Ride Report: MTBing in Santa Cruz

Picture of Soquql, poached from Stanford Cyclingss Website

Picture of Soquel, poached from Stanford Cyclings's Website

Every time we turn the corner, there seems to be another rise. It’s really not that steep, but it’s been five hours and I’ve only had one bottle of water. I look behind me and see that Katie has taken off her helmet. Tsk, I think. A few minutes later I reason to myself: my head is going to explode, and I’m only going five miles per hour. So I take off my helmet too. If there was a creek nearby I would drink from it. I wouldn’t even care. I would just drink from it. Dehydration is worse than diarrhea. But there is no creek. Alas.

And so was the four mile gradual uphill fire road back to the cars, parked along the side of the road in Middle of No Where, Santa Cruz, CA.

The plan for the weekend was simple, even beautiful: Bike. Burrito. Beach. In short: a trip with Cal Cycling about an hour and a half south of Berkeley in the mountains of Santa Cruz. Of course it took me a little longer than that to get there, what with factoring in getting lost on the way to Los Altos to pick up another cyclist and a a brief stint on a “strikingly one-way” road. When we finally got off the seventeen, we followed a guy in a pickup truck with plastic lawn chairs in the back up the super-secret-windy -road-that-only- locals- know- about before descending into the Soquel Demonstration Forest, or “demo”. Pulling up alongside all of the other cyclists, I felt a little ashamed that everyone was already completely suited up and riding anxious little circles around on their full-suspension mountain bikes. I heaved the totally awesome, but totally not full suspension (or any suspension at all, for that matter) Bike that I’ve been borrowing and bouncing around on for the last month out of my car, towel changed into bike clothes, grabbed my one bottle and rolled out.

The initial climbing was pretty enjoyable; because it wasn’t technical so my life wasn’t flashing before my eyes every three seconds, and it wasn’t too difficult, so I could keep up with the pros in our group who had to ride painfully slowly to assure that a day of mountain biking didn’t turn into an episode of “Survivor Man” for newbies like me. Nearing the top of the climb, we rode over some rocks that were like enormous dinosaur bones. Clearly sedimentary, and probably sandstone, they were smoothed to a bone-like quality by the elements, and of course bike tires. At the crest of the ridge, the view opened up to reveal an expanse of swooping mountains, blanketed in pines, and in the distance, the ocean.

After a brief interlude of wheelie practice, bike tag, and a minor freak-out about the suddenly absent little brother of one of the riders, we headed down our first singletrack of the day, a trail called Canadian Bacon. I don’t know if it is called that because some Canadians got bacon-ized there, or if it is just a memorial to the delicious type of ham. It was a fun trail over all, a bit above my comfort level, with some rocky parts and some logs. There was one part of it that I swear was a pygmy forest. Either that or I somehow ran over one of those little mushrooms that make you grow taller. What’s that you say? Those aren’t real? Oh. But seriously, the trees were petite. Curiouser and curiouser, I say.

More climbing, more downhilling, more rocks and trees jumping out at me from all ends, snarling at my tires, grabbing my wheels and twisting them around. But no falling. Only once, and so brief it doesn’t even really count. The last singletrack of the day, a little number called “Saw Pit”. It wasn’t that bad at first. In fact, it was sort of fun. But I am not going to lie: by the tail end of it I had reached my singletrack quota for the day. I was ready to get home. And I was out of water. Everyone was out of water. Sure, we go to Berkeley. But Berkeley kids do dumb stuff too.

A group broke off to do another climb and then a more advanced singletrack. Needless to say, I opted not to join them. Good thing, because as it turns out, I could hardly handle the “easy way” home. Riding that aforementioned four-mile road was without a doubt the slowest four miles of my life. Just getting my feet to keep turning over the pedals took so much focus. When Isaw the cars, I was so happy I would have cried if there was any liquid left in my body.

Reaching the cars, I took two sips of water in order to conserve as much as possible for everyone else who would be coming in behind. After a few minutes of laying down on the road and being viciously attacked by insects, I remembered the creek. The creek that runs alongside the road. I wobbled down the slope to the water, shed my jersey and plunged in the to cool, clear water.

When the rest of the group appeared, we packed up the cars and high-tailed it outta there, but not without stopping at the Soquel Center store to purchase a massive bottle of gatorade, which tasted like a melted Popsicle. Yum. The rest of our beautiful plan was completed with instant burritos in Santa Cruz (that burrito maker guy knew what he was doing) and sunset and swimming (for some) on the cold beach. Driving up to Jordan Kestler’s house in the darkness, I gained a whole new understanding as to why that kid loves to ride up hills—he lives on top of a freaking mountain. It was so warm out that a good portion of us slept outside on the deck, but not without waking up at 6 AM to watch the Tour de France. What nerds.

Sunday was more of the same, except I was a lot smarter about water and food on the ride, the trails where a bit easier, and we ate falafel instead of Burritos. Later in the day I got a little bodysurfing in before the drive home that was made considerably long by—guess what—me getting lost. To employ the ever-tired vernacular of many a mountain biker, the weekend was “epic”. In a word.

Ahh. Back to Physics.

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One Response to “Ride Report: MTBing in Santa Cruz”

  1. top twenty « the daily saga Says:

    […] 14. I don’t think it will ever be too hot—at least not when compared with The Great Santa Cruz Dehydration Debacle of 2009. […]

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