and massive tune-up courtesy of Hellgate Cyclery, but it still had a bit of red dirt clinging to the frame.

Within two miles I was out of the suburbs and climbing into the moist, cool air of Stevens Canyon. I climbed and climbed on a narrow, paved road up to Monte Bello Ridge. I veered onto a rough gravel road and continued grinding to the top of Black Mountain, which, at just below 3,000 feet, is a downright Montana-worthy climb.

At the top of the mountain, a wide network of jeep roads and singletrack trails branches out to far-away points — I'm told all the way to Santa Cruz, although I only had a chance to scrape a surface of the trail system today. I looped through the ridge-top network for nearly two hours. The trails were moist and sticky from recent rains. The firm, tacky surface allowed me lean hard into turns until I felt like my nose might touch the ground, then fly up steep hills and plummet into descents without any fear of skidding out of control. Hero dirt. I felt like a hero, effortlessly nailing my first real mountain bike ride since November. I was the Lone Cyclist, racing across this quiet mountain ridge in a far-away, mystical land.

There was a ton of wildlife, however. I saw several groups of deer, lizards, and frogs. As I was grinding up a singletrack trail close to Black Mountain on the return ride, a coyote and the rabbit it was chasing sprinted across the trail just a few yards in front of me. They were so close I could see brown and gold nuances of their fur, sun-glossed and rippling as they raced across the hillside. As the coyote came within inches of the rabbit's powerful hind legs, they both disappeared around a corner. I never did see whether the rabbit got away.

As the sun drifted low on the horizon, temperatures drifted into the high 40s. Thinking myself in California now and no longer required to dress warm, I failed to bring any extra layers beyond the T-shirt and tights I was wearing. Brrrrr descent, but it was also winding and fun. The pavement was more slippery than the dirt.

I made it home just after Beat, and had to apologize for riding my bike for nearly four hours when we were supposed to go for a run tonight. I was tired but laced up my shoes and went out anyway. It was my first official run since I finished the Susitna 100 last month. We jogged out of the front door of the apartment, ran up the street, and within a mile we were in the Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve. We climbed into the mountains, crested along a sweeping view of city lights, and dropped into a narrow canyon beside a gurgling stream. We ran for about eight miles, running the entire way. I even made a solid effort to shuffle up the steep climbs, rather than walk. I was thrilled that my sore feet didn't bother me too much. Not only that, I felt surprisingly strong on the climbs. Yeah for fast recovery.

There is a lot of open space out here that I can access from my front door, both on bike and foot. Not to mention that across the street there's a Trader Joe's, a cool produce store with lots of fresh fruit, two coffee shops with comfy writing spaces, and a bike shop. It have to say, it's really not that bad here. Twice today, I stood in the quiet wind and gazed out over the sprawl of humanity surrounding me. Someday, I promised myself, I will explore the urban wilderness, too.

OK, tomorrow I will write a post about my upcoming plans. Tonight, I am just going to enjoy the lingering bliss from this awesome day.


  1. Jill,
    Welcome to the Bay Area (from someone who spent the first 30 yrs of my life there). All of that open space is great, isn't it?
    I'm flying out there today. Doing the CTR Canyon trail run Sat (Redwood Park). Am signed up for Brazen's Diablo 3/19 but still considering PCTR's Pirate's Cove (done that course 3 times).
    As mentioned before, I am a life member of ACA and admire all of the inspirational cycling/other adventures you have done. Would love to chat sometime and maybe meet the guy who came in right after me at Redwood Park in '09. Drop me a note via email link or leave a comment on my blog--I've got CA Poppies/lupine pics on post before last and some neat critter pics, too).
    All the best, Ann

  2. How exciting - you're still in the mountains! I bet you'll be telling the story of the weekend trip you and Beat take on that long network of trails before too long. It may be less snowy, but I think you're going to find your niche in your new home. Can't wait to hear about your vision for this new year!

