Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rainy Summit

It was supposed to rain both today and Sunday, and since I have some plans for tomorrow, I had to take my weekend ride today. When I left it wasn't raining... much, just sprinkling, and I hoped to get lucky.

View Rainy Summit in a larger map

Mountain Charlie Road
One bit of good planning: when I left at 10 AM, I was carrying a Disneyland rain poncho. That turned out to be very helpful.

The plan was to go to Big Basin again. I got the Lexington Reservoir the usual way, but then I was thinking about how to get to Boulder Creek. I could take Bear Creek Road, but since the dirt path near Highway 17 would be pure mud after all this rain, there was no easy way to get there. So I decided to get to Summit on the Old Santa Cruz Highway.

By this time it was raining pretty hard, and I was getting soaked. So out came the poncho. At first I wore it in the obvious way, with my arms sticking out. But then I pulled my arms in, and pulled the poncho over the handlebars. Now I was dry (well, not getting wetter, anyway) and warm, with only my dignity to pay for it.

Since I would be heading northwest on Summit, I took Mountain Charlie Road, which is steep but goes right to the intersection of Summit and Highway 17. I continued on Summit as it passed Redwood Estates and became a one-lane road. In this section the tree cover was good, and I was getting rained on much less. Nonetheless the cold was starting to get to me, perhaps through my drenched socks. I realized that my original plan was out the window, and I'd have to cut it short.

I thought about heading back on Bear Creek Road, but decided that was just a little too short, so I continued up to Black Road. This was the first time I'd ridden north on this part of Skyline.

As I turned onto Black, it immediately became clear that my brakes were shot. I knew the pads were low, but apparently in the rainy ride so far I'd taken the last bit of life out of them. So I gingerly descended, riding the still-functioning front brakes and trying to retain some body heat.

I returned up Highway 17 and through Los Gatos, then over Kennedy. As I began to turn from Kennedy onto Shannon, I suddenly found myself sliding on my shoulder. One moment I was riding along and the next I was down, with zero time in between. Amazing. Luckily nothing was broken, either on me or my bike, and I continued on home.
Elevation profile
I was a short ride today, only about 38 miles, with 3700 feet of climbing. I learned a bit about using a poncho, which could come in handy.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mount Madonna and Corralitos

This week the rain finally arrived, all at once. And the cold. When I woke up on Sunday, I could see snow on Mount Hamilton, as one would expect, but also a dusting on El Sombroso, which is only 3000 feet tall. But the rain was only intermittent, so it was time for a ride.

View Mount Madonna and Corralitos in a larger map

What with the wet and the cold and wanting to fast-forward through the season-opening Formula One race, I didn't get out of the house until 10. Not particularly eager to ride on a muddy Los Gatos Creek Trail, I decided to head toward Santa Cruz over Mount Madonna. I went south on McKean and Uvas, then headed up Redwood Retreat Road to Mount Madonna Road. And then up.

A waterfall on Mount Madonna Road
I've ridden down Mount Madonna Road before, but not up. It's a very steep road, with lots of pitches of 10% or more. The first mile or so is paved, but then it becomes an uneven dirt road up to the top. The road is rutted, but even after a week's rain it was only muddy in a few spots. A little mud plus a 12% pitch makes for some slippery riding, though. My little analysis program made the climb as a whole about 2.7 miles, at a grade of 8.7%.

Eventually I got to the top of the hill and rode around in circles for a while, cleaning off my brakes. Then it was down the other side of Mount Madonna Road. That too is steep, and with the wet roads and wet brakes, it was a nervous descent.

I took Hazell Dell through the woods and into Corralitos, where I ate lunch. It was just barely warm enough to eat outside comfortably. At this point I was thinking of riding west, through Santa Cruz, then back on Mountain Charlie Road or something. In retrospect, I don't know what I was thinking; that would have been far too long. And even if I could have done it, I didn't have the time. I came to my senses and headed up Eureka Canyon instead.

It's been a dry winter, so it was gratifying to see all the running water after this week of rain. A less pleasant result of the rain and recent wind was a series of downed trees. I saw one tree blocking the road near Corralitos, another hanging on an electrical line across Highland near the forest entrance, and a third on Highland near the Summit Store. There was a crew working on clearing that last one, and it looked like they had recently cut through a few chunks further down the road. Tough day for trees.

It hadn't rained on me much, but on Highland I was pelted by tiny hail pellets. I returned home in the usual way, down Old Santa Cruz Highway and the Los Gatos Creek Trail (wet, but not muddy). I took Kennedy across the hill home.
Elevation profile. See a note about data for details.
It was very nearly 73 miles, which is a long way for me. If I hadn't cut it short (so to speak) it would definitely have been a stretch. I think it was about 5300 feet of climbing. It was a busy weekend, and between that and the rain I was lucky to have such a nice day out.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mount Umunhum

My time is not my own this weekend, and I didn't have time for a long ride. So it was just a quick trip up Umunhum for me.

