January 1, 2007: Back in the Saddle


Annnnd we're back. That's right. After more than a year, Sweep the Blog, Johnny! is back by popular demand (really -- people actually harangued us to put STBJ back on the Internets). So, we're back, baby, we're back.

We'll get into the reasons for the layoff and highlight all the sparkly new bells and whistles for STBJ later. For now, let's dive right into the new year with an entry on . . . a Cannonball ride.


The trail beckons

Today I had an early afternoon New Year's party to attend at a friend's house in El Granada (heretofore and forever more to be referred to as "the EG"). This created a major dilemma for the Kid, as I don't rise before 11:00 a.m. on non-office days, nor do I believe in physical exertion before noon, unless it's race day. But it's the dead of winter, so daylight, she checks out about 5:15 p.m.

I returned home from the party at 2:00 p.m., dicked around for half an hour, and then finally prepped the bike, geared up, and got sufficiently safe. This left me with less than two hours of daylight to ride. Yeah, sure, I could've charged up the lights and extended my riding opportunities far into the gloaming, but it was a school night, and I wanted to spend the evening with T-Bone in front of a nice warm fire doing NPR puzzle books rather than alternately sweating and freezing out in the hinterland.

Yeah, yeah. I can already sense the hardcores sneering, but there will be plenty of time in the 2007 season for diehardedness.

Finally, about 3:15 p.m., I nosed my 1995 Gary Fisher Hoo Koo e Koo hardtail ("the Hoo-e") out of the driveway and headed off for a quick turn on my local dirt ("core trails"). I ride the Hoo-e in the winter months for a couple of reasons. First, it's my mud bike. It's old, its components are, how shall we say it, mature, and it never, ever chainsucks. It is my trusty workhorse. Secondly, because it has V-brakes and only a Cane Creek Thudbuster LT seatpost for rear suspension, it requires a bit more technical riding skill than my 2006 Gary Fisher ProCaliber ("the ProCal"). What can I say, I'm decidedly Old School and so is the Hoo-e. I may look goofy riding around in the rain on my Hoo-e with homemade fenders and V-brakes, but when spring comes and I hop on the fully suspended, disc-braked ProCal, it's like going from a cruiser bike to a motorcycle.


The Hoo e ProCal
The Hoo-e
ProCal madness

I started out with a pull up the Quarry, a county park in the EG located on the site of an old limestone quarry. The Quarry sits on the side of a very steep coastal ridge. The main dirt road from the gate on Highway 1 across the street from Miramar all the way to the top is about 2 miles and takes about 20 to 25 minutes. There are several graded roads in the lower Quarry and one old road that climbs all the way to the top. Elsewhere, the Quarry is rife with singletrack, which has been carved out of the surrounding Eucalyptus forest by industrious local freeriders. Great trails in the Quarry, but you have to earn your fun -- the trails are extremely steep. Climbing to the top, you encounter grades exceeding 20 degrees. Enjoy.

I made it to the top in about 21 minutes, barely overtaking a teenager wearing basketball high-tops, cotton shorts and t-shirt, and a baseball cap. He was riding an unsuspended, stock, K2 beater, and wobbling around like an out-of-round wheel, but he was climbing fast. I was pretty bummed when he actually pulled away from me on one of the steepest pitches. I have some serious work to do to get ready for the Lemurian and Downieville.

After summiting, I flew back down the hill and out the north gate of the park on my way over to Inspiration Point, which is a complex of very tough tester hills that rise up on the northeast side of the EG ("backside EG"). The signature section of Inspiration Point is "the Crack," a wicked, eroded, mere vestige of a trail so technically difficult even Hans Rey would have a hard time making it to the top without clipping out. Winter rains make the Crack impossible, but foot traffic and motocross riders usually beat out a passable route by late summer. Most summers I can make the Crack about 50 percent of the time. The damage from last winter was so severe though, that I didn't make the Crack once in 2006.

I didn't make the Crack today either, tapping down at the same ugly trench about two-thirds of the way up that has gotten me every time this year. As I stretched out my left foot to tap down, I was dismayed to see a huge, fresh (not steaming fresh, but still moist) pile of dog crap right in the only reasonable landing point for my foot. I narrowly avoided the poo pile and almost snapped my ankle in the adjacent crevasse. Either way, that would have sucked.


The Crack Inspiration Point
A wedge of the Crack Watching the submarine races from Inspiration Point

After touring Inspiration Point, I dropped back down the hill and picked up a little stitch of singletrack behind the Coral Sea neighborhood. This stitch is only about one-quarter mile long, but it rocks. High vegetation and several whoop-dees that drop in and out of a heavily eroded arroyo make this section a very fun challenge.

One of the challenges is visibility. The surrounding vegetation droops into the trail and rises up well overhead. In some sections, visibility is less than ten feet, which can be a problem when you're zipping into a gully turn at 20 mph.

Today, as I blew into the tightest section of the trail, I heard a loud rustling coming from around a corner just up ahead. Fearing that it was another biker hammering in my direction, I called out "Bike!" and quickly pulled off the trail. From my stopping point, I could see just over a rise in the trail to the next swale on the other side. I heard more rustling and then I saw an obviously spooked horse get up from the ground and run off about 50 feet away, where it then turned and eyed me suspiciously.

The horse was saddled, so I knew there was trouble. Sure enough, about two seconds later, I saw a woman slowly stand up and dust herself off. Uh-oh. Even though I had done nothing wrong, I braced myself for the inevitable equestrian outrage. But it didn't happen. The woman turned out to be a teenage girl, who seemed pretty dazed. I set down the Hoo-e and waited for her to regain control of her horse. She indicated everything was OK, and I walked over to see if she was alright.

She was definitely shaken, but physically OK. Even better, she reasonably and rationally acknowledged (without any prompting from me) that I was not at fault. She hadn't heard my shout (although it seems like the horse did) and didn't even know I was there until I came over the berm to check on her. (Once again proving my point that the only trail users out there who are aware of everything and everybody on the trail at all times are cyclists.) I talked with her for a couple minutes longer to make certain that she was OK, then continued on my way.

This encounter should be a lesson for all who feel that horsies, hikers, and huckers can't get along. We can all get along if people are reasonable and take responsibility for themselves. And if people treat each other with respect.

From backside EG, I crossed Highway 1 into Princeton and headed out to Mavericks, which was completely clogged with touristas. The tide was out, so every dipwad with a camera was out scrambling around on the fragile, exposed reef. Chafed, I climbed up to the Fitzgerald Marine Preserve ("the Fitz") blufftops, bested Bonzai's Bane, and completed a Fitz circuit, ending with a delightfully fast descent of the White Whale, a short, steep stitch of singletrack by the radio tower near the Mavericks parking lot.


Coastside living
Coastside living is a burden

It was a decent 15-mile "jog" on an absolutely beautiful day on the coastside. The sky was a deep, clear blue and the setting sun was a golden orb of goodness that transformed the cliffs and hillsides into a palette of California colors. The ride wasn't as long or as strenuous as I would have liked, but I can't complain. It was a beautiful day and 15 miles is better than none.


Dist: 15.2 mi Time: 1:41:11 Avg: 8.9 Max: 30.5 Wgt: 166.0

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