Sunday, May 20, 2007

Foot of Pride

It was billed as “The Only Kosher Ride in the West,” and as you can see, the sign-up tables for the Foothill Century featured a mix of bike helmets and traditional kippot. This is in Sunnyvale, at the South Peninsula Hebrew Day School, which organized the ride as a fund-raiser. It was a metric century, which is to say it was 100 kilometers, not 100 miles.

100 kilometers (62.1 miles) is quite enough for me at this point in the season. Last year I finished a 70-mile ride in May, but it was almost completely flat, and I’d had a little more time to build up to it, because I started regular riding earlier in the year. This year I’ve had distractions both at work and at home that kept me off the streets in the early season. It’s nice to be out working the pavement again.

Did he make it to the top?
Yeah, he finally did and dropped
—Bob Dylan

This was (literally) the high point of the ride, about 500 feet above sea level—maybe a third of the way through the ride. The ride was in rolling foothills, with a total of 3400 feet of climbing. (The glass-half-empty folks will note that also implies 3400 feet of downhill.)

I’m not proud; I was in my absolute lowest gear as I cranked my way up the hill, a good rise. It wasn’t terrible; it was a challenge. “Your bike has such a beautiful frame!” cooed one woman as she rode by me. Uh, yeah.

Stopped at the top to take a picture of the downhill road ahead. By the way, that’s the San Andreas Fault you’re looking at there, in the crease of the valley.

The sheriff’s car is one of a few that were going up and down the road closing it to auto traffic. Every Sunday this stretch is dedicated to bicycles, bladers, joggers, and the like. (Pogo stick, anyone?)

Do note the scale of a California live oak. The jogger is closer to the camera than the tree is.

Interstate 280 connects San Francisco and San Jose. CalTrans bills it as “The Most Beautiful Freeway in the World,” which Dad used to observe was canny on their part, since freeways only really exist in California. The rest of the world has highways, interstates, autostradas, autobahnen, turnpikes, thruways—but nothing they call a freeway.

Check out the orange-colored dome-shaped house up on the left under the overpass. This bridge has various names; one thing we used to call it was “the broken arm bridge,” because when I was a boy learning how to make skid marks with my bike (using coaster brakes) on the neighbors’ driveway across the street, and had broken my arm doing so, our family went for a walk across this bridge one weekend, just before it was opened to regular auto traffic. I was still in my cast, hence the nickname for the bridge.

I must have been in kindergarten or first grade. I’ll call it kindergarten. Mom came to school one day to take me out of class and bring me up to this bridge—this was after we’d taken our family hike on the bridge. It was official opening day for Interstate 280, the Foothill Freeway, and the bridge had been the final section to be completed, finishing the road from San Francisco to San Jose, a beautiful and fast alternate road to Bayshore Freeway, the 101—flat, drab, billboarded, pavement constantly beat up from truck traffic.

Mom was a big one for walking across bridges. I’ve walked across the Golden Gate Bridge with her, on a day when it nearly buckled under the weight of all the people crowding its roadway, and in her time she also walked the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, the old cantilever spans and the new suspension bridge at Carquinez Strait, and other assorted bridges opened to pedestrians for momentous occasions.

But on this occasion we weren’t walking across the bridge. We were watching the official opening of the whole freeway. Hap Harper—a local radio traffic announcer and one of the guys who invented traffic reports from the air—fired up his single-engine plane and rolled forward to cut the ribbon with his propeller before taking off to soar over the new freeway. The Stanford Band was there to play—what else?—“Do You Know the Way to San Jose?”

From this angle, you’ll notice, I am looking up at the bottom of the bridge. More on that in a minute.

Crystal Springs Reservoir. James Bond aficionados will recognize it as the lake some villain or other intended to use to create a massive earthquake throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s a reservoir, part of the Hetch-Hetchy water system, which starts at O'Shaughnessy Dam up in Yosemite National Park and has fingers reaching into the South Bay Area, including Palo Alto, where I grew up. (One of its underground pipelines runs right past the high school Brother #3 graduated from, and right past the cemetery where we laid Mom to rest last year.) It sits in the same valley as you saw a few pictures back, with San Andreas Fault running right up the middle of it.

