3.1.7 – Dazzling Beams and Dark Shadows, A Ride From Lexington to Buzzard Lagoon

Dazzling Beams and  Dark Shadows

A Ride From Lexington to Buzzard Lagoon

Read About Our Ride Over The Golden Gate Bridge
Buoyed by our successes in 2012, Marian and I entered the new year, confident of our riding skills, and our abilities to adventure.  We also knew how physically demanding touring could be, having ridden in Washington State and down the Oregon CoastOne of our goals was to ride the California Coast near Big Sur.  And, to prepare for that series of rides, we designed a series of training rides to condition our bodies, minds, and souls.
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We designed a training ride, from Lexington Reservoir to Buzzard Lagoon Road, at the top of Eureka Canyon, as our capstone ride.  The ride resembled one of the more arduous rides on the Pacific Coast Highway, from Lime Kiln State Park to San Simeon State Park.  Our ride featured several long, steep climbs, and had a saddle to negotiate, although it was a number of miles shorter.  With heavy loads, simulating touring conditions, we intended to prove our readiness to negotiate the toboggan run from Monterey to Morro Bay.
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Our Plan
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OverviewOn 20 October, 2013, many months later than we planned, Marian and I rode the final ride in our climbing sequence.  There were any number of reasons for the delay, not the least of which was an earlier training injury which knocked us out of our training sequence.  Our route took us from Lexington Reservoir, near Los Gatos, up Old Santa Cruz Highway to Summit Road.  We rode along the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains until we reached Buzzard Lagoon Road.  From there, we retraced our steps.
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MapOur ride was an out-and-back.  We started at Lexington Reservoir, in a parking area often used by fishermen accessing the Lake, (N 37°11.370′;  W 121°59.522′).  We rode up Old Santa Cruz Highway, paralleling Highway 17.  At the Summit, we turned left and followed Summit Road, with a planned excursion down Morrill Road.  Summit Road turned into Highland Road, which we followed to Buzzard Lagoon Road, at the top of Eureka Canyon.  We, then, retraced our steps.
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blank Turn-By-Turn Directions
blank 0.0 Miles – STRAIGHT on Old Santa Cruz Highway
blank 5.5 Miles – LEFT on Summit Road
blank 6.8 Miles – LEFT on Morrill Road
blank 7.9 Miles – LEFT on Summit Road
blank 8.5 Miles – STRAIGHT on Highland Road
blank 10.2 Miles – STRAIGHT on Highland Road
blank 16.2 Miles – TURNAROUND at Buzzard Lagoon Road
blank 22.1 Miles – STRAIGHT on Highland Road
blank 23.8 Miles – STRAIGHT on Summit Road
blank 24.4 Miles – RIGHT On Morrill Road
blank 25.4 Miles – RIGHT on Summit Road
blank 26.8 Miles – RIGHT on Old Santa Cruz Highway
blank 32.4 Miles – END
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ElevationOur ride, as predicted by GPSies, involved 3560 feet of climbing.  The outward leg, with 2510 feet, had four notable climbs:  (a) Shorter climb up School House Hill;  (b) Long climb up Old Santa Cruz Highway;  (c) Steep climb at the beginning of Highland Road, and (d) Final climb up to Buzzard Lagoon Road.  The return leg, with 1050 feet, had three notable climbs:  (a) Up to the high point on Highland Road; (b)  Gentle climb up Summit Road to Old Santa Cruz Highway; and (c)  Final climb at School House Hill.
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Our Ride
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p (3)Sunday dawned, gray and foggy.  We decided this was the day to finish our suite of training rides.  We knew the first part of this ride, up to Summit Road, every well.  We rode, with full weight, parts of Old Santa Cruz Highway three times.  Twice, with full load, we rode up to Summit Road, with one ride going on to the Summit Store.
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We loaded up our truck with bikes, panniers filled with sand, and other accoutrement necessary for an extended ride.  As we left our house, I reflected on second overnight tour which also started at Lexington Reservoir.  Ideally, we would like to ride from our house up to Lexington Reservoir, using the Los Gatos Creek Trail.  At Main Street, in Los Gatos, the trail surface turns to dirt, which a loaded Surly can negotiate.  However, an extremely steep hill blocks the way, shortly before the dam face.  We would have to dismount our panniers, drag our bikes up the slope, and then haul up our panniers.  For that reason, we choose to start at a parking area, used by fishermen, on the north bank of Lexington Reservoir.
