Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Coast Ride with entertaining Devils Slide Bypass

Some interesting moments on the bike over the last few weeks as I have been doing the panicked It's-almost-the-end-of-the-school-year riding that always occurs in late May and early June:

  • Detoured onto 280 for an exit due to trail construction (not as bad as it sounds).
  • Startled by a gigantic T Rex sculpture in someone's back yard on an obscure road in the Santa Cruz Mountains (too bad no camera).
  • Rode right by Wile E. Coyote's mailbox  (too bad no camera again).
  • Climbed many many hills and strange little dead end roads I hadn't previously explored.
  • Did a glorious coast ride, marred only by the nasty traffic on Highway 1 through the Devil's Slide area.

On returning home from the last mentioned ride, I naturally looked up a couple of maps and searched for alternatives -- and lo and behold:  I did it wrong.  I should have taken Old San Pedro Mountain Road, the old road alignment from before the section of 1 along Devil's Slide was built.

So for iteration 2 of that ride, it was time to try the dirt bypass.  I took the Vaya, not being sure what the trail surface would be like.

The start of the ride was not as straightforward as hoped -- there was a detour to the normal detour around the ongoing Crystal Springs Reservoir work.  While well-signed, this "bike and pedestrian detour" adds miles and several hundred feet of climbing.  Pity the poor unsuspecting peds.  I followed the signed detour even though I suspected there was a more efficient route through (there is, as I found upon investigating the map later at home), and even though it would likely cause me to be late getting back home.

A pleasant ride along the Sawyer Camp and San Andreas trails along the reservoirs followed, and then I followed my nose through neighborhood streets off of Sneath and found the somewhat obscure route around the jail over to Skyline College.

Wheee!  Down Sharp Park.  Weekday riding means not much traffic; I suspect this shoulderless road could be scary if there were.  It's a short, easy descent at least.  I was amused to note that it wasn't just that it felt fast, but that the GPS data shows that I actually do descend faster on this bike than on my normal road bike.  Sticky, big, confidence-inspiring tires, I guess.

Once in Pacifica, I took a couple of neighborhood streets over to the bike path and due to lack of time, sadly skipped the exploration of Mori Point that I did last time.  Got to the end of the path, cut across Highway 1 near the hardware store, and followed another bike path into a maze of streets that had encouraging "Bike Route" signs leading me up to this intersection:

Muahaha!  "Not a Through Street" to cars, but "Gateway to Fun" for the self-propelled.  This is the entrance to Old San Pedro Mountain Road -- the old road that Highway 1 along Devil's Slide eventually replaced.  Old San Pedro Mountain Road was thought to be Devil's Slide isn't?  At any rate, it needed to be explored.

Lovely, lovely lovely.  This road/trail has been referred to as "Planet of the Apes" road, presumably because it looks like the last remnants of lost civilization peeking through the vegetation.

My choice of bike was a good one, as it turns out.  While you could navigate a road bike through this trail if you were careful, it's more fun not having to worry too much about occasional potholes and sand.  About 75% of it is fine for bikes with skinny tires -- where the pavement is still intact, or where the surface has fully reverted to dirt. The potholed half-pavement, half-dirt parts are more challenging -- especially on the descent.  (good pictures can be found here)  The climb itself rises 900 feet, at a steady grade of about 6%.  Not bad even if one is tired :)

A far cry from the crazed traffic on Highway 1:

At one point, I caught a glimpse of the Devil's Slide bypass tunnel work below.  Supposedly, this will be finished toward the end of the year and the old section of Highway 1 will be converted into a trail.  Until it slides into the sea, that is.  I suspect I'll continue to take the dirt Old San Pedro Mountain Road through here most of the time -- it's just more fun to be that much further off the beaten track.

After rejoining 1 in Montara (this section has a shoulder and isn't bad to ride in the tailwind direction), I really wanted to stop for food, but due to the detour of the detour earlier, didn't feel like I had time to stop.  Grrr.   I zoomed past Half Moon Bay, briefly thought about adding the bonus climb up Higgins Canyon, and instead opted for Purisima Creek Road. (Mistake -- Higgins is a lot more scenic, and only adds a couple hundred feet more)  Where the two roads intersect, I hared off into the dirt roads through Purisima Creek Redwoods, first calling Chad to let him know that I was running late in case Nimue called him worried when she got home from school.

The last few times I've been through here, I just headed straight up Purisima Creek Trail, which is quite navigable (even on the tandem!), though a bit steep at the top.  This time, for variety and to avoid some freshly-laid gravel at the top, I headed off on Borden Hatch Mill Trail, which is another dirt road with a good, predictable surface.  I'm still debating which route is better -- Borden Hatch seemed hard, but I was tired going into the ride, and the steep bits seemed steeper (to ~18%; I walked a bit due to lack of lunch) but less sustained.  They also came in the middle of the hill rather than walloping you at the end.  And, the trail popped me out onto the gentle section near the top of Tunitas, which is really quite lovely.

Despite the heat and dry weather lately, there were two minor mud pits across the trail, one of which tried to eat my foot when I unclipped briefly to regain balance in the slippery mire.  The ooshy gooshy mud that came through my bike sandal felt pretty good, as it was quite warm up near the top of the ridge.

If one were fed up by dirt, or wanted a few more miles, one could go up Lobitos and Tunitas from 1 instead.

Zoom down Kings Mountain (also faster on this bike than usual).  Partway down, Nim called me, wondering where I was.  (She didn't pick up the phone when I called the house when I got back into cell phone range).  Fortunately, I was not far from where I parked the truck, so made it home in pretty short order.

With energy left to actually make dinner instead of declaring a Go-Out-for-Pizza night.  Ha.

Tomorrow is the last day of school -- so now I need to transition to more kid-friendly adventures for a few months.

Map and profile here, for those interested.  It's really not too hard a ride, unless you are doing it on already-tired legs from the day before...

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