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.