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Saying little, we rolled our bikes off the truck, wrestling panniers onto the racks, and mentally preparing ourselves.  The fog rapidly burning away, so we would be more visible on the road.  The air still held a chill, but we eschewed a pull-overs, going with short sleeve jerseys.  Strenuous climbing is unpleasant enough, without unnecessarily overheating ourselves.
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The first part of the ride was a trial.  Highway 17 was scant yards from Old Santa Cruz Highway, separated only by a three-foot high concrete barrier.  Motor traffic, screaming down at 60 – 70 MPH, chaotically bequeathed us with exhaust fumes and noise.  Collecting myself, I regarded the first slope, dubbed School House Hill.  Starting a ride, especially with a steep climb, is a soul-searching experience.  Often, such questions as ‘why am I here’ and ‘this really is not all that much fun’ and ‘couch potatoing could be a way of life’ cross my mind.
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The first hundred yards was always easy, giving rise to a hope that our training had finally kicked in, and the ride would finally be a piece of cake.  However, as we passed the CDF Station, my heart rate rose into Zone 4.   I wondered how I could continue to turn my legs.  I fought panic, trying to ignore the fear that I would be unable to make it up the first hill, that Buzzard Lagoon, over 16 miles away, was an impossible dream.
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School House Hill (Total distance = 0.5 miles – Total climb = 100 feet):  Finally at the top, we turned and swooped down, past the reincarnating Lexington School.  During the week, large trucks and construction traffic fills the roads.  Perhaps in the fall of 2013, the mountain children will return to a school close to them, and not being bussed to far-away locations.  Regretting that we gave back all the ground we had just won, we were happy to catch our breath.
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From there, we tilted back up, for the extended climb of the day.  I paid just enough attention to ride safely, and let my mind go where it wanted.  We were very familiar with this part of the road, and it was easy to slip into that special mental state of climbing.  I didn’t count cadence.  My legs turned on their own.  My heart rate climbed back into Zone 4, but I set that worry aside.  Trying to do my touristing duty, I noted that the trees were still green.  Most of the leaves were still on, although some were starting to turn.  In the cool green tunnel, we did not particularly noticed differences between autumn light and summer light.
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p (4)We slowly rode past the turn-off to Alma Bridge.  We discovered that, riding up from the bridge, the hill is perfect for AC Hill Intervals.  When called for in the training sequence, we deliberately push our heart rates as high as we can get them.  Pedaling on, legs starting to protest, I looked forward to the S-T-O-P A-H-E-A-D letters painted in the road.  From there, I knew that I was only one steep little rise and 100 pedal strokes from less steep ground.  Eager for any diversion, I often make a game of riding between letters without touching them.
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Idylwild Road (Total distance = 2.0 miles, Total climb = 440 feet):  We paused, having completed one of the two steepest single stretches up to Summit Road.  Waiting for my heart rate to drop, I knew we could make it to the top of this climb.  I put out of my mind that we still had far to go.  Climbing is best done in a parasomniac state.
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We crossed the gentle slope, passing politically incorrect road signs like Ogallala War Path before resuming our climb to Holy City.  We returned to the green tunnel.  The slope increased.  My heart rate climbed.  Unloaded, my heart rate on this stretch usually stayed in Zone 2.  I resigned myself to random excursions into Zone 4.  We twisted and turned, hoping our odometers lied, that we would soon seen Holy City.  But we didn’t.
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Since we started riding bikes, the engines on newer cars and trucks have become quieter.  Still, on a quiet road, the crunching tires give the machines away.  All, save for motorcycles, which remain loud and obnoxious.  A group of motorcycles shattered our quiet agony.  In all, Marian counted 38 smog belching, ear-splitting machines pass us. Some moved over into the other lane, while some motored on past, giving us only minimal clearance.  Many were single riders, but some had a second person hugging the back.  What made it more interesting for us, we had to maneuver around a dead skunk without becoming road kill, ourselves.
