Sunday, January 24, 2010

Calaveras to Sunol – the Wall won, this time

On Saturday there was a break in the rain & wind storms, so I took the opportunity to head out on a real ride – birds & trees & hillsides instead of Coach Troy & Universal Sports Network, yay!

I took Pokey the Sherman Tank because even though it wasn’t actually raining at the moment, the roads would likely be pretty soggy, and the rain could come back.

I wanted to head out towards Calaveras Road & Sunol. Earlier in the week there was a mudslide on Niles Canyon Road so I decided to bypass it and take the long way, heading up from the south side of Calaveras towards Sunol (generally known as the counterclockwise Calaveras route).

And OMG it was beautiful out! The hills were turning a lovely green after all the rain, and Alameda Creek was full of happy geese, ducks, & egrets. I snapped some pictures on my cell phone camera – not great, but they’ll do.

I headed up Mission Blvd and stopped at Mission Coffee for a chunk of banana bread, yum. I ate half of it and saved the other half for a stop at Ed Levin park, partway up the Calaveras Rd climb.

Argh, Calaveras Road put the hurt on me. I hadn’t ridden the counterclockwise direction in quite some time, and I was kind of whupped by the time I reached Ed Levin, which is only partway up. Oh dear, this does not bode well for my Death Ride training. I hung out at Ed Levin for a while, finished the banana bread, topped of my water bottles and such, and wandered around a bit. So pretty.

Then I set out for the Calaveras Wall. The Wall is thankfully only about a quarter of a mile, with an average grade around 12%. On one hand I was glad I had Pokey since he has the lowest gears imaginable; on the other hand he’s pretty heavy and I felt all that weight and then some heading up that freakin’ wall. I was in my 26f/32r gear (told you it was low!) and climbing at a speed, as it were, of 3 mph or so -- I even saw 2.2 a couple of times. I was kind of amused that I could remain upright at that speed. I thought I was doing OK, plugging along, taking it easy and trying not to implode. But then I rounded the bend and saw the wall was still heading up, up, up. Oh crud, this just wasn’t going to happen today. So I got off and walked the rest of the way. Gahh. Turns out I was very near the top, but so it goes. Wall 1, me, ½. Next time.

I was commiserating myself with the fact that Pokey is so heavy, when it occurred to me that I’ve ridden this bike up Sierra Road, for cryin’ out loud, and there’s video to prove it. So much for that excuse. My how the mighty have fallen. Not that one could ever call me mighty … :p

Continuing on Calaveras I was still marveling at how lovely it was out – I know I’m being redundant, but it really was that nice out.

Riding along I saw a very large brown bird perched on a tree branch along the side of the road just up ahead of me -- wow, a golden eagle! I came to a very quiet stop and reached carefully into my back pocket for my cell phone, and managed to snap a couple of pictures of him before he took off. Neat!

I took the descent on Calaveras a bit cautiously since the road was still wet in places, and it was cold enough for ice underneath the trees. It all went fine. Lee was waiting patiently for me in Sunol, and he drove me home. Turns out Niles Canyon was in pretty good shape, but I’m glad I took the long route anyhow. All in all, and awesome day. I’ll ride all the way up that wall next time.

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