Monday, October 10, 2011

Boulder Creek

Yesterday I headed out on my road bike with no destination in mind. I enjoyed a recent ride down to Santa Cruz, and decided that riding down to the beach would be a good way to start.

View Boulder Creek in a larger map

I left the house about 9:30 in the morning. It was overcast and cool. I took my standard route through Los Gatos, not especially inspired for this ride but enjoying the time on the bike nonetheless.

Highway 17 supports above
the Los Gatos Creek Trail.
A couple of days ago I got a book called Highway 17, which as you might expect is about the history and construction of Highway 17. Definitely a transportation nerd's book. It's easy for a bicyclist to develop an interest in transportation minutia, because you spend all your time riding on obsolete infrastructure.

Among other things the book describes building the road south of Los Gatos, just above the Los Gatos Creek Trail. Back then the trail was an active railroad bed, and they squeezed the road into the steep hill above it. To do that, they had to build a "sidehill viaduct", basically cantilever supports. So on this trip I had my eye out for them, and sure enough they're still visible. OK, it's a little thing, but I had never noticed that before.

 I felt pretty good riding around the reservoir and up Old Santa Cruz Highway. I was so aimless that I thought about riding the southern part of the old highway again, just because it's so pretty. But instead I decided that the point of the ride would be a visit to the beach. So it was down the Soquel/San Jose Road to Capitola.

Capitola was cool, in the temperature sense, and bustling. I headed west toward Santa Cruz, again retracing my steps from a few weeks before. I missed the turn onto Opal Cliff Drive, and learned that riding along Portola isn't nearly as interesting as the beachfront.

By this time it was about 1 in the afternoon, and I was passing by Betty Burger again,  and oh what the heck, I stopped there again for lunch. I wasn't being very original on this ride, but what's not to like?

Train trestle across the San Lorenzo
Once I got going again, I headed toward the boardwalk. Along the way I talked to a friendly pedestrian who, among other things, suggested that I think about Route 9 on the way home. Works for me; that's the new plan.

I rode up the path next to the San Lorenzo River, which eventually meets up with River Street, the southern end of Route 9.

Route 9 starts by climbing a bit up into Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. As you might expect, that means being among some tall trees. Unfortunately, it also means being in the midst of a lot of traffic. I don't mind traffic much, but it means that I rarely stop and enjoy the sights.

Rincon Gulch trestle
One stop I did make was to take a picture of another train trestle, this one over something called Rincon Gulch. As it turns out, this is the train line that goes up to Roaring Camp. A few minutes later, I saw an odd train on that line, made up of five or six small maintenance engines, the size of compact cars. Surreal. Like a clown train.

Route 9 through Felton, and then Ben Lomond.  All along the way it's very pretty, but busy. As I got into Boulder Creek I was thinking about stopping at the Fosters Freeze, which I've visited on car trips before. Somehow I rode right by it.

Once I passed Bear Creek Road the traffic lightened dramatically, but I started feeling lousy. My legs were tired of course, but worse yet my shoulders were achy and my back was starting to worry me. I trudged along.

A few miles up the road I had climbed very gradually to about 1000 feet, but there the real climb starts. I was about 60 miles into it, my phone battery was almost dead, and I was taking the hills so slowly that I was worried I'd be riding home in the dark. I turned around, rode back to Boulder Creek (I found the Fosters Freeze this time) and called for a ride home.

It's probably the case that I just don't have the strength to undertake a big climb 60 miles into a ride. But as I write this 24 hours later, I know I was coming down with something, so maybe there's hope for me yet.

Elevation profile. See a note about data for details.

The Garmin reported about 65 miles and a little over 3000 feet of climbing, a large part of which was in undulations on Route 9. The web site reported a ton of calories burned, but considering the burger and an ice cream at Fosters, I may have consumed more than I expended.

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