Sunday, December 9, 2012

Old Pedro Mountain Road

If you're not trying new things, you're probably stuck in a rut. That got me on the bike today.

With 4 other people, mostly strangers, I'm standing at a trail junction in the hills a thousand feet above the ocean. Gazing at Montara Mountain, sharing a Clementine orange. Discussing an irrational hatred of the word "ma'am". A word that gets invoked to control behavior. How it pisses me off greatly, thereby having the opposite effect.

This is a Meetup ride, old Coast Highway to Half Moon Bay.  Lincoln is the organizer. As of this morning I had not met him, nor Rob nor Chris.

Jim, of course. Jim is the one teasing me about the "ma'am" thing. On our last ride there might have been an incident involving a road closure and an unreasonable worker. At the time my fellow cyclists used the word "brazen", which is perfectly fine with me. But I am wondering what it will take to live that one down...

Today the old is new. Bonnie loves the old highway to Montara, has always talked about how great it is. Its formal name is Old Pedro Mountain Road. Never had the chance to ride it. Don't know the route. Heard it was rough and rocky, probably not a solo thing. So I've been waiting for this chance. Peaceful and quiet and 100% legal.

Lately in addition to longer rides I've been running errands on the fixie and hitting the gym 4 days a week. Mental clarity is a lot of work. I'm definitely tired. If someone sets the place and time for a ride I can show up. Otherwise...

We are graced with incredible weather and Lincoln's planning. Meeting at Daly City BART, also a first. Tacking on city streets and lots of hills to Pacifica. Scuttling across the current Highway 1 to the old road. Climbing roughly to the top of Pedro Mountain on a once-paved surface that was abandoned in 1937. An experience worthy of Route 66.

Naturally, from this point on the guys are calling me "ma'am".

From 1915 to 1937, driving south along the coast from San Francisco meant going over Pedro Mountain. Drivers found the road a challenge; they frequently ran off the road and word is, the wrecks can still be found. It's no problem on a bike! Not rough at all. It's 80% paved and none of the grades are very steep. Anyone with experience on a mountain bike can handle it.

In October 1937, Highway 1 took a different tack. It used the old Ocean Shore Railroad alignment near the ocean. This stretch of direct and aggressive road is known by locals as Devil's Slide. It has turned into a bit of a disaster, with closures due to landslides and accidents. A tunnel bypass is underway - we can see the project far below. The tunnels were supposed to open this week! Now Caltrans is saying February.

The old Highway 1 will become a trail. Cyclists on the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route will be happy about that, as Devil's Slide lacks a shoulder. Local cyclists avoid it for that reason, seeking out this beautiful, abandoned alternate.

After winding our way up and around and down the mountain, in Montara it's easy to follow the twists and turns of the old road. It feels natural, integrated into the town streets. The function of a road is balanced with the human scale of the town.

This balance feels both distant and familiar. Like the house of my grandparents in San Francisco. They must have come this way. My grandfather  would have driven both roads, Pedro Mountain Road and the new Highway 1.

Another goal today is to stay off Highway 1 entirely. In San Mateo County it's still scenic but a busy thoroughfare. We cross over to a series of trails along the ocean.

Miramar Beach is packed with sun-seekers and their deliriously happy dogs. It's noon. The smells from restaurants prompt a query about lunch. Lunch will be in Half Moon Bay, 4 miles south.

The surf is calm and people frolic in the water like summer in LA. The crowds and festive atmosphere with swimmers, surfers and paddleboarders, is reminiscent of Maverick's. That's the annual competition where surfers from around the world come for the big waves. The window opened exactly one month ago. Sure is hard to imagine big waves out there today.

Finally, at San Benito House, artichoke soup and a half sandwich (egg and avocado). Limonata. Barbeque chips to share. Onward to Lobitos.

There's a ridge between us and the end of this ride. Real hills to test the legs. This group has been anticipating them all day long. Every so often someone makes an ominous comment. Now it's time.

The Internet brings people together to ride, brings new folks into cycling. Totally great. You find roads like these by following someone who knows the way. Now you can do that on a smartphone.

Social networking gets you to this point, and then what? The guys are telling stories about riders who didn't know what they were getting into. Who didn't have the climbing legs for making it to the top. Or the fitness to enjoy the process.

Lobitos, a toasty climb in the coastal hills. Tunitas, a cool dark forest. Deserted, with needles  in the middle of the lane. These roads never were a highway. They were always like this.

We all make it to the ridge just fine and today, I get to enjoy the process.

Jim went his own way an hour ago. Now the rest of the group scatters toward home, one north, one south, two eastward to BART.

No comments:

Post a Comment