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Naomi  The Biking Life

 by: Naomi Bloom  12/1/2003

School Is Out!


I just finished my final exams at Foothill College. I am on Vay-Kay-Shun! Three-plus weeks of no classes. Twenty-four whole days of free time.

Let's see -- that means time to shop for holiday gifts. Time to write and address Season's Greeting cards. And clean the house. And mulch the yard. And, oh yeah. . . ride my bike!

Every rain-free day from now until January 5, I intend to get out on roads I haven't ridden since September. Some of them feature challenging climbs. Some offer great scenery, especially now that all the vegetation is green. And nearly all lead to warm, cozy eateries offering filling meals, yummy pastries, or at the very least hot caffeinated drinks.

If I had my druthers, I'd ride every single road in Roads to Ride South , Grant Peterson's out-of-print masterpiece. Roads like Tunitas Creek and Stage Road between San Gregorio and Pescadero, home of the world's best artichoke-garlic bread.

And Old La Honda Road, one of my most favorite climbs to Skyline (AKA Scenic Highway 35). Got to wait until after December 25 for that one, though. Skyline, with its myriad Christmas Tree Farms, is awash with flatlanders this time of year. They're all totally clueless when it comes to driving twisty mountain roads. And they all have Christmas trees tied to the tops of their SUVs!

So for the time being, maybe I'll head south, to Morgan Hill and Gilroy. There's the Llagas-Willow Springs loop connecting Santa Teresa Blvd. with Chesbro Reservoir. And this is one of the best times of year to tour all three reservoirs, from Calero above Almaden Valley down to Uvas, just north of Gilroy. Or to do a loop around my favorite country lanes, Burchell and Day roads.

I'll even have time to bop "over the hill" and ride in Santa Cruz County. The roads over there are not to be rivaled anywhere else in our Golden State. Besides cruising along the cliff and beach roads overlooking Monterey Bay, there are some great climbs to be had. Like Rodeo Gulch, up from Soquel (pronounce it So-KELL). Swanton Road paralleling Highway One north of Davenport. Eureka Canyon/Highland Road up to Summit from Corralitos. And Browns Valley/Hazel Dell roads out of Corralitos into the Pajaro Valley and my favorite rest stop, Gizdich Apple Ranch.

A little less south from my west Santa Clara Valley home lies Los Gatos. A great winter workout is to head down there and do the loop around Kennedy and Shannon roads (or "Shennedy-Kannon" as I often call it). Back in the day, when I was still "training," it was a mainstay for getting in a few quality miles on busy weekends. On Saturday, December 20 I'll lead a pre-Santa ride to revisit that route.

It's beginning to sound like I could ride every day. Except for those shopping, card-writing and mulching duties. Not to mention weather interference. Frankly, I'm a bit persnickety about the kind of weather that will keep me off the road. No heavy fog on the coast, please (I remember all too well climbing Tunitas Creek in the middle of a cloud). No temps below 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 Celsius). No wind chill. And since I have established a reputation for canceling a ride if there's even a 30% chance of rain, please, Santa, if you're listening, no drops from the sky!

Getting out on a bike during the holidays gives me a chance to get back my "legs." But more important, it gives me a chance to get back together with fellow cyclists. During these three weeks I'll also have plenty of time to hit the social club rides. Like the "Monday Morning Mocha Mooch" (formerly the "Monday Morning Java Jive") toCafe Borrone in Menlo Park.

That takes care of Mondays. Fridays I have a choice between two Andys. One leads an impromptu (usually hilly) Western Wheelers ride every week from downtown Los Altos; the other plans weekly ACTC rides out of northern Almaden Valley.

Those social rides will be a lot of fun. But they'll be sad too. Because two of the best people I know to ride with will be missing.

Bill Brown, a slow-but-steady climbing partner with the patience of Job, passed away in October. And Betsy Evart, one of the most congenial riding companions I've ever had the pleasure of sharing the road with, died on a ride in early December.

I wish I could ride with the two of you again. I'll miss you both terribly.

Naomi can be reached at naomibloom@earthlink.net

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