Our Training Ride Up Calaveras Road
|Read about our training ride up Eureka Canyon Road|
I-680 connects San Jose to Fremont and the Almaden Pass. Row after row of hills separate I-680 from the Central Valley. Behind the first row of hills, where I-680 swings east of Fremont, and south of Livermore, lies Calaveras Road. Starting on low ground near I-680, it climbs into the hills. Within minutes, the cyclist is far away from heavy traffic and urban congestion. The climb, plus rolling hills, is a perfect ride, whether sight-seeing, or training.
Calaveras Road, stretches from I-680 to Felder Road. We added a side trip to Camp Olhone, in the Sunol Regional Wilderness. Beyond our stopping point, the road dips quite sharply down to Felder Road.
During our ride on Calaveras Road, we climbed 2132 feet. The longest climb started at eight miles, and continued for three miles. A second climb started shortly after, followed by a series of rollers. On the return leg, there are only small climbs, with the most strenuous coming just before the big descent back to the low lands.
We biked Calaveras Road a week later than we had planned. The week before, various fire fighting organizations participated in a controlled burn of non-native grass. Since we did not want to subject ourselves to smoke inhalation, we substituted Eureka Canyon. Happily, we were able to ride Calaveras the following week.
This ride was demanding. Comparing it with our ride of the week earlier, Eureka Canyon Road, Calaveras was six miles longer, with 500 more feet of climbing, and took and hour longer. This ride is an important stepping stone to becoming tour ready. We had ridden Calaveras Road several times with our Mountain Bikes. We had never ridden it with our Surly’s. Nor had we carried such weight.
Our ride started with a surprise. When we loaded the bikes, we did a quick check to make sure the bikes had survived our Threshold Ride the day before. We drove to Calaveras Road, and loaded our panniers on the bikes. I discovered that my front tire had deflated. Replacing the tube was good practice. And, I had the proper tube and tools. We were back on the road in fifteen minutes.
We set out for the second time. The first four miles, up to the turn-off to Camp Olhone, were gentle rollers, with each step a little higher than the one before. We discovered that a large, multi-year, construction project, was underway. The Calaveras Reservoir improvements span 2011 – 2017.
A large number of dump trucks with trailers, and cement trucks shared the road with us. Happily, the drivers seemed well attuned to cyclists, and gave us a wide berth. For the most part, the construction workers and others were remarkably courteous. This was the least threatening ride we have done in some time.
When we turned off to Camp Olhone, the cement trucks continued to share the road with us. I remembered this road, having ridden it on my Mountain Bike. I remembered it as narrow in spots, with some one-way traffic. I also remembered at least one very steep climb. My recollections were correct. The road was not particularly narrow, and presented no problem. I did wind up, for the only time of the day, walking my bike about 50 yards up a hill to get to the Camp.
Camp Olhone was closed to camping. The closure surprised and saddened us. The closure looked very permanent, not a simple mid-week exercise. We were also surprised to see, on the far side of the Visitor Center, a large assembly of cement trucks. The two seem connected, but we don’t know the details.
We returned to Calaveras Road, and started up the first of the two big climbs. We climbed about 600 feet in a little over two miles. The grade remained about 4%, occasionally a bit more, or a bit less. We followed our standard practice of stopping every 15 minutes. It took us about 30 minutes to make the climb. Throughout the climb, I managed to keep my heart rate out of Zone 4.
At the top, we paused to rest, happy with our climbing ability. When we laid out our training rides, Calaveras Road worried me. As we started, I had wondered if it would be too steep. Two things happened. First, the climb had taken a lot out of us, more than we realized. Second, we basked in the false assumption that we had completed the bulk of our climbing. We failed to realize that, before us was the second climb, some 300 feet, plus many rollers.
While we got our breath back, a group of riders rode up to us. They were, mostly, seniors, older than we were. The came up in ones and twos. Eventually, we were chatting with eight of them. Our panniers were a subject of immediate conversation. They wanted to know if we were touring, and were a little disappointed, learning that we were only training. They expressed delight that we are preparing for the Pacific Coast Highway. Many of them have ridden it, some of them within the last few weeks. After comparing notes, they rode away, having no loads on their skinny tire bikes. When we are their age, I hope we will still be as active as they are.
We dropped down a little hill and made our way to the second major climb. The effort required for us to climb the second hill surprised us. We had been riding for over 2.5 hours, and we were wearing down. We ate a Luna Bar, each, and pressed on. The rollers at the top wore on us. It took us another hour to get to the far end.
Throughout the ride, especially once we cleared the construction traffic, we saw wildlife. I startled a doe and her fawn in the middle of the road. Marian saw a red hawk and several little ones, who may have been on one their first flights. In addition we saw other wildlife, some on the road, and others just off the road. The encountered reminded us of how tenacious life is. Just a few scant miles from the fourth largest metropolitan area, nature continues to shelter all manner of life, largely unnoticed by the “masters” of the planet.
We gathered our strength, and headed back. The rollers required more effort than we had hoped, pushing our heart rates up. Finally, we got to the last big descent. We coasted down, happy to see the two miles go quickly. Construction workers, on their way home, passed us on the hill. At the bottom, we gritted our teeth and pedaled the last miles. It was late in the day. The cement trucks and dump trucks were done for the day.
We accomplished what we set out to do on Calaveras Road. We were strong enough to do an extended climb on a 4% grade, with a full load. We did wear down during the ride. We got on the road at about 11 o’clock, and rode until almost 4 o’clock. We did not adequately refuel during the ride. This would have required that we stop on the side of the road, with a lunch we had brought with us. We will need to pay attention to this lesson, and apply it to the more remote sections of the Pacific Coast Highway.
Our training regime emphasizes back-to-back, loaded rides. One ride concentrates on climbing. The second ride does not. For the second ride, we returned to the Guadalupe Trail. We wanted to ride 30 miles. The distance to the end of the trail was about 12.5 miles. To get more miles, we turned right at the end of the trail and rode through Alviso. This small subdivision was once San Jose’s port to San Francisco Bay. It was at its most busy during and after the Gold Rush. Eventually, it fell into decline, and is now a sleepy pocket, on the northern end of San Jose.
One of the places we visited, there, was the Don Edward Wildlife Refuge. We had visited this place long ago, with our children. The US Department of Interior named the Refuge for a Congressman from San Jose. As Marian remarked, it might be better to wait to name places after members of Congress, perhaps 20 or 30 years. We vaguely remember him, but can attach no great accomplishment to him, other than being endlessly re-elected.
At the Wildlife Refuge, we found the main building closed, apparently for some construction purpose. As we looked around, we found one of those “you don’t see that everyday” things, a Butterfly Garden. Alas, we saw no butterflies that day. So, we sat on the curb, ate a Luna Bar, and guzzled down water.
After that, we turned and headed for home. It was an easy ride. However, along the way, I noticed a strain in my left hip, again. This has occurred before. When we got home, I stretched, and then iced it. If we follow the Friel tempo, we will have a Rest Week next week. I will use the time to heal.
|Read about our ride across the Golden Gate Bridge|