Thursday, December 25, 2014

La Honda

Yesterday I enjoyed a rainy holiday ride to La Honda.

December 23rd was sunny and actually quite warm, and this morning there isn't a cloud in the sky. But yesterday was overcast, foggy and drizzly all day. So you can guess which day I picked for a long ride.

Alpine Road
The target was actually San Gregorio, which I thought might just be within my range. To get there and back in the daylight I'd need to get an early start. I almost did; I rolled away from the house shortly after 8.

The roads were wet and largely deserted as I crossed into Los Gatos and then into Saratoga. For the first time in a long time I climbed Route 9. My memory of that climb had apparently softened; it was longer and (in parts) steeper than I expected. Near the top the wind picked up and the ever-present mist briefly turned to rain. From that perspective it seemed like I might be riding in the rain longer than my clothes and innate heat generation could bear, so thoughts of alternative routes danced in my head.

Nonetheless I continued up Summit Road in the rain. The plan was to head down Alpine to La Honda, then 84 to San Gregorio, then Stage Road to Pescadero and back in some indeterminate way. At Alpine I was wet but still warm, so I thought I could at least see what the weather was like on the Santa Cruz side of the mountains.

Alpine Road
Alpine Road was so foggy that I was worried about overcooking corners that I couldn't see coming. Near the bottom the road is absolutely gorgeous, winding through thick woods. At this point it was no longer foggy but quite wet. I felt like I was going to consume my brake pads before I got to the bottom. At the junction with Highway 84, I cut the ride short by heading right toward La Honda instead of left toward San Gregorio.

Old La Honda Road
There's not much to like about climbing Highway 84, but I wanted to get to the west side of Old La Honda Road. That's a very pretty, very isolated climb. On Highway 84, even on Christmas Eve, you're constantly being passed by cars and big trucks. On Old La Honda I didn't see any cars at all, despite stopping and eating lunch. While I was eating a large group of cyclists passed by; otherwise I saw no one.

Arastradero Road
I don't get up this way very much, so I decided to descend Highway 84 to Portola Valley Road, after which I headed to Alpine and Arastradero. I took Arastradero because I was unfamiliar with it, and it rewarded that curiosity by winding through a lovely open space.

After a quick jog on Page Mill, a separate Arastradero Road crossed over 280. As I was looking at a map the group of riders I had seen on Old La Honda Road passed by and turned on Purissima Road. I figured they must know where they were going, so I followed.

That was a good decision, because after a bewildering set of turns on nondescript roads, we ended up in downtown Los Altos, which I had never seen before. I celebrated with a coffee, and as a bonus the sun came out.

It's amazing what a little sun will do. I put my jacket in my bag and within a few miles I was entirely dry. And then a few minutes later, as I passed by Stevens Creek Reservoir, the sky closed in and it was raining again. I was once again soaked.

Elevation profile
Today's ride was a little over 80 miles, with 7200 feet of climbing. The most difficult kilometer was near the top of Route 9, at 7.8%. San Gregorio will wait for another day.

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