Sunday, March 3, 2013

Santa Cruz and Mountain Charlie Road

Well, it's been a while. Since taking a new job in September I've been very busy during the week, which meant that all non-work stuff had to shift to the weekend. It's been hard time finding time for longer rides, but today I had the whole day free. And I took advantage of it.

I got started relatively early, leaving the house at 8:30 in the morning. It was foggy and cool. The mountains south of my house were completely hidden.

Today's ride would be a very familiar route, but one that I hadn't ridden in about 10 months; a ride last May was similar. In fact, the only new part of today's ride was accidental. But more on that in a minute.

Fog covers El Sombroso; taken from
Kennedy Road.
I went through Los Gatos and took Alma Bridge Road around the Lexington Reservoir, as usual. There were a number of joggers on the road, and they all seem to have decided that running on the wrong side of the road is appropriate. It's not, it's just arrogant, a level of arrogance previously associated only with... well, cyclists, to be honest. In this case it was especially annoying because I almost ran into a group of joggers with a baby stroller, coming around a blind turn. One of the joggers had the temerity to assure me that she was on the "right" side of the road, which wasn't correct in any sense of the word.

As I headed up Old Santa Cruz Highway it still hadn't really got warm. It was still overcast and damp, but I wasn't riding through fog. I was feeling a little cold, but it was still early.

After passing the Summit Store I plunged down into Capitola. The Soquel/San Jose Road was paved last year, and it was dry and traffic was light. There wasn't a lot to slow me down, and without really trying I hit 38 miles per hour. When I noticed that I did start trying, hoping to hit 40 mph by getting my nose down by my stem, pulling my knees and elbows in, and otherwise looking ridiculous as possible. I only slowed down. Maybe that was the grade moderating, or maybe I have absurdly poor descending skills. More research is necessary.

View from Capitola. There are surfers in there,
Capitola was quiet as I passed through. I was happy to be there again after so long, but it was all the same. I stopped at the usual spot and took a few shots of surfers. The surfers are easily visible in person, but with my camera phone they appear as individual pixels, if anything.

I rolled up to Betty Burger right at noon, and had a tasty but huge burger. I really have to find a more appropriate place to eat lunch in Santa Cruz, or at least find something more appropriate on their menu. Or maybe just not eat the whole thing.

The train bridge over the San Lorenzo,
looking East.
My over-full belly and I rode across the bridge and then up along the San Lorenzo river until the trail ends just short of Route 1. At this point one has the option of heading to Scotts Valley by taking Graham Hill Road, paralleling Highway 17 on Plymouth, or taking Branciforte Drive and cutting over on one of a couple of routes. It seemed like I had taken Graham Hill pretty frequently, so I opted for Branciforte Drive, which I imagined was the prettiest option.

A little way up the road I peeled off onto Glen Canyon Road, which I thought I surely must have done before. But I hadn't; I was probably thinking of Granite Creek Road, which peels off toward Scotts Valley much later.

Glen Canyon Road is perfect. It's pretty, it climbs toward Scotts Valley with a gentle, even grade, and it enters Scotts Valley at Mount Hermon Road so you can connect up to Bean Creek Road. Granite Creek Road is also great, but it enters Scotts Valley farther north, at the junction of Scotts Valley Drive and Glenwood. Nothing wrong with that, but I like Bean Creek Road. In any case, Glen Canyon Road was today's discovery; I'm always the last to know.

One of the ramps on Mountain Charlie Road.
By this time the legs were getting a little wobbly; this was already my longest ride in quite a while. Even after the steep last bit of Bean Creek Road, I started up Mountain Charlie Road with good energy, but once the steep ramps started appearing at about 1200 feet, I was dreading each of them.

The last half of the Mountain Charlie climb was just about surviving, which I suppose I did. That was followed by the long descent toward Los Gatos, one last climb across Kennedy, and home.

Today's ride was about 68 miles, with 5300 feet of climbing. The most difficult kilometer was the last section of Bean Creek Road, which seems horrible but only registered at 7.8%.

Elevation profile
I was happy to be able to fit in my metric century, and to confirm that my range still includes Santa Cruz, barely. Realistically, if I'm going to maintain any shape, I'm going to have to get in additional miles by riding to work a few times a week. We'll see how that turns out.

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