From the Bottom to the Top – in lycra
I decided I’d ride today since the sun was shining and I hadn’t showered yet. At 9am. 35 outside. My plan was my regular (regular meaning 3 times now) route of down to Pearson and up to Rocky Road, then back down. 8.3 miles. Last time, I did Pearson to Pentz and got in just over 10. The intersection of Pentz and Skyway (and the end of the bike trail) comes at around 2100′ and I knew it was gonna be cold there. Below freezing.
Go grab my gear: undershorts, my new Pearl iZumi ‘Attack’ bib knickers, my Pearl iZumi tights and a tshirt (I love Chumly) and my heaviest sweatshirt. Insulated and armored Harley gloves. Carhartt beanie. Some thick socks and high top black Nikes. Alrighty. I’m going out, from the waist down, in lycra. Two layers. One has a seat pad. Let’s roll.
App on. iPod on my iPhone set to All Songs, random. It decides some Slayer is up first. I have insulated HD gloves on, so whatever it picks, that’s what we got. If it keeps picking Slayer, this is gonna be a long ride. For some reason, black metal and riding, at least in the cold, don’t mix. Start down the hill. Get to Pearson and west toward the bike trail. Start up and over the park entrance and decide, what the heck, let’s rock on down to at least, well, at least Foster, one street down. I’m at mile 1 and 6.2 instead of my usual 4 minutes since I spent over a minute in indecision about heading lower.
Some Animals (A Girl Named Sandoz) comes on. Excellent. Seems to be telling me going a bit further down is a good move. Even though I thought there was an actual trail this way, I head off down over what looks to be painted bikes on about a six inch wide space at the shoulder. This is the trail? Hit Foster sooner than I expected and blow right through. Then I come upon the trail proper. Oh, here it is. Right turn, Clyde. Since that was so fast, I decide to go down to Neal. I’m at mile 2 and 10.3 minutes.
Neal is just a couple minutes away, coasting down about 161′ of elevation.
I gotta get an air horn or something. The town demographics include 60% over age 55, so there’s lots of …older folk. And they are all on the trail this morning. They do NOT hear my calls of “on your left”. Either that or this is their way of protesting. What they might be protesting, I’m not sure. An air horn would do something: get them to move or know I’m coming. Have a stroke – SOMETHING. Neal is here and I go a little past to downshift and SLIDE ALL OVER IN THE FREAKIN PINE NEEDLES! Whoops. Note to self, even 2mph can be too fast in pine needles. Turn around and begin the climb. App tells me I’m at 3 miles, 14.5 minutes and 1240′. Let’s rock this Ridge! I begin uphill.
Next mile is slow, I’ve been coasting downhill and need to get in a rhythm, but my ass is killing me for some reason. Huh, that hasn’t been happening till mile 5 or 6 lately. Nice, some Rush comes on…we’re on a train to Bangkok, aboard the Thailand Express…and the pain is forgotten. We climb. Hit that intersection at Foster and blow through it again, this time on the trail. PinkFloyd and A Pillow of Winds playing. Love Meddle. At the park. Already? This is where I normally (again, 3 times) start my climb. I get a green light, cross and notice, wow, I’m in middle ring and gear 3!! Hey, I’m the man.
For another forty or so yards. Then I’m back in small ring and gear 3. Ironically, Faith No More’s Small Victory is on the headphones. God has a wry sense of humor.
Coming up on the benches at Elliott. Well, bench. I rest for a moment while Joplin sings A Woman Left Lonely. How the hell did that album get on my playlist? 3-4oz of water and away we go. F*$%^CK!!! Old people also drive!! Trying to cross Elliott has just become an exercise in survival. Old guy never even noticed me. Not even when my water bottle ricocheted off his rear window. I liked that water bottle. (I am kidding. I do not throw water bottles. I do not condone throwing water bottles, except as a last resort and only in response to a like threat.) Triumph plays A World of Fantasy. The app interrupts to tell me I’m now at mile 4. That mile took 10.4 minutes. I can crabwalk faster.
Across Elliott, adjust seating to try to bring back numbed parts and pedal uphill. It’s all uphill. It’s always been uphill. There’s never anything but uphill. Kids, we walked uphill to school. In the SNOW. BOTH WAYS. Uphill never gets easier, you just get to use higher gears. I’m in 3rd. It’s higher than 1st. Phil Colins sings Abacab. Mile 5 has flown by at an incredible pace of 9 minutes. I climbed 300′. Steve Miller finishes off the mile with Abracadabra. Nice randomizing.
