Push this button or another one of your roads will fail!

This puts the West Old LaHonda road closure in perspective (Highway 35 about 3.5 miles south of Saratoga Gap/Highway 9).
A different sort of ride today as younger Kevin had other plans. I’ve obviously had a need to check out the local road conditions, and how can you pass up an opportunity to check out that missing section of 35? Of course, getting there was half, no, 1/4, nah, maybe 1/16th the fun.

I headed south with a route through the foothills, dropping by our Los Altos store to say hi, before heading up one of the local roads I most-dread. Redwood Gulch. That was another opportunity to check out a heavily-damaged local road although it really didn’t seem that bad. Not much water on the road, and just a couple places where it was slightly narrower than normal. Redwood Gulch has actually been on the county’s list of “closed” roads, but there was no signage indicating that. It wasn’t a pretty climb, but I survived. Sometimes that’s enough.

Lots of hillside slippage evident climbing Highway 9, including a short section of traffic-light-controlled one-way pavement. A little bit tight for bikes and cars together, but manageable, and it’s not too long.

The really good news was that Mr Mustard was present at Saratoga Gap. I debated briefly whether I ought to fuel up before going off to see the missing roadway, or after. The decision was made when a young guy in team kit pulled up, and I had a bit too much pride to want to be seen eating something as healthy as a hot dog in front of him. So off I went, past the signs that said “Road closed 2 miles.” I didn’t really know how far it was going to be, so I was a bit relieved it was just two miles.

Well, 3.7 miles later I found it. It’s not like you can miss it… one set of barriers about a thousand feet away (stops cars but not bikes), and another set, with a fence, about 20 feet from where the road ends. I took some photos through and over the fence before going around the left side to get a bit better shots from the other side. It’s not like I came anywhere close to the edge though! Just didn’t want the fence in the photo.

After that it was a mostly-downhill ride back to Saratoga Gap and Mr. Mustard! I did have a minor incident with a car on the way; a group of young guys drove past me pretty close, with someone deciding it would be fun to tap me on the back as they passed, while someone in the front seat was taking a photo. Idiots, yes, but I’m pretty tough to rattle.

So of course, right as I pull up, so do another young cyclist, in racing kit, and I’m thinking yeah, whatever, I’m having my hot dog anyway. I’m not that proud. Funny thing… the kid ordered one too!

I was a bit surprised, looking at Strava telling me my run across Skyline, from Saratoga Gap to 84, was my personal best. It didn’t feel that fast. Descending 84 from Sky Londa, I checked out the mythical “driveway route” that exits from the northern side of the building with the general store. It bypasses the first of the two one-lane signal lights on the 84 descent, which could save a bit of time. Unfortunately, you’ve got to thread your way underneath a gate and pass more than one “no trespassing” sign before you can get where you need to be. A better option would be to hike over a small barrier that prevents traffic from Skyline using it as an alternate route; that barrier’s location can be seen here. Either way does get you past that first light, and in front of the second one where I noticed, for the first time, the signage that says “BICYCLES MUST PUSH BUTTON.” Must??? I mean, what happens if I don’t? I brought it up later with my son, who says that sign has been up there ever since the signal went in. Maybe I noticed it this time because I had plenty of time waiting for it to turn green and there were no other cars in front or behind me.

It just might not be my year… time to let go of being Forrest Gump?

The picture may be fuzzy but not the memory. Turning 61 today put me in a reflective mood. I put replays of Tour de France stages on the shop TV, recalling stages I’d seen in person… in this case, Ventoux from this past year, the stage where Froome, Porte and Mollema ran into the back of a suddenly-stopped official’s motorcycle, wrecking Froome’s bike (causing him to run up the mountain on foot, something never seen before at the Tour de France).

The end of Forest Gump? I’ve been there so many times, but it might be coming to an end. Since 2000, I’ve been to the Alps or Pyrenees for every TdF except one (the year Sastre won, and did that really count?). I was there, at the exact spot, where Lance gave “the look” to Ulrich. I was just 50 meters away from the carnage on Ventoux. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. OK, maybe not the last.

This year it likely comes to an end, like tears in the rain. The demands of brick & mortar retail, as well as the finances, likely won’t allow me to go. Some of the biggest suppliers in the industry have gone out of their way to undercut the local bike shop by charging us higher prices than other venues, venues that provide little in the way of support for cycling in general and the customer in particular. Any idea of taking it easier as I, er, mature (if 61 is considered mature) has gone out the window. But that’s just background; it could have been anything that derailed my ridiculous obsession with seeing bike racing in France first-hand.

I haven’t completely given up. I’ve drawn up contingency plans, a shorter trip (just 8 days instead of the usual 13). It would likely be solo, as my son, who’s traveled with me the past 7 trips, has a summer school class he needs to take. It hardly seems worthwhile though, doing something less-than-optimal and wondering if I’d be doing it just because it was an obsession, not something enjoyable.

If you’ve ever thought about seeing the TdF in person, and if you’re in any way compulsive or establish routines that become rituals, don’t. It’s unbelievable how easily you could get sucked in. The atmosphere is incredible. The roads amazing. The people friendly. And the sport itself, the spectacle, well that just blows away any notion of what’s humanly possible on a bike. Doped or not.

Turning 61 today, I figured maybe I would have an easier time giving up on the ‘Tour. More maturity, less obsession, time to move on. An earlier Plan B involved me heading to the Giro d’Italia in place of the Tour de France. The idea being, something different, something happening at a less-busy time for the shop. Even if that could have worked out, this winter convinced me the last thing I wanted to do was head to the mountains in Italy in May, while there’s still a really good chance for extremely-cold & nasty weather. Another way of saying I’m done with winter, and I hoped that writing about it might help. Didn’t work out that way!

(Back on Oct 31 2013, I included something in a blog piece regarding my “Forrest Gump” nature- “Ah, the “Where’s Waldo” thing. That’s because I was there. I was at each of Lance’s Tour de France rides starting from 2000-on. I was at the first USPS training camp that Lance attended. In 2007 I was outside the hotel in Pau moments before Vinokourav was busted for blood doping and his team sent packing. I was there for Lance’s “comeback” TdFs, where many of us had this sense that Lance was trying to prove to people that he could win, clean. I was in France August 25th of last year, when it all came tumbling down. I was in Austin Texas, at Lance’s bike shop, the day his sponsors pulled out. I’m either Waldo or Forest Gump.)