Monday, January 22, 2007

Bike Ride Insanity

First of all, on Saturday I played some of the best Ultimate I've ever played. I was struggling with my throws during warm-up, so once the game started I limited my throws to safe ones and focused on defense, making smart hard cuts, and field awareness. The throws came to me later; since I was making good cuts I generally had space to wind up and throw. Took one really bad fall near the end of the last game; my left leg just didn't feel like taking a step for some reason. Everyone looking thought I'd blown out my left knee. In fact, I thought I'd done something, and I stayed down for a while to make sure I wasn't badly hurt before popping back up (after I blew out my right knee a few years ago I tried to stand back up, not realizing what I'd done, and that hurt a lot and still makes me shudder when I think about it... I really don't remember the moment of impact at all, trying to stand is really my most vivid memory of the injury).

Then on Sunday I went on a crazy bike ride. My originally planned route was something like this (you have to zoom out a lot to see the any significant portion of it... you can also turn on an elevation profile in the left panel) but on Saturday night I changed the route in two major ways (there were a few other changes that aren't really relevant to this writing). First, instead of going south on De Anza Blvd. (a fairly boring, heavily-trafficked multi-lane suburban road with a decent bike lane) to get down to Highway 9, I took Stevens Canyon Road and Redwood Gulch Road through Stevens Creek County Park. Second, on the way back I changed the route so that I'd stay south of the freeway until I was almost home and pass through a corner of Rancho San Antonio in so doing.

Stevens Canyon was cold, as it was last week. And Redwood Gulch Road coming out of the canyon was very steep. It really took a bite out of my legs. Obviously the overall climb would have been the same had I taken De Anza, and Stevens Canyon Road is actually a climb in itself, but I think that the climb to that point would have been less choppy on De Anza and Highway 9. As it was I had to stop a few times on Redwood Gulch. The climb up to the Saratoga Gap at Skyline Blvd. from where I got on Highway 9 was steady and only a few miles, but my legs were so tired by that point that I had to take a break less than a half-mile from the top. Took another break at the gap, because it was the gap. A dude on a motorcycle at the gap was checking out my bike, and asked me about it and about cycling in the hills (Is it hard? Yes, dude, it is hard).

I also took my camera with me (my parents gave me a camera for Christmas). Here are some pictures up to this point in the ride.

This picture is actually from last week's ride. It is the end of Stevens Canyon Road. At least, it's as far as I went on the road. The guy that I met later on in Sunday's ride would have gone right through. I planned to take more pictures on that ride, but Stevens Canyon was so cold that I just wanted to get out of there, and then forgot about picture taking for the rest of the ride.

One picture each from Stevens Canyon and Redwood Gulch:

Also, fun fact for those that didn't know (I am neither a mountaineer nor a geologist, so I did not know until looking it up), a gap is the highest point in a pass, a pass being a way through a mountain range that's typically lower than the surrounding mountains. Highway 9 is a pass through the Santa Cruz Mountains, and its peak at Skyline Boulevard is the Saratoga Gap.

Continuing on the ride, not too far down Skyline Boulevard there was a turnoff with some beautiful views. *Snap snap*

After I took these pictures and was about ready to get back on the road downhill an older man on an old yellow bicycle came up the hill toward me. He said, "Did you have to wear that color shirt?" I was wearing a bright orange shirt. "I forgot my sunglasses today, I'm blinded!" He wore a heavy blue shirt, corduroys, riding shoes, and an old white riding cap in place of a helmet. We talked (well, mostly he talked) for a long time about bike routes through the mountains, the nearby birds and why they "flew so shitty", why propeller airplanes are so loud (it's not the engines, it's the tips of the propellers breaking the sound barrier), why some propellers have more blades than others (if the plane can go faster there can be more blades because it takes less time for the blade to enter "clean" air; "If the blade doesn't have clean air to enter, you're fucked!"), the crazy wind patterns and microclimates of the South Bay, and he identified a Ducatti motorcycle as it sped by behind him by the sound of its engine.