I keep climbing past Bille, heading for Wagstaff, then Rocky Road. I like Rocky Road (not the candy bar or ice cream, just the road) because I can turn south and catch Wagstaff east and have very little climbing during that part. Then I join Clark and it’s all downhill. Iron Maiden (Up the Irons!) plays Aces High live and I’ve noticed something. I didn’t hit random, it’s just playing them in alpha order of song titles. To confirm, Zep’s Achilles Last Stand plays and I pass Rocky Road and keep pedaling uphill.
That second wind you always hear of comes on and mile 7 disappears in 9 minutes as I climb another 350′. “Action” from Sweet and Steven Tyler with Adam’s Apple whisper in my ears (at 105db) as I climb mile 8. 150′ and 9 minutes of riding the pine needle (and pine cone) strewn trail. I note that I’m actually, excepting my neck and wrists, not cold. Weird. Two layers of lycra is all it takes to do that. I’m somewhere around 2000′ and it’s below freezing. Yes, I’m a human thermometer. Actually, I saw ice covering a puddle and noticed some ice is in the needles when I last slid on them. I’m at 5.2 mph so the chances of me sustaining a high speed crash are effectively nil. I’ll probably actually gain speed as I fall, if I do.
After the Thrill is Gone from the best of the Eagles gives way to Against the Wind by Mr Seger and mile 8 is in the books. I’m nearing the intersection of Skyway and Clark and I’m pretty sure I’m turning around here. It’s cold. I’ve ridden – and will ride, since I’ve got to still go home – further than I ever have. My ass hurts again. One of my ears, I’m pretty sure, has frostbite. Aggressive Perfector from Slayer ends that. Wait a tick. Slayer started the ride. What song of theirs could have led off? Who cares? More uphill.
Behind the 7-11 Kwickee-Mart thing. Oh yeah. I still owe the owner $5 from a magazine she didn’t charge me for that one time. I keep saying I’ll pay her every time I pass the place. Better to owe her than cheat her out of it, I suppose.
This section is flatter, I’m in center ring and 3rd. Making decent speed, probably around 8-9mph. No, I don’t know exactly cause I use my iPhone as my bike computer and it shuts off the display and it would be dead by now if it didn’t. Music is more important than knowing current speed. Besides, the app interrupts every so often to tell me how slow I’m going. I don’t need constant reminders.
I’m sitting at Pentz and Skyway now. This is as far as I’ve ever gone uphill. The reason for that is…I don’t know where the trail goes from here. It seems I’m at the end and while it appears to cross Skyway at this point and go up Old Skyway, I’m not keen on that. It’s VERY steep. I’m already 8.2 miles in, 5 of those essentially uphill without a break.
I’m also not tired. I’m winded, but I can deal with that by 1 or 2 minutes of standing here, resting.
Ain’t it Fun from GunsNRoses and two versions (one live) of Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love from Van Halen keep my ears happy as I cross Skyway and downshift to 1st and attempt the climb. I’m shocked. I never need to stop going up the old main drag of the Ridge.
This was my goal for the end of January. Neal to the top of Old Skyway.
So now I’ve lied to you and me. I never considered trying Old Skyway. I was just planning Neal to Pentz.
Mad Season rewards me as I cross the gravel parking lot of the old church with All Alone and I am. I take a picture of my bike and the Sawmill Peak fire observation tower as photographic proof of my climb. My impossible climb.
Just prior to the lot, I passed a school I’d seen in the past. I was unaware that it was a continuation school until I spotted several groups of our finest young people gathered outside, smoking. One young man in particular was eying me as I approached and I could tell he was talking about me to his companions. Judging – and I’m a fairly good judge, even though my entire assessment is based on his muted actions, dress and companions – he’s going to grow up to be a fine, upstanding young man. Right.
Sammy is still singing “…Love” (even though he’s one of my favorite singers, that song will always belong to Roth) as I approach and the young man steps out from his group to blow a huge smoke and vapor cloud at me as I pass. He says or asks …something. Since I have headphones on, a beanie covering those, 70% hearing loss and – oh yeah – I don’t fucking care what he has to say, I’m not sure what he’s asking. His face is a mash of defiance and challenge while he waits for his answer and I smile and say ‘good morning’ as I pass.
Mad Season is done and so Zep plays All My Love as I circle the lot and enjoy my place in the world. My place physically. No, strike that. Geographically, not physically. Even though 3000 feet of Ridge still lie above me and beyond that, the Sierras with their peaks and even Shasta and Lassen…ok, really,
Still, I’m celebrating sitting atop a small rise on a small ridge in the midst of a large mountain range. Temple of the Dog does All Night Thing and I’m brought back to the now. I love Temple and I’m loving this moment. This Little Victory. I ride over to the church and Meat Loaf comes on with All Revved Up… and I decide I do have some place to go. Downhill. It’s all downhill from here.
Once again, geographically speaking.
