Just after 8 this morning I saddled the Enigma and set out on a solo 50-mile ride from San Jose to the boardwalk at Santa Cruz. Juli was meeting me later for a rendezvous at the beach with friends. If I needed any extra motivation my sparkling Eulogy, meticulously cleaned and lubed the night before and a new Rapha Club Jersey (Fudge base color/Sulphur chest band) did the trick.
For the first time in weeks it was prudent to apply sunscreen. Winter sun or not, it was intense today. I packed the River City Bicycles Musette (thanks Chris) with my Stowaway Jacket, two Probars (Apple/Cinnamon Crunch and Nutty Banana Boom), a package of Vitalyte, two Grab the Gold Bars, Softshell Gloves, cell phone and slung it over my shoulder. For insurance I had two tubes, three C02s, multi-tool (with chain tool), tire levers, tube patch kit, tire patches all stuffed in a medium Fizik seat bag. My Canon G9 got it's usual back pocket window seat.
After a mile or two of surface streets I joined the Los Gatos Creek Trail which already had a full complement of joggers, dogs, and eccentrics. Dodging the eccentrics is murder some days.
Fifteen minutes later it was back to surface streets zig zagging my way through tony Los Gatos where a local ordinance actually requires time to move slower. In due course I reached Highway 9 and the day's KOM up Big Basin Way (2100') to Skyline. This is a classic bay area climb that starts off easy and builds as you ascend, it averages 7% for 6.5 miles. The descent where you can hit 45mph in several places is even better.
The broad twisting roadway attracts car clubs and sport bikes and both were in full voice this morning. First came the Corvette club, led by a jet black monster who's driver punctuated his pass with a heavy blip of the throttle... thanks. The Cobra club set their alarm clocks a little earlier because they were up, or should I say down, next. Four of them thundered by like they were on rails. I must say there's nothing like a quiet climb in the woods.
Past the half way point the internal voice started his usual monologue. "Now would be a good time to take a picture... the light is really nice here" As usual, I ignored him and soldiered on to the summit, annoyed with myself for not getting more pictures.
I stopped briefly at the top for a ProBar and a drink where I was entertained by the moto GP antics of the sport bike parade. I counted no checkered flags but saw two victory wheelies. I wondered if they'd follow me down the other side, but they didn't. Time for another layer; the Club Jersey and Merino short-sleeve base had been perfect on the climb but I put on the stylish Stowaway for the speed and shade of the descent.
I hadn't ridden down highway nine on the Santa Cruz side before and it turned out to be a blast, at least for the first ten miles or so. No motorcycles, few cars in that stretch. I did get stuck behind a slow-moving camper for a mile or two until he reached a turnout and let me by, no doubt amazed a bicycle could easily outpace him on this road. With an appreciative wave for his consideration I tucked, showed him the Rapha logo on the backside of the Stowaway – and was gone.
I slowed and stopped at the Mountain Store where the road eased its headlong rush downwards. Even in this isolated rural hideaway it's curious to note the store is Korean owned and operated. The woman behind the counter smiled as I paid for the first strawberry shortcake ice cream I've had in twenty years. Tasted just as good as I remembered.
Back on the road, the miles started to add up and so did the traffic, though I'm not sure where it all came from. By the time I'd reached the town of Ben Lomond and passed the Scarborough Lumber Yard I was alert to the narrowing shoulder and speeding cars. I'd turned on my Knog beetles attached to my helmet and seatpost to keep me visible with the highway dipping in and out of Redwood shade. I held my line, signaled for room when I could and kept a sharp eye out for the deeply recessed storm drains that had begun to line the road. Hit one of those at 25 mph and your day and your bike are over.
Just past Felton things got really tight and a white car squeezing past me unecessarily came within six inches of my leg... too close. The road pitched down again and I decided to take matters into my own hands (well legs really). I hammered and maintained 40 mph and a comfortable cushion in front of the nearest car for two or three miles to the outskirts of Santa Cruz.
Juli and the car found me looking out over the bay on West Cliff drive. I cleaned up and changed on a quiet side street. Santa Cruz is used to surfers, runners, and hippies in various stages of undress at all hours anyway. We found a good spot and had lunch before heading down to the beach and the party. We chatted for a couple of hours, and watched the sun go down behind the iconic Santa Cruz pier as the bonfires sparked to life on the cooling sands. Good ride, great day.