Sunday, May 29, 2011

Morgan Territory Road and Mt Diablo

There were several reasons for me to have this ride listed as "to do" this year. First, Morgan Territory Rd is listed as a must-do ride in most of the Bay Area cycling publications, secondly, when I saw cyclists struggling up Mt Diablo South Gate Rd during our hiking trip in April, I thought this was the last mountain around the Bay I haven't ridden up to yet (well, with the exception of Mt Umunhum which I guess is for now closed to mountain bikes), and thirdly I was hoping it would be warmer in East Bay on this unseasonably cold Memorial Day Saturday.
I have decided to ride from Danville, at the foot of Mt Diablo and circumnavigate the mountain counterclockwise, with the ascent done on North Gate Rd and descent on South Gate Rd.

As so many bike rides around here and in California in general, this one took me through several quite contrasting landscapes and environments: some sections (Camino Tassajara close to Dublin, Clayton and Ygnacio Valley roads) were examples of the "American Dream Turned into the Worst Nightmare" suburban sprawls with cycling unfriendly roads and angry drivers of Escalades and Tahoes. Morgan Territory was all horse ranches and cowboys wearing hats, who were very respectful of bikers, except one meth head in a beater car who almost drove me into the ditch and sprayed my left leg with oil and dirty water coming off his exhaust pipe. The climb up Mt Diablo was beautiful, with lots of wildflowers and few cars. The chilly weather helped on the way up, although I can imagine this place turning into a furnace later in summer. The descent was very chilly, given the 55F temperature, 30 mph winds and waves of rain showers coming from the west.
Overall, this mountain has been climbed for the record, but I have to say East Bay rides will remain low on my list of cycling priorities as long as I live close to peninsula and Santa Cruz mountains.

Start of climbing up Morgan Territory Road with lenticularis clouds formed by the strong flow over Mt Diablo.

Garmin track here: 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

May Day in Humboldt

On Sunday May 1st at 7AM Marketa and I stood in a crowd of runners waiting for the start of the Avenue of The Giants marathon, trying to stay warm at 45F.

This reminded us of one of our Eastern European traditions (which we don't miss): the May Day Parade. It used to be cold as well and we wore sweaters and jackets stuffed underneath our pioneer (as kids) or Socialist Youth Union (as students) uniforms, waiting for the tens of thousands strong crowd of industrial workers, agricultural workers, the working intelligentsia and students to finally get moving....

The marathoners went off promptly at 8AM and I grabbed my 29er for a ride inspired by the Northcoast Bike Rides blog description (great resource, by the way!).

After riding through the green darkness of the Founders Grove, the Dyerville Loop road followed the Eel river for a while and then turned into a packed dirt as well as uphill. The climb on dirt through dense forest was tough but well suited to the 29er hardtail with 50psi in Kenda SB8's. The good quality dirt surface changed to asphalt (bad quality) and shortly after the last sign of civilization

turned into a gravel surface. The uphill part of the ride continued for about 20 miles, with a few short flat or downhill sections just to stretch legs. Up on the ridgeline (still uphill), the views of snow capped peaks opened, valleys and mountains on both sides of the ridge and no soul in sight (about 40 miles of this 65 mile ride had no civilization).

Below what I think was Pratt Mountain the gravel road turned onto paved, steep twisty downhill of Alderpoint Rd. for about 5mi to Garberville and Redway. The temperature jumped up about 30 degrees F during the descent. After Redway, I had to merge onto the Freeway 101 for about 4mi before exiting onto the Avenue of the Giants. The final 20 miles were flat, shaded by the giant trees and I tried to push the big ring really hard to meet Marketa at the finish. Of course, due to my time of 5:13 I was about an hour and half late. The May Day concluded with a burrito along the 5 hour drive back home to San Carlos. Overall, much better than a Commie May Day Parade.