Saturday was a complete bust, and I had work to do later on Sunday, so I only had a little time. I got out at 9 AM, which is pretty good considering that Daylight Saving Time ended overnight, so I lost an hour.

At the legal, but not actual, top of Umunhum
From my house to the highest point on Umunhum you're allowed to go (specifically, the signs on the eastern side of the ridge announcing the end of MROSD property) is almost exactly 10 miles. In that space, you get over 4 miles of pretty steep climbing. It's right on my doorstep.

It was a beautiful day, just a little cloudy. The next few days are supposed to be rainy, so it surprised me that there weren't more people out taking advantage of the day.

The Umunhum climb from the north is basically about 4.4 miles averaging nearly 9.5% grade. It starts on Hicks, at the bridge crossing Guadalupe Creek. The first kilometer is unrelentingly steep, probably more than 12%. After that it lightens up a bit, then reaches Mount Umunhum Road and gets steep again. It gradually lightens as it climbs toward the gate, then gets very steep again on the last part of the ride.

It's amazing how easy 8% can feel, after an extended period at 11%.
Elevation profile
This ride was only about 24 miles, with 2750 feet of climbing. It's not really the kind of ride I prefer, but given the limited time I couldn't ask for better.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Gilroy Hot Springs

Yesterday's ride was a little different for me, in that it was mostly flat. I recently read a description of a ride up Gilroy Hot Springs Road, then around Cañada Road back to town. Then I read a little about the hot springs themselves, and decided to see for myself. For me that meant a long ride to get there and back, but that's increasingly the case when I try to visit something new.

View Gilroy Hot Springs in a larger map

I started off at 9 AM sharp on a day whose forecast was a sunny 72° F. For the first time in a while, I was wearing shorts. Spring is here, I guess.

Uvas Reservoir, looking north from the dam
I went to Gilroy via the very pretty Uvas Road, which was busy with bicycles. At the end of the road I took a right on Watsonville Road, then a left on Day Road to pass by vineyards and farms on the way toward Gilroy.
A farm along Day Road
The farms near Watsonville Road seem haphazard and bucolic. As you get closer to Gilroy they become more organized, more efficient, more industrial.

My plan was to stop in Gilroy to eat some lunch. I got there a little early, near 11, and not quite hungry. More to the point, there was nowhere to eat, because it turns out I wasn't quite in Gilroy, I was a little north of it. So I headed south on a road paralleling 101 (on maps the road seems to be called "No Name" road) until I came to one of those huge shopping areas -- big orange buildings with national brands. This one appeared to be about two-thirds empty, but there was a functioning McDonald's at the southern end, and I got lunch. Then it was back north to my previously-scheduled ride.

End of the line
Roop Road takes you up into the hills toward Gilroy Hot Springs. It turns out that an early owner of the hot springs was named Roop, so I suppose that was his road. It climbs up to about 1000 feet, fairly steeply, but then turns into Gilroy Hot Springs Road and just rolls after that point. This road is lined with Coast Live Oak, and runs along Coyote Creek.

Shortly after the Hunting Hollow entrance to Henry Coe State Park, the road is gated, on the far side of a bridge. Now, this is the sort of restriction I might be willing to ignore, but not this time. While the area is closed, there are tours offered every Saturday at 10, and by the presence of cars along the road up here, the tour must still be there. So if I hopped the fence I stood a 100% chance of being caught. That's OK; I knew about that before I started, so I just turned around.

I backtracked to Cañada Road and headed south. I paused on the road to let a group of perhaps a dozen pheasants cross. In this valley the grass was remarkably green, whereas most other areas seem to still be brown. I wonder why that is?

Fields along Cañada Road
The road just rolls along this valley until it reaches an intersection with Jamieson Road, at which point Cañada heads southwest into the hills, climbing a little. As you ride through here, you can see views of the valley and of Pacheco Peak, off to the southeast.

California Poppies on Cañada Road
Eventually the road heads down and meets 152. Here's what I should have done: I should have headed to Morgan Hill east of 101, maybe along farm roads, to the Coyote Creek trail and into San Jose. Instead, I decided that I wanted to see what "Old Gilroy" looked like, so I went west on 152. As it turns out, Old Gilroy looks like nothing memorable.

I took Monterey north, in the interest of seeing whatever Gilroy's main drag had to offer. It was certainly more interesting than the shopping malls. But the town grew more sparse as I continued north, and the wind grew stronger. Eventually I was slogging north on an ugly road and against the wind, regretting my choices.

I passed through Morgan Hill, then shifted over to Santa Teresa Boulevard and continued north through fields and mushroom plants. Finally I reached suburbia, now sheltered from the wind, and headed home.
Elevation profile. See a note about data for details.
Yesterday's ride was a little over 85 miles, with only 2400 feet of climbing. In some ways it was a 60 mile commute to an enjoyable 25 mile ride through the hills, but I enjoyed the ride there quite a bit, and in the end the ride back wasn't so bad. And I saw a lot of new places, which definitely makes it worth the effort.