Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Woodside to the sea

You know what I love about road biking? How much distance and elevation it enables me to cover during relatively small efforts. Some days, I like a good challenge. Others, I simply want to cover miles, view new scenery, and taste different air. Today I had errands in Palo Alto, so I decided to head to Woodside and point my road bike west. I had three hours, so today's goal was "what can I see in three hours?"

I rode up and over Skyline Ridge and down Tunitas Creek Road, a thin ribbon of pavement wending through the redwoods. The weather was almost unrealistically perfect. I was wearing a thin long-sleeved shirt and a pair of tights, and I was comfortable during both the climb and the descent — never hot nor cold. After seven miles of mostly coasting on a smooth surface amid a temperature equilibrium, I began to have a strange sensation that I wasn't even there — that I was somehow distant from this place, sitting on a stationary bicycle and watching tree trunks stream by on a movie screen.

That is, until I neared Highway 1. I could smell the honey sweetness of mustard fields in bloom, and taste pungent sea salt wafting on a light breeze. The sun emerged from a thin veil of clouds and cast the hillsides in rich light. I rode along the highway until my watch read 1:22, and then turned to find an overlook on the cliffs above the Pacific.

I found a place hidden in plain sight by a rusty old gate and a rough gravel entry. I sat and ate an Odwalla Bar, slowly so I could better taste the infusion of salt and savory ocean air. Waves crashed into the shoreline a hundred feet below the cliffs, distant enough to sound like purring. I watched a solo walker stroll barefoot across the sand. The baby blue Pacific yawned over the horizon, fading imperceptibly into the similarly blue sky. It was a peaceful place, and it made me feel happy, enough so that I could have laid there all day. It seemed strange that I ran a quick errand, rode my bike for ninety minutes, and somehow ended up here. So close and yet a world away.

Still, I only had three hours and a long way to climb, so I set back out toward the mountains. Up and up and up toward the crest of Skyline, then back to Woodside. It didn't seem like all that much work, which is why it was pleasantly surprising to upload my ride stats find out I rode 35 miles with 5,500 feet of climbing. That kind of distance and elevation would take me the better part of a day to cover on foot, but the road bike makes it too easy. It almost feels like cheating — if it wasn't so wonderful.