  3. uh-oh!!! the trappings of wealth!! LOL! That's he Cali way (said in a joking tone), talk like one of the great unwashed masses while sipping high-end coffee's.
    Just a matter of time before you're sporting that perfect tan! (Nothing wrong with that!) ...and calling everybody dude and such.

  4. I (heart) Rancho San Antonio. When I'm in SJC for business I'll try to get over there to run. Deer, turkeys, occasionally bobcat.

  5. What is that long black thing in the one photo? A shadow? Will be months before we see one of those in Missoula! I used to run and hike in that preserve back when I did a lot of biz travel to Mountain View....nice place. Best of luck to you both - E

  6. welcome to my stopping ground! I was born and raised here and love how close the wild hills are. I ride a road bike mostly and there are great rides all around the bay area for you to enjoy that way too. Happy miles!

  7. How fortunate, a Trader Joe's across the street, the only store you will even need. Check out the "Two Buck Chuck". It's $1.99 a bottle and it is hard to fine a better wine for under $10.

  8. Though you couldn't pay me enough to live in CA again, I am exceedingly jealous of the Trader Joes.

  9. I started reading your blog while you were in exotic (to me) Alaska and it is amusing how you've now started to post photos of my backyard.

    You have something to look forward to and will no doubt love discovering the trails and 'remoteness' amongst the 6 million here. Two places that come to mind should be a perfect match: Henry Coe state park (vast, remote, wilderness, +200 miles of trails) and Big Basin / Butano (epic long rides or runs to the coast and back). Hope to 'run' into you some time, so to speak.

  10. Cool beans, Jill! I'm not sure of a biking route off hand, but I'm sure Beat has told you of our 60 mile run from his place to the coast. I know you can ride to the beach from Big Basin, I'm just not sure of the route from Los Altos since most of the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail is off limits to bikes I believe. Enjoy exploring!

  11. Eeek. It's very fun to see our area documented through your eyes. It looks as good as it does in person.

    If you're close to TJ's, check out Milk Pail just north of it for better deals of fresh produce. Di Martini's to the south has the best fruit!

  12. Looking at your latest pictures reminds me that, for all the trade-offs involved with living in California, it still retains a unique, magical presence. Born in San Francisco, gotta get back there soon......

  13. Hi Jill,
    I've been reading since your Homer days, and it's been fun following along on your adventures. While your pics in Cali may not contain the ruggedness found in AK or Montana, Cali is still (obviously) a beautiful place, and you've quickly found ways to avoid the crowds. Of course you did! Also, it's not about where you are, it's about who you're with. You've never sounded happier in all the years I've been following along. Congrats to you and Beat.

    Also, know that despite living in such stunning surroundings up here in AK, I get a wee bit jealous of seeing warm sunshine and green in your pics. It's been beautiful up here, but I'm ready for spring! 40 degree weather, without the accompanying breakup of snow and ice and muck, sounds pretty damn good.

  14. Wow! That's my local riding spot! You made it look seriously awesome in the pictures. Speaking as a California transplant myself, I'm certain you'll end up loving it here. Although driving sucks remember that the "real" mountains of the Sierras are only a couple hours away.

    Seconding Henry Coe State Park as a place you need to visit on your bike. Miles of wilderness, steep hills, and remote staggering terrain.


  15. wow, beautiful pics as usual!...and one plus of your move is that your blog won't make me nearly so homesick as seeing all those MT pics did! Looking forward to following your adventures just as much as always!

  16. Long time reader here, though I don't comment much. I'm sure I'll run into you guys at some point. Those trails are my usual running/hiking pleasure - even the suburban Los Altos Hills features some lovely running and road cycling.

    Enjoy and welcome!

  17. Welcome to my neck of the woods......been reading your blog for a couple of years now. I have two words for you if you like to ride a bike and want some adventure.........Henry Coe.......just ask around, it's east of Gilroy. Go there and ride to your hearts content. Great place for "adventure" rides. Easy to put in 5-10K climbs in a day.


  18. I love the fact that it takes you very little time to get settled into a new place.

  19. Awesome - very cool to see my stomping grounds from a fresh perspective...
    Welcome to Cali!


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