This is the dam I was standing on to take the previous two pictures. This is near the spot where the road crosses Sawyer Camp Trail, a footpath Mom used to like to walk, sometimes with her friend Jan, sometimes by herself, sometimes with various combinations of us kids. You can take shorter or longer walks on the trail. Although Mom's knees and feet started giving her various painful complaints as she got a little older, she kept up her regular hikes to stay healthy.

Hey, wait a minute—just a minute ago, weren’t we looking up at this freeway?

Yup, there’s been some climbing here. Not as bad as that first hill. But part of the 3400 feet, sure.

It was a lot of climbing, but a few moments like this make it worthwhile. I might as well add here that the organizers did a nice job of finding a day with spotless weather, and a light wind that mostly blew us back to the starting point, instead of making us fight our way back after we were already tired from the first half of the ride.

(Stop me if you’ve seen this tree before.)

Like a Ren and Stimpy eedjit, I completely forgot to take a picture of Las Pulgas Water Temple, one of the main manmade attractions in this part of the world. We had a rest stop right there, and I never pulled out my camera.

I like Las Pulgas Water Temple partly because it’s a fine public monument, built on a circular foundation like the oldest temples in ancient times. It celebrated the completion of the Hetch-Hetchy aqueduct, a major public-works achievement for the San Francisco Water Department.

I also like it because Las Pulgas means “the fleas,” which I think is a funny way to name your finer public monuments.

Scenery was uniformly beautiful along most of the ride. This is at the Windy Hill rest stop.

Not only did the course take us right past the cemetery where Mom and Dad are buried, and not only did it take me past the “broken arm bridge,” and past one of Mom’s old favorite hikes, and past Filoli, the mansion and botanical garden she used to enjoy visiting, whose tea I still have on a shelf somewhere in my kitchen, and in fact also past the doubly named Lake Lagunita, where she and we used to watch the big Stanford Bonfire every November before Big Game, when Stanford’s football stalwarts would take the field to beat cross-bay rival Cal—the ride also took us swooping down Alpine Road to make a hard right turn on Arastradero Road at “Zot’s,” which would be Rosotti’s Alpine Beer Garden, about ten feet outside of Santa Clara County, where Mom used to go socialize with her cohorts back when she was a Stanford undergrad.

Leland Stanford deliberately built his university outside of all the nearby towns, because they all had too many saloons for his taste. He talked the city of Palo Alto into passing an ordinance prohibiting the sale of alcohol within town limits, so students at his august institution would not suffer the temptations of any nearby taverns.

In more recent years we kids went to Rosotti’s with Mom. Zot’s has outdoor tables and a very casual atmosphere, a great place to have a burger or one of a few varieties of sausage on a hot dog bun. They’ve got Anchor Steam Beer and other local brews newer and more traditional. You’re out there at a picnic table under the eucalyptus trees, and you can smell the dry grass in the hills, and as the sun sets slowly in the west, you eat off paper plates and enjoy each other’s company. Hard to beat for a good time.

After Zot’s, it was off down Arastradero Road through the Enid Pearson Nature Preserve, not the first time I’ve cycled past these oaks.

This stretch has some excellent downhill speed bursts. I had to skid my tires once or twice to stop and get shots like this. No broken arms this time (I’ve learned), but some of my fellow cyclists looked at me funny. To me, it was worth the loss of momentum to grab a classic landscape.

I passed the cameras at 11:36 on May 20. They have two other shots there if you feel like looking them up. This was my one free shot; for the others I would have had to pay.

Since I’ve been featuring greasy bike chains lately, here’s an example of what a relatively clean chain looks like after a 100 kilometer ride, almost entirely on pavement.

Photo of Mom by Sister #1.


CaliforniaGirl said...

Nice of you to take your mother on a ride up one of her favorite roads. I wish I could have been there too, for real.

Papa Bradstein said...

Ah, my sister beat me to it. I was going to say the same thing about taking Mom for such a nice ride on a pretty day. And the part about wishing that I could be there too.

CaliforniaGirl said...

Next time, let's all go.

mrjumbo said...

Bring your bike!