We awoke at 5:30 to pancakes and cyclocross videos. Kurt was up and flipping cakes. Kelly was kind enough to make us pancake batter the previous night. Our Berkeley host, Hans Kellner has been making race videos at the Bay Area Cross races since 2001 - that’s well before the GoPro craze started. He told us how he’d sit in the back of the pack of women’s races. Every venue. At some point these may be important historical documents. It was fun to see a slice of the Bay Area CX scene over pancakes. Last night we had burgers and beers and walked to Trader Joe’s for eggs and syrup and then called it a night. No Berkeley nightlife for this crew.
After breakfast we did a quick pack up, I made my bottles of OSMO and lubing of drivetrains, we rolled over to Cole Coffee for espresso. We hung out at Cole for a bit, feeling like we could easily linger at this café all morning. We weren’t unmotivated, just aware that the day would begin just like yesterday ended, pretty much straight up into the hills.
We could have easily lingered in Berkeley with our new friends, but we had miles to ride.
We went straight up Skyline. Morning roadies were on their way down. Serious bunch! I entertained myself with trying to get a wave or a howdy. Considering the hour and what we had ahead, I’d say our spirits were high. We chatted and laughed our way to Robert Sibley Volcanic Regional Park. I think it was a huge boost to get day one under our belt, knowing that would probably be the hardest. I mean, we only had to do 80 miles today.
Redwood Park fed into Anthony Chabot Regional Park. This first section never felt overly rugged. It felt like a Regional park, complete with professional dog walkers and morning recreators. It felt like groomed city trails, but fun, with some good rollers and descents
There were some steep climbs, but mostly it felt like city trails. We talked a lot about cross racing and the pros and cons of amateur bike racing. Both Steven and I sort of qualify as “former racers” at this point. Kurt is currently smashing it. Before we knew it we were in Castro Valley and I could feel the need for second breakfast. It’s hard to know what your metabolism is going to do when you ride all day. Today, my gut said go get a real sandwich. It must have been lunch time because the Safeway deli line was long. I tried my best to be patient, but you know when it seems like the counter help aren’t quite sure how to work the toaster oven and every order takes five minutes. But in my waiting I got clued into the megadeal. Breakfast sandwich with eggs and potatoes and roast beef for about $3.50. Well worth the agonizingly long wait. For some reason I got the free sandwich coupon and handed it directly to Steven, knowing that would be another 10 minute penalty. Oh well. Sometimes civilization sucks you back in. We found E Castro Valley Blvd. and we were on our way again. E Castro fed into Palomares Rd. Palomares was pleasant, rural and tree-lined, and it climbs steadily.
Maybe it was my breakfast burrito stop, but I was sort of hating this road climb. But you can’t climb forever and before I could say ‘basta’ we had a seven mile descent towards Fremont. We stopped at a convenience store and Kurt had his first hot dog of the trip. Mostly Kurt stays pretty minimal on the food, but when he drops in on a hotdog, it’s full on…we’re talking mayo, ketchup, relish, the works!
We motored through Fremont and paused under a tree by Ohlone College. Kurt pulled a Cherry Coke out of his pack and we shared it. I think we knew it would be a pretty serious climb up Mission Peak. I don’t know what happened, but all of a sudden it felt midsummer hot - bright and hot.
I have to put my shades on my helmet, because I don’t want to sweat into them, so I just put my head down and get into it. I’ll take one of these grunty dirt road climbs over an endless road climb in the trees like Palomares we did earlier.
Maybe it’s the fact that I know this climb is going to take me up where the hawks soar, where I can see the valley below. The reward is tangible. I can’t wait to see what it’s like up top. We pass day hiking day trippers and cows. Lots of cows. This climb is steep. We’re talking 21, 22 percent grades and several points. Mission Peak has to be a highlight of the entire route. From the top you can see Mt. Hamilton, The Santa Cruz mountains, Mt. Tam, Mt. Diablo and the Sierra Nevada.
The descent was fantastic. It’s not particularly technical, so the only thing to stop you is traction on the gravel road. A quick note on equipment - I ran Maxxis Ikon 2.35 tires on front and 2.2 on the rear, set up tubeless with Orange Seal sealant for this trip and found it to be the perfect tire for this kind of mixed surface. Low rolling resistance on pavement, and plenty grippy for the fireroads and dry rocky trails that we hit. Very impressed with this setup. You’ve got views to the South Bay the whole time, so you feel like you’re dropping from space. It’s truly spectacular. I was torn between wanting to stop for photos and to give my brakes a rest and wanting to just let it ride and enjoy the hard-earned descent. I got the feeling this part of trail doesn't get that much use. After some creekside traverse, ups and downs, the trail puts you out into Ed Levin Park. I felt a bit like a kid getting off a roller coaster - ready to run back to get back in line to do it all over again, and a bit let down that I couldn't do the ride all afternoon.
and hang a right turn onto Calaveras Blvd. At this point, you’ve got to navigate crossing San Jose. Luckily there are bike lanes and iphones to guide us and we are a pack of three, so Kurt juggles his iphone and Steven and I do our best to not get killed. I did almost get killed. Hey delivery trucks - you do actually need to stop when you're pulling out onto the street. That was a close one. Glad I wasn't staring at an iphone.
At this point Kurt starts talking about Micheladas, which for the uninitiated, it’s beer, lime juice, tomato juice and maybe some hot sauce. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be gross, but at this point it has to be a worthy accompaniment to my fat burrito. We hatch a plan to get burritos and Michelada tall boys.
The sun is going down at this point, but we’re almost to our destination in Los Gatos and big food sounds like a solid plan. We find a picnic spot at Los Gatos Creek County Park and set about destroying these burritos. A security pickup hovers, parks and approaches us to kindly vacate since the park is closing. My high school years of getting kicked out of skate spots has me ready for a fight, but this has to be the nicest, most soft-spoken park caretaker. We pedal off, grinning, wondering if all of Los Gatos is chill like this, or we just got one calm soul. This trip has been a bit like that, where everything comes together quickly and easily and people go out of their way to help you. We get back on the Los Gatos Creek Trail bike path and do our best to avoid head-on collisions with oncoming bike commuters and end-of-day pathletes. Before long we’re at our destination, shedding sweaty kit and making ourselves at home. My sister-in-law, Meaghan was kind enough to put us up for the evening, we crack beers, shower up and watch an episode of “New Girl”. Kurt and Steven hit the grocery store for dinner part 2, while I put my feet up and caught up with Meaghan. What a day! I feel like we might be getting the hang of this. It’s not easy, but we’re getting it done, enjoying it, and finishing up right at sunset both days. Magic.
A note about recovery: I took OSMO goodnight recovery every night, which is a product OSMO offered when they first started, but discontinued since folks didn't care for the taste. Here is a link to a recipe so you can make your own. It’s essentially their Acute Recovery plus herbs to help you sleep. I think it’s a secret weapon when you’re doing big days back to back. Tart cherry juice is a booster to help increase melatonin production. Maybe use the cherry juice for training days back home, since it’s not something you're likely to buy when you’re traveling. That peace of mind, knowing you're doing all you can to recover so you can wake up at the crack and do it all over again.