Monday, August 6, 2012

Santa Cruz and Bonny Doon

Yesterday's long ride was to Santa Cruz, and then up Bonny Doon, a first for me.

View Santa Cruz and Bonny Doon in a larger map

I was planning to get started early, but with one thing and another I left when I normally do, at about 9 AM. I went up Los Gatos Trail in the normal way, but had to walk my bike up the steep dirt ramp when I saw about a dozen people coming down the trail, leaving no path for a wobbly climber. That's what I get for not leaving early, I suppose.

Grey skies in Santa Cruz don't
deter the surfers
I climbed Old Santa Cruz Highway, and on Summit I could see the fog rolling up from Santa Cruz meeting the blue skies of the San Jose side. I descended the Soquel/San Jose road, and the new pavement I saw them laying a few weeks back made for a smooth, fast descent.

Capitola and Santa Cruz were grey and chilly when I got there. I rode along East Cliff Drive, as usual, and stopped at my usual place for an unhealthy lunch. I then continued west, past the boardwalk and pier, and picked up West Cliff Drive, a first for me.

Near the surfing museum, sea lions
rest on the rocks
By this time I was riding under blue skies, but could still see the low clouds hanging over Capitola. I stopped in the Lighthouse Field State Beach, near the small surfing museum, to look out over the rocks. I could hear, but only barely see, a bunch of sea lions lounging on a tiny island, watching the people watching them.

I continued along Cliff Drive until it entered Natural Bridges State Beach, at which point I hopped onto Route 1 and continued west. On the beach the wind had been intermittent, but on Route 1 it was strong and consistently in my face. Again I am reminded that, when taking Route 1, you always want to be coming from the north/west. And yet I'm always heading the opposite way....

Bonny Doon Road
At Bonny Doon Road I turned right, and momentarily enjoyed the respite from the wind and the warmer temperatures. Then the road turned sharply upward. The Stanford cycling page notes that the road gains about 1000 feet in 2 miles, after which the grade eases. That's quite accurate, and the point at which the grade eases is very clear on the road.

Ice Cream Grade
I took Ice Cream Grade toward Empire Grade. Ice Cream Grade drops toward Laguna Creek, then winds its way through a beautiful wood to meet Empire Grade. I crossed the road to descend Felton Empire Road, again through a lush redwood forest.

By this point I was feeling a little spent. I stopped in the Felton covered bridge park and refilled my water while I ate a Clif bar. Then I started up Zayante, which is also largely wooded. After the treeless climbs in France, and with the recent warm weather here, I was feeling lucky to have such a lovely, shaded roads.

At the top of Zayante, now fully spent, I sidled over to Bear Creek Road and descended to Highway 17, then into Los Gatos and home over Kennedy.

Elevation profile
Yesterday's ride was 84 miles, with just under 7000 feet of climbing. The most difficult kilometer was near the bottom of Bonny Doon, where the grade averaged 9.7%.

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