Kevin’s (my son, not the pilot) health still isn’t where it should be, so once more I set off by myself, this time the usual Old LaHonda/La Honda/Pescadero/Tunitas loop.
The weather was pretty close to perfect, mid-70s to low-80s most of the time. I had no intention of it being a really fast ride, but somehow, when that guy on a LeMond passed me on Portola Road and started up Old LaHonda ahead of me, well, I just had to see if I could get back to him on the climb, which I did, and then made the mistake of passing him. Why a mistake? Because he wouldn’t drop back… he’d yo-yo between 10 & 100 feet behind me almost the entire way up the climb, which forces me to push harder due to rule #1 about passing someone- you have to stay ahead. Don’t ever pass someone unless you know you can stay in front. My plan (and remember that I always try to stick to the plan!) was to take it relatively-easy going up Old LaHonda, maybe 23 or 24 minutes. Nope. Another 21:30, which is way off my prime, but probably only a minute or so slower than what I could do today if I was going all-out.
From there it was a nice run down west-side Old LaHonda, watching for snakes (none), rabbits (none) and potholes (many). Motorcyclists were taking advantage of what might be one of the last warmer weekends to ride, and, as usual, sometimes riding just a bit too fast, and nowhere is this more evident than the stretch of road between LaHonda and Pescadero. Today I got held up about a mile into the climb to find the fire department had shut down the road to retrieve a motorcyclist who had run off the side after swerving to avoid a deer. We were told the wait was going to be another 20 minutes when local legend cyclist Lindsay Crawford pops out of nowhere and tells me about a bypass through Sam McDonald Park that would place me back on the road just above the accident. It involved a brief excursion on a dirt trail, but that sure beat sitting around for 20 minutes (although I now notice there might be a small patch of poison oak on my left leg, so perhaps it was not without incident?).
A couple miles before Pescadero I engaged in what has now become an increasingly-common rescue mission- a snake lying on the road. No rattlesnake this time, but a small red one with black stripes running the length of its body. I didn’t need a stick for this one; just getting behind it provided the incentive needed to scurry quickly across the road and into the brush. Thankfully there were no cars in the vicinity at the time. Shortly after that I came upon a guy making very good time on a Trek 730 hybrid that we sold him 15 years ago in our Los Altos store. I felt like I was cheating, riding my 15-pound Trek Madone superbike while he’s out there on a 28 pounder with wide energy-sucking tires! However, I’m 54 and have earned the right to cheat. Or maybe I require it. Trouble is, I think he was older yet.
At the Pescadero Bakery I saw a few more of our customers enjoying the day, although it wasn’t quite as warm near the coast, with fog moving in right up to Stage Road as it often does. It’s as if Stage Road is a barrier that keeps the fog at bay, and riding it, you’ll often feel the warmth of the sun on one side and the fog’s chill on the other.
Just after turning onto Tunitas Creek from Highway 1, check out the barn almost immediately on the left. You will nearly always see a goat accompanied by two horses. It’s a big spread with a lot of room, but the goat & horses have always been inseparable… except for today, when the horses were nowhere to be seen. A huge field and the three of them will always be hanging out together.
Once in a while you feel like you can really fly up that climb, but today I was looking for the tunnel. But before the climb I was treated to a number of red-tailed hawks circling overhead, and either a hawk or possibly an owl in a nearby tree that I just barely noticed in passing, the sort of thing where you play it back in your mind seconds later and realize there was something there and you have to go back to check it out. Sadly, it flew off just as I turned around to check it out. It was right off the road, maybe about 10 feet off the ground, and blended in so well that you just didn’t see it from a distance.
Climbing Tunitas I was surprised you could still hear water flowing in the creek below, making me wonder if it will hold out until rain comes back, maybe a month down the road. Pretty remarkable that the creek can keep going year-round in an area that gets rain just five months out of the year! Also remarkable that they keep pouring gravel onto the road for no good reason I can discern. Gravel without any oil to bind it to the pavement doesn’t make sense. Don’t get me wrong; I’d rather have some gravel than gravel with oil, but my preference would be that they lay some real live asphalt down and fix it once and for all.
On the way up I came across two women training for the Silverman Triathlon in Nevada; this was their first ride out to the coast, their first ride up to Skyline even, and I don’t think they were enjoying it much. Like the the guy on the hybrid they were doing the same route I was, so they’d already climbed Old LaHonda, Haskins & Stage before getting to Tunitas, a rahter ambitious first ride over the hill for them!
And of course, from the top of Tunitas it was pretty much downhill all the way home. About 59 miles and 6100ft of climbing, at a pretty slow average speed of 14.5mph.
And then came an unexpected surprise- after arriving home, Kevin was actually willing, and it appeared possible, to go out on a very easy, short ride. Keep in mind he hasn’t been in school for four weeks, and for that same amount of time he’s been off his bike, due to his kidney-related abdominal pains. I’ve been trying to get him out previously (the doctors said it wouldn’t hurt him, and there was the hope that some sort of activity might help distract him from the pain) but he hadn’t been up to it. What changed today I’m not sure of, but we got in a better ride than I’d hoped for, doing the “loop” in reverse by riding out to Woodside and doing a clockwise circuit of Sand Hill, Alpine & Portola Road. About 21 miles at a very easy pace. It wasn’t an easy ride for him though, as he’d get the same pains that basically double him over every 6-20 minutes. They come quickly and ease off slowly, but he was able to ride through them and even, maybe, enjoy being back out in the real world. We even arranged for my wife to ride out and meet us on our return, allowing us all to ride back together.
In the end it was 80 miles for me, 21 miles for Kevin, maybe 15 miles for my wife, on a very nice Fall day.