Okay, first potentially useful blog in that a ride will be posted at the end!
Me, Aaron and Jay headed down to the Santa Cruz mountains on Sunday morning, 45 minutes later than planned due to oversleeping (me), poor preparation (me again) and a missing cat (lulu). Alas, we finally got it together and headed to Kelly's French Bakery for carbohydrates and coffee, the essential fuel behind long rides. On the road by 9:30ish, it was fuh-reezing, but the 15% grades we soon encountered on Empire Grade Road resolved the cold quickly. The slow poke of the group, I settled into my triple and huffed and puffed away. There's nothing more self-depricating than riding with people soooo much faster than you, feeling the need to apologize at every rest stop, and eating seemingly twice as much as everyone else. Oh well, they knew what they signed up for! After dropping down, then climbing back up into Big Basin Redwoods State Park, we stopped for a rest, water and some stretching, during which time I attempted to confront my personal-trainer husband regarding his technique--will I never learn? Out of Big Basin, the trail began, Gazos Creek Road--OMG. Bucolic. Quiet. Peaceful. Misty. Right out of a watercolor, I tell ya. Jay intervaled back and forth, taking the photos posted here (photographer alias: Blue Jay), and building fast twitch muscle fibers in the process. After about 8 miles, we came to the "cross roads"-trail down toward Waddel Beach or continue on Gazos Creek to the road? Thinking Gazos Creek was the less technical option (for both our Rivendell bikes and my peace of mind) we headed that direction. Oh boy. Classic Alicia cycling anxiety moment--very steep, rocky, gravelly, and wet trail/road in front of me, and my legs sieze, my heartrate increases, and panic ensues (all internally, of course--I never wear my fear on my sleeve, or arm warmer). I basically skid sideways down the first 30 feet, and after that doesn't really allay my fear, I try actually steering the bike down the trail. It works, sort of. Where a good cyclist would've been done already, having a hammer gel at the bottom, the mediocre rider is slipping, sliding, skidding, and sometimes rolling down, all the while pushing images of broken ankles and emergency splints out of her head. Anxiety aside, I make it down safely (of course!), and the 25 or so miles back to Santa Cruz along Highway One, with a tailwind (!) is beautiful. Plus I ran into a friend of a friend at Pie Ranch, saw her spotted dog Jackson smoke out a gopher, and admired windsurfers colorful wares at Waddel Beach. The epic ended most appropriately, with an organic IPA at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery and real food (i.e. un-packaged or vitamin enhanced). Overall, the very BEST kind of day--good friends, great riding, a little beer, and a sprinkling of courage.
Route: Start at Swift and Mission in Santa Cruz (bakery, brewery, wine tasting rooms, shops, plenty of parking, restrooms). Right on Western Drive--Up steep hill. through neighborhoods. Left on Empire Grade--approx. 15 miles of occasionally steep uphill. Right on Jamison Creek--Steep down hill. Left on Big Basin Way/236--narrow shoulder, kind of busy, but only on it for 4 miles. Sharp right onto Lodge Road--another steep uphill, takes you into Big Basin Park HQ, snacks, restrooms, water. Turn left into the park (free for bicycles, and another left onto Gazos Creek Road (unmarked--basically looks like a fire trail). Gazos Creek winds through the park, and into San Mateo County. At the gate, you can go left to continue on trails that end at Waddel Beach, or go right to continue down Gazos Creek--very steep, slick, rocky. Not an issue for knobby tires or experienced riders. Eventually becomes fully paved and turns west toward the ocean. Left on Highway One--lovely tailwind, good shoulder, but lots of traffic. When you get into Santa Cruz, veer right onto the bike trail, which takes you directly back to Misson/Swift. Change your clothes and get a beer. Done. Approx. 70 miles, 5 hours.