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Many differences separate motorcyclists and bicyclists, aside from the obvious mechanical advantages.  Bicyclists tend to space out, riding close enough to keep contact with the next rider, but far enough back that they can ride their own ride, if they wish.  On the other hand, motorcyclists bunch together, as if in a low-speed race, looking for advantage, perhaps to pass.  Only the lead motorcyclist can enjoy the scenery, unimpeded by other motorcycles in front of them.  To compare the two riding styles is like contrasts the easy companionship of solitary fence riders of the old west with the herd animals they tend.  At the end of a ride segment, motorcyclists, voices raised, glare and stomp about, working off their stress.  Bicyclists smile and celebrate, knowing their own abilities have carried them thus far.
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Holy City:  (Total miles = 3.2;  Total climb = 778 feet):  We twisted around the final turn and hove to at Holy City.  We have stopped in the custom glass shop parking lot many times.  For whatever reason, I have never gone inside.  The shop is seldom open when we ride.  Standing there, recovering from our steep climb, I was struck by how different the light was.  The sun was bright, now that the fog had burned completely off.  But the light seemed watery.  And the shadows were deeper.  I particularly noticed this when I selected photos for this article
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Leaving Holy City, we pushed on to the Christmas Tree Farm, our next stop.  The grade was more gentle.  Our legs forgave us for what we had done to them.  We passed Madrone Road, one of our training turn-around points.  The ride was easy and I shifted out of my lowest climbing gears.  I picked up speed, settling into a steady 8 MPH.  Skinny tired bikes make better time.  They have passed me more times than I can count.  Once, it bothered me.  Now, it is just part of riding my ride.
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p (7)Christmas Tree Farm (Total distance = 4.4 miles;  Total climb = 1099 feet):  We reached another traditional stopping point.  Summit Road is not so far away, in time, but it is a pleasant place.  Small fir trees and pines rise up a slope, in well-tended rows.  The trees grow in groups, each with relatively uniform heights.  Plentiful rain helps the new trees grow, quickly replenishing the ones cut down.  We have never bought a tree here.  Many do.  Still, cutting a tree so it can live in my front yard for a few weeks seems, somehow, wrong.
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Immediately after leaving the Christmas Tree Farm, we passed Mountain Charlie Road.  The deceptive turn hides a brutal climb, one of the steepest I know of.  By taking this road, a cyclist can climb to the Highway 17 over-crossing, one of the few for miles.  From there, the rider can parallel Highway 17, on the north side, and descend to Scotts Valley, and on to Santa Cruz.  Instead, we took the easier path.  The climb was so gentle that, on the return leg, we often pedal to keep our speed above 10 MPH.
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p (8)Summit Road (Total distance = 5.5 miles;  Total climb = 1339 feet):  We completed the longest ascent of the day.  I still remember the first time I made it to the top.  That was my first ride to Santa Cruz.  The plan was for me to ride to Santa Cruz, where Marian would pick me up.  For the adventure, I borrowed my daughter’s cell phone, given to me only reluctantly.  At the top, breathless with exertion and excitement, I called Marian.  The signal-to-noise ratio on those phones was so poor that, combined with the road noise, Marian had great trouble understanding me.  She guessed, correctly, that I was okay, and set her watch to come get me.
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Summit Road is a typical mountain road.  There are few ways through the mountains.  When the road is the only connections between two points, the road must carry all the traffic, light or heavy, large or small, automobile or bike.  Summit Road traffic becomes quite heavy, especially on the weekends.  As long as the shoulder is wide enough, cars don’t have to leave their lane.  Sadly, the shoulder goes away very soon, and then it becomes a true sharing experience between the cars and the bikes.  One way to tell if a car is making room is to listen for tires hitting the Bots Dots.  When we don’t hear them, it is time to wonder.  Happily the distance is short, and the climbs are not long.
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p (9)Morrill Road (Total distance = 6.8 miles;  Total climb = 1421 feet):  Sometimes, a road offers the rider a chance to step off the main road, down a quiet country lane.  Morrill Road is just one such opportunity.  The rider has two choices.  The main road, in gloomy shadow, tilts up, complete with narrow lanes without a shoulder.  On the other hand, a sunny clearing beckons through a dark tunnel, seeming to offer an easier path, with light at the end of the tunnel.
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p (10)Once down the little hill, the traffic noise quickly disappears.  The promise of sunlight clearings was a mirage.  But, this pleasant, unexpected oasis might well have been miles from heavily traveled roads.  The Redwoods, standing close together, rose, straight and tall, competing for the sunlight.  Many of the trees were relatively new.  They seemed skinny and insubstantial, compared to the remnants of a once mighty veteran of the forest, now little more than an impressive stump.  A trunk, laying nearby, might have been the downcast arm of a warrior.
