Sunday, October 16, 2016

Old La Honda Road

The ride my son and I did is highlighted in red. The route of the Tour Del Mar is highlighted in blue.

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post about the Tour Del Mar, a bike race I participated in 1966. Back then, bicycling of any kind was done by a very small number of people and cyclists felt like a persecuted minority. My, how times have changed! Cycling has become mainstream and the region around the Tour Del Mar route has become extremely popular with cyclists. Add in the fact that both my sons have moved to this area, and is was almost inevitable I would revisit the scene of my crime. In a recent post,  I mentioned how travel had disrupted my blogging. I was afraid it was going to do the same to my cycling, but not so. During my last trip to California, I managed rides on three of the six days I was there. Although none of these quite made it onto the Tour Del Mar route, two of them were just on the other side of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The ride highlighted in red on the above map was the third and final ride, and the most difficult, culminating in a 4 mile climb up Old La Honda Road to its summit at 1,750 feet. It has been over a week since I completed this ride, and my legs still feel tired from the effort.

The first of the three rides was connected with the Modesto Roadmen Reunion that was the topic of my last post. The second, a ride with my older son, was a time constrained reconnoitering ride from his home in Redwood City to the start of Old La Honda Road. Because of the many steep hills along the way, that 15 mile ride left my legs extremely tired, even without the climb up Old La Honda. The very next day, we set out to ride up to the top of Old La Honda Road. Due to our scouting of the previous day, we were able to select a slightly less hilly approach than we had ridden the day before. Because of the tiredness in my legs, I took it easier. Fortunately, I felt better as the ride went on and was able to mount a credible, sustained effort up the main climb. By the time I got home, however, I was completely done in, I had nothing left to give. Houston has a lot to recommend it as a cycling city, but as a place to build one's climbing ability is clearly lacking.

This first picture is of my son within a few blocks of his home. Some intensive climbing brought us to a beautiful view over Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay.

This is my son and I in front of Robert's Market in Woodside, California, the crossroads of Silicon Valley cycling. Apparently all San Francisco peninsula cycling pass through here. A kind shopper took our picture.

This is it, the base of the climb. From Robert's Market, we took the well-named Mountain Home Road through beautiful forests and horse farms to Portola Road, then Portola Road to Old La Honda Road, the start of our challenge.

Four miles and 1170 feet later, here we are at the top of the climb. The average gradient is 8%, compared to the more famous (and longer) climb up Mount Diablo which is 6%. From here, we took Skyline Boulevard back to Highway 84 (and the locally famous Alice's Restaurant) and then 84 back to Woodside. This was definitely an epic ride for an old man like me. (It goes without saying that my son is a much stronger rider than I am, and rode beneath his potential to keep me company.)

The climbing challenge aside, this was one of the most beautiful bike rides of my life. The road threaded back and forth through canonical California scenery, at times passing through the classical brown grass, scrub oak, manzanita that characterizes much of California, and then just a turn later, heading into the cool and dark of a gorgeous California coastal Redwood forest. During the 45 minutes we were on Old La Honda road, we encountered only two cars! Honest, I counted.

I think I can safely say, without violating anyone's privacy, that there is an unbelievable amount going on at the Steffen residences, both in Texas and in California. Thus, what was amazing about these rides is not how long or how hard they were, but that they happened at all. My son and I very much hope to do some longer rides through this part of California during future visits. My son recently took a ride with some of his buddies from work that went from his home to the town of Pescadero and back, taking in much of the route of the Tour Del Mar. That ride was 61 miles long, had over 6600 feet of climbing, and took them over 5 hours to complete.  This would be a very tough ride for me, one that would take me much longer than their 5 hours to finish, but it is one that I think I could complete. Will we manage to actually ride it? Stay tuned and find out.

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