Monday, October 20, 2008

Nimue and Ma's bike adventure to Capitola

While Chad was gone on his boat trip, Nimue had a long weekend with a couple of teacher in-service days on which there was no school, so she and I headed off on the tandem to see if we could make it to the coast. We headed out from the house bright and early on Sunday morning, and headed up and over route 9. This is a roughly 3000 foot climb, which is a lot for a six-year-old, so I was armed with snacks, candy, and a reward for the top, and was fully expecting to make many, many stops and to have to really coax her to keep going. To my surprise -- and happiness -- she actually seemed to genuinely enjoy the climb, keeping both of us entertained with her silly songs (The Oompa-Loompa song from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory suffered many and varied verses in her version), observations (motorcycles struck her as "robot mice"), and nonsense jokes (I can only remember the long series of poop jokes, which don't bear repeating...). We made it up to the top with only two stops, and enjoyed a celebratory hot dog for lunch.

Refuelling finished, we headed down the back side of the ridge on a long, gorgeous, mellow descent through the dappled shade down towards the coast. All was uneventful until we had dropped a couple thousand feet into Boulder Creek, where there was a big sign that said "Road Closed -- local traffic only", with a detour pointing toward some roads that involve climbing some grades that even strong cyclists who aren't pulling family and baggage think twice about. I definitely wasn't going to take THAT detour, and started to contemplate the other extra climb and mileage that would be necessary to go around another way. That was something to be avoided if at all possible, so I talked the guy at the first barrier into letting us duck the tape to go look at the tree that was reportedly down 1/4 mile down the road. As we came around the corner, it became apparent there was definitely a big tree down -- a 130-foot fir that had snapped near its base and come down across the road, power lines, and the house across the street, and it wasn't going to be cleared any time soon.

Big tree. Hmmm. No one manning the yellow caution tape. Hmmm. Nimue and I ducked this tape too, and rode over to a couple of guys standing on the side of the road near the house. It turns out that they were the homeowner and the guy who had been renting the house. The guy who owned the house was quite a character, so we stood around chatting and commiserating about the general power of nature to throw out surprises for a few minutes, at which point he asked if we wanted him to see if the crew would let us squeeze under the tree and get through. No harm in asking, so he ran over to them and waved until they stopped their chainsaw long enough to explain. Of course, they weren't going to officially let me through, so the answer was "No, we can't let anyone through, and we're not going to be done for hours." Nimue and I started to turn around to go back up the road, when all of a sudden, the chainsaw stopped again and there was shouting to the effect of "Go! You can go now -- we're not looking..." We scurried under the log, picked our way carefully over the downed power lines (not live), and told the guys at the barrier on the other side who started to give us a hard time that we were only following instructions.

Another small descent and some rollers brought us down into Santa Cruz, where we reentered civilization. Fortunately, it's a pretty laid-back town, and drivers not only gave us lots of space, but often smiled and waved as well. There are many other interesting vehicular contraptions, both motorized and non-motorized, going by -- we saw pretty much any configuration of bicycle you can think of, a tricycle-powered hot dog stand complete with straw-thatched umbrella, and a rock climbing wall built onto the back of a truck as we passed through town.

After a few more miles, we arrived in Capitola and found the hotel. I took Nimue and the bags up first, as she claimed to need a nap, and then carefully squeezed the tandem into the elevator, hoping also to get a nap in before dinner. Not to be. When one is six, hotel rooms are exciting. By the time I had gotten the bike into the room, Nim was bouncing from bed to bed maniacally, and had pulled out her bathing suit in anticipation of going to the pool. Pool won over nap, and I was just glad there was a hot tub. After rinsing off, we took a walk to find dinner, and then finally were able to go to sleep.

Nimue's orange Halloween socks just barely visible in the picture were her reward at the top of the hill, by the way. Items out of the dollar bin at Target are still pretty exciting bribes at this point :)

We spent the next day exploring the beach and town of Capitola. I was so busy at the wedding last year that I never saw any of it then. Nimue and I had a lot of fun playing in the sand, attempting to throw and catch a frisbee (still an emerging skill for her), and exploring the shops and galleries in town. There's also quite an excellent cafe/bookstore just around the corner from where we stayed. After yet another trip to the pool, we walked over to Shadowbrook for dinner and for me, a well-deserved glass of wine.

The next morning, we set out for home. Since I like loops, we took a different route home: up Soquel-San Jose Road, along the ridge top for a few miles, and then down past Lexington reservoir, over a nasty dirt detour by the dam, and surface streets home. The first part had a bit of traffic (sort of reminded me of riding in Maine with all the dump trucks going by...), but the upper parts of the climb were again through beautiful sun-dappled redwood forest, and the descent was down a gently-sloped gorgeous road I had never been on before. We had an excellent picnic lunch by the reservoir, as I had had the foresight to pick up sandwiches and cookies at the bakery early in the morning before we left Capitola.

Upon arriving home, Nim was all excited to be home with all her toys, but even better was the phone message that had come in not five minutes before from Chad saying that they had arrived back to the marina a few hours earlier than expected. Needless to say, we dropped our bags on the floor, skipped the shower, and headed up to South San Francisco to retrieve him!

Total riding: just shy of 85 miles and about 6500 vertical feet of climbing.
Much fun was had.
Really good kid.

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