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Summit Road (Total distance = 7.9 miles;  Total climb = 1421 feet):  Our descent reminded us we would have to climb to get back to Summit Road.  While Summit Road climbed straight over the hill, passing the local Community Center, our road skirted the worst of the hill.  Only in the last few yards did we climb again, suddenly reaching Summit Road.  The aroma of two wineries, complete with “Wine Tastings Today” signs, tempted us.  Intent on our true goal, we put it behind us and climbed another gentle rise.
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p (11)Summit Store (Total distance = 8.3 miles;  Total climb = 1490 feet):  The Summit Store is the only food source, and restrooms, for miles.  Over the years, we have biked up The Old Santa Cruz Road many times.  We never considered the store a destination.  But, over time, they have added a sun drenched patio.  Now, less than three gentle miles from the top of our longest climb, we could stop, if we wished.  The staff is friendly, making everyone feel welcome.
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We planned to take advantage of the Summit Store, on our return leg.  One of the quandaries of riding is to know when to stop and eat, and when to go on.  It was not yet noon, and we let our conventional thinking get in the way.  Had we really thought it through, we would have stopped and eaten lunch.  Instead, we elected to wait until the return leg.  It was a mistake, although not a large one
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Soquel Road (Total distance = 8.5 miles;  Total climb = 1598 feet):  We pedaled on, passing the turn-off to Soquel.  Signs point to Soquel, 11 miles away.  While seeming a great distance, it is almost all down hill.  While riders share the road with cars and trucks, the descent can be managed in well under an hour.  We prefer Soquel Road, over both Mountain Charlie Road, on the North side of Highway 17, and Highland / Eureka Canyon Road, the route we were taking today.  The rider joins the ACA Pacific Coast Highway Route.
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Crossing a creek, the road tilted up.  We were climbing to the highest point of our ride, the northwest rim of the saddle.  I did not know this climb well, having climbed it only a few times, on my Mountain Bike, but never only my Surly.  At first the grade was not overly demanding.  And I congratulated myself on my level of fitness, praying that my progress was not an illusion.
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p (13)Alas, my celebration was premature.  The grade became steeper.  Enclosed in the green tunnel, the road cleverly hid the length of the climb with slight twists and turns.  My Garmin told me the grade was well above 10 percent.  My heart rate climbed well into Zone 5.  My legs, worn from the early climb on Old Santa Cruz Highway, protested.  Finally, I stopped.  It turned out I was less than 100 yards from the top.  Had I known I was so close, I would have finished it.  At the time, I thought I was saving my strength for more hard work.  But, that is the luck of touring.  Unless a rider knows the course, intimately, they sometimes get off too soon, or continue to ride when they should get off and save their strength.
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Radonich Road (Total Distance = 9.9 miles;  Total climbing = 1939 feet):  Rather than perform the difficult maneuver of remounting heavy bikes on a steep slope, we walked the 100 yards to the top.  We paused to catch our breath.  We compared Highland Road with our ascent of The Old Santa Cruz Highway.  Unlike earlier, brights shafts of sunlight punctured the dark greens and deep shadows.  The brilliant yellows and golds dazzled us.  This sight was priceless.  While most of the country prepares for winter, Autumn is in full force for the next several months.  For truly, our part of California knows no winter.
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p (14)Cheered by the marvelous scenery, we rode on along the top, through the rollers.  Traffic was very light, and the climbs were gentle, asking little of our legs, which still recovered from the beating they had taken earlier.  At the 10.2 mile mark, we negotiated a confusing convergence of roads, steering right of Mount Bache Road and left of Spanish Ranch Road, staying on Highland Road.  We stopped long enough to eat Luna Bars and drink water.  We faced with a riddle for which there was no answer.  The sun continued to dazzle us, and the shadows remained deep.  If I left my sunglasses on, the holes and cracks lurking in the shadows were hard to see.  If I took my sunglasses off, I was at the mercy of the bright sun.
