Monday, July 4, 2011

Montebello and Black Mountain

Yesterday was perhaps the hottest day of the year so far here. The wise choice would have been to hunker down, close the windows, and fire up the air conditioning for the first time this year. Instead, I chose to head out for a long bike ride. OK, then, in that case the key would be to get an early start.

So it was that about noon I rolled out on my ride. There wasn't a merciful cloud in the sky, and it was already about 90 F, which is about... let's see here... 12e Celsius, I guess.

My plan was to start in Saratoga, ride up Montebello Road to Page Mill, then up to Skyline and back down to Saratoga via Route 9. It didn't work out that way, but it did indeed start with me driving to Saratoga to cut 20 miles off the edges of the ride. I was riding my mountain bike because I knew Montebello turned to dirt, but I wasn't sure whether it was suitable for the road bike.

I rode up Route 9 to Pierce, which peaks at the entrance to the Mountain Winery at about 850 feet. It then drops down to meet Mt. Eden Road, which then climbs up back up to about the same elevation at its peak, crossing over what I presume is Mt. Eden. The road then drops gently along the Stevens Creek Reservoir where it eventually meets up with bottom of Montebello Road.

Stevens Creek Reservoir, near the bottom of Montebello Road
The first part of Montebello Road, running alongside a quarry, is quite steep and offers precious little shade.

Switchback on Montebello
It climbs up the eastern flank of the hill, occasionally giving glimpses off into Sunnyvale and Mountain View, but most memorably offering views of the enormity of the quarries at the end of Stevens Creek Road. The picture below shows the valley, but on the left side you can see a huge quarry -- and it's one of the smaller ones. On the far right of the picture you can just make out the edge of Stevens Creek Reservoir.

Sunnyvale and Mountain View, from Montebello Road
Shade on Montebello Road, near Flintlock Road
The road eventually turns toward the northwest, its primary direction. You start seeing vineyards here, and the road becomes a single lane. The tree cover becomes a little heavier. On a hot bright day like this, the difference between an exposed section of road and one that's in shade is palpable.  I'd be surprised if it wasn't 20 or 30 degrees.

I started the ride with three bottles of water, and I had already emptied two of them. I was at 1800 feet, with another 1000 feet of climbing ahead of me. Lower down I had passed by running water, and I realized that the streams were likely to be increasingly feeble the higher I climbed. As I took this picture there was a little stream next to me. On the maps it's called Swiss Creek, which is a grand name for something with the flow of a garden hose. But it's water nonetheless, and apparently clear, so I filled two water bottles.

The road climbs steeply out of the Swiss Creek valley to about 2200 feet, where it reaches the Ridge Vineyards. Ridge Vineyards is well regarded and was recently featured on James May's Road Trip, a show in which a British odd couple travel around talking about wine. In the clip below you can see them driving an RV up to the vineyard, and if you look closely you can see a guy on a bike rounding the corner behind them. That moment, quite specifically, is what made me want to ride this particular road today.

As you pass by the winery, you're on the ridge. On the left, the southern slope is all vineyard. On the right is woodland, Silicon Valley, and the bay.

Silicon Valley from Montebello Road
A memorial for Eric Linthorst
As I was taking one my frequent rests in the shade up here, I noticed a small aluminum plaque near the side of the road. It is apparently in memory of Eric Linthorst, who died in 2005. At my own age, I can't help noticing. I don't know anything about it beyond what's written here.

By this time in the ride it was mid-afternoon, the heat of the day, and up here this is precious little shade. A half mile after the winery, Montebello has gradually climbed to about 2600 feet, and ends. It becomes a fire road at this point, climbing a barren ridge covered with brown grass to Black Mountain, an antenna farm at 2800 feet. This is the high point of this ride, and the low point of my energy. As I took this picture, the little hill ahead of me seemed insurmountable.

Black Mountain
After Black Mountain, the trail heads down to meet Page Mill Road at about 2150 feet. According to the original plan I would have turned left toward Skyline, but at this point every small rise in the road looked a mountain to me, and my legs were just empty. So I turned right, headed down Page Mill Road, and called for a rescue ride.

I suppose the last section of this ride was this morning, when I took my road bike to Saratoga to pick up my car. That short ride was uneventful but reminded me that I wouldn't have had anything like the energy to get as far as I did, had I started from home.

The Garmin reports just 22 miles, with 3100 feet of climbing. I think that's about fair this time. My average speed: walking. Yipes. I'll have to try it again when the weather has returned to its customary pleasantness.

No comments:

Post a Comment