Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Redwoods road ride

Big Basin Redwoods State Park
I didn't actually mean to binge on this much road biking this week. I blame jet lag, which wrestles me awake well before sunrise each morning, and a bit of writer's block, which makes me feel reluctant to return home to my computer. It's not that I'm necessarily stuck with my project, it's just that I've forgotten where I'm going with it. It's a bit frustrating, staring at blank screens, tapping out a few sentences and then erasing them. I want to reset my mind, and anyway I have that 25-hour bike race to train for. So I take to the road.

I winced as I placed my sore sit bones on the saddle this morning; of all the body parts that have fallen out of shape since my August bike crash, my suddenly sensitive butt is the most noticeable. I rode 40 miles and Monday and 45 yesterday, both with 4,000-plus feet of climbing, so I decided I'd take it easy today. I brought one water bottle and no food. The sun burned hot even at 8 a.m., foreshadowing the 95 degrees it would hit later in the day. I motored up Highway 9, feeling strong. An hour and a half later at the crest of the climb, without even really deciding too, I kept going.

Who's a big tree?
Miles sure go by fast when you're coasting downhill. I knocked off six miles and launched into a new climb, again, without really making a conscious decision to do so. Twenty miles and about 3,500 feet of climbing into my ride, I placed my water bottle to my lips and found it was empty. So I had no choice but to descend to the nearest water source — the headquarters of Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

I've never even ridden down into Big Basin before, which is inexcusable, really, because it's so close to my house and such a great route for beauty, climbing and solitude. On a weekday morning, you'd never even guess you were in the midst of one of the largest population centers in California. I saw exactly two cars, and had the rest of the narrow, shady, steep roller coaster of a road all to myself.

The unobstructed view from Highway 236
See what I mean? Forest as far as the eyes can see. And this is about halfway between San Jose and Santa Cruz as the seagull flies. It's all open land — a sliver of small mountains that people nearly forgot. Except for, of course, the loggers who deforested this area about a century ago. The entire Bay-area coastline is second-growth forest at best, but the region still contains a few stunning redwood trees that loomed like towers over my tiny bicycle. I loved this ride, and never even really noticed the effort, that is, until I ran out of water again near the crest of the final climb, and my toes developed a sharp ache from too many hours in road shoes. (Even though it's been two and a half years since I had frostbite, my right toes can still only tolerate about three hours in hard-soled clipless shoes before I develop excruciating pressure pains.)

I ended the ride at 53 miles and 7,345 feet of climbing, which is way more than I intended or really felt necessary. (Garmin map here) But at the same time, I almost wish I took the initiative (brought more water and food) to ride even farther. Sometime soon I'd love to ride all the way down to Santa Cruz, a coastal town I'm ashamed to admit I have not yet visited. The road riding opportunities in this region really are sublime, which helps temper my reluctance to get back on my mountain bike. (I know, I know. I need to get over this. But there hasn't been a significant rainstorm since June, and the trails were moon-dust on top of loose gravel before the elapsed six weeks of continuing, persistent dryness.) But I can't wait for rain forever.


  1. You did 53 miles and 7300' of climbing on two water bottles and no food? Wow.

  2. I was only planning on riding for about two hours, but generally for anything under four hours, I don't take in any calories during the workout. I tend to ride/run in the afternoon after I've already eaten a fairly large number of calories during the day, and also generally work at that lower "fat-burning" level of intensity.

    Water is a different story. I usually drink a lot. I drank closer to three 24-ounce bottles because I downed almost an entire bottle of water at the ranger station before filling up once more. It still wasn't enough, especially closer to noon when it was in the 90s as I was climbing in direct sunlight. Certainly my fault but it was a bit of a struggle.

  3. It looks so stunning - I'm so very jealous that you have that on your doorstep!

  4. Wow that is some beautiful country you have to ride in - enjoy it. I always carry money for the "Oh I will go longer but am not prepared nutritionally for it" rides that pop up! I could see why you kept riding!

  5. I am going to pull a Jill and do a huge road ride this weekend. I'll let you know how my taper ride goes :p

  6. jill - I hear you on the slippery dry dirt, but some spots hold up surprisingly well. anything loamy can maintain pretty decent traction in the summer. my favorite is annadel (mostly rocky but some wooded sections), but skeggs is worth a try (it's all in the redwood trees except for some sandstone sections, which also maintain decent traction). also, bolinas ridge stays pretty damp all year thanks to the fog redwood rain on top of the ridge.

    just hate to think of you not mountain biking ;)

  7. Bill — I actually did have money with me. There are no commercial businesses (besides a couple of wineries) anywhere along this route. It's that remote, which I think is pretty cool given its proximity to San Jose.