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p (15)Soon, we came upon a scene which as become distressingly common.  Time, traffic, and weather severely damaged the roadway.  The further we rode, the more damaged the surface became.  The lack of repair was, obviously, the result of deferred maintenance.  Now, the road is past simple remedial action.  Now, only more expensive options will suffice.  The cost might rival replacing the entire road.  It is easy to imagine that, after another winter or two, the roadway will crumble away.  Often, our lane was in such bad shape, that we rode in the other lane.  This went on for some distance.
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We rolled along the top, dodging the worst of the road damage, wary of the shadows. The climbs were gentle enough, but reminded us our legs were weary. We welcomed the drops, even though we knew we would have to pay for them on the way back.
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Some vehicle traffic passed us in both directions. They were polite and gave us as much room as they could, and were patient where they could not. In almost all cases, mountain bikes gently rocked from rear racks, or perched in the bed of trucks.
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p (16)Further along, we came across a piece of roadway slowly giving way.  Down to one lane, cracks across the open lane signal that a complete collapse is inevitable.  For now, warning posts steer bikes and vehicles away from the dangerous edge.  Drivers are left wonder if they might be the ones to cause the demise of the road.
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We remembers a similar stretch of road, ten years ago.  Eventually, the roadway collapsed down the canyon.  Even then, local governments struggled to find tax dollars to pay for their obligations.  Santa Cruz County decided to never repair the road.  So, for a time, Highland Road became a wonderful bike path.  However, during one of the following fire seasons, fire fighters, needing an escape path in the event of catastrophe, removed the barriers and graded a way past the washout.  Afterwards, the County elected to replace the damaged road, over the objections of the County Road Department.
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p (18)When I ride, I often become locked in to the destination, and lose sight of the journey. I forget that I, too, am a tourist, free to notice sights, take pictures, remember for a future blog.  Sometimes, I sail right past a beautiful sight.  What would I miss, were it not for Marian, with her exclamations of how a certain flower is out, or how beautiful a view is.  My only memories would be of pavement, cracks, and Bots Dots.  How sad that would be.
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Off to our right, when we could see the canyon.  For some distance, houses, perched between us and the view, blocked out way.  Along with buildings, walls, hedges and trees, we had to wait.  Fortunately, not al of the land is privately owned, and some scenes are visible to the public.  We looked out on rugged ridges, with a canyon, leading to the Pacific Ocean.
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p (20)We reached the edge of the Northwest rim of the saddle.  Highland Road tilted down, and we dipped down toward the low point of the saddle.  Quickly, we were out of the sunlight, and into the familiar green tunnel again.  Off to our right, Soquel Creek soon appeared, running in the opposite direction.  The end of our ride was near  The descent was a welcome change, and we rested our weary legs.  Still, we knew we would have to climb the very slopes we rode so quickly down.
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We immediately noticed the chill, the deepest of the day.  It was more than just riding into shade, or coasting after a strenuous stretch.  We were feeling the effect of the creek.  Especially in the summer, this stretch is always a welcome relief.  On this bright, cool autumn day, we did not mind.
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The dry season is nearly over, and soon, the rains will fall.  But, for this day, the creek was nearly dry. The banks and stream bed were strewn with rocks, well-rounded, tumbled by years of rushing water.  It was easy to imagine some hardy soul, panning for gold. While small amounts of gold were found in the Santa Cruz Mountains, large strikes were never made.
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p (21)Soquel Demonstration Forest (Total distance = 18.3 miles;  Total climbing = 2264 feet):  At the bottom of the saddle, a bridge crosses the creek.  It is the entrance to the Soquel Demonstration ForestThe bridge spanning the creek, is one of the gateways to the Forest.  The bridge is a symbol of cooperation between private interests, owning a strip of land between the road and the forest, and the citizens of California, wanting to bike in the forest beyond.  The trails well used by the Mountain Biking Community.  I immediately thought of Paul, one of my friends, where I used to work at.  He is an enthusiastic mountain biker, and has taken week-long vacations to Canada, riding obstacle courses in the deep forests of the North.  Paul has been actively involved in trail creation and maintenance in the Soquel Demonstration Forest.
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We rolled past cars and trucks, parked along the road.  Some riders prefer to ride up Highland Road, and take Buzzard Lagoon Road to reach the high point, before descending on the trails.  Others prefer to cross the bridge and ride up a fire road to foot of the trails, before climbing them.  The one time we were there, we chose to ride Highland / Buzzard Lagoon to the top, and enjoy the descent.  Riding down a single track trail is always more fun than climbing.
