February 3, 2007: Adding insult to injury


T-bone and I had to take our hound down to Santa Cruz today for a root canal (FYI: root canals for dogs are going for $1K a pop these days). The procedure and recovery lasts several hours, so we figured we'd take the bikes and get in some trail time while we waited.

Z-dawg T-bone
Open wide puppy
T-bone and Stumpy

That was the plan before I hurt my back on a night ride two days ago. In a lot of pain and wanting to expedite the healing process with an eye toward somehow pulling off a 50-mile ride with Romulus tomorrow, I decided to sit out the ride and serve as T-bone's crippled director sportif for the day instead.

After dropping off the wolf at the dentista's office around 10:00 a.m., I took T-bone back up Highway 1 to Wilder Ranch State Park. Perched on the outskirts of northern Santa Cruz, near UCSC, Wilder Ranch comprises 7,000 acres and 34 miles of solid multiuse trails.

I've ridden the Ranch a couple of times before and frankly, it doesn't rate that highly with me. There is some singletrack, like the Old Cabin Trail, but for the most part, it's fire roads. That's not to say you can't get yourself a really strong cross-country ride at Wilder, you definitely can. Let's not lose perspective: the Ranch is an awesome set of trails that everybody and their sisters should be eternally grateful for, but if you're looking for technical challenges, there are better places.

Here's an insider's tip for you. If you're looking for Wilder's best, come in from the top. That is, instead of parking on Highway 1 and riding uphill into the park, drive up Empire Grade and drop in at the Chinquapin Trail. It's tough climb up from the road for about one-half mile, but it's all homemade singletrack, and it's really fun on the way back down. After some nice trail climbing, you level out, pass some pretty trippy old water tanks, and then hook up with the Ranch trails proper.

It costs $6 for day use at the Ranch, but most day users park along the wide shoulders of Highway 1 just south of the park entrance and thereby avoid the fee. As did we.

From Highway 1, it's mostly an uphill proposition. The blufftop Ohlone Trail offers some relatively flat trailage, but everything else is on up the hill.

T-bone picks it up from here.

When the alarm went off at 7:00 a.m., I seriously considered bailing and letting Cannonball take the Z-dog down to Santa Cruz by himself. (Yeah, I know, 7:00 a.m. ain't that early, but jeez, you try commuting two hours a day, five days a week. You'd be exhausted too!) Anyway, I didn't bail.

Cannonball told me that it would all be fire roads and that sounded perfect to me. I didn't want anything challenging, I just wanted to put my head down and ride. Unfortunately, it wasn't until I was on the bike that it dawned on me that it would be all up hill. Oh lordy.

I headed out on the Ohlone Trail along the coastal bluffs. That took about 10 minutes. I then headed through the tunnel that goes under Highway 1. There was a sign for the Engelsmann Trail, which sounded nice and sedate to me. So off I went. About 100 yards in, it immediately started to climb. And climb. And yes, I'm still climbing. Just when I thought my legs and lungs would give up the ghost, it finally leveled off slightly (at least enough for me to catch my breath.)

Ohlone Trail Twin Oaks Trail
Along the Ohlone Trail
Wilder does have singletrack

On the way up, I passed about six hikers, all coming down hill. They each looked at me like I was insane. But once at the top, the view was pretty awesome and the sun was out and the hardest part was over!

From this point on, it was all single track. I took the Old Cabin trail and I admit, it rattled me a little bit. I wasn't mentally prepared, so as I bombed down the trail over roots and rocks on my new bike Stumpy, I couldn't help but wonder what had happened to my easy fire roads?! But, the trail wasn't that technical and was actually pretty fun. I had to stop a few times and walk the bike, and then had to stop again for three women on horses.

They were surprised at first that I stopped and moved off the trail to let them pass, but then they realized I was a woman, too, and some how it all made sense. They wished me a fun ride, and I wished them the same.

I reached another trail crossroads and decided to take the Twin Oaks Trail. This trail was sweet: it was flat, easy, and I didn't see a single other soul. When I got back to the car, I was definitely happy that I had motivated myself out of bed. Wilder Ranch was just the kind of outdoors I was needing.

Here's some nice video of what's it like to ride in the Ranch.

The crowd
Go! Go! Go! Go! Come on! Come on! Let's pick it up!

Meanwhile, back at the hoopdie, I occupied myself with the latest edition of Velo News, which was loaded with stuff about the Sea Otter and the upcoming Tour of California. Last year's prologue time trial stage to Coit Tower was awesome, and I can't wait for this year's race. As for the Sea Otter, maybe I'm getting old, but I'm looking forward to it more as a spectator event this year than as a race.

What with the beautiful sunny day, the lines of roadies streaming by on Highway 1, the restlessness of two days on the shelf, and the fact that T-bone was out enjoying the dirt, I was going a bit stir crazy. I had cycling on the brain. Here's what a geek I am: I climbed up a little knoll overlooking the highway just so I could watch all the Saturday cyclists spin by. I truly enjoyed checking out the different rigs and sizing up the riders -- the mental game never ends. Like a spectator, I even yelled out to a couple of laggards to pick up the pace. Imagine the looks I got.

Dist: 13.4 m Time: 1:38:22 Avg: 8.1 Max: 23.0 Wgt: 128.5

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