As I set out from the church parking lot (and appreciating the fact that I’ve kept these ‘hybrid’ tires since they don’t slide a bit in the gravel, even tho I really wanna replace them with something higher pressure and more puncture resistant), I notice the young man I passed earlier is still out, but now, save for the immense cloud of smoky vapor that envelops him, alone. Mile 10 begins with Gene belting out Almost Human and as I pass the kid I marvel at how some of these song titles just seem to work out. Just then he actually smiles and kinda sticks his hand out in one of those stationary waves. Huh. Go figure. On my way up, again using my superior judgment, I’d figured him for a career involving jumpsuits with phrases containing the word ‘corrections’ on them. Perhaps not. Simmons sings (sings?) “don’t run away, cause where ever you go I’ll be a step away”. Er, no, that doesn’t match up here.
The kid is gone in an instant and both of my brakes are on, hard, as I descend. I decide the rear brake needs some adjusting and since I’m about to hit 100 miles on my ride and I get a free tune-up at 100 miles, I make a mental note to try and get it in this week. Yeah, the week before Christmas. Which I’ve done no shopping for. None. Alone Again Or plays from UFO. Uh oh.
Skyway, which is the bottleneck through which all traffic destined for – or from – the upper Ridge must flow, is naturally crowded as I approach. There’s no light and no crosswalk and I’ve already almost been killed by a guy so old he’d never heard of a single song on my playlist or any of the artists….wait, maybe Joplin… so I’m careful. I do have my new Niterider tail light back there flashing away but I doubt it will help – except as perhaps a targeting tool. Magically, Skyway opens up as I arrive and I cross with no drama. A quick turn south and I’m back on the trail.
Already Gone vibrates the magnets in my headphones as I enter the tube of firs and pines and oaks that line the old logging train trail. The Eagles very best plays as I negotiate, now at triple the speed, the pinecones and needles and debris the last storm deposited for my riding enjoyment. Ah! And a huge crane truck that covers the entire paved trail! I carefully wheel my way alongside the truck (which is actively removing – well, not the truck, the guy running it – branches that have snapped already, but hang above the trail waiting on the next unsuspecting jogger and a gust of wind) as Chickenfoot – and Sammy – send me along with Alright Alright.
Mile 11 passes by in just over 4 minutes and I take another southernly turn onto Rocky Road. I’m in center ring and 4th as I try to keep cadence up down the road. Since there’s no shoulder, I’m also trying to avoid becoming road kill. Rather bothersome is the fact (and I kid you not) that Slayer is currently playing Altar of Sacrifice at breakneck speed. I really have to pull Slayer off the playlist.
Rocky Road joins Wagstaff and a quick look (along with the Escape pulling out) up both ways tells me to blow the stop sign and head east down Wagstaff. Along with bottle throwing of any kind, I don’t endorse blowing stop signs. They are there for a reason and you should respect them when you’re on a bike. Unless you can keep up momentum and blow by them while being semi-protected by someone pulling out with you to serve as blocker as you cross. Still. You really should stop. I’m not going to, but you should.
Wagstaff requires a little downshifting but I keep in the center ring and mash instead of spin. I am helped along by Jonathon crooning Am I Going Crazy from the Issues album. Yet another turn south onto Clark. My thumb is so numb by mile 12 that I can’t upshift into my big ring up front, even with the damn trigger shifters, so I’m spinning my pedals uselessly as Petty sings American Girl and mile 12 flies by at an announced 23.4mph. I have to abandon the safety of the sidewalk for the street as I pass two elderly women out for a stroll or an escape from one of the many old folk homes that dot the town. (Did I already mention the town was the destination of several high-ranking Nazi women following the ‘great’ war? No? Now I have…) So maybe I just passed Himmler’s secretary or maid or something. Petty gives way to Green Day and American Idiot as I pass KFC and the app tells me I’m going 25.5mph and just passed mile 13. Slowing down now, braking hard to Green Day as I turn west and then south again and into my court.
I pull up, happy. I am actually not tired. I wasn’t tired at the top. I could keep going. Instead, I push the garage door opener with fingers that feel nothing and realize that most of my body is numb beneath my lycra. But I’m happy. It’s sunny out. I’m frozen. I accomplished something no one else is going to care about today. I made my goal a month early and then some. I learned that if you select ‘all songs’ and don’t push random they are going to play in alpha order – and somehow become a weirdly accurate soundtrack for the ride. Well, for the most part. I found I had extra reserves I didn’t know…have never known…. were there. I climbed 1000′ feet and rode 13.3 miles today. My legs spun and mashed for the better part of 93 minutes. I’m happy.
I can’t wait to do it again. This time, I’m going to push random. Imagine what will happen then.