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p (22)After passing the bridge, the road began a gentle climb, leading us out of the saddle.  The steep slope on the left, and the creek on the right, squeezed the roadway down.  In the narrowest stretch, the left slope was cut away to create room.  Here, too, the road surface was heavily damaged.  The shadows were deep, and we rode with care, dodging around cracks and holes.
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Just after the private campground, a road, barred by a locked gate, leads off to the left, climbing the steep slope, and disappearing into the trees.  The road did not exist before 2008.  In that fire season, a great fire swept through the mountains.  I will never forget seeing it from the air.  I was flying home, on an evening flight from Los Angeles to San Jose.  It was dark.  Looking out the left side window, we could see a fire line that ran north from Morgan Hill, up into the Santa Cruz Mountains.  It stretched for miles, and looked like the ends of the earth.  This was the same fire that forced the firefighters to reopen Highland Road, over the objections of Santa Cruz County.
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The growth is so heavy in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  The slopes are very steep.  There are few roads.  To get equipment of any kind to the fire, the firefighters gouged out a new road, up from Highland Road.  Despite their heroic efforts, the fire forced them back, step by step.  They halted their retreat at Highland Road.  There, the heroes of the mountain made their last stand.  Were they to lose, the next fire line would be four miles north at Soquel Road.  Pumper trucks parked bumper to bumper.  The fire-fighters poured water on the advancing flame.  The fire jumped the road, and the creek at several points.  Fortunately, the firefighters beat those fire back as well.  Finally, the firefighters prevailed.  With aggressive seeding and erosion control , the forest will heal itself.  In less than a decade, the forest is already well into its recovery.  The very nature of the redwoods helps.  Blackened by fire, they shrugged off the heat and smoke, and have reclaimed their rightful place.  To this day there are signs thanking the fire fighters.  Enterprising locals have turned the fire lanes into smoother roads.  Lots are now for sale.
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p (23)Finally, the creek ducked under the road, and we turned, starting the final climb up the south-east edge of the saddle.  Once again, the power of Mother Nature was on display.  Another section of road was washing out.  This one was more serious than the wash out on the other edge of the saddle.  In an effort to save the road, maintenance people spread tarps and built curbs to slow the erosion.  The roadway was so heavily damaged, that more tarmac had been land on what was once unpaved shoulder.  Cars need this additional space to wiggle around the wash-out.  Eventually, this part of Highland Road will slide into the creek.
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Moving past the washout, we climbed the half mile to the south-east rim of the saddle.  The roadway was heavily cracked, and we picked our way through, mindful of our wheels, and not wanting to take a spill in the last few hundred yards.  I feared the climb would be worse than it was.  Still, I kept from pressing.  When I press, I use more energy.  But, I climb no faster.
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p (24)Buzzard Lagoon Road (Total distance = 16.2 miles;  Total climb = 2510 feet):  The sun poked through the trees, and we rounded a turn, seeing the welcomed paint on the pavement.  S-T-O-P A-H-E-A-D proclaim the turn-around point of our ride.  We reached the point where, on the map, four roads come together. Highland Road arrives from the north-east, and continues to the south-west as Eureka Canyon Road.  Crossing this road is Buzzard Lagoon Road from the North West, which turns into the private Ormsby Cutoff.
 
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At the top, a group of cyclists on road bikes waited for the last member of their party to climb up Eureka Canyon Road from Corralitos.  The last mile or so is very challenging, not just because it is at the end of a long climb, but the grade is also steeper.  Most of the riders were distantly polite.  One did come over, wanting to know more about my front hub, which has a dynamo to generate power.  The other riders pretty much ignored us, and departed as soon as their two mate arrived.  It was odd, because we often get questions about our bikes, our destination, and the loads we carry.
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On several of our descents on the outward leg, Marian noticed a grinding in her rear brake.  After we chomped down a Luna Bar and drank our fill of water, I looked at it.  I inspected the brake pads, wondering if something had lodged in the rubber.  I saw nothing, which makes sense as I had just replaced the brake pads.  I readjusted the pads, using a thicker shim for the back of the shoe, and opened up the brakes a little.  Unfortunately, it did little good.  Marian compensated by using her front brake more than she normally does.
