For the second straight year I pointed my bike skyward and began the year with the 4200' climb to the Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton. The valley was completely socked in with dense fog when I started at first light. I was interested to see whether the smooth new asphalt of Highway 130 see Going Down the Mines had been given a wider shoulder. That would have been too much to ask for – and it was – but the huge improvement in the surface now made it possible to ride the white line. Definitely safer.
Thinking of safety, I'd attached my Dinotte taillights (one solid red, one flashing amber) to the Enigma to be more visible in the gloom but in truth there wasn't a soul about. In the thirty eight mile roundtrip I saw half a dozen cars.
With an invisible San Jose sleeping soundly on my right I made my way silently up the first step towards Mt. Hamilton. Rapha was along for the ride; I'd chosen the ¾ Bibs, Long Sleeve Fixed Base Layer, Winter Jersey, Soft Shell Gilet and Winter Hat. I'd happily have done without the Gilet for the climb but thought it prudent to bring it along for the descent, expecting it to be cold and damp. Happily that didn't turn out to be the case. About midway to the top just above Grant Ranch I broke out of the clouds into a brilliant, near cloudless blue sky. The sun felt good and and every now and then as I rounded a Northern facing turn I'd get the faintest hint of a warm breeze even though there were patches of hoar frost on the road. I opened the zippers on jersey and gilet as a big owl settled in his tree top roost; his work done for the day.
I had the mountain to myself, though I'd much rather have been climbing with Brendan. A few weeks back he'd been on the workbench for 10 hours having a defective tubular patched and sewn up. The repair went well and he'll soon be roadworthy again. Next year we'll be standing at the top together pal. Unlike last year when a couple of descending riders passed me just below the summit this New Year's Day I was first up the mountain. Looking West I took in a spectacular view of the Santa Cruz mountain tops floating above a sea of white cloud blanketing Silicon Valley. One of those landscape scenes where the lack of any compositional possibilities makes taking a photograph pointless.
I'd promised Juli not to doddle, so I enjoyed my fifteen minutes of fame, filled my bottles, zipped up and headed down into 2009. Half a mile down I passed one, then two riders on their way up. By the time I dropped three miles I was passing bunches. Fewer riders than last year I think but more of them on the final 7 mile climb. Even though it wasn't very cold I wasn't overheated in the Winter Jersey and Softshell Gilet. I can't say the same for my feet though.
Way back when I did a review of the Specialized Defroster Winter Shoe I noted the thinsulate layer could have been thicker. A year later with plenty more miles riding in them I'll just come out and say they don't cut it as a winter shoe. My toes were near frozen on the descent though I was wearing merino socks and a pair of Campagnolo textran booties inside the shoes. Without substantial shoe covers these ¾ high boots lose their ginger at 45 degrees.
I disposed of the two short climbs on the way back hoping the weather would lift for the thrill of that final high-speed run down 130 to Alum Rock. No luck I'm afraid. The fog had thickened bringing visibility down to less than 100 feet. I took it easy, hugged my side of the road and concentrated on getting down in one piece.