Last Tuesday, Becky and I boarded a plane to head to sunny California. There, we connected with our friend Jennifer in Menlo Park to start a cycling vacation - 4 days of riding in and around the bay area. We ended our vacation on Saturday - 163.3 miles and 13,412 feet of climbing later.
Wednesday - Alexander Valley - 42.3 miles - 2397 feet
After assembling our bikes, and getting breakfast, we headed North from Menlo Park, through San Francisco, and on to Healdsburg, CA. Jennifer had booked us a cottage for the night, and this would be our base for today and Thursday. A quick change of clothes, and we were off for the first ride of our trip. Jennifer had sent a description in advance: moderate riding with one hill climb on Chalk Hill Rd that is 3 miles long. She neglected, however, to include ANY information about the headwind... Yikes!
We enjoyed a stunning ride through part of Sonoma, with vineyards everwhere. The scenery was spectacular, and I was amazed that there were very few cars on our route - hard to believe we were really in California!
Thursday - Coleman Valley - 36.6 miles - 4048 feet
Today's ride description (from Jennifer): very steep climbing. Let me add - cold and windy.
We started our ride in a town called Freestone, and climbed up into Occidental - the true start of the loop. Here, we turned onto Coleman Valley Rd, and began the real climbing:
All the climbing paid off when we got to the top of the ridge however - we were treated to stunning ocean views. The amazing thing to me was the invisible line we crossed somewhere on the top of the ridge - the one where the temperature seemed to plummet from the 80s to the 60s (it didn't really), and we again hit that dreaded headwind.
Coming down the steep descent to the ocean was cold, fast and frightening! The Tour of California climbs this road, and you could still see much of the road graffiti (although someone needed a few spelling lessons). The most terrifying aspect to me was having to descend over cattle gates - imagine going at speed and coming across a grate that looks like it is going to eat your wheels for lunch. Scary - at least for me (and yes, I do admit walking around one of them, and having to get up my nerve a second time for two others - I'm a wuss).
Once down on the coast, we decided to follow the designated loop out to Bodega Head. This was a beautiful road along Bodega Bay. Unfortunately, I knew we were in trouble - we were riding out at about 25 mph with little effort - coming back was going to hurt. We reached the point, but given the strong wind and cold temps didn't dawdle before turning back, and getting SLAMMED with a vicious headwind. At times, the headwind changed to a cross wind, and I literally had to lean my bike just to stay straight. Cold and tired, we actually stopped on the way back, and had a bowl of delicious clam chowder at the Crab Shack.
Warmer, and with fuel for the rest of the ride, we headed back into the wind and out to Bay Hill Rd for the climb back up the ridge, and into the valley. It was awesome to have a tailwind going up the hill ;-). We did see one snake in the road on our ride - decided not to stop and investigate though.
Friday - Half Moon Bay - 46.2 miles - 4882 feet
Wind, wind, wind. Oh, and some climbing. Two snake sightings and one rattled warning (didn't see that one, but didn't go back to look either). Do I really need to say any more? ;-)
Thank goodness we were rewarded with ocean vistas and redwood forests on the ride, and beers and tasty food at Half Moon Bay Brewery afterwards!
Saturday - Woodside - 38.25 miles - 2085 feet
Our last day of riding, we went from Jennifer and Mike's place to Woodside, and did an out-and-back ride along Canada (pronounced can-ya-da). The weather was stellar (and little to NO wind - yahoo!), and we must have seen about 300 other riders! I usually wave at all oncoming cyclists, but had to give up as there were so many!
After the efforts of the previous day, this was about spinning and enjoying the scenery. It was a great way to end our riding, and we followed up with delicious food and beers at Alice's Restaurant, made famous by Arlo Guthrie.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. I had a great time riding and hanging out with good friends while on vacation. Now, it's back to reality.