After speeding downhill for a while (Skyline was downhill mostly, but fairly straight so I could pick up quite a lot of speed) I got to Page Mill Road and turned north towards Palo Alto and Stanford University. My first long bike ride out here was to Stanford and back; maybe if I try to find a reasonably flat route I could make it all the way to Cal-Berkeley and back; it would be around 100 miles, but I think I could do it if I found a decent route and packed lots of food. Page Mill Road was curvy, downhill and scenic. Photos from Page Mill Road follow.

These three face out to the northeast overlooking Silicon Valley, San José and the Mount Hamilton range off in the distance.

And these next three are looking (I think) to the west. A couple sightseeing in a car facing south asked me where Page Mill Road went, so I told them that it continued down to Skyline Boulevard, and I didn't know where it went after that, but that Skyline went all the way to the coast. Unfortunately that last part isn't really true. Oops. At the end of Skyline you'd still have to go a long way down Half Moon Bay road to get to the coast, and the stupid part is that I really should have known that, because I drove down Half Moon Bay road to the coast when I was here for my interview with Nvidia. Oh well.

The really crazy part came after getting off of Page Mill. My new route had me noodling around minor roads paralleling the freeway to the "west" (in the valley "north" always means "towards San Francisco", "south" almost always means "towards San José", "west" often means "towards the mountains or the coast"; "east" could conceivably mean "towards Oakland", but nobody ever mentions the word "east" 'round these parts, except when talking about those crazy eastern-seaboard towns like Boston, Denver and Reno). These roads tended to go "south" for a while and then turn left towards the freeway, so I had to make several right turns to keep my course. Unfortunately when I wrote down my directions I skipped a turn and because the roads change names every few blocks I couldn't figure out how to continue the route. I remembered that Altamont road would take me across the freeway, so I backtracked to that point, got on Altamont and figured that once in the valley I'd see a street I knew and pick my way back home.

Unfortunately I have no sense of direction (a situation exacerbated by the wacky and sometimes contradictory directional orientation of bay-area roads and the roads' tendency to curve around). Altamont took me to the Foothill Expressway (note to Chicagoland readers: around here "expressway" is not synonymous with "freeway" like it is in Chicago; expressways in the bay area are semi-limited access roads in that they have mostly at-grade junctions, but only with other major roads, and very little or no direct driveway access). According to my map of south-bay bike routes, Foothill Expressway was not a road to be cycled. But in reality it had a really wide bike lane and was packed with cyclists. I guess the mapmakers just blanketly marked all the county expressways the same. So I turned right on Foothill to go "south" towards Rancho San Antonio and home. But then I got confused and thought that south would have been a left turn. Don't ask me why I thought that. So I turned back and rode a long way the wrong way down Foothill. I started to get suspicious that I was going the wrong way. The suspicion was like Wile E. Coyote realizing that there was no ground under his legs anymore. It made me finally notice that my legs were burnt out after miles of switching back over hills, repeatedly accelerating, trying to find my way. The next street up ahead had a large dirt-and-grass divider between the main lanes and the right-turn lanes. I stopped and laid down there for a long time.

I don't know how long it was; several light cycles went by, and whenever the light was red cyclists stopped at the light would ask if I needed help, food or a phone call. I asked one of them which direction she was going, and she said, "north, towards San Francisco". So I knew I was way off course, but at least I knew the way back, and that I was about 15 miles from home. I rested for a few more light cycles, stretched out, then headed back. It was an easy, gentle downhill for the last 15 miles down Foothill and Homestead. And I made sure to take it slow so I wouldn't be half-delirious as the roads got busier and more dangerous in Santa Clara. At any rate, I tried to watch the AFC Championship game when I got home and slept through most of it, that's how tired I was. Yow.

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Mrena said...
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