Thursday, February 9, 2012

High clouds

Somewhere on the ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains, in a beautiful spot I stop and call Danny. Don't know why. Normally I don't use the cell phone. Normally, on rides there's no reception. On multi-day trips, I call him at the end of the day  to check in. It's great having someone who cares on the other end.

So I don't know why I'm calling him now. Maybe it's because I have one bar of cell reception here, in this spot. It goes to voicemail.

Hi I just wanted to let you know I'm up here on Skyline and it's 2 o'clock and I'm thinking of taking Gist or one of those roads that head back to Los Gatos. It's too late and it's cold up here so no Boulder Creek for me. Hope you're on a ride.

There's no benefit, practically speaking, to checking in like this. I know it makes Danny feel better, and sometimes it helps me, too. To know in this remote place that someone can pinpoint where you were at a particular time, that can be comforting.

Also, what I'm telling him is I'm bailing out of the plan to go to Boulder Creek. It's a confession. Honestly, when you start riding at 11:30am in early February you have no business going to Boulder Creek. And what I can see up here on the ridge is a front coming in. The telltale signs? Those high clouds and a certain temperature differential. It's not warm.

Boulder Creek is half way, so I'm not even half way and it's 2 o'clock and it gets dark at 5:30. I'm on the ridge and it's time to turn back.

I used to feel the measure of a ride was doing what you set out to do. Do the plan. That's success. I've done that a lot of times. You could say I was hooked on finishing. Of all the official events I've done, only two I did not finish. One was the Central Coast Double. A stomach meltdown due to heat. The other was Day 3 of the Christmas Trip, with flash flood warnings in Anza Borrego and the rain coming down so hard the roads flowed with water.

Today called for something different. Left the house at a late hour and out of sorts. Climbed Redwood Gulch, Highway 9, Castle Rock. At which point I felt the shift. Things went from completely out of whack to OK, in sync, maybe even spiritual. This is a special place. Riding along the spine of the Santa Cruz Mountains, if you feel nothing, well....

Here's a photo of the exact spot.

After this comes the roller-coaster part. The very southern few miles of the ridge road while it's still called Skyline. One lane at times, but a perfect, organic road that follows the contours of the earth. Up and down. Trees, rocks and views to the west, to Big Basin.

There's that certain chill and the high clouds.

The way back was Mountain Charlie, Old Santa Cruz, Aldercroft Heights, Alma Bridge, and the spillway trail down to Highway 9. No big deal, but the valley is hot and chaotic compared with, well, the spot of the photo and the one of the call to Danny. 56 miles, 4300 feet of climbing.

I did try capturing the beauty of State Highway 35, south of Highway 9. It came out like this.

Maybe it would be better to write a song or a poem.

Instead, in the spirit of Route 66 here are some signs along the way. Humans made these, in a beautiful, spiritual setting.

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