I looked at the weather forecasts and Doppler radar images in the days and hours before that ride. It looked like we'd have a few hours of calm in the morning between storm fronts, and I intended to get my ride in during that narrow window of opportunity. Instead, my wife and I went out for breakfast, went sightseeing for storm damage (it was considerable), and got in some shopping. By the time I headed out the door on my 10-year old Stumpjumper the next front was bearing down.
I rode up Nisene Marks in Aptos, because it's a quick way to get in some of that FTP workout time I strive for, on my mountain-bike so I could spare my road-bikes the indignity of traversing all the mud, fallen branches and sand the storm had deposited all around town. It takes me about 40 minutes of hard riding from the park entrance to get up the mountain to the Sandy Point overlook. Perfect. Even has benches up there you can collapse onto, if yer' winded. I rode up there on New Year's Day too, in gorgeous, though chilly, weather.
Last Saturday was different though; as I rode toward the park I passed fallen trees everywhere, and a thick carpet of fallen branches and leaves. The park was not desserted, strangely, as there were a few crazy hikers and joggers braving the mess. But as I rode further up I saw nobody, and instead found myself dodging big branches lying in my way, and even had to carry my Stumpjumper over several fallen trees. I counted three, one a huge monster that slid down the trail's embankment before toppling over and snapping in several sections. I assumed this had all occurred during the height of the storm on Friday, so I was thoroughly entertained by the spectacle.
I was dressed warmly, and had to unzip my jacket from exertion. Near the top of the climb it became foggy, a bit windy, and rain started pelting the forest, also the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, incidentally. But I was doing well and concentrated on my legs to ensure I stayed in my L4 workout zone.
At last, the top! Though over 10 minutes later than usual. The desserted benches were looking out on a vast gray nothingness of fog instead of the panoramic view of Monterey Bay we usually see. I slammed some sport drink and quickly turned around for the long descent.
Not too far down I reached the first fallen tree; strange, I didn't remember that one. In fact I was certain it hadn't been there before. OK, that was freaky! I thought back and realized that some of the wind gusts had sounded a lot like crashing trees...gulp. After that every noise and looming tree overhanging the trail made me more nervous. On top of that I got really cold; I hadn't zipped up my jacket and belatedly closed that barn door. I just wanted to be home!
My freezing hands had trouble with the brakes, and the pads were rapidly wearing out from gritty mud on my rims. The levers were soon hitting the handlebars. Fortunately my awesome 1.8" Panaracer Trailblasters worked great in the mud. I hopped over the three other fallen trees, feet numb with cold, and headed back into town through an ever-heavier downpour. People drivng by must have questioned my sanity. I saw a cool hawk fly over; he wasn't bothered by the rain.
Soon the rain got even heavier, maybe the heaviest I've ever ridden in. And it was getting really windy too. The nearly horizontal rain stung my face and soaked me through to the skin. Riding along East Cliff Dr also subjected me to a facial sand-blasting and riding through dunes of wind-blown beach sand on the roads.
Was I happy to get home, hose my filthy bike down and take a long, hot shower. A big lunch and a nap were the cherry on my sundae! I won't go on a ride like that again.
Happy New Year!