Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The de Anza Reconnect

It was three weeks ago I last posted to this blog. (It seems like forever.) In that post I said:
"[M]y plans for a 200K brevet in November are on hold, perhaps to be abandoned. I will ride as much as I can in California, but between the needs of my father and the absence of my familiar cycling environment, training for a brevet may be more than I can do. But who knows, I will ride as much as I can, substituting intensity for distance, and depending on how quickly my sister and I can get Dad settled, I will see how long it takes me to get back home and what my fitness looks like when do."

Well, getting Dad settled turned out to be much more of an adventure than expected, so much so that I extended my original stay by a week and will be going to California again at the end of next week. Even if I were fit enough for the November brevet, I will miss it anyway as a result of this trip.

But every cloud has a silver lining. Although I did not get much riding in (three rides in three weeks), I did manage to explore some new routes, and to my delight, found that a major gap in the local trail system had been filled! The map below shows large parts of two major trails in the Brentwood/Antioch/Pittsburg region of California: The Marsh Creek Trail (which I have blogged about before) and the de Anza Trail.

Click on map to see a larger version.
Notice the trail labels with a yellow background showing the de Anza, Marsh Creek and Big Bre[ak] trails. From Dad's house, I can catch the Marsh Creek Trail and ride it until it joins the de Anza trail, but where the blue circle is, near the center of the picture, there used to be a gap in the de Anza Trail which prevented me from getting very far. This visit, when I rode that section of trail, I found that the gap had been closed. Here is the new section of trail, going under Highway 4, that has just been completed:

The de Anza trail follows the Contra Costa Canal, so I expected it to be flat. To my delight, this was not the case, as shown by this warning sign:

The climb up to this sign was quite significant for an old man from flat, flat Houston. I always find it difficult to capture hills in my photographs, which is why I included the sign, but I think you can see the trail winding downhill in the picture. But how can this be? The law of gravity would seem to dictate that canals must be close to flat. There are two explanations. The first, which explains the hill shown above, is that the trail briefly departs from the canal and goes over the hill where the canal cuts through it. The other explanation, shown in the next picture, is pumping stations:

Notice how the trail rises to the right of the cement building. On the other side of the building, the canal is significantly higher than it is on the side you can see. (The canal is flowing front to back.) The cement building contains a pumping station that allows the canal to flow upstream, thus providing us cyclists with some modest but nonetheless enjoyable climbing.

I never know how much time I will have to bike when I visit Dad in California. Often, I am going because of some kind of problem that requires my help, and that help may not leave any time for riding. This will be the case when I go back next week. However, if I do have time to ride, there are a lot more trails for me to explore. In terms of brevet riding, the last brevet of the Houston Randonneur's calendar is a 200K on December 12. Will this finally be my 2014 brevet?