    Danni — Yay! Are you going to ride the Going to the Sun road?

    Leah — Thanks for the tips. I was thinking about checking out Skeggs on Friday since it went well for me (i.e. no crashing) the last time I was there. I was thinking about joining a group for a ride at Henry Coe on Saturday. I received a message from them about trail conditions:

    "Unlike our ride last year (which took place mid-November), the trails are bone-dry. It hasn't rained here in over three months and you should expect loose, slippery conditions, and poor traction on many descents, so be careful."

    So it's not just me who thinks the trails are chunder right now. I still remember how tacky and fun my regular loop was in March, when it rained every other day.

  8. yep - definitely depends on where you are going. the marin headlands fire roads are pretty sketchy right now. I kept throwing my cross bike into sideways skids coming downhill until I accepted reality and slowed it down! I agree, it will be sweet when the first good rainfall tacks everything down. have fun out there...

  9. Hey Jill what type of bike are you riding?

  10. Jill - great ride. BBR has a great potential for doubletrack + road rides, I really liked this one I did there last year linking Big Basin and Butano redwoods: (hardtail 29er being my preferred bike for this ride)

    I also found these events to be a great way to get to know the local hills.

  11. Glad to hear you are back home, and that your arm has healed where you can ride again! I'd go crazy if I couldn't ride! You must be quite strong after your European adventure!

    I'm tentatively planning on riding Purisima Creek Redwoods tomorrow (as it's supposed to rain next week and will be a gloppy mess after that)...most likely my plan is to park in Woodside (I usually park just before the market/4-way-stop, on the left side of the road) and hopefully be wheels down around noon heading up. It would be cool to ride w/ you one day before I leave (I drive home next Friday).

    I'll have to get your route for Alpine Rd...I've heard that is a good ride. Not sure how it will compare to Tunitas Creek rd (which is the most awesome piece of pavement Ive ridden so far)...I'm jonesing to do that again..prob next week weather permitting.

  12. Not visited Santa Cruz. Hmm. So much for the explorer. Mind you Santa Cruz is rather less bourgeois than Los Altos. Go on, give it a try and go slumming! You might like it. I spent twenty years there and got an education.

  13. Matt, I was thinking about heading to Skeggs tomorrow anyway so maybe I will join you. I can't commit yet but I know the part of Woodside you are talking about. If you don't see me near the market at noon, go on without me. I assume you're going to climb up the King Mountain road? Last time I rode Purisima was in March, the "wet" month. It wasn't *that* gloppy. From what I recall it's pretty loamy, which will definitely be better for my first mountain bike ride in nearly two months.

    I only rode about three miles of Alpine Road and back. I was just doing the Highway 9 to Page Mill loop with a little spur. The pavement was quite rough - the kind where I probably would prefer my 29er over the skinny tires, but the skinny tires still work of course.

    Let me know when you ride the Tunitas Creek Road. I'm intrigued.

  14. Shawn, the bike is a Calfee, carbon frame. Beat purchased it about six years ago. It's his bike but I adopted it after (well, actually before) he got his S-Works. Technically it's my first road bike (my last pavement bike was an Ibex touring bicycle.)

  15. Hey Jill....if noon is too late or early just let me know...for the first time in 3 weeks I have a few days off (been working 7 days a week since I came up here...graveyard shift). JUST got off work (6am Fri) and found just before I walked out the door that I wasn't needed this weekend. I plan to snooze for a few hours and get up and moving around 11am.

    Shoot me an email if you know more...

    I'll check my email before I head out. Hope to see you out there...if not, maybe somewhere else...I don't head home till next Friday (oh...a note: they DOZED the downhill of Purisima Ck I think about a week or 2 before I came's horrible..hard hard hard, w/ dozer tracks, & wide enough in some parts to land the space shuttle). But the Whitmore gulch singletrack climb is SUPERB, as is the Harkins Ridge downwhill in the middle (tho they dozed some of that too).

    I don't like to do that ride on weekends cuz the rangers show up with radar guns (it's quite popular) and ticket you for going over 15mph on the downhills. However on weekdays I pretty much own the place.

    Maybe Beat can come too? That way I can get crushed by TWO people...(always good for my morale).


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