Sunday, October 31, 2010

Worshipping at the Altar of Dirt

I don't quite know how and I don't quite know why but there is a meditative side to bicycling. I'm not talking about the roadies eating up 70 miles on an afternoon. I'm talking more about the meditative quality of picking a line up a steep hill, dropping into your granny gear and motoring up that hill. While you climb, you can't think of anything else, there are no problems save for the next turn of the wheel, there are no worries except whether your tires will grip that wet root, there are no fears except the fear of legs or lungs not carrying me to the top.

Bicycling is an act unlike walking or driving in a car, it is serene but can be marked by periods of intense speed, great technical need and, yes, the occasional puff of weed.
Today was like a beautifully wrapped present. We'd been promised deluge but we were gifted with bright, warm sunshine. And when life gives you a present, you best unwrap that sucker and do something good with it.

As I did. I loaded up my bike and headed out to Nisene Marks State Park knowing that my ride could be kiboshed early on if the trails were too wet or muddy or rutted up. That's the thing that sucks about getting older (aside from losing lung capacity and recuperation speed), that one becomes more responsible and actually give a damn about trail use. This means being conscientious and not ripping trails up when they are too wet and muddy.

But today wasn't too wet at all, it was perfect. Just enough moisture to make the dirt good and tacky and the only place traction was an issue was where there was a heavy ground cover of fallen leaves. Some of those turns were a bit hairy but that's all part of the fun!

I dropped into the trail system at my usual place across from Safeway a few seconds after another bike went by. I chased him a bit and then he let me get by on the first stream crossing near the old flipped car wreck. There were a fair number of walkers out but not too many and everyone seemed pretty pleased to be out in the woods instead of stuck at home on a rainy day.

After riding my fairly usual path to the top of the Mesa Grande Trail, I came to where I would usually cross over, go through a field and then climb up to the top of Lower Sand Point where there's a great hard climb to the top and a rope swing to enjoy the fantastic view of the Bay. Only someone bought the land and is now building a house or bunch of houses up there and they've decided to put up a barbed wire fence across the whole area. Which sucks. I hate, hate, hate closed off trails.

And today I decided to see about finding another way to the top. I rode down a nearby road that ened up in someone's private estate that looked like a drug lord's villa in the woods. I decided not to see if they'ed "mind" me riding through and turned around. I could see the water tanks well above and right near the top of Lower Sand Point and knew I could just bushwhack my way there if I needed to. I saw an opening and headed into the field to start working my way up.

I stopped to relieve myself and heard and then saw a group of guys on bikes back near where the barbed wire was, they were headed up so I was like "Fuck it" and went to follow them. They were just coming back down from being told there would be no riding through. We said hellos and I helped them get their bikes back over the tall and annoying fence. Then we headed up the gated road (yes, we went through a closed gate) and climbed the short but really steep access road to the water tanks.

We headed in one direction at the top but one of the construction guys was there to tell us to go away (seriously? what a lame job he's got). So we went around the other side, did a little bushwhack trail building as other bicycles had already started the work and we were just building a workaround. A little hairy bushwhacking and we were back on the trail again.

From there it was all fun and games down. Riding with four other guys is pretty fun though we had to stop pretty often for a newer off-road rider who was having fun but taking it slower.

Now, my usual riding pace is go for a long time, stop for a quick break, hydrate up and then go again. But we had to take it a little slower with five of us. Still fun to rip up the backside of the Lower Sand Point trail again. I've missed it on my other rides in Nisene.

We bottomed out on the trail and headed back towards the Safeway trailhead. Unfortunately, one of the other guys had a mechanical breakdown with a chain that came apart. I waited with them for a few minutes but then realized I needed to get rolling to get home and cleaned up for the Giants game!

I finished out my ride strong and, even though I could feel my quads starting to protest a bit, I finished the very tough last climb up and out of the trail. I felt great as I loaded up my car and headed for home!

Thanks to those four guys from Monterey for making my solo outing into a pretty fun group ride!
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