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Return Leg  (Total distance = 16.2 miles;  Total climb = 2510 feet):  We prepared for the return trip.  We quipped, with gallows humor, that more mountain climbing accidents occur on the return leg, than the outward leg.  The message was clear enough.  Tired climbers, and riders, make more mistakes.  A mistake could lead to injury.  The other quip was that, what goes down must come up.  We would have to pay for all those descents we made.  Happily, we knew we had already done 2/3 of our climbing for the day, and had no climbs left that were as steep or long as the ones we had already done.
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We picked our way back down, past the washout, and over the creek.  We rolled past the Soquel Demonstration Forest  (Total distance = 18.3 miles;  Total climb = 2610 feet),  and began our first real climb of the return leg.  We started with a stiff little hill, that instilled fear that we were more tired than we expected.  Happily, it crested very quickly, and we descended, before we began a steady, less steep climb.  After a time we reached the Top Of The Rim (Total distance = 20.0 miles;  Total climb = 2923 feet).  We went through the rollers, less steep than I remembered, arriving at Radonich Road (Total distance = 22.3 miles;  Total climb = 3074 feet).
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I descended that long grade, bemoaning that I had walked the last 100 yards.  We past Soquel Road (Total distance = 23.8 miles) and arrived at the Summit Store (Total distance = 24.0 miles).  We debated getting lunch, as it was now nearing 3 PM.  Instead, we decided on  sodas and a candy-bar to tide us over until we got back to the truck.  On our Oregon Tour, I developed a fondness for Snickers Bars as my snack of choice.
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We rode up Summit Road, and turned off, at Morrill Road (Total distance = 24.4 miles;  Total climb = 3110 feet).  We detoured through that peaceful diversion, before returning to Summit Road (Total distance = 25.4 miles;  Total climb = 3160 feet).  From there, we climbed two more hills, arriving at Old Santa Cruz Highway (Total distance = 26.8 miles;  Total climb = 3314 feet).  From there, it was an easy glide, taking less than 20 minutes to go down what had taken us over an hour to climb.  We did not press.  The shadows were deep, and we were in no hurry.  A mistake at speed could have led to a serious accident.  We arrived at the Bottom of the Hill (Total distance = 31.1 miles;  Total climb = 3452 feet), although I was hard pressed to notice any uphill segments.  We climbed to the top of School House Hill (Total distance = 31.1 miles;  Total climb = 3544 feet).   We quickly rode down, across the barrier from Highway 17, and arrived at the Stopping Point (Total distance = 32.2 miles;  Total climb = 3560).
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Our Thoughts
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p (25)We felt very good about this ride.  The outbound leg was demanding, but we were up to the challenge.  The reality of the return leg was far less demanding than our fears.  The Autumn colors, the dark greens, the deep shadows, the bright sunlight, all joined to make this a memorable ride.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxStill, we were sad that it was over.  Our capstone ride, the one that could have spring-boarded us into a magical tour, was less than that.  We completed the ride, so late in the touring season, that it made little sense to hit the road.  Soon, there will be less than nine hours of sunlight a day, rains are on the way, and the northwesterly wind will start to move to other points of the compass.Were we ready to ride from Monterey to Morrow Bay, on a five-day toboggan run?  I think it would have been a struggle, one that we probably could have answered.  While we had just proven we could ride from Lime Kiln State Park to San Simeon State Park,  could we have done another ride of similar intensity the next day?  I have my doubts.  When we toured in 2012, we were able to ride ourselves into touring shape, taking full advantage of the extended sunlight, and easy options for shorter rides if we needed them.
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In a way, our training program is an allegory for the plight graduating college student find themselves in.  Like them, we set out with a bright, shiny, once in a life time goal.  As with the students, we trained hard, learned to increase our abilities, tried to cover all the possible outcomes.  We, too, met with unexpected challenges, and rallied to recover from them.  Finally, at the end of the day, we crossed the finish line, ready to step out into the real world.  We found ourselves, suddenly, without a purpose.  The students can find no jobs.  We can find no rides.  However, we have one essential difference from the students, left with the empty promises of the system.  We are fit, and committed to touring.  And, with a little tweaking to maintain our fitness, we will begin touring, perhaps as early as the Spring of 2014.
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Read about our ride in the rocky, sun drench Santa Teresa Hills
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Filed under Cycle Touring, Cycle Training, Travel

Let us know what you thought, we'd love to know. Thanks - Pat and Marian

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