Monday, August 20, 2007

Skyline commute

Well, I just had to try Skyline today.

In the morning, I did a nice 'easy' 20 mile ride. The outside of 280 ride from Loyola to Alpine. The climb at Moody was great. Nice easy rolling hills for a while, then boom, straight up for the last little bit. It seemed a lot nicer than I remember Altamont. There were also a few nice small climbs and descents in Los Altos hills. I explored a couple pathways, but only briefly. No new 'shortcuts' to think of. (Though I did take the crucial Stonebrook shortcut to get from Magdelena up to Moody.)

For the trip home, it was up Alpine to skyline. The initial part of Skyline is fairly easy, the grade is so gradual it might-as-well be flat. Past the library, traffic dove of to just about nothing. (I saw one car and 2 bikes in the section from there to Page Mill.) Alpine gradually gets steeper and narrower. The road is in fairly good condition, and nicely shaded making it an ideal climb. Then the gate and the dirt road begins. It is slightly rutted, giving a little bounce, but actually seems to be an easier climb than the paved section. All goes well until the washed out section, with the detour on the trail. The trail seems to go just about straight up, and is filled with roots and rocks. I was able to ride a few sections. However, I was mostly pushing my bike up this short trail. (Even that could be a challenge with the loaded down bike.) My first bit of riding on the trail ended when I bumped a small rock. It wasn't anything big, just enough to slow my momentum, and make it difficult to restart. The next bits of riding were brought to an end when the rear wheel seemed to just be spinning in the dirt. I guess there would be some advantages to having a MTB tire.
Luckily the trail portion was short, and soon it was back to dirt. And gnats. They seemed to love my sweaty face. The grade seemed to be getting even easier, and I ended up moving to midrange gears before I reached Page Mill. From Page Mill, there was a little more to go to reach Skyline. I managed to make it there in under 90 minutes, so I was just about right on track.

Skyline started with a nice descent. It seemed like I was home free. However, it soon leveled off, and then began going up. D'oh! Those ups just seemed harder now. Luckily the sign posts had been going down. San Mateo county 2... San Mateo 1.5... (Of course they were much more precise and frequent than that.) Highway 9 is at the county line, right? Unfortunately, no... Santa Clara began starting in the high teens... I sure hope that is not going down towards highway 9 at 0. I had only given myself 30 minutes to go down the stretch of skyline, and hadn't anticipated all the climbing involved. And there aren't many turnoffs. (I'd considered a trail down to Stevens Canyon, but descending on a trail just did not seem fun. The Mora Drive descent in Rancho San Antonio has to rank as the most unpleasant downhill experience I've had. Steep grade and poor, narrow pavement do not make for a fun downhill.)

Then came a same for a fire station. Civilization! Then I noticed it was a forest district one. D'oh! It was named Saratoga Summit. That means climbing must be over. But why am I climbing just past it? Luckily shortly after that, there is a stop ahead sign. I didn't know of any other major streets intersection Skyline. Could this be 9? Yes!

The descent on 9 is one of the greatest. Traffic is fairly light, the pavement is good and the curves are very well manageable. Very little braking is needed. It was just a quick sail down. The sign said curves ahead, next 7 miles. It seemed to be a quick trip zooming down. Did I really climb that much? Saw Pierce. Should I? No. Time for the quickest/flatest way. Skyline took a little more than 30 minutes. Luckily, I was able to make up the time (and then some) on Highway 9, and then had a little more than 30 minutes to cruise down Saratoga-Sunnyvale home. It was a little longer than I was thinking, but easily accomplished.

Now is it possible to work the Pacific Ocean in to a commute?

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